Progress, like life, is not linear

Had an interesting equine counseling session last night. We focus on a few aspects of my life during each session. I usually bring up what I want to focus on or what I am struggling with (my parents, riding, performance anxiety, race performance). We are focusing on my race performance right now, and I have been struggling mightily at races. Mad, disappointed, angry at my body for letting me down, bummed about my slower times, expecting better…You name it, I am feeling it!

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Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.

My last race was good, but the time was not good. It was good because I ran within my ability and I could breathe the whole race. I was quite pleased with that, and I didn’t burn my lungs out like I have been doing.

What’s the difference? For a long time, I have been relying on the cheap fast energy of adrenaline during races. I don’t have a lot of long-term power to back that up, at all. And it burns out too fast, leaving me gasping, heaving, ready to puke, with legs that burn with lactic acid and feel weak within 1km.

This worked really well for me last year. This year, not so much.

My training has been going great, but like last year, it’s pretty much the same (though my long runs are LONGER now, ha). If I keep doing what I’m doing, my body gets used to it, and I adapt very quickly. Problem is…That doesn’t get me faster or more powerful. It gets me very complacent.

So to get better results, and power that I can rely on more, I have to change my training (and my mindset, which is making me slower this season, ha).

This means getting into the uncomfortable zone. Aka faster.

Funny enough, my equine counselor brought up a comment I got from a dressage judge years ago about Oats. “His trot looks very comfortable and easy. I bet you could trot like that all day. It’s not work though, and it’s not the power you need.” She was right! I could cruise on Oats alllllllll day with that lovely, easy trot of his. Problem is, when I wanted ‘more’ trot or collected trot, things fell apart.

She pointed out that my running is remarkably similar. My long runs? Could cruise alllllll day at my little jog-trot. Want more ‘go’ and more power? Falls apart.  Ha, I am Oats. Weird eh?

Life mirrors us in more ways than we think. And for me? I am experimenting with more power moves. 500 metre pick-ups in pace during my long runs, which are killer and I hate them, but I have to do them. Oh and running hills after my rides on Sunday. We’ll see!

Coming on strong

This week, work continues to be….the bane of my existence, but we’ll chalk that up to it being that way for approximately another month (GAH).

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This girl can make it happen!

Jump lesson last night and I was actually feeling ok going into it. It has gotten cold again here (hate it) and I was freezing in my lesson. Like, wanted to keep cantering/trotting in my warmup because I was so cold. My trainer said ok that’s enough warming up for Oats and I was like, are you sure? I need to warm up!

We started work over a grid, and it was set short. Like, Oats short. And I really got into it! Usually grids are my nemesis and I kind of flail badly at them. However, I was feeling quite confident about the shorter distances even though we flailed through them as poles, I said they would probably work out well as jumps, and I was right! The shorter distance gave me a lot more confidence.

Then, we worked on setting up a small course with the gymnastic as a start.

The course had very few jumps (4?) but we jumped them several times in many iterations. S-curves, a bending line, diagonal fence, one on the centre line, all sorts of fun combinations! Oats was a superstar, and the most amazing thing happened. I screwed up a fence or two, cursed briefly, and then let it go and was able to immediately move on. I was even able to slow my brain down enough to think about what my next move was (something I am NEVER able to accomplish). Who is this girl?

I was sitting tall around -most- corners. I was focused on the approach, and using an opening rein for the S-curve. When I bungled the bending line (with a big chip..), we went and rode it again on Nicole’s prompting, and it went perfectly. WOW! For me, to be able to let that anxiety (performance mostly) go and just ride it again fixing my mistakes? That is a big step. Huge for me.

Even my trainer is noticing that I am slowing down enough to be able to fix things, adjust my position, carefully consider my track and be better about sitting up (elbows are kind of a work in progress though, and I wasn’t always great about sitting up all the time).

Still, I am proud of being able to think- yes I can do this. This is how it will go.

It’s taken a long time and I fall off track a lot, and these jumps were very small and totally do-able, but I didn’t have anxiety doing it. When my trainer suggested jumping the course again, I didn’t start backpedaling, I just did it! 🙂

 

What makes a good man?

It felt like I hadn’t had a solid dressage lesson in forever! We had a break due to a change in my fellow rider’s schedule, so yesterday I was quite interested in getting back on the dressage train.

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Totally us right now. So, where are the next Olympics?

And you know what? It was a really good, solid and comprehensive lesson. We first worked on some modified quarter-turn on the haunches at each corner, focusing on getting the horse to move off your leg instead of ‘pulling’ around the turn. Then, we focused on getting the turn ‘all the way around’ instead of just a quarter. I had to expand my circle because Oats wanted to pivot off the hind end, instead of turning his shoulders more.

It was actually way harder than it looked or than I thought it was going to be. And we sucked at it on the left rein, yeesh. Oh well!

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Mr. Oats, dressage superstar

Next we worked on positioning for Travers lateral work with actually some really solid progress at the walk. When we moved up to trot it was…interesting. Some things I learned and need to remind myself: Lower is always good, so allow Oats to reach/stretch his neck down when he feels resistant. If it seems awkward and too hard, break it down. Move off leg for one side. Then ask for the inside bend on the other side.

Make it really clear what you are asking: Bend. Move off leg. One at a time. THEN try combining the pieces, relaxing the pressure as you ask. Give-take, give-take.

We even got ‘some’ positioning at the trot (which was described to be as a banana shape, the horse forms a banana and you travel that way haha), which surprised me as it was kind of tricky for Oats to understand and I wasn’t expecting him to get it in the lesson. Go us!! He wanted to stretch hardcore after that and got fussy. To be expected, and actually his attitude towards the whole lesson was great- he wasn’t having any hissy fits, hopping up and down, or anything! WOW! I think that was the first time I’ve been able to ask for lateral work of such comprehensiveness without some squawking from Oats.

Go Oats go! Some really great efforts and grown up work from the pony. 🙂

VIRA Hatley Castle 8k race recap: In a slump? Beginner’s luck?

As always, thank you to the volunteers and organizers that make a fun race happen. It couldn’t go on without their work! I love the series so much. Do VIRA races, support the local race community!

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So, this was me last year. When I actually…ran well.

I’m going to preface this possibly whiny post with the fact that I still enjoy running and my training has been going awesome! I had a great long run last weekend and felt fantastic after.

So, why then does this not translate? My races have been dumpster fires, mostly.

Now, this one wasn’t bad- I enjoyed the race, my mantra/goal for the race was ‘control’ as I wanted to run very carefully and ‘in control’ throughout the whole race.No getting run off my feet, no pushing a pace I couldn’t keep, frantic breathing, gasping for breath and choking on phlegm, dead legs. No pushing my body past what it can do.

And did I do it? YES! I ran a solid race, was paced very fairly in a good pack of runners. I even ran confidently at the slower, more controlled pace. I trusted my legs, my breathing was better (not great, but better at a slower pace) and I even felt fairly relaxed during it.

The last 1km or so was still kind of horrible and I was gasping and ready to hurl, but hey…always is eh?

And how did this controlled, focused approach do me for time? Ha. a minute and a half slower than last year. Last year I ran it in 37:19, and felt rough but doable. This year I ran it in 38:44 and felt rough but doable. What gives?

Why am I backsliding so badly this year? I’m really struggling with my races, where last year I was running faster more confidently. I want that ‘old me’ back.

This race I didn’t give in to my ‘give up’ temptation, that horrible voice in my head that eggs me on to give up, drop out, just walk. I didn’t even feel that need, because I was running a race I felt comfortable doing.

So, that was a big win. But, the nagging question for me- Why so slow?

Possibly I had beginner’s luck last year, and was running pretty great times kind of on a whim. Lucky me, then. But it’s bad because I keep wanting those times, and quite frankly expecting to get them. And I’m not.

So, I am having a tough time with it, but I am still enjoying training a great deal. I still like running, and I hope I can either turn this season around, or find a better way to measure progress, as it’s just not happening the way I wanted it to.

That’s just what you are: Week update

Honestly haven’t been feeling it this week. Haven’t been feeling anything pretty much.

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Me this whole freaking week.

Work has been psychotically busy and a real pressure-cooker. It’s left me without a blogging voice, hopefully temporarily.

I have been riding and actually that’s been going fine! Had a nice lesson yesterday and felt really good, in synch and happy with dear old Oats. Funny, because I was SO grouchy yesterday before riding (thanks to work and my persistent health issues this week). Grouchy, exhausted, bone-crunching fatigue, bloating, allergies that are making it impossible to breathe at anytime, particularly at night…yeah. Perfection.

BUT riding always brings it home for me, and I LOVE it.

A fun jump lesson, and the mistakes that happened were all mine and I can own it. Mistakes happen, and I move on and don’t make them in the second half of my course. That’s fine. Oats is a good and honest pony, and any screwups were mine.

I didn’t ride on Tues- thank god my lesson was already cancelled- because of already mentioned health issues. I staggered home and was seriously worried I was going to collapse on my way. I was so tired. My limbs felt like they weighed a thousand pounds. I was dizzy and unbalanced. I was so out of it, and could barely drag my body home. My gym workout that I usually do at lunch? I spent it laying on a gym mat with my eyes closed. god.

Spent the evening sleeping on the couch. WTF? I never do that! But yeah…This was to set the tone for my miserable week of allergies-bloating-crushing fatigue-allergies-bloating-cramps-fatigue…UGH.

So yeah, not feeling anything in life right now. Still love my pony, my fraking dog that spent the night scrambling over me and licking herself loudly…maybe not her right now, ha.

Four day week? Feels more like a month.

 

Hot moment: Week update?

So this week. Yeah….

Not much riding happened- 1 ride on Tues where Oats was hot to trot, and I loved it! And then it blizzarded again on Wednesday, so I walked home and didn’t leave the house all night…

And then a jump lesson Thursday after all the snow melted and it was a slushy mess everywhere!

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So, my week and my winter…

My lesson was pretty good, some big oops moments (like, disunited canter and me turning Oats too fast and him slipping so badly I swear I thought he was going to FALL ON ME) he saved my freaking butt!).

We worked on a gymnastic- canter-in bounce to four strides, and then coming around to a single fence on the outside line, and then the gymnastic, but we then did a bending line the second time around to a small oxer. That’s where I screwed up a bunch of times, grabby hands on my left hand pulling Oats’ face around. Shit!

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Some days you ride better without hands. This remains true…

We then went from the small oxer to the angled fence, and then angled it the other way, and then to a small ‘step’ type jump, back to the oxer, and to a single fence on the diagonal.

We made some big mistakes, Oats got surprised by the angled jump and slammed on the brakes but it was like, oh hey no big deal, let’s try that one again. And he jumped it totally fine, phew!

So, even though my lessons aren’t perfect or necessarily really nice looking, I am working through some things and enjoying the process. I didn’t want Nicole to put them up though, so that’s my next goal- be ok with the course, be slower through my turns, rein in my rogue elbows & left hand, and BE BRAVER about jumps going up. The jumps themselves? Totally fine, not a problem.

So, do it, ME!

Also work has been a nightmare this week and I have been having a lot of trouble sleeping. UGHHH.

Grouchy.

Having a bad week, bad weather week (only got out to ride yesterday due to an enormous snow dump) and bad work week.

Not even much feeling like blogging!

These photos will have to suffice

Oats Pre-snow apocalypse

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Before the snow came

 

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Right now.