Sunday, November 5, 2017

Island in the Setting Sun


Faith is an island in the setting sun
But proof, yes
Proof is the bottom line for everyone”
- Paul Simon: Proof






Sunday, October 1, 2017

Pääkaupunkijuoksu Glitsché

Pääkaupunkijuoksu half marathon seen through Glitsché app. It’s my shortest race in 2017, but my son’s longest run ever!












Friday, September 1, 2017

Ghost finisher


Triathlon Long Distance European Champioship will take place again in Almere (Amsterdam, Holland) next week. Let's hope the weather will be less stormy than on 17th August 1991, when I took part in this Europe's oldest 'ironman'-distance race.

The whole week had been calm and sunny. The course was advertised as fast and flat. I was ready to set a new PR in under ten hours.

The race morning appeared stormy as hell. The waves in the sea looked like big hills. The 3800-meter swim was a blurred struggle for survival.

On the 180-km bike course the wind blew gravel on the wet roads. Both of my tubular tires were punctured. I carried two spare tubes, which I managed to install with cold hands. On the last lap both of my spare tires blew off as well. I had to cycle the last 40km with an empty back tube and the last 20km with a flat front tire as well. They were right, 'flat' described the course well.

The rain stopped during the run, but it was still windy. I ran a great marathon, finishing in 11 hours and change. It wasn't a new PR, but it was certainly a strong performance I could feel proud of forever.

Today I checked the website of Challenge Almere. They have all the old results online, so I searched for my name from the 1991 list. It wasn't there! Nothing about my lifetime achievement. I had always assumed I was a finisher, but I had never actually checked the results before. I have absolutely no idea why my result was omitted 26 years ago.

A philosophical question: Did I really finish, or was it just a dream?
     

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Story of a Trophy


I found an old trophy with a plate: "Laulajan lenkki 64km 1995 IIIp Miehet".
Singer's Loop 40 miles 1995 3rd place men.

I was able to scan two photos of me running in this race. The cross-country skiing type large front & back bib was number 14. My minimalist gear included shabby shorts, worn-out shirt, huge sunglassed, white tube socks and thin-soled running shoes.

My 'Flock of Seagulls' hair was blowing in the wind. That style may have been fashionable back in the day.

I wondered what is the story behind this cheap trophy? Why had I kept it all these years? I've never been much of a materialist, so I tend to throw everything away.


Luckily I managed to download the Finnish ultrarunning magazine 'Ultrajuoksija' 2/1995. Editor Tero Töyrylä had published a few pages about the event with interviews and results.

This road race had been organized in Vammala (a former town in South-Western Finland, now a city called Sastamala) since 1990. The singer was one of the competitors: Mauno Lampimäki. He had recorded countless songs with his dance band. The start and finish was at Myllymaa sports centre. In 1995 there were thirty runners in the race, which was a big increase from previous years. Ultrarunning was definitely booming.


On Saturday, May 13th the weather was clear, cool and windy. After eight years of ironman-distance triathlons, this was my first ultrarunning race ever. In October 1994 I had ran my marathon PR 2:55. In 1995 I had increased my running mileage from 70 to 100 km/week. Two weeks before I had ran a 53km test training run with promising results.

I gave it my best shot. In those days I didn't eat carbs, so there was no energy supplementation whatsoever. I may have received a cup of tap water during the race, but that's all. The course was pretty tough. My marathon split was 3:20. The route was marked, but I wasn't quite sure where to go on two occasions. In both cases I was able to confirm the right direction with someone.

I finished strong in 5:04.08 in 3rd place. I don't recall feeling tired at all. Petri Orava won with 4:25.28 and Alf Granvik came second in 4:58. Maria Tähkävuori was the first woman.

I was happy with my ultrarunning debut. It had been fantastic to run with legends like the Montela twins (Kalevi and Olavi) and Kalevi Saukkonen (who has run over 2100 marathons). Mauno the singer finished as well. He probably sang too, but I had to head back to Helsinki.

I ran Laulajan lenkki again the next year, finishing 5th with 5:37:37, over 30 minutes slower time. I have never been able to run a faster 40-miler than on that windy Saturday in 1995.


Thursday, August 3, 2017

MIN:D OVER MALOJA - Swiss Irontrail 2017


It's Friday night at busy Murtel cable car station in Swiss Alps. The doors open and a zombie drags his feet inside. His corpse collapses on a bench. He lies down on his back eyes closed while liquids slowly spread from a soft flask on the floor. Onlookers shake their head: another one bites the dust.

That zombie is me. I'm at the highest point of Swiss Irontrail 214km (133 miles), but not even halfway through. We had started 4am in Davos. We would have to run a counterclockwise loop with over eleven thousand meters of elevation gain to finish in the same place before 6pm on Sunday.

Quitting is not an option. You have to suck it up and design a way forward. I would have to descend down to Maloja by the big lake. There would be a house with a warm meal and a place to nap there.
I would regroup there and finish my longest race ever.

After eating and sleeping in Maloja I kept on going relentlessly. There were uphills and downhills. It was hot and cold. There were easy roads and technical trails. My feet sensed the terrain instinctively and adjusted automatically.

After another day and night I crawled up the final steep slope before Davos. It was extremely hot and I kept on cooling myself off in streams. Three figures stood on the cliff high above watching my struggle up.

It was Andrea Tuffli, who has directed Swiss Alpine events since 1986. I ran my first ultra-trail in Davos back in 1995 and returned many times for various races. He and the other two guys cheered excitedly, high-fived me and grabbed my arms.

"Congratulations! Do you always finish every race you start?", they asked. "No, but if you let go my arm I might finish this one", I joked and laughed. I kept on laughing the whole 5km downhill to Davos with people clapping and shouting everywhere, and tears of happiness pouring from my eyes.









Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Cortina Epic Week 2017


Epic.

A week in the heart of the Dolomites.

Our dreams came true.

Perfect weather.

Professional guides.

Ferrata climbing, skyrunning, trailrunning.

It was an experience beyond words.

Thank you Cortina d'Ampezzo.

We will never forget this epic week.









Monday, June 19, 2017

Mozart100


Mozart100 is an interesting addition to UTWT. It's not a new event, but the course is new. For the full 105km they now offer 4,700m elevation gain in one loop. The altitude is under 1,500m so no adaptation is necessary. I decided to give Salzburg a try.

The start/finish is at the historic town centre. It was convenient stroll to the 5am sunrise start from my 800-year-old hotel room. Altstadt hasn't changed that much since Mozart. Salzburg makes one feel young in comparison.

They checked the obligatory gear: a cup/bottle and a whistle. I chose to add foldable poles in my 125g vest. A headlamp was required as well, but we were allowed to leave it in our drop bag.

I put also some other stuff in the bag we could access at 33 and 75km. However I never needed any of it as the organizers took such a good care of us and the weather stayed ideal all day.

300 runners had plenty of space on the streets of Salzburg on early Saturday morning. The first 12km was easy until the first aid station. My problem was they were so well-stocked and accommodating that I wanted to stay forever.

When I finally said goodbye the gravity of the situation hit me. I quickly calculated that at this rate I wouldn't be able to run through the remaining eight aid stations within cutoffs. I was in an obstacle race with a twist: here the obstacles were treats.

Before the race I had worried the course might be too easy for me. Luckily that wasn't the case at all. Chatting with Mozart veterans, they testified this new course was much tougher. With one monster mountain in the middle and three beast hills to boot, finishing was going to take guts and Red Bull.

In Austria they drink Red Bull instead of water. It's like putting gas in the tank. It also tastes like gas. The solution came to me in the form of Red Bull Cola. I kept gulping it down while moving on steadily and not stopping for too long for any reason.

I don't know why but everyone seemed very friendly and talkative all day. Maybe the beer had something to do with it. Anyway the day went by smoothly. I had fun all the time. People seemed to be smiling and enjoying the lake scenery.

Almost too soon I found myself marvelling at glimpses of spectacular sunset over Salzburg on the last hill. I planned to finish in 16 hours and change, but they made me wait for the green light at a couple of intersections. Official timer stopped at 17:01:15. I'm pretty happy with that result, which placed me right in the middle of 200 finishers.

Mozart100 deserves congratulations for rising up to the challenge of producing a top-notch world class event. Their race organisation is superb with no shortage of brilliant individuals. I'm certainly tempted to race in Mozart City again in 2018 to see if I can race 100K against the sun and beat it too.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Grit


I grabbed Grit by Angela Duckworth at Oslo Airport to read on the plane. It's a book about what goes through your head when you fall down, and how that makes all the difference.

I found the chapter about culture particularly interesting. Finnish sisu is presented as an example of gritty identity. Finland seems to have forged a strong culture of grit.

Two powerful lessons can be extracted from Finnish sisu:

1. Thinking of yourself as someone who is able to overcome any adversity leads to behavior that confirms that self-conception.

2. It sometimes feels like we have nothing left to give, and yet if we keep on putting one foot in front of the other there is a way to accomplish what reason seems to argue against.

Could grit be the secret to success? According to this book yes, grit can be more important than talent or luck. But now it's not a secret anymore.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sunday Molina


Today we did a one hour running workout called 'Molina' (designed by Ironman triathlon champion Scott Molina) with Jr:

  • 20' Warm Up RPE2, 
  • 5x2' RPE3 (5x1' RPE1), 
  • 5x20" RPE5 (5x5" RPE1),
  • 20' Cool Down RPE1
RPE = Rating of Perceived Exertion (1=easy, 3=moderate, 5=sprint).

Enjoy your Sunday!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Ecotrail Oslo 80km


When you start Ecotrail Oslo 80km you could be fooled into thinking that you can easily finish in eight hours. The course follows River Akerselva to Lake Maridalsvannet. This is the drinking water source for Oslo. After filling our water bottles at 14km aid station the real trailrunning begins.

The following natural area is beautiful with forests, lakes and waterfalls, but the technical path requires full focus. The rocks, roots, streams, swamps and tree trunks make running fun but slower.

The previous week had been rainy and most of the snow had melted away. The weather has always been great on race day though.

There is only about 2000 meters of total ascent. The biggest hill climbs up to Holmenkollen 35km aid station. The wind and drizzle by the ski jump area made me grab some coke and continue immediately. Soon hundreds of 45km runners started and passed me.

It was nice to have some company. In the first edition of this race in 2015 I got lost a few times. Now the markings were good and there were always runners to follow.

In Sørkedalen we were treated gluten-free bread. This 50km aid station was my favorite. 30km racers had already gone.

A dirt road climbed the last big uphill. Then it was down all the way to Fossum 60km aid station. 20K racers had left it pretty cleaned up. Unfortunately there was nothing to eat anymore. Ecotrail Oslo has over 3000 partcipants, with only 10% choosing the 80km distance. I filled my soft flask and left. I had packed ten Clif Shot gels in my UD vest, so I had enough energy to finish.

Running down Lysaker river valley was a bit muddier business this year. The trail is undulating and slippery. Especially with my Hoka Clayton 2s. Still I'm happy with my shoe choice, because my feet stayed comfy and blister-free all the way.

After the last 70km drink station the last 10K was easy city cruising to the finish. I was determined to improve my 9:44 course PR. It was close but thanks to final sprint I made it in 9:42. 2 minutes!

This was my first race in M55-59 age category and I was 4th. These Norwegian runners are pretty hard core. Local star Didrik Hermansen had won with 6:15.

Ecotrail Oslo has developed into a great spring trail event with enough challenge to keep it interesting. Thanks to organisers and volunteers for the experience.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Ultratrail Running Training Strategy

8 key points from Training Essentials for Ultrarunning by Jason Koop which outline my current ultratrail running training strategy:


1. Smarter


Structured training leads to better results than running more. There's generally too much focus on volume. Superlong runs are very hard on the body. The workouts necessary for best cardio fitness may seem simple and boring, but these methods will make you prepared for success. Extreme gimmicks may seem to work for a while before fading out.


2. Focused 


The limiting factor isn't your physical capacity to run fast. You can develop specific parts of your physiology through increasingly focused specificity during the year. Start with the broadest aspects of training like aerobic endurance. Do the most event-specific things last.


3. Mind


Ultrarunning is a thinking sport. Your mind is your greatest weapon. Use it skilfully and wisely. You have to think your way through the challenges. You need to train your brain as much as your body.


4. Balance


As you get fitter, a bigger training stimulus is required. But you also need to rest. Running yourself into the ground won't improve your race. Recovery is an important part of training. Find the right balance between work and rest.


5. Ascending/descending


You can most dramatically improve your race during the ascents. Lactate threshold work yields the greatest improvements. Preparing for the climbing (and also descending) in your event is a high priority throughout your training.


6. Run-specific


Your training needs to be specific to the demands of the event you are training for. Cross training won't directly improve your ultrarunning. Hiking can be beneficial. Non-running activities may make you a better overall athlete, but you should not do them at the expense of your running. 


7. Perceived exertion


Heart rate is not a good training tool. Your brain is the only training tool yet that can determine the correct intensity and workload by perceived exertion.


8. High-carbohydrate diet


Forget fat adaptation. High-carb diet will deliver energy quicker to working muscles, make you run faster, and help you go farther. 


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Green Smoothie


Green smoothie is my usual breakfast, and sometimes lunch as well. 

Blend any water, greens, fruits, berries, seeds, roots and seasoning you like.

Just add running.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

It's not about the Hokas


Seven years ago I got plantar fasciitis which refused to go away. I tried everything. Nothing helped.

Then I heard about a new rad running shoe Hoka One One. Apparently a couple of guys had left Salomon in France and developed this new brand for mountain ultra running.

In spring 2011 I unboxed a pair of Bondi B. They felt big and weird. People pointed at these 'clown shoes' and laughed at me.

I began running longer and longer daily in Hokas. One day my pf was gone. Time to fly, as the slogan goes.

I've run a lot of alpine ultra trail races in various Hoka models since. Not all of them were faultless. 

For example, the 2014 Stinson Evo was an ankle-twister. But I'm not complaining as I managed to finish Lavaredo Ultra Trail, Eiger Ultra Trail and Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc with them that summer.

What I love in Hokas is the 'meta-rocket' design that tips at the ends, the 'bucket seat' for your foot inside the midsole and the half-cm heel/toe drop. They are also relatively lightweight for their size.

At the end of the day it's not about the Hokas. But without them, there probably wouldn't be any of it for me. So thank you Hoka One One and let's keep on rocking together!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Spring Training Report


Spring Training Report: smooth hard rock base, looking bright ahead.

After the winter is over, you can always keep on trailrunning. Just add ultra!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

laSKIainen

Laskiainen (Finnish) = Mardi Gras (French) = Fat Tuesday (English).


In Shrovetide we Finns lap up pea soup and play in the snow like crazy.

Nordic skiing is my usual thing to do this time of year.

I simply love the freestyle. Classic style: not so much - after finishing Vasaloppet 90K years ago in Sweden, I cut my classic skis and burned them in the fireplace.

Now with new skis around that don't require too much waxing, I might return to classic technique. Except skating seems too much fun to give up anymore.


Anyway I skated 25K in fairly nice, slightly too warm weather.

I do recommend cross-country skiing for trailrunners. It's a great whole-body workout and easy on the legs.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Breaking Through Pre-race Jitters

My pre-race jitters before UTMB felt as massive as the Alps.

Like many athletes, I get my fare share of pre-race jitters. Judging by the number of articles on this issue, there's a real war on event anxiety going on.

Let's face it: your body is not an idiot. The race course seems to have an insane amount of distance and elevation. It's not going to be easy, and everyone knows it.

If you feel powerless against mighty mountains, realize your fears are like ripples on the surface of a lake.

Deep down the water remains cool and calm. Take challenges as a chance to explore your possibilities.

Ultras are 90% mental, and the rest is up to your head. A scared mind can play dirty tricks on you.

I believe The Barkley Marathons RD Lazarus Lake calls this phenomenon Quitter's Talk. Get over it.

Some of my best performances have occurred after horrible (but hilarious in hindsight) preludes. When you break through threatening obstacles, that's when you really grow.

Listen to your body, but don't believe all your thoughts. Don't worry too much. The pre-race jitters will soon pass after the start. Focus on executing your race plan and have fun out there.