Monday, 29 April 2013

Canicross and bikejoring

I ran with my husky friends twice last week (actually, three times - including Sunday morning).

On Tuesday evening as we were heading home I bumped into a woman out with her dogs and she commented something like, "Ah, canicross. I used to do it in the UK". When I got home I Googled "canicross".

As it turns out, canicross is a dog-human running discipline. It's cross-country running while hitched to a dog. The runner wears a waist belt, to which the lead is attached so that their hands are free. The dog wears a running harness (not collar) and the lead is a bungee-type line to reduce shock to both runner and dog. This is exactly the setup we have with the huskies.

The sport is well established in the UK and Europe and the first Canicross World Championships took place in Italy in 2002.

So then I start searching for local events because the dogs and I fancy a bit of competition. Web representation is shoddy.

Angel and Toscana's dad (Dino) invited me to join them at a sledding meet on Sunday morning. It's organised by the Sled Dogs Unlimited club. The season has just started and they went along or the first time last weekend.

The meets are really early in the morning to benefit from cold temperatures. Below 11C is what they prefer for running the dogs.

There's a one-kilometre and a two-kilometre track on a farm North of Diepsloot. They're dirt tracks, about a single-lane road width and cleared of rocks and nasties.

There were so many huskies there! So much excitement! And what a range of husky colours! And the sounds of doggie delight!

I was trying to get the frosty breath from the dogs - wrong angle. Toscana in the foreground and that's their dad, Dino, to the left.
There were a few 'sleds'. They're essentially tricycle-like chariot that has the musher standing (that's one in the background-right of the photo above). Three or four dogs get hooked up to the cart.

The other main discipline is bikejoring. This is where the dogs (one or two) pull a rider on a mountain bike. We both gave it a go and the dogs absolutely loved it.

Starting out was a bit shaky but 10m down these dogs were in full flight. That's Toscana on the left and Angel on the right. Photo by Iselle from Dog Sledding Unlimited.
I thought that I'd be eating dirt, especially if the dogs decided to go different directions. They were only a little distracted at the start and thereafter they just went for it, staying on the track and running together. Angel is definitely the big-time workhorse. She just doesn't get tired and she can outrun Toscana.

Getting going... Thanks to Iselle for use of her bike. Toscana is the fluffy one on the left and Angel is the one getting into race mode already - on the right. Photo by Iselle.
I'll take my bike down on Thursday evening to try it at our local park. There's more to distract the dogs there (other dogs!) but definitely worth a try. Dino will join me for this outing because juggling both dogs and a bike could be messy on my own.

I did ask the one guy about canicross events. There don't seem to be any competitions. It seems like they just run on the track. Maybe I need to organise a canicross trail race? The dogs and I are itching for some competition. They're running so beautifully and their fitness is getting really good. They're absolutely loving the cooler temperatures as winter approaches.

This is helluva good fun and I really enjoy playing with my furry running companions.


Unknown said...

Part of my running group includes a 60 plus year old man Bernie who would love to finish Comrades again. But he trains less regularly than he could and always ask for too many walk breaks. But about three years ago Bernie and I did one of our 10 km loops with his dog 'Wallace' a pointer. Wallace loved the early morning runs and he was on a 3-4 metre lease tied round Bernie's waist. Well that day Bernie did 10 km in 56 mins. Wallace was relentless, he did not want walks and pulled Bernie round in that 56 min. We joked for many years that if we could get Bernie and Wallance together for Comrades he might make it through. Sadly Wallace has passed on but leaves many memories of "a dog who talk his owner for a PB run".

Unknown said...

Hi Lisa
your article is really great, and I agree finding this type of info on the net in SA is quite difficult. I run the Vanderbijlpark Dog training club's Facebook page and do a dog sport overview once a week to inform people of the different things they can do with their dogs, I was doing canicross and that is actually how I came across your blog, if you know of any events in canicross, bikejorring or sledding etc. In the Joburg area you are welcome to post on our FB page :)
Thank You

adventurelisa said...

Thanks Frances. I will do. I may look into organising a social canicross event after October.