This summer’s featured trail runner is Saulius Eidukas. Saulius has worked for the past 27 years for the State of Oregon at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Besides trail running, Saulius enjoys spending time with his wife and two children, especially doing outdoor activities such as hiking and camping. He also enjoys photographing the natural landscape and reading.

How did you get into trail running?

I have anxiety and depression and when things got really bad I sought out professional help. In that process my psychologist and I noticed exercise had a strong positive effect on my mental state. However, I had trouble sticking with it so we decided I should pick a form of exercise that I most liked in hopes I’d do it more regularly. I decided to focus on running. I had no formal training but at the age of 43 I did my best and began running/exercising more regularly, but despite the benefits to my mental health I struggled to stick with it. I then decided to start signing up for races. I knew if I didn’t train I’d suffer during the race and not do well or even finish. To further motivate myself I viewed races as my reward for training regularly. It worked and I still employ these principles. I did my first half marathon trail race and then the same year decided to sign up for a road marathon. That was 15 years ago. I began having success with marathons and my finishing times improved with each one I did. Despite that my heart was really into being in nature and running on trails. Three years later I heard about a type of race to be held near my town of Bend called an ultramarathon. I did not know such races existed and had a hard time wrapping my mind around the distances and terrain involved. A year later I worked up the courage to try a full marathon trail race (I still wasn’t quite ready to try a full ultra). I trained for running hills and rugged terrain but not nearly enough and I hurt quite a bit and it took a lot out of me to complete the race. However I was immediately hooked and no longer intimidated and in 2014 I ran my first three 50k races and I haven’t looked back since.

 

View from the summit of Horse Ridge in Central Oregon.

 

What is your favorite trail to run on?

That’s hard to say.  However I most enjoy trails on and around mountains.   One of my favorites is a local one in the Three Sisters Wilderness called Green Lakes. It quickly gets you into a beautiful area with a stunning alpine lake and mountain views. Then I have the option of connecting to numerous other trails. From a 10 mile loop back to the start or if out for a longer run and of looking for vertical climbs I can summit South Sister, head to Broken Top Mountain and my favorite long route is circumnavigating South Sister. The options abound.

What is your favorite trail race?

Ooh that’s a tough one. I can’t recall a trail race I didn’t like and I’ve raced in so many stunning landscapes and races with such great vibes due to the participants, race directors and volunteers. But if I have to choose just one it would probably be my only international race the Lavaredo 120k in the Dolomite Mountains of Italy. Despite getting my first DNF at this race due to stomachache issues at about 100km I still have great memories of the race. The Dolomite mountains are simply stunning and because of this the 19,000 feet of gain for the race did not sway me from entering. Unlike typical ultras in the U.S. with early morning starts this race begins at 11pm in the mountain town of Cortina, a former Olympic winter venue and the field of runners was huge with 1,600 racers. Despite the late start the towns’ streets were lined up with people to cheer us at the start of it was quite the event afterwards as well. I should have also mentioned as I walked to the start line I went into a bar and ordered a shot of espresso. Only race I could do that! Post race Italy is a fantastic place to recover with wonderful food options and my family and I went to the sea to relax at the beach for a few days. Just an overall wonderful experience I hope to repeat one day.

 

The Dolomites in Italy during Lavaredo 120k

 

What are your weekly average running miles and ascent?

Over the course of the year I average about 40 miles and 4,500 feet of ascent weekly. When in a training block for an ultra race I like to focus on time on feet instead of miles and during those times I shoot for 10 hours and 10,000 feet of ascent weekly.

 

An espresso before the Lavaredo 120k.

 

What is a typical weekday run?

Depends on the time of year but usually about an hour long, if pretty flat about 7 miles. Other times 60-90 minutes with about 1,000 feet of ascent.

What is a typical weekend run?

Usually a 2-4 hour run with ascent going from 2,000-4,000 feet.  Destinations vary depending on time of year from trails in the sagebrush or nearby national forest either buttes and hills, Smith Rock State Park and summer early fall into the nearby Cascade Mountains.

 

That’s the way to go to circumnavigate Black Butte when you take a wrong turn.
(Photo credit Mary Konyn)

 

What shoes do you wear?

I’ve been wearing Saucony Peregrine for many years now. They fit well and I love the traction they provide on rugged surfaces. Recently I added the Saucony Exodus Ultra to my trail shoe mix as the extra cushion is nice although tread not as aggressive as the Peregrines. It’s my go to shoe now. I also mix in the Saucony Ride road shoe.  I don’t have a lot of money to try different shoes brands every season so I tend to stick to what’s been working for me.

 

Saucony Xodus Ultra 2 Trail-Running Shoes – Men’s | REI Co-op regularly $150.00 on sale $120.93

 

What is your favorite trail running apparel?

Right now it would have to be my new running vest the Salomon ADV SKIN 12. I’ve yet to race with it but after numerous long training runs including a 12 hour one it’s been great. Fits very comfortably around my chest and the strings to tighten or loosen the fit works well. Lots of pockets with convenient access and love having the option of using handheld bottles or water bladder. On a recent ascent of Black Butte the weather at the top was extremely windy and cold and I was able to put on my shell over the pack. My previous packs required me to take them off, put on the shell and then put the running vest back on over the shell. Not having to do that anymore is more convenient and practical.

 

2023 was a snowy Peterson Ridge race.

 

What watch do you wear?

After being a Garmin user for many years I switched brands out of frustration with some durability and technical issues and just this year began using the Coros Apex 2 Pro. Switching brands takes a little getting used to but so far I am very happy with it. The biggest plus is the battery life which is outstanding. Will see if it will go on one charge for my upcoming 100 mile race. I am happy with the wrist sensor for heart rate thus far which is an important feature to me. Still learning to take advantage of all the software capabilities. My only complaint is I wish it would have come with a silicone wrist band instead of the nylon one which retains moisture.

What nutrition do you like to use on runs and races?

During runs of 90 minutes or less I don’t take any nutrition. These would be my typical weekday runs. On the longer runs I use Tailwind Endurance Fuel as my primary carb and electrolyte supplement in my water. I like the citrus flavors and sits well in my stomach. Recently I have incorporated Tailwind Recovery mix on long day runs and races. I find it a helpful way to get in some protein and fat during these extended efforts. The recovery mix also helps my stomach feel satiated when I’m struggling to take in real food. I also like the higher salt content than other brands I’ve tried.

In the gel department I don’t like those that require chewing during a race. I’ve moved away from different brands over the years and settled on Huma Chia gels and Maurten gels. Huma brand it takes longer for me to get pallette fatigue then other brands I’ve used and I try to mix the flavors to help with that as well. They also have energy gel plus which has double the electrolytes which comes in handy during hot weather and when I am expending more energy over time like long hill climbs. The Maurten gels I started last year and mainly use just during races because of their higher cost. It’s my go to late in a race because it’s easier on my stomach. When I hit a point where the Huma gels or aid station food just is hard to take in the Maurten gels don’t upset my stomach as much, I believe because of the calcium carbonate they contain. It’s not a cure all but strategically used it’s helpful to me. I like Hunger Stinger waffles as well and mix in some real foods during training which are commonly found at aid stations.

 

 

What do you like most about the trail running community?

Simply put: friendships. When I switched from doing predominantly marathon races to trail races the last thing I was thinking about was making friends. I soon found the trail community exceptionally friendly, accessible and helpful.  When I was starting out many experienced runners were often helpful with advice and sharing their knowledge.  I also found it amazing that you could hook up with someone you hardly knew for a long trail run and by then end through conversation during the shared experience you feel like a great bond has been set.

You can follow Saulius on Strava and Instagram.

 

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