Oatmeal Running

A Buddhist wants a hotdog, so he goes to a hotdog vendor. “What’ll ya have?” Asks the vendor. The Buddhist replies, “Make me one with everything.

1 cup of steel cut oats
6 cups of water

Bring the water to a boil. Add oats, stirring immediately and lower heat to medium. Cook uncovered (the pan, not you. Although, whatever, it’s your kitchen) for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Lower heat to a gentle simmer, cook for an additional 15 minutes. Voila!

You now have oatmeal, which has to be healthy because anything that tastes like that must be good for you, Paleo schmaleo. There are three way to eat it.

1. Hedonist: Life is too short! Don’t waste your time with the dull, boring, and tedious (and repetitive!). Add a bunch of brown sugar, marshmallows, and for texture: crushed candy canes. Mask the unpleasant boringness with sweet McSweetness! As long as some oatmeal gets in your gullet, it’s good for you, right?

2. Masochist: If it tastes good, it must be unhealthy. Self-denial makes you strong! Eat it with un-thawed frozen spinach. Or better yet, don’t eat at all. Suffer!

3. Stoic: Eat it plain, reminding yourself how wonderful it is to have such a readily available source of sustenance! Dismiss the fact that it’s not sweet, or salty, or dressed in any of those fleeting thrills of the tastebuds. Instead of tasting it for what it isn’t, taste it for what it is. Find what is satisfactory about the simple, warm food. Imagine if you were starving, and plain oatmeal was served. How good it would taste! How fulfilling! Once your tastebuds have been retrained to appreciate simplicity, add some berries, a banana, walnuts, and/or some dates. Leave the chunks big, so each spoonful is a different taste, a different ratio of sweetness to nuttiness to oatmealness. Each to be appreciated for what it is.

There are different paths to a running life can take, and all of them require work. You can cushion the work, doing whatever is necessary to hide the reality of your effort and the reality of the environment around you.

You can embrace the pain, welcome it, injury and agony are medals of honor, and find happiness in misery.

Or you can appreciate what you have, your lungs, your legs, your feet, your heart, and the beautifully imperfect functionality of it all.

The Buddhist hands the hotdog vendor a twenty-dollar bill, who in turn hands the Buddhist his order but no change. After an awkward pause, the Buddhist broaches the subject: “may I have my change, please?” The vendor replies, “Change comes from within.”

How to Eat Oatmeal and Enjoy It

But first, some updates. I’ve been letting my life proceed onwards without documentation because writing is hard. Here’s what you’ve missed (or not, if you get my updates on the book of faces. In fact, if you feel you need more BFJ more often, go ahead and friend me. A search for “Josh Sutcliffe” oughta do the trick):

I used the Crooked Road 24-Hour Race for a long run, and kind of felt like a jerk. I’m loosely following the Hal Higdon Advanced 2 Marathon Training Program in my effort to beat ac on his home turf at the Umstead Marathon March 2. Wow, that’s a lot of links. Be sure to click them all. Anyway, Hal said I should run six miles at BEAT AC pace on Saturday, followed by thirteen easy miles on Sunday. I just merged the two together at Crooked Road. That means I was plugging away at a sub-seven pace for six miles around a one mile loop filled with runners pacing themselves for an all-nighter.

Worse, I got it in my head that it would be “neato” to finish my training run while leading the race. I took a bit of a break after mile sixteen or so, due to a gastrointestinal disagreement with m&ms. When I resumed I asked if I was still in the lead. “Nope, but you can catch him!” said the timers/organizers/great people. At lap twenty I asked again, and they said “He’s just ahead of you! The guy in all black!” I went zooming by, thinking surely he heard that. Hoping I merely made a social faux pas instead of messing up his game plan, I finished my last lap. He went on to run many more, probably wondering why I was such a dweeb.

Above: A Dweeb. Wearing the very nice Moc3s in the cold. Do not judge this product by the Dweeb wearing them.

Photo by the great Frank Lilly.

I paced friend Tamara and wife Iris for a bit after that, getting in a total of a little over twenty-six miles. I feel like that distance means something, but can’t quite put my toe on it. I know you’ve been busy reading all the links I’ve provided, but you really should read the wife’s race report of Crooked Road. That’s a smart lady I got there; strange why she married me. Everyone has their lapses of judgement from time to time.

Hmm, this is getting long. Hope I have time for the Oatmeal bit.

I was sent a pair of Vibram Lontra Five Fingers. That’s one sturdy shoe! And expensive! Possibly the most expensive shoe I’ve ever owned, come to think of it. I like to think it’s there way of saying “thank you” for their prolific use of the line I coined, “Less Shoe More You.” I’ll wear them for a trail race (another link for you to click! Run at the Rock) in a week and a half and let you know what I think of them.

I won the inaugural Turkey Day 5K in Martinsville! Iris placed second in her AG!

Instead of a shirt, we got aprons. Instead of trophies, we got cutting boards. Man I am so HUNGRY.

Photo by the wonderful Diana Haynes Martin.

I ran really fast, then not so fast, then somewhere in between, then I finished. Hal told me to run three miles at BEAT AC pace. If I run Umstead that fast, I will beat the pants off of everybody.

Speaking of pants
, I recently ordered some form-fitting running pants. Iris won’t let me wear tights. She says I’ll get beaten up. I think she doesn’t want me to wear running tights because they would make the ladies swoon. Am I right ladies? Ladies? Why are you snickering/vomiting? Anyway, the pants (one Mizuno and one Brooks) are nicer than those swish-swish pants I was winter-running in before. I seem to be less tolerant of the cold this year. Not physically so much as mentally. I’d rather be warm, and am clothing myself accordingly.

Hey, did you hear about that Patrick Sweeney guy finishing the Chimera 100 in eighth place? As the title of his post says, he ran with no training, no crew, wearing Luna Sandals the entire mountainy way. Goddamn, I’ve done nothing with my life.

Know what? The oatmeal lesson will have to wait. This post is too long as it is, especially considering all the link-reading you just did. Until next time, enjoy your feasting, friends! That is, enjoy your feasting, friends, not enjoy your feasting friends. I mean, enjoy their company, but don’t feast on them. And if you do, for goodness sake don’t enjoy it. Cannibalism should be experience with at least a twinge of guilt, don’t you think? Okay, stopping writing now.

The Importance of Being Honest: Complaining is Good

No one will be surprised, I’m sure, when I state that some surfaces are more friendly to a bare foot than others. While practice makes for an excellent social lubricant in the foot-ground relationship, some stuff will always be a challenge in one way or another. Usually, the challenge doesn’t last for a whole race, so each barefooter has to come up with their own pleasant/unpleasant ratio of acceptability when deciding whether to sell out to Big Shoe.

For instance, if there’s a 0.1mi stretch of gravel in a marathon that is otherwise decent pavement, most barefooters would eschew the shoe. Ridge to Bridge, mostly on loose gravel of the nastiest sort, will likely never have a barefoot finisher, unless someone way more skilled than me is looking for a challenge. Most of us will set our BAREometer (oh, that’s good!) somewhere in between, sliding one way or the other depending on objectives. Ultimately what this means, is that there are going to be plenty of times a barefoot runner will be running on an unpleasant surface in public.

How should the barefooter deal with the situation? Act like it feels good? Like it’s no big deal? Being an ambassador of sorts, he’s not going to want anyone to think he regrets his choice to go shoe-free.

Or maybe he should suck it up and carry some flip flops for anything uncomfortable the ground throws at him. Then he not only has a cushy ride, he avoids the EXTREMIST label.

The answer to both of these options is no and no. I mean, do what you want, you’re your own person and really, who am I? The one with the right answers, that’s who. The best thing for an Ambassador of Shoeless Slogging to do is to whine and complain.

Why? Because it’s honest. It’s the truth. No propaganda, no spin. If you fake like it doesn’t feel bad and people believe you, they will assume being abnormally tough is a requirement to run barefoot. If they don’t believe you, they’ll think you’re an idiot.

As for option flip flop, I think it’s overly sensitive. Too sensitive of foot and too sensitive to the judgement of others. Besides, you’re missing out on a lot your feet have to teach you. And who wants to carry flip flops around all the time anyway? Might as well put them on and leave them on. On a side note, I would also question the wisdom of dulling every pain that comes your way.

I say complaining about the rough times is best. Because then, when you finish a marathon and answer “Great!” to the question, “How do your feet feel?”, your word is believed by those who know you’ll complain about a tiny rock.