I've been starting my mobilier life in which is the most liveable city of the world according to Monocle magazine and which according to Newsweek is located in the world's most liveable country. Since I was accepted as a graduate student to pursue a Ph D in the 74th best university of the world (Shanghai ranking) - University of Helsinki - I'm obligated to base my statements on proven facts. My research builds on methods of developing cartography, so I get to work with my passion - maps.
There is zero pain in my heels, but I have been quite reserved in my running mileage anyway. The first runs felt amazing altough I had sore, unaccustomed quads for a week. The weight training has caught on well as that's been the focus of my training. During the last week I've also upped my training volume while sking in Ylläs and my only worry has been to withstand from going along with volume mogul Antti Parjanne's all ski marathons.
When it comes to my training philosophy I'm more of a "Believe in what you do - do what you enjoy" kinda guy. I'm not a big fan of strict volume gathering and punctual statistical analyzing. To give a rough idea I checked that during the 12 months before the heel bone surgery I ran 6200km and exercised a total of 605h, while in 2011 the numbers were 6600km & 642h. The nagging heel problems in 2012 sliced my longer trainings to the minimum - a problem which ought to be solved now.
I'm proud to be a Finn, altough we are known to be reserved, but should I rather share my pride somewhere else? The northern darkness is notable and probably the no 1 reason this nation is grumpy these months but there is strength to be found in the shades. Yesterday I was up doing 3x4' hill repetitions before dawn and pushing through the lactic acid barrier under Arctic Borealis made me feel fully alive. Motivation was easily found as in one months time I'll be representing white&blue literally on the opposite side of Earth.
Yesterday I kayaked for a couple hours on a calm ocean and almost reached the Bottom (Pohja). And if you are at the Bottom there is only one way, up. The recovery from my heel bones surgery has been literally painless, but one of the surgical wounds has not closed up yet. However, today I will start the new training season towards WOC 2013 in Vuokatti, which first stage will be improving my strength with my new strength coach. It has not been an easy task to withstand from exercising for 6 weeks and I do think there are some advantages with taking a total recouping period after a long season. In long-distance banter repeated surgeries are called fall maintenance, so nothing to worry about, right? My running shoes will have to wait another two weeks, as there has been reports of too many rushed returns from similar surgeries. However, to get a motivating start, I will toe the line at the orienteering World Cup opener in New Zealand in 2 months!
Park World Tour used to be a highly respected orienteering series in the 1990´s and early 2000´s. The races were run in extraordinary surroundings and the vibes among runners were good as all stayed in the same hotel and socialized before the thrilling races. In 2001 the International Orienteering Federation overtook the sprint distance into World Orienteering Championships and the status of PWT as the stage for the world´s best sprints declined. Still PWT puts on exciting races and cooperates with the host cities and I greatly enjoy finding my way in the most astounding terrains.
My goal for this year´s tour was to stabilize my sprint routines without stressing about winning. Physically I have not been at my A game lately due to a nagging heel problem so I have got to get my orienteering right to have a chance against the best. The first two stages were run in Ying Yuetan Park just outside Changchun in northern China. In the sprint I accomplished a good race except for two bad route choices and fading in the second part after a good long leg. I ended up 4th behind Österbö, Muller and Dlabaja. The following day´s middle distance in a nearby forest proceeded close to the control line until halfway after which I had problem attacking two controls and fell off the awards to 8th. The terrain was pleasant, but the maps were not the best. My heels were painful in the steep slopes, but I knew they only had to last another week.
The Tour continued by train to Beijing from where we flew to the most populous city in the world, Chongqing which 32 million people call home. The budget for the Chinese Champs was 900 000 € and that could be seen in the flamboyant opening ceremony. The 100m Orienteering Challenge with a 1:750 map and a 3,5 minute winning time started off the racing – an interesting format to keep the orienteering rhythm even during the northern winter. The sprint in Wansheng consisted of gardens and different shaped dwellings. My navigation in the labyrinth was smooth except for one premature control attacking and my pace was quite good. I ran the 4th fastest time, although the LearnJoy -punching unit at the finish line did not register me… The Chinese champs in the middle distance were run in a mix of rice fields, farms, pumpkin fields, bamboo forests and slippery hills. A spike shoe would have been great for the slopes but not on the concrete paths. Gliding down on ones butt worked but uphill a straight route was not always possible. I have not fared well in the middle distance, but as the terrain was strange for everyone and my race without big mistakes I was, again, 4th, a mere 2 minutes behind winner-Dlabaja. Beforehand we were informed that only harvested fields could be crossed – but none knew how to differentiate e.g. a harvested pumpkin field... Based on my splits I should have done more straightforward route choices. The best Chinese man was 20th, but among the women the winner came from the host nation!
The ultimate stage was held at the Botanical Garden of Beijing, where the organizers had accomplished to get a special permission to organize the race despite the situation at the East China Sea. The themes I had focused on during the tour all came together in the last race: 1)Starting strong, 2)Maintaining pace while mapreading and 3)Picking the shortest route. The biggest loss on a leg was 5 seconds. Except for flower beds and waters the fastest way was to stay on the line and keep ones sight far ahead. It turned out Muller & Dlabaja had crossed forbidden areas so actually only Belgian sprinterloco Yannick Michiels had a better time than me, by 16 seconds. I am extremely happy to end my season with such a clean race.
I had surgery on both my heel bones two days ago and I am forbidden to run during the next 8 weeks, although I will be in the pool starting from week 3. The next two weeks while I will be sofa-bound I will be able to digest all I have experienced in China. Also I will try to find all the pieces of my puzzle towards Vuokatti WOC 2013. Work/study/training camps/coaching & sponsors are all still question marks I will try to figure out.
My return to the Finnish National team at the Nordic Orienteering Tour started with disappointments in Holmenkollen, but as the tour went on my orienteering got better. My 13th place finnish at the Knockout Sprint in Gothenborg was according to my current physical level as was the 17th place at the sprint in Kajaani. The majority of the time difference to the best came from running pace - navigationwise I did good. I have however, together with the National team sprint coaches, recognized three topics in my sprinting I will focus on during the PWT tour to China: 1)Starting strong, 2)Maintaining pace while mapreading and 3)Picking the shortest route. If I can execute these goals perfectly I could be on the podium despite my current poor physical fitness. Now I am glad the name of the game is orienteering.
This past month O as in Olympics was on everybody´s lips. My countrymen were not among the champions but Ezekiel Kemboi, whose training group I joined for morning runs in March, in Eldoret, retook the gold in the steeple chase. His success reconfirms my belief that a good vibe in your training regime is at least as important as any strategic super compensation calculations of every workout.
Not making the Olympic team was a disappointment to my running crack, but having to deal with health problems (heel/Achilles) the last half year has been more detrimental. I have recently run a couple running races, but it feels strange to line up to pursue notably weaker results than a year ago. In orienteering you have the chance to make up for missing speed with smooth route choices and therefore I´ve had a lot more fun searching for controls. I won Finland´s Nordic Orienteering Tour test race – Elonen Sprint – today and will thus continue my season at NORT and Park World Tour in China before having both my abnormally sharp heel bones surgically rounded.
It turns out the heel/Achilles surgery I will go through is quite common for endurance athletes of my age, so I will take it as a mandatory step along my career. I turned 30 this month and did celebrate it with style at a combo of an idyllic Slovenian vineyard dinner & a Finnish barn with plenty of bass and leg shaking throughout the night. Looking back at the first 30 years of my life there is more I value than regret. I've called 3 continents my home, I've got a Masters Degree and a car and I'm wearing a fake mustache each night on TV - I've acomplished alot but have even more ahead!
There was no marathon at the Helsinki Athletics European Championships, so I had to re-schedule to the Wife Carrying World Championships, which were held in Sonkajärvi today. The atmosphere of this race suited me well as I like to have a smile on my face from start to finish, instead of long-watered preparations and precise rule-book speculation. To my disappointment my approach seems to irritate other athletes at times. If I´m going to win I´d want to do it with a smile. In today´s World Champs we didn´t have a chance against the best (due to the lack of the right muscles & strength), but team Boström was quite satisfied with a 20th place finish.
At the moment I am enjoying orienteering a lot and getting plenty of joy of successful implementation of my navigation skills. I completed the Kainuu Orienteering Week in WOC2013-type terrains in style in 4th place. An elite athlete has to be selfish at times in order to achieve his/her goals, but it is equally important to be accountable for ones actions. Whatever is done it is his/her own responsibility. I will continue this summer by doing whatever feels right at the moment without a clear training regime. This is in order to reassure that I have the hunger needed for future athletic goals. I will probably do some long demanding running race in the fall but after orienteering in breathtaking terrains at KOW I don´t want to spoil my O flow in sub-superior forests.
4-2-1-DSQ-2-1-6 Those are the results of the sprint orienteering races I’ve completed this year. Unfortunately my performance has not been good enough for a spot on the Finnish National team, so I’ll have to become better.
Setting my sight on new challenges is the solution to keep me motivated. Once I feel like I have given all I’ve got towards a goal I need to find a new focus. I took on the challenge of the 1st leg at the Jukola relay last weekend, despite not having competed in night orienteering in 9 years. 1700 orienteers rushed out into the dark forest behind me as I by chance reached the start point (where the orienteering begins) as the 1st competitor. Truly, I knew I wanted to get out of the way from the crowds, but had planned to be at around 20th place at this stage. Knowing I could navigate to the 1st control by myself I didn’t stress about the situation, but instead enjoyed every bit of this opportunity. This marked the 2nd time in my career when I was leading this prestigious event, after having led the last leg in Tampere-Jukola in 2008. The first few kilometers on the first leg are rather hectic, but I stayed focused and took some route choices of my own to keep me alert. From the pace and the other runners around me I could tell that I was in the lead group at halfway and had the joy of reaching some of the dark control points in pole position. At the start of the long leg on the way home I saw Bertuks, Nikolov and Nykodym sprinting out from the control into a rather strange route choice, but these were not the kind of guys you want to let go at this point of a relay. After catching up to them I responded to the swift pace over the hills. I believe all the others had a different control and it took me a minute too long to find mine. As I did so the big peloton, which had taken the optimal route along tracks to the right, had caught up to me while Bertuks took off from the leading pack simply by running faster. From there on I cruised along with the pack I was in and was thankful of the company as the woods were getting pitch black and my energy level was decreasing. I reached the changeover at 21st, 2’42” behind the lead. My teammates were happy with my performance and all the other 6 guys on Lynx team also performed close to their very best level. Reaching a 16th place in the world’s most prestigious orienteering event with a team of guys residing within a radius of 15km:s feels like a praiseworthy feat!
Winning the Finnish Championships in Sprint Orienteering a week ago, which feels like a huge relief after the hitch I’ve had with my heels/Achilles tendons. I had a rather clean race on the fairly simple course set in the Hervanta neighborhood of Tampere. I came through with only one route choice mistake and don’t mind sharing the joy of victory with Tuomo Mäkelä – yes, we had the exact same time! After realizing the Olympic Dream was not to be, at least for 2012, orienteering was a comforting way to take. I’m enjoying racing a lot, but I’m still to find a definite athletic goal for the year – a great summer ahead anyway – Jukola orienteering fest with a new kind of trial for me first. But should I look for challenges beyond my limits to take on?
I have settled back into Helsinki with a slightly different seaside view than that from our Zanzibar penthouse. The last haul of our belongings finally reached Finland so that put a final dot on our Zanzibar chest. My future work situation should be cleared up within the next few days, although I have also considered continuing my studies. I guess I have accepted through sports that you’ll never be ready but need to continuously develop yourself.
2.21’03” is my fastest marathon time in 3 years, but nowhere close to satisfying. My goal was qualifying to the Olympics, but as I didn’t even get under the B-standard 2.18’ there’s a 0 chance to make it in. Coach Janne Holmén paced me for the first 20k in nice tailwind and we were slightly ahead of the goal pace at 1.08’30” at halfway. The pace felt quick but I wasn’t concerned as the legs felt good and the bigger 2.16’-pack with the rest of the Finns was within eyesight. Soon after Janne dropped out the headwind started and the runners around me dispersed with the wind. I had had trouble throughout the race with finding my drinking bottle and loosing the contestants at drinking stops is crucial. Speeding up to catch groups wastes energy you never have too much of at the 2nd part of a marathon. I kept on battling my way through the crowds trying to upkeep the same relaxed feeling, but alone my splits got slower. My energy level felt good, but my legs didn’t respond to the signals my brain was trying to relay downwards. It wasn’t a certain group of muscles which rejected my strive, more an overall lack of ability to withstand the pace. Afterwards I believe I should have done a tune-up race or two, but coach Holmén believes another month of training in fine conditions (like those in Eldoret) would have been the missing piece to the puzzle. Jussi Utriainen ran 2.16'35" and will most likely be going to London wearing blue-and-white in August since Francis Kirwa and Henri Manninen did not finnish the race.
It feels like the wind follows me to wherever I decide to race on the roads. Apart from the Personal Best race in Ottawa (where heat was present) the conditions have been windy. If you have the opportunity to draft behind other runners it’s fine, but in a marathon you seldom have other runners all the way and fighting with the wind fatally drains your tank. This tour of Rotterdam was however a nice sightseeing of the architectural city, and didn’t leave me with a hate-relationship with the marathon. In the near future however, I think I might pick up a map and start finding my way again instead of following the paved road. Tomorrow I’ll climb a fell on my cross-country skis, next week I’ll do some biking and hopefully soon I’ll find some work to bring a new, less windy, direction to my life.
I have been back on sea level in Helsinki preparing for the Rotterdam marathon for a week and a half now. The shock of the cultural differnce was quite meager - traffic is predictable, people seldom smile and landscapes are empty. But thats about it. Having lots of relaxing time in Eldoret might have mentally prepared me for the change. Today I'm heading to the Netherlands, but I cannot reveal my race tactics for Sunday's Rotterdam marathon since there's not room on the Olympic team for all the Finns qualifying for a spot. The fact is however - a need a Personal Best to make the team (A-standard 2.15', B-standard 2.18'). I believe I'm ready for it.
The culture shock of returning to my home country will be different than going away, but I expect there to be some confusing situations here and there upon my return. I will miss the kind of scenes I experienced the other day on my way to Chepkoilel dirt track – a chubby mama carrying some rice bags and bananas squeezes herself into a matatu with 20 people already aboard. Back in Finland I will also miss the sincere cheers along my runs, 1€ passion kilos and high fiving excited 4-yearolds chocolate eyes. I had done my morning run – easy 30mins with Ezekiel Kemboi’s (Steeplechase Champ Daegu 2011, Berlin 2009, Athens 2004) group and was going to run a workout with my own pacemaker, Eliud, assisting me around the dusty curves. Once on the track there’s some 50 runners circling around in the dust. Tuesday is along with Friday the track-workout-day in this corner of the world. We found some gaps in the crowds and did a good workout. After the workout I found myself washing off the dirt of my bare legs next to Vivian Cheruiyot (10000m Champ Daegu 2011).
I couple months ago I noticed that my sweat had started to smell like that of Africans. If you have ever gotten the chance to race in a pack of east Africans (I can clearly recall when me & NAU teammate David McNeill experienced this at the Cowboy Jamboree in 2008) you know what I’m talking about. I’m not sure if it’s due to the food/water we drink, but as Eldoret is extremely dry I cannot get that same sensation here. Maybe I'm mutating to become a better long-distance runner as the inner of my body has adapted to Africa?
While enjoying a pole-pole bicycle taxi ride up the hill to my accommodation I decided I should share my knowledge to my readers and give some hints to runners who desire to explore the 3rd world as a runner. Running is great way to meet locals and see the part of societies Guide book authors haven't experienced. A mzungu moving on foot isn't seen as a stranger in the same sense as the one arriving with a tourist bus and therefore you will likely get a more genuine encounter. When running around discovering pristine land it's good to be prepared for surprises and therefore the "Runners 3rd World Survival pack" in the picture below frequently comes handy. Your water-resistant sealed iPhone will give your whereabouts as well as provide tunes on those boring deserted stretches of white sand beaches you’ll likely encounter, not to mention all the other apps which might come handy. Bring the keys to your accommodation where your belongings are securely locked and in the keychain include: a water-resistant USB-drive (with passport copy, insurance cards etc.), a light to brighten the twilight trail and a case for a few bills (small enough if you expect to get change in that rainforest kiosk, but big enough to get you transport back). If your path crosses the hoods of criminals you might want to add a robbery alarm to the set to obtain attention and scare off the raiders. Now I will go out and enjoy the last few days of carefree running exploration of this country…
You can find an recent interview of me at Hevoskuuri
Rotterdam marathon on April 15th will see Jussi Utriainen, Francis Kirwa and Henri Manninen and I trying to run Olympic qualifiers for Finland. A month ago I didn’t feel too confident about my fitness, but that has changed. I have been in long-distance-Mecca Eldoret, Kenya for two weeks now and the first tougher phase of marathon preparation has given me back the devotion to running long and fast. Yesterday’s 6x1000m/1’40 with a 3’05 average and today’s progressive 30km + 2x2km/3’ @ 6’34 in the company of Sjundeå IF teammate Eliud Lokol have been great stepping stones towards the marathon a month from today. You may follow my final preparations on Movescount
As the reigning Finnish Champions my club Sjundeå IF represented the motherland at the European Champions Clubs Cross Country Championships in the Spanish city of Castellon. For me it was the first race in 4 months and definitely felt like it. Not having had a number bib on my chest for so long I was uncertain of what the feeling in the body ougth to be. Running in cool conditions did feel fenomenal and having teammates to run beside was great fun. Keeping a rather even pace along the flat 10k course I ended up 59th in 30'44” a
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