Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

Welcome to XC :)

My superstar pony is going to be a XC machine!   OMG I had so much fun.   And no, I'm not lucky enough that he's actually my horse, but for simplicity's sake, we'll be referring to him as mine in the "horse that I'm currently riding" meaning for the foreseeable future :)

And yes, she who hasn't jumped in two years, took her jumper horse who's never done XC, and decided that would be the best way to start back ;-P.  You're not new here.

In his nice, new, loose ring snaffle (lol his "jumper" bit is way too strong for dressage) we warmed up, I decided he was much happier in that bit, and we went out back.  Note, we did not bother with a tack change here.  Worked for a bit on the flat just to ensure the brain didn't get lost when we left the ring.   All good.   Through the water, up and down the bank -- totally pro.  Then we did the baby ditch and the slightly bigger ditch -- baby ditch was no problem but he was a little confused and very awkward about the slightly bigger one.  By the second try he had the idea and by the third try was doing it well though!

Now, I've seen vid of his other pb'r jumping sticks and very out of control (both enjoying themselves and not at all dangerous, just not ideal) so I wasn't sure what we'd get on XC, but I knew he was new to it so figured meh, why not?   We have some very tiny jumps to play with.   So we trotted over a few and he was very confused, but oh so quickly the light went on.   And before too long he was landing and scanning for the next one -- awesome!  Except, of course, he has no interest in letting me have a say in which one is next ;).

I also had no steering and limited breaks.   If I could package him and hold a line though -- all the power and enthusiasm.   So I'm *really* looking forward to the rest of the summer.  But those basics need a lot of work first *sigh*.  I think we'll be trotting our XC fences for a while yet.   But he did all the PE and E course, so not bad for a first day :).  And trotted and cantered between fields with little more than a glance, so that was awesome.

His pilot, however, was a whole lot looser in the tack than I'd like.  Sheesh.  Jump school tomorrow...  Hopefully won't be too embarrassing!

All the fun though.  Still grinning like a kid.

This is how a summer Saturday is supposed to be :)

Earlier this week I hacked new pony (Squirrel! -- new pony's name is Argo, but mostly I call him Dude - what can I say, he's that kind of personality. He's actually the kindest horse, but a bit of a goofball. I don't think I've ridden anything like him since Rio... That being said, until Argo, Rio is the only gelding I've ever ridden. hmmmm) okay back to the originally scheduled story -- we hacked around the XC course. He has hacked before but not yet on this property and his history is entirely in the jumper ring (which is where his other rider wants to play). And of course I visited the water, which he wanted nothing to do with *sigh*. And fair - jumpers are taught that getting their feet wet is a Very Bad Idea. I had thought to hack up the bank and over the ditch too but abandoned that after the water fail. So I didn't pick a battle, just figured I'd come back w a horse who's good with water and try again.

Fast forward to me deciding it'd be a good life choice to ride at noon today. In 35 degree weather. Sure why not. Socialized a bit as my friend Sabrina - who I rode with 15 years ago?!?! That made me feel so old when I realized - anyways she was there helping her daughter prep for a show tomorrow so we chatted for a bit and eventually I got around to riding. Started in the dressage ring and he was so good. And it was hot. So after about 20 mins I decided we were going hacking :).

When I crested the hill to the XC field, I could hear a lesson going on and I recognized the voice... Lol it was Stephanie, my first real coach - who I rode w all through high school, schooling some of her current students. So I figured Argo, who had grown about a hand at this point, could go watch and learn to chill. We wandered down and he watched pretty fascinated as the other horses ran around and jumped stuff *g*. When they got to the water though, I asked Stephanie if I could borrow a lead and Argo promptly made a new friend. With just a bit of hesitation and a whole lot of pawing, we got him in the water! Woohoo! Splashed around a bit and went in and out a couple times :). Awesome.

So I kept watching as they had their lesson, wandered him up the bank and over the tiny ditch all with no problem :) Then Judith came down hacking her mare, so I joined them for a trip around the property and got to go in the water a few more times from different angles and once by himself :). Woohoo! A long quiet calm ride around xc - such a perfect day and I am firmly in my happy place :). Start jumping for real this week! Woohoo!

Ride to Conquer Cancer - Day 2

The blogging and Facebooking continued today -- as did the ride ;).  So I present, unedited for your amusement, Day 2:

6:18 - It begins again... Day 2 of ride to Conquer Cancer

6:20 - the sun is shining, and I'm awake. Barely. My body is not onside with playing this game -- I'm hoping it'll agree to join the game after 10 km or so... it's going to be a very long day; all the things hurt and I haven't started yet. But lots of people in this Ride have been through way worse. Wish me luck.

6:26 - To the ambitious people who ride to the ride each morning - I don't think we can be friends.

7:52 - the clacking of hundreds of cyclists clipping into their bikes at the same time is really quite the sound. Like a swarm of dinosaur sized cicadas.

8:01 - Whoever decided "it's all downhill from here" has negative connotations is an (insert your favourite word here) idiot. Those are my new favourite words.

At the top of the hill that will give me nightmares...
8:50 - Life motto for today: coast while you can. Lol so not my usual strategy but may be required for survival! Made it to pit stop 1 where they're advertising "all the fun". I question that but was definitely happy to stop anyways. We're just shy of 30 kms here. Roughly 80 to go. 2 hills so far that were brutal but it's looking like the biggest challenge will actually be wind...   Rest stop has a sunscreen booth for people to reapply along with the water, food, and medic booths.

9:45 - Mini break - Grimsby maybe? Long flat roads are lovely for lack of hills but horribly demotivating in that they never end...   Our country is gorgeous.   I don't often get to experience it at 20km/h ;)

9:47 - Lol so I randomly decided this ditch was a good place to stop - there are now about 20 other cyclists w me. Clearly not a bad idea ;)

9:48 - To the people commenting on and reacting to these updates - you're keeping me going! Thanks!  Back on the bike with me.

10:18 - The ride goes much faster when you're chatting with someone. If you're going to do this, bring a friend.

10:30 - made it to lunch, 46km. Lunch is tastier today too so happy about that. Rode part of the last set w another random RBC person, who turned out to be the mother of someone I rode w a decade ago. Small world eh? Still nearly perfect weather, which is awesome. Disappointed to not even get a tan out of this deal but the only sunscreen I could find was 60 so no tan for me... I'm slow now, about 20km/h, but the only things that are brutally sore at the moment are my neck and shoulders. Short break and then off again. Half way there! Or so I'm telling myself ;)

11:47 - To all you people flying past me - where are coming from? How was I ever ahead for you to pass? Did you all sleep in this morning?

12:06 - The wind is the devil; unless he's behind you where he's your best friend. But mostly he's the devil.

12: 07 - I tried to coast down the hill and failed because the wind was strong enough to counteract gravity.  Ugh.

12:42 - For the record, hills are no longer in my contract - I ride to the base, dismount, and walk up. This gives my poor shoulders a break and saves the pedalling for where it can be the most useful.

12:57 - 3rd rest stop! 70ish kms? 1 more stop at 90 and then to the falls!

1:00 - Not at all hungry at this stop. Forcing a banana and orange down cause I figure I prob need it. Ugh

1:05 - There is a sea of blue in the distance - large collection of Team RBC riders :). They have the right idea. I'm going to join them.

1:14 - A back stretch (that was beyond amazing - Team RBC for the win!),two bottles of ice water, a banana, and some Advil -- and now back on the road. 40km left to Niagara.

1:15 - Update: I can no longer get on from the right side of my bike. Thanks to decades of horseback riding, the left is no problem.

1:27 - slightly bitter that I just passed a sign that said 16km to Niagara.  Why does our route have almost 40???   Efficiency fail ;-P

Lesson learned: don't pedal hard, pedal fast (low gear).
When you can't pedal fast, take a break, drink some water, eat something, and post.
Then you'll be able to pedal fast again.
2:12 - Now that I know I get to start riding (ummm that'd be horseback) again this week, I'm enjoying the bike for the sake of the bike rather than being slightly depressed it's not a horse.  And I've seen several gorgeous farms over the last two days...

2:36 - 90km rest stop - 20 left! Ran out of ice 3 people before my turn. Fail. But they do still have oranges so all good.

So close, yet so far...
2:40 - Shout out to team captain Brit who answered my many questions before the ride and has been super welcoming and positive throughout - you're awesome :)

2:42 - All the bikes have pilot's names on them - it's amazing the difference it makes. "Hi Lauren" from a complete stranger is enough to encourage to keep pedalling.

2:43 - Mmmmm melty rice crispy squares are pretty yummy

3:47 - you know you're ready to be done, when you ask every person coming towards you "how much further?"
Woohoo!!!  Crossing the finish line :).  About 3:50.

4:10 - the last 10km were stunning, but that wind.  OMG that wind.  

Still smiling :)
 4:52 - I'm excited the water bottle I didn't get at the start line was available at the finish :)

Raised $3,240 and rode 225km (according to my bike computer)
5:17 - I feel like tomorrow might be one of the best uses of a random vacation day :)

8:39 - everything hurts and I'm exhausted.  But somehow still happy.   Tomorrow's plan is to sleep in and watch Beauty and the Beast (thanks to my awesome husband who picked it up for me :).  If I'm feeling super ambitious, I may go visit my dog.  But, well, my car is standard and I sense the clutch may be more work than I'm up to.

Thanks for sharing my adventure!

Ride to Conquer Cancer - Day 1

I wrote mini blog posts and a number of Facebook updates throughout today's adventure.   Will post all here in order, unedited.  Apologies for the font changes.  Consider yourself forewarned ;)

5:22 (that'd be am):  Ride to Conquer Cancer today! On about 4h sleep.... Wish me luck - or endurance. I may need more endurance than luck!

6:00 - And we're off! My wonderful mother is driving me to the race start at shortly before 6am on a sunny Saturday. Tires are pumped, chain is oiled, and I am thoroughly slathered in sunscreen and sporting super sexy RBC sunglasses ;). I'm also going on roughly 4h sleep -- frig! I tried though -- I was in bed trying to sleep by a civilized 10:00 last night. Here's hoping that becomes the only failure of the day! Lol happy peddling! 

7:00 - I'm here and it's an impressive organization! We're to meet for a team pic but was no one here when I got here so went exploring. Went to get breakfast when I realized my wrist band, which I'd been fiddling w in the car, was either still in the car or lost to time. Frig. Fortunately I'm not the only one to have done such silliness and getting a new one was a fast and painless process. Grabbed a banana and granola bar and good to go. The team is gathering - there are about 160 of us, two of whom I know... 

7:30 - team pic is done and back and corral now. It is insane! Glad I came when it was empty earlier :). High energy level and happy people. I'm highly amused at the variety of things people have stuck to their helmets - plungers, stuffed toys, flags, pylons... things newbies wouldn't even think of :) They have water bottles that I'd really like - but I'm not willing to give up my ice water so have to forego...

A great team!  I'm at the front, right behind the people with the sign...
7:57 - So I have my ride watch but I don't think it has enough power to run all day - fingers crossed!

Almost ready for the start of the pre-game show!
8:07 - The numbers are in: 1250 crew, 5042 riders, and $20,533,000 raised for Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.    And personally -- thanks to so many of my amazing friends, your contributions totalled $3,240!  As I had a goal of $2,500 that I feared would be impossible, I'm still amazed and overwhelmed by the generosity of everybody!  Team RBC had an amazing total number, but I wasn't able to write it down at the time I overheard it ;)

8:32 - We're off!   Slowly.

9:50 - at pit stop 1 (20km) and so far so good! Weather is perfect :). I was feeling good and tempted not to stop but remembered my rule for surviving is to stop and eat at each stop and at least one bottle of water. Done :). I'm riding faster than planned - will likely regret that later but sobeit. Charlene came out to cheer - super excited to see her :). And all the other random cheering people! It was a slow start getting out of TO, but that actually made it less intimidating somehow.  A few traffic jams as too many riders tried to fit through small spaces, but it's starting to spread out now.  Okay - back to the ride!

11:13 - It's a lovely day for a walk. Lol did not make it up the hill after 4th line. Congrats to those who did! And the awesome people cheering at the top - esp dude w the jeep and 2 dogs.  All the enthusiasm!

11:20 - Stopped at the train by the farm where I used to board Lexi; have never been so grateful to see a train!

11:45 - at 50km rest stop. Was very hard to get going again after the last one but got better as I went. Shoulders are killing me but the rest is okay. I'm averaging about 25km on the flat but only about 10 on hills! One I had to abandon ship and walk. About 30km I was suddenly starving! So pulled out my energy chews - which are supper tasty - and then dropped them :(. So sad. Had to make due w moderately inedible protein bar. Ah well. The lineup for water is insane, but access to food is easy.  Okay back on the bike! After another collection of food. All the cookies!

12:50 - To the people at the top of #1 Sideroad w water and an optional sprinkler - you are awesome.

1:17 - It's a bad sign when you're doing 5km/h and asking the stranger next to you if he knows when the hill ends...

1:20 ...the hill ended at lunch :) 70kms - a new personal record! That last section was... hard. Really hard. All the hills. Steep hills, rolling hills, gradual hills that never end -- all the varieties. Awesome people at the top of one of the worst sections had set up a sprinkler on the road so we could ride through - myself and a few others ditched the bikes and just went to stand under the sprinkler. Physically my neck and shoulders are in pretty constant pain. The rest of me is tired but okay. I also seriously underestimated the amount of food that would be required to get me through this. I'm a little dismayed that lunch doesn't have any "take out" food (granola, rice crispies, trail mix, etc) so I can't restock my bike. I haven't made it from one rest stop to the next without replenishing yet so may be a challenge. This time I didn't feel hungry but I did feel like crying -- and I know from past experience that when that's uncalled for, esp if I'm active, it usually means I need food. Part of me wants to close my eyes and have a nap and part of me thinks that'd be a v bad idea. So on the bike I go...

2:22 - "A lot of downhill coming just around the next corner" -- if that guy wasn't lying, he's my new best friend.

3:12 - 90k - really struggled w the last 20. Although a 3 min break upped my speed significantly. At water stop, went through the line, filled bottle, went through the line again - and by the time I got to the front my bottle was ready to be refilled.

3:14 - at the start of this I was hesitant to let my precious bike out of my sight. Now it's approximately 3 blocks away in a ditch and I'm like "meh, if it gets stolen, I get a drive to the end" :) Also to the enterprising kids selling freezies at the 90km rest stop - I'd like you a lot better if I had any money!

3:15 - Rest stop: a banana, 2 orange slices, 3 cookies, a rice crispy square, and 3 bottles of water later and I'm ready to go. This is insane. And I'm taking another rice crispy square for the road.

4:07 I made it!  Thankfully pretty well the whole last section was downhill -- part of it quite steep (made 50 km/h without pedalling!). SO much fun.  The (thankfully short) flat section I was managing all of about 10km/h.  My quads are done.  Completely done.   But I'm in camp now, my bike is parked in row 29, and I've found food.  All good.   Shower, sleep, and do it all again tomorrow!   Admittedly *slightly* concerned about that, given how my body wanted nothing to do with the last 30kms, but here's hoping stubbornness, ummm I mean determination, wins out!

At first I dismissed this as the ride isn't finished,
But then I realized, I just completed my first century!
And that definitely *does* deserve a photo.

The time has come, the Walrus said,

to bike and bike some more.   Okay, maybe that's not what he said -- bonus points to anybody who knows what he did say and where he said it ;)

For me though, it is indeed time to bike.  This weekend, I'll be riding more than 200 kms from Toronto to Niagara Falls to raise money for the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.  You can help!  Click here to sponsor my epic ride and together, we can help end cancer in our lifetime!  So far I've raised just over $3000!  Thanks to all those who've already supported this amazing cause.  Really appreciated!   For those still considering, it'd be wonderful to get to $3500 :).  Every little bit helps!

And it will be epic.  Why?  Well primarily because this spring has been miserable so my training has been, umm, rather intermittent.  With a max ride of 65km, the approximately 113 on the first day is going to be a challenge!  I'll be setting a target goal of...  let's say 7h...  Maybe 8 ;).  There is a distinct possibility I could walk there faster.  Ummm maybe not -- I remember last year's half marathon effort.  Sheesh.  But still, suffice to say, I'll be at the back of the pack and hopefully arrive in time for dinner.  But the effort is what makes it worthwhile right?  Nobody sponsors a jog around the block!

I will be blogging at each of the rest stops -- and maybe random other locations; we shall see.  The adventure probably won't get posted until the end due to lack of data, but they will be shared for the curious. 

Thanks again for all the support -- the enthusiasm and interest so many have shown has been so inspirational.  Wish me luck!

The next adventure begins :)

So for a while now I've been considering finding a horse to part board.  Considering in the "playing with the idea but not actually doing anything about it" way...  And then last weekend I taught XC.  And it was awesome.  And it was SO hard.  Didn't help that Si (who's name is now Bella) was one of the participants ;).  (Throwback Thursday:  Si's first XC school)

Si's second XC jump - way back when :)
So I went home and googled...  And quickly decided this is one circumstance where the internet is not going to help *sigh*.   Don't get me wrong, there are lots of pb horses listed.  But omg it's even worse than reading sales ads.  One was asking $500 to ride a straight-off-the-track OTTB.  Ummm no, I'm not going to pay you significantly over going rate to train your horse.   Lots that seemed reasonable except that the horses are your standard novice back yard pony.  Fine, but again -- I'm not going to pay to ride that.  A couple that looked good but owned by teenagers; not that that couldn't work, but odds are not good ;). And I think I found 3 that were worth talking to.  None I was thrilled with, but solid possibilities.  Contacted all three, heard from none.  Didn't follow up.

Decided I needed to be smarter about this, and approach it another way.  What pros do I know whose opinion I respect who might have clients in need of a pbr in my general area?  Okay -- much better plan.   So I reached out to one who's barn is in the ideal location for me.  I've only met her a handful of times, but knew of her reputation and what I've seen of her barn (one of the places we go to school) I was pretty impressed by.  Acknowledged that it's a private farm but explained my background and asked if she or any of her students was looking for a pbr.

And in luck!  She'd had a horse in her barn on lease that didn't work out for the leasee -- apparently a gorgeous horse but too strong for nervous teenage rider.  Okay, fair enough.  And if that one didn't work, she had another possibility but it's a horse she's currently riding so try that one first.  Lol fair enough.  I was actually slightly surprised to get any answer from somebody I hardly know, much less so helpful of one!

The owner reached out to me and we chatted for a bit.  There is one pbr on the horse, but she'd like one more as she's currently not riding.  Other pbr kindly offered up her lesson spot to me to test him.  Turns out she works pt at the barn and was able to just coordinate a lesson for the next day.  Sweet.  So I meet them in the parking lot.  Horse comes off *high*.  Hmmmm could be an interesting first ride back.  Big chestnut hannovarian, but fairly gorgeous.  Cool.

So introduce myself, get him in -- where he settled very quickly.  Tacked up and away we went.  He was a little strong and looky, but certainly not doing anything concerning.  I'd been asked not to warmup until the coach got there so I just hoped on to wander around.  And he was walking on a mission!  Which would've been great if I'd been asking for it ;).  But then there was a giant CRASH.  And he didn't even blink.  Good pony.  Bomb-proof counts for a lot ;).  So that pretty much instantly relaxed me and I picked up a contact and started working.

OMG like riding a drunk gummy worm.  I could *not* get the pieces in a straight line.  Was it ever funny.  Some moderately impressive lateral work -- if only it'd been on purpose!  lol. But all good, by the time coach came in I was giggling like a little kid and totally relaxed.  She asked reasonable questions and we did a little at the walk before moving to the trot.  The trot is reasonably big, but not as huge as I'd been anticipating, and we were able to get some decent work.   The left canter was absolutely lovely.  Fairly huge but so smooth.  Like riding a couch.  He's not quite strong enough to sit his butt underneath himself yet, so slightly strung out and very strong.  But has excellent breaks installed (more than one half-halt resulted in an abrupt downward transition ;). Canter the other way is even less balanced and far less smooth, but still entertaining.   We didn't get to jumping -- both horse and rider were pretty zonked.  And, well, the canter being rather disastrous and knowing horse has a jumper background, that can perhaps wait till we  have a slightly rateable canter.  Or till I get bored ;). One of the two.

So yeah -- still some details to work out, but looks like I'll have a new pony to ride three times a week :).  Pretty excited about that.  I think I'm still grinning :)