Canicrossing the Cotswold Way – Completed!

After completing the Cotswold Way (officially 102.5 miles but we made it about 106) over 5 days with the dogs, canicrossing the trails successfully, I thought I would do a last blog to sum up what we learned from the experience, in case anyone else is considering a long distance trail with their dogs.

CW Finish circle

The circle at the end (or beginning) of the Cotswold Way – Photo courtesy of Colin Roberts Photography

The first thing I would say is that I don’t think I would have wanted to do this without a support team. There were moments when I knew that if I had needed someone to collect one of the dogs, a van was never very far away and that was reassuring with some of the terrain we were covering.

Having the support crew waiting in vans for us was a must!

Having the support crew waiting in vans for us, was a must!

The fact it was much warmer than I had anticipated it being, had meant I was concerned about canicrossing in the heat. I am always very cautious about running dogs in higher temperatures and especially higher humidity. In the past I have shared this article:

Can My Dog Get Heat Stroke?

which I feel is a great reference for anyone who is unsure of what to look for in overheating in dogs. We kept a close eye on the dogs at every stage and had no problems at all over the 5 days.

The next thing I think we got spot on was the kit – for the dogs, we were sponsored for this challenge by Arctic Wolf who provided us with these fantastic Multi-Sport Harnesses for the dogs:

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/dragrattan-multi-sport-harness.html

The harnesses are a great mix between a short and long style harness and worked really well over the 100 odd miles, providing a comfortable and practical option for the dogs to run in when they were pulling and when we needed them to walk with us.

The lines we used were these:

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/arctic-wolf-line.html

which were amazing, lightweight but tough, I even got mine caught on barbed wire as Donnie made his way through a gate. The sharp barb actually went right through the webbing but it didn’t fray and the strength wasn’t compromised.

We are grateful to all our sponsors for the fab kit

We are grateful to all our sponsors for the fab kit

The belts were the other important part of our kit and we were lucky enough to have been given these Ergo belts:

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/dragrattan-ergo-belt.html

These belts are well padded, sit low on the hips and have a sliding clip on the front of the belt to attach your line to. The Ergo belts are also very adjustable so fit a wide range of sizes.

With regard to kit for ourselves we were sponsored by Arctic Wolf to have technical t-shirts made up by Jess at

http://www.pupmalup.co.uk

and these lightweight tops saw us through the 5 days. Trainers, back packs, socks, leggings and shorts were all selected by ourselves, months in advance to trial and test them in plenty of time to make sure we suffered no rubs or other problems with our clothing.

Our fabulous sponsored t-shirts printed by Pupmalup

Our fabulous sponsored t-shirts printed by Pupmalup

T-shirts back

A big consideration for the challenge was nutrition and again for the dogs we were sponsored by Meat Love (also known as Fleischeslust), who provided the dogs with their specially developed MEAT and TReat Power sausages, which contain essential electrolytes and amino acids for faster regeneration during exercise. We had these sausages on hand during the runs as a quick pick me up treat and also for refuelling the dogs in the evenings after we have finished the days activities. For more information see the link below:

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/other-activities/toys-food-treats/fleischeslust-food-meat-treat-power.html

Other than the addition of the Duck Power sausages, the dogs diet remained as normal and we fed them either a few hours before or after the exercise they were doing to minimise any risk of bloat. I have always given the dogs joint supplements due to the amount of exercise we do, so this was just continued to support them as usual.

our stash of Meat and Treat Power

Our stash of Meat and Treat Power for the dogs

For our diet, it was a little bit trickier to get the balance right and because we were covering all the miles (not just stages like the dogs) we needed to make sure we got everything right with nutrition too. We both took a number of supplements to promote general health in the lead up to the challenge and because my other business is based in the health and wellness industry, we used the products from the range I trust.

My fitness and training routine is supported by a great nutritional supplement programme

My other business has some great supplements we used to support us on the challenge.

Our last sponsor was Big Bobble Hats and unfortunately due to the heat we didn’t need our bobble hats, however I’m sure we will be needing them again very soon!

It won't be long before we're needing our Big Bobble Hats again, just not over the challenge weekend!

It won’t be long before we’re needing our Big Bobble Hats again, just not over the challenge weekend!

Other things to quickly mention were:

– The dogs pads – we covered most of the mileage on grassy trails but there were a few roads and stony tracks, so checking the dogs pads was part of the daily routine.

– How much water we were drinking – it was warm, so keeping hydrated was hard, especially for us, as the dogs had many natural water points to refresh themselves in.

– The time of day we ran – to avoid the bulk of dog walkers and general public (especially at the weekend) we started our runs at 6.30 am most mornings which worked very well and meant we were finished by lunchtime.

– We had first aid kits on us at all times – thankfully we didn’t need to use any of it but it was there in our back packs just in case.

– We had fully charged phones on us and had enabled tracking on them – you can download apps to allow people to track your location and our support crew knew where we were the majority of the time.

I hope these blogs have been useful and fun for you to read, I’ve certainly enjoyed writing them and re-living the memories of each day and the experience as a whole.

Once again thanks to all our sponsors and those who supported us, to date we have raised over £1,000 for charity and with pledges of more money, we hope to have raised a bit more when the final donations come in!

https://www.justgiving.com/teams/CanicrossingTheCotswoldWay

 

 

 

 

Canicrossing the Cotswold Way – Day 5

Day 5, the last day, was forecast as another warm one but not quite the temperatures we encountered over the weekend. We were dropped off in the centre of Winchcombe to begin where we left off the day before. It wasn’t long before we were trekking up another of those ‘all too familiar’ Cotswold hills and then at the top of the hill looking down over the spectacular scenery.

The route took us passed Hailes Abbey and the fruit farm, then out onto the hill through fields of sheep, with their lambs bleating away happily until they spotted the dogs. The first section of the final day was estimated at 12 miles, so I had Donnie with me to help me power march up the hills. Unfortunately he also wanted to speed down the hills even faster and this didn’t agree with my knees!

Donnie at the top of the first hill above Hailes Abbey

Donnie at the top of the first hill above Hailes Abbey

We found plenty of water on this section in the form of small streams and water troughs so although humid again, the dogs were well watered and we kept up a good pace. After dropping down into Stanway, where one of my best friends got married nearly 7 years ago now, we then climbed back up through a village called Stanton, which even by Cotswolds standards, is one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever seen.

Donnie by the church my friend got married in, at Stanway

Donnie by the church my friend got married in, at Stanway

Another monster hill up out of the village brought us up to the top of Shenbarrow Hill, where we knew we were getting closer to our dog switching point in Broadway which was now at the bottom of the hill. The only problem with going downhill on the Cotswold Way is that you know, inevitably, you’ve got to climb again somewhere. So after swapping Donnie for Tegan to complete the challenge and the last 6 miles, we had a murderous ascent up to the Broadway Tower.

Broadway Tower felt like the top of the world!

Broadway Tower felt like the top of the world!

It was at this point my left knee really started to complain about the battering it took from Donnie earlier but I knew we were so close, I just popped some pain killers and we rattled on. From Broadway Tower on, it was almost all downhill and nice gentle descent too. We made our way down through some crop fields, then a long grassy trail to the road where we crossed over and found ourselves at the top of Dover’s Hill, just above our final destination in Chipping Camden.

The dogs on Dover's Hill

The dogs on Dover’s Hill

The last downhill section on trails and road, flew by, and within minutes we were in the town and marching through the market place to find the acorn in the floor to mark the end (or beginning) of the Cotswold Way. We took our pictures as proof of the achievement and wandered off with the dogs again to the waiting vans.

Tegan and I were happy to have completed the Cotswold Way

Tegan and I were happy to have completed the Cotswold Way

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this challenge, and at times it seemed like things were stacked against us with the unexpected heatwave over the weekend, but I can honestly say I did love it. I’ve already been asked if I’d do it the other way now, North to South and I think I would. The dogs seemed to enjoy the ever-changing scenery and we have all finished tired but happy, so we can now sit back and relax for a bit – until the next challenge!

If you fancy sponsoring us for our efforts, the team page can be found here:

https://www.justgiving.com/teams/CanicrossingTheCotswoldWay

We have had so much support for this and I’d like to thank our sponsors again, Arctic Wolf, Meatlove, Big Bobble Hats and Pupmalup, plus all the people who have generously donated to the charities we have been supporting, Macmillan Cancer Support and Animal Health Trust. A big thank you also to the support crew Marc and Colin, Colin was also taking pictures for us at changeover points and the end of each day.

The whole team, Karen, myself and from left to right - Misty, Prince and Duke (Karen's beautiful Belgium Shepherds) Judo (sitting) Tegan (lying in front) and Donnie

The whole team, Karen, myself and from left to right – Misty, Prince (lying down) and Duke (sitting), Karen’s beautiful Belgium Shepherds, then Judo (sitting) Tegan (lying in front) and Donnie my three collie crosses and all rescues. Photo courtesy of Colin Roberts Photography.

Canicrossing the Cotswold Way – Day 4

Day 4 was another early start at the top of Crickley Hill, with Judo accompanying me for this 14 mile section along the top of the escarpment above Cheltenham to Cleeve Hill. The weather was still humid but thankfully there was a bit of a breeze for most of the route and it remained cool enough for the dogs throughout the first few hours.

The views once we got out of Crickley Hill Country Park and back up on Leckhampton Hill, were just stunning and we took time to just admire them and appreciate we were more or less the only ones on the hill. We also got to see the Devil’s Chimney and Leckhampton Limekilns, although we deviated slightly from the trail and added in a monster hill in the process.

The paths along the top of Leckhampton Hill provided us a stunning view over Cheltenham and beyond

The paths along the top of Leckhampton Hill provided us a stunning view over Cheltenham and beyond

The Cotswold Way then led us (gently) down the hill to cross the A435 and back up the other side into some woods. The trail has been very conveniently set up so that you have to do very little on roads and wherever there are roads, they tend to have pavements or be quiet lanes for safety.

We wound our way through a couple more woodlands, Lineover and then Dowdeswell Wood, where we started the climb back up to Prestbury Hill Nature Reserve. I did comment at this point that it was like trekking in a rainforest with the humidity, so I was grateful when we were back out on the hill again with the breeze.

It was cooler on the hills with a light breeze to keep us comfortable

It was cooler on the hills with a light breeze to keep us comfortable

At the main Cleeve Hill carpark after 14 miles, we swapped dogs over for the last 6 miles of the day, down into Winchcombe. I had the company of Tegan for this leg as she had missed the two long days. We had a killer hill just a mile and a half into the run and we all had to practically crawl up it. That was hardest bit of the day 4 trails and not something I’d like to do again in a hurry!

Once we were yet again back up on the hill, we travelled across some fields to the ancient Belas Knap Long Barrow, which was swarming with people because of the beautiful day. We had a little rest in the shade of the Long Barrow and let a large group of kids ahead of us over the style, before catching them up and overtaking further down the hill.

Belas Knap Long Barrow, busy with people because of the beautiful weather

Belas Knap Long Barrow, busy with people because of the beautiful weather

The next few miles brought us down the hill through some fields with grazing sheep and into the town of Winchcombe, where we ended the day on a total of 20 miles. We passed by the entrance to Sudeley castle and then down the main street to our waiting crew and vans, happy to have completed another day successfully, if a little slower than we would perhaps have intended.

Tegan enjoying her little trot through Winchombe

Tegan enjoying her little trot through Winchombe

Tegan eyeing up the sheep in the field on the way down into Winchcombe

Tegan eyeing up the sheep in the field on the way down into Winchcombe

Canicrossing the Cotswold Way – Day 3

Day 3 of the Cotswold Way began in Dursley, earlier than Day 1 & 2 as the forecast was for even warmer weather and for once the reports were correct! I had chosen to run with Donnie again, as I knew the mileage was going to be quite high until the changeover point and he is the youngest and fittest of my dogs.

The first 3 miles out of Dursley were steep uphills, followed by even steeper downhills, then uphill again, the hills being a recurring theme over the 3 days so far. After a relatively slow start due to the humidity and the difficulty of the ascents, we started to move a little bit quicker along the top of the ridge. We enjoyed a bit of sight seeing too, with plenty of local, ancient monuments including the Nympsfield Long Barrow.

Even the dogs thought the Nympsfield Long Barrow was interesting

Even the dogs thought the Nympsfield Long Barrow was interesting

Lots of the section following this was along the side of the hill, shaded under trees and there were bluebells everywhere, making the next few miles very pleasant. We made our way down into Stonehouse and crossed over the A419 and back up the other side of the valley through fields to take us to Standish Wood. It was at this point it really started to warm up and luckily there were some natural water points and troughs on the route for the dogs to cool off in.

Donnie enjoying a cool off in one of the troughs

Donnie enjoying a cool off in one of the troughs

The trails along through Standish Wood were absolutely stunning, relatively flat and again filled with bluebells. We made our way through the woods and then out into the fields to see more monuments, this time the Haresfield Beacon. I was getting really warm and we were stopping regularly, every mile or so, to keep checking the dogs were ok. Needless to say they coped far better than us humans did, never once showing the signs of being too warm. The regular stops did slow us down a fair bit though and so it was a welcome sight when we saw the stone marker which told us we had completed 55 miles of the whole route so far and 47 miles left to Chipping Camden, the finish point.

The 'not quite' halfway marker which showed we had completed 55 miles

The ‘not quite’ halfway marker which showed we had completed 55 miles

Once we got through Painswick, we had a dog swap and I paired up with Judo for the next leg of our journey. We had completed 17 miles in getting to the other side of Painswick and had another 10 to go but it had cooled down considerably, so we set off again intending to get some more running done. The wooded section we travelled along was again set in the side of the hill and afforded us some natural shelter from the sun, until we came out at the top of Coopers Hill, well known locally for the cheese rolling competition held there annually.

Judo at the top of Coopers Hill admiring the view

Judo at the top of Coopers Hill admiring the view

The last part of the journey was again down wooded trails set into the hill, until we reached the viewing point by Birdlip and we had to cross a very tricky section of main road from the Air Balloon pub across the A417 to Crickley Hill Country Park. The sun was out in full force and it was lucky we were nearing the end of the days miles so the dogs didn’t have far to go once we got into the park. We climbed the last mile to the top of Crickley Hill and posed for a quick photo to mark the end of a gruelling 27 mile day of canicrossing.

The photo at the top of Crickley Hill after 27 miles of trails covered in day 3

The photo at the top of Crickley Hill after 27 miles of trails covered in day 3 – Photo Courtesy of Colin Roberts Photography

 

 

Canicrossing the Cotswold Way – Day 2

Day 2 of the Cotswold Way started where we had ended day 1, at Tormarton. I had decided that Donnie dog was going to do the mornings miles with me, so he was keen to get going. After crossing a couple of fields and roads to get out of the village and into the grounds of Dodington Park, we were making better progress than Day 1.

We had decided to meet earlier to try and avoid the heat of the day and it paid off because we managed the first 9 miles of the 17 mile stretch in two hours. The terrain we covered was much more forgiving than the day before and we found plenty of natural water stops along the route.

Donnie enjoying one of the many natural water points along the first 17 miles of Day 2

Donnie enjoying one of the many natural water points along the first 17 miles of Day 2

We passed a better variety of scenery too, which included a couple of ancient hill forts and numerous monuments along the top of the ridges we ascended. The scenery was incredible and I honestly loved every minute of this section

One of the many little towers we found at the top of the ridges on the first stage of Day 2

One of the many towers we found at the top of the ridges on the first stage of Day 2

The final bit of the 17 miles brought us down a very steep hill on a road into Wotton-under-Edge, where we were met by our amazing support team who fed us and helped us swap the dogs over for the next stage of 8 miles.

The switch over in Wotton-under-Edge was just down from the Church - Photo courtesy of Colin Roberts Photography

The switch over in Wotton-under-Edge was just down from the Church – Photo courtesy of Colin Roberts Photography

The route from Wotton to Dursley was much more demanding in terms of the steep inclines and this time with some severe declines too just to add to the fun! The temperatures were starting to rise again at this point and the natural water points seemed to dry up too. There was still a degree of tree cover on lots of the trail and we met some lovely walkers who asked us what we were doing, then donated to our fundraising.

However, there were still a number of fields we crossed which were very open to the sun and so we slowed our pace right down again, to ensure the dogs were comfortable with the temperatures and not working too hard.

One of the very beautiful but very open fields we crossed

One of the very beautiful but very open fields we crossed

The very last section of the trail on Day 2 was around the top of Stinchcombe Hill Golf course and afforded us the best views we had seen so far. We could see right over to Wales on the other side of the Bristol Channel and miles back to the monument we had passed at the beginning of the 8 miles out of Wotton.

Views across the Bristol Channel, my phone couldn't do this justice

Views across the Bristol Channel, my phone couldn’t do this justice

We descended down into Dursley to be met with the vans to whisk us off home in the Sainsbury’s car park! Another day completed and 25 miles in total covered of the route in one day, hard work but very rewarding.

 

 

 

Canicrossing the Cotswold Way – Day 1

Day 1 of our adventure started in Bath by the Abbey where there is a special circle with an acorn on it to mark the beginning of the long distance route. The route then takes you (very clearly if you follow the acorns) through some of the streets and parks in Bath until you start winding your way up and out of Bath city towards Lansdown.

The start of the Cotswold Way in front of Bath Abbey

The start of the Cotswold Way in front of Bath Abbey

I had chosen Judo to accompany me on this first leg of the route which totalled 10 miles, or would have if I had not dropped my phone taking pictures at the top of a hill and added an extra 3/4 of a mile! The weather although lovely and sunny was a jump up in temperature to recent days and so I found the heat, even at 9am, quite hard work with all the hill work.

We passed by the site of the battle of Lansdown with lots of brightly designed, metal flags and a couple of monuments but we didn’t really stop to read the information boards, as the dogs might have been bored!

The route once we were out of Bath took us along some lovely grassy trails

The route once we were out of Bath took us along some lovely grassy trails

The hills were relentless, we just seemed to go up and up and up and then up some more, with just a few downhill sections for a bit of relief. We stopped regularly to give the dogs water if they needed it but to be honest they are all fitter than we are and weren’t bothered by the higher temperatures, although because of the inclines we were walking large sections of the route anyway to save our legs.

The views from the top of the escarpment above Bath were amazing

The views from the top of the escarpment above Bath were amazing

After the first 10 miles we made our way up another hill into Cold Aston for a dog swap and a re-fuel for us.

There was yet another hill up into Cold Aston

There was yet another hill up into Cold Aston – Photo courtesy of Colin Roberts Photography

A quick pit stop and we were on our way again with different dogs, this time the girls, so I had Tegan with me. We had a couple of major road crossings to deal with in this short section but there was little traffic due to it being mid morning on a Thursday, so this was not an issue.

In the middle of our 5 mile route we came across a herd of very inquisitive and quite frankly scary, cows! They managed to distract us enough to mean we missed a route marker and found ourselves crawling under and over a gate to get out of the way of the herd who were following us.

The herd of cows we found who sent us very briefly off course

The herd of cows we found who sent us very briefly off course

The last couple of miles were again mainly uphill and through fields to a lay-by near Tormarton where we ended our first day of canicrossing the Cotswold Way.

Thanks once again to all our sponsors Arctic Wolf, Meat Love, Big Bobble Hats, K9 Trail Time and Pupmalup, we had a great first day and spent the rest of the day at home resting up for Day 2.