Follow by Email

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Is going big worth the effort? No doubt about it!

In business, sports, and life, what you get out is what you put in.

In most cases, making the most of and going big in work, play, family, athletics, and life in general requires putting a lot into it.  This summer's six-week Macy Family journey to Europe has been a very challenging--and even more rewarding--reminder of just that.  Amy and I left our home in Evergreen, Colorado on June 10th with our kids, Wyatt, 3, and Lila, 1. Going big requires putting in the effort. For us, that means a crazy scramble that allows us to see the world with our kids this summer.  The photos to the left tell some of the story about why working hard--in this case, fighting the common story, "traveling with little kids is too much work"--really is worth it.

The final weeks before our trip were incredibly stressful for Amy and I as we planned details for the trip, wrapped up loose ends, worked hard on Amy's transition to full-time private college counseling, trained for my races, and tried to make sure our kids had something to eat.

When we got to Spain, the first five nights leading up to my initial race involved "family fun" from midnight until 3:00 a.m. as the kids grappled with jet lag.  Our "fun day in London" ended up being a true adventure race involving transporting all of our stuff and both kids through the Metro system and a series of buses, including multiple stairway relay races in which Amy stood at the top with the kids and I completed intervals of sprinting up and down stairs to ferry each bags, hoping nothing was stolen at the bottom.  We've also struggled at times on the journey with making time for remote work and personal time a midst caring for young children in a structure-less and new environment.  I've spent long afternoons driving aimlessly with the kids asleep in their car seats because they won't nap in yet another new room and Amy needs some work time, and (more than once) I have ended up going the wrong way on a busy, one-way city street or nearly trapped in a narrow passageway that--as it turns out--wasn't actually made for vehicles.

Has it all been worth the time, stress, and general investment of energy?

Without a doubt.

Amy has been able to use a change of setting to reflect on her transition from part-time private college counselor and full-time Director of College and Transition Counseling at Denver Academy to full-time private college counselor. She has successfully worked through the summer using wifi and her laptop, but the shift in place and perspective here in Europe has allowed her to think intentionally about how to do her new work best and to mentally shift away from Denver Academy, a great community that was tough to leave. Like me, she has also enjoyed sharing new adventures around every corner--some profound like a random, 2000-year-old Roman amphitheater in a small Italian town we explored and some simple like yet another waterfall in the Alps in a rainstorm--with her kids and partner.

Wyatt has gotten to see and do many things unavailable in the US, and he's still incredibly stoked about every new castle we come upon (even though there seems to be one around every corner). Most importantly, in a world where too many young kids are constantly distracted by the latest electronic gadget or new toy, a full summer entirely bereft of those options has meant nearly endless time outside with sticks and rocks for Wyatt Jacoby. That's the way it should be, and sometimes making things the way they should be requires putting in the work and planning needed to completely remove yourself from your own little bubble (I'm glad I got out of mine this summer). 

Everyone learns to walk, but I don't know many people who can say they took their first steps high in the Alps in Val d'Isere, France. Lila can, and she's also the only one in the family who speaks as much French as English. 

I competed in three races in Europe, and though I suffered in each challenging mountain run (this newsletter could also be called, "Most good things in life are also really hard") I also enjoyed them immensely.  The Milla Vertical d'Areu in Spain was a steep climb that gained 5280 feet, or one vertical mile, over just 2.6 miles en route to a mountain top finish. I was happy to finish second. Two weeks later, I did another uphill race, the Skyrunning Vertical Kilometre World Championship(same concept, but gaining 1000 meters) in France, finishing seventh.  My ultra run for the trip came at theIce Trail Tarentaise, a 65k ramble over about 15,000 feet of vertical gain and plenty of snow, glaciers, and scree.  I finished sixth, sometimes feeling like (and even pretending to be) Wyatt at play as he runs around the mountains.

The racing has been fun, meaningful, and a chance to experience flow. More significantly, however, by overcoming one negative story--"traveling with little kids is too much work"--this summer, I have been given the chance to reckon with another that constantly stalks me at home: "a father's primary purpose is to make money."  Seeing the various ways people live and find happiness around the world is always grounding for me, and I have also been reminded that the best things I can give my family are my time and my example of how to live a meaningful life.  Don't get me wrong: I'll be happy to be back in nice, capitalistic Evergreen, Colorado (I always am), and making money is one of my goals.  But I will be cognizant of the subconscious pressure to keep up with the Joneses and thankful that my home (rather small by neighborhood standards) is large and plush by world standards.
Checking out of my frenzied homelife bubble has been illuminating, and I know I'll be a better person and professional when I get back.  I also can't wait to get on the road again soon.

I caught up with one of the best in the world at the "life juggle" while we were in Spain to get her thoughts on just that.  Emma Roca is an international endurance racing superstar, firefighter (one of just a few female mountain rescue firefighters in Catalonia), and mother of three.  This video share's Emma's take on how to balance making the most of family, work, and racing. I think she provides some excellent advice here; if anything resonates win you, let us know by leaving a comment.
Along with my co-writer, John Hanc, I'm writing a book called The Ultra Mindset: An Endurance Champion's 8 Core Principles for Success in Business, Sports, and Life.  Da Capo Press is publishing it, and it will come out in the spring.  To research the book--and, more importantly, to improve my own life--I've been doing a lot of reading.

I really liked Seth Godin's The Icarus Deceptionbecause it promotes shooting for the moon, emphasizing the idea that creative, innovative work is actually the new "safety zone."  I like that.  I also liked Carol Dweck's Mindset, which talks about using thegrowth mindset rather than the fixed mindset; this idea has been huge for me and my students at Jeffco Virtual this year.

Whether you do it in your head out on your next run, over coffee with someone you care about, in your journal at a nice spot in the mountains, or right now on your computer (I'd be honored to read your answers), take a few minutes to consider these questions:
What does going big mean to you?
In which three areas could you go big?  Are you doing so already?
Which negative stories, thought patterns, systems, and/or actions are holding you back?  How will you rewrite these stories and alter your actions?
Who will you call on for help?
What step will you take today?

Thanks for reading, and I'd love to hear about the ways you are putting in the work to go big with work, family, racing, and life--and to support you if I can.

Travis

________________________
Travis Macy
Speaker and consultant
Endurance athlete and coach
Author, The Ultra Mindset (Spring 2015, Da Capo Press, co-written with John Hanc)
www.travismacy.com
@travismacy

PS--Here are 
three quick tips on mountain running in Europe.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Ultra Mindset: Time Balance Tips from Emma Roca and Travis Macy



Also at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPN8VDfmDZM

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Cheyenne Mtn Trail Race, Camping, Fuel/Gear Video

Wyatt, Dad, and I headed south last weekend for the Cheyenne Mtn Trail Race 25k in Colorado Springs.  Cheyenne Mtn State Park is a real gem just outside the city, and I knew from a mountain biking race a few years ago that the trails are technical, hilly, and great for running!

Here are the gear and fuel:

Here's the course (it was awesome):
This was the outcome:


Monday, April 7, 2014

Waterfalls, Hills, Slippery Rocks, and Family Fun at the Gorge Waterfalls 50k in Oregon

I've been lucky to race all over the world, but I really have not done much racing around the USA, so traveling to Portland for the Gorge Waterfalls 50k and a family spring break trip was a real delight. The adventure began in earnest with a solo flight with Wyatt, 3, and Lila, 1; Amy had already flown in for work. We arrived at the rental car counter to discover that my driver's license was expired. The rental agent and I looked at each other in horror while both kids continued the full-on breakdown they had now been on for a couple of hours. Moments like these can really make a guy look forward to the simplicity of running an ultra, when all you have to do is run and the only person you have to take care of is yourself--awesome! 

Thankfully, my buddy and former high school coach, Rob Wright, was already in Portland, and he picked us up at the airport. We enjoyed a couple of days at a rental house with Rob, his family, and the Erholtzes, who are also from Evergreen, before getting down to the race.

 I was not able to run down Mario Mendoza, who had a bit more speed on the flats, but I enjoyed the race anyway:



(also at http://www.uphillrunning.com/#!Travis-Macy-Post-Race-Interview-at-Gorge-Waterfalls-50k/c1hra/15DA94E4-CFFF-4766-87F9-B5AA83656092)

 Brandy Erholtz, who lives down the street, got the win in the women's race, so it was a good showing for E-town.  As I mentioned in the interview, I really enjoyed the course and would highly recommend this race.

Vitargo was awesome fuel, as always, and my HOKA ONE ONE Stinson Trails made for quick moves through the wet, technical stuff. The Ultimate Direction Jurek Essential carried all of my essential items, which consisted primarily of Vitargo in baggies and an iPod Mini with plenty of cheesy pop songs by Katy Perry and her contemporaries. Looking forward to a few more races in Colorado before heading to Europe for some others this summer!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Steep Lines and Fun Times at America's Uphill

America's Uphill is a classic here in Colorado.  The race involves ascending Aspen Mountain in the winter with shoes, snowshoes, or skis.  You go right up the ski slopes from 8,000 to over 11,200', and the steep section at the start means it's a lung-burner from start to finish.

I've been meaning to do America's Uphill forever, and I finally got around to it this year.



Here's the story from the Aspen Times.

This race, like any other, was a team effort; many thanks to:

  • Brandy for waking me up when I slept through the alarm.
  • Amy, Mom, and Sandy for hanging with our kids so I can train.
  • Josiah's awesome workouts and guidance.
  • Vitargo for providing a crucial and effective shot of energy halfway through the race.
  • VitargoHOKA, Ultimate Direction, and my other sponsors for your ongoing support.
We're headed to the Portland area next week for the Gorge Waterfalls 50k, which looks like a blast and should be flatter and more rainforesty than Aspen Mountain.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Snowshoeing State Champs, Moab Red Hot, "Keep the Quality"

The Colorado high country has been hit with some excellent "pow-pow" over the past few weeks, and it made for some good old fun at the Colorado Snowshoeing State Championship on February 8th.

Nice work, Adam and Smokey!


The pace and distance look less than impressive here, but a foot of powder at 10,500' always makes for a good challenge.


A week after the snowshoe race, Wyatt, Dad, and I headed west for the Moab Red Hot 55k trail run.  Ultras are growing like crazy, and I was impressed by a solid field.
http://www.strava.com/activities/113877479

For those who are interested in endurance training:

1. Keep the quality.
Doing plenty of long runs and/or rides is definitely important if you want to finish the longer Leadville races, but I believe shorter, quality workouts involving high heart rate and faster pace are just as essential. In 2013, I estimated from the start of the year that averaging 12 minutes/mile in the LT100 Run would allow me to compete for the series win. I just about hit that pace on race day, but it was NOT because I did a lot of training at 12 minutes/mile. In order to become more efficient at that relatively slow pace, I focused on becoming more efficient at faster paces. The majority of my running miles–which, at 40-50 per week were not a ton because I focused on speed and hills–were at 7-9 minutes/mile. I also completed regular workouts of 1-mile and shorter intervals at 5:30/mile and faster. I did not plan to do any of the 100-mile run at significantly elevated heart rate, but I did that often in training. Simply put, working alone or with a training group, partner(s) and/or coach to develop intentional high-end interval workouts on regular basis can really pay off.

{Check out the rest at http://www.leadvilleraceseries.com/2014/02/keep-the-quality/ }

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

It's all good mental training (Part II of II)

(This post continues a story started in the November 25 post).


Sweden, 2005.

I’m eternally grateful that, when looking in the mirror at my bloodshot eyes, blistered lips, and cracked, swollen face that miserable morning in Sweden, I remembered dad and the mental training.  I remembered the fact that my teammates and I had stood together, united on the starting line days ago, and pledged not to quit.  These two elements of my mindset--intentional mental training and an uncompromising commitment--made all the difference in the world at my moment of truth.

I walked out of that bathroom with a smile on my face and a fire in my heart, and we hopped--well, slowly climbed--onto our bikes with skis duct taped to them, and pedaled down the road.

Forty miles of mountain biking brought us to a transition area where we dismantled our bikes for the fourth or fifth time in the race, packed them in bike boxes, and loaded them on a semi truck that would transport them to the finish.  We continued forward on the race’s queen stage, a long and challenging segment involving a mix of trekking, skiing, snowshoeing, winter mountaineering, and via ferrata (big in Europe, it essentially involves rock climbing where metal holds and cables have been drilled into the rock for protection).  We carried gear for all of these disciplines and chose between trekking, snowshoeing, and skiing based on the conditions at any given time.  Darren Clarke, the hard-nosed Aussie who woke me earlier, had never skied, but he actually turned out to be pretty good!

In the middle of that night, during a blizzard, things were getting dire as we skied along.  Everyone was falling asleep--literally, falling asleep while cross country skiing.  It sounds crazy, but falling asleep while biking, trekking, kayaking, or doing something else is not uncommon in adventure racing.  Karen’s feet needed some attention, but we knew that stopping in the blizzard could be life-threatening.  When we stumbled upon a remote cabin, which I think must have been an outpost for the Swedish equivalent of the Forest Service, it was clear that taking shelter was a must.

We used our snowshoes to dig out a snow drift in front of the door and found the Adventure Racing Holy Grail: a dry dwelling with a woodstove, wood, and newspaper.   The fire was blazing within minutes, and I didn’t even wake up when I fell off the little bench I was sleeping on.  

Possibly because it occurred in a warm room instead of a frozen parking lot, this hour of rest proved more rejuvenating than the last, and we headed out into a sunny day ready to take on the world, as it were.  Another day of skiing, trekking, and via ferrata brought us to the finish line late in the afternoon.  We crossed the line in 6th place, proud to have accomplished something that served as a legitimate test of mental fortitude.

Ten minutes later, I fell asleep at the hotel dinner table with unchewed food in my mouth--and, this time, my teammates let me sleep.

Over half of the teams that started—the top teams in the world—did not finish, and we only made it through because of a pre-race commitment not to quit.  Explore Sweden still stands as the toughest single competition I have done.  It’s a good thing I had done some mental training.  Completing the race deepened my resolve and broadened my perspective, making something like completing the Leadman series almost ten years later seem relatively short and simple.

Dad was right.  It really is all good mental training.

It’s all good mental training.

It’s all good mental training, read fluidly, denotes the worldview that challenges are part of life, and that viewing them as positive—and even essential—instruments of “mental training” that build, pebble by pebble, a mountain of inner resilience can and will allow you to complete literally anything to which you deeply commit.  These challenges and mental training, moreover, when experienced through pursuits of choice (mine are things like running 100 miles and adventure racing for a week without really sleeping—yours can be whatever you “like” to do) generate an incredible well of resolve that allows us all to persevere through the truly challenging, mandatory suffering dished out so ruthlessly by life.  And I don’t need to tell you what that is because you’ve already faced it and will do so again.  Be prepared.

It’s all good: mental training, with those two small, but significant dots indicating a pause and so much more, describes the purpose of this text.   The positive outlook, it’s all good, provides a foundation for the intent of the principles I will describe, tried and true from the world of ultra endurance racing at the elite level.  I like to think that, taken as a whole, such principles and the stories that prove their worth exist here as a course in mental training that leads to an ultra mindset for work, family, athletics, and life.  Take what works for you, apply it to your own life, commit to something big, achieve peak performance, and come out on the other side with a winning outlook that allows you to do even more next time.

My advice is to think about training your mental toughness like you would train a muscle.  Or better yet, like you would train a group of systems--arms, legs, heart, lungs, skills--to work together.  To get them ready for a task or event, you would practice in intentional ways and undergo simulations to bring them closer to readiness for the final test.  Mental training happens the same way.  In Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals, research psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D., identifies self control as a foundational element of reaching success, and I think her research is correct.  Reaching a goal, the most fundamental level, essentially requires doing, in a given moment, what you need to do to reach the goal, which is often not what you feel like doing--and that’s where training in self control kicks in.  When I have already run 60 miles and have 40 more to go, do I feel like running 40 more?  I like--no, love--running, but of course I don’t feel like running 40 more miles after running 60!  No one does.  Luckily, though, the latest research on the subject supports the idea that self control really can be grown and trained, just like biceps, pecs, and quads.



What thoughts usually run through your mind when you are suffering?  Would your outlook and performance improve if, when taking on a challenging task, you told yourself, “This is all good mental training”?  What challenges are you required to face in your life?  What challenges do you take on by choice?  Could taking on additional challenges by choice or viewing those you already engage in as mental training make you better prepared for the challenges you are required to face?  Do you want to improve your mental toughness?  How will you begin your mental training before the end of the day today?

__________________________________

If all goes as planned, this story and others will become a book intended to help readers develop a winning mindset for work, family, athletics, and other areas of life.  If you happen to be an interested publisher, please drop me a line at travis.macy@gmail.com.

www.travismacy.com

Monday, November 25, 2013

It's all good mental training (Part I).

"Trav.  Trav, get up.  TRAV!"


The distant, Aussie accent sound vaguely familiar, but when I opened my eyes, read 4:21 a.m. on my watch, saw a cloudy but sun-brightened sky, touched a helmet on my head that had probably been used as a pillow, brushed a coat of snow off my sleeping bag, and felt the cold pavement on which I had been slumbering so deeply, I was in a thick fog of confusion.


I’ve never been in a war, but my guess is that the fog of adventure racing is about as close to the fog of war that you can get without actually being shot at.


Momentary panic due to my unknown time and place shifted to a calm but overwhelming confusion.  Why was it light out at 4:21 a.m.?  How come my head hurt so bad?  Why were my feet throbbing?  How did my mouth get so raw, and why were my lips covered with sores?  Did I really have blisters on my ass?  It sure felt like I did.  Why was I starting to shiver uncontrollably?  Was I really this hungry?  Unbelievable!


“Trav!  Get the hell up!”


Darren’s harsh but matter-of-fact tone snapped me back to reality.


The hustled gear scramble of my teammates, Darren, Paul, and Karen, reminded me that we had been sleeping in a parking lot that served as a remote checkpoint in northern Sweden for the Explore Sweden Adventure Race.  Adventure races involve the core disciplines of running/trekking, mountain biking, fixed ropes (rappel, tyrolean traverse, and more), paddling (kayaks, rafts, canoes, etc.), and navigation with map and compass.  Whereas a triathlon involves set distances for each sport that are consistent from race to race, adventure races throw together disciplines in a helter-skelter format that matches with the land and local culture.  In addition to the core sports above, adventure races also include, from time to time, region-specific events like horseback riding, camel trekking, rock climbing, zip-lining, mountaineering, skiing, and the “princess chair” (a Chinese event in which three teammates carry the fourth in a bamboo chair with long handles that looks like something from a Disney movie).  It’s a team sport, and most races involve coed teams of four racing non-stop for a week or so for an “expedition race” or in stages that involve 8 to 12 hours of racing each day with a bit of rest in a tent overnight for a “stage race.”


Explore Sweden 2005 was my first real expedition race, and I was a green 22-year-old on a team of gritty, experienced athletes who were racing for the podium against the best teams from Sweden, France, New Zealand, Australia, America, Norway, Russia, Poland, and elsewhere.  If I hadn’t been ready to shit my pants at the the starting line, I sure was now as the enormity of what we had done--and still had to do to get to the finish--set in while I began gathering up gear for trekking, winter mountaineering, snowshoeing, skiing, and rock climbing.  All of this would be somehow transported on an my bike for  a 40-mile ride to the start of the mixed winter sports segment.


Stumbling through gear in a hazy stupor, I recalled our journey over the past three days and nearly-sleepless nights.


During the first paddling section, our two-person sea kayak flipped over in a large, fast, ice-lined river.  After a dreadful swim in cold, fast whitewater, we somehow righted it and continued forward.  The long, narrow lake at the end of the river was covered with ice.  Thin ice.  As we forged on, kayaks in tow, to the transition area at the end of the lake, we repeatedly broke through the ice and had to use the ice picks that were part of the mandatory gear to pull ourselves out of the water.  Thankfully, we wore personal flotation devices and wetsuits, but it was still cold.  Very cold, especially under the ice.  After a mile or so of that break through / climb out / pull the boats further dance, we reached a transition area.  There we stripped naked in the snowy air, put on cycling clothes, built up our bikes from the pieces that were packed into boxes for transportation to the remote location, and rode out into the swamp where, hours later, we would have to urinate on our frozen bikes to make the chains spin again.  


That was the first half of the first day.


We later navigated on foot through an endless orienteering section in a swamp with thin ice (fragile enough to break through, solid enough to cut the shins) just above cold, knee-deep water.  


Nights involved extended daylight at the high latitude, an hour or so of sleep on the side of the trail before we woke up shivering, and plenty of hallucinating (I’ll never forget the entire Team Montrail jumping out of the woods to chase us down in one of those visions).


One portage--that’s when you still have kayaks but there’s no water, so they must be carried or rolled on carts--spanned almost 20 miles of pavement.


The race had been brutally cold, with plenty of snow and rain, and some of the top teams like Team Nike, hands-down the best team in the world, had dropped due to illness, injury, and the simple fact that a lot of this was not very fun.  


I was exhausted, sleep-deprived, and completely wrecked from head to toe when I stumbled into a bathroom, looked in a mirror, and received a horrifying shock.


My eyes were bloodshot, my face was puffy and red, and blisters lined my lips.  My matted hair resembled something from a woolly mammoth sample at the museum, and I looked like a druggie after a binge.  Many zombies from the movies from the movies are much more attractive than I was at that moment.  I felt worse than I looked, and I was pretty sure that I wasn’t material for a few more days of racing through the frozen north.


Looking at myself in the mirror, contemplating a peaceful end to the race, then and there, that would have me in a warm hotel room in an hour, I realized this really was the moment of truth.  Would I listen to my body, brain, and feelings, which all sent a resounding message that quitting the race was clearly the path to take, or would I pursue the dream of finishing my first expedition adventure race and, eventually, becoming one of the best in the world at the sport?




Evergreen, 1989.


“It’s LeMond!  It’s Henault!  It’s LeMond!  It’s Henault!  LeMond makes his move, he pulls away, it’s LeMond!  LeMond takes it on the line!”


To my five-year-old ears, rattling on along a washboard road amongst the lodgepole pine in the mountain town of Evergreen, Colorado, Dad sounded just like the infamous Tour de France commentator, Phil Liggett.  If you think Liggett is enthusiastic and inspirational in calling a cycling race—and for those who haven’t heard him, he really is second in passion to only those crazy Spanish soccer callers—you should have heard Dad cheering me on.  


I was LeMond. Greg, that is, winner of the 1986, 1989, and 1990 Tours de France, and, thankfully, a clean and legitimate professional rider.  I had just edged out Bernard Hinault, in reality LeMond’s teammate and primary competitor.  He was the guy we rooted against when watching Le Tour on one of our four TV channels, and he was played out on the dirt road by Dad.


Earlier in the ride, during the part that was supposedly fun but mostly just filled with the physical pain that was already grooming my body and mind, Dad rode just behind me as I struggled up a steep hill.  We biked through our neighborhood, which consisted of houses speckled in the woods along a network of dirt roads built according to topography.  Not a block grid or paved road in sight.  TV came in for all of the houses through a lone, four-foot antenna atop the mountain behind the neighborhood.  Limited phone lines meant multiple houses shared a “party line.”  I figured everyone lived in a place like this, that kids all around the world were also out “hammering the hills.”


We passed the point where Jefferson County stops maintaining a road.  Evergreen actually isn’t even an official town, just “unincorporated Jeffco,” as they say in the fire warnings.  E-town has changed over the last 25 years, but, thankfully, we still don’t have a mayor.  


The road kicked up and got even rockier.  I grunted.  Well, probably squeaked—I was five.  A burro inside the barb wire corral on the hillside brayed.  My rear tire spun in the loose stuff, but I gained traction and continued.  Just as I was about to put a foot down, Dad tucked in next to me and just behind, his calm voice presenting what would become the central curriculum of my upbringing.  “You can do it, Bud.  Keep hammering, Bud. Don’t stop on the climb, Bud.  Hammer the hills, Bud.  Commit to it, Bud.  It’s all good mental training, Bud.”  I made it to the top of a hill that had looked impossible.  Dad believed in me, and that made me believe in myself.


My mental training had begun.


A few weeks later, my next big lesson took place in America’s highest incorporated town (yes, they have a mayor, and in 1988 he was probably the kind of guy who wore a cowboy hat and carried a gun), Leadville, Colorado.  Dad, who had never run more than a marathon, signed up for, committed to, and finished the Leadville Trail 100 Run.  I was there, and I watched it unfold.  


I’ll never forget crossing the finish line with Dad for the first time in Leadville.  His broken body, like those of other Leadville finishers then and now, somehow continued to surge forward, even though it clearly should not be moving anymore.  In the background, the Rockie Mountains, including the race’s high point on Hope Pass at 12,600 feet loomed.  His gaze, coming up 6th Street dangerously close to the 10:00 a.m. cutoff after 30 hours of racing, was fixed on the finish banner.  His eyes were bloodshot and sleep-deprived, yet somehow full of life and energy.  Exhausted beyond comprehension, he could hardly speak but managed a sincere smile for his children when we ran out to hold his hand while he shuffled the final 20 meters of red carpet to the finish.  The course crushed him, and he finished, literally, dead last.  His hamstrings were shredded and his feet were broken.


This was all good mental training, and Dad went on to finish Leadville four more times, earning the big, prestigious, shiny, sub-24 hour belt buckle.  You can put it on your belt, but you can’t actually wear it around because it’s so big that it pokes into your stomach if you sit down.  He won the Iditashoe, a 100-mile snowshoeing race in Alaska on the Iditarod trail, three times.  He’s one of a few people to have finsihed eight Eco-Challenges, which were epic, expedition length adventure races in the most challenging terrain the globe has to offer.  (If you’re thinking, “I think I saw that on the Discovery Channel,” you’re right).


That focus on mental training and exposure to seeing people complete lengthy and challenging athletic undertakings as a matter of fact were key elements of my upbringing.  I remember, for example, when I was 11, seeing Marshall Ulrich’s toenail-less toes when he was sitting by the pool in Death Valley at the Badwater Ultramarathon.  Surgically removing his toenails, Dad explained, allowed Marshall to be more effective in running races of 100 miles or more because he didn’t have to deal with the hassle of toenails constantly getting smashed and falling off.  That seemed normal enough to me.  Dad went on to explain that Marshall didn’t possess any special genetics or talent, but that he was the best in the world at running far in the heat because he was so mentally tough.  I was just a kid, but I was, thankfully, wise enough to realize that I should probably pay attention to the grit and habits of people like Marshall.


A decade later, a mediocre college running career at CU-Boulder showed that I, like Dad and Marshall, didn’t have anything special when it comes to innate talent.  I still don’t, and, genetically, I’m pretty much a regular, skinny 30-year-old.  I spend most of my time working and changing diapers, and when the rubber hits the road, the only things that really keep me going as an elite athlete are mental toughness and reliance on the simple principles I’d like to share in this book.


When I graduated from CU, my mental training had been such that I was ready to do something hard.  The captains of Team Sole, a professional adventure racing team, must have seen that, and they decided to take me to Explore Sweden, even though I was young and had almost no experience.

Paul Romero and Karen Lundgren, those team captains, are two of the toughest, no-holds-barred people I know.  They have battled through the harshest, most wide-ranging conditions imaginable, completing the Seven Summits and dozens of expedition adventure races.  Their team motto was “Go fast, take chances,” and they must have seen something in my mindset when they took a chance on me because I certainly didn’t have the racing resume at 22 years old to show I could race for five days against the best teams in the world.

__________________

(This story continued in post for 12/11/13).

If all goes as planned, this story and others will become a book intended to help readers develop a winning mindset for work, family, athletics, and other areas of life.  If you happen to be an interested publisher, please drop me a line at travis.macy@gmail.com.

www.travismacy.com

Monday, October 7, 2013

If You Fund it, They Will Come: Flat and Fast at the Epic Mountain Challenge



A big prize purse attracted an  epic field at the first edition of the Epic Mountain Challenge in Pogosa Springs, Colorado, and domestic and international pros were treated to fast, relatively flat racing.  Coming off the Leadman series, the leg turnover and cycling power on the flats were a challenge for me, and I finished just out of the money behind a number of top XTERRA, mountain biking, and duathlon specialists.



Josiah Middaugh remained strong as ever, besting young phenom Howard Grotts and Brian "Smithy" Smith.  From what I can tell, everyone who lives in Gunnison has a nickname, and the always-hammering Mr. Smith is no exception.  Team competition was also incredible, with very talented runners and mountain bikers putting on a show.



Over two days, we completed a half marathon run, 19-mile cross country mountain bike, 10k road running criterium of seven flat laps, and a short, 3k uphill mountain bike time trial.  The half marathon and xc mtb involved some fun, twisty trails and short climbs combined with fast flats.



The organizers from GECKO did an excellent job with the event, and I look forward to seeing it grow!

Thanks, as always, to my sponsors.  Vitargo S2 was huge in allowing me to race hard for four events in two days, and the Hoka One One Bondi B shoes kept my legs feeling, well, as fresh as they could, given all of the fast miles.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Why Would Anyone Want to Go Running?

Running, I was reminded by the enthusiastic students of Evergreen Country Day School, is all about fun, camaraderie, pushing yourself, and, generally, making the most of life.  I thoroughly enjoyed a few hours at ECDS for the annual Run 4 Education event last week.



In theory, I was there as the "celebrity runner," who's goal was to boost the students' spirits.  In reality, however, they were the ones boosting me, reminding me of the fact that training and racing really are manifestations of play and self-expression.  Thanks for having me, ECDS!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Team USA, Anyone?

Kiwi Nathan Fa'avae recently wrote a great letter about the possibility of racing in a country vs. country format at the Adventure Racing World Championship. A few of my thoughts are below.
_______________________________________________________________________________
When Nathan talks, we should all listed.  Nathan is not only one of the best adventure racers ever, but he is a good person, and honest guy, and someone who speaks from the heart.  I’ve been lucky to race around the world against Nathan, and he has often helped me and my team (most notably helping us with a crucial kayak repair literally moments before the start of a race last year in China), and we have enjoyed many laughs together.


Philosophically, I absolutely love the idea of competing with the stars and stripes on my back in a race to bring a World Championship home to my country.  Nathan is right--winning a race for the country would truly mean so much more.  I have moved away from a primary focus on adventure racing over the past few years (my domestic racing has been running and mountain biking, and I have continued to compete in international adventure races where prize money and world class competition exist), but if a legitimate system and solid funding existed to enable the best adventure racers in America to come together on a National Team to represent the country at the Adventure Racing World Championship, I would be strongly encouraged to funnel training and racing efforts in this direction.  I have often dreamed of competing for Team USA, and doing so in an Adventure Racing World Championship against Team France, Team New Zealand, Team Australia, Team Brazil, Team China, Team Sweden, and the others would be something worth putting all other racing on hold for.  When push comes to shove, I think I, like many other athletes, would be just a bit more motivated in training and in racing if I knew I was competing with my country behind me.


So, how does this happen?  It’s definitely easier said than done.


Here are a few thoughts.


  • Selecting a Team USA (or Teams USA; each country could possibly send two or three teams to represent it) would be interesting.  The best four athletes do not necessarily make the best team, and a team that has a chance of winning a world championship must have raced together, many times, in order to be ready to win.  Where running, biking, and other sports can select athletes based on individual results, this is not necessarily true in adventure racing.
  • Funding is the biggest barrier.  In order to race as Team USA on the international stage, funding from “USA” (whatever that means, and I don’t think Uncle Sam is going to sponsor the team) must exist.  Ideally, that would include travel, entry, and athlete support (even a monthly stipend to allow athletes to really train and advance in the sport) on a year-round basis.  Is real funding for “Team USA” even a remote reality?  I don’t know.  Would companies put significant money into a team called “Team USA”?  Maybe; I think bike manufacturers, for example, pay to have their bikes ridden by Team USA, though I don’t know the details of such arrangements.  Could there be a “Team USA Sponsored by Tecnu” or “Team USA Sponsored by Tecnu, Hoka, Giant, and Walmart”?  Sounds funny, but it all costs a lot of money, and companies might require such naming rights to buy in.

  • The impact on current multi-national teams is also a significant concern.  Team Thule is composed of athletes from different countries who have dedicated their lives to being the best in the world and advancing the sport.  They are incredible athletes and great people, and breaking up teams like this would be a bummer.  Team Tehcnu has also raced with multi-national rosters.  Though I can’t speak for them, I think this may happen in some cases simply because enough top American racers were not available for a given race or season of racing.  Some of my most fulfilling racing experiencing have been in competing with Kiwis, Canadians, Aussies, Swedes, Frenchmen, and others.  At the international races, one really does get a sense of being part of a big family, and racing with people from other countries really is fulfilling.  Some of the best adventure racers in the world do not easily fall into a certain nationality because they live in one country but were born elsewhere.  If your close friends, the people who you know will get you through thick and thin, the people you want to race with in what should be the biggest race of the year, happen to be from another country, shouldn’t you be able to compete alongside them?  I think that’s a legitimate question, particularly in the minds of currently-existing multi-national teams. Also, I'm sure Team Tecnu chooses non-American athletes like Bob Miller because they are such strong athletes. Bob is an example of the type of great teammate and experienced racer who could hop in and race with any team around, and it would be a bummer if he was left out of a World Champs because Canada could not fund a team.

  • The availability of enough top American racers in fielding one or more teams to beat the Kiwis, Aussies, French, and Swedish is a concern.  I hate to say it, but there are more world class adventure racers in the tiny town of Nelson, New Zealand and its immediately surrounding countryside than there currently are in all of America.  I’m not exaggerating, and if you’ve raced at a top international event, you know it’s true.  Fielding one or more top national teams to represent the USA would require organizational development of upcoming athletes, mentorship by older athletes (as Nathan mentions, that’s in their blood in NZ), and, most significantly, the funding to allow people to devote time to these endeavors.  Getting there is not impossible, but it’s not simple.  Many of the best adventure racers are athletes who can also choose to compete and make a bit of money in other sports, like ultra running, mountain biking, and/or triathlon.  I hate to keep coming back to money, but funneling such athletes towards adventure racing will require funding from either Team USA, corporate sponsor(s), or both.  All of those world class adventure racers in Nelson can be friends, train together, and synergistically advance the sport for their country, even if they race against each other at some of the events.  The US does the same thing with the Olympic Development Center and other such programs for various sports, and growing a program to beat the Kiwis might require such a specified program, especially since adventure racers in the US are spread over such a vast area as compared to New Zealand.
  • Other not-quite-mainstream sporting organizations have created or attempted to create a Team USA, and adventure racing might look to them for positive and negative examples.  The US Mountain Running Team, for example, sends a squad to the World Championship each year, and the US has done very well there.  I think the team is able to provide funding to get athletes there.  As mentioned, adventure racing is much more expensive, and a single race with solo athletes would not be a good way to select the best team(s) of four.  For a variety of reasons, it’s not that simple in adventure racing.
  • On the one hand, racing as Team USA may cut off sponsorship from companies. On the other, a World Champs consisting of country vs. country would make for awesome TV around the world if the networks bought in.  And I think money chases TV coverage, so maybe that’s a route to take.  Anyone out there work for NBC?  Internet video could be another avenue.


So, should the AR World Series race directors shift immediately to a requirement for single-nationality teams?  The choice is not simple.  If a requirement for single-nationality teams is imposed, the directors might consider providing advance notice of one or two years to allow less-prepared countries, like America (and probably most countries beyond New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, and France), to be ready to legitimately race for a World Championship and to maybe even, somehow, devise a funding structure to make national teams a reality.  This could even allow some athletes to apply for multiple-citizenship, if it’s that important to them. I mention the countries above because I think they could possibly be closer to at least fielding one or more strong, single-nation teams (though I could be wrong about that), not necessarily because I think they have the financial support of a national organization in place.


Plus, Team USA would have to start paddling like crazy--immediately--to be able to hack it on the water without any ringers from overseas!


I’m only joking...kind of.


I’m curious about your thoughts and ramifications/potential for a national team for other countries.


Travis Macy
Endurance athlete and coach
www.travismacy.com


Two Americans, a Kiwi who now lives in Sweden, and an Australian legend.  Three "generations," arguably, of adventure racers.  We were a good team, and we had fun.