Bellingham's Ski to Sea Race

On Sunday May 26th, Bellingham hosted the 45th Ski to Sea relay race from Mt. Baker down to Marine Park in Fairhaven. Since 1973, teams of eight people compete in seven different legs including: cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, running, road biking, canoeing, cyclo-cross, and sea kayaking. Learn more about Dr. Beamer’s 2019 race, tips on recovery for other racers, and how to prep for 2020.

2019 Ski to Sea

This year nearly 3,500 people competed, including Dr. Beamer on a team made up of close friends from around the region. Dr. Beamer tried his luck at the downhill ski leg, which is really a misnomer as most of the time is spent hiking uphill wearing ski boots and carrying skis and poles over your shoulder. At the top there was little to no time to enjoy the views as racers popped into skis or snowboards and shot down the mountain as fast as possible to hand off the timing chip to the team’s runner. In total the hike up was just over 900 feet of elevation gain and the average time was 37 minutes from top to bottom. Dr. Beamer trained by hiking the course in the weeks preceding the race and running hills down in Bellingham (coincidentally Mt. Baker ski area in early May is one of the best places to see and hear the Blue Grouse and watch their comical mating rituals).

Race day was gorgeous with light clouds and a temperature in the high 40s in the morning. Racers milled about until the starting gun (an unannounced avalanche cannon!) at 7:30 am. Hiking in shorts and a t-shirt, Dr. Beamer headed up the hill and was able to finish the entire leg in 32:57! The rest of the team did well, too, ending up with a final time of nine hours and 24 seconds - placing 163rd amongst the teams.

Racers and spectators gathered in Fairhaven in the afternoon for a party complete with live music, food, vendors, and the excitement of the finish line where weary sea kayakers ran up the beach and rung the bell to finish the race.

Recovering From The Race

Recovery from a big race, no matter the type of event is crucial but with all the advice out there what are the essentials? Most of us are not professional athletes so we don’t need to worry about fancy ice baths, when and how to get the perfect amount of protein or other nutrients to be ready for the next event in a short turn around. What should you be doing as a weekend warrior who just busted their bums and is feeling it?

In the great ice or heat debate Dr. beamer typically suggests ice only when there is swelling and severe pain. That being said, our bodies are often a little too good at creating inflammation, a complex response to tissue injury that is driven by many biochemical mediators. Icing 2-3 times for 10-20 minutes after the event will help limit the bodies overzealous reponse.

Anti-inflammatories will certainly lower levels of inflammation in the body, but not without side effects to the cardiovascular system, kidneys, and intestines. Instead of popping a few Advil use natural anti-inflammatories like omega-3 oils, curcumin, quercetin, boswellia, and alpha-lipoic acid in supplements. In addition adding proteolytic enzymes for a day or two will help the body break down and eliminate debris from tissue injury. Many people are a fan of bromelain but be aware that if you are not taking it for a week or two prior to the event you will not get the benefits! For more details on supplementation following exercise make an appointment with Dr. Beamer.

Water and sleep can seem like no brainers in the recovery game but they cannot be overlooked either. On a normal day you should aim for 1/2oz of water per pound of body weight. For average individuals this is somewhere around a gallon. On days of intense sweating and exertion we need more. Feeling thirsty is rarely the best indicator to determine water needs so stay consistent throughout the day. Sleeping at least eight hours for a day or two following a major race will also help. In fact many experiments on exercise and sleep have shown that people need more sleep and the way in which our sleep patterns change following exertion!

How to Prepare For 2020

Intrigued and wanting to sign up for next year? Awesome! Better to decide now and give yourself lots of time to prepare. Your body and your team will thank you! Here are a few tips for the downhill ski leg:

Be bold, start cold! All too many racers think this is a ski race when in actuality it is a hill climb. Athletic shorts and a sport shirt are enough.

Be prepared to sweat: a headband or bandana can go a long way to preventing sweat dripping into your eyes

Bring poles! They do not weigh much and I was able to pass at least 15 racers on the downhill struggling with one of the flat spots

Wear gloves: skis and poles are cold and hard on the hands and in the case of a stumble on the way up or down you will be happy for some protection. A pair of light spring gloves make this a lot of comfortable.

If you have never been nor competed in Ski to Sea, it is well worth a try - there are divisions for any and all ages and skill levels.

Waiting for the starting gun

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