My original plan was to write a blog post before leaving for Europe in early May. Unfortunately time got away from me and I never got around to it. So now everyone will be subjected to a longer than normal blog post and lots of videos. Hopefully it will be entertaining enough to keep you reading to the very end.
Since my last blog post my main focus has been preparing for my upcoming trip to Europe with Zip to compete at the IFCS World Agility Championships in the Netherlands and the World Agility Open Championships (WAO) in Italy the following weekend. We will be in Europe for a full two weeks! I am calling it our “Great European Tour of 2014.” I feel so honored and privileged to get to be a part of both teams, WOW, what a dream come true for us!! Preparing for these events was also a bit bittersweet as I had decided several months ago that this would be Zip’s last year doing international competitions. It was not a decision I came to lightly but I feel that this decision is in Zip’s best interest. Zip has exceeded my wildest agility dreams and has allowed me to dream bigger with each year, I owe everything I am today in my agility career to him. I hope to have many more years playing the game with my best partner.
At home we have been working on our Gamble skills, sent to team members by our coaches. I can always use work on gamble skills and since my yard is on the small side I am usually able to set up short sequences like gambles fairly easily. Another good “practice” for us is lots of showing. A trial situation is a good way to give my mental game a work out as well as having the pressure of “getting it right the first time.” Zip and I filled our dance card with several local trials over the last couple of months as well as attending our first regional competition for the year, the Southwestern Regional in Southern California at the end of April.
The Southwestern Regional was somewhat important to me as I was hoping to earn byes into the semi-final rounds of Grand Prix and Steeplechase at Cynosport later this year. We also entered the DAM team event with our local teamies, Dave Grubel and Erika Mauer. My good friend Anne Kajava and I made the 6+ hour drive south together. The site and the weather was as close to perfect as any agility person could ask for, nice level grass fields and temps in the low 70’s. The weekend had some ups and downs on some very challenging courses. Zippy ran great all weekend. At the end of the weekend we had earned both byes in Steeplechase and Grand Prix plus our team finished up in 2nd place and on the podium!! Another big bonus was getting to visit with my parents this weekend as they live in LA. They had never been to an agility competition before so it was great for them to see a big event like a regional.
After getting home from the regional Zip and I had one weekend off until we headed across the pond. The week period before leaving for a big event is probably the most stressful time for me. It is what we call “bubble wrap” time for Zip. By this I mean do as little as possible to avoid injury to Zip. This is easier said than done as I still want a little practice time before the event plus Zip is technically still allowed to run around the yard with the pack. Although I must admit he gets watched like a hawk and I micromanage every step, every action, every meal and every treat that Zip comes in contact with. I am sure I am a dream to live with during this time. 🙂
Luckily all went well and May 5 came upon us and we were off and running! Our first stop was Amsterdam for IFCS. It was a 10 hour flight, the longest for us so far. Flying from the west coast this time added a couple of hours to our trip. Lucky for me Zip is a seasoned traveler and handled it like a dream. However, I am sure he was grateful to finally get of the plane and stretch his legs, even though it was initially at Schiphol Airport. It was overcast and drizzly when we arrived and unfortunately the rain was a constant presence the entire week. Lucky for us the IFCS venue was inside and the footing was spectacular.
This year’s IFCS event was the biggest I have ever seen with 16 countries participating. The courses we tough and the competition was tougher. There was no room for errors of any kind. One of the things I love about the IFCS events is they are held in one ring. I love being able to sit in one spot and enjoy watching all the countries. Not only did we get to participate in amazing agility, we were able to watch amazing agility! Unfortunately I did not have my camera handy to ask people to tape my runs so I don’t have any to post. However, here is a quick recap, we had all clean runs except for a team jumpers run where I came out of a front cross, lost my concentration due to a dropped bar and was lost in a sea of red jumps. I was pretty upset with myself for, number one, letting myself get distracted by a dropped bar as it cost us the run and second, this being a team run stung a little more. Hate letting the teamies down. We also had a bobble in Snooker where I misjudged a blind cross and we went off course in the close. Still put points on the board but not my best. The rest of the runs went great! Zip and I ended up finishing 6th in the Overall Individual division (4 rounds of agility) and a Bronze medal in the Individual Biathlon division (2 rounds of agility)! I was very proud to have finished so well in such tough competition. Our entire team did great overall, putting in some spectacular runs and earning our fair share of medals. Our group dynamic was great as well. Everyone was a team player and we shared lots of laughs and great memories. I have to say that is one of the best parts about being on these teams, cheering on our fellow teammates and creating fun times together.
On Monday morning we hit the airport once again, this time for a short 1.5 hour flight to Venice, Italy. Both Zip and I were grateful for the short flight and we looking forward to packing up our raincoats and enjoying some fun in the sun! Well let me tell you Venice did not disappoint!! The weather could not have been more perfect, it was a dream!! Teamie Jeannette Hutchison and I rented a car in Venice and made the hour long drive to Lignano which is on the northern part of the Adriatic Sea. Zippy and I made ourselves right at home!!
Zip and I had a few days to settle in before team practice which was great. We would use our team practice time mainly to get a feel of the footing. We were outside on artificial turf which can be a bit slippery but luckily this footing was really nice and Zip had no issues at all. We spent some of our down time sightseeing, visiting Venice on our first full day in Italy. I was blown away by its beauty. The pictures I took did not do it justice, it was something you might see in a postcard. Really amazing and something I will never forget.
Zip and I had a full slate of classes for the three days of WAO. My main goal was keeping Zip fresh for all his runs, after heavy competition last week in the Netherlands and now more classes this weekend I wanted to make sure he did not get too fatigued. I don’t think anyone told Zip about being tired, he was ready to rock all weekend! The WAO has grown by leaps and bounds since its inception in 2011. This year was the biggest ever with 36 countries participating. The huge 3 ring show ran like clockwork, simply amazing and kudos to all involved backstage to make it happen. I don’t think I have ever enjoyed a big event so much. WAO’s goal has been to create an event for the competitors and they certainly have done so!
I am sure everyone gets sick of me saying this, but since its true, it bears repeating…Zip ran great all weekend. There were some of the toughest courses and toughest competition we have come up against, no letting your guard down this weekend!! I had one late blind cross which cost us an off course in Individual Pentathlon jumpers and one missed dogwalk contact for an otherwise flawless weekend. How lucky am I to have such an amazing teammate in Zip, I swear the dog never puts a foot out of place unless I ask him to!
Lucky for us George Mariakis taped all of team USA’s runs!! So so grateful!!
Here is our first run of the weekend, Individual Pentathlon Agility:
Link to course map: IndPentAg1_16May2014_Nils
It was great to start the weekend off with a nice solid run! During the walkthrough I was not 100% sure how I would handle the tunnel after the DW. I walked it several different ways and thought I had decided to FX before the DW and push to the tunnel. After watching a few teams do that I was not happy with the results so I opted for the BX at the end of the DW. Very happy with my decision, felt it kept us both moving forward and wasted no time or yardage.
This next run is Individual Pentathlon Jumping:
Link to course map: IndPent Jump1_16May2014_Ermanno
Starting a run off with a threadle is not always the best for us as it tends to make for a slow start, but after the red tunnel it was a full on sprint and Zip turned on the afterburners!! I have always secretly hated a 90 degree approach to on-side weaves, probably because I don’t practice them enough because I hate them (a vicious circle!). After walking this course several ways and conferring with teamies I knew handling the weaves with Zip on my right was the best way to handle it even though this was probably my weakest skill on course. I bit the bullet and trusted the real pro of our team and he did not disappoint!
This next run is our Snooker run:
Link to course map: Snooker_16May2014_Peggy
Usually at these big events doing all 7’s is a gimmie if you want to have a shot for a podium spot. In this case we knew it was do-able so we went for it. Wanted to share just because Snooker runs are always so fun to watch!
This next run is our Speedstakes run, the last run out of 5 runs in the Individual Pentathlon division. We were in 20th place coming into the finals because we had an off course in jumpers earlier in the weeknd so I was just happy we made the cut off. We had nothing on the line except to have an awesome time and we did!!
Link to course map: IndPentSpeedStakes_18May2014_Ermanno
This last run is our contribution to the Team Gold medal, Team Relay. Team USA was sitting in 1st place so the pressure was on to make sure we ran clean in this final run. Big thanks to coach Blake and Susan for trusting us to bring it home! Not only did all four of us run clean, we ended up winning the class!! Way to knock it out of the park ladies!!
Link to course map: TeamPentSpeedStakesRelay_18May2014_Peggy
WAO standings recap, Zip and I finished 4th overall in the Games division, 9th overall in Biathlon, 19th overall in Pentathlon and the Gold medal in Team!! Couldn’t be any prouder of Zippy! Not only did he run his heart out for me, I felt we were truly connected on each run, something that I always strive for, especially at these big events.
Well hopefully you all have made it this far in my marathon blog post. I hope you have enjoyed it half a much as I enjoyed living it. They truly are memories I will treasure forever. There is something very special about these events, the camaraderie, the friendships, the adrenaline, the highs and lows that keep me coming back. What adventures we have had!! Even though Zip’s international career may be over, hopefully I will be lucky enough to participate again in the future.