Friday, April 3, 2015

TRYING to speed it up

So far, all our rides have been well under the overall pace one needs to maintain in order to "complete" an endurance ride.  (There's a time limit, and if you come in later, it doesn't count as an official completion in the record books.)  Neither Arya nor I are super fit yet, and while getting fit, you're only supposed to increase one thing at a time, either distance, speed, or (some say) terrain, but not more than one factor at once.

Tonight, Shar and I rode in her neighborhood, on a route that is VERY familiar from all our night rides, and not very long, so we tried to increase the speed.  Shar and Flash probably had a speed that would have been fine.  Arya, however, didn't seem to mind lagging behind (though she WAS easier to speed up when Flash was way out ahead than when we were right behind him), so we'd just get a little further behind every stride.  :-)  Plus my legs got tired FAST with all that trotting, so I took more walk breaks than I probably should have.  So we have our work cut out for us, finishing in time.  Luckily, the first ride we're doing is an "intro" ride, so there's no time limit.  I have a self-imposed time limit if I'm going to be able to do a second loop (most ride managers let you, and they let folks do it at this same ride last year) with Shar and Flash (they're doing a longer ride, but their last loop is the same as the intro ride's only loop).  It won't be the end of the world if I finish too late to be able to do it at all, or have to do a second loop alone instead of with Shar, but if/when I move up to 25-mile rides, I NEED to finish in time or the ride will be a "waste" if it doesn't count.

Anyway, we trotted earlier, longer, and later in tonight's ride than normal.  We took fewer and shorter walk breaks than normal.  Though we did have a relatively long walk next to the llamas as it was not only next to those weird, scary creatures (though Arya gave them one look then was over it this time), but also a steeper downhill grade than I'm comfortable trotting her on right now.

When we got to a section that went from flat to a gentle uphill to a bit steeper uphill, I decided I was ready to try a canter.  On purpose, and not even just "letting" her canter.  As we got closer and closer to the appointed spot to canter, I did get a bit nervous.  She started trotting faster and faster, even as we passed the mark.  I thought of just letting her keep trotting, or even letting her trot faster and faster until she cantered on her own, but I'd told myself I'd canter at that telephone pole, so I gave a little squeeze and she cantered.  I concentrated on leaning "back" (probably still sitting up straight, but my inclination is to hunch over, so it feels like I'm leaning way back), and we fell into a nice rhythm.  Flash was still pulling ahead of us (this horse really IS like a semi), so at one point, Arya kind of pushed her head down and engaged her hind end a bit to speed up, which made me nervous since it kind of felt like she was hunching up to buck.  But all she did was speed up, so I sat back, reined her in, and she slowed back to a nice rocking canter.  By that point, Flash was slowing, so she also slowed to a trot, and another successful canter was over.  We took a walk break the rest of the way up the hill, then went back to our pattern of trotting a lot and walking a little.

We even trotted right up to the last corner before getting "home," and Shar decided to push Flash on a little faster, including doing a little cantering.  At first, Arya was happy to let him get ahead.  But eventually the combination of Flash getting more and more ahead of us, Flash cantering away from us, and a dark barking beside us resulted in Arya trotting MUCH faster and really wanting to canter, but I reined her back in and we went back to a nice calm trot.

As we walked the last leg back to the house, I pulled out my phone and checked our ride stats on Endomondo.  Only 4.7 mph average (well, 4.63 by the time we finished walking home).  Granted, we we likely will be faster at a real ride, but can't just average 5 mph when on a short ride, because you have to account for water/snack stops (for the horse AND the person!), stopping to adjust something, and probably needing more rest breaks toward the end of the ride.  So yeah, we still have a bit of work to do.

Tomorrow, we repeat the long hilly ride we did a couple weekends ago, from Henderson Flats.  We don't want to overdo it, but we're gonna shoot for a faster time than last time (more trotting in places we walked last time--there are plenty of places on that ride that NEED to be walked, so the hard part will be trotting the LONG stretches where it's possible).  My thighs are already quite tired from tonight, so we'll see how that goes.  :-)

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