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Bellingham Traverse 2014

The Bellingham Traverse –  a multi-sport event which honors the life cycle of wild salmon and the natural and urban challenges of their journey, is available for solo (Chinook), tandem (Coho), or team (Chum). I’d heard how challenging the tandem was, often times husband-wife duos, and that the first leg – a 5.5 mile run from downtown to Lake Padden offered a hell of a varying hill climb. This year I competed for sisters of soul, Kulshan Cycles, captained by the owner, Kae. Kae, for me, is like old Hollywood – glamorous, but more modern in that she’s not demure, beautiful & powerful all at once, and also mothering, the kind of woman that sets aside chips and nuts so you can handle whatever she might slip your way. I really appreciate being in this city, if only because I get to have a community of people like her to compete with/for.

My teammate, Amber & I joined Kulshan Cycles, with the intent to have fun, knowing we’d be a little tired from Chicago training. Race start was at noon, so I had a good couple of personal hours beforehand, savoring the coffee, writing an essay on Emily Dickinson for an online course. From my balcony I listened to the racer meeting. It was a hot September saturday and I felt baked beneath my cycle jersey. I was the first leg; started out too fast, comfortable with the south bay trail that skirts my apartment. It was fast until Taylor dock, where acid seethed in quads, and kept collecting along Fairhaven Parkway, up Padden Creek trail and worst through the Greenways system. Up and undulating up. I felt I was far from cross country strength and wondered on all these flat runs, this flat training. Thankfully, the end of the leg is a manageable leveling off, so you don’t look like you’re dying when you come in, rather, gathering strength. At the exchange I huffed an inaudible language to mtn. biking friends, was happy for the positivity emanating from the men who had passed me in the last mile or two, all much more powerful hill climbers than myself.

The benefit of the race was the opportunity to continue running post leg. The trail systems offer it. I didn’t have to take busy, paved roads back, I could navigate the downs to what I had just climbed, end up in Fairhaven to warm up with Amber prior to her trail run leg, see her finish at Marine Park. The Kayak leg start was changed at the last minute due to uproarious winds and 6-foot swells. We had to scramble to move the kayak to a different location, then Amber and I had to race our own kayaker along the South Bay trail to her finish so that we could grab the kayak out of the water and run with the team for the final trek leg up towards Boundary Bay. Somewhere along the way, maybe in not having a basketball league as an outlet, I lost sight of how competitive I am. Generally speaking, I’m competitive, but it’s not (to me) physically identifiable, evident by word. We were in 3rd, which was something I guess I wanted, and on top of 3rd we were the first females, the first all-female team, and I wanted it. It must have been that I looked at Amber and could see how badly she wanted it, that I kept the seeing-Red in check, but, we both saw Red. We were passed by 3-4 teams during the 1/2 mile trek to the finish, moving to 6-7th place overall. Still, we were 1st as All-Female Chum. It was fun, but it was work. Amber and I finished the day with 20-21 miles a piece, stood around Michelle Nolan, a figure from my youth – the sports columnist for the Herald, who remembered reporting on us in high school, remembered Kristen’s powerful running resume, caring for her at Boston.

Post race, dressed in Kulshan garb, we shared margaritas in a huddle, snacked, talked about our legs, what we could do differently, singing each other powerful. The women in the circle are figures of beauty to me. Symbols of modern women, who are not ironic, which is easy for me to accuse and dismiss. They are mothers, children by hip, biceps even unflexed, mouth lines carved from work and laughter, just, at ease women. Women I want around and want to be. We went for awards. Thanked each other and got in a good meal.

Noble Chiropractic
119 Grand Ave
Bellingham, WA 98225
(360) 671-7067

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