Brutal Carnicross

Last weekend Brutal 10 returned to Minley for their mid-summer installment. As well as the usual 10km course, there were also 5km and 20km options, which was a really great way of expanding the appeal of the race. This weekend our focus was on the canicross, which is a regular feature at Brutal events and is something that has caught my eye and intrigued me at the last couple of races.

Long time Mudstacle legend Richard and his dog Rocko entered themselves into their first canicross on Saturday and, never one to do things by halves, Richard opted to go straight for the 20km maximum distance! If you haven't seen canicross before, check out this video from the weekend:

I had a chat with Richard after the race and this is what he had to say about his experiences...

Hi Richard. First up, what kind of a dog is Rocko?

He's a 14 month old Bracco Italiano. His origin is a hunting dog, basically an Italian pointer. Braccos are slightly bigger and bulkier with floppier face than an English pointer, but have a similar sort of body shape.

Rocko the Bracco Italiano

So what did you think of your first carnicross?  

It was really good! The start was funny. It’s almost like you need ear plugs. As soon as one dog starts barking they all get going.

Did Rocko know that something was going on at the start line then?

Yes, definitely, all of the dogs were getting excited and started pulling on the leads, it’s almost like they were in a pack.

Once he got started though he knew what he was doing and followed the path. It was a little harder in the forest areas, where the path isn’t so obvious. He started to get a little confused there…

Did he start heading in the wrong direction?

Well he seemed to know roughly where he was going but often wasn’t sure whether to go left or right of the trees, so you’ve just got to go with him even if you do slightly stray off course. There were a couple of times where we got a bit tangled up with him going one way and me going the other, but I’d just slam the breaks on.

Carnicross start

So was Rocko leading the way the whole time?

Yes, he’s constantly in front but generally he did a good job. In the section of weaving mountain bike trails where there was a very fixed path he was brilliant and also when there was a dog in front - it was really good for him to have somebody to follow. He was also better on the second lap, it was so much easier, I think they just follow the scent.

I guess there had been the scent of a few hundred people on the track by that point.

Do you think it makes it easier or harder to run when you’re being pulled along?

It definitely makes it easier on the flat and going up hill but coming down hill is quite dangerous. It gets scary because he’s dragging you down hill. There’s a lot of resistance between the two of you. I’m trying to hold back and he’s trying to bolt forwards. I don’t think you could train your dog to run at your pace really nicely.

Water stop

Rocko not understanding the urgency of the water stop

The lead is attached to your midsection, right? How does it feel being tugged from there, does it send you off balance?

No, it’s good, it sort of levels your body up. It almost feels like it’s forcing you to run how you should run without getting lazy and hunching over. You can notice a massive difference on your posture and your shoulders as soon as he stops tugging. I can imagine it would be really good for people with a bad back, funnily enough.

I can imagine that it was a lot more tiring because you’re pulling back a lot of time on him.

It’s more that you’re being dragged into places that you don’t necessarily want to go. I’d say that both of my ankles were more sore than they normally are.

Richard and Rocko post race

Your time was ridiculous, as always! You were fourth fastest out of everyone over 20km (including all those running without dogs). Would you say that having Rocko sped you up or slowed you down?

I could have run it quicker without Rocko I reckon. I had a couple one minute stops for him to have a drink. They can’t guzzle down water like we can. They can only get water in so quickly with their tongues. Plus he had to stop for the toilet a couple of times. So yeh, I guess maybe I put around 8-10 minutes on my time overall.

As long as he’s not stopping to sniff at stuff I suppose. I guess a few dogs would be more interested in sniffing around.

I guess so, or chasing birds or nipping at each other and playing.

Well, thanks so much for trying out Brutal's Carnicross for us. It sounds like you're hooked. See you at the next one!

While Richard was motoring ahead, I was running solo over the 20km course, which was great fun. Every Brutal event seems to be different, some with more water, some more mud and some more hills. This weekend at Minley it was very dry and more like a straight up trail run. I really can't fault it though. Brutal events are so well organised. For a start I have never seen a course that is so well marked out! There was always an arrow or tape in your eyeline. They always seem to have a great community feel as well, you can tell they attract the same crowd event after event. If you live in the Surrey / Hampshire borders or even South London it's well worth checking them out; they're a proper bargain.

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