At Norrhydro we feel important to support our local talents working hard for their dreams. We have been delighted to follow the success of our partner Mountain Runner Susanna Saapunki for over a year now.
The second mountain running race season has started successfully for Susanna. At the first World Cup race of this year, held in Portugal in June, she fought her place at a podium as the first Finn ever. Susanna is a former skier of Finland’s National Skiing Team and now conquering mountains as a runner.
We asked Susanna’s thoughts about her first year as a mountain runner.
"Overall, I was happy with the year. Although there were a few races where I was a little annoyed with the outcome, I'm sure I exceeded many people's expectations, and I've exceeded myself. The highlight of the first year as Mountain Runner was absolutely my first World Cup race in Austria where I placed 4th and the race in Italy 5th", says Susanna.
Photo by Angelo Testa
The first full year as a mountain runner brought great experiences and Susanna adapted many new skills and ideas to be used in the training from her team members at the Scarpa team as well as from her fellow competitors.
"Race performance of mountain running is quite different from skiing. You must be much more precise in the running to maintain the right pace through the race and not cross your own limits at any point before the last kilometres. Especially in the regular distance races, I had a lot to learn about this. We have organised our own test races during the training season through which I have practised the right technique", explains Susanna.
After the race season, Susanna had a comprehensive training period over the winter which did not bring huge challenges. On the contrary, she was surprised how well all the training had bitten as all the issues intended to develop went well forward.
Susanna, originally from Lapland, Finland, now lives in the small Italian village of Valfurva, at an altitude of 1,400 metres, enjoying the simple and ascetic lifestyle.
"Winter has not really left me with anything more to miss. We live like local people living in the mountains. We have a small apartment and in winter it was quite funny at first as we only had a pellet oven to heat the apartment with. In the mornings it was only +13 warm in the apartment", she recalls.
Susanna really lived her dream, with paths to the mountains only a couple of metres from the apartment and no need to move around by car.
"People in the village are friendly and enjoy hurry-free life without stressing too much about anything. The village is called the “sun village” because in the summer the sun shines from morning to evening, which is rare in the mountains", Susanna tells.
In the Italian mountains, how does an "ordinary" day look like for an athlete?
"Normally, I wake up between 7:30 and 8:00 a.m. and have breakfast. From around 9:00 a.m. I do my first exercise for about 1-2 hours. After that, I eat lunch and take a nap (the best thing in the athlete's profession). After 3:00 p.m.coffee & snack, it is time for the next exercise. Dinner is usually around 7:00 p.m. and afterwards, there is time to manage e-mails etc. Evening snack takes place between 9:00-10:00 p.m. and thereafter it is time to go to bed for a good night's sleep", Susanna describes her typical day in the mountains.
Susanna is mainly competing in Central and Southern Europe, but in spring Susanna also visited Finland for the Finnish Cross Country Championships where she performed well in 3rd place.
"It is great to be able to compete in Finland from time to time! It was nice to run in the cross-country race now as I had the first full training season as a runner behind. In the future, it is my goal also to challenge the track runners even more rigorously!" Susanna comments.
Photo by Marco Gulberti
Among other competitions, there will be all together nine World Cup races this season. These are mostly long uphill races and normal distance competitions for 10-20km.
"I look forward, especially to the European Championships and the World Championships in Thailand. This year, for the first time in World Cup, I am participating in 32 km long Sierre-Zinal in Switzerland. That is the longest race I have run, so I am really excited about it, yet at the same time, it's a little terrifying", Susanna mentions.
"At the World Championships in Thailand, I have an uphill race of 8 km and a normal distance competition of 12 km. I am looking forward to the uphill race in particular, and that's what I want to succeed in! I am looking for the top spot", states Susanna.
We look forward to an exciting mountain-running season with Susanna and wish her good luck for the races.