Travis Macy is an ultra endurance athlete and coach. He’s the author of The Ultra Mindset: An Endurance Champion’s 8 Core Principles for Success in Business, Sports, and Life. I spoke with Travis on my podcast in January about his racing escapades, embracing training, redefining expectations throughout his career and his experience with his dad’s Alzheimers. This week, we brought him back with his dad, Mark “Mace” Macy, a 30-year veteran of ultra endurance competitions, who has continued to thrive since his early-onset Alzheimer’s diagnosis in 2018. Together, they authored the book A Mile at a Time, which tells the story of how Travis and Mace conquered the World’s Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji and how Mace has tapped into his inner strength to deal with his disease.
Mace is a retired attorney and grandfather. He’s a well-known athlete in the endurance sports world, pioneering ultra running in the 1980s and adventure racing in the ‘90s. In 2020 he became the only person to compete in an Eco-Challenge race after having been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
In this episode, we talked about Mace’s story, resilience with Alzheimer’s, having the courage to show up in life and maintaining hope and optimism.
“Well, I’ll tell you, Sonya what I’d like you to know is that I’ve got Alzheimer’s, it’s a horrible disease. But you got to do the best you can. And for anybody who is listening to this, I want him to know that I’m still a happy guy. I’ve got a good life. I’ve got a great family. I’m happy. And I’m going to stay that way and not quit. I’ll never quit.”– Mark “Mace” Macy
- Mark “Mace” Macy’s story
- Resilience after Alzheimer’s diagnosis
- Adventure racing in Fiji
- Having the courage to show up in life
- What is adventure racing?
- Extra precautions competing with Alzheimer’s
- Maintaining hope and optimism
- Being present
- Sharing the Alzheimer’s journey to positively impact others
- What does acceptance look like?
One of the biggest challenges with supplements is that there are so many out there and it’s so difficult to understand and figure out the right ones to take. If you’re looking to level up your health, I highly recommend checking out Previnex and their supplements! Previnex uses the highest quality forms and levels of each and every ingredient, all are manufactured at pharmaceutical grade levels (meaning Previnex does ingredient testing on each and every ingredient, production run testing, and finished product testing). In addition to the quality of their products, I love their mission. Previnex is on a mission to improve health for everyone. For every order or any products, Previnex donates a bottle of their premium children’s multivitamin, Super Vites, to malnourished children throughout the world. To try them out, use the code sonya15 and get 15% off your first order!
- Learn more about A Mile at a Time
- Learn more about The World’s Toughest Race – Eco-Challenge Fiji
- Related podcast: The Ultra Mindset with Endurance Athlete and Coach Travis Macy
- Sign up for my weekly newsletter!
Sonya Looney: Travis and Mark Macy on the podcast. How’s it going?
Travis Macy: Yeah, going good we are we’re pumped to be here with you and connect with your audience.
Sonya: Right before we read before we hit record, I was just saying that I feel like I know you because A Mile at a Time was written so incredibly well. And the stories were, it felt like we were right there with you on those stories.
Travis: That’s what we’re shooting for.
Sonya: Yeah, so I guess my first question is, what was the impetus to write the book?
Travis: Well, writing a book is very hard. It takes forever and ever. It’s a really hard way to make money, so you have to, in my experience at least, you have to have kind of a deeper motivation. And for us, it was just sharing a story, hopefully, that can help people. And some of the audience for this book might be endurance athletes, or people who are interested in ecochallenge or adventure racing or like your audience, people who have experience mountain biking, stage races, that kind of stuff. But even more importantly, I think it’s people who are navigating Alzheimer’s themselves, walking that journey as a family, as a community, and just people going through hard stuff, whether it’s a physical diagnosis, cognitive decline, something else. We thought it was a story that could help people and that’s the primary motivation. And then really a secondary motivation for Dad and I was just kind of to have something to do together, to get to share a project and have time working, do podcasts like this, or talk about it on our own podcast. It’s been great to get to share a professional objective with Dad. Dad basically these days is that he’s a retired attorney and so that means he’s a pro athlete, and the only other thing he has to do is talk with me about book stuff. So it’s fun to have something to do together.
Sonya: Mark, I’d love to hear about your tattoo. I’ve seen a picture of it.
Mark “Mace” Macy: Did you? Where did you see it?
Sonya: Somewhere on the internets.
Mark: Well, I was gonna tell you how many people said something about that. What was that? But I won’t do it.
Travis: Yeah, you got like thousands of likes on the tattoo, I think dad, on Instagram.
Mace: An old guy with a…
Travis: Yeah, but there’s, there’s a couple of them. So on Dad, about a year ago, when he was 68 he got his first tattoo on his forearm and it says it’s all good training, which is just kind of a reminder, when you’re going through something hard keep persevering. And so that was that was pretty fun. And then over the last year, Mom and Dad developed another tattoo. This is the new one we can we’ll send you a picture, Sonya so you can put it up with podcast or something. But they did a great job of designing this cool tattoo that has a whole bunch of race logos from Dad’s favorite events. So the Leadville 100 is on there. The Spartan Race logo, the Iron Man. Let’s see what else? I think the I did a sport. That was one of Dad’s favorite races he used to do in the 90s. snowshoe 100 miles bad, the Badwater logo’s on there, the route 66 logo that’s a new Ultra run put on by our friend, our friends, Marshall and Heather Ulrich. And then also a kind of a gesture to the Alzheimer’s community. It’s got kind of that ribbon. You know, that’s I think the Alzheimer’s Association logo. It’s a sweet tat dad. I mean, you’re like one step away from a motorcycle gang. Sort of stuff here.
Travis: Well, I keep telling my kids don’t get a tattoo till you’re at least 60 years old, because I figured by then you’re set in your ways and anything you get, you’re gonna like for the rest of your life. But before that, hold off is my advice.
Sonya: Yeah, so it’s really clear from the book and just those tattoos, that amazing arm of tattoos, that Mace you’ve done so many incredible things in your life, you’ve taken on the world’s toughest challenge at the highest levels. And one day you received a diagnosis that you had Alzheimer’s and I mean, what was that like to have done all these things in your life and then to have received a diagnosis?
Mace: I didn’t take it very well. I said something to the doctor. I can’t remember exactly what it was, but it had something to do with bullshit. You know, I was kind of caught by surprise, but I got through it.
Sonya: Yeah, I mean, the raw emotions that people experience in all different areas of life and things that come up, when I was reading the book, I was thinking, no matter what you’ve done in your life, there might not ever be a way to be prepared to receive some kind of news like that as a person and family members as well.
Mace: Very difficult.
Travis: And life takes a lot of turns that you don’t see coming in your right side. Yeah, that you, you know, you try to be ready for you train mentally trained physically, you try to fill this…I think of it as kind of a metaphorical well of resilience that you can draw from, right. You’re doing hard things by choice, and you’re building up this resilience. But yeah, a lot of things, there’s no way to be ready for it. I mean, even things that most people go through. Getting married, like, oh, you have an idea what marriage is, it turns out, it’s you know, takes a lot of work, it’s pretty hard. Or having kids, you have young kids, right? You know you want to have kids, you’re fully invested and there’s no way you can actually be ready for it when it happens. So you just you got to figure it out.
Sonya: Yeah, and I think something that was interesting was that some people receive news or something will happen in their life, and they will almost just give up, or they won’t still try to live out their life in the best way that they possibly can, whatever that looks like, and taking almost taking no for an answer. And something that I thought was really interesting was that, Mace, you didn’t do that. you’re not like I’m just going to resign to this, I’m still going to kick butt in my life, I’m going to be the person that I want to be and the person do the things that I did in the past. And that was something that I found hugely inspirational in the book. And a lot of people will talk the talk, but they don’t actually walk the walk. And it sounds like you had a medical team that was actually supportive of you walking the walk in the way that you wanted to.
Travis: Well, in the book dad, we talked about conversations with doctors. Dad, now we’re thinking about within a year after his Alzheimer’s diagnosis, we wanted to do the eco challenge, which was called the World’s Toughest Race on Amazon Prime. Some people may have seen it, you can still go watch it if you want to. But, you know, there obviously, isn’t really a precedent for an older person with Alzheimer’s going and doing a 10 day adventure race in Fiji. And so we, dad was gung ho the whole way. There was no question in dad’s mind that, man, we’re gonna go do this thing. I had a lot of anxiety and uncertainty about is this a good idea? Or what are the risks? Or should we do it? Should we not do it? But Sonya, I think you’re right, that some of the medical team and dad’s main doctor was fairly supportive, and he was straightforward, like, yes, there is a risk, you can get injured, you can get sick, like, especially for someone with cognitive decline. If you if you get a bad illness, especially something like leptospirosis, these nasty things that live out in the jungle and Fiji, it can very significantly impact cognition and possibly permanently. So we knew that there was a risk for that kind of stuff. But we kind of told ourselves, and I think it was the truth for us, there’s a big risk of not going for it right of like you said, you throw in the towel, you just decide, okay, this is it and we had a good chance to do something really important to us, the conditions aren’t perfect, so we’re not going to do it. That’s really risky, right, not going for something in life that’s really important to you. So we decided to go for it. And we also knew that we would approach it as responsibly as we could. We’re out there with the team. We knew that maybe things do get too dangerous, and we’re going to have to pull the plug or not finish this thing. We had to be okay with that possibility. But overall, we decided to take that risk and do it and we also, we found a medical…maybe that’s one other message you get to pick your team in life and if you’re working with people, doctors or medical professionals or whatever, someone that doesn’t jive with you, well, pick a new team. You get to choose and take control over things like that.
Sonya: Yeah, I think I was really surprised initially, whenever I read that the doctor said, yeah, go for it, because there’s been lots of examples that I’ve seen where doctors would be more like telling you not to do something and informing you that it’s a bad idea. And it sounded like this doctor did not have judgment around what you were trying to do. He just was informing of the risks of doing it versus not doing it.
Travis: Yeah, exactly. I talked about in the book, some of my friends and sort of my chosen team, if you will, who encouraged us to go for it with the race. And one of them is a former coaching client, and a good friend and mentor of mine named Tim Weber, who’s an orthopedic surgeon. And he’s not my doctor, he’s not dad’s doctor, but I discussed sort of our decision with him. And he was like, hey man, I work with a lot of older people who receive an injury or a diagnosis, and the ones that continue to stay engaged with what it is that they love, have much better outcomes, and they’re happier, they live longer, they heal faster. And that doesn’t mean they’re engaged in the exact same way that they’ve always been because things do change as we age and we as we have injuries that we as we have illnesses, that’s the truth. But just because we can’t do something exactly like we used to do, it doesn’t mean we can’t do it at all. So dad and I realized, hey, let’s figure out how to go out there and give this thing a try together. And I’m not going to be racing for the podium like I may have done in the past. And that’s totally fine with me. Dad may need a little more support than he has in the past, that’s fine with him. But we’re still going to go out there and have a hell of a lot of fun. And we did.
Sonya: Yeah, it reminds me of something you said, it’s like the very end of the book, you said something like having the courage to show up for life. And that does take a lot of courage. And I wanted to ask about why choosing the eco challenge? Because for those who don’t know it’s an adventure race. Adventure racing is normally are you how long are you allowed to be out there?
Travis: It depends on race to race. These longer races, they’re 7-8-9-10 days long. So usually there’ll be a stated cut off, like this one in Fiji, the cut off was 11 days. And then there’s other cut offs. So, you know, during the course, five different places along the way where you have a time cut. But yeah, it’s a big investment, that’s for sure you’re out there for a long time.
Sonya: Yeah, that’s way harder than doing a single day Leadville, 100, or something like that, because you have to navigate, you have a team. Can you talk more about adventure racing because I think maybe people might not be as familiar?
Travis: Yeah, the sport of adventure racing kind of got going in the 80s and 90s, first with a race called the Raid Gauloise which was a French production. I think they started that and in New Zealand, and then went to various international destinations. And then kind of the heyday at least in the public eye would have been in the late 90s and early 2000s when Mark Burnett started putting on the eco challenge, first in Utah and then let’s see British Columbia, Patagonia, Australia, New Zealand…where else, Borneo, Fiji, so he put on like nine of those early eco challenges and dad and his teammates did eight of those between ‘95 and 2002. And those were some of Dad’s favorite things to do. He got to travel around the world and be around like-minded people and celebrate, suffer, persevere, drink from puddles in the desert with dead camels in a mud, crawl through bat shit… In addition to doing some ultra running and mountain biking, you mentioned the Leadville races, Dad always loved doing those. But the ecos were always his favorite and I kind of grew up…I’m your age. Sonya. We’re both turning 40 this year. I grew up like watching those, watching on TV and of course, hearing my dad’s funny animated stories that were mostly true and also had a whole lot of hyperbole thrown in. But I just kind of, I wanted to do that stuff. And I really got into adventure racing as I finished up college and moved into my adult life in the mid 2000s. Dad and I had never really gotten a chance to race together. And so, lo and behold 2019 the eco challenge came back. Mark Burnett, the producer of it, had had taken a break from eco challenge, he went on to produce Survivor and The Apprentice and Shark Tank and you know, kind of all these other reality shows and finally brought it back. And, lo and behold that and I decided to do it together and in to answer your other question, people may be listening to this and going what in the world is adventure racing in the first place? So it’s a dynamic multi-discipline race where you’re trekking, mountain biking, paddling, navigating fixed ropes, navigating with map and compass the entire way. It’s not a marked course. And then usually they’re team races. So typically co-ed, four person teams, and there’s shorter races that are three or six hours, there’s 12 hour races, 24 hour races. I know Sonya, you do a lot of the mountain bike stage races. We’ve done some awesome adventure racing stage races in China and Abu Dhabi and Mexico. And those are super fun. It’s like a mountain bike stage race, I guess, without the marked course, but similar kind of thing. You’re hammering all day long, but then you finish and you get to camp or stay in a hotel, or something, wherever you are. So those are a lot of fun. And kind of at the maybe the most extreme end of this sport are these expedition races where it’s nonstop racing day and night. Again, sometimes up to 10 plus days, and that’s what the eco challenge is an expedition style.
Sonya: A lot of people listening might think, well, why in the world would you do an eco challenge? Whenever there’s all these other things you could do, why that?
Travis: Yeah, Dad, what do you think? Why would you do this? Or why have you done these? Why have you enjoyed doing these kinds of races over the years dead?
Mace: Well, I know a lot of guys and a bunch of women have a chance to get into places where most people don’t go. I’ve been in places where nobody goes. And it’s cool. And I spent a lot of years with Marshall Aldrich just sitting in, in the jungle, you know, where are we? We got to figure this out. We can’t stay here any longer. We just had a great time all those years doing it. Man it was great.
Travis: Yeah. Yeah, I agree, dad. I mean, it’s dynamic, it’s fun, it’s adventurous. It’s a great way to see the world to have incredible interpersonal and cultural experiences. It’s highly intellectual. There’s so much thinking. There’s all these different sports, the map reading, the strategy, the gear. At times, it’s overwhelming, for sure. You know, it’ll take your body and mind to new places where you thought you couldn’t go. And one thing I love is the team component. I just I’ve always been a team sports athlete, and these situations, man, they bring everyone to the ropes and you’re gonna need help. You’re gonna have chances to be a leader and offer help. It’s pretty cool.
Sonya: Yeah, and I’m sure there was extra things that you had to take into consideration. I’m sure nobody’s ever done that you go challenge or maybe any adventure race with Alzheimer’s. And what an example, you know, in the courage to go out and do something like that. But what were some things that you had to take into consideration?
Travis: Yeah, there was a lot to think about beforehand as far as planning for logistics, planning out gear stuff. And again, it’s a team sport. So dad and I were out there are other teammates. Shane and Danelle are both not only great friends, but very, very experienced athletes who’ve raced all over the world, same with our crew person, Andrew Spears. We rely heavily on him. So, yeah, there’s tons of planning. There was at the highest level, just embracing a mindset of being flexible and accepting uncertainty. So okay, there’s four people out here and we have this fifth unknown teammate of Alzheimer’s. We kind of knew what would happen but truthfully, we didn’t know what would happen. So we had to have faith in ourselves and each other that we could figure things out. Logistically a big thing that we thought about and talked about ahead of time and then also toyed with during the race was was sleep. So people who are familiar with this sport or who’ve watched it on TV, you’ll see the top teams and they’re sleeping maybe two or three hours a night or something. And that’s a big part of the race is that strategy, when are you going to sleep? Where are you going to sleep? How much you’re going to sleep? Te clock never stops, we knew that with Alzheimer’s, again, in this scenario, sleeping two or three hours at night wasn’t going to cut it. We knew that things were going to be a lot harder when it was dark, that we’re going to move a lot slower when it was dark. And that we need to sleep as much as we could. And we weren’t trying to win or anything, we’re just trying to stay ahead of the cut off. So it’s this question of how do you stay ahead of the cut off, sleep as much as you can and also get good sleep? So one way to “sleep in these races” is to lay down under some you know, jungle tree you in a rainstorm in a mud pile and close your eyes and shiver for a couple hours. Another way to sleep is to actually get to a village where you have the most generous people in the world and they bring into your house and you actually lay down and fall asleep for 6,7,8 hours. So that’s what we really tried to do every night. And we did do that pretty much every night. And that kept us going a lot faster during the day, it kept us having fun and navigating well. I talked about in the book, there were a few times of like of some really significant disorientation and stuff, we found that when we’re sleeping that was that was kept at bay. So yeah, that was probably the biggest thing. Then, of course, there’s other things about you know, if someone’s not ready to organize their own gear or whatever, you just you help them out. Everyone gives and accepts support in these races. And that’s part of what makes it beautiful.
Sonya: How did you hold space for that uncertainty and for doubt, because you talked about doubt creeping in multiple times?
Travis: Yeah, I mean, you recognize it like doubt, fear, uncertainty, these things will be there. But the more that you see them, and feel them and accept them, and keep going, the more you get used to it. Isn’t that life? I mean, honestly, the main person who has taught me that over the years and continues to inspire me, it’s my mom and my dad. I mean, I saw Dad trusting himself, trusting his teammates. I saw Mom trusting us to be out there, be safe, make the most of it. The more that you accept that uncertainty, and the fact that you don’t have control, but that’s okay and you can still keep going, the more you kind of get used to doing it. That doesn’t always make it easy. I mean, I still, of course, there’s times of anxiety, sadness, fear, those things are there. I mean, the best athletes in the world, the best entrepreneurs or business people or whatever, they still feel all those things. It’s not just easy for them, but they keep going.
Sonya: Yeah, sounds like that emotional flexibility piece, being able to label the emotion to something and then to keep going in spite of it being optimistic about you know, the next thing. I actually wanted to ask about maintaining hope and optimism, because something that came up in the book a lot that I thought was really cool and inspiring and something that I hope that I can instill in my children that Mace did was he say, keep the faith, but I believe in you, I know things will work out. And that is the definition of hope and optimism. How do you continue cultivating that when things get hard?
Travis: It’s a good question. What do you think, dad? Where’d you where’d you get that saying, keep the faith? I mean, you said that to me a whole bunch growing up you. You still keep saying it, keep the faith it might mean different things to different people. For some people that could be like a religious or spiritual faith. Maybe it’s a faith in yourself and your family or just an optimism in general. Do you remember dad where that came from for you?
Mace: I don’t know. I’m not sure why. I don’t think I’m any different than most people who are optimistic I guess. And I’ve been optimistic all my life and I intend to stay that way. But one thing I was thinking about, right. Everybody wanted to know how could I take on this task to go out there in Fiji and how can you do that? Well, I didn’t consider Fiji to be anything different than lots of other things that I’ve done. And I wasn’t worried about it. And I just forgot this Alzheimer’s thing during the course at the time. I didn’t think about that at all. I don’t think I was more worried about riding through the race with too many people on the board and the airplane crashing there. I wasn’t really concerned about anything. Maybe I have the ability to not worry then I don’t.
Travis: Yeah, so I think that’s another takeaway from the book and other families navigating Alzheimer’s may have come to the same realization, as cognitive decline progresses for a lot of people, it’s very hard to keep track of time, as far as what’s coming in the future, what’s in the past, it’s hard to remember what’s happened, and what do you do yesterday, or tomorrow or next month or whatever. But, what do you have, I mean, here now, here we are, there’s the three of us on this call, and we’re doing this and, you’re in the moment, and that’s something I’ve really tried to just appreciate, and especially when, when Dad and I are spending time together, you know, it’s not worrying about future hypotheticals or whatever. It’s just it’s being together having fun being active, enjoying time with, with the grandkids, or with mom, or out hiking, camping, doing the things that that we do. You know, that’s really what it comes down to in life. What do we have the present? We don’t know, we don’t know what’s happening next.
Sonya: Yeah, it’s hard to do. But it’s so important to do to be present and to have the focus to stay present and a lot of us will catastrophize all the things that could happen, or what if this happens, and then you miss out on what’s right in front of you. And I think that we all aspire to do that, but it can be really hard sometimes.
Travis: Yeah, no, it can. And I know for me, my kids are 10 and 12 now, but when they were young, I really struggled with that being present and appreciating just the hard day to day work of parenting little kids. And I don’t have any regrets or anything, but I think had I, if I had another little kid now, I think I would probably have a bit of a bit more patience, you know?
Sonya: Yeah, that perspective. That’s something else that you talked about Travis, in your last book, and you also talked about, again, in this book, and I’ve heard you talk about it on your podcast is the power of mindset. And you talk about a deficit based mindset versus a strength based mindset. Can you elaborate more on that?
Travis: Yeah, I mean, it’s just to use your word “perspective” but one saying I like that a coaching client reminded me of the other day is the idea that comparison is the thief of joy, and even in ourselves in our family. So for example, let’s say, you’re an aging athlete, well, one story is I used to be this fast, I used to be this strong, I used to this was, this used to be my mile-split or my squat backs or whatever it is, right? And now I’m here, right? It’s probably slower or less weight or whatever and that’s something that I very much experienced, especially with running. I was at a very high level with running and sometimes that comparison is hard, comparing myself to my previous self, I, I’ve realized that I need to try to get away from that. And same thing, you’re navigating this journey of cognitive decline. Well, if all you look at is okay, this is where we were six months ago, or two months ago, two years ago, whatever, that’s comparison and it’s probably going to take away some joy. But if we shift the focus to what are the current strengths, what can we do, how can we learn, how can we grow, how can we love deeper, how can we continue to facilitate quality deep experiences? Man, there’s still a lot there, and it doesn’t matter as muchhow does this compare to what we did a month ago or two months ago, right? That didn’t even matter. Here we are here. Now, let’s make the most of it.
Sonya: It’s almost like if you’re going to not be able to see anything that you do have, and you’re going to completely miss out on your life. Because you’re always gonna be looking in the rearview mirror.
Travis: Yeah, yeah, no, absolutely. And Dad and I are positive and optimistic guys. I think the message of our book generally is a positive one, because that’s what we want to share. But we’re not trying to gloss over the challenge. And in the book, people will see depression and anxiety and panic attacks and you know, smashing snow shovels on trees, and all kinds of shit that is way out of my normal character. But this, this experience, this Alzheimer’s journey has taught me to some degree, how to grieve how to manage grief, and that’s an ongoing thing. And also the importance of asking for help in that area, professional help, family help, help from friends, help from my dad, my mom. It’s forced me to grow in a lot of ways.
Sonya: Yeah, and Mace you said, yeah, you’re angry, of course you’re angry when you got this diagnosis. And in the book, something that I found really inspiring was you said, being angry is a waste of time, being a victim is a waste of time. And I’m sure that it took some time to get there. But that was such a powerful message.
Mace: It was all I could do, you know. What else can I can I help you with? I didn’t understand what what you said there, Sonya. And I missed it. Let me tell you, that happens frequently. I can’t read and write and stuff like I used to do, and I can’t understand what people are telling me it at times. And so I this is one of those times, I wasn’t sure what you’re asking me about. But happy to try again. Yeah, I’ll try again, too.
Travis: It’s okay, dad.
Sonya: And I’ll try again too. And thanks for telling us. And I was saying that, in the book, you said that being angry is a waste of time. And I was just saying that I thought that that was really powerful.
Mace: I hope it’s powerful. But it’s true. I mean, you can’t walk around in the world mad, and hating people and stuff. No, I got dealt a crummy deal, but I got to make the best of it. And I think I’m doing it.
Sonya: Yeah, you’re impacting so many people’s lives by sharing this and sharing your journey.
Mace: Well, I tell you what, I will tell anybody who has Alzheimer’s or wants to know about Alzheimer’s. I’ll do anything with anybody who wants to do that. And shoot, you can call me on the phone if you want. I want people to know that Alzheimers may be a pain in the ass, but it doesn’t need to be that way as much as I think a lot of people make it. I try to keep happy and do what I think is good. And basically have a regular life like I used to have.
Travis: Yep. And you know what, dad, two things that continue to impact me is you keep showing people that it’s never too late to help other people. And I think helping other people helps you and I know that it helps me as well. And also at the very beginning, right after your diagnosis, you made a pretty quick decision that this wasn’t something that you’re going to hide or be ashamed of, or whatever. And I think that’s really important because there still is, for some people, they still feel a stigma of whether it’s within the family or friends or community or whatever, not wanting to share our show that something’s going on. And I mean Dad’s shown that who cares. You’re still a person, we all have our limitations, we all have our strengths and weaknesses and quirks. And within a couple of days of being diagnosed at your back at the Evergreen rec center, chatting up guys in the locker room, hey, I got diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and why didn’t some other guy didn’t he tell you… he had he just been diagnosed with cancer or something. And, here you are, you’re still doing your thing. You’re both persevering, and you gave him a chance to share his own story, that’s really important.
Sonya: So, Travis, you’re talking about mindset again, coming back to that, we’re talking about the emotions, we’re talking about the deficit versus strength. And we’re also talking a bit about acceptance. And that was something that you said acceptance is not a destination, but also acceptance without resignation. So what is acceptance look like for you right now? And I’ll ask the same of Mace after you’ve answered this one.
Travis: Yeah, man, what does the acceptance mean? That’s a simple question where the answer is not so simple. Because you know, as you’re an endurance athletes, and we’re endurance athletes, probably a lot of people are listening to this, part of being an endurance athlete is not accepting what’s given to you or what “should be,” right. You should be stopping the race, or you should be giving up on catching that person or setting that PR, or finishing your damn workout on the trainer or whatever it is, right. It’s important, I think, to not necessarily accept everything that people tell you. On the other hand, we have a concept, it’s called ultra realism. This is from the author, Matt Fitzgerald, who probably listeners have heard of, he’s written a zillion and he’s training and racing, he’s one of my favorite authors, and has become a friend as well. But he talks about this thing called ultra realism. And he says, an ultra realist is someone who accepts reality at a true and hardcore level and then reacts to it, doesn’t deny the truth as it were. So, yeah, it’s this balance and I guess for me, the answer is, what is acceptance mean, it’s continuing to simultaneously go as fast as we can and also as slow as we must. And what does that mean when you’re out trekking on the trail? What does it mean when you’re at your house working through meal, or navigating your way through an airport, and I and with mom and my wife, Amy, and the kids, we went to Mexico over winter break. And like, that took a lot of slowing down and taking things on differently. Dad and I have some book appearances coming up that we’re really excited for. But, it’s also not totally normal, like, we’re going to New York City, and, you know, how do you how do you find your way around that? How do you support each other? How do you make sure that there’s not anxiety and disorientation and all that kind of stuff? Well, you figure it out step by step as fast as we can and as low as we must. So that’s my answer. Dad, what do you think about that, that idea of acceptance? Have you sort of accepted that you have Alzheimer’s? Or what do you think?
Mace: Well, absolutely. I’ve accepted it. I don’t like it. It was, it was a crummy deal. But I accept it. I have to and I have no other choice. So I’m used to it. And very rarely do I think about it anymore. I used to think about it all the time, but I’ve got past that for the most part. It’s okay.
Travis: You’re also still doing your thing. You know, Dad, like for some people, you know, acceptance, they might think, oh, that just means you like sit at home and watch TV or whatever. Like you spend all your day out running and trekking around and playing with your grandkids and you can’t drive and that’s really hard but that doesn’t mean you don’t go places and that you and Mom aren’t creative about getting out and being active and running and hiking and all that stuff.
Mace: So let me give you guys a story of of this. I shouldn’t laugh about this, but here’s something that might
Travis: What were you thinking a story about, like the snow or snowshoe racing or something?
Mace: I’m going to tell you this story right here. This is Alzheimer’s story. Can you guys see our backyard here?
Sonya: I can.
Travis: Yeah, I can see it looks like it’s dumping snow.
Mace: Yeah, this is it’s colder than a champ in the snow. We probably got, I don’t know, several feet of snow today and it’s been there for quite a while. About two weeks ago, what I was doing I was training for shoot, what’s the race?
Travis: Snow shoe race, right. You got a couple you got to correct snowshoe racist playing ones in Leadville.
Mace: So I got I’m training for a snowshoe race. And so I get out my snowshoes and stuff. And I’m in my backyard. You can see there’s good snow up there. And there’s, deep snow now. But few days ago when I was doing the same thing, it was the first day I had all that gear out. And yeah, I was excited and got up and I started running than I ran all over the place out there and ended I got lost in our own backyard because I was so excited to get back to. They were running around trying to find me and I didn’t know what it’s an old or a new Alzheimer’s thing that you get to keep an eye on what you’re where you’re going. You know, and Travis mentioned we’re going to Leadville for the race? Yeah, no, no, we’re going to
Travis: Oh, for the book thing, New York City.
Mace: Yeah, we’re going to New York City. And, man, I gotta tell you, I’m gonna keep my eyes closed or I’m in trouble. I’ve been in New York City and its is a bad place and I don’t want to get lost there. Travis’s kids you’re gonna have to hang on to me or something.
Travis: So we’re gonna have one of them grab on to each your hands and we’ll, we’ll stay together and dad on your behalf. You have a very big backyard. It’s like six acres, and it’s connected. The next backyard is 80 acres. So you know, it’s not some little backyard. But yeah, it looks like you made it back and you’re fine. I bet mom would have discouraged you from going out there if it was like 50 below deadly cold or something.
Mace: You get to make a joke out of stuff too or else things won’t be good.
Sonya: Yeah, it seems like for you, Mace, humor is such a big part of… from what I know of you from the book and just this chat we’ve had now that humor is such a big part of who you are.
Mace: Of course, yep.
Travis: And you know what I mean, Dad has shown me through this process what an important tool humor is, you know, and to do that intentionally and to cultivate fun, and laughter and humor. Because honestly, there are some things in life that are, that are so hard that humor is like the best way to talk about. There’s things that are so hard to process or work through or reflect upon and if you can take it lightly, if you can laugh at yourself or each other, it’s a way to work through stuff. And Dad, I’m really thankful that you’ve that you’ve taught me that.
Mace: Yeah, well, it’s important.
Sonya: So going back to this acceptance piece, it sounds like accepting the thing that happened, and you keep going. Like you accept, yes, this is happening, but this is who I am. I’m just gonna keep going. I’m gonna keep doing the things that I love.
Mace: Sure, sure. Absolutely. I’m not going to quit anything that I do. I’m not going to stop until somebody makes me
Travis: Yeah, it is keeping going. But it’s also I think one thing I’m learning Sonya, as here I am into into my 40s old guy mode. Yeah.
Sonya: How long have you been able to say that? You’ve been waiting.
Travis: That’s right. Yeah, I’m nine days into my 40s. One thing I’ve learned in that time is nuance. I know my innate wiring, and I think this is probably fairly true for many endurance athletes it’s like, you got two choices, either you’re 300% and going all out nonstop completely obsessed or you’re out and you’re doing something else. I’ve learned and again, is it through the Alzheimer’s journey, is it through parenting, is it through getting older, through marriage, is it through life in general, like life is a lot more gray and nuanced than I originally thought. So I think it can be possible to accept something and to understand that things are changing or slowing down, or a disease is progressing, or whatever the case is, but to also stay engaged. I mean, this year, if there was an eco challenge, Dad and I probably wouldn’t be doing it together. But there’s a 10k race in Leadville, remember that Dad, we’re signed up and, man, we’re going we’re towing the line and the grandkids are doing it. And my mom’s doing it. My wife Amy is doing it. We’re gonna have like 20 people in this 10k Road Runner Grayson and Leadville and that’s great. We’re pumped.
Mace: Yeah, that’ll be great. Get the little guys we got little kids, little, little kids. They come. And they walk down roads a little bit, and somebody carries him and it’s great. Yep.
Sonya: Yeah, Travis, I have a couple of things written down from the book, one of them, just to go back to what you’re saying about all or nothing thinking is, meeting all or nothing thinking with curiosity. And that was something that you talked about. And I thought that that was a really great way of explaining how to overcome all or nothing thinking which most of us fall into that trap.
Travis: Yeah. Yeah, Curiosity is a great first step. And you’re right, we all do…I haven’t mastered this thing. Do I still get an idea in my head and ruminate, and it spirals, and pretty soon things are going going south? I mean, that still happens to me, but I have gotten better at noticing that it’s coming,
at knowing what strategies I have to handle it. And like you said, just being curious. If we’re having a feeling or aspiring story or rumination, whatever it is, rather than kind of the this sucks story or the deficit model, if you could just ask why or what’s going on or what are the factors, that’s a great place to start.
Sonya: And something else that comes to mind is, in the theory of well-being, there’s five core elements, and one of them is engagement. And that is taking on just manageable challenges in meeting yourself where you are, so that you can get into either a flow state or just have something meaningful in your life that you’re pushing towards. And it sounds like no matter what, no matter if you have a cognitive disease, or if you’re just somebody embarking on your very first running race, like this engagement piece, and picking a just manageable challenge, and setting an appropriate expectation around that challenge is really important.
Travis: Yeah, yeah. I agree. Sonya what you just said that is exactly why people should hire you for coaching. And I think you’re right, engagement is huge. And that’s true for anyone at any age. It goes all throughout your life. I mean, you had Steven Kotler on your podcast recently, and one of my great takeaways from what he said was never retire. And maybe someone does, maybe they leave the job that they’ve had forever, but like, that doesn’t mean you quit and just kind of hang things up. Dad was dying to retire from being a lawyer. And he did, but he’s got all this other stuff going on. He’s still engaged. He’s still doing stuff. So that’s super important that you can find meaning. And one thing I’m pushing myself towards, I haven’t figured it out yet, but this is kind of going from Kotler’s planning ahead of how can I be engaged when a time comes that the things that have previously engaged me maybe aren’t a good fit, maybe I can’t ski really hard stuff anymore. Maybe I can’t go out and bike for hours and hours, because I get older I get hurt or you know, something. You have little kids and there you go. Yeah. How can you manage these periods of time, be they temporary or, you know, lasting where the engagement has to change? So that’s a lot of flexible thinking. You know, for me, I mean, the outdoors, the sports, the exploration, that continues to be my main area of just kind of personal and spiritual engagement. But I’ve also realized, like I gotta be flexible with that I definitely can’t run as much as I used to, but I’m having a lot more. I again back to Kotler, he talked about fun and dynamic play. That’s kind of been a lot of my focus with my latest backcountry skiing and technical mountain biking, running around with donkeys. We have this crazy sport called pack burro racing, like you never know what’s going to happen. It’s kind of it is a competitive thing. But like you also you have a whole lot of whole little control of the actual outcome. But it is a way to a way to stay engaged. So for me doing that in many different dynamic ways has been a good fit.
Sonya: Now speaking of engagement I looked at and I realized our time is almost up. So we’ve all been really engaged in this conversation. What do you want to leave the audience with? Maybe something about Alzheimer’s if somebody is, just maybe this is the first time they’ve ever even heard about what Alzheimer’s actually is. Or maybe somebody’s living with Alzheimer’s or has a family member, what’s the takeaway you’d like to leave?
Mace: Well, I’ll tell you, Sonya, is what I’d like you to know, is that I’ve got Alzheimer’s, it’s a horrible disease. But you got to do the best you can. And for anybody who is listening to this, I want him to know that I’m still a happy guy. I’ve got a good life. I’ve got a great family. I’m happy. And I’m going to stay that way and not quit. I’ll never quit.
Travis: I can’t say anything better than
Sonya: That’s a beautiful place to leave that.
Travis: I’ll just say life’s a team sport. That’s my closing comment.
Sonya: So where can people find this amazing book? And if they’re if people live in New York City and they want to come find you or anywhere else you’re going on your book tour where can people find you?
Travis: Travis macy.com/books. That’s got a bunch of stuff about the book some excerpts some previews of the audio if you’d like audio book that will also be out on March 14. That’s a good idea. I should I will put up our book dates on that same page. Currently, they’re on Instagram @TravisMacy. But we got to Dan and I are both in Colorado so we have a number of Colorado things in March and April. We’ll be in New York City that week of April 19. We got a Nashville thing April 13 and probably more to come so anyway check Instagram or feel free to reach out just shoot me a message or something. I am not the social media generation. I do my best. Instagram is probably the right spot. But the book itself wherever books are sold as they say I would recommend go to your local indie bookstore and tell them you want A Mile at a Time. Maybe they’ll have it on a shelf and if not, they can probably order it for you and if you like audiobooks, libero.fm is a very cool platform on which, it’s like Audible, but you can select a beneficiary. So you choose like your favorite independent bookstore, and then they get a cut of what you pay for the audiobook. Yeah, which is pretty cool. So that’s kind of how I’m doing my own audiobook purchasing these days.
Sonya: Something else I want to throw in is your podcasts that Travis Macy Show podcast because there’s a number of well, first of all, it’s a fantastic podcast with lots of really interesting guests. But there’s also really great information about Alzheimer’s and I’ve learned a lot from your show about lots of different things, but specifically lately I’ve been listening to the episodes around Alzheimer’s and the ones you’ve been doing with your dad.
Travis: Thanks. Thanks for listening. And of course Sonya has been a guest on there, so check out.
Mace: Thank you very much, Sonya.