August 24, 2013

So...Where Are We?

"Do what you love. Love what you do"

My favorite Gem picture


In limbo. My goal is a 50 next fall. Ideally it would be next summer, but it just gets too hot to push her that far for the first time. It will be great to train in and then "compete" in cooler weather. There are a lot of things to accomplish before then and hopefully we can get it all done. I don't want to rush her and risk an injury. It's just not worth it. She isn't a spring chicken anymore and I want to have many, many good years with her still. The hunter paces should be a lot of fun and I hope to see our endurance and stamina improve with each one. That should set us up nicely for a good 25-30 mile ride in the spring. If that ride goes as well as before, I want to get her in a 2 day 50 late spring then spend the sumer upping the ante and fine tuning. I know which 50 I'd like to do, but we will see how things are going. No use getting my hopes up too much.

There are numerous theories out there on endurance training, so I just picked the one that fit me the best :) Just kidding....sort of. I know research and if you look hard enough you can always find something to support your point of view. I honestly believe most people over train and not just with horses, but I see it in running too. Obviously you need to be at the proper fitness and conditioning level to avoid injuries, but really you don't need much beyond that. Rest is just as important, but is sadly overlooked because people enjoy whatever sport it is they are doing. I saw it up north a lot with the riders who raced in the 25 mile distance every single weekend. Their horses were tired and prone to injury because they weren't able to heal the micro trauma that has occurred. Now, if you are trying to win or master a skill then perfect practice makes perfect, but I don't care to win. I just want to finish. Anyway, that's my theory and its what I'm working off of but that actually wasn't really the point I was trying to make. Hmmm...oh yes.

Some people are on the side of slowly building one distance until mastered and then moving up or adding speed. I do agree that you should never add speed and distance at the same time. Keep the distance and go faster or go farther and slow. Anyway. With this theory I should spend all next year perfecting the 25 mile distance before thinking of moving up. I understand this point of view. Why move on if you still aren't good at shorter and inherently less stressful events? But I don't agree with it.

The other side says to get to your goal distance as quickly as possible while being safe and properly prepared. This is where I stand. Gem needs to learn her job and what it is that I expect from her. Why get her used to only being out for 4 hours and then ask for 9? If she spends an entire year doing nothing but shorter rides, the longer distance will come as a shock. When I was training for my half, I didn't do a year of 5k races first. I trained and prepared for my goal: 13.1 miles. Wasting time, energy and miles on a ton of shorter events seems more harmful to me. This is why I'm only hoping to do a single 25 followed by a single multi-day and then hit my 50. I'm using the spring events to test camping, eating, drinking, tack etc....if we fail miserably at the distance we will figure out why, work on improving, and try again until we are "good enough" to move on. I don't want to waste miles on her legs.

The hubs and Pete showing off

If all goes well...then what? Then we keep on keeping on. For now I plan on sticking with 50s. I'd love to do a single day 100 and my eyes are firmly glued on the Vermont 100 and while I don't want to sell Gem short, I just don't see her as a 100 mile horse. If she sails through the 50s and seems game for the challenge, then heck yeah we are going for it! Vermont be prepared! But if not, I'm cool with that too. For that matter if she fails miserably at the 50 and no amount of conditioning will improve it, then we stick to hunter paces and 25s. I'm cool with that too. I do believe that we can own the 50 though and won't settle for less without proof it just can't happen.



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