Vakava Team Photo

Vakava Team Photo
Vakava Racers at the Mora Last Chance Race

Monday, June 14, 2010

Hanging in there…

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

"If a tree falls in the forest", and other jobless ramblings

I have discovered the secret to getting in more training: unemployment...

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

(Finally) The End of the Racing Season

It's not often that you get to race - on real snow - at the end of May. It's also not that often that you get to race - at least at my level - against the likes of Ivan Babikov.

Last weekend I got both. The race is Ski to Sea, up in the northwest corner of Washington State. It's held every Memorial Day weekend, and my part was the first leg of a 7-leg, 8-person relay (XC, alpine skiing, running, road biking, canoeing, mountain biking, flat-water kayaking) that starts up at the Mount Baker ski area in the North Cascades and ends down in the saltwater of Puget Sound - ski to sea. The race claims roots going back to 1911 (it was in a much different form back then), but it's been a multi-sport relay now for almost 40 years.

Start of Ski to Sea at Mt. Baker Ski Area in Washington

I hooked up with a team 15 years ago and have been flying out every year to help them try to win, originally, the masters division (40 and over) and, now, the veterans division (50 and over).

It's a pretty big race - 464 teams and 3712 competitions - and it attracts some pretty fast people. Yes, Babikov was there and, yes, he did win. But not by as much as you might expect. Babikov wasn't the only Olympian; in fact, out of the first 13 finishers (I was lucky enough to end up 12th), 6 of them competed in the Olympics at Vancouver, Torino, or Salt Lake City. CXC's Brian Gregg (check out his blog) had a terrific race - he was only 2nd this year, unlike in 2009 and 2008, but he managed to stay with one of the world's best hill climbers up one of the biggest and nastiest hills I ever compete on, pushing Babikov almost to the end of the race and finishing only 20-some seconds behind.

Not a bad setting for a ski race. (It's called the Mt. Baker Ski Area, but it's really at the base of the much more photogenic Mt. Shuksan.)

And, yes, there was plenty of snow - 140 inches still. (This place had a world-record 1140 inches in a single season a few years back.) It was pretty wet and sloppy, as you'd expect at this time of year, but that's what big structure and pure fluoros are for.

Of course, like in any race, the most fun part comes afterwards. We spent a couple of hours skiing around together on the last slushy snow of the season, the I wound my way down the mountain to Bellingham to watch our kayaker Shaun Koos (Torin's dad) finish up my team's last leg, then trade stories of our exploits, and start the mandatory partying.

Brian Gregg, Martin Rosvall, me, Torin Koos, Kent Murdoch. (Martin was leading at 63 K's in this year's Swedish Vasaloppet; Kent is a friend of mine from Seattle who is a past Ski to Sea winner and who is still really fast.)

So, finally, the end of the ski-racing season, almost 2 1/2 months after the Twin Cites snow melted. (I'm sure I was one of the first guys out on roller skis, making sure I stayed in at least reasonable racing shape for this thing.) The rest of Vakava is a month into the new training year, gradually cranking things up. For me, it's time to kick back a bit. (And it's always kind of fun to run the rest of the team through their paces and make them sweat at our workouts during a period when I get to take it easy for a while.)

Dave Christopherson
Editors notes:
Here are the race results. Dave was the top "veteran" skier.