FIZKULTURA, Bulgaria w/ Dean Karnazes, Sean Conway and more!

Inspiration comes in many forms and ways. I have just been to Sofia, Bulgaria for Fizkultura – a one day event put together by Begach Running Club. The event is geared towards inspiring Bulgarian runners to embrace new challenges, it may be just to start running, or maybe move from marathon to ultra-running, or why not try something bold and new like creating their own running challenge.

My participation was facilitated by the Begach Running Club and the British Embassy – I was joined by ‘the beard!’ The crazy, inspiring and distinctive looking adventurer, Sean Conway

Arriving in the early hours of Friday morning, Sean and myself were working right from the off with a breakfast at the Embassy and an improvised individual presentation – good job this ‘on-the-spot’ request didn’t phase us… some years back, I’d have immediately melted into a ball of nerves; not now!

Sofia is without a doubt Eastern European in feel and architecture. There are bold, brazen and striking monuments everywhere to remind us that Russia is not far away. But I was surprised. The centre had a distinct feeling of wealth with a multitude of high-end shops, plenty of bars and a huge selection of hotels. A backdrop of impressive snow-capped mountains made me feel relaxed.

A drive to the mountains and a leisurely lunch (in an incredible restaurant) provided us all with an opportunity to bond. It’s here that I had a little more time to get to know Sean and extend my introduction to Irina Daniela from Romania who is slowly but surely inspiring Romanians to run and notably empowering women to siege their futures by foot power. Irina recently ran a sub 3h for the marathon and in doing so has shown what is possible for the women of Romania. She’s a striking person – tall (too tall for Sean and myself), great figure, long dark hair and striking features. It’s easy to see how she will inspire those around her. She’s a bundle of energy and enthusiasm but Fizkultra is her first big ‘gig’ out of her homeland. Website here.

Sean by contrast looks like a lion under a mane of ginger. He’s a small and a slight figure who brims with confidence and an accent that’s hard to work out – South African, Irish and British public school make an interesting mix that is captivating to the ear. He casually talks of his up and coming challenge of cycling ridiculous daily distances in Australia to set a new world record. He has a simple motto – to be the first or the fastest – it works for him! His list of achievements is impressive, but more on that later. Website here.

It was early evening before I finally met Dean Karnazes. Dean, aka ‘Marathon Man’ is someone who I have emailed and spoke too on many times but this is my first face-to-face. He taps me on the shoulder. I turn, he grabs my hand and pulls me in close in a tight embrace and says, ‘Ian, finally, good to see you man!’ For once I feel tall, Dean is my height and we are both taller than Sean and if Irina had not been in our presence, for once I may well have been the tallest – just! However, Dean looks incredible – he’s ripped, chiseled, has a Californian tan and he’s swearing shorts. His legs bulge with muscles and I suddenly realize that the reality of meeting Dean didn’t disappoint. This guy, for me, helped change the way the sport of ultra has grown in the last 10-years. It was his book, Confessions of an all Night Runner’ that suddenly made ‘others’ aware of the crazy sport of running long; ultra-running! Website here.

Dinner took place in ‘Checkpoint Charlie’ and we joke, discuss love, life, running and politics. Bed soon arrives for Dean, he has no idea what day or time it is. Jet lag has hit hard and he leaves early. Our trio relax with our hosts and a late-night walk back to our hotel is followed with a night-cap in the bar. I felt at home with my two new friends and like all good new friendships, 12-hours have made them both feel like lifelong friends. We laughed the night away till bed finally called.

FIZKULTURA

Dean kicked off the day 0945. Short clad, the audience welcome him with rapturous applause and he quickly goes into a 30-minute presentation that gives an overview of his running. Of course, it’s an impossible task – he has achieved so much! Despite the launch of his recent book, ‘The Road to Sparta,’ Dean takes us back on a journey to his first book as Fizkultura coincides with its release in Bulgarian. Many of you will know those early stories of taking the shoes out of the garage on his 30th birthday and then running 30-miles. His first Western States, Badwater 135 and running a marathon at the South Pole. It’s classic ‘Dean’ and the audience lap it up.

Irina power dresses and looks like an air hostess wearing a suit, shirt, scarf and ridiculous high-heels. Sean and myself refuse to stand close to her… The style of dress was important, Irina’s background was in banking and she wanted to show everyone that it has been possible to still be a business professional and a runner. “My Story’ was about dreaming, having no limits and empowering herself, other women and yes, men, to wear run shoes and find out what is possible. The story of how she achieved sub-3, one of the fastest female performances for a Romanian and how her dreams may well lead to Olympic selection.

Antoniya Grigorova, Bulgaria’s top female ultra-runner, talked about her plans, planning and training in preparation for running the longest trail in Bulgaria: Kom-Emine. A journey of 600km. A professional athlete she provided an insight into the mind, the training and the nutrition of what the journey will take.

Lunch was followed with the lion roaring. Sean was in fine form and told the story of his world’s longest triathlon with great skill and humor. He was a natural on the stage and it’s fair to say the audience loved him. His presentation was interspersed with still images and small videos that documented the journey – and what a journey! A bent bamboo bike, a Sunday roast dinner blended into liquid form for lunch, skinny dipping in an icy river and his face being stung constantly by jelly fish while swimming.

I followed Sean and what an act to follow. My talk was always going to be a visual one as I planned on taking that audience around the world with a selection of races and images from Running Beyond (here). Of course, I had to provide some context on my journey and my opening dialogue provided a glimpse on how I got to where I am today.

Boyan Petrov is a legend in Bulgaria. An Alpinist, he talked us through the training, the planning and the equipment required to climb 8000+m peaks without oxygen. He’s one of the few climbers to make 3 x 8000m peak in one year, something he has done twice. He also discussed the dream of climbing all 8000+m peaks – more people have been to space than done this!

The day concluded with Dimitrina Sivkova talking about trauma prevention and getting back in shape.

It was an incredible day of challenges, feats, adventure, goals, inspiration and living a life with barriers or restrictions. The takeaway was, ‘make dreams happen!’ Dean concluded his talk with a famous quote, it’s not new but it’s apt and it somehow summed up exactly what Fizkultura was trying to achieve:

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

Despite tiredness and fatigue, an evening dinner in a vegan and vegetarian restaurant provided us all with an opportunity to discuss the day – we were all motivated. We of course were reminded that the following day, Sunday, there was a race in a local park running a 600m loop and two events, a 12-hour and 6-hour race called Project 360. A small selection of runners would start at 0630 looking to log mileage and a qualifying time for Spartathlon. The main event would start at 0900 with a 6-hour event that would allow runners to do as little or as much as they required. Travel plans scuppered any

Despite tiredness and fatigue, an evening dinner in a vegan and vegetarian restaurant provided us all with an opportunity to discuss the day – we were all motivated. We of course were reminded that the following day, Sunday, there was a race in a local park running a 600m loop. A small selection of runners would start at 0630 looking to log mileage and qualifying time for Spartathlon. The main event would start at 0900 with a 6-hour event that would allow runners to do as little or as much as they required. Travel plans scuppered any participation plans for me but I went and cheered on with Irina for an hour and of course, we just had to run a loop with ‘Marathon Man!’

Watch Dean in the video HERE

I love the fact that despite jet-lag, bust days of presenting and travel, Dean rocked up to the start line and run for 6-hours. He personifies his name.

I must say, I was sad to leave Sofia, my new friends and a great, developing running community. Dean, Sean, Irina and myself were there to inspire others but we left inspired. We were each individually energized by our time in Bulgaria. Sean will be bashing out the bike miles for Australia, Irina will be looking for the speed and endurance for a fast marathon, Dean? well, Dean will just keep running and running and me; travel, photography and telling stories. I love to do that and the story of Fizkultura and Bulgaria is a special one – a personal one!

Thanks to:

A huge thanks to the British Embassy, Elenko Elenkov, Begach Running Club and the many new Bulgarian runners who hosted, entertained and looked after us – Alexander, Milen, Vladi and so many more.

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WIN! a signed copy of TRAIL BLAZER by Ryan Sandes

RyanSandes book

I caught up with Ryan Sandes for the latest episode of TALK ULTRA podcast (you can listen HERE) episode 107.

We discussed at length Ryan’s career, his difficult 2015 season and of course his book, TRAIL BLAZER (available on Amazon here).

In the interview, Ryan asked a question, ‘what was the second desert race I won?’

To be in with a chance of winning a signed copy of the book, please comment below with an answer. All correct answers will be added to a hat and a winner drawn in April.

Good luck!

Episode 107 – Lizzy Hawker, Ryan Sandes

A_GRAVATAR

This is Episode 107 of Talk Ultra. This show has so much content, we speak with Lizzy Hawker about her amazing 200km Kathmandu Valley FKT, Ryan Sandes talks about his 2015 and his new book, Trail Blazer. Gavin Sandford tells us about his amazing double Marathon des Sables challenge. Niandi catches up with past participants of the Big Red Run in Australia who will return in 2016 and Speedgoat is back from the AT.

00:01:30 Show Start

00:21:26 Niandi talks injured foot and Big Red Run

00:28:02 INTERVIEW Jamie Hildage, Big Red Run

Jamie Hildage ran the Big Red Run in Australia in a past edition and will return in 2016, Niandi caught up and had a chat about the unique challenges this race brings

01:00:51 NEWS

TRANSGRANCANARIA

1 – Didrik Hermansen 13:41:48

2 – Gediminas Grinius 13:45:08

3 – Pau Capell and Diego Pazos 14:11:02

1 – Caroline Chaverot 15:23:40

2 – Andrea Huser 17:21:43

2 – Uxue Fraile 17:28:05

WAY TO COOL 50K

David Roche 3:19

Jorge Maravilla 3:22

Dylan Bowman 3:23

Megan Roche 3:42

Yiou Wang 3:43

Anne Mae Flynn 3:59

UTMB line up announced for 2016 – wow! See HERE

01:26:11 INTERVIEW LIZZY HAWKER is back with an incredible 200km run around Kathmandu and 15000m of vertical gain. I caught up with Lizzy after 3-years in the run wilderness.

Lizzy’s race, Ultra Tour Monte Rosa has a few places available and you can enter HERE

02:00:19 INTERVIEW RYAN SANDES has a new book out called Trail Blazer. We caught up with Ryan, discussed his troubled 2015, what 2016 has in store and of course we found out about the book. Ryan asked a question in his interview, if you like to win a signed copy, you need to comment on these show note with the correct answer

03:11:56 INTERVIEW Gavin Sandford will attempt two Marathon des Sables in 2016 – a world first, all in the name of charity. You can donate HERE and contribute to his funding at Crowdfunder HERE. Talk Ultra have offered a place on the Lanzarote 2017 Training Camp (worth £800) to Gavin as a pledge to help him raise additional funds. This place will be available for £500 (saving the lucky person £300). It’s first come, first served!

UP & COMING RACES

Australia

Queensland

Wildhorse Criterium 50 km | 50 kilometers | March 27, 2016 | website

Wildhorse Criterium 70 km | 70 kilometers | March 27, 2016 | website

Croatia

Istratrek Trail Race | 60 kilometers | March 26, 2016 | website

France

Ariège

Trail des Citadelles – 70 km | 73 kilometers | March 27, 2016 | website

Eure

11km | 110 kilometers | March 20, 2016 | website

Haut-Rhin

Trail du Petit Ballon | 52 kilometers | March 20, 2016 | website

Morbihan

Trail du Kreiz Breizh Bras | 55 kilometers | March 27, 2016 | website

Puy-de-Dôme

52 km | 52 kilometers | March 27, 2016 | website

Yvelines

50 km | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

80 km | 80 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Germany

Hesse

Eschollbrücker Ultra-Marathon 50 km | 50 kilometers | March 20, 2016 | website

North Rhine-Westphalia

Nord Eifel Ultra | 56 kilometers | March 26, 2016 | website

Greece

100k | 100 kilometers | March 26, 2016 | website

50k | 50 kilometers | March 26, 2016 | website

Guadeloupe

GUADARUN : ultra-marathon des îles de Guadeloupe | 136 kilometers | March 26, 2016 | website

Hungary

BSI Half Lake Balaton Supermarathon | 95 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

BSI Lake Balaton Marathon+ Balatonfüred – Siófok | 51 kilometers | March 20, 2016 | website

BSI Lake Balaton Marathon+ Fonyód – Szigliget | 52 kilometers | March 18, 2016 | website

Ireland

Dublin

Wicklow Way Ultra | 51 kilometers | March 26, 2016 | website

Italy

Tuscany

Ultratrail delle Valli Etrusche | 50 kilometers | March 20, 2016 | website

Veneto

Ultrabericus | 65 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Malaysia

TITI 100KM | 100 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

TITI 200KM | 200 kilometers | March 18, 2016 | website

TITI 50KM | 50 kilometers | March 20, 2016 | website

Morocco

Morocco Tizi N’Trail | 120 kilometers | March 25, 2016 | website

Nepal

Annapurna Mandala Trail | 250 kilometers | April 01, 2016 | website

Kathmandu West Valley Rim 50km | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

New Zealand

50 km Mountain Run | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Northburn Station 100 km Mountain Run | 100 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Triple Peaks Challenge | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Peru

ASIA Eco Trail 65K | 65 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Philippines

CEBU50 Trail Ultramarathon – Aspirant | 54 kilometers | March 26, 2016 | website

TRD80 Ultramarathon | 80 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Réunion

Caldeira Trail | 74 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Semi Transrun | 75 kilometers | March 26, 2016 | website

Ultra | 140 kilometers | March 25, 2016 | website

South Africa

Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon | 56 kilometers | March 26, 2016 | website

Spain

Catalonia

Half | 60 kilometers | March 26, 2016 | website

Ultra | 87 kilometers | March 26, 2016 | website

Sweden

Silva Ursvik Ultra – 75 km | 75 kilometers | March 20, 2016 | website

United Kingdom

Andhra Pradesh

Oldham Way Ultra | 40 miles | March 20, 2016 | website

Dorset

Jurassic Coast Challenge | 78 miles | March 18, 2016 | website

East Sussex

Coastal Trail Series – Sussex – Ultra | 34 miles | March 19, 2016 | website

Highland

2XU Jogle | 860 miles | April 01, 2016 | website

Lancashire

The Canalathon 100 km | 100 kilometers | March 27, 2016 | website

The Canalathon 50 km | 50 kilometers | March 27, 2016 | website

The Canalathon 75 km | 75 kilometers | March 27, 2016 | website

Liverpool

Liverpool to Manchester Ultra | 47 miles | March 26, 2016 | website

North Yorkshire

Hardmoors 55 Ultramarathon | 55 miles | March 19, 2016 | website

USA

Alabama

Lake Martin 100 Mile Trail Race | 100 miles | March 19, 2016 | website

Lake Martin 50 Mile Trail Race | 50 miles | March 19, 2016 | website

Oak Moutain 50+ | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Alaska

White Mountains 100 | 100 miles | March 27, 2016 | website

Arizona

Old Man 52K | 52 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Ultra Adventures Monument Valley 100 Mile | 100 miles | March 19, 2016 | website

Ultra Adventures Monument Valley 50K | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Ultra Adventures Monument Valley 50 Mile | 50 miles | March 20, 2016 | website

Arkansas

3 days of Syllamo | 150 kilometers | March 18, 2016 | website

California

Beyond Limits Ultra and BLU Relentless 100 Miler | 100 miles | March 31, 2016 | website

Beyond Limits Ultra and BLU Relentless 50K | 50 kilometers | March 31, 2016 | website

Beyond Limits Ultra and BLU Relentless 50 Miler | 50 miles | March 31, 2016 | website

Canyon Meadow 50 Km Trail Run (March) | 50 kilometers | March 20, 2016 | website

Nine Trails 35 Mile Endurance Run | 35 miles | March 26, 2016 | website

Old Goats 50K Trail Race | 50 kilometers | March 26, 2016 | website

Old Goats 50 Mile Trail Race | 50 miles | March 26, 2016 | website

Old West Trails 50K Ultra | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Ragnar Relay So Cal | 200 miles | April 01, 2016 | website

Colorado

High Line Canal 100K | 100 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Florida

Cross Florida Route 40 Romp | 116 miles | March 19, 2016 | website

Cross Florida Route 40 Romp – 2 Person Relay | 116 miles | March 19, 2016 | website

Fort Clinch 100M | 100 miles | March 19, 2016 | website

Fort Clinch 50M | 50 miles | March 19, 2016 | website

Georgia

Georgia Death Race | 60 miles | March 19, 2016 | website

Idaho

Pickled Feet 100 Mile Run | 100 miles | March 25, 2016 | website

Maryland

50K HAT Run | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Hat Trail Run 50K | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Mississippi

Spring Equinox 50K | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Spring Equinox 50 Miler | 50 miles | March 19, 2016 | website

Nevada

Vegas Moonlight Ultra 100 Mile Run | 100 miles | March 19, 2016 | website

North Carolina

Badwater Cape Fear 50 km | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Badwater Cape Fear 51.4 Mile | 51 miles | March 19, 2016 | website

North Dakota

Extreme North Dakota Sandhills Ultra Run Experience 100K | 100 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Extreme North Dakota Sandhills Ultra Run Experience 50K | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Pacific

Sac River Ultramarathon | 50 miles | March 23, 2016 | website

Pennsylvania

Lt. J. C. Stone 50K UltraMarathon | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Mt. Tammany 10 | 40 miles | March 19, 2016 | website

South Carolina

XTERRA Hickory Knob Trail 50K | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Tennessee

Music City Trail Ultra 50K | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Texas

Prickly Pear 50K Trail Run | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

The Grasslands 50-Mile | 50 miles | March 19, 2016 | website

Utah

Antelope Island 100 Mile | 100 miles | March 18, 2016 | website

Antelope Island 50K | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Antelope Island 50 Mile | 50 miles | March 19, 2016 | website

Vermont

PEAK Snowshoe 100 Mile Race | 100 miles | March 18, 2016 | website

Virginia

Elizabeth’s Furnace Fat Ass 50K | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Terrapin Mountain 50km | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Washington

Badger Mountain Challenge 100 Mile Endurance Run | 100 miles | March 25, 2016 | website

Badger Mountain Challenge 50k Ultramarathon | 50 kilometers | March 26, 2016 | website

Badger Mountain Challenge 50 Mile Ultramarathon | 50 miles | March 25, 2016 | website

Chuckanut 50 K | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

West Virginia

Haulin’ in the Holler 50K Trail Race | 50 kilometers | March 26, 2016 | website

Vietnam

50k | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Ultra ASIA Race | 160 kilometers | March 20, 2016 | website

03:41:13 CLOSE

Ian will be at UTAX HERE

03:43:29

ITunes http://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/talk-ultra/id497318073

Libsyn – feed://talkultra.libsyn.com/rss

Website – talkultra.com

La Course des Templiers – 2013

Nuria Picas Templiers 2012 ©iancorless.com

Nuria Picas Templiers 2012 ©iancorless.com

Millau, Southern France. The iconic ‘La Course des Templier’ has often been regarded as the Holy Grail of Trail in France. Salomon athlete and Brit, Andy Symonds won the race a couple of years ago and it made him a household name. Of course living in France and speaking the lingo did help.

The Great Race of the Knights Templar was founded in 1995 with a humanitarian purpose. To financially support an orphanage in Chad

Sighting the Leadville Trail 100 miler in the US as an influence, Odile and Gilles Bertrand decided to embark on this adventure in March 1995. The project was launched and a date was selected, the last Sunday of October.

But the format of 100 miles as at the Leadville race was considered too long and Odile and Bertrand decided to offer a more appealing distance of 65 km.

In October 1995 before the fortress of St. Eulalie de Cernon 500 runners assembled and the first edition was undertaken. La Course des Templiers gave birth to trail running in France. This first edition of Templiers was won by Patrick Fox and Corinne Favre.

Race start 2012 ©iancorless.com

Race start 2012 ©iancorless.com

THE GREAT RACE OF THE TEMPLARS

. Distance: 72 km – altitude: 3200 m +
. Departure: 5:15 (note time change), Millau, Millau Plage road (attention, 1h 20 ‘night in the morning) and arrive in Millau, Millau Beach Road 1.2 km from city center
. 4 stations (Peyreleau, St André de Vézines, Pierrefiche, The Cade)
. Registration limited to 2500 runners

A weekend of racing – Festival de l’Endurance

The Templiers race is part of the Festival de l’Endurance. The main event takes place on Sunday, the Grande Course – THE GREAT RACE OF THE TEMPLARS is steep and rocky, so steep that the race organisers place ropes in many areas so that runners can ease their way through rough spots without falling.

To add to that magical ambiance, it helps to know that Nant was one of many points in a network of secret trails built by the Knights Templar, the monastic, international military order formed at the end of the First Crusade with the mandate of protecting Christian pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem. The Knights Templar, known for their architectural skills and fighting alongside Richard I were the first warrior monks and were prevalent in that part of France until their downfall in 1307.

The race route uses the secret paths of the Templars which ncludes two long tunnels that had been used as shortcuts to beat enemies to strategic locations. The region has become a popular tourist attraction primarily due to the success of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.

2013 RACE

Miguel Heras TNFUTMB

Miguel Heras TNFUTMB

The 2012 edition of the race concluded the Skyrunner World Series but not this year! However, a quality field is assembled. Miguel Heras (Salomon) just missed out on the win last year so he will be looking for the top of the podium. However, he will have a re match with TNFUTMB winner, Xavier Thevenard (Asics). Thomas Lorblanchet, teammate of Xavier will also return, he has won this race several times before and without doubt be at the front of the race. Julien Rancon will be looking to repeat his victory but Michel Lanne may well be the favourite, he had some time way from the sport with a new baby and an injury but he is back.

Xavier winning TNFUTMB

Xavier winning TNFUTMB

The ladies race has the return of Nuria Picas (Buff) Nuria dominated the race last year ahead of Emelie Forsberg and Lizzy Hawker. Nuria has gone from strength to strength and after placing second at TNFUTMB and then shortly afterwards winning Cavalls delVent once again, she is for me, the outright favourite for the ladies race. Julia Bottger (Salomon) will also participate, however, I can’t help but feel it will be a little too short for her.

Nuria Picas winning Templiers 2012 ©iancorless.com

Nuria Picas winning Templiers 2012 ©iancorless.com

The main event takes place on Sunday.

You can see images from the 2012 race HERE