Grown men do cry

Its been a long time since I shed a tear of joy in a race but I have to admit that crossing the finish line in Ironman Italy this past weekend I was greeted by a wave consisting of relief, joy, built-up frustration, and slew of other emotions that rose to the surface and tugged a few quick tears from my eyes before the reality of the intense pain in my legs pulled me back.  

The better part of the past two years has been a steady progression in the wrong direction with a series of small errors and bad luck pulling down my performances and leaving me empty handed and to be honest, rather lacking in the deep fire needed to do this sport properly.  In my credit, I kept putting myself out there and trying to turn the corner back toward success but success passed me by.  

After the problems in Embrunman 6 weeks ago I was almost certain that it was the knock-out punch and was unsure if i wanted to keep putting myself through this.  But somehow I also felt a bit silly not trying again considering i had already done a huge amount of work for Embrunman and basically not used it because I was forced to walk most of the marathon with stomach issues. So I decided to work hard to put that behind me and make a few changes to try and avoid a recurrence of the same problems that had followed me the past few races.  Ironman Italy was the next destination.

After doing a tough buildup toward Embrunman and less than 6 weeks to prepare for Ironman Italy, i was not left with many options other than to back off the volume of training and just make sure I got in a few high quality, high intensity sets each week, then cross fingers my endurance engine would last the distance in Italy.  

Apparently it worked!   While I won't bore anyone with a blow by blow account of my race, I can say that at every step of the race I was able to push my body to its' current limit and that was the absolute best I could have expected.  I did one of my best swim times, perhaps my best bike and a very respectable 3:01 marathon to put me into 11th.  While this was by no means a top result, it certainly felt like a major victory for me to get through the entire race going full speed and not suffer any of the frustrating problems I have encountered in recent races.  

Now i have shed my few tears of joy for this personal accomplishment and had a few celebratory beers, I will head home to regroup and decide what comes next.  Whatever that is, I can breath a sigh of relief and be proud to have pushed myself to do this again. 

Before I close this off, I want to add a few words of thanks.  Firstly to my wife and three wonderful kids.  They has LIVED this sport with me for the better part of 10 years and while there have been highs, the last couple years have had some intense lows they have had to experience with me.  I think they deserve more than a box of chocolates when i get back...   I want to say thanks to all my coaches, but especially Mika Luoto who first got me into the sport and is again my main mentor to guide me in the right direction.   Kreu Maisniemi for helping me step back from my problems enough to recognize the simple causes and fix them.  Mauno Uusivirta for not only being my masseuse to keep my muscles going, but also my unofficial sport psychologist while on the massage table.   My mind-coach Robson Lindberg for guiding me toward more structured thoughts and also absorbing my complaining.  Then a thanks needs to be said to my Team Sport for Good and my club Turun Urheiluliito as well as all my sponsors like Felt Bicycles, Huntteri Oy, Saucony, X-Bionic, Rotor, and Clifbar,.  And thank you to all my supporters!  

Counting down to Challenge Roth

The past few years I have focused on Ironman brand events and this year I decided to take a different direction to choose events purely by my own interest in them.  The main goal was selected as Embrunman in France in August because I love to ride in the mountains and that is an epically hard course in the mountains.  I recently realized I could fit in Challenge Roth into my schedule and thats been an event I have long wanted to do.  Many have told me how special the event and the atmosphere is, so now I finally get a chance to do it!  Of course I have my own targets in regards to time, as the course is know for being very fast.  But mainly I am excited to experience the world's largest event with a long prestigious history.  

Like everything this year my buildup to Roth has been very different than in years past.  I have done a lot more work in the gym for one.  And now I have cut back on the total volume but really focused on the key tough sets to push those better.  In two weeks i will know if it has worked but so far I am quite happy how my body has responded.  Today was my last long run of 30km and now its mostly about getting rested up and staying fresh.  I will do one more short race here in Finland with Finntriathlon Vierumäki then make my way to Roth to see what this whole event is all about!  

Bye for now.

 

Ctrl + Alt + Del

Complete reset.

I choose to focus my attention forward.  It’s easy to get caught up looking backward into the past to analyze the successes and failures but to truly go where you want to go, you have to look forward.  2016 was a year I won’t regret but also a point where I recognized by the end that I needed to make some big changes to keep going where I want to go.   It was time for a complete reset.  I sat down and analyzed my priorities as an athlete and as a person, which allowed me to start writing my script for the coming year.  While I could easily look back on 2016 with disappointment, I choose to put my eyes on the open road ahead of me. 

Changing of the guard

The past 5 years I have had the honor of working with one of the best coaches in triathlon with Jesse Kropelnicki of QT2 Systems.  He really is a magic worker with his athletes and I have the utmost respect for him.  When it came time to look where I wanted to be as an athlete in 2017 I recognized I needed make major changes on what was my ‘driver’ for my daily, weekly, and seasonal routines and unfortunately it meant I didn’t have space in my life to continue trying to follow Jesse’s rigorous programs.   I needed to have the main driver come from within myself and match better with my life as a parent of three young children.

In order to come up with training plans and racing schedules that are centered around my everyday life, I have partnered with my original coach and trusted friend, Mika Luoto, to help generate the overall strategy, while daily trainings I am building myself.  I also decided to place a much bigger emphasis on strength training.  Maybe I am just getting old, or maybe I just want to spend less time on the trainer this winter, but I’ve begun a cooperation with Juhani Pitkänen from K3 fitness to really push the boundaries of where strength can help to build endurance success.   I also have the support of Hanhivaara fitness center with one of the best gym and fitness setups I have seen to give every opportunity for success.  

Narrowing the focus

The 2016 race season started in January in Panama and culminated in Malaysia in November, while training began in October 2015.   This meant I had an almost 14 month training season without any breaks longer than a couple days.  As you can imagine, this didn’t match too well with a family of three kids and wife working busy schedules too.  So looking forward I have decided to narrow my race season to focus in a smaller number of races in a shorter season.  I am quite confident this will not only produce better results but also be much more enjoyable for my family and myself as we are all in this game together. 

While I am still considering some options for my 2017 race calendar, I will start off the season in May with a couple half-Ironman events and build toward the main goal of Embrunman in August.  The French classic is a treasure chest of suffering and with 5000m of climbing on the bicycle segment; it’s incredibly well suited to my abilities as a cyclist.   A second full-distance event will likely be scheduled for September or October.   This narrowed focus is a breath of fresh air and I am excited to embrace it and make it my own.  Looking forward to a new year and a new season!  Cheers!

 

 

 

 

Oh, the Places You'll Go

“Where ever you go, you will top all the rest.  Except when you don’t. Because sometimes you won’t. I’m sorry to say so but, sadly it’s true that bangups and hangups can happen to you.  You can get all hung up in a prickle-y perch.  And your gang will fly on.  You’ll be left in a lurch. You’ll come down from the Lurch with an unpleasant bump.  And chances are, then, that you’ll be in a Slump.  And when you’re in a Slump, you’re not in for much fun.  Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.”   - Oh the Places You Will Go,  Dr. Zeus.  Perhaps my favorite book to read to my kids.

Bangups and hangups can happen to you

Ups and downs are going to happen to everyone throughout life and my disaster of a race in South Africa pulled me quickly to a low point.   Like in Dr. Zeus's book, "Un-slumping yourself is not easily done".   After a couple weeks of feeling bad for myself, I tried to get my motivation back and find a goal to shoot at.   I first thought I should refocus to Ironman Nice but quickly realized I was mentally not ready to go through the necessary process of building up for another Ironman so quickly.  I took a step back and continued to train lightly but spent more time with my kids and also began the long promised project of building my kids a playhouse. 

Ironman South Africa:  Lesson learned:  DRINK ENOUGH!

Ironman South Africa:  Lesson learned:  DRINK ENOUGH!

Un-slumping yourself is noT easily done

I kept my original schedule of racing 70.3 St. Pölten but after a couple weeks of ok training, our whole family got a nasty stomach virus and bam, I was in a Slump again.  One week before St. Pölten I was still questioning how smart it was to be trying to race but I decided to go anyways and enjoy without any pressure of a result because perhaps it could be the kick I would need to get myself un-slumped. 

The view of wine country.  Not bad!

The view of wine country.  Not bad!

The two days before the race in Austria were a blast.  My travel companion and I went riding through vineyards and even got to take a private tour of a historic winery.  I maybe even did a bit of wine tasting.  I made sure to enjoy the travels but kept my eyes on the race with an open mind.

One of the largest and oldest wine presses in Europe.  500 years old, made out of 500 year old oak = 1000 year old oak tree!

One of the largest and oldest wine presses in Europe.  500 years old, made out of 500 year old oak = 1000 year old oak tree!

Race day rolled around and I was excited to get out there and enjoy no matter what my body said.  Pretty quickly I found I still had a good feeling and was able to push well.  As the race continued I felt better and better.  I came home with a respectable 10th place finish and more importantly I had managed to "un-Slump" myself as well as very much enjoyed the day of racing. 

Photo:  Marcel Hilger

Photo:  Marcel Hilger

You're off to great places, you're off and away!

My feelings after St. Pölten are best explained with a couple more quotes from Oh the Places You’ll:  “You have brains in your head.  You have feet in your shoes.  You can steer yourself any direction you choose.  You’re on your own.  And you know what you know.  And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go…  you’re off to Great Places!  Today is your day!  Your mountain is waiting.  So…get on your way!

 

Upcoming events:

5.6 - 70.3 Rapperswil, Switzerland

16.7 - Finntriathlon Joroinen

24.7 - Ironman Switzerland (My mountain)

13.8 - Challenge Turku