1. Fog and mud and love.

    Long run in the hills and trails of Paloheinä, Helsinki.  It was worth the work to reach high ground in the park today, gorgeous views of the wilderness in the fog.  17 miles of beauty. 

    Ultra marathon training has commenced in earnest.  This time last year I was preparing to run in the most storied marathon in the world, in Boston, with almost 30,000 fellow runners.  It turned out to be an unforgettable day, one of tragedy but also of triumph and one that binds all runners together.  Though I am across the world from that event this year, I am as connected to my running peers as ever. 

    This summer I run an ultra marathon in the fells and forests of Lapland, with barely 100 others, mostly Finns, no TV cameras, and only the most loyal and enthusiastic fans, and in the middle of the ‘night’ though there is no night in Lapland in July.  

    I am looking forward to 100s of glorious miles in beautiful surroundings, including the Helsinki City Run (half-marathon) and the Seawheeze (half-marathon in Vancouver), amongst others to be named later ;)

    Every time I train, or race (or even walk frankly) the iPhone app Charity Miles sponsors my miles and makes a donation to a nonprofit of my choice.  I support the pioneering Parkinson’s research being funded by the Michael J Fox Foundation among others.  Check out the app to see more, its free.

    More updates to come soon about Karhu and my explorations of Finland’s natural wonders as I prepare for my first ultra marathon and continue the adventure.

    Matt

     
  2. Urban adventures, Stockmann, Helsinki.

     
  3. Running in Helsinki is glorious.

     
  4. Fin(n)ishing where I began.

    Back in December I started a journey of exploration and in collaboration with Karhu shoes- I would document my experiences, and travels as I ran.  And run I have, from trails in Eastern Finland, Helsinki, Lahti, on Suomenlinna to Canada - Banff, Canmore & Edmonton, then back to Helsinki and now back to Eastern Finland, poetically, right where I started.  I wanted to share this experience for reasons I knew and reasons I would manifest.  I would be training for my first ski marathon (Finlandia-hihto) and telling a story of personal learnings, challenges overcome and moments appreciated.

    This exploration has been powered by my steps and by my thirst for adventure.  In the past couple months I have run or skied more than 1000 kilometers using Charity Miles (free iPhone/Android application) which makes a donation to the Michael J Fox Foundation and Stand Up to Cancer (charities I chose out of a list of more than 20) for every mile, simply for me doing what I love.  I am thankful for this.  This accumulation of miles is not out of the ordinary for me, as I have been training for and running marathons since 2010.

    Along the way I rekindled a love affair with my home (Western Canada), and for simplicity.  I had not taken in the majesty of the Rocky Mountains for some years and upon returning I fell in love all over again.

    While I have been exploring, I have worked to bring into balance my time online and offline and be grateful for all moments, in all contexts.  Social media facilitates community and exploration, but its presence should not impede one’s own. It is a vehicle for sharing and camaraderie, but it is not a relationship in and of itself. 

    I believe each run is a gift, an opportunity to, as a friend would say, ‘collect wonder.’  To take a new path and find a little adventure can be incredibly enriching.  Living in Finland and spending time in the eastern part of the country, full with its unkempt wilderness, I have come to realize it is here where my heart is most full and at peace.  

    Daily frivolities and superfluousness that can come to overwhelm us, distort our priorities, and over-complicate things.  Reconnecting with ourselves is vital, running does this for me.  Answering the call for simplicity was exactly what I needed.  I can’t wait for the next adventure.  

    I am thankful to Karhu and their support and encouragement and, of course, their trail shoes that took me everywhere I went, faster than ever.

    You can find all my photographs on instagram —> @hamiltonguevara​ 

    -Matt

     
  5. Finlandia-hiihto. My first ski marathon for @teamfoxmjff 🎿❤️

     
  6. Helsinki received a light skiff of snow the last couple days, the last vestiges of winter I suppose. Made the trails crunching and inviting on this Sunday.

     
  7. Helsinki is looking gorgeous these days.  In what is the warmest Spring in 24 years, trails & paths around & through the city are snowless and eager to facilitate adventure for any willing running adventurers.

    I am planned to ski in the Vuokatti Ski Marathon in a couple weeks, but due to the unseasonably warm temperatures in Helsinki, I haven’t skied since the Finlandia-hiihto, and it is not guaranteed that the event will even happen.  On the other hand are these breathtaking views and invigorating runs in Helsinki!  I’ll take it!

    I have added a couple things to my schedule for the spring, including the Helsinki City Run in early May.  Building towards something pretty epic in the summer called the Tour de Fox.  More info on that later!

    Matt

    Karhu Update:

    My all-weather trail shoes have brilliant on the muddy trails as the remnants of winter recede.  To know that your footing will be stable and secure means you can attack runs as aggressively as you want.  Love it. 

    Check out some of the new gear and deals at Karhu.com

     
  8. That’s how its done, Finlandia. It took some #sisu, but we did it!

     
  9. Marathon season begins- Early!  Tomorrow I ski in the Finlandia-hiihto Ski Marathon in Lahti, Finland.  It is my first marathon on skis, and I can’t wait to get out there and try to make it through the whole race without falling.  It’s gonna be awesome!

    This event also kicks- off a year that I will cover more miles than I ever have in the past, so here begins a new journey, a new challenge, bring it ON!

    I am also skiing to help raise awareness for Parkinson’s disease and the tremendous work of the Michael J Fox Foundation.  If you are interested in supporting me, you can here 

    -M

     
  10. Peak Training.  Bring on the Marathon!

    The past couple weeks have been intense.  I have now peaked in my training for the Finlandia-hiihto Ski Marathon.  I have been running, skiing, cycling and rowing to ensure my fitness is strong enough to compensate for my technique, which I am still ‘refining.’  

    From here I taper and bring down my mileage so I can be as refreshed as possible for the big day.  There is still not enough snow in Lahti, Finland (the location of the race) for the entire track, so it looks like the route will most likely be changed and snow will have to be manufactured to ensure the 10000+ skiers have a race to compete in.

    Despite the fatigue that comes with training skis of 35km & 40km for the first time ever, I’ve survived, and pushed through soft snow, bitter cold, steep, repetitive climbs, hoping to create a version of the pain and exhaustion which is sure to come.  To keep me going, I’ve employed some #sisu from my adopted home, Finland. This cultural artifact defies simple description as it takes in Finnish cultural nuances beyond what could be described here, even if I fully understood it. 

    Emilia Lahti, a Finn who studies positive psychology, describes it as determination and courage in the face of adversity; an action mindset which enables individuals to see beyond their present limitations into what is possible.  Sisu is “an integral element of Finnish culture, and also a universal capacity for which the potential exists within all individuals.”

    I’m going to need some of that #sisu I have within me on February 23 for the Finlandia-hiito.  I know I will find it.

    -M

    Karhu Update:

    With the unpredictable conditions and weather lately here in Helsinki, these runners (my Flow Trail WP) have been the perfect partner for runs in and around the city through the sloppy & slippery streets and snowy trails, and despite putting more than 100 miles on these runners through harsh conditions, they remain comfortable and flexible and fully water (&snow) proof. Beauty.

    My Flow Trail WP’s

    Karhu.com