Team Canifit headed north to SDAS Eagle Brae race weekend, IFSS Qualifier 20-22 November 2015
by James Leonard
The last of three race weekends, and the whole family was quite tired. However, come Friday morning (20th November) we (myself and my forgiving wife Ally) were packing the car with our three dogs, Widdle, Ruby and Bootle Bumtrinket (BB), for what would be one of the most satisfying and amazing experiences of our life with dogs so far.
We had made the decision that I would enter both the bikejor and canicross races held over the weekend, so two races each day! I had initially planned on the old(er) man, Widdle, in the canicross and BB monster in the bike, until I remembered the rules…BB was a little too young for the bike so the old man was upgraded to the bike and my legs looked set for another destruction at the hands of our 15 month old German short-haired pointer BB. Ruby our sprocker spaniel was cheerleading.
We had a long drive but managed to arrive late afternoon in time to walk the course and catch up with some friends, both old and new. The dogs were obviously excited and raring to go, the course, though flat (not my usual cup of tea) was great, twisty, turny and with loads of mud and grass….none of us wanted to wait until tomorrow!
We had the luxury of a hotel for the night, so with the dogs fed and tucked in bed we had a few pints and got our heads down for the next day of racing.
An early start saw us arrive at the race site in time for the mushers/marshals meeting, and then watch some of the 8, 6 and 4 dog rigs fly around the course before getting Widdle ready for our first race- bikejor open!
This was only Widdle’s second proper go at bikejor and his first race, I was a little worried at how he may go at a faster pace, but within milliseconds I knew I had underestimated the big man. He threw his all into the course and I could not leave him on his own, so I got my head down and pumped my legs and together we flew round a tough bike course in a time 2 minutes faster than he has ever gone over that distance……my legs were tired but my heart was bursting with pride, and as such he had warmed me up perfectly for the canicross with BB.
The course was roughly 4.7km long and we were hoping to get around in under 16 minutes, and thought this would be pushing it. We had some very stiff competition from Ben Robinson and Jason Pascoe (Team Non-Stop), but we were racing a time and having fun. BB was calm and relaxed and I knew this would be the best of runs. We set off at a nice pace and kept it going (most of the way round!), and managed to get around in a time of 15:08, mission accomplished and at a pace faster than we have ever gone before, another PB J We were sitting in 3rd overall, and 2nd in our age category.
Thankfully our races were over for the Saturday and we got back the hotel for food and more Guinness, I had to keep my iron levels up…
Sunday followed the same routine as the Saturday, and an excited Widdle took me to the start line, Ally talking to him ready to go. 3,2,1 and go, he was off, and there was no stopping him today, I thought yesterday was amazing, but today he was on fire, he flew like I have never known him to before, the line was tight, the arch was there, me and my boy were having the time of our life’s. What was, again, meant to be an ‘easy’ session saw us both push ourselves past our limits and visit a place of pain and euphoria that cannot be explained. Despite one water stop, more mud than ever, Widdle had managed to drag us around to a time 17 seconds quicker than Saturday. To say I was proud would be the understatement of the century, likewise, to say my legs were sore but would be an understatement! Widdle and I had managed to come 4th overall, and he was by far the smallest of the dogs; not only that but we had had the most amazing experience, one never to be forgotten.
BB exited the car, looked at me and knew she had a hard task, my legs were like lead…however, like the amazing puppy she is she took me to the start line and we started on our run. I knew that my legs were heavy today, I just couldn’t lift them, but watching my pup work so hard forced me to carry on, putting everything I had into the run. It was a slower time than Saturday but we still managed a shade under 16 mins, and with that, secured a bronze medal at the SDAS National Championships, and, hopefully, qualification for the IFSS European Champs in Thetford next year. (We had managed 2nd in our age group).
It was not just our family representing Team Canifit at this weekend, a whole bunch of us had made the journey. Keith Johnson (aka Mr Canifit) raced in both the 3 dog and 2 dog rig classes securing Gold and Silver respectively. Fiona Ramsey (Canifit class leader) stormed the canicross with her dog Bailey and secured Bronze with the fastest Canifit time of just under 15 minutes for the course! Jada Amoah was racing with Zorik in the junior canicross and secured the Gold. Not a bad medal haul for Team Canifit, but most of all was the experience. Great friends seen, made and secured along with great racing and a lovely environment.
Massive thanks to all of the race organisers and other racers who made this such a special weekend.
The true stars are the dogs, and in this case Widdle, who was the ONLY reason I started running and met Lindsay at Canifit. Widdle has shown, once again, why I continue to run and race my dogs, he enables us to go to new places, meet new people and have the most amazing experiences I could have only dreamt of when we first got you from the pound…if you haven’t guessed, I love Widdle!
We are now resting and waiting on the next lot of adventures J