The Less Obvious Lesson

My first run at the World Championships was going to teach or shall I say re-teach me a very important lesson and that was; read the course maps carefully and read the numbers as you do your walk through.  I was running on team. Canada was the second team in the ring so I in fact was the fourth and sixth dogs in the event.



Canada's Large Dog Team; Fizz, Feature, Encore & Tanafon


My plan was to watch the “white” dog then not watch the team immediately before us — but get in the “zone” for my own runs. The white dog is a local dog that runs the course so the crowd can see where the course goes, the judge can review her handling path and theoretically,  that those competitors that have an early draw can watch at least one dog run so they can “see” the course before they must run it.

Two problems with that is 1) there is no break between the white dog and the first dog. So if you are the first dog you either give up your final mental prep to watch the white dog or you step into the ring cold turkey.  The next problem in Germany was that the holding area was a long way from the course and you couldn’t see well over all of the people. I considered running up the stairs to watch the white dog but the stairs were blocked with people just getting to their seats in the stands. So I decided to run my dogs without watching any other dogs run.

As it turned out both the white dog and the first Finnish dogs went off course so it may not have helped me to watch.

I stepped to the line running Encore first.  My plan was clear in my mind and I had one question of a serp or a front cross which I would answer as the opening of the course rolled. I ran a great course, exactly as I had envisioned.  The only problem was it was the wrong course. My questions of my 5-6-7 serp should have been no question as I had walked 6 as the wrong jump over and over both on the course and in my mental prep.  To make matters worse I also walked and mentally prepped for the wrong side of obstacle 9. Therefore I ran Encore with two off courses but no one mentioned the second off course to me as they thought I did it on purpose.

But wait, it gets worse. Even though I knew there was an error 5-6-7 (imagine my surprise when the judge blows his whistle and I can’t figure out why while I am running) I still had no idea that I was planning at obstacle 9 was also incorrectly.

I have no time to watch my team mate Big A (who uncharacteristically also went off course — I think he subconsciously did it  to make me feel better:)) so when I stepped into the ring with Feature I still had no idea that I had run obstacle number 9 incorrectly.

Imagine running at the world championships, with a really fast dog and having to read numbers. That is exactly what I had to do with Feature for obstacles 5-6-7. I hadn’t walked it, I hadn’t visualized it and for someone with a learning disability like mine that can create difficulties. I thought I did pretty while sending Feature to 6 and then holding her on a threadle arm and 7 until I could look to see what side of the obstacle the number  7 sat was on.

Now I hit obstacle 10, hear a groan from the crowd and once again a judges whistle and I am thinking, “is this a joke– why is she blowing that damn whistle again?” I had no clue why I had earned another disqualification.

Having discussions with my manager later she said “wow, that is certainly was not like you is it?” I had to be honest and say that yes actually it wasn’t unlike me. If I had to guess I would say I read course maps incorrectly and walk wrong courses about 10-20% of the time. Rarely does anyone know and rarely does it cost me anything. Although, this isn’t even the first time I have done it at a really big event. It cost me a national championship once. You would think I would have learned my lesson before!  Apparently not.

I actually even see the number on the wrong side of the jump when I review a course map. It rarely is a problem because one of my greatest strengths as a competitor is my ability to visualize. I catch my error once I see my fellow competitors run the course.  I then figure out what is the correct course then I go off and visualize it and when I run know one would know the difference because my visualizations are so real to me. The problem becomes glaring anytime I have to run early in a running order because I don’t get to see another competitor do things correctly.

So after that run it was decided that when the course maps came out I had to point to each obstacle and verbally tell someone what my plans were for handling. I thought it a bit overkill and perhaps a little demeaning but I didn’t complain. I figured I had no right to after what I had cost the Canadian team. The funny part came during the very next course. It was team standard. I get my map and Lynda was going to be my course checker. I am going over the course and I am finger pointing to each obstacle and telling Lynda my plan. When I announce obstacles 13-14 as a 180 Lynda freaks on me like Shrek hollering and Donkey “No Susan No!” It made me smile. She was so upset. It was a good that Lynda caught my error as 13-14 required a pull through the gap not a 180 handling that I saw when I looked at the paper.

Next funny thing was as I went over the course before it was open for walk through, whoever numbered it also put the number 14 on the wrong side of the jump. Luckily the judge caught it as he was wheeling the course.  It made me smile.

Many people walk wrong courses, it is often a rookie mistake or sometimes something nerves cause. I am pretty sure neither applied to me. With the other people I have talked to that have a similar problem it looks to me like it might be a touch of A.D.D. (ooh look something shiny:)).  Just making assumptions and rather than having your brain actually register what is really there. I really do see the number on the wrong side of the jump when I read the map.

Here is the is the video and walk you though what I am thinking throughout the runs.

So you may think that the lesson I learned was I need to pay better attention and yes you would be correct however, for me, there was a less obvious-but equally important lesson to be learned.

Imagine being Susan Garrett, someone that many people recognize at least by name from your books and DVDs. Thousands of people in the arena are watching and likely tens of thousands more are watch via live stream with great expectations for your run. Now imagine making a seriously novice mistake in front of all of those eyes not just with one dog but with two.

How do you respond. Do you cry? Do you hide from embarrassment? Do you need to walk somewhere for a few hours to be alone? Do you want to quit and not run any more of your runs at the world championships? Do you question why me> Why did this happen to me and why here at this big event? What do you do? Are you devastated? Knowing you must run team standard in less 7 hours or so, how do you recover?  Does this event create extra pressure for you for the rest of your runs at the World Championships?

I will leave you with all of those questions. Let me know what you think you would do in the same situation and next week I will write and tell you what I did.

Today I am grateful for understanding teammates, who I am sure where disappointed at my errors but where 100% supportive of me all weekend.

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