T-3.5 hours…

OH man oh man. This week cannot end fast enough.

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I did have a jump lesson before my hiatus for holidays, and it went..Ok. I felt weirdly anxious, which I am going to chalk up to the pressure cooker that work has been all week. I just couldn’t shake it.

My jumping went ok, Oats had a very uncharacteristic slam on the brakes to a small oxer even from a PERFECT distance?! WTF? So, yeah odd. We re-approached and he was fine, and jumped it lovely each time after that, but still. Even during our course he had his ‘stop-hesitate-jump’ through a two stride that just seemed not great. Admittedly, I was having a lot of trouble getting straight to the two-stride, but still…

I wanted to ride the course through three times but the way I was feeling? Nah, not productive. So I rode it through twice, and called it at that.

It was ok, but I couldn’t shake the weird anxiety. UGH. Also I am thinking that I should look into some more preventative medicine for old Oats. He is getting up to 17, and not a spring chicken anymore.

I can do this. A few more hours. I can do this.

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The Grand Banana: MEC race #5 recap~

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Halloween Half- Marathon! Photo courtesy of MEC Victoria.

Finally, a race I can be proud of!! After a slew of really uninspiring races, races that blew up in my face, races that left me feeling pretty lacklustre about racing and my athletic running ability…I pulled this one out and it felt GREAT!

I wasn’t too enthused about it- to be honest, I was very anxious. My last  half marathon (MEC in June at Royal Roads) was just horrible. I felt like dying, was unsure about why I couldn’t breathe while I was running, and was just feeling concerned and a bit worried about how this was going to go. Was I going to have to walk, gasping for breath? Feeling like I was going to collapse?

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The day was PHENOMENAL! Photo courtesy of MEC Victoria.

I did take the entire week off running, and started toning it down quite early last week- shorter runs, taking more days off, making it easier. Not gonna lie, taking the week off from running last week was TOUGH. I felt antsy, anxious, sluggy and like…What if this didn’t pay off? What then? I took a week off, for nothing? (I know a week off in the grand scheme of things is A-Ok! and I needed the rest for my legs, but try telling your brain that).

Anyways, I took time off running, took it easy, went to the corn maze on Saturday with my husband and friend, and didn’t drink. All nice things, and it was incredibly beautiful on the weekend. A kind of beauty that makes me want to live outside haha.

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Gatorade break for me. Photo courtesy of MEC Victoria.

The morning was cold and I was kind of second-guessing my long-sleeves and shorts combo but I didn’t want to get too hot running, as I was going to be out there for awhile and it was supposed to be 17 degrees as the high for the day. Incredible!

And we’re off! I set out with a goal- try for under 5 min/km. Too ambitious? Maybe but I was just grasping at straws here. My first km felt kind of hard, but not really? 4:48/km. Hm…

But the beauty of it was…It just kept flowing. I felt light as a feather, light as air. I ran and ran, and thought about how I could do it forever.

My legs felt good, so good they wanted to be challenged.

I got caught up a bit in the gravel sections (so slow and sloggy) but counseled myself to run carefully here and pick it up when I could. Don’t try to push it too much on the ‘no grip’ sections, it isn’t worth the energy. Same for the running across the grass sections.

At 8km I had to take my shoe off to shake gravel out of it. GReeeeat….This would typically derail me bigtime, but I shook it off (literally) and kept running.

I felt happy, it was getting tough but I could do it. I was doing it. I could meet the challenge! I felt like I could do this, and then I could do even more. It was a fabulous feeling and one that has been missing from my races for a year or more. I was smiling, I felt good and I was happy.

At the finish, I was running with a young guy (who totally beat me at the end, ha) and we finished, turned to each other, and gave each other a high-five. 🙂 That’s what racing is for me- what I had been missing for so long. That purity, that feeling of fun, and freedom.

Thanks again to the excellent team at MEC, and the well organized (if a little insane) race. Good snacks, safe course and a great cheering section. I was even lucky enough to be able to go out for brunch with my husband (who ran an AMAZING race) and our friend who also battled it out to complete a solid 10k.  A great day.

Get down, stay down

Jump lesson last night, and while I’ve had a really good week of some fun and solid rides, and even some slow chukka polo learning on Wed and field rides with Oats, I struggled with anxiety last night.

What gives?

I had my heart in my throat! Oats could sense my lack of commitment and he was so BLAH for jumping- I had to really pony up and ride to my fences. I kept them at weenie height because of this weird anxiety I was dealing with. It kind of sucked, but my ride in general was okay, I just wished I had been able to ride more effectively, braver and confident? UGH. Mixed feelings- I had some great moments but overall it was a trying course for me to manage and the jumps were so small!

I wish I could get it together, ha. But, lots of positives.

Oats was amenable but clearly not willing to put forward effort if I wasn’t. Fair enough horse, fair enough.

I have another jump lesson on Saturday and I have requested we jump in the field!! Time to exercise my bravery muscles. 🙂

Happy Birthday to me

Had a pretty lousy and frustrating jump lesson last night. Warmed up Oats, and when we got to trot/canter, it felt like I was riding a llama. All head and neck, in my face. WTF?

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My cake from last year! 

I was immediately on edge and really frustrated. God, why can’t ONE thing go right this week? I was pissed off and funny enough, even though Oats never spooked, he felt really unfocused and distracted, ready to act on a moment’s notice…

We worked over a gymnastic that was kind of disastrous. Oats acted like he’d never seen the skinny pink filler, even when we’d jumped it as a skinny in the winter. He was just so unfocused. We had a few stop & launch jumps, where I got super left behind and discombobulated…ARGH. Finally I got annoyed enough that after a stop,  I turned Oats around, went out a few strides (we had like, 4 to work with in the gymnastic) and jumped him straight from there- and wonder of wonders, it went fine!

To be fair, I was pretty mad.

We then worked over a course where I proceeded to ride super clumsily. Can’t see a distance, get left behind, can’t make up my mind, let Oats get the upper hand and spook me past a jump when I could have prevented it…Just really weak riding. And I give credit to Oats on this one at least- he was taking me over the course like a seeing-eye horse, haha.

Top it off with a super lousy ride to a straight line where I couldn’t figure out if I wanted to go right or left and almost fell off straight into the arena fence! Whoops! What was WRONG with me last night? Sorry horse!

I declined to do it again, I just knew that I wasn’t on my game with Oats last night. The course rode fine, but I couldn’t ride?

Oh well, in the end nothing bad at all happened- it was just not my day particularly.

And yes it is my birthday today.

The next blue sky- Jump lesson recap!

Jump lesson on Thursday! And we are officially out in the wide open arena, and with it came a lot of anxiety and trepidation. I love riding in the outdoor (so big! so freeing!) but I have had some rough rides out there, so my love of it is always tempered by fear. Last summer, I spent a LOT of time falling off jumping in the outdoor. Sometimes twice in one lesson!

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I swear, there wasn’t one lesson I did’t fall off in. So what was up with that? Some pretty severe growing pains, I guess?

Anyways, I was excited but nervous. Nicole had set up a really cool equitation course, but it had FIVE oxers in it (could have been six, but we left the first jump a single, since we flubbed it EVERY time we went to it…yeah).

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But they were small oxers (2”) but to me, they looked big? Ha that’s my brain playing tricks on me. Last week I jumped a 2’9” oxer??? And this week I’m fussing about 2” oxers? Oh brain, get with the program.

Anyways, Oats was moving a bit weirdly because he is tender-footed and finds it hard in the outdoor until he gets his shoes on (June 8) BUT he was going pretty nice for a horse that pussy-foots everywhere! Nicole got after me for wanting to chase him at the jumps. We did get two refusals, but I chalked those up to bad distances, re-approached with no issues at all.

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Later the jumps looked tiny, ha. Oh well! We had some great moments, some really shitty ones (eeek, 3 strides in the 2, we never made the two..gah) and the first jump was always craptacular. But you know what? We DID IT!  Jumped successfully a reasonably long course in the outdoor with lots of twists, turns, oxers and a trot fence- yeah we flubbed that one too.

Things to work on: Straightness, jesus. Not straight at all as I go along the course. Elbows! Sitting in the backseat- give a little more to the horse. Breathing. The usual…;)

Good first day back in the outdoor, and bit by bit, I will conquer my outdoor demons, haha.

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!

Never Enough

Jump lesson recap: Spoiler- it was a really good one!

Poor old Oats had a rather strenuous jump lesson the day before with Sarah (and it turned out really well, and they had a good lesson) so he wasn’t exactly ‘on fire’ with me on Thursday, but he managed to pull some enthusiasm together and we did it.

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I am learning how to take screenshots! Still in the indoor though. Proof that we jump oxers, haha.

We worked on pieces of a course, first trotting some x’s on the diagonal, cantering them, then cantering them as verticals, and then cantering a five-stride outside line. And then it was time to get technical!

The course had two bending lines, riding off a jump from the diagonal to the existing jumps in the five-stride outside line. We practiced one of them, and it went fine, so it went up to a vertical and it was coursework time.

(Note: this all happened gradually and even though we only rode the course once, because we practiced so many of the elements, Oats was huffing and puffing and working QUITE hard.)

We started the course and I was feeling apprehensive. He didn’t exactly have a ton of energy, and I was having to work hard to keep that engine rolling. We did have some ugly jumps (well, who doesn’t) but I was determined to ‘stay in the now’ and keep focused on the course, not on my emotions.

And funny enough, my counting, 1-2-1-2, to keep the rhythm, actually really helped!

I was rolling on course, things were really working for us both! Until I forgot where I was going and had to circle for the next bending line- oops. No worries though, we just circled and Oats was GAME ON. He was awesome! He rocked it and I felt fantastic.

It was among the only jump rides where I was feeling like, this course could keep going and I’d be totally fine with it! Instead of wishing for it to be over and rushing to the last fence. Who is this girl?

We even got a chance to try the skinny set in the centre-line. We had to approach it coming off a diagonal fence, and then a tight right turn (10 metre circle practically) to ride up to the skinny. My turn kind of sucked- went wide- but made it happen!

I was so happy, what a rockin’ course.

Nicole even let us finish on that, as she thought Oats was getting tired and didn’t want to push it until things fell apart. We rode well together and it was sooooo fab!

I love that while I was still feeling a tad anxious, I could acknowledge those feelings and keep riding my horse. Sitting up. Hands low. Riding each fence as it came- so much so that I lost myself in the course and didn’t want it to end?? 🙂