Category Archives: endurance

Scoot Boots

If you ride horses on trails, you have probably heard about Scoot Boots. As relative newcomers to the boot market compared to other brands, the Australian company offer color options on the boots, a different design approach to the actual fit, and claims of easy application without sacrificing the ability to stay secure during the ride.

At the Equine Affaire in November 2018, I spent a lot of time with the Scoot Boot reps who had traveled from Australia to present their product. I was honestly surprised as I found myself going back 3 times with follow-up questions and thoughts to look at the boots over and over. In the end, I decided the company really was on to a good idea with their approach and became a stockist (dealer). I now have a full fit kit of all the Scoot Boot sizes and offer Scoot Boots in addition to Renegades and Easy Care products.

Elijah sporting his new Scoot Boot slims with Lime Green straps!

What I love about these boots: open heel bulb design to prevent build up of sand and debris that causes rubs, more forgiving fit which would be useful when booting as a temporary solution following a lost shoe, and easy of application (no mallet required).

Since these are boots we don’t have experience with on our personal horses, I have already purchased a full set for Teddy to use in his conditioning as we get ready for the upcoming endurance season.

Feel free to contact me to discuss your booting needs!

NEATO Endurance Ride

It’s been 6 weeks since our last blog post. We haven’t done a very good job of keeping up. This weekend, Team No Child Left Behind rode in the NEATO Endurance ride, held on our home turf at the Arcadia Forest in RI. Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of pictures because the whole family was riding. Anna and I took all 5 horses over on Friday and set up camp while the kids were in school. The weather was awesome – lows around 50 and highs in the low 70s.

Anna rode Amira in the 25 mile ride with all 3 kids. Alex rode Teddy, Vicki rode Duchess, and Amanda rode Huey. Their ride started at 7:45. Unfortunately, on the first loop, Teddy slipped on a foot bridge and scraped up all 4 legs. When they arrived at the hold about 2 miles later, he was lame and was pulled from the ride. The injuries are not serious, but he will get a couple of weeks off (and antibiotics) to recover.
Anna was able to head back out of the second loop for 10 miles with Amanda and Vicki. They all did great and got their completion in about 4:25. That was about 40 minutes faster than the last 25 mile ride for Huey and Amira.

Mojo and I had a different day. We rode in our first 50 mile ride (first for both of us). Our ride started at 7:00. I saddled up and got on about 6:45 and Mojo was hopping. Literally. I took him in the arena and spent about 10 minutes making him trot circles, side pass, and just work to calm him down. He wasn’t thrilled about the rest of our herd being in camp, but he was amped up to race. After the Pine Tree rides, I decided to make some changes to Mojo’s feed. I felt he was running out of energy at the end of 25 miles, so we added about a quart of Triple Crown Complete to his breakfast. He definitely had the energy I wanted.

working Mojo before the start

The Trail is open!

the view from the front of the race

As soon as the trail opened, we headed out with the lead pack. Mojo was ready to race. There was a 10 minute stop and go (basically a forced 10 minute rest) that was 9 miles into the course. We arrived there in under and hour and tied for 1st place. Every time I tried to hold Mojo back, he wanted to just keep racing forward to stay with the leaders. Throughout the first loop of 20 miles, we spent better than 5 miles setting the pace in the lead. We completed the first 20 miles in 2:21 for an 8.5 mph average, in a 3 way tie for first with Catherine and Monica.

waiting to head out on the second loop

waiting to head out on the second loop

While I had an awesome time riding in the lead, I knew that Mojo couldn’t sustain that kind of speed all day and it took a few more minutes for him to make pulse during the hold than the other horses we were with. So the second loop started of 15 miles with us 5 minutes behind the leaders and all alone. While on trail alone, he wasn’t nearly as competitive and didn’t have the same drive for speed as when other horses were in sight. A group of 3 riders caught up to us about 4 miles into the second loop and Mojo and I rode with them for the rest of that loop. At the end of the second loop, we were in a 4 way tie for 3rd (with Evelyn, Jeff, and Mackenzie) and had completed 35 miles at about an 8.0 mph average. Still too fast.

Again, Mojo took a while to make pulse and he wasn’t eating as much as I would have liked. He was still drinking at every opportunity on the trail and his attitude was still good. He didn’t have the same zip as at the start, but he was still willing to race whenever he felt someone was challenging his position.

On the 3rd loop, Jeff and I left about 5 minutes after Evelyn and Mackenzie. During the hold, I had learned of Teddy’s injury and more specifically, where on the trail it happened. Right before I left, Anna and the girls came in for the end of their ride. As Jeff and I headed out, we both planned to slow things down for the last 15 miles and focus on taking care of the horses to ensure we got through the last vet check without issues.

Unfortunately, my focus on where Teddy got hurt predisposed me to thinking we were headed a certain way. I missed a critical warning and took a wrong turn, following the return of the loop we were on. By the time I realized we were in the wrong spot and got back to where we went off course, we ended up adding almost 3 miles to our ride. It wasn’t a huge issue because we had plenty of time. We didn’t see any other riders on our loop until we were within 3 miles of the finish. At that point, 5 others caught up to us. It was a little discouraging that we would have been done by then if I hadn’t taken the wrong turn, but it was nice that both of our horses immediately kicked back into competitive mode and raced to the finish. Jeff and I pulled up a little short of the finish to allow those who caught us to pass and take the spots in the top 10. We felt they had earned it riding us down in the 3rd loop.

In the end, Mojo passed his final vet check and we completed our first 50 miler (with some bonus miles) in 7:39, (6.8mph average) tied for 12th place. Mojo and I are both feeling the effects of the effort today, but I’m sure we will recover just fine and be ready to do more miles next season, as this was our final ride for 2018.

I want to send out a special thanks to Jennifer, Cate, Mary, and Janet who all crewed for our team. They made the holds so much easier, especially for Anna and the kids.

Pine Tree Endurance Ride, 2018

5 riders, 5 horses, 3 dogs, 2 trucks and trailers, 8 days in Fryeburg, Maine.  Team “No Child Left Behind” completed a total of 10 Limited Distance 25 mile rides in 5 days of competition.

All year, our family has been looking forward to the Pine Tree endurance ride week, which is held out of the Fryeburg Fairgrounds in Maine.  It was the family’s top priority for “vacation” this year.  The logistics associated with packing for an 8 day trip with 5 horses, 5 riders, and 3 dogs is daunting.  We maintain a packing list that gets tweaked with each trip and customized a little depending on the location.  We departed CT on Sunday, 8/5, but we started packing and loading trailers. on Wednesday.  Luckily, a local rider offered to deliver hay to the Fryeburg Fairgrounds.  We took 8 bales with us and purchased another 15.  The weather on Saturday was heavy rain, so it was good that we decided to move up our timeline and have most of the packing done by Friday.

Horses never seem to completely cooperate with plans.  Rumor has it, Vicki whispered to Duchess on Friday that she was going on a big trip to ride lots of trails.  Duchess apparently wasn’t fond of that idea and came in out of the pasture limping on Saturday evening with a twisted shoe on her left hind and a swollen fetlock.

I replaced the shoe and Duchess got legs wrapped.  We didn’t give her any anti-inflammatory medications in hopes that she would be sounds enough to ride before the week was over.

Sunday morning, we got up and hit the road by about 10.  Since we were taking both the travel trailer and horse trailer, Anna and I both drove.  We managed to cover the 230 miles with only a single 40 minute lunch stop, that included feeding all members of the family, walking all 3 dogs, refilling horse hay, and offering the horses water (which they wouldn’t drink).  The temps were over 90F so we kept on moving to get to the fairgrounds.  We arrived at camp at set up the electric fencing for the horses and our area.  The rides didn’t start until Tuesday, but we went up a day earlier to ensure we had a good spot and enough area for our team.

It’s time to explain that the crazy is actually genetic.  My parents, Liz and Ken, joined us in Maine.  From Alabama.  With their travel trailer.  The full story is, back in the spring, they asked for our summer schedule to figure out when they could visit.  I gave it to them.  They quite astutely noted that EVERY weekend was booked with something.  I suggested it might be a good adventure for them to join us in Maine for a week of horse riding/camping.  They decided to take us up on the offer.  It turned out to be a huge help for us when dealing with 4 riders on trail at a time.  And Amanda was happy to move into their trailer.  So were the dogs.

The week before we arrived in Maine, it rained.  In fact, it rained enough to create questions about the safety of crossing the Saco River, which happens twice on the 25 mile rides, and 6 times on the 50 mile rides.  On Monday afternoon, we tacked up the 4 horses who were sound (Duchess wasn’t) and went for a short 3 mile ride to include two river crossings.  It was good to let the horses stretch their legs, but we also needed to know if Huey would have to swim the river or could touch.

Huey only had to swim a little and the river was dropping quickly by the day.  We were also a little concerned about the temperatures on Tuesday – highs were predicted in the mid 90s with high humidity driving the heat index well over 100F.  The ride management moved the ride start to 5:00 to try to beat the heat as much as possible.  We had some concerns about Huey’s fitness for handling those conditions, but decided that if we went slow, he could probably finish in the allowed time.  So it was settled.  Tuesday ride was Rob on Mojo, Anna on Amira, Alex (15 years old) on Teddy, and Amanda (8 years old) on Huey.

We you are starting a ride at 5 in the morning with 4 horses and kids involved, that means you get up at 3.  On “vacation”.  For “fun”.

The river crossing and fields were gorgeous as we rode during the sunrise.  One of the challenges of Pine Tree is there is an away hold.  That means that the vets do a check on the condition of the horses, but it’s not in base camp.  This is where my parents came into play. They loaded up the horse feed and people food  (along with tack and other items we might need) and met us at the hold to assist with cooling horses and refueling kids.

It turns out, there were not a lot of entries on Tuesday. Maybe because of the heat.  As a result, our 5:07 ride time was good enough to place in the top 10.  I should note, you only have 5:15 to complete the ride.  We did exactly what we planned and made sure not to overdo it with Huey.  Despite only having 8 minutes to spare, we didn’t turtle, which was surprising.  In endurance, the “turtle” is the last rider who completes the ride in the allowed time (those who go over time are disqualified).

Since we made the top 10, we had 3 of the horses stand for “Best Condition”.  Pine Tree elected to give out a “High Vet Score” award this year, which is one of the components of the Best Condition scoring.  At the awards ceremony, we were completely shocked to find out that Huey, a 17 year old Dartmoor in his first ride, won High Vet Score; the prize was an amazing blanket donated by one of the other riders.  Not only that, I got confirmation from AERC that Huey is THE ONLY Dartmoor registered in AERC.

The rest of Tuesday was spent recovering.  Amanda fell asleep for 3 hours.  We went to the river for a swim to cool off and everyone was ready for an early bedtime.

Wednesday was a day off.  We needed to recover a little from Tuesday and the temperatures were still high.  We basically hung out at camp and took care of the horses.  The kids did go on a short hike with Grandma and Grandpa.  While they were gone, I worked on Amira’s shoes.  On Tuesday, she managed to lose 2 shoes (1 front and 1 hind) in the first 10 miles of trail.  I had all my shoeing supplies with me in case we needed anything, so I pulled her remaining shoes and made some changes to her setup. She was only put into shoes for the first time ever 4 weeks before the ride.  I suspected I needed to put her in a smaller size shoe, but on the trails at home she wasn’t interfering so I rolled the dice.  I lost.  In the ride, she was moving with a new level of determination and interfering whenever she was in the front of our group.  Amira wasn’t exactly cooperative during her shoeing on Wednesday, but the change was exactly what she needed for later in the week.

We took the horses for a little evening hand walking and grazing.

Since Duchess was still borderline on soundness, we decided Vicki would ride Teddy on Thursday and Rob would ride Mojo.  The start time on Thursday was 5:30.  We got up at 3:30.  On vacation. Again.

Mojo and Teddy were in great shape and had plenty of energy. More riders had arrived in camp by this point, so our 4:02 ride wasn’t in the top 10, but we had a blast completing our 25 miles.  It was still hot in the upper 80s and Teddy was a little sore in his legs after the ride, but not enough to be a big problem. At least that’s what we thought at the time.

Over the course of the week, 2 other girls (with ponies) in Amanda’s age range (7-8 years old) had arrived in camp. The three quickly became great friends and even spent time grazing ponies together.

Friday was another day off.  This time, I volunteered as a scribe for the vets.  It was very educational because I got to see how the horses at the front looked compared to the middle of the pack.  I also got to see what various problems looked like with soundness, tack galls, and dehydration.

Friday afternoon, we assessed Duchess and decided she was sound and could go on a test ride. We tacked up all 5 horses and went out for 4 miles.  We needed Duchess to go through the river and do some faster work to make sure we didn’t still have a lingering problem.

Duchess looked great and had plenty of excess energy from not working all week.  So, the plan for Saturday was all 5 horses and all 5 riders.

Saturday morning, we got up one more time at 3:30 for a 5:30 start.  On vacation.

Unfortunately, during a quick trot out before the start, Teddy was lame.  A quick probe of his hind leg muscles revealed extreme sensitivity and some residual cramps.  Grandma noted Alex was actually smiling when he got told to untack Teddy and keep him in camp.  Alex enjoyed his ride on Tuesday, but was fine with only doing 1 25 miler for the week.  So, we headed out with Rob on Mojo, Anna on Amira, Vicki on Duchess, and Amanda on Huey.

Over the course of the week, Amanda had figured out that she could keep her feet dry if she took them out of the stirrups.  Friday night, the temperatures dropped into the 50s and the highs were only in the low 70s during the ride.  It was a welcome change after a week of heat, but the temperature drop likely contributed to Teddy’s tight muscles.

The 25 miles on Saturday were great for Mojo, but young girls who have been in camp all week and already spent a lot of time in the saddle can be challenging on the last ride of the week.  We all completed the ride, but there were a few tears (from sore legs and kids who didn’t want to trot any more).  We finished around the 5 hour mark.  Again, the ride was small on the last day as many riders headed home, so all 4 of us were in the top 10.  We competed for Best Condition, and this time, the shock was that Duchess won High Vet Score!  Vicki also got a great blanket!

Throughout the week, Amanda insisted on handling Huey for her vet checks.  She occasionally needed some assistance, but she did a great job with her pony.

On Sunday morning, we were not in a rush to get out of camp since it would only take about 6 hours to get home.  As a result, we got hired by some other riders to clean their stalls before we left.  We hit the road around 10 and did the drive home with only a single stop again.  About 8 miles from home, Rusty got tired of laying in the floor and decided to sit with Vicki for the last few miles.

Overall, it was a great ride week.  10 rides, 10 completions.  We look forward to next year!

Catching up

As most of our friends and blog followers know, we stay pretty busy.  Lately, that has been an understatement.  While I would like to be going to bed right now, I feel we are way overdue for a blog update, so I’ll get to it with a few recent highlights.

The kids participated in the Mystic Pony Club summer camp last weekend.  Alex took Mojo, Vicki took Duchess, and Amanda took Huey.  The temperatures were in the mid to upper 90s every day, but the kids did 2 lessons each day.  Heather Navarrete was the instructor for 5 of their lessons and all 3 kids made very good progress on their eventing.  Alex and Mojo turned out to be an excellent match.  Amanda and Huey even did a small cross country course on the last day of camp.

Here are a few videos of the kids practicing cross country and pictures from camp.

Alex and Mojo cross country lesson

Vicki and Duchess cross country lesson

Amanda and Huey cross country lesson

After camp ended, the horses and kids got a couple of days off.  I was fortunate that work gave us an extended 4th of July holiday.  On Thursday, Alex and I went to the Mystic Seaport for a blacksmith private class.  We spent 3.5 hours in the shop learning about tending a coal forge, different tools, and actually making some hooks.  This is something Alex has been interested in for a while so we bought some lessons for his birthday last month.  I have been working on acquiring some tools so we can do some projects at home.

On Saturday, we took Mojo and Duchess to the Horse Power Farm jumping derby.  Alex rode Mojo in the pre-elementary division.  They did pretty well with only 1 refusal.  Alex was a little surprised at how hot Mojo was on the course because Mojo is so lazy in the warmup.  It was a little funny to watch Mojo come alive out in the open.

Vicki rode Duchess in pre-elementary and also had 1 refusal (on the same jump as Alex).  They are still making good progress as a team.

After they finished, I rode Mojo in Beginner Novice.  My ride didn’t go quite as smoothly as I was thrown on the 7th jump.  I was allowed to get back on and finish schooling, but then had 3 refusals on the last jump.  Clearly we have work to do.

Today was the West Greenwich Horseman’s Association Hunter Pace #2.  The whole family rode the 10 mile course and we took 1st place in the Hilltopper and Junior divisions.  I didn’t take but a couple of pictures, so here is one:

The schedule for the summer is packed with horse activities, but that’s just what we do.

 

Team No Child Left Behind dress rehearsal

This weekend was the NEATO campout at Arcadia WMA in RI.   We logged over 6 hours of saddle time and 29+ miles of riding.   It presented the perfect opportunity for our family to test out camping with the travel trailer (without hookups), 5 horses, and multiple days of riding.  Friday afternoon I traded in the Acadia for a used Chevy 2500HD.  It was a decision Anna and I have been debating for a while and we finally found the deal we were looking for.  Within about an hour of driving the truck off the lot, it was hooked up to the travel trailer and we were headed out to set up camp.

While the camping area only had a few others staying over, we practiced setting up in a compact manner as will need to at endurance rides.  It took about an hour and a half to set up camp.  We made 5 electric fence paddocks for the horses (each horse in a separate paddock).  None of the paddocks shared sides so if any 1 horse runs through their fence, it doesn’t result in other loose horses.

Once the horse were settled in, we cooked some burgers on the grill and at dinner (a little after 9)!

One of the major advantages of this weekend was the proximity to home.  Anna left before 10 and went home (less than 20 minutes away) to take care of the dogs, rabbits, and horses not at camp.  With temperatures in the 50s overnight, we slept great and the horses were not bothered by bugs.

We got up Saturday morning and cooked eggs and bacon for breakfast.  Alex spent all his spare time reading books and finished 3 books over the weekend.

The temperatures on Saturday stayed in the 60s.  We had a couple of small rain showers early, but nothing too bad.  We finally headed out about 10 for our morning ride.   The horse/rider combos were Rob on Mojo, Anna on Amira, Alex on Teddy, Vicki on Duchess, and Amanda on Huey.  We got in 11 miles before lunch at about a 4.5mph average.  The point of the weekend wasn’t speed, but rather logistics.  We spent time working on things like walking horses into water, fueling the riders, and taking turns with leading the group.

While drinking from the creek, Amira and Huey both slid off the sand bar and went for a swim.  What is a “little deeper” for Amira was a complete swim for Huey.  Amanda loved it.  When we took them in a pond for water, Amira discovered it was fun to splash lots of water up onto her belly.

Overall, it was a good morning ride.  All the horses had excellent heart rate recoveries and were happy to eat some hay and drink some water when we got back to camp.  We had lunch and then retired to the trailer for an afternoon rest (also known as napping).

We went back out for another slow and easy ride before dinner that was just shy of 5 miles.  Dinner was tacos in the trailer and then we joined up with some others for a campfire.  Again, Anna headed home to take care of the others.  It’s easy to get kids to go to bed after 3.5 hours of riding.

Sunday morning was a little slower starting as we slept in a little.  More eggs and bacon to start the day and then we saddled up to ride.  The temperature was a little warmer (70s) and a little more humid.  The horses were all a bit calmer than on Saturday.  We focused the ride on forced fueling as we had some issues on Saturday with some (Vicki) constantly running out of fuel.  This is a recurring issue that we haven’t completely solved.  We are making progress, but it comes down to forcing her to eat every 30-40 min on the trail.

When it was all done, we rode over 29 miles and spent over 6 hours in the saddle.  Mojo and Teddy both still pulsed down with no problems. The ponies and Amira were a little slower pulsing down after the last ride, but all 3 would have met endurance ride criteria.

Lessons learned:

  1.  We used ALL of the water in the travel trailer.  In the future, we will use paper products when dry camping to minimize the use of water for washing dishes.
  2. Horse water.  We used over 90 gallons of water for the horses in under 48 hours. That doesn’t include what they drank on the trail.  Right now we take a water tank in the trailer that is full, plus 4- 7 gal water jugs that can be refilled.  We may add another water tank to the bed of the truck.
  3. Electric fence. Our setup is pretty good they way we have it.  We can streamline a few things by adding a few more extension cord reels for storage, but it’s not critical.
  4. Tack. The tack for all the horses is working pretty well. We are debating changing out Teddy’s saddle and bridle setup, but what we have works for now.
  5. Boots.  Amira and Huey are still being booted.  We had boot problems on Huey 4 times.  I think it’s time to put him into shoes.  Probably Amira too.

At the end of the weekend, we all had a good time and all the horses are ready to go to Pinetree in 6 weeks.  We will continue to train and plan for a week of camping with 5 horses!

Introducing Amira!

If 6 horses are good, 7 must be better!  Today we brought home a 6yo, 15hh chestnut BLM Mustang mare named Amira.  On 2/15/2012, Amira was captured as a yearling from the Stone Cabin Horse Management Area (HMA) located in Nevada.  Here is a link to the information about Stone Cabin HMA. She lived in the holding pens until October of 2015 when she was processed for an internet adoption and shipped to Rhode Island.  She was only started under saddle about 8 months ago by local trainer Jeremy Reid.  We watched Jeremy compete at the Mustang Makeover in 2015 and we were impressed with his talent.  From what we have seen of Amira so far, he did a good job.  Amira went to a new home where she continued to get training, although life commitments led the owner to offer her up for sale.  Amira lived at Outback where we boarded our own horses in the past, and she even had the stall that Precious once occupied.  Anna kept remarking about how similar Amira and Precious look, although Amira has a few inches on Precious (maybe 10″).

Although Amira is 15hh, she has a very narrow build.  Our primary objective with Amira is distance riding and she will fill that niche as a possible mount for multiple family members.  With that said, she is Anna’s horse and Anna will be doing the majority of the continued training with her, including lots of trail work, dressage, and jumping.  We have big goals this year of doing a lot of distance riding and everyone is looking forward to our ride schedule.

It was late when we got home, so I don’t have any pictures from our farm to share, however, I did steal some from her sale ad.

If you want to follow along with the adventures of Amira and the rest of our herd, you can always subscribe via email on our website.

2017 Northeast Challenge Endurance Ride

This weekend was spent in Buckfield, Maine at the Northeast Challenge endurance ride.  We left on Friday morning with the whole family in the truck, 3 horses (Mojo, Teddy, and Duchess) on the trailer, and plenty of camping gear.  After a little over 5 hours of driving, we arrived at a gorgeous base camp in a hay pasture.  The sites were all marked off to show clear division of where your area was.  Since we brought 3 horses, we were allowed to use 2 sites.  We gave the horses a little break to eat some grass and drink water before vetting in.  With just under 50 riders, there was no wait at the vet check.  This was the first ride for Alex as a rider, Teddy, and Duchess, so we planned to keep it conservative during the ride.

 

The rider’s brief was at 5 and immediately after was a pig roast for dinner.  The ride manager invites all the land owners (over 40) that allow the trails to cross their property to join the camp for dinner.  The food was great and we got to meet some new friends around camp.  Ride camps get quiet early the night before a ride.  By 8pm the sun was setting, the temperatures were dropping, and everyone was headed to bed.

We got up at 5:00 to eat breakfast and watch the 100 mile riders head out at 6:00.  The temperatures dropped into the low 40s overnight.  The horses were happy to have a layer for warmth.  Alex started the morning with a cup of hot water (we forgot to pack tea bags) and Vicki had a cup of coffee to warm up.

There is a note on our endurance camping packing list: “pack clothes warmer than you expect to need”.  That was definitely true this time around.  We started the ride at 7:00 with layers of clothes on for the first loop of 13.8 miles.  The horses were peppy and ready to go.  We didn’t take a break until 5 miles in when we stopped for some grass and water.

The trails through the woods were phenomenal.  There was a lot of up and down through the mountains, but also plenty of areas that were flat and fast on grass paths through the trees.

We finished our first loop of 13.8 miles with a 4.8 mph average.  It was a little slower than we planned, but the goal was to make sure we didn’t over stress Duchess in particular.  We also knew the second loop was faster and we could make up a little time if needed.

All 3 horses cleared the vet check within minutes of arriving at base camp.  We chose to go back to our trailer, remove tack, and let the horses have free time in their paddocks.  The hold is only 45 minutes long, but this also allowed Alex and Vicki to eat food without holding horses.  Anna and Amanda were our ride-crew for the weekend and had everything ready for us.  We all had to shed layers of clothing for the second loop as the temperatures hit 70F by 10:00.  Luckily, that’s about where the mercury stopped for the day making it perfect weather.

We headed out on our second loop which was 17 miles (although we thought it was only going to be 15 miles at the time).  We managed to bump up our speed to an average of 5.4 mph on the second loop.

At the end of the day, we finished 30.7 miles in 6:09 (yes, 6 hours of saddle time).  There was 3,768 ft of elevation over the ride.  All three horses did wonderful and Alex and Vicki both had a great time (although Alex did say he wants to do more conditioning for himself in the future).

We chose to camp for a second night and watch the 50 mile riders finish (the have 12 hours to ride 50 miles, including 2 45 minute holds) and the 100 mile riders (24 hours allowed time including holds).  I’ll confess, we didn’t stay up much past dark to watch 100 mile riders do vet checks and holds.  This morning, there was a pancake breakfast and awards ceremony for the 100 mile riders.  Three of the riders present completed the East Coast Triple Crown this year, which is the same horse/rider team completing these three tough 100-milers: the Old Dominion 100 in June, the Vermont 100 in July and the Northeast Challenge in August.

As the awards were being handed out, Vicki leaned over and whispered, “Dad, I want to ride the Triple Crown one day.”

I want to throw out a huge “Thank You” to Blaine, Sarah, and everyone else who made this a wonderful weekend for our family.  The kids were talking about “next year” and who will ride what distance.  Amanda is planning to toughen up and put the miles on her pony to be able to join the fun.  We look forward to seeing everyone at more rides.

Photo by Clowater Art & Photography

We will be purchasing this photo, along with others from Wanda Clowater.  Support your ride photographers!

Run and Ride

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.

Primal Diet and Fitness

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:

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/

https://philmaffetone.com/

 

Dakota returns

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!