Friday, May 22, 2015

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Excited About Riding Again!

(Ruby & I at a 2-Phase competition a couple of years ago)

I haven’t written about my riding in a while, but I did want to post an update before much more time passes. I have to say that I am having an excellent time riding this season. I decided at the beginning of the Summer that I wanted to add an additional lesson (a private) to my week, at least for a few months. I think this has worked out well for me as it has allowed me to have some great focus, has helped motivate me and I find that having that private lesson on Thursday, after my group lesson on Wednesday, gives me the opportunity to have some good scrutiny to work on things that maybe came up the day before, to zero in on stuff that needs more attention, or just to build on things that we worked on in the first lesson.

The other thing that I have made a commitment to with my riding is jumping on my own more. I posted this a couple of months ago about how I am regarded as a kind of a “jumping scrooge” at my barn. Well, in the interest of trying to make jumping more “been-there-done-that” / ho-hum / no-big-deal for myself, I have made some good steps towards banishing this image of myself as well. 

I have gotten pretty good about jumping at least one session per week on my own and have slowly been increasing the amount of jumping that I will make myself do. I started with jumping a couple of little fences at a time and then calling it “done”. I now will jump pretty much anything set up in the ring, as well as some stuff in the field (including the up & down banks). I have also been increasing the height of the fences that I do on my own. My attitude about jumping has improved to the point where it doesn’t faze me to jump around combinations of 3’ (or so) fences by myself. Of course, my trainer is also happy since, when it comes time for my jumping lessons, I’m no longer whining or giving her a hard time about jump height. It’s a work in progress, but the more I jump, the more I find that I want to jump! Funny how that works.

My Dressage work with Ruby continues to have its frustrations. About a month ago, I went through a very balky spell with her. Every flat session she would come up with a serious evasion where she would basically refuse to go forward, sometimes even at the walk. It has been especially frustrating because I felt (and still feel, believe it or not) that we had been making a ton of progress in our dressage work. Ruby’s trot in particular  has seemed to turn a major corner. Suddenly she gets the concept of what I’m asking for in the trot, becoming forward, actually on the aids and truly round (and with a correct bend!) When we went through this bad patch last month, it would take me almost an entire training session to boot her forward, to take her head out of llama status and get her out of her funk. The name of the game was transitions. Lots of transitions (basically my go-to tool, when all else fails). Walk, halt. Walk, trot. Trot, halt. Trot, canter. Canter, walk. Walk, canter. If you balk, you get booted forward and we get to do more of the same, endlessly. After going through this for forty-five minutes or so, I would usually, finally, end up with a soft and responsive horse, approaching the trot that I had been looking for. But, man! Was it frustrating. And exhausting. There were a few of those sessions where I questioned whether I should be selling Ruby and looking for another horse. There were a lot of times when I questioned whether I knew what I was doing (well, I still question that all the time). But, I have to say that it has gotten better. The canter still needs a lot of work and she is still pulling some of her balky maneuvers in our canter work, but her trot work has been lovely. She has also been offering this good trot work earlier and earlier in our rides too. Where it used to take me a lot of warm-up, suppling, transitions and other work to get her to a state where she started lifting her back, softening her jaw and reaching for the contact, I am finding that lately it has become more of a natural state with Ruby. It’s not immediate, but I am usually not jumping through a lot of hoops to get there either.

The thing with Dressage is: This is actually very hard for horses. There is a reason why there is a Dressage Training Scale. It’s not expected that you will achieve these things overnight. In addition to the training of the horse to gradually improve, there is also the gradual strength and muscling that is built in the horse as you progress in your work. It is not meant to happen all at once. A lot of the flat work asked of horses in Dressage training can be equated in humans to gymnastics, yoga and strength training, with a fair amount of endurance in there as well. It takes time to build on the work and your progress is usually measured in tiny steps. This year I feel like we’ve been “getting it”. And because we’ve been getting it, I’ve been asking more of Ruby. The balking thing is, I think, her reaction to my asking more of her – it’s hard! I just have to work through the rough patches and make her realize that defiance makes her life much harder.

With all that said about my dressage frustrations this Summer, even during the worst of it when I would be on the brink of giving up with Ruby, we would then have a jumping day in there where she would be awesome! Gallopy and loving life, even doing flying changes when I ask properly. And then there are the days when I get great flat work. It has been so hard-earned over the years that Ruby and I have been together that it is especially sweet when there is fluidity and harmony. It’s like the Dressage Gods have suddenly smiled on us. Because it hasn’t come easily, those great moments are now especially sweet.

To sum it up, these days I am truly excited about riding again. I was never actually “blah” about it, but I had reached a bit of a slump where flat work was always a fight, and it was also hard to watch others who have horses that make it easier. I dreaded jumping and just wanted to get through it and be done. I wanted to make improvements in all aspects of my riding and training of Ruby, but wasn’t really doing too much to get there and, as a result, wasn’t seeing much in the way of progress either. Now I feel like my riding world has opened up some. I look forward to even just a garden variety schooling session because I feel that I now have more of a partnership with my horse. Thanks to CrossFit, as well as more riding in general and some tweaking of my eating habits, I am also much more fit now than I was a few months ago, so this is definitely a contributing factor in my overall attitude and in my ability to ride better.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Well, at least I can row: CrossFit 08/13/2014

We had a crazy weather day here in New Hampshire, heavy rains that turned into a monsoon by the evening. It was raining so hard that I actually got one of those reverse 911 alerts to my cell phone warning of flash flooding. Riding was canceled, so I figured that I would go to CrossFit instead, since I didn't go last night and Wednesdays are usually strength work, something I definitely need to work on. It was raining so hard when I left my house that the thought actually crossed my mind, 'hmmmm, I wonder if anyone will even be at CrossFit tonight?' And then I immediately followed with this thought, 'stupid! Of course there will be people at CrossFit!'

I'm still nursing a very sore achilles, so I have to be careful what I do. I didn't go last night because I thought the posted WOD was going to be too tough on it. The workouts that I do take on, I just have to monitor it as I go. The good news this week is that I'm not limping around so much and it did not feel any worse the day after Monday's CF, so I'm encouraged by that. I'm not ready to run though. I ran from car in the rain to the gym tonight and it hurt quite a bit and caused me to run with a limp, so that is going to take some more time.

Posted workout for Wednesday, August 13th:


Line Drills x2 rounds each:

Butt Kicks
High Skips
Karaoke High Step
Forward Sprint/Back Sprint (run backwards)

What I did: Same, except the High Skips hurt too much, so I substituted extra rounds of Butt Kicks on that interval. 

Performance / WOD:

A. HBBS - E2M x6 x2 Reps (Translation: High Bar Back Squats, every 2 minutes for 6 rounds, do 2 reps each round)

What I did: My 1 rep max for this lift is 115lbs right now. During the warm-up I built up my weight to 85lbs and found that pretty challenging, so I kept it there for this exercise. It was tough, not sure if all the rounds crept up on me, or that's just what I had in me tonight, but whatever it was, I felt like I made the right decision for this one. Got through it in decent form and feeling fatigued, but not spent. 

B. 1 Mile Time Trial Run or 2000 Meter Row

What I did: Fred and I rowed and everyone else ran. I finished the row in 10:05 and wasn't too impressed with myself. But then I was thinking back to when I started CrossFit a couple of months ago and remember having to rest for a few seconds here and there during 400 meter row sessions. Tonight I did 2000 meters without any break. Coach Jen also seemed to think that the time was good for me, so okay, maybe I'm happy with it. 

C. 4 sets of 20 Slamballs as fast as possible.

What I did: I did a bunch of them to get the hang of it (hadn't done this before) but didn't count how many. And then I did one focused set of 20.

Some notes:

  • I really need to sort out my schedule so that I can come on Wednesdays more often. It's normally a riding night for me, tonight was an exception because of the bad weather. But I could probably work out an occasional CF session before work, or maybe at a lunch time or something. I have to think about this. 
  • I'm disappointed that I'm out of commission for running at the moment. I really want to work on the running some, at CF and outside of CF. I'm glad that I can row at least though. 
  • Slamballs are surprisingly hard!

Monday, August 11, 2014

And ... another benchmark: CrossFit 08/11/2014

I took a little break from CrossFit because my sore achilles was tweaked badly after a particularly tough workout a couple of weeks ago. I've been hobbling and limping around, afraid to come back too soon before it had a chance to get a little better. I've been resting it, icing and I've been wearing this crazy thing to sleep in. (Laugh all you want, but that Strassburg sock makes it so my achilles isn't so tight when I get up in the morning). Today I wasn't limping around as much, so I decided to give CrossFit a shot. The achilles hurts the most when I go down stairs, but I seem to be walking without too much limp now. Oddly, I've been able to ride okay. It hurts, but I can work through it and the stretching down in the heel is actually good for the tendon. 

We lost a friend from our CrossFit community last week. Patrick was only 22 and was killed in a tragic accident. Our CrossFit members have been reeling from the loss. Shocked and devastated. I am still so new that I didn't actually know him, but once I saw his picture, I realized who he is. He was very often at the box when I was there and often joined my class. Really cute, really enthusiastic, fun, great attitude, he was close to many of the CFE members. I never formally met him, but can feel the deep loss that many at CFE are feeling. Tonight I could just feel the hurt emanating off of everyone. I don't think I really appreciated until now how strong this community is. The caring for each other, the commitment to remembering Patrick and for helping each other through this tragedy is incredible. I don't know if I've ever seen anything quite like it. Tonight's session was bittersweet. 

Posted workout for Monday, August 11th:


Run or Row for 400 meters

What I did: Rowed for 400 meters. 

Dynamic Mobility:

Knee Hugs
Ankle Grabs
Lunge w/ Twist

And some additional dynamic balance lunges with Coach Jen

What I did: Same, except that I only did a few of the inchworms because we were outside and the gravel was digging into my hands. I think we forgot to do the ankle grabs though. 

Barbell Warm-Up:


What I did: Same, only with a dowel as there wasn't a free 15lb barbell. 

Performance / WOD:

A. Squat Clean -- 12 minutes to build to a heavy single. 

What I did: Coach Jen had me take the 12 minutes to just work on my cleans in general, without worrying about building up to a heavy weight. I started with just the 15lb bar and worked up to 45lbs. I can probably do more weight for this lift, but my form was a bit shaky with the achilles issue and being a little rusty after my CF break so I left it at 45.

B. "Jackie" (Another one of the "Girls" -- Benchmark Workout):

For Time:

Row 1000 meters
50 Thrusters (men & women: 45lbs)
30 Pull-Ups

What I did: 1000 meter row in 5:10. 50 Thrusters with just the 15lb bar (I did it in sets of 20, 15, 10, 5 -- obviously they get harder as you go along!). 30 Ring Rows -- I tried to do the Ring Rows with my back as parallel to the ground as possible, to make it harder. 

My time was my score: 10:39 (which is pretty meaningless since I didn't have any weight on my Thrusters and did Ring Rows instead of Pull-Ups). 

C. There was a Cash Out, but I ducked out!

Some Notes:

  • I don't seem to have any trouble with rowing. I think I was among some of the first finished rowing in my heat, and I think I could probably have pushed harder.
  • Doing lots of Thrusters will give you jello legs. Yes, even with just a 15lb bar (or maybe it's just me). 
  • I wasn't the only one who did Ring Rows instead of Pull-Ups tonight.
  • I am not going to feel like a real CrossFitter until I can do some kind of Pull-Ups. Banded or whatever, just something. 
  • I am so glad that I went! Thank your CrossFit Earned for welcoming me back. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

For a Friend: CrossFit 07/29/2014

(My friend Chris back in 1990-something)

I lost a very good friend the other day. Chris O'Hare was one of a group of great girlfriends that I had back in NYC in the days when we used to all go out a lot. God, I have so, so many stories that I could tell from those days. I'll just leave that part of it by saying, I'm glad there was no such thing as Facebook or camera phones in those days! On the other hand, it would be fun to be able to look back through those times. Anyway, there was a pack of us and, kind of odd for a group of women, I honestly don't remember any bitchiness or competitiveness, none of that nonsense. We all always had each others' backs. We all had a blast rolling around NYC together. I even remember when a new gym opened up close to work. We all decided to join and would go to the bar before going to the gym! Chris was never the athletic type. I remember her looking at me in horror once at the gym as I worked out on a Stairmaster or something and exclaiming, "you're ... sweating!!!" I had to say, "well, yes Chris, that's kind of par for the course at the gym."

Chris' health began to fail a few years ago. All at the same time she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and heart disease (and had a heart attack soon afterwards). She fought it for the past few years, but finally lost the fight a couple of days ago. Throughout her illness though, we would talk on the phone from time-to-time (not often enough!) and reminisce about the old days and the good times we all had back then. She had recently gotten a little active on Facebook and enjoyed following what everyone was doing. Because we all knew each other in NYC, the fact that I now live in New Hampshire and own a horse had Chris convinced that I live on a farm! She always managed to crack me up somehow.

Over the past couple of years, as I work through my own struggle to get fit, I have been thinking of Chris a lot. I think of what she could not do, but what I can choose to do. Every day comes down to choices. Sometimes I win, sometimes I don't reach my goal for the day, but every day is a new opportunity to get it right. Sometimes thinking of Chris helps motivate me, when I can't quite find the strength or enthusiasm on my own.

Today was one of those days. Chris, this workout was for you. I wish I did a better job.

Posted workout for Tuesday, July 29th:


3 Rounds, :30 per station:

1. Jump Rope
2. Lunge w/ Twist
3. Dive Bombers

What I did: I'm so mad, I forgot my jump rope!!! I took one of the gym jump ropes and right away couldn't even do it. I figured it was too long and so I went back to try and find a shorter one and couldn't, so then I tied two knots in the cable and it was too short ... argh! With all my dithering, I didn't end up doing a lot of the warm-up. Stumbled through some crappy attempts at the jump rope, some really terrible twist lunges and some push-ups from the knees. Geez, I was a mess. 

Looking at the WOD, I was in a bit of a panic that I wasn't going to be able to do the jump rope at ALL, after my disaster of a warm-up. 

We then did a bunch of stretching (especially hip mobility) and then WOD prep.

Performance / WOD:

A. "Blender Bottle"

AMRAP 8:00 (as many reps as possible in 8 minutes):

40 Double Unders
20 Wall Balls (20lbs men/14lbs women)

-Rest 2 minutes-

AMRAP 3:00:

5 Deadlifts (225lbs men/155lbs women)
5 Box Jumps (24" men/20" women)

-Rest 2 minutes-

2 RFT, 5:00 Cap (2 rounds for time, max time 5 minutes):

5 Deadlifts (225lbs men/155lbs women)
10 Box Jumps (24" men/20" women)
15 Wall Balls (20lbs men/14lbs women)
20 Double Unders

(Editorial Note: Apparently Tuesday is now Cardio Interval Day. I can't figure out if tonight or last Tuesday was harder. They both pretty much killed me.)

What I did: I finally figured out that I needed one knot in the jump rope cable to be able to use it. In the last couple of minutes before the clock went off I was able to string out a few at once, so that relieved my panic a bit (imagine panicking about using a jump rope? What is CrossFit doing to me?) I thought I was back at Square One with the stupid thing. 

Anyway ... 
Round 1 (8 minutes): I actually surprised myself when, after stumbling through a couple of false starts, I was actually able to string 40 (singles) together without screwing up. I did not double or triple my jumps for this WOD because I just knew I was stretched to the limits of what I could do already. I got through ... okay, I've already forgotten! I am pretty sure that I got through three rounds and then. Damn, I can't remember. Sheesh! Anyway, the Wall Balls were tough on me tonight. I struggled. Usually I can do at least 10 at a time before I have to rest a bit, tonight I was only stringing 5 together at a time. And my squats were crappy. Going through round-after-round of this, well, I just kind of completely lost my ability to hold myself together.  8 minutes never seemed so long. 

Round 2 (3 minutes): Again, I've totally forgotten how many rounds I got through. That's how delirious I was. I know that I Deadlifted 85lbs for the workout though and a did step-ups on a box (20"), but I honestly don't know how many rounds I did. I went through at least a couple. 

Round 3 (5 minutes): I got through 2 rounds of 5 Deadlifts (85lbs), 2 Rounds of 10 box step-ups (20"), 1 round of 15 Wall Balls and 1 round of 10, 1 round of 20 (single) jump rope. 

I don't even know what my score was. 

B. Plank Holds: 5 holds of 30 seconds, 15 seconds rest in between.

What I did: 5 plank holds, but only the first one was 30 seconds. 


  • As bad as my performance was, I was red-lining it for most of the WOD. I felt a bit light-headed and very loose-limbed and noodle-y throughout. So, that is what I had in me tonight. 
  • The steps-ups aggravate my left achilles if I lead with my right foot, so I am only leading with my left right now. It's a little cockeyed, but it is what I need to do not cause more irritation. I think the step-ups are easier on it than "box" jumps though. 
  • The Deadlift repeats at 85lbs were challenging, but doable, so that is good to remember for the next time there are DL with a bunch of repeats (my 1 RM for DL is 125lbs at the moment). 
  • It's been a while since I practiced with the jump rope. I should spend some extra time doing that (and running) every week. 
  • I keep talking about a lot of "should dos". I need to stop talking about it and just do it.
  • I literally couldn't move for a few minutes once the WOD was done. Actually, everyone else in the class seemed to be in the same boat. 
  • Planks suck.
  • I thought about Chris a few times during my misery when I wanted to quit. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

CrossFit Gear: Capris

When I started CrossFit, I would just wear cheap yoga pants that I bought at Target. While these were fine for walking or running on a treadmill or taking a yoga class, I quickly realized that they weren't going to work so well for CrossFit. I think I was in my first regular class (after having completed the ramp-ups) and my pants kept trying to fall down through the WOD. In fact I remember Coach Troy coaching me through the intervals and at one point I gasped, "my pants are falling down!" Coach Troy answered, "it doesn't matter, keep going!" Every class found me yanking up on my pants throughout the session.

I finally bought these Under Armour capris. I loved them so much that I ordered two more pairs. They  stay put, no matter what the workout calls for, they are comfortable and light (even on the hottest of days) and are surprisingly flattering. I always thought that the Under Armour brand was only for small, fit people, but apparently not so. These were also surprisingly affordable at $30.39 (the RRS VIP price). I just can't bring myself to spring for the $80+ Lululemon and similar stores charge for their gear.   Anyway, I am a fan and am happy to have found them. No more yanking and pulling at my pants during CrossFit class.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Partner Up: CrossFit 07/25/2014

(This was taken during our dynamic stretching session in Tuesday's class)

My one goal for this week was to go to CrossFit three times. I am happy to say that I met that goal. Sounds simple, but I was really dragging by this afternoon. I had to tell myself, 'just one more thing to do this week and then I can relax', so that helped motivate me to get there tonight. I also rode on Wednesday and Thursday (both jumping lessons) and today at lunchtime (conditioning ride/gallop). So, with three CF sessions, three productive rides and a full work week under my belt, I'm pretty satisfied with my week overall.

I've spoken before about how I am not a big fan of "Team Night", I doubt that I ever really will be. But I have to say that it has gotten easier for me. I think it also helps that 6:30 PM on Friday tends to be a pretty small class, so it feels a little more relaxed and not so overwhelming.

Posted workout for Friday, July 25th:


Run 800 meters

What I did: Same. I got an early start, as I like to do when there is a running warm-up. I ran the 600 meters "around the block", but then ran past the entrance, around the side of the building and back again to make it 800 meters. I didn't walk, but it sure was hard to keep running past where the block usually ends. 

30-20-10 repeats of:

Lunge Steps

What I did: Same.

Performance / WOD:

"Shoot, Move, Communicate"

Partner Up, AMRAP 20:00 (as many reps as possible in 20 minutes):

400 meter Run (partners alternating intervals of 100 meters -- so each partner ends up doing this twice per round)
30 Front Rack Lunges (135lbs men/95lbs women)
20 HSPU (Hand Stand Push Ups)
(repeat the rounds until the clock runs out)

What I did: I partnered with Caroline tonight. Coach Jen had me scale the Front Rack Lunges to lunges with a 10lb Kettlebell in each hand because my right knee is a little unstable during lunges (it's sort of odd because I really don't have trouble with squats, but lunges seem to put too much stress on the one knee. It doesn't hurt, just doesn't feel stable). Instead of the HSPUs, Coach Jen had me do push-ups (from the knees), only I had to double them. I did the running as prescribed.

For the running we alternated 100m at a time as prescribed, then we broke up the lunges in groups of 5 (alternating until we reached a total of 30), and then for the HSPU/push-ups, Caroline did 5 HSPUs at a time, I did 10 push-ups at a time. We got through a total of 4 rounds, plus one 100 meter run (Caroline). 

Cash Out: 5 minutes in a weighted plank.

What I did: Well, I didn't do it weighted and I didn't do 5 minutes of it, but I did do a few planks. 

Some Notes:

  • I have actually improved my running quite a bit in the past month and a half. I did this workout on June 6th where we had to do partner alternates of 100 meter runs and I could hardly do it. I barely could keep running and felt like I was going to pass out! But tonight I really didn't have any problem. I was slower than everyone else, but I also did an actual "run" on my repeats and not a "jog." So it's getting there. 
  • My arms were really shaking on that last round of push-ups at the end. I'm not sure if I could have done another round, so I'm thinking it's good that the clock ran out when it did. 
  • I'm trying not to care that I can't do everything that everyone else can. Usually it doesn't bother me too much, but it's a little harder on Team Night. As I said to Caroline tonight, "I just have to keep on showing up."
  • Planks are hard.