Ski to Sea-a-ram-a-lang-a-ding-dong

Previously on A&A'ss Adventures in Cohabitation - Perfect rice was born to the plaintiff strains of coruscating suns. All the forest creatures in the land hied to the home to honor the anniversary of +Andrew Wright's 32nd year walking the earth, and Adella shut up the office to fend off promposers and angry opposing parties. Despite several close calls with mail people and the like, she survived. They endured. And the weekend cried for attention. Coming up: A Special Ski to Sea Edition. Andrew finds a last minute team, mud is splattered, dreams shattered, and bicycles mired in the quest for greater and grander glories!



Ski-to-Sea Ya Later Alligator - Oh, yes, darling little alligator, 'Tis the portal into our drizzly early summer! Some call it Memorial Day, but here in these parts we cry out Ski to Sea! and perhaps thank the powers that be that Monday is holiday enough to push the snooze button several times from a bleary-eyed exhaustion. 

Ski to Sea has been a Whatcom County institution for over 100 years. Admittedly, it has gone through several permutations since the first lumberjacks soloed a race from Bellingham to the top of Mt. Baker back to Bellingham by either (this is very important, now) horseless carriage from one town or train from another town. Back then not only did you risk your life charging through uncharted back country with no training or special equipment (possibly no shoes after the first few hours), but you risked running over a cow on your way back to the finish line and losing the entire game (I highly recommend the film, The Mountain Runners for just about any one... it really was a fascinating race - er - Mountain Adventure back in the day). 

Since then, a few things have changed. First, a few people died, so the course has been tweaked. Second, the route has been consolidated into a single trajectory for all contestants. Planes, trains and autos are relegated to support roles. In lieu of these vehicles, there are separated legs for a race that looks like the following: cross country ski around Baker, downhill ski (which actually involves going down, but then trudging back up and then going down again), run down Mt. Baker, road bike around whatcom county, canoe down the river, "mountain" bike through some roads and obsctacles intended to mimic vertical, and kayak the sound down to where It All Ends in Fairhaven. That's the other difference - although the race actually does draw elite teams from all over the place, for us in the 'ham, it's mostly known as an excuse for a weekend long party. 

As a child, I was vaguely cognizant of some kind of race huddling under the Ski to Sea aegis, but it certainly took fifth wheel status to the carnival, the kiddie parade (in which I regularly participated), the block party, and the Grand Parade (for which I always had a special blanket seat scoped out). 

I went to the Grand Parade yesterday by happenstance - Andrew was out pre-riding the racecourse and I had time. While I may quibble about the grandiosity of said parade, it was a genuine bolt of nostalgia. The parade has gotten a bit lamer over the years, especially now that the carnival doesn't come to town until a few weeks into June (many of the vendors at the parade were carnival folk), but it doesn't matter. The fanfare, the giggles, the honking horns and underwater waves all hit some primal basic need for "eeek" in my supposedly grown-up world. 

As this supposed grown up, I've encountered the race at a few different stages, mostly due to Andrew's general interest in racing. My Dad has done various legs from time to time, (although his A event of open water swimming is oddly absent from the relay). I may have met him in Fairhaven a few times, but I don't recall. Usually he's more often interested in milking the long weekend to flee to his home in Canada. 

In 2010, Andrew found a Seattle team through a friend of a friend of a friend that needed a mountain biker. Andrew's first time as a ringer was an interesting experience. A few of the participants were absolute newbies to their particular fields. Andrew invested a good deal of goodwill cultivating the road cyclist's appreciation for the task at hand, but she still had a very rough time, and this set the team back by at least two hours. 

His leg was near the end, allowing plentiful space for little differences in time to accumulate into significant delays. We had to be out at a place called Hovander Park for the pre-race meeting at 11:00. The place was swarming with atheletes in everything from the peak-condition and full race kits, to carnival costumerie, and shorts and tees with Huffy bikes and more pudge than puissance. As canoeists started to trickle in, we watched the athletes spin off. Then we watched the costumes take off... watches were checked... Andrew got nervous and may have bladder-checked himself to the outhouse about twenty times... some pudgy huffies took off... after two and a half hours, his number was called over the antediluvian sound system (well it might have been his number and it might have been the phone number for Domino's Pizza - it wasn't easy to hear) and he flew into action, pushing teeshirts into bushes left and right in his zeal to join the ranks of the properly jersied up ahead. We met again at the end, where it all ended. His team came in just around the 10 hour mark, which is actually not a horrible time. 

As it was in that early stage of the relationship where we do silly and impetuous things, I managed the nightmare of driving Andrew's 1980's Ford Truck (correction, early '90's, but enthusiastic use may have aged it more quickly than average) - a quirky little beast - out of a boggy marsh pit field filled with others attempting the same extrication. Then, to really show my love (it was early in our relationship), I actually met him down in Fairhaven. His race finished before that in another park, but he felt he wanted to ride to the finish line to cool down and of course to revel with his team in the whole survival. Fairhaven was - as it always is - horrifyingly crowded and I came quite close to an introvert melt-down. Fortunately, I whited out at some point while Andrew leapt about enthusiastically chatting with any one in earshot, as he does when he's just a little race-loopy and I'm just a little ready-to-reatreat-to-a-cave-immediately. 

This year, Andrew's in a similar position (prostrate and dreaming of bikes at the moment, but I was being more figurative): after much speculation on how he "should form a team" he instead found a team in search of a last minute cycling-sub. They're a long-term team who have been competing recreationally since high school. I have few details beyond this, as Andrew didn't connect with them until fairly late last night when I decided that I would prefer to pass out in a stupor instead of going to a bar where every one and their grandmother would be meeting up with Ski to Sea Teams, and he got back after I'd gone to bed. They call themselves the Ski to Seamen, and Andrew suspects that there may be a similar wait at the starting leg of his race. 

I will be his bike lackey once again, so I'm listening disconcertedly at the homey pitter patter of rain against our panes. I did find my rain boots though, gosh darnit, so I shall survive. I told him frankly that Fairhaven would be a nightmare for me and I would not be able to control my introverted overload shutdown even if he really did want to hang out with his team afterwards. Alternate plans are being made.

He may not realize it yet, but in exchange for sharing his part of the Ski to Sea, he gets to share my part a little bit and take me to the carnival in a few weeks. Wonder if it will be around for (W)right Date Night. I insist upon an inflatable animal and a spin on the Ferris Wheel!







And the Ski to Seaman Charge Ever On (Towards the back of the Middle Third) As anticipated, the Ski to Sea blasted upon Bellingham like a Vesuvius of sportsmanship, funny costumes, and tempestuous weather! As expected, Andrew and I spent about four times as long waiting at the event than he ever spent leaving-"it"-on-the-course (actually, instead of leaving-it-on-the-course, he seems to have brought the course back with him, perhaps as a trophy?)

Yes, Ski to Sea can be as much a psychological test as a physical one. You arrive at a muddy, crowded field at 11:00 a.m. You slog and wander, energy abuzz and sparking in the deluge. You attend your mandatory "race meeting" at 11:30 (or if you're the wife/fan club/bike wrangler, you hide in the car with half the contents of your home to keep you company - this ain't your first bike-wrangling rodeo, baby).


Then from 11:45 to ... oh I don't know 3:30... you wait. And wait. Aaand you check that nifty Ski to Sea app that purports to inform you of real time race results, but which quickly gets bogged down in sheer volume and falls far apace behind. You alternate between getting rained on with the car window ajar, and suffocating in a stuffy steamy vehicle.  You - thank god - have remembered to bring lunch and several bottles of water. You - thank god again - run into people you know, some less fortunate than you and lacking a vehicle, who take refuge in your capacious Pathfinder that doesn't feel so capacious with half of your worldly possessions crammed into it. You warm up by riding your bike in a little circle in what looks like a bicycle equivalent of a dog-park. You watch the physiques of the cyclists diminish in prowess and the take-offs become less assertive, as the field wends through the competitive team roster into recreational finisher territory. Your warm-up cools off. 




You run into more friends who are also starting to speculate that their canoeists have absconded to Algeria. You all get punchier and punchier as you tally up the number of people jeans with slight limps and fairy wings have already set out on the course. Was that a unicycle? You sing 1990's ballads and start cheering for the cyclists whose ships have literally come in. You use the bathroom about twenty times. You feel increasingly like the last kid picked for Dodge Ball. You listen plaintively for your number to be called in murky moody tones - when you hear the number, you know that you have ten minutes before the canoe leg lands and you have to be there helping. When you listen for that number, you feel a bit like you're playing the lottery. Three... yes... seveeeeen (YES!!!) five (NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!). Like the lottery, your number seems to never get called despite the fact that surely every other number in existence has already been called twice. 




If you don't hear your number, well, that's probably because the announcer didn't seem to call every one's numbers. He still got quite vociferously ornery when those lucky un-called were not there to greet the canoes. I know this because both Andrew and our friend Sophie were last minute call-outs. Andrew, of course, had finally cooled down to the point where he decided to run back to the car for a base layer. But he was fast. As soon as I heard his number impatiently slammed into the audio space, I ran to get his bike. I barely managed to get it standing before he whipped past, almost taking off my hand in his bike-flight. 



The game did not end there of course. Andrew had just under an hour of mud-slogging to perform. Why people pay for those boutique "mudder" races when they could get equally disgusting mountain bike racing in the Pacific Northwest is really a mystery to me. For me, it was Escape from Hovander Park time, which is no small feat. Blessedly, Andrew's car had four-wheel drive, which handled one of the more daunting issues (not ending up in a ditch twenty miles away covered in mud and wondering what happened). Unfortunately, Andrew's car does not fly, so I still had to wait in various ill-marked lines for several minutes apiece to get in other spontaneously formed lines. It took me longer to get to Andrew's finish line than it took him to finish his race, in fact. At least I had company. Somehow, Nate and Azita had been left behind by one of their cars and wouldn't fit in another. They found me after several minutes of line-surfing and hopped in for the rest of the way. 



After helping his kayaker get underway and greeting me and my mom (they spent the day in leisure and popped in just in time to watch Andrew finish! Bastards), Andrew biked on to the race finish line. I recalled the anomie of It All Ends in Fairhavens past and declined in order to (1) unpack at least 1/3 of my earthly possessions from the vehicle, (2) put away the dishes from earlier in the day, (3) collapse in a pile of my own drool. I'm not saying I did anything yesterday, but it was certainly an exhausting nothing and I deserve my own self-congratulatory pat on the back. 




And a new shower. Because I don't believe all that grit and dirt is just going to happily wash itself down our already historically fussy drain. Wet naps anyone??







PTSD (Post-ski-To-Sea-Debility): The Long Road to Recovery - Ski to Sea has skied, sea-ed, and trampled well into the annals of 2013 (the "real time" race results are even completely updated... almost... for most teams... sort of...). Mud is starting to clump off various vehicle wheels and sports equipment. Tales of glory and defeat have echoed through hallowed halls of "social" internet, and photos have been reviewed and vetted for future use. Oh and somewhere in there, we had this little thing called Memorial Day, which I'm sure involved respecting and honoring those who have died in combat, but between the post-race haze and the crowds of movie-goers, it was a little hard to see. 

Yes, yesterday was a Vaseline-retted smear of weekend catch up, glazed staring, and mildly lamenting the fact that maybe we (W)rights had not had the complete "quality time" to which we aspire on weekends (between retreating to our separate caves and g-chatting each other about various household details). We did actually participate in one Memorial Day tradition - even a slightly appropriately themed one - and went to the movies to see Star Trek at 10 a.m., which is the only time to see a popular movie. As a side-question why was the pointless blond girl (1) British, despite her father obviously being American? (2) in the movie in the first place? Is there like two hours of back story on an editing room floor somewhere, because she seriously served no purpose whatsoever). 

There had been talk of taking a run after the movie, and I even went out in my running clothes to facilitate a quick changeover, but then it went and continued raining. Not that we didn't just spend a day bemired in a boggy field, sprouting moss and molding over...Somehow I just was less drawn by the idea of bespeckling myself yet again in sludge (and likely falling on my tush mid-run, because Padden gets slippery with mud even before the rain). I had a five minute argument with myself on the way home from the movie theater  before deciding to go to lunch with my mom and her boytoy instead; a fifteen minute argument with myself about the best way to get to the restaurant followed shortly thereafter. Andrew mostly remained sagaciously neutral, and broke taciturnity only to suggest we go with google maps, a move I immediately forbade (before subsequently checking google maps to confirm that my route was the best). 

After these grand adventures, though, there were chores and errands and staring enough to go around. Lest anyone doubt that going full throttle in a mudpit for an hour might make somebody feel sore afterwards, Andrew was, in fact, sore. He confirmed this startling revelation several times throughout the day, so I think I have enough data points to make an accurate statistical model. 

Today, things are looking a tad more put together, although transitioning back to work-mode should be touch-and-go at times. Today will be the first real test of Andrew's new commute past the bridge disaster in Skagit. They're predicting a temporary fix by mid-June, but traffic could be pretty unsavory until then. Hoping that we continue to see each other during waking hours!

I think for another post-race gray rainy day, I'll be taking the crayola boots from the 27th! They just scream "I am not trudging through mud!!" to me. Perhaps for a slightly more professional re-frame of mind, I could keep the ones from the 24th by my desk in case I have to play lawyer. 
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