More commonly known as Dam's these are the woman that live the Tomgirl lifestyle and speak the Tomgirl language. So dam's, meet The Tom's.
I met Jax, 4 years ago through her (then boyfriend) husband, Lance, who is a photographer. Lance and I were collaborating on some shots for his client, Trew, and in comes Jax, schlepping a strobe up Teton pass to ensure Lance, "got the shot." I knew from this moment, as Jax, giggled and zealously carried gear up a mountain that a) I was going to really like this woman and b) she was up to something radical.
So, a few years have passed and I've followed Jax and Lance's story as they move back and forth between Hood River, OR and Jackson, WY. I watched Jax as she: ran every day for a year, to promote overall healthy activity and raise funds for LiveSTRONG; started her own marketing company [Mariash Marketing]; then opened her own roaster/coffee shop [Stoked Roasters] in Hood River. Now she is going for a huge accomplishment of not only completing the Grand Slam Plus as the first female ever but she wants to win it! - (and so far she is).
Needless to say, I've looked up to Jax as a strong female athlete, entrepreneur and a unbelievably positive female role model. Holy sh*t this woman is amazing.
So, what is this lofty endeavor Jax has set out on? The grand slam plus... Is that a baseball thing or...? The Grand Slam Plus is a series of five 250K, multi-day foot races across the roughest terrain in the world. It includes the four 4 Deserts Grand Slam races, plus the Roving Race - all to be completed in the same calendar year. In the 14 years of the 4 Deserts race series, three men have completed the entire Grand Slam Plus - Jax is determined to join those men and be the first woman ever to complete the feat, all to raise awareness for the LymeLight Foundation.
Jax has completed two races so far, finishing 2nd in Sri Lanka and just recently finishing 1st in Sahara, Africa.
The remainder of the races are...
· Gobi March: June 19-25, 2016
· Atacama Crossing: Oct. 2-8, 2016
· Antarctica: Nov. 18-24, 2016
I had the pleasure of catching up the Jax and diving in on a few questions on motivation, training and a couple of the "luxury" items she keeps with her during her races...
What inspired you to set this goal?
The inspiration behind the Grand Slam Plus is two fold for me. First, I have always been the type to desire to do something so big on this planet that it left a stamp on it that was full of inspiration and motivation for individuals to reach for their highest potential and get outside to explore. I figure the more that I can push folks to move their bodies then the healthier and more fit our planet will become. Second, is to push to raise mass awareness and funds for Lyme Disease via the LymeLight Foundation. Lyme disease is the fastest growing infectious disease in the world and has been reported in every state besides Hawaii and found on every continent besides Antarctica. When a few very close friends of mine were diagnosed with the disease I couldn’t help but get more involved. Lyme is extremely hard to diagnose and the side effects are really awful. I was troubled when I learned that most insurances do not cover treatment for Lyme and that families are often left on their own to battle the disease. When I started to see the vast extent of treatment protocols and the suffering that goes into this disease I began to get more involved. This started with riding my bike 100 miles at the Ride For Lyme in the Marin Century Ride. I also am honored to have Stoked roasters sponsor the riders out there. With the 4 Deserts races there is a lot of synergy between the challenges that I am facing in the desert and Lyme patients pushing through their own ultra-marathon of treatment protocols and fighting against relentless symptoms. As I battle the elements of adversity out on the course, I feel that my journey is paralleling theirs and I am helping them to reach their own finish line. I can’t tell you how empowering it is for me to push on my quest with the Grand Slam Plus and I hope to become a beacon of hope, strength and tenacity for them to push on. I hope I can raise enough funds to give out at least one medical grant to a child or young adult suffering from Lyme through the LymeLight Foundation. I hope that this grant will allow him/her to heal so that they can get back outside to adventure and explore. Personally, my very close friend Scott and his family have been very affected by Lyme. I have watched them push through relentless symptoms, which at times has them completely debilitated. It is so hard to see folks you love so much suffering. It is also eye opening when you see the treatment protocols that they all must go through for the rest of their lives in order to stay on their feet. I hope that this epic feat helps to bring the awareness needed to this disease so that folks can heal.
When did you decide you wanted to complete The Grand Slam Plus?
Well Monica, low and behold It seems like in everything in my life, I just get an idea and jump in full force in a can’t stop won’t stop attitude that is probably legit crazy! For the GSP, I was bouncing ideas back and forth with the 4 Deserts race crew on what we could come up with that would be so outright epic that it would move and shake the masses with inspiration and awareness. Low and behold they presented this idea to me of the first lady in the world to complete the GSP. I thought about it for a few days and then low and behold with 5 weeks to go before hopping into Sri Lanka for race #1 I signed up for the gig. This meant 5 weeks to juggle skiing and skimo training with adding running back into the regimen as I usually take the winters off or with very low mileage. I had to hustle like wildfire to make it happen and somehow build the strength and stamina to jump right in. The climate along was super scary because the first race was 80-99% humidity in 84-95% humidity and we live in an arctic tundra it seems in the winter with ice and snow everywhere and temps ranging from -20 to positive 20. Its totally nuts, exciting, scary and a huge rush all at the same time.
What has your training been like for these races?
So for Sri Lanka, training was a bit off the norm. I was really trying to enjoy the ski season still which threw a wrench in the whole gamut. It looked something like running 30ish miles a week, skimo training, and skiing. Skimo training is fun but it just isn’t the same as running so it put me in a bit of a downside. With it being the first race in the series I knew I just needed to finish and I knew I was strong enough no matter the case to be competitive with the added cross training. For Namibia after a recovery period I jumped into a more legit program. It involves around 85 miles a week and has an active recovery day of 3-4 super slow miles, 2 speed days, and 4 longer distance days. Some days runs are split in two and others it is all in one. It just depends on how my body feels. In addition, I also run around town with my pack fully loaded with my equipment to train with the load. Otherwise your body is in serious shock the first few days. Between Namibia and Gobi the there is only 6 weeks which is totally wild. The first week I just ate and didn’t run at all. The 2nd I ran around 60 miles and now in this 3rd week I will bump to 85 miles again. The next two weeks will be the same followed by a taper week as I travel to China. With such a small amount of recovery it is really important to listen to my body though. So if at any time I feel mentally of physically exhausted then I just toss that day of training out the window and rest.
How do you stay motivated?
Some days I really wonder how I stay motivated a lot. Especially with training at this level over and over again for 5 of these races. I would really have to say that when I feel like not training for a motivational purpose, I immediately think about all of the Lyme Patients that I am running in honor of and it fizzles away. Additionally I feel a responsibility to uphold to my mission to inspire the masses to explore and get outside. Part of that is leading that example myself. If I am not our there getting after it, a part of me feels like I am letting my fans down on the drive to explore.
Tell us something weird you bring with you on each race
So as all can expect, luxury items are few out there because you are carrying everything on your back. It is always amazing to see what folks bring out there on the course as their items that they cannot live without. For me, they include the following; Trigger Point Therapy ball, toothbrush and a super mini tube toothpaste that you get in your kit when you fly internationally, super light flip flops, a tin cup if we won’t get water bottles, a wire blender ball for blending my protein ponder, iPod shuffle and headphones, ear plugs, sleeping pad, small tin of nivea lotion, one extra pair of shorts, and a piece of a microfiber towel, and most importantly notes that lance sneaks in my bag to read every day. Man that is a lot of luxury actually. Every time I think of tossing any of that out I end up slipping it back in right before we leave for camp 1. Lance helped me to realize that even if it is extra weight, there are certain items that in the end will really improve your race performance so you might as well bring them. The most important of those is the .5lb sleeping pad. It literally changed my world and my sleep out there which lead to a better performance.
And your favorite running accessory/gear?
As long as it is charged, out there I would say my favorite accessory becomes my iPod shuffle. I wait until the last checkpoint of the day and then I get the gift of jamming to tunes for the last stage. It helps when you are low on energy and famished to just check out and rock out. It was essential in this past race in Namibia to get me through every day. The competition and pressure up top was so intense that it helped me to just stay within myself and in the zone.