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Interview with Konstantin Ivanov, versatile adventure athlete

10.11.2015Interview with Konstantin Ivanov, versatile adventure athlete

Author  Marina Galkina


This year a 30-year-old aircraft design engineer from Perm Konstantin Ivanov literally forced his way into the elite of the Russian outdoor adventure racers by winning three high-profile races in different types of activities. In June he won the long course (72 hours) of the Red Fox Adventure Race, the main adventure race in Russia, the World Rogaining Championships in Finland among mixed teams in August and just a few days ago a 4-day-staged mountain trail race called Crimea X-Run along the southern coast of Crimea. (The winner„s impressions on this race you can read here).

Konstantin had other successes this year as well: second places at the European Rogaining Championships and TransUral, a 4-day staged race, numerous wins in local competitions. It's time to get to know such a strong versatile athlete.

The main international success this year is a gold medal among mixed teams at the World Rogaining Championships, where Konstantin participated on a team with Natalya Zimina. After overcoming 120 kilometers in just 24 hours, they won by 3 points over a strong Latvian pair and became the world champions. Thus they supported the good tradition of Russian victories!

Since 2008, Russian mixed doubles have steadily shown good results at the World Championships; Safronova-Sysoev, Shavlakova-Shvedov, Abramova-Shvedov have entered their names on the champions„ Challenge Trophy. And now, after a miss in the transatlantic World Championships in 2014 in the USA, the passing "shoe" returned to Russia.

The city Perm is the birthplace of the Russian Rogaining. The very first competitions in Russia took place there, as well as the first Russian Championships (2001) and the first European Championships (2003). However, before Kostya Ivanov became known, there hadn„t been strong athletes from this city for many years.

- Kostya, could you, please, tell us how you started rogaining?

- It was in August 2009 when we were traveling on a train from a mountaineering training camp in Uzunkol. Then I came across a magazine (either Risk or Vertical World), where I read an article on the Red Fox AR, and I got really interested in participating in something like that. Having arrived to Perm, I was disappointed to learn that our region doesn„t host any adventure races, and the only competition the closest to an AR in spirit event was a 24-hour rogaining "The Prize of the Ural birch". I participated in this rogaining in a mixed team with Nadezhda Oleneva (also a mountaineer). After 16 hours, we retired from the race because of blisters.

Then there was a two years break, I was climbing and mountaineering, participated in two local adventure races, the Sprut Race and "The Elk Cup" in Izhevsk, and two 24-hour bike rogaining races. In  Fall 2011, I ran in three short running rogaining races with Fyodor Zheltov (at that time the most experienced roganing athlete of the Perm Territory), we began to train for the World Championships in the Czech Republic in 2012. But Fyodor suddenly lost interest in rogaining, and in Spring 2012 I already started to train and run with Kirill Perminov, who had been engaged in track and field athletics.

Then there were the Russian Championships 2012 near St. Petersburg, the World Cup 2013 in Alol, Pskov region, I was gaining experience with every event. By the Russian Championships 2013 in Khvalynsk we were physically well prepared. It was the first time we used high-quality food, isotonic drinks and gels. And then a miracle happened: the head was thinking clearly, CPs were easy to find and the legs were running all 24 hours. And we even managed to fulfill the plan. The final result was the second place in the overall score-sheet after the team of Oleg Kalinin and Andrey Shvedov.

-How is it going with rogaining and adventure races in the Perm Territory now?

- There have been no adventure races since 2010, we go to the neighboring regions such as the Sverdlovsk Region and Udmurtia. As for rogaining, things are good, there are a lot of events, but the same maps have been used too often, no electronic punching system. Therefore, we try to attend rogaining races in the Sverdlovsk and Chelyabinsk regions as often as possible: difficult terrain, good maps and an electronic punching system.

- Your best results were achieved when you were on Perm teams (second place in the Russian Rogaining Championships 2013 in Khvalynsk, 20th place in the overall score-sheet at TransAlpine-Run-2014, a win at the Red Fox AR 2015) with various partners: Kirill Perminov, Yuri Nikitin, Vitaly Morozov. So it means things are not that bad with strong athletes in Perm? Is it just that there are not that many diverse athletes?

- We have enough strong athletes in our region, there is great potential. But not all can attend international competitions because of high travelling costs and the lack of sponsors. I try to choose partners for every specific event, somebody who is the most suitable for a specific race and can show the best of themselves. The main thing is to prepare this person in the right way for the event and to motivate well. There are also some diverse athletes, but it„s hard to be the best on a high level at several disciplines. Among Russian racers there aren„t that many versatile high level athletes as well; mostly, they are strong girls in adventure races.

- Tell us how you first met Natasha Zimina. How did your rogaining double come together?

- I got acquainted with Natalya at the TransAlpine-Run in 2014; I just couldn„t miss the opportunity to get acquainted with a participant of the epic race in Patagonia. She came to the TAR to support Pavel Demeschik. In the late Fall Natalya invited me to run with her the World and the European Rogaining Championships in 2015. I liked this idea, it coincided with my desire to try participating with a more experienced partner, somebody good at orienteering, and she is a sub-master of sports. I agreed to participate in the “World” right away, and we decided to run the European Championships to work out the team pace and to identify the team weaknesses, that had to be eliminated by the “World”. On that note, we agreed.

- How do you deal with orienteering? Who is the navigator in your team?

- To raise the level of navigation in the Perm teams, since Spring 2012 I„ve began training in this sport. At the very first start I fulfilled the requirements for the second-class sportsman title, and the next day for the first-class sportsman title. A fantastic beginning! Since then, I have tried to participate in all local orienteering competitions. Sometimes we go to the neighboring regions. In winter, we visit a training camp in Alushta. Sometimes I even win the local competitions.

In general, I'm usually navigating in the team. Guys are trying to read the map and help me out in difficult situations. It happens that even I go blank, as it was at the Red Fox AR, then Vitaly took all the navigation in his own hands. If I run with people from orienteering (Yura, Natalya), the whole team is always in the map, we can even argue about possible ways to go).

- You're pretty good at running trails. On TransAlpine-Run 2014 you and your team member Yury Nikitin were the best of all Russian teams, and in general you performed very well: the last day you managed to get in the top 10 teams, and took the 20th place overall. That„s very strong performance! Was it your first trail of such length? What are your impressions?

- In 2014, I ran my first marathon, and it happened to be a mountain marathon, it was in July during 4 days of TransUral. There I was the fifth in the overall score-shit, losing an hour to the leader by the sum of all the days.

And in August, we already participated in the 8 day TransAlpine-Run. These competitions turned out to be the best from the point of view of organization, out of all I ever participated in. These competitions I was running under the slogan "the Russians don„t give up, especially so the guys from Perm". On the first day 25 kilometers after the start I fell on a slippery bridge and ripped the front shin muscle. At first I thought it was a broken bone, but, having examined my foot, Yura said that I only had a hematoma, a bump the size of 6 cm)). We put a tight bandage on and went to the finish line. Slopes were very difficult as I couldn„t put any weight on the heel. At the finish doctors offered me only ice ... The morning of the second day was terrible, I couldn„t stand on my leg at all, but after putting on compression, I felt a bit better. So I ran the remaining seven days on painkillers, putting weight in my right foot only on toes. I appreciate a lot Yura„s encouragement and support during this difficult week. In this state I couldn„t expect a good result. Just to reach the finish line of the 8th day was the main result. But the injury did not upset the overall mood of the event; we were competing against teams that were close to us in the overall ranking, trying every day to outrun the best mixed team with Emma Roca (adventure race world champion, member of the Spanish team Buff). And these fantastic pasta-parties (shared dinners after the race “ note by X-Race) every day with photos and videos taken during the day! Besides, the group of Russian athletes was a fun one: Artem Rostovtsev, Oleg Kharitonov, Pavel Demeschik, Irina Safronova, Aleksandr Ramazanov and Sergey Zayats.

-In addition to rogaining and trailrunning you take interest in adventure races. What races have you participated in?

- My first adventure race, the Sprut Race, was in Spring 2010 in Perm, just two weeks before it I had bought my first mountain bike. Teamed with Dan Oleynikov I took the 3rd place. And in the Fall we already won by a large margin.

Next there were races in Udmurtia "The Elk Cup" and "Susanin Race". There we were always taking places on the podium, but we were always lacking little something to win. Since 2012, Vitaly Morozov (the most experienced adventure racer in Perm) and I have begun to participate in the most complex and longest race in Russia “ the Red Fox Adventure Race. The year of our debut at the White Sea, we finished in the seventh place. A year later, in 2013, we took the fifth place. In 2014, we finally got to the podium “ the third place among "doubles". And this year we managed to win.

In 2013 we also went to the Kavkaz Race, we finished it in the second place.

- You and Vitaly Morozov won the main Russian adventure race, the Red Fox Adventure Race 2015, with the best time of all teams in the long course. How did the competition go? Did you use any tactical tricks? Do you consider your win as an expected result of your physical fitness or do you attribute it to special training?

- Vitaly and I began to prepare for this race right after the previous Red Fox AR. We realized that we can win.

To begin with we ordered a new sea kayak "Adelaide" and carbon paddles. Vitaly is a unique athlete, early in life he was engaged in orienteering, skiing, kickboxing, rock climbing, mountaineering, was the champion of the region and sub-master of sports in hiking multi-discipline competitions. He did his military service in the intelligence troop in the Caucasus during two years; those who know what it is will understand what I mean. In other words he is mountain commandos. As they say you can go with such a man anywhere: to the end of the world or on the scout.

We didn„t do anything special to prepare for the race: paddling, running, cycling, we had some races for training and the experience of previous competitions. We knew we needed to follow the course without any navigation mistakes and if possible not to sleep for more than 1.5 hours. But the course turned out to be shorter than we expected and we didn„t have to sleep at all. We had the understanding that we should pass the leg with the zip-line among the first teams; we arrived early, but still waited in line for an hour and a half. But we spent that time without much rest: it was necessary not to miss our turn and in addition we were helping other teams to pull their members to the top faster. And we„d saved an interesting scheme for the finish that allowed us to show the best time in the long course. There were 4 bonus check points to be visited during paddling. One of them we took on bicycles and the other three in a kayak. We paddle walked to the finish around the central island.

- It turns out that today you are the most productive outdoor adventure racer in Russia. In one season, you won the main Adventure race in the country, became the Rogaining world champion and won a four day trail in Crimea. It„s some sort of a "hat-trick". What is more interesting for you: rogaining, trail running or adventure racing?

- That„s a tough question, there is no priority, and it all depends on teammates, terrain and organization. I try to visit unique places. I've always been interested in the mountains, orienteering and running.

- A question about rehabilitation. On June 13, your double finished the Red Fox AR, and as early as in two weeks you and Natalya Zimina won "silver" at the European Rogaining Championships in the Czech Republic. Where do you take so much strength? Did you have time to recover between these two so challenging events? What„s your recovery routine or the body is ready for anything, "Dance while you„re young" as they sing?

- It„s always hard to strain every sinew at the adventure race; the whole body is usually tired and not any particular muscle. Besides I had a significant margin over the partner in terms of tracking, so the legs were okay after the race.

The event in the Czech Republic was initially considered as a training competition for us. Running was going quite easily, this was not an issue. There were some problems with navigation. I had enough time to recover. Probably, at that age you can afford two major events in a month.

- At the European Championships in the Czech Republic you were behind the first place, a strong and experienced Latvian double Kaminskis - Liepina, by only three points. Was it a good result for you or a defeat?

- We couldn„t find CP 49 in the southeastern part of the map in the twilight, we spent there a lot of time, and that's the price of one mistake. Natalya was dissatisfied with the result. And as for me, I was greatly motivated for a serious preparation for the World Cup by this second place in Europe.

- How do you train, could you tell us briefly? How do you manage to combine work, training, and family life?

- In winter, I ski a lot, participate in ski orienteering, go to the pool. In spring we begin to cycle, paddle, practice orienteering and cross-country running. In summer, in fact, the training stops as there are many events. I run only for recovery and orienteering exercises.

I work in the design office 5 days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., so that gives me some time in the evening for training, and weekends are free for competitions and traveling. Besides, a confining job is favorable for a change of activity in the evening.

I„m married. My wife, Daria, is engaged in swimming and orienteering. She supports my interest in sports. We go together to most events. She is a very good supporter at the adventure races, she understands well what the team needs, prepares meals, and sometimes even repairs bicycle, and of course provides intelligence support, gathers information about competitors location, sleep strategy, what CPs they visited. And she takes all photos in the trips.

- Tell us about your achievements at the TransUral Race. This year, you've finished second, losing just 15 minutes to the winner at the end of 4 days. How did the race go for you, what are the most memorable and vivid moments?

- A year has passed after the first TransUral race, and many athletes already had an idea how to run a four-day race. From the very first day Anton Golovin took the lead. His margin was 9 minutes against everyone else, I finished the second. On the second day we ran together for a long time, I even got to lead at the marsh areas (orienteering experience helped). But again the second place, I did not give enough at the finish. Also on the second day, 10 hours after the finish of the second stage, a 13 km night race took place; I finished it in the third place; my goal was achieved: I didn„t get injuries in the dark on slippery rocks and was one of the top three. The third day was a rest-day. The fourth day we ran "Belogorsk Marathon" (42 kilometers). Yevgeny Ivanov, an orienteering athlete from Ekaterinburg, took the lead from the start and he was the one to win the race. Three of us ran together for a long time: Malykhin, Golovin and I. In the end I took the 4th place and got "silver" in the overall four days score.

All the joy from the team„s second-place and personal success vanished, when I learned about the broken hip of our team member, a friend and the leader of the women's category - Evgenia Petukhova. I was completely crushed by what had happened, but could do nothing to help. Other participants, who had been on the course, had already carried Evgenia to the emergency vehicle. I was relieved only when I came to visit Zhenya in the hospital in Nizhny Tagil.

- Did you prepare in any special way for the Championships in Finland? Wasn„t that the main event of the season for you?

- Yes, it was one of the main competitions. I dedicated all August only to rogaining and training for the "World". On August 1 I participated with Yury Nikitin in 10 hour Miass Rogaining Championships of the Urals Federal District. The heat, rugged terrain, a good map and a victory were a great preparation. On August 15 I ran a 4 hour rogaining race organized by Nicholay Bondar "Across the swamps and across the hills" in the Sverdlovsk region in individual classification. I don„t like to run rogaining alone, but had a goal: to practice orienteering on a long course without a partner at a high heart rate and to try to minimize mistakes. Training suddenly turned into a competition, when I saw Valentin Zasypkin and Evgeny Maskinsky (currently holding the master of sports in orienteering title) in the start list. I competed with Evgeny on the course for 1.5 hours, the route coincided. As they say, the best training is competition.

-How did you plan the race?

- Natalya did most of the planning, that morning her brain was much faster than mine. Apparently, that was due to experience, and I didn„t sleep well the night before the race. The general plan was to go to the open mountains during the day and skip swamps in the South and to use more paths suitable for running at night and in the morning. We planned 104 km counted along straight lines between CPs.

- Did you manage to do everything as planed? Do you consider it to be the best route? Or would you change something now? 

- After 6 hours we realized that we already were 3 hours ahead of our plan, were moving much faster. We had to add something. We had a long dispute and finally Natalya took the decision in her own hands and added three check points in the swamps in the south (81, 60, 90). I would not change anything, since we had the winning route)), and we exceeded the plan, it turned out 108 km along straight lines.

- What difficulties were there on this race? How did the swampy spans go?

- There were almost no difficulties with navigation: the map was good, a relief was easy to read, and the forest was clean. We were serious about this event, so we tried to avoid even the smallest missteps, immediately corrected each other. There was a funny moment in the east of the map. So we were running and one after another caught up with several men's teams. Guys ran forward, made mistakes and we would catch them up again. After several check points like that no one already was trying to run ahead of us, but for us it was an accumulated “train” of six teams behind us.

The swamps were going hard, the pace dropped significantly, I even took a dive once, plunged up to my neck, and Natalya was sucked up to her waist a couple of times, she said it was very scary at those moments. We began to regret that added these CPs.

In the morning roads began but it was hard to run. Thanks to the cold, we couldn„t relax, it forced us to move.

- How do you evaluate our joint work?

- The team atmosphere was wonderful, and this is the most important. Everybody was result-oriented and we had the understanding that we were fighting for prizes and there couldn„t be better motivation.

- Were there any concerns about the result?

- During these 24 hours we didn„t meet our competitors among mixed teams, only men. Compared to them we were going at a good speed, we were ahead of our plan, everything went well, but you can never know in rogaining how other teams run, what CPs they check and what problems they may have. Do what you can, and then be what may!

- On Friday before the start of the World Championships was your birthday, you turned 30. Was the win a good present? What feelings did you experience when you learned that you had won?

- When the results were posted our friends and acquaintances were probably very happy for us, that we had become the world champions. I did not have the full understanding of what we had done. It came at home after I had enough sleep and fully rested.

- It's very nice that your office colleagues cheer for you, what a wonderful news-sheet they dedicated to your win in the World Championships! But is there any financial support?

“ Aviadvigatel supports our Perm adventure racing team, pays for trips to Red Fox AR, and sometimes purchases team wear. All the other travel expenses, especially international, are paid from our own pockets.

- Why didn„t you participate in the Russian Rogaining Championships near Krasnoyarsk?

- From September 16 to 20 we were to participate in an adventure race, one of the World Series called Raid in France, but for various reasons the team didn„t make it there. I had already bought tickets to France and had the visa, so my wife and I went for a vacation as tourists. At the last moment I entered the mountain marathon UltraPireneus, the course is 45 km in Spain. I decided not to spend this whole vocation as a "vegetable" and to prepare for Crimea X-Run. I went running in Chamonix, Gorges of Verdon and on Lake Annecy. I came in 27th place in the marathon (out of 1,000 participants). In my opinion, that turned out to be a good preparation and we also managed to travel.

- What important events are planned for the next year?

- I will not disclose all the secrets, just follow protocols. I will just say that next year will be full of mountains and excellent team-mates for me!

- Kostya, I want to wish you new achievements, further growth and advancement. New victories!

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