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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Stemilt Ski Trails!

Peter Valaas scoping out potential trails

Last time I was home I did some tromping with my dad up around Stemilt Loop Rd. He has schemes for a Nordic ski area up there, which I think is pretty cool. If anyone is in the Wenatchee Valley and wants to get involved go ahead and email me (laura at lauravalaas dot com). I think this will be a pretty big project so I'm sure there's room to help.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Into Open Land

You already know that my favorite band to tout is the Fleet Foxes but here's another musician I'd like to bring to your attention.

Ian Case just put out an album of absolutely unbelievable acoustic double-neck guitar music. That's right, a double-neck guitar. Which means 18 strings over two fret boards. Ian's a cross country ski racer so even if the music wasn't fabulous I would still endorse supporting him but it is fabulous so even if you don't care about skiers you should check out his album.

Ian's the only person I've ever seen (or heard, as far as I know) play a double-necked guitar and it's one of the most mesmerizing musical performances to watch. Ian said that he composed the music to capture that feeling of going out for a run and ending up somewhere you've never been before and not wanting to ever turn back. So if you've ever been looking for a soundtrack for some of your adventure back country skiing, this might be it.

You can listen to the tracks and also buy the album at the following link:

Into Open Land

And you can find out more about Ian and his music at his website: www.IanEthanCase.com.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


If you are a resident of Whitehorse, the grand capital of the Yukon, you should shoot me an email (laura at lauravalaas dot com) because I have a question about Whitehorse. Gratzi!

And for the 90% of you who have never heard of Whitehorse before, this is Whitehorse.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

New Mersenne!

They announced a new Mersenne Prime number! Mersenne primes are of the form (2^p)-1. This new prime has p=43,112,609 and the number itself has 12,978,189 digits. That is one big number.

There's more info at Mersenne.org.



My M-W word of the day this morning was recuse. Which was good because Sarah Palin used the word twice in her interview with Katie Couric and I had never heard it before.

Recuse: \rih-KYOOZ\ verb
: to disqualify (oneself) as a judge in a particular case; broadly : to remove (oneself) from participation to avoid a conflict of interest

Example sentence:
Because he was a frequent customer at the plaintiff's shop, the judge recused himself from the case.

Did you know?
"Recuse" is derived from the Anglo-French word "recuser," which comes from Latin "recusare," meaning "to refuse." English speakers began using "recuse" with the meaning "to refuse or reject" in the 14th century. By the 17th century, the term had acquired the meaning "to challenge or object to (a judge)." The current legal use of "recuse" as a term specifically meaning "to disqualify (oneself) as a judge" didn't come into frequent use until the mid-20th century. Broader applications soon followed from this sense -- you can now recuse yourself from such things as debates and decisions as well as court cases.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Anchorage Work Party

If you're located in Anchorage & want to help improve our ski trails see the notice below:


Saturday ~ September 27, 2008 National Public Lands Day
8:30am ~ Hilltop Parking Area

Dear Trail Volunteer,
Time to finish off the NSAA Hillside sign project. Installation of new signs, upgraded maps, and directional arrows waiting for your helpl. Meet at the north end of the Hilltop parking lot at 8:30am this Saturday. Bring gloves and a cordless drill (if you have one). Brian Looney will be leading the charge. Remember to be bear aware.

As always, there will be a post-work-party party at the Campbell Creek Science Center. Free pizza for all volunteers at 12:30pm.

Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage

Take It Outside! Connect with Your Public Lands. National Public Lands Day

Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage
203 W. 15th Ave, Suite 204
Anchorage, Alaska 99501

907-276-7609 - nsaa@alaska.net

Thursday, September 25, 2008

It's okay to be tired

I had to keep reminding myself of this last week. Towards the end of the week it seemed like most practices I really, really wasn't excited to go do. Some of the afternoon workouts when we were on our own I almost opted out of doing. It takes a certain level of confidence (or stupidity) to dig yourself into the tired hole and trust that you'll be able to climb back out of it.

I'm climbing back out of the hole this week so I guess I escaped another series of hard training sessions without burying myself. May that trend continue.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Kincaid Stampede Results

Seldovia, AK

Looking down Seldovia Slough
My little yellow tent set up on the beach.

There are so many cool places to explore in Alaska sometimes I wish I had more time off from training so I could do more adventuring! Seldovia is a little town across the Kachemak Bay from Homer with a population of "307 people and a few old crabs" as the welcome sign proclaims.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008


I'm about to try to take off for a camping trip so I may be m.i.a. for a day or two. Hopefully I'll have some sweet photos though to make up for the lack of posts. That's what happens on an off week!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Laura Valaas followed closely by Katie Ronsse.
Bart leading out the men's race.

I'm in a rush so you'll have to decipher Rob Whitney's chicken scratch. Full results will probably be posted on the APUNSC website soon. Thanks to Taz for taking the photos!

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Friday, September 19, 2008


In Elizabeth Gilbert's book "eat, pray, love" one of her friends insists that every city has a word:

Every city has a single word that defines it, that identifies most people who live there. If you could read people's thoughts as they were passing you on the streets of any given place, you would discover that most of them are thinking the same thought. Whatever that majority thought might be-- that is the word of the city. (pg 103)

Of course, being a book about self-discovery, this discussion quickly leads to what Liz's word is.

Of couse, being rather self-reflective myself, this quickly led myself to ponder what my word is. Although, being a greedy reader I kept reading and merely stored the question for future consideration. Then on my run this afternoon I had the answer. JOY. It probably wasn't my word a couple of weeks ago and it might not be my word next week either, but for right now it's the best word for my life.

When I ask myself, "why am I doing this?" it's for the joy of it. Smooth blacktop so new it oozes water like a newly felled tree oozes sap. Wind bringing winter to the Chugach. Snow on the peaks above red tundra fields above green forests above yellow deciduous trees. Being able to run and move with ease. Joy.

This morning I spent 2hrs with Dallas Price's 6th grade class (well, technically an hour with her Pre-Algebra class and an hour with her homeroom class). After math class one of the boys came up radiating excitement as he told me, "that was so cool!" I assured him that stuff got even cooler in higher mathematics. He asked if he could also expand (x+y)^7 (I'd encouraged them to try (x+y)^6 on their own and he had already done it) and I told him to "do it" but if you'd listened to the tone of the exchange rather than the words you would have thought we were talking about something way more trendy than math such as "I'd like to hit this sick jump, I'm pretty sure I could do it but it might be too big for me, should I try it?" "do it." I had shared some of my joy in mathematics with this boy and that made today even more joyful.

Obviously, I expect you to try to pick your own word at this point :)



It's International Talk Like A Pirate Day!

(Thanks to Mike for the reminder!)

I would appreciate your best pirate jokes in the comment section :)

Here's an idea for a cake if you're celebrating this weekend.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Laura & Susan Valaas

This is my new favorite toy that I don't have. My mom & I took it out on the Columbia River while I was home. It is fast. Just remember to lean left.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Kincaid Stampede Rollerski Race

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Since Anchorage has been a bleak morass all day I'll share some photos from my hike on Saturday through the Enchantments in the North Cascades with my mom & dad.

Peter Valaas way down below me.

After I took this picture I actually scrambled back along the base of the steep rocky part of the mountain to get back on the trail and in doing so experienced one of the scariest moments of my life because I kicked a rock down the mountain. Here "kicked" means accidentally nudged a slightly-larger-than-football sized rock which happened to be resting its relatively flat side on a relatively flat slope. Anyway, it went over the edge and out of view and I thought, "I'm going to kill someone." Because Asgaard Pass is steep and long and full of other loose rocks and there were at least 15 other hikers coming up below me. I also couldn't see over the edge of the rock face on which I was standing to see where my rock was going. I was reassured to hear my call of "ROCK!" being echoed down below me. I didn't, in the end, kill anyone but in the future I think I'll avoid scrambling when there's people below me.

Susan & Laura Valaas
Peter Valaas
Susan & Peter Valaas

Here my mom is taking a photo (Crystal Lake, I believe). I'm not even sure what my mom looks like because she always has a camera in front of her face. And I don't even have any of multitude of photos she took Saturday. (Mom, send me your best mountain goat photos please.)

Susan & Peter Valaas

My mom is taking a picture of me from across the lake. I am lying on a rock because I am tired of walking slowly and stopping to take pictures at every lake. And I figure I can always catch up.
Susan Valaas

My mom and I are taking simultaneous pictures of each other. I assume there's something scenic behind me. Too bad I'm holding a camera in front of my face too.

Susan Valaas taking a picture of a pretty waterfall with Little Anapurna in the background.

It was a very long day out hiking but the most perfect weather and scenery. I think we spent about 11hrs from trailhead to trailhead.

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Monday, September 15, 2008


As I approached the cluster of traffic cones I was pretty sure I'd have to turn around and find another route back to my car but I decided to check with the flagger dude anyway. Before I could even say anything he assured me I could go on through, they were only closing one lane so car traffic couldn't go westbound but I would be fine, just watch out. (I was heading down from O'Malley/Hillside Dr. or whatever it's called back to the Hillside parking lot.)

The only question I had was, "are there any unpaved sections?"

"What? Oh, no, just watch out, you'll be fine."

As soon as I'd really irrevocably committed to descending I spotted a very nice trough across the road where they had dug up the pavement. I though, "oh dear, this is not ideal" and then I stabbed my poles into the trough and jumped over it. I made it, but I wouldn't choose to try it again.

The moral of the story is definitely double check before going down any hills when there's road construction underway.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Summer's Over

I know summer is over in Alaska because my flight up to Anchorage from Seattle this morning was only half full.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Training in Whistler went well. So well that I'm taking a break in Wenatchee and spent most of the day napping trying to kick a cold. Although it hasn't been a completely lazy day since I got up at 5:30 (okay, I didn't actually roll out of bed until 5:45) to go hiking with my mom before she went to work & Kathleen Koos. I swear my mom is in better shape now than I've ever seen her before. It's pretty reassuring to see that you can grow up without slowing down. And my sister was doing a cross country running race so I went to cheer, which means that I did one of those sprint-stop-sprint-stop kind of workouts... I think I hit 9 different spots on the 1.5mile loop (2 loops). Although I suspect she may have found me more irritating than helpful. It did make me grateful that I don't have to go to a full day of classes before an afternoon race, that can't help you run fast.

Back in Whistler there was lots of good training happening. I felt like I became a better skier over the past ten days. Having so many coaches watching and taking video makes it easy to think about your technique while you're training. Not to mention doing laps around the sprint loop with Vordenburg standing on a corner saying, "this is where the Olympic games are going to be happening" every time we skied past. Getting to watch video of myself rollerskiing and being able to compare it to my teammates over the same section of road and see what they were doing better than I made it pretty clear where I needed to improve.

I will say that the US men's team looked really good last week in the time trials and speeds. Their skiing wasn't half bad either.


guest post by kirsten valaas: "kk is the best ever"

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

APUNSC Winter Training Program

In addition to the Elite APU team of which I'm a member, APUNSC has several awesome community programs for masters and juniors. These are the different groups that APUNSC trains:

Juniors, Development
Juniors, Intermediate to Advanced
Collegiate (for APU students, fast ones)
Elite (my team, but I consider the collegiate racers to be on my team too)
Masters, Noon
Masters, Evening

As you can see, there's a ton of opportunities for being involved with the APU team and working with APU coaches. Since APU is not part of the NCAA organization they've been able to create a unique program as they see a need without being restricted by the many NCAA regulations. Our college skiers race mostly on the SuperTour and in Alaska so they get a ton of great race experience but don't compete in a college circuit.

Registration is open for the masters' and juniors' winter training program with practices starting October 1st. If you're interested in training with APUNSC

here are the registration forms.

Callaghan Venue

Kikkan & I went for an easy run around the venue on Monday. It was nice to get off the pavement and onto some of the other trails. Although, the trails are such meticulously engineered crushed gravel highways that it didn't really feel like we were trail running. It makes for sweet ski trails but it certainly doesn't do much for the summertime aesthetics.

And despite what the pictures may imply we did spend most of the run actually running.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Whistler Library

I discovered the Whistler Public Library the other day. I realize that this isn't the biggest or most exciting discovery but it's making my stay at Whistler way more enjoyable. I come home from training and have lunch and then stroll down through the village to the library. Fifteen minutes-- just enough time to enjoy the sunshine and the scene and shift my focus from skiing to financial mathematics. A couple hours studying and then home for the afternoon practice again with a nice walk to banish equations from my mind and start thinking about what I want to accomplish during the afternoon workout. Chair, desk, window, it's perfect. My textbook even had a footnote saying "the history of statistics is entertainingly related in Bernstein (1996)." I thought that sounded like a book I would like to read and so I looked up and the mathematics section was in the aisle right behind me. Sadly, they only had like 10 books even remotely related to mathematics and definitely not Bernstein's ("Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk" in case you were wondering).

Oh how I miss Penrose Library. I used to do my math homework in the basement at the table by the (extensive) math section. There was something reassuring about having all of the famous and esoteric math books right there. Plus, if I needed a break I could go sit in between the aisles and flip through the works of my favorite mathematicians (Poincare, Leibniz, Pascal, Agnesi, nevermind... the list is too long). Although the philosopher-mathematicians had a lot of their works up on the 4th floor in the philosophy section. Despite the lack of books in the Whistler Library it is really nice to have someplace to study.

Training is good, more on actually skiing later.


Sunday, September 07, 2008

Hob & Rolly

I realize that this not new news but I figured there'd be some Whitman or PNSA people out there pleased to know that...

Miss Holly Brooks & Mr. Rob Whitney got engaged!

I don't know when the wedding will be yet, I'm guessing sometime next summer. Big congratulations to them!


Saturday, September 06, 2008

Bungee Jumping

Morgan Smyth about to fall back.

Rosie Brennan ready to go.

Vordenburg getting the video camera secured to his hand.

We went down to Whistler Bungee Friday afternoon for an off-day activity. Most of the team had previously been bungee jumping but it was my first experience. Not gonna lie, I was a little concerned that I would be too scared to actually jump off the bridge but I managed.

Thanks to RosieB for taking the vid.

Check out TeamToday.org for more sweet photos.

Also there's a way better video on Newell's fasterskier blog.

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Athlete Village

Map of the village (version 3, although now they're working with version 5 so it may be slightly outdated).

We had the good fortune to run into the XC Director for the Olympics at Callaghan Thursday and he got us an invite to check out the Whistler Athlete Village today. It's still off the tourist track-- they did a background check on Vordy to make sure we were really legit and had to get permission from some Olympic Committee in Beijing. They also claim that we're the first athletes other than the Canadian sliding team to check out the village. Being here definitely makes me psyched to come back and race. I want to see the finished product of all this construction!

I was entertained (and actually quite grateful) by the attention the are giving to the needs of the athlete. Listening to our guides I felt like "the athletes" were a sort of different breed with special needs and a finicky temperament. The athletes get there own entrance to the village, here's the main dining hall where the athletes can get whatever they want, we're not going to allow self-serving of food because the athletes we consulted were worried about cross-contamination...

Makes me glad I don't have to cater to any of those spoiled athletes, geez.

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Stoney-- the 2010 Olympic mascot seems to have gathered a lot of mini-stoneys around him.

Actually I was glad I stopped yesterday to take a photo because when I skied up the road this morning they were in the process of bulldozing all the little inukshuks. I'm guessing because they were planning on landscaping. By the time we started our team sprint there were no more inukshuks sprouting around Stoney's feet.

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Skate Team Sprint 9/4/08

We all started each leg together so there was no hand-offs or anything, more like a 2x(3x3min) interval set.

Kikkan Randall 3:24, 3:20, 3:14
Lindsay Williams 3:25, 3:21, 3:18
Lindsey Dehlin 3:26, 3:23, 3:27
Liz Stephen 3:26, 3:23, 3:27
Morgan Smyth 3:27, 3:27, 3:27
Laura Valaas 3:28, 3:23, 3:29
Taz Mannix 3:26, 3:27, 3:29
Morgan Arritola 3:27, 3:31, 3:33

Kikkan Randall 3:14, 3:10, 3:09
Lindsay Williams 3:17, 3:13, 3:17
Liz Stephan 3:19, 3:18, 3:18
Morgan Smyth 3:27, 3:18, 3:18
Lindsey Dehlin 3:21, 3:20, 3:20
Laura Valaas 3:23, 3:31, 3:21
Morgan Arritola 3:31, 3:29, 3:25
Taz Mannix 3:27, 3:29, 3:27

Andy Newell 3:21, 3:18, 3:10
Mike Argue 3:24, 3:18, 3:17
Kris Freeman 3:21, 3:18, 3:17
Fred Bailey 3:24, 3:18, 3:17
Dan Roycroft 3:25, 3:19, 3:18
Pat O'Brien 3:21, 3:20, 3:18
Noah Hoffman 3:39, 4:00*, 3:20
Torin Koos 3:23, 3:19, 3:20
Dave Chamberlain 3:27, 3:21, 3:24
Chris Cook 3:25, 3:21, 3:26
Simi Hamilton 3:23, 3:19, --

Andy Newell 3:13, * , 3:06
Noah Hoffmann 3:15, 3:12, 3:12
Kris Freeman 3:13, 3:11, 3:13
Fred Bailey 3:16, 3:12, 3:15
Chris Cook 3:16, 3:17, 3:15
Pat O'Brien 3:10, 3:11, 3:15
Dan Roycroft 3:16, 3:19, 3:17
Mike Argue 3:16, 3:11, 3:17
Torin Koos 3:14, 3:12, 3:18
Nick Klein 3:14, 3:13, 3:21
Dave Chamberlain 3:18, 3:12, 3:32*

*broke something

The results are probably more accurate for the women's race since we all had similar speed rollerskis. The men had a selection of rollerskis plus they finished in a big pack so all of the splits might not be accurate. Team sprinting makes for a long morning.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

My landlords sent me this picture from Tuesday... that's my front yard.


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Classic Sprint TT

Monday we did a mock Classic sprint. The whole point of training is to get faster at racing and practicing races is a good way to do that.

The qualifier and quarter everyone double poled and in the semi & final heats it was all techniques in the classical genre. Not everyone raced.


Kikkan Randall 4:18
Morgan Smyth 4:28
Lindsay Williams 4:32
Laura Valaas 4:34

Quarter (shorter course):
Kikkan Randall 2:50
Laura Valaas 2:55
Lindsay Williams 2:56
Morgan Smyth 2:57

Kikkan Randall 2:44
Laura Valaas 2:45
Morgan Smyth 2:51
Lindsay Williams 2:52

Kikkan Randall 2:42
Laura Valaas 2:44
Lindsay Williams 2:49
Morgan Smyth 2:51


Torin Koos 3:49
Andy Newell 3:51
Dan Roycroft 3:57
Pat O'Brien 4:01
Kris Freeman 4:07 (s)
Dave Chamberlain 4:15 (s)
Simi Hamilton 4:20
Mike Argue 4:29
Nick Klein 4:29

Quarter (shorter course):
Torin Koos 3:27
Andy Newell 3:27
Dan Roycroft 3:29
Pat O'Brien 3:33
Kris Freeman 3:44 (s)
Dave Chamberlain 3:49 (s)
Mike Argue 3:54
Simi Hamilton 3:55
Nick Klein 4:02

Torin Koos 3:21
Andy Newell 3:21
Kris Freeman 3:23
Pat O'Brien 3:29
Dave Chamberlain 3:33
Simi Hamilton 3:43
Mike Argue 3:50
Dan Roycroft 3:51 (s)
Nick Klein 3:52

Kris Freeman 3:25
Torin Koos 3:25
Andy Newell 3:25
Dave Chamberlain 3:31
Pat O'Brien 3:32
Dan Roycroft 3:44 (s)
Simi Hamilton 3:44
Mike Argue 3:46
Nick Klein 3:49

Unfortunately, we weren't on the actual sprint course since they haven't finished paving it. Thursday we're doing a Skate Team Sprint in the morning so check in for that. Freeman switched skis with Roycroft after the quarter and the (s) means that person was on noticeably slow rollerskis.

Clearly, I need to work on my qualifying. I've known this for awhile. Goal no. 1 for the 08-09 season.

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