I’d heard about this fantastic race from a few friends that have done it over the years. It was with excitement, but trepidation that I accepted Mike Norton’s invitation to be a part of his 8 person team. Over the years I’ve had a few friends (all fast friends!) Team up with Mike and I knew that he enters to WIN! Be competitive for the victory or don’t bother. Since the Ski2Sea came US Memorial weekend it meant keeping my high end training up during the normally "detraining"period.
I’d heard that Justin Wadsworth, head Canadian XC coach, was instituting something different with his team during this important detraining phase... 1 day per week of 4x4min intervals. Maybe a bare minimum for those guys, but the idea is to not lose that high end so as to not be starting farther back once the detraining period is over. It might be kind of a risk for those guys as I remember years ago Steve Gaskill (at that time head US XC ski team coach) explain that if you don’t have that rest-detrain, then it’s been observed that athletes kind of peak out.
In any case my weekly 4x4's consisted of hammering up the Spray Lake road. By the time I’d top out around the Reclaimer bike trail I was totally exhausted. The only problem was I then had to run back home (albeit all downhill) a :40 run. With legs shaking and exhausted lungs it wasn’t an easy task. I observed that each week I seemed to make it just a bit farther up the road for the 4x4 efforts. Fun stuff!
As for the race itself, it turned into quite the wet affair. Not surprising I guess given the location, but the weatherman hadn’t predicted such a soggy day. I was actually a little glad for my leg. The day before I was pre skiing the course w/ Marshall, whom I’d met earlier this year in France at Skimo worlds as he was representing USA. As we skied the downhill portion, he was as slow as a tree on the side of the trail. I’d super rilled my skis and put flouro powders on them, the latter is something we never do as the skins wouldn’t stick (for this race we only bootpack, not even using climbing skins). This ski prep for the very wet conditions was rocket fast. I couldn’t believe how fast my skis were! On race day top USA skier Max Taam and Marshall peaked together and Marshall blew him away gaining over 30 seconds on the short downhill. I later learned that Marshall learned from our training foray and went home and powdered up his skis. Max didn’t bother. A lesson learned by all.
I started my leg in 6th. On paper, our xc skier should have come in first or very close to it. Marco Andre-Bedard, one of Canada’s best biathletes and the prior month beat both Brian Gregg and Tad Elliot at the Canadian XC Nat’ls (Brian and Tad finished their S2S leg 1-2, with Caitlin Gregg a not too distant 3rd-amazing!), but unfortunately Marc only had tiny baskets on his poles that totally sunk down into the slop, essentially giving him no arm poling. I passed a couple skiers moving us into 4th.
I handed off to Dusty, who moved us up another place with his blazing fast downhill run. From there we faded a bit into 6th where we spent most of the day, that is until the last 100m. We were passed by 2 kayaks in the final 100m. It was hard to take, but our team did improve from 10th last year to 8th.
We were an open corporate team. It’s kinda cool because the local radio station announces the race live all day and the higher up you are, the more your sponsor gets mentioned. We did him well, especially in the first few legs!
This was really a super event. There’s 500 teams and lots of local media attention. The whole town of Bellingham WA really gets into it. The day caps off with a big party in the main street area celebrating Memorial weekend. Mike’s already asked me to come back next year, the biggest compliment ever for me! So I have one more reason to stay fit and give ‘er a good go next ski season!
PS the race consists of the following legs: XC, skimo, run, road bike, canoe, mountain bike, kayak