Case study, Podcast, Training

Case Study: 10:30 at Challenge Roth on 10 hours of training per week with Petri Karvinen | EP#150

 October 8, 2018

By  Mikael Eriksson

​​Case Study: 10:30 at Challenge Roth on 10 hours of training per week with Petri Karvinen | EP#150

Petri Karvinen is an age-group triathlete from Finland. In this episode we discuss his build-up to Challenge Roth in 2018, where he was limited to 10 hours of training per week but still managed a very strong 10:30 finishing time. 

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In this Episode you'll learn about:

  • Petri's training approach leading up to Challenge Roth (full distance triathlon).
  • A typical 10-hour training week for Petri.
  • Focusing on staying healthy, recovering well, and sleeping well and enough. 
  • Using STAC's Virtual Wind Tunnel to improve his aerodynamics. 

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About Petri Karvinen

4:55  -

  • I'm 37 years old; I have a wife and a 2-year-old daughter.
  • For my career I'm working in sales, and have been doing this for many years. I'm currently working on stopping shoplifting in sales with a Finnish tech solution. 
  • My interest in triathlon started when a friend lost a game of Risk in the boardroom, and had to complete a 90km cross country skiing race in Finland.

    In August 2010 the same group decided to do a half distance triathlon. I signed up without knowing what it was, but I finished in 5:20. I was immediately hooked.

    I had never cycled before, so basically had to start from scratch and trained in the 10 months preceding the race. 
  • I basically stopped training after this race, but I still liked the sport. In 2013, I realised that I needed to start properly training, and I signed up for the 2014 Ironman Kalmar. 
  • If you're planning on doing a full distance Ironman, do it on purpose, not just to try it. I wanted to just try it and only trained around 4 hours a week, so it hurt a lot! I finished in 12 hours. 
  • After that, I signed up for the Haute route 2015 in the Pyrenees, which is a week long bike race covering 1000km, and up to 21km in elevation. It was so much fun that I signed up again in 2016 in the French Alps. 

    This was very different to Southern Finland where I'm from, as it's very flat here. 
  • Since then, I've been racing at least one triathlon race each year. 

Challenge Roth goals & fundamental preparation

11:39 -

  • Challenge Roth is a full distance Ironman in Germany, with a very passionate support crowd - it's a bucket list race for many triathletes. 
  • I didn't set a specific time goal, but I knew I wanted to finish better and happier than I did with Ironman Kalmar. I was generally aiming for anything between 10-10.5 hours, but I didn't know how realistic that was. 
  • I started training systematically at the end of August last year (2017). I knew I couldn't train 15 hours a week - I was aiming closer to 10 so I knew I needed to make the time count. 
  • I started by meeting with my friend, and went through what needed to be done to finish the race well. We created a yearly plan. 
  • My second step was another fundamental, as I had been experiencing lower back pain. I started with the physiotherapist to prevent any injuries with running. 

    The physio found that my hip sinks when I run. It wasn't a problem of strength, but I was using it wrong, so I had to start exercises to learn to activate my hip in the right movement pattern. 
  • I also didn't want to get sick during the training period, so I started planning my sleep and began 'cold exposure'. 

    I started taking a very cold shower every morning for 1-2 minutes to stop me getting sick - and it seemed to work as I didn't get ill once. 
  • With the sleep, I made sure as much as possible that I could get an adequate amount of sleep, which is difficult with a 2 year old. From there, I decided how much I could train. 

    If I negotiated too much about the amount of sleep, it would ruin my training practice the next day. I'd rather sleep than do a bad training session.

Training for Challenge Roth

19:29 -

  • I had a yearly calendar divided into 4, loosely based on the seasons, and it was as simple as possible.


  • E.g. The fall was strength training, so I was in the gym and doing stair running.

    With stair running I had the same 9.5km route, and it involved around 600 stairs. I took it easy, but I knew there were enough stairs to make my legs hurt. 

    In the gym I was doing low rep, high weight, and was doing 2 sessions a week during the fall.
  • When I cycled, I did a lot of low cadence sessions to build muscular endurance. 


  • In the winter, the focus was on power. On the trainer I did a lot of VO2 max and sweet spot workouts. I was also supposed to do harder intervals with running, but I cut down on this as it was a very cold winter. 
  • For the swim, I thought I was doing too little but I then broke my swim record in the race (1:05). I only had one session per week - it was a coached session so it was very effective. 

    I knew that if I spent more time running or cycling, rather than swimming, the time effect would be bigger during the race. 


  • I did a lot of brick training, and focused more on race pace with longer run and bike sessions. 

    I basically ran a half marathon every Saturday, and increased the length of other run sessions. 


  • The structure remained similar. I stopped gym work in May, two months before the race, and added that time to the longer training sessions. 
  • Closer to the race, I considered my goals and felt 10-10.5 hours was a realistic goal. I felt if everything went smoothly I would be closer to 10 hours. 
  • In the end, my lack of experience killed my running - I started too eagerly, and then had to slow down. I also forgot to eat during the run.
  • I'm not unhappy with the result of 10:30, but I know there is room for improvement.

Example training week

25:24 - 

  • Regular week from the Spring training period. 
  • Monday morning: Gym session
    Monday evening: Swim practice
  • Tuesday & Wednesday: Run or bike session
    Faster pace, sweet spot work on the bike, or intervals on the run. 
  • Thursday: Run or bike session, depending on the work week. 
  • Friday: Rest day. 
  • Saturday & Sunday: Long run (1:30 hours - 2:15 hrs) and long bike (2:30 - 6:00 hrs). 

    Average length of long bike closer to the race was 3-4 hours, and around 100km. 

    In the longer runs, I aimed for race tempo the whole way. 

    In the bike sessions, there was usually 1-2 hours of race intensity. 

Key factors to this approach

31:52 - 

  • The main factor was that whenever I had a session, I had a purpose for that single training session. 

    If I went to start a session and knew I couldn't concentrate as much as needed, I would not do that session, as it would have a negative impact. 
  • The less time you have, the less you have slack in your training so make it count. 

Common mistake age group triathletes make with limited time

33:23 - 

  • The biggest wisdom I've heard is 'you need to go faster in order to go faster'. 

    A lot of low intensity work during the week needs to be there (around 80%), but the rest of the time you need to increase the intensity to get the physical adaptations needed to go fast. 

Virtual Wind Tunnel

35:09 - 

  • The first thing I did after this exercise was getting rid of the water bottles behind my back and moved them to between my hands. 

    This was shown as a problem in the wind tunnel. 
  • My position changed a little as the recommendation from the Virtual Wind Tunnel was that I needed a 'preying mantis' position. 

    I tried a couple of positions as I couldn't make the change as aggressive as they suggested as it hurt my thighs, but I'm happy with my new position. 
  • The estimated watt savings was significant: the preying mantis position was up to 4%, and the whole setup change was 10-15 watts change. 

    This was quite a lot when my race watts were 220 for the entire race. 

Tips for time management


  • Use your commute for training. I run or cycle to work which is a great way to fit in training. Also if I leave earlier I can fit in a session before work. 
  • Use your mornings. I have a kid at home so I don't want to be out all evening, so I did most of my sessions in the morning before everyone was awake.

    But do make sure you don't miss out on your sleep. 

Rapid fire questions


  • What is your favourite book, blog or resource related to triathlon?
  • What is your favourite piece of gear or equipment?
    • My infocrank powermeter. 
  • What do you wish you had known or done differently at some point on your triathlon journey?
    • Nothing. I've been enjoying the whole 7 year triathlon career that I have, and it hasn't been as progressive as someone else would have wanted but it's been progressive enough for me. 

Key takeaway

  • Having a strong focus on staying healthy, ensuring you sleep and eat well. 

    It becomes much more difficult to perform well without these fundamentals. 

Links, resources and contact

Links and resources mentioned

    Connect with Petri Karvinen

    Connect with host Mikael Eriksson


    Hi! I'm your host Mikael,

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    Mikael Eriksson

    I am a full-time triathlon coach, founder of Scientific Triathlon, and host of the top-rated podcast That Triathlon Show. I am from Finland but live in Lisbon, Portugal.

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