Tuesday, 18 January 2011

La Grande Odyssee

La Grande Odyssee, or LGO, is considered the most technically demanding race in the world. Each day for 10 days a musher has to run a marathon through snow, while climbing up and down Ben Nevis twice, if that wasn't enough, add pushing, hauling and lifting a 50kg sled and trying to keep up with the dogs.

Because of its location in the Alps, LGO is a race that balances on a knife edge and the weather controls which side it falls. This year nature threw a curve ball, with temperatures of 12-15oC (ABOVE ZERO!) melting the little snow there was and causing many stages to be reorganised and needing mushers to be so careful not to overheat their dogs. Nature showed just how powerful it is and produced a race that has according to the world's most experienced technical mushers; been the toughest yet, frightening and relentless. Dealing with; minimal snow, glare ice and exposed rocks when sledding down steep slopes with 180 degree switch backs, in fog, rain and if lucky snow blizzards, crossing trails with open water holes and raging black torrents below has tested everyone from the rookies to the most experienced mushers.

Organisers, mushers, dogs and all the support crews have had one hell of a tough race and although it would have been more fun in a year with snowy trails and sub zero temperatures, I think to race in these conditions has allowed me to practice my sled handling much more than a nice trail would have. So I am happy to have gained all the experience such a tough race has offered, I know I could run races for the next 20 years and never come across such icy, unpredictable, technical and adrenaline pumping trails again, so I can take away some seriously high quality sledding experience as well as the knowledge that with good snow LGO will be just a little bit easier.