Category Archives: Rider – Rose

Tevis – Against the Odds

After completing Race the Wild Coast in Oct 2016, it was time to consider the next adventure.  Sam Jones (Aus – Winner of Mongol Derby 2014 & 2nd Race the Wild Coast 2016) had ridden and completed the Tevis Cup in 2016.  Hey!  That’s in my own country!  Maybe it’s time for a domestic adventure.  I’ll ride Tevis!  Tevis is 100 miles in one day with a total ascent of ~15,460 feet and total descent of ~21,400 feet.

But I needed a horse.  December 4, 2016, I saw that a Derby friend of mine, Stephanie ‘Stevie’ Murray, was going to South Africa for a year and needed to find a situation for her promising young endurance mare.

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And the Road to Tevis 2017 began.

Horse Acquisition & The Training

I flew to Pennsylvania to pick up the truck and visit my parents; drove to Virginia to visit my horse family, Foxhunt for Christmas, and pick up the trailer; drove to Michigan to pick up Stevie, Sparta, Gilbert, and all the tack and gear to go with both horses; and we drove across the country.

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I had zero AERC miles.  I had never trained an endurance horse.  Sparta wasn’t backed until she was 8 years old and had done 3 rides in 2015 (25,25,50) and 2 in 2016 (30,50).

I reached out to my endurance Gurus as I would need their guidance.  The main ones being  Stevie, the mare’s owner of course as well as Amy Wallace-Whalen who had started the mare and Connie Burns-Caudill, a distance rider and vet.

I joined the AERC.

Bought a cot.

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And racked up my first 50 on Jan 28th.

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I started learning about training schedules, nutrition, metabolic functions, shoeing, and mares.  Smart 1/2 Arab 1/2 saddle-bred mares.  Our second ride was 65 miles at 20 Mule Team.  The morning after a 5th place finish, we prepared to present for BC and Sparta wasn’t 100% sound.  She was slightly stiff in her right hind.

I dropped her off at her ‘vacation home’ at Kingsway Farm in Temecula where I take her after a ride to go out in the big field with the mares and just be a horse for a few weeks.  By the time we got to the farm, she was sound (of course).   After Sparta’s break, I stepped up our flatwork to continue building the muscles for evenness and self-carriage.  I also contacted a friend and horse chiropractor/masseuse who is based at Kingsway, Debra, to arrange a session and also for her to teach me.  I wanted to know what I could do during a ride at holds to stretch, massage, check, and otherwise help Sparta.

One of the things Debra showed me was poll massage.  I decided I could use this in my routine as a tool to help the mare relax in stressful situations.  It became the first thing I did when I got to the barn and every time I entered her stall, the last thing I did when I left, and everywhere in between.  Sparta soon began to anticipate and enjoy it.  Now, as soon as I touch her poll, it’s her signal everything is ok, to relax, and she drops her head.  It is useful for faster heart rate recovery walking into vet checks too!

My next ride (not Sparta’s) was in Florida!  Amy, one of my Gurus, was there with her daughter Annie (who by the way has earned a place on the Young Riders team going to Italy this year!!)  Amy arranged a ride for me and as it was also an FEI event weekend, I would have the chance to watch some of the best.  The Olsen’s were kind enough to provide me with a great mare as well as a crew!!  They had a lot of horses going, and I was just added to the mix!  It was so amazing/weird to do be descended upon by a horsey pit crew at camp after each loop.  My vast experience so far had been all ‘away’ vet checks where we weren’t even back at camp until the end; not to mention the different muscles I used cantering on flat sandy terrain for 50 miles vs. mountains.  As a bonus, I got to meet Connie who had agreed to be a resource having never met me, and got to see Lynne (who I knew was there), and Kathy Broaddus (who I didn’t know was there).

In the week leading up to the next ride I’d planned to do at home, I bailed.  I was really undecided because I logically couldn’t define something wrong.  It was a long drive, I was feeling draggy, and Sparta seemed to feel the same way.  I went out for a training ride that weekend and when we got back, she was sneezing.  By the next morning she had a runny nose.  Over the next 2 weeks, she never ran a temperature and kept eating.  We spent a lot of time hand grazing (the farm close to my home doesn’t have turnout).  The runny nose cleared up and for another week we just walked the trails as she was still sneezing a bit.

At the end of May, we completed another 50.  And again, there was a slight stiffness in the right hind after the finish that again disappeared almost immediately..  Knowing Tevis was coming fast and twice the distance, I had a full lameness workup done by Mark Silverman, a former farrier and lameness vet.  We decided to tweak some shoeing issues and also start a preventative maintenance regime of a daily supplement, Platinum, and monthly Adequan injections.

At the invitation of another Mongol Derby friend you all know, Sarah, I flew up to Ontario and Ashley was kind enough to let me ride Splash.  It was my first incomplete ride due to excessive Bonus Miles.  I apparently have a problem following a marked trail and this was a reminder that I’d want my GPS for Tevis.

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Final Preparations

The last pre-Tevis event was the Educational Weekend (The Horse is Fine, The Rider Is Crazy) where I would have the opportunity to ride sections of the Tevis (Western States) Trail with a mentor.  It was well worth it for the people I met as well as a better understanding of the logistics involved in this 100 mile ride.  I talked with a lot of people and the typical responses I got along with skeptical looks were, ‘You chose Tevis as your first 100?’, ‘You know only ~50% of riders complete this every year?’,  ‘It’s your horse’s first 100?  And your first 100?’, ‘You know many horses don’t complete their first time, especially Tevis’, and lastly, ‘You don’t have any crew!?!  You need crew!’  My response was that we’d give it a try and see, but I also knew I had good advisers and was putting everything in place, for the things I could control, to be successful.  None of this prevented me from contacting my gurus with a variety of last minute worries that got progressively stranger as the ride got closer…

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I put out a call for crew.  And Rosie Campbell, owner of Freedom Fields Farm in Virginia, MFH of Bull Run Hunt, card carrying badass, and my horse mom, answered the call.  Her husband Chris (horse dad), took Friday and Monday off work to watch the farm and Rosie booked a flight across the country to Reno and would meet up with me at start camp Friday, the day before the Ride!

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Two weeks out I had arranged to have the farrier out.  He came…but didn’t put on the Impak pads in the front that I needed, nor did he do the hind shoes.  I begged him to come back and he came and put the pads on the front, but still didn’t do the hinds.  Her toe was long and catching the fronts a bit. I called but the farrier didn’t come.  The interference was intermittent, the front shoes were tight, and I decided to leave it.

Monday evening I was all packed, loaded the mare, and pulled out of the farm at 7 pm for the 11 hour haul to Auburn, CA (speed limit with a trailer in California is 55 mph).  At 5:30 AM Sparta and I arrived at Eve’s Tux Hill.

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Sparta immediately fell in love with Tux (as usual, hoebag).  And I could barely believe my luck that my mentor Eve, who had only met me on one weekend, during which I had a screaming meltdown, had invited me to stay with her.  In the short 3 days before heading up to start camp in Soda Springs, I got to learn more from Eve about nutrition, the trail, my ride plan, the logistics, and a million other details including what was going into her kit (as she was also riding Tevis on her friend’s horse).

Friday I loaded up and we caravaned up to start camp.  Space was non-existent, we were on gravel, and got parked in.  I checked in.  Rosie arrived, looked at the mare, and asked if I knew she was missing a shoe.  WHAT?!??!  She was in fact, missing a HIND shoe.  A HIND SHOE.  Her foot wasn’t torn up, it was just gone.  She had it that morning.  It wasn’t in the trailer.  But a HIND shoe?  Seriously?

There were 4 farriers across the street and even after some very kind people brought their horses over to where Sparta could see them, it took all four of them to get back shoes on her.  She wasn’t really handled until she was 8 and had come a long way with the farrier…at home.  As I watched horrified, I saw my ride ending before it even started.

The farriers were so kind and did an amazing job so if you know who they are, thank them.  I was a little to frazzled at the time to get names.  Miraculously, we left the farrier station with only a few cuts and scrapes to go with the new hind shoes (and the shorter toe I’d wanted).  I checked the schedule and it said I had until 6 pm to vet in but it was a 2.5 mile walk.  We squeezed between a giant RV, a pen, and some horses butts to get over to the trail to the vet area.  At 5:15 when we got there, they were packing up to leave having been told they were finished.  Interesting.  I tried not to look annoyed in the mug shot they took.

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I was filthy, had a bath, and settled in to attempt to get some rest before The Big Day.

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The Big Day

At 3:30 AM I gave Sparta breakfast & got dressed.  At 4 AM I tacked up.  There was barely any space to get out, so Rosie and I walked Sparta around toward the wood-lined strip of dirt road that was the start ‘pens’ for the 170 horses entered.  To say the mare was wound up, with 170 horses converging in the dark on a small area, is an understatement.  With a reluctant bystander sort of holding Sparta, Rosie managed to give me a leg up as the mare was leaping about.  We walked into the woods on the dirt road in the dark through a mass of milling, fit, wound up horses to check in.  Our placings in the rides we had completed already bought us a ticket into Pen 1.  It was slightly less chaotic with most of the 60 or so horses in pen one making a long skinny loop walking up and down the stretch of road.

After what seemed like forever (45 minutes or so), Pen 1 was finally released for the ‘controlled’ start; where all 170 horses would walk, staying on the road, for about 3 miles where we would cross a wooden bridge single file before being released.  Immediately, a horse near the front reared and the rider came off.  The horse flew backwards and we scattered.  She remounted and barged through to get back near the front (obviously crucial placing for a 100 mile race that would take us most of 24 hours).  I noticed the horse in front of me dancing around swinging it’s butt, and noticed that it wasn’t getting bumped and crowded…so I gathered the reins, put my leg on, and proceeded to put our flatwork to good use appearing to have sketchy control and buying us some breathing room.

With the bridge in sight, I noticed a woman working hard to keep her horse from charging ahead.  I said something like, ‘You can run into our butt if you need to!’  We were instantly friends.  She was glad to have someone to tuck behind and I was glad to have a friend for Sparta.  We crossed the bridge and were set loose!  It didn’t take long for me and my new best friend Melissa to realize we had a similar riding style and sense of humor.  It was beneficial and a good fit for both horses too.

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We ate dust on the first leg and riders were still bunched up.  We’d spread out enough by the time we came to Cougar Rock that there were only two people ahead of me and I decided to go over to get the iconic photo.  I was told to wait until the horse ahead went over the top.  Instead, Sparta reared, I yelled some profanity, and up we went!  No problem. Then on to the first vet check, Red Star, at Mile 20.  Both horses came into the check pulsed down, drank, and passed the vet check.  We let them eat hay for a few minutes, then picked up handfuls of hay for the horses to nibble as we walked out of the check.  We had to keep moving.

Sparta doesn’t stand well for me to get on.  It’s a work in progress.  There was some regression and rearing before I was mounted up to move out again.  This next piece would take us down through Duncan Canyon to Mile 36 at Robinson Flat, the first (of two) 1 hour holds.  It also included, in the last 6 miles coming into Robinson, an elevation gain of ~1300 feet.

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As we approached Robinson, I told Melissa I didn’t know if I’d have a person, but that my stuff (courtesy of Eve’s coordination) would be there (grain and electrolytes for Sparta, Anti-Monkey Butt Powder for both of us).  She had lots of crew and offered their help.  I was SO grateful to have a hand to help pull my tack off, hold it while I vetted, and then help me find my stuff amid the chaos of crews for 169 riders (not including me here).  It was drizzling and a bit chilly so while Sparta ate, I put her saddle pad over her back and butt to keep her muscles warm as best I could.  A typical Tevis year, it’s really hot and dry.  It was 112 deg F the weekend of the Ed Ride.  I didn’t have a cooler or sheet.  I guess I looked pretty pathetic crouched by Sparta nibbling my granola bar because Melissa came and asked if I had anything to eat (apparently the bar didn’t count) then had one of her crew hold Sparta and sent me over to her area with a shout to her crew of, “Feed this rider!”

With 20 minutes until I could head out, I tacked up and started walking around making frequent passes at the water tanks.  At 10 minutes I got on with little fuss.  At 5 minutes, I still didn’t see Melissa even though our out times were only 1 minute apart.  The timers released me and I set off alone hoping Melissa and her horse were ok.  We got water at Dusty Corners and cruised through the vet check and halfway point (50 miles!) at Last Chance before dropping into the next canyon, then climbing out gaining ~1400 feet in about 1.5 miles.

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I jogged down leading Sparta, took a quick dip in a fork of the American river, crossed the Swinging Bridge, and tailed (held her tail to pull me up as I walked behind) up as it gives the horse a break and is much easier for them to pull a bit than carry a rider up a mountain.  We passed Devil’s Thumb and vetted through at Deadwood.  The volunteers at all these places with limited access and no crews were amazing offering food and water to both horses and riders.  Michigan Bluff is a little tiny town and we ride through on the main street.  There were people out to watch, crews, and I dismounted to let Sparta drink and have a bite to eat…but she wanted no part of any of it and dragged me through town.  A mile or so out of town, I had just finished having a little chat with Sparta about standing next to stuff so I could get on (I was running out of holes to tighten her girth) when along came Melissa!!  Boy was I glad to see her.  It turned out her horse had a scary but short choking incident delaying her departure from Robinson Flat.  He was recovered and quite perky as we joined up again.

At mile 68, Foresthill, we had our second 1 hour hold.  I was excited coming up the road to see all the crews and spectators as I looked for, and found, Rosie! My Crew!!  A face I knew! After passing the vet check, she led me to where she had set up my things along with Eve and her camp.  The ice boots went on and both Sparta and I dug into the food!  All too soon, it was again time to tack up and ride out into the quickly fading light of the evening.  Again, Melissa and I had come into together, but she wasn’t to be found as I left.  The trail was marked by glowsticks and I also had the GPS track.

I puttered along in the dark, sometimes in the company of another rider, but mostly alone, trusting Sparta to see and pick her way and pace.  It was an almost full moon, but still very dark in the canyons.  I sang, and talked to Sparta, and may have howled at the moon.  At Francisco’s the 85 mile vet check, Sparta was ravenous and devouring the mash a volunteer brought to us.  I was so excited she was eating, I forgot to go directly to the vet to trot out in case she stiffened up at all.  Someone I’d met before came over and reminded me.  Sparta was less than enthusiastic to leave the food.  Our trot out was lacking impulsion and we trotted a second time.  The vet saw a little something intermittent, possibly her right front?  I suspected it was her right hind and massaged and stretched her before heading out.  I slowed her down, put my leg on, and did trail dressage to keep her supple and to work different parts.  I stopped posting when we trotted and stood in the stirrups to be as even as possible.  I got off to jog down the small canyons.  And I worried.  But she felt good.  At the river crossing we got a lead at the steep entry.  Normally it would have been no issue, but Sparta was clearly questioning my sanity departing yet another place with lights and people to go into a river.

I could see the lights of the Lower Quarry vet check at mile 94 for what seemed like forever as we wound our way toward it.  She trotted out totally sound (whew!) and we were in and out quickly and on to the last 6 miles!

The trail wiggled all OVER those last little canyons and those 6 miles felt like another 100.  When we came to a good area to trot, Sparta still volunteered most of the time and I may have groaned as I stood up.  When she didn’t volunteer, I clucked and then she’d groan and trot.  At one point she stopped and spun, but she was right, I’d missed a water tank that didn’t have any glow stick on it.  We passed some kids at the end of a dirt road making out in a car.  Then FINALLY came to the timed finish!!  It was totally anticlimactic.  I dismounted, loosened the girth, dropped the bit and collected a small scrap of paper with my number and time.  3:54 AM

The ‘photo’ finish line was in the stadium and I could see the lights…but there was no indication which way to go to get down to it.  Seriously?  I picked a way and walked down the hill to the stadium looking for Rosie.  Someone told me I had to get back on to do a victory lap and go under the stadium finish.  I may have been less than totally polite inquiring if I’d still have my completion if I walked as there was no way in hell I was going to tighten the girth, get back on, and ask that amazing mare to carry me one step further (she could have, but seriously.)  So I stalked around the area vaguely hearing the announcer announce something about me to the 3 or 4 people in the stands.   My finish photos are pretty lame, but we did it!!  Almost.  We vetted out and then were officially complete!

Against all odds, we tackled The Tevis Cup, and with a combination of hard work, good advice, and some luck, completed in 22 hours and 39 minutes!

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The Horse is Fine, The Rider is Crazy

Riding is easy.  People and logistics are hard.  I’d love to be able to say I’m calm, cool, and collected and much of the time I am.  Except when I’m not.  

*Apologies in advance for the lack of photos, most did not survive the death of my phone in the American River.

The weekend of July 7-8 I attended the bi-annual Tevis Education weekend.   And I got educated.  For a short summary list of the changes I’ve made based on what I learned skip to the end.  For the full story of the weekend complete with my personal challenges, read on.

My awesome dad flew out from Pennsylvania to help me.  He’s not a ‘horse person’ but is great company, can drive anything, and is willing to help.  I packed up everything for me, my dad, and Sparta and we departed Southern California for Northern California at 1 am Friday morning.  After managing to scoot past LA before major traffic, we climbed to the high desert and drove.  And drove.  And my dad noticed the semi trucks were religiously going 55-60 mph.  I’d seen the signs saying ‘Speed Limit when towing 55 mph’ but in my travels so far, it had been a non-issue and traffic moved along at 70.  Until now.  I looked online and it turns out there is some historical pseudo science that was proved to be wrong shortly after causing this stupid law in California and now the entire trucking (and horse trailing) industry in California is stuck crawling along at 55 mph.

As the sun rose, temperatures climbed into the 90’s and then the 100’s.  Over a 600 mile trip, going 55 mph makes a 9 hour drive into an 11 hour drive.  I took the chance and was passing the big rigs one at a time….until I saw, too late, the cop car behind me, swerving as he checked his computer to run my plate. The lights went on and I pulled over.  I was polite and somehow got off with a warning which totally shocked me as I never seem to get away with anything.  Good thing I resisted the desire to inform him of the science and actual research proving the law is stupid and doesn’t do what it’s intended to do anyway.  Rose’s Brain – 1, Rose’s Mouth – 0.

With temperatures around 107 deg F, we arrived at camp around noon, sweated, set up camp, and sweated some more.

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I caught up with two ladies I knew who had coordinated trailer shuttle rides and had a spot for me.  Our shuttle driver was also the water guy so we arranged for my dad to go along with him the next day so he’d have something to do.  We attended the vet talk, then the ride briefing.  After the ride briefing we realized that mentors weren’t assigned, it was an unannounced insider trading type free for all that we’d totally missed.  Deep breaths.  Ok.  One of my friends took the lead to get it sorted out and I stood by and tried to chill.  The organizer grabbed some random kid in shorts who hadn’t intended to mentor and voluntold him he would be the mentor for the 3 of us.  He didn’t seem thrilled and was interested in how fast we could go (his horse needed to go fast) and going line dancing that night.  Ok.  No problem.  The real benefit of the Ed Ride weekend was seeing the terrain and layout firsthand and networking.

When I returned to the trailer after the ride briefing Sparta had taken down the non-electrified, wrapped around trees, electric fencing and was standing with the paint gelding, Tonka, next door.  Happily.  His owner got back and we decided they’d be happier together and moved him into my ‘back yard.’  

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The First Day of Riding

In the morning, I couldn’t find the coffee. I tacked up, shipped to the start and off we went.  The mentor’s horse was a head flipper. It started out badly and got worse.  He dropped back behind us and we all agreed and thought that’s what he’d told us to do, assuming he wanted to have a private work with his horse.  We’d slow up and check that he was back there every so often.  At some point he caught us and seemed all annoyed and said he’d been yelling and trying to get us to wait up.  Coming into the first vet check the mentor dismounted and asked us if his horse looked lame (maybe?  Not noticeable) and jogged on foot into the check.  We were assigned to a different mentor group and within 20 minutes of coming into the vet check his horse was dead lame.  We later found out it possibly had a history of abscess issues (among other things).  Our new group was actually two mentors and a Swiss girl.  We had a lovely ride and the new mentors suited me very well.   

The Second Day of Riding

In the morning I managed to find the coffee.  Of course I’d then lost the drip thingy to support the filter.  The upside down top of a gatorade bottle was sufficient.

But then as my mentor and I were ready to leave, we were missing the Swiss girl. It turned out she had the times wrong and thus we left late and behind a lot of groups.  Not that it was a race, but we’d been warned it would be a miserable day if the faster groups were behind the slower groups on essentially 20 miles of single track cliff trail.  And it was.  We asked to be allowed to pass when it was possible only to be ignored.  There were pile ups 40 horses back on single track cliffs while people fussed to give their horses a drink or tried to get them to cross tiny bits of running water.  At one point, Sparta’s entire hind end fell off the cliff and she cut her hind leg scrambling back up while we were dancing around on a cliff, while inconsiderate people who wouldn’t let us pass before, now held us up while their horses refused to cross a creek. (Yes, I realize it’s my problem for having a horse that won’t stand still, and yes, I did come home and reschool WOAH and STAND.)

I was not happy.  And being at the back, Sparta wouldn’t drink because the groups in front of course didn’t care to wait long enough for the last horse to have a drink.  I asked them to wait.  And they didn’t.  And I less than politely asked again to no avail and completely lost my marbles.

The Part Where I Lose My Marbles

I yelled that I hated this sport (as it exists in the United States) and was only doing this because I had committed to doing it for the horse which belonged to a friend.  I took to hanging about 1/2 mile back so I could maintain some sort of forward motion instead of the horrible caterpillar start and stop.   Down in a canyon near the American River, I caught up to the caterpillar, turned around, and went back to a place where I could wade in the river.  It cooled and rinsed the cut on my mare’s leg and was time well spent.

Luckily, it was a short ride that day.  I got my lift back to camp, packed up, and got on the road.  There was nothing more to be gained here and I wanted to be on the road while it was cool and not in the 100+ degree heat the next day.  After about 11 hours on the road, I dropped my dad off at the hotel, dropped the mare off at the barn, and went to sleep.  

You might be thinking the drama is over.  But it’s not.  My phone died while I was cooling off in the river.  My dad tried to reach me on my work phone the next morning but I was dead to the world until about 9:30 am and at this point he was worried.  I dragged my exhausted carcass up, went by the barn to check the mare and make her a mash, and went to pick up my dad.  At this point, if I’d had any sense, I’d have come right back home and gone back to sleep.  But I didn’t.  I tried to function.  I tried to get my phone fixed since going to the cell phone store is always a relaxing experience….and ended up screaming at my dad and essentially having a complete meltdown.  I sulked in the yard for about an hour, we made up, and went to get noodle soup at the Chinese grocery store.  

I dropped Dad off at the airport the next morning and went home to change for work….and instead slept for 14 hours.

Stuff I Learned

  • Gate & Go.  Come in pulsed down, get in and out in 3-5 minutes.  Walk out carrying hay so your horse can eat while you keep making forward progress.
  • Woah is crucial.  And standing. Standing still.  On command.  The mildly annoying refusal to stand still becomes potentially life threatening on a narrow trail that drops away down a mountain.  A reminder day followed by two ‘remember what we did yesterday?’ days have been very effective.
  • The hindgut must be fully loaded and that takes 2-3 days.  I decided to drive up earlier than originally planned since 11 hours not eating well in the trailer just won’t cut it.  Besides, research was presented showing 1% dehydration per hour shipping (under ideal conditions, not 112 deg F).  We want to start fully hydrated.  
  • Pads for impact protection.  There will be more road than usual this year in addition to it being 100 miles.  With the many options, I’ve chosen to go with an Impak pad (under the shoe only)  in the front under the steel rim shoes we’ve been wearing.  
  • And ice boots.  I tried out some versions made for horses last night and talked to people.  The cold blanket ones I put on with polos were heavy, sagged, and didn’t stay super cold.  But the freezy pops I brought were just the right length, stayed cold, had good contact, are cheap (I’ll need enough for two holds and 4 legs per hold), and I can eat them.  
  • Accept help.  I was deadset, “I don’t need crew, I’ll be fine.”  Reality is I did desperately need at least someone to drive my truck & trailer from the start to the finish.  

I have the ability.  I have the knowledge.  Now if I can just keep from coming totally unhinged and get all the bits to the right places at the right time….

Bring it on Tevis Cup. #89

Bonus Miles

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.

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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!