The Woodchester CaniX races took place over the weekend of the 8th and 9th of December, in the beautiful National Trust setting of Woodchester Mansion. The venue itself was a few miles out of Stroud and the parking and camping was in a car park set into the hillside just above the woodland. This was a very local race for us but we still managed to get lost using the Sat Nav instead of common sense and arrived slightly harassed!
The start of the race was about a five minute walk from the car park and it was fun struggling with the dogs down to the start chute, as they all knew they were racing and were raring to go. Luckily, the start of the 6 km course was uphill and with 2 dogs, the hill was hardly noticeable. It led you up into the woods above a valley, with wide dirt tracks which were perfect for allowing the faster runners to overtake.
Then came the downhill. One of the steepest I’ve encountered with the 2 dog team, I had to hang on for dear life as other people with well trained and obedient dogs, simply skipped down happily with dogs either at the side of of them or behind them. I managed to get to the bottom with no mishaps and the track then opened out along the side of the valley allowing fantastic views as we made our way slowly down into the bottom of the valley and to the lake in the middle.
The homeward stretch of the route was through fields and alongside the lakes with a small stint on some boarded walks, which although narrow, were not slippery and actually great fun for the dogs as they wove between the trees. We even managed to pick up speed through this section.
The last kilometer was slightly uphill after passing by the magnificent mansion, which I found hard to ignore, as by then I quite fancied a little rest and to read a bit about the history of the house! But it was onwards and upwards for Team Thomas and we finished Saturday’s race happy and in awe of the course we had just completed.
Sunday’s race was slightly more eventful because instead of struggling down the steep downhill we managed it in style, the dogs were calm and relaxed and I actually felt like one of the people with obedient dogs for a change. So thrilled at having made it down the best part of the hill with ease, I made the mistake of thinking I could let them go for the last hundred feet of the downhill where it then flattened out. I simply could not keep up with them and as my feet slipped out behind me I realised I was not only going to fall, but was going to faceplant the ground!
I managed to avoid any serious injury to anything except my pride, as I had two witnesses to my nose dive who both not only asked if I was ok, but afterwards commented on how I had managed to fall so spectacularly and still got up smiling. I ran the whole of the rest of the course grinning because I loved the setting of the race and for me, this type of race is what makes it interesting. Woodchester was a real test of control and nerve with the downhills but also power and stamina to get up the other hills and over the 6 km of varied terrain. We might not have had the fastest time of the weekend (more like the slowest) but to date this is one of my favourite courses and I hope this becomes a firm fixture in the CaniX race calender.