Lizster (now with bonus Divster!)

Haven’t seen this one in a couple of years, but it’s Liebster going around again :) Liz tagged me in it, but as a senior citizen of the blog world (I started this thing in ’08 which makes it seven thousand Internet years old) I don’t play by the rules anymore. Here’s my rules: if you want to play, repost this with your own answers, and link me to it in my comments. Love to see what yall have to say!

Edit:  now I’ve had this in draft so long that GunDiva’s sent it to me too.  Oh dear…

How to Accept the Award
The Liebster Blog Award is a way to recognize blogs that have less than 200 followers. Liebster is a word in German that means beloved and valued. Here are the rules for accepting the award:

Thank the person that nominated you and include a link back to their blog.
List 11 random facts about yourself.
Answer the 11 questions given to you.
Create 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate.
Choose 11 bloggers with 200 or fewer followers to nominate and include links back to their blogs.
Go to each blogger’s page and let them know you have nominated them.
11 Random Facts:

  1. I am really bad at these.
  2. See #1.

11 Questions from Liz:

1. Who is your favorite horse? (Either real or fictional) Why?
The Red Stallion. I dreamed of finding an island, braving the maze of tunnels, and then discovering a secret horse herd just like in the book.
2. What is the most exotic/unusual pet you’ve ever owned? I have owned Madagascar hissing cockroaches (the huge cockroaches they use in all the movies, think Men In Black) and I have owned an albino hedgehog.
3. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a horse trainer. And then when people told me I’d always be poor and not be able to have a ton of horses I wanted to be a vet. And then I realized what I covered above and decided to do something within natural resources.
4. If you ended up being something else, what made you change your mind? See above.
5. What are your long-term riding career goals? Compete in a 100 mile endurance ride. Maybe compete in some sort of XC event or fox hunt.
6. What is your greatest riding achievement? As far as awards go, I was High Point Champion at a show years and years and years ago. Beyond that, I think starting Griffin and doing all of his training on my own is a pretty big deal.
7. What is your greatest regret? Not being able to buy Stanley and have him as my own. …there may still be time one day for that though.
8. What is your favorite movie? Why? Ack, I hate this question. I have way too many favorite movies in way too many genres.
9. Have you ever read a book that moved you so much that it changed your life? Which book? I don’t know that any one book changed me super radically. Certain books I’ve read at certain points in my life have definitely had an impact on me (i.e., Eat, Pray, Love when I was going through a really hard break-up).
10. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? What would your house be like? I love WV, but I’ve been here forever. I really covet the west and hope to live there for a part of my life. West or high elevation WV – Canaan or Spruce area. Either location I’d have a cabin-esque home. Something homely and rustic, yet with a modern twist to some of the interior features.
11. If you could have any saddle, which one would it be? I haven’t ridden in one to know for certain if it would work for me, but I’m lusting hard after a Specialized Endurolite. We shall see…

11 Questions from Liz:
1. Do you remember when your love of horses began?
Oh, when I was a kid. I always wanted a fairytale horse, something that would carry me far, far away on epic adventures.
2. What horse-related thing do you hope to accomplish before you die?
Well, I’d love to finish the Tevis 😉
3. What is a non-horse thing you hope to accomplish before you die?
I’d like to write a novel, or series, that’s so good that it sticks with readers for years. (When faced with adversity, I often think to myself, “What would Bobby Shaftoe do?” I wonder what happened to Aerin-sol between The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword. And what’s going to happen to Harry Dresden?)
4. Did your parents support your horse-habit growing up, or was it something you pursued on your own?
We briefly had a pony, but none of us had a clue how to take care of him, and we gave him to some people a couple miles down the road. (I saw him in their pasture until he died in his 30s, so a good end.) They had no horse knowledge and no desire to learn, and we didn’t have the money for lessons. I got my first real horse when I was 28.
5. Unicorns or pegasus?
Unicorns. They can stab your enemies.
6. If you had the opportunity to go to the Olympics in any sport, equine or non, what would it be and why?
Ugh, crowds, no thanks. I’d go to some utterly fringe sport, like curling.
7. Most amazing vacation destination you’ve ever been to? A place you haven’t been to yet but hope to one day visit?
Lake Tahoe area is the prettiest place I’ve ever been, and I am fortunate beyond words to be able to ride and play there pretty often. I’d really like to ride in Montana or Wyoming.
8. Shoes, boots, or bare? Why?
Bare when I can, cause I’m lazy. Boots when the horse needs the protection – going fast for a long way on gravel, or just going a long way.
9. Best birthday ever: what did you do and why was it so awesome?
They’re usually either terrible debacles (New Orleans, I am looking directly at you) or pleasantly low-key events, but two years ago I rode Dixie in a parade the day after my birthday. She had just really turned the corner from “untrustworthy psycho” to “really steady partner” so that was huge and wonderful.
10. Blogosphere friendships, do you know/have you met any of your blog friends IRL?
Tons of them! And hopefully tons more in the future. Yall know who you are, even if you’re on hiatus or have quit blogging. Las Vegas, the AERC conventions, and most rides I’ve been to were blogging-inspired.
11. Seriously, guys, which came first, the chicken or the egg?
The velociraptor!

And here’s 11 questions from GunDiva, to make up for my abysmal performance with the rest of the meme:

1.  What is your passion?
Uh.  Endurance?  Controlled adrenaline rush sport with my horse!
2.  If you could do anything you wanted for the rest of your life, without having to think about money, what would it be?
Write urban fantasy and sci-fi novels.
3.  What is your guilty pleasure?
Supernatural! 
4. Favorite book ever?
The Hero and the Crown.  Or Cryptonomicon.  I can’t choose between them and they’re vastly different.
5.  Favorite movie ever?
Die Hard.  Or Ghostbusters.  (I don’t follow directions well at all.)
6.  Have you ever met anyone famous?
Yes.

Oh, you wanted more?  It depends on your definition of famous, I suppose.  I’ve met internet-famous people, and famous writers, and famous musicians, but maybe you’ve not heard of them.  I’ve met famous endurance riders and probably fangirled the hardest over them, but either you already know who I mean or you’ve definitely never heard of them!
And one time I shared an elevator with Kristi Yamaguchi, but me being me, I didn’t realize it til we were all in the lobby and the people I was with were like “omg that was Kristi Yamaguchi!”  I think that anecdote neatly summarizes my life, actually.
7.  Who would you like to meet (living or dead, real or fictional) and why?
Ten.  Duh!  He’s seen everything and he’ll take me away for a visit to the rest of the universe and get me back home safely when my arc is complete.
8.  Biggest pet peeve?
People who don’t zip properly.  Not like that, ewww, I mean people who try to skip in line when two lanes are merging.  You go, then I go, then you go, BUT NOT YOU, ASSHOLE, YOU WAIT YOUR TURN.  Don’t you dare play chicken with my truck.
9.  If you won the PowerBall or Lotto and wanted to donate a chunk to a charity, which charity would it be and why?
There’s a charity – I don’t know if it ever got off the ground – but it was buying up debt from debt collectors and forgiving it.  I’d fucking love to be part of that, buy somebody’s insurmountable medical/CC debt and erase it off their credit record.
10.  Favorite place you’ve visited?
Tahoe :)
11. Where to you want to visit that you haven’t been able to?
Antarctica.  Wyoming.  Australia.  Mongolia.  Siberia.  (Perhaps I like empty places.)

OMG, I have to keep writing?  I have to do 11 of my own?  Somebody please answer these and link me back!
1.  Where are you from?
2.  Where have you been?
3.  What scares you the most (and I don’t mean “spiders”)?
4.  What’s your favorite food?
5.  What’s your biggest regret, or do you not believe in regrets?
6.  Favorite band (with links!)
7.  What’s the first name you ever gave?  (I named my first cat Butterfly.  I was three.  I have no explanation.)
8.  Is there a name you’re saving?  For a girl child, or a homebred horse, or a funny cat name?
9.  Biggest personal accomplishment, present or future?
10.  What’s your favorite book?  (reusing this, but I always love to hear the answers.)
11.  What do you want for your epitaph?

Sunriver analysis

:taps mic: Hi, yall.

The Sunriver ride story got a lot more hits than usual, and I hope my NW visitors don’t think I’m hatin’ on their region.  But I don’t want my blog to sound like a paid advertisement for AERC, or Easyboot Gloves, or Tennessee Walking Horses, or whatever.  I just talk about what happens, good and bad, and keep plugging along.

And I know that even the best run rides can turn into nightmares for individual riders.  My last ride of the season in 2012 was Red Rock Rumble, and it was one of the most fun rides I’ve ever had.  It was also an area where I’ve competed a lot and done a lot of conditioning, so I was entirely familiar with the trail, the way the trail was marked, the ride management, etc.  I had a BLAST.  Three new riders behind me got lost (down in the river bottom past Lynn Lloyd’s where the cows always eat the ribbons – see, I knew the area) and I’m sure they had a super-shitty time crawling up the canyon to get back to camp in the dark.  If they had blogs, they’d have posted drastically different stories from mine.  Sometimes shit happens!

So I don’t hate the NW or the ride management or anything.  I had Issues, and hopefully the meta-issues will be discussed among all the ride managers who run hundreds, but I’m certainly not dissuaded from doing another hundred or riding the NW.

(I do have a secret fear that when I fly up to Renegade next weekend, someone is going to tilt the brim of his or her helmet back, slowly look me up and down, and drawl “You’ve got a lotta nerve showing your face around here, missy.”)

Now, on to my usual analysis.

I have been more sore after 50s than I was after that 80 miles.  I stayed sharp mentally, too.  Again – this is my new soapbox that I will hammer home time and again til you’re totally sick of it – it’s because I took care of my body.  I ate and drank all day.  Every hour, I pulled a little baggie with a hundred calories of food out of my pack and ate it, with an electrolyte pill, and I drank my whole Camelbak between each loop.  My crew took care of my horse as soon as I’d vetted her at each hold, and they made me eat the whole time I was in the check.

I’m not gonna lie, I hated it.  The only good thing I ate was some potato chips, and I made a lot of toddler yucky-faces as my crew waved different things under my nose, but I just kept picking the least-gross option and putting it in my mouth.   I don’t know if I could’ve kept eating all night, but I think I had enough fuel in the tank to make it the rest of the way – when it got dark, I didn’t get queasy exactly, but I felt like I was full and there was no more room to insert food items.

I should have carried an oh-shit bag of nighttime gear the whole ride.  I’d taped my glowsticks to my breastcollar the night before the ride, but I didn’t bother to put my cantle bag on Saturday morning – I was planning on putting it on at the last hold in camp, but I suck at math and it got dark before I got back.

Things I am never again doing an unfamiliar ride without:  a backup headlamp, with a mini-roll of duct tape to stick it on my helmet.  An emergency blanket (I did have one, actually, but it’ll move to the cantle bag).  A maxi pad and a roll of vet wrap, in case someone trips on a rock and needs to be bandaged.  A pack of handwarmers.  And maybe a good GPS with spare batteries – I have a wristwatch GPS, but the battery only lasts 11 hours and it won’t show you how to get anywhere, just how fast you’re getting lost.

Any other oh-shit suggestions?

Dixie looked phenomenal.  I knew it would be tough for her mentally, and it was – she was so surprised and angry that we were still riding well after our usual no-more-than-12-hours, but there’s just no way to prepare the horse for that.  I am really glad that my mentors prodded me into making the jump up, and I encourage my other new endurance buddies to do it too.  If you want to ride 50s, quit dinking around in LDs and get up to 50s.  If you want to do longer distances, rest your horse and pick what you think will be your best shot and do a 75 or a 100.  It’s … less fair to the horse, I think, to let it do years and years of single-day 12 hour rides and then suddenly “change the rules” on it and do multis or longer rides.

Oddly, Dixie’s front boots rubbed.  She’s got the hide of an ox and nothing ever rubs her, so I wasn’t watching as closely as I should have been.  I couldn’t get the neoprene of the gaiters on her front boots to line up, and where the fuzzy velcro bridged the gap between the neoprene I got rubs.  It just took all the hair off, no bloody wounds at least, but I feel like such an asshole for not checking more often and letting that happen to her.

I am not sure if it’s just the longer distance that caused it, or if there’s some other issue at play – her heels are a little too high, and the boots were new and a half-size smaller.  I’m going to try wrapping her ankles with a thin strip of neoprene, if I can’t get the gaiters to stretch or her heels down enough for them to fit perfectly.

The advice to “not do anything new at a ride” is always sound, but it’s the peril of moving up – everything you do at your first hundred is basically new, because you’ve just never gone that far before.

The boots never even budged.  It was a long ride, but not really an Extreme Test of Booting – no water crossings, no steep climbs, no bogs or deep sand.  I think they’d have stayed put though.

I think Dixie’s back might have been a little tender.  I don’t really know for sure.  She wanted to be left alone to eat and drink that night, and she pinned her ears and thrashed her tail whenever she thought I might possibly touch her, but I’m sure she was also worried that I’d put that damn saddle back on her.  And in the morning she was not reactive, not so I could really be sure anything hurt.

Her legs had a little bit of filling.  At this point I’m blaming the rubs on her ankles for causing inflammation that spread up her legs, and I don’t think it’s unexpected to get a little fill after 80 miles.

Monday she had a tiny bit of rubbed flaky skin between her front legs and on either side of her mouth.  I am not at all surprised about her mouth because I was D: hauling on the reins to try to keep her below a gallop for the first TEN MILES of the ride.  I am never, ever letting this horse do an LD again; she will be instantly convinced that she can race anything, and she just can’t.

Aarene’s fleece seat saver made my butt so very happy.  I think I will get those fleece socks for my stirrup leathers and try to ride without half-chaps – they are hot and heavy when I get off to jog, and god knows I don’t need anything slowing me down further.  (At my slowest jog Dixie just flatwalks behind me, that’s how pitiful I am, but I keep steady forward motion dammit!)

At every vet check I slathered on more Butt Butt’r and that’s the other thing that kept me from getting rubs.  There’s plenty of products that work, but I’m still on my original jar of Butt Butt’r so that’s what I’m using.

I didn’t use any heat gear – I have a helmet liner, a helmet neck cover thingie, a neck sausage, and a vest, all of which have those crystals so when you get them wet they stay cool for hours.  But we were at 5000′, which is the perfect altitude for Funder, and it wasn’t humid, so I was fine.  I rode and jogged throughout the heat of the day and didn’t get too hot.

I wore my new sports tank top (thanks again C!) and that blue running shirt I’ve been wearing for four years now, and I stayed cool in the hot of the day.  A hoodie in the morning and evening was enough to keep me warm.

I had an entire clean set of clothes and shoes to change into at camp, but they weren’t needed 😉

My right hip got really sore toward the end and wanted to cramp up.  I really, really wanted to walk the last few miles in, but I couldn’t see the ground to walk, and I knew I couldn’t get back on without a rock or stump and I couldn’t see to find a safe one, so I stayed on.  And Dixie never quit on me and never took a bad step!  Next week I’m going to get another spot with Becky Hart and work on my position again, and I’ll probably go back to the chiropractor this week and apologize for undoing all his hard work last week!

Shit that just doesn’t matter on 25s matters on 50s.  Shit that doesn’t matter on 50s matters on hundreds. The hardest long-term mental lesson I’m learning this year is to take care of the small stuff before it gets out of control and wrecks my ride, or worse, my horse.

That’s all I’ve got for now, I think.  Comments are always welcome!

2013 Sunriver 100: Babes in the woods

This is long even for me.  tl;dr:  Another RO, no lameness or metabolic problems, horse looked very good at 80 miles.

I’d heard from several people that Sunriver was a good first hundred-mile ride:  experienced ride management, great footing, and a relatively easy ride (compared to Tevis or Virginia City, at least!).  So I’d kind of built this season around attempting my first hundred at Sunriver.  In retrospect, what a shitty idea.

When Dixie finished both days at Washoe in such good shape, I started planning my trip to Bend, Oregon, and lining up my crew.  Yes, crew!  My incomparable friends Mel and Amanda agreed to go to Sunriver – it was Mel’s first time crewing, and Amanda’s first time even seeing an endurance ride.

We made the 12-hour trip north on Thursday.  We stopped several times for the pretty princess to eat and stretch her legs, and we amused ourselves along the way by pointing out all the Supernatural-type motels, gas stations, and possible haunting sites.  Dixie came off and on the trailer like a rockstar, and when we finally interpreted the cryptic directions to ridecamp, she unloaded for the last time looking like she hadn’t been anywhere.

I appear to attract snow.  Since it’s June, and we were really tight on space, I elected to leave the Buddy Heater and my purple parka at home.  Another idea that was stupid in retrospect:  I found a snowstorm, and for a while I thought we were actually going to drive into the snow.

Thursday night was unbelievably cold for one week before the summer solstice.  The water froze, and Amanda almost froze in her big roomy 4-person tent, but luckily she came in the truck and warmed up with me.  My little nest in the backseat of the truck is cramped, yet very warm, and there’s room for at least one more in the front seats.

Friday was quiet and peaceful, watching camp slowly fill up around us.  I was nervous, of course, but my horse looked SO good!  The trails looked nice and the weather was perfect.  Mel and Amanda had some stupid theory about making me pre-eat and they kept feeding me.  They took the truck and went into Bend and found some of the best BBQ smoked chicken and brisket I’ve ever had.  I drank several Deschutes Brewery Twilight Summer Ales, in honor of the Deschutes River around there somewhere.  (hint: I found it on Saturday!)

By Friday afternoon, Dixie looked about as good as she’s ever looked.

Yall know that ~I do what I want~ and I am a rebel and a rule-breaker, so instead of following the standard advice of not trying anything new, I went ahead and crammed a new pair of size 0 Gloves on Dixie’s front feet – that’s a half-size smaller than her usual 0.5 Gloves.  But I’ve been pulling her toe back pretty sharply and her feet look really good and tight, and the 0’s fit textbook perfectly.

The ride meeting was low key and laid back and I was having such a good time!  There were 29 entries that night – maybe one more on ride day?  I was so pleased that they had such a good turnout.  I met Ruth, saw Diana and Bud from ATG, saw Becky and Judith, met this cool lady M who was also trying her first 100 on her spotted TWH mare, and I’d like to apologize at this point if I talked to you and forgot to mention it!

There were no maps.  That just made me a little sad on Friday night, but at this point… I think that’s a red flag for me.  If I don’t get a map in the future I should pack up my toys and go home.

Dixie was a hot hot hot firebreathing mess the next morning.  I got tacked up and mounted, somehow, then headed over to the start.  We milled around a big group of fresh hot hundred-mile horses for what felt like a long time, and eventually someone went and woke up the outgoing number-taker and she got our numbers and we were off around 5:10.

Dixie yanked and fought as hard as she could for about ten miles.  She was so bad I had to one-rein-stop her a couple times, which I haven’t had to do in a very long time.  I think she wanted to try to win a fifty, but she didn’t realize we’d signed up for twice that distance.  Eventually, we fell in with M and Dazzle and the rest of the pack pulled away from us.  We let the horses zip through the first loop at 6 mph, then 5 mph for the second loop, and we were back in ridecamp for the first longer hold.

After hold #2, the day started to get warm.  We headed back out to repeat the first leg of the trail, back to the river check for the lunch hold, and then off to the last away check at a different location.  It was hot, but the ride’s at about 5000′ and the air is lovely and thin, so I didn’t really have any heat problems. I mean, I was hot and I’m not good with hot, but it was easy for me to keep myself cool enough.

This is the Beer River.

The middle part of a ride always sucks for me, and I grumbled my way through the afternoon, but everyone I know who rides hundreds says it doesn’t get fun and wonderful til the day cools off and it starts to get dark.  I was so excited to get to ride in the dark, letting my smart girl watch the trail and riding from glowstick to glowstick in a dark forest.

I had no illusions that I’d finish fast or even mid-pack, but I really thought Dixie and I could finish that ride within the allotted 24 hours.  At the ride meeting, Lois the RM talked about how she loves hundreds and she wants to boost attendance at them, and I know she’s been running this ride for quite a while.  There weren’t any cutoff times, and I thought we’d get a fair shot at finishing.

Mel and Amanda kept both me and Dixie eating good all day.  I never pushed D too hard and she didn’t ever get that sad, tired, discouraged look in her eyes.  She pulsed down fast and she ate at every opportunity and I was really proud of her and how I managed her.  I was pretty proud that I kept eating, too.  And now I understand just how punchy and stupid you get by the dinner check, and how easy it is to sound like a mentally challenged three year old when offered food.

At one point they offered me a hard-boiled egg, and I thought it sounded ok, but I couldn’t get it peeled.  (In my defense it was a pretty fresh egg.)  I ended up ripping it in half and gnawing the middle out like it was a tiny ovine fruit or something.  At the next check, Amanda offered me another egg, and I was like “I can’t make it do, Amanda, open it for me.”  She did something magical with her fingers and offered me this egg and it was the purest, cleanest, whitest thing I’ve ever seen.  The ride was unbelievably dusty, and everything I breathed, looked at, touched, and tasted was covered in silt – except for that egg.  That egg was like a shining white beacon of purity.

It was hard to eat that entire egg but I did.  Everything I ate was a struggle and so worthwhile.  That is my new advice to wannabe endurance riders:  you have got to learn to eat, more than anything.

Anyway so we headed out of the last away check at 6:30.  They said it was fifteen miles to camp.  My crew took my GPS from me to charge it – it wouldn’t have lasted that loop, much less the whole ride.  They offered my headlamp but the day was still warm and I thought I wanted to dunk my helmet at the next water so I didn’t take it.  It was only a fifteen mile loop and we’d get in to camp in plenty of time.

So away we went.  Dazzle was getting pretty tired, and Dixie was all pissed off that we were clearly riding more than twelve hours.  (This is why they say you need to get to the distance you want to ride as fast as possible, and it’s why when I decided I wanted to try a hundred I just went for it immediately.)    Anyway the frontrunners started meeting us going the other way – the trail back to camp was common trail with the last loop.  Does that make sense?  We’d go back to camp down this road, have a hold, then turn around and head back out on the same trail.

The trail got pretty shitty as it started to get dark.  Not the shittiest trail I’ve ever ridden – I love you, Nevada, but I’m looking at you when I talk about shitty rocky trail – but not the kind of thing I’d let a horse trot down in the dark.  Gradual hills, but the trails had those foot-deep foot-wide erosion ditches winding down them, and there were random rocks scattered on it.

The RM and her assistant appeared ahead of us on a quad.  They were out hanging glowsticks for the last loop, and they were very surprised to see us.  They did not know we were still out there, and they had been pulling our ribbons to head back to camp.  And obviously not hanging extra glowsticks for us.

We soldiered on because there was nothing else to do.  And honestly at that point we were still both committed to finish.  I mean you always kind of think “well if my horse isn’t ready to go on it’ll be a bit of a relief to get pulled,” but if our horses were doing well, we were going to finish the damn thing.

The sunset was beautiful.

I had taken a light hoodie, just in case it got chilly at dusk.

We kept meeting the other riders, and they were cool and encouraging.  Eight miles to camp.  Five miles to camp.  “When you get to the gravel pit, you’re only a half mile from camp.”  Twilight fell but we started to realize that there weren’t very many glowsticks.

My understanding was that you ride from glowstick to glowstick at night, so when you’re at a glowstick you can see the next one far ahead of you in the distance.  We couldn’t see the next glowstick.  In the hour where it started to get really dark, we probably saw five glowsticks?  Nothing to do but keep going.

At some point I started taking stock of what was happening, instead of just riding and walking and watching the scenery.  I had three glowsticks and a flashlight app on my cell phone.  About 80% charge, but no reception (I left it in airplane mode so it wasn’t sucking battery looking for a signal, but the flashlight app drains the battery fast so it was my emergency light.)  I checked with Melinda and her phone was dead, but she had a little flashlight on her pack.  Neither of us had headlamps, she had no glowsticks for her horse, it was cloudy with a quarter moon thinking about rising, and we had no map.  M had not had crew force-feeding her all day and she was almost as tired as her horse.

Finally, as it got absolutely really dark, we found the gravel pit.  Not a pit?  Like one of those gravel depots where the forest service stores equipment and gravel to repair their roads?  Anyway it was on the paved road, Century Drive, and we could see cars whizzing by.  Camp had to be to the right along that road but we knew better than to try to ride along it.  There were no glowsticks in sight.

I decided that we’d ride down the trail for fifteen minutes.  If we didn’t see a glowstick then, we’d turn around and go back to the gravel pit.  M could hold my girl and I’d take a glowstick and a flashlight and stand by the side of the road and wave somebody down and make them call the sheriff or something.  M could turn on her light periodically and check for side roads off the main road we were on and see if there were ribbons anywhere.  I told The Plan to M and we got down to it.

There is no way in hell it was a half mile from the gravel to the camp.  I found them both on Google Earth and it was a hair under two miles.  But we stuck with the plan and eventually we could hear the cheering from the camp as the winners came in on the other side of camp.  We yelled some but I guess they couldn’t hear us, or they thought we were finishers, because nobody looked for us.

Anyway we kept slowly finding glowsticks and every time we did, I checked my watch and reset my internal oh-shit timer.  I don’t know if the glowsticks on Dixie’s breastcollar helped her or not, but it was almost too dark for a horse to see, so I think maybe it did.  But I couldn’t see to walk in and I had to ride, even though D clearly wanted me to get the hell off and do my share.

Mel had just gotten fed up with it and was about to head out and check the first/last few glowsticks when we stumbled around the corner into camp.  I gave Melinda a huge hug, cause we really did something tough even if we didn’t do what we hoped to, and we went to pull RO.  Dazzle was too tired to go on, and I think Dixie had the miles left in her but I didn’t have the heart to walk her down that shitty, underlit trail all alone.  I just didn’t think anybody cared that we were still out there, and I thought that if I didn’t turn up, nobody would come looking for us until Mel and Amanda called the sheriff the next day, and fuck everything I was done.

I don’t think it’s supposed to go like that.

Anyway, everybody mid-pack had already gotten pulled, so they got to shut down their hundred super early that night!  Yay for them!

Dixie vetted out just fine.  She trotted out (paced out) with a solid B for impulsion, no lameness, no hanging pulse, eating and drinking like a champ.  I’m so proud of her.  She could’ve finished a shitty-ass twenty-hour turtle ride.

We got her tack stripped and blanketed her, but we didn’t pull her boots.  Her legs were filling just a bit so Mel wrapped them for me.  Amanda made me the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had in my life and I slept like a dead thing that night.

More in a while; I need to go get the trailer unloaded and go check on my badass girl.

2013 Sunriver 100: Babes in the woods

This is long even for me.  tl;dr:  Another RO, no lameness or metabolic problems, horse looked very good at 80 miles.

I’d heard from several people that Sunriver was a good first hundred-mile ride:  experienced ride management, great footing, and a relatively easy ride (compared to Tevis or Virginia City, at least!).  So I’d kind of built this season around attempting my first hundred at Sunriver.  In retrospect, what a shitty idea.

When Dixie finished both days at Washoe in such good shape, I started planning my trip to Bend, Oregon, and lining up my crew.  Yes, crew!  My incomparable friends Mel and Amanda agreed to go to Sunriver – it was Mel’s first time crewing, and Amanda’s first time even seeing an endurance ride.

We made the 12-hour trip north on Thursday.  We stopped several times for the pretty princess to eat and stretch her legs, and we amused ourselves along the way by pointing out all the Supernatural-type motels, gas stations, and possible haunting sites.  Dixie came off and on the trailer like a rockstar, and when we finally interpreted the cryptic directions to ridecamp, she unloaded for the last time looking like she hadn’t been anywhere.

I appear to attract snow.  Since it’s June, and we were really tight on space, I elected to leave the Buddy Heater and my purple parka at home.  Another idea that was stupid in retrospect:  I found a snowstorm, and for a while I thought we were actually going to drive into the snow.

Thursday night was unbelievably cold for one week before the summer solstice.  The water froze, and Amanda almost froze in her big roomy 4-person tent, but luckily she came in the truck and warmed up with me.  My little nest in the backseat of the truck is cramped, yet very warm, and there’s room for at least one more in the front seats.

Friday was quiet and peaceful, watching camp slowly fill up around us.  I was nervous, of course, but my horse looked SO good!  The trails looked nice and the weather was perfect.  Mel and Amanda had some stupid theory about making me pre-eat and they kept feeding me.  They took the truck and went into Bend and found some of the best BBQ smoked chicken and brisket I’ve ever had.  I drank several Deschutes Brewery Twilight Summer Ales, in honor of the Deschutes River around there somewhere.  (hint: I found it on Saturday!)

By Friday afternoon, Dixie looked about as good as she’s ever looked.

Yall know that ~I do what I want~ and I am a rebel and a rule-breaker, so instead of following the standard advice of not trying anything new, I went ahead and crammed a new pair of size 0 Gloves on Dixie’s front feet – that’s a half-size smaller than her usual 0.5 Gloves.  But I’ve been pulling her toe back pretty sharply and her feet look really good and tight, and the 0’s fit textbook perfectly.

The ride meeting was low key and laid back and I was having such a good time!  There were 29 entries that night – maybe one more on ride day?  I was so pleased that they had such a good turnout.  I met Ruth, saw Diana and Bud from ATG, saw Becky and Judith, met this cool lady M who was also trying her first 100 on her spotted TWH mare, and I’d like to apologize at this point if I talked to you and forgot to mention it!

There were no maps.  That just made me a little sad on Friday night, but at this point… I think that’s a red flag for me.  If I don’t get a map in the future I should pack up my toys and go home.

Dixie was a hot hot hot firebreathing mess the next morning.  I got tacked up and mounted, somehow, then headed over to the start.  We milled around a big group of fresh hot hundred-mile horses for what felt like a long time, and eventually someone went and woke up the outgoing number-taker and she got our numbers and we were off around 5:10.

Dixie yanked and fought as hard as she could for about ten miles.  She was so bad I had to one-rein-stop her a couple times, which I haven’t had to do in a very long time.  I think she wanted to try to win a fifty, but she didn’t realize we’d signed up for twice that distance.  Eventually, we fell in with M and Dazzle and the rest of the pack pulled away from us.  We let the horses zip through the first loop at 6 mph, then 5 mph for the second loop, and we were back in ridecamp for the first longer hold.

After hold #2, the day started to get warm.  We headed back out to repeat the first leg of the trail, back to the river check for the lunch hold, and then off to the last away check at a different location.  It was hot, but the ride’s at about 5000′ and the air is lovely and thin, so I didn’t really have any heat problems. I mean, I was hot and I’m not good with hot, but it was easy for me to keep myself cool enough.

This is the Beer River.

The middle part of a ride always sucks for me, and I grumbled my way through the afternoon, but everyone I know who rides hundreds says it doesn’t get fun and wonderful til the day cools off and it starts to get dark.  I was so excited to get to ride in the dark, letting my smart girl watch the trail and riding from glowstick to glowstick in a dark forest.

I had no illusions that I’d finish fast or even mid-pack, but I really thought Dixie and I could finish that ride within the allotted 24 hours.  At the ride meeting, Lois the RM talked about how she loves hundreds and she wants to boost attendance at them, and I know she’s been running this ride for quite a while.  There weren’t any cutoff times, and I thought we’d get a fair shot at finishing.

Mel and Amanda kept both me and Dixie eating good all day.  I never pushed D too hard and she didn’t ever get that sad, tired, discouraged look in her eyes.  She pulsed down fast and she ate at every opportunity and I was really proud of her and how I managed her.  I was pretty proud that I kept eating, too.  And now I understand just how punchy and stupid you get by the dinner check, and how easy it is to sound like a mentally challenged three year old when offered food.

At one point they offered me a hard-boiled egg, and I thought it sounded ok, but I couldn’t get it peeled.  (In my defense it was a pretty fresh egg.)  I ended up ripping it in half and gnawing the middle out like it was a tiny ovine fruit or something.  At the next check, Amanda offered me another egg, and I was like “I can’t make it do, Amanda, open it for me.”  She did something magical with her fingers and offered me this egg and it was the purest, cleanest, whitest thing I’ve ever seen.  The ride was unbelievably dusty, and everything I breathed, looked at, touched, and tasted was covered in silt – except for that egg.  That egg was like a shining white beacon of purity.

It was hard to eat that entire egg but I did.  Everything I ate was a struggle and so worthwhile.  That is my new advice to wannabe endurance riders:  you have got to learn to eat, more than anything.

Anyway so we headed out of the last away check at 6:30.  They said it was fifteen miles to camp.  My crew took my GPS from me to charge it – it wouldn’t have lasted that loop, much less the whole ride.  They offered my headlamp but the day was still warm and I thought I wanted to dunk my helmet at the next water so I didn’t take it.  It was only a fifteen mile loop and we’d get in to camp in plenty of time.

So away we went.  Dazzle was getting pretty tired, and Dixie was all pissed off that we were clearly riding more than twelve hours.  (This is why they say you need to get to the distance you want to ride as fast as possible, and it’s why when I decided I wanted to try a hundred I just went for it immediately.)    Anyway the frontrunners started meeting us going the other way – the trail back to camp was common trail with the last loop.  Does that make sense?  We’d go back to camp down this road, have a hold, then turn around and head back out on the same trail.

The trail got pretty shitty as it started to get dark.  Not the shittiest trail I’ve ever ridden – I love you, Nevada, but I’m looking at you when I talk about shitty rocky trail – but not the kind of thing I’d let a horse trot down in the dark.  Gradual hills, but the trails had those foot-deep foot-wide erosion ditches winding down them, and there were random rocks scattered on it.

The RM and her assistant appeared ahead of us on a quad.  They were out hanging glowsticks for the last loop, and they were very surprised to see us.  They did not know we were still out there, and they had been pulling our ribbons to head back to camp.  And obviously not hanging extra glowsticks for us.

We soldiered on because there was nothing else to do.  And honestly at that point we were still both committed to finish.  I mean you always kind of think “well if my horse isn’t ready to go on it’ll be a bit of a relief to get pulled,” but if our horses were doing well, we were going to finish the damn thing.

The sunset was beautiful.

I had taken a light hoodie, just in case it got chilly at dusk.

We kept meeting the other riders, and they were cool and encouraging.  Eight miles to camp.  Five miles to camp.  “When you get to the gravel pit, you’re only a half mile from camp.”  Twilight fell but we started to realize that there weren’t very many glowsticks.

My understanding was that you ride from glowstick to glowstick at night, so when you’re at a glowstick you can see the next one far ahead of you in the distance.  We couldn’t see the next glowstick.  In the hour where it started to get really dark, we probably saw five glowsticks?  Nothing to do but keep going.

At some point I started taking stock of what was happening, instead of just riding and walking and watching the scenery.  I had three glowsticks and a flashlight app on my cell phone.  About 80% charge, but no reception (I left it in airplane mode so it wasn’t sucking battery looking for a signal, but the flashlight app drains the battery fast so it was my emergency light.)  I checked with Melinda and her phone was dead, but she had a little flashlight on her pack.  Neither of us had headlamps, she had no glowsticks for her horse, it was cloudy with a quarter moon thinking about rising, and we had no map.  M had not had crew force-feeding her all day and she was almost as tired as her horse.

Finally, as it got absolutely really dark, we found the gravel pit.  Not a pit?  Like one of those gravel depots where the forest service stores equipment and gravel to repair their roads?  Anyway it was on the paved road, Century Drive, and we could see cars whizzing by.  Camp had to be to the right along that road but we knew better than to try to ride along it.  There were no glowsticks in sight.

I decided that we’d ride down the trail for fifteen minutes.  If we didn’t see a glowstick then, we’d turn around and go back to the gravel pit.  M could hold my girl and I’d take a glowstick and a flashlight and stand by the side of the road and wave somebody down and make them call the sheriff or something.  M could turn on her light periodically and check for side roads off the main road we were on and see if there were ribbons anywhere.  I told The Plan to M and we got down to it.

There is no way in hell it was a half mile from the gravel to the camp.  I found them both on Google Earth and it was a hair under two miles.  But we stuck with the plan and eventually we could hear the cheering from the camp as the winners came in on the other side of camp.  We yelled some but I guess they couldn’t hear us, or they thought we were finishers, because nobody looked for us.

Anyway we kept slowly finding glowsticks and every time we did, I checked my watch and reset my internal oh-shit timer.  I don’t know if the glowsticks on Dixie’s breastcollar helped her or not, but it was almost too dark for a horse to see, so I think maybe it did.  But I couldn’t see to walk in and I had to ride, even though D clearly wanted me to get the hell off and do my share.

Mel had just gotten fed up with it and was about to head out and check the first/last few glowsticks when we stumbled around the corner into camp.  I gave Melinda a huge hug, cause we really did something tough even if we didn’t do what we hoped to, and we went to pull RO.  Dazzle was too tired to go on, and I think Dixie had the miles left in her but I didn’t have the heart to walk her down that shitty, underlit trail all alone.  I just didn’t think anybody cared that we were still out there, and I thought that if I didn’t turn up, nobody would come looking for us until Mel and Amanda called the sheriff the next day, and fuck everything I was done.

I don’t think it’s supposed to go like that.

Anyway, everybody mid-pack had already gotten pulled, so they got to shut down their hundred super early that night!  Yay for them!

Dixie vetted out just fine.  She trotted out (paced out) with a solid B for impulsion, no lameness, no hanging pulse, eating and drinking like a champ.  I’m so proud of her.  She could’ve finished a shitty-ass twenty-hour turtle ride.

We got her tack stripped and blanketed her, but we didn’t pull her boots.  Her legs were filling just a bit so Mel wrapped them for me.  Amanda made me the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had in my life and I slept like a dead thing that night.

More in a while; I need to go get the trailer unloaded and go check on my badass girl.

Continuing Ed

Yesterday Dixie and I went down to San Jose and took a Centered Riding lesson with Becky Hart.

Becky Hart is a name I’ve known for a long time.  She’s one of the top ten US endurance riders, and one of the top international riders – I don’t even pretend to follow FEI so I have no idea how well she’s ranked overseas.  But she was the Chef d’Equipe for the US endurance team at the last WEG – she is the real deal.  (And don’t even get me started on her horses – Rio was possibly the best endurance horse ever, with 10k miles and a ton of first-place finishes.)

And I’m a redneck from Mississippi with four months of dressage lessons four years ago, on a horse I’ve made, for better or worse, entirely on my own.  I was a little nervous, really.  But it’s gotten to the point where I have to recognize that Dixie is a serious athlete, and she deserves a better partner, and I needed to go find out what I can do to improve myself and make her job easier.

SJ is only 60 miles away, but anything involving vehicles in the Bay Area takes far longer than you can comprehend, you lucky flyover state readers*, so I left the house at 10 to get to Becky’s farm at 1, and I left there at 3 to get home at 6:30.  Dixie was a hot mess when I pulled her out of her pen, screaming and pawing like a completely unhandled filly, but I paid her no mind.  I rinsed her off (must scrub her with soap, that Foresthill red dirt is NOT coming out) and loaded her up and she snapped into grownup endurance horse mode.  She rode well and ate hay perfectly calmly while I tacked her up.  I started to think my lesson might not be a debacle.

Becky didn’t laugh in my face at my goals:  Sunriver 100, 20 Mule Team 100 in February, Tevis ’14, Decade Team.  (And the Nevada Triple Crown some year, but that’s even harder than Tevis.  It’s the Derby 50, NASTR 75, and Virginia City 100 all in the same year – but the trails aren’t unfamiliar and at least it’s not humid, so it’s not out of the question…)  There’s still so much that can go wrong, but it’s not unattainable.

I could try to tell you all the stuff we talked about, but you know how lessons are – you learn a lot, but it’s not something you can explain to someone later.  But somehow Dixie and I rode around that arena like a centaur, not like a monkey clinging to a horse’s back.  We didn’t do a single thing with my hands – all I had to do was sit back and shift my weight and she curved nicely around cones and stopped and started when I thought about it.

I finally learned how it feels when the horse lifts her back under me, and how to ask for it.  I learned how I’m crooked – I collapse my left ribs and wrap my left leg nicely around the horse, while my right ribs are braced up and my right leg is twisted funny.  It’ll take some work to retrain my muscle memory to sit properly and cue properly, but that’s the benefit of endurance:  I’ll get those hours of practice hella fast.  I’m planning on going back for another lesson a week or two after Sunriver to see how we’re coming along.

My mouth is often disconnected from my brain, and at one point Becky said she used to show TWH in the 70s, and I just up and blurted out “I’m sorry!”  Because I’m a huge asshole.  :headdesk:  She gave me this look like “did you just say that?!” and I explained that Dixie was a padded, sored show horse, and showing in Tennessee is barbaric, and I just hate the whole sport.  She agreed that she showed clean and had a hard time beating people who tuned up their horses, and we just left it at that and thankfully she didn’t seem too offended.  D:

Dixie did me proud.  I just can’t say this too often:  she has a great mind.  She really does.  She’s hard to condition because she’s so laid back, but she’s so easy to ride when she’s in shape.  I can’t even believe I just typed those words – she was such a bundle of nerves for years.  Who knew that there was a relaxed, confident horse under all that panicked energy?  And I did this; I kept at it with her and brought out her good traits.  :)

And I got Dixie a massage on Tuesday.  There’s a massage therapist at the barn who’s an “endurance ally” – she does trails and dressage on her lovely Friesian, but she’s crewed Tevis for her friends and she understands the sport.  She said she didn’t do a lot of work yet, because she wants to keep the experience positive for her, but that Dixie seemed to enjoy what she did.  She’ll work on her again after Sunriver.

*you know I’m not dissing the flyover states; I’m from them and I love them. But I assume that eastern seaboarders like Dom also understand how a hundred-mile round trip can take longer in a car than on a fast horse.  😉