The church of self improvement

Standoff on the trail

The past week has been a whirlwind.  OK, *ALL* the weeks of my life lately are a whirlwind, but the past week was literally a blur.  I can’t believe that just last weekend I was at Argus Ranch for the NW USDAA Regional, which Solar won for the 3rd year in a row.  Jester came in 2nd at 22″ – a very respectable finish for a dog nearly 8 years old, who I now just dust off for competition once in a while.  At 7, Fly ran in his last USDAA trial at the 2007 NW Regional, and won the Performance Grand Prix, so a placement in Championship with Jester this year was bittersweet for me; Jester is 7 and will be 8 this Fall, and I am cherishing every moment I get to walk in to the ring with him.  We’ve had such a complicated and special journey together, and I wouldn’t trade any of those moments for anything.

In any case, the NW Regional is the best run Regional in the country – I was able to fun both my dogs in the GP Round 2, and make a 4pm flight out to Cheyenne, WY.  I arrived in Cheyenne at around 10pm Mt. time on Sunday evening, and was up and at ’em Monday morning for the first day of CSpotWin camp, where I was an instructor this year. I taught from 8-5 Monday, then gave a mental management lecture that evening. Tuesday I taught from 8-5 and gave an evening talk on running contacts.  Wednesday and Thursday were ‘normal’ 8-5 days.  Friday I headed home, Saturday I headed to a local AKC trial, and BAM, by the time I had run three runs, my brain was kaput.

David was out of town while I was out of town, and he arrived home Saturday night.  Between the rain, David coming home, and the promise of AM waffles (a la David), I just couldn’t bring myself to head back for day 2 of the trial. I feel rejuvenated after a lazy Sunday morning and a rainy Sunday July hike.

Juno: 18 months old going on 6 months.

Yep, WA is the new AK.  This July is gorgeous…for Anchorage.  I can’t complain, though, the clouds are at least high enough in the sky that I don’t feel oppressed, and as I type, they’ve actually lifted to reveal blue sky.

CSpotWin Camp

Teaching at a camp was a new experience for me.  I’ve never taught at a camp, and have never even attended an agility camp. It was a lot of fun. The energy of the auditors and participants made it easy for me to stay energized through the last day.  I was lucky enough to have the ‘novice’ group on the last day, although I have to say, they weren’t all that ‘novice’ IMO 🙂 I was lucky enough to teach four different groups of amazing people.

I’ve given a few dinnertime conversations regarding mental management, but this was the best one I’ve done so far.  More and more, I have come to view agility as just another one of those things that we get in to for the purpose of self-improvement.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m really not one of those people with shelves full of books on self-improvement or anything like that, but really, we all find our own ways of growing as we live, our own ways of ‘becoming’, and isn’t agility just another one of those ways? The longer I participate in this activity, the less and less my participation is about the activity itself, and the more and more it has become a framework for growth and change that benefits ALL areas of my life (and yes, there are some non-agility areas :))

Each morning before the day’s instruction started, I would head to the local Starbucks for a cup of coffee and some oatmeal.  Wednesday morning, though, the line was LONG with fellow campers.  Now, I like Starbucks, but I’m not waiting in line for 20 minutes for a cup of Starbucks coffee! So, I whipped out my phone, and sure enough, a local coffee roastery and cafe was just minutes away.  The sign on the door welcomed all malcontents, do-gooders, and revolutionaries, so I figured I’d be OK, and be likely to get a good cup of coffee to boot.

Sure enough, the coffee was great, and they had a coffee maker that looked like something straight out of the Wizard of Oz or Willy Wonka – I expected it to announce the completion of the coffee brewing process with a series of dings, whistles, and whirling sounds:

A Willy Wonka Coffee Maker

I also got to see some amazing storms blow through; WY really is Big Sky Country. It’s gorgeous.  The air smells amazing, like sage or something really herby.  All in all, it was a great experience, and one I’m really grateful to have had the chance to have.

A video I took with my iPhone – all those flashes are lightning! No thunder, though…

The NW Regional

Juno’s first USDAA Trial ever was the NW Regional.  She wasn’t old enough to have any tournament legs under her belt, so she just ran in the DAM Team and the Starters classes.  She was pretty excited to be at such a big show, although she wasn’t really sure WHY she was there, or what she should do with that excitement.  I was so busy running 3 dogs that I can’t honestly remember what she might or might not have actually qualified in, but overall, I felt we were better off at the end of the weekend than we were at the beginning.

Thanks to Tammy for a video of Solar at the Regionals – with 3 dogs, I had a camera but didn’t get much filming done.

And thanks again to Tammy for this video of Jester:

Jester won round 1 of the Steeplechase but my mind was elsewhere in round 2, so no STP bye for him.  Solar won round 1 and got 2nd in round 2.  Both dogs got a DAM Team Q, their first (and only) for the year – I needed that! And, since both got byes for the semifinals in GP, I will indeed be making the CRAZY trip back from France to compete at USDAA Nationals less than 72 hours after the FCI World Championships.  Hopefully I can find somebody to get Jester to KY for me so I don’t have to come all the way home to WA and then head back to KY like last year, as I won’t have time.

Other Random Stuff

I’m home for a week – I leave Sunday for Germany and Austria for the European Open with Solar.  I’m looking forward to tent camping on site, rain or shine, should be an experience worth remembering! This week is all about recuperation, pedicures, hikes, swims, laundry…

Oh yes, and the BIGGEST news of late…NO back pain for nearly 3 weeks! Between my Alexander lessons and my minimalist shoes (no 5-fingers for me, thanks, but there are lots of alternatives out there), my back pain, which has plagued me for almost three years, is now GONE. Sunday I slipped on some Goretex shoes by Inov8, still pretty minimal but nothing like my New Balance Minimus shoes, and within an hour or so, my back started to hurt.  I’m sure I won’t be constricted to flat shoes for the rest of my life, but it seems that for now, while I’m unlearning old habits, it’s best not to step in to old shoes.

Finally, some random images from our hike Sunday: