Vakava Team Photo

Vakava Team Photo
Vakava Racers at the Mora Last Chance Race

Sunday, March 21, 2010

First ROLLERSKI of the season.

I have to admit that I have already been out on the rollerskis this spring. Gross. And its not that I don't like rollerskiing. In fact I think most of the time it is at least as enjoyable as skiing on snow (especially compared to all the time spent skiing at -15 degrees), which is good considering the ski season only lasts 3 months (4 if we're lucky). But I usually don't break out the rollerskis for a couple more weeks. Technically I didn't break out my rollerskis yet, but on Friday morning Nichole and I were up at my parents' house and she had a 13 mile run planned. I wanted to come along, but my legs were really feeling the previous 6 days running (after no running the previous month). My knees can take only so much pounding, and they were telling me that this should not be running day #7. Fortunately my dad has the same size feet, and after a little scrounging I found some old combi boots, a pair of poles, and the Marwes. Soon we were off, and I double-poled and single-sticked along while Nichole ran with the dog. Nice and easy. It was probably not such a bad thing training-wise -the reason I stay off the rollerskis for a month or so after the ski season is more for the mental break than anything physical, and this rollerski was very relaxing. It was a preview of the next 8 months.

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

Last skiing of the season

Like Nate I've been pretty lazy since the Birkie. In the past couple of years I've had additional races after the Birkie and we've had good snow sometimes into April. This year, unless one was willing to travel, the ski season ended abruptly since the heat wave that began on Birkie Saturday rapidly consumed all the great snow we got this winter.

Nevertheless, I still strapped on the skis for one last weekend on snow. On Friday the 12th Angie and Dave talked me into driving to Elm Creek. It was raining and probably in the high 30s or low 40s and as I put my boots on I was thinking about how pathetically desparate we must be to drive 35 minutes to ski in these conditions. But the track was surprisingly decent. I had wanted to practice warm weather kick waxing so I put some universal klister on and WOW! It felt like roller skiing - great kick with almost no push of the foot while still delivering great glide. Now I know what everyone means when they talk about how nice klister skiing can be. Not sure if I'll ever have a chance to use it in a race but it was pretty nice that day - a great way to finish up classic skiing for the year.

On Sunday I returned with Jeff and Claire and we had a blast playing ski tag and just skiing around. This time it was sunny and highs got up into the 60s. The snow really was still pretty good so I'm glad we got out for one last ski.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

And the training for next season begins!

Between being a bit sick last week, and also wanting to give my body a chance to recover after the ski season, I took 6 days in a row off from training. I think that is the most down time I have had in 3 years, and let me tell you, it was nice. :) It makes me realize why the average American is so fat - because sitting around and doing nothing but eat sure is easy! I did try to do a little bit besides eat. The extra free time gave me a chance to do more on the job search front, and I interviewed at two different dental offices last week. I also found out that I passed my clinical board exams, so between all of that the real world sure seems like it is coming up quick!

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

Another great season

Well, it has been a great ski season. I know that JOs are still happening out east, and spring series and other races have yet to be run, but for me (and probably most Minnesotans) the ski season is over. It is 40 degrees and raining pretty hard right now, and even the snowmaking loops at elm creek and wirth will have a hard time holding on for long.

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

Lessons 1,2,3

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

Over All Ready???

Well, the race season is officially over for me and I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand I know I need a break both mentally and phyically, but it's still hard to see it end. It was so much fun and I had a great season. But now I can no longer postpone all the things that have been piling up over the winter. I feel rather overwhelmed by it all and am trying to tell myself it doesn't all need to get done tomorrow and that I need to pace myself. But enough about that, the real reason I'm posting is because Nate keeps prompting me to. That and because I've been meaning to all season long. I've learned a lot, or I should say re-learned, namely how to race again. Each race taught me something and I want to recap them all. (Or maybe I just want to re-live the season in self-denial that it's really over.) So over the next several days I'll post about each one and relate what I learned. I guess the pile of projects and chores will have to wait a few more days.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Off to Oregon

I want to help Nate out here with a little contribution since he does such a great job keeping the blog going:)

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

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!

Da Birkie

Now that was fun! If there is one thing that will help mask a little lack of fitness, it is blazing fast trails on wicked fast skis (thanks Devin!).

As expected, the field was pretty dang impressive. Like most people, I was 15 minutes faster this year, and also like most people (it seems) I was 10 places further down in the results. 28th last year, and 38th this year. I don't think I could have finished any faster though. From the begining my legs were not feeling great. I was still with the lead pack through most of the power line hills, but I was not too focused on staying with them, and by the first feed stop I was off the back of the (very large) lead pack (side note: this was the first time in 4 years that I was able to get a feed at this first feed station, so that was one major benifit of having the classic skiers start first - it got the feed stations ready for us!). By the 7k mark I was caught by a good pack of skiers that included Bjorn Batdorf, Josh Korn, Matt Weier, and about 3 others. We worked together and caught Tyler Kjorstad and another skier that were a bit ahead of me, and from there we had a really nice pack that skied together for the rest of the race. I was very thankful for the pack. I skied most of the first 80% of the race at the back of this pack of 8 or 10 skiers just trying to get my legs to feel good. I always seem to have crappy legs for the first part of the birkie, but most years I am feeling good by OO, and feeling tired but very good by Bitch hill and have a good finishing kick. This year it took my legs until well after OO to feel ok, and still by Bitch hill I was not feeling like pushing the pace and was just trying to hold onto the group. In the hills after Rosie's field our group started to split up a little bit (I have heard that Bjorn may have had to take an unfortunate pit stop about this time), and I did have the legs to bridge a gap that formed and keep our pack together. On the last flats before the lake a skier from Canada (skiing his first Birkie) made a break, and once again I went to the front of the chase and brough the group together. Once we were on the lake the Canadian and another skier in his first Birkie (you can tell from the "1" written on the bibs) were pulling our group with my self in 3rd. I was perfectly content to let them switch off the leads, meanwhile trying to keep my left tricep from cramping. By the time we got off the lake and on to Main Street I knew that both of those guys were pretty spent. I pulled into the far right lane and sprinted hard to the line. I was the first guy in my pack to the finish (even though the results list Chad Tolbert in front of me).
Which brings up the point: Why is the starting sensor at the 300m mark in the race? Has anyone done a race that starts the chips part way into the race and not at the start line? This just seems stupid. Why not have the starting sensor at... the start!?! My other suggestion is that they instead move the start sensor to the 15k mark for next year, since that is when my legs usually start feeling good anyway.

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!).
Looking at the results I think I can justify saying that I had as good a race as last year when I was 28th. Note: 9 skiers who beat me last year did not race (or were in the classic race). 19 of the skiers who beat me this year did not race last year (or were in the classic race). 3 of the skiers who I beat last year beat me this year, but I beat 3 skiers this year who were ahead of me last year. This seems to point to an extra 10 top elite skiers in the race, and I was 10 spots worse in the results. Makes since to me.
Another side note: for the 3rd year in a row (every year they have had it), the U of MN - Twin Cities was victorious in the Birkie College Team Competition. This year all three scoring U of MN skiers also trained with Vakava: Myself, Bjorn, and Allie Rykken.
The Vakava team as a whole had a fantastic race (especially the ladies!)
Vakava skate finishers:
38 - Nathan Porath
67 - Derek Wallen
72 - Bjorn Batdorf
112 - Andy Schekel
154 - John Keane
160 - Dave Christopherson (age group win)
162 - Dave Bridges
171 - Paul Olson
296 - Brent Oja
5 - Jojo Winters (in the money)
7 - Mary Beth Tuttle (age group win)
14 - Angie Robinson (age group win)
19 - Kathleen Dewahl (age group win)
24 - Cheryl Dubois (age group 2nd, because Mary Beth was in it)
30 - Mel MacMillan
36 - Michelle Oja
43 - Katie Splan
101 - Nichole Porath
51 - Mark Ahlers-Moore
102 - Kevin Ivens
111- Pete Thurmes
11 - Margie Nelson (age group win)
19 - Allie Rykken

This year I unfortunatly was unable to take part in any post-Birkie festivities due to my dental board exams the following day. They went well. I will find out the results in a week or two, and hopfully there will have been no consequenses to doing a 50k race the day before the board exams.
Now it is time to soak up the great spring skiing here in Mn. I took the dog out skijoring yesterday, and today it is supposed to be 45 degrees and sunny. Fantastic.