LEWISTON resident Michael Herbst braved freezing conditions in Sveg, Sweden, to finish in the top 25 of the World Sleddog Association (WSA) world championships this past fortnight.
The 50-year-old has been racing sleddogs for over 30 years in Australia, and was invited by the WSA to compete at the championships as the only representative from the southern hemisphere.
The world titles were contested on snow, and Mr Herbst conceded he didn’t have much experience competing on the terrain.
“The last time I ran on snow would’ve been 15 years ago,” he said.
“I don’t have a lot of experience, but about four months ago I got the invite, and I couldn’t say no.
“The day I left it was 45 degrees Celsius in Lewiston, and it was minus 25 when I got there, so it was quite the climate change.
“I was on the ground for about 12 hours and then went straight to sleddog boot camp.”
After arriving in Sweden, Mr Herbst said he ran into some troubles at the start of his trip.
“Training wasn’t too good for the first few days, we had a few issues,” he said.
“I thought it may not work out the way I wanted it to, but then the team and I started to figure things out.”
Mr Herbst initially struggled with the climate, and working with different dogs.
“It’s almost impossible to get myself prepared for that type of environment,” he said.
“We spent about five days of training with the dogs, just spending time with them.
“We trained on a big frozen lake with them, I had a bit of a crash course in Australian- slang Swedish because the dogs didn’t understand me at all to start with.
“It was extremely challenging, it was a 10-kilometre course and it was all hills.
“The first day I had two crashes, a couple on the second day, and a couple on the third day.
“There were some drop-offs that were 25 metres high, which scared the life out of me.”
Mr Herbst ended up finishing 24th out of the 32 starters, and said he’d do it again in a heartbeat.
“I was racing against people where that’s all they do, so that was challenging,” he said.
“Without a doubt, if they invited me again, I’d do it.”