Since 1999 I have qualified for the Swedish national team. I have been through all different systems for qualifying; selections, different point systems, one weekend, two weekends, three weekends, The Swedish championship included, the Swedish championship not included, indoor, outdoor, rain, hot weather, mud, slippery carpet, grass, good flooring, four different dogs, one dog, several dogs, close to the championship, long before the championship… you name it. Sometimes I have cleared it early and sometimes I have struggled to the very end, but I have always made it.
This year Sweden will not send any team to the WC in South Africa but we still have a qualification for the Nordic championship, and that qualification was held this last weekend. After an extremely turbulent time in my life, when we suddenly lost a beloved family member, I finally decided I want to go to the qualifications. My dogs have been doing so well the last trials and I really felt we had the flow. So off we went, me, Nettan and the dogs, seven hours north. That was the first competition after all this happened and when I came in to the hall and looked at the course I had so many feelings and so many thoughts in my mind… I really didn't know what to focus on. Is this important at all? Usually when there is an important trial I try to not being to nervous, afraid or some other things that are only destructive for the results. I usually don't have big problems with this, but I just have to remind my self to get the best level of performance. But this weekend it was something totally different. I had to fight against great sadness and big questions about what is the mening of life, why is it not fair..? etc etc. Gemma was also involved in the agility. She helped us when we had competitions in Lotushallen, she went to several WC's to support the Swedish team and she was always curious about my dogs, our results and she always welcomed them all in their house. One and a half week after she died she still occupies my brain and everything got even worse when I came in to that enviroment, met people that she knew and started to think about it all again.
I really thought I would be able to focus, in some way. I will make it. I'm strong. I trust my self. For the first run I managed to keep the focus in some way. It was a mix of frustration and greatfulness at the same time. I was angry for what our lives just lost and I was greatful for what we still have left. I used all my energry and we ran, Ina won and Ogin was 4th in the first agility class. That was a nice feeling. Then I continued the rest of the weekend, tried to focus, struggled with my thoughts. I felt pretty ok but I didn't feel as I use to. I didn't find the last positive stress and thrill for the runs and clearly I missed the last piece of focus together with that. I did small, stupid, easy and unnecessary mistakes in almost all of the runs, that otherwise were great. I didn't watch my dog in a tricky situation, lost him and thought he went behind my back… but he didn't. That has never happened to me before. I never loose my focus like that. I got stucked in one situation when I should just have moved on one more step. I don't know how it happened, I was just standing there, looking at my dog while I pulled her in to the wrong tunnel entry… That's not at all typical me… Well this was just a few examples of what stupid mistakes I made, mistakes that I'm never ever usually doing.
Another thing that was a bit strange were actually the courses. In my opinion most of the courses were too easy for a qualification. When I think in most of the places; "- I need to follow my dog a bit longer here, otherwise I will be too much ahead…" for me, it feels like something is missing. You never need to risk anything, you are not in a hurry, there are no real challenges. That's not my favourite type of courses. But I'm not really complaining, I'm happy for all our judges who want to build courses, spend their imagination, time and energy judging us agility nerds. I love them all for this but I'm just telling my point of view and what type of courses I prefer. Some courses at the qualification were nice (but still too easy in my opinion) and I think the last agility course was really fun with some more running and challenging design. This doesn't mean my results are always better on those courses, but the really, really challenging courses inspires me, moves my training forward and are one of the main reasons why I'm doing agility. This is no critic under-meaning about the teams who succeeded this weekend (the written word can be read in so many ways). Not at all, I'm impressed of you all and with your results and runs. Big compliments and congratulations to you and your dogs, you did great and are worth every point!
Next strange thing was that the qualification atmosphere never appeared in the arena. In the first run it felt like people were a bit nervous, excited and it was the start of the weekend. But then, it felt like the thrilling atmosphere just dissapeared. It was all calm and not as joyful as I prefer and as it use to be. I'm not sure why it was like this but I was thinking about some details that probably could have helped the atmosphere. One thing is the music. With music you can create almost whatever spirit as you wish. If there is up tempo music all the time except when people run, you increase the energy level and create an exciting atmosphere. And if you all the time "serve" the audience and the teams with updated results in the speaker, what the next participant need to do to take the lead, what place each dog and handler gets when they finnish the course and if you have a display for the electronic time I think people would get more involved and excited. This is just some of my thoughts why the atmosphere was a bit boring and calm.
One more strange thing was Ogins times. During the last weeks I feel he has lost some of his speed and I really don't know why. It's really frustrating when I know he's not using all his capacity. However, in the five first runs he was about two seconds behind the fastest ones and two seconds in agility feels like an eterinty! It's more ok when you feel you made some big mistake in the handling and caused the time loss by your self, but when you run a course and you are pleased with the run and still those seconds behind, it's a little bit frustrating. Why he's not running in full speed I really don't understand (he is regularly checked in muscles, joints etc and he doesn't have any problems), it's a mystery. But I'm always trying to peak our performances and I give 110% energy for each ouf our runs. I really enjoy each run but the times have made me a little dissapointed. Then, in the last agility run he suddenly had the second best time! Just a few 1/10 of a second from the fastest time (the fastest dog in Sweden). They had some problems with the electronic time but I have checked after with a stop-watch and he really got that good time. Of course I'm really happy for this! And I know he can be a fast dog but I'm at the same time a bit confused because I don't know why he vary his drive like this.
The last strange thing was that finally, in the last run, I started to come back to my normal mental level. I felt like my brain was cooperating with me again and I finally felt a bit nervous. But in that run Ina and Ogin made the first own mistake during the weekend, both missed the A-frame contact… Hm, not the best sync between me and my dogs. First my dogs are perfect and I'm doing easy, stupid mistakes. Then I'm back to normal, and my dogs are failing for the first time. I'm calling that pretty bad timing. :o/
Well, a summary of all this: It was not my best performing weekend in my life. I'm really pleased with a lot of things and my dogs were totally great, but it feels so strange that I didn't make it. I have always made it, since the first year I approved for the team, 13 years in a row. But as my friend Nettan said to me, it's also the first time someone close to you die nine days before the qualification. I guess that has something to do with my easy, stupid mistakes and I really hope I never have to experience anything like this again. But… I might still have a small, small chance to make it… The Swedish championship is also included in the selection of the team, so if I make great results there, who knows what will happen? 🙂 I'm a very positive and stubborn person, so I will not give up yet. I will try to be friend with my brain again, I will try to get back to the right focus. But Gemma's funeral will be held a few days before the championship. Maybe I will make it, maybe it will take some more time to get back to normal, we will see how it goes in a few weeks!
Course walk on the sunny field in Ireland
Now I'm in Ireland, the green Island. And it's really nice to be back again! I have been here several years now and I'm really enjoying to be here and to meet all those lovely Irish people. But, I nearly missed the flight Monday! The station before the airport they told in the speaker they were not allowed to stop at the airport because of the police were doing something there. So we had to go to the next station and take the train back to the airport. All people went off the train and in to the next on the other side. But then they told that wouldn't stop there either, we had to wait for the next train. So we went off again, waited and when the next train came we all got in and then they told us the same again, "- No this train will not stop at the airport, you have to wait 20 minutes for the next one". At that time I got a little bit nervous because I didn't have that much time, about 40 minutes until departure. So I went up with two ladies that also were in a hurry and we tried to catch a taxi but about 50 more people were trying the same and there was not a single taxi there! One car came and could take four people… only 46 left… but after a while some more cars came and finally we got one. He drove us to the airport and the two nice ladies told me they could take care of the payment so I could just run directly, how nice of them! And I ran through the whole airport and because of the flight was delayed 10 minutes and the security staff could see I was in a hurry so they opened the fast track (how nice of them too!), I came in time, just in the last minute. Totally sweaty and exhausted, but I didn't miss the flight!
The seminar day yesterday was great, sunny and exciting. There was lot's of spectators and all people were concentrated and curious the whole day. Quite many handlers are now running their new dogs and some have dogs I have been training since they were puppies. It's really great to follow them all like this! After the seminar we went to a little fishing village named Howth and ate a delicious dinner.
The place where the seminar is held is just lovely. It's an old horse farm in Malahide, is there anything more summery than this picture?! It reminds me when I was a kid and I had my walls covered with posters like this; A foal in a summer field with buttercups…