Marathon Des Sables (MDS) Peru: simple life

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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

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Marathon des Sables (MDS) Peru: lessons learned

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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

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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

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“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

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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

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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

 

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Time

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.

Feelings

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.

Plan

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!