"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Monday, April 24, 2017

Fun in the Sun with Horses and Dogs

Two weeks ago (April 8 and 9), we had a glorious two days in terms of the weather, so we decided to make the best of it by spending as much time as possible outdoors!

I had been scheduled for Saturday discharges at my job but we sent all the patients home on Friday, so I suddenly had an entire weekend day off to do whatever I wanted with. Carlos was working but Jess was not on call for once on Saturday during the day, so I texted her, "LET'S RIDE!"

Neither mare had been ridden in nearly 3 weeks and they needed to get out. We had a gorgeous ride on two spicy hot-to-trot creatures, Jess on Lily and me on Gracie. (I don't even remember how long it had been since I'd ridden Gracie on trail!) My favorite trails at the barn are currently in full-blown demolition process: not only is there heavy machinery, piping, cyclone fencing with black tarp behind it, and all sorts of spook-worthy objects around the trails, but the trails themselves are being turned into another on-property landfill for neighboring construction sites to dump removed dirt and rocks onto. This has been an enormous mental block for me when it came to riding on the trails, especially on my own. There is active work going on on this land during the week, which has complicated my after-work riding as well...so I have not been riding after work at all, despite our longer daylight hours.

This is...not the same. And I'm having a hard time with it. It was as glorious as it looks in this photo and we often galloped it in both directions. The section of trail that this path leads to is also gone: basically my entire favorite loop, the one I would do when I wanted to get in a fast, quickie ride, does not exist anymore.
We did a 4.5 mile ride in 1:15. I had Endomondo running just out of curiosity, but we weren't looking to go for a specific amount of mileage nor time. We just wanted to have fun and catch up. We did quite a bit of walking, trotting, and once G-Mare was warmed up (she felt so stiff after all this time off...I can't let her sit with her joint issues; I explained why things have happened the way they have this past winter in this post) we let them canter and then gallop up a few hills for funsies. Both mares had plenty of gas in the tank at the end of our ride, and proudly pranced half the way home before we convinced them that walking was the better choice!

Jess on Lily.
Both mares received their first bubble baths of the season. They were GRIMY. They then got  turned out and Jess and I drove into downtown to meet up with Shanna at our favorite cafe bar, Nola.

I think Nola has become our grown-up version of The Saddle Club's ice cream shop. We're all girls. We all love horses (I need to get Meggan out to the barn!) And we all get together to catch up at the same place all the time, except instead of horses we talk about work, life, boys and vet tech drama. And instead of sundaes, we have alcoholic drinks or coffee. Sometimes both. Most of the time there's also food involved.

Cafe Nola has the best bloody marys I have EVER tried.
(Photo by Jess.)
This was after dinner: a fig latte and...that pastry on the left? I declared it the perfect PMS food. It has peanut butter, jelly, oatmeal crumble and potato chips on top. It's beyond perfect. And it's gluten-free.
(Because yes, I have joined the gluten-free club so now our foursome is complete.)
Meggan eventually joined us and we spent the next...five hours...being obnoxiously silly and giggly. We laughed so hard and so long, that all our abs hurt the next day!

Jess and I retired at 9:00 pm because we were running a 5k together the next morning!


Sunday morning dawned gorgeous. I was stoked about running my first competitive 5k with Jess. Start time was 10:00 am; we had planned on arriving at 9:00 in order to register on site.

This 5k wasn't just any 5k. It was called Fast and Furriest and was a fundraiser for Operation Paws for Homes, a local rescue organization that partners with high-kill shelters in order to find foster and permanent homes for dogs in need that might otherwise die at the shelter. When you work in vet med, being able to contribute to this kind of organization is kind of a big deal! And it was happening right in our town of Frederick, MD!

You were also allowed to run with your dog, so 3/4 of the people milling about waiting for the race start had their dogs on leashes with them. It was pretty awesome. Jess had brought Finley, her Golden Retriever, but he has a congenital heart condition that limits how much activity he can safely do, so since it's a cool morning (upper 40s-low 50s) he hangs out in Jess's car in the shade with the windows cracked within sight of the park grounds while we go down to the registration booth.

So many dogs!
We got our numbers and chips and attached them to ourselves, then got in line at the race start with the other runners. Runners sans dogs were at the front, runners with dogs in the middle, and walkers both with and without dogs were at the back.

"What's the plan?" Jess asked.
"I...don't really have one. I like to start at a moderate pace and pick up speed as we go along." Negative splits ftw!

We set up our music on our phones and the race started.

Jess pulled ahead and I paced with her as we wove our way to mid-pack of the runners. We had only been running for minute when I realized my breathing felt ragged. My heart rate monitor flashed 152 for my heart rate, which was higher than I wanted to be this soon into the race. But I shrugged, tried to control my breathing better, and ran along behind Jess. Her running style made me grin: she swung her arms enthusiastically and her long dark ponytail bounced. I've never thought of myself as a runner, though it is something that has grown on me tremendously over the years. My own running style felt so vanilla next to Jess's...I run with a flat stride and minimal bounce, barely moving my arms with my motion so as to reserve as much energy as possible for the long haul, precisely because it is Not Easy For Me.

I made a note of keeping the flatness of my stride while lengthening to keep up with Jess and it worked. Kind of. My breathing was still off.

I tuned into the music playing through my headphones. I had chosen my I Took a Pill in Ibiza playlist on Pandora and, while it is my second most-listened to station, it was offering a breakbeats song that did. not. go. with the pace I was currently running. Irritated, I flipped to my Don Omar & Lucenzo station, which is my usual workout station.

Sia's The Greatest came on, which is on my SoundCloud running playlist.

"Uh-oh running out of breath but I
Oh I, I got stamina
Uh-oh running now I close my eyes
Oh I, I got stamina..."

An enormous involuntary grin spread across my face. The beat of the song matches my breathing speed for running and I felt like I was suddenly getting air into my lungs for real.  I dug in, lengthening my stride further until I was running next to Jess and we methodically picked out runner after runner, catching them and passing them, side by side.

We hit the first mile marker not long after and I looked down at my heart rate monitor, which had somehow switched to the timer setting...we were only 8 minutes into the race.
"Hey Jess!"
"Yeah?" She was panting.
"We just ran an 8 minute mile!!"
"That explains why I can't breathe!" she exclaimed. I laughed.
"Yeah, me neither!"

We agreed to walk for a bit. I decided to switch over to my SoundCloud running playlist while walking. We were running for real here, so why the hell not?

All the people we passed before passed us now as we caught our breaths. I clicked over to one of my playlist songs, Start A Riot by Banners, the Thundatraxx remix.

I picked up a jog as the opening stanza started and Jess followed suit. The beat picked up as it reached the chorus and I accelerated.

If your world falls apart
I'd start a riot
If night falls in your heart
I'd light the fire
In the dark, when you sound the alarm
We'll find each other's arms
For your love, all you are
I'd start a riot

This song is followed by Vance Joy's Riptide. I've posted some of these before; this playlist contains songs that have carefully been selected specifically for their ability to keep me moving while doing a sport that is not easy for me.

Lady, running down to the riptide
Taken away to the dark side
I wanna be your left hand man
I love you when you're singing that song and
I got a lump in my throat 'cuz
You're gonna sing the words wrong

The song is so appropriate for running. I tighten my abs, straighten my back, engage the entire back portion of my leg muscles, and accelerate further, upper body quiet, legs moving subtly, incrementally faster to the beat of the song. It feels like slowly shifting gears on a race car, except the race car is my body.

Jess digs in and keeps up. We slowly pass everyone that had passed us while we were walking.

Not from the race ,but have a photo of me running a week after the race to break up the text. :)

Missy Elliot's Get Ur Freak On is next.

Oh hell yeah.

I think of this video every time I hear this song. It is my favorite fitness video ever, and it celebrates women with normal, real bodies getting out there and moving for the sake of moving, while having fun doing it and being total badasses. 

I realize that the front runners are coming back up the opposite sidewalk on the other side of the road. We've been running on the flat and the road starts a gentle downwards incline, which means further ahead there is going to be a turnaround to go back uphill.

I accelerate more, my footfalls matching the beat of the song. I'm using this damn downhill to our advantage right now. My feet fall faster and faster, landing heel-first, propelling me forward, and I think of all the times trotting downhill on the Old Dominion Triple Crown trails to make up time for the slow uphills later.

Jess is sprinting behind me in order to keep up now and we are flying past people, some with their dogs trotting along next to them, others alone. We are finally able to see the turnaround ahead.

"My plan is to run hard now so we can WALK up the hill after!" I say to Jess.

"Thank you!" she gasps, "Because I really didn't want to have to run back up this hill!"

We make the turnaround and slow to a jog to tackle the beginning of the hill's rise, slowing to a walk as we approach the first water station.

We are both breathing hard, and we each have two cups of water, which takes us a minute because it is hard to swallow when you're breathing hard! We then continue on our way up the rise, alternately walking and slow jogging. The music playing through my headphones is perfect right now:  Starley's Call on Me.

There is a second water station on this hill. We stop for more water there too, then ease into a jog again.

And then Kranium's Nobody Has To Know Major Lazer remix comes on.

I pick up the pace of the jog to match the beat of the song and find myself powering up what is left of the hill. We run past the 2-mile marker and look at my watch: our second mile was slower than the first at about 12 minutes, but that's okay. This was a damn long hill. I don't tell Jess our time because I want to set the pace for the third mile. I have no intention of walking anymore.

The course flattens and then takes us downhill momentarily, winding around park sidewalks and through a  flat shaded path where the race photographer is standing with camera ready. We laugh about it later: Jess and I both thought at the same time, "Smile for the ride photographer!" #endurance

I love this song, and I love the video. And it is also on my playlist.

I get the distinct impression that we are getting close to the end of the third mile and start to pick up the pace again.

I am right: we hit the 3 mile marker going at a full-tilt run. Only a fifth of a mile to go and the finish line is within sight.

Jess and I look at one another. "Let's GO!"

Now. The flat conservative run is over. I ignore my pounding heart and breathe in and out in measured respirations. Must not pant! Breathing is life, and if you can control it, it allows you to in turn control just about anything you are doing with your body. Shoulders back, I swing my arms across my chest and knees come up and forward in what feels like enormous ground-covering strides with a moment of full suspension in between. I don't think I've ever run this fast before.

We blow through the finish line almost side-by-side, the timer at the top of the finish line arch flashing 30 minutes (we finished our third mile in 10 minutes!) but I miss the seconds reading because we are going so very fast. It takes us a few strides to slow our forward momentum in order to come to a stop.

Jess and I are laughing while trying to catch our breaths.

"Oh man!!" We have matching exuberant grins.

We remove our time chips and hand them over to the volunteer in charge, then get out of the way of the finish line. I text Carlos: he was supposed to meet us. He is over by Jess's car keeping Finley company, so we walk over to meet him there.

He takes a post-run photo of us. Or rather, tries.

How many attempts does it take to get a good photo with a Finley?

Answer: Many! :D
We wandered over to the covered picnic area, where the race staff had all sorts of food for the runners. We each snagged a bag with an English muffin (Carlos received both of ours), a banana, a protein bar and a bottle of water. There was also an assortment of donuts and pastries, coffee and hot chocolate. Simple carbs for the runners. ;)

We stayed until awards were announced. Jess thought we might have placed but a 30 minute 5k, while super fast for us, is considered a moderate pace overall and I highly doubted we would get anything.

We didn't...but the third place finisher for my age group came in at 28 minutes, which was a pleasant surprise: shaving 2-3 minutes off a 5k finish time is very doable if I'm interested in placing in my age group next time. We'll see...

As it was, both Jess and I Top-10'd in our age groups! Jess's time was 30:24 and mine was 30:23! Not bad at all for two people that don't consider themselves runners!

By then it was around noon, and our post-run snacks had evaporated: both Jess and I were STARVING. We texted Meggan, who also lives in town, and met up for what would end up being a late lunch at Brewer's, our other favorite hangout, where we could sit outside with the dogs: Meggan brought her two Shih-Tzu mixes, Peanut Butter and Jelly, who are besties with Finley. The dogs were all very well-behaved while we ate. (Shanna had taken the day for some stuff that she needed to get done so she couldn't come.)

Afterwards we walked around town, just enjoying the warm weather. This was the first weekend that truly felt like spring. Everything was either green or blooming ferociously. Sunlight danced off of the creek that runs through downtown. I take no photos because I'm just enjoying the company, the conversation, and the surroundings. None of us wanted to go back indoors!

Carlos and I are eventually the first to leave: we have to go run errands before our work week starts the next day.

Jess and Meggan remain on one of the park benches, Finley, Peanut Butter and Jelly at their feet.

It was a beautiful weekend.

I leave you with this song. I love that the dog is a main character in the video! 
It is a fitting ending to this post. :)

This is Wild One by Lucky Rose and Tep No.

1 comment:

  1. I love how you live your life to the fullest. It's inspirational.