Yesterday was my 33rd birthday and I spent it doing the one thing I haven't done in 2.5 years: absolutely nothing. I stayed in my jammies until 4 pm when I finally wrestled myself off the couch and away from the easter chocolate to pick Wyatt up from school. I binge watched the first season of Glee which I had never seen, snuggled with my cats and puppies and enjoyed being a complete waste of oxygen. It was magnificent.
Sunday was a different story. It was about time that I gathered the motivation back to hook up the truck and trailer and hit the real trails. I've had my eye on a new trail at Croft State Park that we have hiked with Wyatt numerous times, but since he is only just over 2 we only make it a little ways down the trail. To add to my mojo, Dusty gave me my gift: a new Garmin 310xt to replace my Garmin Forerunner 410. I'll write up my comparison/review later. I really wanted to try it out and so with the sun playing peek a boo with the clouds all morning we headed out with Wyatt and the two dogs.
Forest Mills Loop is 6.5 miles and from the little I had previously hiked there is a super nice climb early on. The park itself hosts many horse shows in the ginormous arena, has hot water showers, camping and a 30 stall barn. My heart is set on hosting an e-ride there some day when life permits. It also hosts tons of running events such as the Blind Pig that had ended before we got there and was a 100 mile run. Dusty was pretty bummed he hadn't known about it beforehand. Can you say perfect RnT event as well??
I tacked up and headed out to find the trail head beside the barn. The trail sneaks off to the left beside the barn and heads down a steep hill to kick it off. Unfortunately I left my camera in the tack room door of the trailer so I have no pictures to share. I will get some the next time I head out there.
The footing was iffy to start with, but I knew this section from hiking. They take good care of the trails here and put gravel down on some of the hills and slicker sections. I let Gem walk down the gravel hill and had hoped to pick up a lovely trot or canter over the next section which is a beautiful two lane dirt path alongside Craig Lake. It just screams gallop at you. Unfortunately, the big sink hole/drain pipe that drains the lake into the creek below screamed horse eating monster at Gem. I was very pleased with her reaction though. Instead of bolting or becoming a freak, she just stopped and stared. And stared. And stared. The lane is a bit dangerous in the fact that the lake is to the left and the creek is waaaaay below on the right creating a raised up lane with steep drop offs on either side. I didn't want her backing off the ledge or spinning on it, so I hopped off and jogged her down the lane to show her it wasn't so scary. At the end I got back on and we got to work.
The first 2 miles are a great incline. It just keeps going up and up and up at a steep enough grade to get you breathing hard. It is also a single track trail with a lot of turns so is very technical. I pushed Gemmie a bit to trot most of it, but once I heard her blowing hard I let her slow and walk. She was a little spooky with the trees so close on either side but moved mostly forward and I was happy. We put in a slow first couple of miles and I figured we would be in for a 2 hour ride.
Once we got past the section I was familiar with, my own focus snapped back in. I love new places and it keeps me way more interested in the ride than the same old boring trails time and again. The trail led up yet another steep grade to a TV station out building which she didn't like either. It then led down a steep granite hill. The entire trail was one big rock. You couldn't get off it and the only way through was walking over top this massive rock which lasted about 1/4 mile. She picked her way and never slipped or slid once. That's the beauty of barefoot hooves. They don't tend to slide much.
Once we hit the bottom the trail became a glorious two lane track with dirt footing again and she simply took off on her own. She gave me a lovely extended trot that read out at 8 mph on my watch. 8 MPH!!! On a solo conditioning ride! On new trails!!! We floated down that lane and she was being so good. I asked for a canter and we rocketed up to nearly 14 mph without any effort. I was grinning from ear to ear and at the far end gave her a ton of praise and loving.
From here on out the trail made for a great pace and we made up for lost time without me having to nag or ask at all. She just gave me this soft and supple trot that moved us down the trail. I think she was really enjoying herself.
All too soon we came across the bridge that leads back to the barn. There is an off shoot trail that I have hiked before that come off this main loop at about mile 5 and has a super great hill in it. It then plops back out on the other side of the Craig Lake Lane of Terror and back to the start. I briefly thought about taking this to add another 1-2 miles on, but Dusty was waiting for me with the troops. Next time I will add this in for an extra hard work out.
We made it back to the trailer at 1 hour 14 minutes and I was absolutely thrilled with that time given the extremely slow start we had. She really picked it up the last half of the ride. She was such a good girl and I know she was upset that we ended so soon. In fact, while she self loaded like a champ to leave the barn she flat out refused to get back on to head home. Dis I mention she was such a good girl???
I can't wait to get back out there and explore when I have more time. Our next ride seems to be May 9th although I am not quite sure if it will be the 30 mile RnT or Equathon just yet. It all depends on finding a babysitter.
|After we finished. Perfect sweat pattern from the Advantage with ThinLine Endurance Pad. I am loving this set up.|
|Perfect sweat pattern. After years of fighting saddle fit this is definitely a sight for sore eyes.|