LABRADOR – The Northern Peninsula and the Labrador Straits fielded three teams in Cain’s Quest 2020 beginning March 2.
And at the end of five days of snowmobile racing all across the Big Land of Labrador, all three were among the 17 teams out of 41 in total who made it across the finish line.
The Northern Pen spoke to the three teams – two from the Labrador Straits and one from the Northern Peninsula – about their experiences, highlights and challenges.
M&M Racing (Team 50)
A week before Cain’s Quest began, father and son duo Myles and Murray O’Brien of L’Anse-au-Loup weren’t even sure they’d be able to participate.
In February, Myles had been scouting the trail when he suffered what he calls “a freak accident.”
“We were touching up a trail we were going to use and I was cutting limbs off a tree and when I got to one about the height of myself, when I hit the limb, I cut it about six inches out from the tree, and it must have been a knot flew out and hit me in the eye,” he explained. “It bust the cornea at about 11 o’clock in my eye.”
At that point, they thought they were definitely out of the race.
Myles, 54, had to go see a specialist in St. John’s.
He was told with a week’s rest he would be able to do the race.
“After all the planning we did, we really wanted to try and do the race,” said Myles.
So they did it, but there’s no doubt the injury was a disadvantage.
With the damage that was done, out in the sunlight Myles says he had no use of his left eye. The mild weather, with blind conditions, didn’t make it any easier for them.
Even though Myles was a four-time veteran of the race, it was the rookie Murray, 23, who had to do the leading.
“There were times Murray would even have to come back to me because of those whiteout conditions,” he said. “It wasn’t easy but we worked through it.”
Not only were they at the starting line on March 2, they were one of the teams to finish the race.
Given the circumstances, both men agreed the highlight of the whole experience was just reaching that finish line.
“We’re really proud that we could be one of the teams that finished,” said Myles.
They were also appreciative of the support they received at all the stops.
“Every community we went into, there were people concerned about my eye, asking how it was, if I was going to be able to finish the race,” said Myles. “The support and volunteerism you get from all the communities is just super.”
“Everyone goes all out for it,” Murray added.
Myles notes the race was easier this year in many ways. Not only was the weather warmer than usual, riders were able to follow the Nalcor transmission line along various portions of the race instead of having to go through the woods.
He says this meant drivers were able to go speeds like 110 km rather than about 60-70 km in the woods as in previous years.
He adds the only danger with the transmission line was the many rocks along the route.
Speaking of danger, the O’Briens also had a hand in helping another team in peril.
On Saturday, March 3, Murray came upon a campfire. He immediately knew then there was something wrong.
He soon learnt that Dave Dumaresque of Team 17 had suffered an injury after being thrown from his sled.
It turned out to be a broken hip.
Another team had already stopped with Team 17 and had started the fire. It was clearly time to put the competition aside.
Murray and Myles stuck around with them as well. Murray helped cut some wood as they waited for a chopper before helping Dumaresque get aboard.
“We had to stay and help them – it was no question,” said Myles.
Myles says this will probably be his final time doing Cain’s Quest, but Murray is hoping to do it again.
They thanked their support team and staff, who they say were willing to be on the go 24 hours a day for them.
And they also thank anyone who supported them in any way, including Myles’ parents/Murray’s grandparents, who Myles says he knows found the event to be stressful.
The team finished 14th in the race.