Sunday, June 6, 2010

Canadian Challenge 2010

A bit of a long post, so bear with me.
Canadian Challenge 2010 is over, and it seems everyone is going home happy. At the awards breakfast this morning, mushers shared their trail experiences and expressed their support for the race. Second place finisher Aaron Peck challenged other mushers to return next year and bring at least one other musher! That’s an endorsement we really value.
We had the two scratches south of Weyakwin. It seems if a team can make it past Weyakwin, which is in the hilliest area of the trail, they tend to finish. It’s unfortunate Ron Shaw and Ed Jenkins had to pull out, and we wish they could have continued. But they know themselves and their dogs, and we know their decisions were made in the team’s best interests. We invite them back for 2011.
The first great success was seeing 13-year-old Keeler Munro pulling into Elk Ridge with a huge smile on his face after a great run from Prince Albert. He was the only competitor in the Junior race, but it was a huge moment all the same. He’ll be facing competition next year!
Luke Naber did a great job to take the 8-dog crown, a great re-entry to the distance sled dog racing world. Congratulations, Luke. Dave Neubuhr had every intention of winning but had dog problems in the last 50 miles. And we’re really pleased for Irvin Wai, who has come up short three times before, that he was able to finish. His dogs were on fire from the wilderness checkpoint north, and although we staffed the 165 road crossing at a time when we expected him through, he was long gone northward before we could get there. We were just getting concerned when he showed up at the La Ronge checkpoint! Way to go, Irvin, it was great to have you back. Irv says he’s going to spend next winter on the beach, but we’ll see . . .
Gerry “the Ghost” Walker walked away with the victory in the 12-dog race. His dogs grew wings and just flew. He and second place winner Aaron Peck were holding their cards close to their chests all the way, but Aaron had the advantage that he could read the signs to see what Gerry was doing, while Gerry had no knowledge of how close behind Aaron was. No pressure there!
Third place Randy McKenzie of Fort McMurray was an unknown to us, but he had a good race and is now one of the “family”. We hope to see you back, Randy.
Jessica Allen finally hit her stride by moving up to the 12-dog race, finishing with a great almost-sprint from Stanley Mission to La Ronge with only six dogs in front. This is supposedly Jess’s last race, since she and fiancĂ© Jeff Thomas are heading back to their native Australia this summer, where they plan to get married on a beach somewhere in the Adelaide area. Our best wishes to them. We’re not laying bets on whether or not they’ll return, but I think Canada and mushing is well in their blood so don’t be surprised.
And then there’s Red Lantern Sid Robinson. He’s still not listening to his mother; she told him before the race not to get another red lantern (he has quite a collection), but he disobeyed her again! Sid is a great musher and supporter of the sport, and he runs dogs for the fun of it. He always has a smile on his face and a word of encouragement for everyone.
Great handlers this year too – Brenda Walker for Gerry, Debbie Naber for Luke, Stacy Neubuhr for brother Dave, Jack for Irvin. Didn’t get Randy’s young handler’s name, sorry. Aaron’s handler was Jeff (Geoff?), Jeff Thomas for Jessica, and Redmond Fox for Sid.

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