Laura's Blog

Monday, January 25, 2010

New Pursuits

Since retiring from the active ITA roster I seem to have over expanded my other activities. I have been ski racing full time as always, but in addition I have started my own business!

I am manufacturing after market cross country ski accessories. One of the big nuisances when I used to go out skiing was knocking the snow out of the bottom of my ski boot before clipping into the binding. To solve this problem I (along with a lot of help!) created the BootBuddy.

Simple, utile, colorful, indestructible.

So far I've been encouraged by all of the positive feedback and excitement about my first product. There are also several other product we're developing but they won't be out until Fall 2010.

It's an odd turn of life... I was halfway through my actuarial licensing, hoping to work my way up to CFO of a company after my ski career. Now I get to be CFO of my own company AND still ski race!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Becoming an In the Arena Alumna

Having served two full years with In the Arena (ITA), Laura Valaas has elected to rotate off of the roster and, thus, to join the ranks of organizational alumni. ITA is deeply grateful for Laura’s 24 months of service and the youth work she generated in Anchorage and beyond during that time. Countless children —students, athletes, ski fans and supporters —have been lifted by Laura’s wisdom, guidance and input; and we all wish her the best in her preparations for the selection races to the US Ski Team that will compete in Vancouver in 2010.

If you would like to keep up-to-date with Laura –or with any of In the Arena’s alumni –please visit the Arena Athlete Alumni blog or Laura’s own site:

Onwards and upwards.
And thank you for your interest and support.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Park City

I skate rollerskied some intervals around the Soldier Hollow paved trails this morning. Being back in Park city brings back a lot of memories of my race career. I've been here so often over the past few years it feels very much like home. It's odd how race venues make such an intense impact on my memory. Looking at the FIS website, I've only competed in 16 races here, it feels like more. Maybe because we did so many training camps out here.

The first weekend I raced here I earned 346.69 FIS points (if you don't ski race, that's really, really bad). The next year I came back to the same RMISA invite and finished with 177.22 FIS points (again, if you don't ski, that's much better). Two years later I won the same RMISA invite. My first, and, let's be honest, only, RMISA victory. I remember sitting in the little Homestead computer room with Tara Gregg and she said, "I think you won the race." I didn't believe her at first.

It is pretty cool to have one place stay the same and to be able to come back to it year after year and feel the hills getting less steep and the loops getting shorter.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Lake Placid, NY

I had a fabulous interval session the other day. It was hard, but enjoyably hard, what we call threshold. When I do threshold I get to stretch out the body and use proper race technique but stay out of the lungs-on-fire pain zone. Threshold is the interval type that makes me appreciate my fitness without questioning my sanity for deciding to be a cross country ski racer. (To quote Newell from the other day, "cross country skiing is really fun when you stop.")

We started in Wilmington and skied up the road toward Whiteface. It was the same road that was used for the Race to the Castle rollerski race last week but we started lower and never made it as far as the start of the rollerski race. From the four corners intersection there's still a fair amount of elevation gain to play with before you hit the race course.

We started staggered as we came in from our warm-up and Kristina Strandberg jumped in right behind me. We had a nice headwind and since I was leading and knew Strandberg was behind me I went just a little harder than I would have if I had been by myself so she wouldn't get bored. She came around and led the second interval. It was much easier to follow and draft and be able to relax into Strandberg's rhythm.

After two intervals we got in the van and drove back to the bottom of the hill where we changed into our skate gear and did two more intervals up the hill. Strandberg led the first & I led the second. It was almost like doing two intervals instead of four. There's a huge benefit in being able to ski with someone in a hard workout like that. It's been really nice to be out in Lake Placid working with a lot of different coaches & athletes and see how other people are skiing and training.

And despite how much we make fun of the tourists up here looking at the leaves turning to reds and oranges and yellows, it really is beautiful when we get a sunny afternoon.

p.s. We switched to skate halfway through the workout to simulate the stress of a duathlon race although I don't recall thinking I had to do any duathlon races this winter.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

And so it begins...

Today I embark on the first journey of the season. Once this trip begins I may not stop rolling until March. And maybe not even then. The nominal reason for this trip is a training camp over in Lake Placid, NY, but I am going to take advantage of a rest week and take my time getting over there. The current plan includes brief visits to Yakutat, Gustavus, Sitka, Ketchikan, Prince Rupert, BC, and Nanaimo, BC, before ending up at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid and getting back to the hard core ski training.

I put Nanaimo on the list of places to visit because it's the birthplace of Nanaimo bars. Utter deliciousness. My traveling partner foolishly left the planning up to me so we're going to find ourselves in places like Nanaimo. If anyone knows of any other points of culinary interest that I should put on my list of to-visit places, please, let me know. I only happen to know about Nanaimo because my mom makes Nanaimo bars during the Holidays.

Two weeks in Lake Placid and then the race season will be approaching fast. Assuming I don't indulge in too many of Nanaimo's namesakes, I should be ready to hit the races hard. I can't wait. I stayed in Alaska ALL summer and I have been anticipating being back on the road. Back on the road, living from a bag, wandering from town to town, without a permanent address. That's home.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Oslo 2011

K: "Hey Laura, there's some building going up here. Apparently they're doing some ski thing."

L: "Um, duh, the 2011 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS are in Oslo next winter. I don't know if you know this, but it's kind of a big deal."

K: "meh."

L: "Well if I get to race there you can come back to Norway to watch and visit your friends."

K: "Sweet! You should definitely do this race."

My little sister is spending the year in Oslo and we had this conversation the other day. Then I signed onto facebook and saw that she had tagged me in the above photo. Which I thought was cute.

It reminded me that work is busily being accomplished on the 2011 World Champs venue and, in fact, they've been working on it ever since they won the bid. I am, hopefully, going to show up to the 2011 World Championships and stay there for one week training nearby and then two weeks at the championships, then they're over and all the athletes go their merry ways. The organizing committee, on the other hand, is working on this as a full-time job starting last year and ending well after I'm snuggled back into my own home in America.

The amount of work that goes into organizing and running an event is staggering. I am so grateful that people are willing to do this and to do it well. I can't even imagine having to sit down and think out all of the needs of an event of that magnitude-- the needs of all the athletes, coaches, waxers, staff, physicians, attaches, then all of the race organizers and volunteers, the sound system requirements of the announcers, the wiring needs of the timing crew and of the film crew, the comfort of the spectators. And before all of the people show up needing things the actual, physical venue needs to be built-- ski trails, stadium, ski jumps, waxing areas, housing, parking lots, WADA testing area. It is unbelievable.

I feel so lucky to get to enjoy the hard work of so many people every time I show up to a starting line.