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Friday, April 28, 2006

Sunset Ride

Thursday night Kate, Rj, and I set off from campus at 7pm on our road bikes. Rj was carrying a suspiciously large backpack. We rode East into the foothills of the Blues. I singled out a copse of large trees for our destination. Upon reaching the trees we found them to be located on a well kept lawn, whose edge abutted Oregon. These were huge old trees, we were curious why this lawn was out in the middle of fields, why someone came out to mow it, and why there wasn't a house on the grounds, even an abandoned one, and who had planted the trees.

We didn't ponder too long. Rj opened her backpack and rolled out a soft blanket and pulled out some pizzas from the SUB, a bottle of red wine, wine glasses, and a Winnie the Pooh book. We ate, sipped Walla Walla Wine and enjoyed the sunset. I had brought some 88% dark chocolate and we finished the picnic with the mingled flavors of full red wine and dark chocolate. We relaxed, chatted, and Rj read us a story from Winnie the Pooh about their 'expotition' to discover the North Pole (successfully discovered by Pooh). It was a pleasant way to spend the evening and I was glad Rj had suggested it and invited Kate and me.

We made it back to campus at 9, riding home in the dusk. Luckily, Rj had her red light on her bike to we weren't completely invisible to the cars, and probably clearly visible to the large birds soaring overhead, hunting in the dusk. It felt like we were floating, riding back. And not due to the wine. Because it was dark we couldn't make out the details of our surroundings so we were flying through a dark sea, or the night sky.

That's what life's about; it was a good reminder for me. We wanted to spend the night out there looking out over Walla Walla and under those trees with their hidden past.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Improving as an athlete requires constant attention to training. You have to learn to gaurd against the many distractions that barrage you and demand your time and energy. There are social gatherings and friends and sunny days out there... Beware! they will lead you off the straight and narrow path towards excellence!

Just kidding. Distractions are the best part of life and letting yourself be distracted leads you to a more interesting life and makes you into a more interesting person. Most of the time I am focused on my goals but I am open to distractions. When I came home yesterday to find a squirrel trapped in Dave's room (the open window it had come in was too high for it to jump out of), I abandoned my bike ride in order to rescue Squeaky and reunite him with his friend, Squeakity-Squeak-Squeak-Squeakum, who was on our roof hovering around the window. The two friends (lovers?) were reunited and I was down one bike ride but up one close encounter with a bushy tailed squirrel.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Girls Posted by Picasa

Saturday night, on stage behind the curtain with about 5 minutes to go... we can hear the audience!

From left to right: Linzee Klinkenberg (choreographer), Laura Valaas, Kate Greenberg, Taurra SunEagle, Whitney Brunson, Allena Chrowl, Suzanne Zitzer, Moriah.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Dancing Dalmation

After running a section of the performance, smiling on stage and doubling over in exhaustion as soon as we step into the wings, we all plop down on the floor around Linzee, our choreographer/director, to hear her critique. And we are not a pretty bunch. I look around at feet and almost everyone has skin missing from agressive slides as well as calluses and blisters. Our bodies are mottled with bruises, like multicolored dalmations. And when we get up we leave sweat marks on the floor, outlining however we were sitting. But it's worth it, and after the performances are over my body will get a chance to heal!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Easter!

I was fortunate enough to spend Easter in Wenatchee with an impressive collection of Valaas family members. The big event was Easter service and a dedication/blessing of the stained glass door that was made for St. James Episcopal church in Cashmere in memory of my Grandfather. The associated event was lunch at my family's house and an Easter egg hunt for the cousins (the youngest of whom is my sister at 15). It was nice to spend a day at home, sleep in my own bed, and spend time with my family. I'm lucky to go to school close enough to be able to drive home easily if I want to and to have a cousin at the same school to drive with!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Tracy Road: Conquered.

I came upon an intersection the other day, high on a ridge above Blue Creek. I came up Spring Creek and paused to rest before riding down Blue Creek and while doing so I looked down the road to my left... I know that hill (it was a very steep pitch of dirt and gravel). I've ridden it before. Or, attempted to ride it, I had to walk up a significant portion of it. I want to ride THAT again, I thought.

So I got directions from the savvy Brandon Weil about how to get to the bottom of Tracy Road, and yes, such was the name of that devilish hill. I made the excursion during my four hour break between classes and dance rehearsal. It rained sporadically throughout the ride- out to Dixie, up Biscuit Ridge Road and then leaving the pavement behind and venturing up Tracy Road. As soon as I hit Tracy my pulse jumped, my body temp increased and my breathing grew more desperate. I remembered Tracy as impossible to ride up, even in the very small triple ring in front, and I didn't have those easy gears on my bike anymore.

At one point I said to myself, "just up to that couch, just make it that far," then, "why is there a couch on the side of the road?" I don't know, but just passed the couch, the pitch steepened. I realized that top of the rise was the four way intersection I had stood at days before and vowed to make it. The hardest part was keeping my balance. I take that back, the hardest part was the excruciating burning in my legs, I kept telling myself that it couldn't get any worse and that all I had to do was keep pedaling. And suddenly, I was there, smiling despite my pulse of 200 bpm and sobbing legs.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Cookie Club

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I'd like to thank all the members of Laura's Cookie Club- Jan Gregg for sugar cookies on Valentine's Day and a large box of Easter cookies and chocolate (okay, those were for my housemate, Tara, but I like to think that when it comes to cookies, what's Tara's is mine & what's mine is Tara's), Kathy Mattern whose surprise packages of cookies kept me happy during the tough travel & race season, and of course, my mom!

If you would like to be a contributing member of Laura's Cookie Club send cookies or other goodies (note: must be extremely unhealthy) to:

Laura Valaas
Whitman College
Walla Walla, WA 99362

Monday, April 10, 2006

Seattle, Washington - Sunday April 9th was a very sad day for the Seattle cycling community as Brad Lewis passed away while racing the Boat Street Criterium Category 1/2 race. Early reports indicate Brad suffered a cardiac arrest in the race causing him to pass out and crash.

Brad was well know in the cycling community, riding for the Recycled Cycles Racing Team.

BikeCafe will pass on more news as it becomes available. Our thoughts and prayers are with Brad's wife Emily and their families.

A memorial vigal will be held at Recycled Cycles Monday April 10 at 8pm

1007 N.E. Boat Street
Seattle, WA 98115

News release from BikeCafe

Sunday, April 09, 2006


As a shout out to all the pros racing the Pari-Roubaix today (won by Fabian Cancellara of CSC) I tackled some gravel (not too many cobbles around here). I rode up Mill Creek and over Scenic Loop Road and shortly after returning to pavement I took an impromtu turn down Seven Mile Road which I knew hooked up with Mill Creek again, but had never been on it. Scenic Loop had nice hard packed dirt and gravel, there were only a few places where my back tire spun out when I was standing to peddle. Seven Mile, however, was not so nice. The road was gravel, except that gravel isn't quite the term that I want to use. Let's try large, angular rocks, piled deeply and unevenly across the road. About half of my time spent on that section I was thinking, "This is crazy. I am going to get off my bike and walk. It would not be wussy to walk this." I was even thinking in vibrato, it was that bumpy.

I would not recommend riding Seven Mile Road on your road bike unless you want to
a) chip chunks of paint off your bike.
b) chip chunks of skin out of your lower legs. Those rocks fly up and smack your legs, it stings I tell you.
c) practice fixing flats (not me, luckily).
d) improve your bike handling skills.
e) make your hands sore from squeezing the brakes.
f) Shake your front wheel out of the fork (that was unsettling).

Peru Election 2006

Peru's presidential and congressional elections are today.

un lobo en Peru? is a blog with a good collection of information about the election. It looks like this will only be a priliminary election to narrow it down to the top two candidates and the final, run-off election will be held May 7th. By the time I am down there in May, Peru will be in the midst of a change of government. I, for one, am very interested in the results of this election.

Sadly, no racing

I'm taking a break from bike racing this weekend to have more time to do schoolwork, dance, and sleep. I only rode my bike 10 hrs this week, but I have been soooo tired that I didn't think I could stay awake enough to drive myself to Seattle & then back again the next day.

The Whitman team did really well yesterday racing in Bellingham. Both the women's A and B TT Teams won their races; nice job ladies! They get to ride the Boat Street Crit this morning in Seattle, which is one of my favorite courses. Hopefully it's as sunny over there for them as it is here in Walla Walla!

Friday, April 07, 2006

A Haiku

Wet worm on the road
flung upon my bike's downtube
we ride together

(Inspired by intervals in the pouring rain Wednesday afternoon with Kate Ceronsky.)

Good luck to Ridge to River Racers!

Tomorrow is the Ridge to River in Wenatchee, and this is my first year since 4th grade not participating. Crazy, but that's what happens when I decide I want to be a dancer and have dance rehearsals every Saturday morning.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

No Sun this morning

Today the women's team did our first early morning TTT practice. Leaving from campus at
6:30 am, sharp, there was a record 8 women braving the heavy fog and drizzling rain.

Usually morning TTT practices are my favorite. When we leave everything is quiet. We feel like the only people on campus awake (possibly true). In the soft dawn we head out into the rolling wheatfields and, as we fly above the asphalt smoothly pacelining, the sun rises on our side and we laugh with the singing birds.

Ha! Not this morning, let me give you the current weather conditions for Walla Walla, humidity: 100%, cloud cover: 100%, temp: 45°F, visibilty: poor. Doing a TTT in such conditions creates an odd skunk effect on riders. Your rear wheel kicks up water and mud so you have a mud stripe running up your back and, since you're riding 2 inches behind your teamate, their rear wheel kicks up a spray of mud that leaves a mud stripe down the front of you & in your face. I love early morning rides, in any weather!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

RJ and I, mud splattered from the wet road, refueling post road race last Saturday. I quickly stole that glass of chocolate milk from RJ and drained it. Kevin Spiegel is standing behind us making sure we get everything we need. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, April 02, 2006

This is my teamate Jamie Hinderliter, she raced at the 2004 Road Nationals in Madison, WI with me and is also an ex-downhill ski racer. Posted by Picasa

Jamie Hinderliter, Rebecca Jensen & I chilling at the start of our TTT last Saturday. Notice RJ's socks- every year I buy (okay, my parents sponsor this) the women's national team fun team socks. Looks like we'll make it to nationals again so maybe I had better start shopping for socks! Posted by Picasa

A new race

I had my orals and dance rehearsal on Saturday so I could only make Sunday's bike race in Gresham, OR (between Hood River & Portland on I-84).

In order to work on my bike handling skills in a pack and to get a killer workout, I did the men's B crit. It took some persuading to convince our Conference Director, Bill Wykoff, to let Mara and me race. 45 minutes of racing with a bunch of dudes. It was actually incredibly fun. The course had a 90 degree downhill to uphill corner that I was nervous about, especially riding with strong-but-not-necesarily-good-bike-handlers boys, but I didn't see any crashes there. I got dropped from the lead pack and rode with about five other guys. It was tough, but not completely out of my league. It was fun to try a race that felt completely new since I've never raced in a men's race before.

After finishing the men's B race, Mara & I had ten minutes to spin around before the start of the 45 minute Women's A race. I was certain that I would get dropped quickly based on the burning sensation in my legs during the men's race. Because of that, I decided that I might as well sprint for the primes while I was still with the lead pack. But I stayed in the pack, and ended up getting top four in each of the six primes. Rj & I made some short attacks early in the race and then Mara attacked about half way through and ended up staying off the front. Rj & I hung out in the chase group and let the other girls try to get Mara back, except that they gave up pretty quickly, so it wasn't very interesting in the pack. The finish was on top of a hill and I sprinted into third place. Which I was very happy with, since I wasn't sure that I would be able to finish the race.

I also found out today that I passed my oral exam for Whitman yesterday!

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