By Stacee Sledge
There is some confusion as to whether the Tumwater Shadies Ski to Sea team formed 21 or 22 years ago.
“I believe our first year was 1994, but being Shadies from Tumwater, we cannot do the simple math to figure this out,” jokes Adam Stocks.
The crew has no t-shirt from 1993 or earlier, but does have cotton-blend evidence from 1994 onward.
“Judging by the attire, hairstyles, and equipment, I think 1994 is correct,” Stocks says.
Longtime teammate Greg Rabourn disagrees.
“We thought we first started in 1994, but then I found race results from 1993,” Rabourn says. “Adam has chosen to ignore this bit of evidence since he printed up some awesome shirts [erroneously celebrating the team’s 20th anniversary] with the wrong number of years on it.”
Regardless of exactly when the team formed, what isn’t in question is the longevity of the Tumwater Shadies and the bond between them – even with an evolution of newer members joining the veterans over the years.
And there’s no doubt that fun will ensue – though perhaps of a tamer variety than the early years – when the Shadies reconvene in Whatcom County on May 25 for the annual Ski to Sea race, a nearly 100-mile course that starts at the slopes of Mount Baker and ends in Bellingham Bay.
This year’s team is made up of Gregor Myhr, who will take on the cross-country skiing leg; Kris Stocks with the downhill ski; Hollie Myhr running; Dan Jones on the road bike; Adam Stocks and Mary Rabourn in the canoe; Kati Halmos Jones on the mountain bike; and Greg Rabourn closing out the course in the kayak.
The Tumwater Shadies team grew out of a core of childhood friends who graduated together from Tumwater High School in Tumwater, Washington.
“In the first phase of races, early to late 90’s, most of us knew each other as friends from childhood and some of us were related,” says Stocks, whose sister Hollie was also part of the early team. “There were two brothers – Tommy and Brian Lowe – and several couples.”
Gregor Myhr, now Adam Stocks’ brother-in-law, married to Hollie, is the only member to have raced every year since the team’s formation.
“Hollie and I were at Western Washington University when we first heard of the race, says Myhr. “It sounded like a good adventure. I think there were only about 230 teams. The first race was a blast and sealed the deal.”
A tradition was born.
“The 90s was a vibrant era for the Shadies,” Myhr jokes. “Mullets, bandanas, high-stake wagers, and big parties at Key Street.”
The team improved its race time over the years – an accomplishment Myhr attributes to the purchase of better gear.
“That compensated greatly for any lack of training,” he says. “Our first canoe was a late 70s model plastic Coleman. What a tank.”
When Gregor and Hollie moved back to Olympia in 1998, the gang turned the annual event into a family vacation. Everyone travels north to Whatcom County and rents a house for the weekend.
“We’ve stayed at well over a half dozen places in the Bellingham area, from Birch Bay to Lake Whatcom to Alger – each one with a good story.”
Though the team’s antics have certainly mellowed with age, they share a story about the year they stayed at a local motel, which didn’t work out so well. “Something about us having a bonfire in the back parking lot,” says Myhr.
“Bellingham and Whatcom County is such an awesome place,” Myhr continues. “The mountains, water, and outdoor pursuits are top notch. The people are energetic and fun. This event keeps you young.”
Not everyone on the Shadies has been with them team since the get-go; that’s part of the beauty of this evolving bunch. The crew has had turnover and last-minute substitutions that bring total member numbers up around 18.
“All have been Tumwater Shady-worthy, true to the way of life,” Stocks jokes. “Even the person we found on the Ski to Sea ‘singles’ list, a racer looking for a team to participate on. He pedaled the fastest time the Shadies ever recorded on the road bike. We gave our road biker a hard time and questioned if we should invite him back.”
“I appreciate being brought onto the team by the Shadies in 2005,” says Dan Jones, whose wife, Kati Halmos Jones, is also a current member of the Tumwater Shadies. “Great people, great families – and great racers!”
“It’s not a coincidence that this is when our team started to place well,” says Myhr. “It was great when Dan and Kati joined the crew. They’ve participated in various legs of the race throughout the years.”
Several other teams have sprouted from the Tumwater Shadies experience, made up of friends and family.
“Last year my wife’s cousin formed a team who flew in from the Bay Area, Boston, and across the nation just for Ski to Sea,” says Stocks. “They’re young and in shape and way more into fitness than the Shadies. And, for the record, we beat them by five minutes or so.”
So while fun is a huge part of the Shadies experience, so is good dose of healthy competition.
“I can’t imagine how Ski to Sea is for others, because it is so exact for us,” says Stocks. “We know what to expect, what there is to do, how to do it, where we need to be, and at what time. We’ve got the logistics that so many teams struggle with down to a fine science.”
“Veteran status has worked well for us in this race,” says Myhr.
“We’ve experienced just about everything over the years,” says Rabourn, “including capsized canoes, swimming for shore with a cast on, skiing wipeouts, flats without a repair kit and kayaking during a small craft warning.”
It’s all just a part of being a Tumwater Shady – a tradition they fully expect to pass on to their kids.
“When we started, we were kids,” says Stocks. “Now we all have kids.” Current team members have seven children ranging from ages two to fifteen. “Add in other members who aren’t currently racing with us but are still very much Shady members, and that’s at least six more kids.”
All team members agree it’s been fun to watch the children build life-long memories alongside their parents, all of them looking forward to Ski to Sea every year and really getting into it.
“None of our kids know life without Ski to Sea,” Rabourn says. “From kegs to kids, we have grown a lot over the years.”