The machine that made us: Jump lessons!

Yesterday. Wow. So, the day went pretty seamlessly- work was good, it was fairly pleasant to run home and I was heading out to enjoy a walk with Gidget. I had my headphones in, and was listening to my favourite podcast at the moment (Casefile, check it out!) until my good mood came to a screeching halt thanks to an insanely rude, entitled neighbour.

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Dirty details don’t need to come out but protip: Confronting someone with ‘are you deaf’? pretty much NEVER goes well, you old crank. God, it really brought my happy mood down and raised alllllll of my hackles. Don’t mess with me. 

Anyways, I was amped and angry and then spent over an hour driving in traffic to the barn, leading to me rushing around and literally running to grab tack, horse, boots…Yeah. I was in an awful mood going into my riding lesson. Pissed, running late, angry, etc etc the proverbial black cloud was hanging over me.

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This sadly bled into my ride. I felt awkward, clumsy, not connecting well, Oats felt sucked back, tenderfooted and his canter? Ha, what canter. He could not hold the canter, warmed up feeling like a piece of cardboard…Yeah. So, success??

We worked over a few elements of the course in the outdoor and they went ok, until we strung them into a course. Ugh, horrible. I was getting left behind, riding defensively, you name it, I was doing it. I could NOT get in the ‘groove’ per se.

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We regrouped, and then went to tackle the course again- and Nicole suggested I let my body ‘flow’ more and focus on a big, exaggerated two-point bend/release instead of my stiff, defensive, ‘sit’ position. This would help Oats jump better too, as he would feel me committing more to the jump and not riding from the backseat (one of my bigger flaws at the moment).

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Brenda kindly gave Oats her old flymask after his other one got destroyed last week. Wonder how long this will last?

And wouldn’t you know, it worked! Our second course rode really well! Some bobble fences, but overall it flowed much better, we met the fences together, rather than Oats and then me, and it was overall just much more pretty and positive. A great note to end on! AND my friend was there, so I got video + screenshots from it. YES! Plus- I matched with Oats (on purpose this time) so we look pretty too.

So, from good, to really bad, to good again. A rollercoaster of a day!

 

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Ultramarathoner

So I did something this past weekend that seemed pretty crazy to ‘outsiders’ but pretty old hat for running nutters- I ran a 50k trail race.

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On the homestretch and feeling strong. Photo by Joseph Camilleri.

Now let’s backtrack a little- I didn’t tell anyone I was training for this, except for Ian and a few friends (ok, 1 friend). It scared me more than a little, and I was worried about it. Just completing it felt like a huge task, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to do. I also didn’t want people analyzing me, or my running, or second-guessing how I was going to do. I wanted it to be personal, for me.

So…I kept it under my hat for months. I signed up for the race in December after deciding last year that if I couldn’t go faster, I would go longer. Of course, then I had an incredible race season that proved that I COULD go faster, so…Ha. But I maintained that this was my main goal- completing the race.

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At the start- the lady with the hat and walking poles is the legendary ultrarunner Ann Trason. 

The race: Prairie Inn Harriers 2:18 Run Elk/Beaver Ultras. Why Ultras? Because they offer multiple distances for the choosy runner (or crazy runner). I raced the most popular distance (50k), and they have a 40k walkers category, and a 100k and 50-miler.

The race is quite small, which surprises me because for a beginner’s ultra it is very race-friendly. Run 5 loops for the 50k- a bit repetitive due to the loops, but VERY safe, easy to stay hydrated and fueled, no need to carry nutrition or water with you, and it’s a flat course with some gravel and some roots but nothing difficult.

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Lap four and going strong! 

So, pretty doable for a first-timer ultra. The race started at 6am, I got up at 4:30am to choke down enough breakfast (hated eating, but I didn’t have a real choice) and get to the lake for the start. I was fortunate enough to have my long-suffering husband come and be my support crew (driving, handing me gels/Gu’s, electrolytes at each checkpoint to mark the laps).

Basically my brain/body was still asleep for oh, two laps or so? I ran pretty slowly and had a hard time getting with it. I felt like I didn’t really ‘warm up’ and feel like running or racing until the second lap. Which I guess, if you have 5 of them, is totally ok! I ran with another runner for the first lap (Steve) and we helped up another woman who went crash landing face-first on the ground. She was ok, but ended up dropping out after that.

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My best support crew ever! 

By the third lap, I was in the groove. I was doing it! It was a beautiful day, I had to use the washroom but nothing bad, and I felt like my fueling/water was right on target. I ate a LOT of Gu’s and gummies. The maple syrup gel I tried out was so gross I thought I was going to puke- gagging sweet. ICK!

I also ate a S’mores GU that basically slurped right down my throat because it got so warm, which was kind of gross but also…kind of ok? Ha. I really liked the Powerbar gummies, yum and great texture. The Clif Shot Bloks were harder to chew than I recalled.

I was getting tired of sweet things- yick, so many sweet things.

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Each lap I ran through the checkpoint to register my bib, and grab a few doughnut pieces to eat while I gulped down water and electrolytes. It was getting hot, my face was prickly with dried salt that abraded my nose whenever I rubbed it.

Halfway through the 4th lap (35k) my legs started howling. Wow, this was getting hard.

I struggled on and went through my last checkpoint- Ian was cheering and encouraging me, and I felt pretty good heading into the last lap. Except my right knee locked up when I started running again, and I limped for close to a kilometer until it got with the program. I was pretty concerned- was this where it ended for me? 40km? But I kept moving and motion is lotion so my knee got with the program and it was ON!

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The aftermath- not too bad actually!

My goal was to basically finish, but I was aiming for around 5 hours or under. I was right on target on my last lap, and I needed to basically pull it together for 10km more.

I felt pretty strong overall, and random older men who were unofficially manning the water stations (ersatz…water bottles left on picnic tables, haha not fancy) were impressed and told me I was looking really strong. YES! I can do this!

I ‘raced’ ok it looked like I was walking but I swear I was running so fast into the final stretch and I couldn’t believe it was over.  I ran it in 4:51 for third place in my age-group. A huge sense of relief, but also …I was expecting more? For it to feel different? For me to feel different?

I chatted with the volunteers, stood around for awhile and then we headed out for brunch- yes!! I did have a hard time scrambling out of the car (low+calves cramping up= can’t move nimbly) but otherwise, my recovery has been pretty fine. Phew!

So I did it. And I feel like if I did it, anyone can. It’s just a matter of putting your mind to a bigger, more frightening goal.

 

Back to the barn

I took two weeks off from riding when I was in Peru, but Oats had the lucky opportunity to have a few rides by my friend and her friend. Yes! Unfortunately, his canter sucked. It’s time for him to have a chiropractic adjustment, because a big tell for him is swapping his canter leads when asked for anything remotely more challenging that his ‘one canter’…

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I tested this when I got back and yep. High time for him to have a tune-up, as he was swapping right, left and centre! ARGH. He has an appointment this Wednesday.

But, the good news is that he was raring to go when I got back on-board. Yay! He’s still moving and feeling fine, and I had some fun rides back. I even rode the day I got back (very much NOT recommended, I was a zombie), but I missed him so much I couldn’t resist.

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We had our jumping lesson last night in the outdoor- first time for us this season and it *just* opened. I told Nicole to temper our expectations, ha because I wasn’t sure how it would go after taking two weeks off, and our first time in the outdoor. I should have just kept my mouth shut, because it went great!  Oats was super, and once we got through the course he started really flowing. He started off sticky and backed off (due to the change in footing I believe) but I was quite happy with how the course rode.

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Bonus: We now have rocks to jump, thanks to Nicole and Brenda buying jumps from the other trainer Karen. And Oats jumped them without any issues! Yessss!

It feels so so good to ride again. I always miss him when I am travelling 🙂

I Hate Canada Geese!

They shit over everything, are just so gross and loud and annoying, AND they are a real safety at the risk. They have been out of control at the stables recently and it’s getting frightening. Last night they were crash landing on the roof, scrabbling wildly on the roof, taking off, crash landing again, and then walking up and down the roof to launch off the front of the arena. This of course was scaring the shit out of the horses in the arena, who thought they were under attack!

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Oats would prefer ‘Pony Parking Only’ but Dressage Queen is ok too!

Not Oats of course, but he is basically a saint. And also there is a limit to how perfect he will be while horses are losing their minds while 30lb birds are crash landing on a tin roof, over and over and over again. It was nerve-shattering for ME!

I knew I couldn’t be the best, most focused rider during these circumstances. I tried a few transitions (meh) and some lateral work, which was ‘ok’ but I just couldn’t be the rider who could ignore how LOUD and distracting something crashing above my head constantly was. Just absolutely destroyed my focus. ARGH.

I did appreciate how great Oats was about it all, though. Man, he is a saint.

I also have a really hard time with loud noises. I can’t handle them- they scare me and I find myself constantly on edge. So yeah, this wasn’t really idea then either…Oh well.

We did have quite a few fun rides this weekend, and on Monday we worked on some x-rails at the trot and it went quite nicely, no big ‘launches’ or anything. Foot-perfect for those even though he literally face-planted over a pole that day. Hah!

The countdown is ON for my trip though, and no Canada Goose is going to ruin that for me!

Final race of the 2018 VIRA Season- Bazan Bay’s 5k Recap!

It feels weird to write this, because earlier this past week I was like oh man, I am soooooo over racing! But then when I was at the race, I was thinking, boo…I want to race every weekend! Mixed emotions much?

I am having the race season of my LIFE! Each race, I am meeting the challenge and overcoming it. It feels incredible, to be completely honest. Wow. How lucky am I, that my body is responding to the increased demands in such an awesome way?

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Series award, Frontrunners gift cert & bronze in my AG. What a weekend!

All that to say- my goal for the 5k was to get under 21 minutes. It felt like a stiff goal to me, as my weakest distance is the 5k for sure, and really any shorter distances. I just don’t have the power.

So I mentally wrote off this race as a ‘for fun’ race and a way to cap off the season of good racing. I was even asking Ian AT the race what my splits should be if I wanted to get under 21, and he said around 4:10/km. Yeesh, that seemed way too fast for me. So yeah I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. My eye is on a bigger prize.

At the start, it was quite warm! I was wearing shorts and a long-sleeved Lululemon run shirt and kind of wishing I was wearing a t-shirt. Crazy eh? We were packed in close and the start was hairy- I watched someone almost smoke a small child that was up too close. Yikes!

We bustled and battled it out for 200 metres or so, and then things smoothed out. I felt like I was running pretty hard in that awkward ‘legs haven’t caught up to my lungs’ way. My first KM was about 3:56 or so? Phew, so I have some room.

We kept running and I had my eye on a few runners who I typically race with, as they have similar pacing and strengths to me. Next KM- 4:07. Ok, that I can work with, but I’d have to really watch to make sure it didn’t creep up….

KM 3- this is when I started catching runners. Not gonna lie, it felt AWESOME. Usually KM 3 is when the wheels fall off, but I just felt stronger. I ran this one at 3:50 I think? Between 3-4, I started really breathing hard, Jesus when was it going to be over? I started staring at my GPS watch, ha. A girl I caught up with-and-passed was gasping and breathing really horribly. It made me feel a bit concerned. Her coach or parent was on the sidelines telling her she had to ‘ make a decision…’

I ran a bit faster to put her behind me- it was very distracting.

And I could see the finish line- almost there! I was running as hard as I could, even though I did get caught up by a few runners who had a better sprint that I did. I could see the clock and couldn’t believe my eyes- 19-something?? Wha?

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Photo courtesy of VIRA. Third place age-grouper.

I ran down the clock and staggered around trying not to puke. Long time racer Gary Duncan saw my finish and came over to give me a hug and congratulate me. I had just raced under 20 minutes! 

Whoa! My chip time just squeaked under 20, at 19:58 and my official gun time was 20:04. I couldn’t believe it! That amazingly was good for 3rd in my age group. We also had the year-end series awards and I got FIRST in my age group! That came with $100 to Frontrunners! 🙂

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Series-end awards. Breeches are probably the least flattering pants around…Photo courtesy of VIRA.

Ian placed really high in his age-group too- 4th! Not too shabby! He is much faster than I 😉

Thanks again to VIRA for a fantastic race season. I’m floating on air, ending on a very high note. YES!

A really good lesson

Had my weekly jump lesson last night, after a looong day at a workshop (which I enjoyed but wow, it was like getting information through a firehose. Too much!). I was looking forward to a good ride, fingers crossed.

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It was. You know? Just really good. Oats was still sticky through the transitions, so we spent quality time schooling those before moving on to the jumps. And the jumps, I requested we keep them small so I could focus on the technical aspects of the course, and it rode pretty well!

The course: Tricky! Two ‘slice’ jumps to a bending line on both ends, a small gymnastic two-stride x-rail to oxer, and then rode it back the other way oxer jump-in two strides to the x-rail. Exciting!

And I was very pleased with how it rode. If Oats got sticky, I schooled the transition right then and there, and then proceeded to the jump/course. Get it done right.

There were quite a few jumps on course, 13 efforts total. And we were schooling so well that I immediately wanted to go jump it again! And we did! Though with that, I am starting to realize my fitness is starting to outpace Oats’…He was huffing and puffing and I was feeling totally fine. Hm.

I did notice that last weekend as well, when my Karen Brain lesson usually leaves me huffing and puffing and sweaty, I felt totally fine. This is a good thing, let me tell you!  It means my fitness has improved at a rate that I can actually start to feel. And it makes me feel like a confident and strong rider. Yes!

 

Happy Easter~

Ah what an awesome long weekend. I started it by having a great jump lesson on Thursday- Oats was slow and sticky, but we worked through it and ended up having a very successful ride!

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Friday we went and I did a super looong run around Elk/Beaver Lake. Hours! Certainly taught me the importance of fueling appropriately yikes. A good day though all around.

Saturday I got up early-ish for a dressage lesson with Oats with my normal jump trainer. It was very interesting and showed to us a few holes in Oats’ education, namely encountering some resistance through transitions. Hm….

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And then we were up Island and off to the farm! We had a HUGE great turkey dinner at the farm, and enjoyed some games, hot-tubbing and hiking.

Sunday we were back home and I had another dressage lesson, this time with my regular dressage trainer. More insight- Oats moves crooked at the canter, and it’s because, gasp, I am HELPING HIM be crooked. Wha? It was a strangely difficult ride!

Monday I was back at the barn! Did a fairly casual ride on Oats because as it turns out, I was tired, haha. My allergies have been out.of.control these days and man, they are sooo horrible. I came home after some unsuccessful swimsuit shopping (styles are SO UGLY right now. No WAY am I wearing a high-waisted granny panty swimsuit) and made myself some sangria and sat on the deck to enjoy some sunshine.

With me was Gidget and Tucker, who do not get along. At all. HA.

A great long weekend and much-needed.