so the can am classic has come and gone. and it’s taken me nearly a month to write about it. that’s how giant it was! you know what the can am classic is, right? http://nafacanam.com/ if you don’t actually live in my world. thanks for visiting!
it was incredible. first, incredibly BIG. really REALLY big building with 6, count ’em 6 rings of flyball racing. you know what a ring is, right? a ring is made up of 2 lanes, one for each team in the race. that means, when all the rings were up and running (all day saturday), there were 12 teams actually racing at one time. That’s 48 dogs and around 50 people. and that’s just in the lanes. waiting outside the lanes are another 12 teams who are on deck. it was just massive. someone who isn’t a flyball person would also have described it as LOUD. whatever, i don’t notice the noise at all any more. it’s just not important.
of course, i play flyball all year long, in places alot closer than indianapolis. so what makes this event so special?
#1 on my list is definitely seeing friends. i play flyball, a team sport, because the social aspect appeals to me. i love playing with my dogs but at the same time, i’m playing with my friends, and their dogs, and we’re all in it together. all fur one, one fur all! one person or dog’s victory is the whole team’s victory. we care about each other. we’re tight. you gotta be tight to wear that much pink (that’s actually a direct quote, someone from another club, observing us at ring side).
At can am, we see friends from all over north america, as well as our trusty, in region buddies. we cram more fun into 3 days at can am than you can shake a slat at. catching up, telling stories, sharing rants, talking about dogs, and yes, probably consuming a few adult beverages, it’s all just priceless.
of course, we also come for the RACING. it’s kind of a big deal. pretty much the fastest teams in NAFA all under one roof. and the also rans. we were those in spades:) there are GIANT trophies for the Can Am Regular and Can Am Multibreed champs. this year, there were also slightly more modest trophy cups for the champs of the “classic” divisions……….regular 1 thru 7 and Multibreed 1 thru 3.
we did alot of racing! fur fun entered 7 teams and i’m here to say, next year, less than that. we were so freakin busy! on saturday, we had a 45 minute stretch when we were UP ALL THE TIME. literally. race, put dogs from one team away and grab the ones for the next team and truck on back to the lanes. repeat. for 45 minutes. it was a little excessive. i felt a bit as though the only teams i got to watch were fur fun teams. and no offense, guys, you know i love you, but i watch our dogs racing at every tournament i attend. i was kind of hoping to watch some teams race that i DON’T see every weekend. on sunday, all other racing stopped while the Can Am elimination races happened, and that was awesome. i just wish i’d had just a SMIDGEN more down time to hang out, do some shopping, watch some racing, etc. next year!
at awards on saturday, they announce the top times in regular and multibreed, and invite teams to participate in the single elim bracket racing for the Can Am cups. everyone who DOESN’T race in the can am final bracket, is seeded into their own speed divisions. those divisions made up the “classic” part of sunday’s championship. the classic teams ran regular round robins and each division came down to one race, between the 2 top seeds, in the big championship ring, for the pretty trophy. every division got a champion. super fun and inclusive.
now let’s be blunt. there are only 3 or 4 teams that have a really good shot of winning the Can Am cups. these are the teams that are seeded 1-2-3, who post the fastest times all weekend long, the ones everyone expects to see in the finals. the rest of the field filling out that bracket, are “also rans,” who will probably get knocked out in one race. but every one of them has a chance to be a cinderella story on the big stage, and that is something REALLY special.
did you know there are only 2 clubs who had teams in the regular and multibreed can-am brackets in 2009 AND 2010? hint: one has a slightly better record than the other. but whatevs, we’re still pretty proud
*and of aside*
back to the bracket. i was shocked at how many teams DECLINED the invitation to compete for the Can Am cups. their reasoning seemed to boil down to “we don’t want to be done racing at 7:45am after we get eliminated in the first round.” pragmatic, for sure.
fur fun accepted our invitations into both brackets, and we were honored to do so. we were the last seed in the multibreed bracket, and i think #12 out of 16 in regular. we knew we probably wouldn’t make it past the first round, we would be “one and done,” and finished racing by 7:45am. we were cool with all that. there is always a chance, even if it’s slim, for an upset. even the fastest, best, most consistent dogs spit balls, bobble, and pass early sometimes. and sometimes, the slower team on paper wins the race.
once upon a time, there was a nafa championship in arizona. and fur fun beat (twice, in a double elimination format) a team that was faster on paper, and favored to win. and itwas AMAZING. we didn’t win the whole championship, but we got alot closer than anyone expected.
the chance for our dogs and handlers to run in a high pressure environment, with everyone live and livestream, watching us, and pushing us to do our best, that’s something you don’t get very often. in fact, it only comes once a year. It’s a chance to push your limits, test your skills and your nerves. what have you got to lose? our philosophy was, we had raced for 2 full days, so if our top regular and multi teams just raced one and done, it wasn’t like they hadn’t done anything all weekend. and maybe JUST MAYBE we might have gotten by one of those faster teams, and been a cinderella story at can am, and wouldn’t that be great?? we weren’t afraid of failure, because we’d won already, just stepping out on the floor. We didn’t choke, we ran as well as we could. Our multi team, Faux Fur, raced the #1 seed, Rocket Relay, who went on the win the whole thing. We ran clean and fast (for us) and they beat us in 4. Formula Fun raced Positive Pups, and we were pretty close in times. we ran a 15.9 in the first heat and they just edged us out. second 2 heats, someone (who might be me) had an early pass. hey man, i was pushing it! we had to run our very best to have any chance of winning on time, so we tried.
the point is, now those handlers and dogs have an experience under their belts that is unique in our sport. and experiences like that matter in the long run. testing yourself under pressure and in front of lots of people who might watch you fail pushes you to be better. the next time those handlers step into a race that decides the winner of their division for the weekend, or region for the racing year, or whatever, they will have this experience from which to draw confidence. keeping your head under pressure becomes a habit, and it’s a good one. we were proud to be one and dones, and we’ll happily do it again if we get the chance.
so that was the big dance……..of course, we still had 5 other teams still racing on sunday. “what about them?” i hear you asking. well i’ll tell you. our teams in veterans 1, regular, and open teams were a bit over matched in all their divisions. the dogs ran well, the people handled well, they just weren’t quite fast enough to do a whole lot of winning. however, one of our teams did ALOT of winning. at the end of the day, we saw that Fur Play would race in the championship race for Multibreed division 3! How exciting! the line-up was tony (BC) and erin, emmie (yellow lab) and donna, cameo (mix) and penny, hop devil (sheltie) and deb, jetta (corgi) and susie, and the faithful back-up, freak (mix) and me.
around mid day on sunday, hoppie threw in the towel. she said that 2.5 days of flyball was more than enough for her, she was tired, thank you very much. cameo and penny did a great job filling the spot for the rest of the day, but in the finals race, a super cute fuzzy mix on music city road dogs just proved too tempting. cami reminded us that she’s still fairly green, and still enjoys visiting a dog who catches her eye, we lost the first heat due to interference. CALLING THE TRUSTY BACK-UP! i race back to our crating area and wake up freak. he has not stepped into the lanes once all weekend. he’s a back-up on 2 teams and just hasn’t been needed. we didn’t even have time to step outside for a pee, just grabbed his wubba and back to the lanes. freak is a trooper, and he and the rest of the line-up ran 3 perfect heats and brought home the win! it was a very exciting moment for our whole club, but especially the handlers on Fur Play. 3 of them were there at their first championship event, running their first flyball dogs, and they won! we were all pretty proud, arms are sprained patting ourselves on the back.
watching the rest of the finals, both classic divisions and the can-am, was so freakin’ exciting. here’s the final heat of the can am regular division. if it doesn’t give you goosebumps, check your pulse!
overall, i can’t say enough good things about our trip t0 can-am. it was fun and rewarding for all our teams………from the fastest to the not fastest, we all did our best and have a unique experience to always remember. to all our flyball pals, we highly recommend making the trip to Indy next year.