Vakava Team Photo

Vakava Team Photo
Vakava Racers at the Mora Last Chance Race

Monday, December 16, 2019

2019/2020 Race Season Underway

We are already two weekends into this race season.  Both races have been on man made snow loops, but believe it or not, we are all skiing on the natural snow trails too!

Historically my race reporting has been rather long and in depth including pre-race info, play by play, and post race analysis.  I'm going to try something a little different for the Vakava Blog.  My initial proposal is a little team results recap, a much shorter personal race account, and then possibly a look forward to where you might spot the Vakava suits in the coming week.

Team Racing Recap

Skadi's Chase

Racing kicked off with first running of Skadi's Chase as a part of the Three Rivers Park District Nordic Opener at Elm Creek.  Paul and Brock debuted Vakava's new racing suits while Andy was still rocking the previous suit (apparently antique is more than 100 years old, vintage is 20-100 years old, and retro is 1980's or 1990's so none of those apply).

Andy 5th Overall, 1st Age Group
Paul 7th Overall, 2nd Age Group (to some guy named Matt Liebsch)
Brock 18th Overall, 4th Age Group

Andy - Photo Credit: Bruce Adelsman,

Paul - Photo Credit: Bruce Adelsman,

Brock - Photo Credit: Bruce Adelsman,

Hoigaard's/Breadsmith Relays

This past weekend a larger contingent of Vakava skiers headed out again to Elm Creek for the Olympic team sprint format racing.  Among the various teams and categories Vakava had nine folks out racing.  I must say the new suits are rather eye catching.

5 new Vakava suits and 1 old Vakava suit starting the race - Photo Credit: Bruce Adelsman,
Vakava had skiers on the 1st, 2nd, 8th, and 10th men's teams and the 3rd, 4th, and 6th mixed gender teams.

Post race the team did some classic video analysis and took a nice long ski the outer loops at Elm.

Photo Credit: Alex Reich and Ian Wright

Ben's Race Report

Brock and I teamed up to be the Vakava B Team.  Get it?  Ben and Brock, B Team... OK, maybe it wasn't that clever.  By virtue of the registration table handing me the bib I pulled the anchor leg duty.  Brock and I skied around for 20 or so minutes before the race.  I was a little nervous, not for the results, but for the pain I knew I was about to inflict upon myself.  Since I was going second, I did miss out on the mass start nerves a little bit.

Brock tagged off to me in a little group that included Dennis C and Clayton K.  Both of whom have historically kicked my butt in anything exceeding 5k.  Time to see how repeated 1.5k efforts and a summer of training looked.  I slotted in behind Clayton, and then when Dennis went around just past the Bottineau House I slipped in behind him.  We held a pretty sharp pace all the way to the next hand off.

A little looping around slowly trying to catch my breath while also cheering on team mates and other skiers and about 5 minutes later I was getting ready to go again.  Another lap, this time holding off Dennis who I had about a 8 second head start on.

5 more minutes... just hoping my legs would clear a little bit of the fatigue they were feeling.  One more lap, digging deep.  Both because Dennis was closing in on me, and I knew Dave was out taking video and I didn't want to look terrible.

Approximate splits of 4:50, 4:59, and 4:59 for just under 15 minutes of hard efforts.  It's a good start for the season.
Color chart of the increasing pain over the course of each lap.

Where To Find Vakava Next

Fulton Team Race this coming Wednesday at Elm Creek.  Wednesday's are normally practice nights, so we should see a pretty solid contingent.  Plus they said something about free beer.

Then it is the Skinny Santa Solstice race out at Woodland Trails.  You should see at least one of us out there.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Training Log Analysis: Part One

Since wrapping up my Crossroads series, I’m about to start another one of, you guessed it, not yet determined length:) This one is dedicated to analyzing my training log because although I’ve been keeping a training log, I don’t exactly do much of anything with the data. Here some of you may be saying “What, she doesn’t do anything with her data? If she analyzed it all better she would have won the Birkie by now!” I suspect most of you may be in the second camp though: “Phew, I’m glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t analyze my training!”

A fun photo from last month backpacking in a much warmer place (Superstition Mountains in Arizona). Photo: Erik

In this first post, I’ll provide a synopsis of my current training logs and provide the analysis that I’ve done so far and then comment on some of my goals for training log analysis. 

Yikes! They have some big spiders in Arizona! Photo: Erik

My training log:


Not unlike many of you, I’ve been keeping a training log since I started endurance sports, sometime in the latter half of high school. My training log has evolved over the years. It began as a detailed paper journal with my actual training buried within a paragraph or paragraphs. Then it became very short entries with mostly only my activity and rarely what I was thinking. In 2008 I began an Excel Spreadsheet that has now morphed into a Google Sheet with over 10 years of data now.

I also keep my online Garmin log. I have both because I don’t always use my Garmin and like that the Google Sheet has better capacity for analysis than Garmin (note, Garmin has evolved over the years and it might actually be better but I’m not super talented in the tech world so have kept my Google Sheet). Hence, all my training goes into the Google Sheet but only the workouts in which I use my Garmin (which is over half) go into the Garmin log.

Here’s a snippet of what my Google Sheet looks like.

So the question is, what do I actually do with all this data? I’ve been pretty bad at really doing any analysis so have decided to use this blog as motivation to interpret my data.

First, let me describe my Google Sheet with some rules for how I input my data:

-I round to the nearest 0.05 hours (or 3 minutes); i.e. 0.30 = 18 minutes of activity
-if I have used my Garmin for the workout, I’ll include Moving Time only
-over the years I report less in distance and more in hours (this encourages me to train at the appropriate level)

Looking back on Superstition Mountain and the long ridgewalk/bouldering route we did on our first full day in Arizona. Photo: Erik

I’m obviously really good at inputting my data. Here’s the “analysis” that I’ve been doing so far:

-I do look at my weekly totals. This column is close to my data input and so I know that typically I train around 12 hours per week. This is a quick way for me to know if I’m training more or less than usual. 

-Usually I look at my heart rate data in my Garmin Log

-And that’s about the extent of things other than back a few years ago my bro (who has a Master’s in Stats), helped me come up with some annual data.

The really nice graph my data scientist bro made for me with my annual training volumes. 2008-2009 and 2015-2016 are both very low because these were partial years and 2012-2013 was low because I spent like 8 weeks canoeing and hiking that I didn't count and then buying a house!
And the yearly total hours by activities. Um, I'm not sure why the rollerski column is blank. That's a snafu in my analysis that I'll need to fix. Now if only I can learn to use Google Sheets well enough that I can add in the years since 2017 by myself!

In my upcoming posts, here’s some analysis I plan to do:

-assess my heart rate and training levels
-see what Garmin can do!
-manipulate my data better to see trends in strength, intervals, and different types of training
-figure out if I can actually glean anything from this data

And since no trip is complete without doing something a little crazy, we hit up Picacho Peak! Photo: Erik

Sunday, December 1, 2019


New guy here.  I have heard that a lot of people enjoy Elspeth's blogging, but they would like to see more perspectives.  I've been known to write a long winded race report or two in the past so I figured I could ramble for a bit here as well.

For my first post as a member of Vakava, I thought I would attempt to give a "Why Vakava" of sorts.


A brief biography to start.  Way back in the 90's as a scrawny little seventh grader I rode the bus from the junior high to the high school and managed to find my way to the health room for the informational meeting on the "ski club".  Turns out it was the nordic ski team and this was the inaugural season for Forest Lake.

I'm the little kid in the center in front of Brent, the guy with the goofy hat.

I spent the next six years as a founding member of that team.  I made friends, learned a little about training, learned how to suffer, and generally really enjoyed myself.

Junior year.  Front row with the letter jacket on.
If we skip the next ten years where I got horribly out of shape, probably stepped on a pair of skis twice, and forgot what it was like to be an endurance athlete, we will find me running and losing a little weight, eventually thinking that maybe I wasn't so out of shape I could try skiing again.

Right around that time a ski and bike shop opened up nearby.  Over the next five years or so I met most of the people I call friends today engaging in one crazy adventure or another.  3 day bike adventures on the North Shore, ski trips to ABR, 42k of loops at Troll when SISU got cancelled and we needed a qualifying race for our first Birkie, 8 hour running races, etc.  Good times with good people.

I bought my first shop bike kit because I was told I "had to have one".  It really didn't take too long before I came to proudly wear all the shop kit and always enjoyed finding people at events in the same gear.  It wasn't so much a "team" as a "community".

Flashing gang signs with some of my team at the Marine O'Brien race a few years ago.
As they say, nothing stays the same.  Over the last couple of years the community was evolving and just recently the shop closed.  My primary ski training partners all retired and now do things like train at 10am on Tuesday, or head up to ABR on a Thursday.

The Search

Part way through the ski season last year I was pretty certain I was going to be looking for a new home for this year.  Sure plenty of people, most in fact, ski independently.  You certainly don't need a team.

So I got to thinking why I wanted a team and what I wanted from the team.  This is the short list I came up with.
  • Skiers who are faster than me
  • Hard workouts with a group
  • Overall training program guidance
  • Technique review and coaching
  • Camaraderie

Early Verdict

Since I'm writing on the Vakava blog, hopefully it is going well.

Skiers faster than me.  Yeah, just about the whole team.  Rather than just saying faster, a better objective would have been skiers who have strengths in different areas than me.  Each teammate has something I can look to for inspiration.  There are a few beautiful technical skiers.  A couple of folks who I know to follow double poling.  Or another teammate for kick double pole.  I know who to try to match when free skating.  I'm pretty sure the entire team is stronger than I am.  That was eye opening.

Hard workouts.  Weekly.  I've been sore on any given Thursday.  Or bonked on the side of the trail near the end of a workout.  I even occasionally feel really good.  The great part though is there is always someone there encouraging you.

Training Program Guidance.  While there isn't a specific Vakava training plan, there is definitely a guiding principle.  And there are always people to bounce ideas off of.

Technique review.  Sadly there is no "use this one weird trick to ski the Birkie 20% faster".  Ahvo hasn't told me we need to start all over so that is something.  Mark and Dave did tell me I clearly had no idea how to ski walk.  So I'm working on subtle things.  The good thing is that without the dedicated eye, the subtle things I'm working on would probably go missed.  So while I might not be 20% faster, maybe I can be 5% more efficient.

Camaraderie.  It has been great having a team so far.  Connecting with the same people every week, coordinating a few workouts outside of normal practice, and making plans for the race season.

Race Season Approaches

Race season is fast approaching.  In fact, there is a race this coming Saturday.  I won't be there, but maybe you'll spot a Vakava skier or two.  We are going to be hard to miss this year.  And that has nothing to do with our results or technique.  When you see us, you'll know.

Odds of spotting us will increase at these races:
  • Hoigaards Relay's
  • Fulton Team Race
  • Rennet
  • Seeley Hills Classic
  • Marine O'Brien
  • City of Lakes Freestyle
  • Vasaloppet
  • Birkie