They're what make Ski to Sea different from almost any other race. They also give the race a distinctive Whatcom County flavor.
The seven legs of Ski to Sea cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, running, road biking, canoeing, mountain biking and kayaking span entirely different outdoor recreational options that the county has to offer.
Each is unique and draws its own set of unique competitors.
But which leg is the best leg?
We asked veterans of each leg what makes their discipline the best in Ski to Sea. Yes, we even found somebody who thinks the running leg is the best. Here is what they had to say:
It's fast on the downhill after all the climbing. The best part is coming towards the finish line after having done the three loops. It's a lot like running, especially at the start of the race. I really like being at the beginning of the race. They fire whatever it is to start the race and this big mass of people goes. There are so many other people all around at the start it's just great to be a part of that mass of people.
-- Meg Metzger, Mambo Italiano
"I like that it's quick and it's early in the morning. Being up on the mountain, occasionally during the race, you get to look around, and it's spectacular. It's my favorite leg of the race. It's the most intense with the uphill climb, and it's a lot to take on, but I wouldn't trade out for any other leg of the race. You're out there alone on the mountain. It's beautiful, and it's easy to train for.
-- Heather Othmer, Eat my Cookies
"Basically I really like the climate. It's wonderful to start off in such a cold area. Running down you've got the shade of the trees and the cold air, so it's not that hard on your body. Plus the course drastically drops your splits (times) from your miles. It's such a good feeling. In the previous two years, we've had some problems with our skiers up on the mountain, so I've got the handoff and got to pass a whole bunch of people coming down the hill. One other thing I like is that it is the connecting leg from the mountain and everything down below. That's a role I really enjoy."
-- Kenji Droullard, Callen Construction Open
"It's grueling, yet satisfying. You have to work really hard. It's one of longer legs. It's really competitive, but you don't have to have a lot of experience to do it. You can find bikers who haven't done competitive biking before and those that haven't rode that far before, and those who are really competitive. It's really fun. It's rough, though. My husband and I always have a wager on who will ride it faster, because were usually on opposing teams. The last time we did it I got the upper hand, if I'm not mistaken. But the time before that, he did."
-- Robin Robertson, Fairhaven Fitness Ferocious Females
"About seven or eight years ago, my wife was talking about getting a group of girls together to race, and I decided it was time to stop being a couch potato and get a group of guys together. When we looked at the race, it was the only leg that really worked for me. I don't run. I don't bike. All the other legs are pretty serious. All I needed to do was find a canoe that would work, and it's been a lot of fun ever since. My next-door neighbor is my partner, and we get out and practice, and since we started we've graduated to a Kevlar canoe and graphite paddles It's just a reason to stay in shape each year.
-- Glen Marsh, Colony Wharf Rats
"It's late in the day, so I get to sleep in, which is really nice. It's short and sweet, so I like that. Last year, I kind of got myself in trouble when I said it is one of the easier legs, because of the recovery time. It doesn't take as long to recover from as it does some of the other events. But I will say that the half-hour or so that you ride, it's all-out. At least myself, I'm riding as hard as I possibly can, and it gets my heart rate up.
-- Jeff DeWitt, Fairhaven Runners
"I would be out on the bay whether it was in a race or not. I kayak all year long, usually out by myself. On race day, it's different. I'm usually in a middle of the pack if Im being good that day and it's a chance for me to test my ability against other paddlers Then there's the certain reality: I'm not a skier, I'm not a runner and I don't want to do that to my knees and I've never really been into biking. Canoeing, maybe I'd try that It's nice to be an anchor at either end. Being the finish leg, it gives me a little edge.
-- Nicholas Mele, On the Q.T.