Race date for 2021 announced

Due to the situtation with coronavirus Winter Warrior Finland has to be canceled this year. Our recent goal has been fixing the race date for 2021 so that the competitors can reorganize their flights and accommodation. As a result, we are happy to announce that the race date for next year is Saturday the 10th of April!

Registration will be opened later on. This will naturally be announced in all our channels so for now you should save the date and stay tuned.

Let’s all remember to take care of ourselves and our loved ones during these challenging times!

WINTER WARRIOR FINLAND 2020 CANCELED

Unfortunately, due to the Corona virus situation Winter Warrior Finland 2020 has to be canceled. Traveling is already very restricted and Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare recommends that all non-essential events are canceled. We do not want to hinder efforts to control the epidemic, so we came to this solution with heavy heart.

We will try to plan Winter Warrior Finland 2021 as soon as possible and all registrations can automatically be postponed to next year. If for any reason you don’t want to postpone your participation to next year, let us know so we can send you a Winter Warrior Finland t-shirt – although it is certainly only a light consolation.

We very much hope that you will have the opportunity to cancel your booked accommodation and trips. Fortunately, in this situation, insurance may also cover costs. We are very sorry for the situation.

Let’s all take care of ourselves and each other and hope that life returns to normal as soon as possible. Let’s make Winter Warrior Finland 2021 even more amazing!

With Arctic regards,
Simo, Maria and the whole Winter Warrior team

Lee Bowmaker takes on the Winter Warrior challenge for a special cause

Lee Bowmaker running

Lee Bowmaker is dad of a four-year-old special boy from England. His son Ashton has global developmental delay and has difficulties with communication. He also can’t have any liquids through his mouth – he is given fluids through a tummy peg. In September he has joined Woodlawn School where he has made big progress and his parents are very happy they are now able to communicate better with their son.

Lee wanted to do something to help the school so he decided to take on this crazy winter challenge to raise funds. We were touched to hear the story and asked him a few questions.

How would you introduce your self?

My name is Lee, I’m 34 and come from Newcastle England.

Have you been to many OCR races before?

Yeah a few, I mostly run trail and fell but have done some OCR all be it in warmer weather than yours!

What made you decide to travel to Lapland and take part in Winter Warrior challenge?

Myself and a few friends decided to go for a different challenge. And for me it was an opportunity to do something hard and raise some funds for my sons school.

How did you hear about Winter Warrior Finland?

My friend Graeme is always looking out for new and interesting things to do so he spotted it.

What are yout thoughts about the upcoming race? 

The race itself not really nervous but very worried about how I’ll perform in such cold weather, it’s not really something I can train for over here in England. I guess we’ll find out on the 28th of March haha!

Have you ever tried to run in deep snow or dip in to icy water before?

No never been and never ran in snow. Coldest water I’ve been in was the North Sea, but it’s not Icy!

Tell us a few words about your son. Does he like sports?

He loves to be involved in everything socially, but Ashton has Global Development Delay which one of the things effected is balance so he not aways able to join in. He like a little fish in the water though!! Loves to swim!

You are doing this to raise funds for the school that helped your son. How has it worked?

The response so far has been fantastic. His school definitely deserves all the support it can get! It cares for kids with a wide ranges of disabilities both mental and physical, and the change in my son since he started last September just shows how effective this school is.

If someone wants to make a donation, how can they do that?

Any donations will be greatly appreciated, thank you very much! Link to the fundraise

Lee and Ashton

20% discount for bus tickets

Travel cheap and environmental friendly by bus. Onnibus has a bus route from Helsinki to Ylläs via Jyväskylä and Oulu.

Onnibus offers 20% discount with promotion code WARRIOR.
Bookings: 12.12.2019 – 25.3.2020
Travle time: To Ylläs 26.–27.3.2020 and from Ylläs 29.–30.3.2020.
Schedule and tickets www.onnibus.com

From Tampere and Turku, Ylläs can be reached via exchange from Jyväskylä. From Vaasa, exchange in Oulu.

More flights to Kittilä!

Travelling to Winter Warrior just got a whole lot easier. Norwegian has announced more flights and you can fly there for a reasonable price. This is a perfect tim e to sign up to the race and make plans for for trip to Lapland! Check out the flights www.norwegian.com.

Of course, if you can, it is good to consider train or bus. Read more – How to get there.

Juri’s story – “During those 3 hours I ran I smiled more than any 3 hours of my life”

Juri Lahtinen at Winter Warrior 2019

This is a story written to us by an inspiring racer Juri Lahtinen, Americanized Finn who became a flag-bearer of USA 2019.

We share this story with a heavy heart since Juri passed away unexpectedly this summer. Last year he made it his mission to share his happiness about healthy lifestyle and inspire others to take better care of themselves. He often said that if he can get one, just one person, to start exercising, he has succeeded. We try to continue his legacy and hope sharing his story gives someone a spark to make the small everyday choices for a better life.

Juri raced in Winter Warrior 2019 and he was super excited and proud – for a good reason. He was an amazing warrior and always sharing his positive spirit around. We miss him greatly.

Juri Lahtinen at Winter Warrior 2019
Juri Lahtinen at Winter Warrior 2019

About me

I’m an engineer who has traveled for work all around the world for the last 20 years. When I was studying and starting my career as I used to do martial arts, bike and run a lot. Then I got some injuries that forced me out of martial arts. At that point my overall activity level dropped a lot, also due to constant business trips. It is not easy to exercise when one lives such an unstable life. I guess then what happened I also started to use traveling and being busy as an excuse not to exercise. Even more unhealthy thing when traveling for work is that one eats all their meals in restaurants where it is so difficult to get healthy food if you’re not extremely careful.

Juri one week before the heart attack
Juri one week before the heart attack

After eating in restaurants for 20 years and not exercising enough February 26th 2018 I got  a heart attack. Luckily I was smart enough to go to ER early stages when blood flow to the heart was not completely blocked. So there wasn’t any permanent damage. Having a heart attack is easy and even emotionally that’s not the hard part. Hard part is to see how worried your kids, family and friends are because of you. For me the hardest thing was to see my kids when they came to see me to hospital. Seeing my kids so worried was the thing that helped me to improve my lifestyle. Still that vision brings a tear to my eye and keeps me going 6am for a run.

Recovery

I heard lately a quote that bad things don’t happen to you, those happen for you. This is my favorite quote and this describes my recovery really well. So 3 stents and a couple of days later I got out of hospital. Then I was on my own and needed to figure out how I can survive.

First step – Learn how to eat and lose weight. I got advice from my doctor at the hospital how to eat so that it would lower my cholesterol, blood pressure and weight. I contacted registered dietitian, got help from Pauli Ohikainen who has his own Sceptical health blog and read a ton of scientific publications about this topic as well. I started to follow advice I got. Avoiding red meat, stay below 2000mg sodium per day, eat a lot good veggies and fruits and constraint my calorie intake. This is easy to say but when you start to think about how to do that in practice it’s pretty tough. Specially sodium part.

Step two – couple of days after I started to walk every day. First around the block, then 1 mile, 5k and 10k. Same time I had 2-3 times per week cardiac rehab. I was walking 10k every day for a long time and then I got to try a little running in cardiac rehab. That went really well then I started to run short distances during my walks. Distances increased little by little and 4 months after my heart attack I was able to run my first 5k. This point of time I really liked my walks and runs and had lost 44 lbs (20kg) weight. So I felt really good.

How I got into OCR and Winter Warrior

What happened next that amount of runs increased little by little. On October 2018 I realized that I could easily run quite long distances. It was exactly 8 months from heart attack and I did 8 days in a row over 8km running. That’s 888…maybe this was omen for my Winter Warrior bib number 666? This time I visited Finland and had possibility to go run with race organizer and my brother Simo and thought that I did pretty well with him. I guess it was one week after this I saw in Facebook Winter Warrior map with flag bearers from all the countries where people had registered. I was looking that map and said to myself “wait a minute… there’s no USA? I definitely need to fix it”. Since I live in USA I registered immediately and Winter Warrior map got a new flag bearer.

Still this was only 8 months from my heart attack and 4 months when I was able to run my first 5k. So in back of my head I was still thinking that race is on April that I need to make final decision later on if I will compete or not.

Decision to compete

It was 10 months after my heart attack (December 23rd 2018) when I run my first half marathon distance and felt pretty good about it. Run was easy and after that I was gearing towards Winter Warrior mentally and basically made decision to participate (don’t tell that to my wife). After that I just run and noticed my PR’s improving steadily. When I increased my mileage I started also to do leg stability exercises to keep my knees pain free and I thought that I would need that leg stability to compete in Winter Warrior. Before the race throughout 2019 I did average stable 32 mile per week average so felt really ready for it.

Winter Warrior – before the race

I was in Hannover Germany on 5th of April and flew from there Kittilä for race that was on the 6th of April. From Kittilä It was about 45min drive to Ylläs where competition was held. After typical pre race short sleep I had my breakfast and head out to starting place of the race. Nice thing was that everything was well organized and it was easy to get my bib. Safety presentation was really good, although I’m not sure if it was really needed because one can’t get lost on the track if you just follow the track markings. One unknown element for me was snow. I live in Atlanta GA USA and I haven’t seen snow in ages and I had no possibility to train for this type of event. Last time I run in snow must have been over 20 years ago. So I was pretty nervous on that morning and my strategy was to start slow, see what others do and pick up the pace later on.

Ylläs
Ylläs

Winter Warrior race

I had one mantra that I was telling myself on that morning “you’ve trained well, you’re in great shape, go and have fun”. After few hundred meters I noticed that this is super fun and I had such a great time during the race. I think during those 3 hours I ran I smiled more than any 3 hours of my life.

During the climb to the first hill Kellostapuli I was following others, just enjoying and taking pictures from the awesome scenery along the way. Also I was following others because I was conserving my energy since I didn’t knew what was waiting for me. During descend from Kellostapuli I suddenly noticed that I was alone with no one was around me and I just started to keep my natural pace. It was an awesome feeling… just me, nature and seeing time to time volunteers to cheer me on.

Then after few obstacles was time of the second climb. For me that was by far the best part of the race. On top of that hill I heard from volunteers that I was in 3rd or 4th in my category (race squad). I was really surprised since I was just enjoying the ride and having fun. Ascend from the second hill was the toughest part of the race because there was a long stretch of hip deep soft snow. When I got back to the lake then it was again easy to run fast and I picked up the pace but it was a bit too early since rope obstacles at the end and 120 penalty burpees were bit tough. I have never done OCR or practiced those obstacles so they were pretty tough but fun to figure out on the fly. End of the race certainly had its surprises and I crossed the finish line USA flag in my hand and at time of 3h 4mins. Then it was time to celebrate there with other competitors and sit a while in tent sauna to warm up. I think it was a couple of hours later I heard that I was third in my category and I was blown away. I never would have thought it would be possible.

This race made such a huge impact on me. I’m sure I want to return 2020 and during the race I learned new things about myself where most important would be that I really enjoy to compete in races where I don’t know how fast I should be so I can pace myself based on feeling and enjoy the race instead of looking at my watch and stressing about can I do my personal best or not. Only thing I regret is that I should have spent more time in Ylläs and enjoy the nature.

Now I’m telling my story that one can do this type of event 1 year after a heart attack because I’m hoping to get people to improve their lifestyle early enough so they end up like me having a heart attack. I know that everyone with cardiovascular disease is not as lucky as me that they will get another chance to become a better version of themselves. So if you’re wondering if you are fit enough to participate I hope this helps? Like I said I could run 5k first time 8 months before the race.

Proud finisher of Winter Warrior Finland 2019
Proud finisher of Winter Warrior Finland 2019

Race video

Race video 2019 is now released! Get a taste of the awesome race feeling here.

I Scream Tunnel - Photo by Poppis Suomela
I Scream Tunnel – Photo by Poppis Suomela

Samuli Salmenoja was the superior winner of this epic race

Winter Warrior Finland was once again a great event. 51 racers from 12 different countries ran in breathtaking scenery across the fells through a tough race with an amazing attitude. Every competitor most certainly earned their medal and can be extremely proud of their performance. However, the race is a competition and this time Samuli Salmenoja from Finland came first with an unbelievable performance. Samuli led the competition from the start and even managed to run in the deep, unbroken snow.

Race results

A warm-hearted prize ceremony was held in hotel Ylläskaltio in the evening after the race. Warrior squad winners Samuli Salmenoja (1:49) and Leena Toljamo (2:38) received unique silver Winter Warrior Finland necklaces designed and manufactured by Damastikoru, as well as reindeer hides given by local boutique Mailan putiikki and a packet of Warrior coffee. In addition they earned a free participation to the elite squad of OCR competition Toughest Finland 2019.

Warrior squad winner Samuli Salmenoja
Warrior squad winner Samuli Salmenoja

Fastest female Warrior Leena Toljamo
Fastest female Warrior Leena Toljamo

Also the second fastest man and woman in the Warrior squad were rewarded: Artur Szempruch (2:11) and Tanja Korhonen (2:44). The competition for the title of fastest Warrior woman was fierce between Leena and Tanja but Leena claimed the win on the challenging obstacles in the end. As a reward they received ORIOCX Sparta running shoes, especially designed for OCR and trail running.

Artur Szempruch and Tanja Korhonen
Artur Szempruch and Tanja Korhonen

The winner of men’s Race squad was Jari Kumpulainen (2:33). Henriikka Miettunen and Henna Tyni (3:17) crossed the finish line together, sharing the title of the fastest woman in Race squad. What’s notable is that in a race as international as this, the winners of Race squad were all from the local village. They were rewarded with a finnish innovation: Fasciawear training suits.

Henriikka Miettunen, Henna Tyni and Jari Kumpulainen
Henriikka Miettunen, Henna Tyni and Jari Kumpulainen

The best and only team, Team Second Round crossed the finish line with a time of 4:05. Mira Lehtinen, Aija Mehtälä and Anniina Ruusi took part in the race already last year in Challenge squad and this time they bravely ran the full course. They received Winter Warrior cloth bags with Warrior coffee to give them energy for new challenges.

Aija Mehtälä, Mira Lehtinen and Anniina Ruusi
Aija Mehtälä, Mira Lehtinen and Anniina Ruusi

Also visible in the logo of Winter Warrior Finland, the flag-bearer is a unique part of the race. The fastest runner of every country get their own country’s flag to carry on the finish line. The following warriors made it to the Hall of Fame of flag-bearers:

Samuli Salmenoja, Finland
Artur Szempruch, Poland
Quentin Freret, France
Zdeněk Pokorný, Czech
Thorsten Hartmann, Germany
Martin Theodorsen, Denmark
Florian Zuschnig, Austria
Chris Paul, England
Remy Kruijsse, Netherlands
Juri Lahtinen, USA
Steven Platt, Great Britain
Willy Bommarez, Belgium

Flag-bearers 2019
Flag-bearers 2019

The flag-bearers were given Kupilka-kuksas (traditional cups made from biocomposite material), donated by Visit Ylläs.

Warrior Spirit is a very important thing to us and also this year we awarded two brave warriors for special ‘sisu’ and courage during the race. Noora Kokkonen and Saara-Kaisa Konttori were rewarded with bird-themed kuksas crafted by Lapinkettu.

Saara-Kaisa Konttori
Saara-Kaisa Konttori

Alex Jahnke who celebrated his 50th birthday in the race was surprised in the price ceremony with a candleholder made from reindeer antlers, given by Saga-Maaret.

Simo Lahtinen, Maria Christensen and Alex Jahnke
Simo Lahtinen, Maria Christensen and Alex Jahnke

A big thank you to all those who donated the prizes: Damastikoru, Mailan Putiikki, ORIOCX, Fasciawear, Warrior Coffee, Visit Ylläs, Lapinkettu and Saga-Maaret.

And lastly HUGE thanks to all the racers for keeping the magnificent national park of Pallas-Yllästunturi clean of any trashes also this year.