Once upon a hell of a time: MEC race #3 The Pace Setter recap

Even writing this, a day or so later, makes me cringe. Jesus, what WAS I THINKING? Let’s put it this way- sometimes race times don’t tell the whole story. This race was 2:10, my personal worst time, and boy, the worst race I have ever foolishly attempted.

Clearly, my ego has more stamina than my body.

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Background of the race- Hatley Castle. Photos by MEC.

As I mentioned earlier, I made the (stupid and ill-advised) decision to run the half marathon the day after the Sooke Saddle Club, in the heat (hot for here, 28 degrees) with a raging head cold and exercised-induced asthma. I know enough that I just knew this was a bad idea, a really bad one.

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Three friends walking to the race. Photo by MEC.

I was joking around with my husband safely ensconced on our patio the night before with a glass or three of wine that my goal was to just NOT DIE. Newsflash- so I am a fortune teller, because that’s the way I spent the entire race feeling: close to death.

I also drank more wine to chase away my fears that what I was doing was dangerous and stupid and yeah….What could it hurt at this point? (Jury’s still out on that but I still like wine, so). Anyways, I was pretty beat after the horse show. I was jumping off Oats to blow my nose furiously, and overnight had developed quite the hacking gross cough that kept me up pretty much all night too. Lovely.

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Fueling with a gel. I should have known how bad it was going to be…Photo by MEC.

The morning of the race felt warm. Stomach-wise, I was feeling pretty good which should have been a warning sign of impending doom. I drank a bit of water, had some coffee, and met up with a friend running the 5k. I joined in with the warm-up routine and found my legs felt, well…like lead. I had a few twinges of fear but pushed that away, telling myself that it’s always like that and then I settle really well. Um, no.

We were off, and I felt ok for oh..1km? By 3km I was in trouble, and a lot of it. My legs were on FIRE, burning so badly with lactic acid I was wondering WTF was going on with them. I’m used to running pretty regularly??

This is a spectacularly hilly race, it starts off uphill, levels out a bit, and then has uphills on and off until one loooong downhill, to a really long flat section right along the ocean (so picturesque! I wanted to die!!) and then a steep and long climb back to the start, where you do it all over again.

I knew after my trouble at 3k that I was going to suffer, and suffer mightily. By 5k, I was really worried. Even after the downhill, I was telling myself I was walking up the big hill. No worries on that though, because by 8k I was struggling. My asthma started flaring up, I coughed phlegm basically all over myself and was gasping and dramatically clutching my chest.

Yay.

I walked/staggered/jogged my way miserably up the hill, thinking “just make it to 10km” and the miracle of miracles, I did. So, I just…sort of…kept going? At that point, I was fairly sure I was going to collapse. I have fainted this year so I know the warning signs, I just wasn’t sure if it was going to be near a MEC volunteer or not…

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So glad to be done. Photo by MEC.

Stupidly, I struggled on. I couldn’t run at that point- my legs weren’t responding, I was incredibly thirsty and every time I tried to attempt a run up something that wasn’t flat, my lungs were gripped in a clenched fist. So, I did what any dumbass runner who feels like giving up is impossible did- ran/walked the entire rest of the 2nd loop. And boy, did that take FOREVER. Enough time to want to cry anytime I saw a MEC volunteer.

I was in a real hell of my own making, and spending a lot of time in it, too. I couldn’t even run 1km, it was more like 100m of weak jogging, walk for awhile, and then try it all over again. Hell is also hot and doesn’t have enough Gatorade stops.

Surprisingly, I made it to the finish where I dramatically got my puffer from my husband, and felt like crying again. I was SO. BEAT. I wanted to crawl away and lick my wounds in private and pretty much never run, or at least race, ever again. EVER.

I was salty with sweat. I could feel it coating my face, my arms, my chest and my hat. We went home and I showered and slept for 2 hours. No race, ever, had bested me this badly before.

I sat on the patio, drank wine and contemplated my life choices for the rest of the day.

Fail Friday- courtesy of my jump lesson?

Well, when I write ‘Fail’ I really mean- we did it, and it wasn’t perfect or pretty.

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I am learning how to take screenshots! Still in the indoor though. Proof that we jump oxers, haha. Yesterday was a bit higher I believe?

We were back to doing small courses, and the jumps got up to 2’6”, and the wheels kind of fell off for Oats and I. I started doing things with my hands (pulling him up over the jump, leaning, chasing, arghh) and he started doing his thing- trying to jump from a standstill- the ultimate chip.

BUT here’s where it changes- this would normally be like, IT for me. Some ugly jumps at the peak of our height, ability-wise? Noooo way. And an oxer at 2’6”? Extra nooo way. But you know what? It was ok. I kind of mentally kicked myself- this was the last course and we’d actually been doing really nicely- and on we went!

Sure the oxer rode really weird pretty much every time- a big LAUNCH courtesy of  Air Oats, but after we landed (in kind of a heap), I picked up the reins, and just kept riding. I even re-approached the oxer, mistakenly thinking I could ride it better the second time – newsflash- not really! And kept trying.

We had 1 stop- it was at a vertical and I just wasn’t organized enough to support Oats properly. My fault, and it wasn’t a nasty stop, it was just heyyyy we’re doing what now?

Sorry Oats!

We even did the double-stacked haybales again, which Oats seems to regard as a type of brush jump that he can like, skim his legs barely over??? Ha silly pony. He did the two-stride (set at 2’3” thank god) lovely every time. He is  excellent at combinations, goes on total autopilot and just motors through them. I even got a really interesting feeling of ‘kickback’ from him when he was powering through. It felt great!

The rest of the course- not so great. I keep trying though, and I know I can do it.

The difference between the past and now? I make mistakes. I’m allowed to make them. I learn from them, and I move on.

 

Mr. Oats tries cross-country. Recaps on recaps…Starting with Avalon on Friday.

So, silence a few days but for a good reason- I was busy enjoying my horse, life, etc.

From our first outing. So much better this time around...

From our first outing. So much better this time around…

I’d taken a few days off this fall to enjoy myself and boy, did I!

This post is all about Oats and my redemption at…Avalon. I’d gone there in the past to do a small x-c clinic, and it turned into a huge disaster. The other riders were snobby and unwelcoming, the trainer coaching the clinic was a too-intense person and kind of mean (ok, seemed really mean at the time), Oats was losing his shit. He couldn’t keep his four-feet on the ground. He was up in the air, jumping around, being a nut.

More older Oats pix from Avalon: photo courtesy of Jodie Wright.

More older Oats pix from Avalon: photo courtesy of Jodie Wright.

Oh and I had an unpleasant run in with ‘someone’ associated with the day and he was a total psycho to me. Yeah, way to rub it in eh?

So to add it all up- I was supposed to be at a low-level clinic designed as an ‘intro to x-c’ day for fun, because hey we’re not going to the Olympics people- and the clinic participants were rude, my horse was losing his mind, I got yelled at for some reason by ‘that person’ and the trainer was kind of mean and too intense for the low level group.

A recipe for success? Not so much. I packed it up and left early, in tears, vowing never to try x-c again.

Until last Friday…!

Since I was taking some time off showing, I thought maybe I could try again. And this time, all I wanted was a new experience with my horse, one-on-one with my trainer. No clinic pressure, no crazy other people, nothing. Relaxed, low-key.

And it was GREAT! Redemption!

We hauled out on Friday and Oats went with my trainer and her horse, Query. I was so nervous. So anxious. I just wanted it to go well, and see what happened. We walked the length of both courses and I felt worried but Oats was holding it together. He was a little bit looky and ‘up’ but I mean, compared with how he could have been? He was golden!

My trainer’s horse wasn’t feeling well- just out of character and ulcery. She noticed this after she longed her in the main ring and she just didn’t settle. Oats on the other hand, was having a blast! We cruised up and down the ring, jumped the dressage ring markers (shhh…) and had a fun time! We headed back out to the x-c field to work out a bit more and I spent a lot of time cantering at the top of a hill, quite a funny feeling.

We wrapped up with my trainer unfortunately hopping off Query and hand-walking her, while she supervised my-and-Oats’ log-jumping. He was ON FIRE! It was crazy. I have never ridden him with him so eager, so focused, so intense. It was kind of fast for me, I have to admit…Haha. We even did a little hop up and down a bank and he like, charged it haha.

He was jumping really well and was just so great. Ah…redemption feels good. I was so proud of my brave little pony. Good work Oats and I left feeling super about the whole thing. Maybe we can do this, try new things, enjoy our partnership together.

We gain wisdom three ways

The first, through reflection, which is the noblest.

The second, through imitation, which is the easiest.

The third, through experience, which is the bitterest.

Saw this quote (by Confucius) in a murder mystery I was reading yesterday and wow, really liked it. I also feel like sometimes experience is the toughest way to learn…But you do learn, every time.

I also saw a quote that the best way to sum up an event is two ways- did you win or did you learn?

I think I can always apply this to both my life, and my riding life. For example, I got back on Oats Sunday after his week off, and it was ROUGH. He was a spooky idiot, snorty, running backwards, freaked out by the tires moving location in the ring, and generally a moron to ride. I was bummed out, and concerned that even in the 1 week that we had on vacation he had regressed. We did have some GREAT rides the days before I left, so I got back on and was like WTF is this hell pony I have now?

So yesterday…Despite my sneaking temptation to get back on and DEAL WITH THE PROBLEM I instead learned from my previous attempts to ‘deal’ and ‘straighten him out’ that ended poorly and with me losing my temper and went the opposite way- I galloped him in the field.

I knew that if I went in to my ride with him with a desire to really get into him, and lay it out with him, things had a excellent chance of going poorly. I would get handsy, upset with him, frustrated, you name it, it’s happened a few times already this summer.

So…

I remove myself from that evil desire to really get into it and battle.

And instead, do something set way apart and with less angst and just enjoy my ride. We galloped in the field with a friend, and Oats and I had a great time. He was huffing and puffing, and the hills are helping him develop his fitness further. For me, I am learning to not balance off my hands (still not great) and develop more of my two-point without too much upper body stuff.

In this instance, I would say I have gained wisdom two ways- the bitter and hard-won way of experience, but also the nobler way of reflection. It’s a never ending process.

I can’t be the only one who has trouble with gridwork?

AKA gymnastics…Like this here as demonstrated by evention trainers Dom and Jimmie Schramm.

Wow, I do NOT like them. But we tackle them anyways in lessons (grudgingly sometimes, hahah). My issues are- snapping forward too much with my upper body, not knowing what to do with my hands- hold back? not enough release? Release with my upper body instead of my hands? And worrying about Oats dying halfway through the grid line and us stuck in the middle! (this actually did happen yesterday) Oh and that causes me to ‘chase’ him through the grid.

So, issues run rampant with a presumably ‘easy’ exercise. Jeeze?!

Just sit and let the horse do all the work eh? Well if I do that, I fear we’ll end up sitting in the middle of the grid!!

Always start with trot poles in a grid

Give me some single fences in a course and phew, we’re on easy street (minus my paralyzing fear of jumps sometimes, ha and my need to chase to a spot…). So how do we fix these issues?

Well, by doing a lot of them, duh. We also did some…dun dun dun..ONE-handed jumping! We have done some no-hands stuff on and off, but I don’t think I have done a lot of one-handed jumping or gymnastics.

We warmed up by cantering a circle one-handed and Oats was pretty good at it, we ran through the gymnastic one-handed (well, there were definitely a few failed attempts where I grabbed my contact back with both hands…!!! survival here!!) and then off the three-jump gymnastic, we cantered to a single tiny vertical on the long side- it rode well sometimes, long sometimes, and one short distance. The long distances really surprised me! If I am being honest, I am more comfortable with the short distances but want to encourage Oats to feel okay with ‘going with it’ for a longer one. And he is! Progress?!!!

And then gradually add in the fences

And then gradually add in the fences- photos from summer 2012

I felt like a cowboy! Yeehaw! Haha.

I really liked doing that exercise- there were definitely some ‘uglier’parts in the gymnastic, eek, but we survived, were totally fine, and accomplished the work.

Go Oats go!

Holiday fun at Parc Omega

In the land of the hungry deer

In the land of the hungry deer

A small detour for my blog to talk about what I did on my holiday- we went to Parc Omega, which is a really cool wildlife- themed park sort of safari thing. It’s in Montebello, just across the border from Ottawa.

Parc Omega

We’ve always gone in the past, and I’m still impressed with how they have maintained everything. The park looks beautiful, it’s open all-year round and the animals are kept in great shape and allowed to roam at will (except if they are a bit dangerous, then they are kept in enclosures for their and our safety!)

More carrots!

More carrots!

You can bring carrots and feed them from your car, and at the deer park area, get out and hand-feed the little deer. There is a small trapper’s cabin type thing, and you can buy more carrots, coffee and hot chocolate there too.

Close and personal bison

Close and personal bison

And the animals are so close! You can get up close and personal with so many of them, and even the ones that are behind fences are still really close. It’s amazing.

Moose fight

Moose fight

We went on December 24th this year, and it was a great time to go. My mom couldn’t make it because she wanted to stay and clean up the place to get it ready for the traditional lobster dinner we normally have, but otherwise she would have come as well, she loves that place.

Wolves or coyote? Cute anyways!

Wolves or coyote? Cute anyways!

I highly recommend a visit to Parc Omega if you’re ever out east. Totally worth it.

Lonely ibex

Lonely ibex