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?