Sunday, 7 August 2011

Animal Planet's TV Documentary "Extraordinary Dogs"

TV DOCUMENTARY - "EXTRAORDINARY DOGS, episode 9" broadcast on Channel 5, Animal Planet and the Documentary Channel. The program focuses on working dogs from all sorts of environments and the science behind what makes the dogs so "extraordinary" at the job they perform. Episode 9, featured the whole team at LGO, with an interview of Mel and fellow musher Radek Havrda, loads of shots of the dogs, race and scenery. The whole team had an awesome time with lots of laughter working with such wonderful people as Nina & Dominic, so to see the fruits of their labour on TV was brilliant!

From March to mid-May, the race team focused on camp trips and long exploratory outings. Its my favourite time of year; the snow firms up enough to support a dog sled, not just on the trails but all over and with the very short nights you can drive the dogs anywhere, without needing to cut trail, perfect ingredients for exploring the mountains and wilderness. With the skiing season coming to a close, I made use of the downhill ski slopes, not quite the black run I experienced “off dog-piste” at LGO, but the blues and reds made for some excellent white knuckle mushing. The dogs fitness and strength really showed as they charged downhill leaning into their harnesses with so much force. The power is quite alarming, but its wonderful to see the dogs once used to UK sprinting, have finally decided to really lean into their harnesses. In dryland sprint its more about getting the momentum of a wheeled rig going and then sprinting flat out. In distance and on snow, its totally different, they really need to pull and trust their harness to aid their balance, reducing the risk of stumbling and injuring a shoulder. A really pleasing step forward with the dogs confidence and transition to distance sledding from dryland sprint.

I had to bounce back and forth from the UK-Norway in April, May and June for work, but although stressful and exhausting, it was wonderful to catch up with family and friends and I am so thankful I had the chance to see my granddad just before he passed away, he was a real inspiration to me and I will miss him everyday. A heartbreaking time only months after my nan died, but after more than 60 years together, they are again reunited.

Several other trips in Norway and Sweden have been great fun, visiting and catching up with musher friends and buying some dogs to add to the race team. The 8 new dogs settled in quickly with the pack and within a couple of weeks were all free running together happily.

While the dogs have some RnR, I’ve been enjoying some other activities, fjell running, mountain hiking, kayaking, lake swimming and downhill mountain biking. Combining these sports with scouting out new routes and clearing trails ready for winter.

Happy trails

NSHK Handlers Race - 2x 50km.
A really great fun event, perfect snow conditions, great company and a wonderful banquet, Nigel did an excellent job driving the dogs at this pure breed Siberian Husky race, covering 100km over 2 days. He had loads of fun and finished in 2nd place.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

IFSS World Championship

The World Championship is upon us! The dogs are in high spirits and looking really good, they had their last pre-race run today, just a short 10km leg stretch.

Choosing 8 dogs from the 15 racers has been really hard. Last week I narrowed the WCh team down to 12 dogs: Sven, Ward, Rocket, Dash, Phoenix, Wiyot, Lira, Susi, Loki, Orbit, Inca and Minto. 

At the moment the final 8 are: Lira, Susi, Orbit, Inca, Loki, Phoenix, Ward & Dash.
In reserve are: Minto, Sven, Rocket and Wiyot.

The truck is all packed up, hopefully I've remembered everything. The team will get on the road in the early hours of Thursday. Mushers meeting is at 1600. My start time will be around 1300 (GMT+1)!

I still haven't got over the horrid Influenza virus I picked up while in France, with a temperature of 104oC the Doctor has advised me not to race, but hey this is the World Championships! So long as I can control the sled and care for the dogs, I'll race.

Final 8: Orbit, Loki, Lira, Susi, Inca, Ward, Phoenix, Dash
Final Start time: 1306 (GMT+1) 4th February 2011

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.