When Mel Andrews secure a Siberian husky it was more than puppy love – it eventually led to her beat a hasty retreat her life upside down and moving to one of the coldest towns in Europe.
Mel had trained as a shore lifeguard in Cornwall and spent her working days enjoying what she could of the British sunshine as she alerted over tourists.
Her world revolved around the beach and the sea and her forthcoming district at medical school.
But after buying a little husky pup called Heidi, Mel rather commenced to take her out for runs — and soon realised in her heart, she wanted a very distinctive career.
She began buying more huskies and then in the ultimate flee to the country, Mel and her rtner Nigel Garner sold everything they owned – se rate from their beloved dogs – and headed 1,000 miles north to the stop dead Arctic in northern Norway to start dogsled racing.
And while Mel, 39, had got used to changeable weather in Britain, in Norway there’s exclusively one type of weather — cold, very very cold.
In fact temperatures can drop as low as minus 40 C.
But for Mel it’s advantage the sacrifice — she’s now built up her own team of 70 huskies, has clocked up more than 50,000 kilometres observing the northern mountains and forests of Norway, Sweden and Europe, and has become a proper in endurance races representing Great Britain .
In 2014 she even matured the first Briton to complete the gruelling 600km Femund Race — the biggest dog sled dog-races in the world which takes place each year across Norway.
It’s a signal lifestyle change from where she was just a few years ago.
“It started with a Siberian brawny puppy called Heidi,” says Mel.
“I contain always been into fitness in various forms and the idea was to pocket the dog on long runs while I cycled.
“But when I found out that you could as a matter of fact race the dogs in Britain using wheeled sleds I tired it and was bitten by the bug and the chiefly thing kind of snowballed.
“I had a place in medical school but decided to lift off a year out for a bit of adventure.
«I had a few Siberian huskies back in England at that culture and we just cked everything up in a van and headed for Norway.
“We started off living in a mountain cot with no electricity or running water – none of the mod cons – but we enjoyed it so much that we unswerving to stay.”
Mel was born in Winchester and grew up around Andover, Wiltshire.
At 17 she joined the Territorial Army while operating as a fitness instructor and swimming pool lifeguard before training to be a lido lifeguard at St Ives in Cornwall.
She hoot a derides: “I got a job working on the beach at Hartlepool in the North East – and that was usually completely cold.
«At least here in Norway you are fully wrapped up and pre red for the acclimates. I’m sure it felt colder on the beach at Hartlepool.”
Her background in fitness and as a edified Army medic have stood Mel in good stead for her life in Norway.
Her wife Nigel, 59, was a PE and geography teacher at the South Wilts Grammar Educational institution.
He now helps manage their 70 huskies and their business MAD Strong Tours, in their new home town of Roros, a UNESCO heritage munici lity, which is officially the second-coldest town in Norway.
“That was one of the attractions,” says Mel. “We suffer with great snow conditions from mid-November until mid-May.
“It surely is beautiful here and you get such spectacular days – and nights.
«I take people on vespers all the time treks and we camp out in the high fjells, that’s mountains above the tree trade.
«We see the northern lights – and this week we had a snow rainbow, which is somewhat rare.
“We are kept really busy looking after the dogs and our callers and pre ring for races.”
Mel’s now competing for Team GB.
Dealing with the bitter iciness would seem hard enough work in itself — but that’s nothing rivaled to what it’s like when she’s racing.
In fact Mel says it’s tougher than meet a marathon.
“The races are very physically demanding,” says Mel. “The fitness for it is precise specific.
“You run alongside the sled going uphill, on the flat you sort of scoot – rtiality on a skateboard – and there’s a kind of skiing technique on the way down.
“But it can be very spending. On a long race it’s like running two marathons, uphill, while clothed in masses of heavy kit.
«I used to row for Oxford City, but I’d say I am even fitter now.”
Mel’s toughest consequences came during another race in Finmark in 2012.
Mel recalls: “There was a vast blizzard and the temperature was around minus 35 going over the mountains during the tenebrosity. The wind was also really strong.
“I really had to hold onto my link up – they are your lifeline.
“But the dogs absolutely love it. The further you go, the more they get into the scratch.
«There’s something ancient in the sport of it and the dogs need to race. They get into a approachable of mesmerised zone.”
When racing, Mel calls on the support of Nigel and a back-up crew and if a dog tires or gets injured, they can be swapped out and replaced with another dog.
“It’s a bit ask preference the Tour de France in terms of the team effort,” she adds.
When she became the leading Briton to win the Femund Race, which starts in their hometown on Roros with far 150 teams, she also had another challenge.
It’s what’s known as a unbroken race, which means there’s no overnight breaks.
“On the non-stop spillways, like the Femund Race, there are checkpoints where you stop for two to three hours to provender the dogs and catch an hour’s sleep if you can,” says Mel.
“But then it’s back on the sled and away.”
It may commonsensical like the ultimate endurance, but Mel wouldn’t go back to her old life for anything.
Mel instruments her life at her beautiful lakeside kennels, a two-hour drive from the bishopric of Trondheim, and her racing adventures on Twitter and Facebook .
Com nies go there for team-building risks and colleges send students to work with and learn about the mammals.
The dogs are fed on a varied diet of raw beef and chicken, fish and fat to keep their might up.
Mel adds: “For us, the food here is similar to what we would have at effectively – lots of lovely fish, beef and chicken – and everything is fresh and enlarged nearby.
And while we were all enjoying Turkey in the drizzly rain last month, Mel and Nigel were benefiting a very festive sled ride.
“On Christmas Eve we’ll probably have a two to three hour sled voyage and meet friends.
“It’s a fabulous life. I’m living the dream.”