My first-ever endurance race was a complete success!
I had the best mentor to guide me and show me the ropes, and a wonderful horse who knew what he was doing to take me along for the 50 mile ride.
I was so pleased to find that everyone I met was kind, helpful, and just happy to be there. There was none of the underlying judgment and eye-rolling that I often feel when working in the show rings. Everyone was happy to assist each other and provide advice when asked and were all extremely kind to someone who was new to the whole experience.
I always imagined that the start of the race would be full of rearing, kicking, and nickering horses who would jump into a flat run as soon as the trail was open. But it was quite the opposite, there were some excited horses of course, but all they were all well warmed up and handled and as we all began there was plenty of room to be able to handle your horse and pass as needed.
There was quite a bit of prep that went into getting ready for this race as soon as I was committed. The first was figuring out my nutrition, I had been in a fat loss phase up to this point and focusing on getting a little leaner, and that quickly needed to change. My calories were bumped back up to maintenance so I could focus on feeling good, performing well, and upping my own conditioning for the race.
Then 5 days out from the race I began carb loading, which is increasing my carbohydrate intake each day so that my glycogen stores are full and my body has a nice reservoir to pull from while I performed.
This was the first time I had undergone a carb loading and one big thing I learned - don’t increase the fiber along with it! I had subconsciously increased my carbs from mainly whole foods that also boosted my fiber intake up, and caused some very unpleasant digestion issues. Once that was identified, I chose more processed and simple foods to help continue the increase such as Gatorades, candies, rice cakes, etc.
This was a huge part to how well I felt during and after the ride I think. With the craziness of doing something new and not being 100% sure where or what I should be doing, my time management wasn’t as on point as I will make sure it is in the future. I didn’t have time to eat as much as I would have liked before I was in the saddle and down the trail. But I had spent a day prepping all the food I needed to take with me down the trail which was a life saver. (more about that below)
On the trail I made sure to drink from my camelbak as much as possible, pretty much anytime I saw my mentor/friend drink I made sure to take a gulp, and anytime my horses drank I drank as well. This was extremely helpful in keeping me hydrated and energized through the entire day. - overall I went through 2.75 2L water bags through the entire day.
On thing I learned while traveling is keeping the snacks that I want on hand in my pommel bag vs my back pack. Trying to get to the food on my back was difficult as we were moving, so I made sure at the next stop to transfer as much of the food I could into the pommel bag so it was easy to grab as I posted on my horse.
Things I would do differently:
DO NOT WEAR LEGGINGS. My mentor warned me that my leggings might become a problem, but I thought I’d be find since they are what I wear to ride in everyday. Hahahaha boy was I wrong. After our first 25 mile loop anywhere there was a seam on those pants left some angry red bruises on my legs. Which then ached the rest of the 25 miles - that didn’t make the ride very pleasant.
Wake up at least 2-3 hour before the race, I would much rather have time to just sit then feel like I need to race to get horses and myself ready.
Make sure that wherever I am the food is. I had left some of my food behind (specifically the things that needed to stay cold) for my husband to bring, who was coming later that afternoon. Well he ended up arriving much later than I had thought he would, which meant I didn’t get all the calories I needed the day before the race.
Make sure all my layers are with me as well. Much like some of the food I left some more jackets and coats with my husband to bring…. And I froze….
Things I learned
I have a very anal idea of where my feet need to be in the stirrups, believe me if you’ve ever been drug by a horse you’d have the same paranoia! But where I normally put my feet actually caused a lot of issues. My toes become numb and the balls of my feet bruised quite a bit.
I ended up actually needing to raise my stirrups about 2 inches and pushing my feet into the stirrup far enough that the front of my heel almost touched the stirrup - which made me a bit nervous, but saved my feet for the remainder of the long ride.
Electrolytes - making sure that you are as hydrated as your horse is extremely important!
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for my Second Ride Saga! Feel free to leave any questions or tips in the comments!
See you next time!