23 March 2017

Kuusamo MD - Lost and found

Kuusamo MD toinen sija. Voittaja Pauliina Tirkkonen js kolmas Kaisu Jousjärvi. 

My team came second in Kuusamo MD! First day I (like many others) got lost from the track and lost a lot of time. Second day I found my way and my sport. 

Lauantaina kisaan valmistauduttiin lumisessa säässä. 

Saturday 18.3.2017

Weather: Cloudy, 0°C
Trail: Soft snow, hard track under it
Time: 3.12
Distance: 45 km (or something)
Speed: 14 km/h

Matkaan sännättiin innolla....

I started slowly, breaking quite a lot. I thought that would save the dogs, but I'm not sure if it did. First the trail was lovely, cruising around the trees in the forests, but after about 10 km there was a crossing that should not be there. I was in doubt. I thought the trail should go left, but all the three teams ahead of me went right. I decided they must know the way. 

Well they didn't. The trail went in to a farm. We had to turn back. And almost all the other teams had followed us. It took some time to turn every team around. When we were standing there waiting, all the time my dogs tried to pull the sledge and go. I had to jump on the brake and try to calm them down. That must have been really frustrating for my dogs. 
... Mutta 10 km:n ajon jälkeen hortoiltiin eksyksissä. Ja seistiin sumassa.

When we came back to the right track,  the fastest teams started overtaking all the others. Soon we saw them again, this time their faces, when they came back from the loop. We tried to stop and make way for their teams. It went well. All the mushers were friendly and helped each other. 

Near the airport the track made a loop and turned back. After many kilometers and big uphills there was a crossing to the left. I came there alone. I think at this point each team had already found its own speed. My team started galloping down the hill towards the lake.

Loppumatka sumuisella järvellä tuntui pitkältä. 

The lake was long and white. I saw Markku's 12-dog-team running ahead of me, but they almost vanished in the blue clouds. My dogs trotted quite slowly. They had no way of knowing that there will be the finish-line in the other end of the lake. We made it there, a little tired but in good health.
Kävelytimme ja verryttelimme koirat moneen kertaan illan aikana. 

I gave drinks to my dogs and walked and stretched them all. My husband helped me. The dogs seemed fine, even the nine-year-old Tete. She may look like a mole, but she is a though one!

After the race I found out, that two of the teams had got lost again later on the track. So they did not finish on the first day. It's a pity. I hope next year the crossings in this race have even better marks than this year.
Koirat söivät ja joivat hyvin. Jopa 9-vuotias Tete oli illalla iloinen ja pirteä.

We, like most of the people, stayed in a cabin in Ollila. In the evening there was a wonderful dinner for us: warm and cold dishes made from local fishes. It was nice to come together and talk with other mushers and handlers over a delicious meal. 
Ollilan lomamajat tarjosi kisoissa upeat puitteet ja mahtavan illallisen.

Lessons I learned from Saturday: 
- Never follow others. Trust yourself. 
- In crossings, stop and read the map.
- Don't be afraid of meeting other teams on the track. 
- Try to avoid stopping to have a smooth run.

Joustava startti toimi. Jokainen sai ajaa lähtöviivalle silloin kun oli valmis. 

Sunday 19.3.2017

Weather: Sunny, a few degrees minus
Track: Excellent condition
Time: 2:24
Distance: 42 km
Speed: 19 km/h

What a wonderful morning! I started driving faster than the day before - a risk worth taking on a very good track and weather. My dogs were galloping all the time. I had fun. Only two teams run ahead of me. They met me a little before I got to the airport loop. Coming back from there, I met all the other teams. I counted them to make sure, when I have passed everyone. Then I could relax.
Upea sää, upea ura, upea vauhti. Ja onnistumisen tunne. 

Krista catch me and passed me. I followed her up the hill, but when we turned left and down, I lost her. Her well rested team was so fast, I could only see the back of it on the lake. 

Sunday was filled with gladness and sunshine. My dogs were running so fast and doing it so well. Not even upset tummies they had. Just before lake, at about 35 km in the second day, when they were still galloping in the forest, I knew it was going to be a really good time.

Sunnuntaina valkkoni kulki keskivauhtia 19 km/h.

And it was. I am very happy about the speed on Sunday. And even more happy about the dogs. During and after the weekend they ate and drank and behaved well. They were not dehydrated or exhausted. I must have done something right. 

I can hardly believe I really I brought home a prize from a race. I know it's not Oscar but >In my scale this is a big success. That is why I want to say THANK YOU: 
- To my husband for being the best handler
- To Sari Ikonen for breeding the dogs
- To all the fellow mushers who were so helpful and friendly
- To Ollilla Lomamajat for a super nice track, cabin and dinner
- To race organization for a great concept: Race with flexible start and evening meal
- To the sprint mushers who have taught me a lot about preparing the dogs before races
- To the unknown woman who came to bless my dogs before the race
- To my sons and family and dear doggies for their love and support

Kiitos Miilu, Piitu, Tete, Igor, Diesel ja Mora ja kaikki meitä auttaneet!

11 March 2017

One trip, three countries - Winter trekking from Kilpisjärvi

Kolmen valtakunnan hiihtovaellus Kilpisjärveltä vei meidät Suomeen, Norjaan ja Ruotsiin. 

We arrived to Kilpisjärvi on Monday evening. We parked our car and started skiing across the lake. The sun was just going behind the hills and the weather felt a bit colder than we had expected.
When we came to Kolttalahti, we started to look for a place to camp. Near Swedish border we found it: a little hill with a magnificent view to all the three countries that meet here: Finland, Sweden and Norway.
Maanantai-ilta viileni, kun aloitimme matkan Kilpisjärven yli. 

Not a minute too soon we started putting up the tent and minding the dogs. With freezing fingers and toes we made it. The cooker made tent nice and warmish as we made dinner, but still I needed to wear down jacket and down skirt when we ate.
Pystytimme teltan lähelle kolmen valtakunnan rajaa. 

We saw northern lights red and green and yellow dancing in the sky like never before. It was going to be an extremely cold night. My two sleeping bags were not warm enough. I was feeling cold, especially my toes. My husband made hot water bottles for my feet. When that was not enough, he let me sleep in his sleeping bag. Then I was okay, but he was cold.
Yö oli niin kylmä, että emme saaneet juurikaan nukuttua. 

We didn't get much sleep that night. The temperature was -28°C. Somehow we made it through the night and faced very cold and very beautiful Tuesday morning. Happy to see the mountains and to hear the perfect silence, but worried about the cold feet we started skiing towards Norway. We agreed that if we don't feel warm soon, we have to turn back and seek shelter in a cabin.
Tiistai-aamuna toivoimme, että saisimme jäsenet lämpenemään hiihtäessä. 

After five minutes of skiing we knew we can make it. The blood started circulating and the warm feeling filled toes and fingers. To Gappohytta it is!
Aloitimme nousemisen kohti Gappoa alhaalla näkyvää rajalinjaa pitkin. 

And what a trail it was. Up and down and up and down. We really needed to sweat to get the pulkkas up those hills. Even one of them made me feel I used all the power I had. And then there was an other and an other one... I never knew I could do it so many times.  The sun was shining, the sky was blue, the snow was sparkling and the Barras montaintop was watching over  us all day as if we were the only people on Earth.
Barras katseli meitä kuin olisimme olleet ainoat ihmiset maailmassa. 

When reached Gappohytta in the afternoon, I was flat. The last bit of uphill was almost too much for me. It was such a relief to step inside a cozy hut and to know we would sleep safe and warm tonight.
Melkein perillä. Gappohytta näkyy kuvan oikeassa reunassa. 

In the evening we made short skiing trip around the cottage to see all the different shades of pink the setting sun painted on the mountains and hills. There was no-one else in Gappo hytta, just us two and our dogs. That night we went early to bed and slept well.
Illalla hiihtelimme katsomaan laskevan auringon värjäämää Barrasta. 

Wednesday morning there were some clouds in the sky. Maybe the weather was getting warmer. Eating breakfast we made plans. Tuesday had been exhausting. Should we turn back now? We were tempted to go to Pältsa stuga in Sweden, but was it too far? Can we make it back to Kilpisjärvi from there, if there weather changes? At home we had said to our boys that we will be back to Kilpisjärvi on Thursday or Friday, so we did have an extra day in reserve. 
Keskiviikkona päätimme jatkaa matkaa kohti Pältsaa

We decided to give it a try. We packed our pulkkas, put on the belt, connected the dog and started skiing to Pältsa. Boy I'm glad we did! It turned out to be an easy day.
Ohitimme Pältsan aurinkoisessa säässä.

In two hours we reached the cabin, where the hostess welcomed us to the pet room and promised to warm the sauna in the evening. We were her only guests - no-one else here so early in March.
Reitti Gappolta Pältsalle oli yllättävän helppo ja todella kaunis. 

To my relief there was a marked 20 km track straight from the cabin to Kilpisjärvi. And there had been two snow scooters driving it that same day. The track went over the hills with a huge amount of climbing. We knew we had a challenging day ahead of us, so it was nice to just read and relax on the afternoon.
Miilun ja Moran avulla oli helppo hakea vettä kämpälle ja saunalle. 

Also for the dogs it was good to have time to rest. Miilu had some snow cuts in her front pawns. I put medicine and boots on. She didn't touch them, so the cuts started healing really well, as the dogs enjoyed sleeping in the cabin.
Pältsalla lepäilyn jälkeen olimme valmiita seuraavan päivän koitoksiin. 

Thursday morning was cloudy. We started climbing up the highland well prepared, rested and packed so, that we can quickly make a camp up there, if necessary. It was difficult to tell from the weather if it is going to clear or turn in to a storm. We also had an extra days food with us, both for us and for the dogs.
Torstaina kapusimme Duoibalin tunturiylängölle elävien nousukarvojen avulla. 

Without the dogs this heavy trail would have taken us all day, but with them only 4-5 hours. So steep were the hills and so many of them there was. I could only admire my dear dog Miilu. I don't understand how does she have the strength to pull up the walls all day. Finding the track in the snow, she really is my Togo.
Miilu. Toivottavasti tulevana kesänä pentujen emo. 

But what a place, and what a weather it was up there! The sun started to shine, it was warm, no wind - just the white hills ending in white clouds - As hard as it was, we were in heaven.
Ylhäällä ei ollutkaan myrskyä, vaan tyyntä ja lämmintä ja taivaallista.  

We had lunch on a top, where we could see the place we camped on Monday ant the mountains we skied to on Tuesday. That moment had it all. The dogs resting behind a stone, us standing silent on the top. It was a farewell to the mountains before going down and back to normal life. This time it was more difficult than ever.
Kilpsijärvi näkyy. Miten täältä voi palata arkeen? 

28 February 2017

Robur Sprint 2017

My team: Piitu (5), Igor (2), Kirka (9) and  Diesel (6)

Wonderful sprint dogs and sportsmanship - That is what I saw in my own hometown this weekend. There was a Finnish Championship competition here in Taivalkoski. 

I also drove in four dog class. I'm happy with my dogs galloping all the way, and that I actually had fun driving the 7,5 km track. After two days my team finished as number fourteen. That doesn't sound like much, but I am more happy about the time. First day 20.07 and second day 19.36. Sprint teams go much faster. They only need two minutes for every kilometer, when my team needs nearly three. But it's not bad for a hobbyteam, is it? 

Since my father recently died, I have felt it is a miracle to have arms and legs and to be able to do things. It goes also for this competition. Driving fast in the sunshine feels like a gift or a privilege. Thank you for all the people who made it possible. And all the dogs! After this they are even more dear to me. It is so nice to think about the next trips we will do together in near future. Next week we will hopefully be trekking in Lapland and soon after that it is time for Kuusamo MD. 

Taivalkoskella järjestettiin viikonloppuna SM-tason koiravaljakkokilpailut.  Upeat sprittikoirat ja urheilijat kilpailivat Robur Sprintissä  lyhyillä matkoilla. Lajeina olivat koirahiihto, valjakkohiihto sekä neljän, kuuden ja kahdeksan koiran valjakkoajo.

Osallistuin itsekin neljän koiran luokkaan. Loppusijoitukseni on 14. Olen tyytyväinen siihen, että koirat jaksoivat laukata 7,5 km radan kumpanakin päivänä. Etukäteen minua jännitti ajaminen, mutta kisassa se olikin hauskaa. Oikeastaan toivoin, että koirat kulkisivat vielä kovempaa. 

Rata oli aivan mahtava. Leveä, tasainen ja turvallinen. Mäkinen profiili teki siitä silti raskaan. Valjakkoni vauhti hidastui aina mäen törmällä sen verran, että ehdin vähän juosta, ennen kuin vauhti taas kiihtyi alamäkeen. 

Ensimmäisenä päivänä jouduin ohittamaan matkalla kolme valjakkoa. Kaikki ohitukset sujuivat helposti. Kokenut Piitu ja ensimmäistä kertaa kisannut Igor keulassa eivät olisi voineet paremmin onnistua. Sanoin vain kummalta puolelta mennään, ja ne tottelivat ja laukkasivat ohi. Muutenkaan ne eivät tehneet kisoissa mitään sotkuja, joten sain aivan ehjät ja pysähtymättömät suoritukset kumpanakin päivänä. 

Aikani oli ensimmäisenä päivänä 20.07 ja toisena 19.36. Se on melkein kuusi minuuttia hitaampi kuin voittajalla. Ajattelen sen niin, että oikeat sprinttivaljakot juoksevat jokaisen kilometrin kahteen minuuttiin. Kun minun harrastusvaljakolla jokaiseen kilometriin kului alle kolme minuuttia, niin siihen on pakko olla tyytyväinen. 

Pyöräkoirina valjakossani juoksivat Diesel ja Kirka, joka täyttää toukokuussa 9 vuotta. Satsasin siksi ihan erikoisen paljon lämmittelyyn, koirien hieromiseen ja verryttelyyn ennen ja jälkeen kisan. Se olikin helppoa, kun asun vain 20 km päässä kisapaikalta. Pystyin hoitamaan ja kävelyttämään koiria myös kotona, eikä niiden tarvinnut yöpyä kuljetuslaatikoissa. 

Nyt voin ilokseni sanoa, että Kirka ei tullut kisasuorituksesta edes kipeäksi. Sen täytyy olla osittain glugosamiinin ansiota. Ilman nivelravinnetta ja sopivasti kevennettyä treeniä Kirkan ikäinen koira ei enää pystyisi tällaisiin suorituksiin. Valitettavasti kuitenkin Igorin maha on ollut löysällä kisan jälkeen. Se veti niin kovaa, että suoritus oli sille liian rankka. Siitä voin syyttää vain itseäni. Ei ole koiran vika, jos omistaja pistää sen tilanteeseen, johon sen kunto tai treeni ei vielä riitä. Igor saa nyt tehobaktia ja ruokaa pieninä annoksina. Se on virkeä ja iloinen ja sillä on hyvä ruokahalu, joten uskon mahan paranevan pian. 

Johtuu varmaan siitä, että isäni on äskettäin kuollut, mutta tässä kilpailussa minusta tuntui ihmeelliseltä, että minulla on toimivat kädet ja jalat ja koirat. Tunnen kiitollisuutta siitä, että olen elossa ja että voin tehdä tällaisia asioita. On etuoikeus saada ajaa lujaa omilla koirillaan aurinkoisilla hangilla. Moni ihminen on tehnyt töitä sen eteen.

Kilpailun jälkeen koirani tuntuvat minusta entistä rakkaammilta. On mukava ajatella seuraavia reissuja niiden kanssa. Viikon päästä olemme jo toivottavasti Kilpisjärvellä ja maaliskuun puolivälissä odottaa Kuusamo MD.



28 January 2017

Small steps

Me and my six-dog team. 

I am sometimes afraid of driving my own dogs. I will tell you why.

Joskus minua pelottaa ajaa omilla koirillani. Kerron miksi. 

I have seven dogs. I am training them for trekking and racing. This winter my goal is to drive a mid distance-race (2 x 45 km)  with six dogs. It is a new thing for me.

Minulla on seitsemän koiraa. Treenaan kisoja ja vaelluksia varten. Tänä talvena minun on tarkoitus ajaa keskipitkän matkan kilpailu (2 x 45 km) kuudella koiralla. Se on minulle uutta. 

In the previous years I have only done a few sprint-races. Sprinting events have been more easy to attend. I have done them with four dogs and often in one day. In four-dog-class the track is about 7 km long.

Aikasempina vuosina olen kilpaillut vain muutaman sprinttikisan. Sprinttikisoissa on helpompi käydä. Olen osallistunut niihin neljällä koiralla ja useimmiten vain yhtenä päivänä. Neljän koiran luokassa kisarata on yleensä noin 7 km pitkä. 
Four dog team with a heavy load.

Going for mid distance takes more time and resources from me and my family. I am lucky to have a husband, who has agreed to be handler in my team. Still, making the plans for this winter has not been easy. I need to fit the races in the calendar with our working times, trekking-trips and - let's face it- money.

Keskipitkän matkan kisoihin osallistuminen vaatii enemmän aikaa ja resursseja sekä minulta että perheeltäni. Olen onnekas, koska mieheni suostuu toimimaan handlerina. Silti ei ole ollut helppo suunnitella aikataulua kevättalvelle. Kisat pitää sovittaa kalenteriin meidän molempien työaikojen ja retkien kanssa, eikä kustannuksiakaan sovi unohtaa.  

My plan for 2017 is to drive Robur Sprint with four dogs in February and Kuusamo MD with six dogs in March. I want to try and finish bot races both days and do them in somehow good speed.

Suunnitelmani tälle talvelle on ajaa Robur Sprint Taivalkoskella neljällä koiralla helmikuussa ja Kuusamo MD kuudella koiralla maaliskuussa. Haluaisin päästä molemmissa kisoissa maaliin kumpanakin päivänä ja mielellään ihan kelpo vauhtia, niin ettei se mene ihan köpöttelyksi.

Six dog team coming home from 30 km loop. 

I understand that training for sprint and mid distance  have a lot in common, but I don't find it easy to train my team for all this. I am often in doubt. Am I doing the right things? There are so many decisions to make: What kind of exercises and when, how fast and how much of them.? If I wanted a challenge, I surely got one. There is a lot to think.

Tiedän että sprintille ja keskipitkille matkoille harjoittelemisessa on varsinkin alkukaudella paljon yhteistä, mutta minusta ei silti ole helppo treenata koiriani kaikkeen tähän. Epäilyttää usein, teenkö oikeita asioita. Millaisia harjoituksia pitäisi tehdä ja milloin, millä vauhdilla ja miten paljon? Huomaan, että olen ottanut itselleni haastavan tehtävän. 

Training my dogs there are two things I believe in. First: I trust it's good to do many different things with them. I drive long and short loops, I drive fast and slow speeds, I ski,  I drive in deep snow and on good track. Sometimes I teach my dogs to do tricks, and sometimes I  just take my snowshoes and let them run free around me. Yesterday I drove a six dog team with a light sleigh. Today I drove a four dog team with a heavy loaded sleigh.

Uskon koiratreenissä kahteen asiaan. Ensinnäkin monipuolisuuteen; Siihen, että koirien kanssa on hyvä tehdä paljon erilaisia harjoituksia. Ajan lyhyitä ja pitkiä matkoja, nopeita ja hitaita lenkkejä, hiihdän, ajan lumessa ja uralla. Joskus opetan koirille temppuja tai menen kävelemään lumikengillä ja annan koirien juosta vapaana ympärillä. Eilen ajoin kuuden koiran valjakolla kevyellä reellä, tänään neljän koiran valjakolla reellä, jossa oli lastina kaksi isoa koiranruokasäkkiä.

Snowshoeing with family and dogs.

Secondly I trust in small steps. I like to start training with short and easy loops and then stretch them longer and heavier. For example, I have a new young dog in my team. He has just run an hour in the team. On his next long run, I can not ask him to run for two hours. Maybe an hour and 20 minutes.

Toiseksi uskon pieniin askeliin. Aloitan treenin lyhyistä ja kevyistä lenkeistä ja sitten vähitellen venyttän niitä pidemmiksi ja raskaammiksi. Esimerkiksi minulla on uusi nuori koira, joka on juuri juossut tunnin lenkin valjakossa. En voi seuraavalla pitkällä lenkillä pyytää sitä juoksemaan kahta tuntia, vaan ehkä tunnin ja vartin. 

Skiing with a dog.

Diversity makes training fun both for me and the dogs. I really enjoy going out with them. Driving my team and seeing the winter nature around me is still like heaven to me. Otherwise there would be no point in the sport. There is only one problem: Also I am a member of this team. I can not ask too big steps from myself, either.

Monipuolisuus tekee treenaamisesta hauskaa sekä minulle että koirille. Minä todella nautin siitä, kun pääsen koirien kanssa ulos. Talvisen luonnon keskellä oleminen ja oman valjakon ajaminen on minulle vieläkin kuin taivas. Muutenhan tässä lajissa ei olisikaan järkeä. On vain yksi pulma: myös minä olen tiimini jäsen. En saisi pyytää itseltänikään liian isoja askeleita. 

When I have been successfully training four dogs with heavy load, and I then put six dogs in front of a lighter sleigh, that might be it. I don't know if I can manage the team. If the track is fast, can I steer the sleight without falling down? What if I need to stop and fix something? Snow anchor does not always hold. The dogs don't always listen. Trying to tie a rope around a tree is always a big risk.

Kun olen onnistuneesti treenannut neljää koiraa kerrallaan vetämään painavaa kuormarekeä, ja sitten valjastan kuusi koiraa kevyen reen eteen, se voi olla liikaa pyydetty. En tiedä pärjäänkö itse. Jos vauhti on kova, hallitsenko reen kaarteissa? Entä jos matkalla pitää pysähtyä, miten selviän siitä? Lumiankkuri ei aina pidä. Yritys sitoa sieppausköysi puuhun johtaa helposti vaaratilanteeseen. 

Welcome the new dog, Igor.

My biggest realization right now: It is not enough to train the dogs, you have to train the musher too. I am a member of my team, and I don't want to be the weakest link in it. I would rather study and learn safe ways to handle strong dogs and light sleigh. With small steps and open mind it can be done.

Suurin oivallukseni nyt: Ei riitä että treenaa koiria, pitää treenata myös musheria. Minä itse olen tiimini jäsen, enkä haluaisi olla sen heikoin lenkki. Mieluummin haluaisin oppia turvallisia tapoja käsitellä vahvoja koiria ja kevyitä rekiä. Pienin askelin ja avoimin mielin se voi onnistua. 

08 November 2016

Musher in the dark

Let's face it: Despite of the pretty winter pictures, for many of us most of the dog training happens in the dark.

This time of the year  we have daylight from eight to four. After teaching all day at the school and cooking at home, I'm ready  to go out at five or six. Then it is completely dark.

A good headlamp makes most of the kennel-work easy. My choise is a rechangeable Petzl Tikka RSP, which is very bright, and also liberates you from bying one-way batteries all the time. But compared to daylight, it still takes more effort to check the dogs. To see how they are moving or feeling, you have to find them in your spot light one by one.

Harnessing and driving the team you need to be carefull. It's not only dark- it's  also cold and icy. It's good to wear clothes and shoes that are warm and safe. I like work wear like Patron, Dimex or Blågläder on the training season. They are strong enough for working with dogs.

For safety it's important to use reflective materials also in dogwear and other gear. To prevent injuries it is important to walk the dogs before and after the training and also to keep the teams and speeds small enough when training in dark and icy conditions.

Sometimes my friends ask me, if I'm afraid of going to the forest alone in the dark. First of all I'm not alone. I have my dog team with me. And secondly: There is nothing to be afraid of in the forest. I am much more afraid of walking on the street in a city, because violent people are the only thing I am afraid of. In the forest there is no-one, so it is a very safe and friendly place also in the dark.

After weekdays there are weekends and holidays. Then I can go out in the morning and, if I'm lucky, drive my dogs in the sunshine. That is when all those nice mid-winter pictures with snow white sceneries are taken.