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



Saturday, June 24, 2017

As Seen on IG



Most of you that follow me through here are horse bloggers, and most of you don't understand what this journey means to me and why I continue to document it. As always, I direct my story at the wrong audience...I mean, who else names their initially-dressage-then-endurance-now-life-blog "Wait for the Jump"? (The explanation is here.) And what other horse person out there is into strength training at this level right now and actually wants to talk about it? No one. No one in the blogging community truly knows where I come from nor can comprehend how far I've come. This isn't about the reflection in the mirror; it never has been. Is it cool to look the way I've always wanted to? Well yeah, duh. But that's not important. This is tougher than training for endurance because it is just me and my head: most of the time overcoming the way we think is the hardest test of them all.

The reflection is merely evidence that I CAN: I CAN change the way I think and perceive myself. I CAN make this about enjoying every step of the journey without getting lost in an end goal (because THAT is what "wait for the jump" really is about! What this blog was always meant to be about.) I CAN fit this into a crazy busy hectic life with 8 million other responsibilities. I CAN love myself 20 lbs ago as much as I can love myself now because the human body is actually meant to be imperfect! I CAN wake up every morning to train harder than the day before. I CAN still think of this as "fun" at a point where most people would have given up. I CAN do anything as long as I have the sheer determination to get it done.

So all I see in my reflection is this: I see grit and strength and will. I see the power to go beyond the perceived limits of my body and the ability to recognize that those limits are all in my head. I see that mental hurdles are limitations that I have created myself. And I celebrate little things, little things like having visible arm veins without doing a thing, because it is the one visible proof that I can do all of these things.


I can condition the castaway $1 non-Arab mare to be successful at the 50-mile distance in endurance. And I can mold this body, this body that used to be chosen last for sports and that has been through so much already, into that which no one, not even myself, ever thought would be possible: the body of an athlete, both inside and out. I would say that I can't wait to see how things continue to change, but the truth is that for the first time in my life I am enjoying every canter stride towards the jump so much that I am in no rush to get to the obstacle at hand.


The journey isn't just about reaching your goals. It is life. Life is a journey. Enjoy it. Live it. Celebrate it. The present is a gift.


If I color you with all my thoughts
Would you lose your fears of being lost?
I bet you never even knew
That there's a universe inside of you...



Thursday, June 8, 2017

All The Things

Life has been super hectic around here and I owe you guys a proper update...though I feel like I've lost the majority of my readers over the course of the last year. But just in case anyone is still interested...


Lily

Poor Lily, the original star of this show, is low woman on the totem pole lately. If you follow on IG, you've noticed I haven't posted much about her lately. Lily is on an extended vacation with very light work simply because life has been in flux and when I have time to ride, I'm choosing Gracie because of her arthritis: she has to move, per vet's orders.

I don't think the Lilybird is too thrilled about her vacation though: she'll come to me first in the field, follow me to the gate sans halter, and try to rush out the gate when I'm getting Gracie, which is a first. Even so, she is as sweet as ever, if not more.

Carlos snagged photos of this moment. <3 I'm still dumbfounded he caught her blinking when she gave me a "hug."
I haven't been riding anyone in saddles for the last two months for no reason other than I haven't felt like tacking up nor wearing long pants to the barn. Have some photos from the most recent session with Lily in the bareback pad.

Working on lifting her withers.

We were working on softness and bend.

I declared this ride a success.
But I think you guys can understand why I haven't posted about riding: it's not as interesting after the endurance flurry and busy-ness of last year.

Gracie

G-Mare is doing great now that she is in more consistent work. I would like her weight to be lower and am considering keeping her in a grazing muzzle as the summer goes on: 45-60 minute arena rides are not enough to keep her weight in check. Miss Air Fern needs regular multi-mile rides and at the moment between work situations and the destruction of the trails at our barn, multi-mile rides are not a realistic possibility without hauling out...and I just haven't felt like hauling out.



We're having a rainy spring which has continued to limit riding in general. We don't have an indoor and as stated before, I have given myself permission to be a fair weather rider this year.

The 45-60 minute arena rides on Gracie are also happening sans saddle. Up until 2 years ago, the last time I rode bareback was when I was 16. Now that's all I do apparently. Recently I took her for a spin around one of the hay fields when the arena was in use, which meant I rode saddle-less outside of the arena for 5 miles. It took an hour, but I was very impressed with myself: that is a record for me when it comes to riding bareback/in the bareback pad. And no, I wasn't sore the next day! Strength training ftw!

Taken at the end of a long saddle-less ride.


The Cats

Are as adorable as always.

Some Zombie Cat for his fans. ;)
As splendidly three-legged as always.


I didn't put my suitcase away for 2 weeks after our OBX trip because Zombie enjoyed lounging on it way too much. He blended in perfectly with it...
I was trying to take a nap on a rainy day. Let's just say the nap never happened because someone was way too excited about having me all to himself. :) If I'm still, he has to be close by, usually with a paw touching me.
He was grooming my hair in the middle photo on the right!
I adore this cat so very much.


Work

As stated previously, I am back to working in my home turf, the veterinary ICU floor. Death is always a strong component of critical care, whether it be in the ICU or ER but I'm fine with it because I have my own patients again for the first time in 5 years. The two-year break in Surgery was a godsend: I ran anesthesia on close to 300 cats and dogs during that time and not a single one died in surgery. I kept all of my patients alive. I get bragging rights: this is extremely rare. I will forever wear that badge with honor.

It is brutal work on the body: squatting skills come in handy when having to lift a non-ambulatory 70 lb patient from the floor to carry him outside to urinate, a strong core is essential when restraining fractious large-breed dogs on the x-ray table, and quick reflexes are a must when having to medicate small frightened/painful patients that would rather bite you than be touched. I rarely get to sit down, my feet throb by the end of the day no matter what shoes I wear, and there is no such thing as a lunch break (you eat on the fly when you have a spare second. That's it)...but I love every second of it.

Because of this right here. This is why I love it.
This little dude was resting his head on my lap while I sat in his cage getting his vital signs.
Shifts are long: I am scheduled for 13 hours that often turn into 14, with an hour commute each way. I wake up at 4:00 am sharp on work days to get in my hour in the gym before speeding off into the sunrise to start the day. In the evening I arrive home, feed the cats, shower, shove food in my face, and fall unconscious in bed for 5-6 hours of shut-eye before I have to wake up the next morning and do it all over again.

This was a slow work day.
This does not include my gym time in the morning!

Other Life Things

Carlos and I are finally looking at similar schedules again in June for the first time since December of last year. If you've noticed his absence on my social media it's because we've been on a long, long stint of barely seeing one another. He's ridden with me twice during all this time.

The one time in two weeks that I got to spend time with him.
Dressed up for Alive @ Five, a series of outdoor music mini concerts that our downtown hosts every Thursday at 5:00 pm during the summer months. 
Shanna's work schedule meshes with my new one, so we've been hanging out a lot. This includes lessons on Gracie.

First saddle-less ride for Shanna while gaiting!

And exploring downtown together.

A new mural. See it? This town never, ever gets old!
Everything is so bright and colorful this time of year.
My new favorite coffee shop


Blues band randomly playing in an alley in downtown one Saturday night, filling the entire city with background music.
This girl never ceases to make me laugh!


The Gym

Yup, that one was coming.

It's no secret that I've become a die-hard gym rat over the course of the last year and a half. It started out with the goal of being fit enough to be able to get off Lily and run down the trail while competing...and I continued on because I especially liked the way I felt. The driving force behind continuing to work hard was because having my body feel like a fine-tuned machine was the best possible reward. The human body was designed to be in constant motion, and just like German Shepherds are better dogs when they have a job, your body works better when it is used the way it was intended: to move.

In the process, gym time became "me" time: while working successfully with horses involves the act of active meditation, you are still working with another living being with a mind of its own. Inability to clear your mind and check your emotions at the door can result in serious injury to you if both you and your horse are having an off day. The skills you learn working with horses apply very much to working in vet med: I have to stay calm even when my patients are panicking/painful/suffering, for my patients' sake and my own.

So you can see where I'm going: in the gym, it's just me. I don't have to think about anything else other than what I am doing in that moment. I only have to deal with my own headspace. I get to play whatever music I want and be DJ to myself, which means I get absolutely and completely lost in the music as I go through the motions of whatever workout I'm doing that day, the only goal being to move, to work hard, to feel the right muscles move and contract, while my mind remains clear and fluid. I love working out before starting my workday because it means I walk into the hospital feeling alive and awake but in a Zen-like state of mind that often carries me through the rest of the day.

This is the type of music I listen to while strength training.
Tep No's Pacing is a current fave.

Because working out had turned into something that was actually fun, I decided to make it more challenging and started working solo with a trainer back in March. I worked with her for a month with a specific competition goal in mind. I'm just going to say the entire arrangement ended catastrophically in such a way that I didn't even really want to go to the gym at all by the end of it. Which says something.

In an effort to get my groove back, I went back to training with Tony, who was upset about how things had gone down with the female trainer...and insisted I train with the co-owner of his gym. By this point I had given up on my competitive goals but Tony pretty much bulldozed me into meeting this other trainer.

I've also said it before and I will say it again: there is something truly special about being surrounded by people that believe in you. 

Trainer has not only competed in this himself, his specialty is training people for this type of competition in the healthiest way possible. He loves it and it shows. I've been working with him twice a week for the last 6 weeks. Current workouts involve 6 days of lifting/strength training a week (two of those are Trainer sessions; strength training sessions vary from 45-60 minutes in length) and 4 days of cardio, with one full rest day a week: this is pretty much what I had been doing all along in terms of time spent in the gym, but now it is far more structured. Somehow I now go to 4 different gyms: Trainer's, two in the chain of gyms I'm a member of (one next to work and another next to our apartment) and a fourth that is open 24 hours so I can go in at 4:00 am on the weekends when my regular gym opens later.

To say my body continues to transform is an understatement.

Photo on the left was taken around September 2016, when I backslid in my conditioning during the long recovery from the river accident on Lily that put me out of commission for three months.
The photo on the right was taken in May 2017; I'd already been working with Trainer for a couple of weeks.
This one was taken on 6/2/17 and sent to Carlos at work with the accompanying text, "OMG I HAVE THE MIDDLE LINE DOWN MY ABS! When did that happen??!" (Being busy means I generally don't even have time to look in the mirror.)
Carlos proceeded to show it to everyone at his job (*face-palm*) and posted it on his IG, which is public, so it's now on my IG and on the blog. Whatever. Lol Might as well stop being shy about it.
The first question people asked Carlos was how little was I eating. The answer is a scoff: I am eating more than I ever have in my life. I eat 2x what Carlos eats on a normal day. I am under strict orders to not pay attention to calories, but since I'm logging my meals, noticing the calorie counts is unavoidable: they range from 1800-2500/day. Initially I was getting hungry on schedule (every 2-3 hours), but now despite eating inordinate amounts of high quality food every few hours, I'm hungry all the time. It's a good thing life is so busy so I don't have time to think about it!
The diet did change to accommodate the competitive goal: food involves advanced macros counting in the form of carb cycling. You track carbs, fat and protein with the goal numbers changing every day: some days are very low carb and high fat, others are high carb and low fat, with protein remaining about the same throughout. I'm avoiding processed anything, but since I already ate healthy to begin with before starting all this, I still get to eat pretty much everything I love anyway. The major thing that was cut out was alcohol which was hard initially because I liked my day-off routine of having a glass of wine with dinner or hanging out with friends over drinks outside in the summer. I still hang out...but with a glass of water while everyone else has their adult beverages. It's all good. :)

Pre-made lunches while carb cycling: note the changing proportions of rice to chicken to vegetables.
Carb cycling revs your metabolism by keeping your body guessing and is also the quickest way to learn how your body reacts to specific nutrients: does it work better with less carbs or more? Protein levels remain high to help continue to create muscle and protect what is already there.
I like training with an end goal and am having an absolute blast doing this. I think the most surprising thing has been the number of people that have reached out and said I am an inspiration to them. I didn't see that one coming. All three of my best friends are currently working with trainers. Shanna works with Tony on the same days I work with Trainer...which involves a lot of hilarity when our exhausted selves meet up later in the day to hang out and rehash our training sessions:

There is such a thing as being drunk from exhaustion.
Sometimes there isn't enough coffee in the world!
We might not be out on the trails this year with the horses, but life continues to be an adventure 24/7! ;)



Goldfish's Choose Your Own Adventure, the Kyle Watson remix

If you head to work every morning
And you come back in the night
If every day's about your earning
Then you haven't got it right.

One day you wake up everything is burning
Even though you toed the line
Now your boat is tossing and a-turning
You're the captain of your life

Take the reins and a pocket knife
Stick out your thumb and 
Catch a ride
At the opportunity to...
Right on time,
You came stumbling through.
It's a fight
No one can win it for you
In the final days, if you change your ways
Always stop, look up and remember:
Choose your own adventure!