Running for the pies

Running for the pies

Sunday, 16 February 2014

16th February: Cheerio Cheviots

Used, abused and completely worn-out.
One thing that did not survive last week's CTS South Devon marathon were my trainers… My first proper pair of hardcore trail shoes have finally bitten the dust after getting on for a dozen marathons, a few Brutal10’s and countless other jaunts. The soles are still as great for grip as on their first day of wearing, however the uppers have now well and truly split apart where the rubber stone protector meets the mesh fabric on both sides on both shoes - letting small stones inside and the sole is now separating from the upper on the left trainer… They’ve been great servants, lasting just over a year through some pretty gnarly terrain and never once let me down. RiP More Mile Cheviots!

When I realised that they were not much longer for this planet, I had a good look at the trainers available out there - some XC bloggers recently were sent a free pair of Salomon trainers to ‘review’ from Cotswold Outdoor - unfortunately I was not one of them, so the whittling down of the options commenced.

I have a ‘light’ and ‘intermediate’ pair of trail trainers in the form of my Asics Gel Lahar II's and Karrimor Excel Dual's so I am after a heavy-duty pair - The tread on the Cheviots was very ‘aggressive’ and certainly kept me upright where others would certainly have let me down in the harsh winter trail runs, so this was the main criteria for selection.

Looking around at the shoes that others wear, the more serious and competitive in the marathon fields seem to be sporting Inov-8 and Salomon shoes, so I had a good scope-out of the trainers offered from these two and the usual suspects, with my shortlist of shoes being whittled down to 4.

Inov-8 Mudclaw
Salomon Fellraiser
Cheviot 2
And by no-means least, the trainers I had just worn-out:

The Salomon and the Inov-8 seem to be the best the ‘big boys’ have to offer for what I am after, the Cheviot 2 is the newer version of the Cheviot - it has the same sole, just a redesigned upper, and the older Cheviot.

Reading-up on what fellow runners have found on the various blogs out there, the consensus seems to be that they all cope very well in the harsh conditions I am intending to wear them, however the rubber on the soles of the Salomon and the Inov-8 seems to be softer and susceptible to rapid wearing when used on asphalt, or any surface that is not very soft and pliable - and with my races covering a mix of trail and tarmac, it seems they will be in for a fair hammering on some races.

Looking deeper in to the reviews, the consensus is that a pair of hard-worn and fairly well used and abused pair of trail shoes will only last a year at most before destruction - be it the sole or the upper that gives-out… And I managed to get that out of the Cheviots.

For comparison on the wear & tear front, it seems that you will get the same use out of a pair of trail shoes no matter how well you look after them, therefore on a budgetary basis a £150 pair of trainers is no different to a £25 pair (so long as the build quality is of an equivalent standard) - so price seems to not be a too relevant factor in representing longevity.

Back-tracking here the tread is king in this comparison and the Cheviot 1&2 still seem to be offering the deepest most aggressive lugs of all. All 4 of the shoes have mesh uppers so drain water very well - so the deciding factor in this choice really is based on: appearance, snobbery and cost.

The styling of the Inov-8 and Salomon shoes look far better than the chunkier less sleek Cheviots, with the Cheviot 1’s looking better than the 2’s in my eyes, but I’m looking for performance in the mud rather than speedy styling as I’m realistic that my pace is certainly not one for hitting the front of a field!

Seeing as I don’t really view my running as a fashion parade and I love my functionality over flashiness with my kit, I decided to shed any pretensions I might have of being a ‘front runner’ in the field and running the risk of looking like one of those types who 'has all the gear and no idea’ as I plod along towards the rear of the field being a fat bloke and I opted for another pair of the Cheviot’s.

Duly ordered, they arrived and I set about breaking them in… Unfortunately this pair did not prove as hardy as the last and the mesh on the upper by the toe began to fray after just walking around the house in them :(

One extreme to the other!
Start Fitness, the suppliers were great about this and told me to send them back so they can get me a replacement pair, some excellent customer service here and I look forward to receiving the replacements. Hopefully I will have them as an option for the next marathon, the Steyning Stinger, in a couple of weekends, but if not they'll certainly be broken-in ready for the CTS Sussex marathon.

At the price of roughly 1/3 the Salomons and Inov-8's I think the maths in purchasing these make terrific sense... Probably the Scot in me coming out there!.. You could go through 3 pairs of these in a year and not be out of pocket over buying the more expensive brands, plus you would not have the worry over the tread wearing down by replacing them more often. The tread on them has certainly kept me upright when those in more expensive footwear have been slipping and sliding over. I would thoroughly recommend these trainers to anyone looking at running trail races, especially if you're reluctant to spend stupid money when dipping your toe in the world of trail running and unsure if it is for you... As an aside I put inside of them a cushioned sorbothane insole and change the laces for elasticated ones to make the comfort level perfect for me.

9th February: Gusty, gutsy, epic

Some of race organiser Endurancelife's merchandise has the slogan 'Do Something Epic' on them, it turns out the South Devon leg of their Coastal Trail Series was just that… A race that you can wear as a badge of honour to say ‘I was there’, 'I endured', 'I survived'!.. With it all being so 'epic', excuse the length of this entry, but there was plenty to write about as a consequence :) Here goes:

Over the last week this particular part of the South coast has been relentlessly battered by mother nature with storm front after storm front passing over from the south west. Gale-force winds time and again whipping the sea into a frenzy that bombarded the coastline with monster waves, torrential rain falling from the sky and spring high-tides exacerbating things for good measure.

Last Wednesday, Torcross, the village on the coast immediately to the North of Beesands and through which the course for the marathon passes, was on the news for the storm damage. With some of the residents being evacuated as a precaution, most of the guest houses cancelled their immediate bookings as a consequence which affected some of those running in the race.

With all of this going on the Facebook pages for the Coastal Trail Series and Endurancelife were all a flutter with people seeking updates about the situation, was it on? was it off? was the course affected? Rather than stoking fires and with the weather situation as always being changeable, there was a dignified silence until it was needed to calm the nerves of the nervous with updates on Wednesday and Thursday, with the latter noting there’ll be an update at 16:00 on the Friday as people need to make a decision whether to travel.

By the time this 16:00 'game on' update had been posted by Endurancelife, there were posts from several people saying how they were not going to attend for their own safety, or risk traveling in the inclement conditions. Questions were being asked by some of the ethical merits of holding an event in what essentially is a ‘disaster area’, especially should something go wrong with the emergency services stretched dealing with things of far greater importance than a bunch of runners... The truth be told, none of us knew what the situation was like ‘on the ground’ from so far away. Having said this, Kirsty, one of my school-friends who lives nearby to the race had been in Beesands on the Thursday and questioned whether I was wise in running there on Saturday as the area was pretty beaten-up and the forecast for Saturday was more of the same!

Remembering my bedding this time, I set-off to arrive around midnight on what could be described as an ‘interesting’ drive through rain and wind; passing an articulated lorry on its side at a roundabout on the A303 and encountering people driving who really should not have been doing so in the prevailing conditions; their lack of confidence and erratic behaviour making them a danger to others on the road.

Pulling in to Beesands I drove to the same spot I had parked in last year. Before coming to a halt I manoeuvred the van to look down the road along the sea defences where everyone had parked last year, and for a look at the marquee, but I couldn’t see that and on the road in front was a large boulder and plenty of debris... so I reversed back to the parking spot and stopped for the night.

As I parked the sky was cloudless, speckled with stars and the lighthouse at Start Point was illuminating me every 30 seconds or so… I could really hear the sea however, so I wandered over to the slip-way and watched the waves: big and foaming, especially compared to last year.

Hunkering down for the night I could hear the wind begin to whip-up and then the rain started to pound on the van’s roof as I drifted off to sleep.

I awoke with my alarm and with not going out with the ultras as there was no early marathon start, I took my time to see how Beesands now looked compared to last year.

Looking north in 2013 - you can just see the cars on the left.
The same stretch after the battering.
Where the road was.

As you can see, where there was once a road leading in front of the green, now there was none, with the sea defences looking beaten to say the least. I could understand why the marquee had been moved as there was no real prospect of serving it with no vehicle access!

The marquee was sited a little way back up the hill you drive in on, so after a coffee and some flap jack I wandered off to the briefing for the ultra runners to.get an early heads-up on course changes. On the way up the hill I saw the following car parked which amused me no end:

I hope the owner's a keen fisherman, cos otherwise its not something I'd want to be shouting about!
Rounding the corner in to the field were all the portaloos, although some had succumbed to the night's wind - I just hope they were unoccupied at the time!

I hope no-one was in there :(
The briefing revealed the route changes which was as much a necessity as it was a pity with how poor conditions have been. It had been decided that we would not be going around the two southerly headlands (Start Point, Prawle Point) instead skirting round them just inland due to how severly exposed they were to the prevailing southerly wind. The north section of the course from Beesands (whilst marked out by the organisers over the previous day or so) was now closed because of the risk of waves and debris along Slapton Sands and with the lagoon on the other side nearly at flood. Instead of this northerly section, for the Ultra & the Marathon we were to loop back to Beesands along the 1/2 marathon path - with the ultras then running the half course and the marathoners the 10k course to make-up the distance.

Curiosity satiated I returned to the van, changed into my gear and after a hobbit-esque ‘second breakfast’ I sauntered back up the hill again ready for the marathon start.

The gathering.
As we stood assembled for the off, somebody had brought a helicopter camera with them to capture the occasion, which hovered above us taking footage with the operator struggling to keep it in anything approach the same position due to the windy gusts!

Soon we were off, running across the field from the marquee and straight on to the coastal path. This first mile or so was fairly easy-going, just a bit slippery under foot with the mud and with a slight incline it was a decent jogging pace as we found our way to the beach at Hallsands… I thought I had one more race left in my trainers, but crossing the beach made me realise I shouldn’t have tried to eke-out this one as the holes that had developed by the toes let in the gravel from the beach so on the climb up the other side I had to stop to empty them out, cursing myself for not wearing a new pair. By this point I was beginning to overheat and found myself undoing my jacket zip just to help regulate my core temperature with air flowing in and out through the action of running whilst it was still held closed by the velcro patches on the zip flap.

The blown spray.
The next mile was a tortuous climb, getting higher and higher as we approached the lighthouse at Start Point, the sea grey and angry with a spray being blown off it on to the cliffs that the lighthouse warns of. The closer we neared, the more the wind picked-up, making it harder to get any pace going, and making me realise that the overheating I’d just experienced was lulling me in to a false sense of security… Back up went the zip!

On arrival at Start Point we cut across the car park for a descent back to the coastal path only to find ourselves in nature's wind-tunnel! The view was breath-taking… Literally! The natural geography made the wind blast up the narrow valley into our faces making it impossible to breathe. You had to put your hand over your face to catch a breath as otherwise the wind sucked it out of your lungs. Whilst you were concentrating on breathing, gasping for even half a breath we had to attempt to pick a path over rocks and mud, trying to get a good foot-plant on every step whilst continually buffeted off balance by the howling invisible malignant force intent on knocking us over, as we carefully picked our way down to the path below and out of the funnel.

First look at the foaming waves.
At the bottom of the descent the reveal of the scenery made it truly worthwhile… We had our first glance of the boiling frothing white sea, waves crashing one after another in perfect barrels at times demanding to be surfed. Pretty much all of us with cameras paused to get at least a shot of this as welcome breaths were caught.

Looking along the bay.
Along we went following the rocky undulations of the cliff path with the spectacular sea on our left, carefully picking our path as we progressed, the sun shining upon us as we made our merry way.

Then the skies darkened… In a matter of minutes we went from glorious sunshine to leaden-grey skies, just as I traversed an exposed area of cliff-top meadow... Then the wind started to do its worse, the 70mph gusts turning to a constant blast of the same speed, the temperature dropped like a stone… Then the hail started… Jet propelled by the wind; whipping into you from in front, every BB sized ball of ice stinging your face, head, legs, any exposed part of your body. You had to put your hand in front of your face to protect your eyes and look at your feet to see where you were going as you could not open them. Part of you wanted to yell out in rage at the pain the hail was causing, but it would be futile as there was no way to make it stop and in the open there’s no shelter for respite. As the temperature fell before the onslaught I could tell what was about to happen, so I managed to react in time to get a buff on my head to keep some heat in, but I was not quick enough to get my gloves on before the battering commenced and was reduced to trying to get them on as quickly as I could with already frozen hands being stung by the hail, whilst praying I would not drop one and have it whipped-away by the wind... Progress was slowed to a half-blinded shuffle. I even decided to walk backwards to ease the pain on my face, but decided against it after a few steps as walking backwards on a cliff-top is certainly not the most clever thing to attempt!

Eventually the hail eased-off, the sky lightened from gun-metal grey to a mid-grey and progress could be picked-up a little more. At the lowest point we ran along of this section we were around 10ft above the sea level, with a large exposed reef around 30-50m out to sea.

The waves and the reef.
The waves hitting the reef were the same height as us before they instantly vanished on colliding with it. The wind had certainly whipped the sea at this point, so much so that a layer of foam was beginning to build and was being blown across our path like an Ibiza foam-party, only without the heat, booze and music. The only tune playing being nature’s own whistle and howl of the wind.

The sea spume!
Coating the path.
Ploughing on through :)
The path at this point was serving both the out and back sections, so we were now having the leading ultra runners meeting us head-on on the narrow path, so we endeavoured to make as much room as we could for them to pass us. Unfortunately I was concentrating on the on-coming runners too much at this point and tripped-over. Rather than fight the fall, you go with it, and fortunately the landing was on mud and grass, so I got away with a scratched knee, although 5 minutes later the same thing happened and I was not so lucky: my left knee-cap smacking on to a rock and grinding in all the muck grime and gravel that I still had on it from the first spill. I grimaced, cursed like a sailor, picked-myself up and carried on running. Looking down I could see blood oozing out from the scar tissue from my bike crash last Christmas, so I knew I would have fun in the shower later-on dragging stones and mud out of it. Fortunately not having much in the way of nerve-endings left in that knee there wasn’t really any pain to be felt, so I did what I had to and put it to the back of my mind as at the end of the day its only a cut and to stop to treat it would not really achieve a great deal.

Following the crowd.
Views like this are what its all about.
As we progressed I had been watching the opening of the Kingsbridge estuary drawing slowly nearer, knowing that this signalled the turn in land and into shelter from the head wind that had given us all a thorough beasting. The turn on the path couldn’t come soon enough and eventually after progressing a little way up river, sheltered under trees and hearing the wind whistling through them above us as a heavy rain shower began to fall, the first proper checkpoint was made.

The Kingsbridge estuary - where people were body-boarding!
Stopping only for a handful of jelly babies I carried-on, the mile long uphill path being perfect to take it easy and eat the jelly beans and a nutrigrain bar to keep my energy levels up.

This inland path section took us back up in elevation to the height of the cliffs, with every step being wet and muddy with the surface water pouring off the fields and pasture, a harbinger of what was to come for the rest of all the inland sections! Soon we had looped round on to the coastal path and re-traced our steps in part, scrambling over the rocky path back the way we came, although strangely enough the wind did not seem to be on our backs, more like on our sides so we did not seem to get the benefit we had hoped for when battling along the path earlier.

A sample photo of the path!
As we reached the turn for the extended inland section that took us back to Beesands, we finally experienced the helping hand of the wind. We had to traverse a narrow path between fields that moved up hill. Here the wind kindly blew us up it, allowing for some respite on a climb for a change.

Venturing through the village of East Prawle and the Pigs Nose Inn with a few bemused drinkers standing outside watching us shuffle past, we had made the second check point and we were now splashing our way along the edge of muddy fields and torrents that were footpaths every incline and descent seemed to be a stream - similar to how Anglesey had been the other week. With the paths being surrounded by hedgerows we managed to stay sheltered from the worst effects of the wind, although you could really hear it in the trees still, whistling through the branches in a way that told you the speed was still ferocious.

The half marathoners were on this part of the course with us as we all made our way back towards Beesands. About a couple of miles from the finish by a stream that we had to ford, there was a runner in trouble. He was sat on a rock sticking-out of the river, shrouded in a foil survival blanket looking very sorry for himself. With the blanket shrouding him I could not tell what race he was in, but fortunately someone had already stopped to be with him so we pushed onwards. We arrived at the edge of the hill looking down to the Beesands start and our precariously steep descent, with the half marathoners turning left at the bottom of the slippery grass and muddy bank to the finish line as the rest of us found the coastal path again as we turned right and went off on the 10k circuit.

Setting off on the 10k route was a new experience for me on one of these events as normally its what the ultra runners do after they complete the marathon to make their distance. Psychologically having been so close to the finish line you know that there is a finite distance left, one that you have already run today and one you can rationalise as ‘just a training run to go’… 'only an hour left’... 'Its the same as your normal canal run you’ve done time after time’.

Having been away from the coastal views for a while it was good to see the sea again, which seemed to be a bit calmer than before, and as expected the first mile or so was just the same as before and proved just as straight-forward… Until the beach that is.

Rather than trying to tough-out the rest of the 10k with shoes full of gravel and risk shredding my toes from the abrasion I decided to empty my trainers as soon as I was out the other side, which cost me a few minutes as I cursed myself once more.

On the climb up the other side of the beach it meant I was soon caught by a fellow marathoner in the form of Sophie. We had yo-yo’d past one another a few times during the run so she seemed to be pretty much on for a similar time. Sophie was the only person I ran with to chat during the race as I was by myself most it and the weather conditions were not great for chatting with the strong wind and single-track paths even if you were in a bunch. Today was Sophie’s first go at a marathon and she really could not have endured one as tough if she had tried to find one.

Today is a case of dipping her toes in the water and getting a marathon under her belt for her proper challenge: Offas Dyke… All 177 miles of it! The distance is broken down in to a marathon or so each day and her plan is to go as far as she can with a bare minimum of 2 days/ marathons before her body gives-up. I think she was having a bit of a crisis of the soul with regards to her pacing on this run and how tough the conditions had been so I reassured her that I finished near the middle of the pack in Anglesey, so if we’re near the end then it definitely is the course rather than being really slow and that conditions-wise this genuinely was the toughest challenge I’d come-up against so far!

A couple of ancient Yew trees freshly toppled not far from the finish line.
As we reached the top of the hill at Start Point we were a little confused as to where to go. We had carried straight on earlier, but I was sure we needed to turn right to loop round. The marshals as we approached just carried-on chatting to themselves and ignored us… Just before we committed to going along the same route as before as there was no other indication as to what to do, I noticed a couple of people in a parked car gesticulating wildly at us to go to the right. I said to Sophie that I’d go and double check rather than make the wrong turn, and going back to the marshals they confirmed to go round to the right… There seems to have been plenty of confusion experienced here amongst other runners of the ultra and marathon, so it was not just us who nearly got caught-out running the wrong way rather than our intended course.

Content to be heading off the right way, we jogged along the road away from the car park, when the wind whipped-up again and the skies darkened… From earlier we both knew what was about to happen, so I managed to get my snood and gloves on just in time… Just in time for the second bout of hail. Where we were was on top of a ridge and the hail was driven by the same continual blast of 70mph wind broadside from our left. Progress was instantly slowed to a meandering shuffle as you could not see through shielding your face.

We noticed that slowly pulling-up behind us was a farmer in his 4x4 pick-up. Very kindly he wound down his window and told us to shelter on the leeward side of the vehicle as it was big enough to block some of the hail and wind. As welcome as this lovely kind gesture was, at around 22 miles in to a marathon your energy levels are low and the wind was beginning to make the cold penetrate, so sheltering was in fact the worst thing to do as at least with the movement you kept warm, so it was decided to brave the path onwards rather than allowing ourselves to get cold.

A few minutes later the hail ceased and we were soon back on the path from the first time round and able to get a good judge on how long was left. The feeling of elation on seeing the ‘1 Mile to go’ sign was enormous and slipping on my arse 4 times to get down the muddy grassy bank at the course split for the finish was no problem as it meant that in a short sharp run across the field and we were finished!

Relaxing in the Cricket Inn afterwards I sat down with a pint of Otter and caught the remainder of the egg-chasing (Sheep-Shaggers v. Bog-Trotters) able to reflect on the previous few hours before commencing the 4 hour drive back home as the skies darkened.

I take my hat off to all those runners who got out and ran the race today in all its forms: 10k, plus the 1/2, full and ultra marathons. It takes a special kind of person to get themselves out of bed and run in conditions like these, whether you finished first or did not finish; the challenge was to get to the start line to take on the elements. The organisers should also be lauded for sticking with the event and letting it take place in the safest possible manner and outcome, altering the course to deal with the curve-balls nature had thrown where others would have just cancelled the event altogether... On behalf of all us participants, thank you Endurancelife for doing what you did. All of us proud to have been there and taken part.

This race was absolutely stunning for the scenery and it was immense being able to get through a marathon in such adverse conditions. Running in 4 hours of rain like in Anglesey I know for me is no real issue. Running into a gale-force headwind however is something else and was absolutely draining on my energy levels!.. If I want to get in to the UTMB, then I know I need to have experience of running in all conditions such as these, so at least I know I can hack it now for sure and I will not be phased by this should I ever encounter it again. This race and last year’s Sussex CTS will live long in the mind for the harsh reality of running in the winter weather at its most foul… But I survived and can wear it as a badge of honour. Strangely on this run considering the effort needed, I found I did not really consume many energy gels. I only used 3 of them and ate 3 nutrigrain bars. Maybe I’ve been putting on some more winter blubber that my body has figured out it can feed-off on a long run?

I finished a little lower down the field than I would have hoped, 71/103 finishers, but my aim was to get through the race with my calf intact, which seemed to be as good as could be hoped by the end of the race and far better than it was at the end of the Anglesey marathon a few weeks back, so it seems to be on the mend. With the course changes for this race, it now means that I am 19 marathons down and have still not run the same course twice, so I have no idea as to how I have improved (if at all) as a marathon runner. It will be interesting to see how I fare in the Sussex CTS which looks like will be my first repeat running of a course. It now also means I'll have to be back in Beesands next year to see by how much I can beat my 2013 time on the course!

I did not really get much of a chance for listening to music or podcasts on the run, as with the wind being so loud it made it difficult to hear much over it, although I did manage a little while on shuffle when I found myself all alone and for what its worth, the eclectic mix of the following tracks cropped up:

Chakra - Home
Mock Turtles - Lose Yourself

Kaiser Chiefs - Saturday Night
Matt Munro - Born Free 
Soup Dragons - Everlasting
Ash - Petrol
Grace - Down to Earth
Sunday Club - Healing Dream
Police - Everything She Does is Magic
Pixies - Rock Music
Baby D - Let me be Your Fantasy
Air - Surfin on a Rocket
Robert Miles - Children
Pixies - Tame
Coldplay - Speed of Sound
Pixies - Here Comes Your Man

Monday, 3 February 2014

2nd February: Dogging ;)

Now I wonder how many hits I’ll get on this blog for that title?

Today saw my first ever attempt at ‘dogging’ with my willing accomplice Heidi. The ‘dogging’ in question is CaniX - Cani-Cross, or to put it in simpler terms: cross country running with a dog.

Ever since I’ve been running the Brutal10 races I’ve been aware of CaniX and the growing popularity of people running with their canine companions. Each time I’m at a Brutal event there seem to be more of them lined up and I love the sight of hounds all raring to go at the start, all barking in anticipation of a good run… The enthusiasm of the dogs is contagious and acts as a great spur to the other runners present as you wait to go run in the normal 10k race.

The CaniX explosion doesn’t seem to be confined to the Brutal races as I’ve been soundly beaten in various marathons by people running with their dogs and Endurancelife have now ensured that all their races are dog-friendly with water bowls for the hounds at all the aid-stations.

At the marathons, the dogs I have seen have been for the most part collies and their crosses, german shepherds, huskies or larger spaniels - in other words larger dogs that have the energy and stamina to keep on going over such a long distance. With the distance at the Brutal’s being considerably shorter, the cast of canines is more diverse - I’ve seen all sorts from lumbering overweight rottweillers to sprightly jack russells, so having a dog at home that is suitable for the Brutal distance of 10k is far easier… Which is where Heidi comes-in.

My two dogs are both Cavalier King Charles Spaniels - a dog that was bred for sitting on your lap and keeping you warm, that and that alone! They’re low maintenance, with a fantastic temperament very affectionate and love to give you cuddles. Exercise wise, they’re happy just to hang-around the house sleeping, but once you get them out they enjoy being able to have a gallop - especially when off the leash.

Ruby, the older of the two was definitely not an option for running with - she is too small and certainly not inclined to anything remotely athletic. Heidi on the other hand…

Heidi is a throwback. The Cavaliers were bred from crossing Springer Spaniels with Pugs - hence a lot of the Cavaliers having pretty squashed faces. Not Heidi. Heidi looks like a miniature Springer - and has the mentality of one, loving to be outside and running. She is taller than most of her breed and a lot sleeker by build and when out on walks she doesn’t seem to stop running, probably covering twice the linear distance on a walk.

Over the Christmas period I ordered a CaniX running harness that has been sitting at home waiting to be used and today the opportunity finally arose.

The 'Trixie' CaniX harness.
I’ve been nursing my calf muscle back to health over the last 2 weeks which means an enforced rest period from running and cycling but with the Coastal Trail Series South Devon Marathon next Saturday I needed to be sure that there is enough of a positive change in it to be worthwhile going down to compete so here was a chance to kill two birds with one stone as I could test my calf with no time-pressure or training goal.

After a good 6 mile walk with LSS and the dogs this morning - taking advantage of the first clear rain-free Sunday of the year, I saddled up Heidi in the afternoon for her first running experience. I chose to take an easy 2.5 mile route that was fairly flat, but for a good mile of it, it was pure puddles and mud - something Heidi will need to cope with if she is ever going to be able to complete a Brutal run with me.

The 'before' shot having just got out the front door.
Leaving the house, all excited to be going out again Heidi was very eager to keep-up with my pace, running alongside me, ears flapping in the slipstream. The problem with Heidi is she’s a little ‘special’ - I swear if she had a brain cell it would have died of loneliness by now - so you could describer her as being to the dog world what Paddington Bear is to the ursine world: A dog of limited intelligence... So after trying to veer of to ‘shout’ at other dogs or sniff smells she was soon wrapped-around me.
And we're off!
Not wanting to stop or to try yanking her round to the opposite site which would mean trying to get her to go across me as we ran, I realised the simplest method to untangling was for me to do a 360 and carry-on! To be fair to her it was her first time doing this, so rather than doing something to discourage her it is easier for me to bend to her needs.

mud hound
Soon we were heading across the mud and puddles of the common. Heidi was very game; blithely scampering over and through everything before us, stopping only because she had to for me to recover my trainer from the mud twice! After completing our lap - and Heidi running past the ponies grazing without trying to say ‘hello’ for a change, we were on our way back to the house, with Heidi starting to pull-out in front the closer we got back to the house - I think it was the thought of a good lie down, a snooze and some dinner that drove her onwards.

On returning she looked like this:

Soggy doggy!
So off she went in to the bath for a good hose-down.

Reflecting on the run, I think Heidi coped very well with this first attempt, especially considering she had already walked for a good 10k a couple of hours before hand. I now know that she’s capable of getting out and running with me without being dragged along, so a few more practices - especially over a 10k distance and I reckon she’ll be fine with going out and doing a Brutal with the other CaniX hounds.

Here’s a tired Heidi on the sofa snuggling looking all sorry for herself  surrounded by a furry blanket and cushions as she dries off: