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Introducing Team Pointerfaces

Introducing Team Pointerfaces


We are delighted to have Team Pointerfaces on board with us for the 2023-2024 season. The team have not long got back from the ICF World Championships in Germany so here's an introduction by Susan on who they are and all about their trip to Germany...

First off, I would like to say a big thank you to SnowPaw Store for their amazing support of our Team. In the current climate, it has become increasingly difficult to meet the costs of travel, race entries and equipment, so the offer of sponsorship is hugely appreciated and is key to our team being able to continue to compete, not just in Scotland, but across the UK and abroad. You guys have played a massive part in our team’s success.

At the time of writing, it is 3 weeks since we competed in the canicross event at The ICF World Championships in Leipa and as I type some of Team GB are returning from Spain from The IFSS World Championships. A perfect time for me to reflect on our journey and our experience so far of competing at an event on this level.

Team PointerFaces Susan 57 and her rescue pointers Claire and Jack

Team Pointer faces is made up of me (the human factor) Susan, and my two rescue Pointers, Jack (black and white) and Claire ( orange and white). We live in Aberdeenshire on the East Coast of Scotland.

I am 57 and compete in the women’s veteran 50+ class.



The paws on the ground…

Jack, now 13 and a half, is the reason we discovered canicross. Jack arrived from Cyprus along with instructions not to let him off lead for a few months post adoption. We had previously owned another rescue Pointer who also had zero recall, so we were used to this flightrisk situation. On one of the early phone calls from rescue organisation, Pointers in Need, “canicross” was mentioned and I didn’t think we had any active canicross clubs in our area. The power of Facebook soon told me otherwise! I had always run intermittently throughout my life, so this seemed like the ideal sport to improve my fitness and build up a bond with Jack. He absolutely loved it from the very first run we attended with Canicross Aberdeenshire.

After a few months, some club members were entering races and were suggesting I should also race. I said “there’s not a chance we will be racing, I’m not even competitive”...!

3 months later, we won our first medal, and the rest is history! Jack took us to many podiums and medals. The bug had bitten us.

In 2021, at the end of our second lockdown, Claire joined us from Turkey. She was a completely different personality to Jack who can be quiet and quite nervous unless it’s the start of a race. Although Claire was underweight, it quickly became apparent I needed to get her out doing something.

After 3 weeks at home, she attended her first canicross training run. I realised my plans of running Jack and Claire together as a two-dog team were not going to happen. Claire was much stronger and faster. By now, Jack’s years were catching up on him and he couldn’t keep up at the turbo pace Claire raced at.

We had various obstacles in our path, including a broken ankle for me and a broken toe for Claire which required amputation. I decided these were challenges to be overcome and this was only December, so we still set our sights on the BSSF at Ford in April 2022 We both recovered enough to race at the event. We were not at peak fitness levels, but we did enough to get us the silver medal. Very quickly after this, Claire started taking us to the top spot on the podium at lots of races and we were lucky enough to attend the IFSS European Championships in Leipa 2022. We were delighted to be selected to attend the ICF World Championships at the same location in 2023. 

Susan and Claire

Hitting the road…

Our journey started 4 days prior to our race in Germany. So far, I have found the easiest route from North East Scotland to be via ferry, departing from either Newcastle or Hull. Another option is the channel tunnel, but the journey to the tunnel is a very long drive for us, so we opted for the comfort of the overnight ferry, with Claire travelling in the cabin with us. Travelling from Newcastle is a pretty straightforward experience. Animal Health Certificate and chip checked just prior to driving onboard.

Once aboard, the dog-friendly areas are not fantastic – metal deck painted green – not sure if the colour is for the dogs or humans to identify the area! Top tip would be try and get your dog(s) to have a pee stop just prior to boarding, as they might not be willing or able to go again until they are back on dry land.

We arrived in Amsterdam and had a day of driving ahead of us to the race venue. My friend, Melanie Grier, who is also Team Manager, emotional support, co-driver and most recently, Sports therapist to Team GB, opted to drive the first leg on the wrong (!), sorry, I mean, opposite side of the road to what we’re used to. It’s a 10-hour drive from Amsterdam down to Leipa including stops. A relatively straightforward route, and having been at the same venue the previous year, we thought we had this nailed – but we hadn’t accounted for German roadworks.

On arrival at our accommodation, we met with other friends who were competing as well. Got all our dogs fed and settled. Then we had time to sit down and work out our plan for the following day.

Sniffing out the trails and taking in the sights…

We awoke to pouring rain. It had also rained for most of our journey the previous day, so we knew this didn’t bode well for the ground conditions. The event organisers had already banned wheels practice on the first day and requested that only people competing walk the course. When we arrived at the venue, it was very apparent why these decisions had been made. The entrance and parking areas were already starting to resemble a swamp.

I set off to walk the course with Claire on a lead, and at this point, the conditions underfoot on the race trail were still pretty good. We had a mix of hard packed fire trail type surface mixed with springy forest floor and a few areas of non-spectacular mud. The trail was relatively straight, flat as I remembered, and had a few interesting slalom type sections in the wooded section, followed by a long straight into the finish area. I was looking forward to running it the following day.

Next we had our vetcheck. All dogs are paperwork checked, fitness to race checked, and your kit is also checked at this point. For some reason, Claire was a little nervous which then of course transferred to me which then of course makes your dog worse. However, despite being unsure about the vet touching her, she passed without problem and got the stamp of approval. Kit check next, I use the Non-Stop belt, bungee line, and Claire wears the New Freemotion 5.0 harness. The vet did adjust Claire’s harness very slightly. I’m happy they are as stringent as they are - the dogs’ welfare is of the utmost importance as it should be.

The following day, we were allowed to train on the trail, getting to know the turns and straights. Claire runs it really well, as if we are at home. No major interest in the different smells or feel of the trail underfoot (under paw?). The mud was getting worse but still ok by Scottish standards. It was nice having time to meet with the rest of our team, have a little wander around the venue, and soak up the sights. We met up with friends we had made the previous year (one of my favourite things about this sport) and of course hundreds of dogs.

Pre-race day, I like to try and have a quiet day for both Claire and myself. I try to have plain food and plenty hydration – I will have been working on hydration for the two weeks prior to the event to try and make sure we are both hydrated enough. This is especially important with the amount of travelling involved, as most dogs I know don’t drink a lot on the road.

Line out…

And suddenly it’s race day! I have taken a photo of my race starting point to have on my phone for easy access, as I need to check this 3000 times on the day. We have been told we must enter the start area 10 minutes before our start time or be disqualified – cue to nerves to ramp up a notch.

We have to be in the holding pen 10 minutes pre start time and waiting here gets the dogs a little excited. Claire knows this is race day. She starts barking and jumping to get nearer the start line. When we finally do take off, it’s a flying start. No hesitation or doubt from Claire - we are going for it!


We had a good run, having lots of cat and mouse moments with other competitors. We successfully passed and held off 2 competitors, however, we were then overtaken by another competitor, and I managed to take a turn badly and before I knew it, I was on the deck! A quick struggle back to my feet and we are off again. We managed to keep the 3rd competitor in sight, and this inadvertently gives Claire a zap of her turbo button and we finish strong. Once in the finish funnel, you will be chip scanned again and your dog checked by the vets prior to being allowed to leave. You are permitted a helper to wait for you here and to have hydration for your dog. I use the Mamut recovery drink at this point. Claire enjoys it and it helps her recover more quickly than water alone. She loves it so much post-race, I limit it to a small drink immediately after the run, then when we have returned to the car around 20mins later, she will get a bit more.

Now, the best advice would be to go home and chill until we do it all again tomorrow. Of course, I went and walked around the venue speaking to everyone for a few hours!! Not helpful for your legs.

Later that day, the start times were posted and seeding for Race 2 announced. ICF had decided to do this by times of everyone rather than in our age groups. This isn’t my favourite method as I like to know who I am competing with and have them around me. I do understand the logic though and it certainly seemed to make for smooth racing.

The next day…

Day 2 we woke up to more rain, so we knew the track was going to be more churned up especially since the canicross runners will follow the wheels classes.

We spent quite a bit of the morning cheering on our teammates and our friends from other countries as well. In fact, we cheered anyone who put in a good start or finish. One of the things I love about canicross competitions is the camaraderie and support of each other.

Before I knew it, it was time for my warm-up and to get ready for our race run. Good lucks given and received, 10 toilet visits (perhaps an overshare there, but the reality of racing) then we are back in the start pen. I do pinch myself to believe I am racing amongst my canicross heroes from across the globe. It’s surreal and amazing all at once.

3, 2, 1 and we are off! I have a stumble for about 6 steps – no idea what on but managed to stay on my feet. So glad, as I’m still in the start lane with a big audience!

Then we are really off, although, Claire is already not pulling with her usual vigour - no idea what the issue is but at the 1km mark she completely stops and sniffs in the grass!!! She has never done this during a race before. I do give her some time as I think she needs to pee – no nothing! No real reason for the brakes and now we have been overtaken. The rest of the run requires a huge effort and the mud is now a few inches deep and is energy-sapping slop. Claire has now slowed down and is trotting. I don’t know if it was due to tiredness, the heavy going, the heat (it was very warm in the wooded areas) or something else.

I was really having to dig deep to keep us going. We got a shoutout from someone in the woods on the final section which really helped and gave me the push for the final straight. Through the finish funnel I was coaching Claire home. Amazingly, we had only dropped 28 secs from day 1. This was a surprise after all our challenges on the trail.

We finish up 17th . 17th in the world! I am delighted with this and with my wonderful Claire, one of the smallest dogs in the competition. She’s like a mini-Pointer next to her Greyster and Eurohound competitors. What an achievement, to be rescued from the pound in Turkey to be placed 17th in the world. We are very proud.

Now time to relax - and enjoy a few Gluhgin ( a great German invention) to celebrate. The closing ceremony sadly didn’t have many supporters due to the pouring rain. Then it was time to head back to our accommodation and pack for homeward journey.

Homeward bound…

I had opted for the Rotterdam / Hull ferry for our return journey, as it leaves later than the Amsterdam / Newcastle one. It’s quite stressful doing the drive to catch a ferry and not knowing what you are going to be met with on the way. As it happened, we had a great run back and arrived at the terminal with time to spare. This time we had to go to the animal reception with Claire and have her booked in. We were all clear and drove up into the ferry. On this ferry you are met and escorted to your cabin. It’s a little nicer. Feels like more space and the dog-friendly area I felt was better. Claire travels well and takes everything she is asked to do in her stride. Sometimes on the ferry this is helped by climbing into bed with Auntie Mel when she thinks I’m not looking .

We awake to an equally grey and rainy UK. An 8-hour drive ahead but it does already feel like home. We finally arrive back to our house late afternoon. I quickly collect Jack from my friend who has been dog sitting and Jack and Claire have a huge, big game of bitey-face wrestling. Time now for me to reflect on the last week.

Collected thoughts…

We had the most amazing time. It’s not just about the racing. It’s the road trip, the friends the bonding, dreams made and lost, but I like to think only to be made into plans for the next competition. In the end, it’s all about you and your dog(s). When else do you get the time to concentrate on this partnership to the exclusion of everything else?

It’s an honour and privilege to be part of Team GB, which my Turkish Princess and I will endeavour to be part of again in 2024. Italy - we are coming for you!

Please give us a follow on Instagram @pointerfaces_canicrosstails

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