Monday, September 30, 2013

Chamberlain Creek 50 2013: Not Quite According to Plan

I'd love to cheerfully recount our 50 miles of steady completed glory, but instead let me regale you with our approximately 15 miles of glee coupled with 5 miles of Well Shit, topped off with some admittedly still lovely ride photos that reflect my dubious mindset at the time of photo capture.
To embrace my obsession with timelines, I arrived Friday afternoon, found a snug spot under a Redwood tree in the tight campground and got set up. 
Almost there
Cozy and waterproof, luckily! 
Scrap tests the groceries and baptizes his water with his hay
Not long after, my mom arrived to visit armed with snacks. We chatted and took Scrappy and Georgia for a couple mile walk and my mom tried to wait long enough to get vetting in photos but the vet line was epic and she had to go.
Out for a stroll
A sea of bay and gray waiting to Vet in
We waited so long Scrappy almost had to eat his Vet card from starvation ;-) 
Friday evening I ended up socializing so much I missed the ride meeting but gleaned most of the essential information from more attentive friends. 7 am ride start, 3 vet checks out of camp @ 30, 60, and 15 minutes respectively, 60 bpm critera, 12 hours to complete.
Dinner time for Scrappy
Second dinner time for Scrappy...
I was quite cozy in my tent as usual, slept fairly well, and re-stuffed Scrap's hay bag around 3 am. About 6 I wandered over to my awesome camping buddy J's set up for breakfast , then back to tack up by 6:30:
The start was at 7 am with a 10 minute walk to the start so we left camp about 6:58 by ourselves and were indeed approaching the line in a nice quiet niche, a few minutes after the trails were open. "Your ride photo is your completion award!" I was cheerfully told as I gave my number and officially started the Chamberlain Creek 50 for the first time. I certainly wasn't bothered at the time but now those words ring sort of ominous and ironic in my mind.
Allow me to digress here and share the significance of this ride; I grew up in the Mendocino area and Chamberlain Creek was the first AERC ride I ever attended, as a sponsored junior aboard my stunning (no really) buckskin Appendix mare. The mare, Misty, had never finished a ride before I bought her because she was pretty high strung and had buddy and calming down to pulse down issues. Mary, the lovely woman who sold Misty to me later allowed me to board with her and one day told me that she rode endurance--and that meant riding all day! I quickly signed up for that and joined her and her endurance friends on 20 mile weekend rides, and rode the bus to Mary's house a few times a week to blast around the woods on my mare too. We completed our first Chamberlain Creek LD foray in good style and again, an hour faster and in the top 10, the next year. I had to sell Misty to go to college but I have returned to Chamberlain Creek ride a number of times since over the last 12 years on a handful of horses and somehow have always ended up doing the LD! Last year I finished the LD on a friend's Pinto for his first ride, etc, anyway this ride has been central to my endurance life and I still haven't done the 50. This year, I was pretty damn certain that barring a fluke, a rock with my name on it, etc, Scrappy and I would be finishing the 50 together for both of our first time.
Enjoying the quiet, dark morning in the forest
We were prepared physically, armed with extras and spares of everything, had an ass kickingly stocked crew bag waiting at the Vet checks, were on relatively known turf with great footing..and yet. And yet. 
So optomistic in those first miles, sigh
We were jogging along happily in our own pocket for pretty much the first 14 miles, both snacking, plenty warm, enjoying the morning. Scrappy drank really well as usual and was moving great under me, stopping occasionally to turn his head back for a bite of carrot. He made it all of 7 miles before starting to snatch at passing grass. I call him Superguts.
First glimmerings of daylight in the quiet forest
Getting brighter! I <3 trees...
First water stop, slurppp!
Contemplating a.m. ribbons 
Here's that part where skipping the ride meeting and not giving a shit about map reading comes in. After the water and assisted road crossing, there were clear dolomite markings on the ground denoting 30 to the Left and 50 Pink to the right. Duh, go on 50 Pink, right? For whatever reason I was convinced we did the Blue/Pink loop FIRST, and the Pink loop later, while in fact the Pink was an additive loop for the 50, and yeah, go figure, FOLLOW THE SHIT THAT SAYS IT'S FOR THE DISTANCE YOU ARE RIDING. I only went an easy mile out of my way before my camping neighbor passed and explained it to me when I queried seeing other riders coming back onto the Pink/Blue loop from somewhere I hadn't been. A quick fun back track at a swinging trot and then we were on the proper trail which was really lovely, with a couple of steep short hills.
We made it back down to the Blue/Pink loop  properly, still alone, and Scrap slurped more water at the next trough but really just wanted to itchhhh
After taking off from the water trough we were swinging along through the forest on more great footing when I suddenly queued into a change in his rhythm and wait, WAIT, was he suddenly, subtly, short striding on the right front??! I second guessed myself, thought I felt a few more short strides and stopped to strip boots and check feet. There was nothing conclusive in the hooves or boots but after rebooting and remounting only to feel that slight short stride again, I took off the boots and left him bare to try another jog without the boots. I couldn't detect the short striding when he was barefoot and resumed riding, albeit slowly, now bare on all fours. It may sound crazy but the footing was fabulous and I thought I was probably RO'ing anyway so if he was going better bare I would walk him in bare.
The reason for the seemingly quick decision to RO after a handful of unconfirmed inconsistent steps? In my mind, if all is right in my healthy, fit 8 year old horse's world, there are no reasons for that many concerning steps in the first 15 miles that an 30 increasingly hard miles will improve. To me those steps early on means there is a good possibility that something is starting to slightly bother him and 30 more miles equal Risk at that point. Even if it was something in the boot and he was right as rain without them I wasn't liking the idea of him doing it barefoot all the way.
At this point I was really hoping someone would catch up to me, and knowing I had friends behind me, help me confirm or deny any weird steps. Of course that didn't happen so I resigned myself to riding Scrappy in barefoot at the walk and surrendering myself to the vets.
 If you were concerned about your horse why didn't you hand walk him in? You ask. Here's the state of my heels (pic from later in the day), and the other reason RO was on my brain:
All I did was wear different socks on Friday. Not on the ride, just on Friday on the drive to camp and the walk with Scrappy and my mom. Halfway out on that walk Friday afternoon I felt Ouch start and by the time we got back to camp this was what my heels looked like. I knew that if we continued riding the 50 and an issue did arise, my much bandaged heels would not tolerate much hiking. Unless I did it barefoot myself, and yes I did consider it. I'm barefoot all the time at home and there's no thistles here! the insane little voice in my head whispered as we plodded along the cool dark forest trail. It's truly a unique and sweet torture to be at that place in a ride where you are alone, questioning everything, and it really is an especial twist when it comes so early with all seeming to be going so well.
So was Scrappy lame? You ask. As usual, a complicated answer there. We grimaced our way through ride photos, the last photographer kindly dragging out of me why I was plodding along past him unphotogenically. Scrappy pulsed in at 42, we both drank a bunch, and with snacks for both of us in hand, we trudged to the vets.
Baylor/Gore photography
All of the vets and volunteers were free at that moment so I explained what happened to a bit of an audience, explained that I thought I wanted to RO, and they all watched as Scrap vetted with all As and still 42. We then proceeded to do a terribly unenthusiastic trot out, barely a jog, which we all agreed was useless for diagnostics, so someone waved their arms and away we went again. 2 vets didn't see anything and 1 vet saw a very slight short stride in the left hind on the way out. I felt totally nonplussed and stared at them blankly for a moment so the vet that had seen something suggested we go rest and eat for 20 minutes and come back to check it again. I was 98% RO at that point but really wanted experts to watch him again so I left my vet card with them and wandered off to drink a giant coconut water from my crew bag while Scrappy nommed alfalfa.
20 minutes later the 2 still didn't see anything and the 1 said whatever he saw already looked better  and it was up to me whether I continued or not. I said thank you kindly, fed Scrappy his snacks, and headed back for camp with my first RO on the books (well soon anyway). It was a very familiar mile back to camp, I used to ride that trail with Mary all those years ago.
Baylor/Gore caught this surprise photo of me stopping to chat with a friend on our way back to camp
Camp was silent and beautiful and depressing, if I allowed it to be. Sure I would have liked to be back hours later, dirty and exhausted and triumphant, but strolling back in on our own hooves sure beat risking a much worse ending to the ride. I have no idea why he took those strides and he was already moving fine that afternoon in camp but I am honestly glad that I called it when I did. 
Scrappy wondering where all the horsies are, camp is quiet! 
Not too disappointed that he just has to hang out and eat more, I think! 
Cheerios and horse contemplation...also maybe timing how long he rested each hind leg..
I thought I had fixed it out on the trail but I noticed when I untacked in camp that my saddle cover velcro down by my stirrup was continually catching my woolback girth and pulling the fleecy Part out from under the buckle, leaving the buckle against his skin. There wasn't a sore and I could have fixed it at the Vet check by taping that damn velcro closed but there was a little puffiness on Scrappy's side where the buckle had been on his skin for those few slow miles, so that may have worked up to a nasty issue had I continued in the ride. Who knows. 
Nice to have a camp buddy when everyone else is out on the trail and you forgot your book..
 My step-dad visited that afternoon which was a nice surprise, and the camp got some eye candy with his sweet ride, the family 1964 Chrysler New Yorker.
People began trickling in from both distances over the afternoon and evening and at 6:30 there was a delicious ride dinner with lots of lovely and generous awards doled out afterwards for the LD and the 50 alike. Ride management was wonderful in recognizing not just the winners and Top 10'ers but the Turtles, juniors, junior sponsors, Senior Equine, and more. At least one of the vets stayed overnight to be available if any horses need help. I must say that having now not finished, but having finished many times previously, no matter the result Chamberlain is a very well marked, well run, and fun ride experience!

 It rained all of Saturday night and I was grateful for both my waterproof tent and the giant Redwood we were camped under. I was snug and cozy but Scrappy was looking rather like a drowned rat even in his fleece and raincoat at 5 am when I gave him more dry food. I had put most of the important stuff away the night before in case the rain was early, so I  was packed up in no time and after waiting for some people to, ahem, stop blocking the road, we were out of camp by 7 for a wet and windy drive home.

No storm yet at our house when we arrived early afternoon, which was a nice relief after that soggy morning. Upon turnout Scrappy flew across the field with his tail in the sky and proceeded to run the hill with Sheza filly, so I'd say he is feeling just fine. It certainly didn't go according to plan but it was still a beautiful weekend in the redwoods with family and friends that I returned from with a sound horse, so I really can't complain!


  1. What a bummer, but you made the right decision. Better to err on the side of caution. I'd much rather look back on a ride and say, "Well, *maybe* I didn't need to do a RO" than "I wish I would have RO'd." Live to ride another day. :)

  2. "Last year I finished the LD on a friend's Pinto for his first ride, etc, anyway this ride has been central to my endurance life and I still haven't done the 50." Welcome to me and Rides of March! OMG why can't I just finish the 50 at fucking ROM!

    You did good and it sucks. You've got all the time in the world with Scrappy; why push it? Love the surprise photo! Totally don't envy the rain, ugh.

  3. Forgot to say - OMG your heels. Ow, ow, ow. I don't know if they make enough Moleskin for that. I have Ride Socks that only ever get worn at rides, and one pair of shoes that have never done me wrong, and I'm totally superstitious about putting only those things on my feet. Ow!

  4. Damn off strides, you just can't ignore them!
    Looks like a beautiful part of the world to ride in :)

  5. This wasn't what you planned, but damn, I love Scrappy! Take care of that boy like you are, because he sure seems like a great catch. I love his calm mind, and what an eating machine. I know about being back in camp when everyone else is out having fun, a small pity party is always OK, especially with your feet, ow!

  6. Dude, heels like that. I TOTALLY understand. After blistering 20-25% of the bottom and heels of each foot last summer I have zero tolerance for stuff like that. The right decision for you both. Who knows what would have come of things for Scrappy had you continued! Your heels woulda been close to resembling what I dealt with had you continued, I'm sure. Fortunately feet (and hands) heal quickly! Hoping you're already much better, especially since Scrapster bounced back so quick ;-)

  7. YES! agree with Funder-use Mole skin or Second Skin before the issues start with your feet.
    People say I am crazy but I wrap every toe, slap some of that stuff on my heels and ankles before any long hike or is amazing stuff and I never get blisters when I wear it.
    Sounds like her "brain" really wasn't ready to do the ride this time it is ok to rest sometimes! : )