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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Motivation vs. Habit

Dave Scott posted an excellent qoute on facebook a few days ago;


I find that when you use your motivation as your main tool for training you might accomplish extraordinary single sessions that you are so proud of that you share them with everyone on every social media. 

But, there is a day after your great achievement as well and typically that day is not the day that you post your selfie all perky and smiley – it’s the day when you need the four double espresso to get out of bed and your eyes above your bags are so small that you can barley see them. Or perhaps it’s just like that for me – after missing a few sessions during the work week and trying to catch up during the weekend…. 

A better way is perhaps to develop a habit and even if we live in a world of constant change where it’s hard to set a program in stone – it’s the consistency (habit) that makes the difference.

What I have noticed with all the top athletes that I have met over the years is that they have a set program year in and year out – not that they are training at the same pace and intensity level (that is mellanmjölk – stay far away from that!) but that they have a weekly routine and volume that hardly changes.

Right now I am building up my routine (habit), which will be around 20hour per week, given my age I think it’s about as much as I will be able to handle. This time of the year it’s mainly base training (L2) and the purpose is to get very comfortable with this volume. Once this is completed I start changing the components and introduce more speed and intensity.

Hopefully I will not get injured again once I start adding the intensity and be able to race 2016 rather than just participate….

Happy holidays and watch out for those sneaky extra pounds that so easily appears during this time of the year – no, there is no need for built in insulation – there are warm cloths for that. This is a link to a inspirational video to develop your habit during the most difficult time of the training year. 

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Searching for Cow-Man

There is a man with the name Ken Shirk who calls himself Cow-Man.

Cow-Man is a legend to all of us who has been around the sport for a long time.

He is the complete opposite to people who really don’t like to train and only does one Ironman race to be able to say they did one. 

Cow-Man raced his first marathon in 1967 and then decided to become a mountainman. He moved to Lake Tahoe, lived in a cabin with a wood stove, chopped firewood and fished and ran. In 1976 he wanted to do something big for America’s bicentennial so he ran around Lake Tahoe 72miles (115km). To further celebrate he painted himself red white and blue, his friends gave him a pair of buffalo horns that he mounted on his helmet and then ran through the city only wearing the helmet and paint on his naked body.

In 1976 Cow-Man ran the Western States 100, becoming the second man to complete the challenging 160km course.  Cow-Man raced in the second Ironman race 1979 and every year following that until 2006. In all the races he would wear his helmet with the Bowie horns – even in the swim (as long as they allowed it which was probably only in 1979 – where he placed 7th overall with a time of 16hrs 41min)

Cow-Man in red Speedos and horns at the Ironman starting line 1979.

Some years he would qualify and race officially, some years he raced anyway – without a number. The locals would support him and give him water and food at the aid stations either way, as they loved him. The organizers (WTC) wanted to take him of the course and often did.

I met Cow-Man after the Ironman race in 1997 and we had a few drinks together. That year they took him of the course 200 meters before the finish line. They didn’t want to let him cross the finishline as he had not qualified and paid the entry fee.

Meeting Cow-Man is one of the coolest memories in my triathlon career. He is the most humble and down to earth guy that just loves training and racing and does it in his own way. 

When I asked for his business card, to be able to stay in contact, he took a card from the bar and wrote his address on the back of it. Cow-Man didn’t have business cards, e-mail or a phone.  

I have written to Cow-Man but I im not sure he is still alive and if he is, perhaps he’s not the kind of guy who stays in touch – much. I have also tried to find out about what happened to him from Fern Gavelek – a Hawaiian journalist who wrote an article about Cow-Man in 2012. She answered that she has not heard from him or about him since 2012.

Hopefully Cow-Man is still out there, running and racing in his own way and inspiring people to look for more than showing off a finisher t-shirt, inspiring people to be a little more relaxed and a little crazier.

I’m sure everyone understands what I am trying to say with this story. I don’t think that Ironman distance is or was every intended to stimulate consumption of expensive toys and make milions on Mdot logos. Neither do I think it was about results or achivments – it was intended for people to enjoy movement and as a test of your own limits together with likeminded people. It was for everyone, for fun and not for profit.

But things change, and I am not saying everything was better in the past – a lot of things are better now, back then we did’nt even race on closed roads…    

Still, with Ironman now becoming a ”folksport” it is important to remember that it takes years of training and racing before you can truly apprechiate life in the very differnet state that you are exposed to during Ironman racing and training.

Most people never get there as there are always reasons NOT to give it your all and much easier to change course, pick other ”bucket list” item, new achivements to chase rather than become the best you can be on Ironman distance.

I advice to stay with it longer – it’s worth it. 

And let me know if you seen Cow-Man recently!  

Note: Out of the 5,719 Swedes that have completed an Ironman distance race 60% have only done one – so far…. 

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The Perfect Bike Fit

I started to ride road bike more seriously in 1984 due to an overuse/running injury in a knee. The roads where less busy with cyclists back then. A lot has happened in +30 years. Not only material has improved but also the understanding to always strive for a perfect position and the components of it.

Positioning has always been a skill that the more serious bike shops have been able to provide and the result has often been like with surgeons – if they perform the operation frequently – they become really good at it.

About 15-20 years ago power meters started to be a useful tool for fitting and recently also HD cameras to calculate your frontal area exposure (for wind resistance). What I also noted has happened over the past ten years – when I recently got fitted on my AROGON 18 by the  team at Cykloteket – was much more dynamic approach where the fitter actually looks at the physical capabilities of the rider – flexibility, core strenght, imbalances, etc.

I have been fitted at least 10 times in my life before, by the traditional bike shop with a sharp eye, the bike shop with an adjustable bike and a sharp eye, by a mad professor in a dungeon under a university in Belgium…that was different…. , have also been fitted by one of the most famous bike fitter in the US during the 90ties on a Computrainer. (Who’s methods where so good that I stared to work with them and fitted over 100 people myself using a Computrainer as the main tool. 

So, when I went to get fitted at Cykloteket I felt I have seen everything and I was not expecting any surprises. Well, I was surprised. With his layed back approach and mellow attitude Jonte did a fantastic job and I could tell that this guy has both the skills of a frequent fitter as well as knowledge of all the latest technology.

 Jonte – getting ready to work his magic!

End result – 5cm increased drop from 9cm to 14cm (saddle to aero bars difference) compared to the last fit in 1998, largely due to the increase in how the ARGON 18 E-118 can be set up compared to the old bikes we used to ride. With that also comes decrease in frontal area, which in turn theoretically reduces the needed effort (watts) to move my body forward.

So is this whole aero thing the best thing since sliced bread? I am not sure, but theoretically yes. I know that I will use it to my advantage as much as I can, as I don’t draft – I need to do everything to minimize resistance against the wind. 

Here are some interesting facts that the guys at Cykloteket shared with me:

1. Something I think most of you know – wind resistance is exponential so the faster you go the more energy is spent fighting the wind.

 2. Going 40-41km/hr will require 120 watt more between riding in traditional cycling upper arm posture and aero position.

3. Riding at 40-41km/hr over the 180km Ironman distance in aero position will give you a 28min faster time than riding in a normal roadbike position. 

My own reflections and advice:

I see a lot of people out on the roads that are extremely low on their bikes – looks good but will they really be comfortable to ride like that for 180km and even more importantly – can they run after that?

It is really important to always question your position and fiddle around.

Don’t go with a position that does not feel good (after 3000-4000km) if you have to chose between a little more comfort over a little more aero – go with comfort as you will be able to produce more power as well as run better after the bike leg.

The aero position helps tremendously but remember that that guys like Jurgen Zack rode 4:27 in Hawaii, and I can tell you from riding with Jurgen, he was not very aero – but strong like a bull.

Jurgen – one of the first of the German Uberbikers in Kona

He hardly practiced on the aero bars before the race and used a road bike most of the training rides (something I personally think he paid a price for at some races with a troubled lower back – my view anyway – you have to practice in the possition that you race in 90% of your time on the bike).  

– Get fitted by someone that knows their stuff and that looks at more than your “knee to ball of the foot” angle.

 – Don’t sell your bike to fast! I don’t get it; I see so many bikes being put up for sale with only ridden for “1000km” – what is that, you don’t get to know a bike after 1000km? Go and get fitted instead and make sure that you are sitting right.

– Practice a lot of short intervals in aero position! When I came out of the water in Hawaii 1997 I was around place 250, after the bike I was 52nd – I had to pass 200 people within 30 seconds each over the 180km and those where not slow people. If you are racing clean you need to learn to pass fast again and again – even if your swimming is OK there are always people who are faster (or starting ahead of you). 


You might ask – how does it feel out on the roads, 5 cm deeper at the age of 49? 

Actually it feels quite ok. It took me 3000km to get used to the bike and now after another 2000km I am actually getting comfortable. Getting of the bike after 180km in aero position is never easy for anyone, at any age, so no big change there. So far I have only raced ”out of shape”, but I look forward to try this new position in 2016 when I have also got some serious miles in on the ARGON 18 monster. I am sure that I will be able to come down to 4:45-4:50 again with the advantage of a good fit and great bike. 

As Jurgen sais – ”Go hard or go home”!

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