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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Don't forget to add a leap second to your watch at midnight. 2008 is going to be one second longer than 2007 or 2009. At least someone's keeping track of all those spare seconds that are necessary to keep our calendar in synch with the seasons.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Katie Ronsse & Kate Arduser modeling their cold air masks. We were trying to get a shot of them blowing out the excess spittle that collects in the masks, but the timing was difficult. It's plenty cold out here so there will surely be other photo ops.

The start of the biathlon race today. Kincaid is starting to look lively, the wax trailers are out in the parking lot, there's biathlon races, and fast people can be spotted skiing around the trails.

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New Year's Eve Celebration

In case you are in town and looking for a fun way to celebrate the beginning of 2009, Stinson is hosting a par-tay. Here's the info:

Dec 31st, 10pm - 4am
Anchorage Senior Activity Center (No, not the old folks' home)
Techno, 80s-90s, Neon Shotskis, Glow Sticks, Hats and Kazoos
Entry and Beer $30, only $15 with full nordic spandex
200 expected attendees
Dress: Optional


Monday, December 29, 2008

More Books

I impulse bought a book today after talking to one of my about it with one of my math friends. Sometimes I decide that there's a book that I absolutely must have. The last time this happened was after reading something Torin wrote.

this time the book is Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity by David Foster Wallace.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Seattle=useless also

So I'm in Seattle before my flight up to AK and... well, I realized they had an unexpected amount of snow, but I didn't realize it so effectively immobilized the city. The residential streets still haven't been plowed, people haven't driven their car in weeks, garbage pick-up and package deliveries simply stopped. Now it's warming and melting and seattle is getting back to normal but the unusual snow seriously nonplussed the city.

I landed in ANC tonight. It was -5°F, dark, and covered in snow. All as it should be and I was much happier than I ever thought I'd be to be in Alaska in the middle of winter.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Absolutely useless

I had more things I was going to accomplish over the Christmas break. As usual, however, I got distracted. I completely got sucked into a book and whenever I'd wander over to do something productive I'd get sidetracked into reading a chapter or two. Or ten. So all break I've been living in the world of Russia in 1800-1812. I definitely feel like Pierre and Natasha and Prince Andrei and their acquaintances are, maybe not people I'm friends with, but people in my community. And now I've left War and Peace behind, at the beginning of the war of 1812, sitting in my parents' house waiting for me to come home. I've actually read it before but in a more abridged version. Now I'm reading (or was, rather) Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky's translation, which is way better. Ah, Tolstoy. I love Russian authors.

I like skiing too, but now I'm sad because I had to abandon my book on account of it being too fat and I'll be skiing again in Alaska soon, so I'm thinking about Tolstoy, not skiing.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Merry Christmas & Happy whatever-holiday-you-may-be-celebrating!

My favorite image from my Christmas break is this:

Thick snow blanketed the road up to Tarn's house. As usual when driving up there, I was glad we had a four wheel drive car to handle the steep. On the way back down Kari & I laughed when we saw someone up ahead doing tele turns down the road. Kari said, "oh cute, it's a little kid playing in the snow." And we both turned to look as we drove past. To our surprise, what we thought was a kid turned out to be a petite lady in her sixties. May I have a Christmas holiday like that someday.

Monday, December 22, 2008

In The Arena

In The Arena is the organization that got me involved with volunteering at Sand Lake and Rogers Park Elementary schools. ITA is a fabulous organization and has certainly had a huge impact on my life. I would encourage you to download ITA's Winter Newsletter and find out more about what ITA is doing (along with good visuals).

ITA has become a huge supporter of Nordic skiing... the ITA roster includes:

Caitlin Compton
Brian Gregg
Torin Koos
Zack Simons
Kate Whitcomb

all of whom are being inspirational to youths in their communities and being fantastic skiers. So I think it would behoove you to check out ITA's newsletter :)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Stemilt Ski Trails!

WVNSEF Team at practice on Saturday.

Saturday marked the first day of grooming at the Stemilt Ski Trails! My dad & co. have been working this summer and fall on creating a ski trail up in the hills near Wenatchee for the Wenatchee Valley Nordic Ski Education Foundation to use. It's been a long process of scouting out trails, coordinating with the property owners and the Wenatchee snowmobiling club, cutting out brush, marking the trail, getting a groomer set up, and waiting for snow! I think it's pretty impressive that my dad decided we needed some trails closer to Wenatchee and then made it happen.

Laura Valaas walking the trail this summer.

The same huge ponderosa, cut up and cleared, with TJ Owen walking through with a 12' pole to make sure the trail was wide enough.

It was negative 8 (-9 at the coldest, actually) when we pulled into the parking lot Saturday morning. Which wouldn't be so unusual if it was Celsius, but it was FAHRENHEIT.

The first pass of the groomer around the trail!

Cal Anderson grooming with Peter Valaas riding passenger and providing insight into Nordic grooming techniques. The Apple Country Snowmobiling Club is going to groom and set up their cat with all the Nordic grooming accoutrements. Which I also think is pretty impressive that they're interested and willing to do that.

Some of the WVNSEF athletes enjoying the fresh grooming.

Kristina Owen coming back home to help her mom coach the WVNSEF Team.

Here's to having a vision and making it happen, in whatever endeavor!

p.s. since the trails are on private land I don't think they're officially open to the public so if you want to ski 'em you should check in with someone first.

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Friday, December 19, 2008


I don't particularly consider skiers to be fashionable. Maybe it's only because I'm not into fashion so I don't notice when other people are. This is why I was surprised to recognize the Ben Sherman logo on one of the toiletry bags in one of our bathrooms in Silver Star. (I'm pretty sure that at least one of us girls uses a small backpacking stuff sack for a toiletry bag.) This didn't seem like a brand that had a presence on the APU Ski Team. What's your best guess for the Ben Sherman tote?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

US Nat'ls Registration Deadline

Don't forget that US Cross Country Nationals are going to be right here out my front door at Kincaid Park in Anchorage, AK. The registration fee goes up December 20th so if you're planning on racing be sure and get yourself registered online HERE.

Here's the schedule:

Saturday Jan 3: Classic Sprint
Monday Jan 5: 10/15 Skate
Wednesday Jan 7: 5/10 Classic
Thursday Jan 8: Skate Team Sprint

Stevens Pass

Miss Kari Koos skiing down from the top of the Nordic trail system at Stevens Pass.

I skied at Stevens again today. It wasn't groomed yet but they took out the piston bully to start packing down the trails for the opening day Saturday. I had forgotten my watch so I ended up skiing way longer than I had planned. I think that's a good sign if you over-ski your time target when you're guessing your time. I also had the first really sweet face-plant of the season. I went down a hill and upon rounding a bend saw that the Piston Bully tracks ended unexpectedly. Being on cat tracks I didn't have much of an option for stopping gracefully with a nice tele turn so I thought I'd just continue straight and let the powder slow me. Except the powder was hip-high and slowed me much more quickly than I had anticipated. So I dove head first into the snow. It felt like I was falling into a well. (This is on a downhill, remember.) It took me a couple of minutes to turn myself right side up again and clamber back onto the packed snow. I was also retarded by the underbrush because I managed several times to get both the tips and tails of my skis under branches so I had to kick back and forward to disentangle myself. I'm sure the groomer will laugh when she comes back to that spot and sees the pit that my thrashing created.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

SilverStar 15/20k Skate Race

Miss Ronsse took some pictures on my camera during the mass start skate race at silver star last week. I entirely forgot they were there but, despite being almost I week after the fact, I thought I'd share some of them.

tall, tall trees

As Katie points out also, APU had the top 3 American finishers for the women AND men's 10/15k Classic Race on Saturday night (not the skate). Becca Rorabaugh (5th), Laura Valaas (7th), and Kate Arduser (8th) were the highest placed Americans. James Southam (3rd), Bart Dengel (8th), and Brent Knight (14th) were the top three Americans in the men's field. That is pretty sweet.

My group for most of the 15k skate-- Valaas, Dasha Gaiazova, Kate Arduser.

Thursday's sunset.

James Southam

The sit-ski race on Thursday.

Brent Knight fighting through the crowd at the start.

Kate Fitzgerald

Kate Fitzgerald again.

Some guys coming back into the stadium.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008


I've had a different type of productivity altogether lately. I took Monday off from skiing and instead decorated the Christmas tree, colored one of my sister's maps for her, did laundry, emptied the dishwasher. This last was more exciting than you might think because it was the first time in weeks that I knew where any of the dishes actually belonged.

I also skied at Stevens pass with Kari today. It wasn't groomed but we had fun breaking trail.

Monday, December 15, 2008


In one of life's quirks my little sister found out that she is going to be living in Norway next year on an exchange program. She did say that she had no intention of telling anyone over there that she had a sister that had anything to do with skiing. I don't blame her.

ps. If you count starts, last week was 11 starts in 8 days. Today is a day off.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

8 days. 5 races.

We finished our fifth and final race here in SilverStar. That makes for a pretty solid chunk of racing. The classic sprints yesterday were fun. Racing tonight in the dark, in the snowstorm, under the lights was fun. I am tired.

The best part was having all of the parents up to watch. Sam Naney's mom, KO's family, Gregg's parents, my parents. It was like being back at the JOQs in High School. Just bigger. With faster people. Even though it's a solid 6 hours from Wenatchee this is as close as I've gotten to a hometown race in a long time.


Thursday, December 11, 2008


My life has completely mellowed out this past week. This summer and fall maybe I was too distracted. There was a list of things I really wanted to accomplish and I was always juggling how I spent my time. Even at West Yellowstone I was still scattered. Now the world has simplified itself. Or maybe my priorities established a pecking order and quit fighting amongst themselves. Either way, I am at peace. Show up on race day. Ski. There's nothing complicated or stressful about that. No decisions need to be made that I'm not capable of making. There's still X, Y & Z that I want to also accomplish but those things have been relegated to down-time activities. Ah, the serenity of knowing exactly what I should be doing and having the resources to do it.

15k mass start skate race today. 8th-- completely respectable for me.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Our team watched Kung Fu Panda tonight after dinner. The turning point in Po's training was when he was trying to get to the cookies on the top shelf and found he had the dexterity to climb ten feet off the floor. So for tomorrow's race, I'm just going to imagine bowls of Kuan's chocolate mousse at the top of each climb. That works doesn't it?

And then we played vocab games. Now Katie and I are trying to cram as many GRE words as possible into her blog. Can you define all the words we used? (I couldn't... I hope we don't use any malapropisms.)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Days of the week

the day before the day before
the day before race day
race day
race day
the day before race day
race day

It's a good week when this is how you're keeping track of the days. (Although I did hear a rumor that our 5k classic might be moved to Saturday night instead of Sunday.)

Monday, December 08, 2008

p.s. I have a day off on Tuesday so if anyone is reading this in Silver Star and wants to get together for a scrabble game, email me. laura at lauravalaas dot com.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Some Music

We sprinted on Saturday. I spent my entire training session on Friday doing laps around the 1.1k sprint loop. I hate doing laps but at so many of our venues there's no option for skiing other than a crowded sprint course so I decided I needed to learn to deal with the crowds and the short loops.

This is what I thought about on Friday. I broke the course down, thought about it, and reassembled it. I asked myself, "if this was a line of music, how would I play it?" This isn't normally how I think about race courses. Music, along with most other skills, is a decided non-talent of mine. The course had a playfulness and a flow to it that made it conducive to my musical analogy. I imagined playing this race course on my oboe. It starts with very simple quarter notes, full of energy because they're the first notes and you've been waiting for ever so long for the oboe solo. The pace picks up briefly to eighth notes around the first broad bend, more interesting certainly, but still legato. Then some slow quarters, but these notes carry more potential. It's only a few bars, but there's the option here for some vibrato. how many pulses can you squeeze into each note? How much extra speed can you add with each kick?

Then it starts getting challenging, up the first rolling hill. Now is time for accelerando. The fingering gets tricky and there's no break in the phrase. You have to use all those little keys running down alongside the oboe. You had better know without thinking where exactly you're going step, how exactly you're going to move. Then there's a breath mark, a short down, a short tuck. Which is good because coming up is a short, steep section. Stacato. Allegro. It's going to be hard and there's no room for error because you only get a few seconds of playing before the next breath mark. Then it's a series of trills around a sharp, fast corner. Played with vivace. Finally it's straight into the finish and there's fewer options for technical mistakes but it gets more and more difficult to maintain the proper tone. And then, a finish, a lunge, and the rest of the orchestra takes back over.

This analogy only momentarily got me distracted with trying to remember all the musical terms that I used to know. Thinking about where the breath marks were along the course was helpful. I told myself to take the opportunity to breath and relax. I also focused more on my tempo on the uphills. It's good to be able to look at a race from more than one perspective.


Next week's races were rescheduled as follows:

Thursday- 10/15k Skate Mass Start at Sovereign Lake (May actually be 15/20k)
Friday- Classic Sprints at Sovereign Lake
Sunday- 5/10k Classic at Silver Star Mountain

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Silver Star Skate Sprints

The view down toward Vernon.

Today's Results

I qualified in 6th & then went on to win my quarter, semi & A-final. My skis were ridiculously fast. So fast one of my competitors specifically asked afterwards about the flex/grind/wax that I was using. I felt absolutely awful yesterday, this morning, and in the qualifier. Once we started the heats though I started to come around. Racing can be odd like that. Don't worry, my team doesn't let me get arrogant at all... after my 20 minute cool down I came back to find that everyone had left. I had to hitchhike back to our house.

Jeff Ellis got a bloody nose in the race today (along with a fabulous 2nd place finish). It wasn't your traditional bloody nose... it was a a stab wound from, I believe, George Grey. Beware of poles. wear glasses.

Jeff Ellis (2nd), Laura Valaas (1st), Anders Haugen (4th). Some good results for the APU crew. Anders, incidentally turns 28 tomorrow. I think Taz made hime a birthday cake. I love it that my teammates cook.

Casey Fagerquist, Laura Valaas, Becca Rorabaugh, Anders Haugen, Erik Flora. Bart Dengel & Jeff Ellis in front.

Podium shot. It was LAV vs. Canada in the A-Final. Good job to "the team" (aka: Alberta World Cup Academy), they were trying to tell me they weren't all as fast as Shayla, but I think they lied.

Also, JEllis should get some more photos posted to AK-Elite.com soon.

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Friday, December 05, 2008


I have been abysmally bad at taking pictures this trip. I took some this morning but they lacked any merit as pictures so I didn't even bother bringing my camera with me to the coffee shop to upload them. So, some verbal snapshots for you from Silver Star:

-Two kids (well, the older kind) in snow pants rolling around on one of the hills in the Sovereign Lake stadium. With scissors. Cutting down the plant stalks poking through the snow.

-Men with crow bars and shovels digging big rocks out from their semi-covered state near the high point of the sprint course.

-A man on a very tall genie lift hanging Christmas lights on a very tall tree in Silver Star village.

-Hans, who is Belgian and served me my mocha at Bugaboos. Hans speaks German and French. He was bemoaning that fact that he only had two years of English in school, so silly. So he's here for the winter to improve his English. He tells me this in perfect English. Of course, his native language is actually Flemish.

-The Lindt chocolate that came with my mocha, nestled comfortably in the spoon.

-Ronsse, Becca & I stopping one night on a run to dance in the middle of an empty Silver Star village because there's speakers on top of the ticket booth playing music. Directly in front of the "This area under constant video surveillance" sign.

-Snow. Falling from the sky.

-A small child pulling an even smaller child in the smallest sled.


Thursday, December 04, 2008

More Fantasy Ski Leagues

If you're looking to win some money Ski Trax is sponsoring a fantasy league for the Tour de Ski competition.

Looks sweet.

Click HERE for details.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


I did a rather poor job of packing for this trip. A large part of the problem was that we shipped our skis and duffel bags down early. So I had to pack twice. I really meant to write down a list of what I needed & what I sent down early so that I remembered everything. But I didn't. So I forgot some items I usually bring. Mostly lounging around pants and some form of sweatshirt-like top. I only have the jeans I wore down on the plane and spandex. I guess that's good that I was mostly thinking about skiing and not planning for lounging. It is a nuisance though. And I only have three hats and one headband, which is a little skimpy for how often I'm wearing a hat.

There was one thing of which I brought doubles... a calculator. At the last moment I couldn't remember if I had already packed a calculator, figured I must have since I couldn't find my TI-89, but absolutely couldn't risk NOT having a calculator so I grabbed another one. Hmm.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Silver Star

Bouncing from West Yellowstone to Silver Star with plans to bounce next week to Whistler made me think about how lucky I am to get to live this lifestyle. I'm pretty happy traveling around and skiing.

Most other teams are here too-- USST, CXC, Sun Valley, some Canadian teams. CXC was out skiing tonight at the same time we were (and after dark). They were doing a specific strength workout-- single sticking and double poling intervals uphill. We got to do L5 speeds. I was much happier to be doing speeds than to be single sticking. As good as that workout probably was for me I had a very difficult time enjoying it. It does indeed make you strong and it is inspiring to see my competitors out skiing and suffering in the dark.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Van time

We are spending the day driving. It's the decidedly unglamorous part of this job... entire days spent in the back seat of a minivan.

We should be in Silver Star, BC tonight!

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