The Checkendon Challenge race weekend was held over the 14th and 15th of September at a private venue in Oxfordshire not far from Reading. We were greatly anticipating this weekend of racing, as for many it was the first of the 2013/2014 season and was the launch of our new dogs sports team, NATB Dog Sports.
We arrived mid afternoon on the Friday to set up the van and the trade stand for the weekend and were instantly impressed by the large camping field which was to be the venue for the weekends’ races. I always like to check out the course if I’m bikejoring before we actually tackle it and I usually do this on foot but due to an ankle injury I picked up in the week, there was no way I was going to be able to walk the course. So I took my calmest dog (Tegan) and off we went to see what the course was like.
I have to say I was quite nervous after riding the course for the first time, the majority of it was in the cover of the woods, on a mountain bike trail which incorporated what felt like hundreds of twists and turns through some quite technical sections. I decided I had to get my bikejor boy out to have a trial run first so off I went out again and discovered it was actually easier to ride with a faster dog who pulled you through some of the more tricky sections. The canicrossers got an additional technical section which I didn’t see on this occasion, due to my injury and inability to be able to walk the course, but it was reported the dogs loved it and was similar to the technical sections on the bikejor course we did experience.
The course started out winding around the outside of the camping field on long flat grassy sections which took the ‘sting’ out of a fresh dog, before taking you under the trees and into the technical sections of the course. There were too many twists and turns to mention them all but it was fast, fun and took a fair bit of concentration to get through them all without a slip or slide (it had rained quite a lot on the Friday night). There were also some short, fast, straight sections of grassland along the edge of connecting fields which gave an opportunity to pick up some real speed.
The Saturday race went well for us, Donnie seemed to read my mind about the lines I wanted to take and we had no issues with the technical sections (other than my own incompetence!). We finished the race lying third and and I was particularly pleased considering my ankle was not in a good way. After all the racing finished we had the chance to practice around the course and so I took both Tegan and Judo out on the scooter to give them a run. I’d like to say the more I rode the course, the better I got an judging corners and lines but I have to give all credit to my dogs who seemed to recognise where I wanted to go before I’d even decided!
The Sunday race was just a good as Saturday and we retained our third place to win a fantastic bronze medal and a bag full of goodies. I was thrilled that with very little training due to the heat, Donnie and I had managed to hold off a number of competitors and take the third against some stiff competition. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole weekend at the Checkendon event and found the relaxed atmosphere including the availability of the course to train on, a refreshing change from most events.
The course itself was tough enough for an experienced canicrosser, bikejorer or scooterer but with a controlled dog, easy enough to get around without mishap, as it was all flat and well marked. I think the first Checkendon Challenge was a huge success for all involved and with the inclusion of a few trade stands (including our own) to provide some weekend shopping for competitiors, the event was one I hope will be repeated in the future as a fixture in the canicross, bikejor, scooter race calender.