Monday, November 07, 2011
FCI World Agility Championships Individual Bronze Medal!
I am finally sitting down to put together my thoughts on winning my first FCI Individual World Championship Medal. So many emotions go through your head on the day. I could not believe I had won an individual medal yet I knew Zaz would win. Does that makes sense?
The day started with the medium dogs running their individual agility run. Unfortunately we had only one dog that was in contention for a medal and that was Natasha and Dizzy. I watched all our medium dogs run but I cannot say that my mind was totally focused. All I could think about was getting our small individual course plan and getting out there! Sadly none of our medium dogs medaled but they all looked good. Luckily they had their team medal from yesterday to celebrate!
After the medium dogs ran we went back to the crating area to wait for our course to come out. I felt like jumping out of my skin while waiting and I think I asked our managers a hundred times "where was the course?"! Getting the course on paper, studying it and then watching the course being built is essential for me to feel confident once I get out to walk the course. Walking the course at the World Champs is like nothing else most of us have experienced. We have 8 minutes along with about 150 other people (handlers and coaches) to walk 20 obstacles. Most of the time you cannot see the next obstacle and you certainly cannot stop in one place as you will get knocked down by some enthusiastic European! If you do not have the course and your strategy in place before you go out there you are in trouble!
So we studied the course on paper, watched it being built from all angles and then realized that two numbers were in the wrong place according to the course plan on paper. The judge was told and he went out onto the course again to look at the two jumps in question. We watched as he kept moving the #6 to each side of the jump deciding what to do! Each time he changed it we starting walking it in our heads and then he would change it back again. Just a little excitement to get our Adrenalin going! The jump #11 was also changed to the other side of the jump from the original course design. This one he left changed. So from this course plan both #6 and #11 are on taken from the other sides.
Luckily, when it was finally decided, the change of direction for obstacle #6 was to my benefit. Originally my plan (in my head) was dogwalk, go-around #4, pivot, #5, go-around #6, pivot to #7. Pivots are the hardest maneuver for me as I can lose my perspective and two pivots in a row are definitely not ideal! Now, with the change, my plan was dogwalk, go-around #4 to #5, front cross #6, front cross #7. Although this required two front crosses the spacing was tight and I felt I could do them.
I was very lucky to have my friend and team-mate Nicky and my friend and trainer Lesley Olden to help me walk the course. I could not ask for better knowledge and experience. I specifically asked for Lesley to come in to help me rather than our team coach as she knows Zaz and I. I really appreciated our team coach allowing this, for although I value his opinion, he has never trained Zaz or I. Lesley knows how I handle and she knows our strengths and weaknesses. There were a few times that weekend when I could not decide how to handle a particular sequence. If it had been a normal everyday show I would have had no issue but it is so different when you are on "stage" and the result matters so much to you. It is amazing how little things what can make the difference in our decisions. On one course I was vacillating on how to handle the start and got many different options and suggestions from people I spoke to about it. Finally one guy said what I really knew: "Just go with your first thought". In that case he was correct and my first thought was right for Zaz and I.
Now in this Small Individual Agility course I had an area of concern before the see-saw. After some deliberation I thought I was sure about how to handle the sequence #8tunnel to #10 see-saw. I knew I wanted to be on the left side of the see-saw but was not sure which option to get there was best. I originally walked it as doing a front cross between the tunnel and the jump. I also considered a front cross after the #9 jump. The first way seemed to open up the back of #18 if I could not get my cross in correctly and be able to start moving off the cross. I thought I could do it and that was how I eventually walked the course. Lesley helped me with the possibilities but I know she was unsure with my decision.
After we walked the course and the first few small dogs started running Lesley came up to me and said "I don't think you should do that front cross and you should rear cross the see-saw". Now I had a few choices at that moment: panic and pull my hair out as I had not really walked that option, say thanks but I will stick to my original thought or trust Lesley's opinion and re-walk the course in my head. I decided to go with Lesley's opinion as I knew she wouldn't have said this to me this late in the game if she did not truly think it was the best option. She took a risk as well because if her idea failed she would feel awful for potentially losing us a chance at a medal. So this time I did NOT go with my first thoughts but changed my mind at a late stage.
As I was waiting for my turn to go I spent some time listening to my World Champ Agility playlist. I had a group of songs that meant something to me, made me smile or just gave me a boost. Some were songs that I associated with Zaz, some were old songs that cheered me up and some were picked up from other people's blogs. Three songs I picked up from other blogs were: "You Make my Dreams Come True" by Hall and Oates (from Christine), "Better Things" by the Kinks (from Dawn) and "This Pretty Face" by Amy Macdonald (from Karen). Songs that made me smile: "U Can't Touch This" by MC Hammer as it was our song for the World Champs in Norway when Zen won a Silver Team medal and "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley because we are pretty crazy to do this agility stuff! Finally Zaz's song is "Hey, Soul Sister" by Train because, well, just because...
So here I am listening to my songs, doing my crazy warm-up routine and running this course over and over in my head. Jump Jump run like crazy, dog walk, out around, pivot jump front cross, front cross, send, hold back, run, rear cross see saw, front cross don't block the tunnel, front cross wall left left left up up up out around send and run, tunnel, push to jump, front cross weave, leave her and run to finish and celebrate. And this is what goes on in my head the entire time. If anyone spoke to me I cannot remember nor can I tell you how we got into the collecting ring!
Zaz ran the course exactly how I told her. She was a little star and for all she knew it was any normal run; naughty start-line and all.
I was only in 15th place going into this run so I knew there had to be some luck involved if we were to place in the top 3. I played with Zaz, gave her a big hug and kiss (although she hates that) and sadly needed to hand her over to Dennis to cool down so that I could watch my team-mate Dawn run. As I stood in the tunnel and watched Dawn I realized that we were still in the top 3. After watching Dawn I was unsure whether I should keep watching the last 8 dogs or if I should just walk away. My decision was made simply, when as I was watching Dawn, someone started talking to me and made a comment about "coming in 4th". This was something my brain did not need at that moment so I walked up into the stands to be with my team-mates and supporters.
I was now starting to be convinced that we would not place. It is amazing how easily someones comment can upset you at that important moment. For me it has hopefully made me a better person when I need to support someone else at an adrenalin charged event. A comment that would normally roll off your back or make you chuckle at any other time can really upset you at that moment.
I sat in the stands not wanting to watch yet wanting to watch. Amanda and Zoe kept trying to explain the scoring to me. I kept telling them "no no you are wrong I am 2 seconds behind and can't make that up". Bless them they kept trying and when the last dog ran they tried to congratulate me and I still didn't believe them! Look at my face in this photo; it makes me cry just seeing it again.
I will write more about our celebrations and the closing ceremony but will leave you with this: my happy photo!