Into the darkness
The true winter canicross season has arrived and with that training in the dark nights and dark mornings are upon us. Canicross being predominantly a winter sport in the UK this typically means a lot of training in the dark, however the dark isn’t as scary as it seems, it has multiple benefits for your dog including cooler temperatures and lower humidity, ideal for running in, and it can heighten senses as you both work harder training in the night. It’s fun trail running in the dark however its safe for you to prepare yourself for this.
Kit Considerations for dark canicross
- Your number one piece of kit for successful running in the dark is a fully charged head torch, not your phone or a hand torch as you need your arms to run although handy to have as a spare. I can recommend the super comfortable Petzl brand. Don’t buy cheap on headtorches or they will last you only one season, not fit your head comfortably and the battery life will be inadequate. I have been using the Petzl Swift RL, at its highest setting it can light up to 150m for nearly 3 hours weighing only 100 grams it packs a punch at 900 lumens and it automatically adjusts brightness to your needs. The headband is also reflective and easily adjustable so they have really thought about the detail behind this headtorch. Before you start your run make sure to keep your head torch off until you need it and never turn around to talk to anyone with a head torch still on, point it at the ground or take it off your head.
- Layers for you. You will need to have additional layers as its naturally cooler, buffs and snoods are a great multifunctional garment to use as hats and scarves. Buffs can be useful for under headtorches too to keep them in place and not rub.
- Reflective clothing. Many sports brands now have reflective strips, logos and full garments to help you be seen in the dark. You can also get canicross belts with reflective strips on, I can recommend the idog Canyon belt with its full reflective edging.
- Additional lighting for your dog – a smaller light that doesn’t irritate your dog whilst running is a great idea so others can not only see you but see your dog too, particularly if you plan to race your dogs in the dark.
- Layers for your dog. Some breeds of dogs also get cold pre and post running so consider a coat for back in the car, don’t forget to carefully towel them dry and give them a nice dry cosy bed for them to travel home in. Make sure paws are well wiped after running to remove any remnants of road/pavement salt that can be dangerous to dogs.
Extra Tips for Running in the dark
- Pick your route carefully, dark running is not your moment to take on technical trails, think about you and your dog’s safety. Run more prominent paths that you know that don’t tend to flood or come across any livestock, also ones where the car park is well lit and has easy access. Make sure someone knows where you are going and what route you are taking, you can get great tracking apps for extra safety – or even better don’t go alone
- Wildlife, early November brings the end of the deer rutting season so something to be aware of to give them space, foxes come out at night and cattle are still being put back in their sheds all these are considerations to think of whilst picking your route.
- Underfoot generally is slippery and wetter so a good pair of trail shoes are ideal, start thinking about your lug depth on your shoe grip as you may need a deeper lug to help with the slippery dark trails for the puddles and mud that you don’t see as clearly.
- Take a fully charged phone with you and if you’re travelling long distance on cold trails take a backup phone charger – remember the colder temperatures can exhaust phone batteries quicker.
- Leave your headphones at home, as tempting as it is to listen to music and podcasts whilst out canicrossing, running in the dark need’s full awareness of your surroundings.
- A small bag carrying a few basic essentials such as a first aid kit, I like to carry plasters/paracetamol and for extra safety a foil blanket and some vet wrap. Take a snack for after you have been out running as you will burn more calories in the cold and a flask with something warm in too doesn’t go amiss back at the car.
- Enter a race, canicross dark races are growing in popularity and availability, what a better way to take to the trails than with likeminded canicrossers in the dark. Take spare shoes and socks and a dry t-shirt/jumper these can be a great comfort on the way home after being out on wet muddy trails.
Take to the trails
The biggest benefit of running in the dark is the outstanding sunrises and sunsets you get – the winter truly shows the trails at their absolute best. Remember to still warm up before your run to help prevent injury to both you and your dog, it takes dogs much longer for the blood to flow around the body, up to 40 minutes before starting! Grab your head torch and go out and enjoy the dark trials together and work on your team building between you. Leave the PBs at home and enjoy the heightened senses and awareness you both have together.
Ready….line out…..lets go!