2014 Year-End Review

I guess it’s time to do the year-end wrap-up thing. It definitely feels weird, because the year isn’t quite over and I’m still pregnant so my biggest (har har) project is still unfinished, but maybe if I go ahead and post this I’ll go into labor, right?

Last year’s goals were to ride Twenty Mule Team 100, Washoe Lake, and the Nevada Triple Crown (Derby 50, NASTR 75, VC 100). I wanted to volunteer Nevada Moonshine and Tahoe Rim, and I wanted to run a 10k.

No plan survives contact with the enemy. But you know, in retrospect, I didn’t do too badly.

First: I ran that 10k.2014 resolution 2Mel ran the 10 miler – she finished in about the same time it took me to “run” 6.2 miles, but whatever. It was a beautiful day and running endorphins are gooooood.2014 resolution run

In February, Miss Dixie and I headed down to Ridgecrest and finished Twenty Mule Team 100. It’s still the most amazing thing I’ve ever done (maybe “giving birth” or “being a parent” will be more amazing but I wouldn’t know because I’m still pregnant, grrrrrrr) and I still think about that day several times a week. Kaity and Jaya, I’m honored to have shared the trail with you both!

In March, I gave Dixie some well-deserved time off and got a small, tasteful tattoo to memorialize our achievement.desert tolkeinOk, it’s huge and gaudy and takes up my entire calf. I don’t care. I feel like the size of the tattoo is commensurate with the effort involved.

I kept running, too, upping my longest run to 9 miles. 2014 Canyon Meadow 2April was when my endurance season was kicking off for real. We started off the month at the Nevada Derby. The Derby was one of my yearly goals, but it turned out to be a substitution, too — I’d been really hopeful that I’d get to ride the Washoe Lake ride, but the ride ended up not happening. Instead, the Derby got moved from Palomino Valley, north of Reno, down to Washoe Lake south of Reno. They used pretty much the same trails, so I got to ride Washoe Lake anyway! Good enough.

The next weekend, I lazed about, drinking and having sex and sleeping late. As one does. The weekend after that, I ran 14 miles. I did a 10k run to get a t-shirt and then paced Mel on her first ultra. We didn’t precisely run the last 8 miles, but we maintained steady forward progress, and we finished, woo!2014 aprilDude. Look how hot I was. Look how skinny I was.

The weekend after that, I felt rather peculiar and discovered that I was with child.IMG_1841-2However, earlier that year, Mel and I had hatched a plan to do the 2014 World Championship Ride’n’Tie Long Course. All you had to do was finish to get a completely bomb-ass silver buckle! And Mel’s an ultramarathoner, and Farley is a short horse, and I wouldn’t even be very pregnant by then, so of course I couldn’t back out and let Mel find a more competent partner. Of the three of us, only Mel had ever done a ride’n’tie before, so we met up at the end of April and had a short practice session. Farley was an angel.

In June, I was still hardly pregnant at all, so I went off and rode a day at Wild West. It’s a ride I’ve been meaning to do for years now, and I knew I’d want the memories to tide me over til 2015, and Dixie was certainly in good shape. Turned out she was in such good shape that we did the 50 (and it’s not an easy or short 50!) in just under 8 hours. A really fun day, and such a rush to ride such a fit, forward horse.

I’d originally hoped to Do Something at the Nevada Moonshine ride, but sadly, it got cancelled due to base camp problems.

In July, Mel and Farley and I did the R’n’T championships. We were pitiful in all ways, except that we did finish and we weren’t even dead last. Almost all pitifulness was due to me — I thought it would be a good idea to wear shorts, so I got a huge and gnarly calf rub in the first 14 miles, and then I started to overheat and just couldn’t run anymore, so Mel had to run twice as much to make up for me. I mean, I did my fair share of hiking, but I was going half as fast as Mel so she just ended up doing more miles. But we didn’t piss off our phenomenal crew (<3 Lucy and Aurora 4 ever) or each other, and the buckles were totally, totally worth it.buckles grinsI wanted to do one more 50 at Gold Country, but my leg was not at all healed enough to ride on. I still have a huge scar where the rub was — I suppose it’s cheaper than getting another tattoo. Scars are souvenirs you never lose.

My big adventures in August were crewing Tevis, crewing Mel’s first 50-mile-no-horse-involved-ultramarathon, and volunteering at Tahoe Rim.

I did not realize until just now that I never got around to posting a Tevis crew story. TL;DR: I split my time in the Sierras between volunteering for the webcast again and crewing for Lucy. The benefit of voluncrewing, especially while pregnant, is that no one person expects all that much of you and you get a good amount of time to nap and snack. I saw old friends and made new friends. I talked to living legends and crazy people. I really needed those naps, because I didn’t actually get to sleep for more than four hours at a time. It was stressful and wonderful, and I can’t wait to do it again, either the long way down the trail or the even longer way driving the crew road.2014 TevisJaya and Asali, on their way to their second hundred of the year! 2014 Tevis 3Lucy’s crew, aka Team Lurgy, hard at work at Foresthill.2014 Tevis 2I got a new truck. It doesn’t make mysterious, terrible noises, and it has a step.

I still love Tahoe Rim the best of all the 50s, and I’m really hoping I get to ride it next year. Either way, me and The Kid will be back at base camp — I just hope the usual endurance stars align and I’ve got a fit, sound horse ready to ride then, too.

And I may have my sights on a trail marathon out at Golden Gate next year. Me, the one who swore up and down I’d never run that far without a horse. (But the Golden Gate hills are so pretty! And it’s cold and foggy, so I won’t overheat! And I have to run marathons so I can pace Mel when she runs Western States in a couple years!)

In September, I crewed Virginia City for Lucy. It was extremely bittersweet — riding VC was the only goal that I just couldn’t achieve this year, and it really hurt. Don’t misunderstand, I’m delighted to (almost! soon!) get to be a mom, and I can’t think of a better reason to miss VC… but I really wanted to come back and conquer the ride this year, and I just couldn’t.

VC fell smack-dab in the middle of the “my grass is so emo it cuts itself” second trimester. Everything sucked, and I felt terrible, but I didn’t even look very pregnant so I felt like I didn’t deserve to feel as terrible as I did, and people were mean and I cried the whole time. I could look back now and be mad or feel silly about all the crying and whining, but what’s the point? My feelings were legitimately hurt and things sucked and my rider didn’t even finish!

October was boring and emo. I finally started to look pregnant, at least.2014 octoberAnd I kept riding til the last week in October, when I realized I wasn’t flexible enough to ride (or fall) properly. Sigh.2014 october 2I can’t possibly be serious and do those silly Pinterest things with chalkboards and heart-shaped hands on my belly, but I can make skeptical faces in the produce department.

Finally, in November, all the good hormones started kicking in. The uncontrollable weeping and black moods and furious raging have been slowly fading away for the last two months, and I’m usually pretty zen and incredibly sleepy. And huge. And awkward.34 weeksI can’t breathe very well, and I have horrendously bad acid reflux for no less than 12 hours a day, and my poor feet have swollen to hobbit-like proportions, but I don’t really mind any of these things. It’s really cool feeling my baby moving around, and I really can’t wait to meet him, and every day now I inform him that he can come out any time he’d like.2014 dec 2“Grown locally.”

Dixie has been amazing. She knows I’m pregnant, and she’s so sweet and gentle with me. What with the never-ending rain, she’s not getting out often enough, even just to stretch her legs in the arena, but she is really calm whenever I do manage to handle her. I try to go out every other day, even if it’s just to groom her and scratch her itchy spots for half an hour, and she’s never pushy or spooky.

I never talk about my husband on here, by his choice, but I have to tell you guys how amazing he’s been, too. He’s totally supportive. He’s far nicer to me than I probably deserve, and he’s going to be an outstanding dad.2014 DecI have absolutely got to get my hair cut.

Anyway, that’s all the retrospective warm fuzzies I can muster. Forward!

2015 Goals:

  • Have baby (any day now would be fine. Tomorrow is good, little guy. I don’t even care if you want to come out on Christmas.)
  • Go to AERC convention with adorable and “easy” baby and husband in tow. Show off baby to Reno, out of town friends.
  • Get back to running. Run at least a half marathon, preferably a marathon at Golden Gate.
  • Do Tevis — webcast volunteer slash half-ass crew again? Maybe possibly if everything is perfect, ride?
  • Ride Tahoe Rim 50 and Virginia City 100.
  • Do not drop baby, especially on his head.
  • Write more.

Anything else is bonus.

No, it’s not my favorite holiday

My birthday is a few days before Halloween and I’m pretty weird, by anybody’s standards. I get a lot of “oh, it must be your favorite holiday!” comments.

It’s not.

My Halloweens were not some magical “let your freak flag fly” celebration of weirdness. They were just a yearly confirmation that I wasn’t normal, I didn’t fit in, and I never would fit in.

In sixth or seventh grade, I was (begrudgingly I’m sure) invited to one of the popular kids’ Halloween parties. Her name was Beth, and I was her funhouse mirror. We’d been in the same classes our whole lives. She was clever, but not freakishly smart like me. She was much blonder and much prettier than me. She effortlessly had a large group of pretty, normal, girl friends — I had, in any given year, two to three fellow outcasts for friends. Beth and her friends wore department-store clothes and seemed to have an innate ability to make things match, to put on makeup, and to find and follow trends. I wore jeans from Walmart, back when Faded Glory was a flashing neon sign telling everyone that you were hopelessly poor, and all I could think to pair them with was t-shirts. Tucked-in t-shirts. (At least I don’t tuck them in anymore?)

So Beth had a party, and I’m sure her parents told her she had to invite her entire class, because her parents were decent human beings. And like Charlie Brown lining up to kick the football, I got really excited. Yeah, all my previous Halloweens my costumes had been too weird, or too complicated, or too cheap. But not this year! This year I was going to have such a cool costume that everybody would have to admit it was cool, and even if they didn’t admit it was cool, it would be inherently unassailable. I was going to be a knight in shining armor.

I just want to go back in time and hug proto-Funder and tell her it’ll be ok eventually, because it was most certainly not ok then. What the hell was I thinking? Small town Southern girls are not knights. That’s a boy costume, and a nerd costume, and just utterly inappropriate for dirt-poor weirdo girls.

(Don’t forget, this was long before the nerds triumphed. The rise of the internet paralleled the rise of nerdiness— not only do nerds get good jobs, we’re all a little nerdy about something or other. Calling someone a nerd is, at most, the mildest and most good-natured of put-downs. This is the polar opposite of what it meant to be a nerd in the 1980s.)

My parents helped me make the coolest knight’s costume possible. I had a wooden sword, with a leather-wrapped hilt, spray-painted silver. I had a scale mail suit of armor, made from an old pale-purple dress shirt with silver matboard scales sewn to it. I’m pretty sure I even had a shield, made of foamcore board, spray-painted silver with a dragon painted on it. By today’s cosplay standards, by sci-fi convention standards, by adult standards: very cool. By 1980s kid standards: social suicide.

So I went to the party, and it went as horribly as middle-school parties usually go for young nerds. I wandered around, circling the outskirts of small groups of kids who didn’t want to talk to me. I’m sure I gave off all the wrong social cues, failed to make eye contact appropriately, had no ability to make small talk, etc. I’m not totally blameless.

But I still don’t think I deserved to get sprayed in the face with shaving cream.

It hurt, on so many levels. The one good thing is that I was totally and completely justified in crying about it — you can’t not cry with soap in your eyes. Even if you’ve made it your life’s mission to never let them see you cry, you’re forgiven when you get Barbasol’d in the peepers.

The adults helped me rinse my eyes out. They made the perps come apologize to me. All us kids knew that “I’m sorry I did that” only meant “I’m sorry I got you in the eyes” or “I’m sorry I got caught,” but the forms of civility were fulfilled. My parents came and got me, because that was about all the party fun I wanted to endure. And that’s one of the points in my young life where I vowed to myself that I’d never let myself get hurt like that again, and that sooner or later I’d get the hell out of that town.

This is the point where I should tell you that today, Beth is happily married and still living in my hometown. Or divorced in Iowa. Or a stripper with five kids by three dudes working at a club off of Brooks Road in Memphis. But the truth is I don’t know what she’s doing, and I don’t really care one way or the other. The only reason I remember her name is because it’s the funhouse version of my first name. I did a really cursory Facebook/Google search for her, I can’t find her, and that’s enough internet stalking for me. I hope she’s living a happy and fulfilled life in exactly the same way I hope random strangers have happy and fulfilled lives.

Eventually, my classmates got what they wanted, which was for the weird weirdo to disappear and leave them alone. I had to stop caring what everybody else thought, put my head down, and slog out two more years before I escaped. (I ended up going to college early, bouncing back to Memphis, finding an entirely different social circle of nerdy outcasts, and eventually leaving for good.) I’d hug young me, but I wouldn’t try to change that night. It was a necessary and painful part of growing up — but it ruined Halloween for me, and I’ve never enjoyed the holiday since then.

If you’re wondering: it’s the Fourth of July. Holidays where you don’t have to dress up or go visit people or do anything other than eat are fine holidays, and for the Fourth you get all of the above plus fireworks. Fireworks make me so freakin’ happy — really, truly, childlike glee.

For Future Reference

Like many American women, I’ve spent a lot of my life nodding politely as other people tell me How I’m Doing It Wrong. (This might be endemic to women worldwide, or even to people worldwide, so don’t feel excluded if you’re not an American woman, ok? But I’ve only lived in America, and I’ve noticed that men are far more likely to argue back against HYDIW syndrome.)

I’ve put up with it for several reasons.

  • You can’t win an argument with a crazy person. If someone unbalanced is telling you HYDIW, it’s really in your best interest to nod a lot, promise to take it under consideration, and then go do as you see best.
  • In general, you can’t win arguments. People aren’t telling you things as a prelude to a rational discussion; they’re just telling you stuff to tell you stuff and there’s not much point in arguing, unless you enjoy arguing. (I don’t.)
  • It’s surprisingly fun to not argue or disagree; you get to hear some amazing stuff if you let people keep talking. For more on this point of view, go read How to Be Polite.

But I’m thirty-six years old and I’m really tired of putting on the poker face, nodding, and walking away. I’m consciously trying to change. I want to be able to say “hey, that’s inappropriate” when someone says something inappropriate or tells me HIDIW — but it’s unrealistic to expect myself to react in real-time when I have all this conditioning in place, so I’m working on reacting appropriately at a delay.

I do want to point out that one of the reasons I didn’t name either of the people who made me cry over the weekend was because I don’t think they deserve that. Neither of them intended to make me upset, or at least not that upset, and it’s unfair for me to call them out when they can’t respond in kind. I don’t want them publicly shamed, as it were. But I also don’t really want to interact with them right now, either. I try to be a kind person and a forgiving person, but that doesn’t mean I have any obligation to let myself be hurt repeatedly.

So instead of getting in a defensive fight with someone privately, I’m just going to write up a manifesto about my kid and my parenting goals and all kinds of stuff. And the next time someone feels compelled to tell me HIDIW, I can just point them here.

Wait, don’t leave yet! This is primarily a horse blog, so of course I’m going to frame it all in a horse analogy. I’ve just got a little more rambling to do before I get to the horse stuff.

So what you’re here is seeing a sliver of my life and my interests. I don’t talk politics here and I don’t even do media analysis here — I have other sites for that kind of writing. You’re here for crazy Funder stories, and in general, that’s what I offer.

Everything I write is true, but not complete. I freely leave stuff out — a lot of stuff. The boring bits that drag down the narrative, details of other people’s lives that they might not want posted online, and at this point, a lot of the daily background stuff. So what you’re reading here is an accurate but partial picture of my life.

I think my posts have gone from clever but basic narrations to pretty good stories over the last couple of years. There are a lot of elements that go into a good story. It’s not that hard to recognize a narrative arc, or see repetition and foreshadowing. It’s quite a bit harder, I’ve found, to write those things with any kind of subtlety. And the same goes for my choice of words. I passionately love language, and I try really hard to strike a balance between using the most precise high-dollar words and actually writing like real people talk, which includes the Seven Dirty Words. A couple of commenters on my last post mentioned that they hadn’t really noticed the cursing, which means I’m doing it right — for better or for worse, this is how people talk. (At least it’s how they talk when they think it’s fun to spend twelve hours riding half-ton herbivores that stomp your feet and drool poison oak slobber down your neck.)

So. When I was 28, I was in law school, so I required a lot of caffeine, and I spent a lot of time in a coffeeshop by our apartment. A couple of women who worked there had horses, and I hadn’t really realized you could afford a horse on a barista’s pay, but it turns out you can (if your standards aren’t too high). I’d always wanted a horse, and my husband wanted me to have a hobby, so he foolishly bought me a horse.

I had no idea what I doing. I hadn’t ridden in twenty years, then I rode my friend’s horses exactly twice (once at a walk/jog in the arena, and once on the trail, where I got off for some reason, let go of the reins, and watched my noble steed gallop away through the forest), and then I got a horse of my own. His name was Champ, and he was a saint.

Champ, a basically kind soul, didn’t kill me as I fumbled through those first couple of months. In return for his kindness, I started a really concerted effort to become a better horse owner.

Go take a look at this Science of Running post real quick. I think Mel already posted it, but she was using it to talk about running or something, and I’m using it to talk about how we learn. This is the most important bit:

When I first got interested in learning more about coaching and the science behind it, one of my mentors, Tom Tellez, told me about the process of learning. When you are new to a particular topic, everything seems intriguing and complex. You don’t have a built in filter, as you don’t know what is right, wrong, or controversial. It’s a very intimidating time in the learning curve.

In essence, you haven’t built the model in your head of how a particular aspect works. So there’s no model to compare the information your reading to. The goal therefore is to build that model. Coach Tellez explained it, in his own usually precise way “that you need to just keep reading. It won’t make much sense at first. But as you read more, eventually it will clear up and all of the sudden you can tell within the first paragraph whether you should read the article or throw it away.”

His point was that you have to have a foundation upon which to decide whether something is worthwhile or not. Once you have that foundation, it’s all about filtering the information.

I managed to instinctively do that right. I built my foundation by reading everything I could get my hands on about every aspect of horse-care I could think of. Once I knew the basic concepts, I started talking to people. I had a huge base of horse people that I was on friendly terms with, and I asked them about all kinds of stuff. I asked them what they did and took note of it, but more importantly, I asked them why they did it.

(As a side note, one of the reasons I’m always willing to talk about horse/endurance stuff with people is to pay it forward — there’s no One Best Way to do any of this, and I’m happy to tell you why I’m doing whatever I’m doing, because so many people have helped me to where I am today.)

How often do you deworm? Why did you get that kind of shoe put on? What hay do you feed and why? Why do you use that saddle? I asked a ton of questions. I got a huge variety of answers, because I’d deliberately cast my net really wide. Sometimes I hoped I’d one day be as good as the person I was questioning, but sometimes I thought he or she was wrong and I wanted to understand why they were Doing It Wrong.

As I felt like I’d gotten a handle on each little aspect of horsekeeping, I’d start to veer away from the default and make my own decisions. I got Champ re-shod in keg shoes, but he didn’t gait very well in them, so I tried plantations (heavy shoes) for six weeks, and he didn’t gait any better at all, so I pulled his shoes entirely and went barefoot. (He still didn’t gait well. I never got him doing anything but trotting, but at least I was no longer at the mercy of incompetent farriers.) I did the same kind of gradual experimentation with all the little nuances.

One of the things that I’ve noticed over the years is that sometimes the people who I’d thought were Doing It Wrong were actually doing a pretty good job, and I was glad I’d asked their opinions.

When I got Dixie a year later, I was marginally better prepared to handle a psycho mare, but she was definitely an order of magnitude harder. I just kept at it, learning more about tack and more about how to train mammals and horse psychology and rider equitation and on and on and on and on and now, almost seven years later, I have a truly amazing partnership with a truly special world-class horse.

We always wanted a kid or two (some day, when we had more money and we were actual grownups and all the usual excuses). I haven’t touched an infant in twenty years, but I’m about to have one of my own to take care of full time. I am handling this in the exact same way that I handled sudden horse ownership.

I have a huge base of friends who are parents, ranging from infants up to teenagers. Not everybody is making the same choices I think I’m going to make, but you never know, so I’m asking everybody a ton of “what are you doing and why” questions.

(Well, I’m planning on asking everybody anyway. Right now I’m hyper-focused on infant care, and I’m still in the process of building a model in my head, so there’s more information gathering than advice-seeking. If you’ve got a kid and I haven’t grilled you on what/why, don’t feel left out; it’s coming!)

I’m gonna fuck up. Everybody does. But something else I learned with horses is to keep trying different things, and to periodically go back and try old things again. Whips used to make Dixie completely lose her mind; now she doesn’t even react when I accidentally smash her in the head with a crop while I’m riding — and using a lunge whip to get her to load doesn’t work anymore. I’ve gone from a curb to bitless to a snaffle to a curb again, and now I don’t even really need a bit and I can ride in a halter if I want. I’m sure parenting has the same kind of reversals of fortune waiting for me, especially when he’s in the irrational tyrannical toddler stage.

I’m going to cry. I’m going to laugh. Some days, I’m going to count down the hours til my husband comes home so I can have a large drink and a bubble bath. I can’t wait to see the firsts, and I can’t wait for my kid to be old enough to ask me interesting questions. I really want to meet my kid and find out what his personality is like. I may, possibly, lament that it goes so fast (but I kinda doubt it.) But I can promise you that I will never stop being a snarky bitch. I’m not going to unironically refer to my kid as a sweet angel. It’s just not going to happen.

Talk is cheap. He’ll know we love him. It’ll be ok.

(And I really don’t think he’ll be interested in reading my blog before he’s learned how to cuss from the internet and TV. Just don’t call your teacher a bitch, kid, you’ll really regret that even if you’re right.)

In which I exhibit nominally good judgment

I’m not going to Gold Country. I spent all week anxiously glaring at the gnarly rub on my calf and I finally had to decide yesterday.

Here’s the rub Sunday.

And again on Tuesday.

And finally today.

I spent a lot of time scheming ways to wrap it so securely that it wouldn’t rub, but I just think no matter what I did, there would be blood. All that pink new skin is fragile, and the scab is going to rub off no matter what, and ugh.

I finally fell back on my Golden Rule: would I ask my horse to do this? If my horse had a giant rub that was healing well, but was in a tack-contact area (cause I just can’t ride without the inside of my calf rubbing), would I ask her to go do a random 50? Hell no. This shit hurts, yall. And if I just leave it alone I’ll be good go to soon. So. I’m being a grownup. Sigh.

The only sad thing is that there’s no other ride I can do for at least a month. Tevis looms over everything, which is totally awesome, but kinda sucks for me right now. I’m volunteering Tevis on 8/9 and Tahoe Rim on 8/23, and those are extremely fulfilling and fun duties… but they’re not quite the same as riding.

If I feel awesome, I might try for Camp Far West at the end of August. There’s Eastern High Sierra, which falls the week between Tevis and Tahoe Rim, but it’s a looong drive up Hwy 108 through the mountains, plus it would take me out for three weekends in a row and my poor husband would be so sad, so it’s not really an option. CFW would be cool; it’s only a few hours away and it’s the same spot as Gold Rush in November.

But we’ll see how huge and lazy the baby human has made me by then. :)

So where did May go?

Well, to get to May, I’ve gotta back up to the end of April. I had a nice boring weekend at home, I went to sleep on a Sunday night feeling fine, and I woke up Monday morning just convinced I was pregnant.IMG_1833Turns out I was right.IMG_1840

Really right.

I made it through the next couple of days feeling pretty much ok, but then I disappeared into the first-trimester swamp of queasy fatigue. If I could’ve, I would’ve happily slept about 16 hours a day for that whole month. I wasn’t ferociously nauseous, but I was low-grade queasy pretty much every hour I was awake. JellybeanSo I managed to do the NATRC/Ride’n’Tie weekend. I ran a few times. I rode a few times. I made it out to Cache Creek to ride with Mel once. I knew that I couldn’t even stay awake long enough to drive to Reno, much less ride the NASTR 75, and Dixie needed her hocks done again, so there went my Triple Crown dreams. I got said hocks done, but I did not manage to trim even once in May (and I paid for it in June!) May 2014I’m not complaining. I’m still pregnant (this week its name is Lemongrab, because it’s the size of a lemon), and I feel much, much better now that the first trimester is almost over, and it could’ve been so much worse — but it still sucked. I’m glad May is over. I’m a lot less queasy, and a lot less fatigued. On to June!

(I’ll probably keep this a horse-focused blog, but it’s my blog so I am gonna write about whatever I want to write about. I’ll make an effort to tag the pregnancy/baby stuff so you can skip it if it’s not your thing, but see above re: my blog, nobody pays me, so I can yammer about whatever I want!)