Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Devizes to Westminster

The Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race is a kayaking marathon which begins in the sleepy Wiltshire town of Devizes and finishes in the one of the busiest capitals in the world. 125 miles of water, boats, locks and fisherman. They are just some of the many challenges each paddler faces during this epic sporting journey.

There are several different categories which you can compete in. You can decide to tackle the 125 miles over four days or you can try to complete it all in one sitting. Whatever the race, it's certainly not for the faint hearted. There is also an under 18's category where you paddle the race in four days and camp after each stretch of the journey is complete. So after the hard work of racing at 7 mph along the waterways for 6 hours, you then have to spend the night in a tent. Not the most comfortable way to finish a day, but it is all worth it in the end. I joined the Devizes Canoe Club's Junior members on their final training session before the big race. Junior Kayak coach Ed Dobson took me out on to the water to give me a taster of how the club have been preparing.

This was Ed's fourth year of taking part in the DW race, but for many of the children in the club it was going to be their first attempt. The glorious weather that was predicted for the race signaled trouble. Much of the training has been done through out the winter where temperatures have dropped below -5 degrees. Facing sunshine and warm temperatures of 25 degrees plus was something no one had planned for. What amazed me when I was out on the water is just how small racing kayak's are. They are very slender and the smallest amount of motion can set it off balance. This is what I found out in my second part of training with Ed.

From my taster session with the juniors I understand just how hard the race was going to be not only on their bodies but on their minds too. Having to get up and know you have about 30 miles of distance to cover must be a struggle. I watched the members of the junior team begin their race in Devizes all smiles and laughter. 125 miles later that turn into satisfaction, relief and exhaustion. Ed and his partner came 3rd in their class and completed it all in under 18 hours. A great achievement.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Running with Dogs-It's not as easy as it sounds

In a few weeks time I'll be walking the Sarsen Trail for BBC Wiltshire and the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. It's a 26 mile walk, run or bike ride from Avebury to Stonehenge. But another option is to complete the Cani X course...what's that I hear you cry? Well it's running with a dog or a few dogs. The dog is attached to you by a waist harness and a special lead which is a bit like a bungy cord. It has it's own special course along the Sarsen across Salisbury Plain-but to find out just how Cani X works, I signed up to a race in Bagshot.

Running with Dogs by bribriwilliam

It was unlike anything I have ever done before. I borrowed a dog for the day from a lovely chap called Ian from Swindon who has competed at the European Cani X Championships-so I had a dog that was well rehearsed in running whilst dragging a human along behind them!

My dog was a 9 year old black Labrador called Maisy who was fantastic. As we were waiting for our start time I had to hold Maisy back as everytime she heard "3,2,1..." she bolted like she had just seen a rabbit. Maisy was desperate to get running and get around the course, and when we did it was the weirdest feeling. As our countdown came I felt nervous that I was going to be pulled over by Maisy but luckily I managed to hold my balance and survive as she flew from the start line pulling me behind her.

It was a hot day and the 6km cross country course was demanding for me and the dog. I did feel sorry for Maisy as there were some points where I really felt she was actually pulling me along. It was like I had no control over my legs, they just did what Maisy wanted as she was up front. I'm not a natural runner so having Maisy with me made me determined to finish the race and do her proud. I couldn't stop because she was with me every step of the way. As the weather was so sunny I did pause and let Maisy have a much needed gulp of water about half way round the track. It seemed to give her a new source of energy which I welcomed as my finish was really strong because of her.

I felt so proud of Maisy and myself when we finished. This is really why dog's are a mans best friend.