When Sam Alexander was growing up in Bellingham as a top-notch track and cross country prospect, Ski to Sea's running leg didn't make sense to him.
"I couldn't figure out why anyone would want to run downhill for 8 miles (after others skied to begin the race on Mount Baker)," said Alexander, who became a state champion and All-American for Bellingham High in the 3,200 meters and earned several varsity letters in track and cross country at the University of Washington. "Now it all makes perfect sense."
In fact, Alexander, the co-owner of Klicks Runners and Walkers in Bellingham along with Charlie Sunderlage, will again be the runner on the Klicks team, which has won the Galbraith Trophy for the Whatcom County Open champion the past two years.
The annual 93-mile, seven-leg relay from Mt. Baker Ski area to Bellingham Bay will be held Sunday, May 26.
"We were formerly runningshoes.com, and we won the Galbraith Trophy in 2007 (the first year of the trophy) and 2009, while Beaver's Tree Service won in 2008 and 2010," he said in a phone interview. "We have quite a rivalry with Beaver's (which won the division many times before 2007). We expect it will be Klicks and Beaver's competing for the Galbraith Trophy again this year."
Klicks, named for a military term for kilometers, has three new team members this year.
"The new guys are Jon Ralston (downhill skiing), Rusty Dodge (road biking) and Aaron Mickels (mountain biking)," said Alexander, who will compete in the running leg.
Alexander listed the others on the Klicks team, which ranges in age from 25 to 52, as Logan Wetzel (cross country skiing), Eric Gerstl and Alan Lipp (canoe) and Kirk Christensen (kayak).
"Both our team and Beaver's take this race very seriously," Alexander said. "We like to display the Galbraith Trophy in the middle of our store."
Alexander first competed at Ski to Sea in 2010, answering runningshoes.com founder Jim Clevenger's call for a first-rate runner.
"I could see why people love Ski to Sea," said Alexander, who did not compete last year because he was briefly living in Los Angeles. "I could see why people do this. We all love it. It's the ultimate Whatcom County event. It shows off all our outdoor excellence. This race really draws the community together."
Alexander says he isn't ready for master's division running yet.
"My goal is to run in open races for as long as I can," he said.
Even if one of those races is downhill.
Michelle Nolan is a Bellingham freelance writer.