Sunday, March 1, 2015

Canadian Challenge to the Start Line

I really did want to blog this adventure while it was happening.
There just really wasn't enough time so instead I will do a re-cap.

My hands hurt so much.  I have splits under all my nails and there is dirt embedded deep into my skin.  However my hands were used to massage each dog and receive many cuddles.
Going down the line of dogs giving massage and rubs was a regular routine.  This was in McLellan
Photo Credit: Jim Williams

It was cold.  Very cold. Nights VERY cold and colder still in the early morning witching hour.  That cold did bring out some wonderful Northern Lights.  It also wasn't as cold as it has been in the past so it could have been a lot worse.
Photo Credit: Jim Williams

I hardly slept the last 4 days staying awake from Tuesday at 6:30 until Wednesday night where I only drifted in and out of cat naps because I was so worried about missing Randy coming into La Ronge. Then I didn't get to bed again until Friday at about 6:30 am where I again drifted in and out as I was worried we'd be late for his run into the finish line.
 I can't think of a positive for this other than giving some of those around me a good chuckle with what I said and did.
Lack of sleep also brought tears on easily, and I hate crying in front of anyone so hardly ever do.

Eating was limited as well.  More due to the fact that I was too tired to eat, but also because it got so cold my drinking water froze and I ... well when you are sleep deprived you do some weird things, mine was to not eat.
I did hang out with other handlers and had some great conversations sharing stories and enjoying the fellowship.  It is a small community amongst itself.
Hanging out at Anglin Lake
Photo Credit: Jim Williams

Did I have fun? 
Not all the time, I will be honest.  There were moments I wondered why I ever agreed to do this, there were also moments when I felt so old and wondered again... "What was I thinking?!"
But it was fun in a strange sort of way.
I've met some wonderful people.  Enjoyed being a big part of the team, it was very different from the Quest.  Way more work for the handler but you get a real hands on feel and I really did feel as though I was a team member rather than supporter. 

You are not here reading this to listen to me whine about how tired or sore I was, I know you have come to hear about the team and how the week played out.

Photo Credit Jim Williams

The start.
Just getting here everyone made sacrifices.
I know the hours that have gone into training a team to just get here which includes not only the time needed but the vet bills and the hundreds of booties that have been used up to this point as well as food for the dogs, supplements and all the hundreds of extra supplies.

The expense of travelling to northern Saskatchewan and finding accommodation as well as meals and all those incidentals.

For myself, handling for a team, meant loss of wages for the time needed to be here as well as leaving my husband and my little family of dogs.  A huge shout out to my incredibly supportive husband for letting me live this crazy nutty dream.

So here we all are.  Handlers, drivers, support team, volunteers, mushers and their dogs.  All converged in down town Prince Albert.  Nerves and excitement filling the streets.

At one point it felt like hundreds of school children walked through to meet the dogs, there was an incredible feel of community support.
Photo Credit: Jim Williams

The race was set to start at 12 noon on February 24th

Bib #1 Laura Neese first out of the chute is from Newark Ohio and only 19 years old.  Her experiences beside working for Natures Kennel in McMillan MI is coming in 7th at the Eagle Cap Extreme and 2nd in the Up 200.  She was the only racer running this as a qualifying race, meaning she would have no help from her handler which also meant her dogs would be bedded down in straw and she herself would sleep with her dogs.
Photo Credit; Jim Williams

Bib #2 Rick Wannamaker from Didsbury Alberta has many races under his belt including 2 wins here at the Canadian Challenge including the Vet Award.
For me there was a personal connection to the team as I had the privilege of helping run these dogs as they trained for this race.
Photo Credit: Jim Williams

Bib #3 Gerry Walker from Pierceland Saskatchewan has 3 previous wins under his belt from the Canadian Challenge.  Another veteran of the mushing world and good friend to Rick.  This retired cowboy was one of the friendliest most down to earth story tellers I have yet to meet.
Photo from Canadian Challenge web page

Bib #4 Stefaan De Marie a local favorite from Christopher Lake has run the Challenge many times either with a first place or top 5 placing.  
Photo from Canadian Challenge web page

Bib #5 Randy Mackenzie, the team of course that I am here to handle for and for which this blog will be centered on is from Fort McMurray and this is his 5th time running the Canadian Challenge with a third place win as his personal best.   
Photo Credit: Jessica Feilding

Bib #6 Kyle Job a musher out of Rimbey Alberta who has never raced before although has many years of running dogs as his experience.  I was excited to watch this team as I myself am in the rookie category and they live close to me. 
Photo from Canadian Challenge web page

Bib #7 Jillian Lawton another Alberta musher from Rocky Mountain House has run the challenge for the past 7 years winning the 8 dog once and competing in but not finishing the 12 dog.  This year she was determined to see the finish line in the 12 dog.
Photo Credit Jim Williams

Bib #8 Christina Traverse from Fort McMurray is coming back for her second Challenge.  The first time was as a qualifier this time around she will be getting help from her handler.
Photo from Canadian Challenge Web site

Bib #9 Laquasha Laviolette the youngest participant at 17 and from Quebec was one of my favorites as I had been following her and her family on social media.  I was excited to meet the young lady and to watch her as she ran her first mid distance race. 
Photo from Canadian Challenge web site

In the 8 dog category were two mushers of the four whom I have met and also follow their dog sledding adventures on social media.

Bib # 51 Anna Bolvin from Porcupine Plain Saskatchewan a lovely lady that I have had the pleasure of sprint racing with and have chatted with many times.  Anna has run the 8 dog a couple times before and I was excited to be able to follow her adventure in person.

Bib #52 Greg Scrivener from Meadow Lake Saskatchewan I have met at our local race this year and was thrilled to learn he would be entered in the 8 dog here.  It is always fun to watch and cheer on those you have met before.  Greg has run the Torch but this would be his first time at the Challenge.
Photo from Canadian Challenge web site.

You may have noticed and as I have already mentioned that the date of this blog does not coincide with the race itself and as I write this I sit in the comfort of my living room warm and caught up (almost) on sleep.

I had this grand idea that I would blog as I followed along handling for Randy.  That did not happen as I barely had time to even pick up a pencil and make notes in my paper journal.
This race was much more work than handling for the Yukon Quest.

In fact Dena dubbed it Handler Hell.
Which brings me to my next blog entry.  One at a time here as we move along.

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