Pepa Miloucheva has been one of the mainstays at the Center for the past 10 years. Originally brought on board for her work with the ski program, Pepa has grown into the role of fleet manager at the Center, as well as the local go-to person for any and all training questions.
Her background prior to the Center was 13 years of National Team experience for the Bulgarian Ski Orienteering squad – a spot she first earned at 15, culminating in a World Championship in 1994, along with several World Cup wins along the way.
In addition to her year round work at the Center in our various programs, she's also the head coach of the Craftsbury Nordic Ski Club. This club numbers 150 and has programming for kids as young as 5 and up to Masters' athletes in their late seventies and early eighties, with several of the members competing at World Championships, as well as NCAA champs. You can read more about that side of Pepa more here.
CSC: What brought you to Craftsbury? What is your favorite aspect of Craftsbury?
A friend of mine from Bulgaria was working at the Center at about 10 or so years ago. I came to visit him and really loved the place. I was able to work out a deal with the Spring's that got me a green card and things went from there. After that first winter, I wanted to stick around, so I started working with Marlene in the sculling program and learning everything I could. I was interested to learn more about sculling as a sport – physiologically, biomechanically, etc. since my training is in that direction. It's just sort of grown from there.
My favorite part of working here is people's enthusiasm. There is such energy that people put into sport and love for the sport and that's motivating. I really value the opportunity to coach the ski team and really be involved with that as well. It's nice to have that flexibility.
CSC: You mentioned your education, can you tell us a little more about how your educational history?
I have a Masters Degree from the Bulgarian Sports University, but I added some extra focuses - 4 years of physiology, 2 years of biomechanics, and 2 years of science of sports training. It's kind of hard to explain, since the educational system isn't organized the same way between here and there.
CSC: How does cross-training with skiing help my sculling?
Physiologically, it's very complementary. Nordic skiers have the highest tested VO2maxs with a very high tolerance to lactate – qualities that are very beneficial for sculling. The better you are at skiing, the better the cross training effect. Everyone can benefit from skiing as an aerobic addition to your training plan, but to get some of the higher level benefits one must actually be able to ski to take advantage of this as cross training.
CSC: As fleet manager, what's the worst wreck you've seen?
The worst would have to be the time a camper put the first two feet of a Peinert 26 right into the shore. I still don't know how that one happened – too much concentration? The first two feet were just gone into the shore. The Peinert's a tough boat, but it can't survive that.
CSC: What is your favorite boat to rig? (easy to adjust, whatever)
Peinerts are very easy – one wrench covers it all. I like Hudsons too.
CSC: What's the secret to rigging quickly?
No secrets, just practice and experience. With time, you can look at the person and just tell right away where everything should go.
CSC: How did you discover the wheel of torture? [ed note: an ab wheel] What's the highest number of wheels you have heard of any person completing in one set?
20 years ago, I was in a Russian – Soviet, whatever - training camp, the coaches gave me one, and it was love at first sight. It's a perfect tool, as much for diagnosis of what other exercises you need to do as for the strengthening it provides itself.
I've seen my skiers do 250 in one set, but they weren't really trying to set a record or anything. I know they can do more.
CSC: What's the aspect of training that you see most scullers missing?
Long rows at very low stroke rates really don't do it for me. I just don't see the benefits. There's too much stress on the body because of the load and not really any physiological benefit. I feel you can get the same benefits which much less load, higher stroke rate and extra plyometric workouts.
CSC: You're involved with two sports (Nordic skiing and sculling) that often both claim to have the world's fittest athletes. In your experience and opinion, which sport is really the fittest athletes?
Still cross country skiers. Both are very good athletes, but because of the demands of the sport: uphill/down, long distance, sprints – Cross country skiers need to be a much more complete athlete. Sculling? 2000m of flat water – go for it. A very hard sport, very tough on the body, but easier to train for.
CSC: For a sculler/rower training for a 2k, which is the worst, nutritionally speaking: ice cream or beer?
Both in moderation is ok – just like everything else.
CSC: Who's the Bulgarian that we all should know about, but don't?
Vasil Levski. Vasil was a fighter against the Ottoman empire for Bulgarian independence in the early 19th century, sort of our national hero. His famous saying was "If I win, the whole nation wins, but if I lose, it's only my loss." I think this is very close to the attitudes of elite athletes. Their win is the win of the nation, but your losses are personal. It's a very similar mentality.
CSC: Was Bulgaria better off under the communists or as it is currently? What's one thing from the communists that you miss most?
For sports, the communist system can't be beat. Development of sports was so much easier with centralized control and coordination. For everything else, there are good things and bad things in both.
The thing I miss from the communist system in day to day life was security. You're taken care of: housing, job, education, medicine, all is taken care of for you and guaranteed. You can relax.
CSC: You recently became an American citizen. What's the best thing about being official now?
Voting. This year will be my first election and I'm quite excited - voting for the democrats. I hope Hillary wins, but will take Barack as well.