Thursday, March 5, 2015

Kenai: 5 Years & injury update

Happy 5th birthday to my favorite guy. The best years of my life have been those spent with you. You're my partner in crime for all things, and while I regret being away for work this year and not getting to spend the day with you, I know you're in good hands. As I write this, you're probably enjoying a great nap on that big comfy couch you love so much.

This year has been rough for you...and for me. We'd successfully rehabbed from your double cruciate ligament surgery by the time your birthday rolled around last year. But things took a turn when you pulled your groin in March. We rehabbed through that successfully, too, though. I even managed to take you on some low-intensity hikes into the crag the two times I went rock climbing.

By fall you were back at it, the highlight of outdoors activities was certainly the 10 mile hike through Dolly Sods at peak autumn. You were the absolutely epitome of the perfect off leash dog on that hike. You stayed within close sight the whole time, paused when Q and I paused, and rested when Q and I rested. You were hardly even sore the next day! I was thrilled.

But then November rolled around and you tweaked something in a bad way again. The way you presented led me to believe it must be your groin - again. Despite being cautious with our level of activity, crating you for a few weeks even, you just weren't bouncing back from this second mystery injury. I was heartbroken every time I had to leave you behind when I headed for an adventure - I still am.

Despite the addition of daily pain relievers and supplements, you weren't improved much in January. I gave in and took you to the vet for x-rays to see what was up. I figured you had a full groin tear and wanted confirmation on it...but what we found out blew both the vet's mind and my own.

You'd managed to do something my vet had never seen before - you fractured a small bone called the fabella in your right knee. This bone is surrounded by ligaments and is where the vet had blindly anchored the suture during your cruciate surgery nearly 18 months prior. Somehow, you'd exerted enough force on that leg that the suture pulled through the bone, fracturing it into two pieces and loosening the suture from the knee surgery in the process.

We still aren't sure how to proceed with your rehab. You received a joint injection and an adequan shot at the vet that day and are responding well to the pain relievers you've been on for a month now. I'm trying to keep you quiet, only allowing you to move about during your bathroom breaks during the day - no great activity outside that.

It's so hard though! You're my adventure dog. You've had it ingrained in you from the first day you came home with me that you get to go everywhere with me and do all the things. Not being active is as hard for you as it is for me.

I plan to take it slow with you this year. To get that boned healed and get you strong without surgery. A year of rehab is what we're looking at, Kenai. A year of slow nothing that builds to slow something that hopefully builds slowly back into you being able to come up on the mountain with the patrol by next January.

You get to be on house arrest with minimal activity through March and part of April. If you're doing well, we'll add low intensity strength building inside. If that goes well, we'll begin short walks. From there we'll build up the length, time, and intensity of our walks. We'll hike lots of hills and mountains so you really have to use that hind end.

I hope we'll get there...I really, really, really do.

Happy birthday, Kenai. I'm glad you're in my life.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Hash House Harriers

I had the unique opportunity this past Sunday to participate in my first hash house harrier ski hash. I'd participated in a hash in college on foot, but had always wanted to do a ski hash.

What is this "hash" thing? Well, considering a large majority of my readership is equestrian-based, I'll describe it in terms you'll be able to understand. Fox hunting. It's basically fox hunting. Minus the horses though. Although for me, the day had many correlations to endurance riding.

Essentially, a group of folks get together. Hares (fast skiers) are pre-decided. These folks set out through the countryside and mark the trail as they go so the hounds (the rest of us) can follow 15 minutes or so later and attempt to "catch" them. Builders chalk was used to mark their path.

It sounds straight-forward, except when you consider the fact that the hares will set false trail just to screw with the hounds. A sprinkling of color on the snow indicates you're on trail. An X means there is a cross roads - one trail is false and one is true. And three horizontal lines atop one another means Stop.

Added enjoyment to this whole thing? Alcohol. Periodically along the trail the hares will leave beer, liquor, or moonshine. Because what's exercise without alcohol?

If the hares are caught, their pants get pulled down (so I was told). They also have to participate in a down-down if they're caught (drinking alcohol from a dog bowl). Hash virgins also have to participate in a down-down (that's me, if you'd missed that fact).

The whole sha-bang ends with a potluck back at the host's house. Because food, y'all.

Clear as mud? Good.


Sunday afternoon I headed over to the host's house along with 40+ other people.

The day had started with snow, but by the time we arrived at the host's, it was turning to rain - where it would remain for the rest of the day. But that's okay! Alcohol and other such enjoyments were plentiful, exercise was imminent, and merriment was about to be had.

As folks arrived, they set their potluck dish inside and then proceeded to mill about socializing and merry-izing outside. Within 45 minutes or so, everyone had arrived and the hares readied themselves to dart off on XC skis. The hounds (the rest of us) were locked up in the garage with all of the windows blocked for a short while until the hares were out of sight. Once they were out of sight, we were allowed to mill about outside until the 15 minute delayed start was past. And then the trail was open!

I set out at the back of the pack, content to only finish the hash, not catch the hare. My endurance background is strong - to finish is to win!

We struck out across the valley, crossed the main road, and continued through the woods. One, two, three beer stops down. The pace was easy, life was good.

And then we arrived at the fourth stop, and it was more than beer this time. There was a shot ski and moonshine. I was pulled to the shot ski with two others and tasked with pouring my own poison. This was all well and good until the bottle sloshed me a very FULL shot glass instead of the half I'd hoped for. Oh well! Down down down.

With shot ski accomplished, we quickly realized that the second half of the pack had followed a false trail set at the shot ski. Dave, S, and another set out along another potential track to see if it would be true or false.

"ON ON?" we called.

"CHECKING!" they replied.

We waited a bit. And then, "ON ON!" they hollered. And we all set to climbing what ended up being a fair sized hill. Why must the climb come after the shot ski, I lamented.

Setting out anew on the true trail after the false trail mishap, I realized that I was now 4th to the front of the second pack of hashers. This motivated me to move out a bit.

I kept Dave, S, and the third guy in my sight for a time, but they slowly pulled away, moving out at a better clip than I was able. In a short time, I found myself in a pretty good bubble. No one in sight to the front or back of me.

It was nice to ski my own ski without feeling any pressure from another person. The shhh shhh shhh of my skis along the ice-encrusted snow was peaceful.

As I climbed a second hill, I could hear many voices ahead and to my left. I came to a cross roads, hesitated for a moment, uncertain, and then noticed an arrow in the snow made from twigs pointing toward the sound of the voices. Left I went, descending a slight hill and coming into sight of the whole group at a beer stop.

A few of them called to me as I approached, which of course set my inferior superior XC skiing off balance (XC is far different from downhill due to the lack of a metal edge on the ski and a lack of a plastic boot that stabilizes your ankle more). Fortunately, I saved myself from falling with some exceptional Matrix-esque flailing.

A beer was thrust in my hand as I arrived.

"They caught the hares here," someone filled me in. I grinned, nodding, not surprised based off the heckling I'd overheard prior to the hash beginning.

A large contingent of folks headed out toward the host's house as I stood catching up with folks. W, Dave, A and I decided to strike out shortly after them, leaving at least a dozen others behind who were still taking part in the merriment.

Our little quartet quickly caught the main contingent of hashers heading back. The group split up at a crossroads, but the four of us decided to stay with the main contingent. Dave and A and I paused at another beverage station, then made a short cut to catch the main group for the rest of the trek back to the host's house.

Back at the host's, I changed out of my clothes. While I'd layered properly to stay dry, I still didn't layer well to stay cool and ended up unzipping my waterproof layers to try to cool off - thus allowing the wet in. I'd planned for as much though, and was pleased to be able to change into dry clothes!

The food at the potluck was absolutely amazing. I didn't fully identify anything I ate, choosing instead to just dive in. I know how these folks can cook and knew I'd have no qualms - and I didn't! Some sort of mashed sweet potato dish, some sort of pizza thing, and the hands-down best venison I'd ever consumed made their way to my stomach along with some delicious local beers.

I plopped myself on an empty couch and was quickly surrounded by several others who had the same idea. We chatted for a time until the down-downs began. I'd been taunted warned by several, "You have to drink out of a dog bowl today!"

Because the hares had all been caught, they each drank from the bowl first amidst singing.

Here's to ______ (s)he's true blue
He's a hasher through and through
He's a pisspot so they say
Tried to get to heaven but he went the other way
Drink it down down down….
(if hasher takes too long) Why are we waiting (repeat until finish)


Dos, a beer, a Mexican beer,
Ray, the guy who buys me beer,
Me, the guy, he buys beer for,
Far, a long-long way to ski,
So, I think I’ve have a beer!
La, la la la la la la,
Tea, no thanks I’ll have a beer,
And that brings us back to d-down, down, down, down, 

(if hasher takes too long) Why are we waiting (repeat until finish)

And then I and the two other hash virgins also were treated to the same. I definitely took the longest, but I was the only female on this day who had to drink from the bowl, so oh well. Just part of the tradition!

All in all, what a great way to spend a rainy day! I had an absolute blast.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

All In A Week

1. Daily office dog. Four frequent the office at different times. This is 4 mo. old Daisy.  2. Friday Night Mountain Top Supper Club - fancy with a candle and tablecloth for Italian night!  3. Note all the zippers and associated layers necessary to survive -19°F prior to windchill calculations.  4. I ended up being "head feathers" / "hill chief" for an hour on Saturday; this means I directed ski patrollers around the mountain to respond to certain incidents and kept track of folks.  5. But most of the time I was skiing Saturday because it DUMPED 16" of snow in <24 hours. Epic, epic, epic powder day!  6. Cards Against Humanity for Saturday night shift.  7. The Man Angel salute; this is my second family getting post-work aprés-ski beers.  8. So humble it hurts <3  9. Kenai living a rough life.  10. A series of screenshots from snaps I sent to Mandy and Saiph: "My car wasn't enough to get to the house"/"Beer is almost gone"/"Kenai and I are growing bored"  11. Shoveling through the 4' of snow on the porch.  12. Begging for treats.  13. Balance exercises at work.  14. The rough life of our office pet, Ralphie.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Best Laid Plans...err Thoughts

I'd had this grand thought plan in place that I would ride after work yesterday. The sun was going to be out by mid-late afternoon and I haven't ridden since my birthday, so riding seemed a good idea, no?

But then I got to the barn. The 16" of snow we received through last week and weekend has compressed to 12-14" of something resembling a consistency of styrofoam with a nice layer of ice atop. It's the kind of snow that gives you hope you'll be able to walk on top but then gives way and sends your leg crashing through at the last minute. Hmm. Lovely.

The horses were moving about the field slowly. The herd had created certain key paths to the resources they desired, and very few independent tracks branched away from them. It's very telling when the herd won't run amok and play much due to the ground cover!

The icy crust coupled with the last minute plunge of foot and leg into a post hole in the snow seemed a recipe for disaster as far as a conditioning ride went. Tweaked tendons and lacerations to sensitive skin from hard ice seemed a certainty! And thus, I scrapped my hopes of riding. The risk of injury simply isn't worth it.

The forecast doesn't warm much for the next week. It seems we'll be in a cycle of quasi-warm (enough to slightly soften/melt the snow) followed by intense cold for many days. It's the perfect recipe for further condensing the snowfall and then freezing it almost-solid! Bullet proof skiing, but crap-tastic riding weather when you need good footing across varied terrain.

I'm midwest bound for work next week. Perhaps I'll come home to bare earth? Perhaps not.

What does this mean for my best laid ride season plans?

Well, it means that I'm not going to stress myself or Q out to be fit enough to tackle a 50 at the end of April. It'll be mid-March at best when the grand thaw begins and conditioning rides can evolve into some semblance of consistency.  That gives me 4-5 weeks of potential for conditioning rides preceding No Frills at the end of April.

Could Q be ready for a 50? Maybe. Perhaps. Arab physio being what it is and whatsuch. Do I care to roll the die and test the waters and risk pushing this little mare too hard too soon after I've spent a whole season building up her confidence? No. No, I don't.

If crazy happens and things are going super awesome then mayhaps we'll try for the No Frills 50. However, I'm not going to shove myself into that cookie cutter when things may not fit. As things are, the LD looks far more attractive an opportunity at this time. It'll be better for Q's mental game, will play easily into where her fitness level is, and will keep our conditioning where it needs to be  - quite stress-free.

If we do the LD, I know I won't be pushing my little mare near or beyond her breaking point physically or mentally. It'll just be another building ride for her physical fitness and mental confidence.

Last year was such a bust for us mentally. She and I both experienced huge mental setbacks, hers due directly because of mine own.

My biggest goals for this year for myself and the horses are health and happiness. I'm more than happy to set aside any other goals within endurance to keep my horse in a better mental place right now. I think the LD in April may be just what is needed to help bolster her for a few 50s later in the year. Time will tell...the Universe certainly seems to be hinting at it pretty hard given the forecast I've been presented with that bars me from safely riding for a time! I'm much more keen on paying mind to the Universe, too, last year being what it was. ;-)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

All in a Week (or Two)

1. Myth: All off leash huskies run away.  2. Q's got the biggest, softest eye.  3. Love having my best friend come to the office with me.  4. Ridgetop sunrise on a ski day.  5. Heckling with the best of the Breakfast Club.  6. Par for the course.  7. Sunset at the end of the ski day...onward to night shift!  8. Yoga evenings.  9. Selfie after we both ate shit simultaneously on a gnarly trail...under the lift...with customers. We laughed so hard that folks accused us of having too much fun.  10. The Valley floor, just visible during light snowfall.  11. Shotty visibility during the intense snowfall event Saturday night. 2" per hour for 3 hours!  12. Sunday morning weather.  13. Didn't need to use that door anyway.  14. Tracks along the pipeline to Bald Knob.  15. View of Canaan Valley Ski Resort from the top of Bald Knob.  16. View out the café window post backcountry ski!  17. A successful score of a hitchhiked ride home.  18. Superb company at sunset of a cold backcountry ski day.  19. I don't even remember what a clear, dry road is any more.  20. Grilling inside. Booya.  21. Q's snakey bitch face.  22. Grilling oysters, clams, and local beef on top of the mountain on a powder day - the rough life of ski patrol!  23. Sunset view across the bogs of Canaan Valley during an evening XC ski.  24. The husky telling me it is ridiculous that he should have to remain indoors during such a snow event.  25. The hacking of Griffin's mane for a second year in a row.  26. Birthday jaunt on Q-mare in the snow!  27. Sunshine!  28. He couldn't possibly be any cuter. <3  29. Whiteout blizzard conditions during my birthday hack on Griffin (only 30 minutes after my ride on Q).

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Sun, Snow, and Skiing

We got snow. And then some more. And then some more. And even more is expected. It's bottomless. It's awesome. And despite below zero temps and windchills, the skiing is the best it has been all year. I've been front country, side country, and back country, alpine and nordic, heavy and light gear over the last few days. My front yard currently has a 3½ foot drift in it that promises to reach 4 feet if things continue!

My Thursday and Friday went just about exactly as I'd described them in my last post. Saturday night it hammered down the snow in a wicked way starting about 4p. It put down 6" in 3 hours time, the winds whipped, and chaos reigned. I was pretty happy to not have to drive 35 miles over five mountains to get back home! Temperatures plummeted to well below zero, the "real feel" dropping below -40°F due to wicked winds. Yet despite it all, the sun was shining Sunday.

So, because I'm crazy - a fact that shouldn't be lost on long-time readers - I skied in the bitter cold. Front country and side country at one of the mountains I work at for a few hours, and then we spurred off through the woods into some backcountry.

It. Was. Fabulous. I finally got to ski Bald Knob as I've wanted to do for years - so totally worth it. But what was better? Bombing down through some backcountry with my downhill gear on trails 5' to 25' in width - the widest of which didn't occur until the very end and only for a couple hundred yards. Zipping through the woods, dropping knees and flying past surprised nordic skiers on light gear was stellar!

At the bottom, a perma-grin adorned my face. The ski didn't cease at the bottom of just any hill, oh no. It ceased at Whitegrass - a nordic ski phenomena of the east. Through the doors of the barn-esque building, you'll find not only a rental and gear shop, but some of the greatest food around. And beer. I indulged on some good brews and food before scoring a quasi-hitchhiked ride back to my car with one of the owner's sons. What. A. Day.


And for inquiring minds, the horses are well; they're happily enjoying their time off during this arctic front of chaos. My time is so focused toward skiing, but it is okay - working the horses in such bitter cold isn't ideal. I am so very hesitant to provide an opportunity for them to get over-worked and sweaty right now due to the extreme winds and temperatures. It was -40°F and below the other night with the winds; whiteout blizzard conditions. Despite being inside the barn, those temps are nothing to bat an eye at! I will ride when I can, but the season dictates skiing right now, so I'm gonna get it while it's good!