Jake Jackson exudes positivity, aims even higher
It’s been a stressful year for ultra runner Jake Jackson. The COVID-19 pandemic took away his racing, for the most part, but loaded up the hours he worked as a driver for UPS.
Even in a challenging year, Jackson’s positivity shines through. He’s grateful to have a job, while many other Americans are out of work. And while his most recent race was initially a disappointment, he has chosen to focus on the positive.
A few days after Desert Solstice, Jackson published a long Facebook post on his race. It began:
“A puzzle that we don’t always get right but keeps us coming back for more.” ~CD
Well Desert Solstice didn’t go exactly how I had envisioned it as going but that’s the beauty of ultra running. The fitness was there. The plan was in place but the execution fell way short of what I was expecting. Disappointed? Yes!
Grateful for the opportunity to once again test my body and mind? Absolutely!!”
His ‘why’ changes
It’s been 10 years since Jackson took up running as a way to lose weight. After their third child was born, Jackson and his wife joined a gym.
“I was never much for weight lifting and took to running on the treadmill fairly quickly,” he recalls. “I actually liked it more than running outside because of the controlled environment and ease of access. Plus the gym had a kids area to keep them busy while my wife was at work.”
As his running progressed, Jackson began to win age group awards. Not only did his speed change, so did his “why.”
“At the start, I was content on just finishing races and was never competitive with anyone other than myself,” he says. “As I got to be a better and faster runner, I began to place in my age group which got me even more motivated to push myself. In 2018, I got in the mindset of wanting to really see if I could make a name for myself running ultras and that's when my why changed from an internal motivation to more of an external one.”
Jackson focused on trying to place at races to gain sponsorships or notoriety. “It didn't satisfy me as much as I'd hoped,” he admits. “I have a much better relationship with running now and stopped putting so much pressure on myself to place well or seek outside recognition.”
Finding healing in a stressful year
Jackson, however, still brings a competitive fire to his events. He kicked off 2020 with a second-place finish in 13:33:01 at the Jackpot Ultra Running Festival, 100-mile road national USATF championships. Then the pandemic forced the cancellation of three races he had planned on running.
Fortunately, he jumped into Aravaipa's Lone Mountain Last Person Standing race. Participants run a mile every 15 minutes until only one person remains. “I ended up taking the win after 37 hours and running 148 miles,” he says. “My longest race to date and one of the most mentally fatiguing races I've ever participated in.”
It’s been a year of stress and fatigue for runners, especially those whose workplaces have been impacted by the pandemic. UPS has been tasked with an increase in deliveries while implementing new safety precautions for all of their employees, vehicles and warehouses.
“After the lockdown and closures of many businesses in April, our work had a hard time keeping up with all of the online shipping orders,” Jackson says. “Since people depend on truck drivers to keep the country moving our hours were extended. We've pretty much have been in peak season all year getting asked to work weekends and maxing out our available driving hours as much as possible to keep up. It's been stressful at times but I'm super grateful to be working at a time when so many are out of jobs.”
Like Jackson, I use CBD products from Prevail Botanicals to boost my recovery and promote sleep.
“I've been using Prevail Botanicals for over a year now and really love it for recovery and my sleep,” he says. “After big races I'll use the massage oil on my legs to help with sore muscles and to relieve the twitchiness that comes at night when trying to sleep. The CBD oil dropper is great for helping with restful nights and the salve works perfect for sore joints. It just works awesome and I feel better not having to rely on pain meds.”
‘A lot to unpack’
Top runners learn more from their disappointments than their successes.
At Desert Solstice, Jackson had three goals:
· First: “Take a stab at Mike Morton’s American record of 172.45. Ambitious maybe but I think on the right day I’m capable.”
· Second: “Better my 24 hour distance of 165.06 that I set in Albi.”
· Third: “Break Roy Pirrung’s U.S. 200K Track 40-44 Age Group record of 18:05:35 set in ’91.”
Jackson met the third goal but still felt that “this year’s Desert Solstice has taken a lot of time to unpack.”
Even though he was in the best shape of his life leading up to the race, things didn't go as planned.
“I had made a poor decision on dealing with the cold that came during the night and I paid the price,” he admits. “Rookie mistakes that I should've been better prepared for but like I told my coach it was better to learn those mistakes now than in a bigger race like 24 Hour Worlds next year. It was a bitter pill to swallow after putting in such a great block of training but I'm trying to see the positives in the experience than dwell on the negatives. At the end of the day, I did walk away with a U.S. age group record and a better understanding of what I need to work on in the future.”
Specifically, Jackson points to doing a better job of heat management.
“The wind had picked up as the sun set and it got cold quickly,” he recalls. “We had a headwind one direction and a tailwind the other every lap so it was constantly changing temperatures. I should've changed into something warmer or at least dry once this happened instead of just toughing it out. In 24-hour races things can progress slowly sometimes and catch up with you if you're not one step ahead. My guess is that my body was using unnecessary energy to keep me warm and pulled resources from what I needed to keep me running, eventually leaving me drained once I reached the 200K record mark.”
What’s in store for 2021
As we turn the calendar — finally — from 2020 to 2021, Jackson is looking forward to competing again. He has the Jackpot 100-mile road race in February and will be representing Team USA at the 24 Hour World Championships in Romania in May.
Whether those races — or really any others – will take place in the first half of 2021 remains to be seen. But what is certain is that when Jackson gets the opportunity to race again, he will be ready.
“This year has been rough,” he says. “I'm a goal-driven person and racing has always been the biggest motivation for me. It's like the cherry on top after all of the hard work you put in during training. When races began to get canceled people either cut way back on their miles or saw it as an opportunity to get even more fit with hopes that racing would come back. I took the later approach and was ready to go at a drop of a hat.”
Jackson will take the entire Desert Solstice experience with him into 2021 and beyond.
“Being able to stand at the starting line at Desert Solstice after four months of solid training, having to get two negative COVID tests the week of, and travel to a different state with your family was a lot of work,” he says. ”But I was so grateful to be there. The result wasn't great but I really enjoyed the process of it all just getting there.”
Name: Jake Jackson
Hometown: Loma Linda, Calif.
Number of years running: About 10.
How many miles a week do you typically run: Typically around 90 with more during build phases.
Point of pride: Getting to represent Team USA last year at 24 Hour Worlds.
Favorite race distance: Anything over 100 miles. I seem to do better the longer the race.
Favorite pre-race or training food/drink: “Eggs are always a staple and I use Spring Energy products during runs.”
Favorite piece of gear: Coros Vertix watch. Love the battery life.
Favorite or inspirational song to run to: Black Veil Brides, “I Am Bulletproof.”
Favorite or inspirational mantra/phrase: “How bad do you want it?”
Where can other runners connect or follow you:
• Instagram: @ultrajakejackson
• Facebook: Jake Jackson
• Strava: https://www.strava.com/athletes/3556415