Vakava Team Photo

Vakava Team Photo
Vakava Racers at the Mora Last Chance Race

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Tour de Twin Cities

It was great that for the first race of the Tour organizers expanded the snowmaking loop to 5K. It was also great that, unlike the previous year, the citizen’s race was separated from the pros, and I was able to start from the front line. As the race rolled out I found myself at a comfortable 3rd position. However, my A rock skis (last season’s racing/training skis) were not particularly fast and I was being passed on the downhills. I then settled in the end of the 7-8 people pack.
The Great Squirrel Chase
Fortunately, no one broke away and as we were entering the last long climb on the second loop, I started pushing harder. I got to the front at the mid of the climb. I first intended to just stay there and then see what can I do at the finish sprint, but after a quick visual assessment of other racers condition I decided to make a move.
As I got out of the old stadium my burning legs made me worry if I will get caught, but at the U-turn I found out that I made quiet a gap, and then there was a multiple of long downhill rest – short uphill sprint things, so when I was at the top of the final climb they were only at its bottom. It was the first skate race I have ever won!
I raced two more Tour races as well as Marine O’Brien skate race, which made for two intense weekends. Gained some points in the FastWax Series, but lost a point in Eugene vs Nate series (currently at 2:1). It was a great training and I am looking forward to the Birkie!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Health Update

So it’s been just over a year since I had cancer, and as far as I can tell, I’m still cancer free. I had an MRI in December that was all clear. The cancer never showed up on mammogram, even when we knew where it was, but it was very clear on MRI. So I’ll have a yearly MRI for a while for monitoring.

The thing is that I haven’t felt “normal” for the last year, ever since I started taking tamoxifen which is a drug that helps prevents recurrence. I’ve felt worn out generally and have not been able to train hard. At first I thought it was just because I was out of shape after not training most of last winter and would be back in shape after a couple months of training. But I didn’t start feeling any better. But then my husband was traveling a lot for work so I thought maybe the single parenting thing was taking more out of me than I realized. Then he stopped traveling and still I didn’t feel any better. In fact, I was slowing getting worse. I was gradually getting slower compared to the rest of my teammates when we did intervals and feeling less and less able to go hard. Every time I tried to go hard I quickly felt leaden and wobbly and like I just couldn’t go. I wondered if I was getting anemic and had some blood tests done but they looked normal. After a few more months of not feeling good I went in again for some more tests and after a lot of reading I think I’m starting to figure out what is going on. My calcium was on the very low end of normal and my alkaline phosphatase was significantly low. I read that this is seen in some women on tamoxifen. So I did some more reading to see if this could be the cause of how I felt. I found a great article on the role of calcium in muscle fatigue, Calcium is required for muscle to fire properly. As phosphate builds up as a waste product, it can bind to the calcium so it is no longer available to the muscle. Alkaline phosphatase helps remove phosphate from other molecules. So I started to wonder if low calcium, combined with low alkaline phosphatase, would cause calcium depletion and muscle fatigue. The article talked about depletion setting in within 1-2 minutes and that has been true for me. I felt fine when I did 30 second pickups, but anything longer and I like my body went into slow motion. So today I started taking some calcium supplements to see if that helps. Even tonight at practice I felt much better. I felt like I was out of shape from not being able to go hard all year, but I felt like my body was at least working properly even if it was tired. Even Dave commented that I looked much better today, like I was going harder than usual. I’m almost afraid to think that I’ll be able to resolve this and feel good again, like it’s all just wishful thinking. But if other people notice the difference too, it can’t just be in my head. I have an appointment next week and I’ll talk to my doctor about it and have some more tests done to try to confirm my theory. But hopefully I’ll be back to normal and feeling better soon.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Marine O'Brien

I always look forward to the Marine race.  I grew up doing this race when I attended Stillwater H.S.  It is a great community run race that is low key but always with great competition and a big turn out.  I signed up for the 25km skate race and waxed with Fastwax HSF green covered by flouro cold.  My skis were running average compared to the other guys around me.   I lined up again next to teammate Nate Porath.  I tend to get out fairly well in races but my endurance and training these days are lacking. I held back on the double pole start but still found myself around 5th place at the skate zone.  Overall, the pace felt fairly good for the first few k's but then the lack of training kicked in.  I settled into a group of about 4 guys and was able to relax.  We were not too far behind the second group in front of us at about 8km.  Jay Wenner decided to take the lead but instead took off and was able to catch the group further up.  I was skiing with teammate Flying Fungi Master Danny Kueffer for a lot of the race.  I had ended up doing intervals a few days prior to the race with Danny . . .  instead of the weekly sushi gathering with the other Fungi Masters.  I figured I should get out and ski at least 2 days this week :).   Danny started to slow down before coming out of the woods heading to the south america loop.  I ended up passing him trying to catch up to Skillicorn.  The two of us skied for the next few k's until Danny caught us again before crossing the railroad tracks.  His skis were running pretty good.  I then drafted off of him for the next few kms knowing it would be a sprint finish.  Going down the last hill to the finish both of us thought we were going to yard sale it but was able to stay vertical.  I tried to sprint past him the last 1/2 k but it wasn't meant to be.  Great skiing with friends and back in Stillwater Country!

The real race then started a few hours after . . . our 3 year old son lined up for his second race of his life.  The first race was at 18months but he got distracted when the gun went off and did not cross the start line.   Well his competition today was fierce.  He lined up with 4 other skiers ages 3 and under.  He went with the non waxable fish scale skis to make the 30 foot journey.  The gun went off and again, he stalled . . . hmmm.  Well he made it across with finish line with mommy's help in a whopping 59 seconds!    His highlight was not getting the ribbon but going straight to the fire for hot chocolate and cookies!   We'll be back next year for more fun!


Mary Beth Tuttle reports:

The Marine/O' Brien is a great small town race. It is always so well organized and fun, with a beautiful trail system.  I was thrilled to see that there was enough snow to pull the race off.  Dave Christopherson, my son Will and I inspected the course the day before, so I knew that there were going to be a few icy spots.  I chose my most stable skis, my Atomic hard tracks with a Finn Sisu uni grind to help keep me on my feet.  The weather was perfect for 2 coats of Fast Wax  HSLF teal, covered with HSF green, topped with Cold Flite.  I chose a little colder base layers due to the abrasiveness of the snow.

The race was definitely challenging, with the obvious hilly terrain, and the not so obvious, including a broken pole ten minutes before the start of the race, icy spots, grass and exposed dirt and falling skiers. Still, it was great to be in the woods on a real trail and natural snow.  There was a really large and competitive turnout, over 400 skiers, from all over the Metro and beyond.  One of the highlights was to watch the wood ski event and the characters that show up to participate in it.  I also love to watch the kids race and see their excitement and as they cross the finish line.  It's truly a family event for all the generations to enjoy.  It was fun to connect with old and new friends, enjoy the great outdoors and get a good workout in all at once.  A big thank you to the race organizers, volunteers, groomers and other Park staff who helped make it happen!

Vakava results, 25k skate
Nate Porath                      3rd overall          1st in age group
Evgeny Beletskiy             5th overall           3rd in age group
Andy Schakel                   16th overall         5th in age group
Rob Edman                      20th overall        6th in age group
Mary Beth Tuttle               2nd overall         1st in age group
Katy Splan                        9th overall          2nd in age group

Monday, January 28, 2013

Nordic Spirit 2013

Angie Robinson reports:

Dave and I raced the Nordic Spirit in Duluth this weekend. We both like the course since it’s nice and rolling through the woods and we knew they had just gotten a couple inches of snow so we expected good conditions. We were not disappointed. It was almost weird skiing on real snow. It was soft, kind of slow (compared to hard packed ice), and uneven so it felt very different than what we’d been skiing on. It was a very nice day in the low 20’s. Both our skis worked well. Dave had on Fast Wax HSF Green with Flight Cold and I had Fast Wax HSF Tan with Flight Cold. I got to try out my brand new Atomics too. They seem to run really well on the downhills and I’m learning how to ski them on the uphills. (Uphills have always been tougher for me than the downhills.) Over all they feel good.

Dave had a good race. He came in 18th overall and 2nd out of the group of 7 or so that he’d been racing with.

My race was ok. I’ve been struggling with fatigue all year and the race was no exception. I came in 5th overall and managed to hold off another woman who reeled me in twice but I was able to pull away again both times.

Overall it was a fun day. Good snow, fun trails, nice souvenir hat (red this year). The only down side is that we had to leave early and miss the awards and door prizes since bad weather was coming to the cities and we wanted to avoid as much of it as we could. We got home safe after seeing several cars in the ditch along the way.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


From Andy Schakel:

Well I decided it was time to start getting into shape somehow . . . so I signed up for the Preloppet knowing that I would be hurting.  I waxed up with Fastwax tan covered by Fastwax cold.  My skis felt overall very fast.  I lined up in the second row behind teammate Nate Porath knowing that he would get out fast.   The gun went off and I doubled poled behind Nate, and after the double pole zone I was in about 3rd or fourth place.  I ended up hitting skis and poles with elite skier Flying Fungi Master, Devin Arenz.  I heard a few shreaks and down he went.  Sorry Devin.  Well the rest of the race was getting used to again the feeling of burning lungs.   I settled into a group of about 5 guys and was able to relax and enjoy the pack skiing.  The interesting part of the course was the 180 degree turn at the bottom of the largest hill with about 5 inches of rutted out snow.  KJ didn't make the full 180 degree turn and instead made about a 90 degree turn off into no mans land.   I then enjoyed trying to keep up with Per as he was jump skating up the climbs.   I finally finished and was able to stay up without any "yard sales" like Flying Fungi master . . . Devin.  Great race put on by COLL!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Preloppet 13k

What a strange winter. I think I have already had more on-snow time this season than all last season, and conditions have been great, but a big meltdown with a bunch of rain sure changed that quickly.

Fortunately Theodore Wirth has their snowmaking loop, and so although races in Hayward and Ironwood were cancelled yesterday, the preloppet was still on. The race was 4 times around the 3k snowmaking loop, and the snow was transformed, chopped up, and very fast (or at least my Fast Wax Tan with Flight Cold sure felt fast).
Me with Caitlin close behind.

When the race started I got off the line fairly well and by 100m out was skiing in 2nd place with Doug Debold of CXC pulling away. At the top of the first hill Doug had a gap on the field, I was still in second, and a quick glance back revealed that Caitlin Compton was the only skier right behind me. Caitlin went around me part way through that first lap, and soon I was skiing in no-mans-land by myself as Caitlin caught and then passed Doug. I had a decent gap on the large chase pack, but by the end of lap 2 my legs were starting to feel the hills. Doug must have been feeling the early pace too, because he was getting closer to me, but the chase pack was reeling me in. By the end of lap 3 both Doug and I were now a part of a 6 man lead men's pack (Caitlin was far out in front). Mark Beitz made a move to the front but got tangled with a skier being lapped. Doug, Vakava teammate Eugene and I traded off the lead a few times in that last lap, and just before the 2nd to last hill Doug made his move to get a slight separation from the field. On those last 2 steep hills, which were covered in deeper, loose snow, my legs had no pop and guys who skied smarter races were able to surge up the hills by me. I came in 5th, feeling a lot better than my first race of the year. I can tell I am in better shape than last year, just not in good enough shape to hold of the field yesterday. I hope we get more snow soon so that I don't need to rollerski the rest of the winter like I did last year!

The final results.

Vakava results:

4th Eugene
5th Nate (age group win)
13th Ryan
20th Andy
38th Dave (age group win)
5th Angie
13th Katy
17th Anna

Here is the Loppet Foundation's recap of the race.
Here is a great video recap of the race from

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2013 Twin Cities Championships

The weather was just about perfect for my first two races of the season.  Saturday's Classic race, held at the Battle Creek Recreation Center, was two rolling laps of a 5 km course.  The groomers did a wonderful job laying out the double tracks.  My skis were great, thanks to Dan Meyer's race day wax recommendations that I followed meticulously.  I applied 1 layer of HSLF 10 Teal, followed by 1 laer HSF 10 Green, and top coated with Flight Cold.  Fast Wax is much easier to apply than many other wax brands, and Dan's waxing instructions are detailed and very easy to follow  I ended up third in my age class and eigth overall in Saturday's race.  Four of my five kids also raced in today's youth classic races.  These races took place just after the adult and high shool races

Sunday's 15 km free-style race at Theodore Wirth Park started off fast.  I was forth out of the chute in this pursuit race.  I quickly caught the skier in front of me and then just tried to maintain my position.  I think my skis were faster than my body in this race!  Again I used the same wax prescription as in Saturday's race and my skis were great.  This was my first race after having my skis stone ground at Finn Sisu.  Tom, at Finn Sisu, used a Uni grind on my skis.  They were much flatter than before which made them easier to wax.  I ended up second in my 40-49 year age class and fourth overall.

The Sisu race race organizers and the site organizers and volunteer at both venues did an outstanding job

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Como Championships 10K Freestyle

Second race of the season, this time at Como.  Not quite the exciting course that Woodland Hills is, but another beautiful day, with a little new snow on top of a hard base at about 15 degrees and 80% humidity.  I hardly ever wax up more than one pair of skis for a race these days – it’s a lot easier to let Dan Meyer do the testing and figure out what’s going to work.  Put on Fast Wax Flite Cold over HSF Green over low-fluoro Teal (the Fast Wax Base Saver sure makes it easy to apply the pure fluoros – quick, gentle on the ski bases, and minimal waste).
Skis worked very well.  I’m still losing a little on the uphills to the guys I’m skiing with (need to ski Battle Creek more), but then catching them on the downhills and flats.  I’m counting on fast skis to help me do that.  Won my age class again and finished up 34th overall, behind a strong crowd of college racers home for the holidays.  Kudos to Ben and his crew for a well-run race and a course in excellent condition.