After a whirlwind summer, Brandi Williamson and her dog, Buck, are ready to make the Bitterroot Valley proud.
The Corvallis woman and her Siberian husky will be the first-ever from Bitterroot to compete in the canicross at the International Federation of Sleddog Sports Dryland World Championships that officially open in Nybro, Sweden, next week.
“I’m a little nervous,” Williamson said Monday. “But I’m excited, too.”
Williamson will be one of five women on Team USA in the sport of canicross on Oct. 23-27. There are also two men on the team.
While the sport of canicross is far more popular in Europe, the event that combines dogs and cross-country running is taking root in this country too.
Williamson — a Rocky Mountain Laboratories scientist — has always been a runner. She was a cross-country state champion in Washington State and ran the rigorous steeplechase event while in college.
When she married, Siberian huskies and the winter sport of dog sledding became part of her life. To keep both herself and dogs in good shape through the summer, she put her dogs in a harness, hooked that to her belt and then turned them loose.
She had no idea that her training method was a sport.
Williamson learned quickly that her already-long stride grew dramatically longer when hooked to one of her powerful dogs.
“Canicross is not simply running with your dog,” Williamson said on her Facebook page. “It is a subset of that. The dog is in harness and allowed to pull the runner. Together we run faster. We build a beautiful, special bond while running. We feel like one unit, pushing toward the same goal. All my dogs love to canicross. Buck is the fastest and strongest, hence why he is my main man for this event.”
Williamson learned that she and Buck had been selected for the team in June.
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Since then, she’s been busy fundraising, training and preparing Buck for the long flight overseas. Williamson also had to fight through a painful bout of plantar fasciitis in July that forced her to change her training tactics to cycling and pool running.
“It’s amazing how good pool running can be for fitness,” Williamson said. “I ran in the deep end. I had quite a few people tell me they had never seen anyone work that hard in the pool before.”
Williamson said the injury appears to have healed.
“I’m feeling good now,” she said.
To get Buck ready for the two long flights he faces this week, she first made sure that he felt comfortable in his crate. From there, she introduced some strange men lifting and moving the crate from one spot to another. And then she added some loud noises while shaking her dog’s crate.
“I was talking with a musher who has competed before at the world championships,” Williamson said. “He told me the most stressful part was getting your dog past customs after the long flight. They just want to be able to get out so they can go to the bathroom.”
Williamson will have her own cheering section at the two-day race in Sweden. Her parents, husband Cobey, and their sons Keegan and Rohn (the latter named after one of the checkpoints on Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race) are making the trip with her.
The race is just under 3 miles. Racers compete for two days in a row and the fastest combined time wins. The canicross race features 41 competitors this year, including competitors from as far away as Argentina and Aruba.
The dryland competition includes a variety of dog-powered races, including competitors using bikes, scooters and carts.
Williamson knows the races are not broadcast on television, but she hopes to have a video posted on her Brandi & Buck Facebook page.
“There have been several local fundraisers this summer and they all went well,” Williamson said. “I’ve been amazed at the outpouring from friends and the community. They all really came together to help me out. I appreciate that so much.”