Friday, 13 March 2015

Sigrid poised to win!!!

It seems Sigrid has played a good strategy this race and has arrived in Jotka with 11 dogs and good speed from Karasjok. She's about 2 hours ahead of her nearest competition and should surely keep the lead for the last 50km to take the Gold medal and World Championship title. And the cabin of course. And the quad bike. And the prize money. It was worth to come for her. :-)

Behind her Kjell Brennoden and Ralph Johannessen are fighting for Silver and Bronze. Kjell left in 2nd place but it looks like Ralph is moving faster and currently takes 2nd on the trail. The GPS can be a little misleading sometimes so we will wait to see if that is confirmed when they arrive in Jotka.

For now, we wait for Sigrid to leave Jotka and arrive at the finish. She must be so excited to think there's only 50km of the 1100km left to go!!! She's been on the trail nearly 83 hours already (in total) and on the race since Saturday. And barely more than an hour's sleep for her at each checkpoint if she was lucky. Pheweee! Talk about stamina. Hats off to her and all the teams that have made it this far.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Hotting up in the fight for winner of FL1000...

Just because the FL500 has finished doesn't mean to say we're no longer obsessed with checking the GPS updates for the Finnmarkslopet 1000 that's still going on. Infact, it's hotting up a treat despite the windy weather cooling things off.

The leading teams are heading for Karajok where they get a final 10 hours mandatory rest. Up to that point resting has been a huge part of the strategy - where, when and for how long. Unlike the FL500 the teams take more than the mandatory rest as the race is longer and cannot be completed without it but of course this is the easiest thing to skip if you think you're in with a chance of winning! However the winning teams are usually those that stick to their race strategy and don't skip rest time, which you would pay for later down the trail.

Sigrid Ekran, last years winner and general all-round great girl, is in the lead. She's developed a healthy gap of nearly two hours as well as managing to rest her dogs more than the teams in 2nd and 3rd position. The events of the last 12 hours, namely the storms and gale force winds in the mountains that has hampered the progress of teams behind her, has strengthened her position infront as she was able to take advantage of longer rest at Levajok without the pressure of her greatest competition (at that point Birgitte Naess Waerner) catching up. Out of the top four teams Birgitte was the only other team that had rested at at the previous checkpoint Sirbma so she knew Ralph Johannessen (3rd) and Kjell Brennodden (2nd) would need to rest long at Levajok and this meant she could do the same. Meanwhile, Birgitte (left Levajok in 3rd position but has now slipped to 5th) had trouble with a storm in the mountains and parked her team to take respite in her wind sack until Steinar Kristensen came to her rescue and helped her progress along the trail. This episode has most likely cost her a podium finish on the race but I can imagine she was just grateful to have help to get out of the storm. Up to that point she has been fighting Sigrid for the Cabin - a prize to the person who finishes in the best position over 2 years. Birgitte came 2nd to Sigrid last year so if the positions were reversed this year it would come down to running times. But Sigrid has managed to hold on to the lead and is getting stronger with every km and Birgitte has now slipped to 5th more than 5 hours behind Sigrid. Surely, Ekran must feel confident at this point, but we also know anything can happen!!!

Completing this race is an awesome achievement and all credit to those teams that can finish competitively too. Our money's on Ekran to win and I can't think of a nicer person to win it! Go Sigrid!!!

Monday, 9 March 2015

Reflection... And call for sponsorship!!!

We're back at Alta campsite and chatting about the race and the team etc. Milos was really happy with the team this year and he said they looked really good even at Levajok. It was only the two shoulder injuries (probably old injuries from LGO) that meant he dropped two dogs and he didn't want to carry on with just 6. He's a big guy probably weighing twice what someone like Elisabeth Edland weighs and it means 6 dogs would have to work super hard to get him through. He was still keeping good speed with 6 or 7 dogs but with my accident it just wasn't going to work for us. 

One common theme has cropped up for a couple of years now and that's about the need for sponsorship so we can dedicate a team of dogs and one musher to racing and not have to run the dogs with tourists. We love the tourism - it pays our bills and allows us this incredible lifestyle - but there's no denying it's difficult to keep the race team in shape when they are out in small four dog teams every week being driven by beginners. But even more than that, it ties up our time to give them additional training. When we're working with tourism so much (and February is the busiest month) we don't have time to train long distance... And even if we did, we can't take the dogs because they need rest after a regular tour. 

I believe we have an almost unbeatable long distance team at the peak of training in December. Our dogs ran a 180km training race with a 21kmph average back then. But since Christmas their training has been little more than 40km day trips with tourists. Us too! We are busy with overnight tours, coffee tours and day trips throughout the season. Don't get me wrong, I love it, but if we can do well despite this imagine how we could do with some financial backing!!!

So, this is our call for sponsorship. If a millionaire with a few thousand rattling around in their pocket just happens to be reading then do get in touch!!! ;-) Or if anyone has any good ideas or contacts please do let me know how we can make this happen! I would love our dogs to be able to reach their full potential. The right breeding is there, the right training know-how is there, the conditions in Kiruna are good... It's just the time for training and the financial backing to free up a dog team for racing. 

Finally, I would just like to add that we already get great support from Royal Canin for dry food and this helps enormously. And our dogs love it! I'm not just saying that because we're sponsored, they really do love it! We hope that relationship will continue for a long time to come. And we've recently added Canada Goose to our sponsors too. They have provided us with jackets that we are evaluating. We would like to thank them both for their support... Without them we'd be pretty cold and the dogs hungry!! ;-)

Radek is the last man standing...

Radek remains the only team in the race from our little group. Both Taisto and Jan have also scratched. Mainly because the dogs weren't eating (I think). We've always said that getting to Levajok is just a journey and the real race starts there. It's true! Elisabeth Edland has a good lead now but things happen and she may need the extra time. But for now it looks like she's unbeatable and all credit to her for a fantastic race so far. 

So let's focus on Radek now. He's doing so well. He has all 8 dogs and is keeping good speed. He's not threatening Elisabeth Edland for Gold but he is fighting Ronny Wingren for Bronze. At the moment he has 15 minutes on Ronny but that can easily be lost so he will have to keep pushing. Third place would be an amazing achievement in this race for a number of reasons... As a rookie most people just hope to finish but all the best teams are here for the World Championship which makes his position even more respectable. Amazing. He's also had a total of one hour 15 mins LESS rest than someone like Elisabeth Edland because of the time differential in starting at the back of the pack. That's a big disadvantage for him. So even more impressive at how he's doing. 

Milos has decided he would like to stay for the finish so we will hopefully see Radek finish on the podium!!! :-)

Sunday, 8 March 2015

And it's over... Milos scratches

This is just a quick update as I know people are asking... Yes, Milos has scratched at Levajok. Infact, he wasn't even going to go that far but it was a nice, sunny day so he decided to hook up six dogs and go. 

The problem? In short, two dogs with shoulder problems and a stupid wife who broke her wrist fighting with the generator (I must think up a better story). 

Milos arrived in Karasjok and after attending to the dogs came back to the van to find me collapsed on the ground outside the van door. I was faint at the pain of the accident and couldn't get up. He called the organisers over who found a nurse and took me inside. Next I went to the nearest doctors clinic to receive an assessment. He sent me to the nearest accident & emergency 300km away in Hammerfest! By taxi!!! It took about 3 hours one way. Once x-rayed it was a clear crack across the big bone of the forearm, nearest the wrist. Serious but clean I was told so luckily no surgery. They put on a cast (gyps) and back to Karasjok I headed to find Milos had run on to Levajok but had already decided to scratch because of the whole situation. Waf was already dropped and Toby now had the same shoulder problem. He probably could have gone on but best he didn't. Of course Milos is disappointed. He said the team looked really good and strong other than the shoulders. But I think my accident finished him off. I can't do anything! I can't even tie my own hair up. I can't drive, I can't look after the dogs and I can't look after Milos. Not much of a handler!!!

Totally gutted after so much preparation, expense and hard work. 

I could write more (one handed) but I've just realised it's going to take me about an hour to clean my teeth and get undressed with one hand!! And we've just got back to Alta where we'll stay the night then head home tomorrow. I have no idea how I'll cope from there... I'm supposed to be guiding a dog sled trip on Friday and I'm completely useless!!! So annoyed...

Out of Jergul

Quick update. Milos and Taisto are on the trail again with seven dogs each. Milos said the last leg was really windy hitting him from the side and it made things pretty tough. He also had one dog limping which didn't help. The rest of the dogs look good though and he's ready for Karasjok!

Milos was first into Jergul followed closely by two other teams. However, he isn't the fastest on the trail. Radek was the fastest between Jotka and Jergul followed by Elisabeth Edland. Ronny Wingren also did well on the last leg. There are many good teams still battling for a good position for when the race hots up later. 

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Results into Jotka

It's just the beginning but here are the results into Jotka, sorted so fastest on the trail is at the top. Not much in it!! As expected Radek has had a good start and is in 5th place after Milos in 4th and Elisabeth Edland in 2nd. The fastest team is a Norwegian team I've not heard of... But I don't know that many Norwegian teams! And at the start, they announced Jorn Sodahl Kvam was one to watch so perhaps we should put him on our radar too. But it's still so early to be talking about any positioning (it's just hard to resist!). It actually means very little when you're about 10% into the race. 

Milos stopped for about half an hour at Jotka and many teams did the same. Now they're heading for Jergul 78km away. We have just arrived so will prepare for the 3-4 hour mandatory layover. 


Milos 4th into Jotka

A steady 16.3kmph has seen Milos come 4th into Jotka. That's pretty good going in such bad conditions. Taisto came in 10th with a speed around 15.5kmph. He came in at the same time as Eilsabeth Edland who is currently fastest on the trail just one minute faster than Milos. No worries there. It's not a race that starts in Alta or Jotka! The real race starts after the half way point! And of course there could be faster teams at the back! 

So far Espen Hamnvik is the only musher to head straight through the checkpoint. The others are resting and I think this is a good idea as the first 58km would have been quite tough for the dogs! 

Storms have hit already...

Less than a couple of hours in and the teams have hit their first storm. The winds are howling and snow is being swept through the valleys. The first team is due to reach Jotka soon (Hilde Askildt). This is a small checkpoint which teams normally run through because it's the same checkpoint on the way back and if the dogs stop the first time round chances are they'll expect to stop on the way back when they're tired but need to carry on. Mentally this can be challenging for them. But with bad weather it will be interesting to see what the teams do. It's good to keep the tank full for as long as possible so to speak so it might be a good idea to stop and rest for 15-30 minutes perhaps. Strategy plays a big part in the race so everyone will work out their own way. But even mistakes this early can mean you pay later!

Milos seems to be doing well, somewhere around the 4-6th team on the trail now. I can't find the others in the GPS yet so I'll update you on that later. 

And they're off!!

It feels like we've been waiting ages but finally the teams are go!!! We're in the centre of Alta starting in the Main Street. There are so many teams, so many enthusiastic dogs and a crowd worthy of a good pop band in concert. They really embrace the race here in Finnmark, a good example for us all. 

The weather is a bit rough. Not so cold but windy which is making it feel cold. Ok for the dogs now but I'm afraid the trail is going to demand a lot from the dogs on this first leg. I don't think any records will be set on this first bit, let's put it that way. 

Toughest competition this year? Probably Ole Sigleif. He's taking the race very seriously and really wants that gold medal! I wish there was only one team to worry about but there are many other fast, top teams here. Taisto and Jan should do well (incidentally Jan had taken Leepey, one of Milos's spare dogs), Radek (despite his quiet unassuming nature) is one to watch for (we expect a strong start from him but it's the end of the race that will decide his fate), Elisabeth Edland pushes her dogs hard so a good start from her and time will tell us about the rest, Ole Wingren and his son Ronny Wingren who won last year and will want to gain a reputation for being a consistent winner (although both have taken a sit-down sled so I'm not sure if they'll planning on scooting much!) and I'm sure there will be some surprises in the mix. 

For those that want to follow the GPS or Results Service it can be tricky to figure out what's really going on (if you don't know how it works). Because of the time differential at the start the first teams into the first checkpoint aren't necessarily the fastest. But after the first checkpoint in Jergul they equalise the time so the teams will leave more or less in the correct order. From then on the fastest should be in the lead. You can follow online at www.finnmarkslopet.no or download their app from the App Store. 

We're off on the road ourselves now and hope to get to Jergul before Milos!! I'll leave you with some pictures of Milos (looking very relaxed - he doesn't stress at the races at all), Taisto and Jan at the start. 




Friday, 6 March 2015

Start numbers in!

They have their start numbers... Milos 23, Taisto 28, Jan 50, Kent 68 and Radek brings up the rear with 76 due to his late entry. 



They're coming up with some fascinating facts here. Did you know there are 135 teams competing (that's slightly reduced from the number who registered) with over 1400 dogs at the race! By the time they all finish the dogs will have run over a million kilometres, enough to go around the world 27 times!! That's impressive by any standards and I'm pretty sure there's no other race in the world that can beat those kind of statistics!

At the starting banquet!

Finally it feels like the race is getting going... We're at Scandic Alta hotel at the start banquet. There must be several hundred people here. We're sitting in tables of 10 and of course we choose a table with our closest neighbours from Kauppinen!! Other than one... We also have Radek and his handler Lubos at our table. It should be a good night! I hope to post more pictures as the night continues and the mushers receive their official starting bibs for tomorrow. For now here's a quick picture of Taisto and handler Rasto, Jan and handler Lenka, Radek and handler Lubos and Kent and handler Tor. And Milos of course. :-)

Could the winner of Finnmarkslopet 500 be at this table? :-)


The calm before the storm

Yesterday was a bit crazy. We arrived in good time, around 9.30am, said a quick hello to some fellow mushers (including Radek Havrda, Daniel Juillaguet and Jean-Phillipe Pontier all from LGO) and headed for our Cabin. It's about 3m x 3.5m with beds for 4 inside plus a table, fridge and little cooker. Quite civilised really. After a little unpacking we went off to see the vets to get our papers and chips checked (we had already done a full assessment of all the racing dogs with our vet in Kiruna who signed them all off with good health). Then it was a quick drive into Alta city where we had some lunch, registered for the race then headed to the mushers meeting. It finished after a couple of hours and we were surprised to hear that the ceremony in the city centre would take place that evening. So we all trundled outside, in little more than a light jacket, and the mushers paraded infront of the locals at the Borealis Festival. It was quite funny to hear them announce all the countries involved, including one from the UK, Jan and Milos from Slovakia, Radek from Czech Republic, a number of others from Spain, Switzerland, Germany etc and then a whopping 99 Norwegians!! 

Many teams have dropped out already, a lot with kennel cough, including (I think) Marianne Skothaug, who won the Femund 400 world championship title a couple of years ago. She would have been big competition for us in the FL500 but her absence doesn't make it easy... On the starting block will be Ole Wingren, his son and last years winner Ronny Wingren, Ole Sigleif Johansson (husband to Eline who took 2nd place in 2013), Elizabeth Edland (who does really well in good conditions and hard trails), Taisto of course, Jan, Radek... I'm sure I've even missed a couple from this list of top competitors. Everyone who's anyone in mushing seems to be here. 

The picture is from last nights ceremony. It's a rubbish photo I know but I couldn't get any closer because of the vast crowds! In the distance you'll see the flags from each country with the mushers beside. 


After the festival we went along to see Kenzo and Patje at Holmen hundcenter where they work. Kenzo worked at Taistos kennel last winter and he sent us a kind invitation for dinner. It was totally yummy food and good company so a huge thank you to both of them for entertaining such a big crowd of us (3 mushers and 4 handlers). 

So today we're now preparing everything. The sled, the car, the dogs, us!! And later we have the start banquet where Milos gets his official starting number. Then we'll know when he starts tomorrow. I think it should be around 11.20am (or 10.20 GMT). 

I'll be back with more later. Til then ciao! 

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Finnmarkslopet 500 here we come!

It's 4am and we've been on the road about 20 minutes. We're heading North West to Alta in Norway, the start of the 2015 World Championships. It occurs to me this is pretty much why I froze my butt off in the Autumn putting in so much effort into quad bike training. The basics of training is done then, before the tourists arrive in winter at which point we just try and maintain the dogs fitness. It's not an easy combination. Imagine what we could do with a dedicated race team... Sponsorship anyone?? 

Back to the van. We have on board:

Milos - superstar musher and worlds best husband :-)
Gaynor - blogger and handler (try's to be worlds best wife)
Louis - our friend from the UK who's a glutton for punishment (he actually thinks getting up at 3am is fun. In fact, in Louis's life everything is fun). He's our driver/handler and positive thinker for when things get tough. Thanks Louis!

Dogs:

Waf (best dog in the world and trusted leader who continues to impress)
Cliff (our speed demon and leader)
Hannalore, or Hanca/Hancha for short (a budding new leader in her first race season and she's proving to be smart and fast. We had her mum in lead at the first LGO we ever did and she's just the same)
Patch (another experienced swing or team dog, also smart and can lead when everyone else gets tired and we need some enthusiasm at the front)
Grony (sister to Patch and Cliff from a different litter but same parents. Our Houdini who slips her collar and likes to roam free to say hello to all the other dogs. Runs really good with Patch who is never more than a few metres from her side)
Toby (Waf's brother and a really great, dependable power house at the back of the team)
Balto (also brother to Waf and Toby from the same litter. These three are from the original line up of puppies that started Milos's racing career in 2011. Experienced, strong and fast)
Spendrup (named after the beer, he's an excitable, loveable dog who's just as comfortable going fast as he is at a slower pace. He's slim but strong and really tough in the head)

In reserve:

Leepey (named after me, or so I like to think - my maiden name is Leeper. She's the mum to a really spirited puppy called Ratty and the mum to some great potential racers who are in their first working season. Another good leader or used in swing. Jan Slosar may take her in his team)
Senna (named after the famous F1 driver. This is Senna's first season racing and she was with us at this years LGO as were her siblings Button and Alonso. She's really fast and good to run but not our first choice for FL500 as she's not such a good eater which could become a problem on the race. Again, she may race with Jan and it would be interesting to see how she does. She impressed us at LGO)

Along with us and the dogs I can't even begin to describe how much 'stuff' we have with us. We spent two days packing dog food for a week (including separate pre-prepared food bags for each checkpoint), our food, harnesses, lines, sled, a checkpoint bag with blankets, jackets and other bits for Milos and the dogs), our personal bags, maps, GPS and other mandatory equipment for the sled (including axe, cooker, emergency wind sack, sleeping bag etc)... I could go on but I'd quite like you to get to the end of this post before falling asleep!!

The journey should take about 6 hours if all goes well. We'll be staying at a camp site tonight and will make the most of relative luxury before sleeping in the van during the race (if we're lucky enough to get sleep!).

Keep coming back over the next week to follow our progress (by which time I hope to have changed the blog title - who knew you couldn't change it on a mobile device!). You can also follow www.finnmarkslopet.no They do a really great job of updates and interviews and you can follow the live GPS tracking. The race starts 11am Saturday. 

Wish us luck!

Thursday, 22 January 2015

My final say...

Well you can't end a race like LGO without a big show at the end. In Lanslebourg we were surprised with having to make a parade through the streets and the final prize ceremony outside with the public watching. It was a big show but actually nicely done. Other than it was freezing! Oh, and we had been told to take three dogs per team and surprised (again) by a big fireworks show to close. The dogs freaked. We had no warning of that. But they did a really nice presentation of pictures from the race and had put alot of effort in to end the race with a spectacular. Once again we felt a bit like puppets in a show. It's true what they say about the race... The media and show of it all is more important than the mushers or dogs. You can be sure the mushers will look after their dogs so it's just whether or not the mushers are happy to play their part. It's not really Milos's cup of tea but the French seem to love it and play up to the cameras. But then they are on home ground with a lot of adoring public so why not? But it can be a bit uncomfortable if you're not into that sort of thing and sometimes the balance is lost between racing dogs and making money or a media show. 

I'm just telling it how it is. Don't get me wrong, I think they do a great job considering how difficult the conditions etc can be and they certainly produce some good film footage and promo's and secure good sponsors. I like that the ski resorts get on board and on the whole embrace the race and promote the sport but I don't think we'll be back. It's such a long drive to get here and we lose a whole month of tourist earnings to do it. Unless we're able to get financial help for a race like this, we can't really afford it. 

It's shame we couldn't go out on top but in some ways I think we were winners there. Ok, we didn't come first (and sadly don't get the top prize money which would be welcome as its so expensive to do this race) but of the 10 days racing we were fastest on 6 of them, and only came second place on two more days by 2 seconds and 18 seconds. That's a staggering 80%of the race!!!! And if I'm honest, I feel like we deserved to win. But we had lost around 9 minutes on stages 2 & 3 because our dogs weren't eating after the long journey and just ran out of steam. Even Waf was in the sled on stage 3 and Milos said he was the best dog for the rest of the race. But he didn't eat at all the first three days and was more interested in the girls. He's getting a bit too used to being 'pimped out' for breeding perhaps. He's good at that too! Lol. 

But that's the problem for us. The journey is a killer, for us and the dogs. We just can't compete with European teams that have a few hours travel time. The dogs always take 3 days to recover and we just don't have the opportunity or chance to come a week earlier and train before the race. Of course, if there's any potential sponsors out there thinking they could help in some way, get in touch!! ;-)

But all in all we've had a good run at LGO winning it once and coming 2nd three times. Considering our success at long distance races as well I think we can be happy with that. We'd always be happy with our dogs anyway. Like any musher, we think ours are the best!!! :-)

As for Jan and his first LGO I think he enjoyed it. He won Best Rookie last night coming a very respectable 4th place with dogs from Taisto Torneus. Maybe next year he may want to return. 

Well, I hope you enjoyed following and don't forget we'll be racing again the first week in March at the long distance world championships in Norway at the Finnmarkslopet. I hope to be blogging then too. But for now I'll leave you with a picture of Milos on the podium from last night. 

See you soon!




Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Final timings

The final timings for stage 8 are in and Milos was gaining time on Radek but ran out of trail to get the two minutes we needed. 

Here are the official times:


We're now relaxing with a coffee and I'm pleased to say Milos is almost back to his normal self health wise. Later we have to parade in Lanslebourg with three dogs and then we have the official prize ceremony at 8pm this evening. 

Milos crosses the line

I made a mistake in my calculations earlier and Milos actually left 4 minutes behind Radek so I think the winner of this stage will be close. Remy Coste will be in the mix too as he was fast today but lost a lot of time yesterday. Jan also made a good run... Will he manage the podium on this final stage? I hope so!

Milos is happy with the run. He said he couldn't do any more to catch Radek, the trail was just too short at 30km. It's a shame it couldn't have been the published 60 or 80km as that is what we have trained for but the cable car opens at 9am and the teams have to be in by then! Crazy!! 20km more and we might have caught him. But then again if stage 3 hadn't been such a disaster for us we could have won also. Who knows! We lost a lot of time there with Dixie, who hasn't run since. 

But there are always "if's"... We are happy that we've had our most successful LGO this year if you count stage wins. And Radek is the master at this race with dogs bred and trained just for this so he's a tough one to beat. Our dogs and Milos did brilliantly. 

The dogs themselves look super fresh after their 30km run, but perhaps a little confused at why they're back at the trailer already. Hannalore keeps jumping up ready for more. She'll get her chance at the long distance world championships this March at Finnmarkslopet 500km. :-)

The Czech takes the win!

radek is over the line already... Milos is some way behind. A good run by him but my guess is he slowed down a bit when he knew his chance was gone to catch radek. Better to finish safe and in 2nd place!!! Well done Milos. He should come in with Jan. :-)

Final push!

They've started and already about 15km in (half way). Milos started 2 minutes behind Radek who is flying down the course. We need to catch him and more if we're to win but I think the task may be beyond us... Well, at least the trail too short to allow it! And the last 10km is downhill and Radek always drives faster downhill than we do (a bit). In terms of motivation, which is greater? Someone who has everything to lose or someone who has everything to gain??

We will see! But they are flying... It might come down to one mistake. 

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Milos takes 1 minute 3 secs from Radek!

Jan managed to send me a quick unofficial update from the polar base. The results were:

Milos first 
+1:03 Radek
+6:52 Daniel Juillaguet 
+9:38 Remy Coste
+10:15 Jan

Milos was vomiting on the trail!!!! But now feels a bit better. All our dogs ate and look good but Radeks not so good (some were not eating very well). But things can change in this race... We'll find out tomorrow who has the stronger team... And stronger stomach!!!

He's at the finish of 8a!

Oh... My... Goodness!!!!! Were you watching live? In the end, I was. It turns out I felt more sick at the thought of everything going wrong than knowing the truth. So I tuned in to the live GPS. 

What can I say!!! I love my husband and our doggies!!!! What an amazing performance by all. I don't know the times and wouldn't like to guess but he has made it to the finish in good time. Taisto called and said he was about 4 minutes ahead (so gaining 2mins on Radek) but the GPS is unreliable and by the finish line I think it might more like 3 minutes (so 1 minute if we're lucky). But the last time I thought Milos had won according to the GPS, the official result was that Radek was faster by a second... So I don't dare guess again. We will have to wait and see...

But I'm so proud of him and the team for even starting tonight's stage. Having spent the day in bed I really wasn't sure which way it would go. I just hope he has the strength to look after himself and the team tonight. My guess is he'll head straight to bed!!! As for me... Something to calm my nerves perhaps... Slurp, slurp!

Ok, so I just took a sneaky peak at the GPS

Arrrrrggggghhhhhhhh.... Just a few more KM's to go and I'm biting my nails. Foolishly I took a peak at the GPS. The boys are at a point now where they'll be able to see each other on the trail. An old musher trick is to switch your headlamp off so your competitors can't see where you are but soon they will pass each other head on as they take the end of the loop. 

It's really hard to interpret the GPS accurately so I don't dare. They will travel at different speeds depending on the hills and their position on the trail. And the GPS takes a signal intermittently so you can never gauge how far the true distance is. But for now it looks like The Czech hasn't caught Milos yet! Although bear in mind Milos started 2 minutes ahead. I think it's pretty even between them at the moment. 

Oh goodness... Switching off again now. I feel so sick!!!!

Stage 8a - up to Polar Base

I can't watch the GPS. It makes me feel as sick as Milos. It was horrible seeing him set off tonight knowing he wasn't well. I'm not sure there was much fight in him despite a tantalising 3 minute difference to win. It's just not enough distance for us to get the time. I may sound a bit defeatist but I think it must be a protection mechanism for me because I get so stressed at the results!! It's easier when it's you on the sled... You just go along as best you can and that's all there is to it. Anyhow, we know Radeks hounds can beat ours on speed and I guess he will use that today. The two of them will most likely be quite even (sickness dependent!) until they get to the flat at the Polar base and then I guess Radek will charge ahead. I don't know and if you want to find out you'll have to watch the GPS yourself because my stomach is churning at the thought of it. 

I took one picture today of Radek at the start line. It doesn't show it so well but you might be able to see the difference in his dogs to ours. Not all of them are so different but generally his edge on the side of hound and ours huskies even though they have similar blood lines in some of them. 



Taisto called earlier and told me Jan's GPS doesn't work. He definitely started the race so don't worry! 

Maybe you'll hear from me later when I know what the damage is. The thought of my poor husband (rattling with all the pills he's taken) up on the mountain top overnight just doesn't bear thinking about. I've told him to put straw on the tent floor and take the dogs inside to stay warm. He just looked at me and replied "the only thing I need is this" and he held up a toilet roll in a plastic bag. 

A small disaster has struck!!

Well, we were hoping to avoid it but Milos has finally fallen to the sickness that is rife through the mushers and some LGO staff at the moment. He is in bed as I type with stomach cramps and a fever. He's sweating but he's cold and his stomach is painful. He won't be moving from his bed today and certainly won't be eating which won't exactly help his energy levels. 

The final bivouac stage starts at 17.30 from Lanslebourg. We have to be there by 15.00. That doesn't give Milos much time to recover. If we want to stay in the race he has to be on that sled this afternoon and complete this last overnight stage. The sickness couldn't have come at a worse time. I think our hopes for catching Radek are over. We just hope Milos can get on the sled today and finish otherwise we forfeit our podium position. 

When you think about how hard we've worked to prepare for this race with months of training and the effort to get here (driving 8 days and through the night, over 8000km return journey) it seems a shame to not be able to perform at your best. Actually, that's putting it mildly. It sucks! I'm finding it hard not to be annoyed and depressed at the whole situation. I have a vested interest in the team not only as a handler but as Milos's wife and the dogs guardian and trainer. To see the team not perform their best is utterly frustrating. And as a wife, I hate to see my husband unwell and not be able to help him. 

So who knows what will happen later. The dogs have two shorter stages today and tomorrow (one blessing) but Milos is supposed to be camping out again in a tent. We gave 18 seconds to Radek yesterday so have 3 minutes and 20 seconds to 1st place. It seems an impossible task to catch him. Perhaps if Milos had been fitting fit we stood a chance but now, well, you can imagine our spirits are quite low. The good news (if you can call it that) is that we gained time on 3rd place Remy Coste last night so our gap to him is a little more comfortable. I think we'll need it if we're to maintain 2nd place! 

Jan on the other hand is feeling much better today and starting to fuel up again after not eating yesterday. He was so close to third place last night - just a minute and a half after Coste - that we thought he might actually have made it to the podium. Sadly not. But his team still look good and with him coming back to form personally our hopes are good for him in the next two days. 




Monday, 19 January 2015

Stage 7 results... And it's close!

This is getting a bit ridiculous. Radek and Milos were separated by just seconds again today - 18 seconds to Radek. It's no wonder really as he has much faster, houndy dogs than we have. He sprinted his way to the finish after the two teams travelled together the whole distance. For him it was a good strategy to just stick with Milos. As for our strategy, well, Milos said he knew he had to push Radek today or the Czech would have just taken it easy (if Milos had followed him instead) and if the chance to escape came up Milos would take it. It didn't. So we have to be satisfied we only gave him 18 seconds. 

But for us that might spell the end of our chance for first place. Stage 3 cost us heavily and since then we've been running with only a 12 dog pool. Dixie can't keep the speed and Leepey has a sore toe. Very frustrating indeed! So the same dogs are running every day and we're only managing to swap 2 each stage. Radek most likely can swap 4. 

It's easy to feel a bit disappointed with our second place today - as crazy as that sounds!! But we really couldn't have done any better. The dogs gave it their all. They ran 60km in 2.5 hours - and it wasn't even flat!! A few of them were tired tonight but the vets gave them the all clear and we haven't had problems with injuries either. Cliff looks like he hasn't even been running and is eating unbelievably well. Waf too. The pair are doing great. Our racing drivers are notoriously fussy eaters and we're having problems with their eating which is shame because they're really great to run. Senna is doing really well in the race and is probably the best eater out of the three. Grony and Patch are our stable girls and they're still reliable and eating good (Patch a bit too well!). Toby looks a bit tired tonight but he's a big heavy dog to be doing such a fast race. Hopefully with a good nights sleep they'll all be perky in the morning. They were certainly very happy to be in the trailer tonight!

Jan had an extremely good race too. He missed third place by just a minute or so. Such a shame as he really deserves a podium spot. He's the only team even close to giving the top 3 any competition. And today Remy Coste had what looked like a bad day. His dogs caused him trouble in the loop and he was screaming at them and everyone around. Then he won Best Dog Care tonight... Go figure! But even his day wasn't as bad as Martin Bily's. He didn't run this stage as he was being sick in the toilet!! He felt so bad he couldn't even get on the sled! That meant he got 150% time of the last team. This virus, or whatever it is, is rife through the mushers. The last count was 9 out of 16 is on medication or having problems. Milos has been lucky enough to escape it so far. Jan is just about holding on!

Now it's late and I'm super tired. It's the last stage tomorrow - another bivouac double. Usually good for us but when you're competing with Radek nothing is easy! It's starts in Lanslebourg around 5.30pm. 

Good night all. 




The Czech is hanging on!!!

Radek was first out of the starting block but it looked like all three teams were fairly reluctant to be first. They know how it is. You have to pace the team at the start. But not long after and Milos had overtaken the Czech and was leading the group of three mushers who were in single file travelling the same speed. It looked like Remy was working the hardest to keep the speed and before the first loop Milos and Radek had managed to develop a gap between them and him.

The first loop was chaos. It looked as much as a mess as it does on the GPS. Teams looping everywhere and dogs turning towards the car park when they were supposed to run by. Milos got through ok but shouted "double markers down there" to me as he passed so I guess it must have been confusing. Radek was hanging on to the back of Milos and had an easier ride. He's making Milos do all the work on this stage. He knows he can't afford to make a mistake but at the same time he also knows he only has to stay with Milos to keep his overall lead. He only has to win by a second! I guess he's also pushing Milos to push the pace hoping that he'll pay for it tomorrow. He also knows that it is harder work for our dogs to take the lead... Its a bit like road cycling, the one infront works extremely hard and the ones behind look like they're taking a cycle in the park! If Radek forces Milos to be infront and follows him the whole way his dogs won't have worked so hard. 

It's a tough call for Milos. We've been told the next 2 stages will be quite short (around 40km) so there will be little chance to make time. We were hoping for something longer. So today is it. Our only chance for the three minutes I think. And I'm not sure that's possible. It doesn't look like it at the moment. And Radek could easily follow Milos all the way and then sprint the last couple of KM's with his fresher dogs, although that wouldn't be very sportsman like!!! 

Meanwhile, Remy had terrible trouble on the first loop when his leaders went towards the car park. He was so stressed and shouting loudly to the dogs who didn't really know what was going on. I felt sorry for him here because the crowds make it so hard to get a smooth path through. 

Jan did fine on the loop. He's making good speed and has just been passed by Milos and Radek. He's most likely on for 4th place again unless he can get third from Remy. 

But there's still about a third of the race to go. Come on Milos! I think you need to pull something out of the bag!!! 

I will try and post on Facebook another slo-mo movie I took near the start when Milos took the lead. Come and like our page - Milos Gonda and Gaynor Leeper sled dog race team. Thanks!

Stage 7 - not quite a mass start

Today we're at Bessans just at the end of the valley surrounded by beautiful mountains. Traditionally we would have the mass start today when all the teams set off at once but they have decided to let the teams off in three's. Milos, Radek and Remy will start together at 15.43 (14.43 GMT). Jan will start with two French teams, Daniel Juillaguet and Francois Pagnoux at 15.39. 

For the crowds sake the idea is to see who's the fastest out of the gate (so to speak) but any good musher will tell you that's just asking for trouble. It's like sprinting off the start line at a marathon. If the teams want to last the distance then they will be braking. Expect to see Radek, Milos and Jan all braking. The only exception will be if there is a pile up of dogs at the end when the trail narrows and one team wants to get infront of another to avoid troubles. 

The other bit of news from today is that about half the mushers are sick. Either physically being sick or sitting on the toilet. It seems it's mostly mushers as well as a couple of the event volunteers so they are wondering if the water at the Base Polaire was to blame. No-one really knows but they are handing out medication to anyone that needs it. There were some questions about doping controls but the solutions they're providing are allowed. 

I'm pleased to say Milos is fine. A stomach of steel!! Jan isn't fairing so well and has stomach cramps, although it doesn't look like its hit him with full force thankfully. Martin Bily is doubting his start today as he's so ill. 

Our plan for today is to try and not lose any time to Radek or Remy but we will have to see how it goes. In this game you can win or lose in one stage and the difference in minutes at the moment is quite precarious!

I'll post later from the start but meanwhile here are some photos of where we are including Pavol waxing Milos's skis on the sled and one of Jan's dogs enjoying a sled ride ;-)








Sunday, 18 January 2015

Stage 6a/6b winners!!!!

He's only gone and done it again!!! 1st place for the bivouac stage 6 over 2 days. Not only has he narrowed the gap between Radek to 3 minutes 3 seconds but Milos now has a much more comfortable lead over Remy Coste of 16 minutes. But he doesn't rest so easy on what might seem like a good lead because we've already seen that one disastrous stage (in our case stage 3) can turn things back again so quickly. 

So what's going on for everyone? Well, it was plain to see that some of the dogs are tired. I have to say Remy Coste's dogs looked pretty knackered at the Polar Base today and weren't eating well. (As an aside he was awarded Best Dog Care tonight which I'm actually pretty amazed at because I really don't think his dogs were in good shape at all! Maybe it was because he took all 10 in his tent because they're not used to camping out). Radeks were better but I'd say they're both pushing quite hard. Milos is too but ours still look quite fresh. We thought the shorter, faster stages due to bad snow conditions would suit everyone else but it seems that it has suited us too. The dogs are used to running 40 or 60km in training no problem and I think it shows. We have two out of the race so far (I think Dixie is too fat to run at all now and don't forget she was the cause of our bad stage 3) and Leepeys toe is still swollen because she broke her nail so she's also getting fat in the trailer. Whereas I would normally be shaking in my boots at the thought of the other 12 dogs taking up the slack, this year I'm not too worried. They all look good. No injuries so far and no real stiffness. I'm sure our routine of walking, stretching, and massaging after every stage helps. I hope I'll be saying the same as the stages get longer. Just three more to go! And three minutes to catch Radek! I feel quite bad saying that as he's such a nice guy and a fair competitor it's hard not to want him to win but I'd be lying if I said I didn't want us to go home Champions! 

I'd love to write more about Jan but he's being very consistent in fourth place and not troubled too much by anything. He got 4th again today and other than a couple of picky eaters I think the dogs are ok. Infact he says Remy Coste is 'hooking' up with him to get the team up the hills a bit quicker and then loses Jan when he drives a bit crazy down hill. 

It's a mass start from Bessans tomorrow so if you're watching the GPS bear in mind the first one on the trail is the fastest. The only caveat might be the rumour that they may start three teams at a time, instead of all of them. I'll let you know when I know! 

I'll leave you with a picture of Milos coming over the finish line tonight and the stage podium. Oh and the times. 

Goodnight all wish us luck for tomorrow! It's a bit longer at 64km. 








Start of stage 6b - Base Polaire

It was an unusual privilege to be able to see the teams at the Polar Base today. Normally they leave to come down the mountain very early but today's start was postponed to 15.00 when they departed in the order they arrived. That means Milos started 2 minutes behind Radek (who last night beat him to the top by just one second). 

When we arrived at the Polar Base (I took the cable car and Pavol took an exhausting 3hr ski up the mountain) Milos and the team looked really fresh. He didn't have any problems with eating and the dogs looked lively. In comparison Remy Coste's team looked exhausted and the handler was trying to feed them from his hand. They didn't look so great. But it can sometimes be misleading. Sometimes they can look bad then when it's time to go they just pop up and run like crazy! I have to say, Radeks team looked tired too and were taking every opportunity to sleep despite the crowds gathering. That could be good training but Milos said it was a really tough stage last night so we could see some shake up in the times today. 

I took this picture from the top. The mushers are already on their way down the mountain and it's a really fast stage again. They have two loops at the top by a lake then the steep descent to the finish in Lanslevillard. It's approx. 44km. We will be waiting!!


Saturday, 17 January 2015

1 second between them!!!

How can this be true??? Just one second, yes, ONE second between Radek and Milos after 39km. Wow wee... But unfortunately for us Radek was one second ahead. It's all to play for tomorrow!!!

The good news is the time difference between Milos and Coste is widening. :-)


Good run to the Polar Base...

Today's stage is the first half of a double stage that ends tomorrow. The mushers have driven 39km to the Polar Base above the french town of Lanslebourg where they will now stay the night in tents with the dogs sleeping outside. The temperature is most likely quite pleasant (around -5) with not much wind (according to the forecast- I haven't had news from the trail). 

This is usually a strong stage for us. Plenty of hills, the temperature usually drops a bit which awakens the dogs and our dogs are also used to camping out. Milos was sure to take those dogs that can handle a night away from the trailer the best. I don't know if Radek and Remy have much experience camping out but I know Jan won't have any trouble either. 

The boys have just arrived at the Polar Base and are now busying themselves with preparing food for the dogs, putting out straw, digging holes for beds, massaging and looking after feet etc. Knowing Milos he will also be making sure his tent is on the flat and making his own bed nice and comfy. 

Tomorrows stage would normally start early but it has been changed to start in the afternoon and finish very close to our accommodation in Lanslevillard. Unlike most of the stages, my guess is the fastest person from today will start first tomorrow. This should ensure the first one over the finish line tomorrow will be the winner of the stage. 

As for timings, it looks like both Radek and Milos gained time on Remy Coste with both of them catching him. He started 4 minutes ahead of Milos and 2 ahead of Radek so they both gained at least that much. The battle between Radek and Milos continues with a very tight race today but if the GPS is anything to go by I think Milos may have pipped Radek to the post - but maybe only be seconds!! Or dare I say a minute. 

Jan had a really good race too. He looked really strong on the hills today and is having no problem to hold onto 4th place overall. He still has a couple of picky eaters (as do we) but on the whole his team look good and will most likely do well on the bivouac. 

Tomorrow morning we're able to take the cable car to the Polar Base and join the mushers before the official start in the afternoon. The weather is forecast to be nice and sunny which always makes it a really nice experience to be there. Good for the crowds too. 

I'll try and post some pictures in the morning if I have signal! Meanwhile, sleep well... I'm not sure I will as it's been an exciting evening!! 

Problems with GPS!

If you're watching the live GPS tracking on the race it seems there is a problem with Milos's battery so his position may not be entirely accurate. But I think it looks good for him and Jan. Word on the trail is that Jan's team is strong up the hill and is probably a little faster than Coste uphill but overall the Frenchman has overtaken Jan. Milos is still in pursuit of Remy and Radek!

Last words from stage 5

Sorry if my last few posts seem a bit jumbled up but I didn't have internet access last night so couldn't post much. But I have some pictures from yesterday. A couple of dogs which I don't think you've seen yet and also Milos on the (makeshift) podium inside (as there was a snow storm outside!).

I am also really pleased that we won an extra prize last night... best Dog Care!!! It's awarded to someone at every stage and at the end they will award the final prize to the person who wins it the most times. Very proud of this as it's not so easy to look after these guys on the road in less than perfect conditions. :-)

(Fat) Dixie - she didn't run yesterday


A cute one of Foxy (and Button to side on left and Hannalore standing behind)


Alonso (just wouldn't look at camera). Have you noticed our F1 racing drivers theme with Alonso, Button and Senna? 


Spendrup


Milos on the podium




Rain turned to snow!

You know that rain storm I talked about? Well, it turned to snow about 30 seconds after Milos left on stage 5. It's been snowing ever since. We've had at least 50cm or more. The roads are treacherous and we are crawling along them at less than 20kmph. We have 140km to go to reach Lanslebourg...


A word on strategy...

Some might think strategy doesn't come into middle distance stage racing as much as it does the long distance races. But it does! Take stage 4 as an example. A flat 44km. Both Remy and Radek have faster dogs than ours, probably. Just a little ;-) They're certainly more houndy. But we hope we're better at the longer stages (although the other two won't be bad!). So, do you put your best, fastest team together or save your best dogs for a longer stage? Where are we likely to gain (or lose) more time? On a short stage there's less distance to lose time if you take slower dogs but with only a matter of minutes between the top three in the overall rankings we can't afford to lose anything. 

The other thing to consider is that we have a bivouac stage coming up, the first of two. That means Milos and the team will camp out overnight. Milos will feed and look after the dogs on his own. He is very used to this, as are most of our dogs, but it's sensible to take dogs that can cope with this situation and will sleep. Dixie's in heat so perhaps she's not the best dog to take? She'll disrupt all the boys who will be going crazy all night. Button's fast but not the best eater and this will likely get worse if she camps out. Grony gets off her collar (but never goes anywhere, only to go be close to her yard buddy Patch) but it's not great for her to be wandering around loose with all the other dogs. Have we checked properly for stiffness and aching muscles and at what point won't they be able to run because of that?

All these kind of questions are asked and pondered over before and after every stage. Sometimes you get it right (stage 4 and 5) and sometimes you get it wrong (stage 3). You have to know your dogs inside and out and be able to pick up on small anomalies with their behaviour that strangers would miss. A great sled dog race vet once said the "dog just ain't doing right". It's one of the reasons we left Hannalore out of the team in stage 5 (yesterday) despite being a fast dog that's always up for running and good to motivate the team! She just didn't look quite right when we let her loose. She looked a bit stiff. 

Now we're driving in the car to the start of the bivouac stage in Lanslebourg. It's about 38km today climbing to the Base Polaire where the mushers camp overnight. We start in last place (reverse order) at 17.46. The first LGO musher starts at 17.20. Yesterday saw the start of mushers doing a 3-day version of the race and they start before us.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Another good day!!

Well, we really didn't expect this!!! When the going get tough the tough get going!!! In the dreadful weather the team came through to win stage 5!! Our second stage win so far. Brilliant job by all. 

Has to be verified but here are the times:


Rain, rain and more rain!

We are about half an hour into the 5th stage and you would not believe the weather! What little snow there was is quickly being washed away by heavy rain. It's humid and very wet. Pavol (Milos's brother and the other handler) and I are hiding in the van, the leftover dogs are hiding in the trailer and Milos and Jan with 10 dogs each are battling the elements on the trail. Milos started last so he'll be out in this the longest. I hope he doesn't get sick from it. The poor dogs! I have no idea what the trail will be like but I know that Milos will sacrifice his 2nd place again to bring the team back safely if it's icy or slippery. 

I think we're expecting to lose our 2nd place today but the idea is to not give away too much time. If we can stay close to Radek and Remy then the field remains wide open. 

At the moment, on the GPS it looks like it's going ok for all of them. Take a look under the "results" tab on the homepage of www.grandeodyssee.com to follow live events. Don't forget Milos started at the back so anyone he's over taking he's making time on. Jan started fourth from the end so 2 minutes before Remy Coste. Today's stage is two loops which may also cause a bit of confusion on the GPS site but if you click on the little sled icons you'll see the name and the distance on the trail they've covered.

Finally, a thank you to everyone for your encouragement which keeps coming in. I know some of you have problems to post comments and some of the Slovaks may have to get a translation (!!) but we know you're all reading and sending your best wishes. You should be very proud of your sons/nephews/cousins Milos and Jan!! :-) And thank you to Anne for braving the weather and coming to support us on the start line today. We managed a quick chat over lunch which was lovely!

More updates later. 

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Don't panic!

If you've seen tonight's results of the Megeve Challenge, don't panic!!! We came 9th and we're perfectly happy with that because the timings don't count towards the race. We knew that of course so just took the necessary 6 dogs for a nice, slow stretch. Milos didn't want to take any chances with injuries so took it really easy. Meanwhile the French sped their way over the 5km trail (super short) to give the crowds a pleasing 1st and 3rd podium position. Only Radek spoilt it for them with his 2nd place. 

Interestingly the first 6 mushers got pulled up for doping control. This is a random process carried out by an independent organisation that can turn up wherever, whenever. You never know, which is the point of course. Funnily enough Jan was laughing at the end saying that there was doping control and then promptly found himself peeing into a cup closely watched by an official. Milos missed it with his 9th place, not that it would have mattered. We had control on the dogs on yesterday's stage and we've had doping control for Milos several times before. But it was pretty funny with Jan. 

We're having a late dinner now so I don't have much time to blog but I'll try and post something about strategy tomorrow as it will be a tough stage for us - short and flat!

Oh, and before I go I should update you on Leepey. Her toe is huge!!! She had an X-ray to see if it was broken (thankfully it isn't) but I think she has broken the nail inside the toe which has now got infected. There's not much we can do for it without dropping her from the race completely (because of doping rules). But she can't run like this either so either way she is most likely done for the duration of the race, bar some small miracle. This isn't as much of a disaster as it would be normally because the dogs aren't running so much. With each stage being shortened it means they're not at all tired. So this means the other dogs can pick up the slack quite easily. Well, we hope. 

Finally, a little picture from the start. :-)



Night all!

I think they're a little bit tired...

Post lunch nap... Slovak style. :-)




Driving to Megeve...

It's a shame we didn't really get to wallow in our glory last night. By the time we got back to the accommodation it was about 10.30pm and we still had to take all the dogs out, walk them all (yes, especially important after they run) and massage them. But first we got stuck in the mud whilst parking. Backwards and forwards we went trying to free ourselves but in the end we had to unhook the trailer and re-park the van on its own then hook up the trailer again for our final parking manoeuvre. We hooked up and pulled forward and out popped the trailer from its hook and all the electric cables between the trailer and van. We were really all so tired it was the straw that broke the camels back and there was a lot of swearing in Slovakian!!!! 

A Leffe beer later (to calm Milos's nerves) and we finally got some sleep.

Morning came too soon and we needed to pack everything as we're moving to Megeve today. Our accommodation there is a gym hall, the worst nights sleep during the whole race. Everyone in together, sleeping on gym mats and snoring (except Coste in his luxury tour bus). It hate it. I never sleep. And we don't even have the chance to sleep in the car because we've put Grony in there due to her allergy to straw. Arbonne Sleep Easy spray will be required I think!!

So now we're on our way to Megeve, driving on the highway with some pretty nice scenery which I'll try to post later. Meanwhile, here is the podium from last night (Yay for us!!!) and a picture of my breakfast: a bowl of coffee (French style) and a Berocca!


(I think 1st place suits my husband!) ;-)



No race today, just a 5km show for the Megeve crowds. 

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Today's team in pictures...

Cliff

Waf 

Button and Foxy (not looking at camera)

Hannalore

Senna

Balto (always howling)

Toby (one of my favourites)

That's 10 of the 14 we have with us. The rest tomorrow hopefully!






Stage 4 - a good day!!!

Sorry it's late but the stage started at 17.00 today so we spent all day pretty much waiting around only to be running around like crazy things since. I'm writing this as I eat dinner and it's 9.30pm already. But there's nothing that can dampen our mood tonight because we are celebrating our first stage win!!! AND we've taken back 2nd in the overall ranking, although only by a small margin. But Whoop whoop for us!!! I have been playing psychological games with Milos all day trying to stay positive and giving him encouragement but I have to say the thing that worked best seems to have been the promise of a Leffe beer if he won the stage. Well, maybe a couple of other things I said too but whatever it was it worked! Now it's to try and keep the momentum. 

The stage itself was short but with quite steep hills, so although the distance doesn't really suit us, the hills do (don't ask me how we're so good at hills when we train on the Torne River but it seems we are!). We knew it would be fast and we knew Radek wouldn't have any problems so it was just to see how Remy Coste would do after yesterday's spectacular. To be fair, he did pretty well but thankfully we did better. 

Milos and the dogs were on fire! I think the biggest contributor to that is that they have now started eating. The mix of just dry food and water worked. And when they didn't take water we just gave them dry food hoping that they would then become thirsty and would want to drink. That worked too so by the time we got to the parking place today they had all eaten breakfast and after that we managed to water them twice! It was a joy to watch. 

We also took our faster dogs (no fat Dixie) knowing it would be a fast stage. We put Waf in lead for the brains and our rocket Cliff for speed. Together they're a great lead team. Behind we had our rising star Hannalore. She goes crazy for running and we put her with Button who's also good in lead with Waf. Foxy and Senna were next and two really good and fast team dogs. Then Patch and Grony. These two are such characters and such gentle dogs out of harness but put them in harness and they love to run! Patch is always good to rev the team up at the start. They're both good, strong dogs that can keep the speed. In wheel at the back were Balto and Toby. These two are safe bets. Big, strong dogs that can also keep the speed despite their size. They're brothers to Waf. I took pictures of them all before the start so will try and post them after this but for now I have included the stage results and overall rankings. 

Jan managed a good 4th place again which was actually pretty well done by him because he went wrong on the trail twice (very easily done) and when trying to remedy his first mistake he lost his team. Luckily they got caught up in some  barrier netting and they stopped after just 10 metres or so. But Jan wasn't particularly happy with that and lost his two minutes (start interval) to Milos straight away. There were several mushers that made the same mistake. And that's what you have to be careful of here. One mistake and you can lose everything. Luckily Jan keeps his fourth place overall and his standing as Best Rookie. I've no idea if there's a prize for that this year. I know there has been in the past. 

Anyway, I must go now as its late, I'm knackered and tomorrow we leave for Megeve! It's just a short show for spectators tomorrow so a day off for the dogs really. I'm sure ours will welcome it!

Goodnight. 





This is how the French do it...

Hands up if you want us to beat this guy!!! ;-)


Video from yesterday...

I have loaded a video from yesterday's stage on my Instagram account (gaynorleeper) as I've been practicing the slo-mo video on my phone!! It's fab!!! Be sure to check it out and follow me on Instagram for more. I can't seem to post videos to this blog (on my phone anyway). 

This was the only stage so far with reasonable snow. :-)

It's Milos about a third of the way in. Enjoy!


Waiting for stage 4 - and it's raining!!!!

If you could only see us now. All the trucks tightly packed into a small car park in the middle of Les Gets. It's pouring with rain and there's 20 trucks here full of mushers who probably have better conditions for dog sledding at home. Seems mad! The organisers must be having a nightmare fulfilling their promises to the ski resorts for the 'musher attraction', shipping in trucks of snow to line the start through the street (that's melting as quickly as they put it down), and still trying to put on the show. As for the mushers, they'll be putting on their waterproofs not their thermals today. In our camp the mood is a bit sombre. Milos is tired. Not just physically tired but tired of the whole charade. He's taking a nap now and hopefully we'll get a lift in the weather which will improve the mood. For me, I find chocolate helps! Although I'm starting to look like fat Dixie now. ;-)

Actually, I'm also tired. Travelling for 4 days with no sleep takes time to recover from. Last night I was lying awake til midnight thinking about the day we had and couldn't sleep. Well, until I tried some "sleep easy" spray from Arbonne that my sister gave me. A few sprays in my mouth and I was out like a light! Magical stuff and I can highly recommend it. I've also got the Arbonne protein shake powder with us and Milos is using it after every stage to ease muscle recovery. Without thinking he commented last night that he doesn't ache and can't remember a previous race where his muscles weren't screaming by now. Thanks Arbonne! If anyone wants to try any of it let me know and I'll put you in touch with a supplier. It's mail order so super easy and to your door! 

Anyway, as we wait (and caffeine load) here's a couple of pics. The rain! And of Grony and Milos taking a nap in the van. Grony is now sleeping in the van at night because she developed an allergy to the straw in her box. 

Thanks to all for following and also for the comments. We're reading everything and the encouragement really helps. Hope we can all make you happy today! And if there's anything you want me to write about let me know!!




Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Stage 3 timings

Well it's all change after a pretty challenging stage. I asked Milos what I should write about today and his reply was "nothing". That just about sums up what we feel. The more we think about it the more unbelievable it is that Remy Coste out performed everyone by a pretty huge margin today. Milos said at the half way point (where radek caught him) he was 30 seconds faster than Coste (he could see him in the trail so could calculate) so Radek would have been 2m 30s faster. They were catching him up. Then miraculously Coste managed to gain 9 mins 20 secs on Milos in the last 25km! Ok, Milos had a few troubles but that's still a huge amount of time. Not only that but he gained 4 mins 30 secs on Radek too which just seems impossible because everything was going good for Radek and Coste hasn't been able to keep his pace til now. Very strange. But I guess you have to hand it to him, he ran an exceptional race, but I wonder how it will be tomorrow. It's only a short stage though (about 50km) so maybe that's the reason he decided to push it. We'll have to wait and see!

Anyway, this is how it is. Sometimes you have a good day and sometimes a bad day. We hope a good day will come soon for us. Meanwhile here are the timings of the stage and the new overall positions showing us now in third place. 




Stage 3 and we've lost 2nd place

This one is always tough for us. It's warm and it's a fast stage. And we took Dixie, one of the dark and fat dogs! What a mistake. She just couldn't keep the speed set by the Frenchman Remy Coste who finished in spectacular speed today. He was heard to say it was all or nothing and he took a risk which paid off. For us, Dixie got dropped at the vet check at the top of the mountain and Waf (who's been spending sleepless nights howling after the girls and not eating) took a rest in the sled at one point, although he then finished the race. Dixie got a snow mobile ride to the finish. With this in mind Milos did pretty well to keep the pace he did. And Remy took a big risk to gain 2nd place and only a few minutes in his battle with Milos. It's stage 3 of 8 so we will see if he pays for his gamble later. 

Our dogs recovered quite quickly at the van but they were tired. In another blow for our team Leepey has had her foot x-rayed as it appeared very swollen when she came out of the trailer earlier. Thankfully it's not broken but she will have to rest for a few days now. We're not sure what happened as she didn't even run yesterday or today, but these things happen. 

It's very easy to focus on that and the couple of dogs that struggle and forget that there were many that did really well. Today's favourite is Spendrup. 

I'll post up times when I know them but rumour has it Milos managed third place on the stage but we'll see. I think it was pretty close. 

Later we'll try a new strategy with feeding. No meat, just plain, cool water and the dogs favourite dry food - Royal Canin 4800. Fingers crossed it works. 

Meanwhile, Jan had another good stage today and will be fighting Milos for today's third place most likely. He's confirming his place as best Rookie and a strong fourth overall. That's a very respectable start so congratulations to him and all of his hard work to train his team whilst also working with tourists at Taistos kennel. There's no doubt the dogs have good breeding and he knows what he's doing in training and racing. 


GPS shows Radek, Milos and Jan together on trail


(Red is Radek, turquoise is Milos and Jan is yellow). 

We're avidly watching the GPS on the website and although it can be a little mis-timed it shows that Radek has caught Milos and Jan and is now chasing Remy Coste. At the moment Coste seems to be keeping the pace and it looks like a battle for 1st and 2nd between those two. If Milos can hang on for another 15km he might manage 3rd. At the moment Jan and Milos are together on the trail. 

The placing isn't so important but the time is! Milos can't afford to give away too much time to Radek in these early stages if he's to stand any chance of catching him on the longer stages. But  now Radek has over taken him he has already gained two minutes (Radek started 2 mins behind Milos) and is gaining even more. Hold on Milos, hold on!! It's important for Milos to keep in touch with Radek as long as possible. 

Start of stage 3 - Sommand



An early start today to get to the start line with plenty of time to spare. Now the crowds are gathering and the dogs are getting excited! I hope they will do ok today. I'm finding it hard to stay positive as our eating situation is reaching critical point. It's tough to know if you should take the dogs running that haven't been eating (trying to spike their appetite) or let them rest hoping it will change. We're trying everything but the boys are so focused on the girls or what's going on around them, all this chaos, that they don't have focus for anything else. It's depressing and personally it's getting me down. It's so hard to see them turn their noses up at food they would normally love. But they are all still very lively despite this. 

So this is a 60km stage and is usually very fast. Historically we don't do very well on this stage so if we're on the podium it will be a nice surprise. Radek is likely to take the stage win again as he looks really strong. I often wonder if people face the same problems we do. I know Jan had a couple of dogs not eating too but then his aren't used to the warm etc either so perhaps it's no surprise. 

Anyway, I have to run now and prepare the dogs... First to moisturise their feet, put booties on then harnesses and hook them up!!

The team today is Waf, Cliff, Hannalore, Button, Foxy, Toby, Senna, Dixie, Spendrup and Alonso. 

Enjoy the race. :-)