Vakava Team Photo

Vakava Team Photo
Vakava Racers at the Mora Last Chance Race

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Vakava Fall Camp in the Time of COVID

One of my favorite weekends of the year is always our Vakava Racing Team’s Fall Camp up in the Hayward/Cable area.  This would be our 16th annual, but several months ago I was not at all confident that we were going to be able to pull it off in this year of COVID.  The training part of the weekend has always been outdoors and thus would still be relatively safe, but we’ve always crowded ourselves into a couple of our members’ cabins for the eating and sleeping parts.  Further, I know that some people are having a hard time getting fired up about doing any serious training in a year when the upcoming racing season is so uncertain. 

But other team members and I have talked about this, and, to the contrary, that possibility of a diminished racing season hasn’t really affected our training at all.  We certainly hope for good racing this year, but we don’t train just to get in shape for racing.  Getting outdoors, working hard, training most every day of the week is something that is just part of what we do, part of who we are.  We love to ski, we love to train, we love to -- and hope to -- race.

So, let’s do it.  Why not make it an actual camping camp, completely outdoors, with people in individual tents, cooking outside, and sitting around the campfire in the evening?  And indeed, this first weekend in October we packed up all our gear and the Vakava Team headed for the north woods.

Birkie Trail -- leaves instead of snow
Our schedule was pretty much the same as it has been for a number of years. Started off Friday afternoon on the Birkie Trail with an hour-and-a-half run for part of the group, a brisk pole-hike for the rest.  It’s a different look with the brilliant colors of autumn, and you even get to stop once in a while and enjoy the view, but it’s the same great trail with all those hills as it is when you’re racing in the winter.

Afterwards, as usual it was up to The Rivers Eatery in downtown Cable, where Beth and Mick Endersbe serve up some of the best pizza and beer around.  I know, anything goes in Wisconsin right now, but the Endersbes are being properly cautious about our and their safety; ordering is online, and we enjoyed our meal on their outdoor patio, sitting around a cozy bonfire.  If you haven’t been there, you really need to check this place out the next time you’re up in Birkieland.

Saturday morning it’s always classic roller ski intervals.  This year it was on the smooth pavement and gradual climbs of Mosquito Brook Road just south of the Birkie Trail.  Over the last several years we’ve settled on a double, descending ladder: 6 minutes, 6 minutes, 5 minutes, 5 minutes, etc., down to two 1 minuters.  That’s 42 minutes of on-time, getting steadily faster and more intense, with the last ones being absolutely flat out.  A butt-kicker of a workout.  (P.S. Don’t do this one every day.)

The Vakava Racing Team, with our classic Marwes.  (World’s best roller skis; you know where to get them.)

Back for lunch at the big, open field at the Porath cabin where we camped, and, after a bit of a break, an afternoon strength session with body-weight and core exercises.  Finally, dinner and then relaxing around the campfire with a well-deserved beer or two.

Woke up bright and early the next morning to a frosty but sunny 22-degrees -- felt great, we’re winter people -- and got ready for our final session of the weekend.  Sunday morning is always a long, 3-plus hour skate roller ski, nice and easy, interspersed with fast, 20-second pickups.  We’ve usually skied from Cable to Drummond and back, but this year we stayed farther south on Upper-A, east of Double-O.  Perfect, rolling terrain, good roads with little traffic, and absolutely beautiful, with the crisp air, bright sun, and bright fall colors right at their peak.

I always tell the team that this is going to be -- and is supposed to be -- a hard weekend and that everyone's going to come home tired.  We did.  Pleasantly fatigued.  A weekend in the north woods with great weather and fall colors, great training, and great company.  Pretty hard to beat.  Especially in this, our year of COVID.