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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CYCLING for RUNNERS – ‘Why can’t runners cycle quickly?’

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What’s the difference in terms of fitness between running and cycling? Why doesn’t running necessarily make you a great cyclist or vice versa? They are both endurance activities, both aerobic and both use your legs, but what’s the difference?

Marc Laithwaite from the Endurance Coach asks the question:

‘Why can’t runners cycle quickly?’

The answer to some extent lies in the way we test cyclists and runners. People who visit us for VO2 testing will follow a set protocol, based on whether it’s a run or bike test. The run test starts by running on a treadmill at a slow speed and every minute the speed gets faster until they either jump off or they are ‘fired off’ the back of the treadmill. As the treadmill gets quicker, they have to move their legs faster. Their ‘cadence’ is increased to allow them to stay on the treadmill, but the ‘resistance’ doesn’t really change. When you are running, the resistance is pretty constant, you have to lift the weight of your leg and push your body weight forwards, not a great deal changes as the treadmill gets faster, you just need to move more quickly.

The cyling test is different. We start by asking people to cycle at 90 revolutions per minute and they must maintain that throughout the test (unlike running the cadence / leg speed does not change, it stays the same). Each minute we increase the resistance and it gets harder to turn the pedals, so unlike the run test, the resistance is increasing throughout the test. The test ends when they are no longer able to maintain the 90 revolutions per minute. In some ways, it’s almost like doing a strength exercise such as the ‘leg press’ and as each minute passes, we add a little more weight until they can’t keep going.

What can we draw from the above?

There is an element of strength involved in cycling that isn’t required for running. You can call it strength or ‘muscular endurance’ (call it whatever you like), but the basic fact is that you have to work against high levels of resistance during cycling that don’t apply to running.

What about gears and cadence?

Ok, so at this point you might be thinking there’s a way round this. Rather than being strong, you can use an easier gear and pedal faster! Yes, to come extent you can and we see this a lot with runners who take up cycling, they prefer to spin easier gears rather than pushing big gears at lower cadences. However, there’s only so far you can take this aproach. If you increase your cadence from 90 to 100 to go faster, what happens after that? Do you increase to 110? 120? 130!!??

Here’s our basic observations about the problems often encountered by runners who take up cycling:

1. They lack the basic strength and struggle most frequently on flat courses, where the ability to push ‘big gears’ counts the most.

2. This can generally be identified by a simple 5 second maximal sprint test, which results in a poor power output.

3. Runners tend to favour spinning easier gears and may well favour a ‘compact’ or ‘triple’ chainset.

4. On longer, gradual climbs, runners tend to come into their own and can perform relatively well (long gradual hills are the best courses and flat ‘time trial’ courses are the worst in terms of race performance).

5. Shorter / steeper hills on rolling courses may also be an issue as they lack the ‘short term’ power to maintain speed.

6. When runners complete cycle testing sessions we commonly hear this: “My heart and lungs felt fine, it’s just my legs, I couldn’t turn the pedals, there was too much resistance”

7. It’s more common in females than males and it’s more common as age increases.

8. When people enter Ironman triathlon, they make a presumption that riding long and slow to build endurance is the way forwards. After all, Ironman is all about endurance right? Maybe not.

Here’s the simple truth. If you want to be an ‘UBER’ biker for non-drafting triathlon or cycle time trials, you really need to be able to generate a high power output and push big gears. Either that or you need to pick your courses very well to suit your strengths. There’s a lot of confusion and poor advice regarding the best cycling cadence, which has lead to confusion regarding the physical requirements and training for a fast bike time. People get told every day that you should ‘spin a higher cadence’ when cycling, which is misleading and leads to misunderstanding. In many cases, it makes people slower cyclists and fails to tackle their prime weakness.

On that bombshell… lets discuss cycle cadence in more detail.

There’s a lot of confusion and poor advice regarding the best cycling cadence, which has lead to confusion regarding the physical requirements and training for a fast bike time. People get told every day that you should ‘spin a higher cadence’ when cycling, which is misleading and leads to misunderstanding. In many cases, it makes people slower cyclists and fails to tackle their prime weakness. Let’s discuss a little further and clarify some of the misleading advice.

1. There are different kinds of cycle racing. In triathlon events, the cycle stage (unless you’re elite) is a time trial. It’s you against the clock and there’s no drafting allowed. Time trials require a high power output which is consistent. There’s no repeated accelerations or ‘attacks’, it’s just you, riding at a constant power output.

2. Cycle road racing, crit racing or elite triathlon is not a time trial, it’s a bunch ride. It’s much easier to ride in the draft of the bunch and riders will therefore cycle at higher cadences in easier gears, whilst still maintaining their position in the group. Bunch racing will often include changes in pace, accelerations, attacks and chasing. It’s impossible to accelerate well, if you’re pushing a ‘big gear’, for that reason, bunch racing tends to favour higher cadences and easier gears.

3. Triathletes who ride with cyclists are often told ‘it’s better and more eficient to ride at higher cadences’. That is true for cyclists who ride in bunch races, so whilst the advice is correct for their specific circumstances, it doesn’t mean it’s right for triathletes.

4. Pretty much all studies on the subject show that slower cadences use less oxygen, results in lower heart rate and require less fuel than higher cadences. Many cyclists who ride ‘time trials’ rather than road races favour big gears and slower cadences. Former British champion Nik Bowdler use a 77 tooth chain ring and rode at 65rpm. Chrissie Wellington followed the same approach, riding a much lower cadence as she found it reduced her breathing and heart rate significantly.

Cadence V Gearing

Cadence and gearing are not the same thing. If someone is told to spin at a high cadence up hills, we presume that we should choose a very easy gear. If we’re told to ride with a slower cadence, we associate that with a big gear. You will often see pro riders spinning a higher cadence up hills, don’t be fooled into thinking they are using a compact chainset or a very easy gear, they are strong enough to spin a larger gear. Simply changing into a very easy gear to allow you to spin, will result in you going slowly. The reason you are forced to use an easy gear is a basic lack of ability to produce a high force, so you are not tackling the problem at hand.

Take away tips:

1. You need to use bigger gears at some point if you want to ride faster

2. To use bigger gears you need to have the basic leg strength (often lacking in runners, moreso ladies)

3. Slower cadences are more efficient for time trials and faster cadences are better for changes of pace on technical courses and bunch races

4. As a rider, you should be capable of adapting your cadence to suit the race

5. Don’t just start pushing huge gears in an attempt to tackle the problem, be wary of injury

6. Don’t keep reaching for the gear shifter every time you hit the smallest incline, this isn’t helping

7. If strength is very poor, you may want to consider a simple strength routine in the gym as a basic start point

 

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TomTom launch new GPS products

TomTom today announces availability and pricing for its new range of GPS watches that deliver at-a-glance performance information for runners, cyclists and swimmers. The TomTom Runner and TomTom Multi-Sport are available to pre-order from today at http://www.tomtom.com, and to buy from leading running speciality retailers later this month. They will be priced from £149.99 and £179.99 respectively.

Both the TomTom Runner and the TomTom Multi-Sport feature an extra-large display, full-screen graphical training tools and the industry’s first one-button control to make it easier for users to access the information needed to stay motivated and achieve their goals.

TomTom Runner and TomTom Multi-Sport also include a broad range of advanced features that are designed to address the needs of runners and multi-sport enthusiasts alike:

· Ultra-Slim Design: At just 11.5mm, the slim design of the watch module, comfortably fits men and women, and all wrist sizes
· Indoor Tracker: Accurately track indoor runs using built-in sensors to count strides, so that users can monitor pace and distance even while running on a treadmill.
· QuickGPSFix: Get started faster by using the latest in GPS and GLONASS satellite technology to quickly find their precise location.
· Desktop Multi-Platform compatibility: Sync, analyse and share stats on popular running sites and community platforms, including the TomTom MySports website, MapMyFitness, RunKeeper and TrainingPeaks.
· Super-Tough Display: Scratch- and impact-resistant glass stays easy-to-read, workout after workout.
· Weather- and Waterproof: Waterproof up to 50 metres/5ATM
· Long-lasting battery: Up to 10-hour battery life (GPS Mode)
· Heart Rate monitor*: Use the Bluetooth® Smart Heart Rate Monitor to track training zone for weight control, performance or speed.

TomTom Multi-Sport includes all the features included in TomTom Runner, and also allows multi-sport athletes to track their distance, time, speed and other key metrics when they cycle or swim. The TomTom Multi-Sport is also enhanced with the following features and options:

· Dedicated Bike Mount: Easily see key stats at a glance with the specially-designed bike mount
· Cadence Sensor**: Track cadence, speed and distance, indoors and out.
· Built-in Altimeter***: Accurately track elevation, ascent, descent and grade with the built-in barometric altimeter
· Swimming Motion Sensor: Check detailed swim metrics such as laps, strokes, time and speed, and calculate a SWOLF score to show swim efficiency

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