Thursday, February 16, 2012

Distance versus Time: My Thoughts

Today, Mel over at Boots and Saddles posed an interesting question:

During conditioning rides, do you ride for time or distance?

I've been mulling this over, and started a comment on her blog, then realized I had a bit to share on the topic.  I find I tend to use a bit of both methods. Most often, I will ride for miles though, or rather a specific trail loop I have in mind. I generally do my long rides slower than endurance pace (around 4.5 - 5 mph overall). I don't like riding out-and-backs, so being able to go ride xxx specific loop, I know that I'll be getting in that set number of miles.  However, I don't always choose a loop due to it's length, but rather the features of that particular trail:
  • Deep sandy footing to work on tendon and ligament strength
  • Long steady hill climbs to build muscular fitness
  • Shorter, steeper hills that I work at a faster/harder pace to build aerobic capacity
  • Long periods of nice footing, to work on sustained gaits at a certain speed
  • Technical trail for mental focus and learning to watch foot placement
When I'm setting out, I generally have an idea of about how long time-wise that particular loop may take me, but I like having the freedom to go faster, or slower, or explore a bit as the fancy may strike.  I do firmly believe in short sessions of speed work, although I'm more likely to incorporate that as part of a long ride (i.e. work this uphill particularly hard, or canter a certain portion of the trail).  I feel that tempo-work, or working at the endurance ride pace (or ideally even faster), for short sections of a long ride is really beneficially, and a HUGE cornerstone of my training.

If I'm short on time to ride, I would rather have a training session of some sort than try to fit in any type of "conditioning."  I'm not the best in that I value my personal time very highly, and understand the importance of rest and mental down-time for my health.  So if I have a free hour of time, I'm much more likely to spend that OFF the horse than ON.  I enjoy my saddle time too much to try to rush through it due to time constraints.  Very rarely do I ride for less than one hour, if I'm taking the time to saddle up, then I'm going to enjoy that time for a more extended period.  This means that my horse looses out on the benefit of those short, quick, "get 5 miles in" type of rides, but he's much more likely to experience being out on the trail for hours on end.  Since January, Diego was ridden according to time:
  • Two rides that were one-hour long and approximately 5 miles
  • One 2.5 hour lesson, shared with a friend so he was "worked" about 1/2 that time and we rested or did exercises on our own the remainder
  • Two rides that were between 4-5 hours long and about 20 miles each
  • One 6 hour 30-mile ride
At this point, I feel he's very fit and should easily be able to complete a 50-mile ride.  This weekend, we're having another lesson on Sunday, so I'm hoping to do a long ride on either Saturday or the holiday on Monday.

What preference do you tend to have for your riding?  Time or distance?

**Posting and/or updating posts here on occassion with a picture so I can add to my Endurance - The Ride of a Lifetime Pinterest board, which is where I'm also compiling some Endurance 101 Clinic ideas.  Original article source will be linked when applicable.


Dom said...

Good post. This is a logical and helpful break down. I tend to just play it by ear, but I back what you said 100%.

Funder said...

Good post!

Why do you do your long conditioning rides slower than competition pace?

Mel said...

I agree with your comments about tempo rides. I find them very important and is why I canter (or even hand gallop if I get the feeling...) during a conditioning ride if I feel like it. I rarely do it during endurance rides, but it keeps the saddle time fun for me.

I too do my conditioning rides slower than my endurance and I'm not sure why it's OK? Possibly because I do tempo rides? Do I'm doing speed and distance but not together? Ive always felt doing long rides at a faster pace (competition pace) regularly increased my chances of injury significantly, and did not gain me much in terms of fittness.

Funder said...

See, I shoot to do the fast (flat!) 20 mile NEDA rides at about 7 mph - my theory is that at the halfway mark of a harder AERC ride, when we've gone slower the whole time, I'll have more horse left. When I say "faster" I really mean "slower than almost everybody else" - I don't know if that matters in this discussion.

~ C said...

I too try to ride the NEDA rides at a bit faster pace than AERC rides. They're great conditioning. The main reasons my other (non-NEDA) long rides are slower than endurance pace are generally:
1) Water - or the lack thereof. If I'm not sure of the water situation (dry, frozen, not available, etc) then I'm not willing to push the pace too hard. I have done up to 20-miles with no water, but it's certainly not ideal, and I'm glad I wasn't going so fast as to have a REALLY hot and thirsty horse.
2) Trail - Often for longer rides I'm out exploring, scouting trail, or riding trail that is more technical than "endurance" type trail. Like all the riding we've been doing out in Red Rock lately, we've been scouting and not going overly fast, often stopping to look at maps and GPS readings. Now that we have that loop finalized, and know where the water is, I would be more comfortable riding it at slow endurance pace.

~ C said...

I really agree with this post from my Facebook link:

Courtney Giardina commented on your link.
Courtney wrote: "Definitely both. I usually condition by mileage first. For example if I am conditioning a horse that is not in great shape and I start with a 15 mile ride, I ride the pace that the horse is comfortable with and am proud of them for finishing the whole ride. But then the time part comes time we do the loop I expect it to be done faster. Then if we move up mileage, we do the 15 at the quicker pace we've been working on and then slow down for the additional mileage. I keep expanding on mileage and then cutting time :) both are important!"

Funder said...

True, many of my away-from-home trips are out exploring. I remember when I rode Boca Reservoir, I immediately realized it wasn't a good training trail but decided I'd ride out for one hour then back for however long it took.

:like: Courtney's comment - that seems to be the traditional endurance training method, and it's what I try to keep in mind.

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