From Donna:

Hope everyone that went to CanAm has made it home safely. The trip to Indiana (whose state motto is "Repair NO Roads" and whose state symbol is the pothole!) was unforgettable. First in Flight couldn't have made a better showing at this big event. This recap is going to be long, so be patient.

We usually go to tournaments with a points first, placement second attitude. This tournament, we ALL went in with a placement first goal, and points would be secondary and nice if we got them. EVERYONE'S competitive side kicked in big time, and it was a really fun tournament. And WE ROCKED!

Friday, we were seeded last in our division and managed to bring home a first place ribbon. We won ALL our races. The format was 3 of 5 (the first team to win three heats wins the race and no more heats are run). For the most part we cleaned up with the first three heats, and then moved on to the next race. We had four races, ran a total of 14 heats. All heats were wins except for two. One of those was a NF due to a bobbled ball and missed jump and the other was a NF due to my overpass. We decided from the start not to rerun any dogs. We went in to the last race of the day, needing to win it to take first place, and pulled it off nicely even with the added pressure. Both Friday and Saturday, the dogs ran fast and very, very well. I sincerely believe they were feeding off of our competitive adrenalin. Starring, in order of appearance:

Flye: who was her usual fast self with some excellent starts from Cathy. I don't think Flye made a single error both days.
Tammie: our awesome height dog who ran her heart out with enthusiam both days. Marsha also had some really good passes.
Annie: who ran very well both days. Annie shaved a half second off her average time, consistently ran 5.2's and 5.3's and set a new personal best of 4.988-with a pass. I think she picked up on my competitive edge :-)
Kessie: who was fantastic! Kessie didn't make a single mistake all weekend. And Sharon did an awesome job of handling. She pushed those passes when we needed and held back when necessary. It's a hard job to not only handle your own dog, but to watch everyone else's times popping up so you know how to release your pass.
Bizzi: who was disappointed to run only two races in two days, but graciously agreed to let his faster sister run anchor.

Breakout Friday was 20.5 and we managed several 20.6's and up to 20.9's. Our slowest time was a 21.4. Breakout or not, we didn't hold back.

I also can't say enough thanks to our support team. Our boxloaders Tim and Laura, Susan who did stats, and our borrowed pass caller, Colleen, who did an extraordinary job. We would like to steal her for our team. Sharon's daugher helped us on Saturday by ballshagging.

Saturday we got off to a rocky start with our first race when Bizzi decided he did not want to pass Annie. (I believe Annie was a bit overstimulated by all the noise and dogs from the previous day, and she was NOT in a good mood that morning...she ran well, but outside the ring, any dog that even looked at her got a view of her pearly white teeth). We shuffled the lineup around after a couple of heats, but by the time we did that, we had lost our flow and the race. We ran Kessie in the remainder of the races, who either didn't care about Annie's ill temper, but most likely didn't even see her as she headed down the lane. We won every race after that, again cleaning up with the first three heats and then moving on to the next race. We won every heat after the first race, with the exception of one, which was a perfect tie. At the end of the day, we were tied for first place with Positive Pups (who are affiliated with Rocket Relay) and the tie was determined by best time head to head. They had a 21.15 and we had a 21.075 (breakout was 21.0 !!!) So our near breakout netted us first place again. Our times weren't nearly as fast as Friday's as we tried to keep it in check to keep from breaking out as we were seeded in a different division that day. Sharon did an amazing job of adjusting her pass. We decided that rather than everyone trying to adjust and creating chaos, that only the last two dogs would do so if necessary. Sharon did such a good job of it, that it wasn't necesasry for me to make any either.

I can't express to you just how exciting and fun this tournament was. Six rings, (which ran surprisingly smoothly with very few glitches), the level of competition, racing teams from other regions, these are just a few of the things that made this one special. I am very glad that I was able to go. I would highly recommend this trip for anyone interested in going next year. It's a whole different level than what we are used to and a great experience. They had some nice welcome gifts, and it was also fun to be a part of the world record, set with 810 dog competing.


From Sharon:
Thanks Donna for the pat on the back.  Everyone did a wonderful job and it were amazing. Like Donna said, the dogs picked up the excitement and you could see they were in it to win it.  Everyone did their job so well that they made it easy for me to try and control the speeds and times.  As each dog was released the times became consistent, the passes became consistent and made it easier for me to control Kessie's times.
 
 The atmosphere was so different, you just felt like everyone there was there for one reason and that was to win.  Points, we don't race for no stupid points, we race for wins.  And we caught the fever.  Marsha showed a competitive side that we had never seen before and her mantra became "We have to beat those bitches".  In fact we are thinking of adding that phrase to the back of our team shirts.
 
Just an added note.  Kessie got her FDCH-G and will receive her ribbon in Blacksburg.  Bizzi had his nose a bit out of joint on Fri when he kept seeing Kessie headed to the ring, but when his turn came he was happy, happy tail over the back happy.  Kessie is a bullet, she hones in on her target so placing her where we needed her became easy thanks alot to Colleen who is now a new friend.  Colleen bought a staffy from a breeder in Charlotte and I was contacted by Amanda to see if any of us could get the pup to Indy.  So pup rode with me and in return she agreed to call passes.  And she was GOOD.  Thanks to her we could get our passes down and after a few heats we could judge exactly where to move or let go to achieve the time we wanted.
 
If you had told me a year ago Kessie could do this I would say no, she would not be ready, but she is so consistent that if Donna wanted me to slow it down, I could move her back a few feet and change the release. Once Annie bobbled, I was able to release her a bit sooner got a 1 foot pass and we got the win. Our last race with Positive Pups was a worry.  We knew we had to win to win the division and the first heat was a tie, Kessie going head to head with a wiener dog.  How could I let a wiener dog beat a border collie.  So a speed adjustment was necessary and we pulled it off with winning the next 3 heats.  But the last heat of the last race everyone thought I had fallen asleep at the wheel.  Mind you the height dog was a wiener dog, but the first 3 dogs were speed dogs, so that dog would have a two jump lead.  This time wiener dog missed all the jumps to the box, flag, so I held Kessie a bit knowing there was no reason to push but Tim was having a coronary at the box whispering "Come on Sharon let her go, let her go".  Tim had not seen the flag so he thought we were going to lose that heat. And I waited almost to the 4th jump to let her go.  Still got under 22.  It was just too much fun.
 
Everyone needs to think seriously about going next year.  It was so worth it.  And we need to do all three days.  The drive was long, but easy.  Even with the pot holes.

Had a great time this weekend.  You all would have enjoyed it too.  Just a different attmosphere then a normal tournament.  Points seem to go out the window in favor of winning the heats and races.  Donna was going crazy keeping track of the other teams so we would know where we were at all times.  The program that kept track of rings and if you were in the hole or on deck was a brillant idea.  It was nice knowing exactly when and where you would race.

Donna will fill you in details of the races, but all I can say is it was nail biting if nothing else.  Our dogs were great.  I was proud of Kessie, she handle this whole thing like a seasoned vet.  Bizzi got to race a couple times, did well on Sat but screwed up twice in our first race as he ran past the jumps.  Switched him around in the lineup to pass Tammie and that worked well.  Otherwise we would have had 100 completion.

From Marsha:

The CanAm experience was more than I ever expected.  Not for the faint of heart or the recreational participant, this is serious stuff.  The venue is so huge and the timing so complicated.  It was all about focus.  Because it was over in a blink of the eye.  We got to the ring (people and dogs) early, got in the ring, did our jobs, and got out.  It was doing our business in a restrained, professional manner.

From an organizational point of view, I had to preschedule race numbers in advance in my head to get ready.  Race number XXX to prepare myself, race xxx to take Tammie outside, etc.  We needed to get assembled as soon as the ring assignment was made, get the equipment to that ring pronto.  I saw dogs miss their first hears or even teams miss their entire races because things went so fast.  For our last race on Saturday, we thought we were still on deck, but it was really the warm up for our race, and we were standing right outside the ring.  We had to be alert and on our game.

To start the tournament on Friday, we were scheduled for race 3.  Since there were 5 rings running simultaneously that day, we would be up first in the red ring.  So you know we set up the night before as much as we could.  Got there early the first day, set our equipment up in the ring, both boxloaders practiced on the box, set the jumps, etc. in advance without the frenzy of switching boxes and jump heights between races.  That may have helped set the tone because all we had to do was go to the ring about 7:50 am, walk in when the whistle blew, do runbacks and minimal warm-ups.   And when the whistle blew, we just went in and matter-of-factly went about our business. 

And that’s what we did all weekend, we went about our business in the ring, both days.  I was fortunate to have the patient coach Donna so close to me in the lane, to keep me on my toes.  Tammie ran second, and with all the rings going, I kept hearing false start whistles -  but they were from the other rings.  When you’re running behind Flye, she is going up and back in a flash -- there is no time to hesitate. Hey, I’m a fairly green handler, mistakes give wins to the other team.  Donna helped keep me on my toes.  You snooze, you lose.  The tie in our final race was caused my errant long pass in the first heat, but great saves from Donna and Sharon held it at dead-even time to the thousandth of a second.  After my nap/lapse, we were back in business to finish it off with wins in the next three heats. 

We finished the tournament on Saturday afternoon as we started it on Friday morning.  Three straight wins  … as if that’s all we know how to do! 

On Saturday, we had a compact day and finished racing fairly early.  Although our dogs were finished running, we weren’t out of the woods.  We kept waiting for hours for the results to post for the other teams in our division.  Late in the day, the final division race was to be run.  If one team won, we would be the only 3 of 4 race winner, and clearly be the division winner.  But if the other team won, we would have a tie for points and would have to win by the tie-breaker rules.  We knew walking over to watch this final race that FIF had posted the best time in the division and head to head, if there was a 3 of 4 race tie.  And that should do it, if we understood the rules correctly.  We would either win by a lot as the only 3 wins of 4 team, or  just a little - based on time/speed, against one of the renowned teams in flyball. 

Our team had done all it could on Saturday, our races were over, and all we could do was watch.  Our team results could not change, and dogs would not be affected loosening the tight emotional restraint of the entire weekend.  So we all went to watch the final division race that determined the final placements.  At this point, it was not “just about the dogs”, it was about the people/ego aspect of it.  And now I see, that’s why we traveled to this event.  I finally let the emotion loosen, because I had my reasons for wanting to us to win and someone else to lose.  It was a bit like a grudge match, little did everyone realize until it was over.  The results said it all – FIRST PLACE – AGAIN.

My running mates are gurus of flyball.  Cathy is unflappable, Donna is a quick-thinking competitor with patience to spare, and Sharon is the master planner at back of the lane – she sees all, waits, and goes in for the final close.  It is incredible that we had no breakouts.  And we heavily relied on our crew to make it happen as seamlessly as possible.  Big thanks to Susan, Laura and Tim flexibly sharing duties.  And it was a pleasure to have Dina, Sharon’s daughter, join us for Saturday. And can’t say enough good things about a new friend named Colleen, who was our inspirational pass coach, when she wasn’t running her dog for her own team.

I want to thank all of our dogs for being part of this, whether they were in Indy or not.  Our dogs are what bring us all together.  Our dogs make us a team.  It is my belief that entire First in Flight team made this a success.  Every dog, every handler past and present.  Every regional tournament, every great morsel of nourishment, every Friday night practice, every “ready-set-go”, every shagged ball and rolled up mat, every “good dog”, every game of catch at home, every smile and encouraging word to teammates made this level of success possible. 

Thank you for having Tammie, Tim and me as part of the FIF team.  We wear the red, white and blue with pride.


From Cathy:

Well I have just had the best time reading all the posts and reliving our Can Am weekend! It really was a great time. The drive was indeed long (1,100+ miles up and back, through five states), but I had the BEST navigator in Susan, and the route she planned for us was for the most part smooth and scenic.

The venue was amazing! You would not believe how BIG that building is - you could easily drive a train through it and have plenty of space leftover. The crating areas were well organized, the racing ran incredibly smoothly, and there was a nice selection of vendors on site - selling all kinds of things for dogs and handlers - even shoes, which I had never seen at a flyball tournament. OK, yes, I did bring a pair home with me.

Donna and Sharon did just an exceptional job! They were so good at managing things that I was not even aware of a lot of their strategizing, which was great because it left me free to concentrate exclusively on Flye during every race - which I think helped her post some of her best times ever, and without one single bobble all weekend!

Overall it was an exceptional flyball experience that I would highly recommend. I hope I can attend again in the future!

From Me:

Whew!