• Grigory Vilkov about the OCRs and trails

Grigory Vilkov about the OCRs and trails

Athletes from around the world train in the TRS team and prepare for a wide variety of races – from road races to tough trails and triathlon races. Dimitry Platonov talked with Grigory Vilkov, found out about how he lives in Germany, why he chose TRS and all the most interesting things about OCRs.

– Grigory, since when have you been living in Germany?

– Hi, nice to have an opportunity share my story with you, and please call me Greg – it’s a bit easier to pronounce in English, and I already got used to having different “names” in different languages (you don’t want to know what some Germans call me 😊😊). I’ve lived in Germany since July 2006, and before that I spent four years in Fontainebleau in France studying towards my PhD at INSEAD, and three years before France–in Rochester, NY in the Simon School MBA program. During my time in America I managed to work in London for a few months and spent four months or so in Koblenz, Germany as an exchange student. Thus, in the last 20 years, after we left Moscow with my wife in 1999, we have experienced quite a lot of different life and work environments.

– Why did you choose Germany as your domicile?

– Truly, we just wanted to move out of France…My wife and I were fluent in English and German, but we never managed to learn French (even though we made at least three attempts to start learning it). Living in France without knowing the language is quite hard, and because my wife at that time had been very active in dog sport (Schutzhund and IPO) with German shepherds, we had been going to Germany every couple of weeks and had quite a lot of friends here. We half-seriously discussed the possibility of moving to Germany permanently, and then somehow I found a post-doc position in Goethe University Frankfurt, then travelled to Frankfurt for a weekend to find a place to live, and in several months after the first thoughts of moving, we indeed moved to Germany. One should have seen that “move” – two cars full of stuff, a 1-year old baby, a trailer full of German shepherds, and +33C outside…best memories! Same as with any ultramarathon – after a while suffering gets forgotten, while good memories stay.

Germany always attracted me as the country with a perfect order, where everything works and goes after the plan. Knowing German has also been a significant advantage, especially after several years in France.

– Living Germany, what advantages do you find there compared with Russia?

– Germany is the third country of “prolonged stay” for me after leaving Russia, so it is hard to make a direct comparison. After living here for the last 14 years I can try to summarize: The greatest advantage is the stability in all areas of life, including medicine, education, raising kids, and just all usual day-to-day procedures. Germany is often associated with the order, and you can really observe it everywhere—on the streets, in the administrative offices, in work relations. Occasionally, this order is boring, and German mentality is (on average) not the most exciting in the world. As one of my German colleagues put it: “Any changes for a German are bad; stability and no change are just fine.” As a result, there is not much spontaneity, craziness, adventures in life, but a lot of stability and convenience. Last but not least, now a great advantage for me is the German citizenship, which allows travelling almost all around the globe without any visa; it is extremely important for me due to plenty of travel.

– Did you already start running in Europe? What motivated you to become a runner?

– Basically, I have always been practicing running, not much, with some periods of inactivity, but I still tried to stay fit. In school I trained in track and field in CSKA, then in undergrad I mostly went to a gym and enjoyed some work with iron, and then there were 5-6 years of stressful work, lots of food, beer, fun, and definitely not so much sport as needed. After moving to the USA with the 24/7 business school regime and plenty of high-calorie tasty food (oh, these Buffalo chicken wings…still dreaming about ‘em) I quickly gained a couple of (probably more like ten) kilograms, but still tried to run 5-8K couple of times per week, ride MTB, snowboard, though all on a non-competitive level. After moving to France we faced a new choice of food—cheese (OMG, I love cheese!), wine, amazing apple tarts, baguettes, and so on and so forth, and with a very healthy student diet I gained couple more kilos. Though I was stubborn, I still tried to do some sports, run once in a while and ride the MTB in the forêt de Fontainebleau. Already in Germany, when I successfully achieved almost a 100 kg mark, I once went cross-country skiing with friends, and suddenly realized that I got to a point of no return, — I can huff and puff, but not really move like a normal athletic guy anymore, and I am only 35 years old. The same evening I finally made a firm decision to change the situation, harshly revised my diet, and added 20-30 minutes of daily HIIT (high-intensity interval training) to my regiment. No sugar, no bread, no pasta and pizza for six months, extreme daily workouts with ZuzkaLight (https://zuzkalight.com) and my scales showed minus 10 kg; since then I only changed the types and intensity of routines, but never their almost daily frequency.

– Did you also go the path from flat asphalt running to other running varieties?

– I would say no. I tried to run some flat races, but there is nothing (IMHO) more boring than training and accumulating miles and miles on asphalt (though there is one winner here – swimming in a pool 😊). I have been lucky, and after Moscow always lived in close proximity of forests, parks, and at least some hills, so my training has mostly been on trails.

– Why and how did you start running obstacle course races (OCR), which are also your major focus now?

– Initially, no special reason…I saw an ad for Tough Mudder (one of the leading “recreational” races in the world that only started getting popular at that time), suggested it to a couple of my students and colleagues so that we run together, and we went for it. I believe, it was my first 18 km distance ever, and I almost died there. 18(!!!) kilometres on a dirt trail, carrying some heavy bags, jumping around, hanging, climbing, and all that without any preliminary preparation. It was fantastic! Such races did not offer any official timing, or obstacle controls, and were mostly considered a team building exercise for the corporate gang. After that I ran a couple more fun races, then once started in a Strong Viking race (one of the leading race organizers in Western Europe, and also the organizer of the competitive OCR Series with a number of starts around Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany, with the final by the end of each season), where I ran alone and finished somewhere in the top. After finish one runner suddenly asked me how old I was, which surprised me, but later I realized that this start was also a qualifier for the European championship and that not all the runners are just having fun there…My path after that is clear:  qualification, European Championship, World Championship, new year – new cycle… OCR sport is very young and is developing very rapidly. The first couple of years a successful qualification was almost a sure thing; now it is far from being easy, even in my age group (I just moved to a new one — 45-49), and for the elite wave and for intermediate age groups (20 to 34 years) it is just very hard.

– What attracted you to OCR?

– Running for two-four-six hours even in the forest can be quite boring, and if you mix running with 50 to 100 obstacles, it gets much merrier. Most important, however, is that in technical races one can very quickly feel and even reach his/her own physical limitations, analyze it, understand its character, work out a plan to get better, and work on pushing this limit further off. This possibility to see the limit is the main attraction of OCR for me, same as bouldering and ice climbing.

In addition, I am quite heavy (84 kg/176 cm now), and various technical obstacles turned out to be quite a natural habitat for me. In pure running competitions I have no chances, and in obstacle races I more or less compete for the top-20 in my age group. In under optimal conditions (read: luck) I can reach the top-5 placement.

– How did you meet Dmitry Mityaev, and how did Trail Running School enter your life?

– A couple of years ago I realized that with the constantly increasing level of competition one needs a systematic approach to running and started looking for a trainer. I talked to a couple of online coaches from the USA, and by pure chance read an online interview with a Russian athlete Sergei Perelygin (who successfully competes in many international obstacle races and selected trails) who mentioned Dmitry as a great coach and also said that he sometimes gets advice from Dmitry for running matters. I decided to get in touch with Dmitry, wrote an e-mail to TRS specifying my results so far, future goals, ambitions, and current regiment. We discussed it all over the phone and started working on my running from August 2017.

– What did you learn and what new things did you discover during your training with Dmitry?

– The first discovery came very quickly: running is not only fun, but also hard work 😊. I have always read a lot of sport-related literature and research, tried to contrast various approaches to training and techniques, practiced climbing and bouldering, worked with kettlebells, and even passed an RKC certification (https://www.dragondoor.com/instructors/rkc_instructors/) as a kettlebell instructor, but only after starting to work with Dima I finally got a systematic approach to my training, with clear objectives and cyclicality. There is now far more structure in the plans and a clear big picture of the whole approach. Not that I am always in complete agreement with the concrete approaches to particular aspects of training, but because Dima is an intelligent and thinking trainer, we can always discuss and adjust a plan if it does fit well my current conditions.

– You are probably one of the few or even the only one in TRS, specializing in “obstacle races.” In your plans there is more strength training than for the other TRS athletes. Please tell us what your typical training session looks like; what is the ratio of running to strength exercises and do you include in your preparation any exercises absent from the standard trail training set?

– I have a slightly more modest volume of running compared to many TRS athletes. Normally there are only four running sessions or even fewer since the Spring of 2019 when I started adding lots of mountain biking. In 2018 I ran about 2000 km, and in 2019 it was about 1900 km of running (with 32K D+), and 2000 km of mountain biking (with 32K D+); most training sessions with 200 to 800 D+. Running sessions are more or less standard depending on the current cycle. Personally I prefer plenty of short intervals and really dislike threshold running (tell me who likes it 😊). Weekly plans include one-two special sessions, plus a long one (often MTB on trails and hill terrain); this year we added gym one-two times per week, with emphasis on legs with varying strength protocols (low reps with heavy load + explosive exercises like jump squats + relatively long pauses between sets). The rest of my training I plan myself (and we coordinate the total load with Dima), and it includes 2-3 short sessions on general strength, core, arms, hands, fingers.

For example, my standard protocol may look like:

Repeat 5 times:

1. Kettlebell 40 kg/ 10 hard-style swings left hand + 45 sec pause/ 10 hard-style swings right hand + 45 sec pause/ + 1 min pause (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHxcTn1UeAc)

2. 10 explosive push-ups with extra load or 10 push-ups on the rings or alike + 45 sec pause/ 10 more + 45 sec pause

Another example:

Repeat 5 times:

1. Kettlebell 40 or 48 kg/ 5 Turkish Get-Ups (TGU) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bWRPC49-KI) right/ 5 TGUs left/ 1 min pause

2. 5 pull-ups on nunchucks or on the rope/ 1 min pause/ 5 more

In addition, some rope climbing, slackline, various rigs for climbing and arms/ hands training, core, and so on so forth. I often use the Grease-the-Groove principle (https://www.strongfirst.com/tag/grease-the-groove/) by Pavel Tsatsuline, – I like his approach and ideas in the area of kettlebells and strength training. My overall focus is now on strength endurance.

– You have run very few competitions on trails. What comes to mind are only 20 km High Trail Vanoise in 2018 and 55 km Ultra Skyrace Madeira in 2019. The routes are not the easiest ones, but still there is only a handful of them. Does the traditional trail running not appeal to you? Why do you have so few trails in your calendar? 

– Yep, there were only the two so far, and that’s why so few come to mind… I first want to reach some goals in OCR, and there are only 24 hours per day which one has to distribute to family, kids, work, lots of work trips. By nature, I like diversity and will try to run a couple of ultra trails per year, and plan them into my OCR calendar. For 2020 I have already planned 6-7 OCR starts and the Ultra distance on the Elbrus World Race. More races do not work out, and for recovery, I always need a couple of weeks after each. At some point will also try to run a mountain ultra with obstacles, but probably not in 2020.

Both of my trails turned to be amazing and priceless in terms of experience. I ran the High Trail not fully recovered just a week after the European OCR championship, and I learned something very important and new to me in just a few minutes: when you run on 1500-2000 altitude, air is thin, and it’s really not so easy to breathe and run simultaneously 😊! I started as usual in a 20-km race – the distance is short and one should get to business right away…In 500 meters, however, I suddenly realized that something is wrong…no air, no power, and it feels like I should just quit. Somehow I grabbed my concentration, power(ok, not quite)-walked to the top and started down the hill trying to gain back my position. I was fast, I was really fast, and when I reached the bottom of the mountain, I faced the second revelation (read: screw-up): the route profile on the paper plan and in reality are really not the same thing. I expected five flat and easy kilometres, and instead, I saw quite a steep ascent with 200 or 300 more vertical meters, for which I had neither physical nor the moral powers, even walking…even crawling. I managed to get to the finish, and even sprinted the last 100 meters so that Katya could make a nice video of it, but it definitely went not as planned. Two and a half hours, and a place on the first piece of paper (out of three!) with the finishers’ list, and my first ITRA rating.

The Madeira Skyrace (MSR – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trYX0L-yO_s) was just amazing…I did not know if I could finish it at all, and I was quite afraid of these numbers: 55 km with 4121D+, just because my longest race so far was an OCR Marathon within OCR Series in Amsterdam (about 45 km with 100 obstacles took me 5 and a half hours). Dima promised cramps (scary nasty ones), and other related pleasures…but it all worked out well! The race was very technical, I fell badly on my knee in 10 km after the start and almost broke my wrist, overheated slightly under the Madeira sun and from the untypical warmth that day, but got an incredible satisfaction, lots of positive emotions, and a strong motivation to continue my training.

– In your opinion, can one (a “normal” runner) successfully combine obstacle races and traditional trails? Let’s ignore Jonathan Albon for a second 😊.  

– Definitely, yes. OCR and trails have a lot in common. Actually, there are a lot of relatively long obstacle races, and some of them take place in the mountains. Strong Viking, for example, organizes OCR marathons (Iron Viking, about 45 km with 100 obstacles) and OCR ultras (Ultra Viking, 60 km, 135+ obstacles, with up to 3300 D+), Spartan offers the mountain and the ultra series. To run OCR one definitely has to have good functional preparation, and to be able to pass several monkey bars, low and high rigs; however, the unofficial statistics show that good runners have better chances in obstacle races than good obstacle specialists.

– With plenty of different OCR championships with conflicting schedules many athletes (for example, Jon Albon mentioned such a problem last season) face the problem of choosing one particular league or organizer over the others, e.g., OCR European Championship and Spartan European Championship took place on the same weekend, and Jon was deciding which one to run. Do you face the same problems sometimes? Would you quickly discuss what is the difference between these championships/ organizers?  

– That is a great question and definitely deserves some elaboration. There are a lot of organizers of obstacle races, and each year we see some newcomers, some takeovers, mergers, and bankruptcies. There are far more organizers in the USA than in Europe, and because the sport is very young, we expect some more interesting dynamics in the OCR branch. Spartan Race is probably the largest (by a number of participants) organizer of commercial obstacle races in the world. It offers races in multiple disciplines from 5K Spartan Stadion to 50-60 K Spartan Ultra (for example, in 2018 the Spartan Ultra World Championship took place in Iceland in December, and in 2019 – in Sweden in November; thus, in addition to long distance and obstacles the athletes face quite extreme weather and nature conditions).  Spartan Race is quite a self-sufficient system and does not always overlap with the others in terms of qualifications for major championships (though OCR European Championships accepts top 10 Elite placements in many Spartan races as qualification – see https://ocreuropeanchampionships.org/qualify-race/). Many other OCR organizers are smaller and offer races in one or just two-three countries; thus, by selecting different races in Europe, for example, one can see a great variety of obstacles, formats, and competition. There are amazing races in the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Belarus, Germany, and other countries; moreover, each year the average quality of races and their variety goes up, there is a healthy rotation and growth of the OCR branch. The  OCR European Championships is organized by an independent organization EOSF (European Obstacle Sports Federation), which collects the best and most interesting (read: challenging) obstacles from all major and popular European races. Several formats of the starts are offered during a long weekend of the competition – Short (3-4K), Individual Standard (15K), Team (8-10K), and a 100-meter Track Race. Typically, the competition is quite technical, and athletes have to finish all obstacles (with an unlimited number of attempts). Spartan Race offers fewer technical obstacles, but more strength-based ones, e.g., various carries, heavy tire flips, etc. Personally I prefer technical obstacles, in which my chances for the top placement are better, and which are more fun to run.

By the way, in 2020 we will have two OCR world championships (beyond all Spartan championships) in standard formats (Track race, Short, Standard, and Team). The first championship (https://ocrworldchampionships.com/) is organized for a number of years by a commercial company Adventurey LLC based in NY, USA, and it will take place in a mountain resort Stratton, VT, the USA at the beginning of October, and the other one (https://worldocr.org/ocr-world-championships) will be organized for the first time by the international federation of sports with obstacles FISO (Fédération Internationale de Sports d’Obstacles) in Sochi, Russia from 17 to 22 September 2020.

– You wrote in the report after the OCR World Championship in the UK this year that obstacle races challenge you mostly physically, while ultra trails like Skyrace on Madeira test you mentally. Which pressure is easier to handle, physical or psychological?   

– I have just finished listening to an amazing book “The Rise of the Ultra Runners” by Adharanand Finn, where the author describes his own experience and development in ultra trails and devotes lots of time to talk about mental challenges in the extremely long and hard runs. After 5-6 hours of mountain running one gets physically tired, and then the ability to cope with mental pressure becomes especially important. One typically starts asking himself questions like why we do it at all, and what is all the torture for…especially interesting was the comparison between an OCR Marathon (45 km, about 2000 D+, 100 obstacles), which took me 5 and a half hours to complete, and the Madeira Skyrace (MSR)  just three weeks after that particular marathon. After the marathon (and before the MSR) I felt that a mountain ultra of “only” 55 km is not such a big deal and both should by intensity be about equal. 11 hours of MSR changed my opinion quite a lot: obstacles are very taxing for the whole body, they break the breathing rhythm, push your lactate levels to the roof every now and then, but give break to the legs. In mountain running legs work all the time, and it turns out to be a very important “tiring” factor.

I cannot say, which of the two, mental or physical exhaustion is easier to fight. Probably first we have to define the levels of exhaustion we are talking about. On the one hand, it is very hard physically to run steadily on the maximum level and fight until the very end of the race. On the other, — I never ran such long and hard distances to get to that edge of mental power, behind which one needs to push himself to make the next step. After short 2-hour races I often feel that I could have worked harder for 30 more minutes to finish a bit faster, but this mental weakness is rather soft and can be worked upon. Physical exhaustion, however, played a truly limiting role in several of my previous races—you just cannot do it physically, and the game is over. I received once a DNF on the Polish OCR Championship in 2018 (Mistrzostwa Polski OCR 2018), where we had a 3K forest trail repeated five times, with 5-6 hanging obstacles (that is, mostly working upper body, hands and arms) going one after the other…After the third round I barely had any skin on my palms, and physically I was not able to hang on a bar or rings for even 10 seconds. No skin is not a problem, and one can easily overcome pain, but when muscles give up you cannot do much.

This proximity of the mental and physical limits is the major appeal of OCR for me.

– You mentioned very muddy track in Brentwood. Is the abundance of dirt normal for OCR races, or was it the fault of the weather this year?

– It was most probably the distinct feature of the UK. Generally, conditions vary across races, and the last two European OCR championships (Denmark and Poland) barely had any dirt, while both world championships in the UK (2018 and 2019) were extremely wet and muddy. Funny though, in 2018 the organizers told us that we were very lucky: it was a dry summer, and the track was supposed to be not too bad. You know, getting out of the 10th trench with 30 cm of greasy mud on the bottom, carrying an iron chain behind you, it was hard to believe; however, 2019 showed everything that England is capable of…It was really muddy, and 2/3 of the distance were like running on a freshly plowed farmer’s field after 10-hour rain (with a huge bag of potatoes on your back 😊).  Next year all OCR championships will take place in the mountains with lots of D+.

– How was the organization of the world championship this year? What are your impressions of the course?

– Organization was amazing as usual: this championship has existed for several years now, and athletes vote by their constantly increasing numbers and quality. Several thousand athletes from all around the world qualify each year under tough qualification rules, and the competition among first 100-200 athletes is very hard. The prepared (if one can say so in case of OCR) distance was a variation of the standard Nuclear Races (https://nuclear-races.co.uk/) course in the Kelvedon Hatch (check out the story of the Kelvedon Hatch Nuclear Bunker on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelvedon_Hatch_Secret_Nuclear_Bunker), but with added obstacles from major races from around the world. As I have already mentioned, it was very muddy, cold, wet, all obstacles outside were slippery and cold, which killed my hands with extra certainty. Athletes stayed on some obstacles for hours: the rule is that one has to complete all obstacles with an unlimited number of attempts; in case of failure (basically, when an athlete gives up) one gets a DNC (Did Not Complete) status – one can still finish, but under a separate category. Next to some obstacles volunteers started fire so that athletes could warm up, and it was a huge help to the “repeaters.” I got stuck 500 meters before finish, and lost 40 minutes…certainly, a good placement was out of the question, but I still managed to complete all obstacles. During such competitions one often meets people with stunning willpower: in 2018 one Ukrainian athlete got stuck for several hours about 300 meters before the finish on the “Skull Valley” (a variation of it can be seen at https://ocrworldchampionships.com/tag/skull-valley/), after which his arms and hands were basically non-functional. He climbed the last inclined wall with a rope 80% with his teeth 😊 – and he made it.

– You started for the OCR Team Germany in the last several years; does it mean that in addition to the individual rating there was also one for the Team?

– Yes, that is right, and in 2019 Team Germany has improved big time since the last year! In 2018 a group of athletes (finally) organized the Obstacle Course Racing Association Germany (https://ocra-germany.de/), which actively contributes to developing OCR sport in Germany – educating trainers, working with the young generation, helping the team in preparing for the competitions, defining qualification requirements, and selecting athletes for the team to represent Germany in the FISO OCR World Championship (which takes place for the first time in Sochi, Russia in September, 2020).

– Happy with the results this year?

– In the European Championship yes, more or less, though it was quite possible for me to improve the placement by 5-7 positions; in the World Championship not at all – running form was OK, but cold and wet conditions led to a rapid deterioration of my technical skills and of the placement as a result.

– How did your season go? Any improvements from the last one?

– The season 2019 was very intense and quite interesting. My form improved in terms of being able to run longer with a relatively good (for me) pace; I started feeling my condition and its changes during races much better and manage it accordingly. There is still a long path to perfection – so we work further 😊.

– After finishing the season in October, you took time to participate in the training camp of the Trail Running School in Madeira. Did you decide to come back to the island to enjoy the warm weather?

– Not that I have developed some special relationship with the island (though it’s definitely worth visiting – nature is beautiful, the atmosphere is relaxed, food is tasty, what does one need for a relaxing holiday…). I just managed to squeeze a week of running off-the-grid (away from home and office) into my schedule…registered for the camp already in the spring, planned the time around, and went for it.

– How did the training camp go? Did you manage to shake off the tiredness after the season?

– The camp was amazing! To be in a group of “crazy” dedicated runners under the guidance of two outstanding professional athletes is truly something special. There was loads of new and useful information, intensive training sessions, work on running form and particular techniques, numerous discussions of plans, exchange of impressions about races in different countries, etc. To shake off tiredness and to relax in such a camp is not easy though, — we did cover lots of miles, both horizontal and vertical! I returned even more tired physically, though the emotions, impressions of nature, and the smell of a rainy eucalyptus forest will stay with me forever. Even being extremely tired I kicked myself out of the bed on the last morning for a quick run along the ocean with a stretching and swimming sessions…in-between the main training sessions I also did some extra pull-ups, push-ups, dead-hangs on the rope, and other OCR-related stuff. In Madeira one wants to use every opportunity to absorb warm sun, ocean, and the atmosphere…

It was quite interesting to interact with other runners and tell them some information and stories about OCR. I hope that I managed to persuade a couple of them to try it out at some point. Dima did not break yet, so some more work is needed! (😊😊).

– What are your training plans for the off-season?

– As usual, base aerobic work, including mountain bike (MTB on the snow – best core and coordination exercise – highly recommended! 😊), and lots of strength training. This year we added one to two weekly sessions with weights in the gym, and plenty of explosive work—jump squats and alike. As usual, I do strength protocols with kettlebells and special strength training for the upper body – these sessions stay relatively stable throughout the year.

– In Germany, where you live, do you have the possibility to train in the real mountains?

– In “real” mountains only occasionally, though right next to my home I have Taunus mountains (very old mountain range in the German states of Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate) with heights of up to 879 meters, so the altitude gain of 500-800 meters per training session is piece of cake, and couple of thousands D+ can be done easily if needed. On the mountain bike I typically gain 800-1000 vertical meters per 30-40 km, so mountain trail conditions can be emulated to some extent, and training can be very efficient.

– What are your major starts in 2020? OCR European and World Championships?

– Yes, European Championship in the Dolomites in June, and two World Championships – in the USA and Russia in the Fall.

– What about starting in the mountain trails in addition to obstacle races? You mentioned already one planned race in Russia in 2020.

– As of now, I have only planned the Ultra distance in the Elbrus World Race in August. Maybe I will add one or two more starts, though with the OCRs every two-three weeks it becomes very hard to add anything to the race calendar: I also need to train and recover somehow. At some point, I definitely want to start in a mountain series of the Spartan Race.

– Except for the world championship in September, do you plan to start in some obstacle race in Russia?

– So far no plans to start in an “ordinary” race, though I heard a lot of good feedback about Russian races. I need a visa for Russia, and in terms of logistics, it is much easier to go to Scandinavia, Poland, or even Belarus for the Bison race. As you mentioned in the question itself, I plan to start in the inaugural world championship in Sochi, need to qualify first, though. Thus, at least one obstacle race in Russia is already in my calendar 😊.

– How hard is it to build into your daily routine all the training sessions and competitions?

– Daily training is just an integral part of my routine by default. All the trips are coordinated with the family, sometimes I manage to combine my work travel with races and interesting training runs. Certainly, it gets heavy when there is lots of stress at the work, and even starting a training session in the dark rainy (and very dirty) forest after teaching for eight hours can be really challenging. It is one of my skills, I believe, to make myself comply with the preset plan by visualizing a long-term goal, so it is hard, but not a problem. To save time, I often ride a mountain bike to the office and back, and extra 1.5 hours per day allow to boost training volume very efficiently; sometimes, when I can leave my laptop in the office, I also run home from work (12-15 km). All the competitions are normally planned well in advance, and in our family almost all the vacations and trips are booked 6 to 9 months ahead…Bottom line: everything is possible if you and your family members are ready to compromise, though lots of planning is involved.

– Did you ever think why you need all these exhausting trainings?

– Yes, occasionally, but not for long…😊 – no time for stupid ideas. There is a goal, there is a plan, and there is work. As Norman Vincent Peale (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Vincent_Peale) said: “Plan your work – work your plan. Lack of system produces that ‘I’m swamped’ feeling.” I borrowed this phrase from Pavel Tsatsuline, who is using it to motivate a systematic approach to strength training. Thus, it is all quite easy – one just needs to aim at reaching his/her goals.

– What is your major motivation to continue training so hard?

– At the moment it is the desire to make myself better, stronger, and, certainly, to win the races. In the long run I want to be healthy, strong, and athletic when I am 50, 60, 70+… I want to be able to run, climb, jump, lift, and to have fun in life… An additional factor: social networks, surely 😊.

PS I am grateful to my daughter Emilia for adjusting my English articles’ usage 😊.


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