Friday, 6 January 2017

Training in Lanzarote

First training camp of the winter was in Lanzarote just before Christmas. It was a typical last-minute thing for us but it was a great week all in all. It was my first visit to the island and I had no expectations. All I wanted was to get to sun and away from the darkness, ice and slush. We surely got that and a lot more!
Puerto del Carmen

Puerto del Carmen was clean and pretty and there were plenty of nice boutiques and restaurants for regular tourists. But what I cared more about were the conditions to train. And they were excellent. To east from the village there was a paved road just for pedestrians (and cyclists) that followed the coastline and stretched all the way from Puerto del Carmen to Arrecife (about 10km or so). It was mostly flat and perfect for some faster pace tempo runs. Although I must admit that on a windy day the wind can have considerable impact on your pace (as mush as 20s per km). 

Easy miles to east

On contrast, if you go west from Puerto del Carmen there are beautiful never-ending undulating trails leading to the mountains of the southwest corner of the island all the way to Playa Blanca and Costa de Papagayo. It was a perfect playground for longer off-road runs and hill runs. I just loved sprinting up and down those hills with views over the ocean and a touch of sea breeze on your face!

Trails to west

Top views

To spare myself from injuries I combined running with crosstraining and trained a few times at Fariones Sport Centre, a well-equipped sport centre that offered everything from gym and swim to padel, tennis, yoga and group classes. They also had a sauna, jacuzzi, and massage for after-training treatment and relaxation. It was great and I can warmly recommend the place. Although a serious swimmer might wonder why their professional swimming pool has a shape of an amoeba… Trifle but if you want to do your flipturn there you should probably choose the middle lane (the only lane with a straight end).

Companion of the day

I also rented a bike for one day. There are several bike hires in the village but if you go there on holiday time and want to have a nice bike you should probably book your bike in advance because it may get busy. I trusted on my good fortune but got to wait a few days before I managed to get a road bike for myself. My companions had rented bikes for the whole week and it was more than enough for them to explore pretty much the whole island. On the day when I had a bike we did a nice long mountain ride first along the coast to Costa Teguise and then further towards Arrieta before taking a left turn and a climb up to the mountains through Tabayesco valley. It was a 10k climb with 600m elevation. A fairly long climb but very nice to ride as the climb comes gradually and with a growing gradient towards the end. We stopped for a coffee and views on the top of it before heading back to south through Teguise and San Bartolome. Apart from a few minor climbs it was mostly downward all the way home. We had a few unfortunate punctures on the way but otherwise it was a lovely ride with very little traffic. And I was only a little annoyed to be 4km short off December Grand Fondo ;)

Tabayesco village 

Coffee stop with a view

All in all it was a successful week in great conditions and I was incredibly happy to get a good week of training without setbacks after all injuries and compromises during the preceding months. Now I feel stronger and better prepared to continue with my winter training back in snow and cold. It's a challenge but I will try my best.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Towards the unknown!

It’s been a while but I’m back on track again. After a mentally tough season and a decision to leave my orienteering career behind I have finally climbed up from the pit, found my lost motivation and set up plans for the next season. It’s still a question mark how much orienteering I am going to do and what races I’m going to run but, instead, it has cleared up what goals I have outside orienteering. Early in the spring I am planning to run a marathon and after that I’m focusing on having fun on trails and mountains. I’m just thrilled to have all these new goals and races coming up and can’t wait to get into training. It’s a bit weird to have just a handful of races waiting in the summer instead of normal 30-40 events but I like the idea of getting to the start line feeling confident and fresh.

I started my winter training some weeks ago but have focused mainly on strength and conditioning and kept running still at minimum. Now that I for once have plenty of time for a proper build-up I don’t want to rush into it but instead try to build up my weekly mileage gradually. To play safe and to get some extra strength to my legs I just kicked off my base training with a ski camp in Grönklitt. I’ve done lots of cycling and swimming while injured but I still think that cross-country skiing is the best possible alternative training form for runners. It is brilliant full-body strength training, you work reasonably hard all the time (and especially hard in the climbs), and it’s easy to get your heart rate up (in contrast to cycling and swimming). In other words you can train harder and more without getting injured.

Grönklitt is a ski resort just four hours from Stockholm. I have been there a couple of times in late January but never this early and I was quite skeptical about snow conditions. But they had promised me snow and I believed them. However, during the drive there there my suspicion just grew the nearer I got. Finally I came to Orsa, a village just 10km away from the resort, and there was still no sign of snow. Then I really started to get worried. 5km later and some hundred meters higher up came the first white flecks, and then, just a few kilometers later came winter. Suddenly, there it was, a beautiful snow blanket and some 30km of perfects ski tracks. What else can you wish for? So I had a great long weekend there filled with easy hours in the morning and harder tempo sessions and fartleks in the evening. I finished each workout in exhaustion but with a big grin on my face. It was so much fun and I really enjoyed it despite the fact that every muscle in my body was aching afterwards. What a wonderful feeling! 

Now I’m looking forward to getting back to running, stronger than ever!

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Quiet withdrawal

I had a dream. A dream to become one of the best orienteers in the world. It was probably born some time after we had won relay gold in JWOC with Hanna and Heli, a long time ago. It grew stronger after podium places in Nordic Meetings and Euromeeting some years later. Then I was injured in a car accident and my dream died for a while but, against all odds, I came back after a few years. In 2004 I surprised everyone and made it to WOC for the first time and suddenly the dream got some flesh on the bones and became a bit more realistic. After that I wasn’t just trying to get to the WOC team, I also wanted to succeed there.

WOC 2004, Sweden 

The following year I managed to get to a level where I started to dream about podium places after an 8th place on the long distance in NOC (Nordic Orienteering Championships) and some good results in the World Cup. We also managed to win a World Cup relay with Anni-Maija and Minna. However, in WOC 2005 I faced a new kind of challenge and pressure after I had finished 2nd in the qualification and got to start to the middle distance final among the last 6 starters. Suddenly a podium place seemed a lot closer – and yet so far. My expectations grew too high and I couldn’t handle the pressure in the final and finished 17th. It was my second WOC and second year in the national team but I never thought that it was my best chance. I was still inexperienced and naïve and believed that I had many years ahead and many more chances to try to reach my dreams.

World Cup victory with Minna and Anni-Maija, England 2005

Finland's WOC team 2005 (SSL)

But the following years were tough. I was working hard for my research project and didn’t have time to rest between work and training. I tried to balance there the best I could but probably pushed myself too hard and got several injuries and stress fractures that hampered my training for next few years. In 2006 I was 11th on the middle distance in EOC and 15th in the overall World Cup but didn’t make it to the WOC due to various injuries. In 2008 I made a comeback with some very good results but got sick just before the WOC finals and that was it. I got one more chance in WOC 2010 but felt like a wallflower there when running a distance that has never been my cup of tea. I finished 21st, far below my expectations.

Long qualification, WOC 2008 (WorldofO)

Finland's women's team, WOC 2010 (SSL)

After 2010 I really wanted to improve and made some drastic changes in my life. For the first time I gave myself opportunity to train as a pro and rest between the trainings. I just didn’t realize that I needed to train orienteering to become a better orienteer. Spending three years in an area with practically no orienteering maps, no club trainings and no national team support didn’t make me a better orienteer. I became a better runner but lost some of my technical skills. Retrospectively, I could have made more progress as an orienteer if I had moved for instance to Halden instead of Birmingham but, on the other hand, then I wouldn’t have gotten a chance to run Inter Counties (cross country championships between the counties in England) or to know what fell running is.

Back in action, World Cup 2013, NZ

Anyway, I worked hard for five years to fulfill my dream and to get to run World Championships for one more time but it didn’t happen. I made some good results, such as a 6th place in the World Cup in Spain 2014, but I also screwed it up a few times despite good shape and preparations. I was quite close to get to the team in 2013 and 2014 but the places are few and the competition is hard. I was often among top3 or top4 in the selections but it wasn't enough. I should have done better and I probably should have focused more on the selections than the actual championships. It has been frustrating to work for something for so long and then not to get a chance to try to achieve your goals. This year I was put aside early in the spring due to prolonged infections. It took me several months to recover and there wasn’t enough time to get back in time. It hit me hard in the spring when I realized that I had just missed my last chance. It was bad luck but there was nothing I could do. I tried and I failed but it’s better than not to try at all. Life will continue and I have other dreams and goals to achieve.

World Cup sprint, Finland, 2013 (SSL)

World Cup final, Baden, 2013 (Marc Streit)

I want to thank you all who’ve been there along the way and supported me! Even if I didn’t reach all my goals and dreams I gained a lot and enjoyed the journey. As an athlete you quite easily become very focused on the results and winning but with some time and perspective I’m starting to realize how much more it has been than just the results. All the hard work, dedication, and commitment. All the sweat and tears. Emotions. Continuous learning. Training camps. People. Bond between like-minded people. Friends. Shared goals. Shared happiness. Places. Amazing places. Maybe I didn’t get to run for some silly medals but it wasn’t all for nothing. I learned a lot about myself, got some wonderful friends and got to see the world. So many great moments and good memories! 

Some pics from the journey…

Training in African savannas, SA

Refreshing bath after a run, SA

Sprinting in beautiful surroundings

Marsh intervals in Norway

Getting high in Switzerland

Scenic runs in New Zealand

Training in the French Alps

Having fun in Italy

Having tea in Japan

Good times...

Friday, 27 May 2016

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger?

I guess I’ve always had the attitude to go through the walls and believed that setbacks make you stronger. And quite often this has proven to be the case. I doubt whether I’d ever made my way to Finnish national team and big championships if I hadn’t lost it all for a while after a car accident. Doctors doubted whether I would ever run again but I came back stronger than ever. That incident got me to believe that anything is possible and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Sometimes that may be the case, sometimes that attitude can drive you down.

This spring I certainly had too much Finnish ‘sisu’ (persistence or determination regardless of costs) and fighter attitude when I should have given up and slowed down. I pushed myself too far until the point I got afraid of killing myself. When I got an infection I only allowed myself to be sick for a week or so but after that there was no time to rest and I just ignored all the signs my body was giving and kept on hammering regardless of costs. I convinced myself that it was just pollen allergy and ended up extending a normal flu (maybe a bit nastier one) up to seven weeks by my perseverance or stubbornness. I was too tired to train but I kept on racing every weekend until the point that my body gave up. After five weeks the infection got down to my lungs and the chest pain, high fever, and difficulties in breathing finally outweighed my willpower and I had no other option than to give up. 

Now I have finally beaten the infection and feeling well again for the first time since early April but at the same time I’m weaker than ever and literally out of shape. I have absolutely no idea when I will be able to race again. I still get out of breath just going up stairs and my heart rate is sky high as soon as I try to run. My big dreams for this season seem already more or less gone but being stubborn as I am I still keep on dreaming to keep myself sane. In reality I try to learn from my mistakes and be patient now. I know I can only take baby steps and I cannot push my limits before I’ve reached some kind of basic health and fitness. At the moment my calendar is empty from races and I am not planning to run anything before Venla. Just taking things as they come day by day and watching our garden to bloom...

Able to smile again after accepting things as they are!

Thursday, 28 April 2016

April's rollercoaster

April has been a true rollercoaster for me. From Strömstad’s high to Stockholm's low. At the end of March everything was looking very good. I had managed to battle against injuries and illnesses and was looking forward to the season opening. I had done good runs in small local events and was feeling optimistic. 

On the first week of April we did a great trip to the west coast with a few girls from Linné to prepare ourselves for the coming WOC. It felt good to get back to those heavy terrains around Strömstad and feel a flow(!) this time. Last time I was there it was really hard for me to get any speed in those terrains but this time it felt a whole lot easier. So something must have gone right during the winter. In the middle of all fun I sprained my ankle in one training and couldn’t run the races we had planned to do in the weekend. I went and picked up my race maps, got good practise in difficult route choices, and ran around the courses but couldn’t risk racing. My ankle wasn’t really up for that and I had more important races coming up, such as Swedish League and EOC selection races. 

Apart from the sprained ankle I was very happy with the training camp and thought I had trained smart there, but conditions were wet and cold and I managed to pick up a flu when I got back home. It’s seldom I’m sick for over a week but this time it was a nasty infection that put me aside for several weeks. That meant no Swedish League races for me. A week after there was sprint and middle selection races in Finland. I wasn’t well enough for the sprint but was hoping for to be able to run the middle a few days later. Unfortunately I wasn’t 100% well on the day of the middle distance either and not really ready to race but since it was my only chance I decided to give it a go. Very stupid decision. I felt absolutely horrible and it took me a while to find a speed but I did a decent run technically with only a few small mistakes. I finished 11th, a bit over 3min behind Emily Kemp, but since my EMIT decided to die during the race, I didn’t get a result. So all effort for nothing. But hey, the good thing was that I wasn’t better than that. Had I been higher up in the results, the EMIT thing would have bothered me more. GPS tracking from the middle distance

However, running the middle distance race as convalescent meant that I got sick again and wasn’t able to run the long distance a week later. Again, I was hoping for the best and travelled there for the race but my body wasn’t ready for a long distance. So, that’s it for my EOC dreams. On the other hand, after being sick more or less for a month now, and missing all training, I wouldn’t be ready for any championships anyway. So, obviously I’m gutted to miss all the fun, but also relieved that now I have plenty of time to get well and no need to deliver results when out of shape. I’ll be back when well again…

Some motivational pictures from Strömstad...

My favourite gym!

This is why I orienteer!

Monday, 21 March 2016

Sunny Andalucia

After an easier week at home and a quick weekend trip to Tampere I decided to go back to Spain to get another good training week before the season start. It was a last-minute decision to go there but I’m very pleased that I made the trip. Not did I only get plenty of training in good weather, decent amount of orienteering, and more than enough of hills, but also a nice tan, several CR:s, and ridiculously easy completion of the Strava March Climbing Challenge within only a few days. Mission accomplished.

I spent first some time in Barbate and then a few days in Fuengirola. On the way to Barbate my first stop was in Playa de Bolonia on a map called El Lentiscal. Grassy meadows, detailed hillside, and endless beach. What a paradise! I finished the training on the beach and couldn’t resist temptation to jump to the sea after the run. Just a perfect start for a week!

El Lentiscal
Playa de Barbate 

First day in Barbate included a morning run, an easy introductory session and hill reps followed by downhill orienteering with the Finnish team in the afternoon. I was slightly worried whether I could keep up with the girls in the national team but luckily I was able to hang in there (skipping over the recoveries helped a bit). It was good fun and it was great to meet up with the girls again. Next day I did long distance in the morning and sprint in the evening on my own. Somehow the climbs felt a lot tougher than the day before. Afternoon sprint I ran in Vejer de la Frontera, a cute little village on the top of a hill. Definitively worth a visit!

Hill training, Le Brena  
Sprinting in Vejer de la Frontera

On Saturday I had planned to do a sprint training together with the Finnish team but I woke up with some soreness in my foot. It was the very same spot that had bothered me over two months before Christmas so I chose to play safe immediately and rented a bike instead. To rent a bike was a funny little story itself but when I finally got one we had a wonderful time together and I had no regrets skipping over the planned trainings that day. 

had googled and found a bike rental in Conil, half an hour drive away from Barbate. So I drove there first thing in the morning but the hotel complex, by which the rental was supposed to be, was closed. I tried to search around and got help by some local people, none of whom spoke any English though. I tried words like ‘bike’, ‘bicycle’, and ‘cyclo’ while trying to animate cycling at the same time. First gentleman I met nodded “si, si” and offered to show me the way. We walked a long way in silence until we came to a some kind of outdoor gym. Muchas gracias, but it wasn’t really kind of cycling that I had in mind. Luckily a woman who was passing by stopped and understood the word ‘bicycle’ and guided me further until we met a next person who could walk with me to the bike rental. So finally, with the help of three enormously friendly local people, I found my way to the bike rental. It wasn’t anywhere near the hotel where I had left my car but it seemed like a good bike shop and I got a nice road bike for only 15€ per day and went off for a wonderful ride in the sun. My route was Conil  Canos de Meca – Barbate  Vejer – and back to Conil via El Palmar. Fairly easy route but with a few nice climbs, first one up from Canos de Meca and another up to Vejer de la Frontera. Vejer was also a perfect spot for a coffee stop with numerous of cafés on either sides of the road. I just picked randomly one that I liked and enjoyed my coffee there in the sun. Life was smiling. I continued my ride through the town and descended on the other side of the hill towards A-2230. Views that opened up on the way down were quite beautiful.

Pure enjoyment!
Nice views over Atlantic

Surprisingly my ankle felt a lot better when I woke up next morning and I went for an early morning run to test whether I could actually run with it. Amazingly I didn’t feel a thing. I did just a short jog to spare the foot for the main training, which was O-intervals on the map just a few kilometers away. Funny coincidence that there was a trail race going on and the runners were passing the start point of my first interval right there and then when I came to the start. They had a drink station and a spectator point there so I got my share of the cheering when I passed by. What a nice race feeling at the start of my intervals! In the afternoon I did an easier session focusing on some technical elements. It went well and it was only at the end of the session that I could feel some mild discomfort in my foot.
Start of the intervals

Next day I did only one run in the morning before I went back to Fuengirola to meet up with my father. The day after we went to Mijas, a lovely small white-washed village on the mountainside between Costa del Sol and Sierra de Mijas. It was a beautiful village and the views from there were gorgeous. But obviously it wasn’t enough for me, I wanted to get to the top of the mountains. There were some trekking routes starting just above the village and I followed a nice marked route up to the saddle between Pico Mijas and Mendoza. From there my plan was to follow a line or a border that looked like a path on the map but in reality it was something else. There was no path, just endless stone field. But since I had already come that far there was no way I would go down without actually reaching the summit. After climbing just a little bit further I was able to see the mountaintop. There was still a kilometer to go and about a billion stones. But I didn’t mind, I was determined to go there no matter what. It was a good adventure but I chose to follow a path down.

Morning in Costa del Sol
Pico Mijas 

I came back to Sweden just in time for season opening in Nyköping. First a long distance race on Saturday and then Måsenstafetten on Sunday. I won the individual race and did solid runs in both days but wasn’t really up for racing twice in the same weekend and felt extremely tired on Sunday. It was first time I got to run last leg for Linné and even if I was slightly horrified when I heard about it I really appreciated to get the chance. Hilda and Lisa did brilliant job on the first two legs, giving me the best possible starting point. I had almost forgotten how exciting it is to go out in the lead! IFK Lidingö with Anna Bachman and OK Ravinen with Helena Jansson gave me some hard time on the last leg but I was still proud to bring us home as third. Two podium places was an excellent way to start the season!

Nice way to start the season