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 :)

#YouMatter

I don't often (read: never) blog about work now that work isn't riding related, but work this week involved an entertaining variation from my daily normal that I feel is fair to share :)  On Wed and Thurs I participated in #create4community -- an RBC event to support UnitedWay.   When I signed up for this, I honestly had no idea what I was getting into.  My manager forwarded an ask for participants and there wasn't much more info than that.

The challenge:  Create an innovative idea that will engage 1 million individuals across the GTA to join United Way's Uprising of Care to fight local poverty in one of the following ways:
  • Build pathways out of poverty: support a smart network of agencies across our region meeting diversity of needs.
  • Close the gap between our neighbourhoods: build social and economic inclusion in every part of our region.
  • Create opportunities for youth: ensure every young person has access to education and skills they need for economic success.
Sure.  Why not ;)

So my team of five, which included two people I knew in a "hallway conversation" manner and two people who were new to me, met a couple times before the event to discuss basic ideas, but the reality is that we, or at least I, had no idea what we were in for.

Our team: Saabia, Maija, Priya, Me, and Merna
The first hint came with the meeting invite -- which spanned from 8am Wed to 6pm Thurs.  Ummmm - I teach Wed night?   Is going home still a thing?   Lol but I gamely cleared at least my 9-5 calendar (well all except 1 meeting that was non negotiable at this point -- fortunately the hotel where this was being held was only a couple blocks from my office).

So shortly before 8 I arrived to be treated to a super yummy (and large!) breakfast.  Promising start.  The introduction was interesting and it became clear this used to be a strictly IT event.  Referred to as a hackathon, our team had a distinct lack of programmers on it.  Meh - minor detail ;).  We were encouraged to pick one or more of the above bullets and go.

We decided to focus on bullet one and worked to design an ap that would enable volunteers to connect easily to volunteer opportunities that suited their skills, interests, and location.  It was millennial-centric with swiping, badging, and sharing :).  We spent the first day designing this.  What problem were we trying to solve?  How would it work?  How does it look?  What are the key features?  What would keep users engaged?

What was amazing was how quickly our team -- who had never worked together before -- was able to come together as a team.  We worked collaboratively where it made sense: to design the general concept and create a template for multiple screens, and divided and conquered where that was logical -- such as mocking up screens.   We quickly recognized Saabia had all the design strength in our team, so while all could work on wireframes based on the template, she was the one who made them look good :)

There were also lots of volunteers from both RBC and United Way wandering around to assist.   Amongst those was a tech volunteer who suggested to us an ap that would enable us to mock-up our ap using screenshots with hot spots.  Win!  We could prototype our ap on an actual phone and click through to show how it would work.  Unbelievably cool -- it's amazing how real that makes it seem.

So we had the vast majority of our ap designed by the end of day one (fueled by an incredible amount of food might I add), and day two was dedicated to putting together our presentation.  The deck was a challenge -- we all are very used to writing business cases and executive presentations.   We don't have quite as much experience at sales pitches.   We managed it though -- coming up with a sales presentation (read: almost no text!) and relegated all the other actual information slides to an appendix deck.  Then did some work on the presentation -- we'd have 7 minutes to sell it.   We actually ran through this a couple times, given the timeline and all we wanted to share.


After lunch (and I have to admit I was amused when our exec sponsor came by offering cookies and fruit to those of us at the back of the line while we were waiting) was the judging.   Each team would present to three panels of judges.  There were 8 rounds -- so every team got breaks in-between presentations. After the 7 minutes (and yes - there was a large timer on the screen) the judges had 5 minutes for Q&A.   The judges were all very positive, asked good questions, and gave encouraging feedback.   By this point we were all fairly emotionally invested in this -- I haven't prepped that much for a presentation since my thesis.   And even that didn't have a time limit ;)

This was followed by a break while the judges did their thing.  They picked one team from each category to proceed to the final round of judging; sadly our submission was not chosen :(.  I was more disappointed by that than I would've thought -- going in I don't think I truly believed we'd create something to be proud of.  But we did, so it would've been nice to win :)

Overall though it was an excellent experience.  A true feeling of belonging to a team, getting to use skills that don't play into daily life, and the instant gratification of seeing a project appear in front of your eyes -- all made for a really positive event.  Not to mention helping a worthwhile cause :)


21 Days?

With the weather being as blah as it has, I haven't been getting in as much cycling as I'd like; four weeks from now I'll be riding over 200kms to raise money for the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.  And I'm not even slightly ready.  Ugh.   Was supposed to ride my first 100km in a MEC ride this weekend, but it got cancelled due to flooding.  An inauspicious beginning :(

So I've decided to up my general fitness so at least I have a chance.  So I went back to Beachbody, which is where I got P90X3 (that story began here) and Core de Force and figured I'd see what else was there.  I know from my Core de Force adventure that I really need something that sticks to 30 mins to be successful.   So I filtered on this, which is when I got my first hint as to how atrocious their website really is.  *sigh*.  Filter was useless, so I did some searching and found a few possibilities.   One I liked the idea of was the 21 Day Fix.  Simply because I had enough time to complete the program, add one extra week, and have a few recovery days before the ride.  Perfect.

Now there are two options -- 21 Day Fix, and 21 Day Fix Extreme.   They have almost identical descriptions, but the difficulty rating is significantly higher for the Extreme version.  To put in perspective, it's ranked harder than both of the other two programs I've done.  So of course, feeling particularly unfit, I went for that one ;).

I also decided to subscribe to their online membership rather than ordering videos.  Since I seem to be doing these a lot, it seemed the most cost effective method.  And while the videos all work (although there was a delay before I could use them) I have to say the website itself and the member's dashboard are sorely disappointing.   They have the potential to be amazing and yet fail time after time *sigh*. However, I really just wanted the exercise, and that I have.

This video series has a fairly defined diet associated with it; I'm not playing that game ;-P.  The videos themselves are all half hour, and follow a weekly schedule.  So it will get boring fast, but it's only meant to be done for 3 weeks, so fair enough.

As to the exercise program, I'm conflicted.  I really dislike the trainer.  Her "motivation" makes me angry, and the constant reference to "booty" would alone cause me to lose any respect I may have had for her.  Also, her background exercisers are all bikini competitors (I didn't even know this was a thing?), which means they have amazingly sculpted bodies.  I understand this is supposed to advertise for the program, but to me it's demotivating -- they're so much more fit than I, that just because they can do something, doesn't mean I have a hope at it.   As opposed to P90X3, which had all very fit people but both A - people who at times struggled with the exercises, and B - people who do not exercise for a living and who got fit through doing that particular program.   And Core de Force has some awesomely fit people but a couple more normal body types who are managing it as well.   Again inspiring the competitive "if they can do it, so can I".

I also (so far -- I've only done 4 videos) do not like the exercises.   I haven't done one video where I'd look forward to doing it again.   The only plus is that most of them use weights, which I quite enjoy :).  And they use the fitness bands in ways I haven't seen before which is interesting, although kinda requires shoes which I'm not thrilled about.

I'm not alone!
So with all the negatives, what's the conflict?   Well they work.   Except for pushups which have always been the bane of my existence, I can do all the exercises.   By half way through most of the videos, whichever area is being worked is fatigued enough to be shaking.   And I am so very sore.   I think I'm still recovering from the very first day (when I did two videos because the website listed both and missed the critical "or" that is specified in the program materials).   The videos are also in an appropriate order so different systems are worked each day (in as much as isolation is possible).   And they do stick to half an hour, which means I can fit it in and still have time to ride my bike.

Weather's supposed to be better this week.  Fingers crossed!

Horseback riding verses bicycle riding

So as anybody who's been reading this blog for any amount of time will know, horseback riding has been a big part of my life for a very long time.   However, almost TWO years ago (as of June -- can you believe it?  I'm fairly horrified myself), that became less of an option and I've been trying, and failing, to find something to fill the void.

With the latest attempt being cycling, I find myself drawing comparisons -- esp when I'm riding my bike on the same trails I used to ride my horse...

I'd pick the horse every time...
So let's see:

Bike wins:
  • The bike generally always goes exactly where I tell it at the pace in which I tell it to go.  This makes for an extremely predictable ride. 
  • Getting hit in the face by a tree branch hurts with either kind of riding, but I can duck a lot lower on the bike. Also, the bike has never intentionally attempted to close-line me.
  • I have yet to have a random stranger ask if they can pat my bike.
  • My bike has never decided it's afraid of other bikes, or run backwards into a ditch, or tried to attack a dog (see predictable ride above).
  • Before and after care of the bike is significantly easier than the horse.
  • If I fall off my bike, it stays within a foot or two of where I left it.  It is also a shorter drop to the ground.
  • It is significantly easier to navigate the end-of-trail barriers on a bike than a horse.
  • I do not need to worry about my bike's fitness.
  • I do not have to dismount to clean up after my bike.
  • No matter what mood I'm in when I get on the bike, it will respond in exactly the same way.
  • I can leave my bike for months, and when I get back on it will behave exactly as it would if I'd ridden it yesterday.
  • I am less concerned riding my bike on the road than riding my horse on the road.
  • The bike is significantly less bouncy than the horse.

Neutral:
  • Both require a degree of fitness that I do not currently possess.
  • Both can go lame mid-ride.
  • Small children on bikes are more erratic and out of control than small children on horses.   However, teenagers on horses are crazier than teenagers on bikes.   Having been a teenager on both horseback and bike, I can attest to this.
  • Wind, especially a cold wind, is evil no matter which form of riding.
  • Both have large communities of passionate enthusiasts.
  • Both can go fast enough I can't see.  Fast is fun :)


Horse wins:
  • The bike generally always goes exactly where I tell it at the pace in which I tell it to go.  This makes for an extremely boring ride.  
  • My horse has far more capability than my bike to handle things like curbs, ditches, fallen trees, water, mud...   The original ATV.
  • My horse is far more forgiving of balance shifts than my bike.
  • Horse saddles tend to be more padded than bike saddles.
  • On horseback I have very few concerns about passing other riders on horseback; on my bike I am definitely cautious about it.
  • I have had far more hardware failures on the bike than I have had in decades of horseback riding combined.  That being said, hardware failures on horseback tend to be more dramatic than on the bike.
  • A horrible horseback ride leads to a far more entertaining blog post than a horrible bike ride. 
  • After a good bike ride I feel tired and happy.   An average horseback ride will get the same results.   
  • Never has my bike made me feel the adrenaline of a cross country ride, the pride of a brilliant dressage test, the heartbreak of acknowledging the partner you love will never be capable of achieving your goals, the fear of a bad bout of colic or mystery lameness, the utter peace of grazing in the sunset, the child-like joy of riding bareback.   Never do I find myself at work daydreaming about riding my bike.  

And so while I enjoy riding my bike, and logic points out the bike win list is longer, horse people have never been accused of being logical ;) And that last point outweighs all the rest together. But this is the kind of thing that goes through my head while I'm peddling my way 50kms, especially when my bike is not concerned with something that would’ve been high drama on my horse ;)

1/2 way through my first 50km ride

My current view, turned around toward home...
I am writing this at the 25km mark of a 50km ride.   

Things I've learned:
- it's colder on a bike than sports I'm used to.  Almost every rid I've had, I've ended up freezing.
- I'd much rather be on a horse; although the bike is certainly easier in many ways ;)
- I'm significantly faster on the road than on the rail trail.  This is sad as I'm not terribly fast on the road.
- My shoulders still very sore but lasting much longer than they used to.
- There are only 2 weeks till my first 100km ride.  And my first ride with a large number of other people.  Slightly overwhelmed at the idea.
- Protein bars have a really gross texture to them.   Ugh.

Okay break taken, protein bar mostly eaten, water inhaled.  Time to head back!

Edited to add:  random other cyclists (autocorrect just updated that to characters ;) checked to see if I was okay while I was sitting on my break.  Certainly everyone I've met doing this has been incredibly supportive and friendly.

Edited again to add:  the second half of the ride was significantly easier than the first, presumably as it was mostly down hill ;).  After 50km though I am exhausted.  My legs are done and my seat...  My poor seat.  Ow.   200km in two days is going to be brutal!   If you're interested in supporting my endeavour to help conquer cancer in our life time, click here :). Huge thanks to all those who have already donated!!!