Thursday, April 9, 2015

Foxcatcher 25: T - 2 Days

It's a little after 10 pm, and I'm winding down for the night.  It's been a busy day with work and getting ready to head out to Maryland tomorrow for the Foxcatcher 25.  I'm writing because I want to document how I feel before each ride and reflect on things that seem like they are working and other things that I'm worried about.

In many ways, I feel so much more prepared for this ride than for our first ride at Fort Valley last October.  I've made a significant upgrade to my sleeping accommodations (a tent and cot instead of my truck's backseat) as well as just being more organized and better prepared with an assortment of clean clothes and food and beverages.  I've also got the truck and trailer almost all packed, with the exception of a few things that can't be loaded until tomorrow.  My hope is that my morning packing process will be streamlined and without the low level of panic that I had last time:)

Of course, there is still a nagging feeling that I haven't conditioned Nimo enough, which is really true.  Our miles for the past two months don't even amount to half the miles we did to prepare for Fort Valley.  A large part of the reason is just bad weather and a little bit of it is just life.  I'm hoping the base fitness level Nimo had in the fall will help, and we have been doing at least one 10-14 mile conditioning ride each week over the type of terrain we'll see at Foxcatcher for the vast majority of the past 3 months.  We've also been doing fairly regular dressage lessons over cavalletti and the occasional ride around the farm.  He feels fit to me and has been handling conditioning well, but the little voice in my head keeps reminding me that he's not an Arab and I should be doing a better job putting miles in.  I guess we'll see.  I have no doubts whatsoever about his ability to do the first loop and if all else fails, we can just slow down for the second and maybe come in over time like we did in Fort Valley.  I'd definitely like to get a real completion for this ride, but I feel like it's too early in our endurance career to know for sure what works and what doesn't in terms of ride prep.

And then there have been the informative endurance folks I've chatted with about the Foxcatcher ride.  Not a single one of them mentioned how fantastic this ride is for those of us who are just getting started.  In fact, all of them pointed out all of the problems I can expect and most of them just wondered why I wasn't going to the No Frills ride instead.  (The reason I'm not doing No Frills is almost solely due to terrain.  No Frills is a true mountain ride and we just haven't been working in the mountains.  Whereas Foxcatcher is rolling hills and that is what we've been riding on.)

In case you've never done Foxcatcher before, here are the reasons you shouldn't do it, based on what others have told me:

1)  The start of the ride is in a big field and all of the horses are nutjobs.  Some people get bucked off and your horse is likely to act like an uncontrollable idiot.

2)  The rolling terrain seems easy, but it isn't.  It can suck the life out of an unprepared horse.

3)  A lot of the "trail" is on the side of a grassy hill, which means the footing is uneven side-to-side and more challenging for your horse.

4)  The grass will be slick with dew in the morning and slippery, especially if your horse has hoof boots on.

5)  There could be muddy, slippery spots if it rains a lot before the ride, which it has.

6)  There will likely be a 40 degree temperature change between the start of the ride and the end of the ride.

7)  There are crazy bridges that are covered, or somehow wacky.

8)  The tunnels.  (Apparently there are tunnels that go under roads and the height is meant for the less endowed.)

Out of all of those reasons, the only one that seriously concerns me is #1.  Nimo did have "race brain" for the first 9-ish miles of Fort Valley and this time there won't be a mountain to slow him down at the beginning.  On the other hand, there won't be a rocky mountain for him to try to trot down at the beginning either.  As a pre-emptive strike against Nimo's expected difficulty, I've arranged to ride with a friend, and I'm hopeful that will help.  Once we found someone to ride with at Fort Valley, Nimo settled quite a bit, so with any luck, having a buddy from the start will keep him from fighting to catch up to the front-runners.

As for the other obstacles, we train on rolling hills, uneven terrain, and mud, so I'm comfortable Nimo can handle it.  (Plus I'm planning to ride him sans hoof boots.)  If somehow the life gets sucked out of him, we'll slow down or I'll pull him at the hold.  I think the bridges will be OK as long as we are with another horse who is not terrified.  We have done tunnels before at Rock Creek Park in DC, and if I have to get off for us to get through them, that's what I'll do.  The temperature change is likely to be closer to 25 degrees, according to the forecast, with a high in the mid-60s.  Nimo is sporting a nearly full body clip, though, so I expect the temperature to be less of a concern than it was at Fort Valley, where the temperature went from freezing or below to above 70 and Nimo wasn't clipped.

In the end, everyone has a different perspective on every ride, and I'm determined to listen to the cautions of more experienced riders, but also try to make my own way.  If I didn't do a ride simply because someone else thought it had problems, I don't think I'd do any rides.  It seems like they are all either too rocky or too technical or too sandy or too easy.  Or the camping/parking is too rough.  Or something else.  So, the only way to know if Foxcatcher will be a regular occurrence on our ride calendar for future years is to try it.

1 comment:

  1. I'm very excited about your ride. I think the two of you have a great game plan. And you will have Daniel and his horde to help you out. You can ask your riding companion who they are - it will pass time on the trail to discuss it.