The inaugural Canicross Midlands races were held on the Bissell Wood Equestrian Centre site near Kidderminster, over the weekend of the 1st and 2nd February. The venue was easily accessible from the M5 and being situated in the Midlands, this almost guaranteed a good turn out. As it turned out this was one of the biggest events we have attended all season, in spite of the gale force winds and rain predicted.
We arrived late on Friday afternoon to set up in the awful weather and settle down for the night in the camping field which unfortunately, but perhaps predictably, had flooded, following a week of constant downpours. We knew the course was going to be muddy and so didn’t worry too much about not checking it out, as the mud always slows the racing down a bit (for us anyway!). Team Thomas were bikejoring and canicrossing at this event so I was going to see the trail four times in total.
Saturday morning, after an early start, we got a chance to see for ourselves the course and to ride the hills we had been warned about the night before. The course started alongside the stable block on the flat and then turned sharp left along a very muddy straight, before another left turn and a road crossing. The crossing was very well marshalled and we zipped across into the woods for more muddy tracks, winding through the trees until the start of the hilly section in the middle.
After a gruelling uphill slog there was a very sharp right hand turn, taking you immediately back down the hill with a sweeping left at the bottom. The trail then wound it’s way back uphill for a slightly longer stretch but with less mud, so easier to negotiate. The course then descended down the side of the hill in stages, the last being a sandy slope which led onto a hard packed straight into the finish chute. There was another road crossing just before the end, again well marshalled and all cars were stopped for competitors.
We all managed respectable times on both the Saturday and Sunday, Marc and Donnie on the bike, myself and Judo also on the bike and myself with Tegan in the canicross class. Whilst we were not especially quick on any day over the course, we did manage to make up some time on the second day on the bikes.
Marc and Donnie placed 5th in the Men’s Bikejor category, Judo and I managed 6th in the Female Bikejor and Tegan helped pull me (sort of) to 6th in the Female Canicross and all this in spite of illness and injury in the weeks prior to the races. We had a fantastic weekend of racing and have nothing but praise for the team from Canicross Midlands (http://www.canicrossmidlands.co.uk) who kept us safe on the course with a special mention for Claire Martin who single handedly towed everyone on and off the camping field.
In conclusion with the terrible weather conditions and muddy trails, the Tail Blazer event could have been a wash out, but instead with the help of all the dedicated volunteers, the races were a huge success and I am looking forward to seeing the next Canicross Midlands race appear on the calendar.
Special thanks to Houndscape (http://houndscape.smugmug.com) who took all the amazing actions shots from the weekend and to Shane Wilkinson from Chillpics (http://www.chillpics.co.uk) who took some video footage which will be available for viewing on our stand at Crufts (Hall 4, 174)