Monday, August 29, 2011

Tahoe Rim Ride - Kingsbury North to Spooner Summit

On Sunday, my mom Lynda and her Tennessee Walking Horse Joe joined Diego and I for a ride on the Tahoe Rim Trail.  My friend Sanne and I are going to be managing an AERC endurance ride over parts of this same trail, next August, 8/25/12.  You can go here: for more information on the Tahoe Rim Ride.

So Sunday morning, both my mom and I hooked up our rigs and loaded our horses up.  Since we were going to be riding point to point, the plan was to leave my trailer at Spooner Summit, off Highway 50, and to take my mom's to the start off Kingsbury Grade.  We each trailered one horse up the first haul to the top of Spooner.  I parked in the main trailer parking area, which is on the south side of Hwy 50.  Next time, I would pull through the USFS picnic and parking area on the north side of the highway, where the trail actually comes out, as there are a couple of pull through spots you could just fit a trailer in.  Use the main trailer parking as a back-up if those spots (there are only about 4) are full.  I already had my tack in my mom's trailer from riding the day before, so only had to put Diego in and we set off to the start of the trail.

Going up Kingsbury Grade (Hwy 207) is a steep haul.  Definitely need to use a low gear and make judicious use of the sporadic turn-outs.  You turn onto Benjamin Road North off the 207, and follow the road 2 more miles through a neighborhood to the actual trail head.  These last 2 miles are quite steep and slow going.  At least, for the most part, the vehicles had to do all the hard climbing work on this ride, getting us to the top of the world, leaving less climbing for the horses.  There is a large dirt area to park a trailer in before the smaller paved lot.  Since we were the first trailer in, we were able to get turned around and parked facing out, which was a good thing as upon our return, there were two other trailers (vehicle, not horse) there and it made getting my rig turned around a bit interesting, but still very doable. 

We got saddled up and ready to go.  We were careful to pack extra drinking water for ourselves, and carrots for the horses.  This 12.2 mile stretch of the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) has NO natural water.  Ensure you have lots of extra water for yourselves, and for your horses at the end of the trail.  Both of our horses drank around 5 gallons each at the end.  The first part of the trail is fairly technical, climbing a series of granite steps, along a narrow single-track, right within the first half-mile.  My mom rode up this section, but I stayed on foot and lead Diego up.  In less than a mile, the trail was less rocky and I mounted up.  There were still a few sections I would dismount for, mainly because Diego is still learning where best to place his feet, sometimes making not very wise decisions, and I would rather NOT be on him at the time.  By the end of the day however, he was able to confidently follow behind Joe, watching where he went, or pick the better path himself.

I truly cannot write words to describe the beauty of the trail.  The pictures do not even begin to do it justice.  I had to keep my camera on-hand, ready to whip out at any time to snap the next awe-inspiring view.  I found the best place to do this, was to tuck it in my bra.  =)  It worked great, the only problem being I kept forgetting it was in there and then "finding" it unexpectedly, like when we stopped for lunch, and while driving back home.  We took pictures of the three main areas where the road(s?) would cross the trail.  These were all nice big open areas that would easily accommodate a vet check.  We stopped often just to enjoy the scenery and appreciate being lucky enough to ride this trail.  There is a wooden bench nestled in a rock outcropping along the peak of the trail, with incredible views of Lake Tahoe.  This made an excellent spot for lunch, with grazing for the horses tied to nearby trees and endless views for us.  This spot is approximately 7 miles from the Kingsbury Trailhead, and 5 from the Spooner Summit side.

Since this is the shortest segment of the TRT, it does receive a fair amount of traffic.  We saw about 10 mountain bikers and probably an equal number of people hiking.  Everyone was very polite and courteous, correctly yielding the trail to the horses.  The trail was very clearly marked and easy to follow, either with the blue arrows or badges of the TRT nailed to trees.  Most of the trail was single-track, where there was simply no question as to if you were on the correct route, there was no where else to be.  We walked about 70% and did a slow easy trot/gait the other 30%.  We were cognizant of not wanting the horses to get to overheated and any more thirsty than they already were.  It took us a total of about 4.5 hours to get from one trailer to the other, with about 30 minutes being stopped for lunch.  You could ride it faster, especially during the ride where water will be provided along several points. 

There were some portions that were quite rocky and required walking, others were you could trot for a bit, walk a short stretch, then trot again, and yet others were there was just a long stretch of glorious perfect footing.  The elevation change was mild, being a total of about 1,600 feet over the entire distance.  If riding from the Spooner side, you would have more climbing from that direction, and it would be more difficult to navigate some of the rockier portions into Kingsbury, having to go down the granite rock steps, rather than up them.  If riding point to point, the Kingsbury to Spooner direction would definitely be the preferred choice, however, if you wanted just a beautiful out and back, I would recommend the Spooner side.  The access to the trail is much easier (hauling a trailer up the grades) and the trail itself is better footing and less rocky coming from that direction.  It would make an excellent 10 mile ride to ride up to the lake viewing area, and then back to your trailer at Spooner Summit.

Enjoy the pictures below.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


One of the greatest endurance horses ever.  I can't wait to see what more he is capable of.  This is a most excellent article worth reading:

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Low Mileage Training

I'll admit it.  I don't ride nearly as often as I should.  In the three month's before the 50 at Rides of March, Diego had 74 training miles.  In the three month's before the 50/30 at Cooley, we had 138.  There was also the 50 at Rides of March, and a 25 ride as well that I didn't count in the interim.  But still, very low mileage.  I'd like to say this hasn't always been the case, but in reality it often has.  My life was very full when I was competing my first horse several years ago.  My saving grace, and the ability to move up to and successfully complete 100-mile rides, was based on the simple fact that I used the rides themselves for training and conditioning. 

I also know I'm not alone in this, shameful as it may be.  :)  So how do we do it?  How are we able to successfully COMPLETE rides (note: I would NOT recommend COMPETING on this type of a schedule) with low-mileage training?  Here are some tips:

1. Specificity of training. Pick an event that you intend to ride, and tailor your training as much as possible to simulate the ride conditions (surface type, elevation, elevation change, temperature, etc.). If you're not sure what the ride conditions are like, ask the ride manager, or someone who has attended in the past.  If you're still not sure, it's best to "plan for the worst" and try to pick a more difficult training environment (hills, sand, etc).  Be aware, however, that if you train in the mountains, and the ride is flat footing, that it may actually be more difficult for your horse.  The same is true if you train in the sand, and then encounter hard-packed footing, or visa versa. 

2. Long training ride. Do at least half, and honestly - I've done ALL, of your weekly mileage in one long training ride. If you know that you only have time to ride once a week, work up to doing 1/3 to 1/2 of your goal distance on your one long ride.  This means if you want to ride 50's, then work up to doing a 25-mile ride once a week or so. 

3. Cross-training. Difficult if you're limited in your saddle time, but squeezing in an hour of arena work, or even putting your horse on a lunge (or free lunging) occasionally can help to increase and/or maintain fitness.  Taking a lesson will benefit both the horse and the rider.  Chances are, you'll both work muscles you don't use on a daily basis.  Horses kept in a large enclosure are better off than those kept in a small one.  Horses kept in an enclosure with hills, rocks, and other natural obstacles are better off than those kept without.  That being said, my horse lives at home in a flat 24x36 ft corral.  Just make the best of what you can.

4. Vary weekly mileage. Start at least 12 weeks before the intended ride and gradually increase mileage to a level that is about 20%-50% higher than your average miles per week (mpw). For example, if your annual average is 20 mpw, try to build up to at least 25 mpw during your training before the ride.  Ideally, my mpw would be at or near my goal distance, but since I know that's not feasible for me, I like to aim for 50-60% of my goal distance, or 25-30 mpw to complete a 50 mile ride.  To increase this before an event, I can add one or two shorter rides during the week to ramp up to around 40 miles before I taper.  A "high mileage" week, 2-3 weeks before a 50, might look like this:  Thurs: 8-10  Sat: 20-25.  If I can, I'll do one other shorter ride of around 5 miles mid-week sometime.

5. Peak and taper. Peak your weekly mileage two or three weeks before the ride, if possible, aim for around your goal distance as your mpw. Then taper your mileage down for the last 2-3 weeks. Your horse will feel rested and ready for action on ride morning.  If your goal distance is 100 miles, I like to start my taper earlier and will generally ride a 50 mile ride, or even two back-to-back, about 4-6 weeks before a 100.

6. Rest. The rule of thumb I've heard and like to follow is to give one day of rest for every 10 miles you cover in training.  This means that if I do a 50, I will not ride at all that following week.  I do try to get my horse out and take him for long walks and lots of grazing by hand.  I may go on an easy ride that weekend, but nothing fast or strenuous.  There are a lot of horses going, that are ridden only at actual rides.  If you live in a region where you can manage a ride every 2-3 weeks, or a multiday once a month or so, then this is possible.  However, if you only plan on doing one or two events a year, this obviously is not the schedule to use.

7. Pace. Ride at as close to a constant pace as you can during the event. This means going out at the start much slower than your horse will want to. It also means keeping your moving speed fairly low.  Remember, this is not the type of training you want to do if you intend to finish above mid-pack.  Keep your trotting speed around 7-9 mph and walking around 3-5 mph.  Your overall moving mph will be somewhere around 6 mph or so depending upon footing and terrain.

8. Ride your own ride.  Is your horse an uphill horse or a downhill horse?  Can she keep up a steady pace on a winding trail, or are long straight stretches her forte?  Is he happiest with a buddy along or does he work best alone?  Take advantage of their strengths and do your best to mitigate their weaknesses. 

9. Stopping and vet checks.  Since you will not be going very fast, make sure you do your best to use your allotted trail time, actually going down the trail.  Do not dilly-dally around too much at water stops. Have your horse drink, cool them if needed, and then get going.  Watch your time at the vet checks and try to leave on time.  If you're travelling at a 6 mph average, you cost yourself a 1/2 mile for every 5 minutes you are late leaving a vet check.

10. Navigation. Attend the ride meeting and bring the ride map and/or course description provided. Make note of mileages between main landmarks, such as the vet checks and water stops. Listen carefully for if there are any technical sections that are going to slow you down more than normal (overly rocky, steep, lots of roots, etc). You will need to take advantage of the other sections to compensate for this. Pay attention to the trail markings, you do not want to go off course. If you get lost, the best general rule is to go back the way you came until you know where you are on the course.

11. Post-race. After the ride, ensure your horse has plenty to eat and drink at the trailer. Walk around smiling, socializing with the other riders, and savoring your accomplishment. Go back and take your horse for a short walk every hour or so before you leave. Do not immediately pack up to go home, as problems are just as likely to occur in the few hours following an event as they are during. Keep an eye on your horse's appetite and comfort level. Best to stay and enjoy the meal and relax for a bit before trailering home. If you traveled more than a few hours to the ride, it is even better to stay overnight before going home.  Walk your horse again before trailering home.

12. Post your experiences. As soon as possible after the ride, be sure to write an e-mail story about your experiences. Share it on public endurance forums, your blog, etc. We all need to learn from each other as much as possible. It's also valuable to look back at later and recall some of the details of what did or did not work for you that particular day.

13. Ask veterans for advice. My favorite place to do this is to ride with them at the actual rides.  There is often a huge wealth of knowledge, happily trolling along at the back of the pack. Some of the highest mileage riders and horses are back there, quite successfully doing their thing. Subscribe to E-mail lists, read blogs, surf the web, train with them, subscribe to Endurance News magazine.


14. The "experts" say that you should be able to complete a distance 3 times that of your *normal* long ride (single ride, not mpw). For an LD (25-30 miles), that means an 8-10 mile training ride.  For 50's, that's about a 17 mile ride.  I personally like to round up and do at least 20.  For 100-milers, that means a 33 mi.+ training ride (approximately). I prefer to use 50 mile events to achieve this goal. 
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