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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Why yes I *DO* have a 50 this weekend

Most of you probably don't know that I have a 50 this weekend.

I'm trying to forget that I ever knew it. 

I didn't pre enter, leaving me lots of room to wiggle out of doing it if anything on my LONG list of "requirements" weren't met. 

  • No rain
  • No rain in the days before leading to sloppy footing
  • No wind
Turns out the weather is going to be beautiful and all that mud created the end of last week will be nicely dried and gone.

So I found more excuses
  • found out that the park gates close at 7am and 7pm.  If I don't get done in time on Sunday to get out the gate, I won't be able to leave, and I'll NOT be at school on Monday morning for my 7am surgery lab.  And missing that would be BAD.  As in, might-have-to-repeat-third-year bad.  But then I found out that the start was 6:30 or 7a, AND someone pointed out that I could pull at lunch if I thought finish time was an issue and get a good 20 or 30 mile conditioning ride in. 
  • I ONLY want to ride Sunday, or not at all. Sunday is 2014 season (Dec 1) and a finish would count towards my decade team goal (10 years of completions with same horse/rider at 50 mile distance or beyond). 
  • Farley hasn't done anything since Tevis besides our riding around in the river bottoms. Surely her legs will break off and we will die if we attempt a 50 when it's been so LONG (sarcasm - she has more conditioning now, then when I started the season and finished cache creek - a MUCH harder ride). 
One by one my friends eliminated all excuses and even managed to throw in some threats and guilt ("I"ll find your house on my way to the ride on Friday and slap you!"  or "I can't go so you have to go for meeeeeeeee!!!!!!!").

So I re-agreed that yes, I should go, that I WOULD go. 

But driving home I still had a knot of anxiety in my stomach about doing the 50. And I couldn't put my finger on it.  There was no reason I shouldn't go, hang out, RO at lunch if I needed to, visit with friends etc. 

But still I mostly felt dread and completely unmotivated to take any steps that would get me closer to riding the ride. Like downloading the application. Or packing the trailer. Or cobbling together a set of boots for Farley. Or making a food plan. Or making sure my riding clothes are clean. 

And then I had an epiphany. 

It's been a long time since I had FUN at a ride. Here's how my last FIVE rides of 50 or more miles have gone, in reverse chronological order

1. Horrible, agonizing pain for 80 miles
2. Horrible headache and please-just-let-this-end pain.
3. Got lost, and knee pain.
4. Worst migraine of my life the last 3rd of the ride, and post ride until the next morning.
5. Broken horse. 

It's been the November 2010, THREE YEARS, since I had an endurance ride that ended well, and that I actually enjoyed. 

At the end of Tevis this year, I really didn't know whether I wanted to continue to ride distance.  I thought that it was that syndrome of "it hurt's so good" that a lot of us experience at the end of the ride, but it was different.  I spent the last hour of Tevis really really really considering giving up horses all together.  The next day I couldn't imagine riding distance ever again. 

Even though a week or 2 later I was talking about doing my next 100, that underlying thread of doubt of whether I was done with endurance persisted without my acknowledging it....until I was faced with a relatively easy, EXTREMELY LOCAL ride that I had no excuses not to go to.

If I'm being completely honest, the physiological/bodily reaction to the thought I really might do a 50 this weekend feels a bit panicky, with a lot of anxiety.

It's similar to the feeling I got at the thought of riding in the rain, after I did a 50 in the pouring rain with no rain gear, wearing cotton and got way too cold.  Traumatizingly cold.  For the next couple years, if it started to rain when I knew I had to ride, it was really hard not to melt into a puddle on the ground crying "Noooooooo......". Because it was that awful.  Of course, eventually I got over it - I got the correct gear and rode in the rain enough times staying dry and warm, that I eventually was able to not get that visceral response to rain.

I'm thinking that's where I am with distance riding right now.  I've had a couple of years, and a lot of rides in a row where I was in a lot of physical pain, and my mind (without my permission!!!!  Grrrr..) has made an association that 50+ miles = pain.

Now that I know the problem, I think it's even more important for me to do this ride on Sunday if possible. This is a relatively low risk ride for both me and Farley that has a great chance of going well. Just the thing I need.


  1. YAAAAY! I really didn't want to have to detour over to smack you. It's gonna be awesome.

  2. This may seem kind of random, but when I worked at Kentucky Fried Chicken in high school, one of the trainers I had said that one negative experience needs to be overcome by 12-13 positive ones before the negativity is completely erased. Of course, the message was, don't give the customers a negative experience in the first place, or they may never come back to get positive experiences. But, I've thought a lot about that training lesson throughout my life, and I think it's true for more than fast food experience.

    Everyone thinks that because I grew up in ND, I should be completely comfortable with extremely cold weather. In fact, the opposite is true. I hate all temperatures below 50 degrees, especially if rain is involved, because I spent so much of my life freezing my ass off, that even the look of cold outside makes me want to stay in. It is incredibly hard for me to ride in the cold, and I struggle with motivation every winter.

    Anyway, I guess what I really wanted to say is that I very much understand how you could feel the way you do, and I hope that you are able to go on the ride this weekend and have fun!

  3. Woooo GO GO GO Mel and Farley! Mental demons be damned. I won't be there puking my guts out in support so you'll just have to have a fabulous ride and finish feeling wonderful :-)

  4. I was waiting to see if you'd tell us or just sneak off! Have a great FUN time, you deserve it!

  5. You know, I had kind of wondered how much of your enthusiasm for Ride & Tie was because Ride & Tie is awesome and how much was maybe because you were kind of feeling done with endurance for whatever reason. And then I told myself I was reading way too much subtext into a couple of blog posts. :-p But yeah. Not that horse sports need to be a zero-sum game, but the vibe was there.

    I know you decided to go to the 50, and I hope it goes great and that figuring out this piece of where your head is at proves useful in getting your head to wherever you want it to be! I look forward to the ride report and I feel certain that if and when you want to get back with the endurance thing, you will figure out how to make it work in more happy-making and sustainable fashion.

    But I wanted to say, when I thought I'd be commenting sooner, that if you want to take a break and do some other stuff for a while? That is okay, too. The cool thing about horse sports is that they'll be there later, and that good horse-sport friends have a way of being just, y'know, good friends, and they'll be there, too, even if you're doing other stuff for a while. And while there is definitely something to be said for carpe-ing diems while you have "THE HORSE," there's also something to be said for branching out with your horse-buddy, too.

    So I mean, it sounds like you've got it figured out and so maybe you don't need to hear this. But I thought through it, so I figured I'd post it just in case. Whatever you decide will be right.

  6. I love riding hundreds, but I've always been "eh" about the shorter distances unless they were stepping stones to something else. I'm over Tevis for a couple of years probably for a lot of different reasons, but I have other hundreds planned next year which means I really do need to ride fifties since I don't condition enough at home. I've always had a love hate relationship with rides. Starts scare the crap out of me. Crappy footing is a trigger for anxiety ever

    1. since Minx slipped and fell on me and almost rolled over the top of me. Add on top of that my ongoing fear of whether I'm doing right by my horse.

      I am a fearful person that spends a lot of time letting fear dictate what I should do or not do, and 50's have always been borderline for me even without the added complication of physical pain. - I LOVE endurance because of the 100's. The excitement and challenge of a 100 is more than enough to neutralize any fear. I've done a lot of different horse sports - cavalry type events, jumping, dressage, civil war reenacting, poker rides, polo and NONE of them compare to endurance and ride and tie.

      So why the enuthasiasm for ride and tie over a 50? (and equal to a 100) - because I can be competitive without worrying about the horse. The horse is getting a break every 2 runs or so, and the course is much shorter.

      Ride and tie: The risk is very low and the reward is moderate.

      100 mile: the risk is high and the reward is GREAT

      50 mile: the risk is moderate the reward is moderate.

    2. does this make sense? One reason (besides the decade team) that I'm doing the 50 tomorrow is because there is a chance I *may* be doing a 65 or 100 in Februrary so technically I do need this 50 as a stepping stone - the problem is that I'm not sure enough about my plans to make it real enough to make this 50 mean something to me.

      If you look back at my blog and ride will see that all of my shorter rides (under 100 miles) are all on their way to a 100!!!!! I can't think of one that I did just to do a 50......

    3. It makes a lot of sense -- the risk/benefit ratio and the stepping-stone issue, in particular, resonate for me -- and I appreciate you taking the time to write out such a thorough reply!

      ...and I wrote out a bunch of stuff about fear and horses that I think is actually more navel-gazing than it is conversation. So I have deleted it. Onward. :-p

    4. LOL - I won't admit to how many times I've done naval gazing comments and then deleted them or decided to just write a blog post about it.


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