Beavers Tree Service won third place overall and took first in the Whatcom County Open division of the 2014 Ski to Sea, a feat that kayaker Brandon Nelson exultantly described as "a double whammy, double frosting, chocolate chunk."
In other words, it was a really good day for the team that finished in just under six hours.
The team had lost two members in the days leading up to the Sunday, May 25, race. The team's road biker had hurt his back at the end of the week, and on Saturday night, Nelson got a call from the team's cross-country skier. He had a fever of 102 degrees and didn't know what to do. Both men had lined up other local athletes to fill their spots, and the team worked seamlessly with the last-minute additions.
"We pulled it off," Nelson said, calling the win a tribute to their friends who couldn't race.
The team takes a lot of pride in being all local, Nelson said, especially competing against Olympic athletes.
BOUNDARY BAY VICTORIES
Tracy Landboe helped make it win No. 15 in a row for the Boundary Bay Brewery team in the Women's Competitive division when the Seattle kayaker ran to the finish line - her team clocking an overall time of six hours, 33 minutes and 29 seconds.
"My teammates are the best," a happy Landboe said.
While Bellingham Bay's calm conditions didn't present its usual challenges, Landboe did have another problem when her right forearm started to hurt within the first mile of the five-mile leg.
"It went away after a while. It went numb," she said laughing.
Former Olympic skier Caitlin Gregg gave the team an early lead, finishing the cross-country skiing leg first among women by about four minutes and fifth overall.
Gregg of Minneapolis, Minn., was on the U.S. team that went to Vancouver in 2010 and came close to qualifying for the Sochi 30K team. Each skier she passed got to see the back of her T-shirt: "You just got chicked."
After years of giving universal airline tickets to the eight members of the top overall team, Ski to Sea organizers this year decided to honor the first women's team.
Gregg plans to use hers to fly to Alaska to ski a glacier.
Sabrina Harper, the downhill skier who kept the team comfortably ahead, said the plane ticket wasn't as much of a motivation as skiing for the brewery.
"They represent the community," said Harper, who is from Canmore, Alberta.
She said the gesture of awarding the tickets to the women was admirable.
"The airplane tickets just show respect," Harper said. "There are some phenomenal women as well."
The Boundary Bay Brewery men's team won the overall race in five hours, 40 minutes, 8 seconds, finishing more than six minutes ahead of second-place finisher Team Aeromech.
The Boundary team's cross-country biker, Russell Stevenson, rode into Zuanich Point Park about seven minutes ahead of Team Aeromech's Gage Hecht.
"I'm on a team with a bunch of fast guys," Stevenson said. "The guys in the morning just crushed it and demoralized everybody, I think."
Seattle resident Greg Barton paddled his kayak to the finish line for Boundary.
"I felt good. We had a big lead. My team did a good job," said Barton, an Olympic gold medalist.
He was one of the Boundary racers who had been part of the Barron Heating team that won the last three Ski to Sea races.
For the first time in 23 years, Barron Heating did not have a team in this year's race. Owner John Barron said he just felt it was time to pass the baton, so to speak, to another team.
UNORTHODOCS TAKE REC OPEN
The Unorthodocs took first place in the Recreational Open division, and a remarkable 12th-place finish overall. Asked how the team managed to do so well, cross-country biker Matt Studley had a quick tongue-in-cheek answer: "Performance-enhancing drugs. Motorized equipment."
Studley acknowledged that the recreational divisions are meant for teams more interested in participation than in competition, but his team's organizer, Jason Stoane, isn't wired that way.
"He likes to win the division," Studley said. "This is Bellingham. If you have a race, people are going to try to win it."
It almost didn't happen.
The Unorthodocs' kayaker, 17-year-old Eric Fast of Vancouver, B.C., overshot the turn to get onto the beach and was heading toward a red pylon in the water when he saw people on boats pointing the other direction. He got himself headed in the right direction and sprinted to the finish.
"I had to book it in," he said.
REVAMPED BIKE LEG
The mountain biking leg got a new name - cross-country biking - and a new section in 2014. Racers seemed to like the improvements.
"They added a few cyclo-cross features at the beginning of the course, which was to my advantage," said Aaron Mickels of Klicks Running and Walking, which finished second in the Whatcom County Open division. "The course was in great shape. The railroad tracks were bumpier than last year.
Boundary Bay Brewery women's biker Izette Swan, who competed here for the first time 22 years ago, enjoyed the new ride.
"It kind of favors more of a cyclo-cross road racer," Swan said. "It's not very technical. It's fun."