Gediminas Grinius ran an incredibly consistent race to finish at UTMB 2016. In the following interview, Grinius talks about how he runs so evenly in his races, what it was like to take the lead and then to lose it, and how he stays focused in his races.
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar with Gediminas Grinius after his second-place finish at UTMB 2016. Nice work out there, Gediminas.
Gediminas Grinius: Thank you, Bryon.
iRunFar: Did you enjoy your UTMB?
Grinius: Yes, I enjoyed it very much. After last year being a not very successful race for me, it was like kind of revenge. I really enjoyed what happened yesterday.
iRunFar: Two years ago you were fifth. That’s a big improvement to get to second place.
Grinius: It’s difficult to compare because the course was a little bit changed. It’s more elevation gain. It’s difficult to say, but yeah, it’s kind of improved.
iRunFar: Do you feel like… you can have just an instinct feel, do you think this was a better race than two years ago, your performance?
Grinius: Yeah, it definitely was. But the same actually race last time was more difficult because two years ago I suffered the knee injury, and I was crippling through the course. Yesterday, I had not very bad moments in the last uphill because I felt like I could move faster but I couldn’t. It damaged my mind.
iRunFar: Your mind was damaged?
Grinius: Yeah, I wanted to move faster, but I couldn’t. My legs just wouldn’t.
iRunFar: You had a very consistent race though because you started off reasonably close to the front in tenth or 13th. You just kept slowly working your way up. Is that the Gediminas way?
Grinius: Usually, you notice in all the races I do the same. I start slow with a classic approach, and I try to work through positions like I said in a few interviews before the race. My strategy is to rely on Zach Miller which will kill all the fast runners at the beginning, and then I’ll jump into the scene.
iRunFar: Did that happen?
Grinius: I think so because Miguel [Heras] and Luis [Alberto Hernando] and Zach just blew off at the beginning, and they run very fast. I believe the damage was already done. It helped me at the end.
iRunFar: How do you do that? It’s not like you were back in 30th position. Still you run a fast pace at the beginning. How do you know how to…?
Grinius: I just feel. I run by feelings. Usually my tactic is that I’m running, and if I feel I could run a little bit faster, it’s a good pace for me. It’s how I paced myself yesterday.
iRunFar: In the first 130k, were there any bad points or any times you didn’t feel good or had problems?
Grinius: No, actually all the race I felt very good. I believe like I’ve told many times before, actually, before this race, I felt the most endurance and the most powerful that I’ve ever felt.
iRunFar: You keep feeling better and better?
Grinius: Yeah, definitely.
iRunFar: Now you didn’t have any down points during the race. Was there any point during the race where you felt really good, like, I’m going to go for the win?
Grinius: Yes, actually when we spoke at that aid station at La Fouly. I thought, Maybe you’re right that I must push. I started to push. On the last climb, I felt regret and thought that maybe I pushed it a little early…
iRunFar: You’ll still talk to me?
Grinius: Yes, I’ll still talk to you because anyway I moved from seventh position to second.
iRunFar: In the end, for a good period of time you caught up to the lead. You were in the lead?
Grinius: Yes, at some point we ran the three of us, Ludovic [Pommeret], me and Zach. I remember in Vallorcine or Trient.
iRunFar: It never happens that way. Sometimes you might have a big pack, and as the race goes on, it gets smaller and smaller. But this was three people on different trajectories together with 20 or 30k to go.
Grinius: Yes, the race started in Vallorcine because we were still all three together. We never know how in such long races how the race will develop.
iRunFar: Now when you’re in the lead with less than 30k to go at UTMB, are you excited? Are you nervous? What’s going through your mind?
Grinius: I told myself to just try to stick to the plan. During that part of the race, Ludovic proposed to me to run together, but I saw that the guy was stronger than me. On the downhills, I was keeping with him, but on the uphills, he was stronger, so I said, “Just go.” He went and put 20-some minutes on me.
iRunFar: Were you disappointed that you had been in the lead and couldn’t stay there?
Grinius: No, no, I’m happy. I’m very realistic. I did what I could at that moment, and I’m really happy. I didn’t expect much more.
iRunFar: You’ve probably heard a little bit about Ludovic’s race coming from an hour behind.
Grinius: Yeah, I heard.
iRunFar: Is that pretty incredible to you?
Grinius: Yes, this is what all the time I’m amazed. Last year I was amazed by David Laney how he was far behind and finished in the top three. This was playing in my head. Before the race I told to David Laney, “Yeah, I want to beat your split times in this race.” I didn’t manage.
iRunFar: Not quite, but almost. It was a reasonable plan.
Grinius: Yes, there’s space for it for next year.
iRunFar: Do you have any more plans for this year?
Grinius: Yes, this year I’m going for Reunion. It will be my next big race. After that, I’ll…
iRunFar: You were there last year?
Grinius: Yes, I was last year and like UTMB, I didn’t finish. Like UTMB, I had some physical problems, and at Reunion, it was pure mental.
iRunFar: Was it because of the long season, or did something happen at the race last year?
Grinius: I don’t know. At Reunion, I was really moving fast and I felt good, but suddenly, I started to become bananas. I was swimming in waterfalls and just didn’t concentrate on the race. After that, I just decided to drop because it was no sense to go.
iRunFar: After a good season and a great race here, how do you get yourself motivated for one more race?
Grinius: I don’t know. I just like to do it. I’d like to enjoy it. I know that with such long races, I’ll have good and bad moments, and I’ll suffer a bit. But it’s kind of holidays and you’re traveling to different countries and you’re meeting your friends because it’s kind of difficult to travel to Reunion because it’s kind of expensive and…
iRunFar: And you do have a bunch of friends there because your Vibram team, a lot of them…
Grinius: Yes, and Vibram team is going to Reunion as well, so we’ll be this team here, and I hope we will have success.
iRunFar: Speaking of Vibram, you get to choose what shoes you wear, not only shoes that have Vibram, but you can add it to other shoes. What did you send up using during the race?
Grinius: Actually, for this UTMB I chose Hoka Huaka but resoled with Vibram Megagrip. I’m pretty happy with these shoes. I’ve worn them for the last four or five races.
iRunFar: Why the Huaka? What do you like about them?
Grinius: I don’t know. I just like the feeling. It’s like, I put on the shoe and I can say if it’s a good shoe or not for me. I tried some other models of Hoka, but the Huaka fits the best even though it’s old shoes. With the Vibram adjustments, it’s the perfect trail shoe.
iRunFar: Light and…
Grinius: It’s light, and there’s a lot of room for my kind of wide feet. I like them.
iRunFar: This is a really long race, and even if things are going well, how do you stay focused on what you’re doing?
Grinius: For me, my mind goes through different stages. At first when you’re running, you’re just chatting to other people and other runners about your experience. After awhile, you’re starting to follow your pace and speed and trying to divide the distance from aid station to aid station or from my family to my family, just thinking about the distance I’m running currently and not thinking about the whole race. Of course, there are some bad moments, but yesterday they didn’t happen. In [Ultra Trail Mount-]Fuji last year, I thought that I am samurai and I’m fighting bad people and demons. This gave me motivation because I’m a good guy and there are a lot of bad guys and I must finish just to save the world or whatever.
iRunFar: Were there any bad guys out there on the trail?
Grinius: Yeah, sometimes I feel like I’m the hunter and I’m hunting other people like Zach Miller and the other guys. So this is what keeps me motivated.
iRunFar: You were definitely motivated yesterday. Congratulations and good luck at Reunion.
Grinius: Thank you.