Sunday, May 13, 2012

Cache Creek Ridge Ride, May 2012 50 miler: Death March Turned Triumph

Phew, where to begin. Nowhere better than the beginning, I suppose. 

I made sure the truck was fully packed and ready Thursday so that we could just load up and head out early Friday. The forecast was for low to mid 90s and ride camp is a big open meadow, so we wanted to get there early and hopefully score some shade. After a stop in Yuba City (40ish minutes from the house) for groceries we were at ride camp within an hour. What a luxury to have rides so close by! 

Ride camp was still pretty empty and we saw an open prime shady spot over by the creek in the northwest corner of camp so my husband, J, backed the rig up into it and we started setting up camp. Now those of you who have read my ride posts may have picked up on the fact that my husband is Super Crew Husband. He takes care of all the camping and cooking and leaves me totally free to focus on my horse, which is amazing. He did it all last year for Blaze and I on LDs and can hopefully make most of my 50s with Desire this year. So this guy doesn't just throw a tent in the back and say let's go, oh no, he remembered the un-mowed camp field from last year and this year brought a weed whacker! 

The camp site got nicely manicured and good thing, or we would never have been able to keep track of Wilbur in the tall grass:

There was a rig with portable corrals and two horses already set up in the shade just in front of us, and Desire seemed pretty calm about the whole situation. She seems to really enjoy going places, I'm so glad she is always happy to hop right in my little straight load now and rides quietly. I just didn't have the trailer set up how she wanted it and she had to cause a ruckus until I figured it out!

Wilbur and his horsey companion:

Arabian Nights Tent, modified from the fully enclosed Whiskeytown version :

J also brought the generator and an A/C to run if we fully enclosed the tent, but on Friday afternoon there was a decent breeze. I didn't get to enjoy the A/C Saturday as I was, ahem, out of camp from dawn til dusk, but he said he had it closed up and about 70 degrees in there for a while. I'm telling ya, he's always coming up with something cool! *pun*

Hot dog buddies:

Desire in her sweet shady spot:

 We got to camp early, about 10:30, so we had a few hours of settling in and exploring the creek until check in and vetting in didn't start until 4 pm.

Friday was my birthday, and ride day, the 12th, was our 2 year wedding anniversary :-)

Wilbur paddles in the air if you even hold him *near* water. It never ceases to be totally hilarious!

But when the chips are down, he'll charge it!

We got hungry early and hey, it's not camping without some steaks on the grill!

Finally it was vetting in time and the line started forming right away. There were 91 riders in the 50 miler alone, plus all the people in the 25 mile ride, 25 mile Ride n Tie, and 15 mile Ride N Tie-- it was a pretty full camp!

off to vet in:

One of the many ridges seen from camp, complete with sideways trees...

My riding buddy, C, and her gelding Sonny were there for Sonny's first 50, and she camped and rode with some friends of hers. We saw each other on  the trail a few times but she was ahead of us by a ways.

C's camp:

 Trotting out for Vetting in:

Vetting in was uneventful and we got a pretty purple number chalked on that matched our tack pretty well. The vet said "Almost gotta kick this one in the ribs to get the heart rate up!" of Desire's 34 bpm resting heart rate. :-)

After vetting we found our other buddies, N, and her mare Willow. I just love these two! I am so happy endurance riding (Patriot's Day @ Lake Almanor) introduced us last year. Desire LOVES Willow, it's amazing to me to see two mares share a hay bag and give love nips with only the very rare squeal. Every time Willow visited or we visited her over the ride weekend Desire would be nickering and looking for her when they parted. Kiiinnddaa cute! N and Willow had a successful go of the 25 miler on Saturday and we'll hopefully all be at Hat Creek Hustle together for both days next month.

N and Willow:

J was going to drive to the 1 hr lunch hold Saturday like he did last year but I figured better safe than sorry on preparations so I packed and took over my crew bag that evening before the ride meeting. At Cuyama XP in March I discovered how many people have the exact same colored crew bag as me, so this time I bedazzled it with some fancy duct tape:

Ride meeting was uneventful, the map was pretty clear and I liked having all 4 loops clearly laid out on just one map. I don't use my maps a whole lot but when I do I tend to make a real hash of the multiple page maps. Pulse criteria was 60 for the day with 3 vet checks, and a pulse of 64 to finish, with a 12 hour time frame of course.

 Ride start was 6 am so I put the boots on and left the Gaiters loose for the night. I had some trouble getting Desire's new size 0's on the back, they were snug and I had to figure out the trick of pulling the heel part open as you slid the shell on the hoof with the tighter boot. Probably like duh, but just another trick of the trade I'm learning. I did the Cowboy Magic on the legs and baby powder on the gaiters as usual. Desire kept stomping her hind legs and we couldn't tell if her crazy unicorn fetlock hair was tickling her, the horse fly I slapped off her leg had bit her, or what, but she kept stomping the feet so I took the snug hind boots off for the night *justincase* they were causing her some discomfort. Everyone has to sleep in comfort, or as near as possible!

Just ask Wilbur:

Desire had 2 super sloppy mashes and ate about 4 flakes of hay by nightfall, and was her usual thirsty self, tanking up at the water troughs on all our walks and sipping at her buckets overnight. One of our new air mattresses has a flippin hole so while we started the night in comfort on two stacked air mattresses, halfway through the night turning over was like being at sea as the mattress slowly deflated beneath us, and by morning the top mattress was fully flat. Well it was good while it lasted and I did sleep okay, despite being surprisingly chilly in the wee hours of the morning.

I got up at 4:30 a.m. and started messing around with things, packing snacks and checking gear. I finally got wise this ride and put my carrot chunks in a Ziploc in the pommel pack instead of just stuffing them in there au naturale. They become slimy and unappetizing quite quickly I've found, and seemed to last better, and were less messy, in the bag. I also packed beef jerky and a granola bar, a little Ziploc of grain, 2 water bottles, Desitin, a fresh can of sunscreen, and slung on my Camelpak. My cantle pack had 2 more water bottles, my mini med kit, vet wrap, hoof pick and spare size 1 and size 0 Gloves.

And we're ready!

Last minute boot adjustments:

We hit the start at about 6:15 a.m., with the hot shoes gone and only a couple of people heading out ahead of us.

B and Ziggy, friends through K's blog Trails and Trials (K was volunteering for the ride, too), were right in front of us as we started and we rode together across the creek crossing and maybe a 1/4 mile further but there was a bit of traffic and Desire started doing her squirrelly, stompy sideways thing so I pulled off and let everyone get on out of sight. Right before I did that I'd seen a lady riding out bucks going around the corner ahead of us and when we rounded it she was walking on the ground and the horse was gone. She was okay but the word was out for the loose horse. Once we were alone Desire walked and trotted quite reasonably. Another mile or so along a pair of riders were trotting back down towards me ponying the loose horse to return it, VERY nice of them.

 It doesn't take long for the hills to start at this ride, so we were climbing up into the sun before long. I broke out the sunscreen and put on the first of many layers for the day. I knew it would be hot hills most of the day so I wanted to walk up most of them, but Desire really motors uphill  beautifully at a slow, powerful jog, so if they weren't too long or steep I let her do that. I figured it was better to go in that useful forward gait than fight her to walk up it, unless it was really called for. Most of the crowd was long gone so with the exception of 2 or 3 riders in sight or passing once in a while, it was quite peaceful. We walked the downhills and trotted the flats and short rolling ups, and the scenery looking out over the ridge was great. Unfortunately I left the camera with my husband and the phone in the tent so no trail photos this time around.

One of the times I pulled off to let a few others trot by Desire did a slick twisty move and somehow got her brand new hind boot off AND ripped the gaiter right off, like separated the fabric from the screw-on part. Then I got to play the pin-the-boot-on-the-spinning-horse game on the side of a hill as the riders passed and got out of sight. That's the scenario every potential boot user dreads no doubt, I know I always did, and let me tell you now that I've done it, it's about as fun as you imagine it to be. She would *not* stand still so I could pick up her leg normally so I made a desperate, sweaty swipe and grabbed her leg in mid air as she was doing yet another circle and fortunately instead of kicking me she let me hold it for the 2.3 seconds it took me to slam the boot on with the heel of my hand and then flip the Gaiter Velcro together in the next 2 seconds of stillness I saw. Re-mounting went about as prettily but we were back on the trail with all 4 tires intact once again.

We had climbed up to the top of the ridge early on so it was a long, sometimes steep walk/jog on foot down to the 12.5 mile vet check. Desire did okay on the jogging next to me thing, there was two way traffic at this point and I had to give her a few "helicopters" with the end of the reins but we made it down without issue. She didn't want to drink at this vet check but her pulse was 46 and she ate a little grass and a couple of carrots.

J was lurking across the stream and used some major zoom in on the camera to get some photos

Coming in to the check:

 Trotting out for Vet Check 1:

She got all As from the vet and we had a 15? 20? minute hold--Don't remember, one of those--til we had to climb back up the hill we came down for loop 2. She did the stompy hind leg thing a bunch when we were at the vet check, the splint boots seemed to be annoying her but she interfered at Whiskeytown 50 and nicked herself on the hind leg so I had put them on that morning as a preventative measure. The vet suggested I take the splint boots off if they were irritating her so much but she was traveling fine and I had them there for a reason. Later when I lost them and she didn't have them on she interfered again and ended up with a cut in the same spot as Whiskeytown. So. Splint boots and trimmer consultation it is.

The loops were marked as Red, White, Blue, and Purple--the color of victors for the loop into Finish. It was really easy to remember the colors and order that way, and the trails were very well marked. I only had ONE map consultation moment the whole ride but that was in the afternoon when I was being OCD about not having seen a ribbon for a minute or two, so it hardly counts against the trail markers, more against my wavering sanity at that point.

I took her back down to the trough to try for a drink after the vet check so I ended up leaving a few minutes late but eh, who cares. I really didn't have the idea that I would be pushing the 12 hour time limit and drinking time is time well spent.. Unfortunately she didn't drink that time either so we headed out. We jogged up out of the vet check at a nice controlled pace and passed a couple of small groups of riders, moving nicely. I was already putting on more sunscreen and feeling warm but good, there was a nice breeze at the top of the ridge which couldn't be denied. A couple miles later at an intersection Desire marched right to the trough and was drinking wonderfully until this guy on a gray horse came trotting in and let his horse barge right into us and push her out of the water. She tried to put her face back in and the horse got in her face and kept her out, while the rider did nothing. I was *pissed*  I'm sorry isn't it a cardinal flippin rule that you just DON'T screw with a drinking horse? There were two troughs and he just barged on in and stopped my horse from drinking. Grrr. Fortunately I remembered that part of the trail and knew there was a little stream crossing not far away so I just shook my head and trotted off and she drank deeply at the (muddy) crossing.

We passed a couple of groups of riders winding around the valley up and down hills in the miles before the descent to lunch check, Desire was listening well and we had some fun extended trots on some flat spots. I will say when she really powers out with her hindquarters we almost always lose a boot. Especially an uphill thrust situation, that pretty much guarantees it. I thought about using tape with the boots for this ride and so incredibly should have. Woulda Coulda Shoulda.I had a lot of boots on and boots off and ended up down 2 boots by the end of the ride, I really need to go to Glue-ons or SOMETHING because I was blazun (teehee) with hatred for my boots by the end of it all.

I remembered the descent into the 25 mile lunch hold well from last year, though last year it seemed steeper and longer than it did this time around. Perspective, experience--and a taller, stronger horse--will do that I suppose. J was waiting at the hold and got great pictures of us crossing the creek in the same spot that he got shots of Blaze and I on the LD last year:

D & I, 2012 50 miler:

Blaze & I, 2011 25 miler:

Desire was a little ditzy crossing the creek in both directions, I tried to steer her on the path that I could see was safest but she insisted on trying to crawl over the big ass boulder underwater instead of going around it. Cue almost face planting butnotquite.

At least she looks pretty while being ditzy..

She was still puffing pretty good when came in to the hold, but she drank immediately and deeply and I pulled her tack and was dumping water over her shoulders constantly. She recovered quickly and we pulsed right in and had a successful vet check.

Getting the pulse, Desire already in snooze mode:

Vet Check 2 Trot out:

The vetting and saddles are by the creek at the lunch vet check but crew bags and the hour hold were spent just up a short, steep hill. I was so ready to sit down in the shade and eat at this point that the short steep hill felt like my last short steep hill, but here we are, alive and mostly well:

I look serene in the pic below, so this must have been moments before I asked my husband for the vet card I had handed him after vetting in and he couldn't find it in his pocket where he had put it. I was not this serene, after that news:

I saw C at the lunch stop while I was mid-vet-card freak out, she was doing okay but her gelding had been silly early on and she hurt her back a little. With miles to go. Well, we're endurance riders after all, right?! Luckily (for him), J turned up in a few minutes with my vet card, rescued from the ground by someone and left waiting for claiming with a volunteer. Phew. I don't even know what happens if you lose your vet card but I was stressing for a minute there.

I ate some strawberries, half a gross sandwich, an apple, some Cheetos, and Desire cleaned up some mash remains, half heartedly ate some hay, and went into deep snooze mode like she has so far at every 50 lunch hold. It's smart because she's recharging but annoying because she isn't eating.

Before long it was go time so I put my shoes back on, re-soaked my shirt and bandanna, swapped out for full water bottles, including one filled with delicious Simply Lemonade, and re-filled my Camelpak.

Back down the hill for our saddle and Out. I'm wearing a shirt I had made last year at the County Fair that says Blaze and you can faintly see the green horseshoe to the left of the 21. 21 is my favorite number and was my jersey number in basketball and track growing up, so I united the love for my man Blaze with my favorite number, and carried the good juju with us on my back. It used to have sparkles all over it too but the washing machine took care of that..

Desire was still snoozing as I tacked up but gave me a nice little nuzzle and wouldn't you know it, J captured it:

Well, I guess I better say that here is where the trouble started. Or maybe not started, but was apparent? Anyhoo after I tacked up I noticed she had a very slight quiver in her left hind flank starting. With visions of tie up dancing in my head I took her right to the vet and showed him and asked his opinion. Without getting up from his reclining position he told me that she was just nervous, no worries. My husband thought it was a slight muscle spasm. I was confused, and worried, but she was drinking well, had pooped and peed in good color, and hadn't eaten a ton but *had* eaten when we first got to the lunch. So all signs were pretty well good except the quiver.

I decided to give it a go and be very conservative. I think I was already 20 or 30 minutes late leaving the hold but my priority was so on us both surviving happily that I didn't care.

Okay, we'll go..*worryworryworry*

I look like I have a turtle shell on my slouchy back in this one but Desire looks good:

After this there are no photos til the finish as the last vet check was only a 20 minute hold at 36ish miles and J and I agreed we'd just meet back at the Finish at camp. So no photos, but it was certainly eventful! In a long, slow way. Put it this way, it took us 4 hrs 20 to go the first 25 miles, and over 3 hours to go the next 10 miles to Vet Check 3.

We cruised along alone out of lunch, Desire was willing but not raring to go, there were no horses in sight and she had the post-lunch-check laggies for a while, but I was in no hurry since I was still concerned about that tremor and wishing she would show some interest in grazing. She drank again which was great, but it's funny when you are obsessing over know on a hot and humid day that drinking is essential but when the eating and pooping stops but she's still drinking..well not good either, but hmm..I was dismounting at every trough and dumping water on her shoulders and neck and down my back and over my head, and any time my head started to feel even a little too warm I would pour some of my water bottles filled from the trough over my head. My hair is like a wool carpet and if I let my head just get hot and stay that way I end up with heat stroke like on the Patriot's Day LD last year. One of my water bottles had electrolytes int it and as it got hotter it tasted worse and worse, til even a sip of the hot salty water nearly made me gag. But I choked it down as best I could and kept cooling my head and spraying sunscreen on myself.

We reached the bottom of Berkeley Hill, the hardest  hill of the ride, and stopped in the shade. Desire was puffing a little even though we had been walking and lightly trotting along the flats, and the muscle tremor was not only there but suddenly more pronounced. A lady who is a frequent vet scribe for Tevis rode up just then and stopped in the shade with me so her gelding could eat the clover. I was already mulling things over re: the tremor and the giant hill in front of us, and she looked at Desire and after exchanging pleasantries quickly said "Your horse has thumps."  which was both mystifying and, at that point, terrifying. I know about tie up, have seen it, have dealt with it a few times, but I wasn't familiar with thumps..

Okay, this is the day after the ride and my quick Google search showed about a million pages about "thumbs," when I looked up Thumps, so I'm not going to put an explanation of what it is here, though if someone finds a good one and posts it in comments, "thumbs" up for you.

What the lady told me was that it was a Calcium deficiency, a mineral imbalance, a not good thing. She said don't panic, but it could be the start of tie up. Don't panic, really!?!?! I was swallowing rapidly, eyeing the giant hill in the blazing sun in front of us and my not so enthusiastic looking horse with the quivering flank. Shiiiiiiittttt. This was my first real, true moment of panic in my time riding endurance. Surely not my last, but memorable as my first. The lady (and darn do I wish I knew her name) offered me a small dose of electrolytes and said the more I walked up the hill off Desire's back the better; I dosed her and she spit some of it out, but the muscle spasm stopped within about a minute of the electrolyte paste! I told the rider what the vet had said about the tremor being nerves and she rolled her eyes and seemed disgusted by the vet's response. My brain was running in overdrive as I asked myself why I ever left the lunch check with the tremor, why the vet didn't even both to check her or show the slightest interest, then my logical side kicked in and noted it wasn't his job to know my horse, it was mine. All this whirled around while I tried to keep up a conversation too, but soon the kind rider wished me luck and moved on up the hill. I stayed in the shade with Desire as a couple more groups rode past us and she continued to huff slightly. The tremor was indeed gone after the electrolyting but she wasn't eating or looking particularly stoked on life. Still, we were miles from the last Vet Check and at the bottom of a hill, so something had to be done. Once the traffic slowed again I took off her bit, the martingale that likes to swing and whack her in the chest when unattached, her annoying splint boots, and my helmet, applied some more sunscreen, wet my bandanna, and started to tackle Berkeley Hill on foot.

It. Was. Hell. Since I mentioned firsts earlier, here was another first. The first time I ever truly thought "this is it, I'm gonna die out here, WHY DO I DO THIS TO MYSELF?!"  I love hours in the saddle, it's why I started this whole game years ago, but LDs tend to treat you pretty well and if I was due for my first excruciating 50 experience--heat wise anyway, I did the windy, rainy cold thing at Cuyama Day 3--here it was. It was in the low to mid 90s by that point, well into the afternoon, with about 30 hot, sunny miles already under our mohair belt. I know people have gone further when it's hotter and all that jazz, but I was a pale skinned redhead on my first hot 50 climbing a steep mountain on foot with a horse that may or may not be okay, so things were pretty tense. We walked from shady spot to shady spot and stopped in each one to huff and puff, and dole out the water over our respective bodies as sparingly as possible. A pair of riders went by us up the hill and asked incredulously if I was going to walk the whole thing; I tried to avoid truly wrapping my brain around that possible reality while mustering a smile and a somewhat coherent reply, and they were soon out of sight.

We huffed and puffed our way from shade to shade and twice I thought we were at the summit until we reached the flat spot and saw the next stretch of hill rising before us. The third time I thought that was happening I told Desire, "Look, if this isn't the top I might just lie down and die." She didn't seem impressed by the threat and sure enough we reached the visible flat spot only to see yet one more stretch ahead. I was on foot so I may have seen the true reality of the hill from her back, but it's different from 5'4 off the ground. I decided lying down and dying in the middle of nowhere on a god awful hill wasn't very productive so I poured the last of our water on us and and trudged to the top. We reached a split in the trail where Purple ribbons for the final loop appeared and I knew we had done it. And *I* had done it, walked the flippin hardest hill of the whole flippin ride in the heat of the afternoon. As a white skinned redhead. And survived, and wasn't throwing up in the corner, and was putting the bit back in the horse's mouth and remounting to continue. YEAH!!!

At this point there was no tremor in her flanks, Desire was definitely hot and over the hill climb, but I was absolutely DONE walking so mounted and we mosied along the flat til we came to the beloved, blessed, amazing water troughs. She dove right in and drank, stopped and breathed, drank, and did that a few more times while I dumped water over us and refilled my bottles yet again. My plan was to get down the hill to Vet Check 3 which was now only a few miles away, and if she didn't amaze me with her eating, drinking, pooping, and peeing, I was going to pull. The tremor thing had completely freaked me out, she hadn't eaten much of anything since the beginning of the lunch hold, and I just didn't want to go there.

Desire must have heard the internal threat about pulling because when I hand walked her into Vet Check 3 her pulse was right under 60 and she dove right into the wet alfalfa that was in and around one of the water troughs. I let her pig on that for a few minutes then took her to a clean water trough where she drank a ton more and then went straight to the pans of sloppy mash ride management provided, where she cleaned out almost two whole pans before peeing a nice healthy yellow pee. I didn't want to interrupt this amazing flow of positive events so we didn't even get over to the vet until after our 20 minute hold was up. I knew she was feeling better when she started making snarly faces at any horse that walked near her beloved mash and when we finally vetted she was all As on everything but skin tenting which was a B. She trotted out fine, and there was no sign of the tremor in her flanks. She even pooped a little before I handed her off to a volunteer so I could pee and refill my camelpak from the people water they had mercifully provided.

With all the big signs positive and yet another 10 or 15 minutes past my Out time, we headed on out of Vet Check 3 to take on the last 14 or so miles to the Finish. I was still nervous but she seemed in much better spirits and her appetite at the hold couldn't be denied. A beautiful brown and white half Arab gelding passed us and we rode together for a few miles and chatted, Desire was moving out beautifully and in fact got competitive with the gelding and stretched out into such a fast walk that I asked to pass so I didn't tailgate. I hate to check a good fast walk, it's one of my favorite things in a horse, but never want to tailgate or mess with someone's flow either. We trotted off away from her and had a nice few miles walking and trotting back down the ridge. We were pushing the 12 hour time limit now as it was past 3 pm and we had a ways to go.

At the bottom of the hill where a big intersection with lots of troughs were I got off to dump and refill the bottles and get my bandanna wet, then when we passed the trail we had come from camp on that morning and Desire suddenly and totally pooped out again. It felt very much like "Oh, we're going up another hill instead of heading back to camp? How 'bout no!"  I cajoled her up that hill and stopped at another water trough intersection where she drank again and the ride managers' dad brought me a bucket of ice chips which I ate and poured down my back and into my helmet. I managed to wedge a few in the back of my sports bra and they felt delightful slowing melting and trickling icy water down my back. He also scooped water over Desire's neck and then I headed out for the last loop out into the valley before the downhill to the finish.

She dogged it the first half mile after that, no horses in sight for a while and yes it surely had been a long day, but we were getting really tight on time and one way or another had to get back to camp at some point. I asked her to trot and she started out less than enthusiastically but then caught sight of a RSS--Really Scary Stump--and started trotting out with all the flair and drama of an opinionated Arab mare. It really was an emotional roller coaster with her, before and during the big hill she was so checked out, and then she came back to reality at the vet check to take care of herself, then went totally mentally away once we passed the turn for camp, but being spooked by a stump brought her back into animation. Ummm okay. Somewhere along the way the splint boots fell off my saddle too...

It was a beautiful peaceful loop out in the valley with enough of a breeze to make my ever-wetted t shirt feel awesomely cool. We looped around the valley and came up a slight hill to the intersection I recognized as maybe a half mile from the final descent which was then just a few miles to the Finish, with about 35 minutes left on the clock. Desire finally caught sight of some other riders trotting across the ridge on the skyline and she was all for doing a big booming trot across the top of the ridge to the last water troughs. She drank well there, I refilled and soaked everything and pulled her bit and my helmet to jog with her down the hill. We were behind a guy I recognized from Hat Creek last year at this point and we moved down the hill pretty quickly together, passing an unfortunate rider who's horse had gone back to camp without her and left her limping her way very slowly downhill.

At the bottom we both remounted and I just couldn't be bothered to try to get the bit in her mouth with the time limits and the guy possibly riding off without me, so I jumped on her with the reins snapped to the halter and rode her 10 mph trot to the Finish see sawing that halter like there was no tomorrow to keep her from a flat out gallop. What an emotional roller coaster, to be so worried at one point of the day and be almost ready to pull, then have your horse flying in amazing form toward the finish at the bitter end! We lost our two hind boot in one of the last mucky little crossings, the one I glimpsed was fully blown out the side of the shell and had about 450 miles on it (the spare I had to use) but the other was pretty much brand new. At that point I was *so not* getting off again for booting and the boot probably still lies there now, unless it was scooped up and has joined someone else's household. Yep, they cost money, but I was on a mare pulling my arms out in a halter with the Finish in her sights and about 10 minutes left til the cut-off time. When she really stretched into an extended trot after another mucky spot a front boot flopped off and I did manage to bail and pop it back on while she spun around watching the guy trot away from us. I don't even know how I got it back on or back in the saddle but we trotted to the finish and came into camp to the Vet at 5:55 pm. I pulled tack and dumped water over her while she drank and drank and we pulsed down to the 64 criteria and got our final Vet Check in right at the 6 p.m. cut off.

At the Finish:

She got all As and trotted out fine, though that interference on the hind leg after I lost my splint boots made her a little ouchy that side when she knocked it. She was eating grass and everything in sight and drank a couple more times and I walked her around and around cooling her out, then sponged her clean and treated the gaiter rubs and the interference mark, made her a giant sloppy mash, piled hay in front of her, and collapsed into my camp chair.

The endurance horse art form known as Sleep Eating:

We got some tasty remainders of ride dinner and I missed everything but the Top 10 at the ride meeting by the time I was done settling in Desire and eating. Apparently there were about 80 finishers from 91 starters in the 50 and no horses were put on IVs which is great and pretty impressive considering the heat and hills.

N mentioned after the ride meeting that she didn't hear my name called for finishers and I'm so glad she pointed it out because when I went up and asked it turned out they didn't have me down as completed! I tell you what I had to struggle to keep my cool at that point, which was only because I was exhausted and felt I really had earned that completion after those 12 hours! Apparently I had missed the Check In, since I finished so late the people checking riders in were gone, so I had gone straight to pulsing and vetting without formally checking in, or being aware I was supposed to. The final vetting was done right in front of management's trailer fortunately and they had all seen us come in so they assured me that it would be rectified and I'd get my completion.

After some chatting with ride buddies and more evening walks for Desire we called it a night and I slept like a rock til about 7:30 this morning. Desire ate 2 flakes of hay overnight and seemed quite comfortable in her fleece cooler as it did get chilly toward morning. We cruised around and said our goodbyes and congratulations to everyone, and Desire stopped by to chow as much of Willow's food as would be tolerated, then by the time I made it back around to camp J had broken down camp and was ready to load the truck. The man is a savior!

All stacked and ready to pack..oh wait..

Desire drank once more at the trough then loaded right up into the trailer and an hour, a giant platter of food, and another hour later, we were home! I gave her a bath and cleaned her feet, treated her rubs and interference cut, covered her in fly spray, and put her out with hay and a big sloppy mash. She has been snoozing and eating all afternoon and seems in fine spirits. Sheza was obnoxious when her mommy reappeared as usual, but didn't try to nurse this time at least. They have been hanging at the fence line together most of the day.

More more more MASH:

Happy to be home, now go away human!


So. Lessons? Need to up my electrolyte protocol, clearly. I've been giving her a low dose of electrolyte powder in her food, I am still new to using them and had been told to proceed with caution, but I now think I should definitely be carrying a syringe on the saddle with me.

I kind of want to use my Easyboots for target practice right now, but to be fair I should have learned and done the taping method for better performance, and I am really considering just doing Glue-ons for 50s from now on. The constant Glove checking and reapplying thing is wearing on the nerves (and body) and with my plan to do back to back 50s at Hat Creek next month there is no way I can be screwing with my boots that much each day, I will absolutely and totally lose my shit. My trimmer is coming out on Tuesday morning and I want to talk to her about a couple of things, including the Glue-on option.

The saddle fit was slightly weird, her back shape has changed slightly and I should have checked the fit better before the ride. As it was I had to make an improvement on ride morning which I hate to do, and I did see a small pink spot on the side I screwed with. So need to spend a little time on the saddle fit just to be sure. I need things going according to plan for this grand Hat Creek scheme.

We did it, we had fun, we were hot and tired and miserable and in the end, TRIUMPHANT. To finish, my friends, is truly to win!


  1. You wrote a damn novel, so I have a bazillion comments:

    You have the best crew, and the best little dogs.

    HI N!!!

    Love (hate!) the dancing mare while you're trying to do shit and remount.

    How many holds and what was the total hold time? Was it 12.5 times four loops? Weird! I love NV rides with the 25 mile first loop.

    Camelbaks always give me the super-attractive Hunchback of Notre Dame look.

    Thumps = tie-up, email me and I'll tell you what I've learned secondhand.

    I can't believe after hundreds of miles of endurance and LD this was your first death march. And uphill no less! My condolences. Now that you know you CAN get through this, you WILL keep getting through it.

    WOOHOO, grats on a hella hard finish! Definitely try taping before you try glueing - I know it's totally individual, but I taped and whacked on some marginally fitting boots and had NO PROBLEMS. It really works sometimes!

  2. Oh, and electrolytes - FWIW, YMMV, I do a half-dose (one ounce) of Enduramax the night before, the morning of, and at every vet check during a ride. I mix mine with those single-serving cups of applesauce, and a tiny sploosh of water to make it easier to syringe. Dixie adeptly spits out any paste electrolyte I've tried, but she seems to eat the applesauce elytes pretty well.

    1. OKay, what my sun addled brain remembers is vet checks at 12.5 miles, 25 miles, 35 miles after the awful hill, and then the finish. The hold time was 15 (or 20?) minutes, 1 hr, and another 15 (or 20?) minutes.

      I've done plenty of walking, jogging, and slogging, but never in heat like that up a hill like that, with a horse in possible distress.

      Yep, trying taping. Will consult with trimmer/Easyboot dealer on Tuesday.

      Thanks for the electrolyte info, I'm going to be experimenting and figuring it out before the (hopefully much cooler) Hat Creek double 50 attempt in a few weeks

    2. Ack that's bullshit! Washoe (and the other rides that I can remember) had 1;15 total hold time. You had 1:30, so less time to do the same miles. Grumble.

      The thing about elytes is that you can't accurately know how well they work til you do fifty miles in different weather. Just try "more" for HC, and GOOD LUCK! Haven't gotten up my nerve to ask my very non horsey husband how he feels about me maybe doing HC yet... I'll bring it up next weekend!

    3. Sweet, I have faith in your powers of persuasion, see ya there! ;)

  3. OK, I typed up something much more clever but I think it was eaten...

    Congrats! On the finish, and a very good writeup. That hill section, where you were worrying about Desire, sounds awful. I'm glad you both came through, and it might have been close, but this was truly to finish is to win. It was a tough ride, I watched every single rider leave the final vet check, many had problems with the early-season heat and hills.

    Do you think it really was thumps? Reading about it sounds scary, but glad the electrolytes helped, and hopefully you'll have a vet who takes it more seriously!

    Awesome crew (a weed whacker!? Air conditioner!? My SO better step it up...) and your pups are adorable. I love the "swimming" when you hold him over water, he'd just prepared! All the photos are great (especially the first vet-in trot out, with my rig in the background!) I think your ride photo is just beautiful, blue skies and a glorious white horse.

    Sorry about the boot issues, I can relate. I hope you can get it solved, the tape really seems to work. Again, congrats!

    1. Thank you for volunteering! That was really awesome of you. And it was so good to meet you in person, I hope we get to ride together soon . :)

      She was definitely heading down a bad path, but I would guess it had to be pretty early on since the small dose of electrolytes worked so quickly and effectively. I don't claim to have done anything but gotten my weight off her back up that hill and nursed our way into Vet Check 3, from there it was all her gobbling food and drinking and just generally coming back to herself. Scary but such a valuable lesson and so lucky to learn it and have my horse be fine, too!

      I'm consulting with my trimmer tomorrow, hopefully she'll show me how to tape and we'll talk about Glue ons for next month's rides.

      Thanks for volunteering, and reading!

  4. Those death march rides make for the most well-earned finishes! Great job on slogging it out and doing what you had to do to take care of your horse! Any kind of metabolic thing is scary...been there. So glad the e'lyting and everything else you did worked.

    I love your long ride story write-ups...great detail, great information! And great photos! You've got a gem of a hubby to come along and crew for you and set up camp and such...very cool!

    1. Thanks! So glad you enjoy.

      My husband is in the running for Best Crew Person Ever :)

  5. I so know the opinionated mare thing. On Kate's first 25 she stopped about 20 miles through and refused to go. We sat there as people passed us for about 10min then light bulb went on, were headed home. She took of and fought me the whole way home as I tried to go a moderate pace lol.

    So the slight little bit I know about Thumps from hanging with the vets at mendo magic is that changing their diet is a huge help and you can have a successful endurance horse with thumps. I think the lady at the ride pulled the first day because the thumps were bad but completed the second.

    Have you tried cooling vests? I can't do a ride without one in the summer.
    For your boots if you go with gloves and tape is not enough try goober glue. And I love these splint boots, they are really light weight so my mare does not find them as bothersome and they don't hold in as much heat.

    1. I've talked to several knowledgeable people and we've concurred it wasn't thumps. It wasn't in the diaphragm, it was a slight muscle spasm in the flank itself.

      Yes, I've had a Cool Medics vest for a few years but find it heavy and uncomfortable. I do have it packed in my crew bag for vet checks in case though. Keeping my tshirt and bandanna wet worked surprisingly well! Gotta love cotton!

      I'll check out the boots, I might just got with the short fetlock boots over full splint boots..

      Going to glue on for my next ride, we'll see how that goes!

  6. Wow! What a story... you went on and on but it was exciting until the end. Congratulations on your finish! And Happy Birthday and Happy Anniversary. Once you have children, you'll be celebrating Mother's Day during Cache Creek as well.
    My son and I were at this same ride... it was his (and his horse's) first 25 miler. We had a great ride, although it was HOT! We didn't have any trouble during the ride, but we certainly got enough excitement afterwards to last for awhile... I was dragged and trampled in ride camp after P&R at the finish (the horses spooked at a mishap that occurred with one of the water truck hoses). My son's horse (the one who trampled me) was so worked up from the entire incident that she was shaking, wouldn't eat or drink, and her pulse was so high we couldn't tell what it was. I took her to the vets, in tears, thinking something was really wrong... she eventually calmed down and everything was fine. So, what have I learned? Every endurance ride makes for a great story!
    Maybe I will see you at Hat Creek...
    Jaya G.

    1. No kids in our future! We'll stick to celebrating the anniversary and birthday, haha.

      I heard about your accident, didn't sound fun at all, glad your horse calmed down and was fine.

      Yep, I'll be at Hat Creek!

  7. what a beautiful mare. she's got that "best condition tail" goin on.: )

    1. Thanks! Her tail is fantastic and get so many compliments :)

  8. Did you guys by any chance let some ribbons go on balloons or something? Because I found a purple ribbon on the beach (Vancouver Island) today that has the #12 circled and Cache Creek written on it.
    Just checking