13.16 and European Champs standard

After my proper season opener of 13.31 in Turku, I ran 13.38 in -1.2m/s headwind in Salamanca, Spain. Already before the race I felt a little twinge and pain in my quad once again and for the next week I couldn’t run properly. Even two days before Madrid World Challenge last Friday I could still feel the pain, but I was able to do couple hurdle starts.

In Madrid I for once took a good start with good reaction time (0.141) and ran great five hurdles. After five hurdles I felt my speed increasing so much I couldn’t handle it and went off balance on 6th hurdle and completely brought down 8th and 10th hurdles. We couldn’t warm up properly for hurdles and couldn’t try running them so I think this caused me not to have the good rhythm I normally have.

For next couple days I was really tired and on Tuesday went to compete in Castellon. My legs felt still tired and just too loose. I did some really bad hurdle starts before the race and felt like I’m all over the place and just slow. In the race I reacted really badly (I posted video of this; the girl next to me is 15cm in air before I start moving) and again felt like I’m slow and too loose. I even had time to think about how bad I felt and how I just have to jump over some of the hurdles to get to the finish line. After the race I was sure my time was maybe 13.3-13.4 and I was really disappointed.

I went to ask for my time upstairs anyways since they didn’t announce it, and when they told me my time was 13.16 (+1.2) I asked couple times are they sure and then just started crying of happiness. The standard to European Championships was 13.25. The time was #6 all-time in Finland.

I have watched the race a few times now, and the video confirms all that I felt. My reaction was bad, my body is twisting way more than normally when landing from the hurdles and there are at least two hurdles that I actually jump over (and not run) since after Madrid I was afraid to hit the hurdles.

The twisting after the hurdles is what I have been working on in training because it slows down the speed quite a lot for me. What I mean by twisting is that when I attack well, I stay forward and my right arm is quick and my torso doesn’t twist. In Castellon my arm was really slow and opened up way too much, my torso was twisting and I was too upright after the hurdles. When I get it right in training my best hurdle splits can be 0.96, but when I don’t get it, they can be 1.06, so it makes a lot of difference.

In Madrid I ran 0.99 splits before the hurdle hits (normally at that point I start running faster), and after the hits it went up to 1.16. In my Castellon race, no hurdle splits were below 1.00, so I never got into the rhythm I know I can have. Coach also said I was doing some weird blocking when going to the hurdles, so he found even more mistakes.

The mistakes are a great thing really! When you have mistakes, you have a lot you can improve on. Now we will try to work on those until Finnish nationals 20th of July, and hopefully we will do the right things to be in even better shape then. I trust my coach completely; three of our four girls have already made the standards to European Championships and the fourth girl in the training group is really close.

I have receive thousands of messages and congratulations, so thank you all for those! I really appreciate every message and I have attempted to reply to as many as I can. All the support makes me so happy and motivates to continue this journey! It has been quite a tough journey but all the struggle starts paying off now!

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Robbery and broken foot

This past week has honestly been quite horrible. First I lost an important race, then I was robbed, then my motorcycle was broken, and finally I find out my foot is broken.

Let’s go through all of them…

The race

In Valencia last Saturday me and Caridad Jerez (Spanish champion and Olympian) were competing for a spot to represent Barça in Copa del Reina (The Spanish clubs championships). I’ve been in a really good shape but my foot that I thought I just twisted in the first race has been hurting and I haven’t been able to train too well nor wear shoes. It was hurting a lot on Saturday also. I still ran easy 8.41 in the semifinals without trying hard at all. Caridad ran 8.42. In the final she took a great start, and I took an absolutely horrible one, so I was just catching up the whole race and with just couple more meters I would’ve probably caught her. She won by 0.02 seconds and we ran 8.38 and 8.40. I went to get the finish line picture and our butts were equal, she just leaned better with her shoulder. In a sense this was the most important indoor race for me as truthfully there was a lot of money involved for this and the next weekend’s races. Well, I lost to a great athlete. On the other hand, 8.40 is not bad with a broken foot and a terrible start.

Robbery

On Sunday I was going to eat to a restaurant I was invited to, Taperia Princesa. I was outside the restaurant with my manager Rafal from work waiting for other friends when two men robbed my purse. Rafal started running after the robber before I even had time to realize what had just happened and I was so sure he was gonna catch them that I didn’t even start crying until he called that he lost them. We obviously called the police right away and we called my banks to close my cards and had to call insurance company for a locksmith. We sat down to eat a little (the food and drinks were great, I really recommend it!) and to gather myself to be ready to go to the police station to make a police report. My friend Mari headed to my house to wait for the locksmith and me and Rafal went to the police station. The police told us to go get a medical report first as it was a robbery with force and I went to wait for 4 hours at an emergency room to get a report that said I have a little red mark on my shoulder. The police luckily took me in for the report right away (last time I waited 4 hours) and I managed to handle the whole thing in Spanish. The robbers got a pretty nice catch as I had two Michael Kors purses, iPhone, four credit/debit cards, new Nike shoes, a shirt, Spanish drivers license, Spanish ID, Finnish ID, all my two internet banks information and codes, my house/gates/mailbox keys, motorcycle’s and motorcycle’s box keys, lots of make up and a few other things with me.

Broken motorcycle

I was a bit worried about my house at first but my insurance locksmiths came within an hour, but also I was worried about my motorcycle as the purse had my address in there. When I returned from the police station at 2am I went to check on my motorcycle and all was well. At 11am I went to see it again and I see the bike has been pushed over and the brake and gas handles are broken and the whole side is scratched. I get a new key to the motorcycle and I see the bike has been put on and gears have been switched, but apparently the robbers have been missing one extra brake lock’s key to actually steal the bike so they’ve just pushed it over then.

I was feeling fine after the robbery in the evening until I returned home. When I returned home I started to realize what has happened. I was already upset about the race and then everything valuable I own was robbed. I had a panic attack and seeing the bike the next morning made them worse so I have been on sick leave this week. I knew I had a Barça doctor’s appointment on Thursday but didn’t think this week could get any worse so I even said to someone “I can’t imagine this week could be any worse unless I find out my food is broken.”

Broken foot

I went to Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper hoping to find out I have no fracture even I knew the pain is as bad as fractures, but I thought maybe it’s something else. I was surprised I finished the race (the first real race of the season) after twisting my ankle, but I didn’t think I could’ve finished a hurdles race after breaking a foot in middle of it. The doctor sent me straight to an X-ray and said we’ll get MRI if there’s nothing in the X-ray. Well the X-ray showed a clear fracture in the foot. The doctor said I need to avoid all impact for three months. I said ”ok great thanks” smiling and walked out. As soon as I get out of the Barça buildings I completely break down. This was the last thing I wanted to hear after having had a horrible week already.

If you have read my whole story you know I’ve been through a lot and a broken foot is quite minor thing for me. But finally everything has been great in my life and then I get setbacks back to back like this. People rarely see me upset and even when I cry I’m often smiling, but most of the time I don’t show how I’m really feeling. I can be completely broken inside and look very happy outside. At the moment it’s honestly very difficult time for me and I am struggling with my panic attacks (which I will will probably write another post about as I’ve never talked about them), but I am trying to stay as positive as I can.

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Catalan Clubs Indoor Championships

Last Sunday was my first race of 2018, Catalan Clubs Championships. In Catalan Clubs Championships (Campionat de Catalunya de Clubs) the top 8 clubs in Catalonia compete and one athlete represents each club in all events. I was a little tired all week from training in the past weeks and traveling home to Finland for Christmas, but on the competition day I felt good and was hoping to run a good time.

I ran the hurdles for FC Barcelona, and I knew if I just finished the race, I should win quite easily. Well, it turned out to be a bit toughter as I rolled my foot/ankle before the 4th hurdle (there are five hurdles in 60m hurdles race), something that’s never happened to me before while running hurdles even in training.

I took a good start and the race was going as normal, until I don’t know how, when stepping to attack the 4th hurdle, my foot/ankle rolled and I just crashed through the hurdle. I screamed out loud at the moment and thought it’s gonna be a miracle if I make it to the finish. But as I was running for points for FC Barcelona, I could not stop so somehow I managed to stumble three steps (before seeing the video I thought I took five steps before the last hurdle) and to take a huge jump over the last hurdle (it must’ve been about four meters, normal hurdle pass is about three meters). Somehow I made it past the last hurdle and just tried to finish at the point when my speed had drastically decreased.

At the line I looked to the side to see if someone had passed me. I saw another girl on my side and wasn’t sure I won, but somehow I ended up winning by 0.04 seconds. I didn’t believe it and everyone at the track said they don’t understand how did I manage to even finish and also win after that fall.

Normally in training a little hurdle hit is ok and you manage to keep going, but hitting a hurdle badly will stop the run. I have never hit a hurdle like this, nor rolled my ankle, and managed to keep running. Have to thank coach Sevi for making me do a lot of balance, ankle, core and hip stability training. This race definitely proved we have worked hard on those aspects as you can see from the video below. Have to see something positive in it 🙂

I wanted to run a good time, but the most important was to win to get the full points for FC Barcelona. I managed to do that and FC Barcelona ended up winning the whole Catalan Clubs Championships.

As can be seen, the race video has over 250,000 views at the moment. I have no idea what happened, how did it go viral like that! But I’ve received nice and encouraging messages from all over the world, and I really appreciate them all! Some of the best athletes in the world from different sports have sent me messages of support and it’s been great to see people notice and respect my little battles 🙂

Other video that went a bit viral over the Christmas was my frozen lake swim video. Winter swimming is completely normal in Finland, and I have went to swim to a frozen lake close to my parents house once a year now. Normally you go to the lake from sauna, but I have just went into the lake from the car and went straight back to the car and driven home. It was -5 degrees outside and the water was +1. It doesn’t even feel that bad, except it feels like you can’t breath when you go in! This video and a story of me ended up on Mundo Deportivo, which is one of the biggest sports newspapers in Spain. They also appreciated my 220kg hip thrusts, and called me more brutal than Rambo 😀

It was so nice to be at home for Christmas and I had a lovely time with my family, friends, training and eating good food. My dogs loved running free at my parents and grandmom’s houses and yards. Finnish grocery stores are a paradise for someone with some limits on diet. You can find so many gluten-free things and I was in awe of all the protein puddings and glutenfree cakes, pastries etc. My dad knows me well and had already got me my favorite Finnish energy drinks (my only bad habit), and at Christmas I baked a lot of gluten-free pastries and ate tons of amazing Finnish chocolate. I might have overeaten quite a bit over the Christmas, but I gave myself a permission to eat a kilo of chocolate every day as long as I stop as soon as my plane takes off from Finland. Luckily I had somehow lost a kilo of weight while in Finland, not sure how did that happen.

Now I’m back in Barcelona and back in the routine of working 8-16 and training 16-20 or 17-21. My foot/ankle still hurts quite a lot from rolling it, and yesterday I was limping all day, but managed to do a decent training session. I still plan on racing again on Friday, just to get more races in, as I need them since I continue running very differently in training and in competition after such a long break. A little rest and I’m sure it will be just fine 🙂

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2017 – what a great year!

Year 2017 really was one of the best years of my life, despite some crazy things happening to me. I moved to Barcelona a year ago before New Year just because I wanted to move to another city with a beach after living in Lisbon for nearly a year. Never would I have guessed what a great decision it was.

I have a nice job in Barcelona, a nice apartment, and two crazy dogs that I love, but the best part has been that I have been healthy and I am back competing. When I moved to Barcelona I had no idea I would ever compete again. All changed in March after couple people without realizing it got me back to training.

At the end of February, Dutch decathlete Eelco Sintnicolaas was in Barcelona for a training camp and asked me to come run hurdles for fun. It turned out to be a lot of fun and even I was extremely slow, my hurdling technique wasn’t that bad, and I really enjoyed it. I went back by myself a week later. This time an athlete Udy Erete saw me and said I should join their training group. Coach Sevi took me into the group and just two months later I already ran my first race for FC Barcelona. Clearly a big coincidence, but Sevi’s way of training really works for me and focuses on the things I need to focus on. My times last summer and PBs in everything in training this fall really have proven this.

I competed most of the summer and much better than I was expecting, but ended the season early to pneumonia. Being back on the track was much more fun than I even remembered, maybe because I didn’t have such high expectations and stress as when I was younger. I was just enjoying being able to run and have fun. The good times gave me a lot of motivation for the training season and I’ve never trained as healthy as I have now for the whole fall. During the year the goals have changed from competing at nationals to competing at European and World champs.

I have been working full-time at the same place all year, and only have had to change apartments and buy a motorcycle to be able to train better. In the spring I used to bike 12km every day to work and training, but clearly that’s not good for a sprinter. Now with the motorcycle it takes me 10 minutes to go to work and 5 minutes to go to practice. I can get so much more out of myself in training as I am not tired already when arriving. I used to live in a really busy area by the beach and only had a small balcony, so I had to go take my dogs out right after work and right after training. Now I’ve moved to a quieter area still in the center of Barcelona, and I have a yard, so I can go straight to training or a physio from work instead of always going home to walk the dogs so the new apartment makes the work and training manageable. And I can actually sleep there. It’s probably one of the only blocks in the center of Barcelona where it’s quiet at night. I do pay a lot for it, but it does allow me to train and sleep much better, so it’s worth it.

Those are the only changes I’ve had to do to be able to really focus on training while working full-time. My days are long with 8h of work and 3-4 (sometimes 5) hours of training, and I really don’t have time for anything else, but if I didn’t try to fulfill the potential at track that I know I have, I would always regret it.

Moving to Barcelona has been one of the best decisions I have made in my life. It changed my life after years of being sick to doing what I love and being happier than I’ve ever been. I am so thankful for the people who have anyhow contributed to this change and for me being back competing. Now let’s hope 2018 will be even a better year!

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Indoor Season 2018 Opened

I ran my first indoor race in 6 years on Sunday. The plan was to open up the indoor season on January 7th, but couple weeks ago coach said he would like for me to run a practice race on the 17th of December in Sabadell. At first I thought it’s way too early, but said I will think about it and see how I feel after my training camp. It would be good training if nothing else.

I had a really good training camp in Egypt even I was a little sick, but felt really tired early in the week so I only made the decision to run the race after Thursday’s training. On Thursday everything finally clicked with my starting blocks and I did the best and fastest starts I have ever done. I felt really good and was ready to run on Sunday.

On Sunday’s competition day I felt really weak, super nervous, and didn’t manage to do much correct in the warm up. In the race, the start was as bad as my usual starts have been, so I did not manage to do anything similar to what I did in training. I stood up from the blocks, accelerated badly, came too close and straight up to the first hurdle, and jumped too high. Also I was stepping across before the hurdles (which prevents proper take off and pushing to the hurdle) and twisting after the hurdles, the things I have worked on not to do, and already manage to not to do them in training. So basically, I did everything completely opposite of what I have done lately in training.

My time was 8.43. At first I was really upset about the time, as I wanted to run, and know I can run, a lot faster. I was also upset that I did so much wrong in the race, even I have just managed to fix all these issues in training. But after thinking about this, I realize I did run the best season opener ever, in December, when it’s still a month to the real competition season. I ran the best season opener ever after a really hard training camp. I ran the best season opener ever after not running indoor season for 6 years. The best part really is, that I ran the best season opener ever with all the possible mistakes I could have done.

Now I have a few weeks to become more confident with the newly learned starts and fixed technique, so I can do it in competition also. This race was perfect for training purposes and to take off the nerves from the first real indoor season competition, so that I won’t do the same mistakes again. I’m not satisfied if I do something wrong, so that’s why I’m still not happy with the outcome of the race, but I know I will run a lot faster when the real competitions come. I know I can run the goal I have set for myself.

I’m very excited to keep working to run a good time already on indoor season, even the real goals for 2018 are in the outdoor season 🙂

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Team Transfers

No team transfers for me this year!

As the last team transfers for 2018 are approacing in athletics, I decided to stay with FC Barcelona in Spain and HIFK in Finland for the upcoming season. Even I compete mostly in Spain, it’s mandatory to have a club also in Finland to participate in Finnish national championships etc.

How does it work?

In athletics if you’re good enough, the clubs pay you to represent them. You must compete for them so they will get points etc, and you might be asked to appear in some events and of course wear the club’s gear. The clubs often pay a signing fee, and also bonuses based on how well you do in certain competitions.

Transfer deadlines

In Spain all club transfers must be done before the end of October, and in Finland before the end of November. You cannot switch clubs in middle of the season. Last year I was able to join both of my clubs mid-season as I had not competed in a few years at all.

My options

Just before the transfer deadlines for each country, I got a great offer from a big club in Spain and also couple good offers from big clubs in Finland. These clubs offered me much more money than my clubs.

At the end I decided to stay with FC Barcelona since the medical facilities benefits and the gear are no match to any money offered. Also, who doesn’t love Barça 🙂
In Finland the decision was a bit harder to make, but at the end we negotiated terms that I was happy with and I stayed with the club I liked the most and whose staff has been very supportived, HIFK.

I’m very thankful for the trust and faith the clubs have in me, and will do my best to represent them as well as I can 🙂

FC Barcelona

HIFK

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Hurdle training

I started running hurdles when I was 14-years-old. I ran them couple times at age 13, but then I was a high jumper. At age 14, I ran the national indoor record for 14-year-olds and realized I might have some talent for this. Hurdles always came really naturally for me, and I love hurdle training, so after that age I only focused on hurdles. When I ran well in World Youth Championships at age 17, I started taking it more seriously. Still, when I was asked why do I run hurdles, I said: ”I’m too slow to be a sprinter.” 😀

I have been training in Finland with multiple coaches, in the US with multiple coaches and some of the world’s best hurdlers, in London with multiple coaches, and also seen hurdle training in many other countries. Now I’m training in Spain. It has been very interesting, everyone works different way, and you just have to find the way that works for you. I believe I have now found the best training for me.

What makes you a good hurdler?

I have always been good at hurdle drills and hurdle technique, but have been lacking power, explosivity and speed. The best hurdlers are really fast and powerful. This does not mean you have to lift 100kg power cleans, but you have to be able to use the power at the track and be explosive. This is a thing that we have been focusing on this year, and it has been working really well. At the moment I am faster than I’ve ever been. For hurdles the main focus has been rhythm.

Frequency

In hurdles your step length doesn’t matter the same way it does in sprinting. There are only 8.5 meters between the hurdles, and it’s all about who can take the three steps between the hurdles fastest. I have been quite good at this before, but the lack of explosivity and speed has made the space between the hurdles a little long for me especially at the end of the race, and I haven’t been able to utilize the quick steps I can take. Also my trail leg (the leg coming over the hurdle from the side) has been slow, so that’s been another main focus in training.

Good exercise for trail leg

Hurdles with one step is one of my favorite exercises for the trail leg. You really have to get the leg around quick as the next hurdles comes up so fast. I normally do 5×8 hurdles with 14 feet spacing (this is 12 my coach’s feet). Sometimes I do this with 84cm hurdles, but mostly with the lower 76cm hurdles.

My favorite hurdle workout

In the video there are pretty much all the exercises I do on my favorite hurdle workout. It’s all about rhythm and frequency. First is little hurdles with one step, with seven feet spacing. Then three steps with ten feet spacing. The short spacing makes you really have to be quick and move your feet fast.

Then it’s time for higher hurdles with normal 13 meters start, but 7-7.75 meters distance between the hurdles. This is a great way to work on the rhythm and also to bring the trail leg around quickly.

Normal training week

I train six days a week and on two to four of these days I do some hurdles. Normally once a week just the one step drill, once a week a workout focusing on the rhythm, and once a week hurdles with more regular distance and with more hurdles. I haven’t done any starts yet at this point in training, but this will soon be done at least one or two days a week.

My first hurdle race indoors is already 7th of January, and I hope to be ready to run fast. You never know what to expect in the first race of the season, but I hope it will be as happy surprise as my first race outdoors. It’s looking great right now! 🙂

Liga Catalana hurdle

Warming up for my first hurdle race in 5 years, May 2017.

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