The Okanagan Express multi-sports team took third place at Bellingham’s Ski to Sea race on May 24.
Local athletes Tom Evans (cross country ski), Colin Buckingham (downhill ski), Kevin Cutjar (running), Dave Matheson (road bike), Tyson Bull and Stu Rahkola (marathon canoe), Chris Neenan (mountain bike) and Don Mulhall (outrigger canoe) competed in the competitive masters division endurance race that started near the top of Mount Baker and ended on the shores of Bellingham Bay. They finished in six hours and 44 minutes, good for 17th out of 437 teams, many of which attracted past and present Olympic athletes, as well as national and international champions in their respective sports.
Cutjar, who finished 41st in the run portion, said the team wanted to be competitive.
“As newcomers to that race, we really didn’t know what to expect,” said Cutjar, who completed the run in 44:53. “We knew it was going to be very competitive. There were a lot of world-class athletes in the race.”
Cutjar said the running leg was “crazy” as the 13 kilometre portion dropped about 610 metres in elevation. Cutjar compared it to running from the top of Apex Mountain down to the ranch as fast as possible.
“Three days after the race now and I’m still feeling it,” said Cutjar. “I’m still in a bit of pain actually.”
The lead runner finished in 36:22, which Cutjar said is world-class.
“There weren’t too many people (12 athletes) under 40,” said Cutjar.
The Okanagan Express lost about six minutes when Chris Neenan was misdirected, finishing in 52:39. Cutjar said the pairing of Tyson Bull/Stuart Rahkola had their best result, in part due to their training on the course. The duo finished the canoe leg in 1:51:31, good for 14th overall.
Cutjar said their overall finish was good and the group wants to take on the Ski to Sea again.
“We’re, I think, quite motivated,” said Cutjar, adding that the group took advantage of their trip as a getaway. “We all learned something.”
According to the Ski to Sea website, the event dates back to the Mt. Baker marathon held in 1911 “pitted man and machine against rugged terrain, taking contestants over treacherous roads and trails to the top of the mountain and back. Contestants had the choice of using automobiles or the railroad to help them get to the point at which they would have to start running up the mountain side.”
Results are available at http://results.skitosea.com.