Our July DPMR Member Highlight of the month, Abby Humenetskyj! Wait, I mean Alex, but seriously who can get enough of those baby pictures! One day Abby, one day….
If you haven’t crossed paths or shared a trail with Alex, make an appointment to. His down-to-earth attitude and soft spoken demeanor will have you wanting more, and slightly jealous of that cute little baby full of smiles taking up all his time! A newly minted father to Abby, and husband to Alison, Alex’s balance of work, family, and trail time is an example any person should live by.
Alex’s first ultra experience, back in 2009 came full circle, when he recently paced his good friend Kevin at this years Western States 100 mile endurance run. A native of New York, Alex is no stranger to the outdoors, or a kitchen, and even has his Masters! A well-educated, great cook, amazing husband, even better father, ultra runner, and good friend, Alex’s next accomplishment is Time’s Man of the Year. Seriously men, the bar has been set, but then there is Outlaw Country Music! Alex, you should have kept that in the closet…..
Where are you from and where do you live now?
I grew up in Jewett, New York a small town in the Catskills sandwiched between two small ski mountains—Hunter Mountain and Windham Mountain. As a child it was a great place to grow up. We lived on a 21-acre ranch, played in the woods, built tree forts,mountain biked and explored the trails on quads. Shortly after graduate school I moved to Saugerties, NY (just outside of Woodstock) with my wife Alison. After a visit to see my sister in Tahoe we were sold on the west coast. Alison and I wanted something more than the typical New York lifestyle, so in January of 2009 we left our jobs, loaded up the Jeep, and drove across the country seeking a new life in Tahoe. I guess that’s modern day Donner-ish? A few years later we
bought our first home in Truckee and haven’t looked back.
When did you begin running and/or long-distance running, if that applies? Why?
I first heard of ultras while living in Squaw in 2009. On a 4th weekend in June I witnessed a few hundred athletes in the village and quickly learned they were running 100.02 miles from Squaw to Auburn. At the time, I thought that was suicidal and impossible. However, I was amazed that humans could do this and this is where the ultra seed was planted.
A few years later I was at home stressed and depressed. It was a warm winter and the only trails open for skiing were crowded man made groomers, which I do not enjoy. So, I decided to go for a run. I ran 2 miles and was exhausted, nearly puked. I couldn’t understand how people could run like this, but I knew I wanted to figure it out. One week later, I signed up for the Lake Tahoe Marathon and began training. After the marathon I felt good, so shortly after I signed up for my first ultra— The North Face 50 miler. I’ve been “all in” ever since.
Do you race? Does racing motivate you? if not racing, what motivates you?
I like to compete and aim to get faster, but ultimately it’s me against me. I’m motivated by the challenge ultra’s present. You learn so much about yourself in an ultra. Anything can happen on any given day. You need to be prepared as best you can, be able to reassess goals when things don’t go as planned, problem solve, listen to your body, and keep moving forward. It’s life, really.
Do you have any dream races (either hoping to qualify for or get selected for)?
Western States 100. There’s a reason why everyone wants to get in to this race. It’s where it all began and there is so much history on those trails.
Do you have a favorite on-trail food or nutrition strategy? Favorite post-run meal or beverage?
I’m a Tailwind fan. It works, so I’m sticking with it. I also drink coke after the first 20 miles of an ultra. I’m not a soda drinker at all, but for some reason I gravitate toward it on race day and it works. It’s like rocket fuel. Post run, I like a recovery shake with almond milk, bananas, flora udo’s oil, almond butter, coco powder and a little whey protein. After an ultra…. grass fed burger and whiskey.
What was your favorite running experience this past year?
Oh, so many. Pacing the strong and steady Kevin Patja at WS100 was an incredible experience that I will never forget. My second finish at th
e Canyons Endurance Runs 100k was also great— I love that race. During the Canyons 100k 2016, I announced to my family that Alison was pregnant at Foresthill before taking off for the second half of the course. Alison and I had gone through a lot to get to that moment, so it was pretty awesome. At Canyons 100k 2017, I held Abby in my arms in Foresthill at the same spot we told my family one year earlier. Also, Alison’s first half-marathon shortly after Abby was born—that was a great day.
What was the best race advice you’ve ever received?
“Nearly all runners know the voice in their heads that tells them to back off when the going gets tough. Part of training is to help you get better at ignoring this voice and continuing to push even though the voice gets louder and louder as you get more fatigued…. Don’t hope that the race feels easy. Expect it to be hard and know that you’re going to have to repeatedly challenge yourself to ignore this voice in your head that wants you to slow down” –Greg McMillan
Don’t go out too fast. Be patient. The hay is in the barn. This is your day. Get it.
What was your most challenging/ character-building experience this past year?
When Alison was pregnant with Abby, a lot of people offered up that my running days were coming to an end. I hated that. I love running trails and had a difficult time listening to this. Trail running gives me so much and I’m a much better person when I’m running. It motivated me. I can be a runner and a great Dad. Sure, Abby strengthened my sleep deprivation training (Helen Pelster told me “babies are the original endurance sport”—she’s right!) and at times it was not easy leaving the house at 5am and driving from Truckee to Foresthill during sno-mageddon to run 30 milers with little sleep, but it was possible. It made me stronger. Abby gave me a lot to think about on my long runs and I often found myself running harder and thinking of her cute little face when times got tough on the trail (like climbing Devil’s Thumb). At times I questioned myself and the hours spent on the trail and then thought “do I want my daughter to say my Dad had goals of running a 100 miler, but never did” or “my Dad reached his 100 mile goals”. The latter is what I want and I want her to know with a little grit and determination she can reach whatever goal she desires. Someday I hope Abby will run ultras, but no pressure.
What race PR are you most proud of?
Canyons 100k 2017 because I was 30 minutes faster than the previous year and had much more on my plate during training, but got it done.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made during a race?
Thinking hydration and nutrition were not important and didn’t do either. I nearly passed out running a half marathon on a hot day. I like to learn by experience and I learned a lot that day.
What are your upcoming racing/adventure plans?
Overlook Endurance Run 50k in September and then my first 100-mile run—Rio Del Lago in November.
What do you do for a living? Is it hard to fit in time for training?
I am the Program Director of a therapeutic group home for at-risk youth. The youth in our program are placed by the court and are on probation or parole. It’s their last chance to get things right before being sent to a correctional setting. In most cases, they’re good kids, they just made bad choices. We teach them how to be successful and make better choices. I take them out running!
Yes, absolutely it’s hard to fit in time for training, but if you want something you will make it happen. My family is very supportive and that makes it easier.
What led you to join the DPMR?
Did you see the black and gray DPMR hat? UNAFRAID. Sounds good to me. Sign me up!
What has been your favorite DPMR experience so far?
I’d have to say the trail community as a whole. I’ve met so many people and stepped out of my comfort zone. These are my people. Inspired. Motivated. Unafraid.
Favorite local trail?
Goodness. Sugar Bowl to Squaw along the PCT.
What’s your typical weekly mileage these days?
Currently 25-30, but that’s going to change real soon as it’s RDL 100 training time!
What other outdoor or indoor interests do you have?
I’m interested in it all, but right now mostly running. I came out to Tahoe for the skiing, but realized last year when I was on the chairlift wishing I was running—I found a new love.
Any interesting facts about yourself you would like to share?
I have a Master’s degree in Psychology from the State University of New York at New Paltz.
I went to culinary school, so I’m a pretty good cook.
I enjoy outlaw country music (I used to be in the closet about that)
A few others things, but they’re classified and I am not authorized to discuss.
Motto: “Ask yourself if what you are doing today is getting you closer to where you want to be tomorrow” –unknown