There’s no way anybody should have to get up at 6am on a Sunday, but that’s what we did today to get over to Glentress Forest in time for our first ever Cani-X race. Once there and signed in, the race organizers disclosed a couple of things about the race we hadn’t really being expecting. Firstly it would be 5.8 km long rather than the advertised 5 km (so really 6km with a small discount) and secondly, a lot of it was uphill over rough terrain.
Now I had been planning to run with both Beanie and Biggles (and with all that climbing ahead I definitely fancied the idea of having double Beagle power out in front of me) but after hearing the course description we decided it would be better to pull Beanie out. We know from previous endeavors that Beanie has sensitive tootsies, and perhaps more significantly, she doesn’t particularly enjoy a long slow plod. A long sprint with direction changes is fine, but a plod (and in my current woeful shape that’s all I’m capable of) is just plain boring for her. Biggles on the other hand likes to set a steady pace and stick to it, so regretfully we told the organizers that Beanie would be relegated to the role of cheerleader.
So, at around 10.40 I was queuing up with the Biggly boy at the start line. The race start was staggered with each runner setting off at 15 second intervals, so by the time it was our turn to go Biggles was really excited and desperate to chase after the other doggies. Almost as soon as I crossed the line and started running he was aarrffing, grunting and squealing for all he was worth. Of all the dogs I saw starting before me, he was easily the most focused and “up for it”. It was a pity then that he was towing a puffing, panting tub of lard (me) and as we hit the first and most severe climb of the course and I dropped to walking pace, his frustration was palpable. He burned a lot of energy trying to pull me up that hill and once we got going again on a gentler gradient, he was running hot. Fortunately we were up so high that there was still snow on one side of the path, and as I moved over to the edge of the path to let him reach it, he dived straight in and lay flat on his tummy. For a moment I wondered if he’d already burned himself out and we should just walk the rest of the course (you can’t blame me for hoping, right?) However, once he’d cooled his tum for a few seconds he grabbed a couple of mouthfuls of snow and set off again. The next 100m were surreal. I was jogging along on the path in hot sun while Biggles was bounding along in the snow filled ditch beside me with a big stupid grin on his face.
After the shock of that first brutal climb the rest of the course wasn’t that bad, though it still felt like it was mostly uphill. I kept looking ahead and thinking “OK, I can keep running to that corner, and after that we’ll surely have a flat or downhill section, right?” but more often than not we’d turn that corner and just see another long, slow climb. Still, Biggles’ enthusiasm kept me going and we actually got to pass a few other runners. CaniX protocol demands that you clearly announce your intention to overtake so that reactive dogs can be reeled in to avoid any clashes. In Biggles’ case, there was rarely any need to shout “coming through!” because his aarrffing and grunting did a much better job of announcing our presence.
There was one point where we did get a decent downhill section, but unfortunately it didn’t really offer much opportunity for recovery. Why? Well for one thing it was very steep and kind of slippery. And for another, it had a big thick tree trunk going right across it at head height! Yep, there you are half running, half skidding down this steep incline and suddenly you either have to duck or spend the rest of the day being a guinea pig for the first-aiders. As I passed that hazard I was very grateful I just had a little Beagle pulling me and not a pair of Huskies.
Finally we hit the descent to the finish, and the aarrffing machine went into overdrive again. I thought we were home and dry. Then, with just a couple of hundred yards to go and his Mum calling him from the line, Biggles suddenly developed an interest in some bikers heading off on a trail to the left. “Biggles! It’s this way you plonker!” I yelled, and my boy quit baying, skidded to a halt and turned to look at me blankly. It took a couple of seconds for the penny to drop, then he turned to face the finish line again and the arrffing resumed. We crossed the line and received a bag of tasty Burns Kelties for our trouble.
With the exception of that spot of confusion over the bikers, little Biggles could not have been better. I’m going to work hard at getting myself back to full fitness so that when the next CaniX run comes around I’ll be better able to give him the partner he deserves!
Video from the run – without all the sweaty hill climbing bits: