How it works: Runners' legs take a pounding coming down off mountain

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 1, 2012 

THE COURSE

Where: From Mt. Baker Ski Area to Shuksan Department of Transportation shed.

Course Length: Approximately eight miles.

Approximate time to complete: Less than 40 minutes for top finishers, a little less than an hour for everyone else.

Course description: While the key to the downhill skiing leg is the climb, the running leg is all about the descent. In all, the course drops nearly 2,200 feet (an average 5.2-percent grade). Considering all eight miles are on the Mount Baker Highway, that's a lot of pounding on competitors' feet, ankles, shins, knees and hips.

Running race chair: Mike Green.

Pre-race meeting: 8 a.m. at the Heather Meadows Day Lodge.

Timing chip: Receive the chip from the downhill skier/snowboarder, swipe the chip to record finish time of the downhill leg, complete the running leg, swipe the chip to record the finish time for the running leg and hand off to the road biker. The runner is responsible for swiping the chip twice (end of the downhill leg and end of the running leg).

WHAT'S NEW

Early release: To ensure that no teams get too far behind and to clear the course earlier in an effort to reopen Mount Baker Highway as soon as possible, new timing chips will be issued to the last eight to 10 teams waiting for their teammates at the end of each leg and they will be released at the same time. This is the second year Ski to Sea has utilized early release on all legs, and it will allow these teams to race against each other and keep the race moving along. Teams will not be disqualified if they are issued a new chip for this reason, and their times from each leg will be added together for overall team standings at the finish line.

TRAVEL AND VIEWING ADVICE

Mount Baker Highway will be closed at 7:30 a.m. at Canyon Creek Road in Glacier, going east toward the mountain. Any viewers, participants or additional support vehicles that want to go to the top of the mountain must pass Canyon Creek Road before then.

The road will be closed westbound at 7:30 a.m. at the Heather Meadows Day Lodge and will not reopen until 9:30 a.m. No vehicles will be allowed to travel down the mountain before it reopens.

After 9:30 a.m. and for the duration of the running leg, vehicles traveling down Mount Baker Highway (west) will be dispersed in groups of 10 to 15 with police escort to ensure the safety of the participants. All drivers must stay in the left-hand lane, as the right lane will be reserved for runners. Dispersal is based on the flow of the race and may be delayed in case of emergency or other safety conditions.

Best place to watch the leg: Heather Meadows Day Lodge at Mt. Baker Ski Area, where spectators can see the handoff from the downhill skier and watch the runner start their way down the mountain. This year, spectators should be able to get off the mountain about two hours earlier, with the race committee's plan to share the road.

TIPS FOR THE RACE

• Be ready when your downhill skiing/snowboarding teammate approaches. Runners are responsible for recording the finish time for the downhill leg, so don't get caught trying to keep warm indoors.

• Because you will be running mostly downhill, a good tip might be to take some Ibuprofen the day before and on the day of the race to help deal with any pain you might experience during and after the race.

• It's best to wear traditional running garb (tank top, shorts or warmer running gear if the weather warrants). Remember the temperature will change as runners descend and the sun gets higher in the sky.

• You may want to put some cloth under the tongues of your shoes to help prevent blisters. Tie your shoes tightly.

• Some have raced in their running flats, which are lighter racing shoes. That might make them faster, but doing so will beat up a runner's legs. Veteran competitors recommend regular running shoes.

• Many competitors dunk their legs in the cold water runoff in the canal by the Shuksan Department of Transportation shed because they believe it helps them recover from the race quicker.

• Make sure you stay on the right side of the double yellow line. Cars will be led down the left side of the highway by police escort.

TOP GUNS

Male winners

2008: Travis Boyd (Nomad Technologies) 36:12

2009: Sean Chester (Clippercanoes.com) 36:39

2010: Phil Mitchell (Barron Heating) 36:14

2011: Sean Chester (Clippercanoes.com) 35:56

Female winners

2008: Rachel Brewer (Boundary Bay Brewery) 40:47

2009: Ashby Christina (@tdcurran) 45:55

2010: Brooke Gosling (Boundary Bay Brewery) 46:37

2011: Courtney Olsen (CrossFitX) 44:08

SOURCE: SKI TO SEA

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