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.

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Persistence

So, this comes up often in my life:

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And yesterday, Oats and I did not have a harmonious warm up to our dressage lesson. He was being an absolute dingbat in the outdoor ring, spooky, snorty, sucking back, getting light in front and stalling out and wanting to run backwards.

It pissed me off mightily and I was near tears, frustrated and angry. WHAT about this summer is making him act like an idiot? Seriously, I have not had this level of terrible rides with him in like, forever. And now he’s spooky and a twit.

Summer Oats

Summer Oats

I was also still a bit sore, though not bad, from getting dumped – yes in the outdoor- from his big ‘spin and spook’ maneuver on Saturday so I was NOT in a forgiving mood.

I gave up, huffed and fluffed and we had our dressage lesson in the indoor. He was a bit feisty in the indoor, and made me ‘work for it’ to get to the real meat of the lesson, but you know what? That connection that I seriously was missing started coming back.

I even said it felt like before, when I lose all my ‘power’ in the outdoor ring, that I don’t feel like I have any connection with him. I also know that when I am frustrated and mad at him, I do not give him a fair ride, or the benefit of the doubt. So, it’s a partners problem…

But anyways, the lesson went quite well. That doesn’t mean there weren’t bumps in the road, but you know what? We persevere, and I did get some great, honest work from Oats. I finally felt like our connection was coming back! He was over his back, listening to me and really giving to me. I like those rides, and sometimes give too much power to my shitty bad and frustrating rides. Now, to gain some perspective…

I was quite pleased with his effort and the level of work he is starting to give me. He might make a dressage pony yet!

Is it true, we only get the horse we deserve?

Slightly derailed

HA. True!

HA. True!

After my last post ‘a good stretch’ I was rudely reminded about how being smug about your horse can immediately lead to an abrupt comeuppance!

The dude. Photo courtesy of Natasha K.

The dude. Photo courtesy of Natasha K.

Oats was good in my dressage lesson- that’s true.

But…My jump lesson yesterday had more than a few bumps in the road. In fact, I kind of got off track entirely and the wheels fell off. Bummer! This was the lesson I had planned to do a counseling session before it, so I could feel more ‘in tune’ and ready to accomplish things during my lesson. So, not so much this time. Oh, horses. They have a real way of getting you out of dreamland and abruptly on your feet, unfortunately.

Oats was great for the counselling session- he was quiet and calm and we worked on some great relaxation. I was so sleepy feeling! It was really nice.

We then tacked up, and my facilitator stayed to watch my lesson. I’m glad she did, because when the train went off the track, if I hadn’t had a ‘witness’ haha, I very well may have wanted to bail on the lesson entirely. That being said, I definitely do NOT regret staying with the lesson and sticking with it- it was just kind of a discombobulating experience.

Oats looking cute in Feb.

Oats looking cute in Feb.

We warmed up fairly well, but I kept saying that Oats felt different- a bit head-bobby. It wasn’t noticeable really when we moved forward in the trot, and nothing at the canter so we kept going. Nobody on the ground could feel it at all. BUT..

We went to trot over our warm-up x and he was immediately head bobbing, dragging his feet?! Nicole went to check his feet for rocks, and he did have a few big ones wedged in there. OUCH!!

So, rocks picked out, we kept going and Oats got really dramatic and head bobbing. We pulled up, checked for stones again and he was a-ok. So…We made the decision to push through it, and get him trotting forward on both reins, and then moving to the jump. He felt better – got past the really obvious head bobbing- but he still felt…funny to me.

We moved on to the coursework, and I had lost my groove. He was moving ok but still felt weird to me, and I was complaining that he felt strangely. Nicole and my facilitator said he looked fine, but it was just one of those things, you know?

That unsure feeling led to me basically bombing my coursework and I just felt like I wasn’t clicking at all. I know it all started when he picked up the rocks, but I couldn’t get my head back in the game. We had some SUPER awkward chips, some I pulled to, some Oats generously ‘gave’ to me…My bad habits were back in full force: Pumping my upper body to the fence, sitting too much, crop on the neck, pulling for a distance, motorcycling around corners, leaning up his neck too, arghhh…

Some were ok, but I’ve just been so spoiled lately with really nice, relatively flawless jump rounds, so this unsettled me a lot, and I felt quite out of sorts. We did the course twice, the second being better than the first, but I couldn’t let go of that nagging feeling.

Oh well! I did notice Oats holding his right front hoof up in the cross-ties and he was also shifting a lot more than he normally does. So, maybe he did get a bang on his hoof or a bruise from the rocks. He is a very sensitive-hoofed horse (god, you should see him on gravel…mincing) despite having rock-hard and very good feet. That does baffle my farrier!

Best (dressage) canter yet for Mr. Oats!

Let’s say that I normally don’t go into my dressage lessons expecting brilliance…I go in expecting a few tantrums, some hissy-fits and then maybe cooperation. Let’s face it- I spent most of the winter complaining that we weren’t making any progress!

Go dressage Oats

Go dressage Oats

BUT

We are. Had another private lessons and begged for leniency- my knees still feel like I am close to 100 years old and man they are aching! We continued on what we worked on last week, the canter circle, keeping a strong outside contact as a sort of ‘safety blanket’ to give my hands something to do, and wouldn’t you know…It went even better this week~

Not without some damage to my legs, that were aching sooooooo much afterwards!

Oats is still ‘hopping’ or popping, threatening to canter when I am actually asking for a bigger trot, but his evasions are getting much better. I got kind of annoyed and was like, oh well you want to canter? That’s fine, we can canter. But now you have to STAY in the canter! HAHA! And you have to canter the way I want you to canter~

He was rethinking that decisions shortly, but cooperated!

And I was feeling braver about kicking him on, to go forward. We’re not quite up to using the crop to get him moving at the canter (scary!) but small steps, small steps. I was really pleased with how he was moving, good pony.

And I am taking today off, hoping to heal my legs up this week in a hurry.

Oh and one bad thing for Mr. Oats- apparently he knocked down boards in his pen that were kind of falling apart already, snuck under the fence, and went gallivanting through a neighbours backyard?!~~ BAD pony!!!!!

Why I’m not a New Years Resolutioner

So, I guess I’m going to continue feeling cranky and crabby. My parent drama really came to head yesterday, just before I was going to check out a new gym- Steve Nash Fitness– to test out their group fitness classes (that I had a free pass for, for a few months). Needless to say, the group fitness classes didn’t happen and will probably have to wait.

My New Years Resolution

My New Years Resolution

I’m still not feeling great about it, but I am trying to be supportive. As it turns out, that is harder to do than I thought.

So, I have my dressage lesson tonight and quite frankly, still feel very brain-drained. Emotional turmoil is tiring. So tiring.

But anyways, when I was trying to plan my new workout class yesterday, and when I was at my work gym today for my usual 30-40 minute daily workout, I was struck again by the ‘born again New Years Resolutioners’.

You know the type…Typically flabby, middle-aged women but sometimes men, try-hards who are ‘going to get this year off to the right start!!!”

They sport all the gimmicks- FitBit, new running shoes (in neon, though I have neon shoes too haha), iPods gripped in their hands, all they do is talk about their new naturopath and their recommended holistic treatments, and spend all of their time lolling around on the mats or foam rollers instead of doing any solid workouts.

These are people I have NEVER seen at the gym before January 1. I have my regulars, hell, I am a regular, haha. I listened to one woman talk to another in the change room (sidenote: why do people take freaking forever to get changed, arranged, and IPodded up? Get in, get changed and GTFO!!!!!).

They were saying about how going to the gym was such a better idea than trying to run after work (agreed- I only run after work in spring/summer/fall, as it’s too dark and unsafe in the winter) and how they were all prepared this year!!! They had all the songs they wanted loaded on their iPods, they had bought new running shoes, they had the newest workout clothes….

I just wanted to say- I, sporting my non music, my cut-off gym pants, and ratty tank-top, enough with the STUFF and enough with the BS and get on a machine and GET GOING!

Enough with the talk and rolling around. Get up, get in and get out. Rinse and repeat. You have to do it every day (and for me, I’m talking years of the same routine) that it becomes a mindless exercise to get to the gym and get down to business. If I had to wait for a friend? I’d never freaking go. You know why? Because THEY would never go!

I mix up my workouts though– I do get really stuck in a rut sometimes (hence the trying out of new group fitness workouts I mentioned earlier) but it’s too important to just GO AND DO IT. Don’t wait for a new year, a Monday, a new you, a friend, anything.

You can’t rely on trinkets, gadgets, new clothes, other people, the weather, anything. You have to rely on you. That is the only thing I have literally learned, doing this. I am a lunchtime warrior, haha.

And I am no saint with this either. I am a dessert-with-lunch-and-dinner type of person. I workout too much sometimes for no reason. I don’t necessarily have any good goals – though this year I am proud to say I signed up for an Island Run series!! Yeah! I am trying to fix my knee problem, though that is very slow going.

People are literally excuse machines. I can be (about my riding/jumping/showing goals, because I am an anxiety-riddled huge chicken who has something to prove, apparently), but I am NOT about my workouts, or the amount and intensity of riding I do – which is tons, and quite intense.

Me this year

Me this year

I’m doing it. And sometimes, that’s enough, because I do it every.single.day.

Tips for visualization: Equestrian style

Now, I’m not the strongest believer in this, but it’s been hammered over and over again in my head that positive visualization is a GOOD THING TO DO.

Summer Oats

Summer Oats

Yeah yeah yeah I get it…So why does it feel so uncomfortable and awkward?

Why do I never think about doing it until someone reminds me?

I think it’s hard to do and awkward feeling because it feels forced, like you’re being asked to ‘imagine’ something without any boundaries of ‘what’ to imagine, or ‘where’ to imagine? We as adults, do not have that skill as easily as children anymore.

But, it is something I need to practice- like my knee exercises, which also feel kind of gross and uncomfortable, but something I do NEED to do.

So, where to begin? I felt like was bad at visualizing because I felt adrift…Like, what? How? If you let your mind go free, it usually starts thinking of all the BAD things that can happen- particularly riding. Falls, chips, long-spots, refusals, run-outs, ugly ugly ugly.

So, I thought long and hard about my recent jumping lessons (which obviously, since I’m going to the crossrail olympics, are excellent…)

Winter Oats (a few years back)

Winter Oats (a few years back)

And voila! The hard part of visualizing positively started getting easier.

Here are my tips:

1. Make time. I make a point of visualizing while I am walking to work, takes me about 3-5 minutes during my 20 minute walk. My mind can ‘go blank’ for a bit during this.

2. Pick your most recent lesson and ‘see’ the course or gymnastic you were riding. See it in your mind, and go over it as if you are picking up the trot, transitioning (cleanly) to canter, and the heading to the first jump. ‘Ride’ each fence in your lesson in that course in your mind. ‘3, 2, 1, jump’ all the way to the final closing circle. You only need to do the 1 course per visualization session, because it’s kind of tiring for your mind.

3. Try to ride this course – from your most recent lesson- until your next lesson. Then you can ‘ride’ that course in your mind until the next lesson, and so on. I also try to think things like sitting up, elbows in, shoulders open while I ‘ride’ these in my mind.

4. Being repetitive really helps. By going over and over in my ‘minds-eye’ my most recent lesson, I can ‘see’ distances in my mind easier, and I have less ‘crash and burn’ visualization moments. It’s funny, but I actually found it quite difficult to even see my distances in my mind. When I thought about them I always got them wrong.

5. I even sort of make the motions of canter, jump, release while I’m walking and thinking. For me, it’s easier to be in motion while I’m thinking about the ride/visualizing, as it makes it a bit more active for me and feels more real and less forced/awkward.

Not that I’m an expert- I’ve only really started being more focused about making the effort for positive visualization when I realized I had a lot of ‘blank mind’ time while I was walking to work, so I might as well try to focus my ‘minds-eye’ a bit harder for a least 5 minutes of that walk!

And my jumping lesson (x-rails, yess) last night went very smoothly. So…It’s easy to get really discouraged and forget about visualization when you have a lousy lesson, or can’t stop running a loop of disasters in your mind, but ride those lesson that WORK in your mind, over and over.

Get fresh material without stressing your brain- use your lessons! They’re easy to think about (I think obsessively about them, so might as well use them as material for visualizing).

Happy Halloween!

Yep it’s that big day again- and it’s on a Friday! Yeah~

Jack O'lanterns

Jack O’lanterns

In honour of Halloween, we are making caramel apples. Yumm…I’m really looking forward to them. We did that awhile ago- probably like 7 years ago with friends, so it’s kind of a fun re-enactment.

I also love spooky movies if you hadn’t guessed, so we have been watching some good ones on Canadian Netflix- recent standouts include We Are What We Are, Resolution (it was ok, still not completely sure how I feel about it) and the Den– which was excellent.

I also highly recommend VHS, which is not available on Netflix but worth the search- Netflix has VHS 2 for some reason…It’s not as good.

Oh and I enjoyed The Sacrament by Eli Roth and Ti West. It isn’t as good as it could have been, but pretty well done nonetheless.

So yay Halloween! It’s rainy and pretty miserable here, makes me sort of glad I’m too old to trick or treat haha,

Oh and an Oats update from my lesson with Nicole yesterday- Wow. It was a toughie.

I got pretty worked up, he actually cow-kicked out when I first got on for some reason?? And he felt pissy, AGAIN.

Pissy, rude, balky and bucky. Wonderful…We were NOT CLICKING at all. I was getting madder and madder, ready to spit nails. I was frustrated, and annoyed and like- I can’t be doing all this work to keep GOING BACKWARDS?!!!

Our run through the gymnastic was sloppy, we weren’t in sync for anything, and I was just so.pissed.off.at.him.

So….What did we do? Well, as I recall very recently- ”When you’re going through hell, keep going.”

Encouraged by Nicole, I took a few (a lot) of deep breaths and just keep plugging away. And did it get better? Yes. Did it get great? Nope! Not at all! Was it the lesson I *thought* I was going to have? A big NO to that one too!

So…A few good takeaways (even though the bitter, curmudgeonly part of me is still a bit incredulous about Oats. WTF pony? I hate you sometimes!!). It felt like I was trying to literally push him up a hill the entire lesson. He was so resistant, and fussy and balky. And the rude kind of balky, that makes me worried that he’s going to start bucking and NOT STOP until I’m on the ground.

But, before I get dragged into the bad, here is the good!

– I didn’t let my anger at Oats take over my whole lesson. True we had a few hissy fit moments, but we didn’t let it go overboard.

-I continued the exercises and completed them and they DID get better.

-I managed to trot a circle jump even after we blew it at the canter. Baby steps?

-We got more in-sync as we progressed.

-He didn’t buck! He had a few hiccupy, hissyfit moments. But no big EFF YOU bucks.

Curious…very curious progress(?????????) I use that word skeptically and with MUCH questioning it.

Oh and my dog was sick all night- luckily my long-suffering husband dealt with her but jeeeeesus. So gross. So annoying. Poor Gidget!