Take a break

I love my little family, I really do. I also acknowledge how lucky we are in these current ridiculously challenging and frightening times.

But…

Preggo selfie by the river=mandatory, of course!

But after two months more or less 24/7 with my wonderful, charming family…like anyone else my rope is stretched. I’m still deeply conflicted about travelling, and camping alone at 32 weeks pregnant is out of the question…

Rainy river

Thankfully one of my favorite State Parks close to home reopened for day use this week, so after a smooth OB appointment (everything looks good!) I headed out to Champoeg State Park, put my headphones on and strolled. Long story short, I still need a good 25 hours without anyone but this is a good start!

Exercise schmexercise

During my pursuit to become a surrogate, my BMI went too high, even though everything else was golden (I blame the husband’s meat smoking hobby, soooo delicious!) So, to loose the weight in a healthy and sustainable way (no weird fads or crash diets for this mildly lazy lady), and also in pursuit of some actual strength for horseback riding, I got a gym membership.

When I took the above photo, at the beginning of 2019, I was working out at the gym two to three times a week (mostly rowing and the stair master), jogging with the dog twice a week, riding my bike when the weather was decent, and horse riding once a week. I finally hit the BMI number I needed and decided the gym was not for me, so I ordered some kettle bells and a short group training session from a personal trainer in the UK, Aadam of Physiqonomics (definitely check him out when you’ve time, he’s got an awesome voice and utterly practical style I appreciate).

Immediately following the embryo transfer, you are considered “PUPO”, or “pregnant until proven otherwise”. During the two week wait for the official pregnancy test, you are daily injecting yourself with various hormones, emotions are all over the place and you’re instructed to really take it easy physically; no heavy lifting, keep your heart rate from spiking, and generally embrace a slower speed to life to ensure everything settles in smoothly. For me this meant no lifting at home, no riding and no running. It was November and I fully embraced the couch life, aside from dog walks and futzing about with Flash in the arena.

At least there’s sun in Las Vegas!

About 10-12 weeks pregnant you shift over from the reproductive endocrinologist’s care to a regular OB/GYN, and your exercise restrictions are more or less lifted, with the caveat of curtailing really heavy duty things. Instead of picking up the kettle bells and the running, I started flirting with yoga and hiking with the dog and horse. I’ve realized throughout this process of get fitter/loose weight/do almost nothing/do a little that other than horse riding, there’s no one exercise I’ve stuck with long term. I like variety and things I can do with the kid and or dog, as they are great motivators since both are cheerful and faster than me at everything.

Fast forward to last night, when I finally purchased a three month pass to our local pool and used it…and guys, I may have finally found the exercise I’ll stick with. Our local pool is just hands down awesome, cheap, and comfortable (warm water!!!). I can do my lap swims (I remember how to swim! Almost better than ride a bike!) while Kade plays under the watchful eyes of the lifeguard. Kade was so thrilled to be going swimming! He’s taken lessons for years but those are structured, not just free time. The pool is between the barn and the house with a generous open swim schedule, and it’s just…fun. 10 laps last night was a perfect starter; enough to push but not exhaust me. The biggest bonus for swimming: nothing is out there jiggling between the swimsuit and being underwater, and I can keep this up later into pregnancy when all my muscles and joints start to relax (and running would be far less fun anyway).

19 weeks and still no preggo belly, though my normal jeans are no longer comfy (also this week baby is the size of a mango apparently)

It only took me, what, almost 4 years of living in this town to get into the pool? I’m very much a “better eventually than never” kinda girl! For now the goal is three times a week, since including the drive, shower and changing takes less than an hour and I’m going to be back to non-riding status here shortly.

Zen Mind?

img_8248

In the sports I’ve chosen to dabble in (endurance riding, bike riding and running), most people speak of reaching a zen moment, or a blank mind, or just a moment when everything quiets and it’s just them and the road, or the trail ahead. It’s usually that indefinite stretch of time between the warm up and when you can see the end, when life and outside thoughts fade away, and for many that’s why they do such sports, plenty of time to seek that space.

That’s not why I run, or why I ride endurance. Maybe I’ll hit that space when I reach 50+ miles or actual marathons, but at my beginner distances there’s never a moment when my brain shuts off and I’m just doing my thing, trudging along in a meditative state.

I’m always busy, whether I be on my own feet or borrowing four. When I run there’s futzing with headphones, checking my pacing, considering my route, rolling up my sleeves, pushing my glasses back on my sweaty face, or adjusting my waist pack or running pack. If I’m not adjusting things I’m worrying about how loud my footfalls are, working on my (unfortunate mouth) breathing or fighting general life thoughts and worries from crowding my run.

While asaddle, I’m either chatting with the folks I’m riding with or calculating my route, negotiating how often we’re gonna stop to eat (*cough Raymond cough*), taking pictures or making sure my posting is even and controlled, switching my rein hand and reminding myself to keep drinking water or grab a bite to eat. The only thing that’s different when I’m riding is I’m fully in the moment-outside worries can’t follow me as soon as I mount up.

img_8338

I have to find other reasons to motivate myself to lace up or heft the bike out of the garage. It’s one thing to keep your eyes on the ultimate goal (ride as a middle weight, finish a 50 mile ride, general weight loss and fitness), but that’s not always enough umph. The activity itself doesn’t have to be super fun, but something about it has to be worth more than just the long term benefits.

So I signed up for a fun 5K this Sunday with the kid. I’m a goal driven gal, so there’s gotta be something concrete to reach. I’m good at setting the long term ones, not the short term check points. The kid’s my best cheerleader, so we’ll lace up, pack plenty of water, smear each other with sunscreen and hit the Oregon Trail. We’ll embrace endurance riding’s motto, ‘To Finish is To Win!”, no speed records or anything being set by us. If this one goes well I’ll look for some races later in the fall to run alone, when it’s slightly less stinky sweaty smoky out.

But who am I kidding? This view will always be my first love and main motivation!

img_8098

Practice Makes Better

Before I get into the play by play of tonight’s ride with Ray, I wanted to give my trainer Terraka a good shout out. Today I pulled a few firsts, made possible by her giving me the go ahead to ride after work once a week. I was able to head up the barn with my dog and practice some things from Celena’s clinic while it was all still fresh, in the quiet and peace of the indoor while the rain poured outside.

My tentative plan to do a short trail ride was immediately abandoned due to my wimpiness of not wanting to ride in the rain, and since there was no one at the barn I erred on the side of caution. Riding alone is one thing; riding when there’s no one nearby to help another. I set up some obstacles and exercises and tacked Ray up (thankfully he was chilling in his stall, so no mud to deal with!)

I stuck with his snaffle instead of the Kimberwick, as he doesn’t even really need a bit for the ring, but I wanted to test his give to the bit. It definitely got much better after the hour was up! Instead of setting his jaw and sticking his nose out when I gathered contact, he dropped his poll and sighed, much improved!

I practiced on my two point/soft seat, man that needs work! I still tend to brace too much in the stirrups and lean forward like some poor, over boobed bimbo, but practice makes better. Ray only tried to squirrel out once, but I just took a deep breath and kept him chugging along. He made my legs work for it!

I did two “firsts” this afternoon, well, first post child anyway. I cantered in the ring, a full circle! We worked on rating, as he wanted to charge canter toward the gate and slog away from the gate, I was able to keep him moving without him tossing his head above the bit. After the heavy work was done, I popped his saddle off and slid back on bareback. I didn’t trot, just cooled him out at the walk cause that poor redhead is not made for bareback riding. Oohhh, those withers!

I’m utterly satisfied by this evening. Once I made the decision to stick to the ring, I was much more relaxed and focused more on riding correctly than just staying mounted. Clearly I still have a long ways to go, but now that I’m able to ride twice a week things should move a bit quicker. Neither Ray or I are quite conditioned for Grizzly, so we’re aiming now for Prineville, a similar ride I haven’t yet been to a few weeks later. We’ll go camping at Sisters Cow Camp instead of Grizzly, and get a good solid ride in at the 7-9mph we need to hit to actually finish a ride.

I can’t wait!

 

PS I was able to take videos of myself due to the case Tom made me buy for the iPhone; the Rokform case comes with a heavy duty magnet that sticks to pretty much anything metal & it sure comes in handy!

All of the sunshine!

I can tell I got an absolute, glorious overload of sun yesterday based on how quickly I fell asleep last night and the reddish tinge to my fair Yankee skin today (for the record, I did wear sunscreen!)

Even more remarkable than wearing sunscreen and riding in a T shirt in March is that I rode solo for the first time in…well, years. As a catch rider I’m always riding with the owner of their spare horse I’m riding. Now that I’m part leasing a horse, there’s a possibility I could be out alone at some point, and what better time to practice long lost skills than a perfect spring day?

IMG_5361.jpg

Can’t top this shot!

As a bonus, Cyrus got to come along for his first trail ride, proving himself a suburb trail dog…though for walking rides only (as a short nosed Boxer, regulating heat is tough on him).  He stayed out of the horse’s way, stayed close by, didn’t bolt after any furry creatures, drank from any water we crossed (trust me, that’s huge for Mr. Princess Former Show Dog!), and had perfect voice recall. I wouldn’t have taken him out if I’d really worried about his recall, seeing as how people are rightfully super picky about misbehaving dogs wandering around, but it’s nice to be proven right.

IMG_5351.jpg

Pics or it didn’t happen right?

Mr. “I Can’t Believe This Is Happening To Me” and I put in some quality time, with short though frequent discussions on the meaning of the words “forward” and “walk.” My only goal for the day was to get to the new crossroads clear cut area (which made for a 6 mile out & back ride) where we walked the whole time. Since last week’s ride was a speed workout at Hardy Creek, on the way back to the barn Mr. “We Go Fast Now?” struggled a bit with this concept. But with plenty of circles, half halts, full halts to contemplate the quiet cows and marching back out onto the trail, no one died and I never came off. I won’t lie, I hopped off voluntarily and walked whenever Mr. “I’m actually a Giraffe”‘s back turned into that upside down U, but this ensured that my anxiety level of going outside my comfort zone never matched Ray’s desire to spook at anything so he could go home, now.

IMG_5352.jpg

I can’t match tack or gear, but I can match animals!

That said, I probably could have ridden the entire 6 miles. Mr. “I could spook at that bush, hay bale, mailbox, strange horse” never actually threw anything that frightened me. Whenever he became glacially slow, sidled sideways or tried to turn for home, it just brought out the stubborn “I have a goal and you have a job to do” inner bitch of mine, but man does she get the job done. Once that part of me popped up, I actually enjoyed myself. How could I not, riding in the warm sun on a cute redhead with my handsome dog bopping along behind?

Clearly I still have work to do. I need to be fit enough to ride at Ray’s speed and stay balanced; we need to try a different bit, maybe a running martingale for endurance rides based on what the trainer thinks; and I need new half chaps (I’ve lost so much weight mine can’t stay up anymore!)  The Canby 4-H tack sale is this weekend, so I’ll be looking for a few nice girths, another saddle pad and breast collar to add to my growing tack collection.

IMG_5338.jpg

The most relaxed part of the ride!

Things I have figured out include my lovely Barefoot saddle with lovely sheepskin cover and custom stirrups; riding in my new running shoes (so much more comfortable on a hot day than my hiking boots!), not over layering (that’s what killed me my first attempt at Grizzly), what to pack in my pommel bag; and to always, even for short walking rides, wearing my Osprey hydration pack.

Extra shout out: Anyone willing to lend me a camper trailer for said third attempt at Grizzly? See you on the trails!

IMG_5344.jpgMr. Best Redheaded Steed!

Keeping up with a redhead

As part of my (mostly) single minded goal to step up in endurance this season, I’m so happy to be able to afford a partial lease on a red headed Quarter Horse named Ray. He’s impeccably trained and cared for by my new trainer Terraka, and this Sunday we went out for an endurance speed ride, aiming for 5.5-6 mph. This speed means we’re trotting or cantering most of the ride, with a few walking breaks mostly on the still slippery downhills.

Protip: it’s a good idea to check your saddle before you take off! I was crooked the whole ride, something I’m generally aware of but that doesn’t make much of a difference at a walk. Three miles in my right ankle couldn’t take the imbalance and started to hate me, which matched my poor arms trying to rate a horse that was all for more speed.

img_5236-e1520291237959.png

I breathed deep, wiggled my butt around, popped a few dried apricots and settled in. Even as my ankle throbbed and Mr. More Speed and I engaged in a seemingly endless discussion of the meaning of “rate your speed”, the gorgeous on the cusp of spring landscape of the Molalla River Corridor flew by. We haven’t been able to ride there since October, and it felt wonderful to get out and fly.

There was only one wobble moment when I knew if Mr. Speedy Ray shied at his almost a gallop canter I would have slipped right off, but I stuck. Maybe not super gracefully, but I’m still doing planks and running and trying to get stronger so I don’t feel like I can’t keep up to whatever speed and spooks come my way. The other riders with me were gracious with my request to walk most of the downhills, and Ray never once threw a real spook, although he seriously considered a siddle sideways a few times.

img_52371.png

With the first ride on the horizon possibly set as Grizzly in just over a month, which Ray has completed before and I have a stubborn, unbreakable ambition to complete (third time’s the charm ya’ll!) I know we can get this done! Previous trips over the mountains have taught me to drink water, eat food and by all that is holy, no coffee at all on ride weekend (I can deal with the minor headache much easier than the rising anxiety the coffee gives me), and to never, ever try anything new on ride day…like hop on a horse I’ve never ridden, in a saddle I’ve never used, with my poor kid dumped with friends in ride camp.

A few things I have just over a month to figure out include who is going to hang with my less poor kid (any takers? I’ll leave money for a trip to the Dairy Queen in Madras!), whether or not I want to chance bringing Cyrus along (probably not for the first ride, even though I think he’ll be a fantastic ride camp dog), stop leaning to the right for all that’s holy, and trying a curb bit with Mr. All the Speed, at least for the first loop. I trust in my own soft hands well enough to be willing to try a stronger bit to manage the race brain until a few miles have sweated out the Mr. Go Super FAST.

By the end of the ride, Mr. Go Fast was rating well, I hadn’t fallen off and I actually enjoyed myself. My mind’s eye was full of that utterly enticing vision of trotting mightily down a dusty trail, miles of gorgeous scenery under the saddle, ride camp in the hazy distance, a steady redhead perking up as he senses his hay bag is near.

IMG_4752.jpg

Endorphins Are Good

IMG_2962

Pssst Vicki! I know the terrible, awful, no good weather is here to stay, but I need a hit of this view! It’s been too long since I’ve had my Jokker fix!

Running with a dog is incomparably better than shuffling alone. It’s the difference between dancing the Electric Slide in front of your history class cause you got an answer wrong, and a zone of thoughtfulness created by the pant pant pant of the dog coupled with the ‘get your ass moving’ beat of Fall Out Boy.

Which is all to the good, as I need the workout and endorphins pumping more than ever. My new job is tough. All new jobs are tough, but this one was running into a brick wall full speed, Wile E. Coyote style. To say I had no idea what I was getting into is giving me too much credit for knowing I should have had an idea. When I have a patient cursing at me about their money, it makes me miss my sweet and easy to please (read: bribe with candy) safety team. But benefits and paid holidays are wonderful, so I’m trudging ahead and getting my feet underneath me, made easier by the sweet wiggle butt, gap toothed kiddo and endorphins I can burn when I get home. Oh, and the kitchen fairy mentored boyfriend.

img_3785

I’ve been using MyFitnessPal off and on for years to try to reach my main goal of ‘lose weight and get fit to ride endurance effectively.’ I’ve never felt I’ve made much progress, due my allergy to anything ending in “-diet” and love of all things bread. And cheese. And off Tom’s Traeger. And Tillamook Salted Caramel Ice Cream bars. As I was syncing up tonight’s super short, 18 minute trudge through the rain tonight, I realized I’ve successfully lost and kept off 25 pounds.

img_3826

HOLY CRAP! In my own meandering, unguided, Pinterest addicted, comfy bed loving way, I’ve lost 25 pounds. Who’s counting that it took three years? I’m only 20 pounds away from being classified as a middleweight (with tack!), which opens up more realms of possible horses I can comfortably catch ride. I’m within 35 pounds of the weight I was pre-kid, and 40 pounds of where I was when I was super freaking fit in college, cutting down trees and driving three horse teams. It’s the middle of a typically cold, wet, dark Oregon winter, and I’m running with the dog most every day, and logging everything I eat and not going for the third cookie.

25 pounds. It may not seem like a ton, and I’m certainly not done, but the proof is in the pudding, so the English say. I can do this. I can work myself down in weight and up in strength, juggle my mental health and kid keeping aliveness and boyfriend someday soon to be fiance wellness and smooshy faced dog happiness and pissy ass cat glares.

img_3670

I still want to reach the goal of completing a 50 mile endurance ride, hopefully next season if I can wrangle the stars, time off work, finances and horse access. But my goals have shifted slightly, and I find myself longing for me, a good horse and a mountain trail meandering between snow flecked peaks, without the drama and stress that seems to have infiltrated my beloved community this year. If I can wrangle all the above, I’m going to focus on finding a horse to lease and take lessons with and condition in my own way, taking everything I’ve absorbed from all my mentors and seeing what I can do with it. That thought keeps me pounding pavement in the rain, happy Cyrus leading the way with a sharp eye out for slow squirrels.

img_3765

 

 

Hey, Drivers!

As a driver myself (60 miles a day for my normal commute alone) I get it. You sit high & dry in a 1-2 ton vehicle, designed with your safety in mind. You’ve got kids to pick up (I have one); you’re late to work (I’m in trial service at a new job & can’t be late); you’re mother in law pissed you off (mine’s the sweetest you’ll ever meet!); you’ve been driving for ten, twenty, thirty years without accidents like clockwork.

What I don’t get, either as a driver or as vulnerable pedestrian and bicyclist, on why you value your time more than my life. Why is giving me space and five extra seconds to herd my kid and dog across the street so painful for you? Creeping up on me when I’m trying to keep myself and others safe makes the hair on the back of my neck crawl, and realize how very easy it is for a car to maim a human body, especially a small one.

It’s dark at 4pm these days, dark and dreary and rainy. You worry about money for the holidays, less than loved relatives bitching about politics at the Thanksgiving table, navigating through traffic and just trying to get home. A guy cut you off five blocks back and cost you four seconds; you had to wait five minutes for the freight train to crawl through town; your 3pm shot of coffee wore off too fast. It doesn’t matter what stupid/dumbass/possibly illegal or just ill-advised thing said pedestrian is doing; you are not God or the cops (but if you are the cops, maybe they could use a talking to if they are doing one of those things). It’s your responsibilities as a driver to be hyperaware and in control of your vehicle and reaction times, which means assuming every corner has a person waiting to cross and not creeping up on someone crossing the damn street (ugh god, how dare they use public space in front of YOU.)

In a contest between an impatient driver and my son, my dog, my partner, or myself, we will always come out the losers. There is no scenario in which a car speeds up to turn in front of us as we cross the street, or doesn’t stop and rolls through a right hand turn as we step out that ends well for anybody. We’ll be dead or seriously injured, and you’ll be traumatized and facing criminal charges.

Remember those days when your driver’s license was shiny new, something you showed off in English class and bitched about your DMV photo? You remember checking and rechecking your mirrors before you even backed out of the driveway, mom or dad or crazy Uncle Larry breathing down your neck, just waiting for one slip up to yank your driving privileges away? Drive like that, every day. Shove the worry about your kid’s grades, your last performance evaluation, the leaky roof with a storm on the way in the trunk, and drive like you’re 16 again, convinced every bush holds an unwary deer ready to dash out and scrape up your dad’s precious ’69 convertible and you’ll be in for it if he finds out.

Or, you could, you know, just drive like you want everyone else to get home as safely as you feel entitled to. Don’t be the person a stranger gets home and says to their person, “Let me tell YOU about this ASSHOLE who almost RAN ME OVER in the CROSSWALK today.”

How many words for cold?

190251_502264042848_8773_n

Actual mother fucking icicles hanging off my college library roof.

I hate the cold. I spent part of my childhood in the blissful, baking, dry heat of Arizona, just north of Phoenix. I survived five whole stinking cold, snow bound winters in Vermont, and ran back home to more temperate Oregon at the first chance (that hard long winters seemed to have followed me back is a moot point). I remember learning new curse words for the temperatures that froze my nose hairs, made breathing a chore, and turned my eyes Ice King Blue in the middle of February. My muscles still recall hefting a stupid sledgehammer, breaking ice in the cow troughs and carrying buckets of boiling water down to the barn, or freezing to the metal chains used to hook up the draft horses to the forecart. The first time my kid went outside after he was born, we were wrapped in roughly eight layers of wool and silk, and still I was convinced my brand new baby would get frostbite and I’d fail at the whole mothering thing five days in.

img_3697

I hate cold, ya’ll. I also hate running. I’m about as graceful and flat footed as a rhino, only without the boner creating horn. I sweat as if I’m sitting in a sauna and I run with my head tilted a little to the side, doing to having a huge glasses lens prescription for my right eye as a little kid. Give me a horse or a bike to ride, hands down.

However, when you add cold and running together, my hate for both cancels each other out. I don’t sweat, there is no-fuckin’-body out to see me juggling my fat butt down the street, and I push myself to keep running (slow as a herd of fucking turtles ya’ll) so I don’t freeze to death. Oh, and the even more secret ingredient to my new goal to run six insane times a week? Cyrus the World’s Best Jogging Partner!

img_3720

Thanks to pesky things like work, house chores, commuting, eating food, being a parent kinda sorta, and stupidly being farther away from the sun during these months, Cyrus and I are getting our run in during the coldest, darkest part of the winter night…roughly between 7pm and 9pm. He not only keeps my sad ass pace super easily, he makes me feel better about the whole endeavor because running=more of a dog workout=dog sleeping peacefully on the couch all day while we’re gone and not chewing up the house. I’m such a good dog mom, ya’ll!

As a last thought, endorphins do make it easier to write…since I haven’t even cracked 6000 words of NaNoWriMo 13 days in, time to get cracking! Request: If anyone has some really good names for alien species, toss them my way? I can only rearrange letters into vaguely Swedish sounding names so often….

img_3626

This adorableness will never get old!

Giggle Attack

I spent my Sunday in the best way possible: Ignoring the bittersweet feeling of being dragged out of bed way too early for a weekend to drop Tom off at the airport, bound for business in South Korea. Instead I headed to the woods and giggled my way through a 12 mile ride in the woods on my favorite spotted pony, the incomparable Jokker.

IMG_2907

With the possibility of the last endurance ride of the season in three weeks, Foothills of the Cascades in our backyard, we focused on elevation and enjoying the single track trails which will be closed to us as soon as the really wet weather arrives to usher in winter. We spent a perfect few hours heading up…up…down up down up switchbacks giant hill lean forward step up walk down aaaaaand back up. It’s such a wonderful feeling to be able to tack up and just ride; Vicki’s been nice enough to let me leave all my gear on Jokker’s saddle, so I don’t have to fiddle with everything each time I get to ride him.

IMG_2949

During a rest break at the very top of the hills I crinkled open a Rice Krispie treat, a guilty ride day pleasure which Jokker couldn’t help but have a very strong opinion about. His opinion boiled down to the same as a toddler’s, “How DARE you not share woman!” I spent about five minutes laughing so hard I had to actually work to stay in the saddle as he kept tossing his head up for a bite, while Jokker’s dam KC jiggled with her normal Arab mare impatience to be moving forward.

IMG_2973

On the way back down we stuck to the logging road, where I was able to sit deep and really stretch Jokker out as we tried to catch up with KC and Vicki, faster and far in front as usual. If you’ve met him in real life, you’ll first notice the spots, then his size…or vice versa. Either way, the boy has a canter that truly cures all ills…and I feel privileged every time I’m able to ride him. Foothills, give us a dry year, and don’t have any rocks with our names on them!

 

IMG_2546