Member Profile – Miia Rahja

There is a word in Finnish, ‘sisu, that is used to describe a set of characteristics believed that only Finns posses. There is no English word equivalent. It expresses Finnish character and is about having grit, about acting against the odds, about showing courage, and about deciding on a course of action and then sticking to that decision against repeated obstacles.

I am originally from Finland and I joined Lakers in 2016. I had moved (from Sydney) to Adelaide to complete my PhD, and wanted to find running friends. I had not planned to do a triathlon. Mainly because swimming is not a skill you need in Finland. I was proud I knew how to doggy paddle and do breaststroke with my head above the water. Our lakes are frozen half of the year and I am used to going across them with ice-skates or skis attached to my feet, not with my head under water.

After some Tuesday night run sessions, listening to the stories of pleasure and pain, I became curious. I registered for my first triathlon, half Murrayman (2016). The mass start saw me crying into my goggles until the first buoy. I was the second last person out of the water, but finished in top 10. I was in such high that I registered for my first half Ironman. Three months before the race, I was hit by a car and fractured my spine. Another three weeks later, I was hit again and damaged the AC joint of my shoulder. With 5 weeks to go, I was determine to race and even Nigel said: “If you can pull this off it will be something to be truly proud of.” I completed the race missing my original goal time only by 3 minutes… so I had to do another one. This time I set a goal that was 15 minutes faster than the first. 6 months later, I smashed that goal and took an age group win at the half ironman Asia Pacific Championships. A fun fact is that I choose my main races based on the swim course!

Some know me as the mountain biker (who always crashes). This started in November 2016 when I supported Jimmy (James Knowler) at the ITU cross triathlon World Championships in the Snowy Mountains. All I could think of was “I have to give this a go”. I didn’t own or had barely ridden an MTB. I borrowed a bike and attended women’s only social MTB rides (facebook group: Adelaide female mountain bikers). I bought a bike, got Jimmy to teach me skills, and participated in 4-hour MTB races just so I would have more time to practice. Less than a year (but several crashes) later in August 2017, I represented Finland in the ITU cross triathlon worlds in Canada, coming 5th. Since then, we have travelled around Australia, and the world, racing in various cross tri and xterra events. These races are so different compared with traditional tris. Your rides and runs will take you over roots, rocks, jumps and drops. One minute you are going up mountains, next crossing rivers… one minute slow, next minute fast. It’s exhilarating and makes you feel alive.

Had I not been introduced to Lakers when I first moved to Adelaide, I doubt I would have had these experiences and many others (the Finnish sisu might have helped with a few of them, too).  The support from the club has been invaluable especially as I have no family here and am so proud to say I am a Laker.   

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