I once again followed my favorite tradition of “whatever you do on New Year’s Day is what you’ll do the rest of the year” and got in a fantastic ride today. A cool, clear, Arizona winter day, spent with good friends and good horses…I can’t think of a better way to start the year.
So, my tongue-in-cheek term for New Year’s resolutions is “inebriated declarations of good intent.” Sometimes they’re too vague, or far-reaching, to be particularly useful or even realistically attainable. Sometimes they’re very predictable. (Let’s face it, right now we’re all still full of post-holiday cheese and day-of-the-week confusion, and are glaring daggers at our bathrooms scales, amirite?!? “Fitness” and “weight loss” tend to be chart-toppers for a reason.)
But there’s something to be said for goal-setting, and heaven knows I often need some kind of framework and plan of action to focus my squirrel brain, so maybe for a change, it wouldn’t hurt to play around with a few resolutions/goals for the upcoming year.
Take more riding lessons with Liberty. I found an instructor who I really like, and although she is based out of Payson, she travels to the Valley for clinics and lessons. Just one lesson with her already has made a difference in my riding and in working on Liberty’s biomechanics.
Remember that it’s okay to say no. The latter part of the year heaped a ton on my plate — my own doing, and some of it I was really glad for and does take a high priority, like extra work — but I have to remind myself that it’s okay to not jump on every single project or idea that comes across my path, and when I do, to set boundaries and realistic expectations.
Finish my Masterson certification sometime this year. I really dropped the ball on this in the latter half of 2021 because I allowed it to drop too low on the priority list.
Incorporate more arena work into my weekly riding routine. It’s hard for me to trailer out and condition during the week because of the time involved (and kind of hard to drive and take down customer orders at the same time…) but I can manage a trip to the barn and an arena ride.
Keep getting off and hiking/running with Liberty on our solo rides.
Keep tracking mileage. For the first time ever, I managed to track all of my rides/miles this year. I didn’t get so ambitious as to detail them out, mind you…but on my year-at-a-glance calendar, I wrote down our mileage every time we rode. (And to tag on to that…increase our yearly mileage. We ended 2021 with 592 miles, a combo of training and competition rides. [If I had known we were that close to 600, I would have snuck in a final 8 miles.]
Do more gluing on of boots. I want to feel as confident in my glue job (or at least know that, failing a faulty tube of glue, I’ve done everything right on my end to make sure those things are staying on) and its reliability as I do with running the strap boots.
No major truck repairs? (Okay, this one is more of a wishful plea that the vehicular gremlins behave themselves, or make their own resolution to not give me too much grief this year. Or confine their grief to shenanigans with my rearview mirror thermostat display.)
Remind myself to not rush my ride plan. I have a goal in my head of wanting to get to 100s…but my gut is reminding me to take my time and make sure I’ve got the foundation laid really solidly. This foundation building is the time for ironing out minor quirks and doing our problem-solving now, and that rushing ahead won’t do myself or my mare any favors. We had a really good run this fall, so I want to keep that positive momentum going and keep steadily forging ahead.
Finally…blog more frequently. If I’ve been able to manage once a month for as long as I have…maybe set my goal to do twice a month posts. (Oh, look, this makes one post done for January already! Also, see above adage of “whatever you do on New Year’s…so, riding and blogging…sounds good to me!)
At the last Arizona Endurance Riders Club learning event, the topic of discussion was on goal-setting within endurance. One of the beautiful things about this sport is how varied and encompassing those goals can be. Whether it’s starting out and having a goal of getting to and finishing your first ride, or setting your sights on Top Tenning at Tevis and showing for the Haggin Cup, and everything in between those two points…endurance seems to be able to accommodate a wide range.
It’s no secret that I have always dreamed big when it comes to this sport. I set my sights high, am willing to take risks and chances, and don’t always wait for the stars to be in 100% alignment before trying something…but that also means I’ve frequently fallen short of hitting those goals. And at least as of yet, it still hasn’t stopped me from dreaming and setting more goals.
If nothing else, this sport will teach resilience, and make you dig deep to hold on to your inner grit and determination. It teaches you how to re-frame disappointment and perceived failure.
“Complications arose, ensued, were overcome.”
Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
Yeah, I know. Not your typical intellectual philosopher source…but highly accurate. A lot of the “adapt and roll with it, sometimes in the most ridiculous manner possible” attitude (and maybe a shot of rum) will go a long way.
And like I mentioned above, I set my sights high. I’ve got some goals that are much more immediately reachable, and others that are more of a nebulous, “work towards it in the future” type. But having some sort of goal is the first step…don’t know how to get there if you don’t know where “there” is. Once you know what you want, then you can figure out what it’s going to take to get to that point.
So, to that end…what are my goals? I figure I may as well share, as a way to hold myself accountable, and maybe to demonstrate that it’s okay to dream big, because you never know what might happen.
The most immediate goal right now is to make sure I’ve got Liberty’s soundness sorted out. I pulled our entry to the Flagstaff Cinders ride at the end of May at the last second when she still wasn’t looking 100% the Thursday before the ride. A lameness workup revealed a bit of arthritis in her pasterns, but second opinions have also looked at them and had the reaction of, “What am I looking at?” She is also growing out some gnarly stress rings on her hooves, concurrent to the timing of her spring vaccines, and has some fairly deep central sulcus cracks in her frogs, suggesting that she might be brewing some deep-seated thrush…both of which equal “sore feet.” After going down multiple rabbit trails, I keep circling back to that, as well as the adage of “no hoof, no horse.” Guess there really is a reason that came about. The good news is, I am well-versed in knowing how to deal with hoof stuff. To that end, I’ve been doing thrush treatments, as well as backing off on my usual slightly over-zealous trimming and giving her a little more hoof right now for support while those stress rings grow out.
I’ll be using this summer to really get her fitness and conditioning dialed in, and if I’m feeling like she’s “all systems go,” then our next stop will be aiming for the Grand Canyon XP ride at the end of August/beginning of September.
Obviously, a lot of my specific goals will hinge on having a horse that is sound and functional and able to compete. But trying to stay positive and operating on the belief that will be the case, there are certain things I would really like to achieve with Liberty in the fairly near future.
Let’s start with getting that actual 50-mile completion. (Third time’s a charm?)
Reach 1000 AERC endurance miles
A 50-mile finish/buckle at Man Against Horse
A 100-mile finish. Any 100 to start with. (I specifically need a 100-mile finish to qualify for one of my other goals)
Virginia City 100 finish
Finish all of the “big buckle” 100s… Tevis, Virginia City, Big Horn, Old Dominion, AERC Natl Championships
Work up to riding competitively (There. I said it. I have an end goal in this sport of not just finishing rides, but to have the right horse and the endurance know-how to be able to have Top Ten finishes be a comfortably attainable thing.)
Which leads to being able to stand for Best Condition regularly. (One of the greatest thrills in my [limited] endurance career was showing for Best Condition at Bumble Bee with Flash. Although we missed BC by a few [weight] points, he did have High Vet Score, which just felt so good.)
And because my stateside goals aren’t enough…I so badly want to go back to Australia. Our family trip down there (back in 2004) netted a fabulous several days of “beach and bush” riding on seasoned endurance horses. There was initially some talking of doing an actual ride, but the way the timing happened, that didn’t end up working out, but it was still an amazing experience and one of the most fantastic adventures I’ve ever had. So I would love to do an actual Aussie endurance ride. More specifically, I really want to ride in the Tom Quilty (their Tevis equivalent). (This is the reason I need a 100-mile finish, because you have to have finished a 160k/100-miler as a qualifier before you can enter.)
I am also fascinated by their Shazada ride, which is a 5-day “marathon” ride of 80km (50 miles)/day — unlike our multi-days, where each day is a standalone ride, this ride is cumulative…you have to finish every day in order to complete, and if at any point along the way you get pulled, you’re done for the remainder. (I don’t know if I’m tough enough to pull this one off. To date, I’ve preferred 75s/100s to back-to-back 50s. But I’m intrigued enough to want to try, and in that regard, not afraid of a challenge.)
Honestly? I know some of this stuff is a reach right now. But as far I as know, no one has chiseled into stone, “You can’t be successful in endurance.” Some people reading this may be raising this eyebrows — myself included. I am probably my biggest doubter and limiter, because after a while, the failures start to take a toll. They breed little doubt-demons in the corners of your mind that pop up at inopportune moments, and make you question your knowledge and competence, and make you start feeling very down about the whole thing.
To counter that, thought, I’ve often joked that my spirit animal is the Whack-A-Mole. Because despite the failures and setbacks, the doubts, the school of hard knocks…I just keep coming back for more. The shelf that I put my audacious dreams on is a low one, always within easy reach and never far out of sight.
Last year’s Virtual Tevis was the first “event” Liberty and I did together as a “re-started” team. It was a good way to get those early conditioning miles on her, and motivation to get out and ride when I didn’t have any immediate ride plans on the horizon. My completion awards for it arrived last week…hot on the heels on me starting to make some whispered murmurs and contemplation about if Liberty just might be a Tevis horse.
I know. At this point…crazy. It’s been an inauspicious start this spring — this is the “on the job learning” that sometimes accompanies endurance, and sorting out the management needs of a new horse. But I also know the more I’m putting into her, the more I’m seeing a side and depth to her that I had no idea existed. She’s already shown me she had a lot of heart. But as her fitness levels are increasing, she’s also showing me she has a lot of go and enthusiasm.
As I wrote on Facebook last weekend, “she’s the kind of horse who makes the training and conditioning fun.” I know what it’s like to have the ones who don’t like conditioning rides. Or they’re a lot of fun at competitions, but in-between, conditioning rides can be anything but. That’s not the case with her. I have the same horse at home as I do at rides. (Well, she’s quite a bit more on the muscle for the first 5-10 miles at rides, but aside from that…) She doesn’t protest when the trail turns away from the trailer, or when I suggest that we add a few more miles and take a more circuitous route back. She tackles the trail with cheer and enthusiasm whether we are headed out or headed back to the trailer. She’s at the point now where I can tell she genuinely seems to enjoy being out there and really likes her job.
Additionally, she is taking the summer heat totally in stride. She adores single-track trail — there’s nothing like it to get her focused, and she is so athletic and agile, she goes zipping right through twists and turns and switchbacks. Mentally, nothing seems to faze her. Bikes, other trail traffic…she seems to love it. She busier the trail, the happier she is. She loves an audience, but she also doesn’t seem to mind being the only horse out in the desert all by ourselves. She’s got the EDPP part of endurance down to a science and has right from the get-go (this is the horse who started drinking 3 miles into the first ride I did with her). She is safe, has great trail sense (slows down and thinks versus barging through technical stuff), and doesn’t do anything stupid. I feel so safe and comfortable and confident on her.
In short, all those boxes they say a good Tevis horse should check? She checks. We just have to make sure we’ve got the physical end of things sorted out, and provided we do…I’ve got Tevis 2022 in my sights. Maybe it’s a bit audacious at this point, but I’ve got to have goals that keep me moving forward, and crawling out of bed at 3:30 in the morning to beat the worst of the heat in the summer. And mentally, I feel like I’m making this goal from a good place in the sense that it’s not an end-all, be-all, only-thing-that-matters sort of goal. It’s a really fun, ambitious goal to aim for…but I’m really excited about the journey along the way, the challenge to see if we can get to that point or not, and to enjoy the process. It’s not like she’s a green 5 year old who is not “life-hardened” at all…she’ll be 15 this upcoming weekend, and I recognize I have a more limited time frame in which to work with her than I would a youngster. Physically, she has maturity on her side, and has done some sort of work (albeit low-level) for most of her life.
So, we’ll see. It’s ambitious and audacious and eyebrow-raise worthy at this point, but if nothing else, putting these thoughts out there at least makes me hold myself accountable along the way.
I don’t really have any 2019 goals at this point. I’ve learned with catch riding that it’s a difficult endeavor to try to set concrete (or even nebulous) goals when you’re at the whim and mercy of other people’s schedules, agendas, and plans. So to that end, I’ll basically take things as they came, and whatever happens, happens.
With that out of the way…I do like finding ways to make my daily routines more interesting. One thing I do on a daily basis is take the dogs out for a walk or run. While I try to hit 2-3 miles most days of the week, there are some days that not even the threat of a couple of hyperactive terriers is enough to motivate me to do more than a loop around our neighborhood.
I think that just might change this year, because I found a really, really fun distance tracker app.
For a bit of backstory: I’m something of a fantasy and sci-fi geek. I didn’t necessarily “grow up” with those genres from a young age, but got introduced to them in middle school, and have been regularly getting lost in various fantasy worlds ever since. But from the middle of high school and onward, one thing that has stuck with me on the regular is the writings of JRR Tolkien — the world of Middle Earth, The Lord of the Rings, and The Hobbit. (And a ton of others, but that’s beside that point…)
The world of Middle Earth grabbed me from the get-go, and the older I get, the deeper into it I get. So when I found a distance tracking app designed to log your miles and show it as a representation of the journey from Hobbiton to Mordor, I had to get it.
The app is using the figure of 1932 miles…I haven’t pulled my Middle Earth atlas yet to figure out exactly how accurate that is or not, but I’m going with it. I’m pretty sure I can cover the distance just on my daily walks/runs with the girls within the year. If I get pretty ambitious on mileage covered, I may even figure out the distance the hobbits covered from Gondor back to Hobbiton and try to do the entire round-trip journey within the year.
Might be a bit silly, but it gives me something to do and internal incentive to crawl out of bed when it’s cold, dark, and early. As my alarm label says, “If Frodo can get the ring to Mordor, you can get out of bed.”
It was an impulse idea, made at 6AM this morning, to install the app and set my “trip to Mordor” mileage goal…but to that end, the girls and I logged 4.78 miles this morning.
So, I guess 2019 is going to be the year of “Mordor or Bust!”
If you’re on Facebook or Instagram, you’ve probably seen that the cat was officially out of the bag this morning: my next adventure is the Virginia City 100 endurance ride in two-and-half weeks.
What started out as a promotional sharing of the ride info post on Facebook turned into an offer of an extra horse, no guarantees of a finish, but if I wanted to give it a shot, the horse was available.
Meeting of the minds: First ride with Beeba
To that end, meet Beeba. She’s a 9-yr-old Arab mare who has been described as “the textbook chestnut mare.”
Now, I know the reputation of chestnut mares…but it really doesn’t faze me. One, I love mares. Two, I’ve spent the past 22 years with a pony mare whose genetic code is greyed-out-chestnut. “Pony” beats “Arab” in the “who can be the worse hellion” department. Additionally, my dad’s first horse was a wonderful chestnut mare. So needless to say, the “red mare” thing wasn’t a turn-off, but instead more of a curiosity and intrigue.
Of course, the whole plan was contingent on: 1) the horse not killing me and 2) her saddle not crippling me. She’s been very challenging to saddle fit, so using her saddle was a non-negotiable point.
Well, no worries on the horse behavior department. She’s a blast to ride, and I think we’ve come to a good understanding between ourselves. She doesn’t like to be micro-managed…but she also does her job and doesn’t need micro-managing. And we’ve done two really good rides with some very active riding and the saddle hasn’t crippled me, so we’re calling it good.
It’ll be her first 100…and mine. Neither of us have a stellar ride record, so there’s no pressure or expectations. She seems game and honest, though, and I’ve got grit, determination, and the physical ability to get off and run or hike along the way.
I’ve got copious notes about the ride and trail from friends who have ridden it previously, as well as the “driving tour” of town/vet checks/some of the trails after the 2016 AERC Convention. I’ve crewed 10 100-milers. It’s the right opportunity, at the right time, and I’m grabbing it and running with it.
Besides, it’s the 50th Anniversary of VC100. Crewing the 50th Anniversary of Tevis was the first first endurance ride I ever attended, so somehow, riding the 50th of another historic ride seems highly appropriate.
she’s a champion chow-hound
Horse gear is dialed in, boots are sorted (she will be wearing Renegade Pro-Comp Glue-Ons), and I’m getting my ducks in a row as far as my own clothes/gear/food. I feel excited and eager, and very grateful for this opportunity.
Minimalist approach to the year. AKA “I’m going just float along the river and see what rocks I bump into along the way.” Very few plans at this point, and they’re run-related: Pacing at the Black Canyon 100k (February), and running the Crown King Scramble 50k (April).
Horse plans are on a “as they come up” basis. At this point, I don’t really have anything in the works, and I would actually like to focus this spring on running and my ramp-up to Crown King. This is a really big goal for me, having been chewed up and spat out by this race in 2015.
If at first you don’t succeed…have a drink, throw a tantrum and/or pity-party, then sign up again.
This way to the finish line. 15 miles of really crappy hills stand between me and a cold beer.
A Goal: Finish. B Goal: Finish without looking like roadkill.
Hello my nememis. We will meet again.
My approach is slow and steady ramp-up of mileage, with the #1 goal being AVOID INJURY. I am not planning on doing as many actual races this time — as much fun as I have at them, doing my own self-support long runs will save me some $$$ on entry fees.
I’ve also been focusing on a lot more cross-training, having signed up for Orange Theory Fitness back in the fall. Website has more details, but basically it’s a combo of cardio and strength training that works off of staying in certain heart zone zones to burn calories and build strength. I’ve definitely noticed a difference in my running, and the strength training builds muscle and the support structure in a way that running on its own never does.
I’ve frequently held some kind of gym membership, off-and-on over the years, and have always benefited from hauling my carcass off for regular workouts. I get a lot of satisfaction out of working with weights, and the floppy, muscles-thoroughly-worked feeling afterwards. Plus, the strength training is all part of my Do Not Get Injured game plan this year — strengthen muscle to support joints, then the soft tissues don’t take all the beating.
More cross-training = fewer “junk” running miles.
To whit, I have planned:
Pacing Mel at the Black Canyon 100k in February. I’m excited to have an official pacing gig (I love this trail, but didn’t feel ready for the actual race itself…yet…), and I love when out-of-state friends come to visit and I get to share my desert with them. (Sonoran Desert…no place like it. I still love my desert.) Note to self: Remind Mel to bring a cactus comb for carrying in her pack.
Aravaipa’s Crown King training run in March. It’s a free training run that starts in Crown King, goes *down* to the Ft Misery aid station (22 miles in on race day), then back up to Crown King. It ends up being an 18-mile day, followed by a second “fun run” day, not to mention that is one obnoxious climb from Ft Misery up to CK…and the one I bailed on in 2015. So for my own mental purposes, I need to know I can do that climb and survive it, since I know I can manage the rest of the race.
April 1 is Crown King.
Contemplating slotting in a race somewhere in there, but at this point, I’m going for the “don’t overdo it” approach…and thanks to race-day registration, I can always make a last-minute decision to go to one if I feel like I need the extra “encouragement” of a race environment for my training, but for now, I will see how I do with self-supported long-runs in-between my planned events. (Plus, bonus of doing my own long runs is that I can bring the pups…can’t bring them to races.)