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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Wild West Lessons learned

At Wild West, I focused on tackling issues that Farley and I had struggled with and therefore avoided over the past couple of years. Now that we are no longer fledgling endurance partners struggling to finish the distance, it's time tackle those issues head on. And yes, they are as much my issues as they are Farley's issues.

This is a bit random, rather than a comprehensive story. But my brain is still pretending it's in a coma so it's all I can manage right now....

Sometimes starting with the front runners is a good decision

I've done this a couple of times and it's never worked out well. In fact, the last time I employed this particular strategy, I ended up pulling Minx. Farley had been very very very very well behaved on the first 2 days, starting either at the end of the middle. She had shown no signs of bucking, rearing, or generally being a bratty-arguing-teenager. My team of riders and I knew the trail on the third day - specifically that getting behind balky or slow horses would be a disaster on the very technical single track that was in the first couple of miles, and then going up a steep single track up hallelujah hill. I consoled myself that this would be good Tevis training and would let me know whether I could start her in a pen or if I had to start her at the back like last year. We were fifth heading out of camp.

I was a bit surprised that no body passed us, especially because we were just trotting. After finishing the first loop we were 7th, 8th, 9th. My family was shocked - I had never ridden for top 10. Then they told me what had happened at the start after we left - just as we feared there were balky, naughty horses that held up the start and things were generally crazy. I'm glad I got through there before that!

My group and I continued to have a relaxed, wonderful ride. Kathy and I held onto our positions, even though we were walking/trotting and holding our horses back, to finish 8th and 9th the third day. It was wonderful to feel like I had a horse that could race in for a top 5 finish and could do it looking good. I decided I would hold onto that feeling and enjoy that feeling without actually risking my horse to do that....just knowing I could was enough.

Braid her mane in wet conditions

Since it was cold, and snowing, and I was lazy and did NOT feel like leaving my tent the night before, I decided to leave her mane unbraided. Bad Bad BAD decision.....By the end of the first loop on day 1 her long mane had wrapped itself around her reins in a vice-like-hold. Pulling back on that rein, also pulled back on the mane and her neck. It was a scary situation. The mane was just wet enough to make it "sticky" and I wasn't able to resolve the issue until I got into the hold - there was a string of riders on a very slick, muddy, narrow single track and it just wasn't safe to stop. Lesson learned - BRAID.

Sizing matters with the renegades
ZERO problems with the renegades. Because 2 of the 4 glueons were size 1's I decided to carry a size 1 on the trail. Unfortunately, I lost the size 2 and had to wait until I was at camp to replace it. At tevis or 100 I'll carry a 1 and a 2. Mindful of what happened at American River, I told my crew that I was giving my spare strapon exactly ONE CHANCE to work. I would only make them stop once for me to pick it up and carry it on my saddle if it came off. Would you believe that that little sucker stayed on through the worst footing I've ever ridden in? I was amazed. Obviously sizing matters.....and fitting the boot matters.....

Potato chips and electrolytes
I had completely forgotten to electrolyte Farley. After completing day 2, I was walking Farley around camp and the little bugger started stealing my potato chips! So like any responsible owner I fed them to her. Then it dawned on me that she was probably wanting the salt. I gave her a dose of electrolytes via a syringe and prepared a bucket of salted water with a handful beet pulp in it which she consumed during the night. The next morning....she was uninterested in chips. Bottom line - Farley takes care of herself and will let me know what she needs.

Riding with a group is not that bad
I have a mental thing about riding in a group. I stress about it - getting too close to people in front, people riding up my tail - and that stress transfers to the horse to the point where we have agitated ourselves so much I become traumatized and spend the entire ride trying to find a bubble. I made a promise that at this ride I WOULD learn how to ride in a group and I would ride with someone EVERY SINGLE STEP OF EVERY SINGLE DAY. It went well. Mostly because I rode with awesome people - Kathy S., Jill C., Andy, Dan etc. As responsible endurance riders we did not annoy each other, talk each other's ear off, engage in bad behavior, or take advantage of the group to stop a million times. In fact, I found that I enjoyed riding with my friends more than I did alone. That is a HUGE step for me. Farley did a bit of everything - we led, we followed, we brought up the rear, and we squished ourselves in the middle. I didn't allow myself to become stressed and it was really fun.

Tenting in the snow

Ever tent camped in the snow? Let me help you out - it was cold, it was wet, it generally sucked. It was also beautiful and magical. It helps if you leave your tent at some point and drink copious amounts of wine sangria with friends under the awning of their trailer, watching the snow fall. Although getting drunk the day before your first day of a pioneer isn't ALWAYS the best way to go, it will help you forget that you only brought one canister of propane for your Mr. Buddy Heater.

Farley probably has another perspective: "At least you had a TENT little girl!". Not owning any heavy weight blankets I rotated through a mid weight blanket, a sheet, a 3 different coolers of different weights trying to keep her warm but not sweating.

Allergies, eating, and feeling sick

I need to control my allergies at rides. I totally forgot to take any sort of allergy meds leading up the ride and then couldn't understand why I woke up each morning so sick to my stomach I was upchucking coffee in the bushes and the thought of eating ANYTHING prior to 11am made my head spin. On the third day I finally started taking claritin and felt SO MUCH better. I was actually able to eat an Aussie bite for breakfast and when I came into the lunch stop at 10am I was HUNGRY. Because of the allergies, eating the entire weekend was a huge battle. I struggled between needing to eat and feeling like I was going to puke after eating anything before noon. Part of my compromise was to absolutely stuff myself before going to bed at night so it didn't matter whether I ate something first thing in the morning. I think I have my ride food nailed down quite nicely because when I wasn't nauseous, I ALWAYS had something that appealed to me.

50's versus 100's and riding with good company
I have a confession to make. I don't like 50's. I've NEVER really enjoyed 50's. In fact, I think I like LD's better than 50's. But LD's don't get me to 100's so I do 50's. In contrast, I LOVE the 100 mile distance. I adore it. It's magical to me. I don't know how to describe the difference. Usually, 40 miles into a 50 I'm done and ready to be drinking a sangria next to the camp fire. At the 99 mile point of a 100 I may be tired and sore, but I'm a little sad it's going to be ending. This weekend I found out that riding in good company makes all the difference. By riding with Kathy all 3 days (people probably thought I was her junior) and various other friends, both old and new I had a BLAST. We talked and laughed and enjoyed the ride together and it was so much fun. It actually has me contemplating riding a 5 day pioneer.....which I've never considered before. So now I know - to enjoy a 50 I need good company.

Cleaning up your mess
I was shocked at the amount of people that didn't clean up their hay and manure after the ride. Ridecamp is a popular campground that is used by horse people and non-horse people. It would take much to have enough complaints for the ride not to be allowed back.....Usually people are pretty good. I understand that with rain and snow it was a bit harder this year. But it dried out nicely for days 2 and 3 and there was really no excuse to leave your hay and manure laying around. Really unacceptable. My aunt, cousin, and I worked for an hour to leave our camp spotless of trash, manure, and hay. We were so proud we even took a picture in front of it! I feel bad for the volunteers who worked hard before and during the ride that now had to clean up the camps of 100 riders. Next year I think I will make a point of staying and helping clean up the camp. Ride management would appreciate it and it would be better for my blood pressure than to sit here and think about it.

Snow balls and pads
Before using boots, I used pads only once (at Tevis). It was a flexible pad and I wasn't super impressed with them. Now that I've used boots for 9 months, it occurred to me at WW that it would be really really really hard to go back to using shoes without a substantial pad in them! I've gotten used to not having to worry about rocks and other pointy objects on the trail! I've become a boot poor little horsey NEEDS her pads and protection now that she has had a taste of luxury, how could I take that back from her????????? I was REALLY glad I was in boots as I was passing a walking rider who's shod horse was having trouble with snowballs building up in the horse's shoes. I'll never be happy with shoes again! If I do ever go back to nail on shoes, it will be to a sneaker or some other sort of "alternative" shoe. I think I especially like that in a boot I have superior protection from trail "stuff", but if I lose a boot, it's not the end of the world because my barefoot-conditioned horse can *probably* handle the footing until I can get a boot back on again. (Although, as I found out, this is probably not as true if you have glued on a boot in rainy weather and the foot has been in a boot for week in the mud/snow/rain...)

DIMR effect
I have a new term to add to your repertoire! DIMR (Distance Induced Mental Retardation) pronounced "dimmer". This condition shows up after being driven slowly insane by trotting for 14 miles down hill on a wide jeep track road that shows no signs of ending. At the point where you and your companions are laughing hysterically to the point of tears and side aches about beating each other with can blame that on the DIMR effect. The joys of riding in a group!

Endurance riders really are the best people (glueons, pink water bottle)
The longer I do this sport, the more I like the people. On day 2, heading down a long down hill packed road (not quite as long as the one that induced the DIMR effect on day 3, but substantial nevertheless!) my water bottle holder broke and my pink water bottle fell on the trail. It was of course my favorite water bottle, preferred over my boring grey one. I did NOT stop to get it as I prefer forward motion. I knew I would be repeating that trail on day 3 so I thought just possibly I would stop then if I saw it.......

On day 3 I was torn between wanting to stop if I saw it, and not wanting to see it so I wouldn't be tempted to stop. I must have bored my companions for an HOUR having this pointless conversation. I didn't see it and I was a bit relieved, but also sad because it WAS my favorite water bottle......

Guess what I saw on the picnic table at Dinner?????? My water bottle!!!!!! Nick W., a back of the pack rider for the weekend had seen it and picked it up! He is AWESOME. I have my water bottle back. HUGE SMILE. I felt like hugging him but didn't since it had been 5 days since my last shower.

Jennifer, who camped across from me also saw my glue on renegade that fell off on the trail and thought "I know who that belongs to!" and picked it up for me! At the time it fell off I had decided it wasn't worth it to stop, but of course I was very happy to have it back!

And that, my dear readers, is the end of my random ramblings from Wild West. Toodles!


  1. Glad you had a great ride. I love that area, it's fabulous. I **do** have to call you out on one thing though. You're not allowed to be upset about people not cleaning up their camp if you're not willing to stop on the trail and clean up after yourself. Leaving a water bottle and a boot on the trail is pretty much the same as littering out there. All of us riders should do our part to clean up behind ourselves, whether in camp or on the trail, even if it means stopping and getting off. I can understand if you didn't realize you had dropped something, but it sounds like you realized when both items were lost, and CHOSE to leave them lying on the trail. If it was safe to do so, you should have stopped and retrieved them at that time.

  2. Mmmm....I've never had anyone mention picking up items on the trail as mandatory (during a ride at least. Conditioning rides being different). From what I've seen, people generally do not get off to pick up water bottles etc unless it's something of value. What you say makes sense *as long as it's safe* and I think I generally agree with you. Before this ride I had never dropped/lost anything and realized it at the time so have never had to consider the situation before.

    As far as this ride goes, although I maybe *could* have stopped and picked up the items, it was the beginning of the ride and the footing was iffy, and in both cases I knew I would be coming back up the same trail and would see it a second time and be able to look for the items and it would be a safer mount/dismount.

    I won't sit here and say "YES I would have gotten off if I had seen them..." I was secretly glad I didn't ahve to make a decision But I *think* had they still been there I *probably* would have gotten off and gotten them. (My knee was pretty shot after the weekend...all that expensive PT....*sigh*)

    I would like to know what other readers do during rides -

    if you drop something on the trail do you always retrieve it?

    What about if you ahve to retrace your steps and look for it?

  3. I should also add I didn't know exactly where I lost the boot. A rider said that she saw a red renegade "back there" so I'm not sure exactly where (probably within a mile), but I DID know where the water bottle fell, so therotically could have dismounted if it had been safe.

  4. I love reading these recaps. I *think* I'd feel too guilty about littering, but Dixie only gets taller as the day goes on!

    Good luck on Tevis!


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