Sunday, February 19, 2017

Canadian Challenge; Randy Mackenzie

I met Randy for the very first time 4 years ago in the Yukon 3 days before the start of the Yukon Quest.
I was replacing his handler who was unable to make it at that time.  Under most circumstances most people would be in a state of panic.  Not only does Randy have to make sure everything is in place for himself and the dogs, attend meetings, and all those little logistics that are last minute, but now he is having to get to know a new team member.   It could have been chaotic, and maybe it was, but what I met was a calm, collected laid back musher.

I never asked where his kennel name comes from, but Controlled Chaos is perfectly suited.

Randy started this whole dog mushing business 20 years ago now.
He was into sprint racing and skijouring at the time, and although he enjoyed being on the back of a sled he started to feel that sprint was way too quick which was why he moved on into distance.
It helps that he loves camping, it was a good fit.

 Randy keeps on coming back to the Challenge as he enjoys the camaraderie and friendliness of the people and the volunteers.  He says it is nice to go back and meet those that are just as passionate about the same things as he is.  
His most memorable Canadian Challenge was in 2015.  
It was a race that should have ended before it even began.  He had major mechanical issues with his trailer driving from Fort McMurray to Prince Albert and luckily found someone on a holiday Monday to make permanent repairs.   
At the Anglin Lake checkpoint, which was the first one in the race that year, Randy arrived to discover that his truck, having blown the clutch, was being crippled back to Prince Albert and he wondered aloud if he should be scratching. 
You would think that all the troubles up to this point are what made the trip memorable, and although they are hard to forget that is not what he remembers the most.
It was how everyone stepped up to help out that stands out.

 After his dogs were settled down in beds of straw (as the dog truck was now gone) Randy was sent inside to warm up and get a meal.   I approached Dave Smallwood the Race Marshall that year asking for assistance, he was very accommodating and calmly took charge.
Help arrived by the name of Steve Taylor and his truck.  He was there that year cheering his daughter on, one of Randys competitors, but willingly hooked up his truck to our trailer and became Randy's new driver all the way to Stanley Mission. 
It was also discovered that all of Randy's snacks and drinks were left under the front seat of the truck, but thanks to Sarah DeBrion, Jillians handler, she made sure that Randy left with a hot drink from Grandmothers Bay. 
Randy took it all in stride and did famously.
In fact he is very proud of his two big accomplishments that year.  Finishing the race with 12 healthy dogs, 10 on the line, and being presented with the vet award.

Randy deserves all the good that comes his way.  When you are yourself a caring giving person it is only natural that it comes back to you ten fold.

It has been a tough year for Randy as he lost his home and his dog kennel in the fires of Fort McMurray last summer.   He hates bringing up the memory of the fire, but it has to be done when he would like to make mention the actions of an incredible person.
Luck was on Randy's side as he did not lose any animals to the fire, and there were many that needed to be evacuated.   However he did lose all of his dog sledding equipment.
The only two items that survived were his sled and one dog blanket that his mom had made for his dogs.
Karen Ramstead, not only found room at her kennel and in heart for some of his dogs to stay while rebuilding took place, but also made sure that Randy could run dogs again this year. 
From harnesses, to gang lines, to booties, right down to a sleeping bag, Karen ensured that Randy was well equipped once again.
Without her help he would likely not be racing at the Challenge this year and cannot thank her enough for everything she has done for him.
I know she will be on his mind during the race this year.

Dirk will be running again with Randy, his ever faithful leader.   Dirk, the team motivator, is his happy,  go to, all around great dog.   Dirk was the one that led them over the mountains in the Quest  and will continue to run with Randy no matter what he has planned next.

He enjoys the way he has been running dogs for the last 15 to 20 years, and will continue in the same fashion, without a lot of pressure. 

Randy just wants to sit back and enjoy the passion of running dogs
Photo Credit: Edmonton Journal

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