The Bellingham Olympics a.k.a Ski to Sea was last weekend and wow, what a fun weekend that was! The seven leg relay race from Baker to Fairhaven was bigger than it has ever been and the weather was also better than it has ever been(at least of my four ski to sea years). This year I raced for the same team as in past years, but with a new name, "Klicks Running and Walking". We were formerly the RunningShoes.com team, but the store's name was recently updated to Klicks.
This year marked the 100 year anniversary since the historic Mt Baker Marathon Race. A record number of 500 teams (8 people per team) and more elite level athletes than ever made for an unforgettable race. The number of people in town was shocking. The nice weather brought thousands of people out to watch and enjoy the festivities at the finish line in Fairhaven. There was a solid line of cars backed up two miles long on State Street waiting to park near the finish! Good thing we were on bikes, of course.
Steve George and Jim Clevenger (owner of Klicks) started us out strong with the XC and Downhill ski portions of the race. My roommate, Sam Alexander, moved us ahead of our Whatcom County rivals, Beavers Tree Service, with a super fast time in the brutal downhill running leg. Phil Elsasser, our road biker, rode smart and waited for a couple other riders to work with. They pace-lined to the finish at very high speed, passing or picking up several riders along the way and moving us further ahead of Beavers. Our canoers, Eric Gerstl and Alan Lipp, then powered down the Nooksack River from Everson to Ferndale with a top-10 split.
Nervous and excited to do my part, I waited on the beach until Eric and Alan came charging up in 8th place overall. After carrying the canoe together off the beach, I jumped on my bike that Whitney was holding for me and sped away into the grass fields of Hovander Park.
The mountain bike leg of Ski to Sea is not known for being very "mountain bikey." After racing it last year, I knew what to expect this year and just thought of the course as being its own unique beast, more similar to a cyclocross race. Primarily pavement and dirt roads, aerobars and semi-slick tires (like my Schwalbe Furious Freds) are common. 29ers also seem to be favorable, but my Noble 26er full suspension definitely did not slow me down. The few sections of "singletrack" are freshly cut paths through tall grass fields. This year the course was lengthened by a few miles to a full 20 miles.
The team aspect of Ski to Sea has a big motivational effect while racing. I felt very focused and was able to really turn myself inside out. By the end of the leg, I had passed 3 riders, moved the team into 5th overall, and extended our lead in the Whatcom County category. Our kayaker, Peter Marcus, paddled like crazy and led the team in for the Whatcom win and 5th overall! To make the day even sweeter, it turned out that I was the Top Gun in the mountain bike leg for the second year in a row!
Team Klicks Running and Walking.
Photo credit: Randall Wick
These results called for some serious celebrating. The annual team party at the Klicks store downtown didn't disappoint. Lots of food, beer, and celebrating. Oh and of course we each enjoyed our turn at drinking beer out of the Galbraith Cup! It was another exciting and fun-filled Ski to Sea weekend. Maybe the best ever?