Sunday, July 7, 2013

We've Got S.W.A.G.R.

Gosh, I don't even know where to being on this weekend.

Tournament in Sandusky.  Camped with my besties: Jbiz, Matty, and my sister. First day was nice, started out super humid but cooled by the afternoon and light sprinkles at the end of the day really helped cool things down... only after racing was done and Jbiz and I went to shower it started to DOWNPOUR.  We had to walk through water above our ankles to get back to base camp.  Then the path we all walked in teh grass to our tent turned into a mud slide.  and water seeped between the tarp and the bottom of the tent.

We moved Tash and Pan into the back of the Vue for the night (it eventually stopped raining) and Matt took Demo into the bed of the truck.  Jbiz and I kept the rest of the crated dogs in the tent because we both have cots to sleep on.

It was just... hell.  My hell is not on fire, it's flooded and muddy.

We had to carry the dogs in and out of the tent to prevent them from getting mud every were.

And in the process I got a cut on my big toe by the nail that I believe is infected from walking thru the muck for two hours in bare feet.

Ok, now on to the dog's performances.

Had problems with the box on Friday and all the dogs bobbling.  Slowed down the mechanism, and they did slightly better.

Starts with Pan were pretty good.  Had some bad ones, but for the most part I kept it under .050 split.  We did get our second perfect start today... but since I saw it and I screamed in celebration Matt (who was box loading) looked at the clock and didn't load a ball for Trophy... lost it on a no finish. oh silly greenie boxloaders. :)

Tasha got some pretty good starts with Pan today too when the lights started making more sense to her.  As did Matt with Demo, although Demo started losing his concentration on the recalls and either couldn't find Matt or was blowing him off.  Not sure which, but it concerns me.

Trophy was his awesomely consistent self, even if Jbiz couldn't get her passes together.

Cocoa debuted in Preflight and totally ROCKED it.  It was pretty hilarious as we got her officially measured and the judge said he would give her 3 inch jumps if he could, lol!  We started working thru her not bringing the ball back over all 4 jumps and not dropping early.  Worked with another dog in the other lane (but not running at the same time, doing box turns while cocoa was running or alternating runs).  Cocoa was slightly distracted, but quickly refocused.  by the 4th preflight run today she was doing full runs and holding the ball all the way thru the end over 7inch jumps (we forgot to take them down to 6 and she'll have to jump 7 anyway for NAFA).

There were just enough wacky problems in the lanes, combined with severe pain today, a sun burn, crankiness from the flood, and sunburn today just sucked and for the first time ever I was really, really really glad to put this flyball weekend in the books.

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Noob's Guide to Flyball: Chapter 1: From Fly Fishing to Perfect Starts, A Guest Blog by Matty

Note: while I try to keep the language of this blog pretty PG, in real life my friends and I swear like sailors. As this is written from the perspective of my friend, I have not edited language.


At Saturday's flyball practice my friend Matty, who has been running Demo for me at recent tournaments, said he is going to write a book about flyball and he has already picked the title.  From Fly Fishing to Perfect Starts.  This made me laugh as it is Matt's first two flyball tournaments in a nut shell.

In March I put out a call on my facebook page that I needed someone to run one of my dogs in a tournament in April because two of my dogs would need to be on the same team and I can't run two dogs at the same time.  Matty, who had been to a tournament in Januray for a few hours said "That sounds like fun, I'll do it!"  He made it to one practice, the week before the tournament, where he learned the basic mechanics of how flyball runs: releasing Demo, when to call him, how to catch him and get the hell out of the way of the other dogs.

His first race was... interesting. We were almost late and almost missed warmups. It was less than ideal, but we survived. Matt survived, and is now excelling at starting Demo.  

As a semi-regular feature we will be sharing Matty's story.  Which is the story of flyball from the perspective of a total noob.  Flyball from the perspective of someone who was just about thrown into the ring blind.  Someone who went from fly fishing with a tug, to having a perfect start in just two tournaments.  Take it away Matty.

That's Matt in the Blue, and Jbiz running up the lane.
H'ok so, zees is muh story...

As Lex said, I knew the basics of how flyball runs, and let me stress this, I knew BASICS. I knew on which light I should let go of Demo, I knew roughly where I needed to run up to with the tug that Demo loves so much and I knew to run back and get the hell out of the way of everything else. So we go in and the warm up timer is counting down so we make a mad dash to the box to do run outs and and get that out of the way [Lexi's note: Just so you get the amount of pressure we were under, all three of my dogs ended up on the same team due to a last minute lineup change where one of our team members pulled her dog. I was coming off of an injury where a dog had bitten my hand and I had to fight off a huge infection, and I had JUST been cleared to full use of my hand the day before - it was still VERY sore. We had two green handlers, Matt running Demo and Jbiz running Trophy and I was running Pan.  Jbiz had some more practice time under her belt, but we don't practice with as much runback as in a tournament so this was her first time doing actual passes... and we didn't have a practice run. We had just enough time for a run out, but not enough time for a full warm up run. AGAIN: We had a run out... and then game time.  Talk about pressure, there was a lot of it riding on their shoulders. My account of this first tournament can be read here.]. An experienced flyballer would have known what was going on and that time is of the essence here. And there was moi, so being the noob that I was (am?), I just tried to keep up with everything. As anyone who isn't normally in these situations can attest to, having someone yell at you can be a bit startling so when they yelled "RUN!" at me it took me a second to process. but after a moment I kicked it into gear and away I went down the lane.

Now, there is something I was told after that first race. When I am being 'yelled' at, its not yelling per say. No one is necessarily mad at me and pissed off. They are yelling for a few reasons. Mainly its loud and people need to be heard so they have to yell. Also, they need to emphasize speed is of the essence and you need to move fast because I swear everything at a flyball tournament is on a timer.

So my very first race: there I am, lined up with Demo, kinda half squatted half crouched over, waiting for the the lights to start the count down. I believe I was somewhere around the 48' mark... or something close to that. The lights start and I see, one yellow.... "Demo readyyyyyy".... two yellow.... "Go!" and away he went, doing his thing. I take off after him doing as I was told. Running down towards the start line I pull the tug from around my neck, Demo gets the ball from the box and that's my cue. I swing the tug down on the ground and begin to run toward the back of the lane waiting for Demo to grab it. Now two things happened in the whopping 2 seconds from me swinging the tug to Demo grabbing it that I did wrong. First off, what I had thought was perfectly fine tug swinging mechanics, was actually a laughable imitation at fly fishing as the rest of the team described it. I got up to my position and (as I was told later)  "gently tossed the tug up and out in an arc, then gently swung it down with a flourish and ran back".

VIDEO PROOF of Matt's horrible Tug skillz at 0:06 seconds. ;-)  Compare to Deb's Tug skills at 0:16seconds.

It became quite the joke around our camp site for the weekend. Eventually I even got on board with it and said I just needed some glitter on the end of the tug to complete the look. That was the first thing I did wrong. The second was that as I ran back with the tug I  pulled up on it as I anticipated Demo grabbing onto it. This little tiny action causes Demo to jump up and grab the tug higher up. Higher up in this case was my hand. I got a good chomp from Demo and thank goodness I had a glove on because even though Lex told me that if he managed to bite flesh he releases immediately, it hurt like a bitch. Didn't break the skin though, so I just suited up and got back in line for the second heat. I wasn't mad at Demo because that whole bit was my own fault and I knew going in that it could happen.

Just before the fly fishing began...

So I was one heat of my debut flyball race in and already I had been made fun of, and injured. Both of which I fully deserved.

Pausing for a moment to clarify, MY TUG MECHANICS DON'T LOOK LIKE THAT ANYMORE! The advise given to me from the all mighty flyball teacher known as Lex were to "take all your demons out on that floor" so I tried that. My mission was to beat the floor into submission and my weapon of choice was a 4' long fleece tug.... Bring it on.

It was raining Sunday, so we carried Pan and Demo to the
building and back to try to save their boots.
So, that was the highlights. The rest of that weekend went pretty smoothly. I had clean starts save for one or two. My typical starting time for the first while was on average .100 ish. now once I started getting into the groove of things with starts and the timing of the lights, I asked Lex if I could start moving Demo up a bit to tweek our starts and she let me. Slowly working start times down and getting better starts.

I am going to say that first initial time I was allowed to move Demo forward and try some starts on my own with where I placed him is the moment I caught the flyball bug.

From there I became all about getting the best start for my team. It clicked with me that my starts are my contribution to the team and that is what makes me feel apart of the team. Cue the mushy gushy stuff.

Moving on to the second tournament that I had ever participated in. With one practice and one tournament under my belt I naturally felt like a pro. This tournament brought out more members of the team than the previous tournament, so I got to meet more people; and let me tell you something, the peeps on this team are hil-freaking-larious. Better still, Lex decided to take a backseat at this tournament and let other people run all 3 of her dogs. Most importantly, this meant I got to run Demo a lot. Like, A LOT A LOT. Lex ran Demo for two of the eleven-ish races he ended up running in that weekend, one because he did something we can't remember but she wanted to run him to try and fix it and the second was because he was going to get his FDCH-G. She's sentimental like that.  But all the other races, that shit was all me. [Lexi's note: Demo got so many races because we ended up pulling Pan from a few as she was having major problems on the box - her back feet slipping off and such so to save her body we gave her a rest and put Demo in.]

We did pretty darn well all day Saturday, the average starting time was .0 something something and I was quite pleased with myself. We ran fast and we ran clean. You couldn't ask for a better tournament!

Snuggling before Sunday Race Day!
Then shit got real on Sunday. We're in the middle of the day (it's about here that my tug mechanics make the transition from fly fishing to demon killing). We had been talking about perfect starts earlier that day and Lex made a comment, "There is nothing worse than a -.001 start." and what do I do? I nail a frustratingly imperfect -.001 start. So I make an annoyed grumble and get Demo back in line to try that again. He was doing spectacular, bobbled a few times but made a good recovery. Now a couple races down the line, we get to the second or third heat and by now I've got my routine down. Demo and myself had moved up to roughly the 43' marker and we had fantastic starts from there, false starts if we moved up any more and slow starts if we moved back. So 43' it was. Now in the middle of this race, we do our thing. I had stopped even looking at the time clock at the end of the lane because we had plenty of people to take times and box load and call passes. So I get Demo on the tug and Kandice comes back with Malley who ran second and passed into Demo and she's yelling "Dude, you got a perfect start!!"

Me: what?!

Kandice: You got a perfect start!

Me: Seriously?! Awesome!! I didn't even look at the clock!!

Dude from other team: It doesn't count if you don't see it, haha!

Me: I'll take what I can get...LEX!!!! I GOT A PERFECT START!!!! (She was calling passes that race so she wasn't tooooo far away and ran back and gave me a high five)

While all this is happening on the outside, on the inside I am all "BOOM BITCHES!!! I GOT A PERFECT START MOTHERFUCKERS!!! POINT ZERO ZERO ZERO! FUCK YEAH!"

After the race the guy from the other team bro fisted me and we got Tasha's reaction to it (she was taking down times so she was too far away for the initial celebratoriness between heats). She said "I was taking times and then I saw 000 and I thought it was broken. I looked at it, then I looked at the other side, and I just decided oh well and just wrote it down."

That pretty much sums up my second tournament, we got some schwanky glasses for being there, I got two because I ran Demo and box loaded. But we'll save box loading for chapter 2...

Matt out!

Matt will be back (hopefully) soon with Chatper 2 and how we literally threw him into boxloading, in the mean time show him some love by commenting on the blog and sharing it with your friends!  Maybe we really will publish it some day! ;)