New Years is a time for reflection and to set goals for the year to come. If you’re looking for some inspiration to add to your list of running resolutions, let me introduce you to Jack Macy, our first Member Highlight to kick off 2020!
Originally from Nebraska, Jack and his family heard the calling of the mountains and eventually found themselves in the beautiful Sierras. An avid football fan (not the Cornhuskers type of football…), Jack has been around sport for most of his life. A collegiate volleyball player himself, Jack’s love for running can be considered a special bond, watching his influential father run just a few marathons around the country, and each of them experiencing a life changing event that cemented running into Jack’s life.
An athlete of our own Peter Fain and Run on Dirt Coaching, Jack has his eyes on his first ultra-distance trail race in 2020! He seems to believe he is in the minority within our running club when it comes to ultra-marathons, but he is leading the pack when it comes to his training regiment, the mental game and his overall approach to racing. Jack joined our DPMR Family because he was tired of running on his own, so read on and join him on the trails soon, because Jack has a story that will inspire you for plenty of New Year resolutions to come!
Happy New Years to Jack, his family and the rest of our Donner Party Mountain Runners!
Where are you from and where do you live now?
I grew up in the midwest in Nebraska and lived there through college, but I think I always had the itch to explore and see more. So after college I backpacked through Europe and then lived in Vermont, Chicago, San Francisco and now Truckee — in Glenshire with my wife, son (12) and daughter (9). From my time visiting Colorado when I was in college to hiking in Switzerland to living in Vermont, the mountains and trails have always been magical to me, and that’s a big part of what drew us to Truckee.
When did you begin running and/or long-distance running, if that applies? Why?
I played a lot of team sports growing up, including volleyball in college and after college until my shoulder wouldn’t have it anymore. My back wasn’t too keen on it either. So I didn’t start running until I was about 35, trying to find a new activity to stay healthy. I fell in with a great group of runners in San Francisco that pushed me to train more, run faster, try some races as well as simply the enjoyment of running and connecting with a group.
Once our kids were born, I kind of feel out of a regular running routine for a few years. But a couple major life occurrences in the past 4 years motivated me to start again, and in a more focused way. First, my Dad – who was an avid marathoner from his late 40s into his 70s (he ran a marathon in every state 3 times over!) had a massive heart attack. Since he was a fit guy, I assumed it was due to either diet or genetics, or a combo of both. So shortly after that I had a health screening and found out I was close to needing to go on meds to manage cholesterol and fats levels. I had no interest in that, so I significantly change my diet to be more plant-based and started running more regularly again. The combination helped lower my numbers significantly, so I stuck with both!
A year after my Dad’s heart attack, I found out I had a large cancer tumor in my thigh. After having it removed, I started walking and running again as soon as possible. I ran almost every day through the radiation treatment and read a lot about the positive effects of exercise during and after treatment. My radiation oncologist told me that I’d likely never run competitively again as my quads would be “like wood” after treatment was done. It was just the motivation I needed to not only keep running, but recommit myself (I guess I didn’t want to believe him … and I really wanted to prove him wrong!). This was also a perspective-altering event for me, so that prompted us to move to Truckee — more outdoor time, more active, more trails, a bit slower/healthier environment, etc. The trails here are an absolute dream and I’ve upped my running significantly since being here — and love it.
Do you race? Does racing motivate you? If not racing, what motivates you?
I’m in the DPMR minority I think in that I’ve never done an ultra or even a marathon. I think the longest I’ve ever ran is around 22 miles. I’ve always been a shorter distance racer. That said, I’m on the books for my first 50k in June next year — I’ve promised to meet up with my brother in Wyoming to run the Big Horn 50k.
I learned some good personal lessons about racing over the past couple years. My biggest takeaway from this year is that I only want to run races that I’m excited about. I ran one or two too many this year when I realized I wasn’t psyched up for them, and that spilled over into not having a good race and not enjoying it. Other takeaways include a better understanding of what my body needs for hydration and fuel for different distances.
That said, I really enjoyed the Lost & Found 30k (where I learned a hard lesson about cramping and the value of salt tablets) as well as my final race of the year, The Great Trail Race 36k, where I finished 3rd overall and felt really good about the race I ran. It was a wonderful way to end my last race of the year. I usually motivate myself for races by trying to reach specific time goals, and secondarily by trying to win my age group. Finishing on the podium is my audacious goal for any race, but that’s definitely getting harder with age. And when not racing, I think the things I get motivated by most are running a new trail I’ve never explored before and running with friends.
Do you have any dream races (either hoping to qualify for or get selected for)?
Not really yet, but I’m super curious to learn about some of the really unique, interesting races out there in different places. I love the idea of creating a running vacation where I pick out a race I’d love to do and in a spot my family would also enjoy vacationing. There’s an exciting possibility brewing of a trip to Spain this summer, so I’ve already started scoping out some potential trail races in northern Spain and the Pyrenees.
Do you have a favorite on-trail food or nutrition strategy and favorite post-run meal or beverage?
I think that’s a work in progress. I always have some Tailwind in a flask or pack, and I’m liking the isotonic SIS gels that Steve Woo turned me onto recently that don’t require water. I think food intake will become a more intense focus as I get into longer distances. And, it’s hard for me to resist potato chips at an aid station.
What was your favorite running experience this past year?
Probably split between two. There was a wonderful group run I did with a few others up and around Marlette Lake in July — perfect weather, amazing trails, and great companions that day. Then I think finishing on the podium in my last race of 2019 was really special, with my family there at the finish.
Jack with his kids after a race (credit: Jack Macy)
What was your most challenging/ character-building experience this past year?
I think it was probably the transition from going from running in kind of an uninformed way 2-3 times/week on my own to starting to follow a training plan with Peter Fain and running 6 days a week … going from 20ish miles/week to 50. The physical and mental aspects of that were definitely a good challenge, but even harder was figuring out nutrition to get enough calories (I felt like I was eating non-stop!) as well as carving out a balance with quality family time and work.
What are your upcoming racing/adventure plans?
I’ll try the DPMR snowshoe race this winter since I’ve never done anything like that before. And then the Big Horn 50k in June is the only other one in my plans right now. I’m not sure about the rest of my schedule next year, but I hope to pick out 1 or 2 other races I’m really excited about. I also want to try and organize some group adventure runs this coming year. And, I think it’d be a ton of fun to do an overnight fastpacking run this summer.
What do you do for a living? Is it hard to fit in time for training?
I have a digital marketing and design agency that I run with a partner who is based in Austin, TX. I’m able to dictate my work schedule somewhat to better fit in runs, but most of them need to be early morning before the work day begins and to save time during the day/evening for family, kids’ activities, etc.
What led you to join the DPMR?
I think I was tired of running by myself mostly, and wanted to build a better connection to the running community here in Truckee. Also, to find other runners and make new friends with similar interests, goals, etc. to run with and learn from.
What has been your favorite DPMR experience so far?
I’d have to say the Thursday morning group workouts. They are always challenging, but in a good way that forces me to work harder than I might on my own and makes me a stronger runner. Also, I’ve really enjoyed making connections with the regular crew that comes out for those runs as we support and encourage each other.
Favorite local trail?
So far, I’d say the Warren Lake Loop and the loop around Marlette that includes the Flume Trail and part of the TRT. There’s a ton more I want to explore though — more TRT and PCT, Desolation, etc. Very pumped for Frog Lake and Carpenter Valley to be opening up this next year (hopefully).
Do you have a mental training technique, mantra, or similar that you rely on to combat the mentally trying times of a longer run?
I try to have a goal for most medium to longer runs, or hard workout runs, so that really helps to keep me focused and honest. Knowing that I’m working towards an upcoming race goal also helps keep me going. And working with Peter as my coach also serves as motivation knowing I’m accountable to someone other than myself out there (when I feel like slacking off!) and that I have a training plan to stick to. That said, some days you just aren’t feeling it, so I may take more breaks, reset with drink/food, and break the long run down into smaller segments in my mind. I also try to find new routes and trails whenever possible to keep things fresh and be motivated by the new exploration aspect of a run. I’m not one to do the same route over and over, unless I’m working towards a specific goal and it fits the bill.
Do you listen to audio while you run and if so, what have you been enjoying lately?
I’ve never been one to run with audio. I guess one of the big reasons I run is to be outside and soak up nature, so for me audio gets in the way of that. Those early morning runs can be incredibly peaceful – I enjoy that. Also, I still do a lot of runs on my own and so I try to pay attention to what’s going on around me and stay safe (bikes, bears, etc.).
Recovery technique(s) that you swear by?
I don’t think I’m super mindful in this area. I feel like refueling that includes some protein within 30-60 minutes after a run helps me recover faster and generally feel better. Also, once I switched from running 2-3 days a week to more like 6, my recoveries were easier/smoother — that, oddly enough, is what helped make some foot pain I was having over the last couple years go away. Any easy run the day after a hard run seems to be good medicine for me.
Do you have a favorite piece of running gear?
I’ve really liked my Naked Fuel Belt. I haven’t found a hydration pack/vest I liked running in, and switched to the belt this year after a tip from another runner at a race. While I’d say that drinking isn’t quite as smooth as the vest pouches, I definitely prefer carrying what I need around my waist. It holds the same amount of stuff as my vest, and doesn’t move around as much.
I’ve struggled a bit with shoes — many just feel to narrow for my foot. My favorite by far is the Hoka Torrent. Really love that shoe for short to middle distances and racing. But it lacks in under foot protection (lower stack, no rockplate) on rocky trails to be a good everyday training shoe for me. Other Hokas have generally been too narrow for me, same with Salomons. The Altras feel too flat and too roomy up front. The On Cloudventure fits me really well and has great protection for rockier trails, so it’s been my fallback, but not quite as comfortable a ride as I’d like. I bought a wide version of the Hoka Challenger ATR and it fits well, but not quite aggressive enough tread to be my everyday shoe up here. Anyway, just trying to keep the feet happy. I did hear that Hoka recently released a wide version of the Speedgoat, so I may give that a go.
And after a couple early morning bear encounters this past spring, I’ve started running with a bear bell attached to my belt/shorts when running alone around dawn. Good, simple piece of equipment I suppose.
What other outdoor or indoor interests do you have?
Kayaking is another activity I really enjoy, mostly flat water/lakes. It can be both peaceful and a good workout — kinda like running I suppose, but for the upper body. I drop into Prosser mostly, since its nearby and there are no motor boats allowed. So far that’s mostly been a summertime thing, but would love to get some cold weather gear to extend that season. Also, I’m a massive soccer fan. I played for years growing up, and have coached my daughter’s team for the past two years here in Truckee. I avidly follow and watch European matches, and like tracking how the American players are doing over there. A bit of an obsession, but I’ve had this intention for years to put together some type of European trip where I hit several games in a 1-2 week span with a group of friends — never quite gotten around to making it happen though.