Facing your first 100 mile endurance ride can be daunting. As was written in the card from the ride manager where I finished my first 100 mile on Farley said “you’ll never forget your first”. And she was right. For all the best AND worst reasons.
As one blogger put it:
The core concept of riding 100 miles isn’t hard – keep moving forward, don’t make too many big mistakes, get a little lucky.
It’s all that crap before the ride that causes the angish.
I’m sharing my big DO’s and DON’Ts for riding the 100 mile distance and you are welcome to join in the discussion in the comments or on your own blog. Feel free to tailor the subject of the post to your area of interest (50 mile distance, dressage show, first horse etc).
I’m limiting myself to my top 3 DO’s and DON’Ts
DO let yourself get excited. It’s a BIG DEAL. Even if you “fail” you will have a great story to tell, come away a little wiser, and know more about yourself and your horse. The goal of endurance is not a perfect ride record. The goal of endurance is to get out there and ride and discover new trails, friends, and adventures.
DON’T rely on the vet checks to provide you with everything you need, even if they advertise a rider’s lunch or mashes, or hay. In some circumstances because of permit restrictions you can’t bring your own hay – respect that. But apart from that, if you horse *requires* alfalfa at a vet check, bring your own. Don’t complain that it’s all gone. If you won’t be happy with a lunch of a hot dog bun with a side of salsa because they are out of hot dogs and chips, bring your own food just in case. Mistakes happen. Stupidity is letting it greatly affect your ride because you weren’t prepared.
DO expect something to go wrong.
It’s part of the game. Most likely it will be something you didn’t prepare for and has never happened before. Decide before hand how you will handle it with grace and dignity and solve it instead of whining. I would suggest starting with this post.
DON’T expect to have everything figured out by ride day.
This is a sport of 2 living beings traveling 100 miles together at speed. Complete and perfect harmony in time for your 100 mile race is not likely. Do the best you can with saddle fit, clothes, tack and expect to tweak it and have a back up plan. I’m NOT advocating doing a 100 with that saddle that rubbed your horse raw in your last 50. I AM saying that if you had a few sore spots and you think you’ve solved it, go for it. Keep an eye on it, and change stuff up if needed. I’m not telling you to go into a 100 mile ride with untested equipment, but dumbest mistake I’ve made so far was NOT necessarily going to a different saddle a couple weeks before my first 100. I saw a problem with the saddle at my final 50 going into Tevis 2009 (wither clearance) and so I bought a different saddle, did a couple longer (ie 2 1/2 hours or so) training rides in it, thought it was working for both me and the horse and so went for it. The reason we pulled had nothing to do with the saddle (interfered or hit a rock on the inside of a front cannon bone) and I went on to complete every other 100 miler on my record in that saddle with a minimum of issues (and I started wearing splint boots on 100’s). In general, I ride every ride (formal endurance ride or training) in the set up that seems to be working best for me and the horse. Because me and the horse are alive biologic animal and changing constantly this means it’s not entirely static and I don’t spend my time overly stressing about what works now versus what worked last week, and what is likely to work in a month. What I do have is OPTIONS.
DO prepare some strategies to get through the low points.
Ipod, music, audio books, belting out lyrics. Walking slowly for someone behind to catch up. Spending extra time at a vet check and leaving with someone. Stopping and taking a grazing break. A comfort food. A GPS.
What do I mean? Don’t override your horse. Don’t get sucked into the hype of a big ride so much that it starts to affect your ability to think about the ride in it’s proper place (for some big races, for me be in a healthy state of mind, from now on I will be turning off social media). Don’t over-plan to the point where if something deviates significantly from your plan you can’t adapt and be flexible. Excited is OK. Agonizing over whether you will get a certain parking spot a certain number of feet away from the vet check, or listening to enough trail horror stories that you start to get panic attacks is not OK. 100 miles is hard enough all on it’s own without being a mental basket case at the start. Here’s a good article on how mental stress and hype can adversely affect finishing a race, and why it’s exactly this factor that makes the running equivalent of Tevis – the Western States 100 – so hard.
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