Sunday, September 23, 2007

Support Crew Report: 55- Mile Endurance Ride

"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." - T.S. Eliot

Last week's various road trips ended with a visit home this past weekend to Asheville, NC to play support crew to our Dad and his horse Tshield who competed their second 55-mile endurance horse ride. The 2007 Mountin Hopes Fall Fling took place on the hundreds of acres surrounding the Biltmore Estate, along the banks of the beautiful French Broad River. The early fall mountain weather could not have been better.

Much like triathlon, endurance riding takes speed, skill, strategy, knowledge of anatomy and physiology and the ability to just keep going - on the part of both horse and rider! Rides range from 25 to 100 miles and can take over 24 hours to complete.

This course consisted of 4 loops that each ended at the crew support site or "transition area" as we called it. We first saw Dad at the close of the first (and longest) 18 mile loop. As riders come into transition, their crews quickly help cool down the horse by removing the saddle, sponge-bathing the horse with cool water, and allowing him to eat and drink. The horse's heart needs to be below 64 bpm before they can clear the mandatory vet checks that follow each loop. Since Tshield's heartrate monitor was broken, we used a little tri-ingenuity and measured his cooldown using our own Suunto monitors, which worked perfectly!

Following a passing vet check, each horse and ride must wait at least 40 minutes before they can continue. During that time, we continued to feed and rest Tshield - and Dad! Endurance horses- like endurance athletes - need their electrolytes replaced throughout the day. Dad usally gives Tshield a syringe of electrolyte-laced applesauce during each transition - and on Saturday, we added a litttle ELETE to his water, just like we use! After the mandatory rest period, horse and riders are off for another 1-3 hours.

While Dad was out riding, we used the downtime to get in a 2:45 brick - cycling on our bike trainers at Dad's campsite amid the manure and running on the same trails the riders were using. It required a little family-balance creativity to both be able to support our Dad AND get our last big workout in - but we did it!
After the final ride loop, horses are required to undergo one last vet check. If they do not pass, the ride still counts as a DNF! Can you imagine if that were the case in triathlon?!! Dad and Tshield finished in just over 12 hours, coming in 39th out of 58 younger and more experienced entrants.
It was so much fun to spend the day hanging out with our Mom (aka The Crew Leader) and cheer our Dad on at the beginning and end of each loop. In endurance riding, the sport motto is "To finish is to win." Thanks for that reminder Dad!