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Focus shift, November 21st 2006

I finally heard back from my federation, but the news was bad. I will not compete in the European Cross Country Champs. Konstantin Kutilainen, Jussi Utriainen, Vesa Erojärvi and Simo Wannas will form the Finnish team in Euro Champs. It feels weird right now, being in great shape, but not getting to race. I instead have to shift the focus towards the spring and hope I will get into the races were I am able to show off… Teammate Lopez Lomong got his chance at the NCAA Cross Country Champs yesterday, and finished 4th in the nation - congratulations Lopepe!

Well I didn’t take long to mourn over the previous season. All goals are just steps on the way of life. I learnt from this season that I need to run high mileages in order to get in shape. That is what I will be concentrating on the next three months, and in matter fact I started it already: 24km, 19km and 29km the total of the last three days now. I will spend a relaxing Thanksgiving in Reno, Nevada and will cross my fingers that the weather is still as sunny in Flagstaff when I come back – running, wearing just shorts and shoes, in November, is something I enjoy.

Cross Country for my Country?, November 12th 2006

The 2006 NCAA Mountain Regional Cross Country Championships were run this weekend in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The course was pretty fast, but as the altitude was 1500m above sea level the race was not expected to go out extremely fast. It did anyway, with a group of Kenyans pacing the first km in a time of 2’50”. I felt exceptionally light in the warm up and was pretty confident the slight cold I was going through wouldn’t affect my racing. From what I heard of the spectators I looked pretty done already at 2km and I felt pretty drained too. I ran through 3km with team mate Jon Cardenas, but had to give way to him and a few others from there on, due to all the pain I was going through. On the last 3,33km loop I was able to gather some strength again and overtook a few competitors, finishing in 25th place. My race was a clear disappointment, but considering my fitness of the day I guess I ran tough anyway.

We placed 5th as a team in Albuquerque and due to a screwed qualification system didn’t make it to the NCAA-championships. The two first teams from each of the 9 regions qualify, with 13 at-large bids based on all-season performances. The University of Texas El Paso team from our region was sure, they, as a 4th ranked team in the nation would qualify, but as they were only 3rd in the regionals and without points from previous races did not make it, they also blocked NAUs way to NCAAs. Sevaral teams that we have beaten during the season made it in.

I took a day off from running today. Last time that happened was in early august. I am still waiting to hear back from the Finnish Athletics Association whether I will get to represent my country in the European Cross Country Championships in early December. I feel like the symptoms of the cold are gone and will resume to training tomorrow. It is still to be determined if I will get a chance to peak my fitness and have a happy ending to the season or not.

I finished the book Olympic Gold about Frank Shorter on our road trip to Albuquerque. I have read several biographies about top athletes, including those of Teemu Selänne, Paula Radcliffe, Wayne Gretzky, Lasse Viren & Paavo Nurmi but this latest one was the one I found I have the most in common with. Shorter was/is clearly a non-conformist, which I also recognize myself as. For example, I like to see more than just the race venue of the city I’m racing in. I feel like I’m ready to adapt to whatever race strategy develops in a race – the most important part in racing is to enjoy it. And I do not always want to take the easiest way out – I’d rather take the most rewarding one.

Ready to Go with Haemoglobin 162, November 4th 2006

A lot has been going on lately. I hiked down to the Havauspai Falls in the Grand Canyon two weeks ago and survived Halloween & Midterm Exams, so it´s not just been workout after workout.

I finished 3rd in the Big Sky Cross Country Champs a week ago after helping out pacing team-mate Jon Cardenas halfway through the race. It was fun running not just for oneself, but in order to help out a team-mate. I could probably have gone with the leaders Lopez Lomong and Seth Pilkington, but could take it a bit easier by following our tactics and pace the chasing group. I finished the 8km course in Sacramento, below sea-level, in the time of 24’05”, one second behind my 8km PB. The Lumberjacks team didn’t perform up to the expectations as we finished 2nd, so we will have to improve our performances before the NCAA Mountain Regional Cross Country Champs a week from today. From now on in the season the distance is 10km, which will favour me.

I have been adapting to Active Isolated Stretching during the last three weeks or so. Phil Wharton who has been working with several Olympic medallists’ and runners – such as previous marathon world-record holder Khalid Khannouchi – thought the NAU XC-team the method and I also had an individual appointment with him this week. I guess one could call this a new way of stretching – one that doesn’t go beyond the body’s own limits. I tend to doubt new things, before I get a chance to try them. Well, now I have tried AIS and I like it.

I added up my training in the past year (from week 44/2005 to week 43/2006). I ran a total of 6607km’s and trained for 580 hours during those 365 days. My goal to run 1000miles in ten weeks this fall came true as I ended the training year with a period of ten weeks where I ran 1709km’s. And during that time I improved my speed noticeable too: 24´04” over 8km Cross Country at October 14th was a 45 second improvement from a year ago. On mile repeats ran earlier today and a year ago I improved 6 seconds from an average of 4’55” to 4’49”, my heart rate being 2 beats higher today. My blood values proved to be in order too, as my haemoglobin was 162 – a personal lifetime high – in a recent blood count. I believe it is time to start tapering and get ready to Go.

Learn about AIS from Wharton Performance - it will help you ease your stride.

A sneak into the speed of this continent, October 15th 2006

Pre-Nationals was run on Saturday. This is the first major showroom of the Cross Country season for American Universities. NAU took part also last year, so I knew what we were going to face going into this race. The race went out really fast – I ran 2’43” for the first kilometer which meant about 30th place out of 240 runners. Last year the pace shocked me, but now I was prepared, and even going through 5km in 14’45” was not a huge surprise. I was hurting, but that pain is only a feeling I will survive. I had my worst moments at my seventh kilometer where a few runners passed me. My last kilometer was decent, as I caught up with a few guys who had gapped me before, and the timer stopped at 24’04” for 8km. That is 45” faster than a year ago on the same course. Thanks to my high mileage! This year that time placed me 24th, a few years backwards I would have been in the very top with that time. It is indeed a fact that the standard of intercollegiate runners have drastically gone up.

As a team we ran way better than a year ago. Finishing in 11th place after having our top-gun Lopez Lomong in 2nd, Jon Cardinas in 39th, Justin Langdon in 110th and Simon Gilna in 130th place meant we can be pretty confident of making it to the NCAA National Champs this year. Everyone on the team had a good race, and the spirit on the team is according to that right now.

Having a steak on my pre-race dinner plate has become a tradition, as it makes me feel strong as a satisfied predator on the race day. I did not make an exception from that habit in Indianapolis, but the size of the steak was an exception. Eat big – race big.

Addicted to being high, October 9th 2006

My body has become accustomed to run 200km’s a week. Last week’s 202km did not feel as a heavy workload at all. It is like this with a lot of things concerning my body. Starting to run twice a day, or "run doubles", every day, after not doing it during the summer, felt hard in the first few mornings. These days the morning runs before breakfast is a part of my day and I usually feel great on them.

I will run my next cross country race this upcoming Saturday in Terre Haute, Indiana. It is time for the Pre-nationals, where most of the top ranked schools will be competing for spots into the actual intercollegiate National Champs. As cross country is a team sport in this country it is team’s effort that determines if we get in or not. This is where the season starts for real as the NAU Lumberjacks will compete every two weeks from now to the end of November. If everything goes as planned I will continue my XC-season to the European Champs in early December.

Dirty running season started, September 24th 2006

The Lumberjacks varsity team opened the Cross Country season at Roy Griak Invitational in Minneapolis on September 23rd. Lopez Lomong, this summer’s NCAA 4th on the 800m, had a good race finishing in 2nd spot. I am also satisfied with my season opener after a 20th finish 58 seconds behind the leader. The rest of the runners on the NAU squad did not accomplish what they wanted as they placed 37th , 116th , 145th , 164th and 189th. The team ended up at an 11th place finish, which was not anywhere close to the expectations. Three weeks to step up before the next big meet at Pre-Nationals in Indiana.

I went out feeling pretty good and was among the top 10 into the first km. Even if starting out with the leaders the pace did not feel bad at all. The soggy, rain-soaked 8-kilometer course on the University of Minnesota Les Bolstad Golf Course in Minneapolis was one that I liked. It had numerous rolling hills which made the running economy play a big part. I was not afraid to let people pass me on the uphill sections as I knew I would catch up on the flat and downhill parts. I stayed with the plan and ran between the 10th and 25th place throughout the whole race and overtook a few runners on the home stretch. I had an average heart rate of 189 and a max at 194 keeping an average speed of 3'09"/km, so according to these details my body knows how to take the advantage out of the mileage I have been doing lately. I will work the next two weeks up to 200km again before taking it easier before Pre-Nationals and get real dirty there.

Different body stress, September 19th 2006

I am not expecting to feel exceptionally good in the middle of a period in my training where I am pounding my body with over 200kilometres a week. The average mileage the last month has been 190km, of which three weeks have been done on high altitude (Flagstaff 2100m). The way I see it one should have a period of very large mileage to get a big super compensation when recovered from it. In single workouts I do not like to “go trough the wall” too often though, even if it would result in bigger super compensations afterwards. The risks in over performing in a single workout and smash oneself seem too big to me, compared to the improvement that one might get out of it.

Anyway, after feeling terrible on my runs a couple of days last week, I was having the best days ever up on altitude in the weekend. On Saturday I ran up Mt. Elden (2300m-2800m), just to remind myself how easy running is in flat environment at 2100m:s where the bulk of the training these days is done. On Sunday’s longer hard run I did 23kms in 86 minutes with an average heart rate of 151 and still felt great by the end of it. I can’t help it – sometimes everything just seems to go together without any particular reasons. Maybe the Cross Country team's 80's party and the relaxed atmosphere there made my stride easier.

Anything that deviates from the regular is a cause of stress for the body. I will be lowering my mileage this week in order to recover from the work done in the previous weeks. The Cross Country season for the varsity NAU Lumberjacks team - including me - will begin next weekend at Roy Griak Invitational in Minnesota. Lowering the mileage, and thus making some changes in my daily routine will cause some stress on my body. As the body comprehends all kinds of stress elements (schoolwork, human relationships, physical work etc.) as the same thing, maybe I should concentrate on school this week to get things evened up for my stress receptors?

Wrap-up & across the Atlantic, August 28th 2006

I’ve been to sauna for the last time for the year and I’m currently heading back to the land of the sun devil – Arizona. I will continue my studies at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, where I’m looking to get a Bachelors degree in Geography - Geographical Information Systems, in the time of the next two years.

From discussions with my personal coach, Jari Ikäheimonen, we have evaluated that it was good for my whole career that I tried a year of quality-focused training. It could have been a success, but now I know that for me it proved not to be a rewarding way to do business. My goals for the season did not fulfil as I even lagged behind my previous years’ times on the track. In orienteering this was my first year since 2003 that I did not get an international championship medal. My 13th spot in Denmark was anyhow my best senior World Championship placing. My body requires mileage, to get the most out of it - I was definitely lacking miles on the trails when heading into this season. I haven’t waited to refocus my training, for I am currently in a period where I’m running 1000 miles in 10 weeks, finishing last week with 200km under my belt.

My plan was to end the season in front of the 30 000+ athletics fans who had gathered on the Olympic Stadium in Helsinki over the weekend for the yearly athletics rivalry between Sweden & Finland. I did not anyhow make it into the Finnish team, which was a big disappointment for me. From the newspapers I read that it was not a fair decision to leave me out of the team for both the 5000m’s and the 10000m’s race, even if I had a better time for the season than those participating. I don’t want to comment on that, but my aim is to be clearly in front when selections like this is made a year from now.

Yellower future - moving to Lynx, August 27th 2006

My orienteering season 2006 was pretty short and did not offer any big surprises (except from the horse I almost ran into in the WOC sprint!). I finished 5th in the national (4 stage) elite-league – Huippuliiga – even if I was still on the other side of the Atlantic by the time of the 1st stage. The clear victory in Huippuliiga 3rd stage sprint in Kuhmo I am pretty satisfied with, but otherwise my achievements were not to motivating for me. I have decided to return to the club I was raised in – Lynx – to get some motivation for my future endeavours in the woods. Five years spent in Turun Metsänkävijät included several moments of joy and some unforgettable memories. The 2nd place in the famous Tiomila-relay and my two 6th place anchor-runs from last years Tiomila & Jukola are probably the most memorable ones. Thank you, black guys.

My reasons to join Lynx include: my will to perform in the same team as my brother, Mikael, which we have never done before; the chance to bring the youngsters in the club a reason of motivation and the valuable orienteering help available in the club for a never ending learning process. The most of my time in Finland, I spend in the club’s location of origin, Kyrkslätt. It is yet to be determined how long my O-season 2007 will be, but I already know there are some big challenges awaiting us out there.

Finland on the top of European distance running, August 12th 2006

Jukka Keskisalo won the European Championships on 3000m steeplechase last night in Gothenburg. He was not one of the favourites in the race, but tactically the best competitor. After staying behind the pack for most of the race Jukka started advancing on the second last lap by overtaking his contestants one by one. The coming Finnish hero was sixth with a lap to go and overtook silver medallist José Luis Blanco on the last water barrier. From the glance in Jukka’s eyes one could see that no one else had a chance for the gold in the final stretch. Finland has won this event four times in the Olympics (1924, 1928, 1932 and 1936), but this was the first victory in European Championships! Janne Holmén got my motivation started four years a go with his gold in the European Championships marathon. Jukka’s gold medal won’t change my daily routines, but they will definitely impact my dreams of reaching the top of European distance running. Thank You Jukka!

Where are you heading my love?, August 10th 2006

My holiday in Denmark is over. Holiday, as I only took part in the World Orienteering Championship sprint race, which was early on the WOC week’s program. After my race, and after cheering Jani Lakanen to a gold on the long distance, I have given some thoughts on the format of the sprint. According to the International Orienteering Federation: “The sprint profile is high speed. Sprint is built on very high speed running in very runnable parks, streets or forests. The winning time, for both women and men, shall be 12-15 minutes, preferably the lower part of the interval.” The Finnish Orienteering Federation has added that “the orienteering challenges should be possible to solve from the map in full speed”. The winning times in WOC sprints 2001-2006 has been 10’55” – 12’43” – 13’06” – 14’31” – 13’35”. The course consisted of 12 controls in 2001, but in Denmark 2006 the number of controls was 21! This means that the average control interval has decreased (from 55secs to 38secs) at the same time as the total running time has increased. I did not feel like the sprint in Århus was “built on very high speed running” nor that the orienteering challenges could be solved in full speed. Indeed, the longer legs demanded fast speed, but the course included 10 legs where the fastest split for the leg was less than 20 seconds! So mate, don’t blame yourself if you prepared yourself for a different kind of race than awaited in Århus? I myself lost the race on the longest leg – I’m just concerned about where the Sprint event is heading.

I ran a 3000m steeplechase last Monday in 9’16”89, without any training at all towards this distance. This time was 13 seconds faster than a steeplechase race I had prepared for three months earlier. The preceding week included a lot of rest and chilling time – perhaps a good way to prepare for future races.

My future racing got a huge boost when I saw Jan Fitschen sprint to a surprise victory in the 10000m race in the European Athletics Championships late on Tuesday night. "This is amazing, sensational” said Fitschen, continuing "Everyone was totally surprised by me, but I was stunned that my tactics worked". I was definitely surprised of Jan’s victory, not least because I know him pretty well, as he spent a month in my house in Flagstaff last winter. Mostly I like to recall a 6x2km workout we did on December 2nd, on a trail outside Flagstaff. I completed the 2km’s side by side with another German tiger, Alexander Lubina, well in front of Jan on the last ones. Jan is a positive guy and seeing closely what he has been up to during two months in Flagstaff in the winter. I believe that what have been up to will pay off too – sooner or later. This is endurance sport – no need to hurry – It might take some time.

Number 13 in the world, August 1st 2006

The highlight of my summer season 2006, the World Orienteering Championships Sprint final is behind. I ended up in a 13th place after a race that I cannot be too disappointed with. Of course, looking at the splits, my speed could have taken me all the way today, but I just did not have the navigation capabilities that were needed. I have lost 40 seconds to the World Champion on the longest leg (9-10) on the course and was 49 seconds behind him in the finish. On this decisive leg I almost ran into a horse and hit a fence that was not mapped - obviously my route was not one that the coursesetter/mapper had taken into count. Also on the second control I was confused in a detailed planted area for a while before finding the way to the control flag. Anyhow my plan to take it carefully in the tricky parts of the race succeeded, but on the easy parts of the course it felt like I could not reach my full speed today. I am number 13 in the world in sprint orienteering at the moment.

Slightly over two months after beginning my orienteering season 2006 it has already ended. I will now take some time off, enjoy life, and gradually start building up with easy long runs. As the fastest women of the day, Sprint Queen Hanny Allston, commented: orienteering is just sport, not life. I have gotten both tears and big smiles from sports over the years and WOC2006 will not be a sad part of my memoirs.

Concentrating on the essentials, July 28th 2006

I have had a more or less hectic period the last week now before it’s time to calm down and start thinking about the essentials. I had a solid orienteering in the sprint race on the 2nd round of our WOC-tests two weeks ago, even if my calves were still shocked from the track race I did three days earlier. I was 5th and could start concentrating on the sprint race in the World Orienteering Champs in Århus, Denmark. I have done several orienteering-intervals on sprint-maps similar to the WOC-terrain since then and this has gave me back my sprintflow. I also competed and grabbed a bronze medal in the Finnish Track & Field Champs on 10000m last weekend, even if this was the day after a good friends wedding a few hundred kilometres away. That race was a good “self-confidencier” that I’m in good enough shape even if it’s hot on August 1st, as long as my head stays cool. I know when I step onto the start line in Århus that no one can outrun me and that’s why my task is to only focus on my orienteering. Let others mourn about if their speed is adequate on the course or not.

The WOC sprint race will be held in Mindeparken, just south of the city centre in Århus. The day consists of a qualifying race in the morning and the final in the evening. There will be about seven hours of recovering time in between the races, which is significantly more than usually in big orienteering champs. This will be my third WOC and my third time in the sprint race. My previous starts in WOC have ended with mistakes somewhere along the course, perhaps due to over attempts. I am selected to represent my country and I’m extremely proud of that, but even thou I should only think of this race as any race. My performance level in “any” race should be enough to satisfy me on Tuesday when I cross the finish line – no matter what the result board tells me.

Towards WOC, July 12th 2006

My dream to run in the European Champs in Gothenburg this summer came to an end. I had the chance to run in a perfect race with a pacemaker yesterday in Turku. I kept up with the pace I needed to run the whole race only for 4600meters and jumped aside the track soon after clocking 14’29” for 5km. My focus has not been on track workouts lately, as it should have been in order to keep up the leg speed that’s needed to run 69 second laps. I am disappointed with my track performances so far, but I know that by raising my mileage the coming up winter I will get where I eventually want to.

Anyway, my season is yet far from over. The second round of the Finnish WOC selection races are coming up this weekend. I am pretty confident on my sprint-capability at the moment as I outperformed everyone else in the Huippuliiga sprint race on the first round in Kuhmo. That was a week ago and I suppose nothing has changed…

Summer heat, July 2nd 2006

The summer is once again past its half point and Christmas is only a few months away... I feel like a little child waiting for Christmas, now when it’s time to get tough and perform. The races I’m running the next few weeks will determine if my season will be successful or not. The first round of the WOC test races starts on Monday and my last try on 10000 for a good time takes place on July 12th.

I have done some good results during my summer spirit campaign starting on Midsummer Eve. I took an easy victory in Degersjön juoksu - a 15,5km road race - on June 23rd and performed a 4´06" leg time in the victorious 4x1500m Sjundeå IF relay team in the district champs. A few days later on July 1st I won Karjaa Rastit, in which I just wanted to get a good touch to the 1:15000 map scale by performing a faster summer O-run. Things are looking good sports wise and spending a lot of time with my family has meant a lot of fun.

The joy of finding the control, June 20th 2006

I´ve been home in Finland for soon three weeks now and the stress has been minimal. The weather here has supprised me as it has been sunny and even quite warm now for the last few days. The main focus in my training has been to get back to the control picking rhythm in orienteering that I have lost during my almost orienteering-free 9 months abroad in Arizona. My results in the O races I have done have not been exactly what I expected. The problem has not been the mistakes, but rather the O speed on the courses and my O technique around the controls.

Jukola – the yearly main happening for the orienteering world – took place last weekend in Salo. My team Turun Metsänkävijät with me as the anchor-leg runner could not make as good a performance as last year (6th). I finished the all-night relay for the team at a 26th place after having a tough 1hour 38minute run. The terrain was physically extremely demanding and I did not catch the Jukola-feeling as I ran alone for 95% of the race. The course-setter had in my opinion made a bad decision by introducing a 3rd generation forking system that included forked controls between all legs 4 through 7. This meant that some teams picked certain controls in the dark and others the same controls in the sunshine. Is this fair? Not fully, but at least the feeling of running in a relay-competition where man-to-man fights should be common was gone!

My legs were not fully prepared for such a long and bumpy road in Jukola, but I am enjoying orienteering and it is not the slightest bit boring now, as I have not been running around the forests all winter. I will still try to break the qualifying time on 10000m for the European Champs in Gothenburg and in order to be able to do that I will celebrate the midsummer-week by running a lot. While my focus will not be 100% towards the World Orienteering Champs, I know that by improving my speed and endurance I will also reach the controls sooner.

Enjoying what I live for, May 18th 2006

My last track races for the US season are behind me – placed 4th in both the 3000m steeplechase and in the 5000m race in the Big Sky Outdoor Champs in Cheney, WA. The conference champs races are usually tactical as this is an important meet for the schools and points matter. The steeplechase race was my first one in two years and I heard that could be seen on my form going over the steeples… The pace felt pretty good all the time and I could just sit behind the leaders through most of the race. On the last lap I found some extra energy and passed two guys on the final stretch, which felt good even if the leaders got away. The second day I ran a solid 5000m race, with a sore heel from the race of the previous day’s steeplechase. If it wouldn’t have been for the team I would not have raced this race. My fire was gone.

The school is over and I got to confess it was a tough year academically. I will have to easy up on my studies to get enough rest and to be able to perform on my best level athletically. Hopefully some of the Geographical Information Systems stuff and the Spanish I learnt will help me in my future life. During my stay in Arizona I have met a ton of people with skills in Spanish and it has motivated in the learning process. Me gusto hablar español.

I have enjoyed the free time lately by checking out cool places in the vicinity of Flagstaff (Lake Powell, Sedona, Humphreys Peak and Walnut Canyon) during long trainings and will be excited about returning here after the summer. I’m going to take part in the US orienteering team trials and World Ranking Event in St. Louis Missouri the coming up weekend and fly home to Finland soon after that. I’m sure I will miss the Arizona sun, but I take the woods and the archipelago on the northern shore of the Gulf of Finland in exchange.

Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational, Palo Alto, CA, April 30th 2006

All right, now it is starting to seem obvious that my aerobic fitness is not at a good enough level after a winter with lower mileage than my body is used to. My leg speed has improved as I’m able to come out with a kick in the end of races that I did not used to have, but I am not currently able to keep the speed I want to in a 10000m race. The race in Palo Alto on April 30th was a pretty good race pace wise, but if I would have wanted to go any faster I would have needed to dictate the pace myself. I did not die on the last part as happened a month ago on the same track, and so I improved 15seconds from that race, but a lot of endurance is still missing. I might still try to run a fast 10000m in a while if a feel like I’m ready for it, but right now I feel like taking some time off the track.

Running is not the whole life, even if it is a big part of my life when I enjoy it. But to be able to enjoy running fully I need to feel like I’m improving and getting towards my ultimate performance level. I would like to run the steeplechase in the Big Sky Champs in two weeks as my final race in the US this season, but I’ll do whatever my coach wants me to do for the team.

I went to run on an orienteering map outside San Jose, CA Monday morning and now I’m really looking forward to get back home to Finland and head out to the forests. The instinct of navigating and finding my way in an unknown terrain is something I miss a lot.

Mt. SAC Relays, Walnut, CA, April 13th 2006

Took part in the 5000m race in one of the world’s toughest track & field meets, Mt. SAC Relays, in Walnut, California. It might not have given me all the answers I was out for, but it was a decent race and I improved my lifetime best to 14’21”76. My goal pace was 68 per 400m which would have resulted in a time of 14’10, but I started dropping from this pace on the 4th kilometre, when I had to start passing runners to keep the pace. I did not expect anything phenomenal in this meet as I did not drop my mileage for this meet. I want to be strong in my next 10000m race in two weeks and took this mostly as a good workout towards that. From going through training logs of the past years it looks like I need a few vigorous races to be able to achieve my maximum effort. I will still keep my mileage high for the next week before chilling the week of Cardinal Invitational.

Stanford Invitational, Palo Alto, CA, March 31st 2006

29'54"51 was the result I got out of my first try on a sub 28’50” time on the 10000m. This result does not satisfy me at all as I was pretty confident from successful workouts during the last few weeks. Now I need to find out the reasons leading up to this and find a way to improve my endurance in four weeks. My goal for the season still remains at a sub 28’50” time for the early season and I will give it a new try on April 30th, again in Palo Alto.

As I noted earlier my training has been good lately and focusing entirely on running fast on 10000m in the spring. My leg speed has definitely improved during the winter, but my concern is that the mileage has not been high enough. The stress on one’s body is tougher when training on high altitude, but I might have taken it a bit too easily mileage wise, while I have been doing more speed work compared to previous years. As my coach of several years in Finland, Jari Ikaheimonen commented after the race I tend to have more use of the high mileage. My body does not seem to respond very well from extremely demanding workouts where I tore myself. I’m sure I could improve all my short distance personal bests right now, but that was not the goal, so I have to change things around right now. I am still in the recovering process from last weekends 10000m, but soon after I recover from that I will start pounding my body with mileage.

The conditions in the race were pretty ideal, around 10°C and hardly any wind. The track was still wet from all the rain earlier in the day, but my bad performance was not because of bad conditions. I were put into Section 2 of the 10000m race which I was not happy with even if my NAU coach John Hayes tried to assure me that the pace there should be perfect. The race started out with laps 73” and 72” and I needed to average 69” to get to my goal 28’45”. The first Section had 3 pacemakers – we had none. The pace continued with an uneven pace and I reached 5000m in the time 14’44”. From there on I just felt fatigued even if the leaders pretty much kept on going the same pace. I lost contact with the leaders and soon people started passing me. I was just torn running in a pace I had not had any problems running in workouts for 25 laps. Nothing changed on the laps to come and I felt extremely bad in the end. I was empty. Could the food poisoning I got during my Spring break in Mexico had caused this or had I just been training in the wrong way in the last few months? Did I do the 400m repetitions on Tuesday three days before the race too fast? I feel like I need answers, but do not know where to start digging for them…

Sunny, but white Flagstaff, March 16th 2006

I spent the weekend down in Phoenix to get two quality workouts done at low altitude and without snow. Yes, there was a blizzard here in Flagstaff starting last Thursday and the trails are just now starting to get rid of their snow cover, even if the sun has shone from a clear blue sky since Monday. Well I’m not complaining anyway, as I very well remember what the winter training in Finland used to be like…

I will start my outdoor season 2006 this Saturday with a 3000m race in the Baldy Castillo Invitational in Tempe, AZ. My Personal Best on the 3000m is 8’38” so far so I should be able to start my season by improving one of my current career marks. My workouts the last two weeks have been mostly successful even if I have kept the mileage pretty high. I have done a few workouts with spikes on the track to get my calves ready for the 10000m race with a total of 25 laps and 50 left turns on the way. This week will be the last of hard training before Stanford Invitational on 31st of March. I will be spending the most of next week on the beach in Baja California, Mexico just relaxing and awaiting the final fitness to arrive. All the work that can be done to improve it should be done, now it’s just a matter of time when I am ready to enjoy the feeling of the flying Finn.

Orienteering Today made an interview with me a week ago.

Race report: Big Sky Conference Champs - “The race is not over before I cross the finish line”, February 25th 2006

Last weekend was definitely the Highlight of my indoor career so far. I had not raced a single indoor race before this winter but this weekend I would double. I ran both the 5000m and the 3000m races in the Big Sky Indoor Championships here in my current hometown, Flagstaff, AZ. Running indoors is slightly different from outdoors as the track is usually shorter. Our home track in the NAU Skydome is 300m long, which means the corners are somewhat sharper than on a normal 400m outdoor track. The sharp corners are not a big slowing factor in my mind, but the low air pressure (2100m altitude) is. This meet is of high importance to my school, Northern Arizona University, and after winning the Big Sky Cross Country title last fall we, the NAU Lumberjacks, could be considered among the favourites going in to the meet.

Friday started of with a morning run on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon where I took my parents who had came over to visit me. It was nice to have my folks here and I were on a good mood altogether. The race started of with one of the Lumberjacks, John Killian pushing the pace as agreed prior to the race. He was supposed to drag favourite Seth Pilkington with him and make him suffer towards the end. The plan did not quite work out as Pilkington did not take the bait and so Killian settled down and I got up into the lead after a few slower laps. I pushed the pace for a while and then slowed in again to make others nervous – I do not mind running in a varying pace, but I supposed it could de distracting for some of the opponents. Another Lumberjack, Jon Cardenas went up in lead after I slowed in again halfway into the race. He then kept the pace up for a few laps and slowly started to get a gap separating him, Seth Pilkington and John Timeus from me. This is the point in a race that one needs to be mentally prepared for – looking at the feet of the guy just ahead of you moving with a faster rhythm than oneself can perform. Even if everything I can handle in my mind is “I am not inferior to him” the invisible boundary between two bodies’s performance level is present. Going into the last two laps I was lagging 50 meters behind leading Seth Pilkington in 4th place. Timeus was twenty meters ahead of me and Cardenas somewhere in between these two. At this point one remembers how great the post-race ecstasy is after emptying all the energy in ones body completely. Turning into the finish stretch for the second to last time I could hear the home crowd shouting my name and this is where the race turned to my favour. I passed Timeus with 400m to go and Cardenas with 300m to go and went for Pilkington whose back I had not even seen for a while. I got closer to the leader and overtook him on the final stretch in front of a wild, cheering home crowd. I had come back to claim a Big Sky Conference victory even if I had been down with 50 meters with only 500m to go. In previous years I have always been the one being out sprinted on the final lap, but somehow it seems like I have turned things around during my stay here in Flagstaff. With a race like this on my back it is definitely a lot easier for me to believe that I can catch the leaders in future races, if I am lagging behind for some reason. The time 15'11"29 is not something I am proud of, but being the champion of Big Sky is something I appreciate. After the race I heard plenty of praising words about the exciting outcome of the 5000m race: “the most exciting race I have ever seen in the Skydome”, “I love how you give your whole heart for the race” & “fabulous entertainment”. I guess the crowd did not expect me to come back after being so far behind. Well, I for sure know now I can do it.

The 3000m race was scheduled for Saturday afternoon, but I felt a bit unsure the hours before the race weather I would take part or not. My left Achilles felt sore from the long sprint of last night and I did not want to risk anything. I did my warm-up and the leg felt to be in order. Nobody wanted to lead the way in the race for a start, but then me and fellow-Lumberjack Jon Cardenas started to work together and we got a surprisingly big gap to the opponents. We had nearly 40meters on them with 1000m to go. I thought it would be enough for us to secure a double-victory, but my legs did not respond to the faster rhythm that I needed to fight for a medal when three opponents closed the gap to me. Even if I found some new energy on the last 100meters to pass one of the guys the medals were to far away and I ended up in 4th place. Cardenas won the race and with that NAU had captured the first place in all the men’s individual distance events as Lopez Lomong won the 800m and the mile.

Race report: NAU vs. SUU, LBSU, UCI, Flagstaff AZ: 3000m indoor: 8'39"91 1st, February 11th 2006

I ran the first distance race of the year last Saturday at a home meet here in Flagstaff. I had been feeling very fresh during my runs the last week and a half leading up to the race. I did my pre-race run the day before at Sunset Crater, as I have noticed before that the day after a run in the cinder around there I have been feeling extremely good. It is tough to run in the cinder as the ankle and calf has to do some extra work in order to get forward at all on this soft surface. My PB on the 3000m is 8’38”38 and even if we would run on 2100m above the sea level I thought before the race I should be able to get pretty close to that.

NAU had a strong field lined up on the 3000m run: Seth Watkins, Jon Cardinas, Lopez Lomong, Justin Langdon, Nate Ellis and me. Lopez Lomong was leading the way for us into the first mile, before he dropped out. From there on Cardinas kept the pace and the two of us slowly got a gap to the next runners. It was not a big problem for me to keep the pace and running together with someone I know, like Jon, helps to focus on my own doing. We lagged behind our goal times by a few seconds going into the last three laps so I decided to go up in the lead to get us back where we should be. I ran a faster lap but Jon overtook me going into the last lap and started to surge. He continued to increase the pace and I lost a few meters on him. When the final straight opened I found a new gear and sprinted pass Cardinas to earn a first place finish. We did the last 200m in 29 seconds, which I am very satisfied with.

My time was 8’39”91 which after the altitude adjustment used in NCAA would be 8’19”61. The pace I was running now is exactly the same pace I should be running over 10000m to qualify for the European Champs. Sounds hard, but I have still got 1,5months to improve my fitness and the 10000m I will run in Stanford is on sea level. Oxygen helps.

Flying Finn in Flagstaff, February 5th 2006

A lot of things in my daily routine have changed during the last half year. In my opinion the body need changes in daily rhythms order to be able to improve its capabilities. By doing the same things year after year the body and the mind just gets bored. Something that works one year might turn out to be catastrophe the next year. That is how I see it. I do not do the same workouts year after year, but try to bring on something new, inspiring into my program. Of course one should keep the parts that have worked before in the past in the puzzle, but not rely solely on the same old stuff.

Now, when living and studying in Flagstaff, Arizona a ton of things has changed. On weekdays the official practice-time of the NAU distance team is at three a clock in the afternoon, every day. So nowadays, I always do the longer run of the day in the afternoon and run between 30 minutes and an hour in the morning. I have classes between 10A.M. and 2P.M. daily but I am still able to find some time for a nap before the afternoon practice twice a week. The afternoon practice and everything we do in conjunction to it take up a lot of time: usually three-four hours altogether. Back in Finland I could do a quality workout during a two hour break between classes. The stuff we do here that takes up a lot of time is not a waste of time thou. I nowadays do some coordination and a few strides after the majority of my runs – something that should help me run more economically and faster. Stretching has become a routine that I do after all the afternoon runs. After workouts and whenever I feel stiff in my legs I take a 15 minute long ice-bath in 12°C water in the NAU training room.

When running as much as I do there is always some injury trying to sneak up on you. I have learnt during the last week how important taking care of any sore spots on one’s body is. I had a really sore spot in my right knee a week ago and was unable to run more than 10 minutes on Monday and Tuesday. After icing my knee about six times every day in conjunction to some quad exercises the rest of the week I could run a 100% from Thursday thru Sunday. A miracle? No, just sensible thinking.

Since my arrival to Flagstaff in August 2005 I have cooperated masseur Geoffrey Bishop. It has been delightful to work in cooperation with Geoffrey. I get treatment from him on a regular basis, usually on Tuesdays after the hard workout of the day. The Active Isolated Stretching that we do in our sessions helps to loosen up my muscles after heavy workloads on the trails. My goal to go under 28’45’’ on 10000m in Stanford in the end of March 2006 does not seem like a distant goal anymore with all the good new things I am doing.

Sunny Flagstaff, January 17th 2006

My last week in Finland went very well training wise but the slippery running conditions put a huge stress on the body. I started to miss the fabulous training conditions in Flagstaff and finally returning to the New Continent was relieving. I flew in to New York, did my runs in Central Park and went around for the compulsory sightseeing. Saw Broadway, Times Square, WTC –site, Wall Street and went up to the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. This was a good relaxing time for me & my girlfriend Matleena to spend some quality time together as the time in Finland was pretty stressful, even if we were together the most of the time.

After two nights on Manhattan I had the chance to do some orienteering in Harriman State Park and then continuing to Richmond, PA. Two nights spent in Richmond Matleena, NAU team mate Buddy Davis, and I took off for our road trip that was to take us back to Flagstaff, AZ. Our road trip took us trough 11 states before arriving back home. We divided the 3684 kilometres between the three of us but sitting in a car 17 hours a day, even if it is just for two days, is not something that is perfect for an athlete.

I caught the flu from some of the states we drove through and have now taken three days off in order to get healthy again. I know training at this point, when suffering from a headache and a sore throat would only hurt my body. Running when sick could take me a few steps backwards on my career. My goals in life and sports are to get the most out of myself – finding my limits, and go beyond them. What I find tempting with my body is, that it has some physiological limits and my task is to concentrate on how to enhance that span of speed at which I am able to move forward.

Race report: Hakunilan uudenvuodenjuoksu, December 31st 2005

The Hakunila New Years Race in the northern suburbs of Helsinki was ran for the 31st time this year. This is a fun 10, 2 km race I like to take part in whenever I’m around and as I hadn’t raced for a while I wanted to get a taste of the adrenalin you get when running in a race with good competition. Several of my team mates from Sjundeå IF were also taking part in the race which doubled the fun. The first half of the course is slightly uphill on the side of a highway, while the latter part is going somewhat downhill, but on a smaller road that was slippery at this time. On the way out I realised I was the only one in the front group of four runners that wore ordinary flats. All others had shoes equipped with metal studs that would be of great advantage on the way back on the icy road. Before the race I had planned to make my move at about 6km but now I wanted to get away earlier and took off from the group after 2km. My legs felt good and the injury from the nail (see previous news) did not bother me at all. I increased my lead during most of the race and really enjoyed crossing the finish line and wishing all the spectators a great New Year of 2006!

It was great to see my team mate Petteri Muukkonen who suffered from cancer earlier in the autumn was back on track and finishing 2nd 36 seconds behind me. Another runner from Sjundeå IF, Jarkko Hamberg came in as 3rd half a minute later beating the 2005 Marathon Finnish Champion Petri Saavalainen (4th). This race proved me I have been doing the right things during my first semester at altitude at Northern Arizona University.

After the race I got some kind of an allergic reaction - probably from running right behind the leader car the whole race and inhaling the exhaust pollution / the road salt. My face swelled and my whole body was itching. I was rushed to the nearest hospital and after an hour of antihistaminic and other medication all the symptoms were gone. I still had some hours before the year would change and met with some of my family and friends for New Years celebrations.

Merry Christmas, December 25th 2005

The sweetest holidays of all are over for this time. I spent the Christmas with my family in Kyrkslätt, Finland and will stay in Finland until January 9th. The weather in Finland has been mostly below zero and the landscape is white. In Flagstaff all the Christmas lights brings the Christmas feeling, but here in Finland the snow brings me the true Christmas spirit.

My training has been divided during my stay here. I did a faster nightsprintorienteering soon after arriving in Finland 23.12., on a map I made during the last summer with a friend of mine, Toni Louhisola. The map proved to be of rather good quality but I misfortunately stepped on a nail in the forest of Helsinki and had to withdraw from the course. My right foot swelled up the same evening and I had to ease my training load during the next few days. Since my training has been successful during the previous months I am not worried about my fitness anyway.

Peaceful 88th Independence Day, December 6th 2005

Today is a big day for all the Finns - our 88th independence day. Now when I cannot celebrate this day in my home country it makes me think about the issue of being raised in a free country. I am proud of Finland and hope I can give my country a good name whenever I am abroad representing the white-and-blue colours. Today I ran around the trails of Flagstaff with the Finnish flag on my back.

I have started bringing on the mileage again after a short period of easier training. Two of the best German distance runners Alexander Lubina and Jan Fitschen have stayed in my house since mid November so I have some good training companions even if the rest of the team at NAU has taken some time off from training. I did some hiking right after the cross country season, going from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon into the Colorado River. This was a hike I will not easily forget. The Canyon looks a lot different from inside, when you are surrounded with cliffs and can not see anything but red rock and blue sky.

Last week I decided to do a high mileage week to make my body familiar with the thousands of steps I am going to take during the winter. I did 191km just so that a 160km week will feel easy from now on. Arthur Lydiard - a great coach in Finnish distance running - once said that a hundred miles a week is something a runner should keep as his average. I am planning to do a lot of quantity up until New Years and then start adding on the high quality workouts.

I took part in the Arizona State orienteering Championships in Tucson a few weeks ago and found that there is not a lot of competition in Arizona. I was crowned the Arizona State Champion, which was not too bad for a beginner in orienteering on this continent. On the same trip down to the warmer south part of Arizona I visited Mexico. According to my counts that added up the countries I have visited to 34. My decision of doing all the hard work to be an athlete has given me a lot of experience I would not have achieved otherwise.

One and a half week of this semester left, which includes one week of final exams. School takes up a lot more of my time here than it used to take in Finland, but a part of that could be the new language I am studying in. I believe I am doing alright and the fact that I have studied in three different languages (Swedish, Finnish and English) in my school career should not make me inferior on the future job market. Anyway, one more lap to go in this semester and then I am ready to spend a relaxing Christmas and New Year with my family in Kyrkslätt, Finland.

Race report: Mountain Regional Champs, November 12th 2005

The season is over. We won the Big Sky Conference Champs two weeks ago and placed 4th as a team in the NCAA Mountain Regional Champs last Saturday. This was anyway not good enough to earn the Lumberjacks a place into the NCAA National Championships that will be held a week from this date. The team improved a lot during the last weeks of competition; as we stepped up two clearly win the Conference after a catastrophic performance at the Pre-NCAA Champs two weeks earlier.

My speed and ability to press myself beyond my limits improved noticeably towards the end of the season and I would have been very eager to take on the NCAA Champs a week from now. In the NCAA Regional Championships in Provo, UT, 12.11. I had a nearly perfect race. I finished the 10K cross country course at 15th place in a time of 31’15”, 47 seconds behind the winner Bill Nelson. I ran the majority of the race with mate Lumberjack Seth Watkins, who reached the finish line five seconds and two places down. This time I was the first of the runners from the Big Sky Conference to finish, two weeks earlier I was 5th in the Conference. So I feel like have made some impovement. The whole course was set on a golf course with no climb at all, but we were on 1400 meters altitude so it made me breathe anyway. I liked the course and the atmosphere was great with a lot of spectators and the Rocky Mountains surrounding us. Our team finished in fourth-place behind University of Colorado, University of Texas El Paso and Brigham Young University.

Race report: Big Sky Conference Champs, October 29th 2005

The Northern Arizona Lumberjacks won the Big Sky conference in cross country in both the men's and women's categories.

I placed 5th in the mens individual race after a solid performance. Team mates Jon Cardinas and Seth Watkins took the first two spots so we ran well as a team on the slippery course in Ogden, UT. It was good for the team to perform well to get back some of that missing self-confidence.

My body felt good, but I am still trying to improve my ability to push myself further beyond my pain limits.

Race report: 2005 Pre-NCAA Champs, October 15th 2005

Two months of breathing fresh air upon 2100meters has passed. School and running takes the most of my time, but by doing these things I am working towards the goals in my life. My studies have been pretty heavy lately, but I am definitely learning some new stuff about maps and I am actually starting as an internship at the city of Flagstaff next Friday. I will be updating Geographical Information System databases for the city.

The Northern Arizona Lumberjacks took part in Pre NCAA Champs in Terre Haute, Indiana, this weekend. The race was held on the same course as were the NCAA Champs will be held on, in five weeks. It is for sure a nice course designed just for XC. The course consists of a few fingers and the whole 8km is in open grass fields. Our team’s goal going into the race was to place up high to secure our place in the NCAA Champs. Two of our guys, Jon Cardinas and Lopez Lomong, was supposed to start out fast while the 5 rest of the team was given orders to open in a controlled pace to be able to pick up places towards the end of the race. It is the sum of the positions of the five first team-members that count in the overall race results and by starting out controlled we would be able to help the last of our guys stay in the race a bit longer.

I passed the 1km mark at 2’50” so our start was not very slow, but we were still down in about the 170th spot at this point. The next few Ks were a bit slower and so the Lumberjacks pack started to overtake people starting from about 2km. I and our team leader Seth Watkins passed loads of people together and it felt good to work together with a teammate. At the 5km mark I was running in about 120th place and from here on, on my own. With a K to go coach Hayes screamed that I had to pass 20 more guys for the team and I got pretty close to that finishing in 73rd spot. My teammates finished 19th, 42nd, 107th and 158th respectively, so the objective of the team was not fulfilled. NAU is found in the 14th place in the team rankings, which means we did not qualify for NCAA Champs, yet. By placing in the top 2 in the Regional Champs in four weeks we can secure our start in the 2005 NCAA Cross Country Champs – the most prestigious XC race in intercollegiate sports. We have so far done mostly aerobic workouts, but from now on the pace in workouts will increase and our bodies will be introduced to lactic acid. I definitely learnt one thing about cross country in the US this weekend - it is HUGE!

Race report: 61st Annual Aztec Invitational, September 17yh 2005

After spending a month on high altitude in Flagstaff, Arizona, it was time for my first race of the intercollegiate cross-country season. The cross-county squad of Northern Arizona University travelled to San Diego, California, to get a low altitude workout and to enjoy the sun on the beach.

The 8K long race was somewhat different from XC-races I have taken part in back home, as most of the course circulated on grass and paved tracks. While representing Northern Arizona University I will run for the Lumberjacks team, as the focus for the University is on the team competition. The Lumberjacks tactics going into this race was to run as a team the first three kilometres and the will of coach Hayes was fulfilled. All six Lumberjacks taking part in the race were inside five seconds as we passed three kilometres, at about 25th place. Until here I felt like I were out on a nice fast run and I really enjoyed running with my team, along the palm alleys of Balboa Park in San Diego. From here on everyone would be on their own and so our top four guys took off passing several runners in the next two kilometres. I could feel that I had done mostly aerobic workouts so far and that I was approaching my pace limit as I tried to catch up with the leaders of the race. I were anyhow able to keep up a good, steady speed all the way to the end of the race and finished in third place overall with the time 26´16”. One guy from my team, Lopez Lomong, won the race with the time 25´43”. The Lumberjacks did very well, as we took the first four places of the intercollegiate competitors and winning the team title.

Since the race was finished before noon the whole team got a well deserved relaxing time at famous Mission Beach. It was definitely worth driving eight hours from Flagstaff down to the ocean for the race and some awesome chilling time at the beach!

I have settled into Flagstaff and this feels like home, with a bunch of relaxed and sympathetic team fellow members around me to run with. In Finland I used to always run by myself, but here I am constantly accompanied by a few to up to thirty other runners. I believe this will make a difference as I will always have someone to press me forward in tough workouts. I am making progress in my geography studies and getting used to American life customs, making some small exceptions in food habits. Life seems to be in order even if the milieu has changed a lot lately…

Race report: World Orienteering Champs 2005, sprint distance, August 10th 2005

It is a month since the World Orienteering Champs in sprint distance in Toyota, Japan were contended. Time has passed, including numerous hours of judging “what went wrong in the race that was the main goal for the season 2005?” I am now ready to evaluate my thoughts before the race and during the race.

The time prior to WOC05 was successful in means of sports. I did not have any concerns whatsoever even if my life situation was about to change as I were moving to Flagstaff, Arizona right after WOC. The last three weeks ahead of the WOC sprint race was a bit different from previous race preparing periods, as I could do everything just focusing on this one day, on which I was to do two ordinary sprint races. My training loads were low but instead the effectivity in my trainings would be very high. I did a lot of mental trainings with the help of an old map of the area on which the sprint race was going to be. Some training on sprintmaps in terrains similar to the WOC-sprint enhanced my self-confidence, and I really felt like I new how to navigate in the steep slopes of the Japanese forests. It was obvious that the sprint would not be as a sprintdistance race is described in International Orienteering Federations -standards, but a technically demanding orienteering race where the speed would be very slow. I did not like the coursesetters vision of making a demanding sprintrace that would not differ from the other disciplines (long, middle) in WOC. IOF introduced the new discipline called sprint to make orienteering spectator and media friendlier. I would like to see sprintorienteering as an exciting discipline that demands rapid decisionmaking capabilities under high pressure while under the eyes of the audience. I was disappointed with the way the sprint distance was introduced to orienteering spectators in Japan!

The WOC sprint discipline consists of a qualification race in the morning while the final takes place in the afternoon after a few hours rest. I felt good as a whole in the morning and were able to do a relaxed performance finishing 3rd in my heat. I did not make mistakes, but I did not either push towards my physical limits. The relaxing time between the two races of the day went smooth – listening to trance-music and enjoying the atmosphere of WOC.

The Final: I would like to explain my bad result with my wrong attitude going into the final race. Even if one would know (from old maps) the area of the race one should not make too clear expectations of what kind the race nature will be. I wanted to run in high speed as I am used to run in sprintorienteering races and I had planned to race like I would race in an ordinary sprint competition. My first tow controls in the race went softly, even if I had some small problems in distinguishing the map in some spots. Towards the third control I wanted to take secure way, but got a bit confused in the bushes on my way down towards the lake nearby the control. I found the third control alright, but I must have been a bit stressed as I could not see the path on the map on the way out of the control post. Lost a few seconds in the thick bush, but did not realize this before the race was over. Tried to make up my mind about the routechoise for the long leg (between the 4th and the 5th control), as I approached the 4th control flag. I should have made it easy as my tactics in sprintraces usually goes, but instead I went for a tricky left routechoise as I assumed the right option would have been too long. The beginning of my 5th leg went as planned and I knew that I could take more pain than others as I felt lactic in the first uphill. I cut the corner on top of the first ridge and aimed for the curve of the path in the galley. I missed it as I had to slalom around some spots of thick bush in the downhill. So I made a hasted evaluation and chose to aim for the next path upon the ridge. I just did not understand I had to turn my sight towards west, so I failed to spot also this path. The forest was filled with spider webs which was a sign that I was lost. I became stressed and could not make a sensible judgement what to do when I came across the next path, but rushed down the valley instead. This is a part where I am unable to explain what happened. I was not prepared for mistakes, as I had been sure to pull off a triumph. I finally found myself and the control post but had no idea of how much time I had wasted in this mistake. So I continued my race with somewhat confused feelings and made it to the finish.

Looking at the map now it seems apparent that the section of the race going into the thick green part of the map (5th to 7th control), is where one should be proceeding with the handbrake on. The race was pretty much decided in this section, not only for me, but the ones who managed this part the best were topping the final results. Slowing down in the extremely technical parts of a race is something that I learnt my lesson on now and will remember in the future. I had made my mistake way before the tricky controls, but I do not consider the 5th nor the two following control-points suitable for a sprintrace. Anyway, as Yuri Omeltchenko notified me after the race: sport is just a small part of life, and a lot worse could happen in real life! The next two World Orienteering Championships sprint medallists will be decided in cities and parks, where the media and the audience hopefully will enjoy the race in a bigger scale. In 2006 the challenge will be to find ones way in the surroundings of Århus, Denmark and the following year in the capital of Ukraine, Kiev.

Race report: Paris marathon, April 10th 2005

Marathon nro: 3
Kengät: Nike Pegasus TC
Energiageeli: Dexal, 5km:n välein nautittuna

Juoksin 10.4. Pariisin maratonin yhdessä 20000 muun juoksijan kanssa. Olosuhteet olivat mitä mainioimmat maratonille - lämpötila +7 Celsiusastetta ja tuuli mitätön 9km/h. Tavoitteenani kisassa oli Helsingin MM-kisojen A-rajan 2.18´ alitus, jota varten olin edellisestä maratonistani (Fukuoka 5.12.2004) saakka tehnyt tinkimätöntä työtä. Kaikki ennakkovalmistelut menivät suunnitelmien mukaisesti. Joulukuun lopusta helmikuulle juoksin paljon (->250km/vko), jota seurasi muutama viikko vauhtikestävyyspainoitteista harjoittelua. Viime viikot ennen kisaa menivät jalkoja säästellen ja kisavauhtia kokeillen muutamissa harjoituksissa. Maratonille lähdin luottavaisin mielin tavoitteen saavuttamisen kannalta. Alla on Suunnon rannetietokoneestani poimittua dataa matkan varrelta.

Väliaikakokonaisaika5km:n aikasykekeskisykenousu/lasku 5km:llä
5km 16´16" 16´16" 166 163 37/45
10km 32´42" 16´26" 169 169 33/20
15km 49´10" 16´27" 172 171 26/25
20km 1.05´28" 16´18" 179 175 12/12
21,1km 1.09´01" 177 176
25km 1.21´28" 16´00" 182 178 6/24
30km 1.37´49" 16´21" 177 178 27/32
35km 1.54´34" 16´45" 178 177 18/13
40km 2.12´06" 17´32" 180 177 23/6
42,195km 2.20´03" 7´56" 177 173 13/19
Total 2.20´03" 173 195/196

Kisan alkuvaiheet sujuivat suunnitelmien mukaan. Jalat olivat hieman raskaan tuntuiset, mutta oletin sen johtuvan onnistuneesta energiatasapainosta. Yritin sulkea edellispäivän järjestäjien etsimisestä koituneen muutaman kilometrin kävelyn pois ajatuksistani. Juoksin kuin juna aikataulussaan 2.17´45"-loppuaikaan tähtäävässä vauhdissa muutaman sekunnin heittoja lukuun ottamatta aina 37km:n kohtaan saakka. Matkan varrella oli kaikkiaan kolme tuttua naamaa, jotka kaikki ilahduttivat matkan tekoani huutamalla nimeäni. Reitti kulki usean tunnetun maamerkin ohitse ja yleisöä oli saapunut kannustamaan sankoin joukoin, joten fiilis juosta oli katossaan. Minulla oli ilo juosta porukassa lähes koko matkan vauhdintekoni hidastumiseen saakka. Juomapisteiden jälkeen sain aina hiukan kiriä porukkaani venynyttä ero kiinni, sillä juoma-juoksutekniikkani ei ollut yhtä nopea kuin muilla. Alamäissä laskettelin rennolla askeleella porukan ohi, ylämäet yritin juosta hiukan säästellen lihaksia.

35km:n juomapisteen ohitettuni juoksin yksin, ohittaen silloin tällöin edestäni hyytyneitä juoksijoita. Jalkalihakseni eivät enää totelleet aivoistani virrannutta viestiä: "pidä tämä rytmi". Loppuosuus reitistä kulki puistossa ja oli hieman nousuvoittoinen, mikä ei parantanut lihaksistossani vallinnutta tilannetta. Etureidet ja pohkeet tuntuivat tönkköiiltä ja pelkäsin kompastuvani. Hiukan ennen 40km:ä tämä olikin tapahtua hölkkääjän ilmestyttyä eteeni, mutta sain hänet taklattua pois edestäni viime hetkellä. Toivo juosta alle 2.18´ eli vielä tässä pisteessä - jospa saisin vielä jostain lisävoimia lopun häämöttäessä. Näin ei käynyt vaan vauhtini hyytyi minuutin verran tavoitteestani 35-40km:n välillä ja minuutin 40-42,2km:n välillä. Maaliviivan ylitettyäni harmitti erittäin paljon etten pystynyt suoriutumaan tavoitteeni mukaisesti. En suostunut menemään järjestäjien minulle tuomalle paareille, vaan hetken hoipertelun jälkeen kävelin pois...

Reitti osoittautui hieman olettamustani raskaammaksi. Sen sisältämät 200m:n noususumma tuntui lihaksistossa, joskin laskua olikin saman verran. Joidenkin asiantuntijoiden mielestä on hyvä, että matkan varrella on monotonista rytmiä rikkovia mäkiä, mutta itselleni tasainen reitti tuntuu mieluisammalta.

En siis pääse edustamaan maatamme Helsingin MM-kisoissa maratonilla, mutta onneksi minulla oli toinenkin raide koko ajan odottamassa kulkemista. Nyt tavoitteet on suunnattu suunnistuksen MM-kisoihin, jotka kisataan Elokuun 7.–14. päivä, Aichissa, Japanissa. Tulen jatkossakin silti juoksemaan kilpaa ja tulevien vuosien tavoitteisiini sisältyykin m.m. Pekingin Olympiamarathoni 2008.

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