Strong motivations brought third place to one of our Imperians

Our colleague Dimitar Tsankov finished in top 3 during the most prestigious duathlon Vitosha 100

Dimitar (or as everyone calls him – Dumi) is a System Administrator at Imperia Online JSC for more than 5 years. What he and his team are basically responsible for is to ensure that all processes in the company run smoothly. As he says, “our task is to have no tasks at all”. However, it also happens that they are the people with the toughest job. Dumi explained about a breakdown that happened with the servers a few years ago. Of course, after such an event there are consequences like the game Imperia Online not working and all machines not working as well. In cases like this one, System Administrators are the people who work the most in order to bring everything as it was before, so there was a 2-day ultramarathon for machine recovery in the company.

Outside Imperia Online’s world, Dimitar’s favourite hobbies are running and mountain biking. He also likes skiing and spending free time in the mountains as this is his way to take a rest.

Interesting fact, he remembers that his first participation in Vitosha 100 – the most famous Bulgarian cycling and running competition – was 2 months after he joined Imperia Online JSC. He jokes about this as he says that Imperia Online is the reason to actively start doing sports. However, at that time he took part only in the cycling competition, without taking part in the running competition. Continue reading to learn what else we learned from Vitosha 100 finalist Dimitar.

Can you tell us more about your sports history?
I have been doing sports for over 5 years now and initially I started with mountain biking. I participated in the Vitosha 100 cycling competition for the last 5 years in a row and this was my 6th year. My first try was pretty thought, because I didn’t know what I am doing. I was not physically prepared. I even remember that the cycling result back then was worse compared to my running result this year.

So you have been doing this for six years now. Why you didn’t take part in the running competition earlier?
I injured my knee while skiing a few years ago. That’s why I had decided that I could never become a runner and it’s better to concentrate on cycling. However, I was lucky enough to go the right physiotherapist who told me that my knee was actually not damaged, but I had runner syndrome or ITBS. With the proper treatment and set of exercises, I managed to get rid of this problem for about a month. Then I realised that I could be able to run on longer distances. Therefore, I decided to do a duathlon for the first time this year, because I wanted something different and challenging.

How did you prepare for this year’s edition of Vitosha 100?
For a competition of such scale, a more serious training is needed. For a long distance running what is 100 km, you need to do long and continuous training. Your body needs to get used to the continuous load that you will put on it, so that you don’t end up stressing it out. Maybe there are people who decide to participate without serious preparation, but for me this is a mistake as you will be suffering after that. I knew that it won’t be easy, but I wanted to avoid my body being in pain after that, because of the lack of training. So I wanted to be as prepared as possible.

When I saw that my knee problem was gone, I already knew that I could be running more than 20 km distances (I hadn’t done this before). Earlier this year I went to another long distance competition – “Mountain Marathon Pancharevo” – in order to test myself and check where I stand compared to the others. I had a very strong result, finished seventh and this was proof for me that I can manage Vitosha 100, so I decided to continue training for the duathlon.

My active training for Vitosha 100 began 3 to 4 months in advance and I was running around 100 km every week. The biggest problem was the lack of time. I had to combine the preparation with the work and family life. I am 38 years old and have two young kids, so my daily routine is very different from the one of a person that still has no children. I didn’t want to sacrifice family time for training and my goal was to find a balance. That’s why I had to find a solution – I used my time to go home from work and I started running, which is 10 km in one direction. This was my way to reach 100 km in a week.

I emphasized on the running part and started cycling only a month before the competition as I already have much more experience with the bicycle. In order to avoid surprises, I decided to do a test run a month before the competition. I did the cycling part and on the next day I ran 60 km, because if you are able to reach the 60th km, than you have a chance to run 100 km, and if not – maybe there is no point in going on the competition at all. It was relatively good, I wanted to see how to distribute my strength and to be able to draw my conclusions. Then, on the basis of this run I had made a plan for my self for the whole competition and I knew with what speed to run at each stage.

Was the 3rd place a surprise for you?
I checked results from past years and saw that my balance between cycling and running was good. I knew that I had chances for good ranking, but it was still a very challenging task for me, initially my main goal was to finish. Actually, it was a surprise for me to finish third, because the competition was really strong. This is one of the most prestigious mass competitions in Bulgaria and everyone, who wants to be on the top, trains a lot for it. There was a big portion of the rest of the competitors, who were professionals and the fact that I ended up before them was an extreme success for me.

It took me 5 hours and 22 minutes to do the cycling round and 10 hours and 28 minutes for the running part, which makes 15 hours and 50 minutes in total.

What was your motivation during the competition?
It was definitely my family, they were waiting for me at the finish line. My colleagues were also there for me. But it was not only this, my biggest supporter and motivator was my brother. He has great experience in marathons, he even took the 3rd place on Vitosha 100 last year. This year he helped me a lot, he ran the last 40 km along with me just to support me, guide me and give me motivation.

He also helped me make a plan for the route of the whole competition. According to him, it was good that I started slowly. There were a lot of people that started very strong and fast in the beginning and got ahead of me along the way. This was not a problem for me, because I knew I had a good pace and it’s a mistake to start running very fast in the beginning. Actually, I started passing by a lot of people after the first 20 km and I even got ahead of a person in the very end. This was another thing that motivated me and gave me confidence that I am on track.

What are the qualities that a person should possess in order to take part in such a competition?
Eagerness, perseverance and positivity. You don’t go there to win at all costs, you have to have the desire and the right motivations. It is better to do it with pleasure.

What would be your advice for a beginner runner?
If it is someone who hasn’t practiced running until now… I would say that it is not a good idea to sign up for this competition right away. In my opinion, you need around one year in which you will have the time to train and get prepared. It’s not all about endurance and strength, your body needs time to adapt to a long distance run of such scale.

Things should happen gradually. You need to increase the distance you run gradually, because in order to reach 100 km it is good to run around 70-80 km per week. It would be a mistake if you don’t do this, because you might get injured. Progress bit by bit.

Last but not least, can you describe your job in one sentence?
My job is like a hobby… I like coming to the office the same way I like running!

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