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Monday, April 28, 2008

Random & Unrelated Notes

It was pointed out to me the other day that most of you are unaware of my... Other Blog. Gasp! as if one lauravalaas blog wasn't enough of a nuisance! Anyway, my other blog is one that I keep up for In The Arena. It has some stuff from this blog but also some different posts. There's also a talented roster of my fellow ITA teammates that have blogs and are doing fantastic things with their sport and with their community:

Tim Broe, Runner
Matt Chisam, Decathlete
Nicole DeYoung, Nordic Skier
Karl Erickson, Shot/Discus Thrower
Zoila Gomez, Marathon Runner
Sarah Groff, Triathlete
Sara Hall, Runner
Mike Hazle, Javelin Thrower
Gabriel Jennings, Runner
Zack Simons, Nordic Skier
Laura Valaas, Nordic Skier
Kate Whitcomb, Nordic Skier

Also, Wednesday is the deadline to turn in your application for the Salomon Athlete Force. If you are interested in or already use Salomon skis, boots, or bindings and want to be a part of the Salomon Athlete Force check out the Salomon AF Information sheet. There's room for applications at several levels of support for athletes, coaches and hometown heroes. If you want to apply you can download the application here and make sure to send it in to Andy by April 30th.

On an even more random note: I'm in the market for some lime green bar tape. yeah... I haven't seen any anywhere so if you happen to have noticed some in your local bike shop or know who makes it, I would love to have a phone number of such a bike shop or any hints as to how I might obtain such a fabulous new look for my road bike.

April 28th

There are many different ways to think about the ending of an old year and the beginning of a new one. At some point we stop, take a deep breath, settle the events of the past year in our mind and move on to sketching a rough outline of plans for the upcoming year. For some it's based on nature-- blooming crocuses and new energy for life and all those introspective musings. Some use the calendar year-- throwing a big party one night to indulge in all sorts of vices and resolving the next day not to do so again. Birthdays mark the cumulation of another year of gleaning wisdom while the close of each fiscal year hopes to see us also expanding our financial wisdom. For most of my life thus far, the years were divided into school years with the start of a new year falling on August 30th, or thereabouts.

Now, however, there's a little noted day in late April or early May that signals the demarcation between past and future. I want you to be cognizant that for some of us, April 28th marks the first day of our year. For us skiers this Monday is the first day that gets written down on the 08-09 training log. The 07-08 log has been polished off and filled out to completion and now stands as a historic document instead of the daily news. All of the training and racing from last year gets added to the satchel of lifetime base training and now is nothing more than a platform from which to jump into the upcoming season.

It's time to stop bemoaning that bungled pursuit exchange, that race missed due to sickness, or that beautiful day when you absolutely, positively, and regrettably could not find the time to go outside and enjoy it. It's also time to stand up from where you may have been resting on your laurels and acknowledge that it's time to get back to work since no one next winter is going to step aside and let you beat them merely because you made the top ten, attained your goal on that one course or finally and painfully qualified for the elite wave at the Birkie. Nope, starting today it's time to learn from your mistakes, and your successes, and apply that to the next workout and the next year of training and racing.

The first day of my new year started off with a mélange of training activities. There were rock hard ruts in the trails at Hilltop this morning so we reconvened with running shoes and did about 45 minutes worth of uphill running, bounding & ski walking just below threshold. Along with a warm up and cool down, that amount of running to kick off the season is sure to make me sore this week! Then in the afternoon when the trails had softened up to a sopping wet, klister-demanding slush we classic skied and did five one-minute double pole speeds and then some more fast paced distance skiing. It feels good to start off the 08-09 season with some focused training... Happy New Year!

AND... if you read all the way through one of my more verbose posts you get a reward: April 29th, along with being the second day of the training year, is FREE CONE DAY at Ben & Jerry's. Nice.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Placer Valley Ski

Jeff Ellis put together this sweet video from our ski on Wednesday to Skookum & Spencer glaciers!

And then we got a TON of snow on Friday:

14" of fresh snow on April 25th

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Friday, April 25, 2008


Thursday, April 24, 2008


Jeff Ellis
Kate Fitzgerald staying hydrated in front of the Spencer glacier.

to the right of previous pic

I need to quit being so greedy with my panoramic attempts. The Skookum glacier struck me immediately as an oversized playground. Huge rolling hills, drop-offs, valleys... fun, fun, fun!


This is the dumping ground of the Skookum glacier... huge piles of snow from avalanches... wow. I think I've added "avalanche" to my list of things I want to see, just definitely from a distance.

Skookum also had a sweet ice cave but I got reprimanded when I tried to go inside it. I'll have to come back without a coach. Sometimes having someone else feeling responsible for your safety can infringe on your style.

The fake Erik.
What Erik looks like when he's NOT posing for a picture.

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Application Time

If you are interested in or already use Salomon skis, boots, or bindings and want to be a part of the Salomon Athlete Force check out the Salomon AF Information sheet. There's room for applications at several levels of support for athletes, coaches and hometown heroes. If you want to apply you can download the application here and make sure to send it in to Andy by April 30th.

Also, the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center has openings in its Junior and Masters programs. APU has great programs for helping people become better skiers at any level and age. For more information click HERE and for the registration forms click HERE.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Nabokov's Birthday!

Amory was kind enough to inform me that today would be Vladimir Nabokov's 109th Birthday celebration so I would like to share one of his sentences that I read last week and simply haven't been able to forget.

"Mine host very humorously called him "Herr Professor." "Well, how is the Herr Professor tonight?" he would ask, coming over to him, and the man would ponder for some time in silence and then, with a wet underlip pushing out from under the pipe like that of a feeding elephant, he would answer something neither funny nor polite."
--Vladimir Nabokov "The Aurelian"

Well, actually that's two sentences but adding the prior sentence both set the scene for the next sentence and saved me from the awkward business of starting a quote with a quote.

Maybe one of the things I like about Nabokov is that he doesn't have heroes. All of his main characters are unsavory. In fact, his minor characters are disturbing as well. Reading about "Herr Professor" in the above sentence makes me recoil but still he's presented so vividly that I can't help but be drawn to him with the appeal of familiarity.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Spencer Glacier!

I got a huge kick out of the frozen-into-the-lake icebergs. They were bobbing around happily all summer and then one wicked cold night and all their fun was over for the next six months. Poor guys

I think glaciers are some of the coolest forms of water so I was pretty much jumping up and down with glee skiing around the Spencer glacier terminus.

It's hard to get a sense of scale from pictures so I'll trust you to realize that the terminus is of sufficient size to be Awe Inspiring.

Glacier blue is my new favorite color.

There was even a glacier cave to explore!

Looking in.

Looking straight up through a skylight.

Looking back out.

psyched to be here.

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Spencer Glacier

Sally Burkholder

The Burkys were skiing at down by Portage on Monday and invited me to come with them. The perks that come with renting from the Burkys are not to be mocked. We parked by the turn-off to Whittier and skied up along the railroad tracks toward Skookum and Spencer Glaciers. When I say "along" here I mean "in the general vicinity of" I actually ranged far and wide across the valley away from the tracks. There were a few places where the streams were wide enough that there wasn't a snow bridge to cross and we had to walk across on the railroad trestles. I hear Skookum glacier is rockin' right now but we saved that for another day and kept on going toward Spencer glacier.

Sally Burkholder

Burky found some wolf tracks. I followed in hopes of catching them, stealthily stalking, even though we determined they were tracks from yesterday evening, until the wolves decided to cross one of the much wider streams. I did not want to wade, so I gave up on the wolves and returned to hunting down good trees.

The skiing was perfect, the day was perfect, and then we found A GLACIER. I split my photos into two posts and am going to save raving about glaciers until my next post...

Laura Valaas, Spencer Glacier

Laura Valaas, Spencer Glacier

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Don Pasquale

Taz, Becca & I went to the Anchorage Opera on Sunday. Sometimes I forget that I live in a city. I know it's there but I'm always focused on the mountains, parks, ski trails, outdoors and away from people. To compound that when I'm out training at 8am on weekday mornings most of the Anchorage population is working so it feels pretty remote. So it was an exciting change of scene to go downtown to the opera and be reminded that I do live in an actual, legit urban area with a large population and full schedule of non-skiing events. Hey, who needs to leave alaska to get some sophistication?

We went to see Don Pasquale, courtesy of an acquaintance with spare tickets (thank you! you know who you are), it was my first opera experience and I liked it very much.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Ship Lake Pass

When you get the following email from your coach at 8:30pm on Friday you know it's going to be a good Saturday...

"Let's meet at Glenn Alps at 8:15 AM

Skate-classic-touring... bring it all!

Looks like it will be cold overnight and warm tomorrow

We will ski 2-4 hrs... bring a little food-H20

Van will depart 7:45

See you in the AM


(if anyone has some good rules of thumb for when NOT to stand under a cornice I'm ready to hear 'em.)

This is where I was stalking a ptarmigin in my stealthiest tuck. Then I hit a soft patch of snow and did a very not stealthy face plant. Next time, ptarmigan, you will be mine, you succulent little chicken of the snow.
The view looking out over Ship Lake.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Fleet Foxes!

My cousin Robin Pecknold is playing with his band the Fleet Foxes at Neumos in Seattle tonight. If you have the opportunity I would highly recommend going to hear them play or at least going to the Fleet Foxes myspace page and listening to some of their songs.

Actually, it looks like Neumos is sold out for tonight but here's the rest of their schedule for the summer:

Apr 19 2008 8:00P--HOLOCENE w/ Blitzen Trapper---PORTLAND, Oregon
May 24 2008 1:00P--Sasquatch Music Happening w/ Cave Singers, J Tillman, TMTS, Grarchives, you know, the fam.---George, Washington
May 28 2008 8:00P--Journey east to the old country with one of our utmost favorite bands, BEACH HOUSE!!---Beach City
May 29 2008 8:00P--SHHHH---LONDON, ENGLAND
May 30 2008 8:00P--PARADISO---AMSTERDAM
Jun 2 2008 8:00P--LA FLECHE D’OR---PARIS, FRANCE
Jun 4 2008 8:00P--KNUST---HAMBURG, GERMANY
Jun 9 2008 8:00P--AUDIO---BRIGHTON, UK
Jun 10 2008 8:00P--LOUISIANA---BRISTOL, UK
Jun 11 2008 8:00P--ULU---THE CITY OF LONDON, UK
Jun 14 2008 8:00P--WHELANS---DUBLIN, IRELAND
Jun 16 2008 8:00P--SHHHH---OLD LONDON TOWN, UK

Thursday, April 17, 2008


I got a letter from USADA the other day.

"...We are pleased to inform you that the result from this sample has been reported by the laboratory as negative for the substances and methods tested."

no kidding.

I taped it to my fridge.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Another beautiful, sunny day in Alaska. Fresh snow from the storm yesterday. Life is good.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The tax wedge

If you feel like complaining about taxes today, pause a moment and consider...

The Economist tells me that the "tax wedge"-- the gap between what employers pay for labor and what workers take home in after-tax pay-- is about 30% in the US which is less than most other developed nations and much less than Belgium, Hungary, & Germany where it is over 50% (as a % of total labor costs, based on single person w/out children and on average earnings).

Monday, April 14, 2008

Jenny's Light

I wanted to introduce you to a non profit named after Jennifer Gibbs Bankston. The NFP was started by her family after she and her baby Graham died last December and aims to increase awareness of postpartum depression. It was brought to my attention because Jenny's brother is Randy Gibbs, one of the wax techs I work with on the US Ski Team. Postpartum illnesses were not part of my awareness until this happened and while it's tragic that Jenny suffered from this I'm grateful that I've been educated about it just in case I'm ever in a position to notice or help other cases of postpartum depression. I would encourage you to go to Jenny's Light website, look around and educate yourself about postpartum illnesses.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Alyeska, Bear Tooth Theatrepub

I got in a couple of quintessential anchorage experiences today-- alpine skiing at Alyeska and dinner and a movie at the Bear Tooth Theatrepub. (I'm not sure why they call it a theatre instead of a theater-- maybe someone reading knows?) Alpine skiing with Becca & Galen was fantastic; it's nice to reassure myself once in awhile that I still know how to carve. Furthermore, in the morning there was a nice sun halo through the clouds. This is not a picture of the sun halo. This is someone else's picture of a different sun halo:

Halo and all, the day at Alyeska was somewhat overshadowed by my first trip to the Bear Tooth. The Bear Tooth is a unique experience. There's a theater (not being British I feel obliged to use the conventional spelling) but it's also part restaurant so you can order your food and then they serve it to you during the movie. The seats in the theater have small tables in front of them. The food is simple but good, burritos and pizza, so it's easy to eat in the dark. And it's cheap-- $3 for the movie ticket and $8-10 for dinner. And the laid back atmosphere seems to invite more audience interaction with the film. It's really ingenious and I'm surprised I haven't run into the idea before.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Saturday Events

Back in Wenatchee Torin Koos won the Ridge to River multi-sport race this morning. Sigh, someday I'll make it back for that. It's a fun race-- cross country ski, alpine ski, run, road bike, kayak, portage.

Back here in Anchorage was a gorgeous saturday also though. I volunteered at a free ski clinic at Hilltop hosted by the Alaska Winter Olympian Foundation and the Alaska chapter of Allergy, Asthma Foundation of America. I had expected to be waddling around with a group of penguin-like snow suits but since Ellis & I were the only leaders on classic skis we rock-paper-scissored to see who got the little tykes and who got the remainder of the classic skiers. I drew the older skiers. The only other people on classic skis were Rachelle Kanady, Cole Talbot & Eric Packer. These people are good skiers and are headed off to illustrious NCAA skiing careers at UAA, UVM & Dartmouth, respectively (& they all had top 5 finishes at JOs last month). So it wasn't exactly herding penguins which was fine because it meant that I actually got to ski too.

AND it's a beautiful day here with 5minutes and 43seconds of daylight gained today to give us 14hrs and 30minutes of sun.

The Bicycle Forest

Since I know at least some places in the world it's time to get out the bike here's a friendly car driver with some tips for biking in traffic. And if you can't tell why the car she's driving seems a little strange be sure to check out the website.

"The zero emissions vehicle that most impressed us was the Rhoades Car. Equipped with a butterfly steering wheel, marine grade vinyl seats and molded black mag wheels, the Rhoades Car is the most well appointed car in its class.

By eliminating the engine, the automotive engineers at Rhoades Car have created the most fuel efficient car in America. The only drawback is the top end speed."


Friday, April 11, 2008


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Definitely Alaska

Mr. Garrity's public service announcement over the intercom at Sand Lake Elem. right before school got out (and imagine this in your best Elementary school principal voice): "There's been a moose spotted near the school so please be careful on your way home if you're walking. Remember to never harass a moose and if a moose charges you... run away."

The other reminder that I'm in Alaska is that I got in my car this morning, realized I would have to get back out and scrape my windshield, congratulated myself on leaving my Toko lobster mitts in the passenger seat, put on said lobster mitts, scraped my windshield with an old Tour of Anchorage ski scraper, and drove off over a very white should-be gravel driveway. It's April 10th.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Laura Valaas
Sarah Radonich & Galen Johnston

I'm not sure what's going on here in Alaska but we have another wintry snow storm today. Skiing in the tracks this morning at Hilltop there was just enough fresh snow already that I could follow the tracks without any trouble but the tips of my skis would only occasionally poke through the snow. It's still snowing and it doesn't look like it's tiring out at all. Since there was powder to ski through anywhere anyway we ditched the groomed ski trails and found some single track.


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

This is my favorite tree at Kincaid. I suspect I've posted pictures of it before and I'm sure I will again. Do you have a favorite tree?

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

APU End of Season Celebration!

We had a nice all-program APU gathering on Saturday with some fun relays, some costumes and a barbecue. APU has a junior program, a college team, an elite team, and a masters program so there's a huge range of abilities and ages in the program. It was nice to get together an meet some of the other APU skiers in the juniors and masters programs with whom I otherwise don't get to ski. The above picture is some of the elite/college skiers.

Some of the juniors... future APU Elite skiers!

The really disturbing thing about this picture is that Jeff looks more like Erik than Erik does. APU tights, Dansko clogs, patagonia fleece, that hat, coffee mug... this is what Erik wears e v e r y d a y.
Erik Flora & Jeff Ellis

Saturday, April 05, 2008

I don't know if you remember that video I put up of the first snow fall this fall? Well, it looks exactly the same today and has been snowing nonstop since I woke up. This time though I'm going to spare you a really boring video and just put up a picture and I have a new wooden ski figure hanging in my window that Burky made.



I am pleased to announce that my training nutrition for 2008 will be PowerBar products. It'll be reassuring to have their tasty & nutritious products with me on my ODs this summer-- especially the Pria Mint Chocolate Cookie, my current favorite bar!

Friday, April 04, 2008


Now that I'm in Anchorage again I've started going back the Mrs. Price's class in the afternoons to help out with her 5th & 6th graders.

Today I talked to them a little bit about what it takes to get into college and why they should go. Then, since they'd been doing Anchorage's standardized testing all morning, we got to go outside for a short recess!

It was a great opportunity after being gone so long to get to reconnect with the kids one on one.

It was also great to see that I was still fairly competent on the monkey bars!


Thursday, April 03, 2008

Here is an absolute gem of a rollerskiing video-- a clip from an episode of the "Amazing Race" tv show. I about died laughing. Thanks to fellow ITA athlete Kate Whitcomb for the link.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

By the numbers

For the weekend...

March 28, 2008:
Distance: 15km
Time: 49:02
Max HR: 187
Ave HR: 176

Mar 30, 2008:
Distance: 30km
Time: 1:42:49
KCal: 1680

For the year...

Number of races: 35
Kilometers raced: 336
Pairs of skis raced: 9
Workouts Skate skiing: 83
Workouts Classic skiing: 95
Number of times I went for a run: 200
Hours spent doing activity defined as "other": 63
Time spent doing intervals: 32:09
Countries visited: 7
Number of entries in my morning HR chart: 4
Visits to this site on Monday: 321


I bet you're sitting there wishing that you kept such meticulous notes over the season too!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A 30k in Fairbanks and then done with it all

I raced the 30k in Fairbanks on Sunday, which was actually not nearly as bad as I was expecting it to be. I simply put my head down, skied my own pace, took my feeds, and tried to stay relaxed and let the skis glide out. It seemed to work and I came in from 12th after the first lap to finish in 7th. I'll take it, even if it was, once again, a small field. Hey, eighty percent of success is showing up.

Now I've returned to Anchorage, made sure my car still runs and said hi to the local moosies. It was November when I was here last... that is a long winter.

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