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Ski to Sea 2009

In my last post I wrote about almost all major events that would take place in our state over the Memorial Day weekend. All, but two. The two biggest, most famous, (for some people) most important events of the year- Ski to Sea relay and Sasquatch.
What can I say about Sasquatch- three days of camping, music ,comedy,and a lot of drinking.That's pretty much the whole event.Despite of the fact, that it has very little to do with the outdoors ( I guess you can call beer drinking an activity, as long as it's outdoors ), the event was mentioned in the latest issue of the Outside magazine, as one of the biggest music festivals in US.

Ski to Sea ? Not a word. Well, Outside, I guess I would have to cover that event myself.

One of the most popular team multi sport events in the nation ( sometimes called Bellingham's Olympics ), for recreational to elite athletes, Ski to Sea is a relay from the slopes of Mt Baker to the shores of Bellingham Bay. The race has seven legs: cross country, downhill skiing, running, road biking, canoeing, mountain biking and kayaking. Each leg represents a recreational segment of Whatcom County.

Ski to Sea relay is not just another sporting event. It's a celebration.The celebration of life in the Northwest. The celebration kicked off on Saturday 23th, with the traditional Ski to Sea Grand Parade that traces its heritage to the first Tulip time Festival Parade in 1920.
Traditional marching bands,community floats, firefighters and veterans were all part of the fun of the Parade.

But the actual fun begins on Sunday morning, after a blast sets a mass of up to 500 cross country skiers in motion from the Ski Shop around various points of the ski area. After XC skiers ski their leg, they pass the timing chip to the downhill skiers/snowboarders.

This leg is not so much about skiing as it about the climb up the mountain. The 1,000-foot climb is the most challenging aspect of the leg.Then the chip is passed to the runner.

2200 drop in elevation and 8 miles down the Mount Baker Highway is a lot of pounding on competitors' feet, ankles, shins, knees and hips.This is the most painful leg of the race. Blisters,cramps,shin splints and a lot of sweat await athletes during this leg.

Next is the longest leg of the race- 38.5 miles of back roads of Whatcom County. Besides being the longest leg, road biking is the most dangerous one, as at this time the highway will be open to traffic. In Everson Park the bikers pass the chip to the canoeists.

The Nooksack River is considered class 1 (on a 1 to 6 scale ), but there are plenty of deceptive hazards due to logjams, undercut trees and other obstructions. That's where team effort plays a very important role. Otherwise, a chill swim down the river is inevitable.

The mountain biking leg, this year, was slightly changed. The new course is five miles longer and has something to challenge just about everyone. About 65 percent of the course is off roads with lots of traditional obstacles,barricades to climb over and bridges to cross.

Finally, kayaking across the Bellingham Bay and ringing the bell rounds up the Ski to Sea relay.

Now it's time to celebrate.It all ends in historic district of Fairhaven. That's where an athletic competition turns into a block party with fun for all ages and tastes, featuring live music, arts and craft vendors, ethnic food and of course a beer garden.

But you will not entirely get the spirit of this event until you actually get to be a part of it. And it is not about the race, time, records or awards ( though for some people it is ). Its about having fun, challenging yourself, team work and being part of the great historic race.

I want to thank my teammates for their support and the chance to be a part of the greatest team. Sorry for not being able to share that joyful moment at the finish line, but I hope it won't be our last race together.

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