Yesterday I took part in my second Brutal10 trail race; this time at Minley Training land, Blackwater Valley. I ran it with my staffy Sidney and he was a little star, as always!
This is best described as a technical, off-road course with a few short, sharp energy sapping hills thrown in for good measure! But that isn’t unusual for a Brutal race. What was unusual was the distinct lack of mud and water…and by water I mean waist high trenches or streams! Brutal Minley is definitely the driest race of the series.
To be honest, given the challenge of negotiating a technical course and some tough hill sections, I personally wasn’t missing the water, apart from the having the opportunity to cool down!
Before I go into detail on the course itself, I have to commend the registration process and logistics that goes into these races.
Registration couldn’t be simpler; you enter and pay online and then when you turn up on the day of the race, you go to the registration tent, give your name & number (which you find on a board) and collect your timing chip & bib. The timing chip is attached to a velcro band that you wear round your wrist.
It cost me only £16 to enter online (slightly more if you enter on the day) and understandably, for that price you don’t get a t-shirt or medal, which frankly I’m not bothered about.
Most importantly, this race had a great atmosphere; before, during and post race. The marshals and event helpers were all so friendly and there were supporters dotted about the course – though mostly at the toughest sections (mmm funny that!), such as the bridge where we had to run up a very steep, grassy slope to get to the top!! My legs did scream out in pain a few times on this race I have to say!
In terms of refreshments, there was a water stop just after the halfway mark (including water bowls for the dogs) and water, orange drink and bananas at the end. Nothing elaborate but fine for what we needed.
The most standout observation for me is that canicrossers were made to feel so welcome; by both the organisers and the dogless runners. Whilst canicrossers set off 10 minutes before the main race (at 09:50), inevitably the faster dogless runners do tend to catch up with many canicrossers and there is a lot of mutual respect between both parties, making it really good fun to be a part of.
It was great to see so many canicrossers at this event – this just shows how popular the Brutal races are.
The course itself was challenging but really enjoyable. It consisted mostly of forest trails, where you could get into a good groove pace wise, along with a few sections in the woodland that incorporated some sharp zig zags and meandering narrow paths. This did mean you had to concentrate on following the signs and markers (no time for snoozing!) which isn’t always easy to do when you are racing and trying to negotiate your dog round the tight turns. Some people did lose their way but I don’t think that was necessarily for the lack of markers (there was plenty of red and white tape and arrow markers along the route) but more because it was a little confusing trying to follow the exact path when it was switching around so much.
That’s not to say this is a negative in any way; many people will love the technical aspect of the course. I actually enjoyed the fact that it was a bit different from many other races I’ve done. That said, when you are trying to follow a tricky section it can slow you down and there’s nothing more frustrating than missing a turning.
All in all, I thought it was a fantastic race – as we have all come to expect from a Brutal! The organisers are very enthusiastic and meticulous and it is evident that a lot of work goes into making this a race that people (and dogs!) will enjoy.
Bring on the next one! 🙂