This morning I ran the Griswold Sunflower 6k road race at Buttonwoods Farm. At only 2.5 miles from the house, it doesn’t get much more local than that. Before I talk about the results, I want to give an update from my May post “Primal Diet and Fitness“. If you didn’t read it, or don’t remember it, please go back and take a look. It has been almost 3 months since that post. I have continued to follow the Primal diet and training approach for endurance sports. My weight loss steadied out with my new weight at 164 lbs; I lost 21 lbs. I may still lose a little more, but I feel great and I definitely feel that I have found a sustainable eating plan. On the training front, I have continued to limit my heart rate to 140 bpm in my marathon run training. I am not worried about a specific speed goal. On Thursday of this week, I did 16 miles in 3:00. It was my longest run to date and my heart rate did creep up in the heat. However, I wasn’t crippled from the run and recovered quickly.
With my focus on distance, I haven’t done any speed work at all. In fact, a sprint triathlon in June is the only other time I have truly tested my speed in the past 4 months. So today’s 6k race was a little bit of a question mark in my mind; I really didn’t know what kind of pace I could sustain.
It turns out, I was able to run the race in 26:21 for a 7:04 min/mile pace. That was good enough for 18th out of 566 runners and 3rd (out of 30) in the men’s 40-49 age group. I can live with that!
After I came home and had some breakfast (I don’t eat before running), we loaded up the trailer with 5 horses and headed to Arcadia in RI. Today I rode Mojo, Anna rode Dakota, Vicki rode Duchess, Alex rode Teddy, and Amanda rode Huey. This was a switch up ride for Alex and Anna to test out some things and the first time we have taken Duchess out for a trail ride at a different location. All the horses behaved for the most part. Mojo won the “Most Typical Arab” award for his spook at a butterfly flying across the trail. We didn’t ride too hard and did 10.5 miles in 2:30. When we got home, it was time to put some steaks on the grill and call it a day. The weather was great and we made the most of it.
This blog post is about 2 related topics that are important to me: diet and fitness. I am writing about this to document my own journey and share some of what I have learned with friends who may be interested. It’s not intended to be a judgement or critical of anyone else’s lifestyle or choices. This is something that has helped me and I want to share it.
I want to emphasize that I think the diet portion of this topic is valuable to everyone, regardless of your interest in human endurance sports or fitness. I would encourage anyone who has struggled with weight, or who would even like to be just a little lighter, to read “Primal Blueprint”. That book, and the companion “Primal Endurance” were introduced to me by a friend. Both are written by Mark Sisson who was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Even if you ignore the fitness portion, the diet insights are powerful and significant. If you haven’t read “Wheat Belly” put that on your list too.
I don’t claim to be an expert on these topics. These are simply my thoughts from my research and experience. The numbers provided are my numbers. They are simply provided as my numbers, not for comparison/ranking/etc.
In March, I decided that I would run my first marathon in October (the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington DC). While I have run 5 half marathons, I have never moved up to longer distances. Anyone who knows me, knows I research topics a lot before making a decision (cars, saddles for horses, etc). In this case, the subject of study is training regimes for marathons. The first thing I knew was I wanted to drop some weight during my training.
I like data (I am an engineer after all). I have used MyFitnessPal to track calories and nutrition for a long time. I don’t track every single meal every day, but rather do short periods of analysis such as 7-10 days at a time. This allows me to understand the source of my calories and composition (carbs, protein, fat). Over the past 8 years of working on my fitness, I have learned I can lose weight if I significantly increase my training. For the past few years, my weight has been hovering around the 185lb mark. My goal was to drop to 170 lbs by mid summer and hold that through the marathon.
In late March, I switched to a LCHF (low carb high fat) diet. I have lost 11 lbs in 8 weeks, including 2.5 weeks with 0 workouts due to a back injury. Am I bragging? Sure, a little. I am already almost at my original goal of 170 lbs and I haven’t even really started training for the marathon. I no longer have a weight goal; I have just decided to see where I end up.
On a typical day, I consume less than 100g of carbohydrates. Anna read “Primal Blueprint” too and our entire family shifted to the LCHF mindset. Is it easy? Not at first. It takes discipline to stick with the program and a lot more planning for meals. We don’t strive for perfection. We try to stick to the plan 80% of the time. The biggest change is moving away from the breads and grains. Once you get past that, everything is easier.
So what do we actually eat? For breakfast I eat 2 eggs and usually some ham steak or bacon. Lunch may be a small bag of Krave jerky and a banana. For snacks throughout the day, I keep a container of Planters Wholesome Nuts (Almonds, Cashews, Macadamia) and eat 2-3 oz throughout the day. Dinner may be something like fresh salmon, asparagus, and tossed salad, The point is less processed food, less grains, and minimal dairy products.
Shifting over to the fitness subject, I will say I have not made up my mind on the “Primal Endurance” method of training, but I’m going to stick with it for a while to see how it goes. Also, this particular portion is specifically from the “Primal Endurance” book. “Primal Blueprint” has similar fundamentals, but it is targeting to a more basic approach. The fundamental basis of Primal Endurance is MAF or Maximum Aerobic Function. MAF is a heart rate calculated in the simplest form by taking 180 and subtracting your age. So for me, MAF is 140bpm. Again, boiling down to the barest of fundamentals, you train to maintain heart rate below MAF. Over time, this results in the body becoming adapted to relying on fat as a fuel instead of relying on carbohydrates. To be clear, MAF and Zone training are not the same. They have different goals and different calculations. There are lots of blog posts and articles by people with a lot more knowledge on this than mine which explain some of the differences. MAF training is about building a significant aerobic base. There are also periods of high intensity strength and speed work.
I was on travel a lot in March/April, so my training was on treadmills and stationary bikes. I limited my HR to 140, although I typically run on hilly courses, so I wasn’t sure about the comparison of my pace using MAF.
Yesterday, I ran a hilly course that is 4.3 miles, limiting to 140 bpm (avg was 139 bpm). At the end of the run, my average pace was 12:51 min/mile. Today, I repeated the same course, again limiting to 140 bpm and averaged 12:55 min/mile. I have 40 comparison points for that exact same course within the past 9 months. I know from my data that by running an avg pace of 9:45 (~3:00/mile faster), my avg HR is 153 bpm. 153 bpm also correlates to ~87% of LT using previous data. This definitely includes periods of HR up to ~175 on hills. Clearly, I am not staying completely aerobic during the faster run with a 153 bpm HR.
I ran a hilly half marathon in February with an average heart rate of 165 bpm (max of 190 bpm during that run) and a pace of 8:55 min/mile. It was my 5th time on that particular course.
So what? MAF is slower, that’s what. I found a very insightful comment on a post in one of the Primal Endurance groups: “If there is one thing we know about this method, it is that it is a long game. Adaptation takes time. None of these short-term studies are going to cut it. That said, it is true that LCHF + aerobic work alone isn’t the best way to develop top end speed or power for short, highly glycolytic events. It’s still, IMO, the best way for athletes of any sport to take care of their health and longevity.”
Right now, to stay below 140 bpm, I walk if there is any incline. I shuffle along on flat ground, and I run if going downhill. One observation is I don’t get the “runner’s high” after running at only 140 bpm. I also don’t get sore or really even tired. After running today (for 55 min) I ate a banana for lunch and was satisfied. I do feel there is more impact on my knees from the slow pace and shuffling motion, so I need to work on my form to fix that.
There is a disconnect between having time/speed goals for training and the MAF approach. You will get faster over time with MAF, but it will be measured in months and years, not weeks. This isn’t the approach to meet a certain speed at an event in the near term. Instead, this is a methodology to build lifetime fitness and endurance potential. Again, I haven’t decided if I will stay aligned with the MAF approach. I simply wanted to share some of what I have found with friends who may be interested.
I would love to hear feedback on any of this. Feel free to leave a comment or send me an email. Here are some links to other sites to read more on these topics:
A few months ago, Dakota left to become an occasional trail pony. While not every horse that comes to our farm is a lifetime horse (or pony), it was clear in the weeks and months after Dakota left, that both Anna and Alex really missed him and I had rushed the decision to move him on. This week, we got the news that the girl who had Dakota had a fall and was scared to ride. Time hadn’t helped the issue and the family was considering passing Dakota along to some other friends, but wanted to check with us first. Their was no hesitation. Anna and Alex picked up Dakota on Friday. We are currently thinking we will keep Dakota as a trail pony and not stress this arthritic issues by doing arena work. Maybe he will ride in a LD endurance event, but I don’t see 50 mile rides in his future.
This afternoon, I rode Mojo, Vicki rode Teddy, and Anna rode Dakota for a very short route. Alex and Amanda decided it was too cold to ride since it was in the upper 20s. I was testing a saddle (that didn’t work out), so about 30 minutes was plenty of ride time. Anna enjoyed the reunion (and I think prefers his calm demeanor over the Arabs that Vicki and I prefer). Welcome home Dakota!
Alex has not yet gotten to do an endurance ride and Vicki wants to try a 50 this year. We have told them both, it requires lots of time on the trails for the horse and rider. Yesterday, it was in the 60s and gorgeous. Unfortunately, I spent the day trimming hooves (for others) and didn’t get home until after dark. This morning, it was in the 30s and windy, but we saddled up anyways. I rode Mojo, Alex rode Teddy (their first trail ride together) and Vicki rode Devil. It was very windy so we expected the horses to be spooky and flighty. We were pleasantly surprised to find they were not much different from a regular ride. We did a nice loop into some field that we hadn’t ridden on for a couple of years and then headed up into the main part of the forest. It was wicked cold on top of the hills and we decided to cut the ride a little short. We ended up only riding 7 miles in 1.5 hours, but Teddy did great with Alex.
After we got back, Teddy and Devil had both worked up a good sweat, so they got coolers and some stall time with hay and water to warm up and dry off. An hour later, Devil was lame from what we believe was Tying Up. For those not familiar, it’s basically muscle cramps. Hand walking helped some. We dosed him with electrolytes and did call the vet a little to discuss things with her. If it hasn’t resolved by morning, we will have her out to see if we are missing something. In the summer, it’s easy to think about adding salt and keeping horses hydrated, but in the winter, we don’t think about it as much. I suspect Devil was just a little low on fluids before we started the ride and with his thick winter coat, he sweated enough out to cause a minor problem.
Anna also got to take King out for a short 4 mile ride later in the afternoon, but Amanda elected to spend most of the day inside because she doesn’t have enough (read any) body fat to maintain temperatures when it’s blustery out.
Pinetree Pioneer Rides were held at the Fryeburg Fairgrounds over 5 days from Tuesday, August 9 through Saturday, August 13. There was a 50-55 mile event and a LD (Limited Distance) 25-30 mile event every day for 5 days. The Pioneer Ride is the three middle days, and totals 155 miles of riding. This was to be Vicki’s first distance ride. Alex was unable to ride; Dakota has been lame and Alex was still dealing with a double ear infection and sinus infection.
The logistics required to travel and camp with your horses for an endurance ride are not to be under estimated. When it is a whole family going to camp and leaving the majority of the herd at home, it takes a few days of prep just to leave the house. We started making our packing lists weeks ago. Leading up to this trip, I printed the lists and kept making updates as we figured out what we needed to add. Sunday and Monday were spent going through the camping gear to make sure everything was there and loading into totes. We also packed the horse trailer with hay, shavings, tack, extra tack, and everything we could imagine needing. Once all the camping gear was loaded into the truck bed (around the gooseneck hitch), clothing and sleeping bags in the horse trailer, and tack in the trailer, we were ready to leave.
We hit the road on Tuesday morning at 0900 and headed to Maine! The first stop was 35 minutes into the drive for a couple of items we needed at Wal-mart. The second stop was only 20 minutes later for a bathroom break. We decided to skip lunch and just finish the drive (with no more stops) to get the horses off the trailer faster. That turned out to be a mistake, because once we got to camp, it took over an hour to get the horses settled and to the point we could unload enough to eat. In the future, we will ensure we have eaten before arriving at camp.
Once things we set in camp, we vetted in the horses for the ride and took a break. Our campsite consisted of an electric fence paddock for the horses, canopy for the horses, canopy for our kitchen area, stove, coffee pot, 2 tents, folding table…. The chuck box we used for storing food and such was built by my Dad in the 60’s when he was in scouting. I would say it has gotten some miles.
The ride camp had a coordinated dinner that you could participate in, so we did. After dinner each night, the awards for the day’s ride were given out and then the ride brief was conducted for the next day. We arrived on Tuesday, so we got to see the first day awards and hear some feedback about the trails.
We have learned from previous rides, the endurance ride camps get quiet early. It seems everyone wants to go to bed early. Of course, since we had just traveled in, our crew wasn’t as tired, so we didn’t fall asleep quite as fast.
Wednesday morning, the 50 mile ride started at 0530. Our camp setup was right next to the vet area and the start/finish. Anna and I were up at 4:45 with Vicki only shortly after. Alex and Amanda slept in a little. We cooked up some eggs and sausage for breakfast. While there is typically muffins or doughnuts available for a ride breakfast, it is important to fuel your body for the ride, especially when 1 of the bodies is an 80lb, 10 year old girl.
Vicki and I were riding the 25 mile, LD ride. We started at 6:30 and 1 mile into the ride, you cross a river. On the other side, you enter some potato fields where you ride on sandy farm roads for the next 5 miles. While the potato fields were pretty, calm, and fast riding in the morning, they were hot and hotter once the sun started baking things. The first hold was 15 miles into the ride, and was away from base camp at a covered bridge. Anna, Alex, and Amanda met us there with snacks for the horses, snacks for us, and to simply help out. We quickly determined that at this age, Vicki can handle the distance, but needs the support of someone to crew at the holds so she can take a break and fuel up herself.
When you arrive at the hold, your hold time doesn’t actually start until your horse has pulsed down below 64 bpm. In anticipation of that, Vicki and I walked in (us off and leading on foot) the horses for about the last 1/4 mile. Mojo can pulse down quickly, but we wanted to make sure Devil was ready to go. It worked great and Devil was below the threshold as soon as we arrived. 40 minutes later, we were back out of the trail for 11 miles back to camp, including the potato fields. We arrived at base camp and Mojo immediately met the finish pulse criteria of 60 bpm. 6 minutes later, Devil had cooled off and also passed a vet check as “fit to continue”. Vicki and Devil had their first completion with a ride time of 4:27 for 26 miles in the saddle.
Once the horses were taken care of, we hiked a mile down to the river and took a swim to cool off since the temps were in the upper 80s (I thought Maine was supposed to be cold?).
Some people at the Pinetree ride actually ride every day. However, many ride a day and then take a day off. Because we did our first ride on the second day, there were only 11 entries in the LD ride for our day. Even though our time wasn’t terribly slow, Vicki was the last finisher, which meant she won the “Turtle Award”. In the endurance world, the motto is “To finish is to win” and we have been teaching that to the kids as we train. Winning the turtle isn’t demeaning, because it is still a completion. There are actually some riders who compete to collect turtle awards. Vicki was all smiles at the awards ceremony as she collected her ride prize, her Jr rider award (a blanket she slept with every night since), and her Turtle.
No one in our family had trouble falling asleep on Wednesday. We took Thursday off, and I was glad we did! I listened to the sound of ~30 riders leaving camp at 0530 (all distances started at 0530 on Thursday and Friday due to the heat) and then I went back to sleep for another hour. After getting up and eating, I broke out the hammock. There were not a lot of trees available, but with the truck parked just so, the hammock fit nicely between the horse trailer ties and the stake pocket ties on the truck. Amanda and I tested it out for a nice hour nap. After, we walked the horses around for some grazing (Vicki decided to ride bareback).
Thursday was HOT! The camp thermometer broke 100F in the shade. We went out to get more ice for our cooler and some ice cream. We also went to a different part of the river for a swim to cool off again. In the late afternoon, Vicki and I rode the horses bareback down to the river. We took them into some deeper areas and Vicki and Devil actually got to swim (it wasn’t deep enough to cause Mojo to swim). Thursday night dinner was lobster night and after the ride brief, we went to bed for a 0400 wake up. While Vicki was very happy to have finished her first ride, she did talk to me about strategy before we fell asleep. She said, “Dad, can we ride a little faster tomorrow. I don’t want to Turtle. I want to Win.” I told her we would ride within our horses’ abilities and the priority was to finish with everyone in good condition, but yes, we could go faster. She was ok with that. On Friday, we were riding the same LD course as Wednesday.
The temperatures on Friday were definitely hotter than Wednesday. While we did ride a faster first loop, we slowed down some on the second loop and ended up finishing within about 5 minutes of our Wednesday time. Again, both horses were in excellent condition and we both had smiles at the finish. As Vicki and I hand walked our horses the last 1/4 mile, she was already talking about her plans for the next ride. To say she is hooked on endurance is an understatement.
While the temperatures were high, we had nothing but an amazing week. Amanda was talking with everyone about her pony Huey and how she planned to ride him at Pinetree next year. Alex didn’t get to ride, but is still interested in trying it out. Pinetree was definitely a top-notch, family friendly event. Our thanks go out to Tom Hutchinson and Sue Niedoroda for managing the ride and to all the volunteers who put it on. We will see you again in 2017!
Having spent a fair amount of time in the saddle, I decided to document what does, and does not, work for me. Disclaimer – I am still only riding LDs, so I can’t ensure what works for me now will still work as I move up to longer distances. But I am sure if it doesn’t work for 25 miles, it won’t work for 50!
Since getting into endurance last year, I have constantly been trying to figure out what is the most comfortable riding attire for me. Let’s start with I am an English rider. I ride in a Bates all-purpose saddle. I do put Easy Ride stirrups on for rides over about 10 miles and ride with Ariat Terrains and half chaps. I’m not thrilled with the Terrains because they have stretched out (like every other pair of Ariats I own). Eventually, I will replace them with Merrell or some other high-end hiking boot with a smooth sole. As for the half chaps, I have the Ariat Terrain Half Chaps. They are fine for now. I won’t spend the money to replace them until they are damaged or worn out, but I will likely try a different brand that has some ventilation for the outside of my leg.
Having spent plenty of time in standard breeches, I knew those were not what I wanted to wear for long periods of time. Last year, I bought a pair of Rackers tights. I also do some triathlons, so I decided to wear my triathlon shorts under the Rackers in order to eliminate cotton underwear. I like the little cell phone pocket on the leg of the tights. They fit nicely and have belt loops which makes it easy to tuck in a shirt and keep it there. However, the tri shorts underneath doesn’t really work. The bottom edge of the shorts ends up right where my thigh contacts the saddle and rubs about a couple of hours of riding.
I finally ordered a pair of Saddlebums Racing Tights and today was my first ride in them. We went 16 miles and I was in the saddle for 3 hours. My first impression was the material is very similar between the Rackers and Saddlebums. The Saddlebums do not have belt loops and the cut of the waist made me feel like I would have plumber’s crack every time I bent over and probably in the saddle too. With the Rackers, I had tried riding in a cycling jersey, but it was uncomfortable with the belt on. So before heading out this morning, I changed out of my shirt and into a cycling jersey. Since the cycling jersey has an elastic waist and comes down lower in the back, it solved my problem! The Saddlebums also have an integrated chamois pad, so they are designed to wear without underwear. As a guy who has spent time in bike shorts and tri shorts, it feels quite normal to me. I put the amount of padding much closer to tri shorts than bike shorts. The optional pocket on the Saddlebums is much larger than the Rackers and actually has a velcro top (which I like).
Overall, I give the nod to Saddlebums for distance riding and will likely be ordering a second pair. That said, I think my Rackers will become my go-to schooling attire for jumping.
I have found that cycling/triathlon tops make great crossover for endurance riding. I have a Pearl Izumi cycling jacket that is my go-to rain top for horses. It is very compact and fits in my cantel bag with all my other stuff. If you are looking for solutions for men’s attire, check out a local bike shop!
Since Anna and the kids are out of town, I went out for a solo ride on Mojo today. WGHA was having a full camping weekend at Escoheag with rides yesterday and today, so Mojo and I went for a day ride. I had plans of getting there early to have lots of time to ride. Those plans didn’t work out. We finally left the house just after 9 and hit the trails at 10.
Today’s ride was all about working on riding without his best friends and trying out some new gear. I ordered some new riding tights from Saddlebums and wore them today. I was very pleased with them overall, however, I did forget my half chaps and my calves paid the price. I have decided that I prefer to do my distance riding with a biking jersey top. The elastic around the sleeves and waist keep the shirt from flapping around and the pockets on the back come in handy for snacks, cell phone, trash, etc. I also got a new hackamore for Mojo and I love it. He isn’t a heavy horse in the first place and the hackamore lets him eat whenever I offer a stop without getting grass all stuck in his bit. We also did some tweaking of existing gear such as how the saddlebag was attached. There are little things that add up to annoyances or actual rubs/problems over longer distances, so it’s important to get it right.
It was hot out there (mid 80s with high humidity). The humidity definitely impacted our speed. In the end, we rode 16 miles at a 5.3 mph average; just a hair over 3 hours of saddle time.
Mojo definitely enjoyed the 3 stops where I let him wade into the water (2 creeks and a lake). I have no doubt this horse will swim with me if I give him the chance. We did a lot of trotting, but I did let him run a couple of times. He gave me a new top end speed of 23.3 mph! Overall, we had a great ride and we are looking forward to our next endurance ride in 10 days.
It’s been a long day. I did some trimming this morning while Anna and the kids did chores. After lunch, we had a swim with some friends, then back home to ride some horses. Vicki spent some time riding Devil bareback, including jumping him to get ready for the show tomorrow. Of course, tomorrow she will likely be using a saddle. Alex and Vicki both rode Nike for a short session. After that, Vicki rode Dakota (her third ride for the day), Amanda rode Huey, and Alexis rode Ace. Anna and I were able to go for a short trail ride to evaluate Teddy on the trails. Teddy is making great progress with he fear of ears being handled. We are able to halter him reliably and bridle him, although it requires disassembling the bridle. He is not ready to have a bridle passed over his ears and it requires patience to put the brow band back across his head. Anna has been working on this with him every day, and he is showing a lot of improvement. I am confident he will continue to get better and we will get past the problems eventually.
On our trail ride, I was on Mojo and Anna was on Teddy. We just did a 5 mile ride because it was late and the deer flies were ridiculously bad. I had a few that made it into my mouth, my ears, and swarmed my eyes. Teddy is definitely an Arab. He has a nice solid trot, but does have that Arab mindset that large rocks and logs could be a hiding place for a mountain lion. Nothing too dramatic, but just enough to keep the ride interesting. We have introduced Teddy to Glove boots. He wasn’t too fond of them on his hind feet, but once we got moving, he didn’t have time to worry about it.
I did manage to take a short video while we trotted through the corn fields. Anna thinks maybe we should invest in a GoPro to mount on my helmet. Teddy walked through water, has a nice ground covering trot, and Anna looks good on him. His first trail ride was an overwhelming success. The only thing he is lacking is conditioning, but we know how to fix that.
This morning we left on a short trip to check out a new horse. This afternoon, we arrived at home to a herd that was anxious to find out who was on the trailer since the seven of them were all in the pasture.
Teddy is the newest member of the herd. He is a 15.1hh, 9-year-old, bay Arabian gelding.
The rest of the boys are hoping he gets to come out and play with them soon.
Teddy has been acquired because Alex is ready to move back onto Dakota for his primary mount. Nike has been awesome for Alex for the past two years, but Alex will always have a stronger love for Dakota. The two of them have an amazing bond. With that in mind, we have consented which meant Anna needed a different horse. We were expecting that Teddy was a 14.2hh Arabian, but he felt bigger when we rode him. Once we got him home and saw him standing across the fence from the others, we grabbed the tape and checked. Sure enough, he is a solid 15.1hh. The plan is for Anna to ride him through the fall and into next year. At some point, we will decide if Vicki gets him for her next mount (which she is convinced is absolutely the case) or if we need something different. If these kids would stop outgrowing their ponies, life would be much easier.
We have a few things to work on with Teddy. He has some serious head shyness around his ears (worse than Dakota was when we bought him) which makes it difficult to put on a bridle. He also needs work on his trot-canter transitions. Since the kids will be at 4-H camp next week (including Amanda at day camp), she will have 5 days of nothing else to do, so she should have everything fixed before next weekend. Or not. Either way, he is in good condition, barefoot, and a good size, so we have a solid starting point. The million dollar question is, will he be ready for his first 25 mile ride in 4.5 weeks? Stayed tuned for updates!
This morning, Anna and I rode the NEATO 25 mile Limited Distance Endurance ride at Arcadia in RI. Anna rode Dakota and I rode on Mojo. Since Mojo only arrived on Sunday, this was a bit of a gamble. He has experience in LD rides, but the longest I had previously sat on him was about 45 minutes. We took the horses over yesterday afternoon and vetted them in. We set up some corral panels that were tied to the side of our trailer and the horses shared the space (Dakota and Mojo get along great). Alex hung out with me at horse camp while Anna took Vicki and Amanda to their music concert. The girls stopped by on the way home to drop off a few things forgotten in the barn and to pick up Alex; I really like the 15 minutes from home rides. I camped over with the horses.
This morning, we had a sitter at the house at 6 so Anna could get back to the ride. We tacked up and waited a few minutes to head out after the ride started at 7:15. I had been warned that Mojo tends to be strong and hot for the first few miles. I was pleasantly surprised that he wasn’t crazy, he just wanted to go. We held back some and worked on patience and listening. After the first 4 miles, we had been averaging a 7 mph pace which was faster than we planned. We slowed the horses and made sure we didn’t overdo it. Anna was concerned that Dakota was not as fit as at the GMHA ride last fall. We also had some technology issues. While we love our Garmin 310XTs for tracking distance and speed, we also use them for watching the heart rates on the horses. Today, we didn’t have good connections and Dakota’s heart rate reading was running about 35-40 bpm higher than it should have. There was a lot of discussion during the ride about whether or not Dakota was in distress. Of course, every time Anna put him in front and let go of the reins, he started trotting at 12+ mph. I voted that he was fine.
When we came in from the first 15 mile loop, Dakota actually pulsed down to under 64 bpm (the required level) faster than Mojo. That ended the concerns about his fitness and proved that technology isn’t always great. I ended up riding the second loop without the heart rate monitor recording on Mojo because of the bad data. It is just a distraction that isn’t needed and I think Anna and I are both going to shift to using heart rate as an occasional training tool, but compete without it. Maybe.
After our 45 minute hold we headed back out. We ended up averaging about 6.2 mph on the first loop which was fine. We took it easy on the second loop of 10 miles. In the end, we completed the 25 miles with a ride time of about 4:15 and averaged just over 6 mph. Both horses cleared the vet check at the end and were deemed fit to continue, which is the criteria to be awarded a completion.
Mojo and I had a good ride together. We have a few things to work on, such as personal space. Mojo likes to be in my space and stood on my feet more than once. He also likes to use me (and Dakota) as a scratching post for his head. Despite these minor things, he moves out very nicely on the trail and has a powerful trot. He had no problem holding a trot up to 12+mph.
I do have a few things I want to change before another distance ride. Anna and I have both been somewhat unhappy with the halter/bridle combos we bought last year. She has recently switched to using a rope halter and adding a basic trail bridle. I think I’ll be making the same change. Also, I got a few rubs from my clothing (like sock tops on my calf where the calf and saddle touch) that require fine tuning before going up to any longer distances.
In the end, it was a good ride, but now we have to get ponies ready for the kids to show tomorrow!