The Cani-Fit Experience II was the second weekend of racing organised by Lindsay Cloughley of Cani-Fit and was held over the weekend of the 21st and 22nd September at the beautiful venue of Bowland Trails, Perthshire (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bowland-Trails/120882951322685)
After a long trip up from Gloucestershire (split in two by a stop off at West Morland Services) we arrived at the venue near Blairgowrie and were immediately in awe of the surroundings. The whole event was set in the grounds of the home of John and Mary Carter, who have landscaped their property to incorporate miles and miles of grassy trails, purpose made for running dogs on. There is large barn on the main drive and a couple of pens where you can drive your van in and shut the gates to enclose your van and dogs, which allows you to get straight out on the trails with a scooter, bike, rig or on foot.
With the K9 Trail Time van set up on the side of the drive, I set out with a team of people to help mark the course for the race in the back of a 4 x 4, with what felt like hundreds of wooden markers. In all honesty I did little more than sit in the back and enjoy the fantastic views, but I did get a sneak peak of what was to come and settled down on the Friday night looking forward to running the dogs in the first event we have ever raced on 100% grass trails. It is also the first event I could run Donnie on the bike and Tegan and Judo together on the scooter, all in the same day.
Saturday got off to a good start but I hadn’t realised just how fit you need to be to manage running dogs on grass trails. That sounds a bit odd as we’re always running on grass but not lovely soft grass like the trails at Bowlands. The course started out winding it’s way very quickly down through some fields and an orchard, then started to gradually move you uphill to the main section of woodland. I quickly learnt that I was nowhere near as fit as I needed to be and poor Donnie dog was having to work hard to get me up the hills on the bike.
Once at the top of the hill, the course threaded it’s way though many of of the tree lined tracks and brought you around some quite tight and technical turns, which required concentration and control over your dog to negotiate. The very last section of the course was a gentle slope but rode fast downhill towards the finish chute and back to the main drive. After completing it on both the bike and the scooter, I was quite glad I didn’t have to go out again as I was exhausted! The canicrossers doing the 5km did the same course as us but the 10km (a little short of the 10km in reality) canicrossers had an additional section down through a field, over a ‘burn’ and up a particularly nasty, steep hill!
We didn’t manage great times on either the Saturday or Sunday, even when the scooter course was shortened on the Sunday due to the unseasonal warm and sunny weather! I was a little disappointed with my attempts at speed in both classes but was still suffering quite badly with my damaged ankle and in hindsight should perhaps have just stuck to one discipline. In spite of my poor performance I totally loved every minute of the Cani-Fit Experience II races, the venue could not have been more suitable and I was surprised to learn this was the first time Bowlands had been used to host the ‘mono-discipline’ dog sports (ie, canicross and bikejor, where one dog only is used).
I think this weekend of racing, held in association with the BSSF (British Sleddog Sports Federation) http://www.sleddogsportsgb.com, was a fantastic advert of how the ‘Sleddog’ world can be combined with our usual canicross, bikejor and scooter races to provide a great weekends’ worth of racing for all involved. I was spellbound by the Scottish venue and although tough for the humans, the course was very kind on the dogs’ paws. My three spent the whole time at Bowlands beside themselves at the wide open spaces, interesting smells and amazing tracks available for them to play on. In the words of a famous screen star ‘I’ll be back’!