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The Olympic Trials have begun and for those of you that are Track and Field enthusiasts you know that trials are taking place at the historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. We sat down with Jeff Mack, a Masters Track and Field athlete and avid HMB user; to talk about his track career and getting invited to compete at the Olympic Trials in the Masters 200m Exhibition race.
Q: Jeff, tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got to the point you are at in your life now?
JM: Being an avid track and field fan, I have continued to run for over twenty-five years. As a standout at Dunedin High School Florida I was a multiple event competitor in track. I competed in the 100, 110 hurdles, 4x100 relay, long jump, triple jump and 200 meters. My coach could almost put me in any event just to add points. By my senior year I was maxed out by doing five events at the meets, mostly placing first in all. This resulted in becoming a state finalist in three events: 100, long jump and the 4x100 relay. I ended up placing 4th in the long jump which left no time to prepare for the 100 meter race. This race didn’t turn out so well with me finishing in fifth place. So I focused all of my energy on the final event; the 4x100 relay. Dunedin High was favored to win and I was the anchor leg of the event. However between legs 2 and 3 there was a mix up in the hand off causing a dropped baton. Long story short, our team finished last. Behind the scenes in high school, I worked part time to help supplement household finances because my mother was a single mom. Up until my senior year my mother stated that she would work extra so that I could have a successful track season. College offers came in the mail but during all those years of working and running it did not allow me to really focus on a post education. I eventually ended up at ITT Technical Institute, where there were no sports. I received my AAS Degree in Electronics Engineering, but I had missed track so much that I was determined to get back into it after college. Later on I found a coach by the name of Elliott Smith. He mentioned that an athlete could compete as “Unattached.” Unattached allows any athlete to compete at the collegiate level without any affiliation, similar to the concept of being a free agent. It was then at that moment which allowed me to enjoy a career in track & field.
JM: While growing up very young in a blended family household of my mother, sister, grandmother and uncle; my Uncle “Doc” was a track athlete in high school. We would go to his meets and watch his sprint races with the team. He and I would always watch available meets on television together especially during the Olympics. I once got up the courage to challenge him to a race; I believe I was around seven years old. “I can beat you in a race.” I said with surging confidence. “Really, then let’s go.” he said. Let’s just say I got my doors blown off and handed to me in front of the whole family! Right then I so astonished on how quick he was that I had to one day be able to do the same amazing feat.
Q: What is your training regimen like and does it change from meet to meet at all?
JM: My training regimen begins on Monday and ends on Friday. During the season I normally run four to five days a week. Mondays are usually the toughest with longer runs on the track. As the week progress the distances become shorter. Towards the end of the week I usually focus on technique, i.e. starts, form and stages of the race. Since I normally run the same events (100 and 200 meters) training techniques rarely changes from meet to meet.
Speed days are interesting; I use a technique called, “Over Speed Training.” This is done with an additional apparatus such as a long bungee cord tied to a fence or just a hill with a nice gradual slope. Sprinting with this allows me to speed up my nervous system by forcing my legs and arms to turnover at a faster pace. Therefore less effort is expelled when trying to reach top speeds as your muscular system has adapted to the higher rate of speed.
Later in the evening when time allows I get in a few lifts in the weight room. Chest, biceps, shoulders and legs are my focal while in season. During off-season I can hit all body parts equally.
Q: Do you have a specific nutrition plan that you follow to help optimize your performance on the track?
JM: Yes, lots of protein, branched chain amino acids and a good supply of healthy foods. I normally take in 4-5 meals a day along with 45grams of additional protein (4 solid meals and1-2 protein shakes). I also include One-a-Day Multi-Vitamins for all essential body needs. I am a firm believer in water only as a beverage. This helps to sustain proper muscle contraction as well as proper hydration. Sodas, fruit punch and any other sugar-laden products are not my cup of tea. High fructose levels in these drinks tend to zap away the body’s hydration levels causing muscle spasms, cramps and fatigue. On rare occasions I may have a Welch’s Grape Juice or a root beer float when the family has an outing. I know that’s cheating but with all the calories that are burned during practice it’s almost as if I never even had it.
Q: I know that you are an avid HMB user, how has HMB contributed to your track and field career thus far?
JM: You know, I must say that when I was in my early thirties workouts were still feeling pretty good. However, older sprinters would always tell me, “Well when you get to be 40 or older you will feel it and see it.” I started taking HMB around age 38, and now that I’m 40; my sprinting times are still at the level of a younger person. I feel really great! During my time on HMB I have experienced only about three minor injuries. All of which healed in a matter of one week or less! Before HMB I would have pulled hamstrings, muscle imbalance problems or sore joints. Injuries would sideline me for about a month or more. This season I was fortunate to have multiple sprint races over the course of six months. All that I can say is that HMB seems to help endure muscularity through age and injuries. My body feels and performs just like when I was in my twenties! The average late thirty-something/forty-something would probably beg to differ on running so much.
Q: Who has inspired you and/or helped you along the way in track and field?
JM: Oh wow, there’s a great deal of people for one, my uncle whom I mentioned earlier. The great Carl Lewis to the awesomeness of Florence Griffith-Joyner and Jackie Joyner-Kersee, these athletes were a big inspiration in my middle school aged times. In high school I was paired with an excellent coach and mentor Randy Lightfoot. Coach Lightfoot had a way of explaining technique, showing films and would put you in your place when needed. I definitely appreciate all of his efforts and the many things he did for the track teammates and me. When I did not have a part time job, I didn’t have any money for school lunch. Coach Lightfoot would see me in the hall and would ask why I wasn’t in the cafeteria eating. I would simply reply that I was broke and had to skip it today. He would then reach in his pocket hand me a couple of bucks and would say, “I can’t have my best athlete out here without any food in his system.” Still to this day I thank him for everything he did for me as a high school student/athlete.
My wife and family continue to support me all the way. It can be tough at home during the season when I take off for meets. I thank my wife for her general overall support. I can’t finish this question without mentioning God. I feel that he has blessed me with an ability to train and perform at an age where most would reminisce about the good old days. I run to show my appreciation to God for all he has given to me, thank you God.
Q: How did you feel when you received the invite to the 2012 Olympic Trials to compete in a Masters 200m Dash Exhibition race?
JM: I actually received a message via Facebook from Bryan a track friend. He sent me a link that had a list of the top 40 aged men in the country for the 200 meters. I thought wow, really!! I told my wife about it and without a blink she asked, “Are you going?” From then on my wife and family have been real supportive about the whole trip.
Q: I know Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon has a reputation as being one of the best-known historic track and field stadiums in the U.S. Have you competed there before? And what emotions do you feel thinking about competing at such a prestigious place?
JM: Being at Eugene was the first thing that popped into my head. I have never had the pleasure to compete at Hayward Field. It has always been a dream to compete in the trails at the historic stadium. Although this is just an exhibition race, to me it is the closest event that has allowed me to pursue a lifelong goal of being considered a top athlete. Just being there and to be treated similar to a pro athlete is just simply amazing!
Q: What are your goals for this race and what have you done in preparation to help you achieve them?
JM: For this race, I just want to smash out all of the competition. All of my track life I have had to always concentrate on multiple events from long jump, 4x100 meter relays and the 100. I’ve never had the chance to run the 200-meter without any pre existing race. This would mean fresh legs and lungs for this event. I do not want to predict any times or places made in advance but I will say that a low time keeps flashing through my mind. Most of this season has required a great deal of training along with traveling on a tight budget. Stretching and training in Florida’s 92-degree heat has been a challenge but no work no glory. My mindset is to stay focused, confident, sharp and strong. I will continue to prepare by getting adequate rest and nutrition so that there is no question on my ability.
Thanks Jeff for speaking with us today and we wish you the best of luck this weekend in your race!
Check back next week to find out how Jeff does in the Masters 200m Dash Exhibition race!