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Youthful Neal Lucas Raises the Trail Running Inspiration Bar – Interview

Neal Lucas - Gravity doesn't have a chance. 🙂

Neal Lucas has been burnin’ up the local Texas trail running scene since earlier this Spring and has been the first to enjoy a burger in every trail adventure he has entered; Prickly Pear 50 km (3:25), Hells Hills 50 mile (6:59), the Lake 60 km (5:44), and the Falls 60 km (5:12:05). And toss in a few course records along the way!

At 21 years of age, a 2:45 marathon PR (set at Austin marathon 2011), a great attitude, and a body and mind that is just beginning to develop some ultra trail running experience, Neal is going to be an inspiring force in the ultra scene.

I was able to get in contact with Neal one week out from the last race of the Capt’n Karl’s summer series (he won the first two) and he graciously answered a few questions about his running background, trail running, and his upcoming adventures.


Background / Training

[EB – What is your running background? Did you run track or cross country in high school and/or college?]
Well my running began by running Cross Country and track in middle school in Palatine, Illinois – cool weather and amazing nature preserves gave me the best entrance into the sport. Of course, as a kid I took it all for granted and thought everyone had the resources I did, miles and miles of covered running trails. After moving to Indiana for two years of High School I soon realized I was very wrong… in Indiana we did cornfield loops.

My running was nothing to write home about through High School and middle school – very middle pack runner, but loving every moment. So come college I passed on joining Cross Country and track, instead joining the (at that time) small Texas State Triathlon club. Looking back, I don’t regret that decision one bit – I’ve met lifelong friends, continued training and loving the sport.

[EB – Do you have a coach or are you self-coached?]

I’ve found I do better without too much structure and coaching. I’m really able to listen to my body, going hard when I feel good and taking it easy when I’m lagging. I also truly enjoy running, so I have the self-motivation to get out for a run every day and stay focused on my goals.

[EB – Do you have any specific running mentors that have influenced you along your journey so far?]

I am SO blessed to be surrounded by positive influences and inspirations – most are friends on the TXS Triathlon Club, CORE Running Team, and Tejas Trails runners.

Neal looking relaxed at Prickly Pear

[EB – What does a typical training week look like for you? How much training do you do on the trails? Do you do any type of cross training?]

I wish I could describe a ‘typical’ week… but right now, it’s running everyday (70-110 miles a week) with maybe one or two bike rides a week, and an occasional swim or climb. Majority of my running is probably on roads during a typical week (70/30), except when I have a trail race coming up and I’ll switch to majority trails.

I should probably get more weight training in… you know what you need to work on when you finish an ultra, your legs are fine but you can barely lift your arms after carrying a five pound water bottle during the race.

[EB – What are your thoughts on nutrition? Do you follow any specific nutrition paradigms (ex: Paleo, Zone, etc), eat mostly unprocessed food, or whatever looks good? Favorite food?]

I’m on a strict calorie diet.

I only drink water and eat foods with calories.

But seriously, I’m your typical frugal college student.

In short, I eat to run – I’ll roughly try to match caloric output to input, eating whatever is the tastiest, most easily digested food for my next run. I eat a lot of pizza, chicken, veggies, rice, etc. and moderately indulge often. Running more = eating more, it’s that simple for me.

Trail Running / Capt’n Karl Series

[EB – As a predominate road runner, what led you to explore the local dirty trail running scene in 2011?]

It was either all the prize money, the news coverage, or the effortless trails Joe uses for his races.

But in reality, I love the low key aspect of the events – the guys out at the races simply train hard set personal goals. It’s like ultra marathons are a magnet for hardworking, caring, and dedicated people; nothing but the best out there.

[EB – What do you like about trail running that keeps you coming back?]

The pain and primitive aspect of the races is a strange addiction.

[EB – There are not a lot of 21 year old college students running ultras and performing at such a high level. What do your running and non-running friends think of your exploration into the ultra world?]

Haha- they see a chump like me doing well at races and they want in!

I love telling people I do these races. First they say I’m crazy, then they accept one’s ability to run the distances, then they’re lining up for their first trail (ultra) race! The popularity of distance running is really exploding!

[EB – You have won each trail race you entered this year so you obviously are doing many things right, but what have been your biggest challenges in transitioning from road to trail running?]

Well with a marathon, a couple Gu’s and I’m set for the race. With ultra trail races it’s so much more about nutrition and mentally preparing yourself for an adventure!

Nutrition is so key though, I was absolutely clueless in my first race and have enjoyed running the distances so much more as I learned on the subject.

[EB – You had a heck of an inspiring run at the front with Paul Terranova at the Hells Hills 50 mile trail run earlier this Spring. You ended up winning by 2+ minutes and broke the previous course record by over 29 minutes. Not bad for your first 50 miler!  What are some of your strongest memories from this adventure?]

Going into Hell’s Hills I was ignorant to the sport of trail ultras – Paul Terranova is one of the most talented athletes I have ever met. If the race had been Hells Hills 51 mile race, he would have had it.

But the best part was at 4am or whatever time we started the race, and I got to run and listen to the lead group talk about all the races they’ve done. I was amazed and inspired to push myself in a measly 50 miler after hearing the mountainous 100 milers these guys had completed.

Hells Hills - the aftermath

[EB – You have won both of the first two races of the Captn Karl 60 km summer trail series yet each race appeared to be polar opposite experiences for you. Race #1 (the Lake) included some significant stomach issues and race #2 (the Falls) had the run feeling “effortless”. Were there any lessons you learned in race #1, that you felt positively impacted your race #2 experience?]

Well I posted it all on my blog, but in short it all came down to nutrition and pacing. I went out like a mad man and didn’t give the course the respect it deserved. I pushed through the worst pain of my life and learned so much from it, so hopefully it’ll never happen again.

[EB – You can check out Neal’s summary for both races on his blog – the Lake, the Falls.]

[EB – How has the recovery been post the Falls and how is the body and mind feeling with one week until the final race of the Captn Karl series?]

The Falls was a wonderful story of proper recovery. I maintained caloric intake the whole race, so I didn’t experience a hard bonk and post-race was great. Later Sunday afternoon I was experiencing the usual post-race insomnia, and went on a steady 5k. I was back to training full swing the next day.

This trail series is great! It trains the body to recover quickly by overloading it with mileage back-to-back. I suggest it to anyone who wants to see improvement!

Looking Ahead

[EB – Do you plan to continue with a mix of road and trail running events into the near future? Will you focus on one surface more than the other?]

Well after this series it’s back to the road to train for the New York City marathon and see what kind of time I can post. After that I’m diving head first into trails – once you see what the trails have to offer, it’s hard to turn back to road monotony.

New nutrition plan. Ready to rock at the Falls!

[EB – Do you have any specific running goals or events you want/plan to experience over the next 6-12 months?]

I’d like to get top 100 men at New York and then top finisher at the Bandera 100 km and either Rocky Raccoon 100 or USAT 50 mile [Nueces] champs.

[EB – Finally, as someone majoring in Finance, what do you make of our government debt situation?]

Wow, what a question! I can barely hang on to my professors lectures on the topic, so I’ll spare you my undergraduate opinion.

I’m just going to try and find a job working for a business that isn’t 14 trillion in debt.

As you likely noticed, Neal is setting his targets on more and more dirt adventures. I have a feeling this guy is just getting started. Best of luck to Neal is his upcoming adventures.

Neal is grateful for his sponsors that include  Saucony, CORE Running in San Marcos, and Orange Leaf Froyo.

Special thanks to Neal for sharing with the Endurance Buzz community!

You can follow his training, race reports, and more at his blog – The Weekly Long Run

Be active – Feel the buzz!

David –

About the author

David Hanenburg David Hanenburg is the passionate dirt-lovin' creator of Endurance Buzz and has been playing in the endurance sports world since 2000 after knockin' the dust off of his Trek 950 hardtail thanks to a friend asking to go ride some local dirt. In 2007 he ran his first ultra on the trails and fell in love with the sport and its people. For more information on David's endurance sports journey, check out the About page.

7 Responses to “Youthful Neal Lucas Raises the Trail Running Inspiration Bar – Interview”

  1. on 23 Aug 2011 at 1:22 pm Jonathan

    Neal is a beast, and he’s only 21! Throwing up multiple times and falling constantly at the Lake he still finished 1st. I look forward to meeting him at the Shoe this weekend. He will certainly be a force to reckon with in the coming years on the ultra scene.

  2. on 23 Aug 2011 at 3:53 pm Fawn (milanorunner)

    I just adore this runner! He is so fun to watch and be around. I’ll be on the trails with him early next but way way way behind him. Good luck Neal! I love watching and hearing about your success!

  3. on 24 Aug 2011 at 8:54 am David Hanenburg

    Jonathan – Not only a beast but a dude with a great attitude. He will be fun to watch…before he disappears off down the trail! 😉

    Fawn – Thanks for sharing and good luck in your next adventure!

  4. on 24 Aug 2011 at 3:55 pm olga

    “It’s like ultra marathons are a magnet for hardworking, caring, and dedicated people; nothing but the best out there.”

    I like this kid. Amazing, but he got this on his first year. He is going to have a hell of a life ahead of him, not even only in ultras, but in general. Speaks volume.

  5. on 25 Aug 2011 at 10:00 am David Hanenburg

    Olga – In my unbiased opinion, I completely agree! 😉 To have a 21 year old use the words hardworking, caring, and dedicated in the same sentence…I am even more hopeful for our world’s future.

  6. on 30 Nov 2013 at 5:38 pm colin

    I am not joking but I am related to Neal I am his little brother!!! And I am only 10 years old.

  7. on 17 Dec 2013 at 1:45 pm David Hanenburg

    Hey Colin, thanks for reaching out. Hope all is well for you and your brother!