Zen On Dirt

Bellingham Ski to Sea Weekend

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Racing is funny. Racing when you have no idea what to expect is even funnier. As Scott and I sat on the beach we made a pact, We’re just going to laugh our way through this Ski to Sea weekend, regardless of what happens. As it turned out, this mental practice, for the most part, wouldn’t be needed. Thankfully.

The Boundary Bay Brewing women’s team had been dominating the race for the past 15 years with a fairly consistent group of girls. This year, due to broken bones, life events, maybe a few babies, I don’t remember exactly, they were down, well, nearly everyone. In a last minute attempt to field a team, they reached out to friends, friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends. I got the invite as our friends Gary and Patti were friends with the event director for the brewery who’d taken my Tour Divide ride as inspiration to ride the route with her boy a year or two later. I’d agreed a month out, I was one of three people who’d confirmed when the rosters had to go in to get published in the race bible.

So it’s fair to say that everything was pretty last minute for the team.

And all I have to say is, Mad props for putting together such an amazing group of women at the 11th hour.

Women, especially highly competitive women can be…well, sometimes it can be hard to get along.

But as it turned out, everyone was pretty much awesome. Two runners, three cyclists, two canoe racers, and a kayaker. So here’s what was really cool, at least for me – the vast majority of the girls had raced at an incredibly high level in their sport at some point in time and then had other priorities take over. Everyone was still a badass, even without the laser focus that it takes to be at the top of their games, but there seemed to be a level of…maturity?…that nothing really had to be proved any more. And this led to a much more relaxed environment for the weekend. As competitors, yes, we wanted to win, but to me, at least, it seemed that everyone realized there was a lot more to life than the Bellingham Olympics. Which is a perspective that only comes with time away from serious racing, I think.

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Our first night, we were whisked off to Boundary Bay for some dinner and beer. The whole weekend is a giant party in town and we got to meet some of the people involved with the whole event, including the bike coordinator who said that the ideal bike for my course with the dry conditions would be a cross bike with file tread. Good thing I had the Spearfish. It’s the person, not the bike, right?

On Saturday, I went out with my male counterpart on the guy’s team to pre-ride the course. A fairly flat, urban assault type course, which clocked in at 12.5 miles. Definitely what I’ve spent the past several years training for… We met up with Tim, a Bellingham local who was also pre-riding, and he saved us several wrong turns. He also gave me directions on getting back to the team house via bike paths afterwards, which was awesome.

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Tim and Kevin, on the correct style of bikes. 

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While orange and fast, not the correct type of bike for the mostly gravel course.

The team party dinner consisted of paella, fresh-made in front of our noses. And beer. Because we were a brewery team.

First cook the chicken. Then the rice and chorizo.

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Then add “blooming” saffron.

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Then the seafood.

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Present the pile of deliciousness to hungry people.

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It was super cool to see the steps of the process. And it tasted amazing.

There was a platter of dessert, and I learned from the returning girls that the secret was to make a ‘dessert’ plate and hide it in the fridge to eat the next day because we were all too stuffed with paella to even think about eating any more.

On Sunday, racing was, racing. I got smoked on my leg by a former Ironman triathlete riding for the rival team who had just recently switched to cross. She flew by me on her little cross bike with aerobars like I was standing still. But for 48 minutes, I pedaled as hard as I could and only blew one gravelly corner with my tires pumped up to 50 psi.

We ended up losing the overall by 20 seconds, which was a little heartbreaking as we all thought back to our races and tried to determine where we could have eeked out 20 more seconds. A cross bike for me…for one.

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In the end, the subdued bummed-ness didn’t last for that long. A race is a race is a race, and we all raced as hard as we could on the given day. That maturity thing…it brings perspective.

It didn’t take long for the dessert plates to come out from the fridge, some beer to be poured, and hours spent lounging away learning about each others’ sports. I learned about different kayaks, how to canoe in the middle of winter in Michigan, running techniques, and how finding paddling partners for races is a little like asking people to prom. I’ve hung out with a lot of really good bike racers in my life, it was uber-cool to hear about other sports.

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And then there was the part where everyone had cool lives outside of racing – teachers, forest managers, moms, event planners, accountants.

Bed came early, but in the morning, those of us who were left went for a run along the coast. Scott and I got called ‘land-lovers’ when we stopped to stare at the ocean, mistaking a buoy for a sea creature.

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We made it all the way to the brewery, declaring the run a B-double E-double R U N, beer run, beer run! before heading back to the house to clean up.

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The Canadians went to drive to catch their flight, Scott and I headed to a coffee shop to plan our next move.

It’s not raining, might as well ride. Galbraith was where everyone told us to go, the near-town trail system. It had an endless number of squiggly trails complete with mud and wet roots and we dorked around for an hour or two before headed back to town. Sure, fun riding in the trees is…well, fun, but we wanted views. We’re desert and mountain people, apparently.

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Janet, the owner of Boundary Bay, graciously hosted us for the night, letting us eat some of the dessert that was still left over. I guess we didn’t really need to make our dessert plates two nights prior…

Tuesday morning, as we pointed out of town, race weekend was officially over. It was definitely a fun and cool experience that we walked away from with many new friends, friends who you’d call up if you were passing through town, and since they live in Bellingham, Canmore, Golden (the Canadian Golden), and various other cool places, I’d place a bet that our paths will cross again, whether or not we all get back together to try to regain the winning streak of Boundary Bay Brewing next year.

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2 thoughts on “Bellingham Ski to Sea Weekend

  1. Hi EZ, we’ll be in Bellingham today for a couple of weeks. Are you two still in the area?

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