Massie Autumn Colours Ride

Getting off Jack to jog the roads - he's barefoot on all 4 and I rode him in the rope halter for most of the miles.
Getting off Jack to jog the roads – he’s barefoot on all 4 and I rode him in the rope halter for most of the miles.

On the Labour day long weekend (September 3-5, 2016), I rode my friend Linda’s horse Jack for 3 days, culminating 80 miles (128km) of riding on one horse… my first “pioneer” ride of sorts.   I finished up on Monday with Trixie and Bentley to total 100 miles of riding (160km).

Yes, it was a lot of riding, but the real catch was I was riding in my full kit for Race the Wild Coast.  I wanted it to be the real test while I still have time to tweak things.  I rode with the fenders and stirrups I intend on wearing, the clothes I intend on wearing, and my backpack full of “stuff” (my kit list isn’t 100% complete as I still wait for things ordered online and some resulting changes from the test).  Every morning I packed up my gear into their waterproof pouches before saddling up, and every night I unpacked my meager allowance to sleep in the bed I have selected with the painkillers I had rationed.

For the most part, it went really well, but we did have some hiccups!

Day 1 was a 25 mile ride which ended up being closer to 26…27…30???  Linda and I got lost, as well as every other rider.  The ride manager does a great job of making the best use of a small space, but it results in a lot of switchbacks, crossing trail, 2 way traffic trail, and other trail in your sightline.  Our particular issue was we missed a turn that wasn’t well marked (apparently this happened to most riders, and was thankfully corrected for the following days).  All of a sudden, we saw a marker that said “2km to home.”  Knowing our last marker had said 10km (of a 20km loop) and had been about 15 minutes ago… we knew something was wrong!  Instead of doubling back the way we came, we redid the portion of the loop again (we were at an intersection of 2 way trail that was a lolipop), and with the words from ride talk ringing in our ears, kept our eyes peeled in the top corner.

Linda saw the markers and our conversation went a bit like this:

“Wait, Sarah, here is the turn!”  “what, I don’t see it, where?” “In the forest, to the left” ” but there is a fence there, do we go over the fence?” “I think so!” But there are no arrows at this turn, and there’s a ribbon on the right up here”  “but look into the forest over there, an arrow”

So we went over the fence and into the new trail (no path had yet been worn down) and sure enough, we found the 9 or so km we had been missing.  Because the trail was tight, when we missed the turn, we ended up on the part of the trail where the 9kms was supposed to finish, blissfully ignorant to the fact we missed the toughest part of the trail.

Needless to say, we didn’t make that mistake again.  But wow, was it ever tough trail.  Its a bit of a mind game… you go and you complete a 50 mile ride in a little over 5 hours at another venue, and then it takes you about the same time to do 25 miles here!  Lots of twisty turning forest, rocks, and difficult climbs.  Even by day 3 where we galloped all the fields and missed no turns, our speed for the 25 mile distance was nowhere near what it would be at the other rides.  Its frustrating at first, but becomes a relief in the end – no longer racing your peers or the clock, you just get it done.  I think we needed that, and we had such a great time riding these trails.

As for my body, I was surprised how well I handled the task.  Day 2 I was a bit sore from my new equipment – some bruising on the inside of my calves since I usually use boots not fenders, and lots of bruising on my thighs because Linda’s saddle has bucking rolls I kept posting into, shoulders a bit stiff from the backpack, but it was not enough to get me to stop.  Miraculously, my body had become accustomed to these things by day 3 where I felt the best and the perkiest of all 3 days!  I certainly got stronger every day, which is very encouraging because I had not believed myself to be as fit as I should – my weight being the main factor (I had lost lots of weight prior to the derby, not so much this time!), but the endurance is there and I feel like I am in a good place mentally too.

Day 4 – or back to real life at the office, nobody even suspected I had ridden 100 miles that weekend.  I felt great.  Ready to do another 100… or more!  Bring it!

(and to that I will bid you adieu to go back to weighing tiny toothpastes and spooning diaper rash ointment into tiny jars)

Enjoy today’s daily helmet cam from the Massie Ride, and subscribe to my youtube channel to get something like this every day!

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