Top ten was less than a mile away when I made a wrong turn.
I saw the 5 mile marker. And the 4 mile marker. And the 2 mile marker. I got off to jog so Splash could hopefully catch her breath a little more easily in the humidity. Each ride revealed another long stretch of lovely path in the green tunnel. I remounted and kept watching the kilometers ridden on my borrowed watch creeping up. Thinking I must just be a little further.
There were still blue ribbons on the right. Things started to look a bit familiar….but this was my first time here. Maybe I was confused. Yup, blue ribbons still on the right. Hm, I think I ducked under that branch before. Maybe it was on the red loop I did first? Yup, blue ribbons still on the right. Wait, this is the water trough field….really? At this point I realized I’d gone wrong. Very, very wrong. Near the end of the blue trail, it crosses itself. I had somehow gone out on the loop again instead of going home.
As I was sponging Splash at the water and berating myself I had some useful thoughts. I have never really considered a time limit for a 25 mile ride. I knew you got 12 hours for a 50…was it then 6 hours for a 25? Probably. And even if that wasn’t the case; it was hot, humid, and buggy. My horse was tired and not catching her breath as well as I’d like. A pair of set speed ladies gave me electrolytes for Splash and offered to ride the rest of their loop with me. I got on and we set off. Within minutes I realized Splash’s breathing was too heavy for hot, humid, ‘you’re already dead last’ conditions.
The only thing left to do was get Splash home in good condition. So we set off walking. Everyone who passed us made sure we were ok and I sent along the message that we’d be back eventually. At the walk, Splash was still breathing hard so I figured I’d walk until she was breathing more easily. We stopped for grass here and there to make sure she still had an appetite and digestion was still happening. We jogged down hills together. Swatted bugs. And talked of many thing: Of shoes—and ships – and sealing wax –of cabbages—and kings.
Let the self doubt and self berating begin. Many of you have been there and during the walk in and back at camp there were many understanding condolences. But that didn’t stop the record playing on my long long long walk in. How did I not realize? How did I not realize for SO LONG? The blue ribbons were always on the right…right? Should I just get back on and make Splash trot? What’s the point of taking that risk when it’s humid like this and we’re well out of it already? Does UBER pick up horses? Can I send Splash back and just sit down and die right here? Why do I even DO this? It was dumb to leave my camel pack behind. I should have paid more attention to the map and compass. Well, I did want to slow down and enjoy the scenery. Maybe not this slow. Oh, someone dropped a sponge. Oooo, it has a huge slug in it. I’ll take it anyway. I wonder if I’ll just keep going around and around forever….
This is part of what makes endurance hard. Whether it’s that last push up, or the last 5 seconds holding that yoga pose, or that last 10 km you’re walking because you made a wrong turn.
I was certainly happy to see Lily walking towards me about a mile from camp (the second time) with a bottle of water. And laughed to see what Sarah and Ashley had left for me at that last turn where I’d gone wrong before.
I’d like to blame something. Bentley, my original ride tweaked something so it’s his fault. The trail crossed itself and wasn’t clearly marked. I had rider brain (tired brain). I’ve never been here before. Splash knows these trails, why didn’t SHE tell me…wait, really? I’m trying to blame the horse? There’s always something to blame or some excuse.
At the end of the day, I made a mistake. And I was lucky the only thing harmed was my pride. I really would have liked to finish top 10 and knowing we ‘could have’ isn’t quite the same. I choose to learn from my mistake. I choose to go on and keep putting one foot in front of the other. I will always carry hydration. I need to pay more attention to the maps, particularly where a trail crosses itself. And I would do well to carry my GPS so I can see my track and look at it when that nagging voice says, ‘Um, Hey…Rose….we’ve definitely seen this tree before.’
The support and camaraderie of OCTRA members helped me keep my chin up when I really wanted to curl up in the corner of the trailer and cry. In a social media world where every invisible person feels justified in dissecting and criticizing your every choice, in person, the endurance community showed me the best of itself; smiles, words of encouragement, understanding, sympathy and empathy. Despite my error, I thoroughly enjoyed my weekend.
Thank you Sarah, for inviting me, arranging a horse, crewing, feeding me, and being an amazing hostess. Thank you Ashley for letting me go for an unexpectedly long ride on your mare Splash. And thank you OCTRA for being helpful, welcoming, and running a wonderful event in beautiful country.
Side note from Sarah: I hope you all enjoyed Rose’s story! While this is a bit of a crossover episode (she runs a blog too!) we have had long, deep conversations at the pub and have decided to merge the blogs! Rose is training with the hopes of competing at Tevis this year and will be sharing her adventures in SoCal with our followers… so grab a popsicle… you are in for a heat wave!