Why we race (when we know we’re not going to win)

When we first got into canicross we’d never done any dog sports competitively (unless you count a failed attempt at a flyball show!) so it was quite daunting going along to a ‘race’ particularly as I’d not taken part in a running race since I was at school. But it was explained to me that I didn’t need to be fast to enter and it was all about having fun with your dogs. That first race with CaniX got me hooked and from that point on, I knew this was something I wanted to do regularly. However I never have been and never will be, a fast runner, so why did I want to keep entering races I knew I wasn’t going to win?

Our very first CaniX race at Stanton Country Park – Photo courtesy of Chillpics

The answer lies in the whole experience of racing, not just the races themselves. To take part in a race there is an element of training, you need to have spent time before the race, building up your distances, making sure your dogs are happy to run alongside other dogs, other people and also working out what equipment will suit you best. This training also builds a strong bond with you and your dogs, you have good days and bad days, all of this can only be achieved through teamwork and working with your dogs to make improvements.

I joined plenty of social canicross runs, driving over an hour each way in some cases to go and run with people I’d never met before. I was welcomed with open arms (and cake in most cases) and began to develop friendships on the back of my training for the races. I could never have imagined myself regularly entering races previously but there was something special about the events that made me want to do more. I just enjoyed taking my dogs to new places and meeting new people who didn’t see my dogs’ slightly unruly behaviour as a problem, they accepted it and helped me channel that behaviour into something positive.

Social canicross runs are a great way to train your dog to get used to being alongside others and part of building up your dogs’ confidence to race

The more races I went to, the more people I met who had similar interests to me and I quickly made some really good friends who I still see regularly nearly 8 years later. Now I still use races as a way of meeting people but also to get my dogs to new parts of the country I haven’t seen before and to socialise them in a way that doesn’t stress them out, with people who understand what it’s like to own dogs who might not be perfectly behaved.

I also started to get a feel for who in my category was a similar standard to me and that gave us something to train for. If I was only 20 seconds behind someone in one race I would try and improve my times at home so I could beat that person by 20 seconds the next time we raced. I also learnt a lot from other people at races and still do, everyone has a slightly different approach to racing and training and so by talking to people about their dogs and their routines, I have picked up great information to use to make changes to my own habits.

Spending time with other people who are doing the sport allows you to pick up training tips, learn from them and vice versa

Of course we have had some successes too, when you work hard and give yourself goals then anything is possible and together with my dogs we have been placed in many National races and Championships in the 8 years we’ve been racing but the majority of the time we don’t race to win and more often than not we are not being placed these days. Someone said to me last year that the dogs believe they have won every single race if you tell them they have and it really struck a chord with me. So now I tell my dogs every time we cross a finish ‘well done, you’ve won’ and it sounds daft but they don’t know or don’t care if we’ve won but my excitement and praise lets them know they’ve done well and that’s what counts.

So it is everything about racing that we love, not just the race itself. The time you spend, training you do and bonding with your dog all creates an experience which I personally wouldn’t want to live without now. We’ve done local races, national races and European level races and can honestly say all of them have given us so much enjoyment no matter where we have placed. If you’re thinking about racing but don’t feel confident, my advice would be just to give it a go because so much of the fun is in the preparation and social side of it, whether or not you actually do well in the race is down to your perspective on it. My dogs ‘win’ every time and the happy look on their faces is all that matters to us. Happy trails!

Whether or not we win, we enjoy the whole experience of racing and the dogs ‘win’ every time!

 

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K9 Trail Time A-Z of Canicross – N is for Night

The last A-Z blog was on running in the morning, so anyone want to guess what ‘N’ is for?! That’s right ‘night’! I wanted to write a little bit about night time running because I know many people prefer the evenings to run with their dog, as a way of unwinding after a day at work. Canicrossing at night, especially in the winter months, has a similar feel to the mornings. You need a decent head torch and to be aware of the additional hazards of running in the dark, such as tree roots you can’t see and wildlife popping out from nowhere. We have recently been trialling a fantastic new product to get you and your dog seen in the dark, take a look here:

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/scarab-safety-beacon.html

The pros for running at night are that you can usually go straight out, as your dog hasn’t been fed since breakfast and then you can both look forward to dinner after your run. You also tend to miss all the regular dog walkers who will have already been and gone, leaving you miles of empty trails to enjoy. I prefer to train on the bike at night for this reason and find it does make a difference to the number of walkers we encounter. The main con that I can see is that you have to be a bit more selective about where you run to make sure you are safe. A number of the local running spots we park up in locally are not the best places to park at night and so meeting up in group is preferable. Other than that we do enjoy our night time runs, particularly when we’ve had a busy day and we can meet up with others for a bit of social time too. So in conclusion, canicrossing at night is great fun and if you haven’t tried it yet, you should and so for that reason ‘night’ is out ‘N’ in the K9 Trail Time A-Z of canicross.

Running dogs at night can be great fun and very exciting! - Photo courtesy of Fay Frost Photography

Running dogs at night can be great fun and very exciting! – Photo courtesy of Fay Frost Photography

Canicross for beginners – A reading list

We’ve been writing and publishing blogs for a number of years now, covering loads of topics but it is often hard to find the ones that are most suitable for what might help you in beginning your canicross journey.

It's sometimes hard to know where to start when beginning to train for canicross

It’s sometimes hard to know where to start when beginning to train for canicross

So we have put together a list of the top ten blogs from our database to help get you started:

Number 1: To give you a brief introduction

https://k9trailtime.wordpress.com/2015/10/01/canicross-an-introduction/

Number 2: An idea of where to start

https://k9trailtime.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/getting-started-canicross/

Number 3: How to choose a harness

https://k9trailtime.wordpress.com/2015/12/29/how-to-choose-a-harness-for-your-dog/

Number 4: How to tell if your harness fits

https://k9trailtime.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/does-my-harness-fit/

Number 5: How to choose a belt

https://k9trailtime.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/belt-braces-how-to-choose-a-canicross-belt/

Number 6: How to choose a line

https://k9trailtime.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/line-length-the-long-and-short-of-it/

Number 7: When to start running your dog

https://k9trailtime.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/when-to-start-running-with-your-dog/

Number 8: What to think about before racing

https://k9trailtime.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/canicross-bikejor-scooter-racing-a-few-things-to-get-you-started/

Number 9: How to start a canicross group for those social runs

https://k9trailtime.wordpress.com/2014/09/24/canicross-groups-how-to-get-started/

Number 10: your 10 Commandments (just for fun!)

https://k9trailtime.wordpress.com/2014/10/09/k9-trail-time-10-commandments-of-canicross/

We have so much information available on our blog for you to browse through, this just scratches the surface but hopefully covers the very basics you might want to research before you get canicrossing with your dog.

Happy trails!

 

K9 Trail Time A-Z of Canicross – G is for Groups

I am always being asked how to get started in canicross and how to teach your dog to run out front of you when canicrossing and my answer always involves recommending people find themselves a group to go along to. The local canicross groups that have been set up in areas all over the UK and abroad are by far the best introduction to the sport of canicross you can get. Some of the bigger and more established groups now have kit bags with spare harnesses, waist belts and lines so you can try before you buy too. You and your dog will be welcomed along to a group run and treated as a friend from day one and if your dog is a little nervous or needs space then you can be assured that the canicross group will be understanding of this and be able to help you get your dog comfortable with a group run. By joining in with social runs most dogs will automatically learn to pull out in front too, as dogs seem to pick up canicross very quickly when they are in a group situation. I myself have run with dozens of different groups all over the UK and it’s great to be able to join up with others if you’re on holiday with your dog because you get to see parts of the country you might not otherwise know about. So because of how important the groups are for training, socialisation and for fun in canicross, I have chosen groups as my word associated with ‘G’ in the A-Z of Canicross.

Groups are so important for training and socialisation in canicross

Groups are so important for training and socialisation in canicross

Canicross Groups – How to get started

Canicross is growing in popularity in the UK so rapidly, it is getting easier to find groups of people local to yourself to join in with the fun. However if you’re in an isolated area, why not start your own group and encourage others to join you? I’ve outlined a few things to think about below which will help you to start up your own social canicross group, as at the end of the day you’ve already got your dogs in common, so it should be easy to find people who will share your love of the sport.

1. Find some suitable canicross routes – your routes need to have adequate parking, where you can load and unload dogs in safety off the road. The trails themselves need to be beginner friendly, so not too technical with boggy mud or ankle breaking ruts. Think about water stops for the dogs on the route and make sure you know the area well enough to be able to direct people back to the car park if need be.

Finding a few good routes with water for the dogs is essential

Finding a few good routes with water for the dogs is essential

2. Set up a Facebook group – this will give you the opportunity to share your runs as events and invite people who may join your group to join your runs. I’d always suggest keeping the group closed for security, although if you’re running in a group this shouldn’t be a problem.

3. Advertise your runs – you can use your Facebook group to do this and also advertise on the national canicross groups to say you’ve set up the group. You may well find there are people in your area who did not realise there were others organising runs and will want to join you. You could also put up posters in the local area and carry contact cards to hand out to people who might be interested in what you are doing if they see you out and about. I know many groups who have gained members through doing this.

Finding members for your group runs gets easier once you have set up a group on Facebook to advertise

Finding members for your group runs gets easier once you have set up a group on Facebook to advertise

4. Consider carefully insuring your runs – insurance is something which always rears it’s ugly head whenever you start to organise things for other people. If you are inviting people along to something you have organised, you risk someone who joins you or even a 3rd party making a claim against you if something unexpected happens. Thankfully I have heard of very few incidents of this nature so far, but it is worth investigating this further if you want to be covered. It is still a grey area in the UK as the sport is relatively new and growing at such a rate, underwriters are unsure what risks there are to insure.

5. Provide an incentive – Cake is a good one and used by many. If you’re starting up a canicross group, advertise there will be cake at the end and you might be surprised how many people turn up! It also helps if you have some spare kit for anyone who has never taken part before. This could be as simple as a spare bungee line, or you may have some spare harnesses and even a belt if you have been participating long enough to have collected some kit.

When you provide an incentive and spare kit for newbies to try, you might be surprised how many people will turn up for the group runs - Photo courtesy of Colin Roberts

When you provide an incentive and spare kit for newbies to try, you might be surprised how many people will turn up for the group runs – Photo courtesy of Colin Roberts

The main thing to remember is that canicross should be fun and I’ve found that by running in a group, you can socialise your dog and learn in a more relaxed atmosphere than most of the races we attend. Setting up a group is a great way to find like minded people in your area and you can even attract new people to the sport if they see you out and about having fun – so go for it!

Talk to us about group specific discount codes to be used on the K9 Trail Time Website as we are always happy to support canicross groups – emilyt@k9trailtime.com