For the first time, a married couple is entering the Cain’s Quest snowmobile endurance race.
Labrador residents Coreen and Jason Paul have registered as the appropriately titled “Better half racing Team 39” to face one of the most brutal snowmobile challenges in all of the country and perhaps put their marriage vows to the ultimate test.
The Pauls will be among the pack of competitors heading out on March 17 for the approximately 2,500-kilometre trek across the Big Land.
Racers will have to be prepared to face the unpredictable nature of the territory and work together to answer to challenges as they arise.
Working together is something that Coreen Paul says is part of marriage and will be added bonus for their team.
“We work really well together. When you get into a tough situation, whether you’re stuck on a snowmobile or you’re having mechanical issues, to be able to work together and think it through is a big help,” she said.
“Having people that get along and work well together is very important.”
The couple, who live in Labrador City with their two children, have been busily preparing for the big day.
However, they’re not taking the challenge as complete amateurs.
They say it was their shared interest and experience in outdoor life that brought them together, not only for this race but as partners in life.
Coreen, who is originally from North West River, says growing up in Labrador and being involved in community groups exposed her to facing challenges out on the land.
“I’ve been a member with the Canadian Rangers for nearly 12 years now — we do a lot of map, compass and GPS tracking, being outdoors and going on snowmobile trips.”
She said as a child she learned a lot about the land from her family.
“My dad was a hunter and trapper so I spent a lot of time outdoors and in the woods with him.”
She said her wilderness and tracking skills will be put to good use in the endurance race.
Coreen’s husband, Jason, who is from Labrador West, also brings a love of the outdoors and navigational expertise to the race, from being involved in Army Cadets as a teenager.
Jason also competed in the 2009 Cain’s Quest challenge where his wife provided ground support.
Coreen said while she has spent a lot of time on snowmobile, she has never travelled as extensively as the distance outlined in Cain’s Quest. To prepare, they’ve been doing a lot of practice runs over the past couple of months.
“You try to prepare your body physically and you try to prepare yourself mentally by thinking things through and planning and being on top of your game as much as possible,” she said.
“You’ve got to set your own pace. Sometimes you do it to try to keep up with the crowd but at the same time it’s what your body can handle and what your snowmobile can handle, too.”
They’ve managed to take time from their busy work schedules to get in shape physically for the long journey on their snowmobiles, following a cardio and strength training routine.
While the calibre and unpredictability of the race will be a challenge, Coreen said that all of their hard work, fundraising efforts and the reward of crossing the finish line with her husband will be worth it.
“In years past, you have somewhere around 30 teams in the race and not everybody finishes, so being able to finish this type of race is a very big goal for us. If we could hit the top five I would be so excited,” she said.
The couple’s friends and family will provide assistance on the ground.
Coreen said when she provided ground support to her husband in 2009, when he was partnered with a friend, she was on the edge of her seat the whole time.
She said waiting to hear word of her husband’s progress was stressful, so she decided that this year she wanted to be a part of the challenge and the action.
“It takes a real toll on your mind, and I can imagine it’s going to do the same thing to my family. I feel for them, I know what it’s like, but I told myself I was never again going to sit home and watch Cain’s Quest because it is hard on the mind. So now I am going to put myself to the challenge.”
Cain’s Quest experienced minor technical difficulties last year due to poor ice and snow conditions throughout Labrador. The event went ahead but checkpoints were diverted in communities in Quebec.
This season the snow is plentiful throughout Labrador and the crisp temperatures offer safer ice conditions for participants. More than 30 teams have signed on to be a part of the snowmobile race, from as far away as Maine.
Follow the Pauls’ progress at www.betterhalfracing.webs.com.