i would fist start out with either taking a file and really roughing up the brake pads to pull the hard/glazed rubber off or get new pads all together. v-brakes should be able to stop you, but if the pads got hard, which they tend to do over time, then they don't brake worth a shit. i'm 225 and v-brakes weren't bad if you're not doing super steep runs.
which model Axel is it? it may need to be pulled apart and freshened up and you can possibly buy a heavier spring and turn the compression damper up if your model came with that. if you find a $200 fork new or used, then a $70 wheel (which is cheap) and add a disk brake you are getting into the $300-$400 range. at that point you may be able to buy a used bike that is better than yours for that price and sell your bike to recoup some money.
I would start with the brake pads and go from there.
[QUOTE]I haven't went from aroused to disappointed so fast since I lost my virginity[/QUOTE]