It’s been a long time since we’ve caught up with Luke Nelson on camera, but we got our chance ahead of The Rut 28k in Big Sky, Montana. In the following interview, Luke talks about what took him away from racing last year and what brought him back, how he’s changed his approach to training this year, and where else he’s racing in 2016.
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Luke Nelson Pre-2016 The Rut 28k Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Luke Nelson before The Rut 28k 2016. How are you, Luke?
Luke Nelson: Fantastic. Happy to be here.
iRunFar: We were just chatting. It’s been awhile… on camera, that is.
Nelson: That’s true. We cross paths a lot, but…
iRunFar: You’ve gone through a couple changes the last few years most notably last year you did a lot less racing.
Nelson: Yeah, only two races last year.
iRunFar: What had you going in that direction for a year?
Nelson: It was time for the mind to have a break—a break from training really hard for real specific objectives or racing objectives. I did a lot of adventuring and a little freeform summer. I didn’t plan a ton and had amazing adventures still. I wrapped up the season with a little bit of racing.
iRunFar: How did you feel coming into that?
Nelson: Fantastic. Maybe as fit as I’ve ever been just because of the volume I’d done without specific intensity maybe.
iRunFar: You have been racing this year and you’re planning to do some more.
Nelson: At The Rut last year, I had a good race, and it made me think, What would it be like if I really, really focused? My entire running career I’ve been mostly self-coached and was curious about what I could do if I just focused on training for racing.
iRunFar: Now you have a coach. Does it help you more with workouts, or is it somebody you can bounce ideas off of, “No, you shouldn’t do that race the weekend after?”
Nelson: Yes, that would be the answer. It helps me see the insanity in racing too much–That happens a lot. There’s a lot of FOMO in our sport. It’s hard to pull that back–as well as adding a whole new level of structure and planning to my planning. I’ve had structure before, but the thought process of starting in October to get ready for now and building up through the periods and things like that, it’s been pretty awesome.
iRunFar: Having seen you on the ski-mo side, it seemed like you had a lot of structure in your training there.
Nelson: Yeah, but not as much long-term planning. It would be three months of head-down-hammer-hammer-hammer-race, but not really thinking about what’s next year or what’s in six months, and not really putting that all together.
iRunFar: So go back to the beginning of this year, what was your focus? You can only have one, two, or maybe three.
Nelson: ‘A’ races were Tromsø in Norway, Glen Coe Skyline in Scotland, and then we decided to use the US Sky Series as tune-up races but still training through them. Whiteface in New York was earlier this year. The Rut—I’m doing the VK and the 28k. Then I…
iRunFar: Prescribed running the VK and 28k?
Nelson: Yes, Coach said, “Let’s do it. Let’s see what happens.” Then I will probably go to Flagstaff if I’m in the running for a descent ranking for the year.
iRunFar: For the Series. Now, you’ve run a lot of longer races, not all just 100s, but you had focused on ultras a lot. You’ve done a lot of shorter stuff this year with this being 28k. It this 28k merely a smart strategy in your overall season?
Nelson: I would say on one hand, absolutely, but the other part of this is when I went to Scott Johnson, my coach, and said, “I want to start working with you,” he said, “What are you weak at?” That’s hard to admit. “Well, I suck at running fast,” was my answer. I go up and down hills really good and technical terrain well, but I don’t run fast. Part of the shorter races is to build leg speed and to get to run in a different gear than you get to run in an ultra.
iRunFar: So you’re going to have some of that this weekend.
Nelson: We’ll see. I’ve been training for it. I hope it goes well.
iRunFar: Are you enjoying that change in training?
Nelson: Yeah, with the intensity that we’re doing, it’s hard work. Hard work comes with sacrifice. There are days I don’t want to do the workout because I’m tired or for whatever reason, but I’m seeing results that I’m very happy with, so it’s worth the effort.
iRunFar: I believe this is The Rut’s fourth year, and it’s your fourth time at it.
Nelson: I haven’t missed it.
iRunFar: You’ve run the 50k three times. Have you run the VK?
Nelson: This is my first VK ever.
iRunFar: How is that possible?
Nelson: I don’t know. I’ve never done one. I kind of have this idea in my mind that if I’m going to travel to a race, I need to run at least as many hours as I drive.
iRunFar: And the 28k wasn’t cutting it?
Nelson: It never happens with VK, so I’ve never done one. It worked out for the schedule, and it’s something I’ve been curious about for a long time.
iRunFar: Nice. Well, good luck in both of your races this weekend.
Nelson: Thanks, Bryon.