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: http://www.finnmarkslopet.no/map/index.jsp?lang=en&raceId=50

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