Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Run to the hills

A nice run to the hills today! Sunny, but icy.

In December the sun doesn't rise too high in Finland.

All the boulders were covered with a thin layer of ice.

A pond reflecting the blue sky.

Nice sunny day for trailrunning.

The blue ice made uphills more challenging.

The north faces of the hills were often snowy like this.

This short but steep uphill is one of my favorites in the hood. Ran it 8x.

Nice boulders and tons of rowanberries.

Steep hill, thick woods.

Inside a war bunker I found beneath a hill.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Secret Trailplodder ChiaBars

People have asked me the secret recipe for my homemade sports energy bars. Ok, here it comes. Designed by Trailplodder, they are really really simple. Minimalist baking with just a handful of ingredients. No added carbs, fats or proteins required - but please feel free to add anything you like. This is not an exact science. I never measure any ingredients. My every batch is different.

The latest batch out of the oven.

The simple and easy recipe of my Secret Trailplodder ChiaBars is as follows:
  • about 100 grams well-soaked chia seeds (just throw your chia seeds in a bowl and add plenty of water a couple hours before)
  • after the chia seeds have absorbed the water in the bowl, mix any other seeds until the consistency seems right for baking: shelled sesame or hemp or flax seeds, or sunflower seeds, whatever you have/want
  • you might want to add add some salt and spices for flavoring (I use turmeric a lot for health) 
  • you may add some dried fruits (dates, cranberries, etc) for carbs as desired
  • pour & flatten the mixture on a baking sheet and bake about 30 minutes in 200°C and then dehydrate a bit more in 50°C as necessary
  • cut in pieces and store in a container in the fridge. 
I keep a few bars in the fridge for long workouts.

The main motivation for doing this is that I was frequently told it's impossible to make bars without eggs, oils and butters or something else I felt was unnecessary. Then I discovered the amazing powers of chia seeds as featured in the book Born To Run. The rest is history. Also I thought the bars sold in stores are mostly crap and very expensive. I do buy some bars occasionally when travelling, but at home it's so easy to bake your own.

Friday, December 12, 2014


Golden Ratio Triathlon is my solo test-workout. Today I did a Half-GRT: 1.2K swim, 55.6K bike and 13K run. My total time (including all breaks, transitions, meals etc) 5h47min is my new PR. The old one was 6h51min. This means a whopping 1h04min improvement!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Run in the Sun

Run in the sun!
We had only 13 hours of sunshine in November in Helsinki. Most of it occurred in the first half, so we got just a couple of hours in the past fortnight. We are located approximately on the same latitude as Anchorage in Alaska.

A panorama from today's run.
What's more, we don't have any snow yet on the ground. This adds greatly to the perception of darkness. Sometimes we can have 50cm of snow in December, but it doesn't look like that will happen this winter.


I ran my standard 20km route today, sandwiched between my morning swim and evening bike. It was very nice, if not downright awesome!

Frosty December trail.

I have a feeling December will be a great month for trail running this year. Here's a link to this workout's Strava. Keep on training!

View from Mt Haltia.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Mountain Art Gallery

The Wetterhorn (1838) by J.W.Schirmer. This mountain is along Eiger Ultra Trail course.
I've created a Mountain Art Gallery consisting of 100 paintings at Google Cultural Institute. With their Art Project you can discover diverse art collections around the world. The artworks can be explored at incredible detail. This might well be the highest form of art :) Check it out!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Experience TransGranCanaria 2015

Gran Canaria is called a 'Miniature Continent' because of the amazing variety of landscapes.
Hola amigos! I'm registered in TransGranCanaria 125km in March 2015.

The island looks interesting from above. GC is noted for micro climates.
I know it will be a fantastic experience because I did TGC in 2012 - race report here. The old 123km (it seemed slightly longer though) course started in Playa del Ingles and finished in Las Palmas, traversing the island South-North with 5500m cumulative climbing. At the time I thought it was very tough. After all, it took me over 25 hours.

Puerto de Sardina with the island of Tenerife in distance. Start place Agaete on the left.
Of course courses like that are not that hard by today's standards. Fortunately the organizers have discovered a new killer route. The North-South course from Agaete to Maspalomas boasts 8500m elevation gain. They allow 30 hours to complete it, which might be just enough. The start will be at 11pm on Friday, just like in Lavaredo Ultra Trail. Jajajjaajjaaak!

I can't wait to run over the mountains of Gran Canaria again!
If I loved it so much the last time, why did I skip TGC in 2013-14? Well, I guess because I was dumb! The latest research suggests people are happier when they spend their money for experiences than for material goods. We tend to think material purchases offer better value for money. Actually experiences give us much more lasting happiness than things. Vamos!

Roque Nublo and other fantastic rock formations wait for runners.
So, instead of buying new luxury gadgets like iPhone 6 (too big) and Apple Watch (just another useless fitness tracker), I decided to use the money for my TGC trip. Although Gran Canaria is far away I got a pretty good deal on the flights. Arriba el Animo!

A 3rd of the island is protected as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO and half by Canary Islands.
Speaking of fitness trackers, Races like TransGC are really all you need. If you can finish, you are fit and probably reasonably healthy too. If you DNF, you suck. TGC is my trusty old fitness tracker!

The highest peak of GC is Pico de las Nieves (1949m). Tenerife's Mount Teide (3718m) in the background.
In fact I don't care about racing too much these days. I simply enjoy finishing challenging courses within the cut-off times. I respect athletes like Ueli Steck, Kilian Jornet and Dean Karnazes for organizing their own adventures all over the world. This may seem provocative, but competition is for losers. Just think about the sad fate of Lance Armstrong.

These views just never get old for me. 
Back to Canary Islands, which were by the way named after dogs and not those canary birds. Don't worry, you are not likely to get any trouble from dogs during the race. In fact the islands might have been named after seals, which the Romans called 'sea dogs'.

A rocky Gran Canaria beach. I swam there and the water was refreshing.
Another astonishing fact about Canary Islands is that they belong to Spain, although the distance to Europe is 1350km. The coast of Africa is only 150km away from Gran Canaria.

Big waves on a windy day.
Mount Teide (3718m) on the island of Tenerife is the highest peak of Canary Islands. This vulcano is also the highest mountain in Spain!

Pebbles on a volcanic beach.
Columbus and other explorers used the islands as a starting point for their journeys across the Atlantic. I read from somewhere that cities of San Antonio (Texas) and Sao Paulo (Brazil) were founded by people from Canary Islands.

Sunset view towards Mount Teide. 
The weather is generally very suitable for running. The average temperature on Gran Canaria in March is 15-22°C. There might be a little bit rain and wind occasionally to make things more interesting. A lot of vegetables and fruits grow on the islands and the local food is great.

Running by the shoreline.
A rocky spire called El Dedo des Dios (God's Finger) was a major attraction on Gran Canaria until it was destroyed by Tropical Storm Delta in 2005. There are still plenty of famous rock formations left, for example La Rana (The Frog) and 80m tall Roque Nublo - both along TGC course.

There are volcanic rocks everywhere.
Nearly half of Gran Canaria is protected natural area. However in August 2014 Spain gave permission for companies to explore oil and gas prospects off the Canary Islands. Enjoy the nature while it lasts.

A frame from the video below.
Una meta, un sueño. A goal, a dream. See you at TransGranCanaria 2015!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Lavaredo Ultra Trail 2015 - I'm in!

Lake Misurina welcomed me with a sunrise like this in LUT 2014.

Yes! I received good news: my name was chosen at random from the 19078 pre-registered athletes to participate in The North Face Lavaredo Ultra Trail on June 26-28, 2015. The course will be the same I finished this summer: 119km with 5,850m elevation gain.

Good news via email. I'm in!

Next time I plan to do it without
  • twisting my ankle in the beginning of the race
  • stopping to take photos every five minutes
  • taking little sightseeing tours in the beautiful canyons and gorges. 
In other words, I'd like to finish a lot faster than 26 hours and change. Absolutely no fooling around anymore!

Tre Cime di Lavaredo. There's usually snow around here in June.

Last year's winner Anton Krupicka says it's the most beautiful race he has ever done. And I'm not going to argue with him! Dolomites are stunning, gorgeous and beautiful in every way. What's more, running there is a totally different experience from anything else.

My favorite section of the course is the part from 80 to 100 km.

See you in Cortina d'Ampezzo!

The course profile.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Mount Tibidabo Expedition

While in Barcelona we decided to explore Mount Tibidabo. Metro L7 took us in no time from Placa Catalunya to Avenida Tibidabo. You can take the famous blue tram to Tibidabo funicular. You can also take the bus (your metro ticket is valid in the bus, but not in the tram). You can also run there if you like. 

We Beat The Blue Tram! from J8N Productions on Vimeo.

The old tram seemed slow and crowded, so we didn't use it. On our way down we raced the tram - and beat it too!

From the funicular station we hiked up past a dog shelter to the best trail in Barcelona. Carretera de les Aigües (Road of Waters) is named after the water pipes that once ran there. Nowadays it is a very popular trail for local runners, MTB-riders and hikers. 

This about 5km long balcony is suitable for anyone with comfortable running gear. There are markings and water fountains, but take a map and bottles just in case. Don't forget your camera, as the views over Barcelona are fantastic.

Collserola Park covers about 10,000 hectares. The flora and fauna are interesting. You can easily spot the 288-meter high Torre de Collserola designed by Norman Foster for the 1992 Olympic Games. You may also notice an observatory on a nearby hill.

Tibidabo Funicular is the easiest way up to Mt. Tibidabo (517m). There you will find the old Tibidabo Amusement Park and Sagrat Cor Cathedral side by side. We took the elevator up to the observation deck and then climbed the stairs all the way up. Just keep on climbing until you reach the big statue of the golden Christ on the top. 

This (about 565m) is the highest elevation in Barcelona. The 360-degree scenery is spectacular. You may even see Montserrat and the snow-peaked Pyrenees. Here are a few panoramas from the top of BCN.

Overall I'd say you can't beat Barcelona weather in October. During our Thursday-Sunday long weekend visit it was sunny every day. Both air and water temperatures were pleasant 20-25°C. We spent the hot afternoons swimming and barefoot running at the excellent La Barceloneta beach. 

We also took a great 4-hour Fat Tire Bike Tour of the city. 

Barceloneta Beach Cruising from J8N Productions on Vimeo.

Here is a 1-minute trailer from our Mount Tibidabo Expedition.

Tibidabo from J8N Productions on Vimeo.

Want to race? Try 80 km +2700m Ultra Trail Collserola on November 22 (sold out for 2014, so plan for 2015).

There is also Ultra Trail Barcelona (UTBCN) 100km +4500m on 26 April 2015. It's in Begues, about 20km to the south from BCN airport.

If you are into triathlons, I recommend Ironman Barcelona. The full distance race is in October. I did it in 2012, when it was called Challenge Barcelona. It's in Calella about 50km to the north. There is also an Ironman 70.3 (half) in May.

Here are some of our best Tibidabo pics. Mercès BCN!

Barcelona from J8N Productions on Vimeo.