Category Archives: fitness

NY Adventure 30 mile Endurance Ride and Tie

Was it wet? Yes.

Was it muddy? Yes.

Was it cold? Yes

Did we have fun? Absolutely.

At the start of last week, temps in CT broke 90F. We were running AC units in the house and debating heat strategies for the upcoming New York Adventure ride. However, a cold front moved through that started the rain on Friday and kept going all weekend. Heat was the exact opposite of what we had to deal with.

I took Friday off work and we printed out all the packing lists. It takes a logistics plan to get 4 horses, 5 people, 2 trucks, and 2 trailers loaded and out the door on time. With the rain setting in Friday evening, we wanted to have everything loaded before dinner (~8pm at our house in the summer) so we could get to bed early.

Saturday morning, horses were fed, travel mugs filled with coffee, and sleepy kids loaded into the trucks. We were on the road at 6:30 for the 270 mile drive to upstate NY. We made it to ride camp about 12. It had been rainy a lot of Friday and continued with some on-off showers, which made the hay fields we were camping in slick. We got the trailers unloaded and camp set up before heading to vet in.

Now would be a good time to explain that we were not all entered in the same event. Anna, Quinn, and Amanda were riding in the 30 mile Limited Distance endurance ride. As of when we headed to the event, I think there were 56 riders entered. We expected some would probably scratch due to the weather. On Sunday morning, there were 50 starters in the LD – definitely the largest field we had ever ridden in.

But that’s not what Alex and I were doing; we were entered in the 30 mile Ride and Tie. A ride and tie is when 2 people share 1 horse, but only 1 person can be mounted at a time. So, someone is running, and someone is riding at any given time, however, there are times when the horse is tied to a tree and both team members are running (one away from the horse and one towards the horse). There were only 3 teams in the 30 mile ride and tie and 1 team in the 12 mile ride and tie.

I was already awake when the alarm went off at 4:30 Sunday morning. We had some coffee and a light breakfast. Alex and I started at 6:15, while the rest started at 7. It was clear with temps around 40F as we got Mojo ready to go. We decided I would start on Mojo since he is usually ready to rock at the start of a ride. True to form, Mojo was ready to rock.

We were fortunate to start with a more experienced R&T team, so we decided to just match their plan for the first few miles. Janice was the other rider and Jennifer was running with Alex. We only went about 3/4 mile before doing the first tie. A tie is when you hop off the horse, tie them to a tree, and take off running. Janice and Jennifer planned their ties more based on time. Throughout the day, Alex and I alternated between time and distance as our metrics for ties.

I knew we would not be able to stay with Janice and Jennifer for too long without burning ourselves out, so by about 4 miles into the first 12 mile loop, we backed off the pace and let them go on about their way. It didn’t bother Mojo to be without the others. Mojo figured out the game with no problem. When one of us would untie him, he would run down the runner until we tied again. As we ran off, he would give a little whinny to say goodbye. A few times as I approached, he called out to me, encouraging me to keep up the pace. When riders in other distances passed me, they commented on how amazing it was that my horse was willing to wait, tied to a tree. They were right, it was amazing to witness. At one point, Anna, Quinn, and Amanda were coming off a trail onto the road right as we were passing by that trail. Mojo was a little confused on why we didn’t link up with them.

We finished our first loop at a faster pace than I expected. As were headed in to the vet check, the first place team was headed out. Ride and Tie doesn’t have a hold because the horse gets rest while tied. There is also a mandatory switch at the vet check. I ran in, so Alex topped off his water and ran out while I was handling Mojo, who had no problem making pulse criteria. We spent about 15 minutes at the vet check, which could have been shorter, but I didn’t want to rush things for our first R&T.

The second loop for us was advertised as 18 miles, but turned out to be a little over 19. The second loop sucked. It was muddy. It was raining. The trails were slick and torn up from the previous riders. At least it wasn’t hot. I didn’t take any pictures on the second loop due to the rain. The leaders of the 50 mile ride were overtaking us since they were on the same loop as us. Mojo loved it when they would come by and he could sprint with them, then wait on a tree for a little while. Mojo never lost his go. The longest run Alex had ever done was about 7 miles – 1 week before the event. On race day, Alex did more than a half marathon as we split the running about 60/40. We completed our 30.8 miles, with 4300′ of elevation, in 6:35 for a second place finish.

Anna, Quinn and Amanda started their first 18 mile loop at 7 am. They headed out at a walk for about half a mile to let all the front horses and hot crazy antics settle. Amira feeds off of other horses’ behaviors and does best with other settled horses or in her own group.

The first loop soon turned out to be a challenge. Most of the loop, that was actually 19.5 miles, not 18 miles, according to GPS, was muddy single track. There were stretches of road here and there, but mostly single track with deep boot sucking mud. It was cold and raining on and off.

The most amazing part of the first loop was that all of Huey’s boots stayed on. Huey wears 4 Mini 3 Scoot Boots and while the gaiter protectors got a little torn up they did not come off or cause rubs.

The group maintained roughly a 5.0 mph average, trying to trot wherever they could without sacrificing the horses legs. Not going to lie, it was rough going. Somewhere in the middle of the loop Anna and the kids encountered Mojo and Rob on a slim chance while the red and pink loops crossed. Talk about coincidence!

Anna and the kids came into the hold at 10:42. Anna could tell Amira was hot. A quick pulse check had her at 80bpm, and only dropping slowly. The pulse criteria was 64. Being a non-arab (mustang), she doesn’t pulse down as fast as is desired sometimes and we are still dialing in her electrolyte needs. It became obvious she needed electrolytes and had not had enough grazing time on trail.

Anna pulled her saddle, gave some electrolytes and started sponging. Quinn ended up having to hold Amira to keep her from eating, while Anna worked on cooling her. Amira’s pulse increases if we allow her to eat while cooling. In hind sight, Quinn and Amanda should have vetted through, as Eli’s hind quarters got cold and he was almost pulled with a cramp, and if Anna had been pulled the kids would have had a better chance finding a sponsor for the last loop. Anna finally got Amira cooler and she made 48 pulse at 11:06 (has to make it within 30 minutes of arrival). Amira’s gut sounds were only good in 2 quadrants and her CRI was elevated, so she was held for a recheck for gut sounds before she could head out on the second loop. Anna set her in front of her mash and she started chowing down right away. We had decided to use Lyte Now tubes of electrolytes this time around instead of mixing our own, and they were so stiff and hard in the cold weather they were hard get into the horses. Looking back, considering Amira spit out most of her morning electrolytes, and not stopping to electrolyte mid loop, was part of the problem for the vet check. Anna ran off to the trailer to mix up some more liquid electrolytes to give and take on trail. This caused Quinn to get overwhelmed trying to handle all three horses and Amanda at the hold resulting in an argument. Phew, this is fun, right?!

Amira passed her recheck, and Anna and the kids headed back out at 11:51. The second loop was advertised as 12 miles. In reality it was a bit less according to our GPS. Cut off time for the limited distance 30 miler is 7 hours and 15 minutes (2:15 pm). With the extra time spent at the hold cooling Amira, Anna and Quinn knew they had to keep a much higher average on the second loop, all while still allowing the horses to grab and go grass more than on the first loop and make a stop for extra electrolytes.

Anna set out at a steady trot, stopping every 3 miles or so to let the horses get some grass. Due to the intensity and stress of the hold, none of the people had eaten well at the hold, and a few disagreements and arguments happened along the second loop. They stopped to give some Enduramax electrolytes just past the midway point.

Anna started feeling a little tightness in Amira’s hind end toward the end of the ride, and pulled her rump rug over her and kept down hill trotting to a minimum. Quinn convinced Eli to lead the group for a while as Amira was starting to lose her go. The group walked in the last 3/4 mile. Anna hopped off Amira, and walked her in to help her out.

In the last 1/4 mile, Huey and Eli were chased by a great Dane coming out from a private property and they both took off cantering. Luckily, they stopped when they reached Amira just ahead.

Anna and the kids reached the in timer at 2 pm. Quinn untacked and Eli made pulse at 2:08, Huey at 2:10 and Amira at 2:13. They all completed. Amira had a beginning cramp in her right hind, and got a B on gait and impulsion, but her CRI was 48/50 this time and her gut sounds were back. Anna was the last rider to complete the 30, and therefore got the turtle award. The kids got the junior turtle awards. We have a collection of those at home. To finish is to win, right?!

Turtle awards

The rain was steady at this point and Anna and the kids put coolers and winter blankets on the horses, gave them food and water and went to get dry and eat some lunch.

After the ride, everyone cleaned up, ate, and rested in the trailer. We stayed over an extra night to let the horses recover and enjoy the trip without the pressure and stress of getting home late. We slept in until almost 7 Monday morning, then broke camp and drove home.

While there were times of stress and maybe some raised voices, in the end, we all got completions. Considering that there were about 84 horses that started the ride, and only 66 completed, I’m thrilled with our 100% completion rate for this ride.

Endurance riders are always tweaking their equipment. One thing our family has settled on is Orange Mud hydration packs. At this ride, all 5 of us were using Orange Mud packs. Alex and Rob had coyote brown Endurance Packs, Quinn had a black Endurance Pack, Amanda uses a green Gear Vest Pro, and Anna uses a black Gear Vest Pro. check out the selection at Orange Mud. The packs sit higher on the back so they don’t interfere with the saddle and you can choose the amount of water you want to carry. The pockets make it easy to store gels, chews, or other snacks and the bungee cords on the back hold layers when you need to shed a lightweight jacket mid-loop.

How do you know you have found the right sport for your family? After the ride, Quinn and Amanda were in the travel trailer eating lunch, still wearing their wet, dirty ride clothes. They looked at me and together asked, “When is our next ride?”. The rest of the day and ride home kept coming back to when we would be at the next ride camp and which horses would do a 50 miler instead of LD next time. Stay tuned for more adventures throughout the summer.

Ride and Tie training, Day 1

Nothing gets me moving like registering for a race. I’ve been in a slump, so today, the whole family registered for the NY Adventure Endurance Ride. But there’s a twist.

Last June, Teddy was diagnosed with Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis (EPM); you can learn about it here if you have never heard of it. . He was treated for a couple of months and has been recovering. The problem is, EPM never completely goes away. EPM is what eventually killed King after 2 years of treating it. Horses with EPM are at risk for relapses and stress is a trigger for such a relapse. Endurance rides are stressful (trailering, camping, racing/excitement on trail, trailering again, etc.). It is unlikely that Teddy will ever compete in an endurance ride again, but time will tell. Regardless, Alex has outgrown Teddy, so if Teddy does make it back to competition, it will probably be with Amanda.

With the weather in the upper 40s, it was a horse riding kind of day. This morning, Quinn took Eli out on the trails and Amanda got to tag along on Huey, they only did about 3.5 miles, but they they rode (together).

After lunch, Anna and Amanda took Amira and Teddy out for a 4.5 mile ride today. Teddy was sound and spunky. Amanda will ride anything.

But this is really about Ride and Tie. The NY Adventure Endurance ride is in late May and is likely the first opportunity for a ride we will have. With Teddy out of competition for now, we only have 4 horses for the 5 of us to ride at events. Enter, Ride and Tie. From www.rideandtie.org:
“The sport of Ride & Tie combines trail running, endurance riding, and most of all, strategy. The objective is to get all three team members (two humans and one horse) across a 20-100 mile cross-country course by alternating riding and running. One team member starts out running, the other starts on the horse and rides down the trail as far as they think their partner can run (or walk) and still keep up a decent pace. At that strategic point the rider stops, dismounts, ties the horse to a tree or fence post, and continues down the trail on foot. The team member who started on foot gets to the horse, unties it, mounts, and rides to catch their partner up ahead. When they get to their running team member they can either stop and exchange (which is called a “flying tie”), or ride further up the trail and tie the horse and then continue running. When, where, and how a team exchanges is up to them and this is where the strategy lies. Every trail runner has their strengths and weaknesses, and the same is true for horses. Factor all this, along with weather conditions and the topography of the course, and you can understand why Ride & Tie is as much mental as physical.”

Ride and Tie events have been slowly making their way into New England and the NY Adventure Endurance ride is also sanctioned as a Ride and Tie event. This morning, Alex and I watched the AERC webinar about R&T and then discussed options about NY Adventure (there was a scenario where we could have borrowed a horse for the ride) to make sure Alex understood what was involved (I have been interested in R&T for a couple of years). Alex agreed, that using Mojo for a R&T sounded like more fun than a standard endurance ride. So this afternoon, we did our first training session.

We started with changing some of the riding attire to make it more comfortable for both riding and running. I previously switched to using my Altra trail running shoes for riding (we use caged stirrups), but Alex has been riding in paddock boots. Alex switched to a pair of Topo trail running shoes that I had that in the closet but didn’t particularly like (since he is the same size shoe as me it was an easy trial). Alex elected to still use his breeches while I rode in my running tights (we both chose tri-shorts underneath). We saddled up Mojo in the Big Horn saddle. We chose the Big Horn because it has synthetic fenders that won’t rub our legs, it has a tree and will be more stable with lots of mounting and dismounting, and it has a lot of places to tie off packs or other items. Another benefit of your son growing up is we are the same height, so our stirrup length is the same.

We started our training ride together, I was on Mojo and Alex was on foot. We went about 1/4 mile and then decided to try the first tie. Since we had never done this with Mojo, we weren’t sure how he would react. Alex stopped just out of sight and I tied Mojo to a tree and then went down trail out of sight. Alex waited a minute and then went to Mojo, untied him, and mounted up. Mojo didn’t care about being tied. We went anther half mile and then repeated, this time Alex executing the tie and heading off down the trail. Again, Mojo didn’t care.

Next we decided to step it up a little. I rode away from Alex and cantered Mojo up a hill. At the top, I hopped off, tied Mojo, and took off running. Alex was within sight, about 100 yards away. We were on a more open section of trail roads and we were able to start moving at a faster pace. Alex rode about 3/4 mile, passing me along the way, tied Mojo and headed out to our turn around point.

At the turnaround, we did a flying tie (just a hand off between riders) and then headed back. On the way home, we did 2 more ties. Unfortunately, after the last tie there was a miscommunication about the planned route home. I went the way we came out. Alex took an alternate trail. Since he never caught up to me, I got worried and back tracked. Eventually, I called the house to send Quinn out to the barn where they found Alex arriving. Clearly, better route communication is going to have to improve.

The day was an overwhelming success; Mojo was a rock star. We covered 5 miles, completed 6 ties and 1 flying tie. We did have some technical issues with the lead rope coming loose from how we tied it to the saddle between ties, so we need to work on our plan for how we will handle that. As we did more of the exchanges, Mojo seemed to figure out that he was supposed to chase down the runner. We also need to make sure Alex has his cell phone when we are out practicing R&T. We have 3 months to increase the running mileage and get ready. I’m looking forward to it.

Mojo watching Alex run away

Tough Decisions

1 month ago, we posted about refocusing and getting back to riding being the “The Mane Thing“. Since then, I have been struggling with distractions. I was registered for the Traprock 50k race in April and spending every Sunday morning running to train. The problem was, I wasn’t really running as much as I needed and I wasn’t riding Mojo as much as I should to get him ready for our first ride in May. Last weekend, I raced the Colchester half marathon and the training issues caught up to me. It’s a hilly course (about 1000′ of elevation) and I ran a 1:55, which I was happy with, but I had a lot more fatigue in my legs than I should have and the tightness in my hamstrings lingered all week.

The reality was, I had fallen back into the same trap from last year. I was splitting my limited training time between two different sports that require a lot of commitment and training. I was doing just enough to (barely) get by in each and not enough to do well in either. Physically, the 2 days a week of long runs was catching up to me and I couldn’t keep it up.

So, today, I made the tough decision. I withdrew from the 50k. I do love to run, and I will still run trails. But my runs will be closer to 1 hr instead of 2-3 hrs. And I’ll do more runs with the kids, instead of running with others training for 50k races. And I’ll put more time into my training with Mojo to get us ready for our races together. Maybe I’ll take him running with me if I can teach him to stop stepping on my heels.

The Mane Thing.

Now if we can just make a post every week like we wanted…

Pine Tree 2019

All year, we knew the Pine Tree endurance ride in Fryeburg, Maine would be our big summer vacation. After all the problems around our kitchen fire in July, we needed a getaway. The week before we left was spent putting new shoes on all the horses and packing. In addition, Gem, the palomino 1/2 Arabian we got in April was sold because she wasn’t working out in our herd. My parents left from Alabama on Friday evening and were meeting us in Maine on Sunday. So, on Sunday, 8/4, we left for Maine with 5 horses (Mojo, Amira, Teddy, Duchess, and Huey) on the trailer, 3 dogs in the trucks, and the travel trailer loaded for a week of camping and riding.

Pine Tree is a special ride. It has 5 consecutive days of competition at the Fryeburg fairgrounds. There are stalls available for horses, electric and water hookups for trailers, a dump station on-site, showers and even a laundromat. This was our 3rd time at Pine Tree in the past 4 years, and it is a family favorite. The people are great (especially Sue, the ride manager) and there are plenty of things to do outside riding for the week.

When we arrive around 3:30 Sunday afternoon, you could tell it was going to be a busy week. Ride camp already was filling up fast and the first rides weren’t until Tuesday! We blocked out our area next to our CT friends, Rob and Mary Palumbo, and 2 down from the Coffey family. Everyone got to work setting up camp. I’m sure most of the people knew we had arrived, because 5 people configuring electric fences doesn’t always go smoothly and it’s possible, there was some yelling. A mere 3 hours later, the horses were settled into their pens happily munching on hay.

Monday morning we had a leisurely time around camp and went out to Walmart to pick up a few things for the week. Amanda got to find a friend for the week; Laney was another 9 yo who had driven up with her Dad, Jesse, from North Carolina. Laney and Jesse were in first place for the AERC family award with over 1100 miles already ridden this year. In the first 3 days, Laney rode 2 50 mile rides and 1 25 mile ride. It definitely inspired Amanda to step up her game and train Huey for more riding next season.

Amanda and Laney hanging out

Monday afternoon, we saddled up the horses for a tack ride (a short test ride to make sure all the tack was set and ready for competition) and to check the river crossing. This is when things started to go awry. During the tack ride, Amira was HOT and giving Anna lots of attitude. All the horses were spunky and ready to run. There may have been some more elevated volume conversations (aka yelling) as we disagreed on how to handle the situation. Crossing back through the river, Vicki decided to work on sponging Duchess with a sponge on a rope. When the sponge floated in front of Duchess with a line trailing, I’m pretty sure Duchess thought it was a snake and promptly ditched Vicki in the river. She didn’t run off, and other than getting a little wet, Vicki was fine.

Coming up out of the river back to the trail, Amira decided to jump a log instead of going around it like the rest of the herd. Anna wasn’t expecting this and lost her balance in the fray. She got dumped and I’m pretty sure she hit her head on the log. This resulted in a minor concussion that ended Anna’s riding for the week. As we all jumped off our horses to help Anna and grab Amira, Teddy got scared from the commotion and threw Alex into the brush. We recovered all the horses headed back to camp. Needless to say, it wasn’t the successful ride we hoped for the day before competition.

That evening, we decided that we would not send 5 horses out on the trail together for competition. We have consistently attempted to obtain the goal of all 5 riding together, and it just hasn’t worked. There are too many demands of individual riders and horses to manage 5 in a competition. It does work if the 5 are split into separate distances, but we didn’t plan to ride any 50 milers during our week.

So, on Tuesday morning at 7:30, we started the 25 mile ride with me on Mojo, Alex on Teddy, and Vicki on Duchess.

The 25 mile course at Pine Tree goes out to a covered bridge that is about 11 miles from camp. The riders then go through a loop into what is known as “Fern Gully” before returning the to the covered bridge for the 45 minute hold and vet check. We did some cantering on the first loop as all the horses were feeling good. Here is a short video.

All 3 horses, Mojo, Teddy, and Duchess, made the 64 bpm pulse criteria with no problems and then we headed back on the return 11 miles. When we arrived back a base camp, Duchess was in 5th place and Mojo was 6th. Unfortunately, Teddy was lame on his right hind and didn’t get a completion. Teddy has been having problems on his right hind for a number of rides. This time, an extended discussion with one of the ride vets who assessed Teddy’s issue to be a hock problem. It looks like some hock radiographs and injections are in his future, because Alex and Teddy are a great team.

Once the ride ended, things went South for Duchess. We got her back to camp and she wouldn’t drink any water or eat any food. We offered her grain, carrots, and apples. She wanted to drop and roll. She wouldn’t eat fresh grass. It was clear we were dealing with a colic, likely from being dehydrated. During the hold we gave Duchess more senior feed and beet pulp than she normally gets. Our theory is, we didn’t have the feed wet enough and it sucked the water out of her gut, leading to dehydration, despite the fact that she kept drinking during the ride. So, 5 hours after completing, Duchess was checked in to an equine hospital and hour and a half from ride camp where she got a full colic exam to check for impaction or other problems, and 10L of fluid overnight.

Duchess at the equine hospital

Anna and I got back to camp about 9:30 pm, showered, took care of horses, and climbed into bed. Hauling Duchess to the vet wrecked our plan to do anything on Wednesday. Around 11:30 pm, as we were just climbing into bed, we heard a commotion outside followed by the sounds of a herd running – not what you want to hear in ride camp. It turns out, a stallion camping 2 spots down broke out, went running through some of our electric fence and into the next one over. That resulted in at least 3 more loose horses which then went back through our fencing and took down 4 of our 5 pens. In the end, Teddy and Mojo were still in camp and too scared to leave their electric fence (despite it being on the ground). Amira and Huey were running loose in camp with at least 3 other horses. Needless to say, many people were awakened by the commotion and lots jumped into action to help catch the loose horses. A little after 1 am, we had the fencing back into place and horses back in bed. At this point, I was definitely not having fun.

On Wednesday, Duchess got the all-clear at the equine hospital, so I made the drive back to get her. My Dad joined me for the ride and we had the chance to spend some quality time talking. When we got to the clinic, Duchess pinned her ears at me and spun her butt towards me. I could tell she was feeling much better. Vicki was happy to have her back in camp.

Vicki happy to have Duchess back in camp

So, by Wednesday evening, Anna had a concussion, Teddy had been pulled for lameness and wasn’t going to ride again, and Duchess had spent the night in an equine hospital. We strongly considered packing it up and heading home. After a family conversation about the options, we decided to stay a little longer and hope that things got better.

On Thursday morning, there were heavy thunderstorms which delayed the ride start to 8 am. Alex, Amanda, and I went to the hold to help crew for Jesse and Laney. When we got back, we had a quick lunch and then headed out to go tubing on the Saco River. Each year, we think we will go tubing, but it never seems to work out so we made it happen. It turns out, tubing down the river is exactly what the family needed to relax. We got back to camp and vetted in the horses for Friday’s ride.

Since Anna had finally come to terms with a minor concussion, Vicki rode Amira, Amanda rode Huey, and I rode Mojo on Friday morning when we started the 25 miles at 6:30 am.

The first 15 miles of the ride went well. Vicki really enjoyed riding Amira and it brought her to terms with the fact that Duchess isn’t her long term endurance mount. When we rolled into the hold and vet check, Amira and Huey passed just fine. However, Mojo had some back soreness, which has been another recurring problem. We gave him some massage work and food and he cleared the vet, but I was concerned about him passing at the end of the ride. I made the quick decision to ditch my tack and do the 11 miles back to camp on foot.

It turns out, running in Ariat Terrain boots and long pants is challenging. The footing in the fields was deep soil with a wet top layer, which is hard to run on. Additionally, Mojo likes to invade my personal space when we run; he managed to step on my heel once and the side of my foot twice. It was hot and I consumed 2L of water in the first 10 miles. Before the hold, we were in last place and only had 2.5 hours to cover the 11 miles back to camp, which basically meant I needed to maintain at least 13:00 min/mile.

We made it back to camp with 7 minutes to spare and all 3 horses passed the final vet check. The vets agreed that Mojo’s back was better at the finish than the mid-ride vet check.

Friday evening was the traditional Pine Tree lobster dinner. We decided to head home on Saturday and give us a day to recover before starting the work week.

One of the reasons we switched to endurance was after a ride, the family was always excited about the next event. Even after our rough week, at dinner on Sunday the whole family was talking about what we learned during our week at Pine Tree 2019. We talked about what we learned about our horses and what we needed to changed before the next ride. We talked about modifying our training for future rides. But in general, we talked about the next rides. You know you are doing something the family loves when everyone is looking forward to the next event, even if that last one wasn’t perfect.

So, thank you to the ride management (especially you Sue) and all the volunteers at Pine Tree. We look forward to next year!

Crazy May/June 2019

May and early June is always a wee bit crazy…and this year was no exception. After our trip to New Hampshire for Mother’s Day weekend, there has been no shortage of events on our calendar. Here’s a quick catch up post or highlight reel if you wish.

Amanda turned 9 on May 18. We had a skating birthday with her school friends that weekend and she had a blast.



At the end of May Alex was awarded an academic excellence award for his work in AP/ECE Environmental Science this past school year. Alex took two college level classes with ECE (Early College Education) credit, two honors classes, and still stayed on the high honors list all year. In addition, he participated all year in the 4H group “Teen Ambassadors” that focuses on citizenship, community service and leadership. The group went on a week long trip to Washington DC last week, and Alex had a blast.


Our new project pony Gem has a knack for getting hurt. With no horse sense to speak of, she had to learn what being in a herd is all about. She has so far been kicked by Mojo, stepped on a nail, and been bit by one of the mares, with all injuries requiring some level pf vet care. She has had her teeth done and her feet are improving, but she is definitely still a work in progress. Gem is very defensive of her food and requires us to be careful around feeding time. Unfortunately, I was not cautious enough and got kicked by her on June 1, causing me to be unable to ride for a week. She did go on her first short trail walk under saddle this week. No pics because I was leading Amanda, who was riding Amira.



June 2, most of the family rode in the first WGHA cross country pace (no jumps). I (Anna) did not as I was hurting too much from being kicked the day before. Rob recruited a client of his to ride Amira because she needed to be worked for the upcoming endurance ride. The kids placed second in the junior division, and Rob placed third in the open division. Good day.



Vicki promoted from 8th grade and is headed to the Marine Science Magnet High School in the fall. At the Griswold Middle School awards night, she received four awards: the VFW  award for dependability, a creative writing award, a departmental math award for highest average in math (3 way tie), and an award for her expo project “Horses in Therapy”. We are very proud of her. She has also remained on the high honors list all year and was a member of the National Junior Honor Society.
She attended the 8th grade dance and then there was promotion night. Her individuality is starting to show for sure.




Amanda is headed to fourth grade in the fall and doing just fine. She makes friends easily and does well at school. I went to field day for half the day and here are some pics.



Rob raced the Patriot Half Ironman on June 15. I went with him to the race to cheer him on and take pics. We camped in the travel trailer the night before. He finished in 6 hours and 38 minutes. I had a relaxing day of reading while waiting for Rob to return to transition between the different events.



Last but not least, Alex had a birthday. HE TURNED 16!!! Five guys for dinner and late night cupcakes for dessert because we were packing for an endurance ride. But we squeezed it in. He will go to get his driver’s permit on July 11 and his license when he is ready and has completed all the requirements (you can not actually get your license at 16 in CT it’s more like 16 and a half, if you are lucky).



Phew, I think that was all. Maybe. Until next time.

It must be spring

Daylight until 7:30ish each evening means dinner after 8 at our house because we are probably in the barn.

Last week was spring break for the kids. They rode horses basically every day it didn’t rain (or in between rain showers). They also got in a lesson with Ann Bowie. On Friday, Vicki rode Mojo and Alex rode Teddy as they went out together for a 6.5 mile ride in the forest. Living next to the trails has some significant advantages when you like to do distance riding.

All the rain is causing the grass to turn green and creating plenty of puddles for the peepers to start growing tadpoles.

Easter Sunday was no different. I went for a good 2 hour run in the morning to get ready for the Seven Sisters trail race coming up in 2 weeks. There were some lingering showers, so we delayed the family trail ride until the evening. Anna got a new (to her) Reactor Panel saddle for Amira for her birthday, so we have been making some adjustments to the tack. We didn’t start riding at Arcadia until 5pm. 2 hours of trails put us back home around 8 to do evening chores, eat dinner, and crash for the school week.

This evening, the weather was awesome. I went for a nice run after work and when I got home, Vicki was riding Duchess and Alex was tacking up Teddy. They both worked in the arena with Anna coaching from the side while I was doing some work around the house. Amanda saw that I had been running, so she changed clothes and laced up her sneakers. I saw her resetting Anna’s Garmin watch as she started running laps around the front pasture. It’s a 1/8 mile perimeter and she did her 8 laps to get in a mile. When I asked why she went running, she replied “I want to stay fit and I like running. It’s just something I find fun.”

2018 Patriot Half-Ironman Triathlon

On Saturday, June 16th, I completed my first half-ironman (70.3) triathlon.  I don’t have a lot of pictures, but this is my race report.  For those who don’t know, the 70.3 refers to the total mileage covered in the race: 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride, 13.1 mile run.

In October 2017, I registered for the race, essentially 8 months before the event.  This is a well-known local event with a limited field of racers.  I love this kind of event because you never feel lost in the crowd.  I highly recommend this race for anyone considering a 70.3.

Last year, I adopted the “Primal” approach to training as I got ready for my first marathon.  The diet and training practices served me well, so I continued the low carb-high fat diet approach.   I didn’t follow a training plan.  I just rode my bike, did some running, and occasionally swam.

Friday afternoon, I drove to East Freetown, MA where the race was held, picked up my race packet, and checked my bike into transition.

Friday night, I stayed a few miles away at a Holiday Inn so I only had a 15 min drive to the race instead of over an hour and a half.  I went out to dinner with a friend and a Mystic based training group he knew.  My pre-race meal consisted of Thai chili calamari, filet mignon, baked potatoes, honey glazed carrots, bread, and 2 pints of  Yuengling.  It was perfect.  I was in bed around 10 with the alarm set for 4:35.

I didn’t sleep well.  I never sleep well the night before a race.  It’s not that I’m nervous about the race itself, but rather I am convinced I will over sleep and miss the race.  I think I checked my watch 5 times between midnight and when my alarm went off.

Before leave the hotel, I had 2 cups of coffee and 1 blueberry muffin.  We arrived at the race and set up for transition.  My setup is very basic, which makes it faster for me.  Next time, I will definitely leave skin lube and sunscreen out of my bag and ready to be used during transition.

The race started at 7:00.  The air temperature was in the upper 50s and the water temp was 68F. Before the start, I ate 1 Honey Stinger waffle and 1 pack of Stinger chews.

One thing that is nice about Patriot, is the swim start is not a mass start.  Swimmers enter the water in pairs every 5 seconds.  It significantly reduces the chaos of the standard swim start.   I completed the 1.2 mile swim in 41:13, which was right on what I expected.  I completed the swim to bike transition in 2:34.   The temperatures were climbing fast it was in the upper 60s when the bike started and over 70F for most of the ride.

The 2 loop bike course is a relatively flat (compared to our area) and I was able to ride it in 2:54:47, for a 19.2 mph average.  That was significant for me, because I expected to maintain something closer to 17.5 mph average.  I maintained my heart rate in the mid 150s during the bike portion (I train with an average heart rate below 140).

On the bike, I drank about 1.5 bottles of “Rocket Fuel” and half a bottle of water.  Rocket Fuel is a mixture from Base Performance consisting of Hydro (carbs and electrolytes), Amino, and salt.  I also ate 1.5 packets of Stinger chews.

The bike to run transition took 4:19.  I did get out my skin lube for some mild chafing, but made a critical error.  I didn’t apply extra sunscreen prior to the run.  As a result, my shoulders got SCORCHED.

I had a great first 1.5 miles running with my friend Natalie.  Alas, she is much faster than I am so I backed off as she continued on without me.  She ended up finishing 28 minutes ahead of me.

The 13.1 mile run course has 12 aid stations along the way with water, Gatorade, and some other items.  This was good, because the temperature had climbed above 80F within the first part of my run.  I took at least 1 cup of water at every aid station and used my Base salt probably 7 times. I also drank 5 cups of Gatorade and sucked on 2 orange slices.  I didn’t eat any calories on the run.  I ran according to my heart rate: I was averaging around 165bpm and whenever I hit 170bpm, I walked to drop my heart rate back down.  I completed the run in 2:09:51, for an average pace of 9:55/mile.

My total race time was 5:52:42.  I was very pleased with a total time under 6 hours for my first 70.3.

Over the entire race, I burned well above 4000 calories, but I consumed less than 800.  This is a significant advantage of the Primal/fat adapted approach.  You are not reliant on consuming fuel throughout a race.

For any of my friends who have specific training questions, I am happy to share what I have learned.  I don’t see a full ironman in my future, but I would consider another half…

All the details of my results can be viewed here:
http://www.allsportsevents.com/Results/triathlon_results/PatriotTriathlon2018.html#/race/vHjvmh/HalfIND/595

 

Marine Corps Marathon

Today, I ran my first marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon. It took me 4:16:07 which was in the top 15% based on the number of starters (~30,000).  

Since I started training back in the spring, I lost 20 lbs and feel great. I highly recommend the book “Primal Blueprint” for anyone struggling with weight.  

Anna and the kids joined me on the trip to Washington DC. We did a little sightseeing yesterday at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History after attending the race expo.


We had an apartment that was right on the marathon course at mile 23 and also where the Family Expo was held. Anna and the kids didn’t have to run around all over town trying to see me. 

The race started at 7:55. I left the apartment at 6 and took a bus to the Pentagon.  Everyone else slept in.

There was a lot of walking from the bus stop to the start area. We saw Osprey fly overs, parachute jumps with the American Flag, and lots of people. 


Once the race started, I bumped into one of my co-workers, Steve Wright. We didn’t stay together long because we had different pace plans. 

My training for the marathon was all heart rate based. I limited my training runs to a 140bpm heart rate. On flat ground, that equated to about a 9:45 pace. I knew I could increase the heart rate for the race, but I wasn’t sure how much. I had been warned by friends to start in a higher pace bin than I needed. I started at the 3:30 group, but even then, my first two miles we about a 9:40 average. It started to open up after 3 miles and I ran my best mile of 8:07 for the 4th mile. By the half way point, my pace was under a 9:00/mile, which was perfect. 

The only catch was, the temps were rising. It was in the mid 50s when we started. By the half way point, we were in the upper 60s. By about the 18 mile point, we were over 70F and I fell off my ~9:00 mile pace and couldn’t keep up with the 4 hr pace group.

The last 8 miles were definitely tough. There was basically no shade. At every water station, I drank a cup of Gatorade and 3 cups of water. I was walking some and running some. I still maintained a pace in the 10:00/mile range, but I had 4 miles over an 11:00/ mile. 

I finished at 4:16:07, with an average pace of 9:46/mile. According to Garmin, i burned over 3000 calories and had an average heart rate of 169 bpm.

Overall, I am pleased with the results. I definitely left it all out there and didn’t have anything else left in the tank. I am totally in awe of my friends who race Ironman triathlons and do a marathon after the swim and bike phases. 

Marine Corps Marathon lived up to its reputation of being family friendly and a great first marathon. I’m not sure if there will be a 2nd…

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/

 

Proud to Du It – Youth Duathlon

This past weekend, all three kids did their first multi-sport competition.  A short while back, Alex and Vicki joined the Nutmeg Youth Triathlon Team (NYTT).  A Griswold branch of the team was started by the mom of some of the kids in our 4-H Club. They have been doing weekly practices for biking and running (it’s a little cold for open water swimming), while continuing twice a week swim lessons at the YMCA.  Amanda joins in for some biking and running as she can while doing swimming lessons once a week.  Amanda worked very hard to learn to ride without her training wheels to get ready for the first race.

For their first race, the kids participated in the New London Proud to Du It, Youth Duathlon.  Amanda was in the 5-6 yo age group and had to run 1/2 mile, bike 1 mile, run 1/2 mile.  Alex and Vicki were in the 11-13 yo age group and ran 1 mile, biked 4 miles, ran 1 mile.  The starts were staggered by age group and by gender.  All three kids finished and all three had a good time.