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Running on empty

Life has been a whirlwind since I last raced at the Peterson Ridge Rumble.  With the birth of our second child in the heart of the high school track season my training and recovery have been placed on the back burner.  That said, I wouldn't have it any other way.

A few weeks ago our family welcomed our baby girl into the world.  She was born in Portland, Oregon near countless miles of wooded trails.  The night she was born there was a small trail race in the park and my ever competitive wife even suggested I try and fit it in before the delivery.  Even I knew better than to risk not being there when the baby came.  She was born without any complications and both her and Jen are doing great!  The next morning, Jen assured me it was alright to go for a run and take in the trails.  I knew that a few weeks later I'd be returning and would need to know the trails well to avoid getting lost in the pedestrian's wonderland.  As expected, I got lost, but hoped it would help when I returned for the Trail Factor 50K.

Since the birth of our daughter, sleep has been sporadic and secondary to her needs.  My son and I have had a bit more guy time, but I have been on the road three out of the past four weekends coaching high school track.  It has been challenging knowing that there are needs at home to which I should attend while also knowing that I made a commitment to the kids I coach and that they have made a commitment to one another to empty the tank weekend after weekend.
Cooling down after qualifying for state in the 1500m at the Columbia River Conference Championships in Hood River, OR.
The past few weekends were special as many of them ran personal bests and qualified for the state track meet - a feat I never personally accomplished when I was their age.  An added bonus to living in Oregon is that the high school state championships are contested each year at Historic Hayward Field in Track Town USA - Eugene, OR.

One of the banners on the stadium wall carried the visage of Pre and challenged athletes to "Run to be remembered!"  One of the joys of coaching the kids I do is that like Pre they come from working class backgrounds and aren't afraid to work. They represented their families and community well and as their coach I couldn't be prouder.  They ran to be remembered and neither I nor they will soon forget the messages they sent when they fearlessly ran to win.

Hermiston's Jose Macias and Eduardo Juarez pushed the pace in the 3,000m at the high school state meet in Eugene, OR.
Inspiring stories aside, driving a 15 passenger minibus the six hours back from Eugene after a very long day is not always my favorite part of the job.  I typically avoid caffeine, but I was concerned for the safety of my athletes so I indulged in some stimulating beverages as we made our way back home at 2:00am Sunday morning.  I was too tired to clean, refuel, and return the bus to the bus barn so I went home and slept for a few hours.  I was greeted by my son who needed a drink of water, but was still kind enough to tell me he missed me.  I assured him the next time I went to a race he got to go with me.  Little did he know, that would be a few hours later.

We attended church as a family, ate Sunday dinner with my parents, and then my mom, son, and I returned to the wet and rainy side of the state to stay with my sister and her family and run the Trail Factor 50K.   They are always great hosts and she is always eager to feed me.  Since we had already eaten a substantial early dinner and I put down an apple with some Trail Butter on the way down, I was content with a bowl of watermelon for dinner.

When my watch alarm sounded it felt like my head had just hit the pillow, which with four little nieces and my son running around wasn't too far from the truth.  With the rain coming down and showing no signs of relenting, part of me just wanted to stay in bed and take advantage of the day off from work.  The more sensible side of me knew that I would definitely regret not getting to meet up with my friends at the race.

I knew my Moroccan twin brother, Yassine Diboun, would be there and ready to push it.  I knew that rain or shine Todd Janssen and Renee Seker of NSPIRE would put on another great race even if they had to move the start and finish area to another park or lift port-a-potties over the fence so that we had them before the race.  I knew that there would be other familiar faces and friends that I have either met at other races or online or that I would meet and I definitely didn't want to miss out on meeting.

Last year's weather was amazing and the course was perfect for the time of year.  I got to spend time with some incredible people, so in spite of the rain and lack of sleep, I certainly did not want to miss out on another memorable Memorial Day in Forest Park.

Ethan Linck, Brian Donnelly, Jacob Puzey, Yassine Diboun
Yassine took it out pretty hard considering the mud, but that didn't keep two other local runners in Animal Athletics kits, Brian Donnelly and Ethan Linck, from accompanying us.  We caught up and visited the first few miles during which time I learned that I was surrounded by not only some fit runners, but some rather well-educated fellows.  I mentioned to Ethan that I studied anthropology in college, but once we started a family I felt like it might not be prudent to bring our son to Papua New Guinea to continue my studies of biolinguistic diversity/recovery.

Ethan, a recent graduate of Reed College, asked if I had ever been to PNG.  The fact that he knew the place by its acronym excited me, but the fact that he had spent the last three years studying there and hoped to do his dissertation about birds there just floored me.  This would be his farewell run in Forest Park before moving to the Bay Area to take up research for the University of California.


Not to be outdone, Brian is a technical writer with a bachelor's degree in English from Berkeley and a masters in English from Stanford.  I couldn't think of a more interesting group of people to run with, but part of me felt bad that by my very presence I was lowering the cumulative IQ of the group.  I tried not to utter any hickisms so as to not alert them of my humble roots in Eastern Oregon.

Trying to make a break and grateful to be wearing Swiftwick Compression socks and sleeves.
Despite water running through my shoes all day, my feet remained blister free.
Yassine and other Animal Athletes had done a great job of marking the course the night before, but I didn't really have to pay much attention the first half because I tried to cover his every move.  He was bombing the descents and causing me to remember the last time we raced in rainy conditions at Hagg Lake in 2012 when he confidently charged past 2:14 marathoner, Ryan Bak, late in the race.  I certainly felt at a disadvantage considering I hadn't run in much rain or mud this year, with the exception of Hagg Lake, and even that was uncharacteristically dry.  I guess I couldn't have all the races my way, so this was pay back for the uber pleasant warm weather I was fortunate to encounter earlier in the year.

Without a crew to meet me along the course, I packed all the fuel I'd need in my Pearl Izumi Ultra Split Shorts and my UltrAspire Surge Hydration Pack.  PowerBar Perform in the bladder and PowerGels every 30 minutes did the trick.
Despite his dominant downhill skills, Yassine started having some GI issues and had to make a couple of stops.  Brian and I helped him catch us the first time by falling and sliding down a gravelly trail until he passed us.  However, the next time we were closer to Leif Erickson Trail, where it is wider, flatter, and drains better, and my inner road runner kicked in and tried to open up a gap.  I knew that if Yassine was near me in the last few miles, given the hilly 120 mile weeks he's been putting in and his superior mud and downhill abilities I'd be in trouble.

I pushed from trail intersection to trail intersection until we eventually we got back to trails we had run out on.  Unfortunately, everyone else had also run out on them too and with the rain some of the temporary markings had been washed away.  Fortunately, Brian lives right on Forest Park and knows it well.  He was patient and gracious enough to tolerate me hollering back to him and asking him which way to go at each interchange for the last several miles.  Thanks to his first-hand familiarity with the course, we were able to get back quicker than Zach Gingrich and I did last year under much sunnier, drier conditions.

Finishing in record time thanks to great competition, great gear, great nutrition, and lots of help out on the course by volunteers and Brian Donnelly.
Wouldn't have made it back to the start without the help of Brian Donnelly.  We were both rocking the Pearl Izumi E:Motion N1 Trails and they handled the course pretty well.  Good for two guys under the previous CR.
As usual, the race was well organized, well-marked, and well attended.  NSPIRE always puts on great events with practical prizes from generous sponsors.  Long Run Picture Company was on site taking great pics as usual.  I'm happy I ignored the voice in that morning telling me to stay home and sleep-in and I'm also glad that I can shut it down for a little while to recharge and enjoy my family.

My son and I are going to do his first mud run in a few weeks and then after lots of family reunions we're going to all meet together for the Mt. Hood 50 where my endurance fiend brother, Thomas Rivers Puzey, and I will do our best to run to be remembered and take a stab at Ian Sharman's course record.  Should be fun.

The next family pic we take will include our triplet, Thomas Rivers Puzey, at Mt. Hood 50, but before that Yassine is going to have another stellar race at Western States 100.