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The Doom of Albufeira, December 13th 2010

The plan was good and clear. So was its execution. Seldom have I been able to follow the training plan all the way to the goal without compromises. The outcome at the European Cross Country Champs however, was far from the goal.

I was aiming to start the race in the top 30-40 for the first few kilometers. Since the course was a constant rollercoaster with varying surfaces the expectation was that I would be able to start picking up fading runners towards the end. I came out of the box in good positions and had to relax in order to stick with the race plan. Couldn’t hear my position during the first two laps (of six) and thought I was running as planned. Turns out on the third lap that I’m in about 49th place… and it aint getting any better. I didn’t seem t find a relaxed stride at any point in the race, even if there were sections of rather hard packed dirt. I kept battling in about the same position finishing in 31´04” at 52nd, 1´49” behind the Champion, Sergey “crosscountryking” Lebid. The only positive news came, when we heard our team consisting of Jussi Utriainen, Matti Räsänen, me and Joonas Harjamäki placed 9th in the team standings to beat the best Finnish performance in history.

Yes, my hamstring/gluteus maximus was tight all the way up to the race. And yes, my hemoglobin was found to be extremely low a few weeks ago. I had, however, been able to do excellent workouts my muscles & blood being in the same condition. My only worry, really was that everything had gone as planned and that might have made me overexcited before the race. My heart rate being high all the way from the start would support this theory. Concluding with acknowledging that the race did not correspond with my current fitness level doesn’t really help anyone. End and out for the year 2010.

Fast Last Runs, December 2nd 2010

I placed 6th at the Corta Mato Cidade de Amora, which was the season’s 1st EAA Permit Cross Country Meet. After the race I have trained in Monte Gordo, Algarve two weeks in fabulous conditions. My gluteus maximus has shown some signs of tightening up, but living as a professional athlete I have the time to stretch and do all the needed exercises to get my body back into balance. My “easy running” pace has been lowered and at times it’s been a challenge to get my heart rate over 120. Me, Joonas Harjamäki and Jonas Hamm will do a local cross country race in Pechão on Saturday and then my last week’s schedule before the European Champs is as follows:

Su 5.12. AM 24km Easy, PM Massage
Mo 6.12. AM Circuit training, PM Aqua jogging/swimming
Tue 7.12. AM 6km + drills & strides, PM 13km Mass interval 10x70”/20” (over hills)
We 8.12. AM 7km, PM 10km
Thu 9.12. AM 7km, PM 12km 20’ Tempo (/5’+2’ MAX) Massage
Fri 10.12. AM 6km + drills, PM 12km
Sa 11.12. AM 6km + Circuit training, PM 7km + drills & strides
Su 12.12. AM 4km, PM Euro Champs XC 10km

100 000 milestone blog visits, November 20th 2010

I have left Finland for a warmer Portugal to prepare for the highlight of my season – the European Cross Country Championshps in Albufeira. The weather in southern Finland has been decent up until yesterday, as snow laid a cover over the streets. Helsinki is not the best place for a runner after all – during winter. The timing for escaping the slippery roads for a month could not have been better.

The racing schedule says XC in Amora-Seixal on Sunday. Haven’t run other than a few orienteering races during the last few weeks so it feels good to get a challenging test in at this point, when most hard work is done and just the sharpening remains. My mileage was extraordinary high for a few weeks, after which I lowered it during last week and started feeling sluggish. The navigation challenges I faced in San Marino and Venice last weekend offered a great experience, but physically I was subpar at those races.

Earlier this week my blog reached 100 000 visitors! I started keeping my blog to keep my fellows back home updated on what I experience as I moved to Arizona. It became a fun hobby and I hear every once in a while from strangers that they have followed my career for some time through my blog. Seems like there’s quite a few of you out there who are interested in what I’m up to. Thanks for the continued support which not only keeps these posts coming, but also my legs turning.

Feeling My Way to the Flow, October 26th 2010

It´s not always possible to explain why you have good days and bad days when it comes to how your running feels. Yesterday I had an exceptionally good day on the day after the Nordic Cross Country Champs which included 9k of racing, an icebath and 8 hours of travelling. One aims to have the good days occur on race day, but this has proven to be quite tricky to succeed in. There was a few days last week when my legs felt very heavy as I had considerably dropped my mileage in order to be fresh for the race. During the previous week with 200km of running I had days on which I felt easy like a ghost gliding across the park in the dusk. High mileage seems to be a part of my “runner´s high” equation, but the rest is mystery. I will keep my weekly mileage above 200km for the next two weeks before the workouts become the focus towards the European Cross Country Champs in Albufeira, Portugal on 12.12.2010.

Since I last wrote I have done a few quite contradictory races. In the 25manna orienteering relay close to Stockholm, Sweden I anchored Lynx to a 12th place finish over challenging crag terrain, after 24 other performances on the team. At the Istanbul International Eurasia Marathon 15k road race I ran from Asia to Europe covering the hilliest road race I´ve ever run and finishing next to legendary Hagia Sophia. The Nordic Cross Country Champs were staged on a mountain in Trondheim and the course was pleasantly muddy & curvy, giving each competitor a chance to experience how it feels to have legs, with the color of a Kenyan´s. None of my performances were astonishing, but showed me I´m on the right track for the Euro Champs in Albufeira. While covering a lot of miles in October I have found my favorite shoe – Saucony Kinvara. Please get your own so we can share the feeling of running free!

Experiencing Berlin, October 2nd 2010

I ran 1.06’31” for the 1st half of the 2010 real,- Berlin Marathon. The winning Kenyan ran 2.05’08” for the whole distance and I’m in awe of how he did it in those conditions. It was drizzling and a near-perfect 10 Celsius, but the trees lining the majority of the course dripped some fluids which made the surface feel like running on ice. I had conquered the minor cold I had during the week leading up to the race, but was not able to hold my goal pace of 3’06”/km, after my two individual rabbits left me at 7 I jogged the rest of the course enjoying the sights and the marathon camaraderie among the 3+ hour runners.

Perhaps due to the overly long “cool down” I recovered quickly from last weekend and have now entered a high volume training phase. I’ll be doing mostly running and try to keep some fast turnover in the mix. Hearing afterwards that the race commentators on the Finnish Eurosport TV Channel dubbed me the sturdy Danish runner motivates me to add a little extra to the length of my runs. Hope I will be able to return to Berlin one day for a quick and leaner experience over the full marathon.

Structured Success, September 23rd 2010

There have been some changes in my daily routines since my last update and those are partly the reason why it’s been a while. I have started working as a GIS operator at Affecto Finland Oy, while I’m also still in the process of wrapping up my Master’s Degree in Geoinformatics at the University of Helsinki. Add running twice a day into that equation and there’s simply not much time left.

It seems like a well structured life works for my running, since I have done some excellent races recently. After placing 3rd in the SEB Tallinn City Run 10K in early September I won the Finnish Nordic XC test race at Kuortane a week later, with a rather good time over a demanding cross country course. The sights for the fall are clearly in set onto the European XC Champs in December, but I’ll still make an appearance at the real,- Berlin Marathon this weekend. Since I’ve run most of my marathons conservatively this time the goal is to go out hard and hit the halfway point in about 65’. Then we’ll see if I can hang on to it…

Discovering Delight, August 27th 2010

After a disappointing drop-out at the Finnish Champs 5k I was hesitant whether I would be able to run at the Finnish Fell Orienteering two days later. I was relieved to notice that my calf was no problem on the soft fells of UKK National Park. Together with teammate Antti Parjanne we navigated via 18 controls during 50km over two days of orienteering at its best. The route-choices could have been more demanding, but scaling fell after fell overlooking the next few gave me euphoric kicks. We ran away from our competitors already during the 1st day and ended up winning the race by a 25 minute margin! I highly dislike control picking races where looking for the control flag in overly detailed areas separates the winners from the losers. We have seen too many controls in many of the bigger O event lately. At the Nordic Orienteering Tour consisting of 3 stages the winner punched on 122 controls to complete the courses. The Finnish SprintO Champs has been run since 2003, with the number of control increasing as follows: 2003 - 7, 2004 -13, 2005 -14 , 2006 -12, 2007 -18, 2008 -18, 2009 -17, 2010 - 18. Bringing the sport into the front of spectators can be done by other means than destroying the basic principles – orienteering should be about making the right route-choices and executing them!

Since I got fed up searching for controls for a while I’ve managed to run myself a 10000m reserve spot for the yearly Sweden-Finland athletics rivalry. Tonight I’ll enjoy the atmosphere in the Helsinki Olympic Stadium VIP section with the Noname crew after running a 4020m Cooper’s test at the Helsinki CITYCooper last night. At the moment I am healthy and on the doorstep of an interesting fall season which will have orienteering and road races early on while l will conclude the year with cross country.

Sudden Stop in Kajaani, August 6th 2010

After a 2.48” 1st kilometer in the Finnish Champs 5k my body felt like I was in 14 minute shape. I had been able optimize the super compensation of recent workouts, but I had had a strange feeling in my left calf. My worst fear came true during the following two laps as the calf tightened up and became totally stale. I tried stepping on my heel instead of toes, but this doesn’t work very well in sub 3 minute/km pace. The conditions were great and good results were seen so I’m truly upset that I couldn’t be a part of that. Now I’m doing all the tricks to find out what is wrong with my leg. I want to be able to enjoy running in the open fells of Lapland during the next few days.

Disappointment Sparks New Challenges, August 4th 2010

I destroyed my chances for World Orienteering Champs in Trondheim on one control. In my opinion the thick and detailed area where that control in the Imatra WOC test race situated was not suitable for sprint at all. It didn’t help that I was the fastest on the remainder of the course, which was a sprint orienteering fest in Finland at its best. I gave it my all, collapsing in the finish, but that just wasn’t enough this time around. I did not mourn about that mishap for long, since I won the sprintO at the Adriatic Croatia Open the following day and did another splendid run at the O-ringen sprint in Örebro a mere week later.

It’s sad that the sprintO season is pretty much over now, with only a handful of races worldwide left before the winters sets in. I have been escaping the record hot summer in Finland visiting Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia. The Adriatic beaches and orienteering on the “World’s Best Map” Plitvice Jezera were the highlights in Croatia; climbing Triglav, the mountain on the Slovenian flag and getting a 2,5€ Bosnian haircut the other ones. Following these I enjoyed the atmosphere at O-ringen, but only run two races seriously while there. I wanted to be fresh and still have some pop in my legs for the Finnish 5k Champs tomorrow. My tactics will be to make the pace uneven to try to tire my competitors for a medal. I usually have the advantage in races like this and it wouldn’t really matter if it would be hot either…

Hot weather and uneven pace brings us to the European Championships on the Marathon. With my 2.19’ from Chicago last fall I was faster than several of the runners who toed the line in Barcelona. I tend to do well in inferior conditions so I think I could have had a good chance to perform well in that race. I would probably not have been close to a PR, but considering I would have been 4th with it, I think I would have earned my spot in the race. Fortunately there are a bunch of yearly city marathons where the atmosphere is equally good and the start line open for everyone, so I can still get kicks from shedding blood and tears over 42,195km of running. At least, as a marathoner, I'm as of yesterday ONLY 28 years old.

Summer Heat on the Track, July 12th 2010

I have run a few races on the track (4’03”, 9’05”, 4’01”) and since I have improved my Personal Bests in all starts seems like I’m in shape… even if I lost 2 months of running in the winter or due to the same fact? Maybe my body needs a break at some point to be able to maintain the upswing training towards peak performance? Something I need to think about after I’m done with 2010, but right now I’m just going to go along the ride and enjoy it.

Sjundeå IF placed 4th yesterday at the Finnish Relay champs in 4x1500m in Pedersöre after four solid runs. It was the best time (15’59”) & place we’ve ever performed, but left the medal hunger for the future. The support the group in Sjundeå IF gives a runner is priceless and as close to the spirit on a US collegiate team as one can get in Finland. Therefore not getting a medal and return the favor to the club feels bad.

Next up is the Finnish SprintO test races for World Orienteering Champs. I know I need to make a clean run and be able to stay close to my max physical level on Wednesday to get onto the team. I have done it before and I’ve lately tried to get back the aggressivity I need attacking the controls. It will for sure be hot in Imatra - I believe I can also continue my heat from the track to the parks & streets.

Bad Tactics, June 24th 2010

I made no mistakes, but failed to qualify from the qualification round at the 2nd stage of the Nordic Orienteering Tour in Stockholm. I had together with my coaches estimated that in order to be competitive in the heats and final later during the day I should cruise in the qualification round. I lost most time in the first part of the race, while my cruising pace was sufficient compared to the winners in the latter part. It probably did not help that the air carrier I used left my luggage in Helsinki and I ran in borrowed gear and without contact lenses. Since the Stockholm stage was the one I had focused on in NORT it was very disturbing reaching the finish and hearing my time was not going to be fast enough for advancing. I have made it to the final in all European and World championships races with similar runs in the qualification, but this time it was tougher. In Stockholm I was 1’20” down from the winner and 10” from the last qualifier.

Fortunately the orienteering fest at Jukola brought me lots of joy. The fellows in my club team Lynx all had a splendid performances and I was able to contribute taking the team up one spot to 3rd place on the 6th leg. I have run the 7th leg every year since Jämi-Jukola 2004 (where I ran 3’43”/km to win the the 5th leg) and have never before been all alone throughout the course. This year’s Jukola was also definitely the technically most challenging one I have run, which makes me extremely proud of my team’s performance and the 4th place.

Another Sport, another Finnish Championships June 12th 2010

I won the Finnish Uphill running championships, which served as a logical end to the hill running season I did this spring. In the past, I have been a weak uphill runner but since I was forced to do reduced-impact training to recover from my sacrum fracture a less-fascinating uphill period fit in well. There’s not ascending parts in all races, but hopefully this focus season gives force to my stride even on flat ground. During the next, already started period, the focus is on finding fast nerves, which I haven’t been utilizing for a while. They won’t only serve finishing sprints, but this should also make all paces economical through a quicker foot impact at every stride.

European Cross Country Champs in the fall will be my main goal for the season. On the way there I will partake in wide array of races, since I love competing and the Scandinavian summer is filled with great racing spectacles. Next up on my schedule is the Nordic Orienteering Tour where I’ll represent Finland in orienteering again after a few years break. Jukola is, of course, a big thing for every orienteer and a few weeks later I need to be sharp at the WOC trials. I have now been able to train 100% and got in two solid weeks of 18 and 22 hours of exercising. Those combined with a 1.09’ half marathon today is a good continuum towards a season which might, after quite the nightmare in the winter, still be a success.

Tatekon is a long time supporter of my athletics career. It’s a small building service company based in Helsinki which believes in my endeavors towards becoming a more successful endurance athlete. It’s with the help of my supporters that I am able to make the best solutions for my career.

Finishing strong, May 25th 2010

I found 81 controls during last weekend’s Finnish Sprint Orienteering Champs and Ultra Long Orienteering Champs. Even though I found most of them straight and am deeply enjoying the sport I wasn’t able to snatch a medal this weekend. I ended up 9th at the Sprint O Champs in Kirkkonummi, without any real mistakes on the fabulous course. The lack of speed on the longer legs inhibited me from being higher in the rankings.

With the sprint in my legs, the only goal for Sunday’s Ultra Long O Champs in Somerniemi was to complete the 27km race. Since it was my debut on this distance in the senior class, I didn’t know what to expect from the challenge. After quite a hassle the morning of the race I made it to the rainy start line just on time, but lost contact to the leaders after missing on the 1st and 3rd controls. The forkings were massive so nearly all guys run by themselves most of the race. My energy levels felt good throughout the drizzling battle and since I pretty much ran the last 25km without mistakes was catching guys who had added some distance of their own to the course. In matter affect I was the fastest of all contestants in the last straight 4km loop and pinched 10 positions, ending at 17th place. I don’t know if it was the caffeine dose in the Squeezy Energy gels or what, but I felt quite okay in the finish after 3+ hours of navigating through a wet forest!

A week earlier me, and my buddies Obed and Jarkko from Sjundeå IF took Gold at the 12km Finnish Cross Country Champs. I was extremely unsure of my fitness beforehand and therefore my tactics in the heat was to start out conservatively. After a faster 1st 2km loop I was running equal splits for the rest and even had something in spare to finish stronger in 6th place. Since the Finnish XC culture is quite different from the international standards the race was again run on a rather flat and hard surface. This race was however an immense reassurance that I’m coming back from my injury and want to do some damage at the real cross country races in the fall.

What all of these performances had in common was that I was able to increase my pace towards the end, compared to my contestants. I have for a long time had the motto of starting out fast and increasing the speed towards the end. Seems like I am achieving the latter, but still hunting for the confidence to keep my heart rate up all the way from the start.

Season the season, May 13th 2010

I have been bit by the racing bug, and it feels great to be able to test one’s physical abilities against others, even though a month of running doesn’t quite yet put me back on my normal fitness level. As the school year is coming to its end too there’s plenty of stress on the body. Times like this I’m fortunate to have access to Squeezy’s Sports Nutrition Products. A Super Energy Bar with caffeine is the perfect fuel to give me the energy to head out for a workout after a long day of studying. After I’m done my body is usually craving for the right kinda protein, to get the recovery process on the way. Combining athletics and academics might sound like compromising to some. I believe it’s a good combination as long as you’ve got the right aspect and fuel to keep the right cells burning it when needed – legs in the mornings and evenings and the brain cells in between!

We did not quite reach our goals in 10Mila, with a 28th place in the end. It was definitely the loneliest major relay experience I’ve ever had, since I ran 96% of my 9th leg all by myself. The challenges set forth by the organizers were enjoyable and our young guns got experience from new dark situations out there. Since then I’ve already run a couple sprintO races and a cross country race, so I’ve definitely maxed out at a few different occasions already. The Finnish Euro Champs selection race in sprint orienteering was raced yesterday in Sipoo. After two decent performances I ended up 8th in the qualification and 2nd (best Finn) in the final, but that was not good enough to earn me a spot on the team. I know I’m on the right path if I want to try to make it to WOC this summer, but I’ve got some other challenges, like 12k of cross country at Finnish Champs this Sunday before that agenda. It’s sure by now though, that Finland won’t send a marathon team to the Athletics Euro Champs. There are always selections to certain teams and races that are debatable – one just needs to always be the best of all and there would be no doubt that you’re in. Would that be a reasonable goal?!

I’m back, but what’s my track?, April 26th 2010

Running feels good. It has now been a little more than two weeks since I did my first run after a 7 week break. All my muscles in my body were sore as if I had done intervals every day during the first days back. I have not felt anything unordinary in my back, but my running form feels improved due to all the hip exercises my physiotherapist has taught me. The first few runs were naturally easy runs, but by now I have already done hard runs too. My muscles can handle the hard pace, but my heart pumps like never before. I ran the anchor leg for Lynx in the FinnSpring orienteering relay yesterday and it seems like my navigation skills are also still left – we came 2nd, thanks to splendid performances by the team. 10mila is coming up next weekend and it’s looking like we’re in the fight on the top.

When an athlete is winning races and improving their times there’s always enough people padding their back and offering a helping hand. But during meager times is when the support is much more needed. Therefore I would now like to thank my sponsors who have stood by me and believed in a brighter future. This time I’ll introduce RA-SK Oy. It is a Finnish company, which operates in the earthworks industry and is supporting my athletic career financially. My everyday functions circle around athletics and ways to improve my recovery, rehabilitation and overall health. The sum adds up and without RA-SK Oy:s support I would have to make compromises, which could lead to injuries.

All the Finns who tried qualifying to the European Champs in the marathon failed in their first attempt, but I’ve still got my hopes up. At the moment I’m just trying to get my running volume back up to normal, in order to be able to start focusing on something. I’m feeling the aches of a rookie runner, but I still remember how to run fast!

Living to the Limit, April 4th 2010

One of the goals in my athletic career has always been to find the limits of my body. After breaking my back by walking and running too much, I have found it. When constantly pushing to the limit there is always the chance of overdoing it. I’m not happy about going over, but at least I know now that I have been challenging my body enough. It’s been seven weeks without running now and I’ve gotten permission to aqua jog. And I have done it. It’s not the most inspiring sport, but I have been in the pool 9 of the last 11 days. From my experience I want to say I’d rather be last at any running race than an aqua jogging champion.

During my break from all athletic activities I got sick. I’m convinced that I became sick because my body did not kill bacteria with high body temperature on everyday runs, such as the case any normal month would be. During these days I have been able to partake in activities I wouldn’t normally, and it’s been good to realize I haven’t lost much by living a rather controlled athlete’s life.

Rotterdam Marathon will take place in a little more than a week. I had planned to run a qualifier to the European Athletics Championships there, but instead my season focus will be decided by others on that same date. Francis Kirwa, Miika Takala and Henri Manninen are all Finns running the King of distances that day. If two of them go under 2.18’ Finland will send a team to the Euro Champs, and as I was the fastest Finn last year I would be on the team as long as I could get into shape by then. Good luck fellas!

The winter in Helsinki has been awesome in the average man’s eyes – terrible for a runner. By the time I will be back running the snow should be gone and I may again enjoy the trails of the city, which might just be the greatest place on earth for a runner. I’ll have to turn down all those movie casting offers that my first YouTube blockbuster resulted in – I’d rather run.

New career as an actor, March 10th 2010

The 100+ days streak of freezing temperatures in Helsinki has ended, for now, but the 70cm of snow that is left on ground won´t melt anytime soon. Since my activities are severely limited by my fractured sacrum I have had to take up a new career. I´m an actor. My first Youtube blockbuster was an ad for Nokia´s Software Updater. I´ll have to wait and see what the critics think about the clip until I decide about the future.

Malfunction! Sacrum Fracture, March 1st 2010

I have been back from my winter in exile in Africa for a week now and haven’t done a single run - fortunately. I had an MRI of my hip taken and a fracture in my sacrum was discovered. The recovery prognosis is 6-8 weeks without running and I’m now almost two weeks into it! I have been fortunate during my athletic career, as I haven’t had to deal with injuries. I made it through more than a quarter a century before I broke the first bone in my body – quite an achievement considering the active lifestyle. This break from physical activity is and has therefore been a new and devastating process. Suddenly a day seems to have a lot more hours, even if it’s winter and dark in the northern hemisphere.

I enjoyed my time around Kenya and Uganda. Time got new dimensions - or actually only one new dimension - later. The word stress is unknown in this part of the civilization. At one point, in Entebbe, Uganda, our taxi driver Newton picked up me and a couple buddies 8 hours late from agreed time… and this didn’t seem to be a big issue to him! The people in Eastern Africa are friendly and being a mzungu you feel the respect - probably a remnant of the past history. The orienteering map of the indegenous Ngangao is now finished, so I’m a good way with my Master’s Thesis on using GPS in orienteering mapping. My training was fine during the first few weeks on the equator, but now all my plans for the spring are wiped out from my calendar.

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