It’s September 2017 and the boy wonder aka Hogan, and I, accompanied by my ‘ever tolerant of my sporting madness’ family, have arrived at mummy’s ‘fun’ event of the year.
For them, this usually means hours of hanging around in the cold, searching for something remotely edible to eat, interspersed with the cute sound of “daddy – is mummy finishing soon’. Given both children are avid sporting legends to be, I am content that my madness is justified as – ‘leading by positive example’ and anyway, it clearly hasn’t put them off!
So here we are at the Muddy Dog Challenge – a charity run/obstacle event run by Battersea Dogs home. I get to bring my life passions of sport and animals together at the same time, roll around in mud with my furry wingman and raise some money for a great charity too.
Ultimately this will be my first experience of the world of Canicross! This sport was about to be on my radar as a new adventure for the future.
I had turned up totally unprepared for my ‘fun’ event and quickly realised the collar and lead set up Hogan was wearing just wasn’t going to work. My tireless efforts of training him to walk to heel would be out of the window if he was allowed to pull me on the run, plus I don’t think canine strangulation was quite what either of us had in mind!
£70 later and we were kitted out with a correctly fitted canicross starter kit – little did I know I would definitely get my money’s worth out of this little set up but at the time I felt like I had been royally ripped off for a very expensive lead and harness, #rookieerror #captiveaudience
The horn went off and it was all systems go as we took off at the front of our wave at lightning speed, in fact all I could think was, just keep your legs spinning or else you will be acting out the mother of all face plants. Boy did we have fun, we flew past dogs and people and tackled every obstacle with an efficient dog-human faces the world team spirit!
I was utterly blown away by how Hogan took this brand-new activity in his stride, watched and listened to all my direction cues and stopped when I asked him to.
He was an absolute star and the whole experience brought me to tears with emotion, it was one of the proudest doggy mum moment’s ever when we finished. Some days I’m not Jo Croft the dog trainer, I am just Jo, and this was one of those days! All the time spent training and raising this confident, adaptable, smart, loyal and willing little chap all culminated in one amazing little low-key event, lasting all of around 25 minutes where we were both newbies, neither one of us knowing really what to expect.
If you’re still with me then before I continue here’s a little bit of background…
Apologies if this is a bit of waffle but it does help to set the scene for the progression of this blog, as I do fear you may hear me moaning and suffering a few injuries during my canicross journey and the following may just explain why.
Plus, if you have got this far then hopefully you are a little bit interested and thanks loads :-)
So, I am a swimmer – I didn’t start running until I was 24 years old. Prior to this I spent my entire life, and I mean my entire life from the age of around 8, before and after school and every weekend, either swimming training or in competitions.
My long-suffering parent’s frequent visual appearance, was to have red-cheeked faces, runny eyes from the chlorinated air they were breathing and sweat dripping off their noses as a result of the humidity on poolside! All inevitable for them if they were fulfilling their parental duties to the maximum potential.
I now hugely appreciate their support and dedication to our sport, after all I don’t think their Saturday nights were ever quite the same again, but they seemed to enjoy it!
I, am also goal setter and hardwired to have achievements to aspire to, so as a result my competitive swimming carried on well into my 20’s alongside a healthy career as a Veterinary Nurse, and a new relationship with the local gym where I found a treadmill and of course initially ended up with such bad shin splints, I couldn’t even walk!
I eventually called it a day on the competitive swimming and became a recreational swimmer after completing a cross channel relay swim in 1998. An amazing experience, one I am very proud of but definitely not one I want to repeat. The black oil slick, jelly fish ridden, choppy, sub 12 degrees in temperature, shipping lane of the English Channel is not the most pleasant environments I have ever swum in.
The only reason the water became hugely desirable is because it gave some amazing respite from the exhausting and truly relentless sea sickness suffered by all of us on board the safety boat. I hadn’t bargained for the extreme rocking from side to side as the boat battled huge waves and powered on through the 21 miles at the average swimming pace of 3 miles an hour!
I really have never seen so much vomit from such a small group of individuals, we must have all swum in a state of dehydration and malnourishment. Weighing 54kgs at the time when wet, I really did think I might die – apologies for the dramatisation!! Massive respect to the solo swimmers, it really isn’t for the faint hearted, but to be honest the water was way more inviting than the boat!
Anyway, it was time for a new sporting journey and pastures new…
Now, fundamentally, I am NOT (note the effective underscore and bold!) a runner! In fact, I would go so far as to say, I hate running, it’s hard, in fact it’s not just hard it is bloody painful physically and mentality. I guess this is what happens when you spend your life immersing your body in a non-weight bearing sport.
I was that teenager hiding in the woods on the first lap of cross country at school freezing to death before making a sprint for the finish and pretending I had completed 2 laps like everyone else, as a result, my legs and in particular my non Kim Kardashian bottom never quite fancies powering me up even the smallest incline! In my head I like to think Paula Radcliffe but the reality is a stark contrast!
So, the fact it’s hard and I don’t really enjoy it mean’s, I must be doing it wrong as I know loads of people who love running, in fact it’s not just loads its hundreds, including both our kids and my husband and the millions of people I follow on social media groups.
You may ask why on earth do I do something I don’t like, and not just that but to have spent the last 17 plus years entering triathlons, 5k’s, 10k’s and progressing to the level of the GB Age group team, coming 15th in the world at the 2019 Pontevedra World Champs, and yes, I still hate running!
Well, I guess I’m not awful at it, I like to conquer my demons and I am one of life’s trier’s, plus I absolutely love feeling like I have achieved, it keeps me amazingly fit and well and ensures I am surrounded by like-minded, dedicated, kind and supportive people. Plus, I love being one of those ‘all the gear, no idea geeks’, running provides access to some awesome kit, doesn’t everyone love a bit of kit! A 45-minute period of discomfort isn’t much to ask for all the benefits the world of sport brings.
So, the end of a long season of constant Aquathlon competitions, hours spent training every day around family and work commitments has all culminated in a huge amount of pressure and self-doubt. Fantastic!
I am one of those really annoying individuals who constantly get frustrated with their ability no matter how good it is, I fight a ‘never good enough’ attitude which has no substance or rationale. However, you can rest assured that the one place I turn when this creeps in is towards my support network of hubby, kids and furry creatures!
Those who know me well will vouch for me when I say I have a ridiculous amount of nervous energy mostly propelling me forwards into doing as much as I can as fast as possible – because you only live once!
You have probably gathered this from the pace and tangents of this blog post so I hope you’re still following!
Anyway, this quality (if you can call it that!), I now know, (as a result of a recent blood test) is all thanks to some funny family heirloom known as a the COMT gene mutation. I finally have some validation for my efficient but somewhat bonkers multitasking abilities!
Anyway, I digress, but this may provide some rationale as to why I have managed to keep powering on with my sport despite 2 pregnancies and subsequent children, various house moves, 2 businesses, a Masters degree, the pain of publishing a book (never again!) 2 dogs, just one husband, thank the lord, oh and not forgetting my horse George!
Sport for me is a lifestyle, it’s a habit, it allows me to produce those powerful feel good chemicals I just love, it’s the best avenue for friendships and social interaction and I get to eat what I want when I want.
On reflection of my biggest sporting year yet, 2019 has brought some amazing highs and lows, lots of podium finishes, some mental battles with negativity, time spent in the GB age group team (very special) and annoyingly some health concerns as the period of life every woman fears hits me like a bullet as I walk slap bang into a perimenopausal state and lucky for me its arrived early, whoop flipping whoop! (More about this in another blog!)
So, I have considered that I love the majority of what sport brings but I needed to find a way to take the pressure off of the competition but still be able to enter races. A light bulb moment a couple of months ago sent me reeling back to my Canincross Muddy Dog experience and the subsequent lovely runs I have had with the dogs since.
It’s a no-brainer let’s explore some exciting adventures, covering different distances and terrains with my partner in crime and ultimate supporter Hogan! Sadly Marley suffers with some intermittent lameness over long distances now and after all he is 9 years old so unfortunately he can only go at his pace but the kids love to take him.
So now I will be racing with my best friend and training buddy with no pressure at all. It begs the question, why on earth did I not consider this before – cue eye-role!
Plus, I have now found myself an awesome run coach in Yiannis Christodoulou, who is probably only just realising what he has let himself in for, but has already given me realistic goals and self belief alongside some brilliant technical advice. Its especially daunting now as he is now training 6 legs not 2!
Stick with me Yiannis, I promise it will be worth it ;-)
If you enjoyed this blog then watch out for the next one when do the geek thing and investigate the best possible kit – Jo
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