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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The 20 MT Story

So much of this ride went so much better than any other ride/100 has ever gone. And usually, getting pulled results in more learning than racking up completion after completion. Thus, I wasn’t really upset about getting pulled at mile 92. Yes, I’m absolutely heartbroken that Farley is hurt. I NEVER want to have to learn a lesson at the expense of my horse. But, it was interesting how ready I was to throw in the towel, smile at the vet, and say “if you don’t pull me, I’m going to pull myself”, even with the finish line an hour away.

Leading up to this ride, I had done more thinking than usual about getting pulled. Statistically it was unlikely that I would be able to complete 100 miler after 100 miler and not get pulled. I had completed 3 out of 4 attempts. In almost 1000 miles, Farley had 1 pull. I was most worried about the weather going into the ride. They were predicting wind and snow, and I wasn’t even sure I would be able to get over the pass to GET to the ride, let alone ride it. There was also a section of trail that was AWFUL last year when it rained and I was NOT going to do it again. I was very comfortable with the idea of pulling before even starting if the weather the day of the ride was anything but breezy with an occasional shower. To that end I e-mailed the RM and asked if there were any stalls still available – it’s easier to NOT ride in crappy weather if your horse is snug as a bug in a stall, than looking at them standing on the trailer in the wind and rain and thinking “well, if they are going to be in the weather anyways….I may as well ride”.

I got to Ridgecrest on Friday, and still no sign of the weather that was suppose to hit. The trail had already been rerouted to keep us out of the higher elevations because of the weather and I breathed a sigh of relief – even if the trail got wet, I wouldn’t have to ride the section of trail that probably shortened my life by 2-3 years based on the stress of navigating it!

Saturday morning I got up, and it appeared that the high winds over night had driven away the weather system that was suppose to ruin ride day. It was so clear I could see the stars in the sky. I stared suspiciously at it and dressed in my rain gear anyways. I had gotten caught a couple of times in 2010 and although it LOOKED good, I wasn’t taking chances. Farley was calm and we shared some instant oatmeal and then tacked up.

The morning was really really cold, but other than that, everything was perfect – sunshine, great footing, and a well-behaved pony.
At the first vet check, Farley was really tight in the hind end. It had suddenly turned very cold at the check and the wind had picked up. I kept her as warm as possible and prepared myself to pull her if she got any worse at the next vet check.

I was very in-tune to how she was moving and how she was feeling. We rode OUR ride – no one else’s - and I had the opportunity to school her in some of the “little” things that I had either been ignoring, or that I wasn’t physically capable of correcting when they came up last time. Everyone is probably sick of hearing me say it….but the answer to every schooling issue on the endurance trail is dressage. Everything that Farley tried to sneak past me, or challenge me with was answered with dressage. For the first time I felt like I had every tool I needed to create and maintain a good endurance horse out on the trail. I was so pleased with both of us. I found myself using some things I learned in jumping – especially rider position and navigating trail obstacles – but overall I think dressage is much more useful in developing a solid endurance horse and rider. Farley and I moved down the trail in perfect harmony – neither one of us getting frustrated or irritated with the other – I felt like the entire ride was a conversation between 2 old friends, that although we may differ in opinion sometimes, the discussions always ended amiably.

The next vet check she got an A for muscle tone and was moving great. This continued all day. She continued to look, feel, and move better than she ever has at a 100, and I continued to feel better and ride better than at any other 100 before. I felt like I had been able to dodge the bullet of her getting too cold in the first 15 miles. I was actually able to eat and drink throughout the ride! I set off for the last 35 mile loop with Nick Warhol and friends.

It’s interesting to ride the same ride year after year with the same horse. Throughout the ride I constantly compared how I felt this year as compared to last year. The difference was astounding. I can’t put into words just how much difference one year has made. In fact, the difference between 2011 and 2010 was many times greater than the difference in horse and rider between 2009 and 2010.

At the water stop before vet check 5 (mile 92) I started, for the first time) to feel a bit nauseous. I quickly ate a pay day bar, a handful of trail mix. I also started to get sore so I took another couple NSAIDs (I had been taking them regularly throughout the day). About 2 miles from the vet check, all of a sudden it felt like someone stabbed a red hot poker into both my calves, where the inside contacted the saddle. I was in agony. For the first time in the ride I was a passenger instead of a rider. At almost the same time, Farley took a funny step and seemed to move off lame – it was hard to tell since I was compromised and it was dark. She seemed to work out of it OK, and less than 50 yards later we started to walk into the vet check. I thought that because the temperature had dropped that her hind end was starting to get tight again.

At the vet check, she trotted out very very lame. The vet had felt a tight hindquarter prior to the trot out, so when she saw the lameness, attributed the lameness to the tight butt. I must admit that I didn’t question her diagnosis even though I thought (and my aunt thought) that we had seen something in her LF. I pulled her boots, didn’t find anything in the boots, and did my best to keep her warm until the trailer came.

It bothered me – yes her hind end was tight – but she was too lame for how tight her hind end was (ie – her hind end was tight, but not tight enough to explain the how lame she was, unless she was tying up, which she wasn’t). About an hour after we got to the fair grounds, I checked her over one more time before going to bed.

There it was – localized filling in the LF above the check ligament and deep digital flexor (I didn't immediately know what structures were involved - this came from the vet). I immediately took her to see the vet her confirmed that this was what was causing the lameness. He had me trot her out again (I HATE trotting out horses I know are lame), and then clipped the leg up for me so I could immediately start icing and treating with surpass.

And this brings up to today. I’ve been icing, applying surpass, and keeping her in standing wraps since Saturday night. The filling has stayed in that area of the LF. The other 3 legs are not filled at all. I put her on a lunge yesterday and I can see it VERY slightly at a walk (although I could be imagining things) and it’s probably ~grade 3 at a trot, both directions, worse going to the left. Ultrasound is tomorrow.

Lessons learned.
The Horse lesson
– There’s a couple of possibilities. I think the most likely one is: This could have been a lingering/underlying issue that I’ve missed over the last year, and then when she got too cold on the first loop and started to cramp, was brought to a head as she compensated for her hind end by putting more of her weight on the forehand. The other option is that she took a funny step and it just happened, or that the events leading to the injury all happened at this ride. The structures in the LF were checked in June of last year after Wild West and everything looked normal. We weren’t going faster than our conditioning pace, or the pace we’ve done the last 2 seasons. The footing was excellent and not anything different than what we’ve been doing. She felt GREAT all day with the exception of having a tight butt at vet check 1. This ride was by far the coldest we’ve ever done – maybe that was a factor. Was it a coincidence that at the moment I turned into a passenger she hurt herself?

The Rider lesson –I think at my next ride I will be using a runner specific electrolyte "pill" of some sort. Looking back, I think that the pain I started to experience at this ride – and probably previous rides – is NOT muscle soreness because of the lack of conditioning, but is actually muscle cramps due to electrolyte issues. This explains a lot – including the pain I’m having after rides that feels less like DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) from my running days, and more like when I used to get Charlie horses when swimming.

At this ride I continued to drink water throughout the night before the ride, and then alternated bottles of water and gatorade throughout the day of the ride. I was more I think I'm on the right track and having the muscle cramps hold off until 90 miles or so I think is proof (usually it shows up around mile 60-70). This was also the first 100 where I didn't spend at least part of the ride, and the night after the ride vomiting. So I do think that electrolytes are the key to the whole thing and although the gatorade helped me get closer, I can see that I'm going to need something "extra".

I think the extra electrolytes were also the key to me being able to eat and keep stuff down. I was able to eat all day and most of the night. I didn't pay much attention to what and how much - I just ate something that sounded good everytime I even THOUGHT about food. And it worked! I ate well all day and just made sure I always had something at hand that was edible. In fact - the only time during the ride I started to feel a bit sick, was RIGHT before my calves started to cramp, which is right before the check we got pulled.

I think all this time I was going about it backwards - I was eating and drinking to get my electrolytes, rather than making sure I was getting my electrolytes so that I could continue to eat and drink.

Like horses, maybe people need more or less electrolytes based on their own metabolism and chemistry. I may just be one of those people that it's critical that I get sufficient amounts.

I’m probably looking at going to one of those running electrolyte supplements. Just like some horses can get the necessary electrolytes through food etc., and some seem to need extra supplementation, I think I’m done relying on food and drink to try and get my electrolytes. I really focused on it all year and was never able to get exactly what I needed.

A Farley update tomorrow! And what it means for the rest of my year (don’t worry – things are already shaping up nicely and I WILL have stuff to blog about! )


  1. I am so sorry for your pull, especially so close to the end, but I love, love, love your attitude and the way you think. I love that you are willing to pull, even if the vet doesn't. I agree that dressage is the basis for endurance (or any discipline for that matter). I feel like I'm learning through you just by reading. I hope to do hundreds some day and you are an inspiration.

  2. waiting for the Farley update, and having the same questions you had: when did the injury begin to originate, could you have done anything differently had you know, etc etc. Hindsight is a terrific educator.

    I also think you are correct re: human electrolytes. I rode for years with a woman who needed copious elytes and wanted ME to have them too. Gatorade makes me puke, and the chemical drinks make me puke. Turns out that FOOD is my best source...huh. (my secret weapon = bananas). We easily accept that horses are individuals, but we often balk at the thought that humans are, too! Don't ask me why.

    Keep us posted!

  3. Interesting, insightful analysis. I agree that a foundation in dressage is the key to maintaining a lively conversation on the trail.

    I think you are right to draw a connection between Farley having more trouble and your leg pain which prevented you from "riding". I applaud your wonderful attitude.

    I occasionally suffer from Charlie horses in the hamstrings. Once, both fired at the same time. I can only describe the pain as blinding. Endurance requires so much planning and preparation. As I read your posts, I am astounded by the complexity of your sport.


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