Craig Lutz has enjoyed a smooth transition into pro running. The Flower Mound Marcus and UT-Austin standout captured his first national title last month. He’s competing Saturday in hopes of a second.
“It’s been great,” he said, contrasting life now to his college running days. “It’s a very relaxed life other than training. We wake up and have practice. I choose what I want to do the rest of the day. I don’t race near as much as I did in college. It’s easier on the body.”
On Saturday, he’s toeing the line at the USA 15K Championships at the Gate River Run in Jacksonville, Fla. Then, he’ll shift his focus to qualifying for this summer’s U.S. Olympic Trials in the 1,500 meters.
Lutz, a member of Ben Rosario’s Hoka One One Northern Arizona Elite team, said he felt better in the midst of consecutive 100-mile training weeks in mid-February than he did running lower mileage in college. He has time to focus on strength training and recovery.
He and his teammates work a couple of days a week at Hypo2 High Performance Sports Center, which enhances the strength and conditioning of Olympic-caliber athletes worldwide.
“They’ve taught us to strengthen our bodies and recover at the same time,” Lutz said. “It’s pre-hab so you don’t get hurt.”
Lutz said he has seen significant strength gains by following a training regimen designed to help him overcome weaknesses, especially in his hips. He also attributes his current success to 20 months of injury-free training, going back to his senior year as a Longhorn.
Rosario, the founder and coach of the NAZ Elite team, asked Lutz to consider racing the USA Track & Field Cross Country Championships in Bend, Ore., last month. He thought Lutz was strong, and the field was wide open.
He recommended Lutz stay with the lead pack through most of the Feb. 6 race, then make a late break when he knew he could maintain a faster pace to the finish.
Lutz successfully executed the strategy to win the 10K cross country race at the River’s Edge Golf Club in 31 minutes, 40 seconds.
“I’m not going to lie to you,” he told reporters after the race. “It felt pretty bad.”
He anticipates following a similar approach at Saturday’s 15K. Then he plans to methodically run laps at a set pace to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials at an outdoor meet at Stanford University next month.
“That’s the boring part of track,” he said by phone last month.