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!!! :-)