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2013 race schedule in the works

This year will be a year of change in many ways for my family and I and, consequently, my training and racing schedule may take a few turns.  The following races are those for which I currently plan to prepare.   Between coaching cross country and track year round and being on the road most weekends in the Spring and Fall at high school meets I am not able to go to every race that entices me, but the following list doesn't appear to conflict with the current meet schedule of Hermiston's Track & Cross Country teams:

2013 Race Calendar

I've done about half of these races before.  I'm hoping to increase my endurance and try my luck at 50 miles & 100K and simultaneously improve my pace over the shorter half marathon and road marathon distances. 

I would highly recommend Hagg Lake, Trail Factor, CCC Trail Runs, White River, Columbia River Power Marathon, and XTERRA to anyone interested on running well organized events, in beautiful places, with great people.

If you have any other recommendations for me, please let me know.   

The love that let us share our name


Kualoa Ranch - site of the XTERRA World Trail Run Championships
I set out to return to Hawaii for the XTERRA World Trail Run Championships in part because of the setting and in part because of my ties to the area.  The views from Kualoa Ranch are second to none.  I was fortunate enough to live just a few miles down the road in the tranquil North Shore community of Laie as I studied anthropology and ran cross country for Brigham Young UniversityHawaii.  

Our Alma Mater nestled in the heart of the Pacific in the peaceful North Shore community of Laie.
The mountains of the Koolauloa Range became a part of my morning ritual followed by a quick dip at Hukilau Beach to clean off the mud.   However, due to the timing, it makes it pretty hard to spend as much time as I’d like on the island with family and friends, enjoying my old stomping grounds, and meeting my professional commitments as a teacher.  Due to the isolated nature of the town in which I currently reside in rural Oregon it takes the better part of a day to drive and fly to Oahu’s North Shore.  To try and pull it off over a weekend makes it pretty tough to acclimate to the heat, humidity, and two hour time change, but when the rewards for such inconveniences are so great, I figure somebody has to do it. 


My brother, Thomas Rivers Puzey of Altra, placed third and forth respectively in the last two runnings of the event.  Last year, I was fifth in my first attempt.  I knew that he would be fitter than ever - in part due to his recent stint of training in Flagstaff and in part because I knew how much it mattered to him.  Despite his ambitions to improve on his mark, he went out of his way to help us find comfortable accommodations and also made arrangements for Ben Bruce of Adidas (the top returner) and his new bride, Stephanie Rothstein, to stay in Laie with us.

Ben Bruce and Max King at 2009 XTERRA Worlds
We were fortunate enough to all room together at the home of Dr. Kim Archibald, Emergency Room Surgeon at Kahuku Hospital, and founder of Tri or Die.org, a non-profit dedicated to helping people realize their potential through healthy eating and exercise.  Not only did Dr. Archibald allow us to stay in his beautiful home overlooking the crashing waves of Laie Point, but he also fed us lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and took us out to eat at a very nice restaurant at Turtle Bay Resort called Lei Lei’s.  His generous hospitality saved us substantial sums of money, but more importantly helped us feel at ease and enabled us to acclimate more quickly to the new environment. 


Dr. Kim’s niece and nephew in-law, Nicole and Stewart Adair, were equally gracious hosts and made our stay in Hawaii more than memorable.  Stewart is an accomplished triathlete who runs cross country for BYU-Hawaii and participated in his first XTERRA World Trail Running Championships.  It was nice staying in a place where everyone was on the same page and working toward the same goal of getting up early, running, eating well, and resting.  Although we were only there for a weekend, it certainly made me jealous of those fortunate souls who get to live in training camps with other like-minded people and do nothing but train, eat, and sleep.

Jacob Puzey, Thomas Rivers Puzey, Stewart Adair
Besides the four guys I’ve already mentioned (Ben, Rivers, Stewart and myself), there were several other returners and also plenty of other top talent who made the trek to Hawaii in hopes of becoming the newly minted King of the XTERRA Trail World in absence of the aptly named, four time World XTERRA Champion, Max King.

Mario Mendoza of Bend, OR and I after the race.
One of those guys was former Trail Runner of the Year, and Bend, OR resident, Mario Mendoza running for Salomon.  Another was Joseph Gray of Renton, Washington running for Scott.  Other predicted contenders were Will Christian representing the Navy and Brooks, Jeffrey Moreland of Reno, NV and J.  Marshall Thomson of Crested Butte, CO.

Just before the start of the race it began to rain and the wind began to blow.  It appeared as though we might get some typical Oregon winter weather so I felt like I’d at least have an advantage over those who were not from the NorthWest (not a lot of them), but every little bit helps.  However, just as quickly as it started it blew over and in its wake left a heavy humid haze.  The trail was still relatively dry in most places and much of the first few miles were still runnable.

Start of the race.
Ben and Joseph took it out hard and the rest of us filed in behind them up the first few climbs.  I fluctuated between sixth and tenth for most of the first half.  Some of the really rugged drop off descents through the woods shook me up a bit (the low hanging branches kept me from running totally upright through many sections).  However, once the course opened up a bit I was able to find a descent rhythm, see a few runners in the distance, and I was able to gradually real them in. 

Ben Bruce and Joseph Gray broke away early and battled it out to the end.
Joseph Graph, Ben Bruce, Jeffrey Moreland, Thomas Puzey, Jacob Puzey, Mario Mendoza
Thomas and I working together to try and real in the early leaders up the first big climb.
After the first loop through the valley, before looping around, up, and over the adjoining mountain range, I was sitting in eighth and feeling better than I had during the first few climbs.   I looked up and saw Jeffrey Moreland of Reno who I had run with last year.  Ahead of him were Roberto Mandje of BoulderCO, Willie Schefer of KiheiHI, and my brother Thomas Rivers Puzey.  Roberto and Willie were unfamiliar to me – I had neither seen nor heard anything about either of them, but it was obvious they weren’t out to simply take in the sights – they meant to race and so it was on.  I eventually caught Jeffrey as he was struggling with digestive issues and later Roberto.  He and I ran together for a while before I was finally able to drop him on a series of long down hills.

Thomas Rivers Puzey, representing Altra Running, near the half way point.
As we approached mile eight, I could see my brother’s blue Altra singlet in the distance and saw that he was getting challenged by Schefer up the long climb from mile nine to ten. 

Near the half way point.  Climbing again, chasing down those who went out too hard. 
I eventually caught Tommy and we ran together up the hill and through the wooded section that requires a rope on sections of the descent.  We shared a gel and started picking up momentum on the down hill through the single track.  I was feeling great and knew that he could close any gap I put on him (because he is notorious for running smart races and closing well).  We pushed through the single track. I stumbled upon the same rock I tripped on the year before and responded in like manner – and unfortunately we were in a valley so I think everyone heard me cursing the thing (including my brother who instinctively called out to get back up and finish the thing). 

Enjoying the single track.
The last three miles seemed to take forever because you could see down the valley toward the finish and although the single track was mostly runnable  just when you found a rhythm you had to weave between the intermittent 10K participants who were literally out for a walk in the park.  As we approached the finish they were announcing Mario’s name and so I felt pretty good about where I was finishing.  The last time I raced Mario I DNFed with pneumonia and the second time I couldn’t maintain his crazy pace and fell to forth at the USATF 50K Trail Championships in September.      

Just when I started rolling the race ended.
When I finished the first thing I wanted to do was check on my brother.  I figured he must be right behind me and just wanted to get my back in case someone tried to run us down in the final stretch.  He’s kind of a big guy for a runner so his imposing presence would do the trick for most people trying to get by. But, unfortunately, when I looked back it wasn't him that was finishing, but rather Roberto Mandje of Boulder, CO.  I couldn't see Tommy.  He finally came in and high-fived everyone in the final finish chute. 


Although he was noticeably exhausted and disappointed he didn't try to make a big deal out of his performance, but then suddenly as our family began to gather together to congratulate him he fell back, began convulsing, and was out cold.  He was unresponsive.  He didn't know who he was.  His eyes rolled back in his head.  The guy that everyone in our family admires for his strength, bravery, and courage was lifeless on the grass.  We tried to get him up and walk him to the medical tent, but he was totally limp. 

One of the disadvantages of being a scrawny distance runner is that when you need to lift dead weight you aren’t really all that well suited to do it.  It took five of us, including my two younger, and much stronger brothers to get his corpse like frame to the paramedics.  They got him some oxygen and starting checking his vitals.  Still no response.  No one knew what to do.  All of us were at the verge of tears and yet our disbelief that someone so strong could go from such extreme physical aptitude to critical condition - particularly after doing something so short and mundane compared to many of his daily training days. 

At about the point that my brother, Aaron, said he doesn't think he was ready to marry Tommy’s wife and be his daughter, Harper's father (in keeping with the Leverate marriage tradition), the paramedic pricked Tommy’s finger and he opened his eyes.  He gouged him again and this time Tommy verbally responded, started swinging, and color began to flush back into his face. 


We all felt bad for the way things ended up.  We had hoped that we would be able to run people down together.  For a moment I was happy that I had caught him and felt good about holding him off (simply because he beat me last year), but that small feat was minimized by a much more significant battle - a fight for one's life.  That moment both scared and scarred me.  

I've blacked out.  I've run myself into complete exhaustion.  I've bonked so hard I wanted to drink out of puddles and lunge into the Puget Sound just to cool off (despite the snow and freezing rain all around), but this was different.  When someone who has such discipline and dominion over his diet, his training, and his body, it was altogether too foreign to see him, of all people, lose all control and convulse helplessly on the ground.  It was even more gut-wrenching to try and control his trembling and yet despite my greatest yearnings and best attempts to see his eyes roll back in his head and see him slip further and further into unconsciousness.   

Top 3 Male and Female for Ages 30-34.  This was the first lei I received since my graduation from BYU Hawaii.
I am happy that we were able to run together on that day and happier still that we were able to walk out of there with nothing more than a few scratches and temporary tattoos to show for it.  While we both would have liked to have brought home a fatter pay check, I think we can all agree that we’d much rather be alive and know that we will have more opportunities in the future to push our bodies to the limit.I was happy I was able to be there with him and my other two brothers, Aaron and Dallin, and I was more grateful we were all able to leave there together.  Our family certainly would not be the same without Tommy.

Photo by Jonathan Lyau (second from left).
Once he recovered I was able to help out some of my fellow Power Bar Team Elite members at the Power Bar tent.  It was nice being able to share some of the efficient fuel and recovery sources that help me in my training and racing.  It was also nice meeting new friends and catching up with former competitors.

We capped it all of with a little family concert and Thanksgiving Feast.  My brother Aaron appropriately sang  a cover of the Avett Brother's hit song, "Murder in the City" about "the love that let us share our name"  and Tommy and Dallin sang a fitting duet of Simon and Garfunkel's "The Boxer."


Personally, I think both renditions were better than these videos, but I didn't get to record them so we are left with the originals.  The lyrics and melody certainly set the mood.

XTERRA World Trail Running Championships Highlight Video

Taking it all in

I was recently asked to explain what a novus runner should focus on while training for an upcoming endurance race.  There really is a lot to think about, a lot of means to distract oneself from the task at hand, and even ways of all but removing oneself from the race.  Personally, I believe in gaining energy from the elements and ones thoughts.  I admit to indulging in podcasts and playslists when I run or bike alone for hours at a time, but heartily confess that the most enjoyable training runs and races are those in which one engages in such casual conversation before, after, and sometimes even during the run that the time and distance seem much less than they actually are, new friendships are forged, and the challenges are overcome through the collective efforts of each individual.  So if I were to have a chance to get re-interviewed, I would say that the best thing a novus runner could do to prepare for an upcoming race is to find others with similar goals and train with them.


As I trained for the recent US 50K Trail Championships in Bend, OR I was greatly benefited by the company of others.  I am fortunate to have a fellow coach and friend with whom I run and coach on a daily basis in Marty Beauchamp.  I am also fortunate to have some highly motivated high school runners who get me up early to run with them before the sun comes up so that they can be at their best when it counts.  I am doubly blessed to have other highly motivated athletes who let me train with them after school and remind me regularly that I am not 16 anymore and can't hang like I used to.I have a strong network of friends, family, competitors, and even a few fans who support my hobby/addiction to running and enable me to pursue my dreams.

My family and I returned to Bend, OR for the Flagline 50K - the USATF 50K Trail National Championships.  We had such a good time last year that my wife, Jen, decided to sign up and attempt her first 50K and first trail run.  We were both excited about the relative proximity of the course (about 5 hours from our home in northeastern Oregon), the level of competition, the runability of the course (this is important for flatlanders) and the fact that Bend is such a active community that we could make a fun family vacation out of it.
We decided to visit Bend over Labor Day weekend to preview the course.  I missed the first turn of the course last year and spent the rest of the race trying to get back into a podium position, so we wanted to be sure we knew the course well enough to recognize if by chance we inadvertently took a detour.  Jen ran two loops of 16 and 20 miles and felt pretty confident going into the race.  I was fortunate to have Bend resident and trail running extraordinaire, Max King, show me the course.  Although he was kind enough to guide me the year before, I foolishly took the early lead and sent he and Ryan Bak on a chase of a phantom runner.  I was determined to carry my own weight this year and run with the pack as long as I could.

When I was done with my runs I had the luxury of jumping in the pool or soaking in the hot tub while Max went back to work or went home to finish building his deck.  Though I haven't known him for too long, and tend to see a lot more of him from behind than I'd prefer, I have truly come to admire Max's humble confidence.  Between flying from race to race (where he is usually on top), being a husband, father, actively participating in his church, Max works part time at the local running store and is an excellent ambassador of the sport in Bend and around the world.  Somewhere between all of this, he manages to amass high volume and intensity in training and still finds time to join me, or the local high school guys, or other aspiring runners on the trails.  Just about every person we pass on the trail either knows him or knows of him and giddily greets him with, "Hi Max! Great job at .....!"  To which he usually responds, genuinely and often times thanks them by name.  Pretty classy if you ask me.

As the date of Flagline grew nearer, Jen began craving all sorts of foods that she normally wouldn't even think of eating: SPAM musubi (think sushi w/ SPAM), bacon and eggs, sashimi (raw Ahi tuna), etc.  She was also feeling sick, but we figured that maybe she just wasn't getting enough salt and/or wasn't recovering from her long runs.  However, after weeks of vomiting and dizziness, we decided to finally test to see if after years and years of trying she might actually be pregnant again.  To our relief and surprise the tests came back positive.  She spoke to her doctor and was still planning to attempt the 50K, but the dizziness and vomiting and fatigue just got worse and she wasn't able to build up as she had hoped.  While we were pleased with the news of a long awaited new addition to our family, I was a bit concerned because we both knew that Jen's chances of representing the family well in this type of race were far greater than mine.  But I figured I should enjoy it since she wasn't going to be able to herself.

We (my mom, my son, and I) made our way down to Bend the night before and met our friends, Dale, Marilyn, and Riley Smith at Jackson's Corner for Dinner.  We were soon joined by a literal whose who of trail running, Max King and his family, Mario Mendoza and his wife, and Derek Schultz and his fiance.  Recent Wasatch 100 winner and San Diego champion, Jeff Browning stopped by for good measure.  We enjoyed great food and brews (Ginger Brew for me) as our kids chased each other through the play area.


My mom bought enough desserts (organic of course) for us to share that I thought that perhaps the other guys might be slowed down and my chances of hanging might increase.  The Smiths generously offered us a place to stay in their beautiful new home at the base of Mt. Bachelor.   Before the race I was able to get reacquainted with some former friends and competitors as well as meeting new ones.  The field appeared to be deeper than the previous year and I knew that if I were to have any chance of placing I would need to to go with  the leaders.  Mario took it our hard with Max quickly in tow.  Run Bak and I ran stride for stride right in their wake.  We were having fun, teasing one another and challenging each other, almost in a game of chicken, but unfortunately, after the first four or five miles of descent into the smoky mountain air, I fell off the pace and allowed Ryan Bak to go by and join his fellow Bendites, Max and Mario.  I'll blame that on Mario for kicking up so much dust, or maybe Max for making us laugh so hard as he chased Mario down the hill while wielding good sized branches...

Start of the Flagline 50K.  Jacob Puzey, Max King, Ryan Bak, Jeremy Tolman, Mario Mendoza
To be honest, these times to be a little kid again - running through the woods, throwing sticks, chasing one another, cracking jokes  - are part of what appeals to me so much about the sport.  The other part is that I don't feel guilty spending so much time away from my family because I know that while I am running, they are busy doing the same thing.  They get to be in the woods too - enjoying the scenery, the smells, the other people, and the sense of adventure.  My son, Cairo, is looking for sticks and having his own little battles, conquering new mountains with the kids of my comrades and competitors.  He and Micah, Max's son, certainly ran the roost at Jackson's Corner playground and will hopefully carry the torch when their dads can't do much more than crew for them, but I'm betting Max and I will still be having stick wars as we await our boys coming into the aid stations.


I ended up running the rest of the race alone - with my thoughts.  We had broken away so much early on that I knew that if I could just hold it together I probably wouldn't get caught.  I knew that Max was fit as ever.  He had just PRed in the 3,000m steeple chase at the Olympic Trials a few months after running 2:14 at the Olympic Marathon Trials.  Mario had just run a fast first 50K a few weeks prior and Ryan was coming back from an injury, but he is also a tried and true 2:14 marathoner so barring a major blowup I wasn't going to be catching any of them any time soon.  This gave me the time I needed to dial in my nutrition.  I wanted to be sure I got at least one salt cap, one PowerBar Energy Gel, and about 8 oz of PowerBar Perform per hour.  I was trying to run with a hydration pack on my back for the first time in a race (we had actually bought it for Jen to use, but figured I might as well give it a shot).  I had the 70 oz bladder filled with PowerBar Perform and just drank water at each of the aid stations for good measure.

I liked the hydration pack and the accessibility to all my nutrition needs and will probably use it more in the future.  I also enjoyed having time to think.

Rather than a podcast or playlist, I allowed the setting to inspire me and remind me of the good things I have read that have kept me going in the past.   The past year has been a challenge for me, personally, professionally, competitively, and politically.  These words, by Rudyard Kipling, have become my mantra.  Some of them even apply to running.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream---and not make dreams your master;
If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings---nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son! 
As I ran between barren, sun parched valleys and darkly wooded hilltops, my eyes delayed in dilating and the shadows added a new element of technicality.  On some descents it wasn't clear whether the dark areas were wet and slippery, rocky, or simply shadows.  In these instances, the following hymn, written by one of my forebears, Parley P. Pratt, kept running through my mind:

The morning breaks; the shadows flee; 

Lo, Zion's standard is unfurled!
The dawning of a brighter day,
Majestic rises on the world.

The clouds of error disappear
Before the rays of truth divine;
The glory bursting from afar,
Wide o'er the nations soon will shine.


Granted, the lyrics had nothing to do with the race at hand, nor did they necessarily inspire me to want to crush my competition, but they served as a means of meditation and remembering.  I was brought back to my roots (literally and figuratively) and I actually had the time to think about those connections and recognize the beauty of the morning breaking as I ran through the woods with friends.  In my minds eye I was able to see, perhaps, what he saw as he wrote these spirited lines and made the comparison between the light of truth and the light of a bright, new day appearing through the darkened clouds of shadows and smoke.

When I'm asked what to think about or focus on when I'm running, as a coach I usually say form, rhythm, technique, pace, or sticking with the pack.  Each of these has their place and the shorter and more competitive the race/run, the greater the emphasis should be on these elements.  However, the longer I go, the more I feel the need to not only allow my legs and my eyes explore new horizons and possibilities, but I also find it necessary and quite fulfilling to allow one's mind to do the same.  Let it meander along the winding rivers and search out distant words and worlds that may be new and foreign, yet intimately safe and familiar. Let it remember former challenges and triumphs and prior lessons and letdowns.  Let it wander and then when you need it, it will be stretched out and ready to focus.

I didn't see anyone (other than the much appreciated, and ever helpful aid station volunteers) for hours, so I had a lot of time to think.  I figured it was best this way because it would be my last race/hard long effort for the fall because all the other weekends would be dedicated to high school/middle school cross country meets.

I was kindly greeted by my friend Michael Lebowitz of Long Run Picture Company as he and his crew were busy shooting around mile 20.  I later ran into Mike Blackmore ( a formidable runner at any distance and someone I had anticipated running with) who was having a rough day and decided to pull out.  Rather than pouting and complaining he cheered me on and let me know where I stood relative to the next guys in the race.

The run ended up being a bit longer than 50K due to the need to move the finish down the road a bit so that helicopters could fight the fire on the other side of the mountain (so if you think about it we got a discount - an extra 2K for the price of only 50).

Top 10 at USATF 50k Trail National Championships
The race was well organized by Dave Thomason.  The race volunteers were knowledgeable, energetic, and very helpful!  The post race meal was amazing - salmon tacos with mounds of guacamole.  The swag provided by SCOTT, the title sponsor for the event, made the event an even better bargain.  My entry fee cost less than then shoes I won:)  And as always, the race photography was very professional.  Thank you Long Run Picture Company!  The post race compression therapy was amazing and made me want to buy one for my wife (so that I can use it myself).

Many thanks to my mom, my son, our long-time family friends, the Smiths, and Max and Dory King for your hospitality and for making the weekend and buildup to it such fun.  Thank you, Michael Lebowitz, for capturing it on film.

Cairo and I after a long day for both of us.  Photo by Michael Lebowitz.


First 50M - White River 50 Mile Endurance Run


I decided to sign up for the White River 50 Mile Endurance Run shortly after finishing the Trail Factor 50K and watching the documentary of the 2010 Western States Endurance Run, Unbreakable.  I wanted to see what my body could do and felt that 50 miles was the next step in the right direction.

Then I got sick.  Sicker than I have ever been.  So sick I didn't want to get out of bed for about two weeks.  So sick that I couldn't even finish the USATF Half Marathon Trail Championships when I planned to place in the top three.  So sick that I didn't even start the Rock n' Roll Seattle Marathon which I had planned on winning.

At the doctor's suggestion I took two weeks completely off.  Then I tried to slowly work my way back up.  I figured it wouldn't be worth rushing back into fitness so I anticipated pulling out of White River as well.  But after a few weeks of building back up I figured I might as well make good on my investment of the race entry and try my hand at 50 miles.  What did I have to lose?

Trying to find lodging before the race proved to be the greatest challenge.  I couldn't find a hotel or lodge online within an hour's drive of the start.  I finally ended up reserving the last campsite I could find.  It was only a few miles from the start.  Then when we went to packet pick-up and drove to the start to get a sense of how long it would take to get there in the morning we saw that many of the participants had decided to just set up camp right there.  We did the same.

Because the start and finish were a ways away from any towns or restaurants we packed our food and water for the weekend.  I ate a hearty lunch of black beans, brown rice, quinoa, barley, eggs, and spinach (gallo pinto is what they call the white rice version of this meal in Costa Rica).  By the time dinner rolled around all I wanted was something fresh so I ate about 3/4 of a seedless Hermiston watermelon and some quinoa salad with fresh, locally grown yellow squash, zucchini, tomatoes, and peppers.  This made me very grateful to live where I live with such great supporters who produce such tasty, nutritious food.  Thank you Bellinger Farms.


We set up camp and retired to our tents early in anticipation of the early wake-up the next morning.  My five year old son really liked the fact that due to the limited supply of water (no running water) we would have to urinate on the fire to put it out.  The joys of being a little boy.

I woke up just before 5:00am, ate two slices of Killer Dave's Bread and a banana and drank a pint of orange juice. Then I crawled back into bed for a few more minutes to let it all settle and to clear my head.  I got up a few minutes later, decided on the shoes and gear to wear for what appeared to be a beautiful, clear day.

I loaded my shorts with the PowerBar Energy Gels that I would need for the first part of the run and filled my Nathan Quick Draw hand held water bottles with PowerBar IronMan Perform sports drink and made my way to the starting line.

Final instructions before the start of the 2012 White River 50 Mile Endurance Run.
Photo by Glenn Tachiyama.
As we awaited the start, I had a few minutes to catch up with some of the guys (Gary Gellin and Sage Canaday) that I had run with before.  I ended up running much of the first half with Gary Gellin and his HR monitor helped both of us start conservatively amid the mayhem of the first few miles.

Start of the 2012 White River 50 Mile Endurance Run.
Photo by Glenn Tachiyama.

The first few miles were relatively flat, but certainly not tame.  Several young guys took off as if they were running a short cross country race.  Most of them returned within the first few miles and all but one, Sage Canaday, fell off the early pace by the half way point. Gary led an early pace line that patiently inched its way up toward the early leaders.

Jacob Puzey, Joshua Brimhall, and Gary Gellin working our way through
the early starters and those who started out too fast.
Photo by Takao Suzuki
For the most part, most of the people we passed were friendly and appreciated Gary's trademark, "Beep! Beep!" as we approached.  However, one guy responded rather uncharacteristically for a trail runner and just went berserk, shouting all sorts of expletives in Gary's ear telling him how rude it was for him to notify those ahead of his eminent arrival and need to pass by sounding "Beep! Beep!"  I was impressed that Gary kept his cool and that the guy, who was easily three times the size of Gary was able to increase his pace so rapidly without having a heart attack in the process.  Gary and I concluded that this guy should be excluded from the list of the people Dakota described in his recent iRunFar post.  At the very least, we figured that we could reenact the scene after the run and send it to Brooks for a spoof on their "Run Happy" ads.

Throughout the first half, Gary and I laughed at Nick Clark's description of his pace, "an awkward choppy tempo dictated by his heart rate monitor," but I for one was glad to have his experience and sound judgement guide me on my first 50 miler.  Eventually we caught everyone but the early favorites, Sage Canaday and Vajin Armstrong. As we approached the Buck Creek Aid Station at mile 27 and the end of the first mountain, Joshua Brimhall of Henderson, Nevada (owner of Red Rock Running Company) made a break.

We passed a few guys as well as we approached the aid station, but this was also where we got separated.  As with most of the other stations Gary sped through and continued on his way, running the entire way up Sun Top.  I was a bit more conservative.  I felt pretty good.  I had been eating a gel, two salt caps, and about a half a bottle of PowerBar Perform every hour.  But I was beginning to approach the unknown.  I had never run more than 50K and it was getting hot.  My foot (an old recurring injury from college) had flared up and the shoes that I started with didn't seem to be the right ones for the next section with a significant downhill.  I felt like I needed a rock plate and a bit more stability so I changed shoes, reloaded my pockets with PowerBar Energy Gels, removed my shirt, changed head bands, and took off down the trail with two Nathan Quick Draw water bottles.

Photo by Takao Suzuki
The second half wasn't physically any harder than the first, but wrapping my head around completing a marathon and then doing another climb and descent of about a marathon in length was a bit challenging.  Despite being exposed to a bit more sun on the next ascent, the climb was actually quite gradual and the wild flower lined trails made it well worth the effort to get to the top.  Intermittent stream crossings provided cool water to dip in and the snow capped mountains in the distance added significance to the sufferfest.

The aid stations along the way were well stocked and shaded.  The volunteers kindly refilled my bottles and added ice to the liquid I already had.  This enabled me to use one bottle of ice water to cool my head and body with while the other which was filled with PowerBar Perform allowed me to stay hydrated and keep my energy and electrolyte levels in check.

Elevation profile comparison compiled by Dan Ripple.
At the top of Sun Top (mile 37) I filled up on oranges and watermelon and cola, refilled my bottles with ice and water and headed down the hill.  When I first decided to do White River I thought it would be nice to break 7:00.  After getting sick and sidelined for so long my goal was adjusted to simply finishing and trying to get close to 7:00.  When I was at the top of Sun top my watch read about 5:35 so when I started doing the math I thought, "1:25 isn't that fast for a half marathon.  I can do that.  Besides half of it is down hill."  So I went for it.  This was the first and only time the trail actually opens up.  It was actually a gravel service road.  I was in my element and making up ground.  By the time I got to the last aid station at the bottom of the hill I had caught Adam Lint who passed me going up Sun Top.  Gary Gellin wasn't far ahead.  The competitive juices were flowing and I wanted to run with and push them for the last few miles, but after the overt assault on the downhill my feet and legs were having a hard time keeping me upright.  The roots, tight turns, and meandering streams didn't help my efforts.  By the time I got back to Buck Creek I wasn't even thinking about time or place.  I was simply thinking about finishing and not getting out-kicked by Ellie Greenwood - literally the fastest woman in the world.

Finishing my first 50 miler in 7:10:52.  Photo by by John Wallace III
It was good to be back with old and new friends that I had met on the trail.  My son was more than happy to join me in the White River for a much needed ice bath.  And then we got to just eat and relax in the sun near the finish as we waited for everyone to finish.

My family decided to stay a few extra days and nights camping at Ranger Creek.  There was no cell service, running water, or electricity and it was only $5 a night so why not?  The weather was perfect: cool at night and in the morning, getting just sunny enough in the afternoon to warm you up after bathing in the river each day.
A rope swing my family discovered near the final aid station.  Got to find something to do while dad is running.
My son loved building fires and cooking over them, being able to pee anywhere he wanted, and most importantly, that his bath only consisted of jumping in the fast moving river and scrubbing all the soot off his hands and face.  My wife and I got to better know the trails as we hiked/ran different sections of the course each day.  I'll certainly have a better sense of where I am at next year and, hopefully, I'll be a little better prepared.  Maybe, I might even be able to give Gary a break and I can help him with the pace line leading duties.

The race was very well-marked, well-organized, and run by very friendly, experienced runners and race directors.  The volunteers were knowledgeable and the awards and prizes were substantial. I can't think of a more perfect setting for a reunion of family and friends.  The White River 50 Mile Endurance Run was my first 50 Miler, but it will certainly not be my last.  In fact, I think it will become a family tradition.  Who knows?  Maybe some day I can get my wife and son to do it with me.

Thank you to all those who put in so much time so that the rest of us could enjoy ourselves for a couple hours on the trails! 
    

Beginnings

I've been thinking a lot this week about my introduction to the world of endurance.  It was by no means intentional on my part.  In fact, I've actually been trying to think about something other than running as I try to recover from pneumonia and the failed race I tried to run in the midst of a feverish spell.  But it was at my previous race that the flood of memories began to roll through my mind.

As is customary, we tried to make it down a little early for my race to preview the course.  One of my favorite aspects of trail running is that this time can be family time and my son gets to run and explore the course with me.  He loves maps and he likes to tell us where we are and where we need to go.  This trip was no different than many others before it other than the fact that I had been feverish all week and despite the warm spring weather I was layered very heavily and still struggling to stay warm.

As my wife and son jogged the first few miles of the course I tried to hike it and keep up.  Though I could hardly keep up, my son's infectious enthusiasm and sense of adventure penetrated some of the layers of compression and wind gear and got me excited about the upcoming event.  As we previewed the course I also saw a father running the path with his toddler son riding his bike beside him.  Both of these images (my son running effortlessly through the woods and this man and his son running and riding side by side) reminded me of some of my first memories as a child.

As a kid, I was always either on the run or on my bike.  My feet, legs, pedals, and wheels got me everywhere I wanted to go and were usually the means through which my dad and I connected.

When I saw that kid riding beside his running father I saw myself riding along side my father as he ran down the dusty dirt road near our home on the North Plains of Eastern New Mexico.  I remember enjoying those rides, but I also remember when they abruptly stopped.  My dad was not a runner.  He was a thinker, a graduate student, working on a masters in religion at the time, and running was his means of escaping our noisy home and thinking.  But it wasn't long after that run with me at his side on my trusty white Schwinn that he came down with pneumonia and never quite recovered.  He still wore his New Balances and he still walked regularly.  He eventually bought a bike and we spent a lot of time biking, but when he came down with pneumonia, when I was the same age as my son is now, his running took the back seat and never quite returned.  He and my mom still made great efforts to keep me and my siblings outside.  They knew that we would benefit more by the outdoors than by anything we could possibly learn from television.


My dad taught me to take risks.  He taught me that I could do anything - even if it looked scary.  He taught me that he would be there to encourage me and he would be there to catch me and help me up if I fell.  But through all of this, he taught me that there was a lot I could do without the assistance of training wheels.  We took the training wheels off my bike before my fourth birthday and before I was five we were building ramps and trying to catch as much air as possible.

My dad also taught me to endure.  As I mentioned before, although he never really saw himself as a runner, he had run two three hour marathons off of nothing but a couple weeks of running.  He only mentioned it to me when I told him that I might try to do a marathon someday. His real gift was for the long stuff.  He and my mother fell in love as they ran month-long survival trips through the deserts and mountains of Southern Utah.   Is it any wonder that I have an affinity for the desert and the mountains?

In addition to endurance, my dad taught me about sacred places and he taught me about the sanctuary one can find in the solitude of the desert.  He taught me how to find and drink water in the heat of the parched sandstone.  He taught me to respect the places that had been preserved and protected for millennia.   He taught me a lot of things, but he taught me most by example.  He taught me to appreciate books and to appreciate nature.  He taught me to value learning and encouraged me to seek learning out of the best books, by study and by faith.  He always seemed able to articulate his thoughts, but he also always seemed to be reading, writing, or walking and thinking.  Now that I am that age I find myself wanting to do those same things both for their own benefits and because I would like my son to learn to value these practices.

While I hope that my current bout with pneumonia doesn't leave me sidelined from running for the remainder of my life, I hope that my son remembers the times he has been at his father's side and moved in unison with him.  I hope he remembers the times he has cheered and the times he has crewed for me and handed me bottles of honey, water, gels, S-caps, and clothing.  I hope he learns and remembers that after hiking though tough terrain and biking long distances that he can do hard things and that he can find joy, strength, and meaning in and through them.  I hope that as he grows older he won't resent his dad for seeking solace in the solitude of long runs, but will rather seek opportunities to find greater strength and wisdom through similar means.

Until then, I'll leave it to him to entertain:

As we were getting into our sleeping bags the night before the race, ( I was in two and still couldn't seem to get warm) Cairo asked, "Dad.  Is it ok if I take the bagel out of my pocket now?"  "Yes.  Cairo.  It is ok to take the bagel out of your pocket."

Band of Brothers


                    
Photo by Michael Lebowitz of Long Run Picture Company


We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile
This day shall gentle his condition.
And gentelmen in England, now abed,
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here;
And hold their manhoods cheap while any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.
Henry V, Act IV, Scene iii by William Shakespeare


I first read this timeless call to arms by William Shakespeare as an aspiring high school distance runner reading Chris Lear's chronicle of the University of Colorado's 1998 cross country season. As I read Running with the Buffaloes, I imagined Mark Wetmore rallying the troops in preparation for a battle over 300m intervals. I thought of how close I had grown with my high school teammates (one of whom was my actual biological brother, Thomas Rivers Puzey), and have since reflected upon the bonds formed with college teammates, competitors, and training partners.


It wasn't until I actually read Henry V in its entirety that I learned this faux battle cry was more parody and political commentary than patriotic fervor. Despite this reality and gross overuse of the quote, Shakespeare touched on an element of truth and the fraternal bond formed in the woods and on the trails. John L. Parker Jr. described this bond as the "Trial of Miles: As with shipwreck survivors, hostages and others in dire circumstances, duress fosters familiarity, sometimes love" (Once a Runner, 1990, 11). After my experience at the Trail Factor on Memorial Day, I felt the war cry aptly described how we felt on our own Saint Crispin's Day.


I knew going in to the Trail Factor 50K that Nick Triolo and Yassine Diboun had been coming off of some BIG training weeks and some standout performances over the past few months. My hope was to run with and continue to learn from them. I met Nick at my first ultra, the Hagg Lake 50K, a little over a year ago and met Yassine at Chuckanut last year.
Nick Triolo, Jacob Puzey, and Scott Jamie after the 2011 Hagg Lake 50K. Photo by Kelly Barten

Then we all ran Hagg Lake this year. Each time I have run with these guys I have been impressed by their humble tenacity and infectious love for the trails. When I heard about the Trail Factor 50K, that it would be run through Portland's enchanted Forest Park and that these guys would be there along with a strong contingent of Trail Factor runners and volunteers I couldn't resist the urge to plan our family's Memorial Day weekend around the event. It looks like it will be a new family tradition for years to come.
Yassine had an impressive start to the year at the Bandera 100K and then came back even stronger with a near win over 2:14 marathoner Ryan Bak at Hagg Lake in January. When I first met Yassine he was passing me as though I were standing still at Chuckanut. He helped me through that rookie middle-of-the-BONK-with-no-aid-in-sight-patch.


It wasn't until I started trying to figure out more about the sport that I began to really learn about some of Yassine's endurance exploits. Recently, while reading Bryon Powell's Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons I saw a picture of Yassine in there (on page 78) and realized that like so many of the other ultragiants that I have had the privilege of meeting and running with Yassine is unassuming and kind, but also really tough.


There is always something eerily intimidating about reading a book or blog about or by someone and then lining up next to them and trying to run with them. Nick won both the Capitol Peak 50 Miler and the McDonald Forest 50K in the past month and looks to be rounding into shape well as he prepares for Western States in a month. After reading and watching a post race recap from McDonald Forest I knew he would be tough to beat on his home turf, on trails that he runs daily (he lives less than a block away from the start and finish of the race).


The 50K and Half Marathon started together and ran the same route to the first turnaround. Like a European bike race there were intermittent prizes for being the first to a particular checkpoint. The first male and female to the turnaround earned a jacket. Nick, Yassine, and I started together and ran through the first aid station in unison.
Nick Triolo, Jacob Puzey, and Yassine Diboun. Photo by Michael Lebowitz.


We assumed we were the top 50Kers because there weren't many runners ahead of us by the time we got to the turnaround. However, when we got there we were informed that we were behind Zach Gingrich who led all runners to the turnaround. Naturally, as the newbie in the group I didn't have a clue who the guy was, but Yassine, the veteran ultra-runner in the group, remembered his name and resume from the last few years at Badwater. Needless to say, the guy has street cred.


For some reason none of us really responded and we just casually continued chatting as we meandered through the maze of trails. We stuck together through at least half the 50K distance and learned a lot about and from one another.


Suddenly, the trail opened up and we were descending after a relatively long and gradual climb. I'm a bit more accustomed to this type of open Fire Lane type running and naturally opened up my gate. On that day, my fresh, 80 mpw legs compared to their heavy, middle-of-last-big-training-block-before-Western States 100 120+ mpw legs had a little more spark in them. While I didn't intentionally drop them, I was feeling pretty good and figured I might as well enjoy the ride as long as I could. After a while I even thought about trying to catch the leader, Zach Gingrich.


Early leader, Zach Gingrich. Photo by Michael Lebowitz.

Eventually, we caught up with one another and exchanged the basic info – where you from? What's your name? How you doing? etc. He seemed to be hurting after his strong start to the turnaround (which won him the coveted jacket) and he wasn't carrying a bottle. He said he was alright and we parted ways.  We reached a few hairy trail intersections and I yelled back asking if he knew which way to go. Eventually, we both made our way back to the finish in similar times.


It appears as though we took alternate routes (two paths diverged in a wood and I took the one less traveled by - which apparently wasn't the one I was supposed to take – and that made all the difference – in this case it meant I didn't win). I came up on Gingrich again several miles after initially passing him and passed him again for good measure about a half mile before the finish.


Unfortunately, I missed the final check point and aid station at mile 24.2. At the previous checkpoint (mile 17.4) Gingrich was 8 minutes up on our group. Although I crossed the line first, it was determined that because I missed the previous checkpoint (and aid station) Gingrich was the winner. (I only mention this because one of the unique features of the event is it's NSPIRE instant reporting via social media and I have had lots of questions about whether I actually won or not).


As long as Gingrich and the other runners vying for top honors don't care or think I maliciously tried to cut corners I really don't care about who is/was declared the winner. Gingrich ran a gutsy race and deserves both the jacket and gift certificate to Fit Right NW. He'll be running BadWater soon and will consequently be going through a lot more shoes than I will be in the next few months. While I am extremely grateful to the generous sponsors for contributing to this and other events (they are certainly needed), I learned a long time ago when we moved back from Hawaii and had to dump extra weight to save money on freight that the intangibles of running far outweigh any medals, gear, or even cash prizes. Though these are certainly nice to get, I find it rewarding to run each day and an even greater privilege to run in such a beautiful place surrounded by such inspiring, like minded companions.


Perhaps this is why I so greatly appreciate the work of artists like Michael Lebowitz who spend countless hours shooting and then uploading their pieces to share so that we can remember the moments of trial and triumph. These transcendent treasures capture and help recreate the memories from the trails and far outweigh other more transient trophies and titles.


Yassine Diboun, Jacob Puzey, Nick Triolo – "Coming and Going" by Michael Lebowitz

Apparently Yassine and I spent so much time together on the trails that not only did we develop a greater respect for one another, but we ended up looking like one another. As I approached the finish his wife and daughter came running toward me. My wife also mistook him for me both before and after the race. I consider it a great compliment to be confused with such a nice, humble, healthy, capable guy. We joked about how fun it would be I were to wear an Animal Athletics singlet and also have my brother, Thomas River's Puzey (who also looks a lot like us and is about as fast) wear one and then tag Yassine in the pictures from all over the world. Talk about effective advertising.


I honestly can't think of a better way to spend Memorial Day. Good people doing good things and then eating good food (veggie burgers and chips - only after an ultra) served by more good people. We even had a chance to pay our respects to ultrarunning legend, Dave Terry, as we passed a memorial in his honor. I felt akin to the band of brothers across the globe that have gone before and continue to test the limits of human endurance and excellence. I appreciated the opportunity to share the trails with guys like Zach, Yassine, and Nick as we each prepare for our respective upcoming races: BadWater, Western States, and White River. 




Many thanks to race directors, Todd Janssen and Renee Seker, Michael Lebowitz of Long Run Picture Company, and the countless volunteers at the start, finish, aid stations, and throughout the course. 



Thank you to the Portland Trail Running community, TrailFactorPDX, for prepping the trails and being out there on the course. Also thank you to the many sponsors, Fit Right NW, NSPIRE, Nathan, Animal Athletics, Skora, and yurbuds. 


Nutrition used: Before the run – two pieces of dry whole grain toast, glass of orange juice, a banana with 12oz of PowerBar IronMan Perform, and two Metasalt caps. On the course – PowerBar IronMan Perform, three PowerBar Energy Gels (Chocolate), six S-Caps, Gummie Bears, and Water. Post run – two veggie burger patties smothered with potato chips. Then a pot luck at my sister's house in Tigard with all sorts of tasty treats (I did have to move a few piles of bark dust around in order to earn my room and board, but it was well worth the comfy floor and scrumptious meal).


Shoes: Altra Provisions w/ stability wedge.