Monday, February 23, 2015

Pre-20 Mule Team 100 - I haven't done enough jitters

Training didn't go super smoothly for this year's 20MT. I started out feeling pretty good about it - had Roop along as a pony horse (as "Plan B, Just In Case"), both pones were working well, and everything was following the conditioning regime I'd outlined for us.

And then just as I was supposed to ramp up to a 20 mile "hard ride", the monsoons struck:

I don't actually mind riding in the rain, but I do mind taking the horses out on steep clay trails that become slick as snot – a great recipe for a slip and pull – so opted out that weekend. It wouldn't be the end of the world - there'd be plenty of other opportunities... maybe I could sneak in a good ride one weekday morning? (not)... 

The following weekend we were due to go up to Reno for a good training/trotting ride - 20 miles of similar terrain to 20 MT which I thought would be just the ticket. 

Bedell Flat - the first loop on Rides of March endurance ride. It doesn't look
like it on the map, but there's actually 2,000 ft + of climbing on this loop.

But in the event, taking along a pony horse didn't work out so well and trying to get three horses to settle down and stop trying to out-perform each other proved beyond Renee and my capabilities, so we ended up with a lovely not-so-trotty 20 mile training ride (and it was so great to see Renee and get to spend a quality day with her, instead of the "hi/bye" type interactions we've been having for about the last 18 months). Both of mine looked like they hadn't really done anything at the end, which was gratifying, but since they hadn't really done anything (unless you count yanking my arms out of my sockets trying to keep them both under control on the way back across the valley) I'm not sure how useful that actually is. If nothing else, it's hours out on the trail, right?

Before we got on the proper trotting section, when everyone was
still keeping it together and pretending to be adults

Starting to deteriorate. Renee finally gave in and switched all Roo's tack
onto Bite and rode him. I'm not sure it was any better  (actually even more
exciting for him, by the looks of things) and Roo certainly thought having less
encumbrances was a better idea on the way home as my two did their
best race horse impersonations all the way back across the valley.

It was a bank holiday weekend, so luckily I'd have Monday to get in that last 15 mile trotting ride to put the icing on the cake, right? Wrong. Apparently if you push too hard, you get nowhere and my body suggested that stopping, please, might be nice, so I tried to stop for a couple of days. Unfortunately, stopping isn't one of my strong points, so even prone and doing little, the brain is still going mile-a-minute and keeping the system online, ready, just in case. 

Stop please. I want to get off.

I did get Finn clipped. He was only about five months overdue. No foo-foo cut for him, given the amount of matts - just a convict cut for that dog-on-stilts look (as Ann calls it):

still needs finishing off, but for fun, I opted to only cut one side to start with 

Sporting that raffish, dog-about-town look

Dog-on-stilts the following weekend when he was all done.
I actually really like him in a short cut like this (once you get
over the initial shock). He's very sleek and slinky looking. 

The following work week turned out to be the busiest in months, culminating with not leaving my office until 11 pm* on Friday in an effort to finish up a project due on Monday (*means I get home after midnight). But that at least meant that I didn't have to work over the weekend so would have more than enough time to go out with Uno on Saturday (prospective buyer wanted to meet and ride him) and get in a ride on Fergus on Sunday. Only, remember the previous weekend when my body said "enough!"? It did it again. I spent a good portion of Friday night/Saturday morning in the bathroom, not having the time of my life. You know you've been working too hard and spending too much time doing GIS when, upon returning to bed and trying to sleep, your brain keeps trying to uncheck the box on the "tummy ache layer" to turn it off (it doesn't work, btw, it keeps turning itself back on). Not good. 

I did get the ride done with Uno, but getting him ready and riding about wiped me out (although, of course, I felt pretty good the whole time I was riding - go figure, what does that tell you?). So back to bed I went and stayed there all day Sunday. No eating (within 36 hours I'd dropped 4 lbs). No riding. No packing. Do not pass Go. Do not collect £200. 

It's Monday now and my body still hates me. Food is going in and staying there, gingerly, but I feel pretty crappy if I try to do more than just sit. Even my teeth hurt right now. So I'm taking it super-easy as much as I can. I don't leave for Ridgecrest until Thursday, so am doing slow-motion packing and pft is helping a bunch for which I'm very grateful. 

Fergus and I on the Cliff Trail at Joshua Tree a couple of days after Christmas

Fergus is fat and happy, not knowing what's ahead. I bought some Freeform panels from someone (in England of all places), so have been moving pad inserts around and think the new set-up should be better for his back. He wasn't getting sore, per se, but has some sort of callousy-areas that needed different padding. He's only done 35 miles in them so far, but I think they'll do the job - and they velcro-on/velcro-off, so if they appear to be doing more harm than good I can whip them off very easily, mid-ride. 

The underside of my Sensation has "loop" velcro on the front, so they stay put at that end. Unfortunately the back part isn't as sticky, so my job sometime before Thursday is to attach (and probably sew) some sticky-backed loop velcro in the loin area of the underside of the saddle to keep them from shifting each time I tack up (and given how tall he is, trying to get things straight on him when they're way above your head is no mean feat). The extra padding (esp. the first time I tried the panels out, without first removing the mega-inserts from the Sensation pad) make him about 17+ hh, which is ridiculous. 

As far as "special treatment", I had a bucket of E-Se-Mag supplement that I never got around to feeding to Roo, so both of them have been getting a couple of scoops of that in a yummy mush. They both think this is a fine idea and are very attentive in the mornings. I'm not sure Fergus really needed it - it was bought primarily to help Roo with his crampy back end - but it doesn't hurt as far as I can tell. 

And the very good thing is, during all this Roo has been worked very nicely so is up and running and ready to go to whatever ride I choose to take him to - without any of my usual concerns about lack of riding and under-conditioning. I'd say he's probably as fit as he's ever been. 

So to sum up, our total conditioning (especially aimed at getting ready for 20 MT) for Fergus (and Roo, with the exception of the 45 miles at Christmas) has been:

  • 45 miles - Christmas week at Joshua Tree/Catalina State Park, including much walking in sand washes, and one hard and fast 13 miler keeping up with pft on the mtn bike.
  • 10 miles - local trails, mostly walking, but with the Powerlines thrown in
  • 11 miles - singletrack trails between Auburn Lake Trails and the Middle Fork, up and down, up and down, starting to add in good trotting, although not continuous
  • 14 miles - Rock Creek dirt roads - hardest, fastest to date. Route was picked for maximum continuous trotting and we certainly got that in. Roo did some astonishing trot moves that I'd never in a million years let him do with the extra weight of a rider. 
  • 15 miles - singletrack trails between Auburn Lake Trails and the Middle Fork, up and down, up and down, Sally rode Roo and kept us to her rolicking Tevis-ride speed (note to self - I am much more cautious than Sally when it comes to riding rough terrain :)  )
  • 0 miles - monsoons hit
  • 21 miles - Bedell Flat with Renee, good length, some overachiever trotting towards the end, some good speed walking (doing a Walk-off between Fergus and Bite), some sand, some climbing. Two weeks until Ride Day.
  • 0 miles - bleahs, so Fergus is what he is, fitness-wise.

I am, admittedly, relying very heavily on his existing base, and the fact that we ride slow, and the fact that the last ride he did was a stellar Tevis, and the fact that the ride itself isn't too hard.

And I'm also cognizant of the fact that, no matter what I do, I always feel under-conditioned, so I can never win.

But mostly, Fergus and me (and Spike, since he gets to come along as ride dog and all round entertainer - and company for the long drive up and down the Central Valley) will have an excellent adventure, get to spend the day with Kaity (always a pleasure and my favorite 100-mile ride buddy), and hopefully we'll get to the finish, learning a bunch in the process.

Epilogue: after 2.5 years, my braces come off the Wednesday after 20MT - woot!!