Hamsterley Forest is no short drive from K9 Trail Time HQ in Gloucestershire – it sits between Teesdale and Weardale in the heart of beautiful Durham Dales, approximately 10 miles from Bishop Auckland and 255 miles from where we call home.
We decided to make the trip for the weekend of the 10th & 11th November after hearing about how challenging the course was from those who ran it last season. The base for the weekend was a car park surrounded by steep embankments which gave a clue that the course was going to be hilly! After arriving and setting up on the Friday night we were up early so Marc could get out on the bike to see the course in the daylight before racing began.
The bikes were out prompt at 10am followed by the runners at 10.30am. As I watched Donnie and Marc set out on their first bikejor race as a team, I wondered what Tegan, Judo and I had in store, as I heard rumours of 3 river crossings and lots of up and down hills. The rumours proved to be true!
The course started out along a forest road then up a hill and onto more rural forest tracks – I think I counted 3 or 4 gentle inclines and declines until a big hill at about the 1.5 mile mark which followed the first of the river crossings. The thing with running uphill is that you know if you’re finishing where you started, you have to come downhill and with a 2 dog team, down is often more challenging than up.
The downhill to the second of the river crossings was ‘interesting’ for us but I have been coached recently by a good friend about running downhill attached to dogs and with his words in my head, I managed to scramble down and through the river before I’d even really registered what was happening. (I later found out Marc and Donnie had parted company on the same stretch!)
With another killer hill the other side of the river it was a relief to reach the top and plod along the top catching my breath before the final descent and the last of the river crossings. The river here was waist height in places and the dogs had to swim through to get to the other side (there were bridge crossings as an alternative for those who didn’t want to brave the river).
The final straight was back on the forest road to the finish line and it was great to be cheered in. We all had wet feet but had negotiated all the hills and rivers without mishap (except for the parting of Marc, Donnie and bike before the second river crossing). All that was left to do was repeat the process on the Sunday!
We all had a better Sunday race with increased speeds and no problems with the technical sections – so we left Hamsterley with a 3rd place for Marc & Donnie in the bikejor and in the 2 dog class, Tegan, Judo and I were 5th. With another weekend of great racing behind us and a course that provided a new experience with the inclusion of the river crossings, Team Thomas are looking forward to the rest of the 2012/2013 season as we’re only a couple of months in.