Race Review – November & December 2014

For the next instalment of my race reviews, I decided to combine November and December because I ended up only going to one event in December.

The first event of November was the Mad Dog Jog, Forest of Dean, 2nd November – A very friendly and welcoming event run by members of the Forest of Dean canicross group. This was a canicross race with a difference, as the course was a challenging, twisty, turning route through part of the Forest of Dean with many ditches, tree roots and hills to keep us occupied. I had decided to run this with just one dog, as I had prior warning of the nature of the course! We had a great run and I laughed my way round the course and across the finish line, where I was handed my finishers medal but none other then Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards. We also enjoyed the special goody bags which contained a vast array of goodies for both me and Judo to enjoy.

We thoroughly enjoyed our Mad Dog Jog experience and the goody bags were incredible! Photo courtesy of Colin Roberts

We thoroughly enjoyed our Mad Dog Jog experience and the goody bags were incredible! Photo courtesy of Colin Roberts

The following weekend we made our way up to the Canicross Midlands / Adams Agility Race Series 1, Eland Lodge Derbyshire, 8th & 9th November – this was another brand new venue for a race series which promises to provide a challenge for many competitors throughout the 4 race weekends being held here. The course includes 3 water crossings, two man-made horse jumps (the route winds it’s way around a large equestrian cross country course) and one natural river crossing. Although, the race is set in just a few fields, it provided a mix of hills, straights, grass and mud that made it tough enough for even seasoned racers whilst managing to be suitable for the novice entrants who have their own classes in this series. I competed in both the bikejor and two dog canicross classes, with Donnie running so well in the bikejor, we even managed to come away with a second place trophy.

The uphill to the finish was a killer - Photo courtesy of Chillpics

The uphill to the finish was a killer – Photo courtesy of Chillpics

The three water crossings on the course proved to be challenging fun! - Photo courtesy of Horses for Courses Photography

The three water crossings on the course proved to be challenging fun! – Photo courtesy of Horses for Courses Photography

We were back up the country again for the Box End Collie Wobbler in Bedfordshire on the 15th November – Held at the Box End Park, this was the second race we had been to at the venue and yet again we thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere. The course, which flows around the central lakes and then off up into an area of small hills and single track, all on grassy trails, was just as fun the second time round. We participated in both the bikejor and canicross classes, getting some unusual prizes for taking part, which included a bottle of wine, some electrolyte tablets and a technical t-shirt.

The lake at Box End provides the backdrop for the 5km course - Photo courtesy of Houndscape

The lake at Box End provides the backdrop for the 5km course – Photo courtesy of Houndscape

The next day we were racing just up the road at the Stowe Park Pace Setter on the 16th November – This was a new venue for a canicross event and the timings dictated by the National Trust meant that only one class entry was possible per competitor, so we chose bikejor. The course was all on hard packed paths and incorporated one of the estate roads too, so although it was an easy trail, the terrain wasn’t ideal for a dog sport race. We had a good run and enjoyed seeing the different parts of the park (Donnie even got to take a mid-race drink from an ornamental fountain!). In spite of the fog it was easy to appreciate the beauty of the setting. Prizes were given over a wide range of classes but only for first place, so I’m not even sure where we finished but it seems that all who took part agreed that Stowe Park was a unique and charming venue.

The large arch at the start of the race at Stowe park was just one of the impressive sights we saw on the course.

The large arch at the start of the race at Stowe park was just one of the impressive sights we saw on the course.

 

Our final event for November was another local one for us, the Deans Doubles, Wyedean Mushing Event, Forest of Dean, 22nd & 23rd November – This was a team competition where the results were based on the combination of times from two team members from two runs (one each day). On the Saturday we completed a short course of approximately 1.6 miles and a longer course of 4 miles on the Sunday. We really enjoy the events based in the Forest of Dean run by the Wyedean Mushing team and this was no exception. The weather wasn’t kind too us with loads of rain and as a result, loads of mud, but it did nothing to dampen our spirits. This was also the first chance I had to record a video on my new Garmin Virb Elite sports camera, the footage can be found here:

After two really good runs for both myself and my team mate, we came home with a second place, only beaten by the team who had the fastest time over the whole weekend, so a great achievement!

Happy dogs enjoying the mud in the start chute of the race

Happy dogs enjoying the mud in the start chute of the race

Happy dogs enjoying the mud in the start chute of the race

Happy dogs enjoying the mud in the start chute of the race

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On to our only December event the Wyedean East Mushing / UCSC Event, Thetford Forest, 27th & 28th December – We made our way across the country to this one on Boxing Day and set up for the weekend in the beautiful Thetford Forest. All three dogs were entered in their own classes, two in the bikejor and one in the canicross, so we were all kept busy at this event. The course consisted of long, wide, grassy trails with only the merest hint of a hill, which suited us just fine! We had good runs both days, in spite of the non-stop rain on the Saturday, but nothing quick enough to get any of us into one of the top spots as both the bikejor and canicross were male and female combined.

The Wyedean East Mushing event was well worth the journey to Thetford forest for the great racing weekend.

The Wyedean East Mushing event was well worth the journey to Thetford forest for the great racing weekend.

To sum up, we had a manically busy November and needed a bit of a rest to recover in December but the events we attended just seem to get bigger and better, with more entries and even more open classes now. I think 2015 is going to be the best year for racing in the UK yet, with so many new clubs organising races and the established clubs gaining entries from the rapidly growing disciplines of canicross and bikejor.

 

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Bikejoring Tips For The Beginner

Bikejor seems to be growing in popularity even more rapidly than canicross at the moment, and with so many people keen to get out and try something new with their dog, I thought I would write a few notes to help out the beginners.

Firstly – get yourself along to an event, or group, or chat with someone who has been participating in the sports for a number of years. As a retailer of bikejor equipment I have a duty to my customers to know a bit about the sport through my own personal experience, so I can advise you on kit from the perspective of having used it. I think it’s really important to be able to explain the different equipment having used it myself, so make sure you pick the brains of a number of people, to get a variety of opinions, to give yourself the best start in the sport.

Getting along to an event is a great way to learn about the equipment and training - Photo courtesy of Fay Frost Photography

Getting along to an event is a great way to learn about the equipment and training – Photo courtesy of Fay Frost Photography

Once you have an idea of the basics (the equipment you need, the training you need to do and an idea of where you will be training) you can get started with the voice commands (if you haven’t already) to teach your dog on the ground before you even think about attaching your dog to the bike. The main commands to teach are directions and a stop or steady, to ensure you can safely manouvere on your trails. I wrote a few words about beginning training here:

https://k9trailtime.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/beginning-bikejor-2-training/

Choose a harness which is comfortable for your dog and doesn’t restrict movement in any way. Many dog sports harnesses can be used for all activities, so you may not necessarily need a new harness if you are already participating in some form of dog sport. If you do need any help or advice on selecting a harness for your dog, I have written a bit about this here:

http://www.k9trailtime.com/information/team-thomas-harnesses

The most important bit to get right is choosing a harness that will allow your dog maximum freedom of movement - Photo courtesy of Karen Burd

The most important bit to get right is choosing a harness that will allow your dog maximum freedom of movement – Photo courtesy of Karen Burd

When it comes to selecting a line for bikejor you will want one that has a strong bungee incorporated in it (for shock absorption) and is long enough to allow your dog to run clear of your front wheel. If you already canicross then you may find your line is a bit short for bikejor but you can always try it first to see what works for you. It is worth noting however that for some competions the minimum length of the line needs to be 2.5 metres. It is really important for the safety of both you and your dog that your line is attached to the main frame of your bike and NOT the handle bars or the end of a bikejor attachment. If the line is attached to the handle bars or even yourself, any sharp movement your dog may make will throw you off balance, and if attached to the end of a bikejor attachment, can cause the attachment to break off. In a worse case scenario, it can hit your dog as it tows the loose attachment behind it. To avoid this just follow the manufacturers advice and attach the line to the bike not the attachment itself.

Allways attach your line around the main frame of the bike and loop your line through the attachment. Fixing your line to the end of the attachment is asking for trouble!

Allways attach your line around the main frame of the bike and loop your line through the attachment. Fixing your line to the end of the attachment is asking for trouble!

Talking of the bikejor attachment, it is always worth having a look at the different options available before you purchase one for yourself, as they are all designed to do the same thing (help keep your line from dropping down onto the wheel) but each does this in a slightly different way. You may have an expensive mountain bike you don’t wish to damage the paintwork on (although with this sport always expect some damage to your bike!) or be limited by the type of frame your bike has. Again you can ask people in the sports as many have tried a variety before settling on one type and I have written about the types we sell at K9 Trail Time here:

https://k9trailtime.wordpress.com/2014/11/18/bikejor-attachments-which-one-for-you/

A few other things to remember are:

Always be aware of keeping within a suitable environment and temperatures for bikejoring, your dog will potentially be working hard on the bike, so stick to nice grassy trails and tracks for their paws and don’t run your dog in high temperatures or high humidity

Be courteous to anyone you meet whilst out bikejoring, stop your dog and hold them back if you are unsure of their reaction to anything you come across

Wear a helmet and gloves yourself as a bare minimum of safety equipment, you won’t be much good to your dog with an injury!

Once you have done a bit of research and discovered a bit about what the sport involves, got your equipment and trained your voice commands, then the next step is to get out there and start having fun! Hopefully we’ll see you out on the trails at an event sometime soon…

Remember the sport of bikejor is primarily about fun! Keep it fun and safe for your dog at all times and don't be afraid to ask for advice.

Remember the sport of bikejor is primarily about fun! Keep it fun and safe for your dog at all times and don’t be afraid to ask for advice.