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Monday, March 18, 2013

Proper boundaries

Alternate title: How not to make endurance into a god.

Much like the Lord of the Rings "ring of power" I find that any activity that comes to consume your life, has a way of perverting best intentions. Endurance is that activity for me. Endurance can come to occupy a place in my life in such a way that it pushes away everything else, and when it does so,it isn't acting for the better.

I need Balance. I need family, friends, relationships, running, and all those other things that represent a balanced life. This isn't a new revelation - if you have been a reader since the beginning, than you have been reading "I need balance" posts from the very beginning.

For five years I put my "all" towards endurance, and accomplished some really cool things. Then, for the last 2 years, no matter how hard I tried to make endurance happen for me, I couldn't make it happen.

Now it's starting to look like 2013 (and in reality, starting in the fall of 2012) could be a big year for me and Farley.

As in, we might have a shot at Tevis this year.

And already I can feel the familiar tendrls of unhealthy addiction and obseccsion grabbing ahold of me. Because that's how important endurance, and especially Tevis, is for me. It's such that I would sacrifice almost everything to do it.

And so I've made a committment. I will only do enduance if I can contan it to it's proper boundaries. Tevis will only happen if I can make it happy along with school, keeping up my running, and seeing friends and family.

One change Ive already made is a dedication to one ride only. While I would LOVE to be able to go back and do what I did before (competing in mutliple 100's year round), I think preparing for and riding one hundred a year ( plus some prep rides) is probably all that I (and Matt) can take. A good friend of mine in endurance does something very similar to this plan.

I'll have to ride slow, more carefully,and be completely honest with myself and motivations in order to make this work.

I'll constantly be assessing whether endurance is occupying its "proper" place. ie, am I skipping class and church to ride? Blogging or doing "horsey" research when I should be studying, in class or church? Am I gone so many weekends for training rides and prep rides that I'm missing out on significant family and friend events? Am I not keeping up with my own fitness because I'm too buy riding? Am I gone every evening until after dark at the barn doing horsey stuff?

Not everyone who reads my blog is going to agree with some of my following statements. I think God took away endurance for 2 years because it became too big and central in my life. I believe he's giving it back to me now, starting last fall, because I was finally puttng horses in a healthier, less all consuming, place in my life. I think that this year and the tantalizing promise of Tevis is a test, can I do significant endurance and have it not consume me? I don't believe in coincidences (other wise my life has been an extraordinary string of them). I'm convinced enough that I'm going to do my darnest to keep everything balanced as I persue Tevis this year. Picking 1 major race instead of a season was a big step. Recognizing the signs that endurance is reaching unhealthy proprotions is anther.

Maybe you have gotten to this point in the post and think, if she has the time and money, what does it matter? Her friends and family should support her darn it! If they really loved her they would see how much joy this brings her.......and this is where I get to point out how completely unbalanced my participation in endurance really has been

Did you know that I've never gone to a ride and just volunteered? Oh sure, I've helped out, but it's always been after my ride was done. I've never crewed for a friend, marked trail, unmarked trail, or worked on a trail crew. I've been too busy riding and achieving *my* goals.

There's a ton of different things I could do that would keep me connected to the endurance community, and make my participation more balanced, that would have a positive impact on me and the sport. I could put on endurance 101 clinics!

So what about Tevis?

I have to admit that I'm not sleeping well at night since deciding to do Tevis this year.

This plan smacks of me trying to get Minx to Tevis my first year of endurance - a season that ended in diasaster.

I keep trying to remind myself that there are significant differences between 2006/2007, and 2012/2013. It's a different horse. I'm a different rider.

But it still hasn't stopped me from flashing back to that year, where I had a plan that gave me 300 miles in endurance rides so that I could qualify and ride in Tevis, in the beginning of one season. I started my quest in April and by the of May, just 3 rides in and zero completion miles accomplished, it was oh-so-very-obvious what my ignorance and amibition had cost me.

I try to take comfort in the fact that by havng such fears, I will resist making the mistakes of the past.

I've already alluded to some of the changes I'm going to have to make in my ride strategy - must ride slower for one. Part of my strategy when I've rode Tevis before was to have enough fitness on my horse that I had a lot of reserve in case things went bad. This year it will be riding smarter and having myself be as fit as possible that's my reserve. I'll have enough horse to get through Tevis (I wouldn't be doing the ride if I thought otherwise) but I might not if I have to go faster on a section to make up for lost time because something happened. I probably won't be able to canter into the gate-and-gos during the afternoon and be pulsed down by the time I dismount. I'll probably have to take extra time at the checks, and get off more (the year I finished I had a busted knee so Farley dragged my ass the entire 100 miles). I'll have to be careful in my prep work and rides that I don't try to put an impossible amount of conditioning on Farley in the short time I have that results in a too tired horse July 20th (part of my problem Tevis 2009 when I didn't finish). I have a lot going for me. Farley and I have started 5 100's together. We've had 2 pulls - 65 miles at Tevis, and 92 miles at a different 100. She's a proven 100 mile horse. She likes 100's. We both know the Tevis trail well. Tevis plays to her strengths - heat and rocks. The 92 mile pull was directly attributable to freezing temperatures and sand. We've learned a lot together over the last couple of years. I know that she needs selinium supplementation (a major cause in our 2009 65 mile tevis pull). And that rest is the most important part of my training program. I've had 2 years of dressage training and am very aware of how my blanace and timing in the saddle can affect her ability to move along the trail efficiently and soundly. (there's a seminar right up on this subject coming up). In summary, Farley and I have what it takes to make this happen - but it's going to be about training smarter, not harder. I've spoke before on my experience on the difference between riding an arab and nonarab in this sport. I've mentioned before that getting Farley through a 100 like Tevis was far easier than any of the 50's I did on Minx. I have a feeling that my "management experience" of getting Minx through 50's is going to be vey helpful come this July.....

It's going to be an interesting next couple of months. I've been working towards Tevis since the end of last season, but haven't been brave enough to say so on the blog. There's something very humbling about publically announcing an intention to do something like Tevis not knowing what the ending is going to be, and having lived it both ways (one pull and one finish), it's very tempting to keep it a secret until it's over and done with!

So here's me checking pride and ambition at the door. I may not finish a single ride this year, but it will be because it will be filled with RO's, NOT a lame horse caused by me listening to the Bad Idea Fairy. Because being willing to fill my ride record with RO's is the only way to make this season, and possibly Tevis, happen.

Let's hear it for an endurance season that is not measured in miles or rides, but but the diversity of things I was able to do within the sport and within my life. By being able to balance endurance in such a way that it is affordable in both money and time, maybe I can do enduance always, not just in my early 20's, single, wth little commitments and a large disposable income.


  1. I apologize for spelling errors and "word substitutions" in these posts. I don't have time for anything other than first drafts and I always wince when I read something like this over, however I'm on my way to go riding and I think carefully editing blog posts like I used to is just so not on my priority list!

  2. I think its a very well-written post! A really great read, too!

    I love you plan, your modesty, and your efforts to balance it all. Its very admirable and I really look forward to following along with your progress. You're one of few people who is busier than me it seems, I love that you juggle it so well (most of the time, haha, we all have speedbumps sometimes!)

    Tess is gonna be one fit dog from all of her gallivanting with you and Farley. Maybe you should just morph her into super-mondo-dog with your vet-knowledge and ride her instead ;-) Talk about a non-Arab...

    Best wishes for balance and happiness!

  3. Can I ever relate to *so* much of this post. Finding that balance in my life is a challenge, because I have a lot of varied interests, and friends within all of those interests...when I'm heavily immersed into horses, I feel like my non-horsey friends are getting neglected. Add into the mix that the horse scene is not only for fun, but also now part of my working life.

    But having the last couple of years off has been really good for me. I've volunteered at several rides now and had a blast doing so. It's a great way to still be connected in the endurance community without as much time commitment as a full ride -- no horse to manage, less to pack, more time flexibility.

    I think you're definitely on the right track for this summer's goals, and should it all work out...I'll be there cheering you on!

  4. Friday after returning from a double digit conditioning ride with Farley and Tess I did have the thought that if a tevis entry just required any animal to be with you as a companion, I would put my bets on tess finishing the race the most fit and happy. She's what I call a 7 mile a day dog. she's the best dog ever with about 7 miles on her everyday, but a terror without them

  5. Ask the (vet)student: Diagnosis? Help! 12 yo registered Welsh mare, 13.3, petite, never foaled, hooves apparently normal, but front toes long, rear hooves with a little dry separation around the wall. Frogs good sized, sole looks okay, needs a trim. All even and show no abnormal wear from foot movement. No apparent lameness at all, no indications of pain, goes out happily, transitions okay, trot and canter, doesn't try to leave a gait. Jumps nicely, really picks up hinds walking over poles. Picks up feet and holds them for you easier than any horse I've ever seen. Ears always forward, great whoa. Been with person who raises 1/2 Welsh ponies and buys prospects to resell, kids lessons. Bought 8 months ago from handicapped riding camp to resell. Thinks did showing with prior owner. Says didn't work well for camp. In other words, perfect pony except I need to figure out why she's so short strided. Studied video intently with Eleanor riding all gaits. Toe first landings in front and back, Eleanor said she felt very different that any horse she's ridden, but videos show on correct lead, thought maybe disunited canter, but looks correct best I can see. Owner thinks she's doing it to be careful of the little kids. Could she have been trained to travel this way, really short strided, or is it an indication of heel pain, with the toe first landing? Or is the toe first landing because she's striding so short???? Inquiring minds want to know..... You'll have to look at the vidoes. If it's not a serious issue, this girl is the one.

  6. interesting self discovery going on here. I thin you are absolutely right on endurance being so all consuming. Even training for teeny weeny LD's it took alot of time from my schedule I can't even begin to fathom preparing for Tevis and I am not even in school. Hell, I can't even seem to get my horse fit enough for a 50. Ofcourse, I do ride a Morgan and it is a whole different bag of tricks.. I will be interested to see your condition schedule b ecause isn't Farley quite out of shape with the limited time you have had to ride her due to school?

  7. Catching up on posts b/c I've been insanely stupidly busy with good stuff:

    Yes, balance is important. I think it's on the test, so you might want to pay attention.

    Yes, go volunteer at a ride. It's fun! Take Tess! You'll like it!

    YES, go do an Endurance 101 clinic. I've got a new/improved slide show (to use when I'm not preaching to the choir) and I'm happy to share it--you can use whatever parts you want and put in your own stuff too. Let me know!


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