Wednesday, July 30, 2014

In which I visit the West

I just got back from a (for me) very looong vacation.  I was gone for 10 days (plus took yesterday off to organize/recuperate).  There were no horses, but it was fabulous nonetheless.  I flew from PHL to BZN (who knows that airport code?), or for those of you wondering --- Bozeman, Montana.  I immediately drove down from Bozeman to Idaho Falls, Idaho.  I am newly enamored of airbnb and highly recommend that you check it out if you are traveling (especially to smaller towns).  In Idaho Falls, I stayed in an upstairs room of a lovely home about a mile from the race packet pick up location and about 3 miles from the race parking/finish.  Oh, right, race.  Well, we know I am slow, so there isn't much racing, but my primary goal for this trip was to complete 3 half marathons in 8 days.  June 19th, The MAD half marathon in Idaho Falls, June 24th (Pioneer Day),the Deseret News half marathon in Salt Lake City, and July 26th, the Madison half marathon in Ennis, Montana.  So after settling into the room, picking up my packet and having a decent dinner at a local bar/grill (with interesting conversation with some local folks there), I had an early night, then got up in the morning and headed to the park to catch the race bus to the start.  The race bus got totally lost and dropped us off in a random parking lot.  We kept telling them it wasn't right, but they had no directions and no contact information for the race director.  One of the drivers ended up going back down to the park and finding out where we were really supposed to be, so we got there late and then there were only two porta-johns for about 100 people.  The organizers were really nice though and it was for a good cause, so hopefully next year they will have the buses, the johns and the aid stations (which were on the wrong side of the road with unclosed roads) sorted out.  The course itself wasn't terribly interesting, slight rolling hills on back roads around Idaho Falls, no real scenery, and simple aid stations, but it did the job.  It wouldn't be first on my list for a race recommendation, but for locals, it is a nice group of people.

I grabbed a shower, then hopped in the car to head down to Salt Lake City, got there and checked into my next airbnb accommodation, which was really wonderful.  I arrived Saturday evening and would be in SLC until Friday morning.  I ended up filling the time with yoga, local beer, Liberty Park and quite a lot of work.  I found a great yoga studio just about a mile (through the park) from the apartment and they had a Groupon deal, so I bought a 10 class card and ended up doing those 10 classes while there (2 Sunday, 2 Monday, 1 Tuesday, 2 Wednesday, 2 Thursday and 1 Friday).  On Thursday, I ran the Deseret News Classic half marathon.  It was mostly downhill, so I was able to run a reasonable amount of it and enjoyed the race.  There was a great view over the city and good shade in the canyon, so while daytime temperatures had gotten up over 100 the past several days, we got about 15 minutes of rain and wind which cooled things down and with the shade, it was quite pleasant. This was a fun, well-organized race.  The medal was quite large for those of you who collect the bling.  The logistics weren't bad at all, a quick drive up to the Rice-Eccles stadium to park and then a quick bus ride to the start.  After the finish, the buses back to the stadium were very prompt, so I was actually back at my room by 9:30.

After a quick shower, I headed into town, did yoga and enjoyed the Pioneer Day festivities.  There were parties and fireworks at night, but I fell promptly asleep and wasn't bothered by any of it.  Friday morning, I had a leisurely breakfast and then headed up to Montana.  It was a 5 and a half hour drive, but much of it very pretty.  Ennis is tucked away alongside a river, a cute little fishing outpost where 3/4 of the shops on the main street seem to be selling fishing gear.  Packet pick up was in a park outdoors and we then got a pasta dinner from a local non-profit and a great talk from Frank Bartocci who was running his 600th marathon at this event.  I can't even imagine running that many marathons.  There were also guys who were running their 350th and 300th marathons and many other high mileage folks.  Interestinging, the first place male, first place female and overall first place half finishers were all NCAA athletes and the two marathon winners were each running their first marathons.  The race was super challenging, billed as the highest elevation *road* marathon in the world, it has an average elevation over 9,000 reaching a high point just over 9,600 feet.  We got on buses in Ennis and headed to the staging area (almost 2 hours by bus) and then from there onto the start line (over the race course road 13.1 miles away).  The start was pretty much straight uphill and I had a couple of minutes of wondering if I was going to be able to do it at all.  I had been worrying a bit about whether the blood-breath machinery was going to be up to this one but I told myself I would go very slowly to the first aid stop at mile 3 and make a decision there.  The first mile was slow and hard, mostly uphill, but then there was a pretty good downhill and some reasonably level ground and by the time I hit the next uphill before the aid station, I was feeling fairly warmed up and capable of finishing, so I chugged on and did finish (very slowly).  Much of the slow was just me being slow, but I did stop to take some pictures along the way. 

The Wildflowers didn't come out that well.  After hanging out at the staging/finish area for a while, watching several runners finish, I climbed back aboard a bus for the two hour trip back to Ennis.  Once there, I jumped in the car and drove the hour to the airport.  I was tempted by the Norris Hot Springs, but decided to head onto my airport motel (no airbnb near the Bozeman airport).  The front desk folks recommended a surprisingly good Italian place around the corner, where I had a very nice glass of montepulciano with yummy eggplant parmigiana for dinner.  Then packing, sleeping and up at 3:45 for the flight home (uneventful).  

In other parts of the country, much eventing was occurring.  The first weekend, I was gone Maryland Horse Trials took place, scores here:  Then the second weekend, both Rebecca Farms in the West (I considered going up, but it was over a 7 hour drive to Kalispell) and the WEG test event at Great Meadows in the east.  It felt a bit odd to be fairly disconnected from horsey happenings for so long, but I ended the vacation feeling very refreshed.  

Sunday night invovled massive amounts of lightning and very loud thunder, but I fell asleep fairly quickly despite the light show. Monday, I took a day off and hung at Blue Hill, getting a great dressage lesson from Rachel and then Tuesday was back at work, but ending the day with xc schooling at Fair Hill.  Keegan was very good and jumped a bunch of the preliminary stuff, so I'm starting to feel ready, though still nervous.  Dressage at Dunmovin Saturday, lots of work and hopefully this amazing weather holds.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Keegan being a rock star

Happy recovery Monday to everyone.  I enjoyed the weekend.  Lots of barn time and some great meals and wine.  Wednesday night, Henry and I started his birthday celebration early and went to Sovana Bistro.  The wine that night was the Greenock 2005 Alice's Shiraz.  Thursday, I had work and then a great dressage school on Keegan.  I got home just in time for the big wind to blow through and knock out the power (luckily dinner was already cooked).  The power remained out for 16 hours with a very widespread outage.  Friday, I was happy to discover that Delaware had power so I did Pure Barre,  and then after the power returned, hung out at the barn for a couple of hours, then had a dressage lesson.  Things are starting to come together, although I need to work on sitting trot for longer periods of time and continue to work on the trot lengthenings. The canter lengthenings are quite good.  The leg yields are doing well to the right, not quite so well to the left, but getting better as we practice.  Friday evening, more good food and wine at home.  Henry's sister Judy joined us and then we went off in search of ice cream, which took some doing as several places didn't have any as a result of the power outage.  In the end, we had success and ice cream for dessert.  Saturday, Keegan had and I had a nice hack with Fie and Jean.  Fie is a lovely Danish Warmblood mare, who has been at Blue Hill Farm since early winter.  She is very well behaved and I enjoyed the company and hearing more about her on our ride. Saturday evening, Henry and I enjoyed attending one of my colleague's wedding.  It was a nice ceremony (although a little hot outside) and the Farmhouse in Delaware was a very nice site for the wedding.  Henry and I got to dance a little bit, which is always fun.

Sunday was great.  Pure Barre first thing, then a little bit of gardening to replace one of the butterfly bushes taken out by the winter storms.  The afternoon was schooling at Windurra.  As always, the jumper course was challenging and on the excellent footing.  I goofed on the first try, coming to fence 3 underpaced on a counter canter and then chucking my shoulders at the fence, but I set off again from the start, and Keegan jumped around perfectly.  We then headed out to the cross country and had our first go at some preliminary fences.  It went very well, with Keegan jumping everything he was pointed at and me eventually getting my form into decent shape and finding the right pace with some consistency.  We jumped a one stride to one stride coffin, the trakehner, two versions of the same corner and the keyhole as well as a bank and a couple of logs on lumps.  Keegan took it all in stride and other than a brief peek at the trakehner on take-off and "ducking" through the keyhole leading to a somewhat awkward jump, he was very good about everything.  I was surprised at how good he was staying straight to the corner.  Brigitte and Harper also had a successful day and Devon rode both of hers, the youngster Salty at novice and her seasoned boy Dan at Preliminary to knock the rust off.  Lexi rode her Merry over both training and prelminary show jumps and did a bit of work out on the xc course trying out some tack options.  I think everyone felt it was a very successful day.  It was great seeing Steph Cauffman out on her boy Dylan and seeing Cindi Cauffman and their adorable puppy Beezie.  Annie Jones apparently is looking at a Danzig grandson and she admired Keegan when she saw him.  Always nice to see lots of eventers in this kind of fun, laid back setting.  Nilson da Silva and Laura Vandervliet were there with some nice youngsters as were Ryan Wood, Jane Sleeper and Pam Wiedemann.  Caitlin had a day off so I didn't get to see my buddy Brody.

Now back to a busy work week, ending up with SBIR grant review day in Bethesda Friday.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Running and Riding at Fair Hill

Fair Hill Natural Resources Area is a great local "resource".  If you event, you just know it as Fair Hill and spend time there through the year schooling and attending horse trials and possibly aspiring to Area II's big show in October.  The past two weekends, I spent Saturday at Fair Hill, not riding.

Saturday, the 21st was the XTERRA Big Elk trail marathon and half marathon.  I did the half (plus a bit as it turned out).  We started right outside the Walls building, but started out going across the bridge (which I've never crossed on foot before).  We ran through a lot of areas of the park that I hadn't seen before.  Early in the course, I missed a turn (along with a fairly large group of runners) and ended up tagging on an extra 2.1 miles to my day.  All of a sudden, I see two very big jumps and we were running in the CCI jump field.  Then toward the end of the run, we cut across the middle of the horse trials jump course, on the water side of the mound and then took the trail that we come up on the horses to xc back to the starting area. It was hot and humid as well as fairly hilly, so I took it slowly, but was doing OK.  I ended up walking more slowly about the last four-five miles as a fellow marathon maniac had fallen and cut her knee pretty badly.  She said having me with her helped and the knee looked bad enough that I thought it a reasonable idea to stick with her.  She ended up heading to the ED for some stitches at the end, but got credit for a half finish.  It turns out she also broke off a bone spur, but that shouldn't cause any issues going forward.  Trail runners are tough. Minus the big green arches, this should look familiar to my area II eventing peeps.

Then, Saturday the 28th, I spent the day volunteering at the Fair Hill unrecognized horse trial.  I was dressage steward down at rings 1-3, so had many opportunities to chat with folks.  Sadly, I missed June's test as she was in Ring 4, but did snap this shot as she hung out while her friend Chester did his dressage test. 

It was Chester's first BN and he was excited, but a good boy, thanks to David's excellent calm riding. Here they are waiting to do their stadium round. 
June put in a very nice dressage test and was tied for 1st place after dressage and stadium.  She had a green moment or two leaving the warm-up to head out on course, but once she got into the rhythm, Rachel said she was very bold.  They are headed back to Fair Hill today to do some xc schooling. 

Meanwhile, Keebler was at the Longwood South jumper show with Jordan.  I hear many blue ribbons ensued, but no details.  We need a guest blog!

To kick off the summer, last evening we had lovely Henry margaritas on the roof deck in the city.  It was great fun and made Monday a much better day.  Looking forward to a busier than usual holiday weekend, complete with a wedding and xc schooling and/or jumpers at Windurra as well as Henry's birthday.  Usually, I'm excited about baseball this time of year, but the Phillies are 8.5 games back and the cubs 14.5 (despite yesterday's really excellent almost no-no against the Red Sox and a 2-0 win), so I'm rooting for the US to defy the odds in Rio and for Andy Murray and Eugenie Bouchard at Wimbledon this week.