Overcoming Adversity

Recess and Gossip - AAC Nationals 2010

This past weekend was the 10th annual Agility Association of Canada National Championship. It’s the culmination of a season’s worth of dedicated training, the opportunity to see old friends from across the country, and the event where Recess and Gossip at Nationals 2010your performance determines your eligibility for Team Canada at the IFCS World Championship. In our household, this was an exciting time. My wife Kim was prepping for a big weekend. She was running Recess our experienced red and white border collie in her 5th nationals and was going into the pre-qualification runs in hopes of getting to the national runs with her rookie dog Gossip. Everything was ready for their Thursday flight from Toronto to Calgary. I would be holding down the fort, spending some quality time with the kids and our retired agility dog Maddie at home. Expectations were high. Kim was ready. Unfortunately for us, life had its own plan in play.

On Friday afternoon (pre-qualification day), Maddie suddenly passed away from a stroke. Our family, as we had come to know it, was no longer complete. This nationals weekend Cute picture of Maddiewould not be the fun and enjoyable experience we had all hoped for at the start. As difficult as it is to come to terms with, when someone close to you dies, there isn’t an awful lot you can do. You feel helpless.

For Kim, these feelings were amplified. She was over 3,000 km away from home and still had two days of intense competition to get through. It would be completely understandable for someone in this situation to shut down. Try to survive the two days and make it home to begin the grieving process.

Kim and I had a tear-filled conversation that Friday night. We relived many of our great memories of Maddie and we discussed what we should do over the next few days. Should Kim withdraw and come home? Should Kim stay and compete? How will she perform with all this extra stress and negative emotion surrounding her? I’m sure a similar conversation took place earlier this year with a fellow Canadian and Olympic medalist Joannie Rochette when she lost her mother just days before the start of her Olympic competition.

In the end, after all the tears had passed, it was clear that Kim had invested so much of herself into preparing for this event that she did not want to just give up. She was going for it. Maddie wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

To say that competing under these circumstances would be difficult is an understatement. This was an extreme test of Kim’s mental toughness.  How good was her mental game?

During the competition Kim struggled with her concentration. While preparing for each run, she often found her thoughts wandering from the task at hand. She was also havingKim and Recess preparing for a runsome difficulty keeping her emotions in check. To keep her performances on track, Kim relied heavily on her psychological skills training. Kim found comfort in falling into her pre-run routines. This helped her feel more in control and get her mind back on her upcoming performance. She used a lot of visualization to regain focus on the important performance aspects of her upcoming runs. To help deal with the strong emotions Kim was experiencing, she used breathing exercises and listened to calming music.

While there were some ups and downs over the weekend, by the end, Kim managed to place second (in the money :-)) in the Steeplechase championship, place in three of the six individual events (one first and two seconds) and finish in the top ten of the overall AAC National championship in the 22″ class. A pretty successful weekend and an effort that our family is very proud of. Maddie would have been impressed.

Could Kim have been this successful without having put in the time, working on her mental game? I can’t say for sure, but I know that Kim feels that it was a big help having these skills to rely on at such a difficult time.

Maddie, we miss you! 

Leave A Reply (2 comments so far)

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  1. Ann Hopp
    8 years ago


  2. Theresa Litourneau
    8 years ago

    I share in the sorrow of losing your dear friend.
    They leave such a hole in the heart.
    She is not far away though, I’m certain you can feel her.
    Remember love never dies.

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