Vakava Team Photo
Monday, December 27, 2010
This was also my first chance to wear the new Vakava racing suits. The past couple of years the Vakava team has just worn the Finn Sisu suits, but since the team has gotten pretty established we decided to make our own suits. Derek (who is a graphic designer when he is not skiing fast) took my Finn Sisu suit design and made a few changes and also created the great Vakava Racing logo (that you see at the top of this blog), to come up with our new suit design. I personally think it looks very sharp, and I got a couple of compliments on the new suit at the race.
The conditions at como were awesome! I have been skiing in Red Wing (where I live) most of the time, and it has gotten to the point that we have too much snow for the goomers to handle without a piston bully. Almost every pole push sinks down 8" or more. Getting to como and finding firm, fast conditions was fantastic. Skiing is so much more fun - and a lot easier!
The race started out on a nice wide starting line, but it narrowed quite quickly. I have not put in nearly as many hours this year as in past years (working for a living really cuts into my training time!), so I was a bit cautious at the start. I sure didn't plan on trying to keeping up with the CXC guys who I knew would be flying from the start. My plan was to ski relaxed for the first 5k, and then see how I felt from there. When the gun went off I got out in about 12th or 15th place - probably a bit further back than I wanted to be, but I was able to stay relaxed and ski easy. Right from the start, and as predicted, the 2 CXC guys took off and 4 skiers went with them. The rest of field formed its own big pack. After about 2k I found myself at the front of this big pack and slowly reeled in the 2 skiers who had obviously started to hard and had been spit off the back of the lead pack.
At the 4k point I stepped to the side to let someone else lead. Much to my suprise there were still about a dozen skiers in our pack. Jon Miller and fellow Vakava skier Eugene went around me to pull, and I stepped back in to the 3rd position in the pack. There was a bit of jockying for position, but I still tried to stay focused on skiing smooth and relaxed. As we went through the 5k lap point, the timers said that we were 25 seconds back from the other 2 skiers that had been dropped by the CXC guys. We skied along through the second lap, and at about 7k a new skier went to the front a put in a surge. I was in the 3rd or 4th position in the pack and went around to bridge to gap. I was suprised at how much of an extra gear I had. This was the thing I was most worried about since my training has been less than ideal, and this was my first race, but I had no problem surging up to the skier who had broken away. At this point our big pack began to splinter a bit, although a few skiers were still able to match our increased speed. At the second to last "big" hill on the course at about 8k, the front skier surged again, and flew up the hill. I again matched his speed, but this time we were not followed. At the top he stepped to the side and asked me to pull. I went to the front and pushed. I could see the 2 skiers ahead of us, and we were certainly making up ground on them. The last 2k were a blur, since I was just pushing as hard as I could to make sure no one could sprint around me. I made up a fair amount of ground in the last bit, but we had spotted the front pack far too much ground in the first lap. I came in 5th overall, less than 20 seconds behind the 4th skier.
I felt great about my race. It was great conditions, I had rocket skis (Fast Wax Green and a Finn Sisu fine grind), and I was able to go hard and feel like I was racing.
5th Nate - 23:27
12th Eugene - 24:22
30th (1st in age group) Dave C - 26:05
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Monday, November 29, 2010
Cross country skiing is supposed to be safe. The ski trails are supposed to be a refuge away from the ills of society and the rush of the modern world. And when this refuge is invaded and the world spills onto the trails in all its horror I feel violated. It feels like the skiing community as a whole has been assulted.
But what defines us is not the terrible things we must endure, but how we come out on the other side. The woman who was assulted released a statement on a community forum. In it she said:
"At one point the boys (who were robbing her) asked for our skis. I wish they could have taken them and used them and experienced the pure joy of gliding in the fresh snow, getting winded from exertion and breathing in cool, fresh air. Please send them all the love you can muster. I think they really need it."
If that does not speak to the power of an individual to forgive, and the power of skiing, I don't know what does. I personally am in awe of her response.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Fall has always been my least favorite time of year. It’s dark, cold, bad conditions for just about anything, and we’re supposed to be putting in a lot of hours. Not a good combination. This November has proved no different. I haven’t had my heart in my training lately so that is not helping either. I’ve been more in the mood to ‘nest’ in this weather than get out and train and hadn’t trained in a couple days. Dave came to my rescue today and got me out the door. We decided to try the U of M golf course since we figured it’d still have snow. Well, it had snow, sort of. It was more ice than snow, but we ventured out anyway. There is a fair amount of terrain there that we had to navigate in addition to bare spots and ruts so finding a good area to ski was tricky. Conversation was difficult above the noise of us scraping along but some snippets were… Angie to Dave, “Look, another fool!” as we spotted another skier, who wasn’t out long. Dave to Angie, “Come on!” in the tone you’d use to coax a puppy along. We finally picked our way to the north and east sides of the course and found some fairways that had decent coverage, few ruts, and were gradual enough that we could get up and down them reasonably well. Even so, it was rather comical to see each other hobbling and skittering along. I think my heart rate topped out at 110 since it was so hard to move around. All that said, I actually began to enjoy myself. It was a nice sunny day, I enjoyed the company, and I was even getting the hang of the ice at the end. I was thinking how it was good practice in case we have to race in conditions like we did at Pepsi last year. So it wasn’t so futile after all. (I’m still praying for a few inches of fresh snow rather than more freezing rain tomorrow though.)
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Friday, November 19, 2010
This Thursday Vakava had our first practice on snow. We opted to head to the U of MN golfcourse to find some pretty much untouched snow to try our hand at crust skiing. It worked pretty well, although that part of the cities definately got more snow than Red Wing, and the problem was that we would break through pretty often. It was still very enjoyable to be out skiing, and although conditions did not lend themselves to doing intervals, we still got in a good workout chasing each other around the course.
Monday, October 25, 2010
The 2 main changes to the series this year are:
1.) the Mayor's Challange 15k classic race will replace the Pepsi Challange classic race. This takes one of the least attended races in the series (the classic race at Pepsi) and replaces it with a Super Tour and CCSA event. For the team race this will no doubt make it even more important than normal to have older team members racing that weekend - since the under 25yr olds will have the entire college field to fend off, and the under 30yr olds will have the CXC team and other elites to battle to earn good age group points. I can already hear Peter calling up every 80 year old he can think of to try and convince them to ski on his team.
2.) the Nordic Spirit Race will be classic this year. This means that for the first time in the 7 year series history there will be 2 classic races in the series (along with a 2 day pursuit and a same-day pursuit - meaning 4 chances to put on classic skis). This is putting an increased emphesis on classic technique that makes since, since the prize for winning the series is a trip to Iceland to race in the Fossavatn ski marathon (a classic race). This also only reinforces my desire to buy a new pair of classic skis ASAP.
Anyone else have thoughts on the series?
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
We took The Ski up to the Birkie trail recently as part of Vakava’s annual fall training camp – we figured that it deserved a trip to the Holy Land after being liberated from the dark clutches of Peter’s Cheaters. (For those of you who aren’t quite up to date on this, The Ski is the trophy from the team competition of the Minnesota Skinnyski Series – it’s been going back and forth between Vakava and Peter’s collection of mercenaries, and the 2010 competition saw The Ski come back to its rightful owners, namely us.)
Vakava has been doing a fall camp in the Hayward area since 2004, and we’ve done it in the sun, the rain, and even a dusting of snow, with weather ranging from lousy to beautiful. This one would have to be rated spectacular – gorgeous fall foliage, sunny, no wind, and perfect roller ski temperatures. The cold weather can hold off for another month – I’m still enjoying the Indian summer.
We pole-hiked the Birkie trail Friday afternoon, roller skied (classic intervals and video-recording) near OO Saturday morning, roller skied some more (including a bunch of specific strength and sprints) Saturday afternoon, and then did our 50K skate (with fast pickups) Sunday morning. The 50K in particular was under perfect conditions – roller skiing from Cable to Drummond and back on beautiful, winding, rolling roads through the north woods – kind of like the Birkie trail but on roller skis.
Then after the hard work, it was time to relax, watch ski videos, eat great food (thanks again, Michele), drink great beer (including home-brew from Angie and Kevin), and, of course, enjoy great company with the Vakava Team. All together, a big, excellent weekend, with lots of good training and lots of fun.
Now, we have our next set of roller ski time trials this coming week; we’re gradually bumping up the intensity and specificity of our training; and it won’t be long before the snow flies and we’re out skiing on the real stuff.
Monday, October 11, 2010
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
It’s been hot. Really hot. Historically I’ve really suffered in the heat, but it hasn’t been much of a problem for me lately and I think I know the secret to beating the heat. Spend lots of time in it! We don’t use air conditioning at home or in the car and I wear a long sleeved shirt to work since there is air conditioning there. I also spend plenty of time outside in addition to the time I spend training. Last weekend I spent a couple hours both days planting about 90 plants into a rain garden in the blistering heat. I sure sweated a lot, but wasn’t all that bothered otherwise. This morning I did some running intervals and felt great and ran plenty fast. I haven’t had any trouble sleeping on these sticky nights either. I think it’s not that different than, say, altitude training. The longer you spend at altitude, the more your body adjusts and the easier it is to handle. Going without air conditioning can take some getting used to, but not that long and it sure makes training in summer a lot easier. Not to mention the cost savings!
The only negative side effect that I think is attributable to the heat is a little hyponatremia (low sodium) which gives me muscle cramps and minor heart arrhythmia. I had a more pronounced case of it last winter and realized that it must be because I don’t eat processed foods and so don’t get that much salt in my diet. I started adding a little salt and it cleared up. I’ve been noticing it a bit again so I must be sweating more than usual and losing more sodium. I’m now experimenting with some electrolyte tablets that you add to your water bottle to see if that helps. If it does, I think I’ll mix up my own with a little salt and salt-alternative for some added potassium as well (which is usually made from potassium bicarbonate and potassium bitartrate). I may also use some sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). We’ll see how it goes. If the heat subsides it may be a non-issue very soon anyway. Until then, bring it on!
Friday, July 16, 2010
Overall I had a great time paddling with Kathleen. She's amazingly strong in the boat and I think if we did a couple more races we could hang with some of the regular racing women. So if any other Vakers are looking for some awesome cross training, try canoing. Kathleen might even take the stern with you. Just watch out for that 6' muskie lurking on the west end of Lake of the Isles.
I’ve really worked hard on improving my technique and have made great strides, but there’s always something more to work on and tweaks to make. I think I’m on the verge of a breakthrough. Last week at the V2 video session, Ahvo told me that I need to get my hip just a bit further over and pole longer on the one ski before shifting my weight to the other side. I’ve heard this many times from various sources and know what he’s talking about. I can see it on the video and feel it when I ski, but just haven’t been able to make the change. So earlier this week I tried some balance drills with my eyes closed. I’ve read that having the eyes closed is important for improving balance. I think doing balance drills with eyes open helps strengthen the muscles used for balance, but doing them with the eyes closed helps train the brain and other systems involved somehow. Anyway, I was doing the V2 motion with my eyes closed and found that I couldn’t step back and forth without putting a foot down unless I did it a certain way. After thinking about it I came to the conclusion that that motion was what I had been trying to do but couldn’t quite get. Doing it with eyes closed forced me to do it right. So tonight at practice I tried doing the same thing on roller skis (with eyes open this time!). I was finally able to make it work. It feels deliberate and inefficient since it’s new, but I think once I commit it to muscle memory and practice it a lot it will feel good and be more powerful.
Friday, July 9, 2010
I started about 30 seconds after Eugene did, and made it my goal to try and catch him. Eugene is one of the new skiers to Vakava this year, and he is also relatively new to skiing in general. His technique is quite raw (although it has improved quite a bit already this summer), but he has a huge engine, and I think he is going to be much improved by this winter. I was probably a bit to excited to chase him down too quickly, and I started out quite hard. I made up 75% of the distance between us by the half way mark, but by then the 90 degree heat and my fast start was starting to get to me, and I spent most of the last lap just trying to keep the gap from getting bigger. On the last stretch of rolling hills I made a final push to catch him, and I think Eugene was starting to fade a bit as I was closing in. About 30m from the finish I was still 10m behind, but then with a ill-placed pole between the skis Eugene was sprawled out on the ground and I glided past over the finish line, completely drained. Eugene got up quickly, and with bloody knees and left elbow was not far behind.
In between the skate and classic TT's I was doing by best to recover and prepare to go hard again, but I was really feeling the heat. I don't think I have ever felt as light headed or jello-legged at the start of a time trial as I did in the classic portion. I never felt like I was able to give an all out effort or get any snap in my arms and abs, but I could go no faster. I think everyone was just happy to have stayed on their feet during the classic portion. Eugene, after bandaging himself up, gamely put in a great classic TT and he finished in the same time that I did. All in all a good start to the year, and some times to improve upon when we do it again in a month or two.Skate TT:
A couple of notes about the results:
1. Both Bonnie and Eugene fell during the skate TT.
2. Jason is brand new to classic skiing and this TT was his first classic "race" ever.
3. We brought along the MN skinnyski series team trophy that we won last winter. We figured that if Peter brought it all across the country to take pictures with it after his team won, the least we could do is to take an occational picture with it too (and send it in to be on the front page of skinnyski.com).
Kathleen and Dave
Thursday, July 8, 2010
The Afton Trail Run is basically the biggest, baddest trail run around the Twin Cities each summer, and this year it served as the USATF MN state championship for the 25k and 50k distances. The race is held (appropriately) at Afton State Park, and covers as much elevation change as they can cram into the trails out there. Most of the course is on 3 or 4 foot wide grass or dirt trails through the woods and fields of the park, but part of the course is also on the gravel road, and the last 2 miles is on some very winding single track.
Last year was my first year doing this race, and I went out hard and paid dearly for it. Up the first hill I had wondered to myself, "I know it's steep, but why are people walking already?" only to have an epic bonk and spend the last 4 miles stumbling in (In the last 5 miles I lost 10+ minutes to coach Mark, and ultimately ended with a 8:30 per mile pace). This year I was determined to pace myself and be able to run much more consistently. I also filled the water bottles in my fuel belt with Gatorade Endurance Formula (last year I had water in the bottles and took gels during the race, this year had the Gatorade and skipped the gels).
For the start of the race I placed myself in the middle part of the field and took it easy at the gun. This year I was one of the people walking up part of the first big hill, and I settled into a comfortable pace. Up ahead I could see coach Mark in his Finn Sisu jersey, and over the next few miles I worked to slowly reel him in. I was able to maintain my even tempo, and spent the entire race gaining, catching, and dropping people on the course. Unlike last year, after the first hill I was not caught and passed by anyone during the entire race.
I was still pretty shot by the end, but I only came away from the race with a couple of small blisters (my Inov8 Roclites worked great - much better than my Vasque Aether Techs worked last year) and some chafing that was very painful during my post-race shower (I don't know how people do the 50k!). My time was over 6 minutes faster than last year, and I beat coach Mark by almost 5 minutes (he was pacing himself for Voyager marathon this weekend).
Finn Sisu had some good results:
4th- Evgeny (aka: Eugene - one of our new Vakava skiers)
22nd- Mark (the 4th masters runner)
Monday, June 14, 2010
I have not had so hectic a schedule in a very long time. It’s been non-stop since the ski season ended with no real end in sight. Most springs are busy since things tend to fall to the wayside during the winter race season and I then try to get caught up, but never as bad as this. At least I’d been feeling the best this spring than I have since I started training again three years ago (Ahvo had said that it would take me four years to get back into shape and he sure was right!), but it's finally catching up to me and I’m just frazzled. I just tried to fill in my training log and it was really tough. I hadn’t written in it in over three weeks! I can hardly remember what I did yesterday let alone three weeks ago. My heart rate monitor records my workouts so that helps a bit but that only goes so far. So if I happened to do a workout with you any time from mid-May until now, please let me know what we did! My monitor only holds the last 14 workouts and then starts overwriting the oldest one so I had even stopped wearing it the last few days because I was afraid I’d overwrite my oldest workouts, which of course would be the hardest to remember. I still don’t have a training plan worked out so I just kind of wing it every day. Something has got to give soon or my brain is going to come to a screeching halt. So that is my excuse for lack of posts. And here it is almost mid-night again and I’m still not in bed. (Maybe at least Nate will stop hinting that I need to post something.)
After several hints from various people that it’s time for another Brew-Ski (my homebrewed beer party), I finally scheduled it for the first weekend I had free only to realize later that it was the same day as Grandma’s Marathon. So I moved it to the following weekend only to realize that is the weekend of the City of Lakes Tri-Loppet. Criminy. Who can keep track of all this stuff? Ah well, I guess that’s just the way it is when you hang out with a bunch of athletes. There’s always some race going on. I guess I’ll just have to have another party soon, if I can find a spare weekend to have it and time to write an invite that is!
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Which coincidentally is my current employment status (well, besides the little bit I do at the ski shop, but I don't think that counts as the proper use of a doctorate degree - or at least my wife tells me it doesn't). After four grueling years I made it through dental school, only to graduate during a recession. The good news is that you can't export teeth, so I do have some options on the horizon and I am sure I will enter the working world soon enough (is that really good news...?). With that in mind I am trying to take advantage of this break between school and the real world and get in a bit of decent training.
One of the best things about living here in Red Wing is that I have the state forest just over a mile from my front door. This has lead to a much increased amount of trail running, which I am very pleased about. My most recent long trail run was in the evening just after the skies had cleared up after a soaking rain. It lead to a lot of mud running, but it was a lot of fun. At one point on the run I was going through a valley where the trees were farther off the trails. I had just finished watching a doe run off the trail in front of me when I heard a crack and looked off to my right to see the top 15 feet of a 40 foot tall big birch tree crash to the ground with a huge thud. I have been in the woods and seen a tree fall before, but this was certainly the closest I have gotten to being hit. This was the closest tree to the trail, only 20 feet away, and I had just run past it. The tree itself was probably 10 inches across and dead, and the very top of the tree with most of the branches had been long missing. This left only the trunk, and the rain from earlier in the day soaked into and water-logged the top. I'm just glad I was far enough away so that I didn't have to regret forgetting to wear my road ID.
Yes they do make a sound.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
The day before the race was amazing; minimal wind, sunny and temps just above freezing. A perfect Klister day, or so I was told. Since I've only used Klister three times now, I didn't really feel qualified to make this call myself. Race day was supposed to be more of the same. I remember asking the locals about the weather prediction several times. It was supposed to be even nicer on race day. When we woke up race day, it was warm and calm. By the time Scott Ellertson, my other travel mate, and I made it up to the start of the race, the wind had picked up dramatically and it was cold. As we tried the recommended multigrade Klister out, it didn't take but a few strides to tell it wasn't going to work. Most of the skiers around us were struggling with what to do as well. Scott ended up with a couple layers of VR 50-65 over his Klister and I ended up with one. Nobody around us really seemed to be having great success and we definitely didn't know what would work. We found out after the race that scraping the Klister off and using a product called Ski Go was the application of choice.
At the start of the race I was still optimistic. The first several K are flat and slightly downhill. My skis were sticking a bit, but not more than the others around me. It wasn't until we began to climb that I realized it was going to be a long and brutal race. I can honestly say it was the most difficult race I've ever done. We had very diverse conditions including some falling new, dry snow along with very strong wind. There were gusts between 30-40 mph. I remember forcing my myself to push back into the wind at times or be blown over. I skied about 85% of the race out of the tracks because they were either nonexistent, had snow in them or were just very slow. I kept telling myself to keep my feet moving. I have also never experienced such significant icing on my skis before either. The Swiss men that I was skiing with at the time showed me how to try to reduce this icing, but I struggled to do so. On the last long uphill, I was passed by Stella, the top Icelandic skier and a friend. I have gotten to know her from the two years she has come over to ski in the COLL and a previous Fossavatn race. I was so relieved to make it up the hill. I quickly passed Stella at the top on a flatter section. The last 6-7 K are all downhill. I was exhausted from my duck walk up the hills, but I embraced the potential for an extended, quad killing tuck position. Anything other than the nasty slipping I had endured the previous 43K. I tried to visualize my teammate Angie, who has amazing and graceful downhill technique, during my quest to the finish. The downhill section included dodging many slower skiers from the shorter races and maneuvering through the sloppy, slushy snow that occurs at lower elevations. I was really happy to make it down without falling! After finishing, I quickly found my son who had participated in the 7K race. He had a great time, but he tried to convince me that I had made the wrong choice to only bring waxless skis for him. I just laughed and looked for my post race bag with chocolate in it. Later in the afternoon, was the famous cake buffet which consists of many tables of the most amazing deserts that you have ever seen. Then there is also a talent show, which was hilarious. This is where skiers, and their family and friends, have an opportunity to perform for the group. Then the soup buffet in the evening, followed by more music, dancing and drinking late into the evening. Icelanders sure know how to let loose and have a good time.
Although getting to and from Iceland and the race were difficult. I didn't travel to Iceland just to race. I really went to explore the beauty of the country and its people with my son. Our trip was truly amazing. My son and I were hosted by Margaret Gunnarsdottir, Jon Sigurpalsson and their daughter, Rannevig Jonsson. Why so many last names? An Icelander's last name consists of the father's first name followed by daughter (dottir) or son, depending on gender. This is the second time I've stayed with the family. They have a way of welcoming you into their home and by the time you leave, you think you're part of the family. They are warm, generous, fun and creative, Margaret is a pianist and Jon is an artist. They are the perfect host family.
Iceland's rugged landscape is extraordinary. It has many unique features, from beautiful mountains, stunning waterfalls, fjords, glaciers, and usual rock formations to barren volcanic wasteland where nothing can grow. The landscape has an elemental rawness that's like nothing I've ever experienced. Visitors shouldn't forget the fabulous and relaxing hot pools or "hot pots" as they are called by the locals from their endless supply of natural geothermal heat. Icelanders congregate at these mainly outdoor pools at the end of the day. It is not a vacation spot for the faint of heart. You need to be prepared to endure the elements, but that's all part of the adventure. Full rain gear is essential unless you want to explore while sitting in your car or drenched. Although Iceland has experienced some financial woes recently, the spirit of the people is alive and thriving. They are survivors and have dealt with much adversity before. They are truly a hardy breed. I was also very impressed with the kindness and generosity shown to me and my son by several Icelandic strangers. Although I thought that this maybe would be my last trip to Iceland. I may try to return in several years, perhaps with my daughter Libby. It's just one of those places that makes you long to return.
As they say in Iceland,
Mary Beth Tuttle
Yes, Mary Beth did win the Fossavatn marathon again this year:
2010 50k Results
2010 7k Results (Will did great too!)
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
It has been a busy spring. Although unfortuantely not that busy with skiing. This spring has been my worst for training in the last 3 years. I just graduated from dental school last week, and all of the chaos leading up to that event was not helpful to my training. Although without question the worst thing for my training has been hip alignment issues to my wife Nichole. She had been having a great spring, and was setting her sights on a big spring marathon (it would have been this weekend at Fargo) where she was hoping to run a 2:50 or 2:51. All her workouts and lead up races were pointing to being able to hit that too, but as most runners know, you are constantly teatering on the edge of greatness or injury, and unfortunatly injury won out. She has not run more than 3 minutes at a time in the last month, and she is my biggest training partner this time of year. Plus as any married folk out there probably understand, I just feel guilty going out for a long workout while she is at home on the stationary bike in the basement.
Fortunately Vakava is now 2 weeks into the new season. Things start pretty low key for us this time of year. We are still sorting out who will be back for another year, and who will be the new skiers joining the group. We are also working out plans to get some new racing suits for this next winter. Derek is a graphic designer by trade, and so we we have a pretty sharp looking suit design waiting in the wings. Now we are just working on getting a few sponsors lined up to help defer the cost of the suits so that everyone on the team can get one at the begining of the season (if anyone out there is interested in sponsoring us, just let me know). More on this to come in the weeks ahead.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Side note: Ski racing season is not finished on the world cup. How would you like to be the back of Brian Gregg's legs?
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
I am back training now - and man am I sore! Nichole has been pounding the roads pretty hard now getting ready for the Marathon this spring, and as her loving husband this means I get my share of the roads too. On Saturday (my first day back training) I did a 6 mile run with her pretty easy. This was the first run I had done in about 3 weeks, and really for most of the racing season I usually only ran once or twice a week, and usually not more than 5 miles at a time. So on Sunday I could feel the previous day's run a little bit in my calves. But Nichole was putting in a big day (18 mile run with the last 8 at marathon pace i.e. 6:30 mile pace), and she is feeling a little sorry for herself that she has nobody to run with her, so I suck it up and get out on the roads. I do 5 of her 9 mile warm up, and meet her at the high school where there is a 1.4 mile loop that, while still a bit hilly, is the flattest option we have here in Red Wing. She starts of at her 6:30 mile pace and I run with her for about half the loop, then I cut off and jog across the middle to meet her at the start point again and run with her for half the loop again. In total I did about 25 minutes at 6:30 mile pace with her, and about 15 minutes of jogging in between. Add in the warm up and the one mile cool down and I had an hour and 32 minutes of running on my second day back training. And that is why I am still sore 2 days later. Probably not the smartest training decision in the world, but I earned good brownie points at home, and I hope it will serve as a good kick-off to this year's training.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
I think my last ski will have been the Slush Rush at Elm Creek last Saturday. It was a lot of fun, and there was a family rate for the race so my parents, wife, and brother-in-law Ben all decided to come race too. The only problem was that Ben had skied a grand total of 2 times in his life, probably totaling less than 10k. True story: the race started at the bottom of the sleding hill, and Ben was having such a hard time getting up the hill that half way up the race organizers came down to him and pushed him the rest of the way up the hill. Needless to say he was a bit over his head, but was smart enough to cut the race short before he hurt himself (or my borrowed equiptment!). The good news is that he enjoyed himself enough to borrow my boots and skis for the rest of his spring break week and is currently skiing on some trails in Wisconsin with some college friends. Only bad part of the race is that I managed to catch a head cold and am now paying the price by having to carry a box of kleenex around with me in the clinic all day (is there anything worse than a runny nose under a surgical mask?). At least this is a good time to take some time off. It is probably good for me too, since I otherwise would have jumped right in to running with Nichole, and last spring that meant that I never really took any significant break after the ski season. This year I will. I will also have to do a deeper retrospective on my training log for the year. It was a good season for me - probably not quite as good as last year, but darn close - and I will have to figure out what type of changes I should make for next year.
As for Vakava as a team, I will simply quote Dave's last email: "It's been a lot of fun seeing all of our hard efforts paying off with some very good skiing and some very good results. Aside from just having a lot of fun on the snow together, Vakava had 14 overall race wins this winter, and more than 50 age-class wins. We're looking forward to continuing to build on that success."
It will be time to break out the Marwe's in no time!
Saturday, March 6, 2010
The first race I did this season was the 20k Elk River race in late December. There had been a couple earlier races I could have done but didn’t feel mentally ready to do one. The season can get really long and I thought it was better to pace myself. I figured I needed to race at least once before TC Champs and the Elk River race was the last one before it. 20k is a bit longer than I would’ve like for a first race but the timing was right. My only thought for the race was to just get one under my belt and see how it felt. I purposely didn’t think about who else was there or what place I might get or anything like that. I just wanted to ski my race, so that’s what I did. This is not the same as ignoring other racers. You still need to pay attention to what they are doing and how you might strategize things, but if they are going to fast for you, let them go. If they are going to slow for you, drop them. If they are going a nice pace, work with them and see if you can use the pack to ski faster. So that’s lesson #1: pay attention to others and strategize, but ski your own race. You can’t control how others ski and you shouldn’t let them control you.
The second race was the TC Champs 15k classic at Battle Creek. I planned to ski my own race again, and I did, but I was a little excited and went out too fast. I was leading for the first 1k when I tripped myself up around a corner and went down on my butt. Many people went by and I dropped way back. Then I settled down and found my pace. I was able to catch a couple people on my second lap but could’ve done better if I’d been smarter at the start. So that was lesson #2: keep yourself under control at the start, it’s better to finish strong than to suffer much of the race after starting too hard.
The third race was the TC Champs 10k skate at Theo Wirth for the pursuit start. I was only a few seconds behind Kim Rudd and Kathleen DeWahl was right behind me. It didn’t take us long to catch Kim and the three of us skied the entire race together, which was great. I felt good and it was fun to have a nice group. Kim and Kathleen dropped me at the very end but I still had a very nice race. The three of us had the fastest times of the day and I’m sure it’s because we were pushing each other. So that was lesson #3: find a nice group to ski with if you can since you tend to ski faster in a group.
Stay tuned; more lessons coming soon!
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
First, if any of you haven't skied since the Birkie, Theo Wirth was in amazing shape (front and back 9) as of 11am this morning. It's great to have that kind of coverage and grooming in sunny 30 degree weather.
Second, the Birkie was fun as per usual. Unfortunately I'm still unable to push to a good high max HR as things continue to heal post-sugery. But after really struggling up through OO or so (while very seriously contemplating a DNF), I found a little rhythm and hung on to a small group. I was at Mayo last week, and the surgeon said he believes everything seems to be healing (although they put me back on a rate control drug due to my 90-100bpm resting HR). Luckily, I snuck into a top 200 spot, so hopefully next year I'll be fully recovered ready to go again.
Finally, next Tuesday I'll be defending my PhD thesis and then moving to Portland, OR to work as a circuit designer for Intel. Luckily there is good CC skiing one hour away at Mt. Hood (see pic below), and a little further than that in Bend. It's a bummer to move away from such a great city with so many trails, but such is life. If anyone finds themselves in Portland and is looking to roller ski or ski, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to everyone who has helped me work on my form or whipped my butt in intervals. I'll be following Vakava results from the Northwest!
But despite the timing quirks, this was probably one of the best (if not the best) Birkies I have participated in (this was my 7th). It truly is an experience that every skier should do once (if not once a year!).
Friday, February 26, 2010
I was in at Finn Sisu this morning putting the last touches on my skis (and to help out waxing some of the skis submitted for waxing at the shop). The recommended wax job for the Birkie is: a coat of Rex Blue, a coat of Rex RCF Black, a coat of Rex Olympico Moly, and 3 coats of Rex TK-72. It sounds like things will be pretty abrassive on the course, so that hard wax with the graphite is going to be important. Duribility will be key.
There were a lot of other people in at the shop this morning too. Most of them were from out of town who were picking up some last minute items on there way to the race. There were 2 guys there because the airlines had lost their ski bags! Apparently the airline has no idea where their bags are, and could not even find a record of where they had been checked in. Ouch. One of the guys had a pretty good attitude about it ("a good excuse to buy new skis!"), but the second guy was coming all the way from Sweden (!) and was pretty bummed out.
To make this weekend even more crazy, this Sunday are my dental board exams. I am typing this from the dental school computer lab waiting for a mandatory pre-boards meeting. From here I will be swinging through my parent's house for some pasta, and then heading the rest of the way to Hayward to their cabin. After the race tomorrow I will unfortunately not be heading to the Sawmill Saloon, and will instead be heading back to the Twin Cities to get ready for my 7:45am exam on Sunday. This is the patient-based part of the exam, so it consists of scaling and root planing (a deep cleaning), a class II restoration (a filling on a back tooth), and a class III restoration (a filling on a front tooth). The dentistry should not be too bad, but if one of my patients doesn't show up I might be screwed. At least I have the Birkie to keep my mind off it until the last minute.
I have been going over the race in my mind the last couple of days, and I still havn't decided on my final game plan. The last two years I have been the first or second guy who has not been with the lead pack (28th last year, 30th the year before), but I got there two differnt ways. Two years ago I went out and skied my own race and let the lead pack go early, getting into that second group and skiing easier from the start. Last year my goal was to stay with the leaders for as long as I could. Around the 18k mark I was spent, and Chad Giese and I both kind of fell off the back of the lead pack, and skied together for a few k before the second group caught us and we jumped in with them. Both methods lead to about the same result, and to be honest, skiing my own race hurt a lot less (until the last few kilometers, at least). It will be interesting how having two strong teams in the race (the Italians and CXC) will affect how things go at the front. In the past the Italians could pretty much control how the race was skied, but now CXC might be able to mix it up as well. I am glad it is going to be recorded again :)
Saturday, February 20, 2010
1. Minnesota Finlandia was this morning. The weather was amazing (I was skiing my cool down in a baseball cap with my sleeves rolled up) and the conditions were almost perfect.
2. The 25k pursuit race there served as the final race of the 7 part Minnesota Skinnyski Series. Our beloved Vakava Race Team was leading the team competition by 198 points heading into the race. We had 4 skiers in the race (meaning we could only max out at 400 points), so if Peter's Cheaters had sent a full squad of 6 skiers and had a perfect score (every skier winning their age group) they would have beaten us by just 2 points! The Cheaters did perfect score the race last year, so I was more than a bit worried, however they only had 5 skiers in the race and so Vakava has successfully taken down the Cheaters and won the team competition for the first time in 3 years!!!
3. I had a good race today myself, winning the pursuit for the 2nd year in a row. The race was a lot more fun than last year too (last year the field was a bit thinner and I soloed the whole dang race), since they wisely started the classic and pursuit skiers together this year, and this ment that there was a nice group of skiers for the classic portion of the race. This was nice, since I am not as strong of a classic skier, and I was able to hang out in the pack and get pulled around to the transition area and have plenty in my legs for the skate half of the race. The trophys for the Finlandia are the best of any ski race I have ever seen (well, I hear they give out some decent neckwear at those races in Vancouver) in the form of very intricate hand painted double-bladed lumberjack axes. Very cool, and worth the trip to Bemidji just for that. Vakava women took 1st and 2nd in the women's race too (nice job Mary Beth and Kathleen!)
4. There was a great battle at the front of the 50k race to watch, with Andy Liebner out sprinting Zack Simons and Andrew Johnson. I was telling somone after the race, "the 50k field was really tough. One guy was in the last Olympics, and one guy has one the Birkie." Of course then I had to say, "but neither of those guys won today". Big props to Liebner.
5. I got home just as the olympic men's 30k pursuit was taking off on TV. What an awesome race. It had the breakaway by Olsson, the team tactics of the other two Swedes (which made the race that much more compeling), and the amazing racing of the 4 Canadians (all in the top 16, including 3 of the top 9). The only thing that could hav possible made that race better would have been seeing some Americans a bit closer to the front. Kris Freeman looked to be havng a good race before his blood sugar and then his body crashed. Southam had a respectible race in 34th. Has anyone else noticed that of the 6 races so far, the top american in 4 of them (including all 3 men's races) has been somone not on the USST? Just saying.
Best race ever
Friday, February 19, 2010
Vakava results at Mora (with dala horse listed):
1st- Nate Porath (1st)
2nd- Andy Schakel (1st)
4th- Paul Olson (2nd)
9th- John Keane (3rd)
25th- Dave Bridges (3rd)
30th- Mark Ahlers-Moore (2nd)
40th- Per Nelson (3rd)
1st- Mary Beth Tuttle (1st)
2nd- Angie Robinson (1st)
3rd- Kathleen Dewall (1st)
7th- Mel MacMillian (1st)
13th- Nichole Porath (3rd)
16th- Dave Christopherson (1st)
20th- Brent Oja (1st)
35th- Kevin Ivens
37th- Pete Thurmes
60th- Ahvo Taipale (1st)
5th- Michelle Oja (1st)
9th- Allie Rykken (1st)
11th-Derek Wallen (3rd)
12th- Bjorn Batdorf
2nd-Johanna Winters (2nd)
8th- Cheryl Dubois (1st)
Yes, that is 20 out of 23 people (the 3 coaches are included) winning dala horses. That is impressive.
Now I am waxing skis for tomorrow's race, the Finlandia 25k continuous pursuit. (I have an old swix portable 3-piece bench clamped to a board, that is clamped to the coffee table in the dorm, that is suspended on two chairs). The weather looks like it will be perfect, and the snow has been great. Fun times! The Vakava team is not sending a full squad to the race tomorrow, so the team standings will be very close (Peter's Cheaters put up a perfect score of 600 here last year). Hopefully we can hold them off.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Saturday, January 30, 2010
So they finally posted the team standings for the MN skinnyski series. After 3 races the Vakava Race Team is sitting in an all too familiar position - a close second to the dreaded Peter's Cheaters. We had put some good distance on the cheaters in the first 2 races of the 7 race series, but we lost 86 points in race 3 when we only had one guy in the skinnyski series race at Pepsi (others were skiing in the longer race). In a curious development, there are now 3 teams of cheaters (the other 2 teams are in the bottom two spots), and one can't help but think that Peter created these extra teams so that he himself could actually ski on one this year ;)
This weekend is a new race on the skinnyski series calendar - the Nordic Spirit race held at Spirit Mountain, Duluth. Should be interesting. I am not sure how deep Vakava's roster will be at this new race. I know some people are taking the weekend off. We can only hope the same is true for the cheaters.
Speaking of the Pepsi Challange: major kudos go to Angie Robinson for winning the race in front of Mary Beth Tuttle and Mel MacMillan (a Vakava podium sweep!). Vakava also took both men's and women's age-adjusted overall races (Mary Beth for the women, and of course Dave for the men). For the year the Vakava women have 4 of the top 5 spots in the overall competition, with Cheryl Dubois, Angie, and Mel in the top 3 spots (and Dave is winning the men's overall too). As if we didn't need further proof that Angie is having a great year so far, she is currently 3rd in the skier of the year (most improved skier) category.
"Tuck for speed"
"Fist pump for the win!"
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Well, off to pack. Wish me luck.