Miles or wins?
This is the quote that I keep in mind when deciding how I'm going to ride, and I believe it with all my heart:
"There are two kinds of riders - those who compete for miles, and those who compete to win. These are rarely in the same rider."
I'm not necessarily saying one is "right", but you have to decide what your goal is and how you plan to ride.
I, personally, am in awe of Dave Rabe, who I met at the City of Rocks ride. He currently has 55,000 endurance miles and is set to beat the all time record (around 75,000) in a few years. Holy crap! I had the pleasure of seeing exactly how he's managed to get all those miles, and he had a 4-day horse at that ride completing a total of 200 miles in those four days. It was quite inspiring.
I've decided that I'm going to compete for miles. After placing well in the first few LD's I did, I realized I enjoy taking the ride easy and slow, and even getting off and leading and/or tailing in areas. I'm still competitive, so I get to set my goal of getting the turtle. I find it more of a challenge to gain as many miles as possible, but that means I have to pass up some rides until my horse is ready. That's ok - we've got plenty of years ahead of us.
Plus, someday, I may decide to compete to win, but I will likely decide to invest in a top-of-the-line endurance horse bred and trained to win if I want to go that direction.
On the other hand, I can see the appeal to those who compete to win, including the effort they put into their strategy. Those around here that I know at the most competitive levels, including the Tevis, only pick the rides they believe they can win and then go all out. So, they don't get a ton of miles comparatively (at least not on the same horse) since they're not riding every ride and rather putting it all out there on one ride, including skipping the rides they don't think they have the best chances of winning. But, the ones who do it right still have good, sound, healthy horses.
So which are you? Or which do you hope to be?