Vakava Team Photo

Vakava Team Photo
Vakava Racers at the Mora Last Chance Race

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

COVID-19: A Diary


Nobody is as up in arms about diabetes as they are about COVID-19. And guess what is going to kill way way way more people????? If people cared half as much about diabetes as they do about COVID-19 no one would be obese.

Overall I’ve been a bit overwhelmed by the kindness of people. Everyone is willing to bend the normal rules. These are unprecedented times.

We hear this term “social distancing” a lot but shouldn’t it really be “physical distancing?” I mean, we can still talk to each other face to face from six feet away wearing a mask, over phone calls, face time, writing letters, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. This is after all, the era of Social Media.

Yikes, I’ve never seen so many people out on the bike/running paths when running home from work and that’s when it’s 42 degrees. Are all these people going to rediscover the outdoors and suspend their gym memberships when this is all over? It’s great to see so many people out, albeit at times it can be a bit congested and I can’t maintain my physical distance.

Minneapolis closed down a lane of traffic along the river road. This is awesome, except they have signs up for peds to use the closed section of road and bikers the bike path. Seems like maybe the road should be for bicyclists? Quite a lot think so and disregard the sign. Sometimes this makes the peds upset.

The stores are out of flour. What are people going to do with just flour? I’m sure stoked about all the flour tortillas and focaccia bread people are going to make!

Stores are also out of rice and toilet paper.

In addition, there’s this whole idea we shouldn’t get together. It has everyone on edge and I find it helpful to not panic, maintain as much of a routine as possible (like go to work as an “essential” worker, exercise, and write this blog), control what we can (cooking food), and take time to slow down and enjoy life a bit (storage wax the race skis, get some house projects done, read some books).

Favorite things about COVID-19 so far:

-seeing so many people outside walking, hiking, biking, and just being outside

-seeing neighbors TALK to each other, albeit from 6 feet or more away

-the quiet of few cars

-having time to do house projects!

-long talks on the phone with my mom


As I look out on my backward, snow clinging to trees and the chain link fence and covering the yard, it’s a common sight for April. But this April is different than every April I’ve lived through before.

Easter snowstorm!

The day happens to be Easter. For the past seven years we’ve celebrated this holiday with Erik’s parents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. We’ve been charged with the egg hunt the past several years.

This year, to maintain physical distancing, we didn’t get together. Erik and I celebrated the holiday by ourselves. Fortunately, we had the plastic Easter eggs and still did an Easter egg hunt for each other, although instead of the eggs being filled with candy, there was a strength exercise that we did upon finding the egg. It was fun, or as fun as two minute planks can be, and took like 2 hours!

Basement strength workout with bunny ears. Photo: Erik

Can you find the egg in this photo?

How about this one?
And what will be the strength exercise?

Typically, I don’t watch or read the news. I like to joke that if it isn’t on, it’s not important. Well, COVID-19 is all over, which means it’s the real deal. I’m technically a scientist, or as Erik would like to point out, a junior scientist. I’m also a healthcare provider. Every day I do look at the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 at my institution, the numbers on the Minnesota Department of Health website, and the CDC website. These numbers are merely representative. There are estimates that for every one person confirmed positive, there are another 10-50 that aren’t tested who are also positive. We continue to have limited ability to test people and also have to weigh the pros and cons of mildly ill people going somewhere to be tested. Most of these people will have mild cases but since it seems likely almost everyone will get COVID-19, even with a relatively low mortality rate, this still adds up to more death than my generation has ever experienced.

Yes, we may succeed in social distancing and therefore flattening the curve. Yes, this may allow us to find better treatments for those who fall severely ill. Yes, this may allow time for a vaccine. But everything is speculative. The future is suddenly incredibly wide open and we now think in two week intervals. Although those of us in healthcare are thinking more in 24 hour intervals.

Throughout all this, I realize I am incredibly fortunate. We are healthy and financially stable. We have more projects to keep us busy at our house than we can ever accomplish in this century. Erik’s work is deemed essential and other than some encouragement to work from home, his work has continued close to normal. This allows him purpose, socialization, and a paycheck. I’m still going to my work. Instead of face to face encounters, I’m largely connecting with patients over the phone. We can accomplish almost the same material as in person. Thus I also have maintained purpose, socialization, and a paycheck.

On March 12th, the day the Minneapolis World Cup got cancelled, I began feeling an overwhelming social media message that social distancing was the thing to do. This is despite only having a presence on Instagram and a paltry 50 followers at that. It’s interesting how something can be so unsaid and yet so palpable.

It’s been a month now. I knew at the onset this would be way longer than two weeks or even a month and I told myself that then. But even us introverts are social beings. And especially when told we “can’t” do something that's all we want to do.

Erik and I have been physical distancing since March 12th. This means we haven’t had any house parties or gatherings with any friends or family since then.

I’m a hardy Minnesotan, so when this first began, there is definitely a part of me that wonders if it is necessary, if it will change the end outcome, and why I should care. Somehow I just subconsciously made the decision to physical distance. Sure, maybe some of it was peer pressure, but some of it also came from hearing the situation in Italy, and figuring, knowing math and exponential increase, it’s better to start early, and it’s unlikely to hurt.

I’m so glad us hardy Minnesotans took this situation seriously. We were fortunate to be closing down things (universities, schools, restaurants) at the same time as Europe and the rest of the United States. We did this before there were even 10 confirmed cases in Minnesota, hence we have fared better than many places. I’m actually quite proud of us Minnesotans.

Every time I break the physical distancing it bothers me. Suddenly going to the grocery store brought on a wave of anxiety- should I wear a mask? Will I encounter others who are sick? What if I’m a carrier and don’t know it? Will there be milk, vegetables, flour, etc? I heard all the stores were running out of toilet paper and we bought one extra pack on March 11th. I haven’t seen any toilet paper in the store since.

And then there was skiing. We went skiing on the man-made loops on March 14th, 15th, 17th, 21st, and 22nd. Every time we ran into people we knew and chatted on the trail. Were we maintaining six feet? Certainly not at times. I joked I needed to ski with a wide stance like a beginner- poles out to the side, to maintain physical distancing. The people I ski with are just too good and often we can comfortably maintain three feet, even on sketchy downhill corners. And was six feet enough anyway? And then I helped at the scene of a cardiac arrest and mega failed at physical distancing.

Should we even have been out skiing on the man made trails?

Because if I can’t ski, I might as well be dead. Wow, I can just hear my dad saying that.

OK, that isn’t entirely true. There are other important things in my life and other things I really like doing, but there isn’t much I’d rather do than ski on the man-made loops with a bunch of friends on a sunny day.

Now that skiing is over, life is more dull. I’ve had a number of phone calls with my friends instead of getting together in person. I’ve talked with my mom way more in the past month over the phone than I had in the past six months. But it’s getting lonely.

This may be the first snow bunny I've ever seen.

When it snows on Easter during a pandemic! Someone, quick, adjust this snow bunny's mask!!!


When faced with two one week furloughs I’m suddenly at a loss. Usually I would relish this extra unexpected time off. I have so many ideas for how to use the time: visit my mom, brother, and niece in Bemidji, paddle some rivers or lakes in the state or elsewhere (oh, the list is infinite- Wabakimi and Woodland Caribou in Ontario, kayak the Apostle Islands, etc) or head west for backpacking.

But I am incredibly limited in that so long as I do my job to flatten the curve I can do these adventures with no one (except my husband who is inconveniently working), visit no one, and go nowhere:)

In other news, ALDI now has Jasmine rice again!!!

4/26/20: Ball fields

We drive by a complex of empty baseball fields on the way to go canoe. I can’t help but think that if these weren’t ball fields, they could be a forested park with trails. People would surely be enjoying them on this day. Sure, lots of kids doing organized sports enjoy these fields many days of the year. It’s a field of dreams where kids can imagine that one day they will make the big leagues.

This same field of dreams will most likely become a field of shattered dreams at some point as these kids realize they will never make the major or even minor leagues, D1 ranks, or sadly, for some, even high school varsity or JV. Such is life.

If this ball field was woods, a more wild park, would it contain such aspiration and pain simultaneously to us humans? Would there be excitement AND disappointment? Or would it simply be nature which offers exploration, peace, solitude, the harshness of the elements.

Parents drive their kids here for practice and games. Always driving here or there. What about biking somewhere or just biking, neglecting the car?

Or what about a less structured life like we are facing now where there are no organized sports? Many have speculated about how life may or may not change after the COVID-19 pandemic resolves. Will people relish the more relaxed lifestyle and commit to less or will we go back to our crazy, drive everyone, always in a hurried existence?

I suppose the same can all be said about cross-country skiing.


Some say the start to the next training begins on May 1st and others say it begins the week of May 1st. I say this latter group is short-changing themselves some much needed mental rest. The ski season is long enough as it is- don’t make it longer. The older I get the more I’m about training smarter, not more!


Today marks the official start to training for the 2020-2021 cross country ski season. Winter feels a long way off with the early spring we’ve been having. It always seems like the April break is a bit short. I wouldn’t mind if it lasted a few more months:) I haven’t done any interval training since mid-March.

Birkie registration opened today. They said “we’ve launched a new tiered pricing structure allowing you to register when the time is right for you.” I took this to mean a new COVID-19 deal. Maybe something that looks like this:

-if you’ve already gotten COVID-19, special discount price of only $80 (must show positive test result)

-if you think you’ll get COVID-19 between now and Birkie 2021, normal price of $120

-if you believe you are superhuman and won’t ever get COVID-19, supernormal rate of $150 for your invincibility!

But that wasn’t the new price tiering at all. Instead it was a slap in the face. I’m furloughed and they have increased their price by 20%. WOW! After my 2020 Birkie I had thoughts about not doing the Birkie. I had resolved to switch techniques again and still do it but now this is making me re-think. It puts a bitter taste in my mouth. It makes me want to stop skiing.

Is skiing all about making money? Franchises? A monopoly? Is that why I ski???

Will, or can, any other race impose a 20% price-hike in the COVID-19 era and expect to have the same number or even more participants? I’m quite sure the answer is NO. The other races seem to be able to reign in their expenses. Numbers have dwindled so much they merely try to put on a race and can’t even think of expanding. Soon we will have Birkie Land and no where else to ski if we only dump money there.

I’ll do other races and so will many of my readers. But most people ski one race a year and that’s the Birkie. I know some people are on a budget for race entries and the Birkie might just suck that up. The Birkie is capitalizing at the expense of smaller races. They have a monopoly. How arrogant of them to jack up their price and assume the masses will follow.

The Birkie is God. If you don’t ski the Birkie, you aren’t a skier. You can race 10 other marathons, but if you don’t do the Birkie, those don’t count.

OK, this might be a bit exaggerated, but to a large extent, this is how I feel and the impression I have about skiing in general.

This is wrong. Skiing is not synonymous with the Birkie. I want to sever my association between skiing and the Birkie. Between success at the Birkie as a Master’s athlete and success at other races. Logically then it makes sense for me to boycott the Birkie. I toyed with this decision for a few days. Fortunately I had work and my gardens to occupy most of my thoughts. I troubled Erik with this.

“How can you not ski the Birkie? How will you feel Birkie weekend? What will you tell other skiers?” He asked.

Well, between Mora and Finlandia and The Sleeping Giant Loppet and the Great Bear Chase I might really really welcome the reprieve-not only from travel and the physical toll, but especially from the mental pressure. I might even rejoice.

Erik recommended I do it. I continued to debate. I registered Erik. They asked for more money at least five times during  the registration process. And then I registered myself. I’m not excited. Part of me hates myself for caving in to the monopoly.

On the up, toilet paper and flour, albeit with limits on how many you can buy, have returned in plenty to ALDI!!!


First rollerski of the season. Used the skate rollerskis. Holy crap, the rolling resistance is high. A couple times I felt like my upper body was overpowering my legs- a good reminder to transfer that power through my core into my legs. And maybe I should do some leg strength:)


If there’s one thing I’ve learned from COVID-19 it’s about the crazy 18 way intersection that might as well look like the Arc de Triomphe roundabout!

Shoulds, Rules, Orders, Desires, Needs, Regrets, Essentials, Internal and External Pressures all coming together making me just want to stand atop the Arc de Triomphe and watch it all…….

But at some point, with furlough we got off that roundabout and seized the opportunity to do this canoe trip that had been on the radar. Because when the world gives you lemons, make lemonade! Not saying it was legal given COVID-19 executive orders, but going to label it as essential since that’s an entirely arbitrary concept.

It was easy to completely forget about COVID-19 out here.

My partner in crime!

I justified our trip because we weren't going somewhere "desirable." I mean, most people don't want to paddle upstream for 4 days, going up numerous rapids (note, here was a flatwater section, I was working too hard in the rapids to even think about taking a photo)
when it's so cold the olive oil freezes
and then do a 22.5 mile road portage all in one day
to finally paddle downstream 90 miles in 2 days (photo: Erik)

the whole time sitting on just one toilet once! Photo: Erik

Needless to say, it was a good adventure. Hard. Perhaps too hard the day we portaged and my whole body hurt to the point I was able to go into that meditative state.


We’re all stuck between a rock and a hard place. We want to get together with others. We want to spend quality time with loved ones. But we risk getting COVID-19, or perhaps worse, spreading it to others. In the interim we miss little ones growing up and precious moments with others when none of us know how long we have.

I’m trying to be gentle with myself knowing we don’t really have right or wrong answers. I’m trying not to judge others for their decisions. We’re all trying to do the best we can.

P.S. I saw hand sanitizer at ALDI!!!


I cut Erik’s hair in the backyard. I’ve been cutting his hair for 13 years now. I don’t like doing it outdoors where the neighbors can see. It just isn’t cool. Oh wait, the barber shops are all closed. This is finally cool! I don’t care if the neighbors see:)