Vakava Team Photo

Vakava Team Photo
Vakava Racers at the Mora Last Chance Race

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

2020-2021 Season Recap

 The Year of the Skiathlon COVID-19


When Governor Walz closed all non-essential businesses for two weeks in March of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I knew the pandemic would last much longer than two weeks. But when the Birkie started talking about 2021 contingency plans in May of 2020, I thought “surely we’ll be back to normal by then.” Well, long story short and no surprises, the 2020-2021 ski season was definitely affected by the pandemic.

Despite all, I trained similarly to previous years, including with the Vakava team. Sure, I was bothered by an overuse foot injury but still did a couple training blocks. I missed the freedom of getting together with others, especially indoors, and would have liked to do a few of the local low-key races that didn’t happen this year, but my game are the big marathons and they all happened in some form or another.

Indeed, there were four of them. The first three were all snowy and quite lonely which contrasted with the fourth which was quite sunny and populous.

My favorite ski of the year came on New Year’s Day. I learned a lot about expectations that day and how my overall experience is determined by them. We were in Bemidji visiting my family and went for an afternoon ski with my brother at the high school trails, a system that touts 6.5 km of trail. There wasn’t much snow in Bemidji and so I assumed trail conditions would be less than ideal. Instead we were greeted by a warm sun, 28 degrees (such a nice contrast to the past few New Year’s visits when it was 50 degrees colder!), and immaculate corduroy. There may have only been a three inch base, but those trails have been babied so much they are smooth and that’s all they need. There were just enough hills to satisfy my hill exhilaration and since it has been a few years since I’d been to the trail system, I didn’t have the trail system memorized and there were even some new trails. And the company- my bro and Erik, were perfect. An hour and a half slipped by like five minutes. I showed up expecting rock ski conditions and instead got 10/10 grooming with perfect weather and company. Skiing can’t get better than this. On the flip side, had I shown up expecting 10/10 conditions, I likely would have been disappointed. Expectations are everything. 

The route for our Bemidji High School Trails ski. Check out that temp and sunny!!! Yes, the elevation is pancake flat:)

This year I’m going to summarize my thoughts in a few random bullet points because it feels more appropriate. And I want to keep this brief for once:)

-I enjoy working my body, moving my body, sometimes slowly, sometimes fast.

-I take great stock in human-powered transportation.

-My upper body is strong. I love working my abs and doing my pull-ups.

-I continue to work on transferring that upper body power through my core, into my legs, and into ski speed.

-Race results still mean too much to me. Too much for my happiness.

-I want to be faster without putting in any more work; but alas, I know even then I would not be satisfied. As I noted last year, one of my mantras from a Cheryl Crow song is “It’s wanting what you’ve got.” I’m slowly coming around to this.

-As I get older I feel the juxtaposition more and more of alternately caring too much and quite little about ski racing.

-Why do I keep racing? Why do I want to be good? Why does it mean so much to me?

-I enjoy the process of learning ski technique. Of making little changes, and working the downhills, especially when conditions are good (I struggle in slush big-time).

-I crave winter and mountains (but not below zero weather). Watching the World Cup finale in the Engadin Valley made me want to go there. Maybe someday. 

And what happened to my year of the skiathlon? Well, I had three on my radar: the Minnesota Finlandia, the Sleeping Giant Loppet, and the Great Bear Chase. Due to COVID-19, the Finlandia and Sleeping Giant Loppet were both cancelled (the Canadian Border was closed anyway). But I did the skiathlon at the Great Bear Chase. So here’s to the skiathlon at the Minnesota Finlandia next year. And the Sleeping Giant Loppet, or at least one new ski marathon. And to good health, training, happiness, weather, and maybe, just maybe, the freedom to gather with others, indoors, without masks!

And now for some canoeing time! Here's Erik and I on the St. Croix with the I-94 bridge in the background. It's always a bit crazy finally paddling under a bridge I've gone over so many times in my life.