Saturday, August 30, 2014

Preparing for Luxembourg...

In 5 days we are flying the approximate 8963km, from Johannesburg to Frankfurt. We will then drive the 198km from Frankfurt to Luxembourg, where we will be spending the majority of our stay.

Each 'World Championship Event' has it's own feel, format, it's own personality.  I don't think preparation for any final that an Agility handler might run is the same... my take on the South African road to the FCI Agility World Championships is just a single view, a single opinion, a single way of preparing.

As a South African, I travel halfway across the world, spending a large sum of money. This is a choice I make, it is something that you work towards over many months. Once you are selected for the team, there are mounds of paperwork and technical details: flights, cargo costings, titre tests, EU Health Certificates, Customs Clearing, Schengen Visa Applications, flight crates, to mention a few.  On top of that most of us need to do some serious fundraising (we are talking a trip that costs in the region of 2800 Euro or 3700 dollars here). In between holding a day job and planning logistics, this trip is not something to be underestimated.

In between worrying about all of the above there is the actual preparation...

This is not all 'running AWC judge courses'... If I ran one full course a week in the last month it is a lot... It started with analysing my own weaknesses (weave poles speed, full wraps and a million other thing), improving those, thinking of better ways, videos and analysis, dreams and sleepless nights.  Only then did I analyse courses from the AWC judges, A LOT of courses, pulling them apart and separating the small individual sequences and then analysing the patterns and calculating the repetitions percentage for each judge... yes I am VERY technical.... Then overlapping my own skill strengths and weaknesses with judge habits and determining the best ways to train these individually to build our partnerships as strong as possible... have the most skills possible available at our finger tips. There is of course also fitness and muscle building exercises to ensure we are both as strong as we can possibly be. And then my best friend, The Mental Game. Making sure that I am prepared for every step from leaving South Africa, to stepping on the start line. Coping with disappointment and failure, just as much as success and triumph. Prioritising, shutting out, keeping in. Practising startline routines and exiting the ring and rewarding. I have two team rounds, where I owe it to my team mates to keep it together, to make sure that we stay in the game, recovering from mistakes and making it through. I know Volt runs at his best when I run all out, with everything I have, but balancing that with not incurring a disqualification is the key.  I have two individual rounds where there is only one rule, all or nothing, those are the Agility rounds that I live for. I will have to be sure to run each round as it is called for.

Now I am starting to get excited. I am a traveller after all. Sight-seeing and laughs with good friends. A European 'Braai' (barbecue). A local show. A team that wants to. A fun fair. My runs in the morning. Seeing 'old' Agility friends and making new ones (if you read this blog and you are going to Luxembourg, come and say hi). Quality time with Volt. New food. Good BEER! Walks with my dog. An unforgettable experience.

The support from Agility South Africa has been absolutely mind-blowing this year. People from near and far have been showing their enthusiasm for our team in so many ways and I hope we will do everyone proud!  I want to thank everyone, sorry if I forgot to do it personally. All your messages, all your good luck gifts, all your kind words and all your positive thoughts will be going with me to Luxembourg. I want to especially thank my amazing training partners and friends, the journey has been one that is bigger and more important than words.

I don't go to the AWC to win. If I had to spend all the time and effort and money to have the goal of winning, the outcome has a very small chance in being successful.  I go to the AWC to have the most awesome Agility holiday ever (this year I am fortunate enough to have awesome friends on the team even). I go to learn from people across the world. I go in with the knowledge that I have given the preparation my all, I am ready.  I will give every round, every second my all, I will run to the absolute best of my ability. I go to do Volt proud, do him justice and give him the rounds of his life. I go out there to make my country proud, regardless of the results on paper. This entire journey has brought me and Volt so much closer and our relationship is stronger than ever.  Those 30 seconds (x4) we are going to spend out in that Arena, the Arena of Dreams, the Arena that has made some and broken some, those few seconds are really just a small part of our story, but without that Arena, this journey would not have happened.  I go with no regrets and I am not planning on returning with any.  My journey might include podiums, disqualifications, top 10s, unexpected moments, medals, but it will not change the outcome. My time with my amazing partner.


  1. I wish you the very best of luck! This is a splendid piece on how to "see" and "be" at any event - thank you for writing it. I have been working over a blog in my mind entitled Why Compete for a very long time.
    You pretty much say it all right here

  2. Thank you for the wonderful compliment! The times we spend with our 'partners-in-crime' are invaluable. I am hoping to come back and share my amazing stories with all of you when I get back!

  3. Good luck! Please let us know how you go..will check back for updates! :)

  4. I was impressed to see your well written blog. It is interesting that you choose to handle border collies and a sheltie to push new levels of agility.
    Congratulations on your achievements so far and way to go ! good luck.