There isn't much Jason Stoane, 48, doesn't love about the annual Bellingham Traverse adventure-style race, aside from the painful rigors of navigating its six legs and the accompanying lower-body cramps.
Despite temporary agony, the Traverse is one of his yearly highlights. It's the motivating linchpin in his training regimen, it allows his family to share their love of athletics and, to Stoane, it's the quintessential Bellingham race.
"I have done the race almost every year since it started," Stoane said in a phone interview. "My goal is to get all of my friends and family involved."
The Traverse is a 37-mile, six-part race starting with a 5.5-mile run from downtown Bellingham to Lake Padden, followed by a 6-mile mountain bike section along the lake, an 18-mile road bike ride in a figure-8 route around Padden and Lake Samish, a 3.4-mile trail run through the Chuckanut Community Forest and a 3.4-mile paddle in Bellingham Bay capped by a 0.5-mile run from Cornwall Beach to Boundary Bay Brewery.
Many run the race in teams or pairs. Stoane goes at it alone, mostly.
Stoane, a neuroradiologist at Mt. Baker Imaging, grew up on the East Coast and swam collegiately at Brown University. He also competed in triathlons and was on a high school crew team. Stoane gravitated to Bellingham's many diverse races upon moving to Whatcom County.
"There were all these adventure races, and I thought it was super cool," Stoane said. "I tried the Traverse because I could paddle, and I thought it would give me some type of advantage."
Originally, Stoane competed with teammates, but the last four or five years he's completed all six legs himself. During that time he learned how many strong athletes exist in Bellingham and became satisfied with any finish of his own.
"I'm old and slow now, but I like to participate with everybody," Stoane said. "I'm a jack of all trades and master of none. I have a good time, and it's something I look forward to every year."
Although Stoane feels a wealth of personal accomplishment from finishing the race himself, he's enlisted some help again this year. His wife, Chi-Na Stoane, and sons Caden and Asher Stoane will be alongside Jason for half of the Traverse.
Chi-Na will run the opening leg, Jason said, Caden will cover the 3.4-mile Chuckanut Community Trail run with dad and Asher will help paddle inside Bellingham Bay.
Having family alongside serves as Jason's motivation. He tries to emit positivity even if his body is feeling the opposite.
"I actually worry that I'm not a big puddle of a mess at that point," said Jason of when Caden joins him for the trail run. "Even if I'm really struggling, I try to make it fun for them, and it helps me with my composure. I don't want to wallow in my misery. It really changes my attitude, and I take it less seriously."
While Jason enjoys sharing each of the legs he competes in with his wife and two sons, his run with Caden will be the most trying, he said. Hands down, the trail run spells the most trouble for Jason.
"The trail run, I just struggle so bad through that one," he said. "Every time I really want to go fast and I get a cramp, so I get to that run and it's just misery. I think of myself as Aquaman. If I can just get to that water, I'll be OK. ... I have nightmares about it."
Once Jason finishes the trail run and reaches the paddle portion, it's literally smooth sailing. A self-proclaimed "strong paddler," when Jason hops in his boat, he can envision Boundary Bay beer beckoning him at the finish line.
"Afterward, it's just a big party at Boundary Bay," Jason said.
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