Training tips: distance versus time
|February 16, 2012||Posted by Melinda under Uncategorized|
During conditioning rides, do you ride for time or distance?
When I was training for marathons (before I got smart and realized I could do this from the back of a horse….) I followed a program that believed that time spent hitting the road mattered more than the actual distance that you did. Galloway said that the mileage of 26.2 miles isn’t hard – it’s the 4 hours or so you spend on your feet moving. To condition for this, he suggested spending more effort getting the time in instead of focusing on the miles.
This worked well for me for several reasons. I was running without a GPS or mapped/measured course, and which wasn’t a huge set back – I did enough miles on the track that I got a good sense of my pacing (even if I was run/walking). However, planning for time rather than distance was an advantage mentally. I planned my long runs for the time it should take to complete them – for example, 11 min/mile pace wasn’t unreasonable for a 10-15 mile run. If I needed a 10 mile run, I would plan a 2 hour run – if I needed 15 miles, I knew I would be out there for 3 hours. In most cases, it didn’t matter whether I was running for time or distance – both got accomplished. However, if something went terribly wrong I didn’t worry that I was going too slow to get in the miles – I just knew I had to suck it up for “x” number of minutes. And somehow, it’s easier to say “I can walk for another hour and be done”, then to say “I have 5 more miles to go – and so that’s 1-6 hours depending on whether I run it or crawl it…”. It gave me the freedom to not push past that margin of safety that kept me from getting hurt, because I was running for time, not distance and could go as slow as I needed to get that time in without the pressure of getting the miles in.
Usually every 3rd long run or so, I would completely hit the wall and do significantly less miles than planned, but still got the time in. It never hurt me and my next long run always went well – but more importantly, my motivation remained high and I didn’t get mentally burnt out.
The other training philosophy I followed once I had a few completions and I was interested in going faster, was: you train for speed, and you train for distance – but you don’t combine the two until race day. ie – I never ran a certain number of miles in a certain amount of time. I either did speed runs that had a specific time and reptitions associated with them, OR I did long runs of a certain number of miles. Only on race day did I try to run X miles in X time. Done improperly, this can be a recipe for injury and disaster…..You have to be damn sure that your speed and distance work is preparing you for your goal distance and time, and that your goal is reasonable considering your base and past history. As confidence boosters and “check points”, I ran several races before the “big one”. For example, if I was training for a marathon, I would run a 10K or a 1/2 marathon throughout my training program to see how close to my target I was, and how I felt at those distances at speed. Based on the results, I would adjust my training program.
Humans and Equines are very different species and it is NOT a good idea to extrapolate too heavily from a human performance program to condition the endurance equine. However, I think there are several concepts in my running background that have helped me when preparing Farley for an endurance ride.
1. Focus on time in the saddle rather than distance during a conditioning ride. Often the trail doesn’t turn out to be as “ridable” as I thought, or weather makes the footing icky, or I need to work through some training issues, or the trail is too steep/rocky to go at an endurance pace. I may have an idea of the number of miles I would like to get in a particular ride (15, 20 miles), but I’ll plan for a 3 or 4 hour ride. This is why I rarely use my GPS during conditioning rides and don’t regular report my average speed, or distance. I mostly use the GPS to track speed – I don’t want to go over 10 mph at this stage and Farley has a “sneaky” trot that is 12mph before I realize it. Focusing on time helps me not push Farley or myself too fast or too far in a situation that is unrealistic to get in the time/miles that I want. Developing this philosophy during training is essential once I get to a ride (see point number 4 below).
2. On shorter rides (“tune up” rides) that usually happen around home and are usually 30-60 minutes long, I do go endurance pace, or even a bit faster (for example, if I’m working a dressage canter).
3. At some point during the training, usually once she can go on a 4 hour ride at a walk/trot on a decent trail that allows for a significant amount of trotting, I make an effort to either set up a “fake” LD, or go to a real LD. Depending on her performance, I adjust my training and my goals.
4. During a ride, similar to the conditioning ride, I’m out there for a certain number of hours (whether that is 6 hours for an LD, 12 hours for a 50, etc). Whatever miles we accomplish in those hours depends on how rideable the trail is – if the trail conditions are really tough, we may come in overtime What matters is the training and conditioning – not the completion.
The important thing to remember when I train using this philosophy is that during a ride, if the terrain is much more “ridable” than what I train on at home (and that is usually the case), thus the trail is capable of greater speeds than the normal walk/trot I have to do at home – I do NOT take opportunity to go faster.
2 things can go wrong at a ride (my personal experience/fallacies)
1. When I have come to a ride with a horse unprepared for the rigors of the trail, it’s usually because I’ve focused on miles, rather than time in the saddle – and thus chosen easier trails that I can go endurance pace without a ton of foundation/base work, and thus when I get to a ride I can’t navigate the trails at an appropriate speed.
2. When my horse gets injured at a ride or before a ride, it’s usually because I’ve focused on miles, rather than time in the saddle – and tried to go faster on trails than I should have, in order to try and get a certain amount of miles in a certain amount of time.
Your mileage may vary 🙂