Bellingham trail runner Maria Dalzot has made quite a name for herself during her brief time in Whatcom County.
She has competed in premier trail-running events all over the world, including her win in last fall’s Lake Padden Trail Half Marathon, which served as the USA Track and Field Championship.
But Dalzot knew there was one event she would likely never compete in, and it happened to be Whatcom County’s biggest.
Under the usual Ski to Sea format, there was no place for Dalzot. The only running event was the punishing eight-mile downhill run on Mount Baker Highway, and Dalzot stopped running on pavement to save her body after her NCAA Division I college career at West Virginia University.
But with the changes to Ski to Sea in 2015 due to the lack of snow at Mt. Baker Ski Area, the alpine run was born, and Dalzot quickly became a hot commodity.
She was soon contacted by Alyson Klein, a good friend and leader of team SHEroes, to take part in the alpine run leg.
“Of course I thought somebody would be interested in having me on their team,” Dalzot said. “I definitely wanted to take the opportunity. I might never have it happen again. It’s a special year.”
Dalzot may be one of the most experienced trail runners in the event, and comes in with high prestige.
“I think the advantage I do have is experience mountain racing. It’s exclusively what I do,” she said. “People that don’t have that experience might go out like crazy and have to realize they can’t sustain that the whole climb.”
That means Dalzot is hoping for the longest, steepest trail possible to further her advantage.
The 3.3-mile course isn’t all that long, but it will provide a 600-foot climb from White Salmon Lodge up to Heather Meadows.
“I think it will definitely change things up,” Dalzot said of the new event. “After so many years and the same events year after year, people have studied it well. They know which team has the best leg in this and that. This throws a couple question marks into the mix.”
Dalzot is one of those wild cards.
While Ski to Sea is something Dalzot is extremely excited for, it’s not her big event of the year. She said she won’t have to train specifically for Ski to Sea, as she competes year-round anyway.
Instead, Ski to Sea will serve as a training tool for her in an attempt to make the Senior U.S. World Mountain Running Team. She raced for the junior team in 2007 as a newcomer to the sport and is ready to join the senior team.
The qualifying is the U.S. Mountain Running Championships, which takes place July 25 in Bend, Ore. With Ski to Sea presenting a similar atmosphere, Dalzot said it’s perfect preparation for her ultimate goal.
“A mountain race in May is a very good stepping stone,” she said. “It’ll be really good, a good experience all around as the training for my goals as an athlete.”
And SHEroes is undoubtedly glad to have the prestigious alpine runner.