One of my goals was to get to this event and I did it! Originally I think I wanted to do the LD but upon reflection of the respective fitness level of both me and Gwyn, I decided it was better to do the intro. Plus, I really didn't think me being away from Hazel for long was a good idea. As it was, I was out 7 hours with travel and she didn't eat THE WHOLE TIME. Silly baby. But she was good for Eric, so that was good.
It felt like she was up every hour to fuss and feed the night prior and so when 4:30am rolled around and my alarm was set for 5, I just said fuck it and got up. I pumped, finished getting things ready, and went to load Gwyn in the dark. Then I chased Gwyn around the property before she gave up and got on. It took less time than last week.
Kensington Metropark is an hour and 10 minutes away. If I take the highway, it's 70 miles, if I take backroads, 55miles. I took back roads. Bonus, I got to avoid construction.
I'm friends with one of the organizers on facebook and she messaged me to let me know that the other rider doing the intro was planning on leaving with the LD riders (there were no 50s on day 2) I decided to join them. The start was really low key and Gwyn did great. She wanted to go go go but was listening really well. My goal was to ride an average 6 mph pace for the ride. A 12 mile ride meant I would be done in 2 hours. Achievable!
The day was beautiful. I had a tech shirt on with a fleece vest while I was tacking up. The saturday ride had been brutal thanks to heat and humidity, but today was just spectacular and great for my draftie. I wore just the tech shirt on the ride.
This park sprays for bugs so there were NONE. It was so nice. And the forest was cool and pleasant with occasional spots where the trail was in the sun.
The one other intro rider was bringing a new horse along. He was totally down for my pace plan and we had similar views on how to ride the ride with our horses. It was nice to have someone to chat with. Last year I rode with a mom and daughter but they walked nearly the whole thing and it was brutal. It was so nice to actually move and cover some ground with purpose. My ass didn't get nearly as sore.
We had less dramatics over the water crossings this year, haha.
And I remembered where the trail went so I didn't get lost this time!
There's a water slide and lake over there.
On the I-96 trail (so named because it's an out and back down to the highway) you have to sign in that you got there so they know you didn't cheat the distance. I asked if I could just take a picture of me there. Ride management was a little stunned at the idea. I mean... I don't think I could get Gwyn close enough to write... or get off and get back on. Thankfully my buddy checked me in.
But I still took a picture for proof.
Snack break! We took brief snack breaks for the horses and always let them drink from the streams we encountered. This trail is nice because there's a lot of water on trail that's good for the horses.
We took turns leading. Both horses were fine. Yay!
This sign was concerning for Gwyn, lol
Out onto the blue loop, which we apparently didn't need to do. They changed it on us last minute, since blue had trees down after the storm the night before. Oops.
Easy tree to get around.
HARD tree to get around.
Crossing the river.
And into the river!
We played in this river last November, when I hand walked Gwyn on the trails with the Distance Derby folks. This time I got to ride in! Gwyn walked right and took some nice deep drinks. I think going in right before we did vetting really helped her cool down.
Vet card: Gwyn was a little muscle sore on her left front shoulder but nothing that impacted her gait. Her pulse was spectacular. We could have gone out for another 10/12 I think. I'm glad I didn't push it though.
I got a sweet t shirt