Spain’s Luis Alberto Hernando made a splash in his ultra debut, a second-place finish at last year’s Transvulcania Ultramarathon. This year, he’s back at Transvulcania with three ultramarathons under his belt. In the following interview, Luis Alberto talks about his history with endurance sports (including being a mountain runner before being an Olympic skier), how he came to ultrarunning, what he needs to do to beat Kilian Jornet, and what he loves more–endurance sports or the mountains.
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Luis Alberto Hernando Pre-2014 Transvulcania Ultramarathon Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Luis Alberto Hernando and translator Mauri Pagliacci before the 2014 Transvulcania. Luis, you have a very long history with endurance sports. Can you tell us about that?
Luis Alberto Hernando: I have been doing endurance sports since I was a child. I broke into the long distances in my age group since I was a child. Then I got into Nordic skiing where I was an Olympian. Then I got into mountain races and got into ultra distances last year at this race, Transvulcania. Now, this is my fourth ultra. That’s it so far.
iRunFar: With skiing, how long of a history did you have with skiing? For many years, there were many people from ski mountaineering that came into ultrarunning. Now, there are runners like you and Xavier Thevenard who come from Nordic skiing. Why do you think that Nordic skiers are coming to trail running?
Hernando: Nordic skiing, for me, who has snow in the winter is like pre-season for the summer. We do it for preparation for the summer. I got into Nordic skiing even during or before mountain races. I got into Nordic skiing to prepare for mountain races in the summer. So we’re all guys connected to the mountains. It’s the best way to get preparation for mountain races. Skiing is not bad for the legs. You don’t get injured in that. So it’s perfect for that.
iRunFar: So the rest of the season you can still train?
iRunFar: So being an Olympian skier was a side effect of being a mountain runner?
Hernando: Being an Olympian is something amazing. Merely the classification, the preparation for the Olympics. It’s great. Whatever sports a guy wants to do to go to an Olympic game, even winning the Olympic game would be better. It’s almost the same thing coming here and racing the best guys and being at the front pack of the race is nearly the same satisfaction than going to an Olympic games.
iRunFar: You’ve had great success in shorter mountain races. You were a Skyrunning World Champion. Why have you chosen to move up to ultramarathons?
Hernando: I have a new sponsor, Adidas, that is trying to get into the ultrarunning scene but also do it with someone who had never done it which was perfect for me. I was also getting in a routine of running the same races, the short-distance races. Watching the ambiance and the great races and the repercussions all of these races like Transvulcania were getting, so that was the perfect way to get me into it.
iRunFar: Transvulcania was your first ultramarathon, yes?
iRunFar: You had great success. You were second behind Kilian [Jornet], very close. Have you learned anything in the year since then?
Hernando: Yes. I learned a lot last year. I came back in the same mindset as a rookie in this, trying not to make mistakes, being polite with the aid stations, drinking every time. Of course, with respect of the distance, not coming here with excess trust and not underestimating the race and being a total rookie again.
iRunFar: You were second to Kilian here last year. What do you need to do to beat him?
Hernando: [laughs] First, that’s something you have to ask Dakota [Jones] because he did it in 2012. I think the best way to beat Kilian is to stick close to him and to wait if he has a bad day because if you can see he’s having a good day, it’s nearly impossible to beat him. That’s the strategy. Stick close to him and try to have your best day and wait for his bad day.
iRunFar: You’ve had a long history with endurance sports and always in the mountains. What comes first—the mountains or the endurance sports?
Hernando: It’s something that goes connected—endurance sports and the mountains. I don’t imagine myself doing or preparing a road marathon or training seven hours over the road bike. I do this because I do it in the mountains. With the years, I think it’s all the mountains, that the first thing is the mountains.
iRunFar: Thank you very much, Luis Alberto.
Hernando: Thank you.