Q: Gediminas, what was going on in your head with 2 km to go in this 172 km race? Where you doing all you could to hunt down the third guy right in front of you or were you already out of it?
GG: The strange thing is that at that point I was running in third place myself and doing all I could not to be hunted down! But nature did not collaborate this time, it started raining and got foggy, I missed some route markings and went off track – my trademark move. Also the last 3,5 km were really technical (you need to see it to believe) and because of the rain I started sliding and falling. But of course everyone had the same deal, so the hunter was stronger than the prey this time.
Q: If you had to wrap it up in a single word: was Grand Raid de la Reunion your hardest run so far?
GG: Yes. GRR is the king of trail running. The hardest, the most technical.
Q: How would you compare GRR with UTMB? You mentioned earlier that the course of UTMB was way more up your alley. Was the heat and the technical running in Reunion more challenging?
GG: UTMB is really runnable for the most part. You don’t have a lot of mud, rocks, roots and other ugly things. GRR is a different story altogether, it has lots of stairs, steep uphills and downhills, roots, jungle, etc. There are stretches where you cannot run at all, you have to powerhike or crawl. Another thing is the weather which changes a lot as you run through different parts of the island. After 50 km I was freezing and after 100 km I was already overheated. The wind went from a pleasant breeze in the morning to a storm at night. At times it was raining hard and then it was really humid. The terrain changes all the time as well, you go through fells and alpine elements, then forests similar to the ones in Lithuania, then jungle, vulcanic rock, tarmac, etc. My favourite part was running through the sugarcane fields at night – it felt like running through a tunnel with dust all around you making scary shapes in front of the headlamp. And then you would breathe these shapes in.
Q: Did you go for your good old “Devil’s tactic” of starting out slow and then chasing down the guys in front again? Or did you come up with something new?
GG: This time my Inov-8 team mate Krzysztof Dolegowski helped me out a lot with the planning. He went through the data of last year’s run and analyzed where the other guys failed, gave me some tips on where to take it easy and where to push harder, etc. But the main idea was the same as in UTMB – start slow and then catch the people in front as they start fading. I think it worked out quite well.
Q: UTMB and GRR were not only your best runs, but your first 100 milers as well! Talk a bit about how this mythical distance differs from, say, your usual 100 km?
GG: 100 km and 100 mile races are as different as day and night. 100 milers are obviously much longer and slower, but what I like about them is that things change so many times throughout the race. You have so many variables – injuries, nutrition, gear failure, DNFs – that in 20 hours or more anything can happen. But it also means that if you are not feeling well at the beginning of the race, you still have chances to win. Team work and support is also crucial at these long races. For instance, GRR had 22 aid stations and if I saved at least 1 second at each I would have finished third! But because I was alone on the island and had to carry most of the stuff I would need, I lost some extra time. Another really important thing is good race planning. I think this is one of my strenghts. Finally, you have to have an “iron” stomach as you survive on mostly energy gels for more than 24 hours.
Q: Did you have any major issues at some point in GRR?
GG: No, I felt quite well the whole time, just as in UTMB. Just at some point my body started giving me signs that it had enough.
Q: What were you thinking at the most difficult moments? Did you have some secret mantras to help you move forward?
GG: No, it was never really that bad. I was thinking more like a robot – take a gel after 15 min., some water after 30 min., see what’s behind that hill, fill up with some Coke, etc.
Q: This season was a huge breakthrough for you. From the physical point of view did you feel this strong from the very beginning and simply had to gain some confidence to compete with the best of them, or was there something that you changed in your training or racing?
GG: I stopped worrying about crashing when going downhill! It all started with training at Sapiegine’s park in Vilnius and ended in Reunion. Yoga was another discovery for me, it really helps me relax before races. But recovery is my most important ingredient. I think I train only half as much as other elite runners and rest much more. But, according to Jason Schlarb, I’m a “natural” so I don’t have to train too much.
Q: Are there any other differences between the unknown Gediminas Grinius back in March, when you first appeared on the radars after Transgrancanaria, and the current Gediminas who is 3rd overall in UTWT rankings?
GG: Well, he’s more or less the same guy, just that now he has a bit more confidence and experience. He’s not scared of running with the pros. And he still thinks he’s incredibly lucky to be playing at the movies and being a fan in the audience at the same time.
Q: You obviously have to be careful with what you dream for, but it seems that now is a good time to dream about next year. So what are you goals? UTWT again? Hardrock? Western States?
GG: I don’t have any 2015 plans yet and I’d better leave my dreams for Christmas, but I’ll definitely try to do some of the UTWT 100 milers. Maybe I will mention UTMF, Western States, UTMB and GRR in my letter to Santa.