Derby 50 mile 2014
|April 8, 2014
|Posted by Melinda under Event Report
Getting there was interesting.
I live in Central CA. I do not own chains for my truck and trailer because if it’s snowing over the pass (from CA to NV) I will stay home.
I do own chains for my car because last year my mother found a set of Les Schwab chains in the thrift store for $4 that fit my car, and at some point in the past I was told by someone in my family that they only way they would ever help me put on chains was if they were that brand because they were “easy”.
So, I duitifully put them in my car trunk after my boyfriend double checked they fit.
I didn’t bother actually paying attention during that process because the likelihood of me ever actually using them was nill.
Until I had a 50 miler to go to. A 50 miler I REALLY wanted to go to.
A 50 miler that my horse was already at. (Thanks to Funder and her offer to take Farley over earlier in the day while I drove over when ever school got done)
I must admit that I am now more confused than ever what “chain control” means.
I’ve gone over Donnor in the past in a snow storm where snow was accumulating on the road – no chain control.
I went over Donnor in a snow storm Friday where the snow was NOT accumulating…..and apparently there was chain control.
Or at least, I think there was chain control.
In reality there were truckers pulling over and putting chains on. And taking chains off. And random passenger vehicles doing the same. And then there was a whole lot of us that were staying on the road and just kept driving.
I kept waiting for someone to insist that I pull over, dig my chains out from underneath several 100 pounds of gear and demand that I somehow possess the knowledge to put the chains on my tires.
I was comforted by the knowledge that a friend from somewhere in the Dakota’s had laughed at me one time when I was lamenting about the possibility of having to use chains and told me that we Californians chained up for weather that was NOTHING – so if they can drive in it, so can I. And so….I just kept driving. And eventually I got to the other side of the mountain and it was sunny with blue skies and a distinct lack of snow and even more confused about what chain control means than when I started the trip.
Anywhoo. Got to ride camp before dark in time to hear pulse criteria but nothing about the trail at the ride meeting.
Remembered to ask about colors and number of loops before going to bed. Score.
It was the weirdest/best thing in the world to have someone else check me in and vet in my horse while I was away from ride camp. It sorta short circuited my brain and I never really got nervous or nauseous before the ride – Despite the fact there was more significance (and $$) associated with finishing the ride this weekend than most rides. This is likely the LAST chance I will have to ride endurance this season. Which means this is the LAST chance to get a 2014 completion towards the decade award. And since I had to get a coggins and CVI to cross the state line there were significant additional expenses associated with this ride. I reckoned I had about $500 on the line – an amount only typically exceeded by a ride like Tevis or 100 that requires several tanks of fuel to get there (CA is BIG – I can drive a long ways in certain directions before I cross a state line).
Not to mention the last 2 rides I’ve done I’ve had some mystery lameness that I still don’t have a good answer for.
Despite ALL THIS – I really wasn’t worried or stressed. I think the biggest factor in the dramatic mental shift from the ride being a necessary stress to achieve goals, to something that was absolutely truly fun for me and my was: I had a TON of my best friends in the world in that ride camp and riding the trail with me. For the first time, the actual ride was secondary – it was an excuse to see my friends and spend some time on the trail with Farley and perhaps accomplish something. I can’t believe how that simple shift changed the mental game so much.
As one does at a ride that is a social event extravaganza and a celebration (end of third year vet school!!!!!) I *may* have had a couple of beers while attempting to figure out what boots were going to fit on Farley for the ride the next morning.
There are many benefits to not conditioning with boots
- Less trimming – just go ride on some gravel!
- Less cost
- Peace of mind that I can go barefoot during a ride if something happens to my boots
- I can just get on and RIDE
- I can keep my boots at my house where they are (theoretically) cleaner
- I don’t have to actually clean my boots after endurance rides until the next endurance ride….
There are a couple of drawbacks….
- It’s always a bit of a mystery what size she will be on the day of the ride!!!!!
- It’s always a bit of mystery what boots I can actually locate to put on her feet……..(good thing I don’t care about color coordination!) combined with the “mystery” above it adds a bit of tension to the pre race routine.
So armed with a huge bag of boots of different sizes and colors I managed to find 4 boots that went on Farley’s feet in a reasonable manner.
I’m not sure whether it was the beer, the headlamp, or my ADHD shiny object disease…but I got up in the morning and decided the boots that I had fitted the night before STILL didn’t fit….so I changed it up again. Still not completely happy with the fit I carried 2 spares that were different from anything she was actually wearing so if we did have an issue on the trail I could change that boot to something DIFFERENT because in my experience if a renegade boot doesn’t stay on there’s a problem and replacing that boot without changing something doesn’t fix it :).
(jump to future – Had zero issues with the boots for the entire 50 miles and didn’t touch them once! Had every type of terrain imaginable except mud and snow so I was very pleased! No sand build up in the boots, no rubbing, and I really appreciated the extra heel bulb and pastern protection in some of the really rocky sections.)
Aurora handed off a bit I had lent her (which I managed to put on my bridle upside down, which I didn’t catch until I had actually BRIDLED my horse), and a pair of orange reins she was selling to me, and Funder remembered to give me a map and my ride card in the morning before I actually got on my horse. SCORE. I did a rather dicey moving mount on a rather forward minded horse, double checked my color and mileage for the first loop and we were off.
Considering Farley had sat for 2 weeks because of weather and my schedule, and her last ride was essentially an LD (the naughtiness of her ride starts are directly proportional to the amount of miles our last endurance ride was) so the fact she was pulling a bit and hollowing her back without ACTUALLY bucking or doing angry mare head slings was definitely a win.
Still, the Ride photographers were early in the ride so they caught this little exchange
About an hour into the ride she was moving nicely off my seat and head tosses (and the inevitable tripping/stumbling FROM NOT PAYING ATTENTION) could be corrected by moving her into the bit and we settled into what turned out to be a fabulous ride.
Except for one little detail.
I tried to get off and run.
Farley made it very clear that she would prefer that I stay on.
I pointed out I had a 50K in two weeks that I could really use a training run with hills and elevation and why couldn’t we multi-task?
Farley pointed out that Saturday was her day to shine.
And she had a point. With seven seasons under her belt, how can I not listen to her and trust her when she tells me something?
So I stayed on her back far more than I intended.
She did relent and let me jog a couple of flat and downhill miles on the beginning of the second loop. And then we hit a section that was a bit confusing with multiple trails through the sage brush. I got back on since I could see ribbons better from the saddle. There was only the occasional green ribbon against green sagebrush. Sometimes she knew where the trail was and I was certain we were going to die alone and miserable in the desert – and sometimes it was me urging her along the trail when I could see the next ribbon just across the next ridge.
Then we were at the bottom of a big ass hill. A really really big ass hill at an elevation somewhere above 6K feet (a friend later pointed out the road far below was at 6K feet, when I complained how HARD climbing that hill had been).
Farley said I could get off and tail so I unsnapped one side of the reins, stepped behind her on the single track, wrapped my hand in her tail and told her to walk on.
And walk up we did.
We scaled that monster hill at at least 3 mph. With no breaks.
I tried to help her out by not using her tail *quite* so much and found literally couldn’t walk up the hill on my own power.
We reached the top and even with me dismounted she had a visibly increased respiration rate and her muscles were a little trembly. I had made the right decision to get off. Sometimes it’s better to keep moving during recovery and let those muscles recover with movement – so we kept moving. Less than a minute later she told me to get back in the saddle.
And then…..we got to the back side of monster hill. A monster DOWNhill, with the deepest sand I’ve ever seen.
It was like time had slowed down by a factor of three.
We didn’t walk down that hill, we didn’t trot down that hill – we did some weird swimming gait all the way down down down down down. and then more down. And more down. I didn’t dare get off and I felt bad about staying on. (later a friend told me she had gotten off on that trail at a different event and wasn’t able to get back on because the sand was so deep)
Eventually we got to the end – a slightly down hill hard packed gravely yucky road. By then I had caught up with another friend and both of us walked. For a long time. Neither of us train in sand, and the giant up hill combined with super super deep sand made both of us nervous. Both of us felt like all it would take was one bad “muscle contraction” to have a potential tye up and so both of us elected to play it safe and walk and NOT allow the horses to trot until we were absolutely sure any tightness from the unfamiliar sand work was gone.
I always amazed how much SMARTER I get at every ride I do.
Sand and big hills are not like rocks. An excellent strategy on rocky trails is to walk the rocky sections and trot all the good sections to make time. Depending on how much sand and hills you have available to train on, the “trot all the trottable” may or may not be a good strategy during a ride with big hills and deep sand. There is more muscle work involved in negotiating that big hill or deep sand, and depending on how familiar that type of work is to the muscle, the more prone it might be to spasming or cramping after that work. I hadn’t really thought about this concept and in the past had the philosophy that because I had gone slowly and carefully through the sand/hill that I was OK to immediately trot on when the the trail leveled out. But after talking to my friend (who is another veterinarian) I can see the logic and wisdom of this, at least from personal anecdotal experience. I suffer from muscle cramps, especially in the morning in my calves. All it takes is one bad move that causes a small spasm on a morning that I’m “prone” to a cramp (still haven’t figured out why exactly some mornings this happens and some mornings it doesn’t) and the whole muscle spasms in some sort of cruel chain reaction if I do the wrong thing at the wrong time. It’s not that a reasonably fit muscle CAN’T recover from a big stressor it isn’t trained for and continue on- it just may need a little bit more time to “walk it out” to prevent having cramps or other issues than the muscle that is fully conditioned for that situation.
(image above – every ride I get “smarter” and learn not only to manage my horse and me better – I learn how to manage the “event” better. I realized how much better I was at taking advantage of little things during Tevis in 2013, and so was pleased to see that trend continue at this ride. It’s what I LOVE about this sport – you can always learn something!)
The last loop out of camp was a 7 mile flat sandy loop. The 15 minute hold passed quickly and I pointed Farley out of camp fully expecting a horse that would question my sanity. This is not a horse that appreciates multiple loops – give her a point to point any day.
But she surprised me. She headed out of camp as if we were at a 100 mile ride and we were starting our after dinner loop – strong, forward and and JAZZED.
About half way through the loop, after burning through the good footing at a reasonable speed, faced with yet more deep sand on the way back to camp, I decided we were going to walk the rest of the ride.
That is how much the completion meant to me. I let 15 or 20 people pass me, even though my horse was perfectly capable of trotting (as she reminded me over and over and over and over) and I was actually in good physical and mental shape. I walked in (and continued to find friends to visit with) because like those last 6 miles at Tevis the year I completed, I knew I could walk in without worry of a time cut off and practically guarantee a completion – and that was THE most important thing at that moment.
Back at camp Farley went back into “1 hour vetcheck mode”. It was then that I realized she thought this was a 100. She hadn’t been to this ride camp before and had decided that being in the desert, combine with our slow second loop in the afternoon and making her go slower during the day than usual meant she had another 50 to go.
I laughed at her and told her she was done.
She ignored me
I decided to prove it to her. I took her over to the arena and turned her out.
In the deep sand of the arena she trotted away from me perfectly sound and rolled. And then continued to trot and roll 3 more times.
I had done right by my horse. She’s not a showy horse. In camp she looks like a tired old nag (doesn’t help she’s more of a BSCS of 4.5-5 instead of a 5.5-6 right now). Her choosing to take off at a trot in the arena was HUGE.
Finally, a picture perfect ride that ended with a perfectly sound horse, and a completion.