Former P.E.I. resident Damon Tedford has been training for the past six months in preparation for the extreme 1,600-kilometre international sled dog race called the Yukon Quest. The quest begins Saturday.
©Submitted photos by Rohn Buser and Albert Marquez, Planet Earth Adventures
Adventure fuels Damon Tedford.
After joining the military at age 18, he started jumping out of planes and
learning how to shoot weapons.
“It was all pretty exciting ... these are adventurous things,’’ says Tedford, who moved to P.E.I. from New Brunswick at the age of 10.
Adventure, he notes, became addictive.
Tedford has had no shortage of adrenaline rushes.
He served two tours in Afghanistan.
He has climbed mountains.
He has done some heli-skiing.
And he has run a couple of Death Races — an extreme 24-hour challenge.
Tedford, who retired as a captain from the military in 2006 to attend medical school, still embraces a high-energy life both at work and at play. As an ER physician in Vancouver, he has his moments of pure intensity.
Now the howl of sled dogs has called him away from the emergency room and out into the wilderness.
Since early October, Tedford has been training in Stirling, Alaska, for his next adventure: the Yukon Quest, a demanding 1,600-kilometre dog sled race along wilderness trails between Whitehorse, Yukon and Fairbanks, Alaska.
Tedford, 37, went dog sledding for the first time in 2008 as part of an adventure trip in Algonquin National Park.
This epic winter sport, he quickly discovered, was yet another way to get the juices flowing.
About one year ago, he set a goal of competing in the Yukon Quest.
He committed the past six months to training for the challenging competition that gets underway Saturday with no more than 50 mushers taking on a race that lasts anywhere from 10 to 14 days, depending on weather, trail conditions and team speed.
To qualify to compete in the Yukon Quest, Tedford completed a 200-mile sled dog race and two 300-mile events.
“You have to earn your way into it,’’ he said. “I am definitely looking forward to it. By the end of it, I will probably be pretty sad that it is over ... go back to my real life sort of thing.’’
Not that he will be returning to a ho-hum existence in Vancouver.
He will be reuniting with his spouse, Lauren Kimball, a family doctor, and he will be getting back to work as an ER physician.
Tedford expects to find more ways to quench his thirst for adventure following the Yukon Quest.
“It kind of is a bit like an addiction,’’ he says. “I definitely feel more alive when I am doing something like this.”
Still, he acknowledges the importance of striking a balance.
“You’ve got to pace yourself, absolutely,’’ he says.
The Yukon Quest
Here is a look at the 2015 Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race set to begin Saturday:
• Takes place every February when weather conditions can be the coldest and most unpredictable.
• Run every year since 1984 over rough, sometimes hazardous terrain.
• The Yukon Quest Trail follows historical Gold Rush and mail delivery dog sled routes from the turn of the 20th Century.
• Veterinarians check all sled dogs to ensure every animal is fit to continue.
• More info at www.yukonquest.com