Saturday, October 27, 2012

Fair Hill International!!

The below post was mainly written on the flight to Portland on Wednesday...then this week was VERY intense and busy so here it is now :)
This past weekend was Fair Hill International!  Fair Hill International is a big 3-day event for top eventers in the horse world.   There was two levels of competition: CCI** and CCI***, called the 2-star and 3-star.  A 3-star course is Olympic level eventing and there is only one level higher: the CCI**** or 4-star, with the most popular one being Rolex, held in Lexington, KY at the Kentucky Horse Park.  
Eventing is split into 3 disciplines and for top level competitors over 3 days: Dressage is first and you can roughly compare it to drill moves on horseback.  The following 3 pictures are from photographer Shannon Brinkman

Susan Beebee and Wolf at FHI dressage phase

Cross country is on day two and is the most grueling.  At high levels it includes multiple phases to test the horse and rider’s endurance with the most commonly known phase being cross country: galloping over a roughly 3 mile course and jumping a lot of big, solid jumps in a variety of different ways and situations under a time crunch.  Sound scary and tough?  It is very challenging for both horse and rider and where the most falls, injuries, withdraws, and disqualifications occur.  This is how Christopher Reeves was paralyzed. 

Buck Davidson through the keyhole on the 3* course

On the third day is stadium jumping, which consists of tall and easy to knock over jumps in an arena with a specific course and time limit.   The focus here is to have control after the exhaustion that is cross country day.  Throughout the whole 3 day process there are vet checks and jog outs to ensure the horses are in top physical condition, not in pain, and able to continue in competition.

Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot- winners of the 3*
In case you can’t tell- I LOVE eventing.  In fact, secretly this has always been a dream of mine since my Pony Club days- to one day compete at Fair Hill International at the 2 or 3-star level.  I gave up on this dream many years ago because I didn’t fit into the eventing mold.  Not only do you have to have a fit horse- but you also have to be very fit to compete.  Well, here I am world- I’m putting the dream back on the table!  Although, I am scaling it back a bit and would simply like to get to the preliminary level- a few steps down from 2 or 3*, but very impressive and needing great conditioning for both horse and rider.  If I could get to Intermediate or Advanced (1*) that would be incredible….but I have to remember to walk before I crawl.  Eventing, like anything horse related, is expensive.  And my job is very demanding and so is eventing.  It’s a fine juggling act that I’m not going to give up on, but for now is on the back burner until Indy is ready- which will be years.
 Right now Indy is not even ready for longing (moving in a circle around a stationary person on a long line)- his knees are still coming off the track and swollen and his gash on his left knee is getting better but still swollen and ouchy.  He tore up his left knee right before leaving the track- on a hot walker machine.  I think they took out the staples too soon to send him home with us because he cut it open again last week.  Right now we are one and the same- when you get injured you need rest.  In his case he might need the entire winter off worth of rest.  We’ve been handling him every day- twice a day for meals to ensure he stays good and used to being handled.  He’s such a sweet horse and despite the fact that we won’t be able to ride for perhaps months, I feel so blessed to have him in my life. J


So back to Fair Hill International….I was an outrider again, on Piney.  Of course, he was awesome and received a ton of attention from spectators and competitors alike.   We even had our pictures taken by the press and ended up in Equisearch!  Pretty cool!  The weather was absolutely perfect and I’m glad I bought a new jacket because I looked snazzy and felt great.  One of the coolest thing was the number of people that remembered us from last year!  That’s the cool thing about FHI- a lot of the same people come every year because the eventing community isn’t huge as you might guess.

Equisearch picture of Piney and I.  He looked awesome all clean and braided!

I got to see some of my favorite riders, and even discovered a few new favorites.  The winner of the 2* was a 19-year old college student from James Madison University, Connor Husain. He always competes with a pink ribbon on his lapel to honor his mother who is a breast cancer survivor.  Cool kid, huh?  Horse people are awesome J  I also met one of the best riders I’ve ever seen- Tik Maynard from Canada.  He did something that all riders aspire to do- he was truly one with the horse the whole time.  They moved around the cross country and stadium courses like they were linked, it was very cool to see.  So I approached him in the warm up ring before Stadium and told him all that and he said that was the nicest compliment he’s ever heard and he really appreciated it.  I took a picture of him because he was just such a nice and great rider.  Also, he’s not bad to look at.
Tik watching stadium before he goes on.  Yeah, he's tall for real
There were lots of other great riders, like Marilyn Little who is gorgeous and really nice and wears rhinestones on her helmet and lapel.  She also always shows up to vet checks and jogs in stilleto heels. Very unique and cool, especially for the eventing world which is more about mud then bling.

What do you think about horses- love them or scared of them?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

New shoes!

Here I am, again writing from 10,000 feet.  Today I am flying to Portland, OR for a Women Leading Powerfully conference being put on by Mars.  It’s being held at the Heathman Hotel (the hotel where Christian Grey always stays in the “shades of grey” trilogy)….aka highest lap of luxury in Portland and right in downtown.  Exciting!
So this past week has been wild, and I have been a sucky blogger and not posted in forever.  There is so much to catch up on; I don’t even know where to start.  So I’m going to go a little backwards and update first with running stuff- since this is supposed to be a fitness blog and all!
Monday I finally got to see Barb again at physical therapy after a couple weeks with Mark.  They are both awesome physical therapists, but Barb has more experience with running injuries and running form specifically.  After lots of chatting about new shoes and going more minimalist, she had me take off my shoes and did a bunch of stuff with my toes.  Stuff that felt weird- bending my big toe around and testing it’s strength.  Big surprise- the way I stand is also a mess in that I grip with my toes and am not balancing my center of gravity correctly.  Also my big toe curves in and is overly flexible in the wrong way.
Not so happy toes
She thinks this all stems from my huge weight loss and the fact that my body still has some old habits from 250+ lbs ago and needing to compensate for the extra weight I was carrying around.  It makes sense and all but sometimes I feel like I will forever pay for the damage I did to my body by being obese.    I know my body is thanking me for shedding all the extra weight because I desperately needed to, but sometimes I feel like I’m going upstream with a spoon as a paddle as I try to figure out the form issues that are plaguing my entire body from the top down.
So she taped me running again and we watched it and compared it to my first taping.  It was great to see some significant improvement.  I’ve developed a pretty decent forward lean, my cadence is faster and lighter, I’m not swinging my arms as oddly towards one side, I’m picking up my feet significantly better, and my heel strike is less.  Having said all that, I am still heel striking.  Also, apparently I have no upper body strength and I’m very stiff in my shoulders while pumping my arms an unnecessary amount.  BOO!  So I’ve made some progress but….I still suck. Lol. 
So having said all that and after confirming that my hips are much more flexible and mobile Barb wants me to start walking/standing/doing as much as possible in bare feet or flats.  We talked about what shoes to look at and she recommended a local Severna Park, MD running store to eventually get new shoes– Spark Running that really knows there stuff.  She said I didn’t have to start with new shoes yet but I could start working them in. SLOWLY.
So I went the next day. Lol.  You think I could wait?!?! Colleen doesn’t do waiting when it comes to things I love.

Katelyn, the owner of Spark Running was totally fantastic.  One thing I really liked is that she basically said a lot of the same things Barb had said which made me feel pretty confident in her knowledge.  I tried on 5-6 different pairs and styles of minimalist shoes.  Including Newton Gravity’s,  Merrell Pace Gloves, a zero drop shoe by avia?!?! With some cushion, and another avia pair that were more sandles than sneakers and as barefoot as you can get.  She didn’t bring out Vibram 5fingers and I don’t think she sold them (I didn’t see them anywhere and I looked) but I didn’t bring it up because I know of many good running shoes that have taken them off their shelves.   Beware here are my personal thoughts on each below.  These are simply my own personal experiences.
The Newton Gravity’s felt WEIRD.  I went in thinking this was the kind of shoe I was going to go home with but when I ran in them I couldn’t get off my toes, even after looking at the video and trying again and for a longer time frame.  Katelyn explained that this can actually be worse than heel striking and causes serious Achilles issues and plantar fasciitis.  I had read that before as well and this just made me feel better about Katelyn.  When we watched me run in them on the tape my heels basically never hit the ground.  Imagine running a half marathon like that… legs would be trashed completely. 
Newton Gravity
I ran in the Merrell Dash Gloves next.  I immediately felt like the same weird (and awesome) feeling that I had when I ran on the treadmill during Rick’s running clinic barefoot.  This time I kept it in my mind to hit with my fore- to mid-foot, not my toes.  It felt great.  After a couple minutes, I could feel myself heel striking a little but my foot immediately told me NO and really wouldn’t let me so to speak.  In this shoe it has not only zero heel drop but also zero padding- just a simple rubber sole to protect you from the elements.   When we played back my running I couldn’t believe it was my feet we were watching.  Showing it side by side with the Newtons (she had some rocking recording equipment!!) and frame-by-frame it looked like a different foot running.  Incredible!

Merrell Dash Glove

Next I ran in a zero drop shoe that had some cushion, I think it was the Altra Intuition, but I'm not sure.  They were very comfortable, but I found myself naturally heel striking more and then running on my toe to compensate.  Upon comparing recordings, my form was somewhere in between the Newton’s and Merrell’s in quality.
Altra Intuition

Next Katelyn said that perhaps I needed the zero cushion to truly not give my feet a choice but to run correctly.  So, I put on these crazy sandal type shoes that had Velcro straps to close then and you pulled them on like a water shoe.  I looked them up and found them- Altra Eve.  When I walked in them all I could feel was the darn Velcro strap pressing against the top of my foot, and even more when I ran.  I ran for the least amount of time in those because the Velcro just felt so weird and I was basically switching between toe running and mid foot running but it never really felt good.

Altra Eve

 Not like the Merrell’s! They felt awesome and I am wearing them right now.  I also brought my Asics with me for this trip if I want to switch off a bit because she said to do my first run in them for only a half a mile, and then use the 10% rule for adding mileage week by week in the shoes.  But since Barb said it would be good to walk in these as well to get my foot out of the heel striking mentality that is VERY strong when I walk I’m wearing them all week in Portland.  I never thought marching band could influence the way I walk so much but I was taught to walk with toes up to the sky.  This apparently is just plain bad for your feet and Achilles.  We can get away with it because shoes today are so bloody padded- like walking on marshmallows.  Well, today I walked around the Minneapolis airport for an hour waiting for my flight. Win.

MY Merrell Dash Gloves!

Today I continue the long journey towards better running form and I think these Merrell’s are going to help me.


Friday, October 12, 2012


So I drove 200 miles today....

Yeah it kinda felt like I was on the road the whole day, endless.  I drove all over the place, and managed to take a wrong the way of at least 15 miles out of my way before realizing it.  MAJOR face palm.   Guess why I messed up?  I was on the phone with my mom talking about Indy.  Silly Colleen, driving distracted. BAD.

On another note- I feel like I'm continuing to make progress with my leg (and back!) pain!  After all the driving today I was feeling MEGA stiff and achy, which was totally understandable.  So instead of throwing in the towel and heading home, I ran some errands including grocery shopping.  By the time I was done all the walking around my legs were feeling good.  YES!  So I figured my groceries could keep an hour in the cold- because I didn't want to go home and take the risk of not leaving again.

I did a nice warm up walk around the indoor track for 10 minutes then did my lower body strength training exercises from physical therapy- aka some reverse lunges, squats, reactive hip flexors, etc.  I received some funny looks during my hip flexors exercise- they can hate all they want but it helps my hip mobility.  Then I did my current "allowed" running stint on the treadmill:  a few minutes walking, then 10 minutes running at a comfortable but not easy pace at 1.0% incline, then a few minutes cool down.  My pace was about 5.5 mph and I ran with the metronome going steady at 175 bpm.  And I kept checking my forward lean in the mirror.

See I can be a good physical therapy patient!  I must admit though- I didn't enjoy this run.  I was so focused on my form and my cadence and remembering everything I've learned, that it was hard to enjoy the run itself.  I found myself checking my time a lot and unlike most of my other little runs lately, I was glad to be done after 10 minutes.  O well, not every run can be great, let's face it.

When you are feeling blah and not wanting to work out, what do you do to overcome it and get your butt in gear?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Indy Heir

My NSV that I shared this week at weight watchers won't surprise many of you- it was that I can enjoy horseback riding again when 3 years ago there wasn't a shot in the world that I could.

This was brought on because..... I HAVE A NEW HORSE!!!

Getting ready to go home
 His name is Indy Heir.  He is a 4 year old (born January 12, 2008), 16.1 hh+ (not sure exactly on height, they are thinking 16.1-16.2 hh) Thoroughbred.  He is directly off the racetrack- that's where we picked him up!  I even rode him while he was still at the track on Saturday afternoon. That was an accilerating experience for sure!  I really didn't want to bring him home unless I could ride him first, and we were told by Karen that it wouldn't be possibile due to insurance issues.  My mom's friend, Karen, who she knows from cancer treatment, is an exercise rider for his stable at Delaware Park and has ridden him many times.  When the trainer started talking about sending him to the auction since we was not doing anything, she convinced him to give him to us.  Yeah, you read that correct- give.  As in, we didn't have to pay anything up front (we all know there is no such thing as a free animal).   This all because she really liked Indy and thought he would make a great riding horse and had way too nice a temperment to be sent to the New Holland auction.  At the auction you really have no idea who he is going to end up with and how he will be treated, and she wanted to ensure he had a good home.  awwww lucky for Indy he made a good friend!

So, after a while of playing around with him in the stall and marveling at his beauty- I just grabbed the bull by the horns and asked the trainer, Randy, if I could ride him.   He agreed as long as after Karen got on him she thought he would be safe with me.  After two quick trips around the stall area she hopped off and I mounted.  For a horse that has never been mounted in any way other than a jockey or exercise rider being given a leg up as he stood or sometimes walked forward.....he stood like a pro as I mounted him from a bucket.  Impressive for us both because he is TALL! 

Let me just mention a few very different things about this ride- I was riding in an exercise saddle which is this tiny little excuse for a saddle for tiny exercise riders and jockies. surprisingly wasn't that bad, and I didn't look bad in it! lol.  Made me feel pretty bad ass that I was able to ride him actually.  He wanted to run around this space we were in, but I was able to bring him down and control him which made me feel pretty powerful.  In the end, the trainer was amazed and I was relieved I didn't fall off or make a fool of myself. lol.  He said I had some serious guts to A- get on him and without any hesitation and B- then I rode him well.

Me on Indy, geared up exercise rider style.

Can I just point out the absolutely incredible pedigree he has?!  He was crafted to be a triple crown winner.  His dam (mom) was purchased while in foal with him for 3 million!  He was purchased for $210,000 as a yearling.

And then he raced......and his grand total of winnings is 1 win of 8 races and $9,040 earned.  Wa wa wa wa.... In comparison, his sire (dad) A.P. Indy earned nearly 3 million!! and won such famous races as the Belmont Stakes (3rd leg of the triple crown) and the Breeders Cup Classic. Holy incredible!  So, lucky for us- he was a dud!

He was a bit of a challenge to load because he's never used a step up trailer before but we eventually got him on and home and he met Dancer and Piney.  It was the funniest thing when he first got off the trailer and onto the lush grash of our front yard- he acted as if he hadn't been fed in days he ate the grass so ravenously.  So funny!  After letting him run around the field a bit, we introduced him to Dancer and Piney. They became fast friends, thank goodness! :)

Indy checking out the trailer

Indy safe at home and ready to be free!

The boys meeting for the first time

Indy and Dancer becoming fast friends

15 minutes after meeting, all is calm and happy
 Welcome Home, Indy Heir!!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Cold go away!

Don't you just love having a cold that seems to linger forever?

This inkling cold started Monday with a little tickle in the back of my throat and went full fledged nasty beast cold Wednesday morning when I woke up with a fever.  And I had to drive around with 2 coworkers for a market tour....greeeaaat.   I struggled through it and by the end of the day my head felt clear enough that I headed to the gym to get my little run in.  My physical therapist had actually suggested running Tuesday and Thursday- 10 minutes each day, 1% grade on the treadmill, comfortable but not easy speed to be able to gauge how my legs were feeling when she saw me next on Friday.

Tuesday I had a market meeting in Towson and I was excited about running all day- but my legs told me a big resounding NO by the time I left the hotel.  It might have been the heels I was wearing all day combined with all the sitting, either way it was a no.  One huge mental battle I've been working on is truly listening to my body and being smart with my workouts.  I really get it now- there were many times that I pushed myself past what I should have and I am paying for it now with these injuries.  I shouldn't have ran that last 8 miles when my legs were already feeling pretty sore and crappy.  Sometimes, we just make stupid decisions, let's face the music.  Well, now I am determined to train smart- and safely.

So on Wednesday, even though my head was a little foggy still, my legs felt solid as a rock and I had a GREAT run under the guidelines Barb had set.  I felt good afterwards as well but couldn't run Thursday obviously because she didn't want me to run two days in a row.  Friday I had physical therapy and felt good right after everything and could have run...but I really needed to get to work and my sore throat was really feeling lousy on top of it.  In my head I would be able to run after I got back from the hospital I was visiting so after a quick change and heading off, I packed a spare changed of clothes to run before I came home.

Well, I made it to the gym and changed even though I just wasn't feeling right.  I foam rolled and stretched well before warming up on the treadmill at a have the familiar and dreaded pain in my hamstring lurking back in the form of some bad stiffness.  So, I did what I should have so many months before....I did NOT run.  I hopped on the elliptical but it didn't feel right there either.  So, with a frustrated and very congested head, I went back to the foam roller and re-rolled plus some extended stretching of my legs and arms.  I left feeling loose and comfortable and wanted to go back and try for a run but I knew it wouldn't have been right.'s Sunday and after a very sick and sore throat/congested day I still have not run and am hoping my body will be thanking me tomorrow by allowing me to get a nice run in at physical therapy.  Saturday was very active though so I wasn't a total wash this weekend.  Adrian did a great job running his Alzheimer's Association Walk on Saturday!   I helped out by being one of the sweepers at the end of the walk picking up all the signs- so I got a good 2.5 mile quite hilly walk in.  Gorgeous weather to boot! I also went riding- but that will have to be another post because it was its own experience!

Go away cold!

Anyone else struggling with your first cold of the season? It sucks!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

O foam roller

Want a fast way to make a kitten act like an idiot?

exhibit A
O such an innocent little thing, the foam roller- it is like a medieval torture device and my best friend rolled into one.  It hurts so good and I needed it badly on Tuesday after my work meeting.  The meeting went pretty well but I was in heels all day and my legs were complaining about it by the end.

I gotta say...I've been enjoying physical therapy.  Everything they say makes so much sense and I am not only seeing but feeling the difference in how my legs, abs, and back feel.   My what was feeling like constant lower back pain has improved so much- it's only occasional now and I have some methods to help it.

Like this
 It's also intriguing how lately people feel the need to give me lots of advice on how to magically help me with my flared tennis elbow.  Over the past 1+ year of dealing with this tennis elbow I assure you I have read everything I can.  Just because you read something on the internet doens't mean you are an expert on recovery of an injury.  yeargghh!!  /end rant

So yeah...I guess you figured out my tennis elbow is flaring again.  SIGH.  After a long discussion with my physical therapist to try to see if there was a trigger that casued it to come back, she identified a possible issue being moving from my full body strength training to a more machine based workout I've been doing with Upinder. lifting heavy is supposed to be the "cure all" for tennis elbow, huh?  Yeargh, yeah no. Well, I haven't been lifting heavy as a friend told me I MUST do because supposedly it is the only way to fix my injury (BULL CRAP).  But, I have been lifting on mostly machines which I've never focused on before and don't really like.  Initially it was feeling better and not causing any pain but Barb thinks moving away from full body movements could have further inhibited my progress in healing.  She's suggesting seeing the sports med doc again and getting MRIs of both elbows.  We will see....

Have you ever struggled with a sports injury?  What injury was it and how did you deal with it?