Current hometown: Greenbelt, Maryland
Profession: Fulfillment Supervisor at Frontpoint Security
How did you first get into endurance sports? As I child I cycled a lot. Things progressed to the point where in 1998 at the age of 13, I worked all summer at my dad’s farm so he can purchase my first adult size bike. This was a mountain bike that I used for local competitions. I won many mountain bike races locally, then made it to the amateur National Championships where I earned silver medal.
I slowly increased my training and distance to include visiting my grandmother’s village ten miles away and eventually the nearby province town that was 25 miles away. From there, our local club send me to training camp where I received coaching and referee license. While there, we would host large groups of kids for a week at a time, providing support, escort vehicles, and a fully-equipped bus. We used to average 40 to 50 miles daily.
During these events, I was introduced to the first Randonneurs in Bulgaria who had just returned from Paris Brest Paris in 1999. I was fascinated by their stories and they talked me into doing a 200 km (125 miles) brevet. It was slow and painful, but I enjoyed myself for some odd reason. I used my mountain bike for that, then did a 300 km (187 miles) ride. They eventually loaned me a road bike for the 400 km (250 miles) and 600 km (373 miles) in order to complete the full SR series. Those 4 rides are typically the requirements to ride a grand brevet like Paris Brest Paris. I liked the suffering and exploring my limits. Cycling was my favorite thing to do and they believed that I can do well in long distance events while taking me under their wing. It was also a way to get away, have pure joy like any kid, and explore new places while making many friends.
Tell us about some of the epic events you’ve participated in, or plan to: After near 20 years in Randonneuring, I have done all distances from 100 km to 1200 km (750 miles) while finishing 4 x 1200 km events. This include the 750 miler Paris Brest Paris twice. Most recently in 2019, I was able to shave nearly 1 day off my time compared to 2015, and finished as the first Bulgarian in 65 hours, 17minutes. Another epic 750-mile ride was in Bulgaria featuring 45,000 feet of climbing to include near 30-mile mountain pass ascent, 60-mile descent. Temperatures during that time ranged from nearly 100 degrees on Day One near the coastline, and 37 degrees on the mountain top the following day.
I started racing long distance in 2016. Since then, I have qualified twice for solo RAAM with a personal best of 410 miles at Sebring 24h. I won the National 12h in my age group in 2016, and have participated each year in all the Maryland Endurance Challenges. This is one of my favorite events. In 2019, I raced to new personal best of 237.4 miles. Highlight of 2019 was also crewing for Marko Baloh on his 10th Race Across America while setting a new age group record of 9 days 16 hours.
Currently, I am preparing for the biggest event in my career – Transcontinental 2020 with about 2700 miles and crossing the continent of Europe from west to east. Unsupported!
What motivates you to ride now? Finding out what my limits are, the great places I visit, new friendships that I make, and really having so much fun at it. I am motivated to keep improving while learning from my mistakes and then applying that in the future races. I also like being a motivational force for my kids, and showing them that a strong work ethic and commitment is needed in order to accomplish your goals. There are a lot of “inside wars” that I fight, and close people that I have lost and fight for as well. Using cycling as a stress relief from my busy daily life has helped me tremendously.
What advice would you have offer to those just getting into endurance sports? Be patient, start slow, and build up. Ride to your abilities, learn how to pace yourself, and maintain proper nutrition and hydration. Having someone to train with is great, and motivates you to keep things more interesting. Choose your equipment wisely. What works for one athlete might not work for you. It is all about adaptation. Get a proper bike fit or you will risk being in pain on a long day in the saddle. You will make mistakes. Don’t let them discourage you, but rather use them as a learning tool. Enjoy yourself while you are doing it and reward yourself for doing so.
What have been some of your positive personal experiences from participating in endurance sports?
The camaraderie. We are like a small family. It is competitive, but each one of us know how much the other suffers, trains, and prepares for these massive events. Everyone is very approachable. We have a lot of mutual respect for each other, and are always ready to help one another, any way we can.
What personal challenges have you had to overcome?
Finding the balance between work, sport and family. Having enough time for my family as I have two kids, and they mean the world to me. I`ve also suffered many injuries – knee, ankle, damaged nerves and Shermer’s neck to name just a few.
What single piece of encouragement would you offer to a young person experiencing homelessness?
That there are people out there willing to help, just like SHIP of Frederick County. You are not alone. This is a question with many answers. I would like to encourage everyone who can help to do so. The young person will find a way out, and discover purpose and happiness in life along the way. Stay positive, working on yourself, and surround yourself with good people.