Vakava Team Photo

Vakava Team Photo
Vakava Racers at the Mora Last Chance Race

Monday, July 27, 2009

Need for Speed

I'm going to be up north on the Gunflint trail at the in-laws cabin all next week. I wanted to get in a good hard week of training this week because I don't expect to get much in up North besides a little running, and hiking and canoeing with the kids. I decided to go out to Afton to hit the hills for some intervals. I was using the hill on Trading Post Rd., long but not too steep. When I got to the top there was a car full of teenage boys hanging out. After turning around to head back down, I saw that they were preparing to go down the hill on skateboards. I was going down leisurely, catching my breath, standing up to get a nice long recovery and they zoomed by. When I reached the bottom after them I just turned around and headed back up. When I turned at the top to head down again, I passed them as they prepared to head down again also. I was standing again and they caught me in the middle of the hill. There was a slight rise before it heads down again and I decided to follow them. I did a few quick skates over the rise and went into a tuck. One of the boys was half standing and doing some slalom back and forth. I had to squeek by him as he swerved toward me and didn't see me coming. I passed him and started catching another boy who was just crouching low on the board. We all reached the bottom about the same time and I turned and headed back up again. As the boys passed me in their car on the way to the top, I got a double toot on the horn and a two-fingered, peace-sign wave. I thought it was pretty cool for a 42 yr old woman to get that kind of recognition from a group of young skate boarding boys. I guess we connected on understanding the need for speed; the rush of wind in your face as the ground zooms by under your feet. I just love that. Don't we all?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Rain rain go away

Truth be told, my lawn really needed the rain, but as I drove towards Afton this evening and my radio was saying "severe weather going through Woodbury and Afton right now" I was not thinking of my lawn. Tonight was the first set of 5k time trials for the summer (we do them three times each summer). The time trial consists of a 5k skate, a bit of recovery, and then a 5k classic. Tonight I got to the time trial location on Nybeck road 45 minutes early hoping to get a little extra skiing in, but this is what I saw rolling in:

Instead of skiing in I got to sit in my car and watch the clouds roll through and dump quite an impressive amount of rain. Fortunately by the time that we were supposed to start it had pretty much passed, and we were left with just a drizzle.

By the time we finished our warm up the rain had stopped and the sun had come out. It actually got pretty hot! (or at least muggy). The time trail went well. My arms could definitely feel the 2:45 classic ski from Sunday, but I was still able to post a personal best time in the skate race (the classic was a bit slow for me). Dave should send out results in a day or two.

More pictures:

It was Cheryl's birthday, and that meant treats! But don't try to steal any of her brownie - she will cut you!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Elbow pads

One of the best things about our sport of Nordic skiing is that it is a sport for all ages. How many high school football players are still playing at 50 (or even 25) years old? This makes it a great family activity, as everyone can participate. I have it particularly good, as my dad has always been a skier (although mostly downhill when I was growing up) and is always willing to hop into a race or some crazy endurance adventure. My wife is also my best training partner, and by far my greatest motivation to work out (I have to keep up with her!). She has also been a fantastic sport and has been willing to leave the comfort and speed of her running shoes to wobble around on rollerskis trying to learn a sport that can take frustratingly long to feel comfortable.

This year, even my mom has gotten into the act. She has always been an avid walker (and she can really move!), but she never did much more than the occasional cross country ski in the winter. However the past couple of winters she (I think feeling a little sorry for Nichole, as well as wanting to improve her fitness) has been out more, and even got skate equipment. My dad and I have been giving some pointers, but this spring he (and Greg) managed to talk my mom into joining Sisu Skiers. She has loved it so far! She got a pair of Marwe combis, and has been going out on her own and practicing. I worried about how she would get the balance (since she has had minimal skating on snow experience, and she had a pretty serious knee injury in the BWCA a couple years ago), but she has actually picked that part up quite well (I think years of downhill skiing and some limited rollerblading with my sister have helped). The irony is all that worrying about rollerskiing didn't account for other freak accidents... since last Thursday at Sisu Skiers practice (a dryland practice at battle creek) one of the guys there accidentally ran into her and she landed awkwardly on her arm. Unfortunately the ensuing trip to the ER revealed that she broken the end of her radius at her elbow, and her rollerskiing will be on hiatus for the near future. Hopefully she will have the speediest of recoveries, since I know she would much rather be out with her group of Sisu Skier newbies.

Winter days on snow are wonderful, but not nearly so when spent alone every day. I just want to thank my family for participating in this great sport, and in doing so supporting me and all the fun I have skiing.

Hopefully I won't kill you all in the process :)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Take it easy

The life of a researcher is tough... especially when conferences are held in the middle of the summer in a happening "town" like Oslo. At the end of June I hopped a plane to Norway with my ears ready for some serious listening and my USB stick (with my own presentation on concurrent strength and endurance training in recreational runners about 98% ready) in my bag. Upon arrival, I found the sun shining (didn't stop once during our stay) on a beautiful city with lots of good dining/outdoor activities/shopping/parks/museums... the only disappointment was that Holmenkollen is being renovated so I didn't get to visit the place (I guess I just have to go back sometime!). I definitely recommend a visit to Oslo (though it's not such a cheap place - cheers to traveling on "business"!)

Norway's obsession with nordic skiing makes most folks' obsession with nordic skiing look like child's play. Thus, the conference had a relatively high number of skiing-related presentations (many by Norwegian researchers, quite a few Swedes, a couple Finns and an Austrian if I remember all... topics covered biomechanics, physiology and coaching, among others).

One of the themes that stuck out in the presentations on training was volume and intensity of training. There was, an entire session on training to achieve optimal adaptations that, after "careful consideration", I chose to attend over the other 7 sessions happening at the same time (well, in reality the skier-magnet in me didn't really give me any other choice...). Other presentations were linked into sessions on physiology, coaching/testing, etc. The presentations discussed, for example, how high intensity training improves VO2max more effectively than moderate intensity training, and how long slow distance (LSD) training is essential for VO2max development/maintenance in even highly trained individuals. These presentations confirmed most of what we already understand about adaptations to training and there were no groundbreaking secrets on how to train, though throughout the congress, some new methods for the assessment of the effectiveness of training and what is going on at e.g. the neuromuscular or cellular level, were presented.

One presentation that stood out for me in a practical sense was one in which the researcher presented three colored charts of yearly training volume (intensity was denoted by different colors) from some TOP level skiers in Europe (I mean world-class here). The next slide was yearly training volume and intensity from a research project done in '99 using top US skiers. The main difference between these plans/training logs was the amount of green on the charts. Green was the color used to denote low-intensity distance training, of which there was significantly more of on the Euro charts than the US chart. While many training methods can produce good skiers, and while there are interindividual variations in training responses, I found it interesting that many of the best skiers in the world really do ski EASY (LOTS of green on their charts which is equal to about 75 to 90% of training volume performed below 2mmol blood lactate). The key observation here was not that total training volume between the Euros and the US differed, but that there was a lot more low intensity training visible on the Euro charts than on the US ones. Could this difference in volume of low intensity training be one of the keys as to why Euro skiers have traditionally dominated the podium? To my knowledge there are no studies directly comparing training between skiers from different nations (and which method(s) might be more effective), but from an observational standpoint I would venture to say that it makes a difference.

In my skiing experience, long slow distance workouts didn't always end on such a slow note even if they started out in the zone and I'm betting I'm not the only one... The competitiveness of a team and multitasking (thinking about the homework/upcoming exam/*insert something else that could make your mind spin here* while skiing) can gradually work you out of the zone as can the expectation that you always work as a team. In college, we logged our hours of training as "easy" when we skied for 3 hours even when the heart rate monitor average BPM didn't necessarily agree...this means that the training volume I had at moderate and high intensity was greater than my training log will let you believe....of course I should have known better, but hindsight is always 20/20 (If you want to read more on that on a "personal level" I wrote a series of six "ski lessons" last year after going to a Finnish Ski Association Coaching Seminar. (the views expressed are mine alone) Here are the links: Lesson 1, Lesson 2, Lesson 3, Lesson 4, Lesson 5, Lesson 6). Based on what I listened to and observed in Oslo, I cannot, unfortunately, write a formula to achieve skiing glory, but the take-home message was to train with purpose (easy when you need to go easy and hard when you mean to go hard) and do not underestimate the power of low intensity training!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Get your game face on!

Time Trial. Battle Creek. Thursday. Try to stay in front of Caitlin Compton. Be there!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Last night Derek and I finally got out for a rollerski together. Derek and his wife moved this spring to a house only about 4 miles from mine, but it has taken us until last night to actually get out for a ski together (we have certainly talked about doing it a number of times before).

Today is actually Nichole's 26th birthday (everyone wish her happy birthday!), but it is way too predictable to suprise her on her birthday (and you can't suprise someone after their birthday, since then it just looks like you forgot), so last night I got home a bit before she did and got her gift out and started baking chocolate chip cookies (we have a long history of me providing cookies, just ask Brent). This was going great until I realized that we were out of chocholate chips. I raced over to the store, and was in the chocolate chip isle when my phone rang. At first I thought it was going to be Nichole telling me that she was almost home and my suprise would be ruined, but instead it was Derek asking if I wanted to rollerski. I raced back home, got the cookies in the oven, got my rollerski stuff on, got the cookies out of the oven, and was able to suprise Nichole when she got home. I then headed out for my ski with Derek. We did a nice little double pole together, were able to loop around to check out his house, and then we ended up back at my house for a water bottle fill-up and some fresh cookies. Very nice, since it is great to have someone to train with that is nearby. We will have to do that more often (including some runs in Lebanon Hills that Nichole will have to join us on too).

Happy Birthday Nichole :)