One of the most intense races of its kind, Cain’s Quest combines both mental and physical hurdles that have competitors across the globe stepping up to the plate
It is the ultimate test in extreme racing. Cain’s Quest Snowmobile Endurance Race sees competitors from across the globe tackle 3,100 kilometers of rugged yet picturesque Labrador in a one-of-a-kind challenge that tests mind and body as much as it does the machine.
NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART
Longtime Herald readers are well acquainted with the biennial racer gut-check, one that sees prospective participants navigate deep snow, thickly wooded areas, and wide-open frozen lakes through day and night, guided only by a trusty GPS and heaps of instinct and intuition.
“You know, it’s definitely not for the faint of heart,” shared Sean Murphy of Cain’s Quest. “You get out there and you’re out there for a long time and you do start to hallucinate and you start to see things. A lot of guys talk about that … It’s minus 30 out, you’re dog tired. I’ve heard a lot of people talk about the emotional and the mental part of it. They are as much a factor as the physical and the weather.”
The 2020 installment of Cain’s Quest features a fine mix of newcomers and returning race veterans. 42 rookies and 52 Cain’s Quest vets round out the lineup.
The youngest racer on the field is 20 years old, while the elder statesman clocks in at 73. There are four teams representing the Cree Nation, two from Finland and four women’s teams, a first for the contest.
“We keep trying to push the exposure more and more each year,” Murphy explains of the diverse field of racers. “We have two teams from Finland. Team 88 from Finland, they’re a real crowd-pleaser, a real fan favorite. And it’s hard to put into words the reception that these people get, like on the coast of Labrador. They’re like rock stars, like superstars. And the reception they’re given is second to none. People bring the racers into their own houses and homes and everything. So it’s quite a bonding experience.”
Maine native Robert Gardner returns to Cain’s Quest looking for a three-peat in 2020, albeit with a new partner, though he continues to embrace his role as a villain.
“He’s defending this year and he plays a bad guy very well,” Murphy says of defending champion, Gardner. “You know, a lot of people don’t like him. But you know what? He’s here year after year. He puts money into the race and he’s there to win. And he has three wins. This may be a three-peat as far as consecutive wins, so he’ll be back. And he has a new partner this year, so it’s gonna be very interesting.”
Race fans and friends and family of the participants can tune into Cain’s Quest in near real-time thanks to individual satellite tracking units attached to each and every racer. Not only is this an added safety feature for the teams, but it allows race followers to cheer on their favourite teams and watch the race changing from moment to moment.
“We’ve partnered with Yellow Brick Tracking (YB). They do a lot of nautical races, the yacht races and that. It seemed to be a real good fit for Cain’s Quest when they were looking for a tracking system. For a very small fee, you can track the race the whole time and it’s very interesting. For a race that you can’t really watch live and see the racers, that Yellow Brick Tracking is really good. And a lot of people get it and follow the race very closely.”
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Residents of Labrador have become as big a part of the race as the sleek trails and at times turbulent elements, embracing the racers with the type of hospitality that is hard to replicate.
“People who actually race are so affected by the people of Labrador,” Murphy explains.
“That’s one thing they comment on a lot, how well they’re received, how well they’re treated, and how much people of Labrador are into this race.”
As for why so many return year in and year out to tackle one of the world’s most limit-grinding challenges, Murphy, for his part, admits there has to be an addictive factor at play.
“I think for the most part, people who are doing these races are outdoors people anyway. They’ve covered that land so much that to put it all together in one race there, these guys believe they can do it and they go out with every intention of doing this race. And it keeps bringing them back. Whatever it is, it’s a really addictive race. People just say that. It’s for a certain type of person, a certain type of competitor for sure. It’s a whole other level.”
For more on Cain’s Quest 2020, which kicks off March 7th, visit cainsquest.com and visit the official event social media.