It is time to introduce the mushers!
I know many who have been waiting for me to begin this part of the blog and although there is still so much information to share on the workings of the race I decided that those who RUN the race are going to come first.
HOWEVER that said I do want to focus first on a musher from the past.
I received a call tonight that was such a pleasure to take that it left me smiling long after it concluded. It was from a musher who won the 1999 and 2001 (at the time 10 dog) Canadian Challenge, Jim Tomkins.
Jim, his wife Elaine, and Frank Brooks were the three mushers who dreamed up and started the Canadian Challenge. Their idea was to have a poor mans Iditarod that didn't cost an arm and a leg to achieve.
Originally it was based on a race out of Alaska in which they would run one way, turn around and come back again all along the same route.
The Canadian Challenge would start in Prince Albert, race to La Ronge, and then re-start to race back to Prince Albert for the finish. Most of the race was run in the ditch along the side of the HI way. Not always a favorite of the mushers who enjoyed the solitude within the trees, but a fantastic event for spectators who could follow along.
That first race, Elaine had contacts that led her to their first big sponsor, Cameco who offered $20 000 that inaugural year. We can proudly say that Cameco continues to be a big sponsor to this day.
I asked Jim to share a memory from his time running the Canadian Challenge.
His 2nd win in 2001 was his most memorable as it was to be his last race and he had put everything he had into winning.
In fact he said he knew he was going to win it back in July.
One particular memory was at a check point 25 miles south of Weyakwin. It was colder than 40 below and quite windy. He says he went to warm up and it was his wife, his coach, who had to kick him out reminding him that he had to win the race. I'm pretty sure he was smiling as he told me this story.
Jim shared with me some incredible words of wisdom, the same ones he would share with all young up and coming mushers, "Make a place for that trophy on your shelf, then go for it."
Jim's belief is that attitude is everything.
Know you are going to win, own it, and not just for racing but in life itself.
Jim and Elaine Tomkins, Photo Credit: Star Phoenix