At Last – a Ride Story!

Joe and I rode 100kms on Saturday (that’s – um – 62 and a half miles in old money) FINALLY, a ride which went to plan.

Well, once we got out on track it did… Friday afternoon did NOT go to plan. I sat in my office at work in the morning and watched it rain.. and rain.. and rain. After one of the dryest Junes in Western Australian history, the heavens opened on ride weekend.

I left the office in the rain, did the last of my packing in the rain, drove to the ride in the rain… It POURED down as I vetted in and continued to rain all night, during which I discovered there are still several leaky spots in our float’s roof.. Eating a solitary dinner perched on your swag in the back of the float watching water drip onto all your camping gear is quite a dispiriting experience.

When I woke up (after very little sleep) at 4.45 a.m. and it was STILL raining, I very nearly stayed in bed: I was ready to scratch and go home. I have very (un) fond memories of eventing in the rain in the UK and I was NOT looking forward to frozen soggy feet, cold hands and a wet bum.

After 5 minutes in bed giving myself a pep talk, I got up and got us both ready. By the time we left, my feet were already wet. Sigh.

Riding in the dark and the rain with glasses on (I am ridiculously short sighted) is not fun. But there were plenty of headlights to follow and luckily Joe, though full of himself, was not as much of a handful as last time so I was able to keep a pretty good eye out for arrows. He only lost his ever lovin’ mind once, when being asked to walk DOWN a steep slope, when he could clearly see a horse trotting UP the other side, very fast, and therefore about to disappear out of view… A short sharp lesson in “if you jog, you’ll end up going backwards” (while trying to stay calm and remind myself that 5 minutes spent on this lesson NOW will not make much difference to our overall ride time and could well save us a whole heap of issues later on) and on we went.

We whizzed (by our standards) through the first 35km in a little under 3 hours. Not bad for a technical hilly trail ridden partly in the dark. By this time it had stopped raining and I was hot in my waterproofs! My super duper strapping crew (aka my family, who had VERY sensibly stayed in their warm beds Friday night and driven down that morning) hadn’t even arrived yet, so I vetted Joe through by myself, with minimal strapping (he pulsed down very quickly). By the time the family arrived we were relaxing for our 40 minute hold.

The next 2 legs were over the same loop of 25km. Unfortunately, we ended up in a pocket all of our own: the fast front runners were half an hour ahead and no one caught up with us from behind for some time, so Joe and I rode the middle 35km on our own. He wasn’t happy at having no one to chase, so our time slowed right down, but we kept on trucking. About 15kms into the third leg another rider caught up with us which perked Joe right up and we made much better time. We were able to swap leading and following every few kms and it perked both horses right up.

Everything was still looking good at vet checks: heart rate in the low 40s, a “B” for guts throughout which is kinda normal for him, “A”s for everything else. (I need to do some research here – he never stops eating and he drinks well after the first 30 or 40kms, so I don’t know why he gets “B”s).

So – we get to go out again for the last 15kms. Our buddy from leg 3 was not going back out, so we were on our own again. I reattached my headlamp, amidst much joshing from the vets and stewards that I wouldn’t need it as I’d be back before dark, but I had till 7 p.m. to finish (3 more hours) and by jeez if we needed it I was going to use it!

Joe’s face was a classic when I approached him with the saddle again – he is used to three legs but not to four. He was VERY slow going out the gate, but we got a steady trot going and away we went. I very deliberately left my GPS unit behind this time – I was going to go as slow as we needed to, not try and stick to an average speed.

Trot, walk, trot, walk.. get off and walk..trot, walk… I was REALLY pleased to see that final checkpoint! Only 5kms to go. Joe perked right up when we hit the common track back to base and we managed a pretty lively trot round the last lap of the racecourse to finish at ten to 6 (10 minutes to spare on the ORIGINAL maximum time allowed, and an hour and 10 minutes on the new maximum: they had extended it due to the weather and the muddy, slippery track conditions that had resulted).

We had done it. This was the longest distance either of us had ever done. There were huge congratulations and higs from all those present in the vet ring and hold area – I got quite emotional. To top it all off, we were also 3rd heavyweight combination, and got our first ever award – a very nice lapel pin. (OK, so we were 3rd out of three, but hey, you have to complete to place!)

Joe looked good the next morning: he ate well overnight, his legs are cool and not filled, and he was bright and alert.

Another step on the road to 160km… Although I may take a few days to reclaim my enthusiasm for that – although Joe looks good, I feel like I have been hit by a truck! We camped at ride base overnight Saturday night, and getting up off the floor and out of the swag on Sunday morning was a long process… I am off for a sports massage tomorrow, and Joe will get a massage and an Equissage treatment this week.

Then we’ll get to thinking about what’s next… there are three more 80km rides in the calendar before our potential start in a 160… we probably need to do at least 2 of those.

I am SO happy with Joe.. he toughed it out when we were out there on our own, he gamely kept trotting (over the whole ride, our average speed was just over 10km/hr, which over  160km would give us a 16 hour ride time, which gives a nice buffer since the maximum ride time over 160kms is 20 hours). But I am getting ahead of myself! One ride (and sometimes one leg) at a time…

Yet again, I went to a ride worried that Joe was not fit enough, and yet again, he proved me wrong. More and more, I think rest is as important as training – OK, you have to put in a lot of hours to leg up a horse to the 80km distance, but once you have a few of those under your belt, in reality I don’t think you need to log an awful lot of kms. It had been 2 months since Joe’s previous 80km, and the longest training ride we did in between was 36kms (we did manage 75km over 4 days at one stage though). If I can get to at least 2 more rides between now and State champs, I don’t think I’ll need to log a whole lot of kms at home.

What I DO need to do is work on getting our speed up on the second leg of an 80km. There are two nice flattish rides in the calendar and I’d like to get close to 7 hours total time for both of those. Taking that out to a 160km ride would give us an even nicer buffer over the second half.

But first, there is reading to be done, thoughts to be thunk, and a whole mountain of soggy gear to be dried out and cleaned! I’ll keep y’all posted.

Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with this picture of my husband working hard as my strapping crew..!

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