Gediminas Grinius weathered a sufferfest of blisters and broken quads before dropping late in the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc in August, but he’s recovered enough to race Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji. In the following interview, hear Gediminas talk about the series of problems that overcame his UTMB race, whether or not he’s feeling spry again, and some of the highlights of his 2015 season.
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Gediminas Grinius Pre-2015 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here in Kawaguchiko, Japan. I’m here the night before the 2015 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji. I’m with Lithuanian Gediminas Grinius. Hey!
Gediminas Grinius: Hi, Meghan.
iRunFar: How are you doing?
Grinius: I’m actually not bad. I recovered probably from UTMB for 100k, and we’ll see what will happen afterwards.
iRunFar: The last time we saw you was four weeks ago, and you were having a biblical time at UTMB. Tell us about what happened there.
Grinius: Actually, I had blisters for the very first time in my life, and it happened at 20k through the race.
iRunFar: You started getting blisters?
Grinius: At first I didn’t know it because I thought I got some gravel in my shoes on the very first downhill, and when I approached Les Contamines at 30k, I asked my wife to check what is wrong with my shoes. I said, “Just put gravel out.” She said, “Nothing in.” Then I noticed huge blisters, so I changed my shoes.
iRunFar: What part of your feet?
Grinius: It was very strange—from here to here on both soles. So it was rather strange, but I keep going. I could kind of cope with pain which blisters produce, but I was forced to run on my toes on the front foot. It was okay when I was running uphill or on the flat, but downhill it’s not natural at all. After 130k or 120k, I killed my quads totally. My legs felt like wooden legs. I was walking down the hill and running up the hill, but after awhile, at 151k, I decided to drop because it made no sense for me anymore. The last part would have taken for me six hours. Before that, dropping from the race, for 20k, I was just walking—walking, walking, walking, and it took me three hours for the last 10k.
iRunFar: Are there any takeaways that you learned from that? Was it socks, or shoes, or something going on with hydration and your electrolytes? Have you figured it out?
Grinius: No. After the race, of course, I tried to figure out what happened. I looked at my shoes and socks and I read a few articles. It’s basically just friction because of humidity or the heat. I was running in the same conditions at Transgrancanaria and Western States, but it’s never happened before. Actually, I’m not sure what’s wrong. I run tomorrow with same shoes and same socks but will apply some creme which I bought which says it reduces blisters.
iRunFar: Then cross your fingers a little bit, right?
Grinius: Yeah, exactly.
iRunFar: It must have been pretty severe, your blisters, by the time you dropped out. Have your feet healed? It hasn’t been that long.
Grinius: Actually, you can still see some damaged parts. The skin is very thin there. Yeah, the skin is still growing, but I don’t think it will be a problem for me to run tomorrow—maybe just recovery. We’ll see.
iRunFar: Is this your first time to Japan?
Grinius: Yeah, it’s my very first time to Japan. I really like the Japanese people. They’re very polite, too polite maybe. The food is amazing. For runners, the food is perfect. Usually before a race I’m eating a lot of rice. Here it’s just rice, rice, rice or fish, fish, fish. You can have good cuisine.
iRunFar: Yeah, it’s just about dinner time on the night before the race, so what do you think you’ll have for dinner tonight?
Grinius: I won’t experiment too much. I’ll have a lot of rice and miso soup probably or something light for my stomach.
iRunFar: Turning to tomorrow, we just finished with the press conference where they announced some course changes adding a little bit more running and a little bit less technicality into the race because of the weather and to protect the trails from getting too muddy or washed out by lots of feet tomorrow. The course is very unique in that it has these mountain sections, and then you convert to running sections, and then you convert to mountain sections again. What are you thinking about the course going into this?
Grinius: It’s good they are adapting the course for environmental issues and to protect their trails, so it’s a nice thing to do. But for me as a runner, I expected this course to be more technical because on the uphills I’m a more strong than on the flat running. To look at other runners like Didrik [Hermansen] and Sondre [Amdahl], they are very fast on the flat because they’re running on flat a lot. And like Brendan [Davies], my teammate, he’s fast on the flat as well, even faster than me. For me, it works out not so good.
iRunFar: The changes don’t favor you too much.
Grinius: No, actually, before the race, I knew, that you must run a lot on flat and do some climbing, so I adjusted my training and trained a little bit—after UTMB there’s not much you can train, but I trained a little bit on the flats. I believe it will be okay for me as well.
iRunFar: Some of the competition that you’ll be with tomorrow, you’re been sort of battling all year long now. You’ve seen the strengths and weaknesses of your competition. Who do you think you’re going to be spending time with in the different sections of the course as it changes?
Grinius: It’s very difficult to predict. I guess Sondre will run like hell like usually he does like that. Me and Didrik will stay behind a bit and probably will catch Sondre at 70 to 80k. After that we’ll run some parts together. Usually in a race it’s very difficult to predict. Brendan, I don’t know, I’ve run just once with him in Grancanaria. I believe he’s a stable guy, and he tries to keep a same pace all the time. So, yeah, I’m not sure about the other guys. Gary [Robbins], I see him for the first time. I expect that Rob Krar is running, but I know he dropped from a race with a back injury. Because now when they changed the course, I believe Rob will be my favorite because there is a lot of flat running where he is very strong. Yeah, we will see. It’s very hard to tell. If I need to, I’d choose Didrik now because he’s recovered from his last race, and he’s very strong and a speedy guy.
iRunFar: Didrik is your pick for the win, is that what you say?
Grinius: Yeah, I think so. If I will keep going with him, I believe I will have a good place in the results as well. This is my strategy.
iRunFar: You have had quite a year. We’ve seen you race around the world. Is this the end of your season now, or will you go onto Grand Raid Réunion?
Grinius: Actually, when I put my plan for 2015, I picked only 100 mile races, and Grand Raid Réunion was one of them. Yeah, I have everything arranged for that race, but my normal life was a bit messy. I changed countries again from Poland to Lithuania. I have a new job. It’s the same just back in Lithuania. A lot of things will depend on my boss because I still didn’t ask for leave. After I come back from Mount Fuji…
iRunFar: Ask politely…?
Grinius: I will try to ask politely, but because this week is extremely busy in our job, I hope he will at least let me fly in to race and fly back, so it will be a very…
iRunFar: Drop in and drop out?
Grinius: Exactly, so it will be a very, very, very fast race for me in madness of traveling and getting back home. I’m planning for Réunion, but I still have some doubts.
iRunFar: Looking back on your year and all the places you’ve been able to run and race and explore, what have been a couple of the highlights for you?
Grinius: In races?
iRunFar: Anything. It could be an experience in travel or a moment in your racing.
Grinius: I don’t know. It’s quite an interesting thing because a few years ago I was just watching other guys racing. I’m really very excited to race with them in all these…
iRunFar: To be a part of it?
Grinius: Yeah, to be a part of it, and to be a part of the trail running culture. The traveling just broadens it. Me, myself, and my wife, because usually I’m traveling with family, so it’s some kind of homeschooling for kids because we are usually learning everything in hotels or out where we are visiting. It’s kind of very productive and very widening experience for me and my family. Yeah, it works for us. I don’t know, traveling and running and being a part of the trail running community, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. It’s quite fun.
iRunFar: 2016—what does it hold for you?
Grinius: In terms of running? I don’t know. Recently I was asked three or four times the same question.
iRunFar: What will you do next year?
Grinius: Yeah, what I will do next year. Actually, I don’t know. I have a few plans and they are totally different. I would like to do Ultra-Trail World Tour as plan A. Plan B is some shorter races getting my speed back because I’m feeling I’m not good now or I’m not speedy guy now.
iRunFar: The leg speed is suffering to the mountain running?
Grinius: Yeah, exactly. Another thing which I would like to do is Tahoe FKT because when I was in Western States, I was staying close to Tahoe where one of my friends lives. He put this into my mind. If I have everything needed for that, it will probably be my priority, and I will build up all the races around this Tahoe FKT.
iRunFar: Okay, so the Kilian [Jornet] record that nobody yet has been able to break since 2009?
iRunFar: 2008 or 2009?
Grinius: 2009, I believe. Yes, this is what I’m aiming at as my A plan, and I will put races around.
iRunFar: Best of luck to you out there tomorrow. Keep as dry as you can.
Grinius: Thank you very much. Yeah, it’s probably impossible, but I will try.
iRunFar: Keep as warm as you can.
Grinius: Yes, this is a good one.
iRunFar: Good luck, Gediminus.
Grinius: Thanks, Meghan.