Since 1973, Ski to Sea has been introducing people to new things: new friends, new sports and even to future spouses.
It’s not easy to find a whole team for the iconic seven leg relay race – the Ski to Sea message board is busy in the months leading up to the Memorial Day Weekend race with people looking to join a team or for someone to fill a leg.
As a result, it brings strangers together with a shared goal. Toss in some exercise endorphins and for some, it’s a recipe for love.
Cathy McNair and Mike Roze met on a Ski to Sea team in 1993
when both were living in Bellingham and going to Western Washington University. Mike and some friends from his computer science program were putting together a team and needed an extra female to join the recreational mixed division. Mike and Cathy had mutual friends and she agreed to do the mountain bike leg for “Team Jose Cuervo,” (they called the tequila company, which decided to send them some sweatshirts and other swag).
The race crystalized friendships and the entire team continued to hang out. Mike and Cathy continued to see each other but were “just friends” for about six months until they finally started dating. They got married the following June on the Napali Coast of Kauai and 15 years later they’re still taking off together for triathlons in Hawaii, bike trips in eastern Washington, and other adventures.
Did Ski to Sea make that happen?
“It brings people together who have outdoor interests,” Cathy said. “I don’t know if our paths would have crossed otherwise.”
Mike Troop didn’t meet his future wife Alexa at Ski to Sea, but he did think the canoe leg of the Ski to Sea would be the ideal place to propose.
Mike and Alexa, residents of Austin, Texas, met on their college’sclub triathlon team and started dating in 2014. Mike had raced Ski to Sea annually since 2013 with a friend who lives outside Seattle and Alexa came along in 2016 to watch. She wanted to try the race, so Mike agreed to do the canoe leg with her in 2017.
Mike tells the story best: “Coincidentally, in mid-2016 a strange feeling hit me – the urge to propose. Not long after, a thought struck me to my core: what more perfect setting for a surprise marriage proposal than during Ski to Sea, an annual race that keeps us active and trying new adventures?”
Some frustration crept in, as Alexa was hoping for a proposal earlier, Mike said, but he stuck with the plan. He didn’t have a plan for where on the Nooksack River to make the proposal, however.
“Miles go by, and my anxiety grows. Where’s the right spot? Then the moment comes: we round a corner and Mt. Baker swings into full view behind us as cattails on the shore sway gently in the breeze,” he said. “I put my paddle down, reach for the ring, and Alexa says, “What are you doing back there? Keep paddling!" She’s not happy. We’re about to run into some brush on the edge of the river and get passed by another team.”
Mike gave up on that attempt to dig out the ring, which was inside a key floatie and tied to both a lanyard and his life jacket for redundancy. Mike and Alexa paddled along until the final mile to Hovander Park in Ferndale, when Mike realized it was now or never.
“Another barrage of insults comes from the front of the boat as I stop paddling, but this time Alexa turns around and realizes what’s happening,” Mike said. “We have a lovely moment where we can neither embrace nor actually put the ring on her finger (too risky), then she smears away a few tears and says, “OK, get back to paddling,” (which is one characteristic I love so much about her). Our whole team is waiting to congratulate and celebrate with us on shore at the finish line, where we can actually finish the get-on-one-knee, put-the-ring-on-and-kiss moment that felt long overdue.”
Trevor Maczuga joined team “Pacific Tree Octopi” in 2015, and the team posted on Ski to Sea’s orphan board for a few more teammates. Lizzy and a couple others signed up and the team had a potluck dinner before the race to meet the new members. Trevor and Lizzy noticed each other, but hardly saw each other on race day and didn’t pursue a relationship. Lizzy lived in Bellingham and Trevor lived in northern Alberta.
“Pacific Tree Octopi” kept track of their orphan teammates and invited them back the next year. Lizzy signed up to run and Trevor to cross-country ski. Lizzy offered her extra bedroom to Trevor while he was in town.
“Skiers and runners travel up the mountain together anyway, right?” she said. After the race, they stayed up talking until early in the morning.
But that was it, though Trevor was now living in Kamloops, just 200 miles away (instead of 900-plus in northern Alberta). Lizzy signed up for the Kamloops Half Marathon the following month and asked Trevor if he knew of a place to stay. Trevor, returning the favor, offered up his spare bedroom. After that race, their interest in each other blossomed.
They began seeing each other every few weeks and Trevor proposed six months later while they were in Orlando for a marathon.
“Ski to Sea was definitely a big part of it,” Trevor said. “If it wasn’t for Ski to Sea, we definitely would have never met.”
Now living together in Kamloops, they returned to do Ski to Sea together in 2017 and 2018.