Monday, April 7, 2014

Nevada Derby 50: Testing, Testing, 1..2..3

 Scrappy, Georgia my camp Chihuahua,  and I hit the road early Friday morning with a rig full of waterproofed items, which turned out to be wise, as this was my view not 10 miles from home:
Snow in Donner pass area, but nowhere near as unfriendly as it got for those traveling later that afternoon!
 I had confidently plugged some apparently random address into my GPS early on and about 3/4 of the way to the ride it suddenly occurred to me that I wasn't entirely sure where I was going. This was my first Nevada ride and beyond being "somewhere near Reno kinda" I wasn't totally clear on my destination. Fortunately I had past Reno local Funder just a phone call away and she quickly sent me the correct GPS address (totally not the one I had), which I was thrilled to plug into my GPS until said apparatus answered me immediately back with "6 hours and 31 minutes until your destination." I tried not to crash my truck in Reno traffic while figuring out how this could be possible, no really, HOW COULD THIS BE POSSIBLE??!?!  

Just before total meltdown one last frantic glance at the GPS showed the tiny bicycle icon was lit up.

Huh. Hmm. Well, let's Push "car."

"51 minutes until your destination."

Alllrighty then.

Ride camp! :D
 It was alternately blustery and alarming chilly and just warm and still enough to bring a sweat to your brow in ride camp, depending on the rapidly moving cloud cover. There weren't very many rigs there yet but a friend was and spotted my not-at-all subtle truck immediately and directed me to a perfect camping spot:
 That's a peaceful picture above, isn't it? It nearly wasn't so. When setting up I pulled my neatly folded tarp out of my truck bed to spread it out and pitch the tent on...and discovered ants. Lots and lots of ants. There was a lot of spraying, refolding, smooshing, brushing, some GPS-bicycle-incident worthy cursing, and well, it came all right in the end and the ants never did visit my bedroll, luckily.

Enough about my trials, what really matters is that Scrappy gets food, and lots of it, at all times. The first mash of many, then:
 "Yes, human, yes, deliver it now!"
 There were so many great buddies at this ride and some new friends that I had only met on Facebook previously. The endurance community sure is a lot of fun and I found the atmosphere as welcoming as the Nevada riders promised.

J's Chiefy looking good
Something that was cemented in my brain this weekend is Scrappy's intense sense of self preservation. I already knew that he would effortlessly roll back or smoothly pop 5 feet to the right if he felt personal space bubbles between horses were about to be violated, but he was a whole other level of cautious at the ride. The first time he saw the mules below, well, this is what he did:
 Now I have a neighborhood donkey at home and I know horses like to have odd staring issues with things, but for whatever reason Scrappy was sure these mules were not safe characters and would pointedly take me some 20 feet wide around their trailer every time we passed.

Keeping an eye on those things, just in case
 Saturday morning before the ride I happened to witness the mules trying to absolutely murder each other, pinned ears and flying heels, the whole 9, and Scrappy's caution made total sense. The other funny tell was the vet-in line, which was rather long at first and got fairly messy thanks to a few rude/oblivious owners. Scrappy had an ear and eye on one of the horses before they ever got anywhere near us, when I was chatting and just watching the ones around us. I noticed Scrap watching farther out and so watched the horse and sure enough, they got nearer, clearing the line basically with random piss poor behavior. I think I'll stick with this guy, we seem to have each other's backs, though Scrappy may have argued that point a various times on those 3 loops Saturday.  ;)

Not only did this ride camp have a free hot shower, it also had an arena for turn out! Luxury. Scrappy had a roll and followed me around and only trotted if I clapped at him, seemingly quite steady and content as ever. (little did I know!)
 With camp set up and greeting everyone Friday afternoon's always seem to fly by and before I knew it it was starting to get darker and colder and I hadn't really addressed my spare boot issue. I hadn't done a 50 on Scrappy yet, nor in the Frank Baines English saddle, and it doesn't have a lot of D rings for attaching stuff. In fact all I could attach was a stowaway deluxe pommel pack, which luckily does hold a lot of crap but not a lot of crap plus 2 spare boots. Without any grand ideas on how to attach 2 spares, I decided to gamble that if the boots failed there would be enough time/sand to go appropriately in at a safe speed and get more at checks, since they were all in camp. But since I was gambling on only the 4 boots on his hooves, I figured I should at least change the straps for the first time, like ever.

playing with pretty boots
Vet in was done with a 48 pulse and all As and quite a *nice* trot out, thank you very much!!
 I got #541 chalked on the Scrappy booty, resettled him in, got my saddle pack well sorted, went to find friends--and suddenly it was snowing as the evening drew in!
 Friday night ride meeting
Vet checks were 1 hr hold at 25 miles, 15 minutes at 42 miles, both in camp, tack on,  and I want to say 68 pulse criteria at the finish within the hour? Sounded high but I think that's what I heard. It got seriously cold as soon as the sun was down and the chihuahua and I headed for our cozy bed in the tent pretty quickly.

Late night check on Scrappy revealed stars and moon were out! Huzzah!
 5 am walkies
 I managed to choke down a tiny amount of oatmeal and tea, feeling nauseous and excited as usual on ride morning, and was tacked and ready but lurking a bit away from the start at 7 am. A friend snagged a photo for us, thanks B!
 Much to my surprise upon setting out on this very chilly ride, Scrappy was not the loose reined 6 mph jogger I had so talked up. This Scrappy was more like a 7 mph prancer with the occasional head toss and wacky sideways dressage move, and it was quite something. Definitely not on the scale of true bad behavior, but totally hilarious and out of character for my generally very relaxed guy. Then again, he is a fit 9 yr old horse who hadn't been ridden in 2 weeks and was starting a 28 degree ride morning where he could see other horses for miles. Certainly conditions for some peppiness, even for ole Scrap!

Look it's Mel! This was about all I saw of her until ride dinner that night, she's a bit faster ;-)
 looking back down on ride camp
 looking forward at the ridge we are climbing. Oh yeah, it started with a big hill, can you tell?
 Scrappy continued his peppy behavior for about the first 13 miles, including a very poised but dramatic rear executed in front of a gal riding by who knows him well. She exclaimed in shock as she trotted by, "Hi-ho Silver!! That's not Scrappy!!"  And that pretty well became the theme of the day.
 Aside from this nice handful of miles pictured below that we rode with K and Cody, Scrappy was alternately snotty we weren't going fast enough, despairing that I had taken us out alone to die in the desert alone, and the most fun ever--to trot towards ride camp. The wide open scenery meant that we really could see other riders are various points in the trails, often miles away, as well as ride camp looming just over yonder and so much easier accessed by cutting ACROSS Country than following the stupid windy trails, if you asked Scrappy. Still, I can't say I didn't have a great time with him, the whole thrill of the endurance experience are those excessive roller coaster highs and lows I think. I absolutely had some moments of questioning my choice of hobbies, probably called Scrappy a name or two, but all in all had a fabulous time on a truly tough little gelding that I am proud to partner.

riding with K and Cody
 got rocks?

 K and Cody pulled ahead here, but we are pointed toward ride camp if you can't tell by the perkyperky ears
 loving life
 The miles of sandy single track outside of camp were indeed fun to trot along, once I convinced Scrappy to follow them and not just plow straight through the sage brush to camp.
 ride camp, almost back for our 1 hr hold at 25 miles
shows pre-ride and Vet check 1
We headed back out on loop 2 alone, much to Scrappy's chagrin. He goes into major sleep mode at vet checks and it sometimes feels a little like animal abuse taking him from his sleep or food! I know he is perfectly capable of getting back to it but he sure does try to fool you. We plodded steadily along with only about 3 U-turn attempts and 2 dirty glances that clearly conveyed he knew I had brought him out here to die alone.

"Lovely views to be contemplating your death in..."
Honestly, Scrappy, camp is not that far away and we *will survive*

There was some rather deep sand that we skidded down together on foot, and I was pleased at how my metal ankle held up for the few miles I did on foot throughout the day. Seeing how that fared was yet another test of this 50 miles, with 75 miles looming just 6 weeks away in the next leg of the Crown.
Scrappy was rolling his eyes hard on the Thumbs up portion when I was taking this selfie, but *I* was enjoying myself ;-)
There came a time on loop 2 when, at last, the trail came around to point in the correct direction, according to Scrappy. Camp was not in sight, but the compass was aligned, clearly. The ears perked. The head lifted. The 2.5 mph death march picked up to that 6 mph jog I had foolishly bragged about way back when, then, on the firmer footing, we were jamming easily at 9 mph and he was feeling strong, forward, not at all mostly dead. Imagine that.
deep sand doesn't deter Scrappy, nope nope, CAMP is on horizon!
"See human, I brought you back safely after you got us lost out there pointlessly"
Our 15 minute hold was brief as only 15 minute holds can be and after a quick pit stop it was time to head out on that last short loop. You may imagine how Scrappy felt about that.
after check 2
Here the benefit of the open trail actually kicked in. Leaving camp was clearly a horrible idea on my part in Scrappy's mind but there were horses out there trotting around in plain sight still, so maybe there was more food out there, or something worth perking your ears and jogging steadily at.
This last loop was absolutely Rushcreek business mode, we alternated between a very steady shuffle jog and a walk, at his discretion, and without too much fuss since the loop was just out around the sandy areas near camp and not truly heading out and away. I can't swear to it but I'd guess we finished about 5:40 pm and probably near 60th place out of 70-something finishing riders. That gives us a 9 hour moving time, or a bit more. Honestly it didn't feel that long, and I didn't really take into account how truly difficult the trail was until after the fact, when rehashing the hills, and rocks, and more rocks, and another big hill, and some deep sand, and then a few more rocks..

Our final vet out was good, 56 pulse and As with the exception of a bit of soreness on his back where my seat bones were. This is new. I am thinking two things:

 1)I've always considered riding with a crupper since he is so nice and round and flat and the saddle does move a bit, and that was a hilly ride..introduce crupper time?

2) he was traveling high headed and hollow from excitement and the hackamore didn't do anything for that so, possible cause of back soreness-- AND, address headgear for frisky ride starts?? Experiment with bits?

mission complete! 
I was really grateful that the ride camp had a free shower and after settling Scrappy in I headed straight for it. I pretty well missed ride dinner because of it but it was so worth it, I got to reset my temperature and, and, and--I never got a migraine after the ride!!! This is huge! I generally go down with migraine/heat stroke/something within an hour of finishing a ride, even an LD, unless I do things magically perfect. After focus on diet and hydration I am now fairly certain it's centered around my core temperature and supplements, so at this ride while I didn't do great on eating a lot, I *did* take lots of magnesium and get that crucial temperature reset shower after the ride and Viola, no headache.

The neighbors generator went on at 5 am about 50 feet from my head on Sunday morning so I was up and packed and hitting the road with the sunrise.
There was nearly no one on the drive, I had a quick and painless paperwork check at the Nevada-CA border, and soon we were nearly home to our green California pastures!
I was too slow with my camera to get a picture of a *clean* Scrappy after the ride and haul home, but here he is after rolling like a madman and then racing back across his field for his mash:

That's why we call him the Scrappy-doo :)

Nevada Derby 50 miler professional ride photos by Baylor/Gore:


  1. I imagine Scrappy perking his ears up, saying "I'm not dead yet" and trotting out. Sounds like a fun ride, love all the photos (the professional ones are great), and showers! Wow, might have to put this one on my list... Congratulations!

  2. Looks like Slide Mountain / Washoe Lake area. Brrrrr. Cold. I'm glad you had a good time. Green pastures beat out sagebrush any day, though.

  3. LOL @ the bike GPS directions! I have definitely done that a time or two. Glad you both survived and got such great pictures!

  4. Very nice post and photos Aurora, what a beautiful ride!

  5. Awesome to read that you enjoyed your ride- I know I would. That scenery is to die for. LOL at the GPS fail.

  6. Love all the photos!!

  7. Gorgeous ride, congrats! I'll often start out with a bit on the first loop, then change to a sidepull/hackamore the next loop (or not!)
    - The Equestrian Vagabond

    1. That may indeed be the plan in the future! Who knew my quiet fella had it in him ;) :)

  8. I'm SO GLAD yall had such a great ride and had fun in camp! It felt like I was introducing my new friends to my old friends - I so hoped you and Mel would like Nevada rides and Nevada riders and have great successful rides! GO SCRAPPY WOOP!