Race into the cold
By Petr Josek
Mountains, snow, wind, cold, sun, dogs, sleds and mushers. Those are elements you meet in various combinations when you go to cover the Sedivackuv long dog sled race in the Czech Republic’s Orlicke mountains. It’s a beautiful place. I’ve been covering the race since 2005 and I always look forward it. You need to get well dressed for that, we call it double-full-full. I remember temperatures of -20 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit) with strong winds.
There is always the obvious problem of how to cover the same event differently every year, especially as we don’t have giant mountains with high summits and there’s not always bright sun. But I think that nice pictures showing the event and describing its atmosphere can’t hurt once a year.
You go to the start line and take some pictures of excited dogs. They already know what’s going on, what is ahead of them. They bark as they rush up the hill and disappear in the horizon to face the next stage which over four days counts more than 240 kilometers (149 miles).
Then you head up to the edge of the hills with a view into the valley where you can see the dogs running through tunnels made of trees covered by snow. You just want to have nice images and therefore you must go a little higher than where the start is. You go by car to a place where you can walk to a track of the race to see them in action.
Because of a good relationship with the race organizer, I was promised to be able to ride on a snow scooter to get further on a track and see more of the race. The scooter arrived but when we wanted to go, the engine died – tough luck.
So, you walk and shoot and shoot and walk, trying to find a nice spot for picture. Rolling in the snow to get a frog perspective (have your leather cloth ready to clean your lenses). After some time, when your gloves are totally wet and the majority of dogs already ran past you, you walk back to your car. I was lucky – I stopped one musher who took me on a sled which made my way back shorter by almost a kilometer.
Drive your car to a place where all the racers stop after their first 40 kilometers (24 miles). Have your fast brunch, because there was no time to eat in the morning. After a quick cup of tea and a cold sausage, I went to see the first mushers arrive at a stage break to rest and feed their dogs before another 30 kilometers (18 miles) in the day’s stage.