Going the Distance: Beating burnout

Endurance editor Sharalyn Hay writes about her recent experience of training so hard she and her horse hit a wall–and how they busted through it.

From Sharalyn:

I’m going to get a little more personal with this installment and talk about something that we all experience as competitors… burnout. And we, as humans, aren’t the only ones to experience it. Horses feel it too.

So, our race season began back in April. We did a 32-mile race and all was well. In May, Flash and I did a pretty tough (read that technical) 25 mile race. It was very up and down and the whole first half of the race was basically spent either going up the steep hill or down it. In June, Flash and I did our first 50 of the year. It went well, but we took it rather slow. That brings us to our last race in July… Bandit Springs.

Leading up to that race, I had been pushing Flash quite hard in the training department to get ready for the hilly terrain we were going to encounter in the Ochocos. My hope was to do a competitive 50 mile race. He had been getting increasingly grumpy with each ride and I couldn’t figure out why things that had never bothered him before (i.e. stumps in full view) were all of a sudden a major issue. He would spook at the slightest thing. But I just pressed on with our schedule.

The week leading up to Bandit Springs was the worst and Flash and I were “fighting” more and more. I was getting very irritated with all the spooking (when he had never really been like that before) and he was just getting more and more grumpy. So I finally decided that we would go out and ride and that I would let Flash make all of the decisions. We went as fast as he wanted, where he wanted. After about 20 minutes of me not harassing him he relaxed and really got into the ride. The conclusion? He was tired of not getting an opinion in our schedule and tired of me nagging him. OK… roger that. After that, things got a lot more pleasant. The horse was sorted out. Now it was my turn, only I didn’t know it yet.

When the race weekend came, I was ready. Richard and I showed up to ride camp on a Thursday night and got settled in. On Friday evening I did an easy warm-up ride with Flash while Richard rode the quad and kept an eye on the dogs. Everything was great. Flash was working well and we were ready to go. I went to bed feeling that we were ready to tackle a 50 mile race in the morning.

Unfortunately for me, my body didn’t happen to agree with my mind. Around 1 a.m. I got a pretty nasty fever and it lasted until about 3:30 a.m. For that 2 1/2 hours I seriously thought I was dying. When it broke, I was so relieved… until the alarm went off a half hour later. I dragged myself out of bed and started to get ready for the race… however, the longer I was up the worse I felt. But I had just spent all this time and money getting to this race and I wanted to race, dammit.

When I went into the camper to get a few things, Richard took one look at me and asked me if I was really going to do this. And then he said, “This is supposed to be fun. If you’re not having fun then why are you going to do it?” And although it didn’t resonate with me strongly at the time, is now making me rethink some things. I was getting so focused on the end result that I was forgetting the most important thing about endurance… we (both Flash and I) are supposed to be having fun.

That weekend, I ended up dropping down to do a 25 on Sunday instead of a 50 on Saturday. We had a blast. My old horse was back and I smiled most of the race. Success!!

These days my focus is less on what place we’re getting and more on the fact that we’re having fun. Some won’t agree with this. Their sole goal is to be the best… and that’s OK. There are horses out there that have that same goal. And when those horses meet up with those riders, amazing things happen.

However, for me and my boy the end goal now is to have fun. Flash just turned 15 on August 15th and he’s training better than ever. My hope is that we can continue to put in the long miles for years to come… while enjoying each other’s company. What more can a girl ask for?

So, remember to have fun while you’re out there riding. And to finish (with a smile on your face) is to win…

Sharalyn is owned by three horses–Flash (the Arab), Storm (the Mustang) and Goodwin (the NSHxTB)–and two dogs, Daisy and Noelle. They do their best to make the most out of every day. You can follow their adventures at 36andsingle.blogspot.com

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