Tuesday, May 7, 2013

2013 Washoe Valley I 50

So Friday I hooked up the trailer, loaded the horse, and drove to Reno.

That's probably not the right place to start, but it's a place.  We've got lots of boring real life stuff going on - we had visitors two weeks ago (loved seeing you guys!!) and we're moving to Oakland in two weeks, and it's been incredibly hard for me to concentrate on that part of my life.  My husband picked up a lot of my slack, cause he's awesome, but I still felt like my mind was revving aimlessly at 5000 rpms the whole week before the ride.

But once I pried my trailer out of its impossible parking spot and loaded my horse, the fog started to clear.  The best way out of Oakland is on Hwy 24, through the Caldecott Tunnel, which is a half-mile of gut-clenching terror for me.  I am a little claustrophobic, and the lanes are just wide enough for my trailer with about two feet to spare on either side, and it's more than a half-mile long under an enormous mountain that could collapse on me at any moment, and UGH.  I hate it, but it's better than taking 580 up to the Maze in morning rush hour.

The trip to Reno was smooth sailing.  We stopped at Green's Feed in north Reno to pick up a new set of Gloves I'd ordered, plus some miscellaneous horse junk, but they didn't have any English pads, so we had to head down to Sierra Saddlery for that.  But Sierra had a purple pad!

I got to Washoe Lake State Park about 3 and snagged a prime camping spot (right near the food crew's trucks, beside the pavilion).  Dixie came off the trailer, looked around once, and dove into her food like a good horse.

The weather was glorious.  About 70, light breeze, blue sky as far as the eye could see.  I got D braided, booted, and blanketed; went over my game plan in my head; went to the ride meeting; and crashed out.  

We did the Sunday ride last year, but I'd never done the Saturday ride.  Dixie turns from the laziest plug of a trail horse into a fire-breathing monster at the start of a ride, so I was really glad to have a controlled start up a very large hill.  It's a 600' climb in about a mile, so it's enough to get her brain back online.  

My whole goal for the ride was to ride slow enough to have enough horse at the end of Sunday.  I wanted her to be pulling on the reins for the last mile into camp.  I knew I couldn't let her go as fast as she wanted at any point or she'd tire herself out and have a hard time recovering, so I just tried to keep her to a dull roar for the first five miles or so.  

At the first water trough, Dixie didn't really want to drink, but I made her stand around for a minute and catch her breath.  I'd just started out again, mid-pack with maybe four other riders, when a horse went curving around behind us at a full gallop with a saddle hanging off its neck.  Later, I heard that the rider had gotten off to adjust the girth and lost the reins - the horse took off, the saddle slipped around to hang by the breastcollar, and that's all she wrote.  The horse ran up the railroad tracks, parallel to us, weaving in and out across the tracks for a couple miles, then peeled off and headed for Dayton.  

(Dyke went out on a four-wheeler and found it that afternoon, unharmed, and got it back to camp, but watching it disappear to the east was pretty awful.)

We all curved around the back of the mountain and started a long climb up Ophir Grade - 1600' in five miles.  The lower part is steady, easy going up gravel roads, and I lost a boot in there.  It came off her front right foot but hung on by the gaiter, so I rode til I found a likely boulder and hopped off to fix it.  They were brand-new Gloves, so there was a lot of cursing and sweating to bang it back on.  

Three more people came up behind me right as I got the boot seated, and thankfully they waited for me to get remounted.  I walked toward the boulder, failed to lift my foot high enough, fell flat on my face on the boulder, and dropped the damn reins.  Dixie trotted merrily off down the trail and one of the other riders trotted after her and caught her.  She turned to come back to us with a loose horse in one hand and a water bottle in the other, and her horse did a little sideways hop and knocked her off.  I'd gotten up and moving again so I ran over and caught her horse, she caught mine, and we swapped!

After that drama, we headed on up the hill.  Gina on Destiny and Nicole on Golden Knight had detoured off down a road to see if they could catch the loose horse, but it had disappeared into a grassy little valley so they gave up and came back to the trail right as I got there with my horse-catching friends.  The horse-catchers and Knight pulled away up the hill, but Destiny and Dixie were climbing steadily at a good pace, so I just stuck with Gina.  

Look, guys, if you can ever swing riding a ride with the co-ride manager, I highly recommend it.  You never even have to think about whether you've seen a ribbon lately!  Very peaceful :)

Fire Mt. Destiny is one of those horses that just takes my breath away.  He's got 98 starts and 97 finishes.  He's a full Arab, but he's a tank who just chews up the miles at a moderate pace forever.  When I first started conditioning Dixie, I thought we'd never be able to keep up with him, so I thought he'd smoke us on Ophir and we'd see them at camp.  But Dixie just walked steadily up the entire hill with him, started drinking with him, and never let him out of her sight for the rest of the day.  

After you're up, there's nothing to do but go down.  There's two valleys/hills (they say it's three, but the third one is so small in comparison it hardly seems to matter) called the SOBs, and they almost killed me.  

I got off and walked down the first one and thought I'd tail up.  Bad idea.  It's at +6000' and while I can jog downhill or flat for miles, I just CANNOT climb at altitude anymore.  Dixie let me tail her, and Nicole passed us again and let me tail off of Knight for a bit, but I felt like I was dying (and I was really ready to just DIE already and get it over with!)  Cold chills, heart palpitations, legs made of lead.  Everybody, mounted and tailing, passed us and Dixie spazzed out and I kept having to sit down on rocks and gasp for breath and it sucked.  I rode along the top of the hill, got off and slithered down the next one, and made Dixie carry my fat ass up the second SOB.  

(Gina told me that Virginia City 100 used to be run as a giant hundred-mile loop around VC, and that you'd hit the SOBs at Mile 92, and people would just give up and sit down and wait to be picked up the next morning.  I totally believe it.)

But after the SOBs, it's literally all downhill to camp.  I got off and ran a little more, because my new saddle was causing unexpected excruciating pains riding downhill, and before I knew it, we were back in camp.  

Dixie ate a bit, and I ate a bit and inspected my bruises.  I'd let myself slide forward and bang my thighs into the pommel early on, and I had a palm-sized bruise forming on my left thigh.  But I had tons of horse left and it didn't really hurt that bad, so I hopped back on and we headed out on time.  

The second loop goes north of the park, up Jumbo Grade on the north, to a little meadow of heaven.  I stuck with Gina til we really started to climb, when a little grey Arab came trotting past and Dixie wanted to follow him, so away we went again.  The grey was trotting the steep bits and recovering on the flatter bits, but I know that's the best way to tire out my horse so I made Dixie walk the whole thing.  She powerwalked all the way up Jumbo with a few breaks to pant and refuse to eat the nice green grass, then we trotted about a mile of flat into the meadow.  

The meadow has grass, hay, carrots, and water for the horses, plus a number-taker and beer-dispenser for the humans.  We'd lost Gina somewhere in the climb, but I knew her pace was better for Dixie than the grey's pace, so I decided to wait til she showed up.  Plus, there was beer.  Nevada rides RULE!


Gina made it in about ten minutes behind me.  She was a little worried that maybe Destiny was in trouble, or maybe he just wanted to turn for home instead of going on down the trail, but I told her if she didn't mind I'd really rather ride at her pace than go on alone.  We headed out at an easy pace and finished the last big climb, then dropped down lovely Bobcat Canyon back to the park.  

The clouds were coming in, and we spent a lot of time looking at them and saying stuff like "They sure are getting bigger, aren't they?"  The last time I'd checked the weather, on like Wednesday or Thursday, there was a 20% chance of showers on Sunday, but man, those clouds sure were getting bigger.  Gina was worried it'd rain on the awards dinner, but I was still pretty incredulous.  It never rains in Nevada!  In two years there I got rained on like five times total.  Pffft.

The second check was a 10-minute hold, so I just refilled my water and hit the toilet and we were out again.  We had one more five-mile loop around the park and we'd be done.  It's maybe a mile along the lake in deep sand and the rest of the loop is flat hardpacked sand roads.  I love the "classic" split of 25/20/5 - when I'm tired and just done with it, at the second hold, I know I've only got another hour in the saddle.  It's harder for me mentally to head out a third time knowing it'll be two or three or four more hours.  

We finished the ride at 4:02, for a ride time of 8:22 if I'm doing the math right.  My "goal time" has always been 8-9 hours, so I was really pleasantly surprised.  Dixie vetted out with a 52 or 56 CRI, I can't really remember, but it was perfect for her - she's never got a low base heart rate.  

It did rain, just a bit, at the awards dinner.  We got First TWH (out of two, but it's such a sweet gesture to give breed awards and I totally cried and it's a beautiful photo) and a beautiful handmade pottery plate/dish for completion.  There was pulled pork and sweet cole slaw and potatoes and I ate til I hurt, but the food sure perked me up.  

My bruise grew to the size of my hand.  

I made sure Dixie was eating and crashed out pretty early, under cloudy skies.  

Coming up:  Sunday Funday!


  1. You rock! Congrats and can't wait to see you at a ride soon, I hope!

  2. I can't believe D got away from you!!!!! OMG - I would have died.

    Best quote of the blog: (Gina told me that Virginia City 100 used to be run as a giant hundred-mile loop around VC, and that you'd hit the SOBs at Mile 92, and people would just give up and sit down and wait to be picked up the next morning. I totally believe it.)

    Oh yeah. That would have been me.

    1. Yeah, me too! Those riders back in the 60s and 70s - they were SO tough. And they were probably riding in jeans and cowboy boots too!

      When Dixie trotted away I just slapped my hands over my face and groaned.

  3. Congrats on the breed trophy! Very cool.
    Gotta go read the next post.

  4. This makes me so happy in a vicarious "wish I were there" sort of way. Breed awards! Who'd a thunk? *LOL* Congrats. ~Jacke

  5. Great story! You made me feel like I was actually right there with you. The photos are beautiful, too. I know what you mean about watching those clouds come in. The weather predictions said the storms weren't supposed to arrive until after the weekend. Oh well, what do they know? Love reading your blogs.

  6. Lovely scenery, when Dixie trotted off...oh my! That loose horse was scary enough, so glad they found him later. I love that last loop being 5 miles, that is a truly great idea for the end when you are just so unmotivated to keep riding. Great job!

  7. Just a technical comment really. That stuff in your hand? That's not beer. That's "canoe beer." Not the same at all.

    But congrats on the great ride!


  8. What an adventure! Congratulations!

  9. Finally getting a chance to read this. I saw it on FB, but congrats again! Gorgeous pictures! And you fell on a boulder! (Eatin' rock?)

  10. That lake was beautiful! Again - so was the county - but the ride does look like it's a tough one! You toughed it out!


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