08 февраля 2022

Interview with Nikita Filippov — a rising star of russian ski-mountaineering

Nikita Filippov was born in Kamchatka and for the last two years he’s been giving hope that the future of mountain sports in Russia can be brighter. When he’s talking about himself and what he’s achieved by the age of 18, it seems that his modesty is as huge as volcano Klyuchevskoy, “Yes, I’ve taken part in the Youth Olympic Games, won several National Cups and Championships, raced with and overtook mature athletes — well, not a big deal”. We noticed this guy when he was 15, and in 2021 we offered him to become a part of our team and a young ambassador of the Mountain-Race.ru.

(c) Mountain-race.ru

Do you consider yourself a mature athlete? 

Yes, I started to feel it when I started to outrun adult competitors. Besides fighting against seconds on the stopwatch, I also have goals to overtake someone significant (for me) in certain competitions. For example, 5 years ago I wanted to overtake my father, then a couple years ago I had a goal to overtake Zhenya Markov, what I did 3 times this year. The next goal is Vitaly Chernov, he is very strong in vertical races!

"- Started something — make it good!"

(c) Aleksey Mihailichenko

You made a name for yourself in the world of Russian mountain racing when you won the ROSA PEAK competition as a 15-year-old teenager. At what age did you start practicing sports and realize that you want to do it professionally?

I started to practice cross-country skiing at the age of 3 and I didn’t think about professional sports at that time. Later on, I was engaged in karate which gave me mobility and coordination. In 2010 I switched to biathlon and two years later started ski-touring. At 10 years old I fought against adults on modified alpine skis. However, biathlon remained my main goal from 2010 to 2017 and I participated in ski mountaineering races from time to time.

Then, in 2017 the guy from Kamchatka, who had not traveled to competitions outside home region before, tasted Italian pasta Bolognese at the World Ski Mountaineering Championship. When I returned home, I got the title of "without-ten-minutes world champion." It was that moment when ski mountaineering totally got me. I liked freedom in movements, unforgettable landscapes and new opportunities. We traveled with the coach Larisa Soboleva, who is Ekaterina Osichkina’s mother. Later in summer we trained in Bulgaria and on mt. Elbrus. 

Since childhood I’ve been having a motto —  “Started something — make it good!"

What are your main achievements in ski mountaineering and sky running by the age of 18?

In a nutshell - 6th place in the Youth Olympic Games and 8 times Russian champion. 

I wouldn’t say that I have achieved something outstanding, because I always want more, and my father and I know how to do it.

Yet again, like in all spheres of life, there should be a step-by-step principle — it is impossible to jump over several steps without having consequences.

Alexey Filippov — Nikita’s father and coach

Is it true that your coach is your father? Please tell us about him as an athlete.

My dad is my coach, that's correct. There is little what he hasn’t tried — bike rides for 12 hours, football, cross-country racing. He started ski mountaineering in 2011, showing me that it is not necessary to look for groomed slopes. He taught me the philosophy of a "thinking athlete” from the beginning of my sports career. He also ran mountain marathons several times and a few years ago won the Musta-tunturi trail in Murmansk region.

"- If you want to impress someone, you need to run either fast or long."

Why do you choose only the shortest trails or vertical races? It’s clear with verticals — there is real competition, but what about the “shorty ones”? When do you plan to start running longer distances?

Everything should be gradual: if I start running races over 2 hours, then I can forget about speed qualities. To be honest, I assume that mountain marathons and ultra races will be my thing in the future, but I need to prepare for this. 

Victory at Rosa Peak 2021 — one of the first victory among mature athletes

You seem to be enjoying the ROSA RUN festival, which stands aside from both trail running and sky running in its format. What attracts you there that much and what possible alternatives do you see among other festivals in Russia?

The festival attracts with its atmosphere and the ROSA PEAK race, which is specific to ski mountaineering, because more than half of the route is on loose snow. There are no analogs to this festiva in Russia. It’s the only vertical race with more than 1000 participants. 

 Do you have a dream race in Europe other than ski mountaineering? For example RedBull K3 or the Monte Rosa race?

I dream about RedBull K3 and RedBull 400. Of course, I can try the latter one in Russia but yet the event dates do not coincide with my training plan.

I also want to run the steepest vertical kilometer in Europe, but first I will run the analog in Russia!

Tell us how your season is built - when does ski mountaineering begin, and when do you leave your skis aside and put on your sneakers?

When the snow is gone, I take out my sneakers!

Of course, it all depends on the schedule and where I am at the moment. Basically, I finish the winter season at the end of March, and start a new training cycle in April.

At the open training session before ROSA RUN I noticed that you showed the technique of walking with poles with a very clear ski touring move, somewhat similar to ski imitation. It seems like ski mountaineering breaks out in you even in summer. What else is positively affected by ski-mountaineering and ski-touring in terms of development of some physiological qualities, movement techniques? What can be improved by practicing ski-touring?

Open training with Nikita Filipppov, summer 2021 (c) Mountain-race.ru

To begin with, I will give a clear example: before I started ski-touring, I was an average biathlete / skier - 4th places were my life companions.

But having worked hard in ski mountaineering, practically not including training in cross-country, I managed to win the Championship of Kamchatka region with 19 missed shots out of 20 possible.

So the conclusion is…?

If we consider ski-touring as an element of sports training, it requires a high level of energy consumption. This level is directly proportional to the slope’s gradient. The movements in ski-mountaineering are physiological, there is also no shock load on the musculoskeletal system providing that the descent technique is correct. 

Another advantage is an increase in the functionality of power systems. For runners and skiers it’s good as a basic volume work. For trailrunners - basic and also specific. Off-piste skiing develops coordination. The ability to traverse skinning requires good mobility of the hip joint. In addition, if you participate in sprint discipline, you also turn on the central nervous system at fast transitions. Moreover, training in the mountains itself brings positive emotions!

The only main disadvantage is that the speed of neuromuscular reactions decreases.

Last two minutes before the victory

By the way, what’s your opinion — can you push with poles when moving uphill or should they be used only as a support?

It's not as simple as it seems. You need experience to determine the ideal technique for yourself. I use poles both for support and for pushing. For beginners I’d advise to work with poles as a support.

Endurance athletes like to compare such measurements as VO2max, lactate threshold and, what’s more, trail runners have a modern PI. You don’t hide such data, do you? Could you share?

Of course, all these statistics individually have a subjective meaning in the overall picture.

But I can share my own: lactate threshold is at 183 beats / min, max. Maximum heart rate at the peak of form - 210. VO2max has not been measured for a long time + I was in poor shape last time. Some also are interested in the stroke volume of the heart - 94 ml (at rest).

PI - 797.

Shock the audience, what is your resting pulse and sleep pulse?

At rest 38-45, at night 32+ - beats / min.

(c) Mountain-race.ru

Do you eat any dietary supplements and vitamins in addition to red caviar and king crab?

Why does everybody think that I eat caviar with crabs and salmon for breakfast, lunch and dinner?! I have a normal balanced diet in accordance with hormonal phases in the body. I think it is the best for now. Sometimes I drink vitamins and / or minerals, taking into account their compatibility with each other.

By the way, do you use any professional body monitoring gadgets? Like a pulse oximeter, glucometer. How often do you take hemoglobin and blood tests in general? Or at the age of 18 no one thinks about it?

Of course, they think. You need to look after your body like it is an F1 racing car to compete at the highest level.

As for gadgets, I use the lactometer, from time to time I use the glucometer, pulse oximeter. Also, I include daily measurements of heart rate variability depending on the training period,

I take blood tests if needed because I feel my body and know when to do the check-up.

During trekking with 2000 m climb (c) Mountain-race.ru

What is an average climb you do during the basic period when running or skiing? How many hours per week do you train in general, except for strength training?

I don't usually count the climb and the mileage, but I guess it is at least 1500 meters of positive ascent on active days. 

I prefer counting training hours. In the volume period, I do from 15 to 30 hours (depending on the period and place of training), including alternative activities. Diversity is everything!

By the way, what is your favorite strength exercise? I saw you doing the Bulgarian squat with weight...

My favorite strength combination is on the stairs in a multistory building. I take 2 weights of 24 kg each and walk 2 floors, after that I put the weights down and jump "multi-hops" for 2 floors immediately. After the jumps, I return to the kettlebells and repeat the cycle 18-25 times. I'm going down the elevator!


Where do you study now?

I study at the University of Physical Education in Krasnodar. My father instilled in me a craving for knowledge in coaching since childhood. So, every day I learn something new. For example, I am currently taking a course at the American Academy of Cyclic Sports, which, unfortunately, turned out to be rather basic and superficial.

By the way, how do your “hobbies” fit in the life of an ordinary student? Or is everyone there like you? Have you had any incidents when meeting people, especially girls, when it is necessary to explain what you do?

I'll start with the fact that I’m studying in a group with 20 female gymnasts (who were lucky to have such a handsome guy). In fact, we have a lot in common, but, of course, there are disagreements as well.

Not everyone immediately understood what ski mountaineering is, so I had to show it. There were incidents, but I’m already used to them and don’t even pay attention - I have already prepared phrases for all the questions that a speaker has.

I try to communicate with people who share my life position. There aren't many of them, unfortunately, but they do exist!

Do you have any goal to do something interesting and unique in a sports field, maybe even out of racing, in the near future?

I think, to surprise someone, you need to run either fast or for a long time. So, I will go to my projects step by step. I have lots of thoughts, but first I should make a better statement of myself on the international arena. 

Translator - Dasha Goreva

Editor-corrector Ekaterina Osichkina

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Александр Ивакин

Редактор и со-основатель проекта Mountain-race.ru.

Бегаю трейлы, скайраннинг и пишу об этих видах спорта с 2012 года.