Apple Day at Sea Cider

Despite the absolute horror that was the end of the week with Oat’s near-death experience, I managed to have a pretty nice weekend.

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Saturday, Oats and I had a very low-key dressage lesson. This was also when I noticed his cough was pretty terrible, so I tried to keep it very light and not hard for him. I was very pleased with his work though, he likes having a job (mostly).

We then zipped up island to my in-laws farm, to pick pears and plums! It was great, and there were SOOO many. 100’s of lbs of plums and pears! Overwhelming! They also showed me the lovely plaque they made for Buster Bunny, to mark his final resting place at their farm. It made me feel sad, but also very appreciative of them as a part of my family.

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Sunday was another busy day- I had every intention of running before meeting the girls at the barn for the Apple Day event at Sea Cider, except I ….didn’t get up and slept in. Ha. We had a fabulous time and really enjoyed ourselves. The cider was great, we even got to try fresh-pressed apple juice!! Food was phenomenal- standouts were the squash risotto, pork belly with potato/cauliflower gratin, apple toffee bread pudding, and octopus on bannock. YUM.

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I then rode Oats out in the field, to see if a non-dusty environment would improve his cough. Spoiler: It didn’t. His cough was TERRIBLE. 😦 I started getting quite concerned, so I called the vet on Monday and had him check out Oats. Good news was that all his vitals were fine, but to give him time off (the week) to recover and monitor him.

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By the time I got home after Sea Cider and riding, it was after 4pm! Time to get ready for our first time out to Sult Pierogy Bar, where they were holding a special tasting event with Parkside Beer. ‘Dawn till Dusk’ event and it was SO GOOD. Not cheap- $45, but so much food, two full cans of beer?! Lots of samples pairing with some really outstanding dishes- trout with lemon buerre blanc, smoked tomato bisque with grilled cheese pierogy ‘sandwich’, cherry smoked duck breast on top of the hottest pierogy I have ever eaten…Oh man.

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I am definitely going again. Thumbs up!!! 🙂

And now for this week, I am going out to the barn to monitor Oats,  handwalk/graze him (he loves it) and take his temperature. All lessons cancelled, horse show on Saturday cancelled. OH well!

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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!

Danger

I almost lost old Oats on Thursday.

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My car broke down (since fixed) so I had to cancel my usual jump lesson that I have on Thursdays. I also had my phone on silent so I didn’t hear it ringing with an emergency–Oats was choking and going into shock.

I still want to cry thinking about it. When I got into work on Friday morning, I had 23++ missed calls, voicemails and emergency Facebook notifications. I was TERRIFIED.

The good news is that he came out of it fine *he has bad cough now but he survived and that is what is important. The only thing. It seems like he had eaten something like a twig or blackberry bramble in the field, couldn’t swallow, came in to eat dinner and his dinner starting coming back up. He was panicking, couldn’t swallow and was coughing up phlegm.

He was shaking, trembling violently and sweating and breathing heavily. If this had happened and nobody noticed, he would have died. Luckily for Oats, his pasturemate’s owner saw something wrong with him and saved his life by calling the vet. He was intubated and the blockage was pushed through. He was in severe shock though, and that took a lot longer to come out of.

My god. I was horrified that the ONE day I am not at the barn this happens and they couldn’t get hold of me. My god. I was crying at work, saying I can’t deal with this again. My work understands, so they let me leave as soon as my car was back from the shop so I could go and see Oats.

I zipped off asap and he was back to his old self *(with a terrible cough).

I am not ready to live my life without Oats.

 

Snickers vs Mars vs 3 Musketeers

In the showdown between candy bar giants, who was the winner? (sidenote: US seems to prefer candy bar to our more regional ‘chocolate bar’)

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Clearly Snickers was the winner, with a balanced palate of salty/sweet (but not cloyingly sweet) and a pleasant texture of nougat/caramel/chopped peanuts, that appealed to most in the office. It has the added bonus of protein from the peanuts, so it is practically a health food. Maybe even a vegetable, if we want to go US-style here. Seasonal variations on Snickers bars include almonds and dark chocolate!

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Second place is kind of a toss-up between Mars and 3 Musketeers *I wanted to write 2 Musketeers, I mean it only has nougat (more marshmallowy) and chocolate so what is the third element here?

Mars lost ground in this round due to the overwhelming sweetness of the whole bar. A stiffer nougat chew was nice, but it’s so sweet it makes all of our fillings ache. Caramel is a good touch but again, just too damn sweet. Plus, no peanuts so…It seems overwhelmingly bad for you. I can’t even justify it really. Their seasonal variation at one point was Mars Maple, available only in…drumroll please…Canada. It’s just a Mars. What more do you want??

3 Musketeers also failed here due to its marshmallowy texture and no added fun features like nuts or caramel. A bland marshmallow bar? I would eat that and I still really like them (and the internet says 3 Musketeers has experimented with strawberry marshmallow nougat and also dark chocolate, so they have some intrepid fans for sure)…But here it just got lost in the wishy-washy sweetness and no backstory.

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Also this might be in our future too if we keep this up past Halloween! Thank you to my colleague for providing the chocolate bars for our taste tests.

Guest post: Finlayson Arm 28k 2017 Race Recap!

Courtesy of my husband who bravely undertook this insane race last weekend! Without further ado:

The good memories of the 28k Finlayson Arm race are overshadowed by my evolution through intensifying stages of discomfort. This constant pain was punctuated by bursts of sunlight piercing magically down between treetops, a stunning vista or two and little reminders that this amazing network of trails is in my own backyard. There was also the reminder that I had volunteered for this little jaunt through the woods and that no one would sympathize with my agony.

A few weeks before the race, I had decided that four hours was the longest it would take me – the rough number to beat. I figured that was setting expectations so low that I was sure to finish with a smile. There was even some pre-race training for me, complete with my brand new water-bladder on my back and getting lost for an hour or two in the trails behind Thetis Lake. I felt sure-footed and strong. This was a race I could do. All I needed to do was power through some tough hills and keep moving. In a sense, that’s exactly how things turned out.

It was a chilly morning when we set out – cool and clear over night – but the forecast was sunny. The 50k and (suicidal) 100k racers had finished the day before in the rain. As if their punishment was not enough. I went quick off the start as I anticipated getting bottlenecked later on the narrow single-track. After a kilometer I was established near the top 10. Then we hit the creek. Anyone who has been to Goldstream Park will notice how a four-lane highway rips through the middle with no safe way to get from one side to the other. You either need to dodge cars or get your feet wet (and maybe your legs and maybe your ass depending on how nimble you are). A rope strung across helped the crossing not be complete madness, but it was a gritty way to start a race.

With wet feet I carried up through the rolling side hill on the west side of the highway. This is a really nice section of trail that I will have to remember to check out when I’m not racing. It was a time to flex out your legs, find your pace and your seeding, a bit of a free pass before you hit the real hills. Looking back I wonder if I went too fast in this section, maybe blowing too much gas.

About five kilometers in, we were back under the highway (luckily through a dry stream bed this time) and through the main park, eerily deserted in the still early morning. I already had a pain in my leg, a nagging injury that I’m learning to live with, so I started to run a bit more cautiously.

Next it was on to the main event of the first half of the race, up the face of Mt Finlayson. There’s a slow build to remind you that this is a serious climb, to check your pace and your ambition. Then it gets steeper. Then the trail kinda takes a break and you start scrambling over rock, open to the sky. I should mention at this point all the volunteers and signage to keep you on track. There is plenty of both and I always felt like I knew where I needed to go. They seemed to anticipate in these early sections where you might go astray and had people there to point. On the mountain there were more guides. It’s the kind of climb where there is the very real possibility of running off a cliff into thin air so I’m glad they were there to point the best way.

At the top of the hill I felt pretty good. Well, not good. My legs were burning. But there was a lift in getting over what I knew was the hardest section of trail and I had kept my pace and not been passed. It was this feeling that propelled me down the backside, not too steep (which was nice) and into trail that I had never seen before. Just before we popped out on asphalt (a surprise) I was passed by someone with a bit more lift than me, but I stayed on his heels as we ran along the short section of road towards the first aid station.

The station could not come soon enough. Almost two hours into the run, I suddenly felt depleted. I wanted to stop and sit and eat some cookies, but my new nemesis just cruised on through. I grabbed a cookie and a banana piece anyway and set off on the next leg, back into trail. This is where my memory of the route got a bit hazy. What kilometre were we at? How far to the turnaround? Basically, the race had moved solidly into ‘not-fun-anymore’ territory and I was doing some mental math on how much longer I would have to move. At two hours the footsteps behind me turned into people passing me. I tried my best to make sure they weren’t increasing their lead on me, but I found myself slowing on every little hill, my flow completely evaporating.

There is a long hill in this section that, mentally, nearly did me in. Where was the bloody turnaround? The trail was also quite technical, with loose rocks and big steps up in places. Then I saw the front runners coming back down and couldn’t decide if I was elated or destroyed. It meant the end must be near but also put the necessary route back home into perspective. At least they were giving shout outs to keep me going: “Almost there!” I hoped they were right. Finally there were more people coming back down towards me – people I recognized! Hey, you’re only a bit ahead of me! And there were the volunteers, a photographer snapping a picture of my grimaced face, and the end of the ‘out’ – it was time for the ‘back.’ (Side note: one of the volunteers or spectators or whatever was announcing ‘halfway there’ and I thought that was a bit cruel. Maybe most didn’t hear or didn’t care, but I was a believer for a moment. Could this truly be only halfway?)

I was so happy to be heading home (and downhill to boot) that I even passed who I would later find out was my trail buddy. I swung my bag around and took out my gel pack. Time to take in some energy and get going. Things were looking good. Now it was my turn to dish out enthusiasm to those still on the grind to the top – “keep going,” and “almost there” I kept saying even as it became less true the further I went. And there were so many people behind me. I was doing well! Then all of a sudden I wasn’t.

I was coming undone, step by step.

After three hours of “running” I did not have the strength to keep my pace, or any pace. I was passed, then passed again. I knew the aid station would be coming back up again but I needed it now. As I popped out of the woods back into the daylight I was passed by another three. But I had to take a moment. I grabbed another gel pack, a banana and squashed a cookie in my mouth. The volunteers were asking if I needed to fill my pack, something to drink. I shook my head and imagined the madness in my eyes. I muttered something about wanting to use up what I had. Maybe I had filled my pack too full as well. Then I was off for the final few kilometers and my once measured race became an unhinged stumble to the end.

The return route did not go back over Mt Finlayson, but skirted along one side. It was a rolling bit of trail that took a lot of focus. Right in front of me was the aforementioned Trail Buddy – temporary companions in suffering. It felt reassuring to keep pace with someone. Those who had passed us seemed to have extra energy to tap and were pulling away, but we were hanging in there, moving forward. I knew the end could not be too far off, but looking at my watch I began to wonder if I would get in under four hours. More importantly, would I be able to stand on my feet for that long? We rounded the mountain and rejoined the steep trail up from before – this time heading down. My legs – knees, shins – could not handle the steep downhill. I grimaced with every step. Up or down would not do; I needed flat, please.

Down and down we went and we were passed again. My world got smaller as I narrowed my focus on foot placement without collapsing or catapulting downhill.

Next was a split off to the left, in the direction of end/start. I could hear the highway again. I was picturing a mental map of the park and where we were in relation to salvation. The end could be around any bend, I told myself after every bend. Out of nowhere this guy in his sixties came up on us, hooting and and maniacally urging us along. “C’mon boys, let’s give ‘em hell” he shouted as if we were heading over the top of the trenches or storming Normandy. I put on a face and groaned some more. The crazy old man disappeared whooping and skipping along. Maybe I imagined the whole thing.

Then at about the same time that I decided my legs were finished, I spotted spectators ahead. There was a volunteer with a clipboard, calling ahead with my number, the sound of fans and a PA system blurting out names and congratulations. And then I heard my name, a mix-up, before I shot out onto the grass and over the finish, some prize pack thrust into my hands, the buzz of activity all around. There was my run buddy (he beat me in the end) with a high five and then food, glorious food.

For the next 45 minutes or so, I paced around in agony in between vigorous stuffing of burgers and beer. I could not decide whether to sit, stand, walk, or crawl into the bushes for a little nap. It was agony, but I had done it. And I never had to do it again.

I stayed on to cheer some others as they came across. A seventy year old, a guy who had finished the 100k yesterday was doing the ‘double-double,’ some others who I recognized from races past. Were they fast, was I slow? Did we all do “alright?” I cared a little. As much as this race was an experiment, you want to do well. Or well enough for your expectations.

I got in at 3 hours and 51 minutes, somehow just inside my (soft) target. I might as well have run a marathon. It’s the slowest 28 kilometers I’ll likely ever run yet certainly one to remember.

Cross-country schooling at High Point!

Sadly I have no real photos but trust me- we did it on Saturday and it went really well! The last time Oats and I were X-C schooling was oh, two years ago? The course was set up at Avalon, but I figured it was time to give it another try since Avalon has since sold their course to High Point, who are very enthusiastic about starting up their own venue. Thank god, is all I can say! I appreciate new blood in the equine field, particularly when they seem like pretty cool people 🙂

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A few girls went up last Monday and I was so jealous. Getting the day off to go up was NOT going to happen though, so I let it go…Until another girl on Thursday mentioned she was looking for a partner to head up on Saturday. A weekend? Sold!!

Ugh it was early though, yikes. Freezing out too. Nevertheless, we packed up the horses, our gear and took them up island to Duncan/Glenora, and my first time at High Point. We met with the trainer (Jane Stone) who was running the x-c lesson for us, and two other riders (all much  more competent than Oats and me, ohhh well).

We started in the smaller field that was jam-packed with jumps! So many jumps! And a big hill too. Oats was jazzed and a little frazzled, he couldn’t figure out wtf was going on. He was game for a few logs, but then when we turned to jump the small green house from the other direction, he quit – HARD. He couldn’t figure out what was going on?!

We just turned and re-approached from the direction he was comfortable with, no biggie.

Went up and down the hill and worked a small course of logs (me) big jumps (everyone else). And then it was time to tackle the big field! Oats was hot to trot on the path out to the big field, but settled really nicely and finally figured out the game- no refusals here for this guy!

Bad news- our path and precision need a TON of work. We drifted, hardcore, and it was bad. Good news- no refusals and Oats jumped really nicely! He really got the game by this point and was really game. 🙂

I was so proud of him, it made up for him being kind of a dink about going into the water (he wouldn’t, and then he did, and then when I wanted to go back in he started getting light, threatening to rear. Oh Oats!).

A great day, and a very good experience courtesy of my hauling buddy (who had a fantastic session on her horse, VERY impressive) and trainer Jane Stone, who made it very doable and approachable even for Oats when he was confuzzled.

Mixed thoughts on dressage (stressage?)

Jumped into an impromptu dressage lesson last night (I was going to take the night off, but got super tempted so I joined in last-minute. I know, I know but hey I was on time for once?!) and we worked on similar stuff to last week with one exception- I was kind of sucking at it this time.

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We worked first at the walk, then at the trot and were going to move it up to canter except we didn’t quite…make it successful at the trot. So we stuck it there, ha. Honestly it felt rougher than last week BUT also not terrible? Just that it was hard, and we were trying. His trot was really great, super amped and really ‘moving ‘ but getting him to reach down into contact was kind of not great aka a big work in progress.

He’d be in contact, I’d slowly (and my timing was off..) start giving him rein, he’d reach down, and then immediately pop back up out of contact. Ugh! I would go back to trying to get contact back, and rinse, repeat. It takes a lot of work to maintain the contact through a lower head/giving hands.

Still some pretty solid work. Just makes me feel like urghh the canter is going to be verrrry interesting if I am struggling this much with the trot!

No polo tonight, it’s getting too dark out too early now (sob). So I will just zip out the barn and do some field riding with Oats, he needs the mental break after our fairly strenuous dressage lessons.