Vakava Team Photo

Vakava Team Photo
Vakava Racers at the Mora Last Chance Race

Monday, June 29, 2009

new roller ski route

I discovered a new roller ski route close to my house today. I was even able to ski there from home! It's in the St. Anthony Park neighborhood of St. Paul, nestled between Hwy 280 and Como Ave. John Swain mentioned that he grew up there and would roller ski in the neighborhood so I thought I would check it out. It's a small area with little traffic and good terrain so it will be a nice place to do some intervals. There are a few hills that you can't go down, and I wouldn't recommend skiing there if you aren't really comfortable on skis because there are plenty of intersections to navigate, but it was fine for me. I'll have to work out the best route for an interval, but I think it has great potential. I'm psyched!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Speed Work

Looking to get in some speed work? How about a 1 mile race on the track at Macalester? Next Tuesday there will be a fundraiser for Cindy Brochman who is currently fighting cancer (check out an interview here). A $10 minimum donation is suggested, and races start at 6pm (including kids races that are shorter distances) with the fast heats going off at 8 and 8:15pm. Should be a good time for a good cause. Check out more info here, and registration form here.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Last Thursday we did a video session with Ahvo and worked on double pole. DP has been my weekest stroke and I've been working on it since I started with Vakava two years ago. I went back and looked at some video from the previous two years and compared it to this years. It was amazing to see how much it has improved and shows what working with Vakava has done for me. There is no way that I could've made those improvements without this group. These people have not just helped me with technique, but have also given me the motivation and support to do the hard work required to improve my conditioning and strength which is needed to make the technique improvements. Thanks everybody, I couldn't do it without you!

I know others have made dramatic improvements as well. My husband has wondered what the point of a team was for an individual sport. I think this proves it's worth.

June '07 - out of shape and just getting back on roller skis after a 12 yr. hiatus - pitiful

June'08 - getting much better

June '09 - that's more like it!

Friday, June 12, 2009


Since Kevin isn't a "contributor" to this blog yet, I am going to post the piece of brilliance that he emailed earlier today. It deserves a wider audience.


Now, there's no reason to wait for that post-rollerski beer! At last, I no longer have to act ashamed whenever people discover my hydration bladder is full of Summit Pale Ale —I'm simply ahead of my time. Our pal Science now says that beer, yes beer, is more effective for rehydrating the body than plain ol' water. I think I'm not alone when I say that this qualifiesas news on par with peace in the Middle East.

Researchers at Granada University in Spain found this Nobel Prize-worthy discovery after months of testing 25 student subjects, who were asked to run ona tread mill in grueling temps (104 degrees F) until they were as close to exhaustion as possible. Half were given water to drink, and the other half drank two pints of Spanish lager. Then the godly researchers measured their hydration levels, motor skills, and concentration ability.

They determined that the beer drinkers had "slightly better" rehydration effects, which researchers attribute to sugars, salts, and bubbles in beer enhancing the body's ability to absorb water. The carbohydrates in beer also help refill calorie deficits.

Based on the results of the study, researchers recommend moderate consumptionof beer as a part of athletes' diets. "Moderate consumption" for men is 500ml per day, and for women is 250ml per day. Goodbye Gatorade, hello Sam Adams. This opens the door to a whole raft of new athlete beer sponsorships. Hopefully we'll see Lance replace the water bottle on his bike with a 40 of St. Ides in the next few months. (In fact, maybe that's why he didn't win the Giro d'Italia.)

This of course doesn't mean anything for hydration outside of strenuous exercise, but I'm not taking any chances—best to start hydrating now. [cracks open bottle of Newcastle].

Kevin Ivens

Time Trial Night

Last night was our first time trail of the summer - an individaul start, self timed, approximately 1k double pole up lower afton rd. It was a nice night, and we had a bit of a tail wind (I seem to remember head winds most times), and this lead to some fast times, with 6 people setting new personal bests even though it is early in the season. We had a big group of skiers participating (including Caitlin Compton).

Nate 2:39!
John S 2:47*
Andy 2:51!
Derek 2:58*
Caitlin 3:01*
Brent 3:05
Mark 3:06!
Dave 3:10!
Jojo 3:11*
Kevin 3:13
Paul 3:20*
Pete 3:20
Cheryl 3:21
Angie 3:25!
Michele 3:31
Margie 3:43
Allie 3:45*
Nichole 3:59*
Mel 4:00!
Katy 4:00*
Sara 4:04*
(! = personal best time, * = first time on course)

After the time trial we went up into the neighborhoods and worked on double pole kick technique, with some pick-ups thrown in.

Even today my throught is still a bit scratchy from breathing hard during the TT - maybe that's because my body is not used to 1k sprints... got to love the taste of blood in your mouth at the end of a sprint.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

From the world of sport science

Greetings from Finland! As a former (or current/honorary Vaker), I've been added to the blog to throw in a little bit of international and sports science perspective. As some of you might already know, after completing my BA at
Gustavus (a little after other Vakers Nate, Nichole and Mel and before Kathleen), I headed to the University of Jyväskylä in Finland to work on my Master's in what is called the Biology of Physical Activity. Somehow or another the MSc snowballed into a research assistantship (in our department, and in part with KIHU because of my thesis topic) and starting work on a PhD (1 class down and years to go!). So far my studies have focused on combined strength and endurance training (because strength training and endurance training produce divergent adaptations, more on that at a later date) and I've been dabbling a bit in endocrinology, we'll see where that goes. I still ski and run (less racing as of late) and have gotten a bit into rowing and orienteering.

The first bit I will contribute here from the world of sport science deals with nutrition and recovery (inspired by a blurb in a recent email from my ski club here). The sports drink and nutritional supplement market is a huge money-maker, but are expensive sports drinks worth it? Supplements and sports drinks can certainly play an important role in an athlete's nutrition/recovery; however, the use of lots of supplements suggests that one does not trust their own nutritional choices (paraphrasing the head coach of the Finnish Natl team as well as my dad here...). A well-balanced and adequate diet that is made up of a variety of foods should be able to reasonably fulfill your daily nutrient requirements and besides that, the bioavailability of nutrients is typically higher in foods than in pills and powders. (The mini disclaimer: some supplements may be necessary, for example, calcium and iron for women...).

A recent study by Kammer et al. 2009 published in Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition reports that cereal and non-fat milk are as effective in promoting muscle recovery following 2 hours of cycling at 60-65% VO2max.

A quick explanation: Long bouts of endurance exercise deplete muscle glycogen stores (your fuel) and increases the rate of protein synthesis while at the same increasing the rate of protein degradation (which typically exceeds the rate of synthesis). In order for the muscles to recover from endurance exercise (so you can get back out there and do it again), glycogen stores need to be replenished and a positive net protein balanced needs to be achieved. Glucose is needed for glycogen synthesis and amino acids are needed for protein synthesis, so simply put: carbs and protein are needed for recovery.

In this study by Kammer et al., subjects randomly performed two trials after whcih they were given either Wheaties and non-fat milk or a commercially available sports drink. Similar positive results were achieved with cereal and milk as with the commercial recovery drink. This suggests that cereal and milk are an effective recovery food. (A previous study by the same research group concurs).

For more details on these studies, my embedded links should bring you to the articles. Until next time, eat your Wheaties (or insert other whole grain cereal here)!

Monday, June 8, 2009

sore knees and shoulder

I've had cronic tendonitis in my left knee forever, classic IT band problems that makes the outside of my knee very sore. I'd learned to sort of work around it and be careful running, especially in the spring after not running all winter. But then both knees started bothering me at the top of the knee caps, although they didn't really bother me skiing so I continued to pretend it wasn't a real problem. Same with my left shoulder. It was bothering me lifting weights, but not skiing. But by the end of the ski season last year they both started bothering me skiing so I could no longer pretend. I went to the doctor and the xrays were normal so she told me I was just VERY tight and needed massage or yoga or something to loosen up. I went to The Fix Studio for some massage and it's helped a ton. I also got a foam roller to roll my legs on and am trying to stretch more. My knees are no longer bothering me and I can run as much as I want to now and the shoulder is much better, but still needs work. I can lift weights without pain but it's not as strong or stable as the right side. Last winter my legs were sore and achy a lot and I would wake up in the middle of the night with achy legs, but no more. I can get out of bed in the morning now without feeling like a stiff old woman. I think I've gotten my legs to the point where I can keep them loose enough on my own through rolling and stretching and will do a few more massages to hopefully get the shoulder to that point as well. I guess that keeping the muscles loose is increasingly important as we age. I think I've learned my lesson now and will take the time to keep them looser since it seems that I won't be able to keep skiing pain free if I don't!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Marwe endored by Jedi knights.

Thats right. I don't know if people caught this in the skinnyski newsletter, but Grinnell College made a star wars video, and a Jedi knight's favorite mode of transportation are his Marwe combi rollerskis. (check out 1:43 into the video)

Not bad technique. The skier/Jedi is Alex Reich of Mahtomedi (11th at the MN state meet in 2007).