Finally getting caught up with sleep and laundry after getting back from Oviedo, Spain for the 2013 World Agility Open Championships. Zip and I had an amazing time!! What a great group we were fortunate enough to be a part of!! Everyone on the team put in amazing runs and it paid off with lots of podium time by everyone on the team. Jenn and Susan Crank were our amazing coach and manager and they did a great job at keeping us calm, cool and collected for the entire week. Not an easy job as there were 16 team members and keeping us straight was sometimes like herding cats!! Also would like like to give a big thanks to George Mariakis, our official, “unofficial” tech support and videographer, we would have been lost without you!!
Zip and I arrived in Madrid on Monday morning and were picked up by fellow teamies Dave and his wife Erika. From Madrid we made the five hour drive to Oviedo. On our way up to Oviedo we did stop in the town of Leon to do a little sightseeing and lunch. Lucky for us our dogs are incredibly patient and allowed us to pose them all over the town for photo opts!! When we arrived in Oviedo we did not have our first team practice until Wednesday, so we were able to do more sightseeing on Tuesday. This time we headed east to the beach town of Ribadesella. The dogs had a great time running on the beach and getting a quick dip in the Bay of Biscay.
Wednesday afternoon we had two separate hour practices, one hour outside on the grass and another hour inside. Since Zip and I have been showing quite a bit leading up to this event I did not want to do a lot of drills with him. I just wanted to get both of us used to the surfaces and the equipment. We kept our time in the ring short and sweet. Zip was feeling great! We rarely have the opportunity to run outside on grass in the mid-atlantic and I forgot how well Zip runs on grass. The bad news that I am so spoiled running on sprint turf all the time, I feel slow and sluggish on grass. Note to self, run that much harder!! Thursday we had a much shorter practice, only about 30 minutes inside. During this practice the music was blasting and the dogs were over the top. Zip’s borderline start line stay was non-existent. Definitely a good warm up for the weekend.
Friday morning was cool and overcast. Our first class was the Individual Pentathlon Agility I. Luckily we were inside as the drizzle had started and would continue off and on all day. The Individual Pentathlon class consists of 5 rounds of agility over the course of 3 days. There were some tricky spots on this course, the third obstacle was the wall jump which we had to take the back side and then later on course being able to leave your dog on the teeter in order to avoid an off course through a box came in very handy. Zip ran the course great. Looking back on the video I was late cueing the tunnel after the wall jump which caused Zip to take a hard look at the A-frame. After that I felt pretty good about the run. We ended up with a third place in the class! A great way to start the weekend!
Our next class was Team Pentathlon Agility I. The team pentathlon consists of 5 classes over the course of 3 days in which 3 dogs from 3 different jump heights compete as a team in order to earn points for the overall team placement. There was a tricky turn off the dogwalk on this course. I am usually able to get ahead of Zip on the dogwalk but this class was outside on grass where Zip was faster and I was slower than I anticipated. I found myself falling further behind on the dogwalk so I used my highly professional top secret move in order to avoid the off course jump at the end of the dogwalk…I hollered as loud as I could “YOU WAIT!!” Zip naturally turned to look at the crazy lady yelling so he slowed down and I was able to inch ahead and avoid the off course. We did incur 5 faults for a missed dogwalk contact but in the team event 5 faults is much better than an off course. We ended up 2nd place!
Our third class of the day was Biathlon Jumping. Biathlon consists of 2 rounds of agility over the course of 3 days. This was our first year in the Biathlon. Normally we have competed in the Games division but since we came in as alternates we were only allowed to enter the classes that the dog we were replacing was entered. Biathlon is geared more toward fast runs, not our strong suit but we were happy to participate. Zip and I had a nice round putting us in 11th place.
Our fourth and final class of the day was Individual Pentathlon Jumping. We were outside on the grass for this run as well. By this time the ground was pretty well soaked and the rings were starting to get muddy. I know I was running a bit tentatively but we had another nice clean run and ended up in 9th place. All in all a very good first day at WAO!
Saturday the weather worsened quite a bit. It was much colder, very windy and very very rainy. We lucked out again and our first class of the day was Individual Pentathlon Agility 2 inside. Zip was not feeling great this morning. He had gotten run over by another dog Friday afternoon so his rib and back area was pretty sore. Luckily David, our team PT was there to work his magic but I knew going into our first class he was not himself. When I released Zip from the start line he ran around the first jump. That is very unlike him. I was ready to pull him from the class but thought I would ask him to take the jump one more time. Being the good dog that he is he ran the rest of the course without issue. I knew he was running much slower than normal so I was definitely worried. The cold certainly did not help matters either, trying to keep his muscles warm and relaxed was a challenge. David was able to work on him again and I hoped he would be feeling better by the next class. Luckily he was pretty close to being back to his old self by our next class, Individual Pentathlon Jumping 2. We put in a nice solid run earning a 12th place. Saturday was a light day for us thank goodness. After our second run Zip was able to get some rest and get warm in the car.
Sunday was finals day! All runs would be inside! Of course today is the day that the sun decides to come out! Our first class was Speedstakes, the final round of the Individual Pentathlon. Zippy put in another great run. Unfortunately I did not set him very well for the A frame approach and he ended up missing the down A frame contact, 5 faults. This knocked us down to 7th place overall in the Individual Pentathlon. Our final class was the second round of Biathlon. I knew we had to go for it in this round. We were sitting in 11th place and only a fast run could bump us up in the placements. Zip put in another stellar run. Unfortunately my pushing caused a missed dogwalk contact but I could not have been prouder of Zippy. He came back from his injury like a champ!! I was just so happy and grateful he was feeling better. We ended up 14th in Biathlon. The team relay was the last class of the day. All of our other teammies had put in great runs all weekend and USA was sitting in 1st place going into the relay. The relay consists of 4 dogs, one from each jump height. We had 4 very strong dog and handlers on the line for us. They put in a great round clinching the gold medal for us!! Amazing!!
Here are our runs from the Individual Pentathlon. Huge thanks to George Mariakis for taping!!
Here are our runs from the Biathlon and the Team event. Again, huge thanks to George for taping!!
Zip and I have been fortunate enough to have attended the WAO each year since inception. Each year the event gets bigger and the competition gets tougher. This year was not exception. for the USA to win the gold medal was phenomenal and I could not have been prouder to be a part of it. While Zip and I did not make the podium in the individual events this year I was equally as proud in our performance. The bobbles we had were minor but unfortunately under such tough competition it put us out of podium range. It just makes me that much hungrier for next year!! Honestly while making the podium is great (who I am kidding here..) there are so many other memories that are just as special. Hanging with my teammies and my superstar dog in the stands cheering each other on is fantastic and it is those memories that always leave a smile on my face.