I wrote this blog post as PrimalCon Mohonk was coming to an end a couple weeks back, but am just now getting around to publishing it. As you’ll see, it was an incredible event.
I hope you’ll join me and other paleo experts and enthusiasts at PrimalCon Oxnard this coming September. But more on that at the end of this post…
Just sitting down to reflect for the first time in 72 hours of absolutely whirlwind fun, excitement and enjoyment at the amazing Mohonk Mountain House in the Hudson Valley of New York. Seventy-five of us are now headed our separate ways as we closed our eighth PrimalCon event on Sunday afternoon June 8th. With this being a new PrimalCon venue there were a few unknowns, but we were more than pleasantly surprised by this amazing resort.
Blown away is a better word. The friendly, efficient Mohonk staff catered to our every need, especially at meal times when they created lavish buffets of Primal-style meals. Mohonk’s awesome food services manager Steven Small said we were the easiest group ever to cater to: “So, uh – no bread, no rolls? No rice, or pasta? No pancakes or scones or muffins in the a.m.? No dessert cart? Just the meats and vegetables and salads and omelet bar and bacon and guacamole [3 cases of avocados worth…]?” Yep, that’s us. Steven also informed us that by his calculation, our hearty group of 75 souls consumed the same amount of food they ordinarily serve 200 dinner guests!
Mohonk catering indeed got a good education on Primal eating strategies. The multitalented Mike DiLandro introduced them to bulletproof coffee, as he commandeered a coffee machine, a blender and ample supplies of butter and coconut oil to set up shop each morning. The group went through so much butter on day one that Mike brokered an emergency order from a local farmer for a hefty load of grassfed butter for day 2 and 3 service. Alas, Mike’s tip about going with bulletproof coffee in lieu of an omelet feast fell on deaf ears…But it turns out our group would need the extra energy for action packed days – more in a bit.
Mohonk is a classic, 145-year-old New York state resort catering to the big city folk an hour South, and the regular weekenders and huge wedding parties definitely felt our presence on the grounds. One PrimalConner related that he overheard some guests he passed in the hallway exclaim, “There go those barefoot people again”.
We tried a new ice-breaker game at the very start of the conference (thanks to feedback from past PrimalCon guests!) and it turned out to be a real doozy. It entailed sharing some interesting facts about yourself, and this group certainly delivered. We had mild mannered Katie from nearby Poughkeepsie who happens to deadlift 300 pounds (2.5x body weight!); Eric Kampmann, the CEO of Midpoint Trade (distributor of all Primal Blueprint Publishing titles) related his feat of hiking the entire Appalachian Trail and also climbing 48 of New Hampshire’s 4,000’ peaks; Dr. Cate Shanahan bolstered her already robust resume when she revealed that she has “the frizziest hair of any human on planet earth”; John Durant once killed a pigeon in Central Park and ate it, and so on.
Louisa shared that she was a “lifetime barefooter”. Nothing special there with this crowd, except that she was being literal! Upon arrival for dinner the first evening, she was cornered by hotel staff and politely asked to don a pair of shoes. “What for?” she asked. “Possible broken glass or debris on the carpet” was the answer. Louisa informed them that not only was she unconcerned about such dangers, but that she planned to tackle the lemon squeeze/labyrinth rock scramble the following day barefoot.
Ah, the labyrinth…The pictures can give you a good sense of the rock scramble ascent, but I was quite surprised at just how elaborate and challenging this course was. The hour-long, 300-foot ascent put the Primal Blueprint Fitness principle of functional, full body movements to the complete test. We had to boulder hop (harkening memories of my childhood play on the rockbound beaches of Maine), problem-solve the optimal scramble lines, shimmy through tight crevasses (too tight even for a backpack to stay on!), ascend long ladders, bridges, and ramps set thoughtfully into the granite cliffs, and finally emerge to a stunning 360-degree view of the Hudson Valley.
Did I say “hour-long ascent”? Well, certain superfit presenters (guesses anyone?) decided to squeeze in an extra ascent one day before breakfast. Angelo the Ninja Warrior dela Cruz went up and back in 21 minutes, while Paleo Primer authors Matt Whitmore and Keris Marsden reported a 28-minute round trip, but from a different starting point… Hence, the word “rematch” was mentioned a few times at breakfast…Speaking of friendly competition, the Ultimate Frisbee battle royale lived to its name. We had an interesting mix of aforementioned athletic presenters, high-flying college dudes, sandbagging talents mumbling about having not played much Frisbee in a while, and an extremely brave and talented group of females holding their own and then some in the “A” game. Naturally, the final match went into sudden death overtime and ended just in time for no one to collapse of exhaustion.
Mind you, the Ultimate battle was just a small sliver in the “something for everyone” mosaic that shaped the weekend. We had a good crowd of sunbathers lounging in the grass watching the Frisbee action or taking turns on the slackline (now a PrimalCon fixture). We had plenty of excellent indoor action too. Mike DiLandro delivered his Primal Transformation seminar in its entirety to provide a great general overview of the movement for those interested. I threw a new wrinkle into my keynote and shared some life story elements that shaped my journey to the Primal Blueprint. Dr. Cate did her thing with an education into the medical science that validates our intuitive sense that Primal living just works (who can forget her animated DNA slides of our genes in action!). Luke Shanahan covered the writing process, a topic he has quickly made super-popular at PrimalCon. John Durant discussed his latest “obsessions”: the emasculation of the modern male, the evolution of disgust (including how it influences food choices), and the power of habitat. Even Matt and Keris overcame a wisecrack challenge from emcee Brad Kearns and were able to stay still indoors long enough to deliver their informative 90-minute keynote, “Health, Fat Loss and Performance”.
Darryl Edwards once again embodied the joys of play (and having boundless and infectious energy), making use of every second of the weekend to get people out of their comfort zones and into play mode. An Angelo made it a perfect 8 for 8 with PrimalCons, starting our days out right with his one-of-a-kind VitaMove sessions. Angelo and holistic healer Dr. Mike Greenberg from Atlanta also kept busy delivering their unique 1-on-1 treatments to help people ease physical pain and clear emotional blocks, respectively.
It was also really special for Carrie and I to share the PrimalCon experience for the first time with our daughter Devyn, who two weeks prior had graduated from the renowned Eugene Lang’s New School in New York City (living that close, she pretty much had to show up for this one!) Well, Devyn fell right in with the group, thanks in part to an extremely impressive contingent of college kids who are deep into this Primal thing, to the great satisfaction of myself and others who hold out hope for the younger generation. How about the photo of Devyn and Keris Marsden paddling their impressively seaworthy craft to the finish line in the hotly contested cardboard regatta—the grand finale of the PrimalCon team adventure race and scavenger hunt custom-designed by Mohonk’s recreation staff led by Shaw Hipsher.
Brian, a student at Colby College, stepped up to deliver an impromptu early morning yoga class on Saturday and a guided meditation on Sunday morning. Heads up for anyone harboring preconceived judgments about today’s typical hard-partying college kids—these kids were fully informed, fully engaged and fully prepared to carry the torch for the future of the movement. Brian said afterward, “This weekend was the best weekend of my life and changed my life permanently. All of us are filled with this afterglow of happiness and motivation.”
Someone at the resort asked me who our “typical” PrimalCon guest is. When you get to know the individuals that come to these events, the main impression you’ll get is diversity. There is no typecast PrimalConner. There are no pre-requisites to have super fitness credentials or a multi-year track record in the game. This is a dynamic and constantly evolving movement that attracts people of all ages, fitness levels, and personalities. A couple of the cooler attendee back stories: Aunt Judy bringing her young niece Greta along; The Ohio bubbly personal trainers Tina and Laura coming out and Laura’s client Sara joining them. Or the young couple from The Ohio State University, Zach and Lena, celebrating the end of their junior year with all of us.
Also going 8 for 8 at PrimalCon was everyone’s favorite camp counselors, Chris Adams and Tina Leaman from Arizona, who have shown phenomenal devotion and commitment to maximize the enjoyment of every single PrimalCon guest at every event to date. We also welcomed our youngest PrimalCon attendee in Liara Niskala, the recent offsprint of veteran PrimalCon staffers Chris and Mary Niskala. Liara was always ready for a friendly smile and wave to the assortment of smiling faces she encountered over the weekend.
Another highlight was the attendance in person of the young couple behind Eating Evolved and their incredible Primal Chocolate line. Christine Cusano and Rick Gusmano are totally devoted to making the highest quality, best-tasting chocolate on the planet, and were extremely generous in feeding each guests to their heart’s content at the evening campfire and also sending them home with all the bars they could grab in two hands!
Every single PrimalCon is special and memorable for assorted reasons, but at the grandness and exceptional hospitality of the Mohonk Mountain House will really stick in my mind. As Carrie said after driving up the mountain and seeing Mohonk for the first time, “I was expecting some rustic country summer camp, not a castle!”
I know it’s difficult to summon the time, energy, investment to get out of your routine and join us for a PrimalCon, but if you value your participation in this community, I cannot recommend PrimalCon highly enough. Of course this might sound pandering being the host and all, but what I really mean is that the live, interpersonal connections we make at PrimalCon represent the highest expression of our power and potential as a “Primal community”.
And I’m talking about connection in every sense and every direction. It’s not just sitting your butt into a chair and getting educated by smart people, but more like the greatest family reunion imaginable, where everyone is happy, positive, supportive and enthusiastic for a magical dream weekend.
Oh sure, real life awaits me and the rest of us when we return home, but we return to routine invigorated and inspired in a way that deepens our appreciation for the simple pleasures of our days, and helps us stay resilient in the face of challenges and setbacks that arise. I know that even my commitment to Primal living requires a regular boost of freshness and inspiration, and that’s exactly what I get from attending each PrimalCon. I hope to see you in Oxnard this September or perhaps at Mohonk as we aspire to return next June!
Speaking of PrimalCon Oxnard, Sept 25-28 marks our fifth trip to this ideal seaside location in Southern California. We base the event at the newly remodeled Mandalay Beach resort, where we’ll eat meals in their comfortable ballroom, stage indoor lectures, and take over their pool and jacuzzi each evening. Next door to the resort is the expansive Oxnard Beach Park – giant soft grass recreation fields and a picnic structure where we lunch daily. An expanse of natural sand dunes dotted with wild grass separate the park from the sandy beach and breaking waves of the Pacific. We make full use of the natural environment with our outdoor fitness classes, our team Survivor challenge and of course our traditional PrimalCon ocean plunge/jacuzzi sprint.
While PrimalCon represents a significant investment of time and energy to get yourself to the event, the value of your experience is undeniable and long-lasting. Check out our Facebook page to get a sense of the connection and nostalgia our guests bring home from their weekend getaway. We’ve negotiated an incredible package with the Mandalay Beach resort to make this the most affordable PrimalCon ever!
Our special PrimalCon rate package at this all-suite facility starts out at $159/night – simply the best value anywhere in Southern California. And, knowing what kind of tight-knit group we are, they don’t mind if you stick 3, 4, or even 5 people into a single suite (King or 2 queen bedroom and living room with pullout and split the cost!). That’s right, you can rally your Primal friends to make a group pilgrimage to Oxnard and have the time of your lives together, and also branch out to make great new connections with the larger group. One group from Northern California has booked out the penthouse Presidential suite (only $599/night) and will be luxuriating in style while splitting the room rate by five! Not a bad vacay idea!
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.