Comparatively thinking or YOLO

This time of the year I’m sure that I’m not alone when I feel just a little bit of jealousy looking at the images Swedish pro athletes are posting on social media.

Training camps from around the world. Sara Sjöström and National Swim team in Florida. Patrik Nilsson, Åsa Lundström, David Näsvik @ Playitas, Lisa Nordén in South Africa and, not to be forgotten, Fredric Croneborg – who manages to have fun in the sun all year round.

And here we are, the age groupers, working 9-5, getting home to the mental and physical darkness of winter and our indoor trainers. We know that we are most likely 3 month away from frequent quality outdoor cycling.

On social medias everyone who’s stuck in the icebox (Sweden this time of the year) are posting pictures of their self-inflicted misery. I don’t know how many hundred photos of people on trainers I have seen over the past 2 months – my eyes hurt.

Running is not much better as we use uncomfortable spike shoes that feel like ski-boots or run on the indoor treadmill like a hamster in a wheel.

But to all of you who think it can’t get any worse – I bring words of hope, words of comfort! It’s all comparatively! Depending on what you compare with you can decide that you are either miserable or really fortunate.

If you compare with the pros, you will most likely feel the kind of envy that only the Grinch who stole Christmas can feel – you will stand on your mountain of pain and look at them pros riding in the sun, swim in outdoor pools and run on perfect trails in Stellenbosch. Week after week they can train and not have to worry about a thing (except the fact that they one day will be a grumpy 50 year old grinch as well). But they don’t worry about that – yet!

But if you compare yourself with the average sedentary Joe Schmoe, you are a hero. To even get on a trainer after work takes determination. To get out on your +25km run in <10° bellow zero takes guts. Not to mention the glory you feel when you bring out the good old chainsaw and cut up your 50m lane in the icy lake to get your 4,000 meters swim done as the pool was closed (or is that something only I do?).           

You can also compare yourself to the less fortunate athletes who are injured and can’t train, the ones who have lost their motivation and can’t find it among the mountains of excuses. Or the athletes that are trying to train, while being forced to live like our great grandparents did 100 years ago – yes, that would be me – they are still not finished with the re-plumbing of our apartment building.

Enjoy what you have – even if the hours available to train are too few and you have to do them on the indoor torture station. Once spring is here you will realize that the indoor trainer is actually a really effective tool to get fast and strong.

PS: When I wrote this a few weeks ago and read it, I got so fed up with the re-plumbing and lack of biking outdoors that I flew to Gran Canaria and got 10 days in the hills together with the TriMaster. As my son says “YOLO”.

Start of the beautiful climb to Soria  

I have to say that having the discipline to spend close to 10 hours/week on the trainer in January really paid off and I felt stronger in the hills than I have ever done before, guess that discipline is not something you loose with age but rather the opposite. Don’t give up!

Cazadores @ 1,300meters – a good 100km 2,500m elevation ride to start the camp with.

Gran Canaria is spectacular with regards to biking and I found that it has much more interesting cycling than the other Canary islands like Lanzarote and Fuerteventura – perhaps that is why Thomas Hellriegel likes to train in GC. In a few years it will be as popular as Mallorca, I am sure, at least for those of us who love climbing.

Road up to Soria @ 650meters – continues to Bartolome @ 1,100meters

Close to Agaete on the North west side of the island.

Climb to St. Lucia 

Hope that you appreciate the beautiful nature on the pictures as much as I do – I find that we have all seen enough selfies and ”ass on bike/trainer shots” for a lifetime so I am not sharing those here 😉

Happy Training!

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When the going get tough – get your training done.

February and we are months away from training in decent weather.

For me February is typically the month when motivation can be hard to find some days.

For the past months, motivation and peace of (training) mind has been challenged to a whole new level as our apartment building is in the midst of a never ending re-plumbing. 

Shower? Perhaps this summer….

Things we triathletes have rather frequent use of, and take for granted, like indoor running water, toilet, shower. All those facilities have been moved to a trailer on the street 3 floors down since October 2015. The builder was contracted to be done in 6-8 weeks and it has now reached 16 weeks – without anything being close to finished or usable. They kept the timeplan with regard to demolition – they wrecked the appartment according to plan. They just never got around to rebuilding it.   

So what can you do when things feel difficult and all you want to do is something else than trying to find your training gear in the middle of a construction site – that shows no sign of being completed anytime before the summer?

 Nice set-up…Get up on it!

I guess simply; quiet my thoughts, try to find my gear, do my session according to plan.

15-20min into the training the frustration has evaporated, heart rate is back at a comfortable pace and I remember what I always used to say, “life starts at 140bpm”. 

”Patience – the breakfast of champions” (as nothing can be cooked in this mess!)

Ohh Well – Happy camping!

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Everyone who read the story of how the Danish Lawaetz Brothers managed to not only qualify for Kona, but how three of them even broke 9 hours on the Ironman distance in their first attempt – training only 9-10hours per week could suspect there was some fishy going on. Later we would find out that one of the brothers (Thomas) was caught in a doping test and banned for four years.

It’s easy to get upset about this, I know as I got extremely upset! I am not alone thinking that anyone cheating and using EPO should be banned for life, not only four years!!!

Doping is a real problem and no matter how much testing increases – it will always be people who decides that results and vanity is more important that honesty and values.

In an interview with Slow Twitch, Alex Taubers (German former Pro-triathlete) talks about the problem: ”Whoever thinks that doping is only part of the elite world likely also believes in Santa Clause. A study conducted at Ironman Frankfurt and 70.3 Wiesbaden a few years ago showed that 1/3 of those age group athletes questioned admitted (anonymously) to have doped. But one has to think that it was and currently is likely more”. 

But who are the biggest losers? Is it us – who are clean, who prioritize training, who makes the necessary “sacrifices” to be able to train three or four times more than the likes of the now infamous cheater Thomas Lawaetz, CEO at Åreknudeklinikkerne.

From a pure mathematical standpoint we are the loosers. We spend more time training and typically don’t get the result that dope heads get.

From an ethical/legal standpoint dopers are losers, as it’s wrong and forbidden to cheat and from a philosophical standpoint I would argue that it’s much worse than breaking laws – cheating requires you to compromising values and standards and often comes back and bites you in the ass.


Cheating or not cheating is a choice that every individual has. It’s up to each and every one to set the standards we whish to aspire to in life. The choice defines us and we will live with it for the rest of our lives.

We all have a choice to take the high road and avoid any kind of cheating – even if it compromises our results, for example doing intervals in races to get away from packs and carefully examining what we put in our bodies.

Or we can take the low road and claim, “it’s impossible to avoid packs, everyone else does it”, ”I didn’t know that what I took was on the doping list” or ”my doctor injected EPO, gave me growth hormones and topped me up with a few pints of my best shape blood – how could I know – I was asleep”. 

Bottom line is that if we decide to apply the highest requirements on our self – to always practice good sportsmanship and be honest – we will have the benefit of looking ourselves in the mirror, every day for the rest of our life, knowing that we have made our self the best we could be.  

Once we realize that our ambitions to test our limits in triathlons are not about projecting an image of ourselves to the outside world and refuse to get absorbed in vanity, ”likes” addiction and external approvals – and rather see racing and training as a step in our personal development journey, to further build our characters. Then there will be no need for drug-testing or even draft Marshalls.


I realize that this sounds like Utopia and moral preaching – but it’s really that simple – it’s up to each of us to make the choice. The desire to qualify for Hawaii or win will bring out the best and worst in people – we will always have temptations and we will always have the opportunity to chose right from wrong.

Personally, doping was a big reason I retired from racing Ironman triathlons in 1998.

After racing Hawaii quite well in 1997, finishing 74;th overall, several people that was ahead of me got caught for doping and I realized that to get to top 50 or 20 would be impossible if I would not go down the path of cheating and doping.

I had trained with a few of those who got caught. They were extremely good athletes with high training discipline and lots of talent but what really set us apart was their phenomenal recovery. After the really hard days I would need an easier recovery day to absorb and rebuild while they did another hard day, and another. Apparently, the kind of recovery you get when you take growth hormones. 

Before I knew that they were using – It made me think I was weak and I started training even harder. It did not work – I trained so hard that I became anemic. Even if I was eating perfectly, my body could not handle the training load and I ended up in hospital.

I was put on in a room with cancer patients who also had their arms connected to a plastic bag above their head. The doctor gave me iron-infusion (IV) and B12 injections – which is the way they treat someone with close to no red bloodcells left in the blood stream.

Fortunately I responded well to the iron-infusion and slowly recovered. Meanwhile I learned about the unfair advantages that my oppnents had taken, it threw me off, I lost my motivation and I decided to take a long break from racing. I realized that I was already training harder than my body could handle and could only get to top 100 in the world – clean. Getting on drugs to boost performance was always out of the question for me – I had reached my top level as a clean athlete. 

The break lasted 18 years and when I now re-start – I do it purely for pleasure and to enrich life – the way the sport was intended. Now I focus on appreciating the motion, the mental challenge and finally – the test and proof of character in racing. It’s sad to know that many people in the races will be faster by doping and cheating but I chose to not let it affect me, knowing that I can look myself in the mirror every day and say, “I’m clean”.  

Stay clean and happy!

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The optimal challenge – Inspire your kids to train with you!

Both my wife and I are dedicated endurance athletes. She used to run marathons but has recently started to focus on half marathons instead as she can do more of them per year.

With both parents running (and one of us swimming and biking as well) you would think that our kids would be interested in participating in at least one of the sports  – but that is not the case (yet!).

Growing up I tried a lot of different sports before I finally got hooked on triathlon at the age of 26. We are trying to provide the same opportunity to find a sport for our kids and encourage them to try as many sports as they like to hopefully one day find a sport they love and stay active in all their life. 

It would be great if they found a liking for triathlon but it seems that it’s currently not progressing in that direction. Every once in a while I ask my daughter if she doesn’t want to become fast like Lisa Nordén, but she points out that she is only 9 and would like to think further about such important decisions before committing.

Anyway – I have actually managed to get my son to run with me and it’s really a great way to spend time together with your children. 

First try at the age of three:

We had a blazing start down the hill towards Rålambshovsparken in Stockholm and probably did the first 500 meters in 4 minutes. Once we got to the water and he saw the swans and ducks swimming, he lost focus and rather wanted to feed them than run. What kind of behavior is that for a future Ironman World Champion? – I must say that I got deeply concerned! 

Second attempt at the age of eleven:

Version 2

I was doing a easy 15km recovery and my son came along for 7km. Amazed at how easy it was for him to run a 7km I remembered when I was a kid and had to run with my dad. I thought I was going to die and didn’t run again until I had to in the army. It was different back then.

During the Christmas holidays I managed to get my daughter to come for a swim and as it went really well – she is a natural talent – I suggested that she starts practicing with SPIF. She was not too eager to try that….

My son now comes along for a 7-8km run every week and enjoys it but if given a choice of playing Star Wars Battlefront and running with dad, well I will not even try answering that question.

I can really recommend taking your kids with you on some easy sessions and perhaps they will be inspired and become the next Lisa Nordén or Patrik Nilsson – either way – if they keep it up they will eventually beat you severly at your game and I really look forward to that day.

Enjoy spending quality time with your kids!


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”On the 8th day God made the Merino sheep”. Seriously – I have no idea how the hell I was able to spend any time what so ever in weather conditions under 0° without this material.

It finally got cold in Stockholm and when the mercury is showing -14° at least I have parked the bike on a trainer. It was a fantastic November and December and most weeks I was able to get around 200km of the weekly 300km outdoors, which is very unusual for Sweden this time of the year. I know, it’s far from the 500km/week that any serious triathlete should aim for – but hey, I’m old – give me a break – I might catch pneumonia…

Yesterday I went out for a nice crispy 16km trail run in -14° on the trails of Rindö. It’s always interesting to run trails in the snow as you have no idea what you will land on. I find that this makes you ”responsive and light on the feet” – even after all the fatty Christmas food when you feel like the reason you did not see Santa is probably because you ate him – in your sleep – as you where so used to chewing….

We spent Christmas at our cottage on Rindö and it so happens that this is the place which was the home to the Swedish special forces group called ”Coast Rangers” and my home for a year back in the day of 1985-1986.

When I was out there running I remember how we suffered and used to freeze our butts off during the winter and how we even bought our own high tech synthetic underwear to replace the army standard cotton and try to keep a little warmer.

I hated the cold so much after those years that I made it a life goal not to live anywhere near snow for the rest of my life. That worked well for 15 years, during which I met my wife, had kids and then had to decide where to bring them up. Like so many other Swedish ex-pats, we chose to come home and in 2009 we moved back from Sydney, Australia.

Feeling like Rocky Balboa in Russia, I had to adapt and put on long tights again, freeze my bony ass off and suffer, but then I found God – sorry, MERINO WOOL.

Man (and woman), it really changed my attitude towards winter training! If you have not tried it and are still using synthetic stuff – you have to try, it’s unbelievable.

Here are the main benefits:

1. It adjusts to your body temperature – possible to use in warm as well as cold weather.

2. Dries up in no time.

3. Keeps you warm even when wet (just like high tech synthetics – but without the side effect, see 4.

4. As wool is a natural material that has evolved over millions of years rather than invented in a lab 25 years ago, it doesn’t have all the side effects that lab experiments have – like the smell you get (and can’t remove) on synthetics. If you’re like me and train 2-3 sessions a day and don’t have the luxury of a Personal Butler who makes you protein drink and washes your training cloths – you need wool. I can easily do 10-15 sessions in the same shirt without washing and there is no smell. The only reason I wash it is because it’s getting too salty and instead of folding it I can just lean it against the wall… which is getting boarder line creepy…. even for me.

5. Merino Wool doesn’t itch at all – not even after 10 sessions without wash… I have tried…. – It’s noting like the crap we used in the army (the ”1948” uniform that that smelled ass – WITHOUT EVEN USING IT!)

Don’t care about the weather – just get the right gear and enjoy!

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Improve or ignore swimming?

A few weeks back I went to a swim camp with my club SPIF Triathlon. It was really a great set up with two extremely knowledgeable swim coaches and a great program with lots of technic as well as some really hard sets. I really learned a lot!


”Who wants to be fast in the water?” 

Some triathletes think that I have a past as a swimmer – but any real swimmer would see in 5 seconds that I am just a triathlete trying to stay alive in the water.

My background is not in swimming it’s rather in skiing, skateboarding, martial arts, rock climbing and windsurfing. When I decided to start with triathlon at the age of 26 I joined a local swim group to learn to swim freestyle and was lucky to meet a coach that got me to learn the right technic first – even if I could only swim 25 meters at the time. To this day I never do a swim session without working on technic and I think the importance of always further developing and marinating technic is the main difference with biking and running. Sure, you need good technic in those sports too – but I think everyone knows what I mean and we have all seen people with a pretty dodgy running technic pull off a <35min 10k but I am sure that no-one has seen a swimmer with poor water position and bad efficiency do a <18min 1500m.  

My experience is that if you have a decent technic you can very easily do the 3,860m in 50-55min without to much effort. If you don’t have it – you can work your little heart out and finish the swim in >70min.

Swimming requires much more thinking and focus than running and biking and many triathletes I have seen who have a tendency to “just go hard” have real difficulties getting under an hour in the ironman distance swim. As a consequence they lose patience and start going around justifying that “the swim is so small part of the race and it would take so much time to get faster that I rather spend the time on bike and run training”. It’s easy to favor the sports that are more fun (the ones that you are better at).

Here are a few reasons I think it’s important to get the swimming right:

  1. If you are effective in the water you will not only gain 10-15 minutes – you will also get out of the water without to much fatigue.
  2. If you are fast in the swim you will get out with faster people and not having to pass so many as if you have a big difference in bike speed compared to your swimming – you will not have to do hundreds of intervals to follow the drafting regulations.
  3. You can practice and improve your oxygen uptake when you practice 3-5-7-9 breathing – something that you will have advantage of in all three sports. (can also be practiced running or biking but I find that using duct tape over your month is less practical than simply reducing your alternate breathing rhythm in the pool…) 
  4. It’s more fun to be decent at all the tree sports that comprice a triathlon than to really dread (suck at) one of them.

Some advice:

  1. Get a swim coach to work with you – there are many really good ones nowadays and just a few sessions can have big impact if you listen and continue with the drills to improve your technic.
  2. Join a club who has a swim coach and ask for advice on your technic – focus on one improvement at the time, get it right and move to next improvement.
  3. Add a few extra sessions of swimming per week as recovery training. Those sessions are purely pleasure and you should only work on drills and the other strokes than freestyle – to get more comfortable in the water. I find that swimming, as a recovery session, is much better than complete rest.
  4. Get working on your ankle flexibility – most of us who run and bike a lot have ankles that don’t extend much more than 90°…. Get them to 180° and you will reduce substantial amount of drag.

Good luck and swim smooth! 

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