The CanineMax 2013 CaniX Championships were held over the weekend of the 12th & 13th of October at the fantastic venue of Pembrey Country Park, Carmarthenshire, which is one of my favourite places in the whole of the UK to run dogs. The Park itself has had a bit of a re-vamp recently and now boasts a licensed cafe and showers to add to the miles and miles of woodland, fields and beach available to use.
We arrived early afternoon on the Friday to set up and run the course, as it had changed slightly from the route we ran back in March/April over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend. As always the trails, which are a mixture of grass, hard packed sandy paths and the odd section of forest track, were a pleasure to run on and if anything were in better condition than they had been earlier in the year. This made for a fast and fun 3 miles and I couldn’t wait to tackle in on the bike with Donnie the next day.
Saturday got off to a good start and in spite of the temperatures initially being a little warmer than predicted, the wind picked up a bit and cooled everyone down before the racing started. The start chute was a section of grassy field that leads to a bottle neck at the end and into a single track through the woods. This rides really quick on a bike or scooter and the marshalls did a great job of making sure we crossed a couple of paths without incident.
The big sandy hill which was incorporated into the course for 2013, actually rode better than I remember and we flew down it after climbing the steep uphill, which I managed to negotiate more successfully than before too. The rolling dunes that followed on from this, linked by a small section of stony forest track, had been compacted over the summer and Donnie and I made our way over them with no mishaps.
The last mile of the course took us by the little lake we always stop off at on our walks and Donnie insisted we make our usual stop off for him to take a dip. I could stop him doing it but I’m soft and he tends to pick up the pace after and put even more effort in the last section if he has his little cool off! We stormed down the home straight, overtaking a fellow competitor and then Donnie decided he’d done his job and backed off a bit over the finish line, which resulted in a tangle and an entertaining finish to the race.
After day 1 we were 40 odd seconds behind third and minutes behind second and first, so I knew we only had a hope at third and I wasn’t holding out much hope of that as we’d not had any issues, we were just a bit slower. Saturday afternoon I ran the other two dogs around the course at a leisurely pace to get them out and half wished I’d done the canicross class too because the course was just so lovely to run!
After a night of celebrations for my birthday, I got up Sunday knowing we had to pick up the pace if we were going to have any chance at a medal and I deliberately left my Garmin in the van so I didn’t feel tempted to check it. We had a good start and an even better run, I felt we zipped through the dunes section and was confident we had knocked off some time from Saturday. I didn’t believe we had done enough though and so was thrilled when my name was called in for the bronze medal at the prize giving! We actually beat forth place by just 6 seconds but it was enough to get us a podium finish and mainly down to the instinctive ability of Donnie to see the best lines for us to take.
There was a great atmosphere of good sportsmanship over the entire weekend, with competitors forfeiting places to help others out in the race and a general sense of what I would call ‘healthy’ competition. It was a well organised, friendly event, at one of my favourite venues and I was very proud to have been part of the large Scottish Team who attended.