Categories: Motivation
Tags: triathlon
Jyrki Salokorpi

In the spotlight

Jyrki Salokorpi

Jyrki Salokorpi has completed four Ironmans and several other triathlon races. Jyrki works as Technical Account Manager at Polar. His passion for triathlon allows him to use his first-hand knowledge and experience in his work to help take Polar’s products to the next level.

Triathlon races Jyrki has completed:

Finntriathlon Joroinen 70.3  2013, 2014
Voimarinne Triathlon 70.3 2015
Next Triathlon Långvik 70.3 2016
Ironman 70.3 Mallorca 2014, 2015
Ironman Jönköping 70.3 2017
Ironman Kalmar 2014, 2015, 2017
Ironman Maastricht 2016

How a chubby engineer started triathlon training | A tale of a triathlete

May 22, 2018

You don’t have to be a fitness freak or a pro football player to start triathlon training. This is the story of a triathlete, Polar’s Technical Account Manager Jyrki Salokorpi, who got into triathlon at the age of 45.

When I started triathlon, my background in table tennis didn’t exactly lay down the strongest foundation for the ultimate swim-bike-run challenge. Yup, at the time, I had mostly played ping pong, which isn’t considered to be the most demanding “endurance” sport there is.

Triathlon will take you to your limits and beyond, whether you’re a professional athlete in some other sport or a chubby engineer, like I was.

I could have just sticked to what I knew but something about challenging myself to the extreme fascinated me. 

The best thing about triathlon is that it offers more than enough challenge for all levels of athletes, despite their background.

Triathlon will take you to your limits and beyond whether you’re a professional athlete in some other sport or a chubby engineer, like I was.

Why did I start triathlon training?

The turning point for me was at 38, when I realized I weighed 102.5 kilos. That’s where I drew the line: I had to do something.

At the age of 38, I weighed 102.5 kilos. That’s where I drew the line: I had to do something.

I had been cycling as a kid, so going back to cycling when I needed to lose weight was natural for me. I took out my old Crescent bike from the storage and started cycling and paying attention to my diet.

My efforts paid off and after 1.5 years, I was down to 78 kilos. I had made huge progress with my weight but I didn’t stop there.

In 2012, I had the most inspiring encounter with a 59-year-old triathlete who was completing full triathlons in the time of 10 hours. 

In 2012, I had the most inspiring encounter with a 59-year-old triathlete who was completing full triathlons in the time of 10 hours. By then, triathlon had crossed my mind but I thought I was too old and it was way too late for me to get into that heavy training and racing.

As I was listening to this 59-year-old guy talking about triathlon, I couldn’t find excuses airtight enough to explain myself why I couldn’t do it, too. After all, I was only 45 at the time.

That’s when I set my goal: To complete one Ironman before I turned 50.

After the first taste of Ironman, you get hungry for mORe

Six months after my decision I signed up for my first Ironman, which took place a year from the sign-up. At that point, I was confident that I could handle the bike but how to survive the swim and the run was still a complete mystery to me.

I was not a great swimmer so the first step for me was to learn how to swim. I took swimming lessons and monitored my heart rate during all my swims.

I was not a great swimmer so the first step was to learn how to swim. I started taking swimming lessons and monitored my heart rate during all my swims.

At first, I could only do 25 meters of freestyle and then I had to take breast strokes back to lower my heart rate again. I never learned to be a fast swimmer but after training for a year or so, I improved enough to be able to swim freestyle.

There’s nothing like the feeling of stepping onto that red carpet for the first time and hear the words: “Jyrki, you’re an Ironman.”

I crossed the finish line for the first time in Ironman Kalmar. My race wasn’t perfect but I made it. There’s nothing like the feeling of stepping onto that red carpet for the first time and hearing the words: “Jyrki, you’re an Ironman.”

I immediately signed up for my next Ironman, in which I hit my PR of 10:24. I was the second fastest cyclist of my age group with an average speed of 36.5 km/h for 180 km, and completed the run in 3:48.

Inspired by my progress, I signed up for Ironman Maastricht.

Inspired by my progress, I signed up for Ironman Maastricht. I completed the swim in 1:16, which was 10 minutes better than ever before.

Completely over the moon by this unexpected success, I started the bike overly enthusiastic and full of adrenaline, which of course then backfired.

Because I felt like I nailed the swim, I forgot to monitor my heart rate during the bike and started cycling way too fast.

Because I felt like I nailed the swim, I forgot to monitor my heart rate during the bike and started cycling way too fast. The route was difficult with bumpy roads and a puncture on the second lap slowed me down for 10 minutes. After that, it was all downhill from there for me.

Unfortunately, the downhill didn’t apply to the actual run, which had a couple of tough climbs. The run was a disaster for me but I made it to the finish line with a time of 11:00.

I didn’t think it was too bad, but it was evident that my dream of racing in Hawaii would remain exactly that – a dream.

I went way beyond the goal set for myself back when I was 45. Instead of one, I completed 4 Ironmans before I turned 50.

So, I went back to Kalmar in 2017 but the run wasn’t flowing because I had gained 7-8 kilos more again.

But, what’s important is that I went way beyond the goal set for myself back when I was 45. Instead of one, I completed 4 Ironmans before I turned 50.

Even the strongest passion can wear you out – know when it’s time to take a break

I had a coach for three years but as my training started to get more and more serious and strictly structured, I noticed that I was getting more and more frustrated. My training routine didn’t allow any exceptions. I couldn’t even go for a run with my friends anymore because I had a schedule for all training sessions. 

Training started to feel lonely and it affected those around me, too, as my whole family’s vacations were planned around my training and racing schedule. I decided that taking a year off would be the best thing to do.

When training and racing gets too serious, the sport that was once your passion becomes a heavy obligation.

When training and racing gets too serious, there’s a risk that you’ll lose the joy that inspired you in the beginning. That’s when the sport that was once your passion becomes a heavy obligation. 

Now that I’ve had a moment to breathe, I find myself checking out triathlon websites again and feeling the familiar race itch. However, the next race for me is going to be about enjoying the event and the amazing atmosphere and not so much about how well I perform.

I have now slowly started to discover the fantastic feeling of exercising again.

Why triathlon gets you hooked for life

One of the great things about triathlon is that it’s so versatile and it never gets boring – you’re training three sports, plus additional gym workouts.

The most addictive thing about triathlon is challenging yourself. For me, it all started from thinking: Could I do it? Do I have it in me?

The most addictive thing about triathlon is challenging yourself. For me, it all started from thinking: Could I do it? Do I have it in me?

First, I tried a half-distance race because a friend suggested. Then, I moved on to race Ironman distance and the hunger grew as I went on. The next challenge was to start increasing speed: Could I do the Ironman faster?

In triathlon, there’s always the next challenge waiting around the corner. It’s a never-ending story.

In triathlon, there’s always the next challenge waiting around the corner. It’s a never-ending story.

The overall atmosphere and the sense of community in the Ironman races is beyond compare. I have never experienced anything like it.

I was blown away by the show going on during the ‘Heroes Hour’, which is the last hour of the race (if you don’t complete the race in 16 hours, you’re not officially an Ironman).

The way people encourage each other and show their support for those crossing the Ironman finish line during the ‘Heroes Hour’ is one-of-a-kind.

The way people encourage each other and show support for those crossing the finish line during the ‘Heroes Hour’ is one-of-a-kind.

One time I witnessed a woman finishing the race after the time was up, meaning she was going to go home empty-handed. But then, to honor her accomplishment, the winner of the race walked up to her and gave her his medal. That was a beautiful moment and a touching gesture.

Triathlon training may be lonely but in the race, we are one, striving for the same goal together.

The Ironman community is absolutely amazing. We’re not there to compete against each other but against ourselves, all in the same boat. We all have a shared goal: To outdo ourselves.

The training may be lonely but in the race, we are one, striving for the same goal together.

Stay tuned for the key lessons I’ve learned during my triathlon endeavours. I’ll share them with you guys in another blog post in the next few weeks.

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