Vakava Team Photo

Vakava Team Photo
Vakava Racers at the Mora Last Chance Race

Friday, July 16, 2010

Kathleen & Cheryl's Excellent Water Adventure

A couple of workouts ago Kathleen asked me if I planned to do the time trials when I said, 'sure' she suggested that since we'd get a good ski workout early in the week why not play hooky from the Thursday Vakava workout and do a Hoigaards canoe race instead (races are every Thursday all summer). Well, it's been quite a few years since I raced canoes seriously but Kathleen is just getting into it this year so I thought 'oh what the heck'. I haven't been in a boat this year so I made sure I got two canoe training sessions in the weekend before. One of the sessions was with Kathleen on a very windy day on Pleasant Lake. We stayed upright in our racing boat (just barely) so I figured we were ready for anything. Fast forward to July 8. A nice hot day but no wind at Lake Calhoun. I got registered, got the boat ready, got me ready but no Kathleen. I wasn't too worried until about 10 minutes to race time - still no Kathleen. I knew she wouldn't blow me off so I figured something must have happened so I started frantically looking for a back up partner, trying to talk solo racers into ditching their boats and going tandem. I even asked the race starter if he'd partner with me (canoe racers never wait for the starters horn anyway). All the boats were in the water when Kathleen came running up. She'd been caught in traffic but she made it so we jumped in the boat and got a great start. She took the stern and for a beginner she did a great job stearing. I guess if you're going to race with a neophyte, pick a rocket scientist - she's a quick study on reading the water, waves and boat angles. Well into the second half of the race all was going well and we had some decent teams within sight coming out of Cedar into Lake of the Isles. Water was calm, no boats next to us and suddenly the boat leaned too far to the right and before we knew it we were swimming! Damn! We tried popping the boat up to get the water out but we couldn't get it flipped AND empty so we had to swim it to the edge of a bridge where we could get a toe hold on the bridge wall. The water was warm and it was a hot night so the water actually felt pretty good. There was a fisherman on the other side of the bridge who enjoyed the show and a few of the old time canoe racers who paddled by as we we struggled to get back into the race took full advantage of our prediciment. I must admit I had a hard time paddling when we got started again because I was laughing. I figured we lost about 6 minutes but hey, we finished the race and still won the women's division. Neither one of us knows why we tipped but after the race Joe Manns said he saw a 4' muskie in the vicinity so my theory is that the 5' muskie knocked us over.

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.

enlightenment through closed eyes

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

Time Trial #1

Every summer we do a series of 5k time trails as both an opportunity to gauge our improvement, and also a chance to get in a good, hard effort. The first time trails of the summer were this past Tuesday. They are always in the same location - a 5k area of road on the rolling hills in Afton, MN - and the format is: warm up, 5k skate, recovery, 5k classic, cool down. It is all self timed, individual start, and drafting is not allowed.

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:
Nate 12:34
Eugene 13:10
Paul 13:38
Jason 14:30
Dave 14:39
Kathleen 15:20
Michele 15:39
Brent 15:47
Cheryl 15:57
Bonnie 16:32

Classic TT:
Nate 13:39
Eugene 13:39
Paul 14:56
Brent 15:15
Cheryl 15:29
Dave 15:34
Michele 15:49
Kathleen 15:50
Jason 16:58
Bonnie 17:55

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

Kathleen and Dave

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Afton Trail Run

One of my favorite things about the 4th of July is that it means that it is time for the Afton Trail Run. Just writing that makes me feel like a sick, twisted individual, but I really do enjoy a good, hard-core trail run.

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:
3rd- James
4th- Evgeny (aka: Eugene - one of our new Vakava skiers)
17th- me
22nd- Mark (the 4th masters runner)

Eugene and James