Sunday, August 16, 2020

Moving Day

 Today was hard.  While moving Theo only an hour away isn't that big of a deal, what it represented was a very big deal.  I've handed Theo over to Trainer D to manage.  Until further notice, she's completely in charge of his schedule.  She'll be riding him and using him in lessons.

I'm very proud of myself that I didn't cry while dropping him off or setting up his new locker.

His western tack is with him since her son is trained to ride western and in love with Theo.  I can see him happily jogging around with a nine year old that thinks he's amazing.  It's a reining barn so I won't be surprised if his western dressage training gets some use.  He's an incredibly cool horse to ride in western tack and I hope someone else can enjoy that.  I think Trainer D is looking to branch out a bit and she couldn't find a better partner than mi papi.  If she wants to dip her toe in the ranch horse or western dressage ring, Theo is perfect.

I caught part of one of his lessons today and he helped a young lady finally achieve her goal of cantering.  Perfect walk to canter, keeping the beat like a vaulting horse while she grinned.  He's getting to help so many people reach their goals now.  I have to take a break, but he's still at work.  A job that he now seems to love.  Trainer D is there every step of the way to protect him and that makes all the difference.  He's a beloved partner, not the Thigh Master that people dread being stuck with.  He goes for trail rides and jumps the jumps and gets all the cookies.  If someone needs to learn to jump or canter, he's the boy.  Carefully, with big releases.  Trainer D is very protective of his mouth since she intends to show him herself once the pandemic is over.

Five years ago I took him to our first two-phase and was proud he stayed in the dressage ring.  Today I handed him off so he can do his thing while I figure out how to get my health back in order.  I finally have a pretty good idea of what happened and while it's still degenerative, it's long term.  I can't hang with him right now because I start to think that one ride wouldn't hurt.  I could just swing on, I wouldn't do much, surely it would be safe . . . 

Nope.  The more time I spend with him, the more I want to do the dumb thing and ride.  This is for the best.

I didn't take any pictures today.  I didn't have it in me.  He was happy to get in the trailer and very happy to find a new stall full of hay.  I don't expect this to be a big change in his world.  Same trainer, many of the same students, just a different stall and turn out.  And arena.  He might be squirrely for a bit as he gets used to the new outdoor rings but Trainer D knows what she's in for and she's ready to take it on.  I left all of his lunging gear, just in case.

Hopefully, next spring, I'll be able to put my foot in the stirrup again.  In the meantime, I've got a half marathon to train for and a garden to manage and a whole string of bikes to exercise.  I might even put Peyton back in obedience classes to fulfill my competitive tendencies.

I miss him already.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

My new string

 So what does a tack ho do when there's suddenly no tack to buy?  They become a cyclist, obviously.  And if you think there's a lot of tack for horses, you have not yet flipped through a bike catalog.

Shopping for bike stuff has the down side that you are forever trying to figure out if something will work with your bike.  It's nothing short of a full fledged research project to try something like wider tires.  Because then you need wider rims and is that going to clear the frame?  Does it come with the right attachment for your brakes?  Is it the right size hub?  Is it thru axle?  I usually chuck the laptop at the husband and tell him to pick things out for me because that's just way too many dang numbers.

The clothes are also a bit . . . odd.  I'm used to lots of spandex in my clothing and thinking that it's really just the worst idea but who the hell designed road cycling clothes???  At least in the equestrian saddle I could sit on the more unpleasant looking bits and then sit up straight.  Not so with cycling.  There's really nowhere to hide with road bike clothing.  Thank goodness for mountain biking clothes.

But similar to horse math, there's bike math.  I had one bike at the end of 2019.  ONE.  An old mountain bike I bought back in 2007 that I thought was going to help me lose weight and improve my cardio.  But having terrible cardio meant that it was no fun to go for a ride and I had zero skills off road.  I hated that thing and it sat in a garage for years.  I would occasionally bust it out to ride around a park or something with my husband who's an avid mountain biker, but it sat and did nothing for many years.

The husband in his happy place, wearing a jersey about drinking and his beer socks.  I don't know why I go places with him.

Then I picked up running.  My cardio and strength improved quite a bit.  When I hopped on that old mountain bike again, it didn't suck nearly as much.  I started following the husband around some basic trails.  Cycling didn't bother my knees the way my constant running did so a plan started to form for cross-training.  I visited my brother, an avid cycling racer, and saw his indoor training set up where he could basically play a video game with his bike including simulating hills (Zwift).  I was sold and ordered the basics in December 2019.

I've upgraded a lot since December, it now moves side to side and the thing at the front simulates going up and down hills

Heck of a lot more fun than running on a treadmill all the time.  And then the pandemic hit, the snow piled up, and I didn't have much of a choice.  Ride the indoor rig or bust.  It didn't beat up my knees like running so I could ride the bike five days a week, no problem.  I did workouts, group rides, even did a race.  I came in last but hey, it was an experience.  The snow melted and I wanted to take my new found fitness outside.

Riding outside is HARD.  There's potholes and hills and cars and squirrels and omg.  The road bike I bought for my indoor trainer was terrible when I took it outside.  It was really not my size though it was the smallest frame the company made.  I had to adjust it to fit me and that made it 'twitchy'.  Like an OTTB having their first cross country school of the spring, I spent the whole ride waiting for it to unload me.

Bad bike, no cookie.  I miss the lack of traffic from lockdown.

I got smart and did research on what I would actually need to ride outside.  Then I discovered that bikes were selling out across the country due to the lockdowns going on.  Ugh.  But I had an ace in the hole:  I'm tiny.  The only bikes left for a lot of shops were the odd size ones, like size XS.  Enter the unicorn.

Complete with the perfect pink pedals I found for her

This beauty is my 2020 Liv Avail Advanced, size XS.  It's a carbon composite frame, disc brakes, Ultegra groupset, and all the other stuff my brother said I should get.  I dunno.  All I care about is that the brakes are very effective, it's actually the right size for me, and it's super pretty.  So, so pretty.  The paint is actually opalescent when it's in the sun.  The ends of the handlebars are anodized metal so they're rainbow.  This beauty is steady as can be and faster than I care to go, but a lady about it.  It's a bike that will serve me well for many years and I have so much fun on it.

But having this dreamy road bike made me realize my old mountain bike sucked.  Again, too big for me.  Also had picked up a weird squeak in the front fork.  So the mountain bike was sold to a (tall) teenage girl looking for her first grown up bike and the unicorn was soon joined by the beastie.

This is my Liv Intrigue, size XS.  Just like when saddle shopping, if you find a company that fits, stick with it!  Especially with mountain bikes it was painful to find something small enough for me.  I tried some other brands and while the numbers said they would fit, riding them was kind of terrifying.  You could tell they were designed for men that are taller than me.  My Liv bikes are actually my size and it's wonderful.  Compared to the unicorn, the beastie is a big, heavy, burly beast.  This is the bike I take to the mountain bike park and on wanders all over NH.  It's also super pretty.

No horses allowed, what a waste.  Perfect place for doing hill work and long gallops.

The final addition to my string is for commuting.  I live in a very hilly area and as I start to venture into the office again, I don't want to be stuck in my car.  It's only 10 miles to get to town, totally reasonable on a bike and a very pretty route.  But those hills are so painful.  I don't mind doing them when I'm out getting some exercise but I don't want to show up at the office as a puddle of sweat.  And then try to do it again on the way home after a long day at work.  So I got my cheater bike.

This is a Trek Super Commuter+ 7, an e-bike.  Yes, it has a motor.  I still have to pedal but it gives me a little assist or a lot of assist if I turn the settings up.  According to the heart rate monitor, I'm still getting the same workout I get from a 2 mile jog over my 40 minute commute so I'm still working out but not showing up to the office completely worn out.  And if I get to that one damn big hill and just can't deal with it?  I crank it up to 'Turbo' and fly on up.  I've loaded it up with bags for my laptop and a change of clothes which makes me extra thankful for the assist.  All loaded up, it's approaching 60 pounds.  I didn't want an e-bike but now that I have one, I only need my car once or twice a week.  Win!

I have three bikes that actually go places and the indoor rig.  They do a pretty good job of covering the basics for me.  My light, fast, fun road bike, my burly, go anywhere mountain bike, and my practical commuter.  And here I was thinking people just bought one bike.  Apparently not!  I certainly don't want to take my mountain bike on a long road ride, it's just too slow.  And I took my road bike on a trail once, it was funny but not ideal.  They're pretty specialized pieces of equipment so I ended up with a small string.

Of course I have my eye on another bike for gravel rides but between my string and my husband's (he's got a MTB, an e-MTB, a fat bike, a road bike, and his indoor bike), we're going to have to discuss storage systems before either of us add any more.  

Friday, August 7, 2020

Second Opinion

 I'm sure everyone can appreciate how frightened I was when I was referred to a neurosurgeon.  That's a certain level of 'holy crap' that's not fun.  Impingement of the nerve, degenerative disc disease.  I wanted to ask 'how much longer do I have, doc?'.  I was horrified, frightened, and not at all willing to talk to a neurosurgeon.  I had to do a project for work on the results of spinal procedures (I work for a healthcare cost transparency company) and lets just say, those numbers are not pretty.  40% of procedures aren't necessary?  18% are worse after the procedure?  Those are not odds I'm cool with!  And with multiple levels involved (C4 - C6 for those watching at home) and anterior and osteoarthritis, I was considered 'complicated'.  Ha.  Ha ha.  Ha ha ha.  NO.

Fast forward to me bringing a copy of my MRI images to the chiro. I didn't tell my neurologist, I just picked up the disc and brought it to the chiro.  Fun fact, they must release your images to you and they don't get to ask why.  They are yours and you can have them.  Do not listen to anyone that tells you otherwise, this is protected by law.  I filled out a form and they handed me a disc.  I didn't even see my images before this, I just got a phone call stating that I was being referred to a neurosurgeon.  I was frightened and not even sure my chiro would see me anymore.  That scared me a lot considering she'd ended my SI pain and I really didn't want that to return.  But who would treat someone that was so messed up that she might be paralyzed and needs a surgeon?  I brought her my images so she could decide whether or not to continue treating me.

My chiro showed me my images and . . . I'm not dying.  I have 3 bulging discs from C4 - C6.  C5 is right on the line of 'bulging' and 'herniated'.  It's pushing hard enough to deflect the sheath around my spine but my spinal cord is still traveling in a straight line.  My spine is irritated but not crushed.  She pulled up my x-ray and pointed to the bone spurs she'd spotted before around C5.  My MRI was exactly as she expected.  She's been doing this for 30 years, she's seen some things.  Am I injured?  Yes, absolutely yes.  Is my spinal cord impinged?  Yup.  Do I have neurological symptoms?  Sure.  Do I need surgery?  No, not yet.

Key word:  Yet.  One day I'll have to do something about this.  But considering what's going on, they're going to want to fuse part of my neck.  Which means I'm going to see problems above and below the fusion in the future.  I'm not in pain, I'm fully functional, why would we start that roller coaster before we have to?  So there's no surgery in my immediate future.  It's just chiro, PT, and some Advil for the days where things flare up. 

I'm still not supposed to do things that will accelerate the timeline.  No sitting trot, no broncing ponies.  BUT . . . things are looking up for my return as a h/j princess.  I'll never be able to go back to being the one that gets on the naughty pony without a care but everyone has to retire from that role at some point.  I can work toward loping around a 2'6" course with my butt out of the saddle.  Yes, there's a risk, but a reasonable risk.  At least it gives me something to work toward.

I do like to jump

Theo heads north in 9 days.  It's going to be tough but at least I have some real hope.  I do my PT, I let my chiro open up that space to take pressure off my spine, and I'll be able to put my foot in the stirrup again.  I'm not done yet.  It will be my jumping saddle but hey, that's not exactly a burden.  I do love jumping.

I think my neck situation needs a name but I haven't come up with one.  Wonky neck?  Damn discs?  There's so many options.