For Jacob Puzey, daily life is an ultra
It’s hard to imagine now but there was a time when Jacob Puzey struggled to finish a 3K cross-country race without stopping.
Puzey set a world record in 2016 for running 50 miles in 4:57:45 on a treadmill, beating the record of 5:57:31 by nearly an hour. He is also a six-time national champion in cross-country, road and ultra championships, and has three top 10 national trail 50K championships to his credit.
“Over time, I fell in love with the individual accountability and responsibility that comes with the sport of running,” says Puzey, who initially started to get in shape for basketball. “Even though others likely didn't notice any change in me, I could see and feel the progress as I put in more and more consistent training.”
The changes went well beyond the physical for Puzey.
“It changed me socially and emotionally,” he recalls. “It changed my outlook on life and my behavior. Well before I started winning races, the intrinsic rewards from grinding day after day tempered my behavior in school. I went from being in detention regularly to being viewed as a model student.”
As he progressed and joined his high school cross-country team, Puzey embraced longer runs (6 to 8 miles) and consistent training.
“I always loved the long runs,’ he says. “I loved the thrill of pushing myself and others for the entire distance. It became a game of chicken. I realized that the longer the run, the better I did relative to my teammates. Eventually that translated to the shorter races as well, but I have loved the long run since day one.”
It did not take Puzey long to realize that his calling was longer races — 10Ks to marathons and later to ultras. “I ran my first ultra marathon as part of a marathon buildup in an effort to do a supported 3-hour long run and I got hooked. I haven't turned back. This next marathon block will be my first focused attempt to train specifically for a marathon again.”
Prepare, focus and adapt
For Puzey, his “why” is simple — “I run most days to simply disconnect from work and the stresses of life and reconnect with who I am and who I aspire to be.”
He wears many hats — husband, father, runner, coach, race director and now podcaster. His secret to time management: setting a schedule, sticking to a routine and being flexible.
“With so many moving parts and so many people and schedules to coordinate I have to be flexible,” explains Puzey, who is also head coach and director of Peak Run Performance. “It's a lot like an ultra marathon — go in well prepared and with a plan and then be prepared to scrap the plan and troubleshoot your way through all of the unforeseen challenges you'll encounter. I try to prioritize specific activities and/or people each day. Most days I don't end up finishing everything on my to-do list, but if I can focus on what is highest in priority the rest tends to fall into place.”
Coaching, learning, growing
As busy as he is, Puzey is committed to giving back.
He says his university did not have a track team and his high school lacked a distance coach. “So I volunteered to help with the distance program,” he says. “I immediately fell in love with the kids, their families and the community. I saw that there was an opportunity for me to help change the trajectory of the lives of some of these kids and I relished that opportunity.”
For the most part Puzey works with adults now, though he still relishes running’s ability to transform lives.
“It is my goal to help people learn more about themselves by pushing their limits and finding out how truly capable they are,” he says. “Learning these lessons often translates to other realms of life as it did for me as an adolescent.”
Running is also transformative for coaches like Puzey.
“I have learned that I was very fortunate to have as many mentors as I had as a kid, teenager and young adult,” he says. “It really does take an entire team of people, or a village as they say, to raise a child. In the same way, I have learned that there are plenty of things that I don't know so I have tried to surround myself by the smartest people I can find so that I can offer my athletes a comprehensive support team.”
Puzey has also transitioned that quest for knowledge to the growing medium of podcasts. He and “one of the smartest coaches I have ever met,” Malc Kent, host the Art and Science of Running Podcast.
“Malc is an applied physicist, biomechanist, gait analyst and strength coach who I refer my athletes to when they have gait or strength specific questions,” Puzey says. “While we both have the same goals for our athletes we approach running and coaching through different lenses — the hard sciences and the humanities. We discuss this intersection amongst ourselves and with our guests on our show.”
As an experienced and respected athlete and coach, Puzey offers credibility when it comes to supporting running products. He is quick to highlight the Coros Apex as one of his favorite pieces of gear.
“I was drawn to the brand because I was in the market for a new watch and was a bit frustrated by the inefficiency of many of the major brands and their associated apps,” he says. “Batteries didn't last long enough and data either kept getting lost or it took way to much work to access it.”
Puzey learned about Coros on the Morning Shakeout Podcast with Mario Fraioli and then later heard Cody Reed share his experiences. “So I reached out and started testing some of the watches,” Puzey says. “I think the Pace is a great model for most runners and the Apex is simply a next step for trail and ultra runners who want a longer battery life and more trail specific features.”
I also use the Coros Apex. As Puzey said, it offers amazing battery life. For example, during my 100K earlier this year, I finished with 61 percent battery remaining — and I am nowhere near as fast as Puzey.
Check out all that Coros has to offer. And if you decide to go with one of their watches, feel free to use my discount code CAP-Howard to receive a free watch band ($30 value) with any purchase. You must add both the watch and the band into the cart and apply the code at checkout to redeem the promotion.
Trails, roads and treadmills
Puzey has enjoyed success on both trails and roads. That works out since his racing calendar is dictated by family commitments and work schedules rather than his bucket list of races.
“Summers are really busy because we put on so many events and we have all of our kids out of school and under one roof,” he says. “We're usually in survival mode during the summer so I try not to expect much in terms of time for formal or structured training. I do my best to move when I can, usually in the form of run or ride commutes while pulling kids around to their various activities.”
He also takes full advantage of his role as a race director. “I also try to spend as much time out on course as I can when we are directing events, but I know that it will take some time to sharpen my fitness so I try not to schedule any key races until I've had at least eight weeks of consistent training,” he notes. “This means I usually aim for a late fall/early winter goal race or challenge and then possibly a late spring/early summer goal race or challenge.”
What the future holds
Due to infrequent racing, as compared with some elites, Puzey picks his events with purpose.
“I try to ensure that when I do race I am ready to do well so I tend to select races that suit my strengths more than my weaknesses,” he says. “I enjoy training on technical terrain from time to time as a bit of a diversion, but when I race I like to get into a rhythm and roll. The fewer the variables the better, hence the 50-mile treadmill run.”
Puzey is currently training for the California International Marathon, where he aims to PR in the distance. He also would like to return to run Boston and JFK someday. Also on his list: both the New York City and Chicago marathons “just to experience them but I'm not really in a rush to get to any of them.”
Puzey is patient, knowing that family time is more important now. Other goal races will just have to wait.
“Once our kids get older, I'd like to try and get into the Western States 100 and see what I can do at the 100-mile distance,” he says. “That's a pretty good list for now and it will likely keep me busy for a few more years.”
Name: Jacob Puzey
Hometown: Born in Farmington, New Mexico. Currently living in Canmore, Alberta, Canada.
Number of years running: About 25
How many miles a week do you typically run: It depends on the time of year and what I'm training for. I'd say an average of 40 to 60 miles per week.
Point of pride: My family.
Favorite race distance: 3 to 6 hours.
Favorite pre-race or training food/drink: I like Trail Butter before I run and First Endurance Ultragen after I run.
Favorite piece of gear: Most days shoes are the most important piece of gear, but in Canada I need a garage full of gear to tackle the various seasons.
Favorite or inspirational song to run to: “You know what it is” by T.I. featuring Wyclef. Not the best subject matter, but the beat is perfect for running. Similar to "Lose Yourself" by Eminem.
Favorite or inspirational mantra/phrase:
"In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance My head is bloody, but unbowed."
— William Ernest Henley
Where can other runners connect or follow you:
• Website: https://www.peakrunperformance.com/
• Instagram: @jacobpuzey
• Twitter: @jacobpuzey
• Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/puzeyjacob/
• Strava: Jacob Puzey