What's it like to compete in the Ski to Sea Race? Just watch this
After trading the lead for most of the day, Boomer's Drive-In was the first team to ring the bell in the 2018 Ski to Sea race, finishing shortly after 1:35 p.m. Sunday when its paddler crossed the finish line at Marine Park.
Boomer's also was the first to hit Bellingham Bay for the final kayak leg, with competitive surfski paddler Nicholas Cryder leading the whole way. The team's overall time was 6:06:42, and Cryder's time was 40 minutes and 52 seconds, according to the unofficial race results.
Cryder and other racers were cheered on by a crowd that gathered at Marine Park to watch the end of the race under blue skies and temperatures that weren't too hot.
Beavers Tree Service came in second overall, but first in the Whatcom County Open division.
Cryder, a Bellingham resident, praised his team, which gave him a good lead going into the last leg of the seven-leg relay that stretches 94 miles from its start at Mt. Baker Ski Area to its end at Marine Park, off Bellingham Bay.
"They executed flawlessly. They gave me a lavish lead," Cryder said of his team, which competed in the Competitive Open division.
Cryder said paddling on the bay was akin to racing uphill, between paddling against the wind and the choppy water.
World-record holder Brandon Nelson was paddling for Beavers Tree Service, which finished with an overall team time of 6:11:05. Nelson's kayak leg was 41 minutes and 41 seconds.
"We exchanged leads with Boomer's all day. All day. First. Second. First. Second," Bellingham resident Nelson said.
Beavers time took a hit when its cyclocross racer Jake Hartsoch hit a dog that ran into the path of his bicycle about 10 minutes into the start of his leg in Ferndale. That leg is the second to last leg.
"I tried to avoid it," Hartsoch said, adding he went over the bike's handlebars.
He was banged up but was able to finish his ride.
"I got back on and got going. I was disappointed, but it happens," Hartsoch said, adding that he thought the dog was OK.
Boomer's was first in 2017 as well, with a time of 5:58:54. And Beavers finished second overall last year with a time of 6:01:05.
Epic Kayaks, which competes in the Competitive Open division, came in third place overall. The team's kayaker, Greg Barton, had the best overall kayak time at 39 minutes and five seconds. Barton won two gold and two bronze Olympics medals for the U.S. in sprint kayaking in the mid-1980s to the early 1990s.
Leading the Masters Division were Schmidt Orthodontics Greatest American Heroes, with a time of 06:27:22, and Okanagan Express behind them at 06:33:23.
Boomer's Drive-In Veterans were first in the Veterans division with an overall time of 06:35:10. Bellingham Firefighters were first in the Corporate division with an overall time of 06:49:14.
Brandon Nelson Partners was the top Whatcom County women's team with a time of 07:00:54, when kayaker Heather Nelson crossed the finish line.
"It was the closest women's race we've been in. Super fun. Super motivating," said Bellingham resident Heather Nelson, whose time was 44 minutes and 10 seconds.
Heather Nelson described the conditions as "nice breeze, good water, blue skies. It really couldn't be any better."
Brandon Nelson Partners was in the Whatcom County Women's division. They topped the women's divisions last year as well.
Bellingham resident Courtney Olsen did the running leg for Brandon Nelson Partners. Her time of 38:48 was first for all of the female competitors and second for the entire field of 357-plus racers.
Her time this year was nearly a minute faster than 2017, when she already was a course record holder for women.
Olsen, a distance runner who qualified for the U.S. Olympic marathon trials, said her leg was "awesome," and then praised her teammates: "I'm incredibly proud of our team."
Jack's Bicycle Center Queens of Dirt was the second women's team to cross the finish line with a time of 07:02:09, although the team won its Competitive Women division.
Kid Goats won the High School division.
First to finish in the cross-county ski race was Tallon Noble of Epic Kayaks. Brent Molsberry came in first on the downhill ski for Beavers Tree Service. Finishing first in the run was Juan Castillo for Boomer's Drive-In. Ben Shaklee was first in the road bike leg, for Beavers Tree Service. Glenn Bond and Bob Woodman for Epic Kayaks were first in the canoe leg. First in cyclocross was Stephen Dempsey for Boomer's Drive-In.