Yesterday was Ski to Sea, the biggest thing that happens in Whatcom County each year. Those of us who pop in and pop out only get a little jolt of the huge buzz that energizes Bellingham for weeks. It is the biggest throw down, smack talkin' event I know of. People try to mess with your mind--and admit to messing with others'. It is by far the funnest racing+socializing thing I do all year long. Thanks especially to Janet and Brian and Holly for making it all come together for me!
The road bike leg is a 36-mile, draft-legal time trial. There are three legs before the bike (cross country ski, downhill ski [which is mostly an uphill sprint carrying skis], 8-mile downhill run), so seldom does one cyclist get to start with another. Each year I secretly hope that a cyclist a little faster than me will have slower teammates up the mountain so that I go off first, get caught, and then get a nice draft to the finish.
The one fact of this race that's never in the race guide is that it will be raining at the start of the bike leg. Some cyclists get dropped off at about 7:30 by their skiers and runners driving farther up the mountain--and then have to sit there, with no shelter, until they start at maybe 11:00. Realizing this makes me appreciate all the support I get.
The course has a net elevation loss with two fairly decent hills in the first 10 miles and about 5 rollers in the last 8 miles. There are flat sections and some scary-fast technical descending. I rode in my 55x12 a lot. It is a great mix, never gets boring, and is always hard. One of the funnest parts for me is the pockets of people standing at the ends of driveways, in the rain, cheering as you go by (this is the Mt. Baker highway, not a highly populated area). Another fun part is that the first woman to start (that's been me the last couple of years at least) gets her own escort of two State Patrol officers on motorcycles (cuts down on my fear of being attacked by a bear). I'm pretty sure the first guy does too. Is that true, Ian?
The funnest part this year was getting caught by my husband. It didn't happen until the rollers at the end of the course (he was on a veterans team--average age 50+), and I couldn't stay with him for more than a mile or so. The canoe leg follows the bike leg, and one of my canoers is married to one of his canoers, so we had been joking the night before about who was going to get to the transition first. Even when I couldn't hold his wheel, he was a great rabbit to chase and I had him in my sights all the way to the finish. In turn, we passed a guy who had passed me earlier (on Alan's wheel). This guy was sure not going to ride behind a woman so he pulled in front of me after I passed him--and we slowed down. I knew we were down to the last 1.5 miles, which are dead flat, so I put my head down and left him behind.
The official results show that I managed to go 3 seconds faster this year than last year. Over 36 miles. My ride was technically a little faster because my time started when my runner scanned our team's "chip" in the last 20 feet of her run before handing off to me, and my time didn't stop until the canoer got the chip from me and scanned it. This was the first year for chip timing at Ski to Sea, and while there were some bugs and unhappiness (no posted split times at the finish, for one), it went pretty well.
In spite of the rain for pretty much the entire 1:29:23 of my ride, the awards ceremony at 5:45 p.m. was the warmest I remember. My team, Boundary Bay Brewing Co., won the open women's division and managed to hold off the local challengers, a Whatcom County women's team (a new division this year, I think, so that more glory could go to the pure local teams not sponsored by big, bad corporations who bring in ringers). Oops, though. We skipped out to go my husband's team party before the awards were all done and missed out on a new award this year. "Top Gun" medals went to the competitors with the fastest split times for each leg. And that was me!
Results of the road bike leg are here. If you read this page, you should know that the guy in 7th place overall is really our favorite local nonblogger. You can navigate from that page for results for other teams and other legs of the event.