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Friday, February 24, 2006

Tara and I proudly sporting out Olympic pins that Tara's mom, Jan
Gregg, sent us- Thanks Jan! Opening our eyes for this picture was almost more painful than the actual race ealier in the day because of the brilliant sunshine.  Posted by Picasa

After watching the women's second Slalom run at Sugar Bowl
after our races at Auburn Ski Club, we explored a new route back to
Truckee. Here's the nordic team overlooking Donner Lake. From L to R:
Davis Taylor, Whitney Heyvaert, Lindsay Records, Laura Valaas, Alex
Farnand, Charlie Erdman, Tara Gregg, Robert Marcotte and Loren
Schmidt. Posted by Picasa

UNR Invite Skate Race

I ended up 8th again today in the mass start skate race. I made a risky move and broke away from the pack at 9km to try and take second place on my own (Jana was ahead of everyone already) but got caught a kilometer before the finish.

Here's how it played out: The start was drama-free, at least in the front. I started about 20th place and moved up slowly until I felt comfortably placed. Comfortably placed for me means that I was close enough to the front of the pack that I could see everybody & that if a gap opened up I would be able to manuever myself up to it in order to bridge it in a short amount of time. The first lap, of three, was at an easy pace, easy enough that I single-sticked up Pink Lung Hill and didn't loose any time. Jana broke away at about 3km but no one wanted to chase her. She ended up skiing the rest of the race by herself and winning easily.

The second lap started out slow as well. Maybe not that slowly, we must have been dropping a lot of people along the way, I don't know, I don't look back. A UNM girl broke off the front about 6km but she wasn't one of their top girls so I didn't worry about it, the pack never let her get too far ahead and caught her after a km. It did help to string out the pack though and gave us all more room. Then the top DU girl broke away at about 8km, then the top Utah girl bridged up to her. So I decided that I needed to be there too. Then Utah took the lead DU dropped off with me behind her so I moved around to bridge up to Utah. When I caught her, she looked dead tired & here's when I took the big risk and kept going right on by her. I probably should have just hung out and said, "so you're tired, okay, I'll rest then," but I didn't. So I skied the next 5km by myself. About 1km to the finish the chase pack subsumed me and that was sad.

So I took a huge risk, making a gutsy move, and it didn't work. That's just how racing goes though. Every time you try a move like that you learn something about yourself, you learn something about your competitors, and you learn something about race strategy.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Alex, Tory, Hannes, Nate, Laura & Tara, the seniors on the team with our celebratory Senior bibs that we received at the RMISA end of season banquet down in Reno. Posted by Picasa

Lost Moments

There are times when one has to make split second decisions. Like tonight at the banquet when Tom named off the seniors on the team to go up front and be recognized and out of nowhere Davis tried to slip me a piece of rasberry pie under the table. I didn't take the pie. But as soon as I walked away from the table, slipping on my Senior bib, I wished I had. What better way to cap off four years then a pie in the coach's face? Next time I'll take the pie. But which coach deserves it? Tom Olson? Nathan Alsobrook? hmmm.

Laura, Tara, Lindsay, and Whitney after our 5k classic at the Auburn Ski Club. Posted by Picasa

UNR Invite Classic Race

Gorgeous day for skiing today, sunny and warm. I had some last minute requests for wax adjustments that kept Nathan and Malcolm on their toes, but they got it to my liking comfortably in time for my start. Even though it wasn't super warm & we had been training on hard wax, we raced on uncovered klister.

I started out fast and covered the first kilometer in no time, okay, so it was almost all downhill, which made it easy to go fast. The second km was more flat & rolling- still fast. The third km had the climbs. I felt solid on the climbs, striding for the most part and breaking into a quick, smooth herringbone on the steeper pitches. Then the fourth km hit and my body blew up, Ashley Quiggle, who started 30 sec in front of me, passed me back and I momentarily fell off her pace, it was hard to keep moving. After a really tough half km I managed to pick it up again for the last 1.5km & passed Ashley back about 250m before the finish. Still a good finish, 8th place. Tomorrow will be the 15km skate. I need to remember to start conservatively, it's been a while since I've had to race at 7200'.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

To ease your fears:

I know that I havaen't mentioned any of my desserts lately. Do not be alarmed, I have still been experiencing delectable desserts. Here's a recap:

Sunday: Ginger-Apple compote with cinnamon ice cream. The plate had a layer of sauce on it. The apple compote exuded cinnamon and ginger spices and two thin layers of pastry sandwhiched it, sprinkled with powdered sugar. Next to it was a mound of cinnamon ice cream. Best of all, strips of crystallized ginger circled the plate. Thanks to Alan for taking me out to dinner! (Whitehouse Crawford, Walla Walla)

Monday: Tara, Whitney & I split a chocolate ginger cake our first night in Lake Tahoe. The cake looked like an oversized upside down cupcake and was surrounded by dollops of vanilla bean ice cream and doused with chocolate sauce. Again, the little cubes of candied ginger dotting the plate were the highlight! (Bar of America, Truckee)

Tuesday: Being at a fine Italian restaurant, Tara, Lindsay & I felt obliged to try their Tiramisu. Which was not a mistake. Around the tiramisu sat four dollops of cream, three had rasperries on top and the fourth had a mint leaf. The actual Tiramisu was delicious, each layer had a distinct flavor that blended together and complimented each other. Thanks to Susan and Doug Heyvart for taking the nordic team out for dinner! (Pianata Italian Cuisine, Truckee)

Wednesday: Tara and I drew on our skills as poor college students and melted chocolate chips as chocolate fondue for our strawberries this afternoon. Dinner was at a Thai Restaurant and if there's one thing that pleases me more than a good dessert, it's a spicy curry. So I was satisfied and skipped dessert.


Congratulations to Kikkan Randall for getting 9th in the OLYMPICS. It was great to watch her quarterfinal on TV this afternoon; wow, what a star!

The Day Before

Once again, I have arrived at the Day Before A Race. I tried to count how many of these days I've had in my life. And quickly gave up, but decided that it must be somewhere in the triple digits. The day before a race day, umm, I'll shorten that to RacEve, are no longer as scary and semi paralyzing as they used to be. RacEves more and more imitate normal days; I ski, do homework, eat, blog (apparently), and engage in other mundane activities. The difference is that, before making a decision, even an unimportant one, I ask myself: "Will this affect my race tomorrow? If yes, how?" Once I realized this I wondered why it didn't have more of an impact on my behavior on RacEves. Thinking back on yesterday's thoughts I notice that before each decision that I made I asked myself: "Will this affect my race two days from now? If yes, how?" In fact, any day of the year when I'm making decisions I ask myself, often subconsciously: "Will this affect my racing in Jan/Feb/March? If yes, how?" And that is why RacEves are normal days now, because every day I care about the impacts of my decisions.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Life from behind a van window

One aspect of skiing that every skier deals with is travel. It's inevitable, particularly out West. Today was an 11 hour van ride from Walla Walla to Truckee, CA. I used to dread these long drives, but i have learned to cope with them. The trick relies on acceptance and altered expectations. When I start a van ride, I alter my world view so that the world is the interior of the van. This leads to a low standard of living, as you might imagine, and low expectations of life. In this semi isolation, the small things become big deals: having a pillow, a good book, music, conversation, gas station stops. The stops are incredibly exciting- an enlargening of the world! Because of this perspective, I am happy and satisfied on the van rides.

Using this trick has also taught me to be cautious not to fall into the same technique in everyday life. Because it is easy to narrow your world to your immediate surroundings and lower your expectations, and thus be satisfied but never fulfilled, you have to guard against it. Be aware of the size of your world and if it doesn't include life outside your range of vision, it's too small!

Now I'm in Truckee, CA and looking forward to skiing at the beautiful Auburn Ski Club tomorrow morning!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Ski Racing the magazine

Peggy Shinn wrote an excellent article in Ski Racing (Febuary 21, 2006 issue) about Americans in Collegiate ski racing. She featured me as one of the few Americans to be top 10 at NCAA's last year. The large Universities recruit European skiers to their teams so many of the top Collegiate skiers in the U.S. are foreign. Which I like because it raises the standard at our races considerably and usually lowers the FIS points for our collegiate races, which is good. Other people complain because they get beaten. I get beaten too but it's good motivation. I don't think the issue I'm in is out yet, but it should be soon so check the bookstores. There's also an adorable picture of Nicole DeYoung and a mention of Brian Gregg and Kassandra Rice in the article.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

On TV!

Video Clip from FOX Sports Network

It is a little odd to be getting so much media attention this year. I've simply been living my life, doing everyday the same things I've been doing for the past four years. Maybe media attention is just a strange, sporadic side effect of motivation.

I'd also like to note the co-stars of my TV clip, who are a subset of the important & influential people in my life: Linzee Klinkenberg, Nathan Alsobrook, Jane Rynbrandt, Mara Abbott & Albert Schueler. And I think Alex Farnand snuck into a skiing shot! Perhaps the most exciting part of having a TV interview was getting to keep the Whitman sweatshirt that I wore for it (thanks to Ruth Wardwell & Dave Holden!), now that's a tangible benefit!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Walla Walla Union Bulletin

Here's a story in the Walla Walla U-B from Sunday's paper about me!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


The Whitman Ski Team flies to Crested Butte in an hour and I, sadly, am staying in Walla Walla. There is life happening here that I need to catch up with.

Slovenija was a great experience, from the races to finally deducing that the "ice cream" I was eating every night was actually probably gelato. Competing at this level reminded me that I am a very good skier. It also made it clear that I still have a lot of work to do! Fortunately, there are several aspects of skiing where I can take concrete steps to make improvements. My technique, while better this year than ever before, still gets sloppy when I loose focus or get tired. Through repetion and focus during practice I can work towards making perfect technique second nature. And I can train more.

As Ben Husaby pointed out, many of our international competitors are only skiing, no College, no second sports or activities. Their only job is skiing for a team. This allows them to train many more hours per year than I do. I estimate that collgiate skiers in the US train 450-600 hours per year. The hours we train during a week range from 7 to 25, as our training cycle flucuates (rest/high intensity/high volume phases). Husaby claims, via the German Junior coach, that the German U23 men's team members each train 1000 hours per year. The problem with training so many hours isn't the hours spent working out, it's the hours of rest that are required to support so much training. Skiers are some of the laziest people; if you're training 1000 hrs/year, when you're not training you had better be eating, sleeping or somehow else immoble so that you can recover for your next training session.

hmm... time for a nap?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

NCAA on Campus

An email from Whitman's Director of Communications, Ruth Wardwell, probably explains this the best:

"Greetings Whitman Students, Faculty and Staff:

You may recall an e-mail I sent in late January about student-athlete Laura Valaas having been selected to appear on a nationally televised Fox Sports program, titled NCAA on Campus.

The airdate for the Fox Sports Northwest broadcast has been set: Monday, Feb. 13 at 3 p.m. (Pacific Time). Locally it airs on Charter Cable, Channel 37.

Laura is one of three collegiate athletes who will be featured in the February segment. It's a monthly show, so to have been selected as one of about 36 students nationwide for the entire year speaks volumes about Laura and her accomplishments. The segment also will include interviews with Whitman's Nordic Coach Nathan Alsobrook and several of Laura's friends and cycling and skiing teammates.

I hope you enjoy the broadcast, which not only will recognize the achievements of one of Whitman's many incredible students but also will shine a bright light on the college.

Ruth Wardwell "

So check it out if you can!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Juniors' Relay

After a week of incessant damp cold and heavy fog down at the race venue, the sun finally made an appearance today. And the junior women's team medaled in the relay: fifth place! The men's team did well too, but Morgan Smyth, Sadie Bjornsen, Alexa Turzian and Liz Stephen all had solid races and fought their way into fifth. Sadie must of passed 8 people and she was keeping pace with the Norwegian skier who was about 100m ahead of her.

Crocker, Owen & I cheered for the races and got in a good hour's ski. It was sunny enough that we skied without our warm-ups on and frozen enough that the warm-up loop was enjoyably fast. Also cold enough that we went crust skiing over the fields to escape the monotony of the same old short warm-up loop. Fantastic day. Got a Toblerone bar for the trip home tomorrow.

Junior Men
Junior Women

Saturday, February 04, 2006

My first pursuit race!

I successfully completed my first pursuit race today. I managed not to get too nervous, especially after I realized that I was seeded as the seventh slowest racer (for these races your bib # is your rank among the field according to FIS points) so there wasn't too much pressure.

Our race consisted of three 2.5 classic laps, then a change of gear, and then three laps of a different 2.5 skate loop. Before the start they gave us a few messages from the jury, namely "if the first racers are going to lap you, you will need to please take yourself out of the race," so I suddenly had another goal- not to get pulled. On 2.5 laps, someone only needs to be ahead of you by 7-8 minutes to be lapping you, so it is a real danger. Nineteen guys were pulled out of the men's race earlier today and four women were pulled from ours. On the results those people were listed as DNF, which is cruel. They should get some credit for not dropping out of the race of their own volition. Mass start at noon, they always run the men's races in the afternoon here for television (apparently people are more interested in men's sports than women's) but someone objected so we raced second today. This is good for gender equality, but I prefer racing earlier when the skiing's better and you don't have to sit around all day waiting to race. Since the start was only seven lanes wide I had to start pretty far back. I had a clean start and avoided a 4 person pile up just to my right. The race spread out after the first classic lap. I had a clean transition, everything went precisely as I had practiced. Packing for a pursuit race is not second nature to me yet. I had forgotten skate skis to warm up on, but Brian Gregg let me ski on his before the race, thankfully, because when I switched to skating I was glad that my skate muscles were warmed up too.

The skate part of the race went well too, I managed to pass a few people. Although one of them was a woman who tried to snowplow on a mushy corner and ended up doing a somersault instead. The most exciting part of the skate course was the downhill. Let me rephrase... The Downhill. So you climb up this long, leg-burning hill and at the top, the second top, not the false top, there's two signs that I imagine say "CAUTION. DOWNHILL." And then you have The Downhill, which, under normal circumstances wouldn't be a big deal. Recall, however, that a field of 60 men skied The Downhill 6 times already this morning in their race and skied it on their warmups and cooldowns. So by the time we raced, it was treacherous. It stars out turning to the right and then a really steep pitch that had been scraped down to ice, then a deep sugar sink, then immediately into a left hand icy corner and into a down and up gulch. That was the worst of it, the remainder of the downhill was manageable. Snowplowing on ice proves to be, if you try it on nordic skis, ineffective. It is also difficult to control your direction. So you get going quickly by the time you hit the sugar sink. Which throws you way off balance because the snow is drastically slower there and then you have to pull yourself together in time to make the next corner; that was the corner that most people were falling on. I knew I was off-kilter on my first lap because there was an audible collective gasp from the spectators as I entered the second corner. Don't worry, I didn't fall, but my next two times on the downhill were similarly ungraceful.

Junior Women
Junior Men
U23 Women
U23 Men

Friday, February 03, 2006

Mikey Sinnott, intensely focused in Thursday's classic race Posted by Picasa

Taz Mannix & Alexa Turzian had momentum in Friday's pursuit race. Posted by Picasa

Brian Gregg does not mess around in a race. Posted by Picasa

Liz Stephen fighting her way into 7th place in the pursuit. Posted by Picasa

Glenn Randall, showing those Euros how to corner. Posted by Picasa

Kristina Owen, another (East) Wenatchee local and my favorite, sporadic training partner. Posted by Picasa

The Germans. All in Bogner. Posted by Picasa

Taz Mannix bottles wine the old fashioned way at Castle Grad. She also got to cork the bottle and seal it with wax. Posted by Picasa

Slovenia Photos

Thanks to Jack Harris, majoring in photography at MSU, for taking the above race photos and Brian Gregg for having a firewire for connecting camera to computer.

There is an official photo site sponsored by Slovenia where you can see more photos here. The USA suits are blocky with solid blue torsos and red lower legs and forearms.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

FIS Points Perspective

I am by no means an expert on FIS points, but I've noticed a few things. First of all, FIS uses a points system to rank skiers. There are minimum point requirements for starting World cup and Olympic races (I think that it is one race w/in the last year under 100 points). Each race gets a point penalty based on who the top five finishers were. At the Senior Nationals Women's Sprint Qualifier, that penalty was 109.48, so that is how many points the winner, Hovey, got. Based on each racer's time back from the winner they get points computed. I was 3.4 seconds back so I got 134 points for that race (lower points are better). The lowest penalty at Nationals this year for the women was 98.75 in the pursuit. The lowest penalty for the men was the 30 km skate with 23.53 points. The penalties for the U23 races have been about 35 points, so even qualifing in 24th for the sprint gave me better points than 3rd at U.S. Nationals.

Clearly, in order to improve our FIS points we have to go race in Europe or have the Europeans race over here. This explains why the men's penalties are so much better than the women's in the U.S. More men are supported at World Cup races in Europe than women. When was the last time that USSA sent a women to a European World Cup race (Dussault '04-'05 I think)? Babikov racing in the U.S. also lowers the men's point penalty. This is also why I support recruiting Europeans for the Collegiate race circuit.

Anyway, we're doing what we can over here, lowering our FIS ranking so that when we come back to the states to race we'll help lower the points penalties for our domestic races.


I want to thank the Leavenworth Winter Sports Club for sending me a card. Getting mail in Slovenia is just about the coolest thing, thanks!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

From atop the cliff that Castle Grad perches on you can look down onto the lake. Another castle rises from the mists on an island in the lake. With no bridge I haven't made it to that castle. People were skating on the lake our first day here, but no one's been out since and the lake is hotspring fed so I don't want to wander around on it! Posted by Picasa

Some of the non-racers (Taz, Leif, Brian G., Kassie, Alexa, Laura) drove up to Pokljuka to train today. It was nice to drive out of the fog and into the sunshine to ski on hard-packed and groomed trails! One of the trails reminded me of Logger's Loop at Bohart Ranch, MT. Only much easier! Posted by Picasa

The rocks near a cave in Bled. Castle Grad has existed for around 1000 years so these rocks have been rubbed smooth by people climbing over them for a millenium. Posted by Picasa

Classic Results

The Juniors had their classic race Wednesday, 5/10km. The U23's have a classic race Thursday, I'm not racing it though. My next race will be the pursuit on Saturday. Each country gets four starts for each race & since the USA brought 6-7 athletes for each division not everyone gets to do all the races. The coaches make determine who gets start rights. Here's the Junior women's results. Sadie was our top women today in 24th place! Here's the Junior men's results, Matt Gelso broke into the top twenty in 16th place!

The U23 World Champ classic races were Thursday. I wish I had gotten to race; I hate missing out on races. I did get a good trainning session in up at Pokljuka. Here's the results:
Women's 10km Classic Results
Men's 15km Classic Results

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