Here we are, half way through 2014 and I've only written one blog post. I told myself I would write more of these. It's not for a lack of things to write about, but rather an abundance. But I'm a fan of quality over quantity, and I want my words to be like my friends, few but radiating with meaning and purpose.
I've been trying to figure out what it is that I want to write down here - agility, obviously, since that dominates my life, but I'm sure there is something else I can say that someone who doesn't do agility wants to read about. I've been very fortunate that in my twenty years, I've been able to experience many great things, seen many beautiful places, and had amazing people to do it all with. I've also, however, had some bad things, some worse than others, in my life. Those experiences have shaped me just as much as the good experiences have, and just like everyone else, I have something to say about it. No, I don't want this space to be about struggles and how they momentarily broke me, but rather, I'd like this space to be about how I grow, and learn, adventure, and build castles out of the bricks people throw at me. I think that's a good start.
I never wrote about making the EO agility team - long story short, the wait was certainly worth it. The community that I play in has always been the most supportive. Even when I was drowning in doubt, there are always life savers being thrown out to me. You know who you are. :) I can't express how important it is to surround yourself by inspiring, real and raw people. People who trust your struggles, and allow you to do the same. People who want the same things as you, people to push you harder and further than you would have done yourself. Surround yourself with those people.
The date is fast approaching...25 days (but who's counting??). We haven't really trialled this spring. I'm not sure trialling is a proper way to prepare any person, or dog. The energy in a local trial here in New Brunswick isn't even a fraction of the energy at a larger trial - certainly higher than training, but isn't there more important things to prepare for? I've been to enough competitions (agility, basketball, soccer, volleyball; you name it) to know that the most important skill is - for me - loving the game. Better yet, loving the dog or person you're doing it with. Although I never fail at loving my dogs, and never blame them for the mistakes we (I) make on course, I do sometimes forget to love the game in the hard moments.
That brings me to Regionals. Regionals, as it usually is, was a roller coaster. I find Regionals the most stressful competition I do all year. I always have, and likely, I always will. After last year's, every time I would think about it, I would cringe. Last year's showing was sub-par to say in the least. Easily the worst mentality I've ever had. I got into my head, and it's really hard to get me out. I let others get into my head, too. It was a hard month in my life. I let pressure get to me. I let myself fall apart.
Of course I didn't want a repeat showing of that. Anything would be better than that. How did I prepare? I just didn't think about it. I kept forgetting about it, actually. I never went out to train with Mach and say "Okay, for Regionals I need to do A, B, and C, and a bit more of A". I went out with Mach and had fun. That's how I prepared.
The first day went splendid. We actually ran a clean standard. Do you know how long it's been (in AAC) that we've run a clean standard? Longer than I'd like to admit, hah. It felt so good. Then he got the gamble. Already, we're beating ourselves from last year (some bars in the jumpers, but still stellar). Day 1 and we're in first place. Usually I don't look at results, and I don't want to know where I sit (the me getting into my head thing...it's worked out great, actually), but I felt so relaxed about the day I looked, and I was thrilled. Did it change how I came back Sunday morning? No, it didn't. He ran the gamble clean again, and that qualified us for Nationals. But then a very unfortunate missed dogwalk contact happened in the standard, and I got a bit upset. If I showed you by how much he missed it, you would probably be upset too. I was a little shaken up, but deep breaths deep breaths. I liked the jumpers course; it looked really fun. It was pouring rain, I was soaking wet, freezing cold, and frankly, exhausted. We went out to try to finish our weekend strong. Bar. Bar. But then the worst part...went past the last jump. I didn't handle it in a way that should indicate to by-pass the last jump. Images of last year's Regionals tore through my brain. I couldn't believe it. He was just gone. Hot fire ripped through my chest. That's not how I wanted to end our best Regionals yet.
Of course I was thrilled with his score. Over 500! We hadn't even come close the past two years. That was a distant goal of mine for this year, but not something I was actively trying to achieve. After all, I can't control how many points I end up with, but I can control my handling decisions, the way I treat my dog, and how fast I run. But that last run shook me, and I felt beaten up. I know I looked unimpressed when I went up to get my ribbon. I was gutted. But why? My mom ran her little Rowdie, who is fearful of dogs, and stresses low. But she kept upbeat, and ran. And you know their score? 349.96. She wasn't even upset. She was happy, and I was happy for her. He ran really well for a trial situation, and I really believe there will be more break throughs with him soon. I kept watching everyone, so happy with their results, so happy for everyone, just happy. Yet, I wasn't. That upset me, so I was just in a vicious cycle of being mad at myself for being mad, and the fire grew and grew. But why?
But you know what? Bars will fall, contacts will be missed, people will call you a bitch, want you to fail, and you will fall down. That's life. But you know what else? You can get back up, and you can always win whether you come first place or not.
I feel ready for the EO, just like I feel ready to eat supper - I'm hungAry, but I'd rather my eggs fried than scrambled. That's life.
(photos from dog sitting, and kickass adventures to Fall Brook Falls & Priceville footbridge - the biggest and best in NB. Faced fears, had moments with Mother Nature. Life is great, and fun, and summer solstice, and sun, and friends, and dancing, and bike rides in the rain. That's life.)