Well to answer someone's question, "No, I'm not dead". I've been just too busy lately and haven't had the chance to really sit down and "blog". Not to worry, I'm working on a couple of entries that I think might just rock the mushing world a bit. Right or wrong, something needs to be said about this racing business. So stick around... Meanwhile, take a gander at the following article.
P.S. Later folks, gone to Quebec to pick up a secret weapon. But that's a totally different story.
Determination abounds at sled dog races
Published Saturday March 6th, 2010
Armed with a team of rescued dogs and inspired by war heroes, Gino Roussel will barrel across the starting line this morning at the Can-Am Challenge.
The 52-year-old from Saint-Jacques has no chance of winning the 60-mile Willard Jalbert sled dog race through the snowy Maine countryside, and really could’nt give a hoot. "We are not here for the glory," Roussel said Friday as his crew of cast-off canines was checked by a veterinarian in the parking lot at the Lonesome Pine Ski Lodge in Fort Kent, Maine. "We are here for the scenery."
A veteran who served in the Canadian Forces in Bosnia and Algeria, Roussel is as lovable as the mutts he trains and races. A victim of post traumatic stress disorder, he was given a former racing dog to keep him company five years ago and it changed his life. "I am supposed to be taking lots of pills and no longer able to work," Roussel said. "Then somebody gave me a dog and I hitched him up and away we went. "Now, it is my therapy, and I don't take a single pill. It is probably the greatest reason I get up in the morning."
A native of Edmundston who carves out a living running sled-dog tours, Roussel says he turned down a $128,000-a-year job offer in 2009 to keep training his dogs. He has put in 1,200 miles with his team this winter, running them 45 to 50 miles three times each week.
"All my dogs have got a story, and all of them are mutts," Roussel said. "Some are rejects from the racing circuit and some were abandoned, but it doesn't matter to me. I feel every dog deserves the chance to run. "You can always get bigger, better and faster, but there is still always going to be somebody bigger, better and faster than you."
More than 80 sled-dog teams from across Canada and the United States have converged on Fort Kent for today's Can-Am Crown, which includes 50- and 60-mile contests and the Irving Woodlands 250, the most demanding and longest sled-dog race east of the Mississippi River.
A qualifying event for the famed 1,100-mile Iditarod Sled Dog Race, the 250 begins at 10:20 a.m. local time, with the 60-miler starting at 8 a.m. and the 30-miler at 9:10 a.m.
All three races begin with a dash down a narrow chute set up on Main Street in Fort Kent, which is just across the St. John River from Edmundston.
The pack of racers gathered on the border is something to behold: Iditarod veterans and newcomers trying to work their way up to the 250-mile marathon, each doggedly determined.
The oldest starter is 67-year-old Al Hardman of Ludington, Mich., an expat-Canuck who has done the Iditarod four times and raced here last year on a new pair of knees. The youngest is 12-year-old Bailey Vitello of Broofield, Mass, who is competing in the 30-mile race against his mom, Eileen.
In-between is Becki Tucker of Voluntown, Conn., an emergency veterinary nurse who is doing her first 60-mile race. Fifteen months ago, she nearly died in a four-wheeler accident.
"Doctors told my husband to say goodbye to me, that I'd either be a vegetable or dead," said Tucker, who suffered a fractured skull, a brain injury and broken clavicle. With the exception of being a bit more forgetful than she was before her accident, the 33-year-old is fine, and delighted to be sledding again. "It's my passion," she said.
It is Gino Roussel's passion, too, but it is more than that. It his therapy - and a way to remember fallen heroes. On Friday, he was wearing an 82nd Airborne ballcap with a yellow ribbon attached. Back home in Saint-Jacques, he said, he has built a concrete monument to the Canadian victims of the war in Afghanistan.
"I do this for the guys over there," he says, and then he fights back tears. "I do it basically because I can." A friend of his came back from Afghanistan, he says. He lost both legs and one arm to an explosive device.
Marty Klinkenberg is the contributing editor of the Telegraph-Journal. He can be firstname.lastname@example.org