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Summer Running Strategies

Summer is my favorite time of year.  The days are longer.  The sun shines.  Temps are usually higher. Lots of fresh produce is in season and the pace of life is usually a bit slower because the longer days allow me to spread my workload throughout the day.

However, even with all of the advantages summer brings, in order to get the most out of each day, one must plan and prepare for success.  Here are a few strategies for making the most of your summer:

Get up before the sun to get things done


Early mornings are usually the coolest time of day.  Get up early before the mercury rises and the rest of your responsibilities begin. Use the time on the run to gather your thoughts and prepare for success each day. Something about watching the sun rise while your blood is pumping gets the day started just right.

"There's a sunrise and a sunset every day, and you can choose to be there for it -- you can put yourself in the way of beauty." Cheryl Strayed, Wild
Photo: Anna Lee Landin

Waiting until after work when it is hotter often leaves one drained and hungry from the activities of the day and not all that excited about running. When the workout is scheduled in the evening and something comes up it is often the first thing to go, whereas if you make it a regular part of the morning routine you don't have to worry about as many other potential conflicts that could jeopardize your run.  


Drink a quart of water when you wake up


Jump start your metabolism and take the first step toward adequate hydration by drinking a quart of water when you wake up.  This is a lot of water to consume all at once, but after a good night's sleep without hydrating this is a quick and easy way to get you hydrated and ready to run. It won't take long for it to get into your system and flush out anything that could plug you up as you start your day.

  
Many water bottles come in 32 oz sizes.  Using them to measure the amount you consume is a great way of assuring you consume the right amount. If you drink this much water, you probably won't even need a cup of coffee to get things moving and you should be fine the first hour of the run without the need for additional water.  If you plan to run longer than an hour and you won't be passing any water along the route, bring a handheld water bottle with you.

Eat a Big Breakfast


After jump starting your metabolism and hydration with a morning run and a quart of water, continue to keep your resting metabolic rate up by eating a large, nutrient dense breakfast.  This will reduce your appetite and help you consume fewer total calories throughout the day.


Eat fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the day


Summer is harvest time for so many seasonal fruits and vegetables that it is actually possible to eat fresh, local fruits and veggies all day every day without getting sick of them.

Fresh Fruits & Veggies make any entree taste better
Photo by Anna Lee Landin
Blueberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, tomatoes, zucchini, peaches, cherries, strawberries, plums, grapes, apples, spinach, chard, kale, radishes, corn, carrots, peppers, cucumbers, and mint (I know it's not a fruit but it sure tastes good on fresh watermelon) are all in season during the summer and taste great just as they are and can make delicious smoothies or dried fruit snacks.

Moutwatering Watermelon Salad with fresh mint and feta cheese.
Photo by Ashley Bennett Belka of Bennett Belka Photography

Not only do they pack a ton of essential vitamins and nutrients, they are also full of juice to keep you hydrated and healthy through the long days of summer.

Fresh Blueberries taste great on their own, in a fruit salad, or mixed in a smoothie.
Photo by Ashley Bennett Belka of Bennett Belka Photography

Many of these products can be grown in personal gardens or purchased at local fruit stands or farmer's markets.

Carrots straight from the garden.  Photo by Ashley Bennett Belka of Bennett Belka Photography

Run or bike commute


Many people spend hours each day sitting in traffic.  Rather than wasting that time, find ways to commute from place to place on foot or on a bike.  You may find that it takes just as long and you can often move faster than cars in heavy traffic.  This will also free up your schedule before and after work because you can get in much of your training volume on your way to and from work.  

Do second workout in air conditioning or in water


If you have the time, ability, and/or desire to add additional workout time to your schedule plan to do it inside or in water.  Take advantage of the air conditioning in homes, offices, and gyms or the healing and refreshing power of water by doing your second workout either inside or in the water. 

This is another way to keep your resting metabolic rate high while keeping you cool.

Go to bed early


If you will be waking up early be sure to get to bed early.  Most people do the bulk of their unhealthy eating after dark, after dinner and right before bed.  This usually causes us to go to bed even later as the food settles.  This leaves junk food in our guts without giving it time to digest, meaning it will probably hit us on our run in the morning.  

However, all of this can be avoided - the binge eating and the late nights - if we simply eat dinner at a regular time (before 7:00 pm) and then use the next couple of hours to let it digest and unwind from the day.  

When we wait to work out after work we often eat dinner much later and then need to take additional time to cool off from the workout.  This keeps us up later - often causing us to eat even more to pass the time - and keeps us away from family, friends, and opportunities to relax at the end of the day.

Implement these simple strategies in your daily routine and you'll find that summer is a great time to train and make gains in your fitness and overall well being.  

Trail Factor 50K

“Always remember there was nothing worth sharing like the love that let us share our name."    - The Avett Brothers
For the fourth consecutive year I returned to the trails of Forest Park in Portland, Oregon for the annual Memorial Day Trail Factor 50K. Trail Factor was one of the first ultras I ever ran and the people who direct, volunteer, and participate in the event have played a big part in my love for the sport and continued participation in it.  I've run it every year since because when I run the trails of Forest Park with members of the Portland Trail Running community I feel like I am among family.
As with most changes, this past year presented a number of challenges and opportunities to grow. We left Oregon so that I could work with my mentors, Greg McMillan and Ian Torrence - two of the best coaches in the sport - while enjoying the flexibility necessary to be the kind of father I need to be and furthering my education. The appeal of the trails and diverse running community of Flagstaff certainly appealed to us, but once I began studying full time at Northern Arizona University and coaching full time for McMillan Running, training took a back seat and essentially became a form of transportation to and from school throughout the week.  Then I'd try to get in some volume over the weekend either by racing or joining others in town for a long run.

Savoring every moment we could spend out of the classroom and in the mountains.
Photo by Anna Lee Landin.
 My brother, Tommy Rivers Puzey, who also moved to Flagstaff to chase his endurance dreams and continue his education in Northern Arizona University's Doctor of Physical Therapy program, has had a similar schedule and training routine: bike, run, or walk commute to and from school each day with the occasional lunch, evening, or weekend swim, run, or ride.

Doing a little climbing on our favorite trails. 
Weekend long runs were a welcome reprieve from the regimented class schedule. 


My brother got fit after about a year of training in Flagstaff before beginning his course work, but was sidelined last Spring when his tibia fractured after racing repeatedly to cover the costs of a second child.  After several false starts when he was cleared to run and the bone re-fractured, he was finally feeling fit.  We had a brief window between the Spring term and the beginning of our Summer studies.  When we realized we might be able to fit in a race between terms we jumped at the opportunity.  The Trail Factor 50K seemed like the perfect way to celebrate our freedom from classes.

Course Map based on GPS data from Strava Run.
Over the past few years the race has gone out conservatively and then the pace has picked up toward the end or the early leaders have faded.  The course is an out and back lollipop with a bit of a net uphill on the way out and a net downhill on the way back.  Despite starting and finishing near sea level, the course climbs over 5,000ft over 50K so there really isn't ever a point where you get a break.
Course profile with pace in blue and heart rate in red.  Data from Strava.
My brother and I figured we'd fly in to Southeastern Washington, visit family in Northeastern Oregon, drive down to Portland, visit with some friends and then wake up and go for a long run through Forest Park. If we were feeling well, we'd get a chance to stretch our legs and test ourselves at sea level - something we hadn't done for a while.  That's essentially what we did.  We flew into Pasco, WA near where we grew up in Northeastern Oregon.  Then we drove home with our parents and visited with them before retiring to bed.  The following morning I was able to join my friend and former co-cross country coach, Marty Beauchamp, for an easy shake out run on the grass before attending church with our family.  Then my brother and I drove the 200 miles through the Columbia River Gorge to Portland.  We had a delicious meal with the Paul and Jocelyn Nelson Family and then did some interviews and filming with Paul Nelson for an upcoming documentary chronicling the adventures that running has afforded my brother and I.

Filming a documentary about our lives as adventurers with Paul Nelson.
Then we drove to the course to measure how long it would take us to get there from our hotel.  Unfortunately, my brother and I are on opposite sleep schedules.  He wakes up early to study before his kids wake up while I tend to stay up after my family goes to sleep to read, write, and work.  He had to tolerate my nocturnal tendencies as we prepared our Nathan hydration packs with First Endurance fuel for the long run.


We decided to go with hydration packs rather than handheld water bottles because the course was closed to crews and we figured we could save time if we carried all we needed in one pack.  I started with a full 2.0 liter bladder and an empty 18 oz. bottle in one front pocket as well as a front pocket full of First Endurance EFS liquid shot flasks and salt tablets.

Getting our watches ready for the start. Photo by Paul Nelson.
Our plan to do an easy, supported long run through the urban rain forest in the heart of Portland changed when two of the fastest 50K trail runners in the country, Mario Mendoza and Ryan Bak, decided to sign up at the last minute. Unlike previous years, Mario took it out hard and charged the early climbs.

Mario Mendoza and Ryan Bak leading early to the first aid station. Photo by Paul Nelson.
Despite now living at altitude, climbing at such a pace still caused my heart rate to spike and by 5K we were already running faster than I had anticipated. The trails undulate enough that I was able to let the pack pull away on the climbs and then I'd catch them on the flats and descents without spiking my heart rate beyond my threshold.

My brother Tommy and I leading the train at about mile 10.  Photo by Paul Nelson.
Mario and Ryan were using handheld water bottles while my brother and I were carrying our fuel with us on our backs so we were able to make up a little time at each aid station.  The lead pack of my brother, Tommy Rivers Puzey, Mario Mendoza, Ryan Bak, and Tyler Green had dropped me around 10K, but as they stopped to refill at the first aid station I was able to catch and pass them on the long descent.  It was about the only part of the race I actually felt good and it was fun to let my legs go and bomb the firelane.  I jokingly commented to Ryan as I passed that I was really only interested in setting Strava course records for obscure descents.  And what do you know? Look what I have to show for my efforts:
When you're racing with the Big Boys, sometimes you just have to embrace the minor victories.
I led for a bit once we hit Leif Erikson until Ryan caught me.  Whereas long straightaways like Leif would normally be where I'd be able to pull away from other trail runners, my relative road speed didn't do any good against Bak's superior track and road wheels.  We ran together for a bit until we regrouped with the others.  Then we took the Wiregate Trail back up toward Wildwood.  At this point I let my brother by and we charged back up the hill.  


Tommy Rivers Puzey pulling away from Mario in the final miles.  Photo: Paul Nelson

Not much later, the pace was more than I could sustain and I backed off in hopes that I wasn't the only one ready to blow up.  I didn't see the top four again until I reached the finish in the same time I've won the race with before, but only good for fifth this year.  

A celebratory chest pounding.  Mario Mendoza and Tommy Rivers Puzey.  Photo by Paul Nelson
Apparently, my brother maintained the lead until the final mile when Mario finally pulled away. Despite not winning the race for the first time in four years, I was pleased with my effort and even more pleased with the breakout race my brother ran.  

Paul Nelson captured the action well.
Paul Nelson capturing every stride.

In his first race back in over a year and his first 50K ever my brother ran with the some of the best in the sport.  Not only did he run with the best, but he made them earn every step they ran with him. Like us, Mario and Ryan showed up hoping to get in a quality, aided long run in a beautiful place, but I don't think any of us was expecting to have to throw down for the entire 50K.  Kudos to Mario, Ryan, Rivers, and Tyler for making it a race.
A stout top three.  Mario Mendoza, Tommy Rivers Puzey, and Ryan Bak.
Thank you to Paul Nelson Photography for taking the time to capture the race and for spending additional time to feed and film my brother and me.  Thank you to Go Beyond Racing for putting on another great event and letting us partake.  

Thank you to the volunteers out on the course and at the finish line, before, during, and after the race so that so many could enjoy the trails of Forest Park.  

Thank you to Territory Run Company for showing us your new digs and embodying the essence of adventuring in your apparel line.  

Thank you to Altra, Swiftwick, First Endurance, Nathan, and Trail Butter for your support and for making products that enable us to do what we love.

Thank you to our parents for housing us, feeding us, and transporting us to the race.  

A slight contrast between the rain forest in Forest Park and the sage country from where we hail.

Lake Sonoma 50

For the second year in a row, the Lake Sonoma 50 attracted one of the deepest fields in ultrarunning history.  As a Montrail Ultra Cup Western States 100 qualifier and a chance to test myself against some of the best in the sport I decided to throw my hat in the ring.  I knew that I'd be toeing the line next to several Western States 100 Top Ten finishers, Hardrock and Leadville champions, and plenty of other national and world champions, but I hoped that given the shorter distance, my fitness, and relative speed might allow me to outlast a few of them over 50 miles.

Interview with Ultra Runner Podcast.  Give it a listen.

Prior to the race, Ultra Runner Podcast contacted me for an interview.  My ultrasignup score based on previous race performances predicted I may be in the mix and this would be my chance to prove that I could run with the best. To be clear, I'm not delusional.  I realize that many of the ultras I've run have been local events, but until recently my job as a high school teacher and cross country and track coach didn't allow me to travel to the most competitive ultra races because they often fell on the same weekends as the most competitive cross country or track meets that I needed to attend with my team.  

I had a few decent races in 2011 and 2012 and then a solid year of training and racing in 2013 prior to the birth of our second child.  Since that time my wife and I have been trying to figure out how to both get in the training and racing that we each need while caring and providing for our family and getting the sleep that we need.  Thus far, I haven't figured out how to fit in as much volume, quality, and recovery into my routine as I had before without negatively impacting my familial, professional, academic, and civic commitments.  Lake Sonoma would test my fitness and see if what I had been doing is sufficient or if I need to make changes to my training in preparation for future races.

Lead pack before getting onto the trail. Photo by  John Medinger 
Well, the race started out like most ultras - a low key start in the dark.  The field was so deep that I wasn't able to get to the front for the first half mile or so.  The first few miles were certainly my favorite as they were on pavement and I was able to stretch my legs and actually run.  Don't get me wrong - I don't love pavement, but I do prefer being able to run unimpeded vs. riding the brakes.

After a mile or so of weaving through a number of the top runners in the sport I caught the brightly colored lead pack as we descended.  A number of the early leaders happened to be shorter than me and lighter on their feet so I actually had to back off and go around to avoid stepping on anyone's heels.

Early leaders entering the trails.  Photo by Ultra Runner Podcast.
We ran together until we reached the trail.  Within a mile Max King and Tim Tollefson passed and greeted Gary Gellin and I.  Gary latched onto them, but I was already struggling to run efficiently while simultaneously riding the brakes and ducking to avoid branches.  Despite relatively smooth footing, the tight turns didn't allow me to run unencumbered.  With the size of my feet and the length of my legs that is a must.

Tied up.  Photo by Gary Wang.
Eventually, around mile 17 I was able to open up and actually run which felt pretty good, but each time we'd get back on the single track I'd tighten up and begin running inefficiently again.
I thought that I was simply fatigued, but later realized in viewing pictures that my hips were low and my posture was poor.

At the turnaround I was in good position and was grateful to the Boggess family for their assistance.
Photo by Brad Boggess.
I enjoyed sharing a few miles with some people I'd never actually run with before - Michael Wardian, Karl Meltzer, and Jesse Haynes.  I had hoped to continue to work my way up throughout the race, but unfortunately I continued to fade further and further back in the pack as the race continued.

The heat of the day, fast early pace, and relentless undulations underfoot took their toll on me and many others.  Several of the early leaders eventually dropped.  While I certainly felt like dropping multiple times throughout the race, I continued to keep up hope that my body would bounce back and that I'd be able to reel others in.  Unfortunately, that never happened.

Jesse Haynes, Karl Meltzer, and I went back and forth for a while on the way back.  Jesse eventually dropped after falling while Karl pulled ahead.  I tried to respond, but my body didn't have much left. Eventually, around mile 41, Brian Tinder caught me and we ran together and chatted for the next few miles.

Neither Tinder not I were having the races we had hoped for, but even as we struggled toward the finish we commented on how grateful we were to be able to do what we do - fathers of young children and husbands, working full-time, and doing our best to compete at the top level.  Although we weren't as competitive as we had hoped to be we were grateful for the support of our families and sponsors which made it possible for us to test ourselves in the sun after a long, cold winter.

"Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes of which all men have some.”– Charles Dickens

Tinder and I entered the last aid station together.  He was quicker to the aid than I was.  I was ready to call it a day.  I filled my bottle up with Coke, ate some chips, and grabbed some GU chomps, and filled my buff with ice to wear on my head.  I was cooked and didn't have any more fight left in me.
As I exited the aid station, Jason Lehman entered.

I found it ironic that I traveled for hours and through several states to run against runners from all over the nation and ended up finishing between two guys I've run hundreds of miles with: Jason JBob Lehman in the Pacific Northwest and Brian Tinder in the Southwest.  Both are close friends and strong runners.  Though we had each hoped to finish higher and run faster, I can't think of two guys I would rather suffer with.  Both guys know how to have a good time and love to run as much for the challenge as for the camaraderie and community.

Post-Race with Jason Lehman
After the race we enjoyed delicious tamales and other tasty foods and beverages.   Trail Butter was also on site providing shade and samples of nut buttery goodness.  We stuck around enjoying good food and company and savoring the cold drinks and shade under the tents.

Nothing tastes better after a long run than Trail Butter.
Despite not performing as well as I had hoped I still enjoyed spending so much time on the trails with good friends and meeting new ones.

Tropical John puts on a top rate event.  From the pre-race pasta feed to the post-race spread and everything in between Lake Sonoma is a top-notch event in a beautiful place with wonderful people. Participants received so much swag that that we'll be outfitted for every season in Lake Sonoma gear.

Aside from a good time with friends in a beautiful place, one thing I reflected upon in the race and since the race is that I miss running freely.  For about 40 of the 50 miles of Lake Sonoma I felt like the course and my lack of skill on tight, twisting, shaded single track impeded my ability to run freely.  While I savor a challenge, I also enjoy feeling smooth.  I didn't feel smooth on race day and I think that could be attributed to several factors, but one thing I keep thinking of is that I want to run a road marathon again.  Not that I was ever anything special, but road marathons suite my gait and strengths well.  I like to open up and roll, but my feet are so big and legs are so long that tight, twisty, washed-out terrain doesn't lend itself letting to go.

I feel like I've regained my aerobic fitness and slowly rebuilt my base and health from a long time down toward the end of last year.  Now, I need to begin training specifically for events rather than banking on run and ride commutes to get me there. I still plan to do some trail ultras this year, but I also aim to do a road marathon or two in the next year. It will be a nice change of pace and will ultimately help me regain some of my speed and stamina.