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Updated: 2017-07-27T23:23:05.921-07:00




I am going to be moving this blog over to a new Wordpress domain, so please adjust your bookmarks to

I will possibly add a re-direct from this page within the next couple of weeks; but at the very lkeast

Excuse the dust while I attempt to re-organize and re-structure.

Weekly Roundup


An experimental new series: my week's worth of random tidbits, discoveries, and things I found interesting.

Does a mare's ear size have a positive effect on her performance abilities?

This idea for a homemade saddle pad drying rack.

Pam Smith's account of her 2013 Western States 100 win. Some interesting tips and insight.

On the heels of yesterday's post about getting my running mojo back, I'm hoping my next race will be the Flagstaff Big Pine in June. I was offered a free race entry, so now I'm trying to coordinate if I can get the weekend away. Given that it is high elevation, I will likely go for the 13k distance (as much as the small voice is saying 'Do the 27k and make the trip worth it").

In honor of the Kentucky Derby this past weekend, the movie 50 to 1 was (finally!) just released on DVD; based on the true story of the 2009 Kentucky Derby and the long-shot winner Mine That Bird. Normally I don't watch horse movies -- they are either too depressing or too angsty along the way, but this one was really good with minimal drama and no's a great story and a thoroughly entertaining movie.

The battle within the waterproof-breathable fabric market.

Horse people always need knots.

restarting the mojo


It's happened enough times now that I'm able to recognize a fairly distinctive pattern in how I operate, especially in how I tend to approach and deal with the aftermath of failure.-- Immediately following 'x' event, I'm still pretty gung-ho about giving it another go -- it may have beat me, but hey, it was a good learning experience and now I know for next time...and there will be a next time.-- After some dwell time, I start brooding and feeling sorry for myself, and generally entertaining "why bother?" types of thoughts. Because I'm clearly not meant to do whatever it was I was attempting, since I failed at it.-- I either get sick of my own attitude, or some outside force intervenes and drags me back into the fold of whatever I was distancing myself from, and I'm reminded of why I like 'x' activity in the first place.The latest event to throw me into this cycle was, of course, my DNF at the Crown King Scramble 50k. Not only was I physically broken, but my mental psyche took a pretty good hit, too, and I was having a really hard time remembering why I thought this whole running thing was a good idea in the first place.I guess that's one of the hazards of the "jump into the deep end" approach...there's a greater risk of failure than a more cautious approach. But at the same time, I suppose I'm at optimist at my core, because I tend to have a "you don't know until you try" outlook.And I will say, for the most part, on things I've failed at the first time around...I've come back to them again and been successful.It was disheartening to pull from the first 50 I ever attempted...and to have to cancel my entry before the ride on my first two attempts to get to a 50 with Mimi...and to get thoroughly beaten by the trail at Man Against Horse...and to have a crappy running season...But in the long run, I've managed to pull a lot of those monkeys off my shoulder and stuff them into a zoo where they belong. It took me seven years, but I got back to that ride scene of my inglorious first pull, and under similar circumstances (same trail, another borrowed horse), I finished it (Old Pueblo 2013).That first 50 with Mimi was a wonderful experience. By inadvertently being forced to wait (things like saddle fit and her getting bitten on the back), it meant that Dad and I would tackle that first 50 so many of our trail adventures have been shared together, it seemed only appropriate that a big leap into endurance would also be shared.2008 Man Against Horse may have been a disaster, culminating in getting pulled for "likely being overtime"...but I took everything that went wrong that year and funneled it into a "how to do better" approach...and in 2009, we had pretty much a perfect ride. That finisher's buckle is one of my more treasured possessions. But after 2008, and two crappy back-to-back rides/pulls, I was ready to throw in the fact, I didn't even ride the pony for a couple of months. And then a friend offered me a horse for the 2009 Wickenburg 25, which I accepted...we had a great ride, Top Tenned, the fire to ride got reignited, and the next month, dragged the pony back into action fora successful 50-miler.Three-and-half so-so miles still beats zero milesAnd last night, I ran for real for the first time since Crown King (end of March). It wasn't all that pretty at times...but it got done. And really, it was just my cardio that had suffered. Fortunately, I've still been walking the dog every morning...and I snuck a 3-day, 25-mile backpacking trip to the Grand Canyon in there. I can easily fall into somewhat hermit-esque tendencies, especially when I'm hosting a personal pity party, so it does me a world of good to get out of the house, do something, and be around people who share a common interest.Last night might have been a bit of a rough run, but good times with friends more than made up for it, and got me remembering why I thought this was a good idea...if not for the running itself, then for  the community.Having such an encouraging, [...]

recipe for instant happy pony


Just add trail time.

Crown King Scramble 50k: My first ultra attempt and DNF


I knew going in that it was an overambitious plan. An ultramarathon (anything over the marathon distance of 26.2 miles) is tough enough...but to pick the somewhat notorious Crown King Scramble, with its over 6000' of climbing, as a first? Well...see the quote at the top of this post.Maybe choosing an "easier" 50k as a first ultra would have been the "smart" decision...but following "smart" decisions doesn't always result in fulfillment either. If I finished, it would be a major accomplishment...if I didn't it would probably at least net me a major learning experience and hopefully a good story.It was a bit of both.Ultimately, I pulled myself at the 26.5-mile it was the unadvertised Crown King marathon, at least. ;) That is the absolute farthest distance I've ever gone (again, some might question the wisdom of starting an ultra when the longest run you've ever done was 22 miles), and definitely the most climbing. I ran out of body (lungs/legs) for the time I had left...if you look at the elevation profile, I still had the steepest point to cover -- about 1000' of climbing, in 3 miles, in an a  pace that was netting me approximately 23-minute miles...even my tired brain could do the math and realize I wouldn't make the cutoff, especially since I was physically out of gas to be able to push myself any faster. I also had some IT band issues that prevented me from adequately being able to run the downhills (lost time there) -- and the last two miles was all downhill.So you'll pardon me if this is a bit disjointed as I go through it...brain is still majorly fuzzy. I actually feel better than I have coming off of other races...the IT band at my left knee is the hurting-est part, and my forefeet are letting me know I need to reevaluate my shoe choices (again!), but muscle-wise, I feel good...and mentally, I'm vacillating between satisfaction at how far I did manage to get, disappointment at not finishing, a bit of feeling sorry for myself for failing, and lots of introspection.I definitely learned a ton and got a good dose of reality (and ego smack-down) handed to me in that I can honestly say I was under-prepared and under-trained for what I was tackling. Sure, I didn't know what to expect, having never seen the course...but I greatly underestimated the elevation profile and the difficulty of that much climbing. I'm a strong hiker and decent, albeit slow, climber...but I underestimated how much the first 15 miles would take out of me, as I'm not world's strongest runner (since that's the "flatter" section, you have to make your time there, so you end up going into the climbing second half on already-tired legs).Getting drop bags set up and food sortedThe aid stations were spaced at miles 8.5, 15.3, 19.1, 22.3, and 27, and drop bags were allowed at stations 1-4. The first two were spaced further apart than I'm used to...I think the longest stretch I'd done at a race was just over 5 miles between aid stations, and I'm kind of a "needy" runner in that I require a lot of hydration and a decent amount of nutrition to keep going steadily. (It's the same reason I always carry so many water bottles on my saddle at endurance rides...I dehydrate quickly and physically cannot function on minimal hydration.)So my plan was to wear my Ultimate Direction hydration pack, which has a 1.5-liter (50 oz) water bladder, and carry an Amphipod Hydraform Thermal-Lite handheld. I have to say, this is my new favorite handheld. Definitely the easiest to carry of all of them I've tried, and I love the insulating sleeve that kept the whole thing cold. Plus the wide-mouth bottle is really easy to fill at the aid stations. I started the race with Succeed Amino in the handheld, drained it by mile 8.5, refilled it with water + more Amino, drained it about halfway by mile 15 where I topped it off with straight water, and then by mile 19, I was over the Amino and just wanted cool water in both the pack and the han[...]

learning to tell the story


So I'm a bit behind...I owe you guys three run write-ups, a 26k from Jan, a 35k from Feb, and a half marathon from this past weekend. The 26k was awesome, was just waiting on the forensic evidence pro photos...but the 35k was not-as-good...and those are the stories I struggle to tell.

I've come to the realization I have a habit of either skipping the bad stuff, or giving it a footnote mention. Mainly because I'm not sure how to talk about it. Especially when it comes to endurance and the horses.

Some things don't make the blog because they fall under the header of "personal" or "can't do anything to change it so not going to complain/talk about it." And other things...I don't know. Sometimes it's due to diplomacy (especially under the topic of "Other Peoples' Horses") and politics  and politeness and being raised to not air my dirty laundry to an unsuspecting public.

But the badder times on my own pony? I dunno. I realized I've never gone into major detail of any of my "pull" rides with her. Maybe because I was usually in a funk afterwards and didn't feel like revisiting them...or maybe because I didn't want to be judged/criticized/scoffed at.

And that's a mindset I need to change...maybe I coulda/shoulda/woulda done something different...or maybe there was nothing I could have done to change an outcome...but they're all learning experiences, for better or for worse, and ultimately deserve their time in the spotlight. Maybe I screwed up...and maybe someone will learn something from it. (Or it'll at least serve as a Reminder To Self.)

I'm not out to detail every blip or detail of my day (my life isn't that exciting/interesting, for one), and some things, due to the aforementioned reasons of diplomacy/politics/politeness, are better left for private conversations, but I think I can do a better job of learning to tell the story -- the good and the bad -- and embracing the learning experience.

Sometimes I wish I had been blogging back when I first started distance riding. I sort of did, in a way -- a personal journal, the sort that will never see the light of day -- but I would have liked to have a more detailed record of some of my earlier rides. I have photos, and I have vet cards, and generally a "best of" highlights reel that plays in my head, but it's only been in the last few years I've started doing really detailed ride stories (mostly for my benefit, because I enjoy writing them, as well as for future reference...and I know how much I enjoy reading others' ride stories).

a waaaaay before blogging moment...Mimi and I at the POA
World Show in Spanish Fork, UT, July 2002...our last show ring
hurrah, and the final events/points needed to get her Supreme
Championship in the POA registry.

So that's my task...I've got the I need to tell them. :)

Getting Started in Distance: It Doesn't Have to Be Complicated


One of the big obstacles I see/hear about when it comes to people getting into distance riding is that it's overwhelming, they don't know where to start, and don't want to "mess it up." (Hey, I'm still there on that last one.)I'm going to make it simple: Start with what you have.Seriously.The basics you need are (and this is just my opinion, FWIW, based on my own personal experience): A fit, sane, sound horse; a saddle that fits your horse and yourself; a tack set-up that fits and offers control; a way to carry water/snacks for yourself; a way to get to/from the ride.The Horse: Yes, Arabians are the most popular breed in endurance. They excel at long distance in that they have been bred, physically and metabolically, for this sport. That doesn't mean other breeds can't do distance. The record for highest number of Tevis completions is held by a Quarter Horse. Start with what you have, as long as they are fit, sound, and sane. Some breeds may need more, or different, conditioning than an Arabian. I would not recommend starting out with a horse with known physical or metabolic issues; distance riding is a challenge and managing a horse with known issues puts you behind the curve and makes it that much harder.But you also don't know what your horse can and can't do until you ask. I never imagined my show pony would could ever be a safe trail horse, let alone compete in distance riding.She proved me wrong. Ultimately, age and prior use caught up to her and ended her distance career far earlier than either of us were ready for; but she did me proud and I have no complaints.So before you rush out and buy a brand-new horse for a sport you haven't done, evaluate your current herd first and see what a good base of conditioning produces. (And then go horse shopping after you're hooked on endurance...many of us operate with more than one horse. ;))"Non-Arabians can't do distance."Really???Mimi may look like a little grey Arabian mare, but she's a POA:POA on her sire's side, and full QH on her dam's side.The Saddle: If what you're riding in works, start with that. There's no reason to rush out and spend money on a new saddle -- again, for a sport you may or may not like -- if what you are currently using fits you and the horse and is comfortable. There's a good chance your horse's body shape may change as he gets fitted up, and you may need to saddle shop at that point, but there's no point in spending the money before you have to. Or you may discover that your saddle that is great for a couple of hours isn't so great after 25 miles, but don't assume the worst right away.I started distance riding in my gymkhana saddle: a cordura-and-leather Big Horn. It fit Mimi, it was comfortable enough for me, it was secure, and I could attach gear to it. After I stopped showing, I sawed the horn off the saddle so I would quit poking my ribs into it on uphills, but I ultimately used that saddle off-and-on all through my distance career with Mimi, and I still have it as a young horse/back-up saddle. It's not the most comfortable for me -- very wide twist -- but it works in a pinch.I will confess that I have been through a number of saddles: Mimi kept outgrowing them, as the fitter she got, the more her back shape changed. (In between saddles, I kept going back to that Big Horn.)If you do end up saddle shopping, network around -- if someone near you has a style you're curious about, ask to sit in it or try it out. (I've been able to try more saddles that way and figure out if I like them or not.) There is also an extensive used tack network that exists in the endurance world, since we've all been or are in the process of being in the saddle shopping boat.But if you've been logging saddle time and conditioning miles in your current set-up and it's working, stick with that, at least through your first couple of rides.Other Tack: See above -- start with what's been worki[...]



Coming out of the show world, I'm a huge proponent of cross-training for the endurance horse. It's not just about getting them fit and going down the trail: I expect my horses to be responsive to seat, leg, and rein aids, to give to the bit, the use their hind end to provide impulsion, to carry themselves comfortably, and be solid and comfortable at a walk/trot/canter.It probably helps that I actually like doing schooling and arena work. There is something predictable and immediate about it...a mix of instant gratification (well, sometimes...) and long-term results. I'm not talking about just drilling endless circles around the ring...that's boring. I'm talking about mixing it up, incorporating things like trot poles, cones, barrels, and other brain exercises into schooling routines that help create a more supple, responsive, endurance horse.I've been fortunate enough that all of the barns I have boarded at have been performance oriented, so I have always had access to things like cavaletti poles, jumps, cones, barrels...and arena space. Some places have had larger arenas than others...currently, I have access to about a 180'x75' sand arena, which is plenty of space to do w/t/c drills, as well as all sorts of trot pole patterns or weave cones.Basically, the faster you want to school, the more space you need...but basic trot poles can be done at a walk in a pretty small space...and if you're just starting out, most of what you're going to do is at a walk or trot anyway.I've pulled a lot of inspiration and schooling exercises from patterns learned during my time in the show ring. Reining and gymkhana patterns, or modified versions of parts of them, are great bending and suppling exercises.Traffic cones and trot poles are usually the easiest things to come by, and take the least amount of room to store, so that's what I've used as my illustrations. For trot poles, I like finding the heaviest wood ones that are still manageable -- they're less likely to bounce  and roll if the horse hits them, and I've had enough occasions where a solid whack of the hoof on the pole was enough to get them to start lifting their hooves. PVC gets brittle here in the sun -- one tap of the hoof and it will shatter -- plus, they're lightweight and roll at the slightest tap, so you'll be constantly resetting poles.It's really nice to have a helper on the ground when it comes to setting poles, but after a time or two, you'll learn what the best spacing is for poles and what your horse's stride length is most comfortable at. I don't get too worked up over having things perfectly spaced and aligned, either...because I'm also trying to teach them to pay attention to the ground and their feet, and adjust their stride accordingly, which may mean imperfectly spaced poles/uneven ground surface.Just some (bad) illustrations of some of my favorites: (Disclaimer: My horse-schooling skills are better than my Paint drawing skills.)Flat PolesThe basic flat trot poles: Great for working on straightness, paying attention to their feet, and using their hind end for impulsion. The spacing given for each gait is a rough guideline and place to start: you may have to fine-tune the spacing for your individual horse's stride.The Circle: This one is fun. Great for working a circle, and on bending and impulsion at the same time. The faster you go, the larger you'll want to make the circle/space the poles. Definitely a challenging one...start slow and work up. Staggered PolesSimilar to the straight poles, but really gets them lifting their feet and driving forward. Having jump standards or pole blocks of some sort really work the best here to lift the end of the pole. In a pinch, I've scraped sand into a pile on one end, or have used concrete blocks (just be aware that if you stick the pole in the inside of the block, it won't go anywhere should the horse hit it an[...]

Pronouncing Arizona: A How-To Guide


This is meant to be a tongue-in-cheek post stemming from good-natured humor and the observations of a native Arizonan. I promise not to name names or point fingers...this is all in good fun. ;) A Public Service Announcement: "You're saying it wrong."A source of almost-constant amusement for me is the pronunciations and inevitable mispronunciations of the names of places and things around the state of Arizona. You can almost always tell if someone is from out of state by how they pronounce certain names. Many names around the state can be attributed to either the Spanish language influence ('double-l' makes a 'y'/'ee' sound, for example) or Native American names and language.Here's just a few of my favorites...Spelled "Prescott," it's actually pronounced "Pres-kit." It was Arizona's original territorial capital, and is still a very fun city that has retained a ton of its Old West charm and character. Off the top of my head, this is probably one of the most mis-pronounced cities in AZ. (Although Tempe, just two cities over from me, is a close second. It's "Tem-pee" with a long 'e', not "Tempeh" or "Temp-ay".Behind the pony is just one part of the Sierra Estrella range. That's "Es-tray-yuh." Not "Es-trail-la" or "Aus-trail-a." I have also heard "Es-tray-lee-ya". (They're a truly rugged, magnificent range and I cant seem to find a good overview shot of them within easy access in my photos. I've done a number of rides out here -- phenomenal trails.)This is just one of many varieties of cholla cactus. "Choy-yuh." Have most commonly heard "chawl-la" but also it is also frequently associated with the phrase "Ouch, dammit, get it off, it's stuck to me!"And this is an ocotillo, often crowned with bright red blossoms on the ends. When it's green, it looks sort of soft and fluffy from a distance, but like all things in the is sharp and pointy. "Ock-oh-tee-yo"...I think the worst I've heard on this one is "ock-oh-till-oh."The big, tall cactus with the arms is a saguaro, unique to the Sonoran desert. "Saw-whar-ro", not "sag-you-are-ro" or "sa-garrow." That's 'The Bulldogs' behind it, part of the Goldfield Mtns...stare at it long enough and it's supposed to look like a bulldog's head. I'm bad at seeing-eye type of things, so I've yet to really see it.The Mogollon Rim is one I'll give to people, because it's not pronounced anywhere near how it's spelled; at least, not really. It's "Mug-ee-on." This is a doozy: I've gotten "Mug-a-lon", "Mongolian", and many "not even gonna try it" attempts. Insider tip: Most of us just call it "The Rim." There's only one place like it, so if you refer to "the Rim" we will know you're talking about the large plateau above Payson. Also considered the "gateway to saner temperatures in the summer."riding below The Rim, which is the flat mountain plateau above;there are trails that you can ride/hike that take you up to the topwestern edge of The RimSome other things I can think of off the top of my head are the bougainvillea plant ("bow-gan-vee-ya"), Aravaipa (wilderness canyon located southwest of the Valley whose name inspired the name of the group I run with: "air-uh-vie-pa"), Mazatzal Mountains (which is a funny one: technically, it's "mah-zat-zal" but locally, in ends up being shortened to "mat-a-zal"), and Galiuro (which should be "gal-oor-o" and I jsut learned I've been saying it wrong, as I've always refered to is as "gal-uh-roo-uh").I'm sure there's a ton more I'm missing...we are a state of interesting names...but this concludes Lesson One in our primer of "How To Talk Arizona". ;)[...]



As anyone who has spent any time around me knows, I am a compulsive list-maker. Especially for things like rides, runs, or anything that involves me remembering stuff that is out of the ordinary. I have checklists, broken down into applicable categories ("tack", camping gear", "rider clothes", etc), that I print out before every ride. I live with post-it notes stuck everywhere: reminders of what to buy, when to expect packages to arrive, how to organize items.(Currently, I am staring at a list for an upcoming trail race that will involve putting together 4 different drop bags for a point-to-point course.)I wasn't always this way.I had to learn the hard way about the value of having a hard copy list, not just skimming through the mental checklist.My most epic fail moment (to date) of forgetfulness was back in my show days. I had traveled out to California with my trainer for a weekend-long show...and when I went to tack up for the western classes, discovered that I had my felt liner pad, but not the decorative wool blanket for on top.Not quite the end of the world...but in a fairly competitive environment, where details matter -- this mattered.While I was busy having a meltdown, my parents (who had traveled out to the show to surprise me), did some fast networking and procured a spare pad (color-neutral enough to work with my turquoise outfit) from another rider's parents.Turns out that rider was Kaity Elliott. At that point, we knew each other in that vague "I know that girl and her very spotty (Kaity)/very white (me) pony" way. But the "saddle pad incident" made us more than just vague acquaintances and competitors. We started talking to each other. And hanging out together at shows. And the rest, if you've been following this blog for any amount of time, is history, of our shared adventures in distance riding, horse borrowing, crewing, and other shenanigans. A lifelong friendship, all formed over a forgotten saddle pad.The only other (I'm jinxing myself here...) thing I can remember for an event was the Sage Hill NATRC ride in 2002, in which I discovered halfway through the drive out that I forgot my half chaps and water reservoir for my hydration pack. Neither were deal-breakers, although I was convinced that since I was riding English, the stirrup leathers were going to pinch and rub my legs raw (they didn't), and that if I didn't have water on my person, I was going to die of dehydration (and since I'm sitting here writing this today, I obviously didn't). It was a 20-mile ride in the Santa Ynez mountains in November...I'm pretty sure I still even had water in my water bottles on the saddle by the end of the ride.Of course, just last month I went down to the barn with the intention of riding...only to discover I had left my girth at home. Not the first time that's happened, which is one of the hazards of using your garage as your tack room and driving everything between your house and your horse. Sometimes it results in an impromptu bareback ride, sometimes in a pony lunging session, and sometimes in a "screw it, have a cookie and go back out to the pasture" approach.The main thing that has contributed to me forgetting stuff? Doing something out of the ordinary and not putting it back in place. In the case of the water bladder, I had pulled it out to clean it and left it out to dry. I remembered my hydration pack...just forgot to retrieve the bladder. Same deal, same time with the half chaps: had washed them, hung them to dry, and assumed they made it back into the bag with all of my rider gear (helmet, half chaps, GPS, etc).These days, I've gotten pretty good about keeping things organized and "in their place" and have a routine of where to grab what...but ultimately, it's my checklists that keep me in line and organized. And I make sure that before I have something che[...]

Then and Now


From this: 
March 2001
Estrella Mtn NATRC
photo by Cristy Cumberworth

To this:
January 2014
Bumble Bee 25
photo by Susan Kordish

Coming up on 14 years of a lot of blood, sweat, tears, miles, and above all, learning. May my capacity to learn never cease, and the wisdom provided by horses keep coming.

TOA Blog Hop: Worth 1k Words


Worth 1k Words.Let's share our favorite photos of our stud muffins.  No limit.Oooohhh, asked for excuse to plaster all of my fave photos in one place. Some will have been seen before, others may be new. Obviously, the pony garners the most of these...but with 18+ years of photo-taking together, we've gotten some keepers. (This doesn't even count all of our show-ring days, all of which are hard copies that haven't been scanned yet.)first LD, Man Against Horse 25 2006second LD, in which she is still pulling on me into the first checkbittersweet...our last competition (and theone that decided her retirement)photo by Laura Boveemy favorite ride photo ever, Valley of the Sun 2009ignore my position...she has much better jumping form than I dosuch a stinker...this is why we didn't usesnaffle bits at ridesphoto by Jane Grey Photographyfirst distance ride, First of Spring NATRC 2002photo by Jane Grey Photographyplaying in the Salt Riverplaying in the wash at Catalinaone of my favorite ear-cam shots...playing in the pines in FlagstaffMan Against Horse 50 2009 -- best ride accomplishment everwar mare faceLas Cienegas LD -- I love the going away shotshe's not big on cuddles usually, so I love that her ears are upand she's actually happy about itfirst back-to-back LD, day two...thrilled with how perky she was!love all ear-cam attentive and alertfirst 50! I'm a dork and she's like 'whatever'photo by Laura BoveeAnd I've done enough rides and gotten enough good pics of her that I feel Liberty qualifies to be included here as this...another one of my favorite ridephotosBumble Bee 25 2014photo by Susan Kordishthe precursor to the above awesome photo,I'm gabbing and she's hydratingphoto by Susan Kordishmajestic view, dorky green horse, silly riderand granted, I had my stirrups a hole too short (green horsesecurity thing) but dang, she's tall and I'm shortphoto by Susan Kordishanother favorite going-away shotphoto by Susan Kordishour first ride together and we kinda looklike we know what we're doing(after she spent the prior several minutesbalking at the photographer)Prescott Chaparral 30 2013photo by Susan Kordishan interesting side profile shot...this mare has the mostinteresting face...and yes, while the photographer is below us,my feet are that high up on her sidesphoto by Susan KordishLibby's first ride, Gina riding...doing hertrademark "thing" of air-pawing whenevershe's impatientmore ear-cam!forcing cuddles and how-to-take-a-selfie on herdork mare (mid-shake)love it...can actually drop my reins on the crew bag and shestays put!being a, 30 miles wasn't enough...digging toChina and sticking her tongue out about being yelled at [...]

cover girls


Not too long after we started distance riding, one of Mimi's and my ride photos was the cover page for the Long Riders Gear (now Riding Warehouse) catalog. I think it was one of the 2003 catalogs, since the photo was from 2002.

We were both babies then...Mimi was 9, I was 16. I chuckle a bit that yes, at one time, I actually started with basic black tack. (As I gaze now at my current tack hooks loaded with all things purple and orange and colorful... :))

Looking back, it makes me smile...I had us loaded down for a safari expedition with bags and packs...all for one 20-mile NATRC ride. This was only our second ride...we were both still learning. (Witness Ashley riding in paddock boots and Mimi pulling to go faster...well, at least one of us learned, since someone still likes to pull at opportune moments.)

That was the Helen Logan River Romp ride, held in Santa Ynez, CA...still one of the prettiest rides I've done.

I was so glad I found this the other day during my magazine sorting. All sorts of happy memories.

start as you mean to continue


If you follow the "start as you mean to continue" logic as applied to New Years and the rest of the year, I had a very good start. Since it was basically one long extended weekend (although I did work on Friday), I managed to actually do all of my favorite things and set myself up well for the upcoming year. (Hopefully.)On New Year's Day, Artemis and I day-tripped down to Catalina State Park just north of Tucson to visit with friends Lucy and Patrick, who were once again spending their holiday in the "warm" desert. Only, y'know, snow happened.This year's trip didn't involve the pony or camping for me, but we had a fun day of hiking and letting the dogs play. L&P have Finn-the-poodle, whom Artemis met last year, and now they have Spike, who is Artemis's full, 8-month-younger brother.It was like a terrier cage match o' fun."Really, Mom? Make him stop."This is payback, since you're usually the onebugging other dogs.Snow on the CatalinasTerrier twinsies!(Artemis is on the left.)First experience in the snow...and the cold-weather wimp didn't freeze.Snow is a novelty.Hiking with the dogs...a whole 3.5 miles in anhour and half, which is what happens when halfthe hike is the terriers jumping on each other.As I mentioned already, I did work on Friday...and work in the form of boot fitting and troubleshooting on Saturday morning.And Sunday saw the first saddle time of 2015. And it was even trail time. Mimi was having a very good day (her bad days seem to be the ones where it is cloudy, overcast, cold, and long as the sun is out, she's good to go), and we did 4.5 miles out at Usery Mtn Park with some barn friends.She was so happy to be out again. And so was I."All dressed I get to go?"my favorite viewstill some dusting of snow on the Superstitionsperfect day"*My* sloppy. *Mine.*"And the crowning touch was this morning, when I woke up before 4AM to go out for a morning run. (Which is what you do when you live 30 minutes in any direction from the closest trails.)Not fast...but one party was on the Injured Reserve list, and oneparty (myself) was doing the first run back post head cold.I tell myself it's tapering for the upcoming race this weekend.The (mostly) full moon was still up and shining (which was good since I forgot my headlamp and had to use my phone, and it was so quiet and peaceful. I brought Artemis, so she could get her morning exercise, and she did wonderful...she's really turning into a Good Trail Dog.With that wraps my extended New Years weekend...hope everybody else had a safe, fun weekend and is looking forward to whatever 2015 brings. (Please let it be good.)[...]

2014: That's A Wrap


I so very badly want to say "and good riddance," but any year that sees me turned into an actual trail runner can't be all bad.Many things certainly did not go as planned, and I'm pretty sure I spent the least amount of time in the saddle that I have since I started riding. I think if I hadn't had the trail running, I probably would have gone absolutely out of my mind climbing the walls, but hitting the trail with my own two feet kept me (reasonably) sane.As far as 2014 goes, it may not have gone as planned, and I may have spent far too much time dwelling on that the past few months, but looking back, it was actually pretty decent.Got to ride Libby again. We may not havetechnically completed, since we came inovertime, but we had a good time and got ina good training by Susan KordishStill got some pony time in. Sensing retirement is imminent, butwill still keep taking advantage of the good days when I can andwhen she says she's feeling girlsFun times meeting with fellow bloggers at the AERCConvention in Atlanta. "Answer"And did I ever! Some riding, and lots ofrunning!Lots of time with my favorite running buddy!Another epic Tevis crewing adventure!(That's Artemis's full younger brother Spike I'm holding.)One of my best friends got married, and I wasone of her bridesmaids. This is probably thefirst and last dress pic that will grace this blog.Seeing more of the Tevis trail!Ran a road race (15k) -- as in ran the wholething -- and didn't die!But these were way more fun! Ended the year with 48 race milestotal...racked up way more run miles than ride miles. *shrug*Semi-swimming in the Salt River.May not have ridden much, but thetimes I did, it was usually pretty fun!I'm not one to make resolutions ("inebriated declarations of good intent"), and quite honestly, I've thoroughly embraced the "no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy" mentality when it comes to trying to plan things out too far in advance, since it all falls apart anyway.I've got my spring roughly mapped out in terms of trail runs (which you'll find out about as they happen, lest I alert the universe to my plans and jinx myself), and it looks like I'll probably be doing the Bumble Bee ride again...just the fun ride this time, since my saddle muscles aren't in shape.Beyond that, my only immediate plans are to snore in the New Year...I generally have a rule about going out on New Year's Eve -- I don't -- and have no plans to break it this year. (Currently chuckling a bit at the all-day rain forecast, and the 29* overnight temps...that'll put a crimp in the Fiesta Bowl and block party celebrations. And it may even put out the dog-and-pony-startling fireworks. Love fireworks, but prefer to see them in a place and environment that isn't disturbing my Disneyland.)Hope everyone has a fun and safe New Years Eve, whatever your plans may be, and we'll see you in 2015![...]

Merry Christmas!


Merry Christmas!

TOA Blog Hop: Shining Star


I'm still contemplating my 2014-in-review post, so have an easy post, courtesy of The Owls Approve Blog Hop to tide you over.

Let's talk about the biggest achievements your horse has accomplished. I'm not talking about you as a rider - I want to know what your ponykins has done to make you proud. Is there a glorious satin collection, did he/she figure out some dressage movement that took months to learn, or are is it just a great day when your butt stays in the saddle? It's not all about shows or the things that people see.

She's my 50-mile endurance pony. She successfully did a sport that not many horses can do, and even fewer still within her breed. She's definitely got "unlikely endurance candidate" stamped on her, but she still did it...200 miles worth, with three other pulls, only one of which was about her.

Above and beyond that, she completed the Man Against Horse 50-miler. I could not be any more proud of my less-than-14-hands of Go Pony than I was at the finish of that ride. She reduced me to tears as she strode proudly across that line, nearly 12 hours after we had started that morning. Didn't matter we were the tail-end of that pack...we had conquered the trail that had thoroughly whupped up the previous her mind, we had won.

As sad as I am that she's now retired, I'm happy I was able to give her the years of endurance that I did, because that is where her heart is happiest.

an article worth sharing


As 2014 wraps, this is a very, very timely article to read in the wake of a year that most definitely has not gone according to plan.

I wanted to copy excerpts of the post here, but couldn't narrow it down to the "best few" excerpts, because they're all applicable, so instead, just go to the source material and read:

Reading this article this morning was exactly what I needed to "hear" right now, and it's something I have bookmarked to easily access and read whenever I need the mental boost and encouragement.

Hot Chocolate 15k


I really don't do road races. I don't like the monotony, the hard surface, and the crowds. My schedule prevented me from attending the December race that Aravaipa put on, but I wanted to do something that would increase my mileage, so I opted for the Hot Chocolate 15k. Plus, the goodie bag hoofie looked pretty awesome, and you all know what a sucker I am for good swag.Plus, I did figure that the flat course would be an excellent opportunity for me to work on my consistency, form, and pacing, as well as sustained aerobic activity. (It must have worked, because this past Wednesday's group trail run post-race went really well.)ready to run, bright and early Sunday morningGear Rundown:Bondi Band headband (and opted for free-flying pigtails)INKnBURN "Flutter" tech shirtOiselle Cable Knit arm warmers (I love new favorite accessory)CW-X Stabilyx tightsWrightSock CoolMesh socksPanache sports braHoka One-One Stinson ATR shoes (delightfully cushy for hard surface, but too ankle-rolley for trail)Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta hydration vestThe large crowds are part of why I'm not a fan of big road races. Over 3000 people, divided into 5 start corrals, with 10 minute gaps between each corral starting. I was in the third corral back, so had to wait about 20 minutes. It makes for a spread-out course, but difficult if you were hoping to find people in a different corral.sea of peoplein my designated start corraltoeing the start line!I was there early enough to get right in at the front of the corral, which meant I didn't have quite so much early on crowding.The first two miles, I clipped along at just over a 9:30-minute mile...I kept telling myself to back it off and slow it down, because I've never been able to sustain that kind of pace. Prior to this, the fastest I'd ever managed a single mile was a 10-minute junior high. So to break that now, about 17 years later, kind of tickles me.Eventually, I reeled myself in and finished the rest of the thing at paces between 10:00 and 10:30-minute miles...and ran the whole thing. I took my "walk breaks" at the water stations, because I cant run and chug from a little paper cup at the same time, but aside from that, I kept on running.clipping along in my own little world,likely rocking out to my musicAdmittedly, much playlist abuse happened on this run, since usually the only way I road run for any sustained period of time is with a killer playlist at my disposal. I left my iPod in the truck, thinking "How bad can it be?"  Fortunately, my phone is synced with my playlist, I had my phone on me, and by mile 5, I was grateful I had at least remembered by headphones and had them plugged in to the phone and rockin' out.The course was all roads, and taunted me just a bit by being in plain site of the McDowell Mountains, with the Superstitions in the background. But doing that kind of road work was excellent for my sustained pace-building...too hard to set a consistent pace on always-changing trails...and it was excellent for me mentally to push myself and keep going even when I was hitting mental walls. (And it was all mental, because I physically felt great.)I shocked myself by actually having legs left at the end to sprint the finish and finish in pigtail-flyin' style.The 15k finishers got really awesome medals shaped like chocolate bars, and all finishers got a plastic mug with hot chocolate, chocolate fondue, and all sorts of yummy goodies to dip into the fondue. It was really good chocolate, too.finisher's medal and chocolateOne of my endurance buddies was running aswell, and w[...]

Pass Mountain 10k


A little late, since this was actually mid-November...Originally, I wasn't going to do Pass Mountain, since it fell on the same day as the Lead-Follow Endurance ride at McDowell and I had plans to ride. Well, the original ride plans fell through...and the subsequent plans fell through...and all of my efforts to obtain a ride resulted in nothing, so I decided to go do a trail run instead.Pass Mountain was yet another Aravaipa Running race, which meant awesome swag, great trails, and another well-run, organized, fun race.The race was held at Usery Mountain Park, which I've ridden at for years and years and know the trails all really well. (Said it before, I'll be in trouble when I get to a race where I've not been to and have to actually pay attention to where I'm going.This one was also just the weekend after my half marathon at San Tan, so I stuck with the shorter 10k distance as a good stretch-out. I'd also talked one of my buddies from the group I run with into bumping up to the 10k, and told her I'd run it with her.The 10k course stayed down on the flatter part of the park trails, so it was almost infinitely runnable. My challenge to myself was to see how much of it I could run, non-stop. And with the exception of the short climb up Cat's Peak Pass, I did end up running the whole thing.It was a fun change to run with someone...I typically run alone, intentionally...I like the time to be in my head-space and sort things out. But for a shorter race, I really enjoyed it.We ended up doing the 10k in about 1:06.Seriously short race report this time, since it really was a short, fun day on basic, straight-forward trails, and no drama involved.I will do a quick "Gear Used" rundown though:Buff Headband (and as you can see in the photos, hair was loosely braided, so I had some hair movement happening)Oakley Minute 2.0 sunglassesINKnBURN "Flutter" tech shirt (I love these shirts. Awesome designs, comfortable, breathable.)New Balance running shortsShock Absorber "Ultimate Run" sports braSmartWool socksNew Balance Fresh Foam WT980 shoesUltimate Direction Ultra Vesta hydration vestPhotos from the day, courtesy of Aravaipa Running!bombing down Cat's Peak Pass finish!running buddies!me and Carolyn did the 10kme and Leslie (she did the 25k)[...]

an experiment


As most regular readers have probably noticed, it's been a little content-lite around here of late...and very horsey-content-lite. There's actually a reason (aside from my laziness and lack of motivation) for that.I was dealing with a frustrating and somewhat disheartening issue with Mimi. Even since last year, I'd started having some intermittent problems with her tripping on the hind end, specifically when we were working in the sand arena. I did some basic evaluations of how she moved in-hand (sound), gave her a good trim, booted her all around...and it would still happen, every time I would ride in the arena, we'd hit a deeper patch of sand, and she would stumble or catch her hind end.It got really, really frustrating, to the point where I basically didn't ride her for the better part of the summer/early fall. The fatalistic part of me thought, "Well, that's it...years of use has finally caught up to us, she's gone permanently crunchy, and one of these days, she's going to fall down on me." It was upsetting to me because I didn't know why (and don't have the $$$ to throw at a lot of vet diagnostics); it was upsetting to her because she's a careful, sensible horse with smart footwork -- I could see it visibly upsetting her every time she would trip, and she would try so hard not to.So I gave her some time off from riding. I still went to the barn, still spent time with her, still trimmed her. She was obviously feeling good, watching her run out to the pasture (moving sound!).About six weeks ago, I needed pony time. Don't even remember the specifics now, just that I needed to be on my pony's back. I had gone down to the barn not intending to ride, but something compelled me to hop up on her, bareback, using the only gear I currently had down at the barn, which was her dinky little sidepull.She was perfect.She gave me a smooth walk, and her trot was more than eager. My bareback seat is less-than-impressive (especially on what is essentially a 55-gallon drum), so I really don't do anything other than a slow trot pace, but she wanted to do more.Hmm.A week later, I repeated the experiment, this time slightly better equipped with bareback pad and actual headstall-with-brakes. Again, excellent, and even offering to canter. (Umm, no. Canter + bareback = Ash hits the dirt.)The only thing that was different was a lack of saddle.A part of my brain had toyed with the idea that maybe my saddle was too narrow (again!) for her. Part of me argued that we did all of our 50s in that saddle without any soreness...but she's a lot softer and out of shape now. I also didn't want to look too seriously at this possibility because it would mean needing a new saddle, which isn't in the current budget. (So, a permanently retired pasture puff was somehow the better option here? Don't ask me how my brain works sometimes...)A couple of whiney texts later (that would be me whining), Lucy offered up her spare-spare treeless saddle -- a Barefoot Cheyenne model -- for me to test out my theory. I got the saddle last week, and after doing a make-over to one of my Skito pads to bolster it up to treeless saddle requirements, I headed out to the barn yesterday to test it out.all decked out...maybe now we'll have somewhere to go?She loved it. We got a good 45 minutes of arena work in -- walk/trot/canter/circles -- and she was an angel. I've had a lot of resistance from her of late with wanting to rush the gate/acting arena sour...and that wasn't the case this time.She also offered up the most lovely, [...]

XTerra Trail Run: San Tan Half-Marathon


Almost five years ago, I tried my first half marathon, the PF Chang's Rock-N-Roll. I finished, but it wasn't pretty -- but what should I have expected from minimal training, and a fitness level more suited to saddle time than foot time? I also -- not surprisingly -- managed to break myself along the way, finishing with a foot that was either very heavily bruised or stress fractured (no, I never went to a doctor to confirm either has to involve arterial spray or dangling limbs for me to go to a doctor). So I finished, but I didn't feel like I had finished well...there was the satisfaction of having done so, but it sure hadn't been a whole lot of fun.Fast forward to this season of trail running. My goal has always been to keep increasing the miles. I finally, finally managed to do this running thing right in gradually building up and not letting my enthusiasm get the better of me, and I've felt amazingly good with how I'm doing.I'd signed up for the XTerra San Tan way back in the summer as a way to have a goal on the calendar to train for. Doing the back-to-back races last month in Cave Creek was a good physical and mental boost -- the two combined would add up to the same mileage as the half marathon -- the difference would be smashing them together without a multi-hour break in between.Part of why I was excited about a race at San Tan was these are my trails. After riding down there for so many years, I know pretty much every dip, turn, and rock in the area. I know there is an end to the awful sand washes, I know where I can speed up and where to conserve for what's still to come, and the chances of getting lost were essentially impossible.sunrise on my familiar mountainsThis race was being put on by XTerra, another trail running organization that puts on multiple races a year. I did my packet pick-up ahead of time -- Sole Sports is close enough to justify me driving to it, plus I needed a restock on some supplies. Got my number and shirt, and they had a "create your own goodie bag" set up where you could grab PowerBar gels and bars.Saturday morning, I was up even before the alarm went off -- I guess that's what happens when I go to bed early. I left myself lots of time to get ready, which was good when my tumbleweed cloud of hair would not cooperate into anything other than my standard pigtail braids. I also had time to stop in at the McDonald's drive-thru on the way down to the San Tans and grab a sausage biscuit -- the lack of egg means it's something I can actually stomach that early in the morning.all taped up and ready to go...using kinesiology tape for extrasupport in areas I know could be potential weak spotsYes, those are nuclear warning symbols...yes, I have a sick sense of humorPhoenix weather has now gotten to the point where it's kind of chilly in the mornings, so I had worn sweatpants and a hoodie for the drive down, and changed into my race gear once I got to the park. This time around, I used:Headband BuffOakley Minute 2.0 sunglasses (discontinued style...sooo sad, they're my favorites)Panache sports bra (probably TMI, but it's one of the best compromises I've found for effective but functional/comfortable for both riding and running for those of us who are more well-endowed up top)Columbia Omni-Freeze Freezer III tank topKerrits IceFil sleevesMoving Comfort Endurance shorts with built-in brief, because:To quote Funder, "Death to panties!" (again, TMI, but I have found the one situation I cannot stand undies, and [...]

reality check


Lest I get too full of myself post race success...there's always a reality check gremlin lurking just around the corner, ready to make my acquaintance.In this particular case, it was Wednesday's group run, which was another vertical rock climb that was more hike than run...and completely demoralizing. There was a part of my brain that argued that I maybe I should have stayed home and given my body that had just done 21k over the weekend and a still-sore foot a break...but the part of my brain that jumps into the deep end with anything new wanted to prove how serious I am about being a part of the group and this running thing didn't want to miss a week. And I had a new pair of more-cushioned shoes to test out -- nothing like a good run as an acid test, right?(Hey, I never said I made smart decisions.)Bottom line? As good as I felt after Saturday, I was equally humbled after Wednesday. Not only was there a ton of climbing, but the trail was incredibly technical and very rocky. My new shoes have quite a bit of cushion on them, which I suspect I need for the support...but the trade-off is lack of ground feel, and I felt like I was wobbling all over the place as I'd hit rocks and random uneven surfaces.Not my finest moment...and in retrospect, I didn't exactly set myself up for success. Let's see: a still-sore foot that I was altering my running gait in an attempt to protect, new shoes that I'd never tried on trail, in the dark, still-recovering body from race weekend. How was this supposed to end well???Needless to say, runs like that do nothing for my self-confidence levels, especially when I start thinking ahead on the topic of moving up in distances. Over the weekend, I was all cheerful and gung-ho about my future race plans, full of confidence, bombing down the trails without a second thought or care. Last night, the gremlins were all pointing and laughing at me, my confidence shattered, straggling along at the back of the pack, and the only thought in my mind being "I don't wanna get hurt."Maybe this is all part of the process? Some sort of a self-governor that keeps the ambitions to a sensible dull roar? It's certainly not exclusive to running, I know that much...I can't begin to count how much roller-coaster ups and downs I've experienced in horses themselves, not to mention distance riding specifically, and the personal, non-horse-and-running life is certainly not excluded by any means.I'm not expecting cloud nine all the time...I'm not that unrealistic...but it would be nice if the roller coasters would coordinate among themselves sometime...I gotta have something to fall back on to maintain my functional levels of sanity at most points in time.I have to remind myself of this...everything has ups and downs,good times and bad...but if it means something, it's worth it.So much of what I do and who I am involves serious head gamesand a certain level of mental toughness.On the bright side? Even on my worst day, I'm still faster than a zombie, so have a decent chance of surviving the inevitable zombie apocalypse. [...]

Cave Creek Thriller 11k/Thrasher Night Run 10k


I totally know how to Do Everything Right before a run, including: a very technical, brutal hike/"run" three days ahead with lots of tricky footwork, babying along an already-sore foot/ankle caused by who-knows-what, and a Friday evening emotional meltdown followed by a round of whiskey and ice cream. Yep, sounds like a great taper routine.the rock pile, otherwise known as the Holbert Trail at SouthMountain -- the trail is visible in the lower left-hand corner ofthe photo, and goes up from there...runner fuel???Questionable decisions about what constitutes an ideal taper aside, I had an awesome run weekend as I attempted my first double header races: the Cave Creek Thriller 11k in the morning, followed by the Thrasher Night Run 10k less than 12 hours later, both held at the Cave Creek Regional Park over virtually the same course, both put on by Aravaipa Running.(I have to take a moment here and proclaim the awesomeness of Aravaipa. I am completely spoiled by the three races I've been to that have been put on by them, in addition to also participating in their weekly group training runs. The events are top-notch, well-organized, have amazing run swag, and attract a fun bunch of people, and I'm really enjoying the social aspect of the weekly group runs.)I had every intention of doing a reconnaissance run at Cave Creek ahead of time...but time got away from me, and my knowledge of the course ended up being maybe half of it that I had hiked a couple of years ago. Better than nothing, at least.Cave Creek Thriller 11kTrue to my overly-prepared form, I had everything packed and ready Friday evening: clothes laid out, extra clothes packed, hydration pack filled, water bottles filled, snacks sorted and packed. Good thing, too, since I accidentally set my alarm to go off on weekdays versus the weekend. Oops. Fortunately my reliable, four-legged alarm clock squeaked at me and I only slept in about 15 minutes past when I was supposed to be up.There's also virtually no traffic at 6:00 on a Saturday morning, so the hour-long drive up to Cave Creek was smooth sailing. I was still up there later than I wanted to be in that I had to park a little ways from the start/finish area...but it at least made for a nice walking warm-up. I checked in, got my number bib and awesome race t-shirt, then headed back to the truck to finish getting ready.Gear Used: (morning edition, top to bottom)Funky Cowgirl Bands Sugar Skull headbandOakley Minute 2.0 sunglassesColumbia Total Zero Tank TopVictoria's Secret Standout sports braKerrits IceFil sleevesNew Balance running shortsSmartwool anklet socksNewton BocoAT trail runnersDirty Girl Gaiters in "Day of the Dirt" (matches the headband!)Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta hydration packI somehow manage to turn this into just as much of a stuff used ordeal as riding. :)Once I was all ready, I had about 15 minutes before the start of the 11k, so I took advantage of the permanent restroom facilities, then made my way over to the start line. There was a quick "follow these ribbons and these signs on these trails" briefing, then the countdown was on, and we were off!There were 81 people in the 11k, so it was a slow-moving cluster at the start. I headed out in approximately the last third of the pack as basically stayed there. Going out too fast is something I am very cognizant about and deliberately make myself hold back and start slow.let's do this thing!a lot of the trail w[...]

Getting Out What You Put In


As a socially shy, somewhat introverted person, I find embarking on a new endeavor extremely intimidating, especially on my own. I will be the first to admit I am terrible at meeting new people and introducing myself. For a long time, I've struggled with just wanting to fit in and be accepted, worried that I'll do or say the wrong thing. It's an insecurity thing...but I'm recognizing it and while it's not going to go away overnight, I've gotten better about being more confident in myself and trying to let go of so much of my worry over what other people think.(What is this, Friday Confessionals?)Anyway, that's just a bit of background of me that is relevant to the topic at hand, which is getting started in a new sport/activity/venture/whatnot. Ahem.So this past Wednesday, I participated in my first group trail run, organized and hosted by the same folks (Aravaipa Running) that put on the 7k I did, and next month's runs I'm signed up for. It's a weekly "open run" that invites people of all levels to come and run for an hour -- distance varies on experience level, and the location rotates weekly. This week, the run happened to be fairly close to me -- about as close as any real trails are -- so that took away my "don't want to drive the distance" excuse. So I signed up.Read the first paragraph of this blog entry, and you can probably figure out my train of thought. "Oh, what am I doing? I'm going to be the slowest, most pathetic person there. I'm going to be surrounded by a whole bunch of experienced people who are way fitter and faster, and I'm going to hold the group up, and why am I doing this???" Staying anonymous and in the shadows would be easier -- who actually holds people to Facebook RSVPs anyway? -- so as a way to hold myself accountable, I posted a "Newbie Alert!" message on the Facebook group, letting people know that I'm slower than a herd of turtles in peanut butter, brand-new to this trail running thing, and rather nervous about my first group run.If I go on the offense with advanced notice of all the things I'm going to do wrong, at least they have a heads up, right?Responses I got were all positive and encouraging. The "Fun" Group -- what would otherwise be called the "slow" or "beginner" group, but they put a positive spin on it -- was touted as the place to be, so I headed out the door Wednesday evening, still nervous, but also excited. I'm not much of a groupie...but left to my own devices, I am a complete social hermit, and also a somewhat lazy runner, so I figured the motivation of going to new trails and staying with a group will be good training for me and my future running plans, and it'll also help me be more social and interact with people in a positive, fun environment.By the time I got to the trailhead, there were a dozen cars there, and people starting to cluster together. Running shoes, GPS watches, hydration packs...yup, I'm in the right place. I used the few minutes that it took to park and get my stuff (headlamp, water, phone) to gather my wits, scope out the setting, and start making my way over to the group.This is the hardest part for me. I'm not good at initiating, and the socially insecure part of me wants to huddle back and be a wallflower, and wait for someone to notice me. I think, if my expectation had been having the red carpet rolled out for me just because I was a new face that showed up, I would have been sorely disappointed. Groups [...]