So busy the last few weeks that I've been really lax in writing my blog. So here's a catch up on the latest.
22/10/11 Schanskraal 160km FEI***
Another first in Africa, the challenge of riding a 160km and who best to ride then my favourite "Pocket Rocket" Liberty, this would be another first for both of us. So prior to this ride I spent time training her mostly above the other horses.
We left for this ride on the Thursday prior so that the horses would spend time resting on the Friday before the race on Saturday. Perseverance took a full team of horses to Schanskraal; Jedi, Mauser, Liberty, Karoo, and Ibis. Jedi, Mauser, and Liberty would all be competing in the 160km with Laura, Bob and I. Ashley would be riding Karoo in the young rider 120km FEI** and Mary-Ann Fanner was leasing Ibis to ride in the 120km. Lucy, Deon and Mandla would have the mission to groom for all 5 of us, which was no easy task.
In the ride briefing the times of departure had been given with the 120km leaving at 2am and the 160km leaving at 2.10am. No sooner had I gone to sleep then I had to wake up again ready for the biggest challenge of my endurance career.
There were 12 starters in the 160km with 10 of those being in my weight division. Laura, Bob and I rode the majority of the first loop together in the pitch black, the true test of how much faith you have in your horse to know where to put its own feet. Liberty was rather excited and spent the vast majority of the first loop pulling, a de-ja-vu moment from Fauresmith. Half way round Laura left Bob and I to ride together whilst she pulled ahead. We were ahead of the main pack and going faster then either of us would of liked so after the first water point we spent some time walking. Bob gave me a brief astrology lesson at this point, pointing out various constellations before we were caught up by some other individuals within our class.
The week before Franco C Saddles had sent a saddle specifically for me to be able to ride Liberty in at this ride. The saddle was therefore still new and I was not used to the stirrups. Whilst training I had found my knees would ache so opted to length my stirrups a hole, bad decision. Within the first 10minutes of departure I had managed to tweek both my ankles in the stirrups and loose my stirrups several times. I HATE having such weak ankles!
Into vetgate 1 with Ashley, Mary-Ann, and Laura already through their vettings safely and in their holds. I was thankfully that when I asked Mandla to trot up Liberty he agreed. Onto loop 2 back towards the venue. Vetgate 1 was the only vetgate to be out on course.
Loop 1, loop 2, loop 3 and finally loop 4. By loop 4 all the Perseverance horses were still going strong. The sun was high by this point and we were starting to experience the African heat, or at least I was! It was on this loop that the heat started to get to me and I felt like the sun was draining all the energy out of me. Half way round and I become extremly thirsty. There are no crewing points on any of the rides out here and we don't carry water on our saddles. We passed Laura and Mary-Ann on this loop and being able to say we overtook Jedi and Laura is a highly unusual thing. The only reason that occurred was due to Jedi not feeling his usual self. Once down the other side of the hilll Bob and I stopped to let Mauser and Liberty drink. Never before has a trough full of water with algae looked so appetizing. Another first in Africa joining a horse in drinking out of trough! Move the algae out of the way and I submerged my head without even taking off my sunglasses. Possibly the best water I have ever tasted and it was at least sping water. We carried on into our 4th vetgate. Ashley had successfully completed his 120km with Karoo coming in 3rd place.
By this vetgate I was tired and it was hot! We had done 120km by this point and it was ONLY another 40km to finish. Before now 40km more has never seemed like much but to think of it being another 2 loops definitely made it feel a lot longer.
So we left onto loop 5, cantering away from the venue up a hill. Only a 20km for this loop, I kept thinking to myself. I voiced encouragement to Liberty throughout who was feeling very tired by this point. I kept thinking how Bob probably thought I was rather insane to be talking to a horse, until I occasionally heard him talking to Mauser. Into vetgate 5 and a second opinion from the vet made my heart race. We pased the vetting but the vet warned she was tired and to take it easy.
Only another 20km to go and my determined spirit had a returned. Off we went "Come on Liberty, we can do this". Neither Mauser or Liberty were very keen at all for this loop. We trotted along relatively slowly. 1km from home and I told Bob to leave me and go on. We were close to the venue so I knew Liberty and I could cruise in slowly. Off Bob and Mauser went with Liberty and I maintaining are pace. That last kilometre seemed to take forever but we could see the venue in sight. We came in with Liberty giving a whinney to Mauser. All Team PSV were all hands on deck to cool these horses down before we went into our final vetting. I have never been so happy to see a hose pipe, its just like one long straw really. Yes I was drinking out of a hose pipe at this point.
Bob and I talk Mauser and Liberty into vetting. I felt sick and my heart was racing! Bob was safely through so just Liberty. Pulse taken, trot up fine and the vet congratulated me on finishing. I threw myself round a startled Liberty and was so over-joyed. We had successfully completed our first 160km together. There were hugs all round with Team PSV and the officials. I don't think anything could of wiped the massive grin off my face at that point. It was 4pm in the afternoon and I had ridden a 160 in the African heat.
Ashley remembered his promise to me of bringing me a Savannah with a slice of lemon in when I finish. That was the most refreshing drink to have after a race.
I was tired, sunburnt but felt great! We had completed the 160km in 10 hours, 16 minutes and 1 second coming in 4th place.
Liberty is such a star and I have enjoyed every minute of training and racing her. I shall be sad to have to say goodbye to her in a few weeks. We have now successfully completed our first Fauresmith together and our first 160km together, so proud of her!
A big thank you to Fran C saddles for sending me a saddle to ride in. Was comfy and fitted Liberty so well. http://www.franco-c.com/