The Pace Setter was a one day canicross, bikejor and scooter race held on the 9th February at Fineshade Wood near Corby. The venue itself was one we were familiar with from a canicross race we attended with CaniX a few years before, so we were vaguely aware of what to expect from the course before we arrived. We made the trip up to the area the day before as it was a 200 mile round trip, which is quite a lot of travelling to expect the dogs to do in one day, in addition to the racing.
The name of the actual site is Top Lodge because it is at the top of a hill and it is a Forestry Commission run site so there are toilet facilities, tarmac parking, a cafe and even a few shops to keep visitors entertained. During the spring and summer months there is also a caravan park open but it was closed this early in the season.
We got set up early to allow competitors to browse the available kit before racing began at 9.30am. The organisers had a map of the route set up on a board for everyone to view before the race briefing and so we didn’t worry about checking the course out before the race as it seemed fairly straight forward. A last minute decision to change my entry from one dog bikejor to two dog bikejor meant all our dogs would get a run. Although I’ve trained at home with two dogs attached to the bike, there are very few races which will allow two dog bikejor, so this was a first for us!
The best photo of us at the start can be found here but I can’t share in the blog for copyright reasons: (http://www.davidhawtin.co.uk/p300604313/h38892ebb#h301efda7)
The start tunnel was followed by a right and then a left hand turn out of the car park area and downhill on a hard packed trail into the woods. With both dogs attached I literally did not have to pedal, merely hold on for dear life, for the first couple of kms until we reached a steep incline where I didn’t even have to work very hard to get up the hill. My original Team Thomas were flying for the best part of the whole course and only began to slow the pace down after about 3.5 km. I know these distance markers because they were helpfully displayed on the route, it’s surprising how useful this is to pace yourself when you know how far you’ve come and how far is left to go.
The hard packed trails were available to the public too whilst we were racing and there were a few loose dogs, which is never helpful when taking part in a wheeled dog sport event but there are so few events run where the land is private, that this is something we are used to now. We completed the race with a respectable time for our efforts and took first place. Marc and Donnie also competed but in the one dog bikejor and took 5th in the class as it was a little more competitive.
The event was well organised with a marshal at the half way point and water stations for the dogs to take advantage of. The timing was done electronically and all seemed to be accurate, results were published quickly on the website, plus we all received a completion rosette on crossing the finish line. However it wasn’t mentioned there wouldn’t be a prize giving and I think some competitors were confused by the term ‘race’ and then there being no placings given out on the day. I would describe an event without a prize giving as more of a ‘fun run’ and I think it would have been useful to have known this from the outset.
That said we thoroughly enjoyed the Pace Setter event and I loved the venue, I would have liked more time to walk the woods after racing but we had to head back home. It is also worth mentioning that the course we ran was also quite hard on the dogs’ pads and I would have booted the boys up if I’d checked the trail before we raced. Judo had a small shred on one of his pads from working hard on the bike and I know a few others experienced problems as the dogs racing with the wheels work that bit harder and run that much quicker on the bike or scooter. I use the Pawz dog boots wherever I feel the trail is tough on pads and I sell them here: (http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/pawz-dog-boots.html) they just protect paws from the type of damage Judo picked up and are great in any dog first aid kit.