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Enough Snow - Direction South & Sun, December 22rd 2009

Today in Helsinki, the sun rose at 9:24 A.M. and set at 15:13 P.M. That means we had a little less than 6 hours of daylight, when you could see outside without a light source of your own. It does not mean that you could see the sun for that long, because it was partly overcast and snowed.

I have put together my winter schedule in such a way that I will spend two months starting from December 23nd south of the Equator, in Kenya. During this time I will get my Master Thesis research on Using GPS in Orienteering Mapping on the way and about 1500km’s of running done while I’m learning the customs of a culture unknown to me. The first two weeks around Xmas and New Years will be spent barefoot exploring the Indian Ocean shoreline, circumventing Malaria mosquitoes. After I’ve spotted the Big Five on the savannah I’ll spend a few days avoiding getting gobbled down into the Rift Valley. Then it’s time to don a Trimble Pro XT GPS receiver, connect it to a tablet PC and start traversing the butterfly-packed Ngangao forest in Taita Hills. I’ll finish up my Kenyan adventure above 2100 meters above the sea level, in Iten and Eldoret, where all I will be doing is trying to hang on to the local 2.08’ -marathoners. I’ve already got my daily plan figured out: run-eat-sleep-run-eat-sleep.

I summed up my 2009 season. I totaled 6300km’s and 580hours of training and was the fastest Finn over the Marathon (2.19’12”) with my 18th place finish in Chicago. I had a solid winter during which I ran 14.06’ indoors. Then something went wrong, as I wasn’t able to perform on the same level over 10000m’s a later in the spring. The only good things on the track came from the steeplechase, where I PR’d and got a bronze at the Finnish Champs, after placing 11th at the NCAA West Regional Champs. I battled an Achilles injury during most of the summer and wasn’t able to train nor race in the terrain. Anyhow, during the Finnish World Orienteering Champs selection races I came 4th, which wasn’t good enough for the team selectors. My preparations for Chicago went well considering the Achilles injury early on, but my high mileage period was too short to take me to a PR. The focus for this spring will be high mileage along with a bunch of runs on marathon pace. I have found some sponsors who still believe in Finnish Long distance running and will introduce those to you during the spring. I’m tuning out for two months now.


Irish Mud Bath, December 13th 2009

Sunday afternoon brought sunshine over a soaked Santry Park in Dublin, Ireland. My confidence had increased during the last week leading up to the European Cross Country Champs and for a while I thought I would have a chance to repeat my last year’s superb 27th place. I must have been hallucinating. I followed the race plan and started out conservatively, as me and coach Ikäheimonen figured opponents would fade in the mud. I did start catching contenders as the mud chase went on and without having splits available I`m pretty sure my last lap was the fastest one. Too bad I was more than 2 minutes (!) behind the leaders, after having problems with literally getting stuck in the mud. For some reason it felt impossible to catch up to one´s own rhythm once dropping it into the mud pits. This was a dirty enough mode to end my 2009 season, and I will now go on a deserved break. Next time I´m lacing up my trainers on Christmas day, on an Indian Ocean beach in Lamu, Kenya.


Repeat the Feat in Dublin?, November 29th 2009

Last year at the European Cross Country Champs in Brussels I was 27th, which I consider as one of my top achievements of my career so far. In the muddy conditions a year ago I was only 70 seconds behind the winner Sergey Lebid of Ukraine. I have since then raced 38 times and will on December 13th finalize my 2009 season in Dublin, Ireland, hopefully in a setting similarly though as that in Brussels. This year I will enjoy the company of a full Finnish team, as Matti Räsänen, Juha Puttonen, Joonas Harjamäki and Miika Takala will toe the line with me.

I have now for the last four weeks time been doing my key workouts on grass adjoining my apartment in Helsinki. The idea has been to mimic international cross country settings and to get used to running in spikes on slippery ground. My legs have mostly felt good even after the trip to Japan and a hectic schedule in school, so I hope can manage to get in another two weeks of smart training and healthy living.


Jambare Finlando at Chiba Ekiden, November 23rd 2009

I have been in Japan for a couple days, most of the time eating rice, sleeping or running. Most of the sleeping has happened when you’re not supposed to, due to the time difference to Finland. My race today went rather well. I ran the 3rd leg for the Finnish team, starting in 14th and passing 3 teams on the way. My time was 30’29”, which was 1 second slower than Olympic winner Steafano Baldini’s time on his leg. Finland ended up at 14th spot, but at least we beat Sweden. The cheering along the way was amazing with thousands of fans lining the streets - it’s always great to race in Japan!


Räntää, November 10th 2009

I competed for Finland in the Nordic Cross Country Champs in Perniö, Finland. The day before the race it looked like we were going to run in challenging conditions, as the ground was covered in 5cm:s of snow. I´m usually strong when the circumstances are subpar, as my 18th place in 2.22´, in the 2004 Fukuoka Marathon where a Typhoon had just swept by and my 27th place in last year´s European Cross Country Champs where the mud reached up to our ankles. By race day the organizers in Perniö had plowed the dirt road where the “cross country” race was staged and the conditions where good, with the temperature slightly above 0 Celsius. My legs felt good and I headed out loyal to my style, in the lead. Well, it turns out the pace was quite a bit faster than my marathon pace and even if my form felt good throughout the race I fell off the lead pack after a couple kilometers. I would have been looking at the heels of Tuomas Jokinen, but due to his shuffling running form, all I could see was his calves. I ran alone for the rest of the 9k distance and finished in 15th, 1 minute behind the winner, Morten Munkholm from Denmark. But I didn´t come home empty handed - we got bronze with the team, by beating the fourth team, Norway. I´m hoping that this performance, combined with my good last year´s European Champs will get me selected for the European Cross Country Champs this December.

This morning I ran in conditions unknown to most of the populations of the world. Here in Finland we call it räntä. It looks like it´s snowing but by the time the sleet hits you it´s water. Since it was still dark outside at 7 am, the about 3m visibility in räntä-conditions didn´t really bother me. Usually I would say that the different seasons in Finland are a blessing, but not today. I am back in school and during a day like today, with school from 9 in the morning until 8 in the evening, I would rather be a professional athlete. My broken ribbone was the least of my worries, but at least I didn´t have to stay outside in the räntä all of my own name-day. There was some good news for Finnish Athletics today - European Track Camps are staged in Helsinki in 2012!


Historical Loss in the Dark, November 4th 2009

As I am progressing in my marathon recovery I have shifted my focus towards cross country. It started off by a couple orienteering relays for my club team Lynx. Although running around the woods was fun I wasn’t able to perform at my own level as I hadn’t recovered from the Shy Town 26 miler yet. Since I grew up orienteering I’ve got lots of friends at these events and social gatherings with these folks are always great fun in this ever darkening and ever colder northern fall…

At one point during the Halloween weekend I took off my daunting rubber face to run the Finnish Cross Country Qualifications for the upcoming Nordic Champs. Before the start it was announced that the top 3 will advance to the Nordic Champs next weekend, so that became the clear goal. We started out on a brisk pace but as the field narrowed down up front the pace eased towards the second half of the 9k race. I headed out onto the last 3k lap in 2nd, right on Juha Puttonen and after he sprinted in a couple uphills to gap me I set my aim on next weekend’s race. At the finish line I was still second and content with making it to the Nordic Champs, where I would be a little more recovered from the marathon. The next day coach Ikäheimonen broke the news: it was the first time during my 15 or so year span as a runner that I was defeated by a Finn of my own age or younger in cross country!


Freezing Marathon Majors debut in Chicago, October 12th 2009

I finished 18th in my debut in a World Marathon Majors. The temperature was -0.5 Celsius at the start in Chicago today, which is definitely better than heat, but I regret not wearing longer pants. A total of 45,000 runners took part in this year’s marathon in the Windy City, with another 2million fans along the streets. My race was even with the 5k splits 16’21”-16’12”-16’21”-16’22”-16’22”-16’17”-16’19”, before I blew up and hit a 17’11” 5k at 35-40km. My quads had had it. That was not in my race plan and at this point I lost the great pack I had had with me until 34km. The conditions in this race were the best I have ever had in a marathon despite the freezing conditions, so my preparations were not good enough to PR this time around. My finish time 2.19’12” is 20 seconds off my PR set in 2008, so I am not content with that. Still, finishing 18th among some of the best marathoners in the world is among my best performances ever. In the past a top-20 finish at a World Marathon Majors have been considered an A standard for World Champs in the US, so I hope my result in these conditions will be a good enough proof for the Finnish Athletics Federation that I should be picked to represent Finland at the European Athletic Championships next summer. Below you can see my heart rate, EPOC and the ventilation curves for the 2009 Chicago Marathon, recorded with a Suunto t6.


Ready for the Chicago Marathon this Sunday, October 9th 2009

The last days of preparation towards the 2009 Chicago Marathon have been successful. I have done ever shortening marathon pace workouts in the early mornings on low altitude with my mileage having been at its lowest last week. Everything seems to be in order for my marathon number 6 and I should be able to continue my improving streak of 2.25’36”- 2.22’51”- 2.20’03”- 2.19’31”- 2.18’51” which started in 2003. It looks like the conditions in the Windy City are going to be fair with the temperature slightly below 10°Celsius, so expect reigning Olympic Champ Samuel Wanjiru to go for the World Record. The start on Sunday is at 7:30 am local time, which is at 15:30 on Finnish time. Watch the race live at

Universal Sports


A Runner’s High by the Best in the City 2009, October 2nd 2009

Last night on my bike ride home after having a great dinner at the Himalayan Grill and hot tubing with a friend I could feel the air was chilly. My swimsuit had frozen onto my handlebar. I knew it was going to be a cold morning run the following morning. Since the Chicago marathon starts at 7:30am (4:30 Arizona time) nine days from today I have started to change my daily rhythm so that I’m ready for an early morning race. I woke up at 7 and stepped out the door to go for my run. A chilling breeze met me and I stepped back inside. I decided to stretch a little and wait for the Arizonan sun to start its daily task of heating up the ponderosa pine covered landscape. Half an hour later I was out, again, and started my run in Kenyan fashion, slowly. My goal was to try to run in sunny areas to stay warm. I ran past an elementary school, through a sketchy neighborhood and onto the urban trail. My legs felt light after I had taken yesterday off. I continued onto a red dusty dirt road up a hill, which always feels bigger than it should due to the altitude. The thin mountain air was warming up under the ever shining Arizonan sun as I turned onto a trail and into a thicker ponderosa pine growth. I had only had a granola bar before my run and I got this empty feeling in my body. I kept on going another three minutes or so recalling previous runs where I have had the same sensation in my energy storage. It is a similar feeling that you get on long runs when you realize you have run out of carbohydrates and are starting to utilize the fat storages in your body. Stopping on this secret trail of mine without any signs of civilization in sight I was fascinated. For a few moments I just stood there marveling under a fresh morning sun in the midst of the woods and could barely hear a distant bird chirping. I was extremely happy about being a runner and out there in this world. I started picking up the pace as I had regained my energy and as I hit the soft wood chip trail I must have already been going 4min/km -pace. I flew by the trees and some domesticated horses that looked like they would have rather been gamboling along my side. I continued feeling amazing for the remainder of my run an soon I popped back to civilization onto the street I’m staying on. I had accomplished 9,2kilometers in 40 minutes and had experienced a true Runner’s High. During this last week of preparation for Chicago I will run often, but mostly short runs. Resting right now will only make me stronger when it really counts past the 30k mark on October 11th.

I was selected the “The Best in the City 2009” -runner. This recognition feels great after a tough season. It was the stunt of running 3900m and 3925m in two Cooper’s Tests back-to-back on the Central Railway Square in Helsinki that got the job done. Helsinki has had some great runners including multi-Olympic Champs Paavo Nurmi and Hannes Kolehmainen so it is a good city for a runner.

The 2016 Olympics will be held in Rio de Janeiro. In case my running career continues another 7 years, at which point I will be 35, I will have the advantage of knowing the distant Olympic city. I was running around Rio and have stepped onto the Olympic Stadium Maracaná in early 2007 after partaking in the Sao Silvestre in Sao Paulo. This is a great chance for Rio to showcase the world what a great city it is and I’m hoping my career goes into the right direction so that I can be a part of that immense celebration.


Training Heating Up, September 22nd 2009

I have survived the heat phase of my marathon preparation. After running the Virginia Beach Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in tropical conditions I trained in Phoenix, Arizona for a week. While in the midst of this metropolitan I got used to 6am workouts to beat the heat, golf balls hitting me on training runs and packs of coyotes lurking for joggers. With daytime temperatures hitting 40° Celsius in the Valley of the Sun I feel fortunate to now be in cooler mountain conditions in Flagstaff. Here I have runners such as Abdi Abdirahman, Jacques Sallberg and Bolota Asmeron as my roomies so running definitely stays as the focus of every day. Even if conditions the last two weeks have occasionally been sub-par I have managed to log 20 hours of exercise for two subsequent weeks with my mileage being around 120/week. Coach Ikaheimonen has, from my old logs, discovered that I should cross train in order to save my legs for workouts and concurrently get aerobically fitter. Therefore I have incorporated biking, aquajogging and elliptical running into my workout schedule. Past champions, such as the legendary Finn, Taisto Mäki, who 70 years ago was the first man in the world to break 30 minutes in the 10000m had a physical job. As they did work hard, so am I.


Alone, Pheidippides would have only made it halfway to Athens!, September 15th 2009

My future athletic aspiration is to partake in the 2010 European Champs and go on with the marathon towards the London Olympics. Jari Ikaheimonen will continue coaching me and I will be based in Helsinki with my club affiliations remaining as in the past - Sjundeå IF & Lynx.

Do you know where the legendary Marathon distance originates from? The Marathon is run to celebrate the run of the soldier Pheidippides from a battleground near Marathon, Greece, to Athens in 490 B.C., bringing news of a Greek triumph over the Persians. Pheidippides collapsed and died at the end of his remarkable run, thereby setting a standard for dramatic conclusions to the Marathon. Pheidippides would have only made it halfway from Marathon to warn Athens about the attack would he not have carried the faith of his people with him. My situation is similar. I will not be able to fulfill my dream of continuing my peoples’ distance running traditions without the help of my people. I’m looking for sponsors - I need shoes to run in! Contact me if you want to make my journey our journey.


A Halfmarathon in a Virginian Sauna, September 6th 2009

I’m going to have to play the “Bad Conditions” card in today’s race. With the humidity being 93% as we toed the start line in Virginia Beach conditions were far from ideal. Nevertheless, my legs felt good and I was not going to let the tropical weather ruin my day. I went out on goal pace and hit 15’27” for the first 5k. I had company for most of the subsequent two 5k’s in 15’53” &16’13” but the slowing trend was clear. My body didn’t have a single dry spot on it and my legs were feeling the consequences. I had to take the second half carefully as a tendon behind my right knee was showing signs of cramping up. 16’33” for the 4th 5k brought me to the finish in the time of 1.07’43”. Once there I regret I hadn’t utilized the sauna in my Helsinki apartment for pre-race workouts. It was hot and I realize I have a lot of work ahead of me to get into the shape I want for the Chicago marathon. My hotel roommate William Chebor, who won the race today, thought it is amazing that I both run and pursue an academic degree at the same time. Well, I’ve never been the natural talent and have gotten where I am by hard work, so I might as well keep on working.


Going 10 000 kilometers west to only run, September 4th 2009

My new home in the Pikku-Huopalahti neighborhood on the shoreline in Helsinki is fabulous for a long distance runner. The 39k mark of the Helsinki City Marathon is painted onto the street behind my house, but the best running trails in the city starts on the other side. I have enjoyed prolonged runs zigzagging the lush Central Park and admiring the beautiful coastline. After spending four years in the mountains of Arizona the change is significant. I will continue my studies in geoinformatics at the University of Helsinki, but since I want to maximize my focus on running until the Chicago marathon I have decided to prepare in a familiar setting - in Flagstaff, Arizona. I am running the Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon this Sunday and then taking the advantage of another warm Arizonan fall soon after.

I have gone through a bunch of physical examinations in the past few weeks: had blood work and a VO2max treadmill test done; did the Cooper endurance assessment, twice in a row on the Central Railway Square in Helsinki; had my body composition examined and my Body Mass Index etc. tested and last but not least my eyesight checked. I now know that my arms are equally weak; I’m in better physical shape than anyone in the Finnish armed forces and that I will be getting glasses to improve my vision of the world. Good to know I’m still medically considered healthy even if I’m running 100+ miles a week!


A Fun Long Marathon Run in Helsinki, August 18th 2009

Helsinki City Marathon was a delightful experience. My goal was to run the first 30km relaxed and then finish in 2.16’-marathonpace. Due to the fantastic audience and pleasant course I was however not able to control my early pace and got the following 10k splits: 37’16”-38’24”-39’40”. My heart rate was under control under 145, but I came through 30km in 1.55’20” - 10 minutes faster than I had anticipated. I was discontented in how I had run, but was still feeling fresh. I took off running a couple 3’20” km-splits into the headwind and had trouble forcing myself to run the goal 3’12” splits as the course undulated around neighborhood streets at this point. I had been experimenting with certain energy gels, caffeine and guarana along with some other equipment and feel confident about what I need for Chicago. I was able to hit my goal km splits towards the end of the marathon and whenever I caught competitors I flew by them. I reached the finish, still feeling fairly fresh in 5th place in 2.35’21”. My last 12km was 3 minutes faster than anyone else’s. I would not recommend the HCM course if you’re trying for a fast time, but the scenery is outstanding for a long run. It was a mistake not to warm up a single minute for the race, because my thighs are sore. Since my Achilles tendons don't tolerate running in the woods in o-shoes, I have decided to end my orienteering season. Still, cannot stop running on the roads - Chicago on my mind.


Barriers Behind - Marathon Ahead, August 4th 2009

I took bronze in the steeplechase at the Finnish Track Champs - Kalevan Kisat! I hadn’t run a steeple chase since the end of May so I didn’t feel the smoothest going over the barriers, but I am pleased with the medal and my time achieved in the rain. Somehow I seem to have recovered from Etape Bornholm and my Achilles was not bothering me too much. Having nothing to lose after already achieving a medal I started in the 5000m race, but only lasted for 2k, before I had to give up after the fast early pace. My calves were sore and the pace unbearable on my nervous system. Still a good weekend!

As I was questioned in a national radio interview after the 5000m race if I am willing to fulfill the gap of marathon running stars in Finland, I decided to start my fall marathon preparations right away by running 43km around Pojoviken on my birthday, August 3rd. This was the 3rd time I did this run and by far easier than the runs I have done the previous two summers. I managed to finish in 3.11’ with a fast finish without any effects of the uneven profile of the course. Now when I’ve got it started and feeling healthy throughout my body I have decided to run another marathon at Helsinki City Marathon and fulfill the remainder of my summer days with plenty of running. There’s nothing like the feeling of jumping into a revitalizing ocean after a long run!


2.16’24” Marathon on Bornholm, July 27th 2009

The atmosphere at Etape Bornholm heated up at Hammeren, where the last 600m is a 14% climb where the runners run in an alleyway of fans. I had executed my strategy and pushed the pace in the uphill at the start of the stage, just to kill my own legs without losing my contenders from my heels. I then lost contact with the leaders soon after in the long downhill section and was back in 6th spot with 2k to go. Somehow I found some strength in front of the masses of supporters and got to the top of the last hill in 5th, but was severely beaten and had lost time to the leaders in the total standings. My stomach had been upset all evening, my extremely sore calves were preventing my stride and my disgust towards running was enormous.

My body didn’t head straight downhill, but on the last day’s 10k in the capital Ronne I by some means actually felt fairly decent again. I’d been relaxing with excellent chocolate and skipped all race day routines just to give my psyche a chance to recoup for one more start. I knew my only chance was to take the race out hard and try to break the backbone of Henry Gross who had a 40 second gap to me in the total standings. So I did sprint out as vigorously as one can be expected to into the last 10k of a marathon. To my surprise I came through to the Sprint price Finish at 1,5k in 3rd and held up a good tempo until 3k, where I split at 9 minutes. As I hadn’t been able to get rid of my challengers I eased the pace and settled on securing my 3rd spot in the total standings for the remainder of the race. I felt like I could have run a faster 10k, but didn’t feel like risking injuring my calves which felt like they were getting shred apart. I finished as a happy man in 4th and got 10.000 Danish Kronor out of the excruciating week. Summer job 09 accomplished. Time to start enjoying running again!

Jesper Farschou won this year’s Etape Bornholm and is now the Unofficial Nordic Champion in road racing. Congrats! I was hoping to be in the fight for the title, but the reduced running quantity in the two months leading up to the week must have lowered my fitness and hindered my recovering ability. My Achilles feels fairly good now so after a few days of recovering and a start at the Finnish Track champs I will start my marathon preparations towards the Chicago Marathon in October. I don’t think the Finnish Athletics Federation will approve of the marathon time 2.16’24” I run over this week, so I will try to redo it in one day in a few months time.


Le Tour de Bornholm, July 23rd 2009

Three out of five days of straigth racing managed. Most of Europe is following Tour de France but there’s another tough tour in Denmark on the way - Etape Bornholm. The contenders run a total distance of 42,2km over five days and on various ground. The first day was a road 10k on the windy west coast of this tiny island in the Baltic Sea, while the 2nd stage was run on Denmarks most famous beach, Dueodde and was literally run on the beach touching the waves from time to time. Yesterday’s stage was a hilly cross country race in the big forest Almindingen. My performances have been slightly subpar with places 2-5-2, but I’m in 3rd place, 54 seconds down from the leader Jesper Farschou in the total standings at the moment. It’s time to step up and fight in today’s hill stage where the time differences will for sure be bigger. My plan is to attack in the uphills!

Follow the excitement online...


34 Seconds from the Best is Not Good Enough, July 16th 2009

I am a pretty good orienteer at the moment - Just not quite good enough for the strong Finnish national team. Both on Wednesday in Hameenlinna and on Thursday in Renko I lost the FIN5 sprint races in a couple route choice mistakes. I was 34 seconds down from the best, placing 4th and 8th. Thursday’s race was a forest sprint where my route choices went around too much, while I didn’t find the shortest passages through the castle in Wednesday’s sprint. This shows I didn’t have enough orienteering routine this year to capture I spot to WOC. Next year I will have to orienteer early on if I want to get a starting spot in the red group that starts late on and has the advantage of tracks from previous runners.

In today’s long distance race I ran alone for the whole 16,5km battle and made a couple mistakes. My final position was 14th. With a clean race, running all alone, I could have been in the top 5, but probably a little better with a little help from my contestants if I would have started in the red start group. Physically the distance was no problem.

With as strong a winning will as I have it’s hard to accept not achieving one’s goals. If one doesn't aim high there's no chance of winning. I'm still aiming high.


An athlete doesn’t see a healthy day, July 9th 2009

The Finnish summer has not been showing too much of its best side even if it’s already the beginning of July. It’s been light indeed, but mostly wet and chilly. I have had some sweet strawberry moments and enjoyed the ocean and the nature a bit, but still have big hopes for the near future. My agenda has included a bunch of sprint orienteering in between track races and I feel like I have a chance of making it onto the Finnish team to World Champs again this summer. The test races are a few days from now so I will have to start winding down my training load soon, in order to make it through a tough set of races. After racing three days of orienteering around Hameenlinna I will take off to Denmark to partake in Etape Bornholm. This is a fun week of running during which I’ll be racing a total of a marathon over five days. Apart from the title of Nordic Road Racing Championships there’s also a considerable pay check awaiting the best at the end of the week.

My Achilles tendons have still been a little bit bothersome, but I think I have now found a physiotherapist who is able to help me correct the stiffness in my ankles. Since I didn’t change much in my training this spring when the problems first started I believe the Adidas shoes I wore had too much support and thus changed my running form detrimentally. I have learned to live with the pain in my Achilles tendons but the imperfection in my posture needs to be corrected. Running 100 miles a week is not a problem but it’s not pain free running - that’s a problem.


Dropping 2100 meters down to Helsinki, June 19th 2009

I ended up finishing my academic career at NAU with all A’s this Spring semester. I attended the University of Helsinki for 2 years before I came to NAU and while at Helsinki barely passed my classes. At NAU you are required to show up for classes, while that was not the case at Helsinki. I don’t feel like I focused any more on my academics at NAU but I was the hot stuff in all my classes. School is without doubt easier in the US, but no need to be ashamed by that dear Americans - academics is the top of the top in Finland!

The High Altitude experience has not quite been such a boost for my athletic career as I hoped for, but I believe that I can utilize being used to the altitude in the future. It is not, from my experience, ideal to stay in thin air for as long periods as I have (several months with only a few days down in between). My blood values have not improved significantly from staying at altitude, but my body has gotten stronger. You learn to handle more pain and my body can handle more mileage than in the past. If I decide to utilize altitude training in the future, I will stay on altitude for 3-4 weeks at a time. I get acclimatized quickly now, so I don’t “loose” days when coming up and can start training hard immediately. I still have a lot of goals for my life and I’m sure my chances of succeeding in my ambition of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro next winter has improved from staying at altitude for so long. All in all I have to say that Altitude Training has extremely individual effects on athletes and I doubt it is needed to break world records. One thing I have learnt at NAU though, is running as a team and with a team and I will truly miss that feeling. Thank You fellow Lumberjacks!

What comes to my own career, this summer will most likely be the last summer I focus on track running. Therefore I want to try to break 4 minutes in the 1500m and fight for a medal at the Finnish Champs at a longer distance. I have done some orienteering too, running the last leg for my club, Lynx, at Jukola, joining 10000 other orienteers in Mikkeli. We didn’t perform as well as last year, when we got 4th, but it was fun whatsoever. I will be running around the woods quite a bit in the next few weeks too. We’ll see how far I can get this summer - at least I made it to the Finnish World Champs selection races!


Blasting 1.03'41" Half Marathon in California, June 8th 2009

School was out and Track season for my part in the states was over, but I wasn’t ready to return to Finland quite yet. I instead went down to Southern California to chillax, go to the beach, spend time with friends and after NAU teammate Ben Ashkettle tempted me to, run a half marathon. The Fontana Days Run was organized for the 54th time and is the venue where 1hour was first broken in the distance back in the 1980s. I had winded down my mileage, running only once a day for a week leading up to the race and my legs felt fresh in the crisp morning. Me and Benny toed the line in Fontana with 800 other runners but gaped the field instantly, clocking off faster miles than anticipated right from the start. The first part of the race was run in a canyon with a significant downhill slope and we were way ahead of our goal of 65 minutes after running 15’00” and 15’15” for our first two 5Ks. The headwind was considerable but bearable. As we kept on switching the lead in the front it was quite easy to upkeep the pace even on the flatter last half of the race. My calves and quads started showing signs of fatigue towards the end, but the thought of running a big PR kept me going. It was a pleasure to run with someone I know so well all along the 13miles. With 100m to go I sprinted away to finish 1st in 1.03’41”with Benny close on my heels. A fast course and good legs gave me a new PR over 2 minutes faster than my old one and my time is the 9th fastest ever run by a Finn!

I’m now in Phoenix and will return to the motherland tomorrow. The upcoming Jukola orienteering relay, which will be on next weekend, makes me boil with excitement. I have made a lot of friends in the US and have bittersweet feelings about leaving, but as Albert Einstein once said “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving”.


Stepping onto Historic Hayward Track in Eugene, Oregon, May 29th 2009

School is out, but track season is not. I spent a long weekend in the desert heat of Chandler, AZ to rehabilitate my Achilles tendons in air plentiful with oxygen. I appreciate the Liston’s setting up our Desert Training Base once more, so that we may forget about Flagstaff for while. The heat is tough on the body but running in 37 degrees Celsius prepares you for racing in any conditions. I still have a summer of racing ahead of me so I am expecting to face a variety of challenges along the way. Training wise the four days on low altitude with Ben Ashkettle and Cameron Liston were successful and our recovery activities were entertaining. I felt relaxed going back up to Flagstaff to pack up my apartment, the famous “252” hangout spot for NAU Cross Country. Now I’m on the way to track town Eugene in Oregon, where the NCAA West Regional Champs take place over the weekend. It will probably require a time around 8’50” to qualify for the steeple chase at Nationals, so I have to really Ra Ra Ra on Saturday in order extend my track season in the US. Otherwise I’ve got Jukola and a night less Finnish summer waiting for me…


Triple Crown secured in Montana, May 17th 2009

The NAU Lumberjacks had won the Big Sky Cross Country title last fall and the Big Sky Indoor Track title earlier this spring. This weekend the Big Sky Outdoor Track titles were battled over in Missoula, Montana. The conference Championships are the most important races for the school’s athletic departments and the most fun for their athletes. We know the people wew are racing against and can set up specific tatctics to target their weaknesses. I ran the 3000m steeplechase on Friday and followed up with the 5000m on Saturday, even if my Achilles tendons have been troublesome. As NAU needed my points from the races I ran, I would not have started in an individual race. I took out the steeplechase kind of hard forgetting that 1000meters of altitude in Missoula still slows you down. The race ended up being a slow one, but as I came into the race ranked 10th with my time of 9’06”95 I had to make something happen. Only top 8 finishers score. Two sub 9 minute guys and a couple conservatively started runners came by, but in the end I was able to hold on to a 7th spot right behind teammate John Killian.

My Achilles tendon was sore on the morning run of the 5k and I was not comfortable running on it. My mission would be to try to make the race a slow one, to give our top guns with a kick a shot for the top three. NAU lined up an impressive total of 7 runners on the start line on this sunny day. Snow topped peaks surrounding the track made this a fabulous venue for finishing my Big Sky eligibility and a great journey of four years. For most of the guys in the race this was the 2nd or third race for the weekend and so the fresh kid Nick Atwood forced a fast pace from the gun. He’s push only lasted for a couple kilometers and me and the rest of the pack caught up to the leaders. The pace picked up again towards the finish and seeing my teammate Diego Estrada overtaking the lead made my Lumberjack blood rush even faster. We finished strong as a team capping off the top 5(!) spots with David McNeill, Diego Estrada, Axmed Osman, Mark Fruin and myself. What a great team. Our finish secured the Win for the NAU Track and Field team and thus we got a historical Triple Crown!

Next up is the NCAA Regional Champs in Eugene in two weeks time. After this I will summarize my experiences of living on High Altitude and running on a college team for four years. The summer sun in Arizona is hot and I’m enjoying it all out as I know my time here is coming to an end.


Struggling 5000m - need a blood count, May 4th 2009

There was a 5k in Palo Alto on this weekend’s agenda. I ran in the third heat of the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational, which is one of the best distance meets on the planet. The race started out in 67” laps and I felt relaxed and confident about the 12,5 laps I had to race. I have been battling some minor injuries, with my Achilles tendons having been sore and tension in my right calf, but those didn’t seem to bother me after the adrenalin of racing kicked in. I was in racing mode but in the contest only until halfway as I lost the grip when people started passing me. The leaders kept going 14’ minute pace, but for some unidentified reason I couldn’t, even if I had run 14’06” indoors. I faded to 14’27” and right now feel like I’ve got enough of this running around in circles. Bear in mind that I have now raced 150 laps around that Stanford track! Me ending up being a steeple chaser this spring came as a colossal surprise to me, but as I am qualified for that to the NCAA West Regionals that’s what I need to shift my focus towards. But making sure my blood count is good comes before that. Staying on altitude for as long as I have might have been too much for my body. At least this spring has taught me one thing - It’s not always easy to be a runner!


Over and through to NCAA Regionals, April 26th 2009

I ran a steeple chase at the beautiful mondo track of Arizona State University on Saturday. Going down to Tempe for the Sun Devil Invitational where the palm trees lines up next to the track was a nice half-day getaway from a windy Flagstaff. I accomplished what I wanted in the race itself as I took the lead early on and hurdled most barriers in first place despite the windy conditions. As I haven’t practiced steeple chase I just feel more comfortable attacking the barriers with a clear sight of them. Teammate Jason Pedersen was on my heels until the last lap and that made me stay in racing mode. When heading out to that last lap coach Heins shouted out that I needed a sub 70 second lap to qualify for the Regional NCAA Championships. I didn’t trip on the last water barrier and managed a 69” lap to qualify with .05 seconds. My time 9’06”95 was .13 seconds short of my Personal Best (9’06”82) set back in 2004, but I’m happy with my result. I followed up the race with a successful 6x3’/2’ workout around Tempe Town Lake and got an easy 31km run with Jukka Keskisalo in today in Flagstaff. My calf muscles can feel the tough weekend now and I’m going to need a few good nights of sleep before I’m ready to tackle the 5000m next weekend at Stanford.


Getting Over The Barriers Relaxed, April 23rd 2009

The 2009 outdoor season has obviously not started according to plans, as I have started two 10000m races and finished one, in 29’50”. This has been mentally tough on me as I have been having good workouts all along, but cannot put it together in a race. I have failed to go with the pack that is going my goal pace and I don’t quite know why my body has refused to co-operate. The only joy I have been getting out of my races is the fact that all of my teammates are kicking ass on the track. This spring I have specifically focused on track racing and have trained accordingly. So is the problem mental? Have I been putting too much thought into these races? Or is there something in my track-training that isn’t working for me? Coach Heins reckons my body isn’t able to transfer the oxygen from my lungs to my muscles as I felt the last 10000m race in my breathing and recovered exceptionally quickly. Either way I don’t have too much time to correct it for the NCAA track season. I’m going to loosen up my spikes and try to have fun with racing the steeplechase at Arizona State’s Sun Devil this upcoming weekend.

I got honored with the Golden Eagle Top Scholar-Athlete of the Year 2008-2009 at Northern Arizona University today. I don’t feel like I have been putting too much effort into academics and definitely came to Flagstaff to become a better runner, not to excel as a scholar. I have thus yet to fulfill all my goals in athletics, but as I mentioned in my speech at the Award Reception Banquet, having an education to back one up feels great. It’s a pity it’s so easy to be a good student, but so hard get all the things right on the track. At least I know mom & dad will be proud of me for getting this award!


Embarrassing Start of Outdoor, March 29th 2009

The first race of the 2009 outdoor season was catastrophic. I was only able to hold on to my goal pace towards a 29 minute time for a mere 4k. I felt good in my warm up, but a few laps into the race I could already tell something was not right in my body. My hips felt stiff and holding on the 69-70”/lap rhythm was tough. I hit the halfway point in 14’40” and after communicating with coach Heins at the backstretch I decided to drop out of the race as it wasn’t going to be my day.

An athlete tries to find reasons to disappointing performances. I found out from a recent blood count that my iron values were lower than normal. This might be a reason to feeling a little behind on energy levels and not too alert. Different from previous races in the states, I tried to stay on sea level for an extended period of time before this race. I noticed my heart rate was normal in the run I did the day before the race, so it seemed like this strategy would work. One needs to learn from ones mistakes, so I will not try this strategy again nor will I settle without a fat stake at pre-race dinner. The next try at 10000m will come in three weeks time at the Mt. SAC Relays in Walnut California.


¡Pura Vida! in Costa Rica, March 26th 2009

My sundrenched Spring Break in Costa Rica ended yesterday with a little bit more sunshine. My training and health situation has been great since I left for the break, so I am excited to see what my fitness level is at the Stanford Invitational 10000m this weekend. NAU teammates Ahmed Osman and Mark Fruin as well as the Finns Jukka Keskisalo and Tuomas Jokinen are toeing the line with me late on Friday night in Palo Alto. I am shooting to break 29 minutes.

Costa Rica does deserve the Paradise nomination some give it. I spent most of the ten days in different Pacific beach towns and spend about half the time there cooling off in or under the water as the day temperatures were hovering around 36 degrees Celsius during the duration of the stay. This meant I ran in the mornings right when the sun rose and again in the evening at sunset. This worked out great and left me a lot of time to enjoy the nature wonders of this Central American jewel. I witnessed the Arénal Volcano spitting out lava and indulged in thermal baths on the flanks of the mountain, hiked in deep rainforests with gorgeous rainfalls, saw sharks, manta rays, monkeys, iguanas and birds one more colorful than the previous. But most of all, I relaxed. Didn’t touch a computer or use my cell for a single day and lived by the clock of my body - usually waking up simultaneously with the sun. Thanks to all the Ticos for letting me feel welcomed and share their precious piece of earth and return home rejuvenated, with a hammock under my arm!


An Athlete's Rollercoaster, March 15th 2009

I returned to the thrown by winning the indoor 5000m Big Sky Championships again two weeks ago after having done it my freshman year at NAU, back in 2006. As a team captain for the distance squad I had told my teammates earlier in the week that the longer the distance the worse the other teams coming up to altitude will feel. We proved it by winning the team title by 184 vs. 86 points for Weber State! The distance crew did and incredible sweep of the top5 spots in the 5000m and by placing 1-3-4-5-6 in the 3000m. It was great to be a part of this team! My 5000m win was rather eventful itself. I settled in the pack early on and didn’t take the lead until the fourth kilometer as we we’re moving at a pace which we who were used to the altitude could handle without lactic buildup. When I took the lead I sped up by a couple seconds each lap to gap the rest of the field by 40m by the end of the last lap. When realizing I was going to win I pumped up the fantastic crowd a little more by crossing the finish line in a summersault. Following that action I got a yellow card from the meet’s head referee… did not know they are given out in track and did not know doing a summersault was forbidden in the rulebook. I got to keep my medal and I am still invincible over 5000m in Flagstaff!

There’s a saying that an athlete doesn’t see a healthy day. I have been fortuned enough to avoid big injuries during most of my career, but I still now it’s important to stay positive throughout the bad times. After having a short but awesome indoor season I hurt my knee, which kept me from running for 3days and then I got caught a flu. I missed two days of running this week, but I can turn it around mentally and tell myself that I do well in a little bit after taking some down time. The 10000m at Stanford Invitational is my first race for the outdoor season and my goal is to break 29 minutes. As I was able to take off 15 seconds from my PR in the 5000m in February I should be able to down my PR also over a longer distance as my workouts have been mainly anaerobic threshold buildup. This time Finnish runners Jukka Keskisalo and Tuomas Jokinen, who are at the moment training in Flagstaff together with Matti Virén, will toe the line in Palo Alto next to me. During my four years of living at altitude in Arizona I have yet to try to spend an extended period on sea level leading up to a race. Now my backpack is packed and I’m taking off to Costa Rica to prepare for the race with similar oxygen conditions up until the race.

Huge 5k PR in Seattle, February 17th 2009

I am an extremely happy man right now. Things have just been clicking well lately and when life as a whole is in balance, running, which is a major part of my life follows. I bettered my 5000m all-time Personal Record by 15 seconds in Seattle on Saturday in an indoor race with a great team effort from the NAU Lumberjacks. With my time of 14’06”10 I was only the fourth fastest NAU athlete in my heat! Mark Fruin was a mere second ahead, while Ben Ashkettle and Diego Estrada both broke 14 minutes for the first times in their careers. I run with these guys every day of the week, so there’s some healthy competition and lots of pushing each others on a regular basis. That combined with increased mental training and a newly started strength program to improve my running form will hopefully help me towards my goals throughout the rest of this track season. And by the way, Seattle is a sweet city!


Getting over 08 by enjoying Rock n Roll Arizona, January 26th 2009

In the year 2008 I ran 6700km and worked out a total of 565hours. This was definitely not equally divided over the year, as I prefer to rhythm my training between clearly easier and tougher periods. The peak training was done in March-April with an average of 200km/week timed to occur a few weeks prior to the Ottawa Marathon, where I ran a PR of 2hours 18 minutes and 32 seconds. In the summertime I took some time off of running as I had been racing, practically without breaks for a few years straight. After starting up on sea level I was running a lot of mileage again during the early part of the Cross Country season in Flagstaff, as I averaged over 160km/week from August to December. Following up a decent Cross Country season in the US I had what was probably my best running result ever at the European Cross Country Champs in December - 27th place. I will definitely up my total mileage and hours in 2009, as I know I will still improve by doing that, but I want to try to do some other new stuff in my training too. For a start I will include more cross training into my week to up my hours and go down to lower altitudes for more speed workouts. If I want to run fast on the track I need to be able to sustain an economical running form so working on that will be a key focus.

I ran the Phoenix Rock n Roll Half marathon (which I had won in 2007) a week ago. After running the first 10miles together with my roommate Mark Fruin as an Anaerobic Threshold workout my racing instinct awakened. At this point as we realized the leading runner’s back was coming closer I thanked Mark for the workout and started chasing for the win. My fastest mile splits came in the end of the half marathon and I got within three seconds of the win after being a minute behind at most. Not bad to get 2nd though, as 26000 runners toed the line on this sunny Arizona Day!


New start from Egypt via Finland to Arizona, January 16th 2009

Thanks to mom’s splendid cooking over the winter break I have gained a few kilos since the European Champs. These will be good to get more out of workouts on top of the challenge coming up to altitude once again. I spent a couple weeks in Finland around Christmas taking time off of running, but left for a sunnier and warmer Hurghada, Egypt soon after. The time spent in Egypt was excellent relaxing from the daily grind as I was scuba diving the Red Sea, touring ancient Temples in Luxor, adoring the Sahara and marveling the Arabian culture. The daily life is just so different in a country like Egypt, with bargaining being the norm everywhere and there always being two prices for everything that’s for sale: one for Egyptians and one double higher for foreigners. Women are rarely seen outside of the home and men are expected through the Koran to take four wives! Getting familiar with other cultures gives one the opportunity to see one’s own everyday manners in a new light and usually one starts appreciating what one has a little more when back home. Some of the foreign manners may even be implemented into one’s own daily life.

I have now gotten back to Flagstaff, Arizona and started what probably will be my last semester at Northern Arizona University. My plans are to transfer my studies to the University of Helsinki next summer. As we didn’t have any snow in Finland coming to a wintery Arizona has been a little weird. I chose to come to Flagstaff to escape the icy roads and the dark winters and in matter affect despite the snow on the ground it has been blue skies and sunshine every day with afternoon temperatures being around 15° Celsius. The trails will still be covered by ice for some time to come. Anyhow, it is quite fascinating that I can cross country ski in the morning up in the mountains followed by a workout shirtless on the roads in the afternoon.

My new season’s training got started on the shores of the Red Sea with only aerobic work and now upon coming back to altitude I can tell I still have a lot of work to do before I am ready for an attempt at the 10000m in sub 29’. The time for that will come in the end of March and before that I will race a few indoor races to sharpen up. 2009 will probably be the last season I will focus mostly on track before moving on to race on the roads a little more often. Now I just got to stay with my diet and loose a few kilos - gotta go out the door in trainers as many times a day as I eat a warm meal!


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