Maratona dles Dolomites

Rode Maratona dles Dolomites yesterday. 138km total and over 4km uphill. My first ever bicycle race. The longest bicycle ride by a wide margin, like 100km+. Went directly to one of the most well known Gran Fondos with 9000 fellow riders. Beautiful scenery. Excellent weather.

Overall I would say it was a major learning experience and introduction to the culture of road cycling. I had no clue what to expect. Was pretty nervous before the start wondering what to wear, what to eat and so on. The choice of a long sleeve running shirt under the cycling jersey turned out to be pretty good. You want long sleeves in the first morning descents. Gloves were ok for the first hour or so. I had just one caffeine gel with me which I took maybe 2/3 up Giau pass but could have had a few more. I feared mechanical issues and was really scared when after just 15 minutes of riding the saddle gave a popping sound and went all loose. Luckily the seat post was ok and it was just misplaced. I ended up stopping 5 times to fix the saddle position, another 5 times to drink and eat and one more stop for a toilet visit. That said, based on Garmin data it all added just max 15 minutes.

I finished in 7.42 and overall position 2171. It was by no means an easy Sunday ride. It was a hard full day workout in the saddle with heart beat going 150 all over uphills. In the big picture however not as damaging to your body compared to running a full marathon on the road. Still I would not recommend Maratona for casual riders or amateurs with no endurance sports background and proper preparation. I respect now pro cyclist more than ever who can do this kind of rides during major tours on daily basis. My position changed roughly between 2.000 and 2.500, the best splits being uphills at around 1.700. I was passing riders in uphills and passed from left and right in downhills. I just don’t understand why anybody at the level I was riding would risk it all to go like 100 km/h in a downhill where I capped it at maybe 50 (data shows I peaked somewhere at 65 km/h). I think I saw 3 or 4 accidents. In two cases there was an ambulance at the site.

Right after the ride I was thinking this was it. Bucket list stuff crossed out. But after a couple of beers and the next day feeling just some pain in the neck and back stiffness I am thinking could this be done again. With some proper preparation and weather permitting I could shoot for a time starting with 6.

Enter Dolomites

Signed a week ago the papers to purchase a property in Italy. A late 1800s stone building to be renovated in Selva di Cadore, Belluno province, in the heart of Dolomite mountains. Four stories with basement and attic included. An attached garage and some land. I’m obviously pretty excited at the moment but at same time I do understand the extent of attention this property will require right now and in the long term. It needs some serious renovations and tons of TLC. I’m okay with all that.

I have been looking at properties in Italy for quite some time, ever since teaching at local universities and living in the middle of Piemonte vineyards back in 2009. My interest meant initially just occasional online searches through, and until a good friend bought a pretty nice property down in Molise a few years ago. Since then I’ve been to Molise, Piemonte and Dolomites to see tens of different properties from modest single family homes to medieval castles.

Why mountains and not vineyards or beaches? I’m certainly not the only one looking for a vacation or second home in Italy. The web is full of property guides how to find and buy your dream home in Italy. Everyone has heard about one euro homes and there are so many stories of people buying and renovating old rustic buildings in Tuscany and other popular areas. Usually close to the vineyards or the Mediterranean Sea. In pictures it always looks sunny, warm and cozy.

After some soul searching and talking with my family it became clear the Alps and Dolomites in particular is the sweet spot in our case at this point in our lives. Beautiful, unique nature. Four seasons. Year around activities and options for sports. World class skiing, including cross-country. Road and mountain biking. Hiking and running. Clean air. Not too hot. Still in Italy with rustic, traditional villages where the church is in the middle. With local cuisine and wines. But not too far from other central European countries and cultures. Interestingly this place is even in between Italian and German speaking villages, and the local language is called Ladin. Of course you can’t win them all. Mediterranean beaches are a few hours away. Property prices are not dirt cheap. On balance though this place took over in my mind.

I went to the Dolomites four times to check potential properties out. Met a number of local real estate agents and talked with local geometras and architects. The first thing I did was to take a detailed look at the map and sort out an ideal micro location. Where would you be kind of close to everything, however still outside the main tourist resorts? I soon narrowed the search down to the communities of Alleghe, Rocca Pietore, Livinallongo del Col di Lana, Colle Santa Lucia and Selva di Cadore. I was determined to buy an independent, traditional building on its own land. Something older, rustic, that has stood the test of time. Most of the reasonable priced properties which checked these boxes looked ok in the pictures and many had gorgeous views. But way too many were just too remote from any services starting from a grocery store and basic restaurant and a bar. And after seeing them in person many were in really poor shape with structural damage, significant moisture in the basement and so on.

What I ended up finding next to the 1500s cathedral in the heart of Selva di Cadore cleared the last hurdles. Solid, straight stone structure and some, but not too bad looking damage over the years. If you look at the map the place sits literally in the crossroads and in the middle of the Dolomiti Superski system. Google Maps says the closest ski lift to Civetta area is 6 minutes and 3.7km away. Closest lift to Cinque Torri and Cortina areas is 14 minutes and 7.8km away. Closest ski lift to Marmolada and Sellaronda areas is 21 minutes and 14.5km away. Falcade and San Pellegrino area is 31 minutes away and so on. There is even a proposal that might connect Civetta to Cortina with a ski lift through this village — though I’m not so sure if that would be a good thing or not. During summer some of the lifts are open for hiking and mountain biking. Selva di Cadore is right in the middle of the popular hiking route Alta Via 1 passing through just above the village. I’ve signed in to Maratona dles Dolomites road bicycle race to drive through all the main mountain passes next July, also passing by Selva di Cadore on the way.

Let’s see how this turns up. The next step is to get the renovation planned out.

War in Ukraine: the First 300 Days

I have been following the war in Ukraine through Twitter, Telegram and other real time social media channels since the very beginning on daily basis. Right now that Zelensky is giving a press conference with Biden in White House, and we are 300 days from day one, I have the feeling there might be a calmer period ahead but no immediate end in sight. So I thought it could be a good time to gather my thoughts together.

It is still obvious that nobody knows how the war will end. Not Putin, not Zelensky, not Biden, not anybody else. Some patterns and possible outcomes can be however identified:

1. Putin’s mission has been and remains to take over the whole Ukraine and he can be only stopped by a bullet, coup or the like. It doesn’t count a cent what Russia says and lies about their goals, peace talks etc. Their take over can go militarily up to the Polish border or at minimum they want Zelensky gone, Ukrainian surrender and some random puppet government placed in Kyiv. In this sense this war is comparable to WWI or WWII. Putin’s Russia is essentially running an old school conquest mission we haven’t seen in this world in a generation or two.

2. Ukraine will never surrender. They will fight until the last man standing no matter how much they are attacked or how much support they get from the US and EU. Before the war it was unclear to me if there will be genuine, large-scale conflict between Russia and Ukraine or if Russia will just march in like in Crimea back in 2014. This has no longer been the case after the first two weeks of the war or so. Ukraine has kind of reborn as a fully independent, sovereign nation and founding story in the past 10 months. They stand united. Ukraine will not stop until pre-2014 borders are back on the map.

3. EU, US, China, Israel and others were initially just following and reacting to the events as they unfolded. Since then the Free World has step by step increased the absolutely critical military support to let Ukraine defend its territory and stop Russia. But that is not enough. Now after significant Ukrainian gains over the past few months I get the feeling the military support for Ukraine should be still couple magnitudes higher If we want to see Russia defeated and retreat back to the pre-2014 borders in months instead of years. We also need to continue to build up unified political pressure and sanctions against Russia and all the Kremlin agents across the world.

4. Before February it was somewhat unclear to me who leads Russia. Was Putin just a puppet of some of the top oligarchs or vice versa? Now it is clear that everyone in Russia is under Putin who runs some kind of Peter the Great reality show on TV. Pretty many oligarchs and other regional bosses must hate big time letting their country get into this stage. Their capo has sucked all the power and runs a war economy in an unpredictable, dangerous way. Late John McCain has still the best description of what Putin’s Russia is all about: “A gas station run by a mafia that is masquerading as a country.”

5. Russian army is the black horse. They could simply stop the war if there is still some independent command structure left. They could do a quick power transition like has happened in some of the other modern-day dictatorships over the past 50 years or so.

6. Another random rider are nukes. It seems like Putin can at some point simply order Russian army to nuke any target and then we see what happens. In any event Putin is the only known person in this world both capable and even possibly willing to detonate a nuke on people. If they would nuke I think nobody would really respond in kind unless Russia would like bomb Kiev to the ground or something as crazy as that.

7. The default scenario is that the war goes on with conventional weapons until the bitter end. We will have more blood in the snow when the Christmas comes and the year turns into 2023. Where the borders lie next year — nobody knows. In the long term it is obvious Ukraine will take over the lost land, join EU and so on. Right now it feels like this journey will just take a long time.

8. What happens to Russia after the war is another major question mark but it has to be addressed because this kind of wars cannot happen again. One scenario is they follow the North Korean complete isolation model but I have hard times to believe in that because Russia is just too big, diversified and unstructured to be as tightly controlled. At the other end if Russia would succumb into chaos some independent regions could rebel and declare independence. Even if that would happen I don’t think anybody wants to go there, occupy, “peace keep” or grab any of that land with any pretext. They need to somehow sort it out themselves. Like Zelensky said in his address to US Congress: “The Russians will stand a chance to be free only when they defeat the Kremlin in their minds.” They do it either region by region, which I guess would be most likely, or then in some miraculous way as a reborn, unified, democratic nation among other nations.

Remembering my dad Pertti Välimäki in his own words

My dad passed away three weeks ago. After the initial shock and emotional rollercoaster I feel now both thankful and peaceful. I could not have asked for a better dad who lived to see so many things over his almost 72 years of run here. He witnessed my life through all the turbulents years and saw his grandchildren grow up. We all learned so much from him.

Obituarities in Helsingin Sanomat and Asianajoliitto summarize his career accomplishments as an attorney, professor and Supreme Court justice in Finland. Those are the things he was publicly known for.

For me he was still first and foremost a dad with whom I had an open and candid relationship until the end. We talked on weekly basis. There wasn’t a topic we wouldn’t have chatted about. The best ones were lengthy conversations over dinner or a bottle of wine about sports, law, society and politics. We disagreed from time to time and our political views differed but the next morning it was all forgotten.

I picked up from him the love for all kind of sports and outdoor lifestyle. We went together trekking, running and fishing. Just two weeks before his time was up we had a great overnight fishing trip in Kirkkonummi where he caught a Baltic Sea white fish and prepared it for our dinner. This post’s headline picture was taken on that moment.

He influenced my life in numerous ways. I entered and by chance passed the law school entry exam mainly because he happened to be a professor there at that time and the exam books were lying on our shelves. I had to prove him I can get there too. Eventually I went on to do other stuff, build new tech and other businesses. He had an open mind and was curious and supportive in whatever I did in my life checking always “how’s the business?” and “how’s the kids?”. But the most often he still opened with “have you been running lately?”

My dad used to say you learn to write only by writing. (And you learn to run only by running.) Even if he published only legal scolarship and judgments he did write about much more. So here’s his recap (in Finnish) of our road trip across the US back in 2010: Isä ja poika Ameriikan raitilla keväällä 2010. That was kind of a trip of the lifetime we talked about time and again whenever we got back together…

Tesla is a DIY car

About a month ago an alarm wakes me up in the middle of the night. The sound is coming from our garage. Get up and find my way to the screaming car. Tesla’s dash shows frunk intermittenly open. As if somebody would be sneaking in. The frunk is however definitely closed and our garage locked as well. Decide to leave the key in the car to stop the alarm. Get back to sleep.

The next day I check the car before driving and the alarm shows in the memory. Now the frunk shows correctly closed. I’m wondering what might have happened. Could it have just been some random short circuit of the frunk sensor because of the day’s snow melting away or something? I leave it at that.

Maybe two weeks later and the same episode happens again. Alarm goes off in the middle of the night. Tesla shows now again frunk open and closed, open and closed while nobody touches it. A continuous hissing sound comes somewhere near the front. Something I haven’t heard before while the car is parked for an extended period of time. I’m figuring out I have to keep the key inside the car at all times just to make sure the car won’t scream alarm while I’m parked somewhere. Yes, this is not a solution. It doesn’t make sense to leave the car unlocked 24/7. So I open Tesla’s app and proceed to order service.

The app gives no times in Vantaa, next to Helsinki, which is the first and supposedly the biggest Tesla service center in Finland. The next available time on offer is over two months away in another city called Tampere, like 2 hours drive north. The app also proposes times across the sea in Sweden some 12+ hours car and ferry trip away. Non-starters.

Enter Google and the forums. After quick browsing get the idea it might be a loose 12v battery ground connection. Looks like some forum users have done DIY fixes for that with detailed pictures and instructions. Sounds doable if the push comes to shove. But also troublesome and even a bit risky. Somehow I shrug this idea off and decide to continue driving for now with the key inside and the car unlocked at all times. Maybe Tesla’s service line changes and I can get the car to Vantaa.

A week more and the problems suddenly go through the roof. I’m driving the car somewhere in Espoo and the system goes all jingle bells. Frunk open, click here to proceed driving. Coolant low. Contact Tesla service. Suspension problem light lits up. Then turn signal to the right stops working. It also looks like the right headlight is off. Okay, now it feels like getting into danger zone. Should I stop the car right here and call a tow truck?

Decide to drive carefully back home with the warning lights flashing. The car seems to drive still ok. When finally at home the garage door opener doesn’t work. I hope that was the final insult.

Open the garage manually, get the car in, and shoot the Tesla app open. Still the same thing. Next suggested service time is ten long weeks away in Tampere. Fuck you Tesla service! I’m digging into this DIY jungle now. Open the forums again and decide to start with checking if I have the loose 12v ground connector issue.

Disassemble the frunk covers. That’s a 10 minute job. Find the ground connector. Looks visually ok. Maybe it wasn’t the connector after all? Try to unscrew the cable with a monkey wrench — and it cracks immediately open. Bingo! The bolts look like salt. They have like “melted” together. Obviously this connector does not transmit electricity. The root cause for all these problems must be the brass mix in the ground screw reacts over time with the aluminum frame in a way it all “salts out”

Root cause here. Loose ground connector.

Study how the guys have fixed their connectors. Get to Bauhaus and buy 6mm brass screws and matching bolts. Also one A2 certified lock nut. A thread set. Back home sandpaper the aluminum bar clean where the screws were in. Same for the connector. Drill a 5mm hole through the aluminum bar. It is maybe 10mm thick. Drill carefully a 6mm thread. Screw my DIY connector set together. The hissing sound stops right there. Check the dash and all the warning lights are gone as well. This part took probably 30 mins. Total I’ve spend however several hours if you add studying the forums and shopping for the parts. Because I didn’t have a thread set before the total went to like 50 euros plus.

Repaired here with my DIY solution.

My conclusion is that Tesla is the first-ever DIY car, want it or not. At least in Finland in 2022. You cannot bank on having any service on your car no matter if it has warranty or not. Third party repair shops won’t service it beyond some very basics. Tesla is still a great car if you are just mentally ready to accept you must always service it yourself or the car may sit for months.