Barefoot Monologues

A Journey of the Sole


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Last to Start, Last to Finish: Pineland Farms Trail 50K Race Report

Me and Brad and Team SquirrelWipe, at the starting line.

Throughout four months of training for my first ultra marathon, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. And even seconds before the gun went off, standing in the grassy clearing at the start line of this race in my Pace Gloves and my Team SquirrelWipe tank top, I still had no idea. I have come to the conclusion that one has no way to fathom what a trail ultra is like, until one completes a trail ultra.

My friend Sherée and I started the race at the very back of the pack because I knew we’d be there soon enough anyway. Besides, I’m not too fond of watching 300 people (including my more talented running friends Shelly Robillard, Adam Gentile and Brad Waterson) whiz past me at the beginning of a race – it’s just not great for morale. And I had to pee in the woods ASAP because the lines at the porta-johns were too long.

We started at a modest pace, feeling brave and adventurous. I knew there would be hills, lots of them. Steep ones. But I did my best to ignore that reality for as long as possible. We flew over the first few of those hills and glided back down. The trail was clean, soft and mostly rock-free. There were frequent breaks from the woods into acres of gorgeous, grassy pasture that had been mowed down to form perfect 5-foot wide trails snaking around and crossing over each other. I was exhilarated and the view was breathtaking. There were cows, white picket fences, farm houses and sunshine. It was ridiculously awesome, and I’d never been happier to be running.

We had a timely arrival to the second aid station of the race, which was actually three stations in one, all set up at angles connected to different sections of trail in the middle of a mowed pasture. Turns out I would have some important encounters with people at this very station throughout the race. The first of them was right then, as Brad waved at me from the second of the three stops. Damn he’s fast. “How did he already get there?!” Sherée asked me as we stuffed our faces with bananas, Oreos and quartered PB&J sandwiches (we didn’t give ourselves time to eat breakfast before the race). I didn’t know…but all of a sudden I needed to catch up.

I might have wanted to catch Brad a little too much, though, because we probably went too fast and I lost Sherée once we got back to that station again. Her injury was flaring up so she decided to call it early. At first I was thinking “lucky bitch,” but it wasn’t until many miles later that I would realize how lucky I was that she didn’t run the whole race.

The second time I met someone at this three-in-one aid station, it was Jason Robillard. He was on mile I-dunno-what (he was running the 50 mile race) and I’d just started my second of two laps around the course, probably somewhere around mile 17. I had just left the porta-john and was busy eyeing the water truck that had just come in, fantasizing about hopping in the back and calling it a day. Just as I opened my mouth to ask someone if I could get a ride, I was pulled violently from my reverie with the sun-shiny words “Hey, Trisha!” to my right. There was Jason, looking fresh as a fucking daisy.

I will admit I was thrilled to see him again, after having already spent some time running together a few miles back. When he came up to me then, hooting and hollering something about Team SquirrelWipe from behind me, I was insanely relieved to have him there. I was working on mile 12 or 13 (now’s a good time to mention that I purposely didn’t wear my Garmin – the jury is out on whether that was a smart move), and hitting my first major low. We chatted a bit and compared notes, and then before going ahead on his own, Jason helped me visualize running past the start/finish at mile 15.5, and then moving on to that second lap without even thinking. He told me to ride out the low end of this wave like these rolling hills, and then he took off up the hill like a barefoot stallion. Er…yeah.

He probably didn’t realize that every one of the 50 or so 25K runners that flew past me after that were going to sink me further and further into that wave.

But I digress. Now I was past the start/finish, and I’m sure he was glad to see his advice helped me get this far. He listened to me garble on about being tired and completely ignored my ideas about quitting, as if I hadn’t even voiced them. He didn’t seem to give one or two shits that I’d been crying only minutes before reaching this aid station. He told me this was all normal – normal! – and sent me on my way, telling me which station I should plan to get food from. He never stopped being positive for one millisecond. Damn him.

And after some time I found the aid stations were becoming part of an emotional pattern for me. I’d see one, speed up, arrive with a smile, and then someone would ask me what I wanted in my handheld (eventually they stopped asking and just took it from me, because I was too exhausted and confused to answer). I’d spend a few moments lollygagging around (later, I’d spend a lot more moments) and then I’d grab a handful of the closest food item from the table and shove it in my mouth as I left. Then I would run for a good clip, feeling refreshed and rather happy. And then after awhile I would grow tired, come to the bottom of a big hill and start to walk. Then I would sink into a deep, lonely despair, unable to run much more (because there were too many hills) until I caught sight of the next aid station.

This cycle repeated for me until the 6th and final time I reached that infamous three-in-one aid station. I let the nice aid station lady (it could have been a dude for all I know – people were getting sort of fuzzy by now) fill up my handheld with Cytomax and I took a little sit-down on the grass beside the food table. I was perhaps at mile 23 or so, and I couldn’t feel my face. This time I was definitely going to get someone to drive me in. I don’t know how long I sat there deciding, but it might have been ten or more minutes. The teenagers were starting to give me worried looks when a 70 year old woman named Terry came along. I remembered passing her back at mile one (good lord). She asked me why I was sitting down, and I nonchalantly told her that it was because I was waiting for my ride back.

Now, tiny little Terry might have looked frail, but she pulled me off that grass like she was plucking a daisy in a field. “Let’s go,” she demanded. “You’re nearly done, you’re not stopping now.” I spent the next three miles walking with her, while she distracted my exhausted tears with stories from her long and amazing ultramarathon career (and I do mean amazing). She got me as far as the start/finish area (mile 26), where I decided to take a short pit-stop at the porta-johns. I had only five miles left.

In the porta-john I decided that since I’d just run a marathon, that was good enough. That it was taking too damn long for me to finish this race, and that it was time to go find Sheree in the crowd, tell her I’m all set, and have a beer together. Mmmm. Beer. Then I realized there was no more toilet paper, so it was a damn good thing that I’d shoved some in the side pocket of my handheld that morning. Phew.

I stepped out, looked up, and…shit. There was Sherée. Standing at the top of the hill like a monument of resolve. The look on her face said she wasn’t going to let me stop. “Let’s go, honey, there’ s just five miles left and I’m running them with you.”

Now I realize that obviously, I never really wanted to quit before I finished. If I did, I am more than pig-headed enough to have overcome all of my friends’ determination to keep me going. It’s embarrassing now that some of them had to watch me whine like an over-tired 5 year old as I walked through the start/finish toward my final 9K loop, but I was going to do it either way.

I think in the end I just needed some companionship, and I’m not sure I could ever make Sherée understand how much it meant to me that she was there right then. Those hills, those woods were really lonely. It’s fairly obvious that my legs were not quite prepared for the constant barrage of hills on this decidedly hellish course, but I was absolutely blindsided by my emotional despair and overwhelming sense of aloneness. Normally I prefer running alone, I even have written articles on the positives of running alone. But my mind, my heart, just could not handle my loneliness during this race. And that’s probably why I lingered for so long at the aid stations (I figure I wasted about 1.5 hours at them), and why I practically waited for people like Terry and Jason to come along and lift me out of my interminable funk.

I was also surprised that I preferred the fields to the wooded parts of the course. Everyone around me (er…passing me) was bitching about the heat and sun as the afternoon closed in, but throughout the day I found that the sunny fields were the only areas I really felt like opening up to a run. The sun was hot and yucky, but I barely noticed. Its familiarity lifted me out of my emotional darkness. But more than anything else, contrary to the woods the fields were more or less flat. Even toward the end of the race I found I could maintain a much better running pace on these flat areas. In the end I guess it really was the hills (and, perhaps, the hills alone) that made this race so profoundly difficult for me.

After a quick stop at the bag drop-off to bandage a small blister and check my phone for inspirational text messages (of which I had many, because I’ve got amazing friends), Sherée and I took off for the last five miles. The first half mile was in the fields – those lovely fields – and Sherée gingerly commented that I was going pretty fast. I didn’t care. I felt good, I wanted to run fast and I wanted to be done. Soon as we entered the hilly woods, I fell apart again like clockwork. But she whisked me through this last hour as fast as she could on fresh legs. She was so unwaveringly supportive, that I’m pretty sure she would have carried me to the finish line if necessary.

But before too long (well…nevermind, it was way too long), we were almost done. All I had to do was cross the street and enter the clearing toward the finish line. Sherée sent me on as I sped up to a trot, then a run, then a faster run. Brad appeared before me – barefoot, flailing and making wild noises like he was trying to scare the cows. There were strangers clapping and hooting at me, and cowbells ringing out their metallic monotone as I sprinted for the finishers chute, dead fucking last, with a colossal grin on my face.

I got a fever. And the only prescription is…more cowbell.

I have a few conclusions about this race. Some of them relate to my embarrassingly bad finish time, my feelings about having walked too much and whined too much, my regret over picking such a difficult course, etc. And others point to the little victories, like the fact that I didn’t get hurt, that I handled all the downhills surprisingly well, and that I finished at all, even though I was the last one to do so.

In the end, perhaps my finishing this race was more of a testament to my will and determination than it was to my slacker training. But the bare fact is that I finished. I did it. I might be the slowest one under the age of 70 but I am an ultra-marathoner.

And as Jason Robillard promised would happen, I kinda can’t wait to sign up for my next 50K.

One with fewer hills.

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Thoughts on Being a Loner

Credit: New York Social Diary

A few weeks back I was invited to a small 6-hour running event happening tomorrow. It’s a 3-mile looped trail course that my friend Brad put together. It was planned specifically for people in the area who are training for the Pinelands 50k, but open to all. I looked at the event description on Facebook and it seemed like a good time, and a good way to get some major mileage in. But I didn’t plan to go.

Why not? Was it because 6 hours is too long for me to run? Because I have a half marathon next weekend and I should be taking it easy? Nah…I  mean, come on, you should know by now that I don’t usually miss out on doing fun things just because they’re stupid.

No, I wasn’t going to attend the 6-hour Fatass run because I’d already planned a 15-16 mile run for today, and well…I wanted to run it alone.

Turns out, even though I’m an exceptionally social person, when it comes to running I’m a loner by nature. I realize this is a weird dichotomy, but it’s just the way I am. Normally, I will happily wax poetic with anyone on almost any topic, especially running. But the more time I actually spend running, the more I find I prefer being completely solo (except for my dog Oscar).

Running with a buddy is still fun, of course. It makes the time fly by, kills two birds with one stone (catching up with friends and exercising), and it’s good training for the slower or less fit person. Which is usually me.

But I don’t really want the time to fly by when I’m running (in fact, I’m usually sad when a run is over). I want – I need – to be mentally focused on my long run. On how my legs feel. How my form feels. How steady my breath is. How the woods sound. I want to run slowly and feel every rock under my feet, not pass the time talking about work or comparing cellphone carriers. I like to slow to a walk every once in awhile, and sometimes stop altogether. Stretch my legs out. Observe the brook rumbling along beside the trail. Refuel without having to chew while bouncing. Direct Oscar to some fresh water and watch him drink. Then start up again.

And that’s probably why it takes me so much time to be done with a long run.

Most people I run with seem to just want to run fast the whole way, and finish under a certain time. In that way, maybe the long run is different for me than it is for some others. I’m there to train, sure, but I’m also there just to be outside. And it’s hard not to feel pressured to move faster with the other person, or feel guilty because I can’t.

Perhaps that just makes me a runner (or maybe a jogger…heh), but not a racer. I suppose I’m okay with that. But, I digress.

I mean, lovely as it is, it’s the very distraction of running with someone else that screws up my whole run. It’s not so bad on a 4-5 miler where I barely have time to get tired, but it is on the long run. I get so caught up in conversation that I lose focus of my body’s movements. I never catch myself slouching, or over-striding. I talk the whole time, use up too much energy in conversation and have none left for the run. It usually results in premature fatigue, a bad race time or an injured…something.

In fact, now that I’m thinking about it, the only races that I’ve ever even kicked ass at were run alone. My first 10k, my best 5k and a stellar Thanksgiving 5-miler. My performances at those races still make me proud, and not only because they were nice PR’s, but because of how I felt throughout. Strong, calm, and most importantly: focused.

I can’t achieve those things while I’m chatting up a friend during a race, and I can’t stop chatting once I’ve started. So it stands to reason that my most important races and runs must be solo. And maybe for the most part, this also includes Pineland. Sorry, Sheree.

That said, I have decided to go to the 6-hour run tomorrow, after all. Why? Mostly because I need to train myself to be “alone” even when there are lots of people around. I need to learn how to ignore the temptation to be social every minute just because there’s someone within earshot to blather at.

I figure tomorrow’s run might somewhat mimic the social situation on race day at Pineland. So it will be a good opportunity to practice running my own race even though I am not running alone. And even if it turns out I’m by myself 90% of the time because I’m so slow, it will still be a lesson in not trying to keep up with everyone else. A lesson in letting go of my fears of being the slowest person there (which I am sure I will be). And the other 10% of the time it will be a lesson in still focusing on my form while there’s someone running beside me.

So wish me luck, folks! It’s going to be a brand new trail for me, hopefully a new distance PR, and a tough mental training challenge. Also there might not be any bathrooms – and some of you may know by my status updates how many times I’ve ended up at a Dunkin’ Donuts bathroom after 8 miles or so. Could prove interesting.

Those Central-Massachusetts squirrels better be on their watches tomorrow.


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Slacker Theory

“Hey Trish, how’s the 50k training going?”

The answer is….well, it’s…going. Going where, you ask? Who the hell knows! Not that I can figure out how to answer that question satisfactorily, anyway. Every time I try, the following obdurate facts stomp through my head:

  • My longest training run so far is 14 miles (until Saturday, hopefully)
  • I haven’t run long for the past two weekends, due to life
  • I can’t even find the training plan I printed out in February
  • My left foot has been acting like a spoiled army brat

I feel like I’m supposed to report these facts to everyone who inquires about my training, as if they are some sort of disclaimer for my slacker ways.

But I guess I wouldn’t look so much like a slacker to you if you were my next race.

The Wallis Sands half marathon is on May 6th. It’s my “Birthday Run,” and I’m going with my friend Kirby. It will be my second half marathon race ever, and I am totally confident. As long as I don’t do anything stupid like attempt to race it, the event should be a piece of cake. Naturally I’m trying to ignore the fact that it’s a road half marathon and I hate roads. More on that later.

Now I am going to take a moment to admit that it positively tickles me to call this half marathon a “training run.” Okay, moment over.

And what about the 50k itself? Am I scared, nervous, intimidated by the thought of running perhaps twice as far as I’ll ever have before then? Strangely…no. I have none of those feelings. Or, perhaps more accurately, I’ve gotten over them. My head is totally in it now, and I am experiencing nothing but excitement and anticipation. Like a 5 year-old forcing herself to fall asleep on Christmas Eve, I simply cannot wait for May 27th to arrive.

I know this race is going to be hard for me. Really hard. But with the understanding that a race like this is 90% heart and soul, I’ve built a little theory of my own about it. My theory is that no matter what sub-par training I’ll have under my belt by race day, I’ll still be somewhere on the mid-to-high end of the “Total Slacker” scale. And therefore, barring injury, I should at least be able to finish by cut off time. Even though, in pure slacker-style perfection, it is fully possible that I may even acquire my first DFL (dead-fucking-last).

And that will still be good enough for the books.

I mean, there are certain facts that I accept about my current self: I’m slow (averaging 12mm on a long run if I don’t have to walk), I’m kinda fat, and I’m not all that experienced as a distance runner. But another fact about me is I’ve always been excellent at overcoming roadblocks and adversities. So why would something like a few extra pounds stop me?

Answer is, it won’t.

And neither will all the people reading this who are shaking their heads, thinking I’m an idiot for attempting a 50k at all. You can’t stop a steam train once it’s full speed ahead. Even if it is a slacker of a steam train.

If you’ve been around long enough to read my previous posts about this race, then you’re probably wondering why I sound like a completely different person now. It’s because I am a different person.

I’ve become a slacker trail runner.

That’s right. I might be a total noob who doesn’t (yet) deserve to walk the ranks (yet) of the ultra-marathoner (yet). But I finally found my confidence for this race, and it came to me the day I uncovered my true, abiding love for the trail.

I know the exact moment it happened, too. It was the day I turned an 11-mile long run into a 13-miler, and would have kept going if it wasn’t getting dark and if I hadn’t already been out of water for two miles. It was the moment I chose the hilly trail over the one that stayed flat, and then grinned like a shithead the whole way up. My feet still didn’t hurt by mile 10, and my IT band never hurt at all. It was the very second that I finally learned how to cruise over rocks and sand as blissfully as my dog, Oscar. And yes, it made me into a different runner. A better runner. I’ve been a better runner ever since.

Even if I still am a slacker.

So, screw the obdurate facts. Screw the numbers, the mileage per week, and fuck all these ridiculous training expectations. I’m chomping at the bit, and one way or another I’m going to chew up Pineland on May 27th.

Like a prize fighter bracing for the first hit, I’m ready.

Sidenote: I got my Team SquirrelWipe shirt in the mail the other day! Who wouldn’t be excited to be part of this ridiculous team with Jason Robillard, Shelley Robillard, Brad Waterson, Sheree Dunwell, Adam Gentile and Heather Wiatrowski? Especially when you get to wear an equally ridiculous shirt designed by my friend Krista at ZapsThreads and inspired by Jason’s latest book endeavor:

Watch out, we're kinda grabby.

See you at Pineland.


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A Runner Puts Her (Bare)foot Down

Looking back at my last few posts on this blog, I am going to admit that I am a bit perturbed at what I am seeing. I have been expressing two deeply contrasting emotions:

1. absolute confidence that seemingly comes from nothing, about accomplishing a seemingly impossible task that I am, in a typical sense, not nearly prepared for.

2. crushing insecurity and doubt about accomplishing a difficult task that I, in theory, could adequately prepare for in the time allotted before the day the task must be completed.

Reading through your own blog posts is definitely a good way of surveying your own issues. I mean, whatever happens in Pineland on May 27th, I’m probably going to look back on these last few weeks of undulating confusion and either be completely embarrassed, or laugh at myself. But either way, my recent habit of allowing outside influences to keep me in a persisting state of inner conflict has got to go. It’s not how I usually do things – I am much braver than that.

I mean, I’m usually the type of person who jumps feet-first into the icy waters of unknown scary things, holding my nose and wearing nothing but a red swimsuit. And holding a big ole’ bucket of chum. With the exception, of course, of when those decisions affect other people (like moving to California tomorrow, for instance).

So…why, on this occasion, am I acting like a feeble child who can’t so much as choose a balloon for herself? Why do I let other people’s opinions attach like a virus to my doubts, and why do I allow myself to so easily vacillate from confidence to hesitation and back again?

The answer is probably because this is the biggest high dive (or the biggest pail of fish chum) that I’ve ever endeavored before. It’s intensely scary. The more I think about it, the scarier it becomes, and the easier it is for me to forget my original reason for clicking the “Sign Up” button in the first place:

Because that day I decided I’m okay with failing. And even though I might fail, I would feel like more of a failure if I never even try.

This is something important for me to remember, the next time someone tries to knock some logical sense into my head about this race.

And I would like to thank my friend Jason Robillard, who wrote this post about “Choosing Impossible Challenges“, for once again reminding me what kind of person I actually am – and it’s not the person who wants to live a safe, predictable, boring life.

I am going to stay signed up for the 50k race. Hills and all. And I am going to run it until I’ve either finished 50 kilometers, or until I decide to accept a DNF. I am going to learn a lot that day, not the least of which will be how strong of a person I am. I’m dying to find out.

Other related posts:
Flirting with a DNF

γνῶθι σεαυτόν
(know thyself)
My Final Thoughts on 100 Miles


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Having Second Thoughts?

Picture stolen from Vanessa Run's blog

Over the past week or so, I’ve been doing some major doubting of myself and my ability to complete my upcoming ultra-marathon. I am intimidated by my own reckless ambition for ever signing up, and I am daunted by the training schedule, the long runs, the hilly trails, everything this race entails.

I mean, even the words “Ultra Marathon” are intimidating. It’s a phrase that sounds exclusive and elite. The words conjure up images of rail-thin career distance runners wearing backpacks and hats with flaps, looking parched, exhausted and famished. I picture the guy who writes books on the subject, covers 50 or more miles weekly and probably has a BMI under 16. Sorta like the dudes in this picture.

An ultra marathoner is cut from a cloth much finer than mine. I’m not even in the right league. Take my frame for example: I’m short, heavily-muscled and far from runner-skinny. I run slowly and by any ultra marathoner’s standards, I don’t run very far before I tire out and want to go home. I’ve never even completed a marathon, and mostly because I don’t like the training schedule. Aside from my love for running and my penchant for going big (or going home), I really have no business showing up at a 50k this May.

I have a few friends who are training for the same race as me, and for a couple of them, this will be their first ultra too. And because I don’t really know my ass from my elbow when it comes to proper training, I watch them. I watch their base mileage climb to twice that of mine, and I watch their long runs reach 14, 16, 18 miles…while I’m still floundering over this weekend’s 10 mile run (that I should have done last weekend…but didn’t feel like it). It scares the hell out of me when I think I’m doing fine at something, and then I see someone else hustling their ass off toward the same goal. Makes me think I’m missing something.

The day that I signed up for this thing, my attitude was so positive. Maybe too positive, maybe not. I mean, I may have fellow racers running 40 miles per week already, but I also know people who ran their first 50k after never having run more than half marathon distance. I suppose that when I clicked the “Sign Up” button that day, I was thinking of them.

I was also thinking of my character. I’m a bit of a risk taker when it comes to difficult goals, and so far every time I jump face-first into something impossible, I succeed. Not only do I succeed, but I usually blow my expectations out of the water altogether. Among other things, I became Captain of my cheering squad the first year I joined; I won a half-boat college scholarship with one essay; I tried out and got a good part in a college play during my hardest academic semester; I created an acclaimed installation in my college’s art gallery that seemed way too much to accomplish; I accepted a full-time job doing 90% Photoshop work when I barely knew Photoshop, then became better at it than anyone I know; I went from graphic designer to art director in four years time, and did well at it even though I thought I didn’t have nearly enough experience; and I ran my first half marathon 9 months after learning to run barefoot. I’m not good at everything, but I am good at accomplishing my hardest goals, and often when it seems like I shouldn’t be able to.

Right now it’s about three months out from the 50k, and I’m still intimidated by the thought of running anything more than 10-12 miles. Other than at the 50k itself, I don’t have a whole lot of desire to go that far. Especially not by myself, in the deeply wooded trails of the New Hampshire winter. Those trees can get damn lonely.

So I figure I’ll either find a way to somehow throw aside my fears and loneliness on the trails and get those miles in before the race, or I won’t and I’ll have to wing it that day, hoping for the best. After all, I’ve done a lot of winging it in my life and so far it’s worked out pretty well.

And I have the most amazing people to turn to in these times, those who have cautioned and those who have inspired. Some don’t even realize how much they do for me. Take Vanessa Runs, for example. She is running her first 100-mile ultra this weekend, and she wrote about it today, in a post called “Final Thoughts on 100 Miles.” In it, she said something truly amazing:

I know that 100 miles is not a distance that belongs to the elite. One hundred miles is just ground and earth and mud and space. It belongs to all of us.

When I read this, I pictured Vanessa instead of my usual mind-devised, underfed and overblown elite ultra marathoner. I pictured a regular person in a plaid skirt and visor, holding a simple water bottle and trekking up the pretty hills of San Diego County. I know Vanessa runs about a million miles a week but still…it gave me some hope. And it made the ultra marathon mine. Mine, as much as hers, and as much as Patrick Sweeney’s or Shelly Robillard’s.

Sometimes I wish I could take someone else’s words and wear them in my running shoes, write them on my hands or hear them in my iPod –  because words like those are something to run on. Twenty minutes after I read Vanessa’s blog entry I went out for an amazing 4 mile run that felt like 2…and I knew it would only be a matter of time before I can make 14 miles feel like 7, 20 feel like 12. And I thank her for this.

I will also thank Jason Robillard for daring me to sign up for this race, but not until after I cross that damn 50k finish line. And it may not be the finish line of this 50k, it could take a few attempts…but I know it will eventually happen. And I look forward to that day.


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An Ultra-Marathon and the Paleo Diet

So I’ve been having a lot of strange, crazy, ridiculous thoughts lately.

Ridiculous idea #1 is that I want to run an ultra marathon. I don’t know, maybe a 6 or 12 hour timed race, maybe a 50k…maybe the Pineland Farms 50k on May 27th (happening four days after I get back from standing for 10+ hours at a trade show in NYC – I did say it was ridiculous, didn’t I?). I want to be able to say that I’m an ultra-marathoner. Call it a bucket-list item. And for some crazy reason, a 31 mile ultra seems actually easier than running a 26 mile marathon. Maybe it’s because all the people I know who run marathons talk about how hard the 20+ mile training runs are, and my ultra friends just talk about how much beer they consume afterward. Also, many of my recently-inducted ultra runner friends only had half marathons under their belts before finishing their first ultras. But these guys are in tip-top shape and are really good at making this stuff look easy.

I don’t know though, runs as short as 6-7 miles still make my feet hurt. I’m not sure how it would be possible to succeed at this point in my training level. But, I think, perhaps if I continue training like a champ and lose the excess weight I’ve gained over the last three years, I can manage the miles a little better. And faster.

The Pineland Farms 50k is happening at the end of May, and a few of my friends will be in attendance. It’s very tempting to sign up and pay the $45 today. It would be exciting. After all, that’s how I handled the half marathon: I signed up when I was sure I had absolutely no chance of actually making it, and then I did. Many great opportunities in my life have happened by taking those kinds of big leaps. Also, I work exceptionally well under pressure, and so perhaps having a 50k over my head will help me turn my fitness level around. I don’t know. I’m going to contemplate it over a glass (i.e. bottle) of wine tonight. Actually, who am I kidding? By the time you read this I’ll probably already have signed up for the damn thing.

But, moving on.

Ridiculous idea #2: the 30-Day Paleo Diet Challenge. For those of you who have never heard of it, the Paleo diet is based on the presumption that your body is designed to eat like humans did back in the Paleolithic era (our hunter-gatherer days) – essentially what you can procure naturally from the earth. Unprocessed, whole foods. It is believed that these foods are easiest to digest, and more easily used for energy and good health.

The Paleo diet consists of (from my understanding) red meat, poultry, fish, all fruits and vegetables, nuts and eggs. It does not consist of milk, yogurt, cheese, salt, refined sugars and oils, breads, pastas, rice and any other grains, and anything else that is processed, i.e. stuff that’s not “real food.” Many also exclude beans, legumes and potatoes.

If you think about it, it makes some definite sense. Any nutritional plan out there that has its head on straight pretty much preaches a diet based on these food items, though it usually allows most grains and processed items to which, as a society, I believe we are overly addicted. Even the vegan diet, which I momentarily considered instead, allows for too much processed carbohydrates, things I’ve never attempted to cut out of my diet before. Also, I’ve never been thin. I plan to find out if there is a correlation between those two things, and that’s why Paleo is the way I’m going to go.

However, in order to bring on a realist-factor and make it easier for me to uphold for 30 days, I plan to make the following adjustments/allowances:

  • coffee (I only drink 1 cup a day anyway)
  • potatoes (mostly sweet)
  • wine (occasional, and for adding flavor to cooking)
  • simple dressings (like oil and vinegar, balsamic)
  • beans (fiber)
  • olive oil (I believe in its heart-healthy properties)
  • occasional exceptions (i.e. if eating out) when Paleo options are unavailable

So, from Monday January 23rd through Wednesday, February 22nd I will practice this way of eating. I want to free myself from my addiction to the refined sugars that settle as excess fat around my waist. I want to see if it changes my energy levels, reduces my weight, makes running easier and heck, perhaps even helps my allergies. There are a lot of claims, so it’s possible. If nothing else, it will be healthier for sure. When the month is over, I’ll figure out what to do next.

If I make it out alive, that is. I’m sure going to miss pasta and wheat cereal.