Vakava Team Photo

Vakava Team Photo
Vakava Racers at the Mora Last Chance Race

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Skinny Santa Solstice 20K Freestyle

Dave reports:

Not bad for the first race of the season.  Beautiful day on the beautiful Woodland Hills course in Elk River, with hard-packed but not icy snow at 10 degrees and 85% humidity.  I figured you needed fluoros with the humidity and the debris in the snow, as well as skis that weren’t going to wash out on the hard surface.  So I went right down the line with Fast Wax’s recommendation: Flite Arctic over HSF Green over low-fluoro Teal, and used medium-stiff flex Rossis with Finn Sisu’s uni grind.  At this point in my racing career, I count on fast skis to keep me in the race, and I had good ones.  What I lost in the uphills I gained back in the downhills (and there are a lot of fun downhills on that course).  Ended up winning my age class and finishing 21st overall in a very competitive field.

The rest of the Vakava contingent had a successful day as well.
Evgeny Beletskiy 5th
Nate Porath 7th
Ryan Atwell 11th
Mike Nohr 52nd (starting his comeback after taking a break from skiing for 15 years)
Mary Beth Tuttle 4th, age-class winner
Katy Splan 8th, age-class winner
Anna Peterson 9th 

Here are lots of photos from the race.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Cross Training

Mary Beth reports:
Had an amazing day of cross training yesterday! My son, Will and I climbed half dome in Yosemite. We started by moonlight and finished about 9 1/2 hours later. I think we'll take an easy day today.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Race Season Recap

I’ve been meaning to write about my races this season for some time now but just haven’t found any time to do it, so I’m making the time now. I managed to get 5 races in, which was 2 more than I was hoping for. I started out with two short classic races, Wm. O’Brien and City of Lakes Loppet. Wm. O’Brien was fun and it felt really good to finally try to race. COLL was tough because I fell at the start and ended up going out way too hard trying to catch back up, but I pull off a decent race anyway. I wasn’t sure if I should try to do the Birkie or not given the amount of training I was doing, so I decided to try the Pre-Birkie as a test run. Conditions were very cold and slow it was a really hard race for me. It made me think that I shouldn’t do the Birkie. I couldn’t imagine going twice as far feeling like that. But I was torn since I couldn’t really imagine not doing it either. I didn’t want to stay home feeling sorry for myself either. So I tired the Inga-Lami and felt good and had a great time. That convinced me to do the Birkie and just enjoy being a part of it. I went out very easy and was careful not to put myself under. I had just started taking Tamoxifen and one of the side effects can be muscle cramps so I was concerned about that. My legs started to twitch a bit the last 5K, but no cramping. I raced as fast as I could that day and felt good about. Not my best finish at 43rd, but I was proud of myself for toughing out the race and the whole, hard winter. It was so nice to just hang with my friends on a beautiful day.

As for the cancer treatment, I’m now in maintenance/observation mode. I’ll have either a mammogram or MRI every six months and will be on Tamoxifen, which is a drug that helps prevent recurrence, for five years. I haven’t really had any side effects from the Tamoxifen, which are most commonly hot flashes and muscle cramps. So I’m feeling really good and ready to train again. My schedule is more hectic than ever and I’m not sure how I’m going to fit training in, but I’m determined to figure it out. I’m psyched to go for it!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

King Boreas 10 km Freestyle race summary 1/8/12

The King Boreas ski race, which is part of the St. Paul Winter Carnival, is typically held at Phalen park. This year it was moved to Green Acres Recreation, like many other races, due to the lack of natural snow. The chilly morning race was very fitting for the King Boreas name sake. For most of the first lap, several of us stuck together in a lead pack. No one wanted to go out too fast, me included; the race included four tough climbs up Pers Plunge. Half way through the first lap, me and another skier fell trying to get around a slower skier from the men’s race. After picking myself up I managed to catch back up to the leaders by the second lap. My good friend, Jan Gunther, and I skied together for some time. Jan even had the energy to crack a joke about the farm smells and the possibility of me being the cause of them. During the last lap I managed to pull away for a win. It was great being out and skiing with some fun and really good friends, but I still missed racing this one at Phalen.

An Unexpected Journey

Recently I was offered to opportunity to go down to Antarctica for the winter. The only catch was that I had about 12 hours to think about it and about two weeks to get ready to go. The offer came out of the blue. I had applied last May for a summer (Oct. - Feb.) position and hadn't really heard anything back from them. So I assumed it was over and was getting ready to apply again for next summer. As it turned out, the guy they had hired for the winter position backed out at the 11th hour and they were scrambling to replace him before the ice closes and it gets too cold to fly down there. So, I got the call.

Obviously, I jumped at the chance, and with where I'm at in my life (no major ties that aren't going to be here when I get back, no leases, no payments to keep track of) I had no excuses for saying no. So, tomorrow I leave for Denver, and then New Zealand on Saturday, and Antarctica by Feb 8th. In Denver I'll get a physical, a dental check-up, and a psych eval. In New Zealand, I'll get my extreme cold weather gear (ECW). Then I'll fly, with that gear on, in a ski-equipped LC-130 Hercules turboprop plane, down to McMurdo base, on the coast of Antarctica. Then I'll take another flight 1000 miles inland to the South Pole base, where I meet the people I'm going to be spending the next 9 months of my life with. Should be fun.

I spent the first part of last week letting people know I was going, trying to get paper work done, and getting my blood taken. I also got to go on an awesome trip with WI up to the BW and ski and dogsled with some great ladies. It was a good way to relax a little bit before this next adventure. Yesterday, I packed like mad and got most of the way done. Hurray! I also went to a going away party thrown my my friend and Vakava teammate, Cheryl. It was great to get to say good-bye to the Vakava folks and some others from the ski community. I'm grateful to Cheryl for getting the party organized, and on extremely short notice.

I am going to miss everybody and will try to post regularly to my new blog ( to keep folks updated.

One favor, if anyone has book recommendations, please let me know. I am trying to fill up the Nook that Robb, the coach over at Central, has lent me.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

2011 Fossavatn

In April Dave and I skied the Fossavatn 50k race in Iceland. Minnesota Trails Magazine asked us to write articles and submit photos for the winter edition featuring the Skinny Ski Series. We dutifully sent in our stuff but since the Series is not happening this year they didn't get published. Dave's article focused on the race and the editor asked me to focus more on the experience around the race so here's my article. I would highly recommend this race experience to all ski adventurers out there. Check out this video of the race:
Dave and I were joined by Dave's wife, Paula, and my dear, longtime friend from our Austin, Texas years, Martha FitzSimon. Thank you, Paula and Martha for the awesome race support!!!

The Fossavatn Ski Marathon began in 1935 as a 20K race and has since added 7K, 10K and 50K distances, all classic. It is a small race in terms of number of participants (approximately 300) yet it attracts an international field and occasionally some of the best skiers in the world (past winners have included Oskar Svärd and Suzanne Nyström, both Swedish Vasaloppet champions and World and Olympic champion, Thomas Alsgaard).
The intimacy of the race is further bolstered by its setting in a small fjord town. Ísafjörður is tucked in the remote West Fjords region, an 8,500 square mile peninsula in the north we
st corner of Iceland with a population density of less than 1 person/square mile!
If you arrive in Ísafjörður by noon on Thursday
you can attend the master class lead by one of the international guests. Imagine getting a personal critique by a former world champion!
On Friday a bus takes visitors to the venue to preview the course. I was struck by the unique beauty of this sparse land. There is no vegetation but plenty of hills and mountain plateaus. Imagine the moon with snow. From a single vantage point we could see much of the 50k course.Despite being literally a few miles
from the Arctic Circle the temperature never gets very cold, but that doesn’t mean weather can’t be severe. The winds can be brutal although, mercifully, we had almost no wind this year but we did have a heavy fog. Because it’s nearly always above freezing for the race the locals are good at selecting and applying klister (whereas we cold weather racers from the Midwest US are hard wax experts). Knowing that getting good kick could be tricky we brought lots of klister but to cover our bases Atomic Ski rep Henry Wisnewski also sent ‘zero’ waxless skis for Dave and I. Since it snowed several inches the night before the race and we weren’t sure what to expect at the higher elevations on the course, we elected to go with the zeros.
The locals successfully opted for klister so I think both were working that day.
Towards the end of the first half is the first of two long climbs in the race. Checking my heart rate monitor altimeter after wards I learned that it was 45 minutes of continuous up. About 20K later is the second big climb. This one is shorter but steeper and unlike the first climb there is a reward at the top: a 7K downhill run to the finish line! So even though my thighs and triceps were protesting with spasms, I enthusiastically ‘ran’ up the hill and thoroughly enjoyed the ride down to the finish line.
After crossing the line each skier is given the traditional post-race treat: A little blue bag with a bun and a hunk of chocolate. We lingered a bit to pose for pictures and talk to fellow skiers but we needed to hustle down mountain because there were celebrations waiting in Ísafjörður.
The cake feed and awards ceremony at the high school gym is amazing. I think nearly every family and bakery in town brings a Scandinavian treat. Hungary skiers and their friends and family load up plates with more pastries than I could count, most of which I’d never tried before! I took small portions because the servers kept replacing empty trays with something brand new and I wanted to make sure I left room for seconds………OK, thirds.
After a couple of hours to digest we dressed up and headed to the cultural center for a late night of food, drinks, entertainment and dancing with fellow skiers from Iceland, the US and Europe. Local talent included a magician, a jazz band and a rock band.
The Fossavatn marked the end of a long but fun ski season that included the Skinny Ski Series, Birkie and Masters World Cup. Now, on April 30 I completed my last and longest race of the year and I could not think of any better way to mark the occasion than to celebrate with friends in a beautiful, remote, vibrant village in Iceland.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Even Rougher Week

After meeting with the radiation oncologist about starting radiation, I started having serious second thoughts. Some radiation to my ribs and lungs, and even a small amount to my heart, is unavoidable. The lungs in particular are very sensitive to radiation. Radiation is recommended after a lumpectomy because if you don’t have it the recurrence rate is 30% which is why I assumed I’d have to have it. After asking more questions and getting more information, it turns out that women like me with my kind of cancer only have a 14% chance of recurrence and a 4% of recurrence with it. That means there’s a 90% chance it doesn’t matter either way and a 10% chance it does. That made me think twice if I really wanted to take the risks of radiation which aren’t well quantified and will continue to rise as I age. Radiation can cause cancer decades later as well as cure it in the short term. The thought of lung cancer 30 years from now, which is much harder to detect and treat than breast cancer, scares me. If my odds of recurrence were below 10% or above 20%, it would be an easy decision but I’m in a gray area. After many sleepless nights and many discussions with various people and lots of reading, I’ve decided not to do it. I guess I’d rather go with the devil I know rather than the devil I don’t. Interestingly, the death rates between radiation and not are only a couple percentage points, so I don’t feel like I’m risking my life so much as risking another surgery and more treatment later. My husband said that since I’m in a gray area of benefit, there is no right or wrong answer, I just need to find the answer that I can be at peace with. Early in the week I didn’t know if I could find that answer and I kept going back and forth, but finally started coming to not doing it more than doing it. I tend to be a minimalist when it comes to a lot of things, including medical interventions, so I’m more comfortable with less if there is uncertainty.

Skiing has been a lot of comfort to me this week. I made a concerted effort to get out since I knew I needed it mentally as well as physically. It helped a lot. I’ve been anxiously waiting to get decent enough snow to get the kids out on the U of M golf course so my daughter could try out her new skis and today I just couldn’t wait any longer and took them out. There was grass all over, but it was still kind of skiable and we had some fun anyway. My son didn’t put his wool socks on and had one short ankle sock on which filled with snow when he fell. So in order to salvage the outing I took one for the team and gave him my sock out there on the course. It wasn’t real cold so I was ok going sockless and he was much happier. I was just happy to be out skiing with my kids.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Rough Week

Last weekend I was exhausted, slept most of it, and had trouble getting myself motivated all week. I was not looking forward to an appointment I had today to get my radiation treatments set up. I’ll have to have treatments 5 days a week for 7 weeks. They’ll probably take 45 minutes round trip daily and then weekly checkups with the Dr. will be another 30-40 minutes. I still have family duties to attend to, like getting the kids on the bus, and plan to keep working. With the snow situation the way it is, I just don’t see how I’ll get much skiing in when it takes 40-45 minutes drive time to ski. Last year I skied at the U of M golf course a lot which is just minutes from home and work and if I could do that this year it would be no problem. But it doesn’t look like that will be possible. I just don’t see me having the mental fortitude, let alone the time, to put that much effort into skiing while under going treatment. So I’ve been in the dumps about it all week. The thing is that it’s really important for me to keep my exercise up, both physically and mentally. Moderate exercise seems to help stave off radiation induced fatigue and is important for my mental state when under stress. So I need to figure out what I’m going to do if I can’t ski. I can try running, but my knees are out of running shape and I need to be careful with tendonitis. My mom swims regularly at the community center pool, which is just minutes away, so I may try to meet up with her some time. I can keep doing my weekly strength stuff at home as well. So hopefully I’ll be able to figure out enough things to keep me going and in good spirits.

So next week the doctors do all the calculations to figure out exactly how to radiate me the right amount to kill any stray cancer cells without hurting too many healthy cells and only hit the tissues they want while avoiding things like my heart and lungs. Then I start treatments the following week. So I have just over a week to prepare myself mentally for this next phase of treatment. Hopefully once I get into a routine it won’t be so bad.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Back in Business!

I was finally able to ski fairly normally at practice tonight. It’s been at least a month since I’ve tried to go fast and I felt awkward and my lungs burned, but it was so nice to ski with the group instead of watch from the sidelines. I had to cut my intervals a little short but I’m very pleased with my progress. I did a little strength at home in the morning and skied classic for the first time in a month yesterday and thought I’d be tender today but felt pretty good. My muscles are very sore today since they weren’t used to that, but I was pleased that my arm and chest muscle felt fine. Now all we need is some snow!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Rest => Recovery

Once again, my body proves that recovery requires rest. I’ve been recovering from my surgeries all month and it gets pretty old after a while. It’s hard to be patient sometimes. Recovery seems to come in spurts where some days I don’t feel any better and then suddenly one day I feel much better. The days I feel better are always after I’ve had a lot of sleep. The days I’m busy and don’t get a nap or to bed early enough then I don’t feel that great the next day. I’ve been busy with the holidays so the recovery seemed to stall a bit. I think I’m back on track now. My lab report came back clear after the last surgery so thankfully I’m done with that and should be ready to start radiation soon, hopefully in a week. I’ve been able to do some training, but not a lot, and mostly legs only. I’m really looking forward to a more normal training regimen with some upper body work and even a few intervals. I’ve enjoyed having less pressure to train, but everything has its limits and I’ve reached mine. At least I’ve been able to ski with friends and that helps keep me from feeling sorry for myself or getting bored. What will lift my spirits the most will be some decent snowfall and cooler weather.