Sunday, December 1, 2019

Team

New guy here.  I have heard that a lot of people enjoy Elspeth's blogging, but they would like to see more perspectives.  I've been known to write a long winded race report or two in the past so I figured I could ramble for a bit here as well.

For my first post as a member of Vakava, I thought I would attempt to give a "Why Vakava" of sorts.

History

A brief biography to start.  Way back in the 90's as a scrawny little seventh grader I rode the bus from the junior high to the high school and managed to find my way to the health room for the informational meeting on the "ski club".  Turns out it was the nordic ski team and this was the inaugural season for Forest Lake.

I'm the little kid in the center in front of Brent, the guy with the goofy hat.

I spent the next six years as a founding member of that team.  I made friends, learned a little about training, learned how to suffer, and generally really enjoyed myself.

Junior year.  Front row with the letter jacket on.
If we skip the next ten years where I got horribly out of shape, probably stepped on a pair of skis twice, and forgot what it was like to be an endurance athlete, we will find me running and losing a little weight, eventually thinking that maybe I wasn't so out of shape I could try skiing again.

Right around that time a ski and bike shop opened up nearby.  Over the next five years or so I met most of the people I call friends today engaging in one crazy adventure or another.  3 day bike adventures on the North Shore, ski trips to ABR, 42k of loops at Troll when SISU got cancelled and we needed a qualifying race for our first Birkie, 8 hour running races, etc.  Good times with good people.

I bought my first shop bike kit because I was told I "had to have one".  It really didn't take too long before I came to proudly wear all the shop kit and always enjoyed finding people at events in the same gear.  It wasn't so much a "team" as a "community".

Flashing gang signs with some of my team at the Marine O'Brien race a few years ago.
As they say, nothing stays the same.  Over the last couple of years the community was evolving and just recently the shop closed.  My primary ski training partners all retired and now do things like train at 10am on Tuesday, or head up to ABR on a Thursday.

The Search

Part way through the ski season last year I was pretty certain I was going to be looking for a new home for this year.  Sure plenty of people, most in fact, ski independently.  You certainly don't need a team.

So I got to thinking why I wanted a team and what I wanted from the team.  This is the short list I came up with.
  • Skiers who are faster than me
  • Hard workouts with a group
  • Overall training program guidance
  • Technique review and coaching
  • Camaraderie

Early Verdict

Since I'm writing on the Vakava blog, hopefully it is going well.

Skiers faster than me.  Yeah, just about the whole team.  Rather than just saying faster, a better objective would have been skiers who have strengths in different areas than me.  Each teammate has something I can look to for inspiration.  There are a few beautiful technical skiers.  A couple of folks who I know to follow double poling.  Or another teammate for kick double pole.  I know who to try to match when free skating.  I'm pretty sure the entire team is stronger than I am.  That was eye opening.

Hard workouts.  Weekly.  I've been sore on any given Thursday.  Or bonked on the side of the trail near the end of a workout.  I even occasionally feel really good.  The great part though is there is always someone there encouraging you.

Training Program Guidance.  While there isn't a specific Vakava training plan, there is definitely a guiding principle.  And there are always people to bounce ideas off of.

Technique review.  Sadly there is no "use this one weird trick to ski the Birkie 20% faster".  Ahvo hasn't told me we need to start all over so that is something.  Mark and Dave did tell me I clearly had no idea how to ski walk.  So I'm working on subtle things.  The good thing is that without the dedicated eye, the subtle things I'm working on would probably go missed.  So while I might not be 20% faster, maybe I can be 5% more efficient.

Camaraderie.  It has been great having a team so far.  Connecting with the same people every week, coordinating a few workouts outside of normal practice, and making plans for the race season.

Race Season Approaches

Race season is fast approaching.  In fact, there is a race this coming Saturday.  I won't be there, but maybe you'll spot a Vakava skier or two.  We are going to be hard to miss this year.  And that has nothing to do with our results or technique.  When you see us, you'll know.

Odds of spotting us will increase at these races:
  • Hoigaards Relay's
  • Fulton Team Race
  • Rennet
  • Seeley Hills Classic
  • Marine O'Brien
  • City of Lakes Freestyle
  • Vasaloppet
  • Birkie

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