For ease of reading, I am going to break this into categories and then just use bullets. Not a whole lot to discuss, but I love recapping for future reference.
~ All tack worked well except the new ThinLine pad. They changed the ThinLine material on either side of the spine and it is more slick than prior. Her saddle kept creeping forward which was never an issue with the old pad. Sigh. Time to shop.
~ Conditioning could have been better, but she did just fine with mostly As and great recoveries.
~ Electrolytes. This was my biggest issue and I still am not sure what I should have done differently. She got her 1:1 mix of table salt and lite salt the day before and drank well. I didn't dose her with electrolytes in the morning before the race because it was cold and I knew there was little water out on trail. With a 15 mile first loop, she wouldn't really be wanting to drink until we reached camp anyway. She was perfectly fine the first loop with no issues. She sweated heavily though, so I did dose her with her typical Perfect Balance syringe electrolytes at the half way mark as soon as we were done vetting. She had access to soaked alfalfa, fresh water, sponge water (salty) and her mash. She ate all her mash and drank her fresh water. We only sat for 10 minutes at the hold and then moved out again. After about 2 miles I knew she was thirsty. She was hunting water like crazy and would try to suck at the smallest of puddles left in the streams. I felt really, really bad for her. Gem takes excellent care of herself out on trail and if she was water hunting, she was very thirsty. They don't put much water out on this ride and the first water spot was about 10 miles into the 15 mile loop. She drank heavily.
In the end she still came through with great scores and recoveries, but she was more tired than I would expect the effort to produce. I think it was because she was so darn thirsty. I don't electrolyte on trail because I've always been of the mind that you don't electrolyte when water isn't available. Should I have not given her any at the half way mark when she didn't have the usual time to drink and stock up? I worried that if I didn't give her any she would have issues given how much she had sweated. I still don't know what I should have done and thankfully, to her than a cranky and thirsty mare, nothing untoward happened.
~ Steel shoes x 4. There were many times during the ride that I was happy to have shod her all around. Almost the entire blue loop was on a gravel access road and a lot of the good moving out spots on green were too. I would have had to slow her way down on those had she been barefoot. I have yet another new farrier and she did amazing work, so hopefully we can finally settle on someone.
~ Tie rope. I copied Mel's (from Boots and Saddles for Mel), how to make a tie rope and I think it worked out pretty well. It was a bit time consuming to unclip it from both sides of her saddle then clip it to her, wrap around the tree and clip to itself, then deal with her reins and leave the helmet behind. Of course, then it had to be done backwards to get back on. I think I would prefer a rope halter with the one end always attached which would save a lot of effort, but still use the tie rope.
~ I could have used a lot more conditioning, but I knew I was lacking going in and I am very proud of the 10 miles I did manage to run. I only had so much time and had to split that between Gem and myself.
~ Shoes: I started in my Brooks Glycerines that I use for riding and they felt ok. I could feel every rock and root though and my feet were hurting, so at the half way point I changed into my Asics that I run in. They weren't much better, but just the change in shoes was great. If I do any more of these, I will be getting the trail shoes version.
~ Hydration. The Camelbak 2L lumbar pack got a new bladder since it leaked at Biltmore. Dusty had gotten me a vest that has two bottles, but I worried that I would need more water. I drank about 1 L per loop, so I could have gone with the bottles. And I should have because the Camelbak rubbed me absolutely raw on my lower back. There is a zipper there where the bladder goes in and while it has never been an issue riding, the motion of running created bleeding and abrasions.
~ Nutrition. Yeah...there was none. I'm not sure why I decided to go without anything at all, but I did and it was stupid. The Gu was a life saver during the second loop. I will never leave home without i tin the future. I also tried Theresa's Tailwind and may use that as well for future adventures.
~ Riding tights. I've never been able to ride in shorts. My legs don't like it. I wore my much adored Irideon Issential tights and didn't even know I had them on when running. I didn't overheat and I didn't rub anywhere.
~ I'd partner up with Theresa any time!! She was a rock star. She never complained or said anything negative the entire time, was amenable to pretty much anything and was just a general pleasure to share the trail with.
In fact, much to her dismay, I am trying to convince her to head up to Fort Valley at the end of the month with me. She needs to get a 50 in this season towards her decade and I am doing my best to convince her that the absolute best plan would be for her to ride the 50 Friday and then R&T with me Saturday :)
~ Theresa wanted to do 1 mile intervals to avoid having so many transitions, but I think those were much too long. We were the last to tie off at the beginning. Most horses were stashed between 1/2-3/4 of a mile out and while we hung on for the first 2-3 miles, we were then left in their dust. Shorter intervals allows you to run harder, catch the horse quicker and therefor catch the runner quicker once you get back on. I think I would shoot for no more than 3/4 mile intervals in the future.
I had an absolute blast at this ride. Ride camp atmosphere is the best of any horse related sport I have ever been to. Everyone is helpful, friendly and it feels much more like an ultra event than a horse one. I could easily see myself switching to R&T more and endurance less and less in the future.