Saturday, February 18, 2017

Canadian Challenge: Jason Campeau

Jason is returning to the Canadian Challenge, an unplanned stop for him as he didn't think he would make it in time.  He and his team were out running  the Yukon Quest instead but ran into a spot of bad luck out on the jumble ice injuring a few dogs. 
When it came time to make the decision of whether to push through to the 200 mile stretch into Dawson he had to think of his young team.
It wouldn't be fair to bag any dog in an already over stuffed sled for the long ride ahead, and Jasons philosophy is, if the dogs are not having fun then it's not worth it.  He said that as a musher you have to check your ego at the door and not push the dogs too hard, and as he was running 11 yearlings it was even more important to make sure they were having fun.    These one year olds are the future of his kennel, Atka Kennels in the Rocky Mountain House area and he didn't want to take any further risks.  The Quest this year was all about training, giving a chance to the young guys.

Returning to the Challenge he says feels like coming home as it was his first real competitive race.  It will certainly feel very much at home for him as not only will he be racing with his wife, but his Mom, Dad, 2 brothers and both his daughters will be there as well.
Some families go to exotic resorts together,  the Campeaus do the Canadian Challenge.

One favorite story that he likes to share about a past Challenge experience was when he was doing a presentation at an elementary school in La Ronge.  He had brought his sled and two of his lead dogs in with him.    The teachers mentioned afterward about how well the children were listening, they were very attentive.  However if there was any seriousness to the talk it was broken when one of his dogs took quite a shine to a woman who came as a representative for the sponsor, Cameco .  The dog ended up marking her in front of the entire school.
I'm sure at the time Jason felt a little embarrassed, but it is a fun story to share now.
Jason was quick to add that coming into the finish line with his family waiting was also a special moment of the Challenge.
 Jason moved here with his family from Ontario and after his first visit into the Rocky Mountains he knew that he needed dogs.   Five years ago he ran his first race, Race to the Sky the 100 miler, and he was hooked.  
He knew there would be no in between so he jumped in with both feet running both the Yukon Quest and Iditarod in 2015.

Since then he has sold many of those first dogs, keeping a few that he called amazing dogs
Spider, his main leader is from the famous 'Insect litter', he is one of the most recognizable and best sled dogs in the sport.  Spiders sister, Skeeter, runs lead with Jeff King and Beatle the brother is with Dallas Seavey.
Spider was in lead when he crossed the finish lines at both the Quest and Iditarod in 2015
Another dog Jason mentioned was an up and coming superstar by the name of Senator, he ran 200 miles at this past Yukon Quest in lead, and he is only 1 years old.

The Atka kennel is a young one with 35 puppies, out of 45 dogs, in training this year.
Jason is very proud of the dogs they are raising and is keeping their breedings very selective.
It's looking very much like a Campeau dog may be in many of the future distance mushers teams.

With two large puppy teams running this years Challenge the plan is that many of these dogs will be with both Jason and Jennifer as they hope to run the Quest together next year. 

Jason, seeing that he loves to do both the big races back to back will also be at the Iditarod.
At the 2014 Canadian Challenge
Photo Credit: Ottawa Citizen

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