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Thursday, June 27, 2013


It's Thursday and I'm still really really, deep-in-my-bones tired.

Soreness is mostly gone except for a few twinges in my quads and some residual stiffness in my neck, but there's some healing going on someplace because I'm the sort of tired that only occurs when the body is diverting massive resources to something other maintenance activities.

I have 2 jobs - yesterday I went in to put in some hours with the department that is mostly sit down computer work.  Today I got brave and actually waltzed in the door of my more active lab job.  And....was begging for mercy mere hours later.  I spent the entire morning fantasizing about sneaking into my homeroom that was just a building away and taking a nap on the couch for my entire.lunch......mmm.......

It's a bit strange because Ive spent my time over the last couple days both more hyped up than I've been a long time (over Tevis and prepping for it, and all the blog posts I want to write, and a scholarship RnT essay that I haven't started) and yet really really sedentary. The dichonomy between what my mind is doing and what my body is doing doesn't feel....right.

In summary, I feel like I did 100 miles last weekend. 

I've been giving some thought to whether it's harder for a horse to do the mileage all in one chunk (ie 100 miles in 24 hours) or as a multiday (2 50's over 48 hours). 

As a rider, I feel about the same whether I do a one or two day 100 - mileage is mileage when it comes to my riding.

What about the horse?  

Historically I would have automatically said that riding a multiday was easier on the horse.  After all, isn't that what I've practiced and preached over the years?  That the intermediate step before moving up a distance is to ride a series of low mileage multidays? 

But now I'm not sure. 

Advantage of riding 2 50's: the horse can catch up on hydration and eating over the 12 hour break

Disadvantage of riding 2 50's: You are riding through 2 afternoons, not just one.

IMO during an endurance ride, heat is you and your horse's enemy #1.  If you ride 100 miles over 2 days, you are doing twice as many miles in the heat of the day, than if you continued on and ride the "second 50" in the evening and into the early morning hours.   The ability of a horse to "perk" up after the sun falls in a 100 is remarkably like the "perkiness" I feel on my horse at the start of day 2 of a multiday. 

It's hard to make any hard and fast rules.  What if it isn't a hot ride?  Then does the 12 hour break make up for riding during 2 afternoons?  Is it possible for a horse that has been a poor eater and drinker in the first 50 miles "catch up" in a 12 hour break and finish the 2nd 50 strong the next day?  Can you do that in a 100 utilizing 1 hour holds? 

What are the actual physiologic differences in a horse asked to do 100 miles over a 24 hour period, and horse asked to go 100 miles over a 36 hour period (in 2 12 hour periods with a 12 hour rest period between) over similar terrain in similar weather at a similar pace?

I don't know.  But I'm inclined to say that in general mileage is mileage is mileage.  And whether you are splitting that mileage up over 2 or 3 days rather than doing it in one big chunk....the miles are still miles.  With one caveat that I'll get to shortly.

I think that this miles are miles are miles has 2 important implications.

Firstly, why is it that we will do 2 or 3 50's in a weekend, yet, not do 2 or 3 consecutive weekends of one day 50's (leave the trailering consideration out of it)?  One seems entirely reasonable, the other a recipe for overriding your horse.

Secondly, I think we are less likely to give a horse the rest before and after a multiday as compared to a 100. Because we have a perception that the 100 is harder on the horse. 

So, if miles are miles are miles......why do 100's have a greater pull rate than 50's and people riding consecutive 50's? 

First, we are going to assume that the 50's and the 100's we are comparing are comparable - in fact, let's assume for the sake of this discussion that the 50's ride the same 50 mile loop on each day, and that the 100 is 2 loops of the same 50 mile trail.  So, the 100 mile horses are not riding trail they haven't seen during the day, the horses on both rides are doing the same mileage and the same terrain.  And now, let's assume that you have decent weather.  Moderately hot in the afternoon, and cooling off in the evening/wee hours of the morning to long sleeve tshirt weather (can you tell that I'm in California?).

If we ran this experiment, I predict that 2 things would happen.

1. The pull rate on the 100 would be greater than the pull rate at the end of the 2 consecutive 50's. 
2. The actual dehydration and other physiologic parameters of all the horses in both events as measured at the 36 hour mark after the initial start would be identical, (or possibly the horses on the 24 hour 100 would be slightly improved over the horses on the 50....).

If the physical ramifications are the same for both, why the greater pull rate on the 100?  I think it has more to do with the mental aspect of the game than the physical. I get stupid at the end of a long 100 that is taking me much of my 24 hours to complete.  I'm not necessarily any more sore or stiff or tired after a 100 versus a 2 days, but trying to work through sleep deprivation at the end of a long 100 is the WORST.  It's really really hard to make good decisions, and it's really really hard to keep doing the "little" things that make sure you don't have problems later in the ride.  Riding 2 50's basically gives you (IMO) exactly the same physical "workout" without having to deal with the mental stuff.

I know I need 8-9 hours of sleep a night.  I have no idea what my horse needs - but whatever it is, just like me they aren't getting it on a 100.  And just like the rider, I think that mental "tiredness" and "stupidity" of the horse after a long day with no sleep plays a bigger role in the pulls than any true physical unreadiness, assuming that same horse can do the same 100 miles over 2 days at a multiday. 

IMO a 100 mile rider and 100 mile horse aren't necessarily a fitter team than those doing back to back 50's, but they ARE dealing with a mental component that just isn't present during a multiday (and yes, I think there are people and horses are that better at dealing with this than others).

So......if you want to do 100's and you feel stuck at the 50 mile mark, consider doing back to back 50's over similar terrain in similar weather as the 100 you want to do. Obviously if your goal is Tevis, don't do 2 50's in the bay area, or in the high desert in December and expect success and smooth sailing for a 100 held in July in the Seirra Nevadas. But assuming that you and your horse get through those comparable 50's in good physical shape, recognize that your biggest obstacle for riding a 100 at that point is mental.  Physically, as long as you gave you and your horse the appropriate rest after those 50's, you should be ready to go.

Obviously, this is all a guess on my part.  Educated guessing from someone with too much time on their hands and a commute that allows them to be inside their head too much....but guesses all the same.  (I welcome your comments and thoughts!)

My next post will address moving up in distance (I've done an LD.  Now what?) so I don't want to venture too far down the lane of moving up distances and when the right time is to move up a distance....but a couple more thoughts on multidays

- Because I'm starting to feel like mileage is mileage is mileage.....If I wanted to do an intermediate distance between a 50 and a 100 miles before diving into 100 miles over 2 days, I would do a 50 and an LD back to back before doing 2 50's.  (as a side note, I would do the 50 the day before the LD, not the other way around - that allows me to ride my horse in the cool of the morning, the heat of the afternoon, and then the cool of the morning again.  Instead of doing 2 cools and ending on a hot, which is not how a 100 is going to go!)

- I think that doing LD mulidays do NOT give you the same benefit of moving up to 50's as doing multiday 50's does for moving up to 100's.  Because most of the LD mileage is done before the heat of the day, you have to consider that you just did 50 or 60 miles in the best part of the day when it was cool, and zero mileage in the heat of the day.  (In contrast, doing 2 50's as 100 mile prep means that you will be doing MORE mileage in the sun than you will for your 100, which may offset the 12 hour break in helping prepare you for the step up in ride distance).  Even doing 3 or 4 LD's in a row isn't a guarantee that you are preparing your horse well for the step up in distance - The break is too long between ride starts (18 hours), all mileage is done in the cool of the day.  This is one reason why I think the step up from an LD to a 50 is in some ways tougher than the step up from a 50 to a 100. 


  1. Interesting thoughts but I'm not sure I fully agree with you.

    1) (since you love lists!) I don't think the statistics are there to back up your miles are miles are miles statement. It may have to do with fatigue, but the pull rate on 100s is MUCH higher overall than the pull rate on 50s. What data ISN'T there, that would be interesting to know, is how many people *intended* on riding xx# of 50s back to back (2, 3, 4, 5 days), but declined to start the second day. They're not going to be listed as a pull (as AERC doesn't track DNS). I wonder how many horses (or riders, to take into account ROs) just don't feel up to "the next day" and elect not to ride? Or how many horses doing multidays are rotate out with a second mount on the in-between days, giving them +/- 24 hrs of rest between their 50 mile days.

    2) I wouldn't balk at doing a 50 every weekend or two for a short term. Many high mileage horses have done just that, even multiple multidays every month (go look at the mileage standings for the past few years). The biggest deterrent for this is probably time off work and the driving (cost of fuel, etc). **Much** more economical to do multiple ride days in a single location/timeframe.

    3) While I agree that heat can be an issue/factor in doing rides, there's many ways to help mitigate this issue. Yes, doing two LDs back to back MAY get you finished before the heat of the day, however, remember some start much later, I've started as late as 10 am and even 8 or 9 am isn't unlikely. Also, but simply doing your regular conditioning during the heat, you and your horse should be acclimated enough that it won't be such a huge factor to your ride. *I* do worse in the heat than my horse, but he lives outside all day and I work in an air conditioned building. I've experienced a noticeable difference in my heat acclimation by driving around with windows up and no A/C (until I couldn't stand it, then windows go down ONLY) and/or getting out for a walk/jog in the middle of the afternoon, even if only on my lunch hour.

  2. Yes!!!!!! Lists!!!! LOL. I really am addicted to them.

    I know that there are a couple of projects/surveys out there designed to try and answer the question of why the overall completion rate is so much lower on 100's than 50's. And I'm really looking forward to when they release the results and see if there's anything there we can use.

    And agree with you that we do not know the why - but I'm not sure that they "why" has to do with the fact that physically 100's are that much harder than 2 50's in 2 days. ie I don't think that the data we do have necessarily excludes the "miles are miles" hypothesis

    My GUESS is that if we treated multidays like "2 day 100's" or "3 day 150's" - ie a pull or DNS on any day counts as a pull then we would find that the pull rate for pioneers/multidays is much closer to the pull rate on a 100 than a 50.

    Another peice of the puzzle that might help tease out the different factors is the average mileage of a 100 mile pull versus a 50, versus a 2 day (or even 3 day) 50. Which again, is information we aren't going to have any time soon.

    For example, this is how my thought process is going:

    if you have a 1/6 chance of being pulled at a you have a 1/6 chance of being pulled in the first 50 miles of a 100? Do you have a 1/6 chance of being pulled in the first day of a 2 day 100?

    What are the chances of being pulled 25 miles in on the second day 50? On mile 75 of a 100? On a 75 mile race?

    What are the chances of being pulled at the end of a 2 day 50? Of a 100?

    We could START to see the effects of mileage by comparing mileage pulls of LDs versus 50s - LD's have a lower pull rate than 50's and we could see if pulls in the first half of a 50 approach those of LD levels?

    Tevis is a ride where I actually have pull data....but the problem is that Tevis is a fairly unique ride. I feel like the vetting is more strenuous than at an average 50 or LD and so not representative.

    I think a valuable piece of information that could easily be reported with a pull code is the mileage that a horse was pulled at. If we had that sort of data in the AERC database, we could start to run the numbers and get a preliminary idea, instead of dealing with the absolute numbers of pulls versus no pulls.

    Of course that still doesn't solve the problem of multiday DNS - which would have to be a survey type of info gathering, which are notoriously unreliable and subject to recall bias.

  3. One more thought - it's interesting to hear that you would do back to back weekends of single 50's. It's not something I hear expressed often, and it makes perfect sense to me that if I would ride 3 50's in 3 days, I could ride 3 50's in 3 weeks.....and then of course give the appropriate rest period after the 3 weeks, similar to what I would give after 3 days.

  4. Sorry about the multiple comments - but rereading your comment to make sure I'm not misreading it.

    "I don't think the statistics are there to back up your miles are miles are miles statement. It may have to do with fatigue, but the pull rate on 100s is MUCH higher overall than the pull rate on 50s."

    Because we don't have the DNS data on the 2nd day 50's, I'm not sure that the statistics DON'T back up the miles are miles statement. I completly agree that the pull rate is MUCH higher overall than the pull rate on WHY????? I'm just not convinced it has to do with the fact we are doing 100 miles in 24 hours instead of 36 hours. That just doesn't make sense to me that the same mileage in 12 less hours could spike the non-completion rate so high. A mental fatigue rather than physical conditioning problem seems much more likely IMO. Tired/sleepy animals (both human and horse) are more likely to make mistakes. But I don't think the physical cost is higher in a 24 hour 100.

    I guess we could look at the small number of 2 day 100's that we have completion data for and look at the completion rate of a 2 day 100 compared to a 1 day 100.....I'm not familiar with those statistics.

    Gosh I hope I'm making sense in this post and in the comments. It's all a guess at this point and I wish we had data other than the absolute pull rate for 50's versus 100's.

  5. Interesting, thanks!

    Must admit: I am boggled by the idea of multiday 50s as mentally appealing compared to one-chunk-of-mileage and will be very curious to see how it feels should I end up getting that far. I have always felt about basically everything that it is so, so much -- I don't want to say "easier," exactly, but more possible/more sustainable to just-keep-swimming and get to be for-reals done, than it is to be done-but-not-really and then have to generate the energy to start back up again. Inertia is hard!

  6. I find it impossible to relax after a 50 knowing I'm going back out. My head wants to stay in the game. So I find it really tough since I have to stay focused over a longer period of time

  7. In semi-related news:

  8. How interesting....especially because it ties it nicely to some other links/articles that I'm going to post soon. Thanks!!!!

    I wonder how 2 day 100's or back to back 50 total times compare to `1 day 100's too? Pace may be more important to time? And if it's determined that the physical component of the miles (miles are miles.....) isn't the main factor in the increased 100 mile has to be something else!

    I solomnly swear I will NOT do horse research or be a horse vet. I will NOT I will NOT I will NOT.

    We will completely ignore the fact that equine exercise physiology and performance is the thing that facinates me the most :)

  9. I'm still hoping to try for two 50s next season. I personally don't know about a 25 and then a 50. I don't even want to try another LD on my horse (unless our fitness/health wasn't up to par) because of the racing silliness. When we got pulled halfway through Major was Pissed off, spinning on his high-tie ready to go back out. I'm hoping we'll be up for it next year. Still not convinced about 100. Talk to me after I have a few more seasons accomished...

    1. So, I think that major could do back to back fifties, but.if you were going a fifty and ld instead.....I think doing the.50 first, than the ld might help. But I think that if you hadn't had.the.issue in day 1 of ww, you would have nailed two days of fifties.

      Once you do that we can all start working on you explaining why doing a hundred is.only


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