Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Friday, 1 November 2013

Monday, 30 September 2013

Uconn fathers: Army Pups & Duffy Pups

ARMY x UCONN - "Army Litter" - 2 pups: 1 male "Soldier", 1 female "Combat"

DUFFY x UCONN - "Detectives Litter" - 6 pups: 5 males - "Sherlock", "Taggart", Magnum", "Morse", "Kojak" and 1 female "Marple"

Friday, 30 August 2013

Autumn Training is in full swing!

AUGUST 2013 - Training is in full swing!

The race team's training is in full swing after the first couple of weeks training. Like many teams, during the hot summer months, the dogs enjoyed a phase of training we like to call RnR! You may be conjuring images from the movie Snow Dogs; huskies chilling out on the beach in deck chairs, clad with cocktails and shades, well, your not far off. ‘Active rest’ is the new buzz word! The dogs free run, swim and some join Mel in her kayak for a paddle, they are free to relax in the sun or charge around during a game of football, being athletes, they usually choose the latter, but the point is, they choose what, when and how much. Mid-August and RnR came to an end, both huskies and musher excited to get going with training. With the dogs bursting with so much testosterone and adrenaline fuelled excitement, Mel decided to split the team in half. A wise choice, as even with only a 10-dog team, the 300kg ATV with breaks locked edged forward under the dogs power. The first few 10km runs flashed by, taking it nice and gentle to loosen the dogs up, burn off that initial fire and get them back into the swing of training. A new training base, equals new trails, or more correctly means unknown trails. All summer Mel has been cycling every possible route, checking its suitability for the dogs and ATV or kart. Cattle grids we can overcome, gates we can ask for permission and keys, shallow rivers are good practice and turns and hills are a welcome addition, but unfortunately many trails that are otherwise perfect are foiled by a 200m section mid-way that is either marsh, thick forest or a trail so narrow and windy even the foxes get out their machetes. Never the less, after hours purusing the areal maps and bike carrying, river crossing, mountain climbing, jungle routing and about 500km of actual cycling, by August we mapped ample trails from 7-70km, with plenty of back up options should we wish to avoid things like cows, reindeer herds or moose hunters. One outing in August was flummoxed, after only 400m from leaving the dog yard we came to a reindeer gate that was for the first time actually locked. Maybe we had just been lucky before, that the padlock had been neglected. With reindeer fencing stretching for miles through thick forest, there was no option but to turn the team. On a 3m wide trail, with a team over 25m long and 10 dogs fired up and raring to go, it is both a difficult and dangerous option, especially with an ATV. Think of a train trying to do a 180 on its track, while the throttle is stuck in forward! Turning the dogs themselves is not the big deal, the dogs are well trained and by taking hold of the leaders and heading back past the team, they will pass; pair by pair so not to get tangled up. But doing this with a sled is one thing, if it flips as the team spins around usually your lunch is the only thing to get damaged. But turning a team attached to a 300kg ATV is a different story althogether, its not as simple as picking it up and flipping it, in fact the last thing you want it to do is flip! So with some Austin Powers turning skills and tying the team to a tree so the ATV is not under the dogs force, we head home, UConn who was in lead and has previously finished the 1000 mile Iditarod 4 times, looks at me as I unharness him after 800m, with a total look of ‘WTF’! That evening, after obtaining the key from the trail owner, UConn glances back over his shoulder at me with total skepticism as we charge up the trail for the second time that day, when we come to the gate and I call whoa, being the intelligent experienced lead dog that he is, he goes takes one look at the gate, looks at me with utter distane and goes to make another 180, without my assistance. “NO” I shout, “Line-out”, having jumped of the ATV, I charge towards him, he’s only turned the first two pairs, but he stops in his tracks, as I catch him and pull him back in place, giving him a telling off.  He looks totally and understandably affronted. When I unlock the gate, I get a look of “well why the hell didn’t you do that earlier?” Of course he has no perception of a lock or keys, just that if I could remove the obstruction so easily why hadn’t I before, fair enough really. Just as it was fair enough that he believe he needed to turn the team. BUT, it was not fair enough, that he do so without my command, that is why he got the ticking off, he might be an Iditarod Champion, he may have thousands of miles more experience than me, I made a mistake earlier and caused confusion, of course womans perogative to inexplicably change ones mind does not work when training dogs, but, I am in charge, I make the decisions, I call the commands….now I just need Uconn to agree to that ;-)

Monday, 17 June 2013

Investing in 6 Superstar Alaskan Huskies

Investing in Super star Alaskan Huskies to join our race team and for our future breeding program

1.UConn (Iditarod Champion from Jeff King - He finished 4 Iditarods with Jeff from 2006-09)
2.Nortug (Son of Uconn)
3.Daim (Raced Finnmark1000 this year with Hugh Neff. Son of IdCh Rumba.)
4.Duffy (Raced Finnmark1000 this year with Hugh Neff. Daughter of IdCh Rumba.)
5.Houdini (3rd Place Tobacco Trail. Son of IdCh Alamo & Grandson of IdCH Rumba.)
6.Megan (Female from Roger Dahl, mother of many dogs from Mats Pettersson's A-team)

Our 2013 Alaskan Husky Breeding program will be:

Duffy x Uconn - due September
Army x Uconn - due August
Megan x Psycho - due August

Any pups born will be for our future race team.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Switching to Alaskan Huskies; No more Siberians & Club resignation.


Following the successful race season with our now mostly Alaskan Husky team, plenty of thoughts and talks about the teams future and staying 'in Siberians' have been bouncing around. As many of you know Orso our beloved 14 year old Siberian Husky and the kennel Alpha recently died. His loss has helped us make the final decision to advance to Alaskan Huskies completely. Since we bought our first Alaskan Huskies 2 years ago, we have not kept or purchased any further Siberian Huskies.

Although we love the Siberian Husky breed very much, we have decided for competitive reasons to switch over to the racing thoroughbreds; Alaskan Huskies. In order that our young Siberians still get to race, we will be selling them over the next year or two to racing Siberian Kennels. Of course our oldies will remain with us to live out their days, no doubt help train the Alaskan puppies and give tourists plenty of thrills!

Resigning from the clubs: There is no point in remaining members of the Breed specific Clubs: We did not renewed our membership to NSHK or NKK at the end of 2012 and will be resigning from SHCGB at the end of 2013. We have had a lot of fun racing at club events over the years and wish the clubs and their members loads of fun and success in the future.

The switch to Alaskan Huskies, means we needed to invest in purchasing excellent quality Alaskan Huskies to complement the fantastic Alaskan Huskies we have already got. And also in a future breeding program for our race team's advancement. Therefor this spring we will be investing in 5-6 superstar Alaskan Huskies from other mushers A-teams!

We are very proud that Myra gave birth to 3 huge healthy Alaskan Husky pups in April (form Toivo) and we look forward to these Alaskan Husky pups joining the race team in 2014/15.

Home bred Siberian Husky; Greentrail Spock, is a legend and superstar. Becoming the first UK dog to finish Finnmarkslopet in 2013 and Femundlopet in 2013. He will be the only Siberian Husky to remain on Mel's A-team for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Team Mel Andrews Finish the longest 8-dog race in the World Finnmarkslopet - coming 32nd/70 teams!

Mel and her happy team of huskies finish Finnmarkslopet 500km - The longest 8-dog race in the World - Placing 32nd/70 teams and claiming the record as fastest GB rookie ever and 1st Briton to finish with UK dogs.

Team Mel Andrews Finish Finnmarkslopet
Photo: Christiane Odegaard

Finnmark 500, is the longest 8 dog race in the world!! So it is tough on a nice weather year, this year was an extremely tough race, with blizzards reducing visibility to 5m, blowing sleds, mushers and dogs off the trail and closing in trails all together. Even Yukon Quest Champion Hugh Neff, who passed me at about 5am commented that they don't get weather like that in Alaska. Alone, the team and I battled the storm, crossing the mountains for about 50 miles over night, I am incredibly proud of my leaders, who found every marker and felt for the firmest trail the whole way.

The arctic is normally cold with clear skies, so when I decided to continue with the race after breaking my nose and check bone less than 24hrs before the race (by walking into a propped up flap on the trailer), I made the decision without considering the need to wear snow googles for 3 days of heavy snowfall with high winds, well at least the cold made it go numb;-) The last stage was the toughest, leaving Jergul with 6 happy dogs, we flew along the flat -28oC frozen river, covering the first 20 miles in 2 hours, then as it got dark the snow belted down, covering the trail with more and more fresh snow, our speed dropped.

Harry who had done a brilliant job, was slightly sore on his left wrist, so I popped him in the sled 20 miles before Jergul, reducing the team to me and 5 dogs. I had to really dig deep for energy to run and push the sled with its increased sled weight from 50kg to 80kg. Dropping Harry off, to be cared for by the race helpers, with a quick hug and good boy, I had decided to blow through Jergul so the dogs didn't get cold in the wind, instead I chose to take regular 2 minute rests on the trail. By the time we were on the river 20 miles from Alta, there was 30-40cm of fresh snow on the trail making a really tough last couple of hours.

The events of the last few hundred meters were intense, with a crazy steep, near vertical 150m climb up to the last street. I had to help the dogs pull the sled, half way up, I dropped to my knees gasping for air and dripping with sweat. Knowing the dogs would copy me, I searched for the strength to get up, when suddenly a stray dog appeared a few meters ahead of us, at first I thought I was hallucinating, but then the dogs spotted him and barked, he turned and bolted up the hill, I fumbled to grab the sled as the dogs gave chase, sprinting along with the dogs serge of adrenaline. Once at the top he'd vanished and the team slowed as I added my weight by jumping back on the runners, again desperately trying to catch my breath.

The rapid drop in speed was incredibly lucky. As I admired 2 moose statues outside the first town building we'd come to, they suddenly moved and stumbled down the bank, right in front of us, not statues at all, but 2 massive real life moose. Spotting us, they froze less than 10m from my leaders. I'm not sure who was more shocked, the moose, the dogs or me, but it gave me and the dogs another adrenaline boost, as they turned and bolted down the 'snow ploughed' road, with brake fully applied and scrapping into the asphalt road below the inch of snow, for a moment I thought we were going to have a white knuckle ride, through the trees, back down the vertical drop we'd just climbed, but to my relief and immense pride, the dogs snapped their eyes forward when I shouted 'on-by' as the moose turned into the trees. Maybe my command was a welcome excuse not to give chase when they were so tired, or maybe complete authority came out in my voice, either way they understood that food and bed was just a few hundred meters away, we didn't need to chase down those moose, they done enough, as the flashing neon lights welcomed us, it was time to cross the finish line.

Thank you and well done to all the dogs that started: Derby, Toivo, Myra, Casper, Harry, Tavra, Mac and Spock and congratulaitons to the finishers Casper, Toivo, Derby, Mac and Spock. 
Special congratulations go to UK KC reg. Siberian Husky 'Greentrail Spock', on becoming the 1st British dog to finish Finnmarkslopet. All the dogs are owned, raised, trained and loved by Mel. It is a young team, with huge potential. 6/8 of the dogs made their race debut this season and 5 of the dogs are 1-2 year olds. 6 dogs raced Gausdal, Femund and Finnmarkslopet this year. Huge hugs go to all of them!

Thank you to Nigel who did loads of preparation work with meat and kit and who looked after the dogs back at the kennel. Thank you to Dennis who drove us up here and handled for the race. And finally thank you to family, friends and fans, who are a huge, integral part of the team, adding the much needed moral support - when we need to dig deep, its your kind words and enthusiasm that we find!

Finally massive congratulations to friends Milos Gonda and his fian'ce/handler Gaynor and handler Jason, on their amazing win! Rookie, foreigner, winner! Awesome job guys!!

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Finnmarkslopet Starts - Mel starts as Number 2 bib

Finnmarkslopet has got underway.
Mel left the start chute wearing bib number 2!
The 8 dogs in her team are: Derby, Toivo, Casper, Myra, Harry, Tavra, Spock and Mac.

You can follow Mel on the Race GPS tracker:

Team Mel Andrews start Finnmarkslopet 2013
Photo: Ann-Kristin Odegaard

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Arctic Journey Begins

A journey to the Arctic begins: Finnmarks dogsled race 2013 here we come!! A big thank you to Nigel, who has worked hard chopping meat and helping get things ready and is staying behind to look after the other dogs. A big thank you to Dennis, who is handling for the race and helping drive the 2000km road trip. More updates soon!! Mel

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

First British Woman to finish Femundlopet!!

First British woman finishing Femundløpet

Author: Femke van Gastel         Publish date: 05.02.13 11:33
Musher Mel Andrews reached the finish line of the Femund 400 at 01.11 Tuesday morning. This made her the first female musher from the United Kingdom to have participated and finished Femundløpet.
Mel Andrews (Photo: Alex Photography)
Dog-racing in the United Kingdom is mostly known by those that have pulling dogs themselves. Rigs instead of sleds and races that take a few hours at the most instead of a few days. Mel is the first female musher from the United Kingdom to participate and finish the Femundløpet.
This year, Mel used Gausdal Maraton as a preparation race. With almost the same team as during that race, she started the F400 at 11.06 Saturday morning. After a first try at Femund in 2011, and not being able to participate in 2012 due to a back injury, Mel proved that three times is a charm.
She finished with six dogs at 01.11 Tuesday morning. Next step: Amundsen Race and Finnmarkløpet 500. We wish her the best of luck!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The team finish Gausdal Marathon 200km Race

The team finished Gausdal Marathon 200km (125 miles) on Sunday morning. Mel is very proud of all the dogs!! From the 8 dog team, Derby an older experienced leader had to be dropped after 100km, leaving 6 yearling/2 year olds most running their first race, who all worked incredibly hard in a very tough race and have earned some great race and resting at check point experience. Toivo led the whole race backed up by Derby for 30km, then Punk for 120km, then Harry for the final 50km. Leaving the check point with 7 dogs after 100km and 5 hours rest, brought tears of pride as the young dogs jumped to their feet when asked and started to bark and pull, Mel had to jump on the brake to hold them off, dragging straw to the start line. Tavra pulled his hamstring 30km into the 2nd lap, after jumping into a brake trench a little to enthusiastically, so Mel put him in the sled (typically her biggest dog at 30kg). The sled and contents now weighing 90kgs slowed the team down a lot, but Mel and the 6 dogs worked hard as a team to get to the finish line and thoroughly enjoyed a spectacular sunrise. A huge thank you to Dennis for handling! Congratulations on finishing to Toivo, Punk, Harry, Spock, Mac, Army and well done also to Tavra and Derby for their efforts.

Mel Andrews and Team
Photo by: Ann-Kristin Odegaard