Archives: Female Racers for Cain’s Quest – 2012
From our Archives, Vol 6 No 2 (Year: 2011-12)
The Ladies Look to Rock Cain’s Quest – Failure is not an option.
By Penny Brake
Why do I feel the need to enter the Ladies Edition of Cain’s Quest? Todd Kent, mastermind of Cain’s Quest, has been nig-nagging me to compete ever since he started this race. Five days and nights in the unforgiving Labrador wilderness traversing 2500+ KMs, while it intrigued me, never once compelled me to compete. I witnessed many a strong man, physically and mentally, reduced to an emotional mess.
Then lo and behold, the latest brainchild was to host a 650 KM ladies edition. Now that’s a totally different story. Without one second of hesitation I decided I would be competing. This was pretty cool because the day before I had ordered my new Expedition XU 600 E-Tec. Some things were meant to be and everything in life happens for a reason.
So again, why? I have always been “that child”, forever pushing the envelope. I was hyper, had a short attention span and constantly sought after things to keep me entertained. I think today they call it ADHD! At a very young age this search led me to motorized recreational vehicles. You name it; I rode it, much to my Mother’s dismay, who always wanted a girlie girl. I always sought the adrenaline rush – wheelie competitions on the yellow line of the road, jumping snowmobiles off snowdrifts and fleeing the cops on trike. I got in trouble a lot. Now, at my age, those activities may not be as socially acceptable, but competing in a race in Labrador is and it will provide the same type of adrenaline rush. Sign me up.
My adventurous streak started early, but not being a prophet (I have been called a witch), I could not foresee it leading me to this excellent adventure called Cain’s Quest. There was definitely enough foreshadowing throughout though that I should have known something like this would crop up eventually. Life has a strange way of unfolding. If told a few years ago I would one day quit my job with the Newfoundland and Labrador Snowmobile Federation and move away from my beloved “Rock”, I would say “no way.” One year later, done, and two years later I sign up for Cain’s Quest.
I’m going to race, the new sled is ordered, but there was a small challenge. Who would I race with? There are a lot of female snowmobilers, but there are not a lot willing to spend long hours riding through Labrador in extreme cold temperatures. Through my many years of volunteering and working in the snowmobile community, I met a lot of unique people. In 2003, we (Western Sno-riders) hosted the Canadian Snow Cross Racing Association (CSRA) at Race on the Rock. This event had many pro and semi-pro male and female racers participating from across Canada. You see where this is going?
One of those racers was MJ Thompson from Port Sydney, Ontario, our first meeting. MJ had so much fun; two years later she came back again, without the bells and whistles of the CSRA. What a racer! She would have even given Jean Guy Aucoin a run for his money (sorry buddy), our second meeting. When I first moved to Ontario, we attended the final race of the CSRA at Horseshoe Valley Resort and I met MJ once again. Chance meetings or was fate just setting the stage for what was to transpire in the near future?
Choosing a partner was the hardest part of the whole process. I was apprehensive. I needed to find someone that matched my style. To do something like this with your best riding buddy is one thing, but to do it with someone you don’t know is scary. Well, Kirk (spouse & Cain’s Quest competitor) thought of MJ, as fate would have it, she is a good friend of our dealer at Factory Recreation (Midland, ON). Next thing, I get a phone call from MJ and she is just as stoked as I am to be doing this race. While we have somewhat different riding styles and patterns, we both like to ride aggressive. We bring different skill sets to the partnership which will make us a strong team. So the May 24th weekend, we officially sent our registration and adopted the slogan “Failure is not an option!”
Easy?! It sure isn’t. What follows is what can mean the difference between finishing the race or not. The hectic life I live during three seasons of the year and the laid back one I live the other season has spawned bad habits. They need to be broken and as my trainer says, “it takes 30 days to make a habit and 30 days to break a habit.” Well, there have been a lot of concurrent 30 day spans where my good fitness and nutrition habits were broken. Alas my love relationship with that scrumptious bottle of red, or that frosty glass of ale has been reduced. My wings are replaced by lean chicken breast and green leafy things have found their way back into my diet.
Fitness alone cannot win the race, but as a racing partner, I owe it to MJ to be in the best physical shape possible to get us through the long stretch of night riding we have to do.
Also another very integral part of the race is GPS knowledge. In the bush there are no street signs so I need to hone my navigational skills to ensure all paths lead to the finish line.
Another key component is excessive riding in the backcountry for long periods and in varying conditions. To build mental stamina you need to be comfortable in cold weather, darkness, powder, hills and water crossings. You can be as fit as a fiddle and skilled in orienteering, but if you are not mentally prepared for the challenges you will face then you have a problem. Many a competitor has underestimated the power the mind can have over your body when it is faced with something it doesn’t want to do. It is not natural for a human being to be out in -40 degree weather in the middle of the night after riding snowmobile for 20 hours with very little food. The mind will retaliate, it needs to think this is normal, thus it has to be programmed.
Running Cain’s Quest is not going to be like a weekend at the spa, but it is an opportunity I could never pass up. The stars lined up. As extreme as it may seem, it is actually quite safe. People know where we are at all times and a simple press of a button will have rescue crews out to help if anything should go wrong. So to answer my question, I still need to drive my parents in a tizzy, even at 42, it is an experience of a lifetime and it feels right. It was a no brainer that I would sign up for Cain’s Quest Ladies Edition.