Vakava Team Photo

Vakava Team Photo
Vakava Racers at the Mora Last Chance Race

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

The Minnesota Finlandia!

It was another cold race with temps barely crawling into the single digits and a strong wind causing windchills well below zero, similar to both the Classic City of Lakes Loppet and Mora. Too much of the race talk was about who froze what at Mora. My bro seems to take the cake with his nose, cheek, and left knee, which blistered into larger than a silver dollar! Ouch. Erik and I suspect he must’ve spilled some feed on his knee. Impressive.

“At these temps there’s just no room for error,” my friend Emily says. 

Emily and I skiing together in Colorado in November 2015 on a warm day when there was plenty of room for error! Photo: Craig

Given the ongoing pandemic, there was no lunch afterwards in the Lumberjack Hall of Fame. Participation was down but still competitive. I did the pursuit for the first time to mix things up. It’s a little over 13 km of classic followed by just under 12 km of skate. Once the gun went off in a combo wave of classic and pursuit skiers, three women got a good lead on me before we got to the steep Sunnyside and I never caught them. (There was actually a fourth woman I didn’t know about- Vivian Hett who crushed the classic). After a tour around the plateau on the north side of the Buena Vista downhill area, we headed into the woods and I just had one guy in my sights. The rolling terrain far out on the east side is really nice for classic. I was skiing all alone, which is how I like it, but skiing hard enough that I couldn’t fully appreciate the beauty of the bogs and other natural elements we passed. With fresh wind-blown snow the kilometers slowly ticked by. 

The Minnesota Finlandia trail per my Garmin.

Heading back through “The Narrows,” “The Island,” and around the east and south sides of Buena Vista, the conditions got epic. Owing to lots of snow, cold temps, blustery conditions- including a west wind the day before the race and a south wind the day of the race- we bashed through snowdrifts with little trace that any racers ahead of us had been through. I herring-bone walked a couple hills with deep powder. Otherwise I tried to stride or herring-bone run. A couple times it was difficult to even see where the course went. 

This photo showed up on my app today as "5 years ago today." [2/22/17] I had to take a double take. This was February??? It feels so far removed from our current February.

The view from my front window this February 22nd [2022], snowing, 7 degrees, feels like -12.

Then I headed into the transition zone, slowly changed both my skis and poles, careful not to pull off my thumb handwarms, and took a feed.

Just like in last year’s Great Bear Chase pursuit, I opted to use my classic boots. This time seemed to go better with softer conditions. The snow was nice in the stadium although under cloudy skies the flat light made it difficult to see. The snow in “The Tunnel” was super slow as it was road slush and it being a gradual uphill by the time I clawed my way out I was barely moving. A couple guys in the 25 km skate race passed me on the first uphill. My skis were so slow I herring-bone ran a few of those hills. I couldn’t find the glide- likely multifactorial with classic boots, I’ve never been great at transitioning to skate, and slow conditions.

Two more guys passed me just before the S-curve and then Brett Arenz made his way by as we hit the mostly flat section. Here I found my skating groove. I was able to relax a tad but kept pushing and V-2’d a lot. With 2 km to go I got determined that no one else would pass me. The hills here were also less gradual and I could glide with a strong V-1.

I finished the 25 km in one hour and 49 minutes, likely one of my slowest 25 km races of all time (much slower than the 1:15 I did at the Hamsterbeiner in 2017) but always condition dependent. A real winter experience. It was good to do the pursuit- especially seeing as the classic race was the most competitive. I was 2nd of 11 women (four minutes back) and 3rd of 21 overall (six minutes back). Yes, a small field.

Hopefully we’ve all learned how to dress by now and cover up and no one incurred more frostbite.

For Vakava, Erik skied to 5th place in the 25 km skate which boasted the largest field and Craig won the classic to get yet another axe!

We joked later on that we needed those dye people to help with the course boundaries and undulations and leaf blower people to clean out the classic tracks that we’ve been watching at the Olympics!


Sporting my new pink Finlandia headband and off for a ski at Three Island with Erik in Bemidji the day after the Finlandia. If anyone wants one of these headbands put Finlandia 2023 on your calendar!!!

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Go Big or Go Home: Mora Vasaloppet Classic 48 km

The Mora Vasaloppet’s Classic race has often been advertised as 42 km. This year, with dividing the skate and classic techniques between Saturday and Sunday and utilizing all the Vasaloppet trails, the Classic got the bump up to 48 km! I guess this increases the skiing:driving ratio and provides a better per kilometer value. Go long or go home. 


Three Vakava skiers in our hot pink tops (from left to right: Alex, Paul, and Nate) in the lead pack of Saturday's skate race.

Now offering prize money for the classic, the start list was stacked- the most competition I’ve seen since 2013! Looking at the list made me question whether I’d even earn a dala horse- I guess that’s some gender parity. Go fast or go home without a horsee.

The temps were forecasted to be cold again, similar to the City of Lakes Loppet Classic Race, but without the wind. The prediction held. I again wore 2 layers under my racing suit. At least it was cold enough to make that decision easy. Dress warm, be cold, or go home.

Unlike running races where I have a good idea of what pace I can maintain for the entirety, I haven’t figured this out yet in skiing. Hills burn me up but since Mora is fairly flat, I’ve tended to go out with the leaders and hang on as long as I can. Sometimes this is only until Mora Lake, sometimes a bit longer. Usually the pace goes out hot, even for the women, and I warmed up to be ready and try to push myself. Often I think I have more to give but somehow can’t tap into that gear. I was determined to find a pack to push myself hard, hard, hard. And to fuel.

Us Minnesotan’s must be hardy because despite the temps, the announcer said it was a “beautiful sunny winter morning” and the race was neither shortened nor delayed. I was nervous with my recently frostbitten thumb as my handwarmers hadn’t worked on my Saturday ski. Erik told me I needed to quit if my thumbs got cold. Quitting for me is so much harder than sticking through the pain of racing. 


Paul Olson, Mora native, finishing the 34 km skate for Vakava.

I lined up around the 4th row- the farthest back I’ve started in the classic since 2013. Since 2015, I’ve finished 2nd-4th in the classic. Once the gun went off, I got dropped immediately. There was a fair bit of congestion until the first aid station and then things started to spread out. With a dusting of fresh new snow, conditions were slow!

Mora always has the hardest, iciest snow of any track around. With hard ice balls between the tracks, occasional ridges, and early set down tracks, despite being flat the course demands attention. As the race progressed, I came to appreciate this more as my technical skills have improved over the years (same comment I made last week). I’ve been thinking about skiing strong and me controlling the course rather than the other way around. 


Saturday's skate race was cold, too. Here's Craig racing in his warm-ups.

After the first aid station, there was one woman skier who dropped me. I ate a cliff bar over the hour before the race and wanted to puke a couple times in the short, punchy hills in the northeast part of the course. My teammate Cheryl briefly caught me which gave me motivation to keep pushing. By the time we hit the climbing section, coming up from the Snake River, I wasn’t feeling so snappy. The Garretson sisters caught me and I skied with them as we made our way through the northwest section (south of the road) where there’s some more hills. There’s a couple tight turns heading onto the lake in that section twice and for the second time my thumbs got cold in the race. Once we got out of the hills, we hit a fast double pole section and the sisters put some time on me.

It looked like something happened to one of their skis and at the Nordic Center I started skiing with the one who had fallen back. Once we got out on Mora Lake it was a relatively lonely existence. I skied the lake with one of the Garretson’s and then took off as we climbed back off the lake. She said I should go chase down her sister and that’s what I aimed to do.

Between the sun and the skied-in tracks, I was relieved that the second lap skied much faster. This meant easier double poling- or at least I could double pole farther uphills and up some gradual hills. The sun felt really nice and my thumbs had warmed up. My kick was gone, stripped clean by the abrasive snow despite sanding and heating in base wax- it usually happens at Mora. I focused on chasing down the lead Garretson sister and the woman who had dropped me earlier. I was feeling good. Yes, I had some hand cramping. Yes, I had overall fatigue. Yes, my double pole muscles were tired. But it was the second lap and mostly double poling and that’s where I shine. Even when dead tired I can still double pole relatively efficiently. This is not true of my striding. 


Bigfoot was on course but he was no match for these Mora Mannequins. Erik and I both did a double-take when we saw them. They are AWESOME!!!

I caught the lead Garretson sister by the hilly section. It took until the Nordic Center to catch the other woman. When I did I tried to make a decisive move but she put up a fight. I still had another gear so we began testing each other. When I later looked at the results sheet I learned it was Daisy Richmond. She’s a good strider. She whizzed past me last week at the Loppet in Butler on an uphill. I kept trying to make a move on her but she responded. As usual, when I tucked in behind her, the pace felt so easy. As I’ve said a billion times, I don’t like racing directly against others. I’d prefer individual start races. The only thing that made me feel better was that knowing by racing each other, we’d be skiing faster and I thought “we can go chase down some men!”

After making a couple moves, I went into the outside track before Bell Hill. This was a mistake as the inside was where everyone had herring boned. I tried as hard as I could to go up that hill fast but it was rock hard and Daisy pulled away from me and I couldn’t bring it back in the double pole. Perhaps it’s the hardest I’ve been breathing when I’ve crossed the line at Mora so that was a plus. 

Mora's course. Go squiggly or go home.

Despite finishing 9th, it was a good race. I really enjoyed the second lap when I was mostly skiing by myself but chasing, feeling strong, and warm. I was also within 10 minutes of skiers who usually finish in the top 10 in the Birkie, although I do better double poling over striding uphils. I also succeeded in getting 3 feeds of Mora’s infamous blueberry soup which was delicious and three feeds more than I often take to help power me to the finish. I finished 4th in my age class, the first time I haven’t gotten a horse since I was 20, and then they had 5 year age groups. I would’ve gotten horses in the two age groups below me and the one above me.

Erik also raced the classic. He finished 16th (I believe this was my highest overall place a few years ago so obviously there was much more competition this year). Interestingly enough, he won his age group (taking out Brian Gregg who was 2nd overall) but wouldn't have gotten any horses in the two age groups below him or the age group above him! Artie Huber for Vakava finished two minutes behind Erik and went horseless.

In the women’s classic, Cheryl Dubois crushed her age class and should be proud! I aspire to be that fast in my 7th decade of life and Maria Schilling finished not far behind, winning her age class as well. In the “short” classic race (still 24 km), Dave Christopherson was 9th. 


Nate, with his closet competitor Peter Carlen, at the finish.

Vakava had some great results in Saturday’s skate race led by Alex Reich 4th(!!!), Andy Schakel 8th, Craig Cardinal 13th,and Artie Huber 34th in the men’s 48 km field while Laura Cattaneo finished 5th in the women’s field. In the 35 km, Nate Porath took home his 8th victory with Paul Olson 3rd, Ben Mullin 16th, Hans Harlane 25th, Dave Christopherson 34th, and Mark Ahlers 44th with Katy Splan 14th in the women's field and Mary Beth Tuttle collecting another wreath!!! Go big or go home for Vakava.


Mary Beth and Hans at the finish.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Not Dead Yet

To quote Monty Python, "I am not dead yet".

I certainly haven't been doing my share of the posting to the Vakava blog in the past year though.  After my Ground Hog's Day Birkie I suffered a little burn-out (who knew 5 marathons in 5 days would do that to a person?).  And then we got a wild hair to move and I pretty abruptly stopped nearly all forms of physical fitness to first get a house ready to sell, then pack, then move.  This resulted in a couple of the smallest training months in the past 10 years.

Cool.  June I decided to get back on the horse.  That lasted a whole week until I crashed on my first roller ski of the year and spent a week and a half thinking I had torn my hip flexor.  Turns out I hadn't, just sheared a bunch of blood vessels and had the most wicked bruise.  It grew and changed over three weeks eventually spreading all the way down my inner thigh, across the top of my knee, and then started back up the outside of my thigh.  Super cool.

Neat.  Back on the horse again.  Mid July I joined Artie for his now annual 100k roller ski.  I wasn't nearly as fit as I was the year before, but the weather was nicer, and I'm no less stubborn (some may call it stupid, but I don't listen to them) so we got it done.

We then hosted the Lindström Bakgård Ultra in July.  This was a slightly modified version of a Backyard Ultra where once an hour, on the hour, you take off for a 4 mile loop.  You keep repeating that until everyone quits.  In case I don't ever post anything more about it like I should... Craig won with 7 laps for 28 miles.

August I then rode my bicycle across the state of Minnesota on mostly gravel roads in 17 hours and change.  Did I mention my stubbornness?  Because I certainly wasn't trained for sitting on a bike seat that long.  The scenery certainly didn't suck.

Ok Ok.  Fall is coming, I'm starting to find some fitness.  Queue a mountain bike crash with my kids that sprained my thumb pretty good.  Its fine, its fine.  I can ride the trainer, run, and skiing is only uncomfortable.  Queue... I still don't know what.  Some sort of tendon issue in my foot.  I went from fine on Friday, to crawling (literally) to the garage on Monday morning to find the crutches.  I couldn't even put a sock on it hurt so bad.  It took a few weeks before that got back to being able to do anything on it.  That set me back pretty good right as ski training was ramping up.

All of that as a super long and rambling pre-amble to RACE SEASON 2021/2022.

Well actually, just 2022.  I didn't race any of the early season races.

Noquemanon 50k Skate

I love the Marquette area and will take just about any reason to head up there and enjoy everything they have to offer.  This year I was able to double dip and headed up for the Noquemanon and was also able to sneak in a Polar Roll virtual event on Sunday.

Other than the 100k roller ski, I don't think I've skied 50k at any time over the summer or fall, so jumping straight to a 50k race sounded a little intimidating.  But it is net downhill so it'll be fine...

We started out with the parade lap around Al Quaal before busting out into the wilderness to work our way down to Marquette.  My early goal was to not go out to hard (like I do in EVERY RACE).  Teammate Laura caught up to me about 4k into the race.  She was moving quickly and I was pretty sure I was going to just let her go.  But with a couple of downhills sprinkled in, and her getting hung up behind a few guys I ended up in a small pack with her.

That pack eventually grew to a train of probably 20 guys that she pulled along for probably 10k.  I eventually took a turn on the front for a little bit before some young guy came hauling through much faster.  Again, I was going to let him go, but then there was a downhill and my skis were running pretty dang good (thanks Finn Sisu!) and I ended up right on him again.  So I then made a mistake and pushed harder than I should have to stick with him.

We crossed the Dead River Basin and started the long climb to the course high point.  Laura was either on the front here or very near the front.  She skis uphill very quickly.  Just before the top of the hill I thought I was in trouble.  My HR was 95% of max (maybe 97% of a max HR I've seen in the last two years as age may be catching up with my actual max HR).  I was hoping that my good skis were going to carry me over the top and on the next couple of km of mostly downhill I would be able to tuck into a group and recover.  Never happened.  I blew up pretty spectacularly.

Despite being net downhill from there, it was still a long ways to Marquette.  I was really glad to ski up to the dome at NMU and just walk inside since this was my first Noquemanon that actually finished at the dome.

Polar Roll EX 30

Don't tell anyone I posted about a fat bike event on the Vakava blog.  I might get kicked off the team.

But seriously, I've wanted to do this race for quite a few years.  But it is typically right around the Birkie so it is never going to happen.  But they have embraced the EX (enhanced experience) format with COVID.  Basically a virtual version, but you better believe that it is not a cake walk.  My ride was 38 miles on the Sunday after the Noque and that enhanced it enough for me despite the trails being in fabulous shape.  Don't get me wrong, I love skiing, but riding some sweet groomed single track doesn't suck either.  And I'm now just one event shy of the Triple Crown.  Which is a club for stupid people... I mean stubborn people who do stupid stuff on bikes... I mean awesome feats of endurance.

Marine O'Brien 50k Classic

I  was convinced I was going to do Seeley Classic again this year.  I dread, but enjoy classic racing.  I hadn't signed up yet though and then I saw that the MOB race was going to have a special edition 50k classic race for their 50th anniversary.  And to boot, it was going to be a real adventure with multiple non-snow covered road crossings, a trip through a portion of the park not normally groomed for skiing and then down into Jackson Meadow and back.  FUN!!

Early on I thought maybe I was back in high school since I skied with both Andy and Matt in high school.

Anyway, the event turned out to be a hoot.  My parents came out to be my personal photographers and grabbed some super cool pictures.

Well, mostly sweet shots of me.  That last one was at the 9th of 10 road crossings.  Apparently I was hoping to hop on my broom and fly across?  I was bonking reasonably hard at that point so I wasn't particularly graceful.

In the end it wasn't necessarily a great race for me, but it was a total blast to be a part of and a fun adventure.  10/10, would recommend.

Mora Loppet 20k

I couldn't bring myself to want to participate in the City of Lakes this year.  After confirming I had made it through my latest COVID exposure uninfected late in the week I decided to hop into the Mora Loppet 20k.

I was looking forward to getting a solid workout in and ski on the Mora trails the week before the Vasaloppet.  The morning turned out to be COLD and WINDY.  There was an inch of fluff on top of some really firm trails.  The trails looked fantastic ahead of the Vasaloppet so I was psched about that.

I decided I wanted to try a novel racing tactic this time. I have told my friends I call it, "not going out too hard in the first 1/3 and blowing up and suffering for the next 1/3, and then either recovering a bit in the last 1/3 or completely dieing"

I started, let the lead pack blast away, let one or two more people go that I may have previously tried to hang on to, and then settled in with another skier.  At times I though to myself, I could probably be going faster, but chose to just bide my time in the draft, focusing on skiing balanced and in control.  The lead switched a few times in the first lap and I did take my turn nearing the end of the first lap.  But I very deliberately took the pull while we were still in the woods and then eased off on the last climb to let someone else take the lead out into the south headwind and the fields.

At the start of the second lap, our little group of what must have been 6 or 7 got blown to bits when Maggie Bowman went to the front.  I dug deep and was able to catch on as was one more person.  We skied as a trio for maybe 5k before I became unhitched from the back of the group.  They managed to put about 30 seconds into me in the last 5k.  But it was nice that they pulled away, not that I died.

Pretty neat HR graph that doesn't go straight to max and then fade away part way through the race.

Mora Vasaloppet - Dala 34k

To Be Continued...

Monday, February 7, 2022

Mid-January Blues, Frostbite, and the City of Lakes Loppet Classic Race

Mid January Blues

The last three years, since Minneapolis hosted the Master’s World Cup, I’ve purposely not raced in January to sleep in and give myself a break prior to racing every weekend in February. Instead I’ve been doing hour-long L3 sessions by myself inside of three hour skis. This got tedious and so this year I was determined to do some January races. But not just any races, specifically I wanted to do races I’ve never done before. I signed up for one, the St. John’s Langlauf, but this became yet another casualty of COVID-19. 

Alex Reich from Vakava skiing fast in the Skate Loppet. Photo: Skinnyski

And so by mid-January the usual three negative themes emerged. My positive self-talk to remedy these situations are in italics.

1. I’m not prepared to race. This is ridiculous. I’ve trained for nine months. I’m at some of my highest training loads now, so of course I’m tired. I’m doing intervals and long skis and strength the same day- sometimes strength to exhaustion. I’ve trained at least as well, if not better, than every other year. I’m doing weekly intervals with Vakava and more intervals on my own. I’m ready to race.

2. I should have done more strength. I feel weak- especially the double pole. I had plans to do some double pole-only workouts. On the man-made loop at Wirth. Yeah, I know, it’s really hilly. But the snow has been slow. Really slow. Or is it just me? Well Elspeth, this is coming from someone who has done 100 pull-up days. I’ve likely done more weighted pull-ups than anyone who will be above me on the results page. It must be slow snow. It has been colder than usual. This is also where I glean motivation for more strength next year and when I usually think of better specific strength.

3. I don’t even like to race. I should quit. Oh, I battle this every year. I’ve learned some from running when I only do occasional races. I do better racing infrequently, thus every weekend in February is a bit daunting. So it’s important to remember why I race. To push myself, get out of my comfort zone. Because I actually like to go hard AND FAST. At least sometimes. COVID has also killed most of the social aspect of racing. No parties afterwards. So I need to take one race at a time. Think in the moment, approach each corner, uphill, flat, and straightaway as a novelty. As a chance to ski as fast as I can.

The best way to remedy these feelings is to race. There weren’t any nearby races the third weekend of January but the 4th weekend was packed. Erik and I debated between the William O-Brien Race and the Lumberjack Jaunt but ultimately decided against travel and waking up early. I pounded out one last solo interval session and then kicked off 5 weekends in a row of racing with the City of Lakes Loppet Classic Race the first weekend in February. 

Andy Schakel skiing to a good finish in the Skate Loppet. Photo: Skinnyski


I have cold hands. Most of the time this means the temp of my hands mimics their environment, even if my core is pleasantly warm. I’ve struggled with this and occasionally the screaming barfies my whole ski career. The tips of my pinky fingers are permanently numb.

This year I’ve decided to do something about it and purchased a huge pack of chemical hand warmers to use when it’s much below 10 degrees. The chemical warmers can be too hot next to my skin, so I’ve found that wearing nitrile gloves inside my mittens with the hand warmers is just right.

The problem is the poor thumbs. Usually after 10-15 minutes of skiing my thumbs will get warm with a mildly unpleasant tingling sensation and then they’ll be good but three nights before the City of Lakes Loppet, at Vakava practice with intervals, my left thumb just wasn’t warming up. I tried twice on long downhills, pulling my thumb in with my other fingers to rewarm it, but was unsuccessful. After that I gave up and finished the workout and only as I was cooling down did my thumb get warm- the screaming barfies, but because it was only one finger, it was mostly just screaming.

The thumb still felt funny though and it kept me up some of the night, throbbing. In all my years I’ve never frostbit any of my fingers this bad. My thumb swelled up. I thought it was going to blister but it didn’t. But this means I need to figure out how to not get it cold again which almost always happens if it’s below 10 degrees. And there’s plenty of that in the forecast. The obvious answer is to quit skiing. That would be easy. But I’m too stupid and stubborn. I’ll lose my thumb before I do that. Why hasn’t someone invented a chemical thumb warmer???

Erik proposed a number of solutions but finally we settled on taping handwarmers around my thumb on the outside of my mittens. 

Handwarmers taped to my thumbs on the outside. Back in business.

The City of Lakes Loppet

The Classic Loppet dawned cold, windy, and cloudy with temps forecasted to be 5 degrees warming to 13 with corresponding windchills of -12 to -2. It took me too many years to factor in the wind. I hate getting hot (some of this post was written in a 55 degree room in my house), so tend to dress on the cooler side. Despite years of ski racing, sometimes I’m a bit unsure of exactly what to wear. I figure that using hand and foot warmers, the parts of my body that are always coldest, allows me less layers under my spandex. In the end I wore a balaclava, hat, and two layers of long underwear under my spandex.

I arrived to the start glad to have the extra layers as the southeast wind kicked up across Bde Maka Ska. From my brief warm-up on skis, I learned it was faster outside the classic tracks due to drifted snow. I put my skis down in what looked like the second row. Despite them being 15 years old, no one put their skis in front of mine so I was on the front row! Erik, who started 45 minutes after me in the 20 km race, was there to take my warm-ups. I should’ve given myself more time as I struggled getting my pole straps on with the extra thumb handwarmers. With 10 seconds to go I didn’t have my straps on yet so moved to the side, knowing that at least it was faster out of the tracks.

Fortunately I got my straps on just as they said go and I was off double poling hard outside the tracks. I was able to tuck in behind my teammate Laura and another woman. On the west side of Bde Maka Ska the pace seemed to slow so I jumped in front to take the lead. Once we got to the protected south side of the lake we got in the classic tracks and I followed behind Laura. Just before going through the channel into Lake of the Isles, Margie passed me along with another woman. One more woman passed me as we got onto Lake of the Isles. I tried to ski with that pack and was able to until we got to the south side of Cedar when they bridged a gap on me I just couldn’t make up. Back in the day, when I had just started marathon racing in college, I always thought it would be so fun to ski with the lead pack of women but now I know it’s just a lot of work! 

Myself and Laura at the start of the Classic Loppet.

The Loppet did a good job of making a snow ribbon in the channels but coming off Cedar Lake onto the east beach was rough. At one point all the skiers just went off the trail onto nicer snow. The bare rock was exposed along the east trail (I’ve previously had good intentions of removing that rock but it is HUGE and beyond my ability without some heavy equipment. One guy who had just passed me was going a bit slow in this section and I put in a bit of an effort and got back in front of him and never saw him again. 

Vakava teammate Brock on course during the classic.

From this point on I just seemed to lose my top gear. I was still moving but struggled to ski some transition sections fast (finding dirt-free snow and intermittent classic tracks didn’t help) and couldn’t push the uphills. A handful of guys would pass me the remainder of the race and one woman in Butler. Fortunately my kick was decent which definitely helped. I also noted that while not always skiing the transitions terribly well, at least I wasn’t wobbling on my skis even when tired. My agility on skis has definitely improved. Like I’ve been saying about just about everything in life recently from wearing masks to speed records on downhills…practice!

On Skyline the tracks were windblown again and I mostly skied outside of the tracks. I was glad for the double layers under my spandex. I kept trying to push the double pole but didn’t feel uber strong. I enjoyed the more rolling parts of the course on Twin Lakes and then pushed up to Coach’s Corner. I kicked up in the tracks, noted that even though I wasn’t breathing super hard, I felt tired. 

Crossing over Wirth Parkway in North Wirth during the Loppet. Photo: Skinnyski

I completely missed the corner heading off the north finger. Under cloudy skies it wasn’t super obvious, I didn’t see the left V-boards, and likely the marshal wasn’t in an optimal position. It sucked losing all my speed on that hill but I guess so is life. Those last couple grinders- coming off the North Finger and up from La Squadra were mentally challenging to keep pushing and not just walk. I did do a tad of that in the steepest sections. The wind was so strong I double poled into La Squadra and then despite tucking, had to start poling again before I even got to the corner. I started double poling up the bottom of La Squadra and noted that my arms weren’t that tired so clearly I could have pushed harder but also makes me feel better heading into the Mora Classic next week- especially given they just lengthened the course! Even my double pole finish felt lackluster although there wasn’t anyone around me so there wasn’t too much point in sprinting.

In the end I was 6/40 women and 49/193 overall. Not too shabby. Laura rocked it and placed onto the podium in 3rd. In the men’s race Brock took 23rd overall.

Meanwhile, to mix things up, Erik decided to add some competition to the 20 km and won! 

Erik on his way to victory! Photo: Skinnyski

In Sunday’s skate race Vakava also had some great performances with Alex Reich 6th, Andy Schakel 9th, Craig Cardinal 12th, Jojo Baldus 14th, Brock Lundberg (after racing the previous day) 65th, and Hans Harlane 105th in the men’s race. Laura Cattaneo was the sole Vakava female in the women’s field and came up just shy of the podium with a 4th place but did win the overall Loppet Challenge. 

Jojo hammering the Skate Loppet. Photo: Skinnyski

Craig crushing it at the Skate Loppet. Photo: Skinnyski