So, today I'm posting some pretty pictures and I'll tell you the end before the beginning, and hopefully reassure those of you that saw that I got pulled lame at Fransisco's (~85 miles).
Pictures are either from the fabulous Tevis webcast team (thank you Crysta and Lucy - I totally stole the pics of me off Facebook) or from the wonderful Gore and Baylor photography team.
As you can see, my dreams came true and I got to go over cougar rock *and* get photos. Although it was a near thing. The pictures that is. Some of my pics didn't get printed and the wonderful Bill Gore, who took the shot below looked through his files and managed to find me some wonderful shots of the "right" side.
Reader question - which shot should I get an 8x10 of? The one above or the one below? The one above is certainly a more pleasing shot of a horse and rider is sorta harmony, but the one below is totally fun and adventerous :)!
I got to ride the first 1/3 of the ride with a couple of really really great gals. This is me talking to one of them. LOL. (and yes, the first cougar rock shot, and the 2 below are pics of a pic that Baylor and Gore took....so the quality is not great here - but they are BEAUTIFUL in real life).
I had a very very VERY fresh horse coming into Robinson Flat. I realized that I was going to come in like 20 minutes too early. Oops Every time that I've been disappointed with the amount of horse I had later in this ride, it's because I rode a section too fast.
Coming into Robinson I had a LOT of horse.
A horse that knew EXACTLY where she was going and EXACTLY where the vet checks were.
But I also had a plan. And that plan was to come into Robinson at 11:30.
We had a discussion on what was a walk, what was a trot, and what was a jig....ANNNNDDDDD.......when I said “walk” what EXACTLY that meant.
We had this discussion for 1 1/2 miles.
I came into Robinson at 11:25ish. On a jiggy horse. On a horse that I was getting compliments on all the way into the pulse area.
Below I'm coming into Chicken Hawk. This was a really low point in the ride for me. Every year I feel totally dejected and tired and feel the impossiblity of finishing this ride. It's only 6pm and it's impossible for me to contemplate being in the saddle another 10 hours. The difference this year was the low point started about half way down canyon #2 instead of at the vet check. And I was never really able to shake it. Farley was fine. Totally sound. Totally hydrated. Vet's were giving me A's for gut sounds after telling me that they weren't giving any A's for gut sounds.
Farley got her bit caught in a bin of carrots and managed to dump the entire bucket over. I was not amused. Everyone at the check seemed amused and thought the orange carrots against the orange renegades was a "fabulous" picture. Sorta of like when I was curled on the ground in front of my horse at fransisco's sleeping because I was.so.tired.I.never.was.doing.endurance.again. I can vaguely remember flashing cameras since I suppose that too was a "fabulous" picture.
So what happened?
The simple answer is I don't know.
I know that I had more horse throughout this ride than I have ever had at previous years
I know that my horse vetted through better - gaits, hydration, gut sounds, muscle tone - than she has EVER vetted through any significant ride in her history. It would be so easy to blame my pull on the total lack of conditioning miles in the last year, but at no point did Farley give any indication she was not prepared for the work being asked of her. So I have to conclude that my conditioning plan (or rather "rest" plan) was appropriate. And considering that from Chicken Hawk onward I was pleading with the vets to give me an excuse to pull and they just laughed and ignored me....it wasn't like I was giving a false picture at the vet check of how my ride was going....
I know that she trotted out totally sound at Foresthill and the vet ignored my feeble attempts to convince him to let me rider option. He forced me to watch her trot out - which in retrospect was a good thing since I know he didn't just miss something. She looked totally sound. Not even stiff.
I know she was totally lame on her Right Hind when I got into Fransico's. Not a reinjury of anything previous in her history.
I know we had a bad fall in the bogs in the first 1/3 of the ride. But to stay totally sound for the next 75 miles and then just suddenly be lame without warning?
I know that if she hadn't been lame at Fransico's I would have probably sobbed and cried until the vet relented and let me rider option. When the vet at Fransisco's (who knew me) refused and convinced me to go on to Lower Quarry, someone would have handed me some caffeine pills and Tylenol and I would have finally found someone to actually draft off of for the first time in the entire ride and I wouldn't have had to lead on a trail I saw once in the daylight 5 years ago and that I didn't remember at ALL and could have finally given my brain a break.
I know that I was in pain every single mile of the ride I was in the saddle from mile 3 onward because of my knees which didn't like the saddle. And perhaps that is to blame for my extreme fatigue that had me wondering whether falling to my death off the cliffs was really going to be THAT bad? Because at least I could close my eyes and go to sleep?
I know that it would be easy to blame the heat this year. People from freakin' AZ heat stroked in the canyons!!!!!! (or so I was told - I'm having to go back and make some corrections because, as usual, it's easy to only get half the story or a rumor!) The completion rate was really really low this year - even with extending the cutoffs 15 minutes.
I know that for the next 2 days after Tevis the muscles hurt in my body so bad it even hurt to sleep. My calves and feet didn't hurt (my feet are conditioned and no elyte cramps!). My abs and arms and shoulders didn't hurt (rode Farley in a curb so that she couldn't pull against me). But my back, butt, hamstrings, quads HURT. Symmetrically and evenly and in a way that tells me that while my cardio may be just fine (no problems tailing up that canyon) I am WOEFULLY out of shape in the strength department for this sort of thing.
So I ask again. What happened? Why did my sound, looked-above-average horse that left FH come into Fransisco's lame?
Based on everything above - I know this: that I did not under prepare my horse for this ride, but that I probably under prepared myself.
I wonder whether I just had some bad luck in the dark and hit a rock or a hole and she tweaked a RH that had already been tweaked in the bogs earlier in the day?
Or whether that's a story I'm weaving for myself and I'm missing something? That's what I'm most afraid of - that I'll tell a story about this year about what happened that absolves me of blame, when it was something I could have prevented, because I've learned that very few things occur just because of "luck".
But on the other hand, Tevis seems to be more based in luck than any other ride I've ever seen.
A horse in front of me in the bogs put a hind foot wrong, and got trapped. Thirty seconds later after flailing around and dumping it's rider it jerked it's foot out of the rocks that had trapped it and limped off bloody and three legged. Luck.
I heard a horse that was behind me somwhere on the trail attempted Cougar Rock and flipped over backwards on the rock, fell, and died. I also heard it was a good rider on a good horse. Luck. (So.....apparently I heard wrong and the the horse did not actually flip off the rock!!!!! Horse had gone over rock successfully and was on the trail above the rock doing a tack adjustment and fell off the steep trail there. :) Thank you Crysta)
I'll talk in future posts about how I "made my own luck" this year in a couple of places because I know the trail, but overall it seem that sh*t happens on this trail.
And so, today, after a day of napping and a second day of sitting on the couch eating ice cream and watching movies and replaying the day over and over in my head and in emails to crew and friends, I'm still left with the following:
I had an awesome horse and incredible ride all day. I was probably under prepared and under conditioned, but my horse was just fine. When I left Foresthill there wasn't any indication that I wouldn't finish with a lot of horse left at Auburn. Something happened on the trail between Foresthill (mile 65 or 68?) and Fransisco's (mile 85 or so?) that left Farley's RH filled and ouchy. And maybe I'll figure it out, and maybe I wont', and maybe it was just luck, and maybe this was our last Tevis and maybe it wasn't. But I'm still glad I rode, and I have no regrets, and I did good by my horse.
And the last is the most important.