Overcoming the elements at Craig Blake Memorial Challenge
By Ryan Melanson,
As the Sports Stores Technician at 12 Wing Shearwater, Wally Bukowski has gotten to know thousands of familiar faces around the wing and the gym through the years, and one of the ones he remembers most vividly is PO2 Craig Blake.
“He was a great guy and a great cyclist, and he loved his bikes so much,” Bukowski said.
“He was so meticulous with his bikes, you would see him outside shining his bikes with lemon pledge, and he would always wear flashy shoes when he was riding,” he added with a laugh.
He said PO2 Blake’s legacy is still alive and well in the Shearwater community, and paying respect to his fallen friend is part of the reason he enthusiastically lends his emcee talents each to the fitness event that honours the former Clearance Diver, who was the first RCN sailor to be killed in Afghanistan in 2010. The 2017 installment of the PO2 Craig Blake Fitness Challenge took place on September 29 at MacDonald Beach, with a big turnout of participants for the mini triathlon that combines a 300m swim with a 6.5km mountain bike ride and a 2km run.
With heavy rain the day before and low temperatures on race day, swimmers had to fight off the cold in the water, while cyclists dealt with a mountain bike trail that had become a muddy bog. Lots of shoes and legs were caked in mud, with some who fell off their bikes on the trail covered head to toe; luckily, the beach was close by for people to wash off. The conditions were reflected in the finishing times, with PSP Fitness and Sports Coordinator Kevin Miller noting the muddy trail slowed riders down compared to previous years.
“Really we’re lucky the weather held off as much as it did, even though it was a tough slog for some people through the wet bike trail. We really appreciate everyone coming out for the day and pushing through it,” he said.
As usual, every available member of Fleet Diving Unit (Atlantic), PO2 Blake’s former unit, was out to participate, along with PO2 Blake’s wife Priscilla, and a team from FDU(A) also came away with the Wing Cup victory once all the finishing times were tallied. LCdr Billy Barter, FDU(A)’s Commanding Officer, said the event continues to be a fitting way to honour PO2 Blake by engaging in the type of activity he enjoyed so much. The unit also hosted a reception for all participants and support staff following the race and awards ceremony.
“He was an athlete and he was an active member of the community and he volunteered his time for all sporting events of all kinds. I think he would be very humbled to see the big crowd here at the beach,” LCdr Barter said.
Winners at the 2017 PO2 Craig Blake Memorial Fitness Challenge:
Open male – LS Ryan Comeau, NRU Asterix – 31:10
Open female – Lt(N) Emilie Beland, HMCS Toronto – 37:06
Master male – Pierre Chouinard, DGMPD AOPS Det – 31:47
Master female – WO Charlene Arsenault – 40:06
Open Team – LS Shawn Miller (HMCS Montreal), PO1 John Dewolfe (FMFCS), and LS Mark Brown (CFLRS) – 26:30
COTF Team – HMCS Toronto (PO2 Stephen Darrigan, PO2 Nick Boran, and OS Brent Salisbury) – 34:32
COTW Team – Stadacona Band (LS Marie-Neige Dupuis-Carbonneau, PO2 Yannick Masse, and PO2 Courtney Lambert) – 32:20
Wing Cup Team – FDU(A) (PO2 Doug Young, LS Bradley Northrup, and LS Caleb Hooper) – 30:08