Monday, August 22, 2016

Safety Vests!

Being fat is not always conducive to riding. It's hard to find riding pants, but thankfully not impossible (I love you Kerrits!) Tall boots are out of the question until I'm willing to pay over $500 for customs or until my calves shrink. Show clothes are equally difficult to find unless I'm willing to pay. In other words, it's hard, but not impossible and requires lots of digging through online stores. Brick and mortars rarely have anything that fits me. Usually it's the size just below. I'm not that far out of 'standard' sizing. There is one item that has eluded me thus far. A safety vest for riding.

I've been wanting to take Gwyn Cross Country schooling for a while now, just to introduce her to baby jumps, but I can't as I'm required to wear a safety vest to school and compete. These are foam and are designed to protect you in the event of a fall. When I was a kid they were suggested but not required, but times change. They are now required and when you have a bust of near 50" and a waist that's similar, there just isn't a product that's easily found on the market.

But I found one. And for a damned decent price too.  The really cheap ones are about $150 and offer some protection, or the appearance of protection.  The expensive ones (without going custom) are $350+. Then, if you go into inflatable vests that puff up when you leave the saddle it gets even more expensive to buy the vest AND the CO2 canisters since it's a one time use thing. The one I found is made in the UK. Only 2 US retailers carry it and around the $350 price tag.

But thanks to currency exchanges and Brexit, a UK store is selling the size I need for $250 which includes shipping and customs charges.  SOLD.

Additionally, since I just got paid for my first article, that's what's funding this purchase. I'm so stoked. I'm one step closer to Xcountry schooling. There's a course nearby that is open for schooling, so YAY. YAYAYAYAY

If you're similarly well endowed in the body fat department, check out this website for body protectors.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Metropark Express 2016

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've arrived!

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!

Chill pony.

This sign was concerning for Gwyn, lol

Huron River

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. 

Proof! Yay!

 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 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

4.63 miles on the Polly Ann Trail

Next week is the Metropark Express aka Huron River Ride that was run by Rusty Toth who had a MAJOR falling out with the Michigan endurance community (like, holy shit drama) He moved back out west and ended up competing in Tevis again, but that left managing the ride to somebody else. I rode it last year, right after I found out I was pregnant but before the blood clots ruined everything and I wanted to ride it again this year.

My over ambitious plan was to do the LD at Metropark Express but given how plump Gwyn is and how little I've been riding and how anxious I am at leaving Eric alone over night with the girls, I figured doing the intro ride again is perfect. It'll be a day trip, rather than an overnight so I won't be gone long.

Anyway, the point of mentioning all that was that I needed to refresh Gwyn on her trailer loading manners and get out on the trail to evaluate our fitness AND to give Eric a dry run on solo Dad'ing it.

Gwyn... was an ass. She tore away to go gallivanting all over the property (and now Eric is in agreement with me about gating the driveway)  So we did a bunch of groundwork, which admittedly I should have done to start. I wanted her to know that I move her feet and the only time she can rest is if we're standing in the trailer. Reading Dom's views on trailer training has definitely influenced that, on top of the groundwork clinics we would do in Washington. It didn't take long after that where she walked in and stood in the trailer while I closed everything up. And of course, once she's in she's fine. It's just a power struggle.

I was a little worried about her behavior because we were going to a public park with waterpark and I wanted to be sure that I could get her back into the trailer without trampling kids. When we got there, she was just calm as could be, unloaded nicely and stood a the trailer, sweaty, but not anxious. I quickly tacked up and hopped on. Then we were off!  We got there shortly after 11am, which is when the water park opened. The water was running but there weren't a lot of people making noise or splashing. She didn't care. There was something in the woods I couldn't see that was more concerning to her.

Walking down the road to the trail access was a non event, even when a car drove past us. You guys, this is a HUGE thing for us. After a car incident in Florida I've worked super hard to desensitize her and get some good experiences with passing cars and trucks and being passed. I think vehicles at speed are still an issue, but she's fine with cars that are slow!  This means that I still can't ride down our street to be able to access this trail, but it's improvement.

I decided to turn south this time and see how far I could get in 15 minutes. Ha....
Happy Pony Ears

Happy human smiles

I rode in a Kerrits ensemble :D   I had my Icefil tights and a tech shirt. It was perfect. Weather was around 75F with 80-90% humidity. It was cool enough that I felt comfortable doing a ride without health risk thanks to the combined temp+humidity factor. Alas, the deer flies were persistant and I got nabbed.

We quickly reached General Squier Rd and crossed that, no traffic. People were likely still in church, given the area. I made sure Gwyn maintained a nice steady trot and she was comfortable barefoot on the occasional gravel.

We were riding early enough that we had shade, not overhead sun in the woods. It was so pleasant!

It really reminded me of the trail rides I did as a kid in Connecticut. There was a rails to trails trail that I could connect in with and rode on frequently. It was a really pleasant way to remember that.

At 15 minutes in I had reached the furthest point I've traveled to on the trail on foot. I wanted to see new trail. So I kept going and decided another 10 minutes or until I reach one more road crossing. Gwyn was willing and eager, moving out easily and really only bothered by branches that extended low onto the trail. The few bridges we encountered she crossed without hesitation.

I did finally reach one more road crossing just as a bicyclist was coming from the other direction. Gwyn was a tad unsure about him going past but he said hello and commented on the great day to be out and about, which I agreed with wholeheartedly! I texted Eric that I was turning around and followed the bicyclist. Here's where I laughed.

Gwyn BOOKED it after the bicyclist. It was a race, it was on. Her trot got big big big and we were flying, though not catching the biker. He finally pulled away around a corner and we didn't see him again. And she resumed her steadier pace. I loved it. It makes me encouraged for riding this trail with Eric. She had no problem following this bike.

Bye biker!

New construction

Pretty field

Stella, Gwyn's mom, was so dependable and she would always investigate new things and touch them with her nose. Gwyn does the same thing.

Back to the park

Waterslides? Splash fountains for kids? No biggie, mom.

Our average was around 5 mph with walking. Her trot was between 6 and 10 mph. If I can average 6 then I'll be done with the 12 mile intro ride in 2 hours and get back home sooner to my baby :D I think I could do this for 12.