Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Friday, March 13, 2015

First Two Weeks of Spring Training

March 1, 2015.  Watching kids play hockey on their backyard rink.
March 1 usually marks the start of "spring training" for me.  Although we got two nice long rides in during January, this is when I really get serious about whipping us both into shape for the start of ride season.  Today, March 13, marked our fifth conditioning ride of the season, and a total of 45 miles.  In previous years living in Duluth, I would have right around 100 miles on Rhio before the first ride of the season.  We are on track to best that, for sure, which is good since all our miles are flat here.  I think that I will need a higher volume of miles in order to equal the conditioning we had over 100 miles in Duluth.  What should my pre-season goal be, I wonder?  I think I would be happy with about 150 flat miles before Kettles N Bits.  My plan for that ride is a 25 mile LD on Saturday, and then Rhio and I will take S. and Jay out on their first novice ride (12 miles), for a weekend total of 37 miles.  There will be hills, so that should make for an excellent conditioning weekend and set us up well for the rest of the season.  I'm hoping for a 75 mile weekend later in May (a 50 on Saturday and a 25 on Sunday), and then we'll go from there and see what rides we can get to. 
Time to get up from your lazy nap, Rhio!  We've got work to do!
I use my Runkeeper app on my phone to track our rides.  I used to use a wrist GPS unit (very old, and very basic), but it no longer works and since I always have my phone on me anyway, I have just used the same app I use for my own runs.  I have to set it to 'other' since it doesn't offer horseback riding as an exercise option, but it creates a map, records time, distance, and overall speed, and also gives me mile splits on speed.  I like this data.  I write it down in Rhio's log book.  I can compare my rides this way, and see that our last two rides - today and Wednesday - were both at about a 10 min/mile (6 mph) average pace.  This is adequate pace to finish a ride, and I would consider it to be a base pace for ride day.  While I would love to condition faster than this, being on roads is a bit limiting for a few reasons.  One, I don't like to canter on the pavement very much, as I am a worry wort and think about things like slipping, excess concussion, and, of course, the extra force with which I would hit the ground should something untoward occur.  I much prefer to hit grass, or dirt, if I'm gonna come off (knock on something wood, here, please).  Two, there are always extra challenges road riding - either traffic requiring slowing down, or scary things to navigate.  I just find it quite difficult to push up my average pace much in this environment.  So, we will hope to haul out for at least a few rides before May that are on a true trail, and at which we can up our speed to better prepare for race day (on which Rhio truly believes he is channeling the greats - Secretariat, Man O War, Seabiscuit, et al - and wants to run like the wind the entire 25, or 50, miles).  We will typically travel as fast as 10 mph average at a race, so I definitely need to get some speed work on before May!

An example of the maps courtesy of Runkeeper.  You can easily see I ride roads!  Look at that perfect square.

Speaking of scary things, today was a solo ride for us, and although Rhio is really quite brave and rarely spooky, dairy cows are his downfall.  He is utterly, completely, paralyzingly afraid of them.  He doesn't much care for beef cows, either, but we can handle them if needed.  Dairy cows - no how, no way.  IF we have a buddy horse along, he will be afraid (heart pounding in his chest, hyper-alert giraffe neck, prancy feet).  But if we are alone, he can't handle those black and white beauties at all.  Nope.  Not one bit.  Today I was planning an out-and-back of about 6 miles, but only managed 5.3 since we couldn't make it past the dairy cows (really, we could have, but in just a few tenths of a mile, we'd have had to turn around and come back past them - that seemed like too much to ask!).  I had a treat in my pocket, and once I managed to dismount spinning Mr. Rhio, I led him over to the side of the road nearest the monster cows and waited for him to settle the tiniest bit, then gave him the treat. He continued to giraffe-neck, alarm-snort, spin-in-circles around me, which the cows didn't help by rushing away from the fence, then back to the fence, en masse, several times.  Standing there wasn't helping, so once we'd hand walked far enough away that he relaxed a fraction, I mounted up and let him find safety in moving his feet down the road away from the cows.  I wonder when/how this aversion to dairy cows started?  He has never liked being around any cows, but I have ridden near and even through herds of beef cows without too much issue.  The year we were in CO is the first time I remember ever encountering dairy cows with him, and it was a disaster from the get-go.  I wonder if it is their behavior that is the issue?  They are generally curious creatures, and come to (rush) the fence to see us.  An aside- I remember riding my bicycle around the country roads near Northfield, MN in college and the pastured dairy cows would race my bike down their fenceline as far as they could.  It was kind of exhilarating, actually, but of course my bike wasn't afraid of them and didn't have a mind of its own. 

The insanely terrifying dairy cows.  You may notice I took this pic from the ground!
So I mentioned whipping us both into shape for ride season, which on my end means upping my running plan again. I had been running quite consistently, averaging above 15 miles a week and usually doing one long run of 7-9 miles in there somewhere.  Then, in mid-December, I sprained my ankle trail running.  Since then, I quit running entirely for a while, then slowly started back at only about one run per week or 10 days, and only up to 5 miles.  This week has marked my first week back on my "conditioning" program, with a pretty darn functional ankle (finally!) and 3 runs for a total of around 12 miles this week.  I got new shoes!  That helps a lot, as my only running shoes were for the trail and I am stuck with roads and bike paths until my ankle gets a little stronger and more stable.

I think there was only 1 day this week that I did not run and/or ride.  The weather has helped immensely, with temps in the 40s, 50s, and, today, 60s.  Bring it on, spring!  We are ready, willing, and able to enjoy you to the fullest.

Sunset after a quickie, solo ride. March 7, 2015.

Dramatic sky.  March 7, 2015.  Snow still on the ground.

S. rides Red one day.  March 8, 2015.

What a treat to have a pic of me and Rhio in action! March 8, 2015.

Our training buddy S. and her mount Jay.  March 11, 2015. Note there is still a smidge of snow in spots.

March 11, 2015.  A sweaty, hairy horse rolled in wet sand.  Bye, bye pretty white pony! See you next winter.

March 13, 2015.  We're serious about our conditioning today!

March 13, 2015

March 13, 2015.  A herd of miniature horses!  And no snow - just ponds, puddles, and icy bits out in the fields.

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