The lively group of women who have competed for nearly three decades in the Ski to Sea race as The Bitches from Hell, aka The Ladies from Hades, are anything but.
All eight on the current team are college graduates and working professionals; six are mothers.
“That name is strictly for fun,” affable team captain Kim Weil said.
And, as Weil notes, all are physically fit, thanks largely to the bonding factor of Ski to Sea and year-round exercise.
“We range in age from 45 to 61, and last year we finished second in the Women’s Recreation Division!” Weil said. “We always strive to place, but we had never finished in the top three (except early on when there were only a couple of women’s teams competing). We thought that was an incredibly wonderful and surprising finish. In fact, at first we thought it was a mistake.”
But their finish was for real.
“Now we’re baaaaack!” Weil cackled. “And we’re bad.”
Our mothers never did anything like this.
Kim Weil, team captain Bitches from Hell
At any rate, even that second-place recognition does not mean nearly as much as the longtime friendships they have built.
Weil said this will be their 29th year in the race. Most of the women were there at the beginning, although none has competed in every race because life would temporarily get in the way.
“When we started, most of us had not graduated from college, and none of us had children,” Weil said.
The team includes Jane Yaude, cross country skiing; Cindy Lebeau, downhill skiing; Fiona Starr, running; Julie Van Dooren, road biking; Weil and Jan Ince, canoeing; Leslie Blohm, cyclocross; and Patsy Yaude, kaying.
Weil said she, along with Jane Yaude, Lebeau, Van Dooren, Ince and Blohm, were there at the beginning.
“Leslie, our former team captain, was the one who founded our team, when she took a suggestion,” Weil said. “She moved to Maryland (well over a decade ago) but comes back to join us every year.”
Most of the women live locally, although Lebeau makes the trek from Camas.
“We always have a pre-race dinner and then a big post-race party with family and friends,” said Weil, who works as an environmental planner for the City of Bellingham.
Weil said she and her teammates are beyond thrilled to see the growth of female participation in Ski to Sea.
“Our mothers never did anything like this,” she said, noting how much of a kick team members get from the support of their parents and so many other family members.
She is excited that Ince, her canoe partner, “is now 61 and began running half-marathons three years ago!”
Weil said the team keeps everything in perspective.
“We’ve just really jelled. We don’t have any elite athletes, but we’re very talented and really dedicated,” she said. “In our 15th year, we said we would go to 20, but we’re still going.”