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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.

2 comments:

  1. Loved reading this! Glad to hear your brother is okay.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Rian! Me too! We've got to go out there sometime. It is incredible.

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