Sault Ste. Marie is not only home to the Eco-Challenge North American Championship this summer, it is also the home town of a number of the participating athletes.
Five local athletes will be competing in the Eco-Challenge to be held in Sault Ste. Marie this summer. There will be three different teams with Sault Ste. Marie natives on their rosters.
"I think it's unique for a city the size of Sault Ste. Marie," said Lawrence Foster, an established adventure racer from Sault Ste. Marie. "I think it shows something about the people that live there and I think it shows something about the community in terms of what we have to offer the people that live there." Foster will be competing as a part of Team Salomon Schick Xtreme 3.
Trish Westman and John Shoust are a part of Team Algoma's Water Tower Inn. "For sure it's unique," said Westman of the number of local athletes participating. "This really is an obscure sport. I think it's totally not a coincidence that there are so many people from here doing it, and it's just because people that are from the Sault, you grow up with this appreciation of the outdoors--well, not everybody does, but you should--and it's the perfect, perfect spot to learn all these skills that are required" for adventure racing. Ian Dunlop and Jeremy Paquin are a part of Team Sault Ste. Marie. "This area is great for adventure racing because all the lakes are connected," said Dunlop. "You can do a lot of paddling and I have a feeling there are going to be a lot of crappy portages."
Asked if this area will provide an original challenge to adventure racers from other parts of the continent, Dunlop said, "I think so. There's going to be a lot of portaging up here. I can't think of any of the other places that there has been so many little lakes like this. We have really good terrain here. It's hilly and pretty rugged. We're definitely going to be on Lake Superior."
As for the bugs, "A lot of people are going to be freaked out by it," said Dunlop. "The bugs don't bug me very much but I know some people...it'll drive them nuts."
Shoust agreed about the bugs. "That will be a big one," he said, and added, "I think navigation will be pretty unique--it's Northern Ontario wilderness, so that in itself is going to stop a lot of teams. We had a race up in the Yukon last year and that was the number one thing. When you deal with Canadian wilderness, navigation is something else...Very thick brush, lots of water, things don't always make sense. There's no cut and dry path, there's not a trail, it's just rely on your compass 100 per cent."
Shoust's and Westman's team placed second in the Yukon, beating out other world class teams and finishing as the top Canadian team.
"If you look at John Shoust and Trish Westman," said Foster, "they consistently rank top 10, not just in Canada but, Trish just finished top 10 in world races. She is right on my heels all the time in other races, so she's gunning for us."
"Lawrence and I have raced on the same team quite a bit," said Westman. "Last year, racing with Lawrence's team, I won a World Series race in the States called Appalachian Extreme. We also came top 10 at Eco-Challenge when it was in New Zealand in 2001."
"For the calibre of racers that we have, it's really phenomenal actually," said Dunlop of the local contingent.
All of the racers from the different teams know each other and are training together for the July 19 to 26 event. They are also very happy to be racing in their home town. "I couldn't be happier," said Foster. "I'm ecstatic about it. I design race courses for a living, so every time I go up and play in the Sault, I always think, "This would be a great place for this part of the race.' I'm really looking forward to it. I'm hoping they use some of the more spectacular sites that are in the area."