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Friday, February 27, 2015

Iditarod

The year was probably 2002. It was winter, and I was searching on the internet for tips on winter cycling. The site I was looking is still amazingly online, Icebike.org. At the same time I learned about this race, Iditarod Trail Invitational, in 2001 and before known as Iditasport Extreme (350 miles) and Iditasport Impossible (1100 miles). My first reaction was that, wow, this is amazing, but also that it is completely impossible for me, for many reasons. It felt that there is no way that I could ever take part in it. Back then I was still more of a road racer, but I loved cycling in winter time. Alaska is very far away from Finland. Financially and every other way it felt impossible. 

In 2006 I did my first 24-hour solo race, Kangasala 24h. It opened my eyes, but ITI remained impossible. Somehow, things started to change in 2009-2011 when we had great winters in Finland. In 2013 I did my first winter ultra, Rovaniemi 150, and again last year, which I nearly won. The idea of doing ITI didn't seem impossible any longer.

And in the end of April last year it was confirmed. I was selected to ITI 2015 roster. It's a miracle for me. All credits for this goes to my awesome sponsors, 9:Zero:7, 45NRTH, Lumicycle, Porcelain Rocket, Nextie Bike and Alpkit. Without them, this project would have remained impossible. Also huge thanks goes to my wife and daughter, my parents and in-laws.

This winter has seen lots of training and preparation for the race. If you have followed my Facebook and Google+ pages, you have seen updates about my training. Here are some photos of those updates.









As I'm writing this I'm already in Anchorage and it feels unbelievable that I am here. I never believed that this could happen but I'm here now, and it's only two days to the start of the race.

My expectations? Compared to all the other races that I have done so far, this is going to be different and a lot longer. I will do my best and as always, I have to win myself. Everything else comes after that. Surroundigs are breathtaking here, and this will surely be mindblowing experience.

I did a ride here in Anchorage on Wednesday, in Kincaid and Earthquake Parks, and here are some photos from it. I rode with my 907 teammate Charly Tri in the beginning as he did a bike test shake down ride.














This year you can follow the race in realtime at Trackleaders.com, and like in previous years, check ITI Facebook page for the updates too.

What really draws attention to me in this race is it's philosophy, which is best said by Bill Merchant, racer and co-director of the race: "We go into the Alaskan backcountry to find cracks in ourselves. We go back a year later to see if we've done anything about them". I will find out that soon myself.

Friday, January 2, 2015

2014 in Retrospective

The New Year 2015 has just started. It's time to look back at 2014. Instead of writing about every month, I chose a photo for every month that somehow was highlight for every month.

Like for 2013, it's very easy to pick the best moment of the year: Rovaniemi 150. The race that I was so close to win. It was truly unforgettable experience and the feelings are imprinted deeply in my soul.

Another fairly important achievement for me was Tahko MTB 240 in June. After doing it there really is no reason to go back.

Barring any force majeure event, 2015 will be monumental year for me. It will be something that I never thought would be possible: Iditarod Trail Invitational. A standalone blog post is in my mind about that and it will be published this month.

Thanks to all supporters, sponsors and you readers for a great year! Happy New Year 2015!












Saturday, December 6, 2014

Vajosuo Beer Ride 2014

The definite highlight of November for the past two years has been Vajosuo Beer Ride, and this year for a third time was no different. In part of my training for ITI, I decided to choose 'the long form', meaning I would ride from home to start place, Rantapiha at Savojärvi in the National Park of Kurjenrahka, about 51,5 km and also back to home the next day.

The weather wasn't an exception either. Despite the timing of late November, which could offer winter weather, it was wet and overcast again with temps around +2°C.

My 'Arctic Machine 1', 9:Zero:7 190mm, packed and ready. I had easily over 2 kg of food and drinks in there.


I was on the move around 15:30 and it was getting dark. My route to Savojärvi was the usual one, going thru the old Askala hydro power plant.


After 2.5 hours of riding mostly on gravel roads I arrived to Savojärvi. We were seven rides and everyone had a fatbike! Peter had 29+ wheels and tires on his Mukluk.


The first boardwalks are in good shape and riding on them was easy. Water level on the mires were high as expected.


High-powered lights are imperative choice here.


The older boardwalks are in poor shape and going was slow there.


One boardwalk was wider.



Trails are very technical and challenging in many places. I managed to fall once, fortunately without any significant damage.


It's always rewarding to arrive to Vajosuo shelter after three hours of demanding riding. Tommi and couple of others were already there and campfire was burning.



I had pork and potatoes for food and some beer.


Following the traditions, we went to bird watching tower around 02:00 in the night.


Then it was time to sleep under sky in bivi and sleeping bags. I woke up to this view in the morning.


I slept well as I was warm and comfortable in my sleeping system.


My 45NRTH Wölvhammers ready for a tough day ahead.


Campfire in the morning.



After nice breakfast with good coffee, we started riding again.



Vajosuo mire. A magnificent place.







A short break at one of the many shelters around Kurjenrahka. This one is called Laaskorpi.


A very technical and demanding section on the route.


There was also lots of this.


Hellbiking.


At Takaniitunvuori.


Roots in the last part of the route.


Back at Rantapiha we thanked each other and said goodbyes. I boiled water with my MSR WhisperLite and new Alpkit MytiPot 900 cooking pot for freeze-dried meal.


At the same time, temperature dropped below freezing. A warm meal and hot water was crucial, as my energy level was low and it was getting cold.


I had to ride with my down jacket (Alpkit Filo) for 8 km to properly warm up, but after that everything was under control.


I felt strong in the end of the journey, so my training is in the right direction.


A great weekend indeed, with total of 145,4 km riding. Thanks to Juha Jokila and all the other participants! Next year again!

Check out Peter's report here, and Juha's photos here.

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