Marathon Des Sables (MDS) Peru: snake


I am literally running out of my own skin and parts of my body are falling apart. Lips and toes stopped being one piece few days ago and their nudity already is new norm and weird piece of art, which will remind me about this journey long after it will be done. This is the moment, when being the snake, sounds like amazing option – able to shed the skin and run hurtless.

However, nothing is painless at #MDS and everyone pays his own price. Blisters, headaches, vomiting and peeing blood are the symptoms, which almost everyone suffers. Dehydration, high core temperature and heat stroke are things what MDS’ers risk here each day and not being snakes they can’t transfer heat into energy. But medical crew can and each day they heal hundreds of runners and prepare them for more pain next day. Those who survive the stage come back and do it over and over again – ultras just simple like suffering.

However people in the camp step by step are changing, talks becoming louder, smiles getting bigger and laugh just confirms that just one day stage left to become the real desert snake!


Marathon Des Sables (MDS) Peru: simple life


At Marathon Des Sables campsites we are living like a big family and it has its own charm. Somebody is eating and somebody is farting at the same time in front of you. However, it is new reality and norm that anybody gets angry or frustrated. We are definitely building something unique here, as being almost 24/7 all together is not just about recovery and running. Most likely those difficulties, disappearance of privacy and shame are the things, which makes our relations so special. It should be similar to high mountain expeditions and though I have never done one myself, feeling that instead of fighting cold and snow we are fighting heat and sand as well as unpredictable human factor in very stressful daily situations with a lot of unknowns. The only difference is that we do it with total strangers, whom we met in bivouac Zero for the first time.

Big brood of strangers is divided into the cells which consists of 4 to 5 tents with their own stories and colourful personalities, so build the good and supportive team takes time. I live with Ozzie, Mauritian, Japanese and the Cow. I would say we are one of the most international cells and Cow being the most interesting from the rest of group. Though being Japanese he clearly doesn’t have nationality. Seems that running with super warm cow costume in the desert with heat reaching up to +40C is the essence of his life. Although it is a bit weird and I am a bit unsure that he will be able to finish all the stages, probably he the best got idea of life. Life is simple and just we make it too complicated. Furthermore, everyone here with his own reason and though reasons differ, most of the runners want this simplicity in their complicated or super busy lives. Very likely deep inside most of them a super jealous to Cow, who found meaning of life just being the one

Marathon des Sables (MDS) Peru: lessons learned


Heat and sand creates miracles in the desert, sadly mine wasn’t so sexy today. Remember while ago I was writing about magic of never? Guess what, #MDS surprised me with another one.

Today I was puking my guts out on the way to the first stage finish line and even wondered how good runner I am as was chicked and passed by few elderly gents. Tried desperately to keep up with them, but had no chance doing so. The more I tried to stay hydrated the more water I have been loosing, the faster I tried to push myself forward, the slower I have been moving. Battle was lost and the only hope left was not making hydration situation even worse and dangerous in those extreme heat conditions. Mitigation of expectations is must in the races like this and the better own manager you are the better race outcome is. This time it was as low as no matter what reach the finish line, but to do that I needed #hydrateordie.

Though I was desperate and surprised by all his new experience, actually it didn’t make difference, because I just like running no matter how hard it is. Sorry for those who think that I can compete with Usain Bolt and Mo Farah in their preferred distances at Olympics or stay close to Rachid Elmorabity in his playground. Everybody has Achilles heel and I am happy to find out my third one. Failures are just part of the process and yet the best way for improvement, when lessons learned are identified. Definitely, on my vomiting odyssey, I remembered poor Jim Walmsley during this years Western States Endurance Run and probably it was very first time when I could really got under his skin and into his shoes. However, my shoes didn’t move at all, as all energy was used for marking the course with the pieces of food from my stomach, so after a while I simply have no power left to lift my #megagrip‘ed legs at all. Water wise, professor Prof Tim Noakes would be super proud, as I definitely wasn’t waterlogged and done all stage with one litter of water in extremely hot desert conditions. Sounds stupid, but the more I drunk the more I watered plants all around me. So, looking from this perspective I wasn’t totally miserable and have done few great things in the sake of science.

No more excuses. Certainly, the fastest won the first stage, of Marathon Des Sables PERU however no less demanding five ones left through the #IcaDesert, so I won’t stop at the finish line, as tomorrow is yet another splendid day!


Photo Fredrik Ölmqvist #MDSPeru2017

Marathon des Sables (MDS) Peru: bivouac Zero


For me all races start much earlier than H-hour or gunshot announcing the beginning of the stage. Marathon Des Sables isn’t the exception at all. It started way back in Lithuania when I have begun packing all mandatory equipment and necessary food into CamelBak Octane 16 pack. Sounds silly, but getting ready for 6 days self-sufficiency in the desert requires a lot of effort and as usually I have been very negligent and slow, so basically packed everything just last minute before departure. Despite, great tips, which my stage-pro-runner friends shared with me, I had to be very creative, as so many unknowns were waiting for me. Experiences, from the past MDS races, were so individual that definitely one size hat couldn’t fit all. Moreover, traveling itself was already the race and I was hardly involved in competition with time, boredom, sleep, proper food, jet lag and numerous hours spent on the planes and busses reaching campsite Zero.

In the Zero was easy to notice and distinguish first time entries like me and regular MDS participants like Rachid Elmorabity and Remigio Huaman, famous for their wins at previous MDS races. However, in the camp Zero everybody was alike and different at the same time with his or her own agendas and various reasons being in complete wilderness. In the newly established desert campsite life was just flowing and this river of simplicity was nothing-similar compare to civilization, which I have left hours ago in Lima. I was there as fruit of greed mixed with luck and pure coincidence, the offer, which I could not resist, in order to discover undiscovered and becoming better version of me.

From now on MDS race road-book clearly became my new bible, as contained all necessary information, which structured my daily life for upcoming week. Moreover, it contained first insights on the racecourse, which was top-secret information up till now and had more than 10 commandments, what I shall and shall not do. Trail religion is strict and cruel, but guess super necessary one to protect the lives of runners and make us as one to survive. However, it punishes runners with time penalties even for the smallest faults, so being absent minded I was already waiting for the first nail to my cross.



UTMB (Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc) was my biggest trail running nightmare to date. Nothing went to plan. After almost 100 miles of running I found the courage to drop from the world’s biggest trail race. I told myself it was a valuable lesson learnt but in truth my confidence was totally destroyed.

I had to pick myself up and found fresh motivation in the form of curiosity. To satisfy that curiosity, I decided to take a risk and, for the first time in my life, travel to my childhood dreamland, Japan, the land of ninjas and samurais, to race the UTMF (Ultra-Tail Mt Fuji). I knew I hadn’t fully recovered from UTMB, which was four weeks earlier, and my quad muscles hurt like hell, but I thought ‘it’s better to die trying than not try at all.’ And so, after more than 12 hours in the air, I finally stepped foot in the land of brave ultra running warriors.

Carbo-loading in Japan is not a problem. Rice is served everywhere and with everything – a bit like French fries in many parts of the world. The food in Japan is amazing, so it was a joy for me to try and gain a few additional kilos prior to the UTMF. I ate lots of miso soup, sushi and grains, all of which probably played a vital role increasing my glycogen storage.

The UTMF race itself is a 105-mile loop around the iconic Mt Fuji and while I felt confident in my ability to run a solid 100k (62 miles) so soon after UTMB, there were a lot of unknowns as to how I would cope after that distance. With that in mind, I decided to take it easy and let the race develop naturally. That, however, is not an easy task when you have crazy Norwegians like Didrik Hermansen and Sondre Amdahl racing! It meant that my first kilometers were probably a bit faster than I’d promised myself they would be, but ‘what the hell’ I thought, I felt fresh and full of energy. For a good part of the UTMF I was running with Didrik, who was extremely fast on downhill sections, so every time we began to go uphill I worked my ass off to try and lose him.

We chatted as friends but at the same time both knew we were fighting for position and to beat one-another to the finish line. At one point the trail hit a big, constant uphill and my Norwegian mate fell back. It was a real shame as the comradeship we shared on the trail was wonderful.

Even more wonderful was the love I felt at UTMF aid stations. Indeed, I’d even say I was in love with the aid stations. Weird? Not really. Knowing the love of my life and support crew, Gintarė, would be their waiting for me, I ran like the wind into the aid stations. Gintarė, as always, fed and watered me and provided the motivational boosts I needed to run such a strong race. Sometimes, like at UTMB, she is cruel and brave enough to stop me from hurting myself. She knows best. Gintarė is my true love and without her the trails wouldn’t exist. In Japan she became my code of Bushido.

I left the aid station at 55 miles to enter the dark on my own. The rain continued to pour but with a full stomach and a scent of love, I started to think that a UTMF win could be possible. I convinced myself that such an idea was stupid. Then suddenly I noticed race leader Arnaud Lejeune up ahead on the trail. He looked drained. Bloody hell, perhaps those thoughts of a race win were not so stupid after all!

I pushed myself hard in a bid to show my rival who was the boss. It seemed to work. What I hadn’t taken into account was the course, which then took me by surprise with some brutally steep climbs. It was really tough, especially in such wet conditions, but the grip of my X-TALON 200 shoes gave me an advantage.

There was now so much rain, mud and technical terrain that the race began to remind me of Grand Raid Reunion, which I did almost a year earlier. Suddenly I felt suspicious about everything, especially my pace. Is it good enough to win? I feared the Frenchman (Arnaud) would sprint from behind and steal my victory by few seconds. I was passed in the latter stages at Grand Raid Reunion. No way was I going to let that happen again and with the spirit of samurai – a mantra I kept repeating throughout the race – I forced myself to the finish line. Banzai!

There was now so much rain, mud and technical terrain that the race began to remind me of Grand Raid Reunion, which I did almost a year earlier. Suddenly I felt suspicious about everything, especially my pace. Is it good enough to win? I feared the Frenchman (Arnaud) would sprint from behind and steal my victory by few seconds. I was passed in the latter stages at Grand Raid Reunion. No way was I going to let that happen again and with the spirit of samurai – a mantra I kept repeating throughout the race – I forced myself to the finish line. Banzai!

I kept repeating throughout the race – I forced myself to the finish line. Banzai!



1 Go Schwarzenegger

You think elite UTMB runners don’t go to the gym? Think again. Combining your running with strength exercises such as squats, deadlifts and walking lunges increases endurance levels. I’m not a big fan of weights but try to use the fitness room as often as I can during the cold months to prepare my muscles for the summer challenges ahead. During race season, I do strength exercises at least once a week, including key work on my legs and core. The gym will never substitute the mountains, but it should be used as part of your training. Trust me, you will be thankful of strong legs on some of big UTMB climbs!

2 Be a family guy

Make sure the race doesn’t just become a celebration of your own ego. Whenever possible, include those closest to you in your UTMB bubble. Even better, make the UTMB into a family vacation. The Alps is an amazing place to spend time together, so share the experience. Having somebody you trust by your side can also be invaluable at a race like the UTMB. That person will likely know exactly what you need pre, during and post-race, so lean on them for help, support and crewing, and avoid the common mistakes that are made when tiredness kicks in. Remember, your family loves you and wants not only to celebrate the ups but help cope with the down as well.

3 Train hard
You’re highly motivated, right? But obviously that’s not enough for UTMB. The truth is there is no substitute for hard training. With long UTMB points qualification races already under your belt, you will be in a strong position and likely know how to adjust your training to prepare for the main event. For me it’s quite simple, the more time spent training means the more fun and rewarding the UTMB itself will be. I know that if I put the hard work in during the build-up, the race itself should be a celebration of that enormous effort.

4 Set benchmarks in the build-up
Register to race in a few smaller events leading up to UTMB. This can act as a substitute to a long run, or be seen as a tempo training session; it’s totally up to you. Incorporate the races into a training plan but don’t taper before them. These events are nothing more than scheduled training runs/sessions, the only difference is they are in a fancy race format. Remember, winning benchmark races is not your main goal!

5 Get good at planning
Good planning holds half the key to a successful UTMB race.

Recce – Knowing what is ahead of you is vital, especially for those participating in the UTMB for the first time. If you can’t travel to The Alps don’t worry, just study the map really carefully. If you don’t know how to do that… it’s probably a good time to learn! Good knowledge of the trail/terrain provides a huge advantage at the UTMB, as it eliminates a lot of the unknowns.

Pace – Plan your speed… and don’t start crazy fast! Control your excitement and endorphins, because you don’t want to burnout in the first hour. My advice is to go for the classic approach and start steady. This is what I did last year and then gradually worked my way through the field. Keep in mind that this is a beast of a race, which actually only really starts from the climb of Grand col Ferret at around 97km. Be patient and you will then have the chance to push your limits on the last uphill at Vallorcine.

Power hike – You will have to power hike certain stages of the UTMB course. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Believe me, even the best of the best sometimes hike. There are benefits to hiking versus running during sections of the UTMB – it uses less energy, provides a slight rest, makes the best time for nutrition intake and uses different muscles so taking some of the strain off already overused running muscles. Be warned, however, after a long hike it is really tough to switch back to running. The temptation is to carry on hiking. Switching gears between the two is crucial and should definitely be practiced before the race.

Experience – Read race reviews and speak with other trail runners who have already taken part in the UTMB. If you don’t know them personally, don’t worry, just make the approach and you will find many runners more than happy to share their experiences, be that in person or via social media. Don’t be shy… just ask! This is exactly what I did before this year’s Western States 100 and gained invaluable insights by doing so.

6 Become a tech geek
Reading kit reviews is important, but choosing and taking the proper gear into the battle is a must.

Weight – each gram matters in the long run. Maybe it’s not as important in short races, but remember you have to carry your pack for 168km. Any unnecessary additional weight will slowly kill you on your journey to the finish line.

Poles – I’m not a big fan of poles, but if your legs are not strong enough then it’s a good idea to have some extra support. The UTMB has almost 10,000m of climbing, so if you think poles will help, carry them.

Pack – It’s your second skin and best friend for many, many long hours so get the fit right and practice using it.

Headlamp – Run blind or get the best lamp you can afford, that is your choice. The more light you have at your disposal the less tired you will feel, as it requires less concentration and vigilance. Don’t get me wrong, running during the night demands a huge effort anyway, but with the proper headlamp you will have a longer reaction time to the obstacles. Ok, it’s not an obstacle course race, but be sure that the UTMB involves a lot of jumping, running around and finding other ways to avoid stones, tree roots etc. These are kind of obstacles, right? Remember to carefully read the UTMB regulations and pay attention to the mandatory kit list, as it is checked randomly and getting it wrong could cost you a time penalty or worse, a DNF.

7 Dare to dream
A few days before the UTMB begin to visualize the race itself: the peaceful scenery, the magnificent Mont Blanc massif, the single trail… and yourself flying on it. Picture in your mind each stage of the course, the pace at which you will be running, the approaches to the aid stations, when and what food or fluid you are going to consume, the maximum effort you will give the last uphill to La Tete aux Vents and, of course, crossing the finish line with your loved ones cheering you on. During the race itself try to deceive your mind. Don’t run the whole UTMB course at once, but instead cut it into smaller pieces. It’s easier for our brains to cope with running 30km instead of all 168km at once! Make it an aid-to-aid or crew-to-crew race. Remember, the mind holds the power, so it needs training just like the body.

8 Be fresh
Tapering is very important. When you’re on the UTMB start line you must feel like a bear after the deep winter sleep. You want to feel a bit overweight, but still hungry and ready for the hunting.

9 Go Gourmet
Take your time in aid stations and taste the incredible food that UTMB organizers have to offer at Les Chapieux, Courmayeur and Champex-Lac. However, be aware of the goodies that you haven’t tried on your training runs, as experimenting on race day can cause an unexpected stomach illness. There is always plenty of choice, so you will definitely find something that suits your personal menu. Even at the first aid station it is wise to stop for a while to replenish your food and water reserves, because it will prove to be a big game-changer in the later stages of the UTMB. Don’t forget in training to test all the gels, electrolyte drinks and food you are going to use on the race day. You need to make sure that your body can tolerate it. On long runs or in benchmark races, check if a certain nutrition plan works for you. Remember, long ultra races are won by heart and mind, but with a very strong stomach too!

10 Be killer!
If you want to race then evoke killer instincts and hunt everybody down, step-by-step bringing yourself closer the finish line. This kind of mindset is really useful when fighting for the podium, a certain position, or just simply trying to improve your previous time.

10 Be killer!
If you want to race then evoke killer instincts and hunt everybody down, step-by-step bringing yourself closer the finish line. This kind of mindset is really useful when fighting for the podium, a certain position, or just simply trying to improve your previous time.



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Aš nesu profesionalus bėgikas, bet daugiau nei per dešimt metų sukauptos žinios prašosi į laisvę. Šiandien internetas pilnas visokiausių patarimų bėgikams, egzistuoja milijonai blogų, bėgimo marketingas pasiekė neregėtas aukštumas, o kiekvienas, sutiktas gatvėje, jei dar nerisnoja, tai slaptai viliasi pradėti rytoj. Atrodytų, apie šią sporto šaką nebereikia rašyti, nes kas antras lietuvis yra pusiau profesionalas. Gal ir taip, o gal ir ne. Kiek žmonių, tiek ir nuomonių. Vieni rašo, kiti – ne. Ir jei mano rašymas prisidės prie keletos naujų bėgikų atsiradimo – būsių laimingas.

Aš nesu rašytojas ir tikriausai lietuvių kalbos mokytojas nepagirtų manęs už gremėzdiškus sakinius, nemokšiškai pavartotą padalyvį ar ne laiku ir ne vietoj padėtą kablelį, bet tikrai parašytų dešimtuką už pastangas ir rekomenduotų į mokyklos bėgimo rinktinę. Kartais aš rašau sau, kartais – jums ir kai kada Prezidentei. Vieni rašiniai man patinka labiau, kiti – visai nepatinka. Vienus rašinius draugai vadina šedevrais, kitus tiesiog siūlo ištrinti. Kaip visada skonių įvairovė, bet čia juk svarbiausia – jūsų nuomonė. Na, iš tikrųjų gal ji ir nelabai svarbi, bet idėjas ir patarimus visada smagu išgirsti.

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