MEC race #4 Recap~10k

Back to the Sooke Potholes for another race! We hadn’t been back since the MEC Race half-marathon was hosted there (since moved to Colwood for two years now!) so it felt good to be back at Sooke, despite a few tricky logistics. It’s further to get to, the race is hosted pretty high up the road so you have to park, hoof it ages to get there or take the bus. We took the bus! And we still BARELY made it to the start, no warm-ups or anything haha.

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Photo courtesy of MEC Victoria.

The bathroom lineup continues to be basically my nemesis. ARGH. I was also a bit miffed because I thought I had signed up for the 15k and was surprised to find myself with a 10k bib. How did that happen?!

Oh well, guess I’m running a 10k now.

The race was run really well, otherwise. Started on time, not too crowded at all, very reasonable pacing on my part (read: slow) and my breathing wasn’t out of control. I ran very conservatively and was kind of afraid of getting short of breath…

But in the end, it was fine. I am slow now, slower than I would have thought and mannn it sucks. But, this was a decent training race and I always like the opportunity to be back out in Sooke again, running on the gravel trails! So flat! 🙂

And thanks as always to the great crew at MEC, snacks at the end of the race and the fabulous photos of the race. My favourite part!

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“First you take a drink. Then the drink takes a drink. Then the drink takes you.” F. Scott Fitzgerald.

I had a jump lesson last night- I wasn’t 100% sure how it was going to go, as this week I did have my ‘surgery’ of sorts and underwent anesthesia…So I figured, just go with it!

And you know what? It went GREAT!

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I am a good boy!

We worked over a small course that had a 1-stride x-rails, 2-stride bending off a sliced skinny, and TWO oxers. Gasp! I know, oxers make a reappearance…But don’t worry we worked up to it, haha.

And Oats was going great, he was jumping kind of flat but very honest and eager, and with every new crazy thing (slicing so many skinnies) he didn’t put up one fuss. Just calmly and honestly cruised over everything. I could tell when he was thinking about chipping (and yes the two stride didn’t always ride that well…gulp) but overall I was super pleased with his attitude, how fun the lesson went, and how brave I managed to be?! Who is this girl?

At least one of the oxers and one of the single fences went to 2’6” and I didn’t even notice? I did think the oxer looked higher, but wasn’t really sure. Oats really had to start thinking about ‘jumping’ and less about ‘cruising’ over the fences. That meant I had to tighten up my core, focus more on packaging his canter so I could get more power, and less strung-out pony.

We did have some ugly spots where Oats was surprised by the increase in height and we fumbled over them, so Nicole made us do just the oxers on their own- the rest of the course rode great. I squawked about doing just the oxers- scary!! But sat with that for a minute, drank a bit of water, Oats and I caught our breath, and  just…did it. Nicole said if we aced it right off the bat, we were done–but if we bungled it, we had to do it again, haha.

With that on the line, we cruised up to the first oxer and just flew over it! And then sliced the skinny, and headed to the next oxer- effortless! We were done! It was as perfect as we’re gonna get, and I was so pleased with the lesson, and Oats. 🙂 What a nice ride.

And just like that…It’s over. Cedar 12K Race Recap & VIRA Series Finale!

Wow. Six weeks. Six races in a row. It’s done and wrapped up as of yesterday.

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Photo by Lois D’Ell with Ceevacs. The awards line-up at Cedar 12k.

Crazy.

This season has been extremely challenging- I struggled with breathing very early on, experiencing exercise induced asthma, and then got a mystery foot injury that made running very difficult at the Cobble Hill 10k. And then, a series of colds that culminated a pretty nasty chest cold last week/this weekend to top off the season! Not my most shining season, 2017, at all. This sickness affected a whole bunch of races- the Sooke 10k, my half marathon, the Port Alberni 10k, the Cedar 12k (I was feeling fine for the MEC trail 10k but it wasn’t a fast one for me).

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Photo credit to Neil Gaudet.

However, at the outset my goal was clear- finish. FINISH. ALL of my races. And did I achieve that goal? You bet I did!!

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Basically sums up how I feel about finishing 6 races in 6 weeks. Photo credit to Neil Gaudet.

I even placed the same as last year (5th) for the VIRA Series year-end awards. Whoop!

The Cedar race for me this year was significantly slower (58:3?) compared with 56:14 last year. Ouch!!! But, my primary goal was to try and finish it without coughing out my lungs/collapsing, so did I achieve my goal? Yes I did! We tried to pace very responsibly, and even with a pretty quiet pace, I found it quite hard. My legs were aching and exhausted, but luckily my breath kept going and I did it. I even found enough energy to surge forward in a few moments, something I thought would NOT be happening. And, I was pleased to pull out a strong finish, assisted by my husband. A great end to a very tough season.

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Muddy shoes after the MEC 10k.

The food was great, I won a doorprize>!! And the volunteers were fantastic. Cedar 12k is a really well run race, so I would highly recommend it.

Though it’s easy to look back to last year and feel bummed out. It is VERY humbling and kind of anger-inducing to think of what a freaking trainwreck this run season has been for me, particularly after I was looking forward to it all summer/fall, but you know…I am uninjured, relatively healthy after being sick for so long, and that’s all I can take right now.

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Big wrap up for the season at Riot Brewery in Chemainus.

Turns out living with extreme pressure and stress just destroy your capabilities to recover, run well, manage your health and wellness and sleep–and I learned exactly how important that was this year. Live and learn!

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Enjoying a beer at Gladstone Brewery in Comox after the half marathon.

I must thank my great husband for supporting my runs, coming with me, and best of all- taking me to try new breweries after many of our races! We went to the Sooke Oceanside Brewery, the Riot Brewing Company, and Twin Cities Brewery- all brand-new! How lucky were we??

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Ian at Riot Brewery post-race Cedar 12k.

We also visited Category 12, which he really enjoys. I like beer- I don’t love it, but I do love the social aspect with it (much like wine…).

Here’s to a good season that challenged me in ways I never though possible. I am looking forward to a break, and I thank the VIRA organization for putting on another great, competitive season that I always recommend to other people! YAY.

Every sport involves packaging energy

I weirdly came to this realization yesterday, when I was riding Oats. We were just hacking around, my trainer was riding her horse. I was tired, not feeling super energized and just kind of ‘blahh’ but my ride was quite lovely- Oats is a fun ride no matter how I am feeling!

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Working on energy!

We hopped over some x-rails and then I did some more work over the 1 pole- packaging his canter so it is ‘tight’ and ‘bouncy’ so I can control the take-off spot to the pole. I started noticing that with this ‘bouncy’ canter, his take off for the pole was far more ‘up’ and explosive than his usual blahhhhhh canter, where he launches from a long spot, very flat and strung out.

Packaging his canter= gathering up energy. Who would have thought?

Ha, it’s so obvious to everyone BUT me! The work I did with him over raised poles last week has cemented in my brain that Oats needs more than one type of canter. I never knew how to achieve that, or capture that feeling, until we did that exercise and now…Now I know what I am going for.

I am planning on working up to that tight ‘packaged’ canter to fences. It is hard work for Oats, so I don’t want to burn him out on it. That’s why when I have been playing around with the exercise, we do a few jumps at a regular ‘easy’ canter, and then collect it for the pole, then let it out again.

And I was talking about this with my husband, who was saying that essentially every sport involves directing energy- and the way you do this is through becoming more efficient, technically and mechanically. Without technique, you can’t just raw-power through it. This reminds me of when I am asking Oats to go forward, he just gets flat and strung out- and we get poles down- when I package the canter, we get a much more powerful ‘up’ jump.

Hmm…

A very solid jump lesson

Last night we were back in the indoor, this time for good. It’s too dark for me to jump outdoors in my lessons, and Oats got his shoes off and immediately began to pussyfoot everywhere. Ah, well.

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Just a cute pic of Oats this summer with his buddy Joey.

I was still in my trainer’s saddle as my friend is picking mine up for me today (yesss!).

I always start off my ride by feeling awkward and slow. I wonder how I can possibly jump, and feel like it’s just not going to happen–I wish this wasn’t the case, but it’s true–I seem to start off with some negative self-talk and doubting.

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In this case, I had to be ok with this feeling and really let myself ‘feel’ uncomfortable. It was fine, things were going well, I just had to sit with it, and work through it. And you know what? My lesson worked out super!

We started by trotting a x-rail, focusing on straightness. Oats literally trotted it, w/o actually jumping. A spank for him then and he got with the the program. The small ‘x’ was then cantered, and then made into a small oxer- which we cantered a few times. I managed to hit a very awkward distance every time to the oxer, so Nicole asked me to change my approach to it–so instead of going straight to the wall for a long distance, I chose to leave the wall early and curve the approach. This worked out really well! I decided to stick with that decision for our coursework.

He was jumping VERY nicely. Actually using himself (they were small jumps) and felt far more engaged than when we were jumping outdoors.

I had to spank him pretty hard when we started the course, as he started off with a very sluggish ‘make me’ kind of attitude. One big whack and he bucked, and then ‘Yes ma’am!!’ and away we went, with a much more forward ride. Good pony!

The course itself was not exciting- the usual diagonal-outside-diagonal-diagonal-diagonal-outside-outside, ha. But, it rode really well, I was being proactive about things like pace, my approach, straightness (except for a wicked right drift on the outside line..whoops) and things worked out awesome.

Good pony! A fun, very focused ride. And I managed to overcome that weird awkwardness we felt initially. Hmm…a good learning opportunity for me, trying to manage my feelings and just be fine with how I am feeling.

 

 

A good horse

Had my jump lesson last night, and we even took advantage of the tiniest bit of light left in the day to hold it in the outdoor arena- lucky eh?

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Jumping can be fun!

I borrowed my trainer’s saddle, she had generously lent it to me for my lesson and we checked the fit- and so far, so good at least until my saddle gets fixed (no word on that yet, how many times should I be calling the saddler until he comes out to my barn?!! I am at twice so far…argh).

We worked on quite a technical exercise–canter-in gymnastic, starting with a small x-rail, to a series of (6?) poles at 10-ft canter strides, working our way up to a small vertical to a half- x-rail bounce.

It was definitely a mind-challenge!

We worked our way up from the x-rail, to a few poles, to all the poles, to raising the poles, to adding in the vertical at the end, to making the vertical into a bounce with half an x- at the end. I was sweating! So was Oats! And huffing and puffing, haha.

The raised poles made every stride matter. I had to come in with a ‘very’ close, collected canter rather than letting Oats go SPLAT through the series of raised poles. We did have a few rounds that he kind of slammed through them, until I learned that at the first pole before the x-rail, I had to be holding him in, and keeping him very tightly between leg and hand…Rather than just pushing him over the gymnastic and leg leg leg, which is what I am used to doing.

It was very educational, and I feel like I learned a ton from it.

I hope Oats did too!

We ended by going through the gymnastic-canter pole, and then circling and heading through 1 line set up on the other side of the arena. The goal was to get five strides. We sure didn’t…The first go-around we jumped in well, and then…wha?? He got 6 strides and stopped and painstakingly climbed over the last fence. Eeeegh!

Time to go around again! This time, we nailed those strides. It almost felt like Oats was surprised by the jump? Haha oh well, at least he jumped it?

Good pony, and a good lesson.

At first, you go with them. Then, they go with you. Then you go together.

A lovely saying by Tom Dorrance about horse training. It’s so true, isn’t it!

So for my jump lesson, we were back in the outdoor arena- WOW it’s so early to be there, I can’t even believe it. I’m not really that prepared to ride outdoors (when not at a horse show) yet. Oats needs his front shoes, he is very ouchy on the sand in the ring, and my riding fitness and balance need a fair bit of work…Feel very different outdoors than in.

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The course- setting and design and photo courtesy of Nicole and Sarah! (the jumps were not this high when I was jumping them, except for maybe the polka-dot planks!)

We warmed up and there was an excellent course set up, courtesy of my trainer and friend who worked to design and set it. I was both excited and kind of nervous to be back outside in the big ring. Oats felt a bit stumbly, and off-balance. He was decently forward, but I could tell he was having some trouble with his feet- first time outside- and going downhill (the ring is slightly sloped), he was having more difficulty maintaining the canter/balancing. He broke several times into a big runny trot.

So, managing these issues, we warmed up over an x-rail to a small vertical. It felt weird being in the outdoor! I felt kind of off balance too! Oats was backed off during this exercise, so we worked on getting him thinking forward- understanding too that he is challenged by the new footing, etc.

We then schooled a few lines, and repeatedly bungled the one outside line that is set slightly downhill into the sun. I just felt like Oats was unsure about it…Well he surprised me by slamming on the brakes when we came to the line at first!~ I’d forgotten than he hadn’t jumped the bridge in a year and he was surprised by it too, hahah. Oh well. We schooled it a few times, and every time we got to the pink oxer, it just felt really…blahhh. He just never felt that comfortable over that line- I believe it was a footing/balance issue.

Then we moved on to an equitation course. It wasn’t set very high, but had a few challenges- like a bending line, a broken line, a two-stride and that infamous outside line that we never rode very prettily.

The course went well, great actually. I was very pleased with Oats’ go-forward attitude!

Time to put it up!

And the wheels kind of fell off here- primarily due to a steering issue with me. Oops!

After the outside line -that STILL rode very ugly- we came in to the two-stride set higher, and I was pulling to the left…Oats went in long, and we came into the middle of the second jump. I almost fell off- because he is such a trier!

That was 100% my fault- pulling, wrong distance, steering all over the place!

We pried ourselves out of the oxer, and re-approached. This time I focused very hard on the second jump, and counter-bent Oats on the approach. We flew over it! YES!

The rest of the course rode fairly well, not so much that I can even really remember it…Oh wait, yes he seemed to get disunited on both bending and broken lines, and I believe that was due to him being a bit confused about our direction and the footing. Something to fix!

For our first go-around in the outdoor jumping, I was very pleased with Oats. He is such a trier, and he was very pleasant to ride.