The fast and smart Sami Inkinen
Written by: Herbert Krabel
Date: Tue Jun 11 2013
Slowtwitch: Congrats on your nice Eagleman race.
Sami Inkinen: Thanks! It was a long trip for me, so Iím glad it worked out and the tropical storm Andrea passed over the day before the race. I already thought I traveled 11 hours for a cup of hot chocolate at the race hotel.
ST: Was it at least good hot chocolate?
Sami: I wouldnít recommend a day of travel for that.
ST: You mentioned on your Facebook page that it was a close win, but in the end does that really matter?
Sami: Well, it does and doesnít. Eagleman was my only chance to punch my Kona ticket, so winning was essential with or without a margin. But itís much more fun to suffer and race, knowing others are about to step on your heels!
ST: It really wasn't that close. Almost 2 minutes is a decent advantage.
Sami: I went 4:05 something and the 25th age grouper was at 4:22. How often do you see an age group half Ironman like that? I wish we all had started in the same wave Ė then it would get even more interesting.
ST: In another year or so folks will surely remember that you were the champion, but not so much the margin, or how close the runner-up was.
Sami: Who remembers age group tri results a month later?
ST: Surely those 24 other guys who were that close. And don't you?
Sami: Ok, Iíll take that back Ė the more painful the loss, the more memorable lessons you take from it. Sometimes.
Sami: Speaking of painful losses, my only ITU Age Group Worlds experience is from Budapest where I was expecting a third loop on the run when someone sprinted past me, turned left and across the finish line. I lost the gold by a second or two. That wasnít much fun. Now I know how to count and run at the same time.
ST: This result though is not really a surprise. You have been torturing other age group athletes and some Pros for a few years now. Is that a fair statement?
Sami: I let others judge my performance. But I should add that there is no margin for error at the top of most age groups these days and placing at the top is always a matter of getting every detail Ė including luck - right, before and during the race. Sometimes it works Ė like yesterday.
ST: Of all these top overall amateur titles to your name, does any of them mean more to you and if so why?
Sami: I spend very little time thinking about past in general, but I still remember how exciting it was to win my first Wildflower Long Course race. Wildflower was my very first triathlon to begin with and at that point winning the overall was a total moon shot.
ST: Does the course and typical temps kind of suit you anyway?
Sami: The hilly trail run is good for light mountain goats, so not really for me. The temps swing from super hot to cool between years, so my winning year must have been on the cooler side!
ST: But I think you have done well in hot conditions too.
Sami: We all get lucky sometimes. But thereís no way around the fact that the heavier you are, the bigger handicap youíre giving in hot conditions. Unfortunately cooling abilities donít scale up with size, but heating up does! And thereís only so much ice you can stuff into your pants.
Sami: Yes. I had just enough time, I was single and had savings because I shared a small house with three other friends, and that allowed me to buy a proper time trial bike and give it a serious try.
ST: When did you actually get started altogether and what was the inspiration?
Sami: I was at Stanford Business School in 2004 and a classmate of mine pressured to sign up for Wildflower long course that spring. That started an intense 4-month preparation and shopping. Ebay for my first road bike and the internet for swimming tips. The main reason I wanted to go back the next year was that I had a flat tire and didnít know how to use the CO2 toolkit. I figured I could take almost 10mins off my 2005 time by just learning to fix a flat properly.
ST: How much time did you shave off the following year?
Sami: About 18 minutes. Doesnít really sound too impressive, now that I think of it.
ST: But you had no flat tire?
Sami: I got the flat tire out of the system in my first race and didnít have one in a race until this year.
ST: When did you move to the States from Finland?
Sami: August of 2003. So itíll be ten years this August and my wife who is American still tells me I canít speak English.
Sami: Too infrequently.
ST: Talk about your day job.
Sami: Iíve been a software entrepreneur most of my professional career and donít see that changing too much in the future either. Most recently I co-founded online real estate marketplace Trulia in 2005. Building the company from scratch to a publicly listed company with an amazing group of people has taken most of my wake up hours in the last 8 years.
ST: Word is that you are taking a bit of a break from day to day duties. Does that mean more training and races, or more time to relax?
Sami: I moved away from an operational role to the company board of directors when we went public last year. The somewhat unexpected outcome of all the new ďfree timeĒ has been that my training has been less organized and thoughtful since then, and Iíve raced less than ever. I love triathlon and most aspects of it, but only in moderate doses at a time.
ST: The phrase "anything in moderation" applies also to things we are passionate about.
Sami: I think quite a few triathletes should read that comment aloud. Several times.
ST: What is next on your calendar?
Sami: Actually no races for now. I picked my Hawaii Ironman slot at Eagleman, so Iíll very likely be there. We have a family trip during the 70.3 Worlds so no Vegas for me.
Sami: That sounds like an invitation and challenge in one. My goal is to both finish the race and still make it to your famous party on my own. Thereís no point in setting goal time for Kona anyway.
ST: The slowtwitch gathering is actually a few days before the event on a Wednesday afternoon. So hopefully you will be able to make it there under your own power, and maybe your wife Meredith can join you.
Sami: Oh, then I should get to Kona early! My recent Hawaii protocol has been to fly in on Thursday.
ST: What are your thoughts on the 70.3 Worlds moving?
Sami: Selfishly thinking, any place that has cooler weather than Vegas is great for me. My Finnish genes and 180+ pounds wonít agree with 90F+ temps, unless itís a sauna by a lake. And all other sports rotate championships venues too, so I can see the benefits and flexibility that WTC gets from that decision.
ST: So you think Mt. Tremblant would suit you better?
Sami: I donít really stress about external factors, only things that I can influence myself. But if I had to build a perfect tri race venue for myself, it would have an ocean wetsuit swim and air temps in the low 70ís.
ST: What bike are you riding?
Sami: Cervelo P5. Iíve been riding Cervelo since I bought my first time trial bike in 2007.
ST: Electronic shifting or mechanical?
Sami: It was an easy choice - mechanical. I want to be able to pull out a screwdriver and fix my gears during a ride. As an engineer and software guy I can appreciate the simplicity of mechanical systems. Iíve seen enough bugs, so I donít need one more in my rear derailleur.
ST: I somehow would have figured you to be into the high tech electronic shifting, but I can see your point.
Sami: Iíll get there eventually, by which time Iím hoping those systems are 50% cheaper and much more reliable. Iím usually a late adopter despite my geeky background.
Sami: Yes, PowerTap.
ST: What was your average Eagleman?
Sami: Iím an engineer so I have to say it depends on the averaging formula you use and whether zeros are eliminated. I did most of my pedaling at 310-330W range. I just uploaded my ride to Strava and weighted average power their formula reports is 301W.
ST: Is there anything else we should know?
Sami: I think any story about my tri results would be incomplete without the mention that I knew nothing about triathlon training in 2007, until I met Matt Dixon of Purplepatch Fitness. Although I self-coach a lot, Matt is the genius behind my training philosophy and big reason for the sometimes good results Iíve posted. Other than that, too many details already!
Mike Gadzinski finished 11th overall and 2nd in his age group at Ironman 70.3 Eagleman in Cambridge, MD. With a Kona slot and a Vegas slot earned, he made a decision that made his family and another athlete happy. 6.19.13
James Chesson is a fast age grouper from New Jersey who finished 10th overall at 70.3 Eagleman, and won his age group at Rev3 Williamsburg. His Kona 2013 spot though he had already snagged at Ironman Texas. 6.26.13
Canadian police officer Andrew Armstrong won the M40-44 age group at Ironman 70.3 Mont Tremblant not really during the swim, bike or run, but in transition. Without the fast transitions he would have been third. 7.01.13
Minnesota resident Dan Hedgecock won the amateur titles at Lifetime Fitness Minneapolis, St. Anthony's and HyVee and snagged a sweet car in the process. This year at St. Anthony's we may see him stepping up to the big league. 3.26.13
British age grouper Nick Baldwin is known as Sesel in will compete as a Pro next year. The nomadic Baldwin spent time in North America, the UK and the Seychelles and 2013 is not looking to be very different. 12.20.12
Patrick Wheeler finished Ironman Arizona in 8:55:34 and that is certainly a fine result for an age grouper. But the goal post for this hard working athlete is set much higher than finishing high among age groupers. 12.06.12