Vakava Team Photo

Vakava Team Photo
Vakava Racers at the Mora Last Chance Race

Friday, February 26, 2010

Eager like a bever!

The big one is tomorrow. It is Birkie time!

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

Few new items:

It has been a great day to be a nordic skier:

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

You've probably already seen this, but:

How tough are you? Probably not this tough.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Vasaloppet recap

I have not been feeling quite as fast this year after having a great year last year. Between board exams and moving, this fall did not have the volume that I was hoping for leading into the season. Consequently I have been feeling a bit flat so far in the season, and the last couple of races have shown this (2nd at Nordic Spirit where I didn't have the skis or legs to hang with the leader from the gun, and 19th at COLL where I kept falling backwards in the standings throughout the race). Due to my not feeling quite as strong this year (and also a bit of a desire to help the Vakava team finally beat the Cheaters in the team race) I switched from the 58k to the 35k for the Mora Vasaloppet. The Vasaloppet is the largest ski race in Minnesota, and the 35k skate race served as the 6th race in the MiSSeries. The switch to the shorter race paid off, as I not only felt great in winning the race by a minute and a half, but Vakava as a whole had a great day sweeping the podium in the women's race and finishing 1,2,4 in the men's - helping to give us a sizable, but not quite comfortable lead in the team standings going into the last race of the series.

Vakava results at Mora (with dala horse listed):
35k skate:
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)

42k classic
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)

58k freestlye
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

Lessons Learned

I've been meaning to post race reports all winter long but just haven't had the time. I'll try to recap them as I find the time since each race has taught me something. My main goals for this year were to feel good and have fun and not worry about how fast I was going. I've been having a great season in stark contrast to last year and have accomplished all those goals. I've felt great, been having a great time, and the less I worry about results they better they are. I think several things have helped me have a better season this year. Last year was a difficult year for me personally and I wasn't sleeping well because I was stressed. I think I just tried to push myself harder than my body could recover properly from with the other stresses and lack of sleep. I just got more and more worn down and felt worse and worse. This year I've managed my stress levels much better and have made sure that I didn't continue to push myself if I was tired or feeling overwhelmed by life. I've really tried to monitor my sleep, which is a good barometer of my stress levels, and take it easy if I needed to. This made my hard workouts more productive and I was able to slowly get stronger and faster. It really drove home that feeling like an easy workout really was easy, too easy even, was a good thing and that allowed hard workouts to feel good too as a result. In essence I relearned to pace my workouts appropriately. I used to be really good at pacing in races and I think I've relearned that as well. I've stopped worrying about how fast my competitors were going and just skied my own race. I can only ski how fast I can ski, so pushing myself too hard to keep up with others is counter-productive. If I can keep up with them I can, and if I can't I can't. It really is that simple. So I've just listened to my body, focused on what I could do that particular day, not worried about what I can't do, and enjoyed being out there. And what a difference it's made.