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.

Marathon des Sables (MDS) Peru: magic of NEVER


“I will NEVER run stage race, never do it on sand, never put myself in unknown environment and never even dare to think about it” – I was loudly shouting it to everybody who wanted to convince me in doing so just barely one month ago. However, irony is, that it has never been so easy to say yes and accept such a challenge!

Marathon Des Sables (MDS) – Peru is just around the corner and I have never felt so unprepared and so unsure about what is going to happen. The only thought, which makes me calmer, is acknowledgment that it is the same running, which I have done already for years. Certainly, I will encounter different and unknown environment, but it is nothing more than adventure, self-exploration and kind of new experience, where the winning is not the main goal. At least I hope so, but isn’t it a bit foolish? I am coming without any specific preparation, straight from my off-season and even though it is a bit childish and irresponsible who doesn’t like to risk and go all in no matter consequences? Moreover, it is Peru, dream destination for any mountain lover. This time it is sand mountains, dunes in Ica Desert, parts of which are barely touched by civilization. It has so many archeological sites, that there you can still easy find bones of dinosaurs or maybe even baby dragons breathing and making this extreme desert heat.

6 days self-sufficiency to cover 250km is nothing else, as being camel in the snail house and the most vital decision, which everybody tries to make prior the MDS is – how not to starve, but still run light. Not easy task, but I am not doing anything what is easy, as it is the essence of my philosophy of the running sport. Suffering is part of the game and like in all other ultra challenges, usually not the most fittest guy is wining the race, but the one who has strong mind and stomach. Though stomach could be empty this time, I am ready to go till the very end and find out undiscovered horizons.

Definitely, my decision to come was impulsive, but knowing that I will leave my footprints on million years of evolution and history made my call relatively easy. Furthermore, magic of never could not be underestimated, as it is exactly what pushes me forward and now I pronounce it more carefully and with more respect, as I am obsessed with everything, which I have NEVER tried before.

Going David LANEY | Part 3 – TGC


My training prior Transgrancanaria (TGC) was hampered. It’s because I had twisted my ankle few times and couldn’t precisely follow the plan. You can imagine how one feels when something restrains you from doing what you really love. In normal conditions I would take some rest and let my body recover. However common standards are not for ultra runners. What is said is done. I shouted at my tired body, “Shut up!”, taped the traitor foot and got back to training. No excuses!

Being already in Gran Canaria and counting the days until the big day comes, I still felt pain. It made me anxious as I was not sure how it will go from there. Finally I decided to give my feet last chance to prove if they are worth anything. I am a man of habits and every time I go to TGC, I do training on the same course. It gives me an answer where exactly I am: if I need to rest, train more or simply pack the stuff and go home. Sort of last check up before the race. I didn’t want to make an exception this year so I decided: I’ll kill my ankles for good or make them loyal again. I think they got the lesson. My standard run from Agaete to Artenara was great, actually the best one in recent years – it boosted my confidence and from that moment I knew the race would be just great!

Ultra Trail World Tour venues are good occasion to meet friends and runners from all around the world, people who share the same passion. Although I like challenging myself during the races, the time spent with them on the trails prior the running events are no less important and even more fun. Each year TGC brings more and more talents to the island and this time field of athletes was impressive as well. This naturally formed the question, which persecuted me all the time: – “do I feel pressure?”

Coping with pressure is one of the keys to success. So, another task for me before TGC was to get rid of tension. I still remember the painful lesson I received at Gran Raid Reunion, but what doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger. And this is exactly what happened to me. I found a remedy that made me immune to stress – my family! As long as they are next to me, nobody can get under my skin. This time they were with me, so I felt secure and serene, ready to make TGC my day.

I believe family is the best dope ever invented (should I be disqualified for using my closest ones as illegal substances?) as it boosts your motivation, self-confidence and lets you fly from one aid station to another. Basically this is what happened to me this time as well. My family’s presence added me wings, which carried me kilometer by kilometer closer to the finish line and further from my rivals. I felt amazing, my feet were finally tamed and didn’t create much problems. The entire run went at lightning speed and I was able to sustain this crazy pace till the finish line, improving my TGC time once again. Although I finished second I am so thrilled to be back on track – the future looks bright!

Going David LANEY | Part 2 – HK100


This was my second time in Asia and I have an impression that trail running becomes more and more popular over there. Especially it is the case of Hong Kong which has an enormous population and wonderful trails which are easily accessible from skyscrapers backyards.

I have never run such a long race at the end of January, a month that is usually dedicated to recovery, therefore suddenly started gamble looked as prolonged and never-ending 2015 season.

I was told that Hong Kong is a great place with no winds and warm all year long. Hence, coming from deep winter back home, I put just few T-shirts and shorts in my luggage and expected to sweat a lot consider humidity of China’s special administrative region. Oh boy, how wrong I was! It seems that European runners brought cold winter to Hong Kong along.

Vibram Hong Kong 100  (HK100) started with very low temperatures and super strong winds, which made waiting at the start line almost as challenging as upcoming race itself. I don’t know how other Europeans felt at that moment, but for me, even coming from -25°C winter, it was icecold. However, I notice that sometimes feeling really bad before the important event doesn’t necessarily mean that competition itself would be shitty. So, with my messed up mind and frozen body I was praying for a miracle.

HK100 is notorious for its steps and concrete trails, but after few running sessions with local runners prior to the race, I felt confident and kind of comfortable there. HK100 is a fast race and – speaking about speed – François and Long Fei come on the scene. Two different and very strong runners, who almost certainly are the winners, no matter the race. Anyway, it made my planning easier, since now I knew whom to stick with. I followed them almost to Ma On Shan and was pretty sure that could keep their pace till the finish line. However, when “flat” part of HK100 ended, they showed great ascending skills and literally disapeared, leaving me alone. Running third seemed to be a good option for early season so I focused more on keeping my place rather than hunting them down.

Ultimately, the wonder happened and I finished third. Moreover, it turned out that I am among only six runners ever to conclude the course under the time of ten hours. All this caused that after HK100 I substantially rebuilt my confidence. I knew it is high-time to forget OTS, over-racing and other bullshit worries. Because it is not for me!

Going David LANEY | Part 1




I’ve been keeping my blog nearly dead for quite some time now. It’s not that I don’t like to write anymore, it’s simply that I found less and less time to do so. ‘Time steals time’, my good fellow told me once. And he was damn right!

Life is so dynamic and goes so fast, sometimes too fast. If I wanted to run, race, dream, develop new projects and of course do my regular office job I had to sacrifice something, which really means a lot to me. My family. Nothing new in our society, but it still hurts. Moreover, my too much structured life, obligations that have no sense at all, office job with no real value, all these self-enslavement activities were absorbing me. I felt that I was going against everything I believe in. I lost the peace of mind. I got frustrated.


I was lucky in few races and running community started to believe in me. Knowing how ultrarunning evolved in the last few years and how many new talents are joining the sport make such expectations ridiculous. So, all this pressure started to influence me and led to the “volcano eruption” in Reunion, where I totally lost control of my mind. Finally Diagonale des Fous  was a disaster, which I never would like to repeat.

Did I suffered from overtraining syndrome or had I been racing too much? Was it the end of my career, as it happened to many trail runners who wanted to compete too much and too fast? This is how I felt and those were the demons that I fought at the end of 2015 looking towards 2016 with horror.


In such moments I prefer either retreat or completely destroy myself. This time I didn’t want to listen the whim of traitorous body and I chose adventurous self-destruction. I decided to jump in some Ultra Trail World Tour  race ASAP. After all, dying without fight is not in my blood!

I divided 2016 running season in two parts with recovery period in between. My final racing plan looked like this:

  1. Vibram Hong Kong 100  – A race. Do my best and check if I am not too fat after the winter. Transgrancanaria – B+ race. Play safe and try to repeat last year’s success.
  2. Enjoy the life, 3R (Rock’n’Roll, Recuperation) and come back to training strong with no injuries. Spend some quality time in Lithuanian mountains J – nope, but anyway somehow do vertical training.
  3. Lavaredo Ultra Trail  – B race. Check if I’m on the right track with my training and spend some cheerful time with friends from Trail Running Team VibramUltra Trail du Mont Blanc  – A race. Avoid blisters so early in the race, sleep till Gran Col Ferret and then go 2015 David Laney (can read crazy fast) to close the gap and finish strong. Last but not the least, go for a ride with Gintare and boys on @vibram sole factor’s truck. Grand Raid Reunion – A+ race. Fly to the island earlier and have fun prior the run not to be distracted by its beauty during the race. Less media, FB and other socials – proper rest and clear mind is priority, so no buzz as well. Put all in – revenge!



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!