Will the mileage count for Siena and I? No. But other than that I have no complaints about this ride experience at all. We're both happy and healthy and so much went so right all day that I have no complaints. I learned so much about managing myself and managing my horse on this ride. And the big thing? I know I'm capable of riding 50 miles. And honestly, at a slower pace than what we rode, I'm confident with the training I do on Q that she is capable of doing 50 miles, too, someday.
So now, a recap of what worked (+) and what didn't (-) on this ride.
+ Food and drink. I ate well and drank well all. damn. day. I had very little time to get ready for this ride, so I basically just threw a few things in a cooler. Hard-boiled eggs; Danimals yogurt smoothies; V8 Fusion energy drinks; watermelon; Gingersnap Larabars; PB-cheese crackers; pistachios; white cheddar cheese curds; Arizona green tea + honey; Tradewinds sweet tea; H2O. All of these things were easy to eat and eat quickly. I could throw them in my mouth at each check. The drinks were all canned except for my H2O which was in my Camelbak. At each check I'd chug a can or two of tea or V8 and refill my water for the next loop. While on loops, I made an effort to finish my Camelbak each time - except for the cool first loop that was only ~11 miles. I knew I was doing pretty well taking care of myself because I peed 2x at every check. In the future, I'd like to incorporate some protein in the form of meat (chicken salad probably) at the checks. At the end of the day, I polished off all food I hadn't finished and dug into the watermelon like whoa. Watermelon is the best thing to revive me post-exercise in heat like that. After I'd finished the watermelon, I really had no desire to eat a single thing until Sunday morning. Heat does that to me. I had no headache post-ride though.
+ Camelbak and nothing else on trail. When I ride my horse with my gear, I always have my cantle pack full of this-and-thats for the ride. If this ride had been on my own horse, I would have done this. If the ride had had 3 loops instead of 4, I likely would have stuffed my Camelbak full of more than I did. This was minimalist riding for me, but it really worked well this time around.
+ Da Brim. In past usage of my awesome helmet brim, I've received a lot of flac for it. Headed out on the 3rd loop of Scioto, I donned it. It was heating up and I needed that extra protection. Sunscreen works, too, but it makes me feel sweatier on my face. Keeping my face shaded kept me cooler and protected me from the sun. Additionally, I received SO many compliments on it. Teddy from Running Bear even snapped a photo of me. Other riders and crew had a lot of compliments as I rode out for that 3rd loop. Damn straight, y'all.
+ Fitness level. I may not have been riding my horse much these past few months, but I have been biking 2-3 days a week and climbing a fair bit. My fitness level was in a pretty incredible place. I felt great all day. The only thing that really kicked my rear was those damn stirrup leathers interfering with my legs. Were it not for that, I think I would have come out of this ride minimally sore.
+ Ariat Terrains. SO AMAZING. Walking, hiking, jogging in these was amazing all day. I have no blisters at all and wasn't footsore in the slightest!
+ My DevonAire breeches. Unlike my Kerritts bootcut breeches, these don't have a seem along the inside of my leg. This is CRUCIAL to me not getting any chafing.
+ Patagonia boy short underwear. These were AWESOME all day. Well, right up until the creek crossing when I doused myself with water. I had no chafing from underwear lines and no issues at all until they became wet from that creek. Then in a very short 5 miles I earned chafing. Grumble. But I'm noting this as a positive because I believe if I hadn't gotten my rear wet, I'd have been just fine.
+ Changes of shirts/bras all day. I sweat like a man. For each loop, I changed clothes. It didn't solve the issue 100%, but man was it nice to feel *sort of * clean. Wicking shirts all.the.way. Tank tops for the win.
- A saddle I wasn't used to. This was the biggest negative of the day. I don't know why it went so poorly for me. If I ride Siena in the VA Highlands 50 at the end of August, I'm going to bring my own stirrups/leathers/wool covers. I think maybe the wool covers will help life. It'll make the area bigger and perhaps that's the real issue? Worth a try. I'll also bring my own saddle, too, but if it doesn't fit Siena then well, that's an issue to solve later.
- Not enough NSAIDs for myself. The stirrup leather issue caused my calves to be INCREDIBLY sore. Walking down so many hills had my quads really sore, too. My core, traps, and hamstrings all had mild soreness from riding. Nothing crazy in those three muscle groups though, nothing I wouldn't expect from 50 miles of riding. My quads and calves formed this perfect storm of destruction though for my efforts to walk for 2 days post-ride. Guys, I've NEVER been that sore. It was awful. AWFUL. Day two post-ride was the worst, too. My inflammatory response peaked that morning. Despite anti-inflammatories in my system, I was miserable. I could *barely* walk. It was an exercise in futility and misery to climb stairs, sit and rise, get in and out of bed. All my body's resources were focused on those two muscle groups in my legs leaving nearly no reserves for the rest of my body. I was in bed for the large majority of that day. I had no choice. This issue is likely one I will encounter again, but I hope it is never to this extreme. I will have to be cautious to prevent it as much as I'm able.
Another big thing about this ride that is neither negative nor positive, but is merely something worth noting and learning from: I didn't really have to take care of my horse all day. Mary had that shit DIALED. I offered to help and she let me help here and there. But for the most part, she did it all. She said she liked doing it and was happy to do it. I didn't push her. I knew if it were me I'd want to do the same. I know my horses and know their tack and their habits of eating, etc. I know I can guarantee them the best care possible and it really doesn't take too much extra time to tack up two horses. Mary had food and water prepped and ready for them. She whipped up various electrolyte concoctions throughout the day and gave them to them (both horses are SO GOOD about accepting syringes with elytes - ohmygoodness). Honestly, if I'd had to worry about how my horse was doing I'd have run myself into the ground FOR SURE. Being just a rider for my first experience with a 50 was perfect. I observed the management of horses the whole day and learned a lot. I was able to perfect management of myself. Knowing what works for me and getting that dialed before I have to worry about a horse is something I feel is very important. That way, in the future, I can be a better and stronger team member for my equine partner.
This was such an incredible, incredible experience. The positives far outweigh the negatives. I had such a blast. I cannot wait to do it again. Next "big ride" experience where I'll get to use some of my new knowledge and see how it works for Q and I will be when we sweep for our endurance ride in August. We'll only be doing 14 - 18 miles at a moderate, relaxed pace, but the heat will be an element to challenge my management of Q and myself for the day. I can't wait!