Latvia’s Andris Ronimoiss returns to the 2019 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail as the defending champion and with two previous finishes of the race. In our first interview with Andris, we talk about Latvian trail running and his beginnings in the sport, his previous runs at MIUT, and his doubleheader last year in winning MIUT and then taking 11th place at the Trail World Championships just two weeks later.
Andris Ronimoiss Pre-2019 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar and I’m with Andris Ronimoiss. It’s a couple days before the 2019 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail. Andris this is my first time meeting you. It’s nice to meet you.
Andris Ronimoiss: Yeah it’s nice to meet you, too. Nice to meet you, too.
iRunFar: So you’re the defending champion of the Madeira Island Ultra-Trail. You’ve just arrived back to the island. What are the feelings you have inside you right now?
Ronimoiss: I always love to be here. This island, it’s something special, you know. Last year I actually didn’t plan to come but I felt at some point, at some point I felt that this island is kind of calling me so I came and I won so I’m excited to be back here.
iRunFar: Last year was your second time racing Madeira Island Ultra-Trail, is that right?
Ronimoiss: Yeah. It was the second time, so this one is third time in a row.
iRunFar: I want to ask you in just a moment about your background getting into trail running but since we’re on the topic of this race, between your two runs at Madeira Island Ultra Trail, you’ve improved quite a bit between 2017 and 2018. To what do you attribute your boost in performance last year?
Ronimoiss: Yeah it’s mostly I think experience.
Ronimoiss: Like this race, it eats its young, you know, the first time you come here.
Ronimoiss: I think it’s very hard here, because the climbs are very steep, very hard. Like if you think the first one is like, the first climb is doable and you do it a bit too fast, then you’re basically done. And I did that the first time I was here.
Ronimoiss: I overdid it on the first climb. I was running with François [D’haene] and Xavier Thévenard and I was like feeling great. And then you come to the next climbs and they’re like twice as hard, and you’re like, okay…
iRunFar: ”I did a little too much.”
Ronimoiss: [laughs] Yeah, yeah. I did a little too much. So, and at the end, you struggle, you know.
iRunFar: This race I think is really unique in that there are a lot of technical ups and downs in the beginning and middle, and then in the end you’re running next to these irrigation channels and dirt roads for a long, long time. It’s a lot of true running to close the race.
Ronimoiss: Yeah, yeah. And I actually like it.
iRunFar: You like it.
Ronimoiss: Yeah I like it. Like that part actually, like psychologically it’s very hard to run on the flat at the end because you have to put a lot of effort. Like if there’s a climb you can walk, you know. If there’s downhill you can relax a bit. But those flats, there are no places to hide.
iRunFar: There’s no cheating.
Ronimoiss: Yeah. No cheating. So you have to do it properly. And I actually enjoy it. Yeah. For me, like, because I’m racing, not racing, I’m running on flat 90% of my time,
iRunFar: Where you’re from in Latvia?
Ronimoiss: I’m living in Riga.
Ronimoiss: Which is like uh…
iRunFar: The big city.
Ronimoiss: Yeah big city, the capital, probably one of the flattest places on the Earth.
Ronimoiss: Yeah, like the highest peak for me to train there is 11 meters, so.
Ronimoiss: Yeah. I actually recently found one with like 13 so I’m going to try that one. [laughs]
iRunFar: [laughs] “I moved up to 13 meters.”
Ronimoiss: Yeah yeah, exactly.
iRunFar: So what is this like 100 repeats on it back and forth?
Ronimoiss: Maybe not 100 but yeah, yeah you get the idea. It’s up and down, up and down, up and down.
iRunFar: Okay. Well let’s back up a little bit. You’re actually I think the first Latvian runner that I’ve ever met. Can you tell me about what the trail running scene and the world is like in your country?
Ronimoiss: Yeah trail running recently, like for the last four or five years has been picking up like crazy.
Ronimoiss: There’s maybe not too many races there but all of them are very popular. The biggest one for us is called Roebuck. And actually a few Americans run there as well.
iRunFar: Oh is that right?
Ronimoiss: Yeah. I can’t remember the girl’s name but she is in your national team, so.
iRunFar: I’ll go look that up. [Editor’s Note: It was Clare Gallagher.]
Ronimoiss: Yeah. She has done one of those races.
Ronimoiss: And actually it’s very popular. Like last month, the first stage of the year, it was like 5,000 people in the woods. It’s like wherever you look there’s a runner. So it’s crazy, yeah. The bigger ones, the longer ones, maybe not so crowded, but still very popular and everybody’s fighting for those UTMB points to get there, so everybody’s really excited about that. So yeah trail running, it’s picking up and it’s crazy popular.
iRunFar: Okay. And how about you? How did you come to the sport of trail ultrarunning? Did you do sports growing up? When did you start running?
Ronimoiss: Yeah I did sports growing up, but nothing serious. I did some soccer, some floor ball.
iRunFar: Oh, you said soccer, not football.
Ronimoiss: Yeah, you know I’m a big sports watcher and I mostly watch American sports, so.
iRunFar: I see.
Ronimoiss: You know I know the difference.
iRunFar: You speak the language of American sports. [laughs]
Ronimoiss: Yeah exactly. Exactly. So for me it’s, if it’s a European I’m talking, it’s football, if it’s an American I know that it’s soccer. So.
iRunFar: That was noticed and appreciated.
Ronimoiss: So yeah I did some soccer. I did some floor ball. It’s something similar to ice hockey only without skating. Frisbee. Ultimate, I think it’s called ultimate, like, throwing discs. But nothing very serious. And then I started to run in 2012.
Ronimoiss: But I started as orienteering, in the woods. And did some long ones as well. There are those called rogaine, which is up to 24 hours in the woods. You have to mark your own way and find it later on, so I started with that. And only later I moved to running, beginning on the road. And then slowly on the trails. Like my first trail run I think was in 2014.
Ronimoiss: When I found out the city where my mother lives will have a race of 80 kilometers. So I was like okay, I can’t, can’t miss it, you know.
iRunFar: You’ll do it.
Ronimoiss: Yeah I did it, and it was, I knew it was, I can’t be very good at it. Because I haven’t done anything longer than 20k. So from 80 was like, 20 to 80 is a huge step up.
iRunFar: A huge step up for anybody.
Ronimoiss: Yeah. And my strategy was very simple. I started to run with the fastest guys because I knew that I’m not going to last until the end of the race. So, at the point where I’m going to get really slow, I’ll be closer to the finish. So that was my strategy. [laughs]
iRunFar: How did that work out for you? [laughs]
Ronimoiss: It was pretty good. I ran with them for like 40k, and then I started to walk, and then I finished ninth I think.
Ronimoiss: Next year I came back and I won that race.
iRunFar: [laughs] You lasted a little bit longer.
Ronimoiss: Yeah, I improved like for one and a half hours.
iRunFar: I want to go back to talking about your last year in running, because to me you had a really fascinating couple of weeks.
iRunFar: You won Madeira Island Ultra-Trail, and then you turned it around and were just outside the top 10 of the Trail World Championships two weekends later. How did you manage recovering from 115 kilometers around here?
Ronimoiss: Yeah, for me I knew it was like, if I’m going to start to recover, I’m not going to be ready for the world championships, so it was train, like two days after this race I was up in the mountains and I was trying to keep that shape that I’m in. But the problem was that I got sick.
Ronimoiss: And I was like sick for like eight days out of 14, I was sick in between. And I was traveling, traveling around, and it was cold last year here, so I was like,
iRunFar: Stormy weather wasn’t it?
Ronimoiss: Yeah, it was cold all the time and I was sick, and you know, I didn’t expect anything out of world championships. And like four kilometers in I was like, I should quit. Because I arrived at the first mountain and I couldn’t run up, I just could walk. And the whole race, as soon as it’s picking up, I’m walking. And in Penyagolosa [where the world championships took place] it’s terrible because there’s plenty of those very gradient climbs where you have to run.
iRunFar: Where you should be running.
Ronimoiss: Where you should be running, and I can’t. And like some of the guys around me were telling, what’s wrong with him, because as soon as it picks up, he walks.
Ronimoiss: As soon as it’s flat, he just runs away and he’s gone, you know. But yeah, I was in super shape so I basically, those two weeks were the greatest in my career so far.
iRunFar: Good for you.
iRunFar: Okay my last question for you. I’ve seen you race a couple of times now, but I hadn’t spoken to you until today, but I’ve seen like on your bib maybe at one race, and then somewhere on social media, your nickname is Droppy?
Ronimoiss: Yeah yeah. It’s from childhood.
Ronimoiss: Actually right now in a local running community I’m called Joker.
iRunFar: Joker, okay.
Ronimoiss: Yeah, because again for that same running series back in home, there’s also like a team competition.
Ronimoiss: And there’s different races there and you have to pick whichever you want. For my team, at some point no matter where they put me, I can bring good points, kind of like a Joker.
iRunFar: You’re a Joker.
iRunFar: A good card.
Ronimoiss: Yeah. A good card, yeah.
iRunFar: Fantastic. So is that going to be on your bib the next time you have the opportunity to put a nickname, Joker?
Ronimoiss: Yeah, might be. Might be. But I tried it once in Transgrancanaria and it didn’t work out, so.
iRunFar: Maybe not. [laughs]
Ronimoiss: Maybe not. [laughs]
iRunFar: Well it was great to meet you, and we look forward to chasing you around the course this weekend.
Ronimoiss: Alright. See you then. See you then.
iRunFar: Good luck to you.
Ronimoiss: Thank you. Thank you.