I couldn't believe it at first, and I almost went back to sleep, but I'd only thrown a cooler on D so I had to climb out of bed and put her waterproof blanket on. Then I went back to bed.
At five, I was awake again. I knew I'd made a huge mistake.
In a lifetime punctuated by bad decisions, getting back on my horse in the rainy predawn gloom seemed like a top-ten bad idea. But I want to ride Tevis next year, and I want to ride Sunriver 100 this year, and I knew that I had to get the hell out of bed and cowboy up and get it done. I used my favorite mental trick and told myself I only had to ride the first loop and then I could wuss out and pull.
Dixie gave me this "oh no you cannot be serious" look when I went at her with the saddle, but she didn't bite me or kick me, and some days that's all you can ask for. It was 45 or 50 and lightly raining, so I pulled on an extra hoodie (see yesterday, re: no rain gear at all) and got one leg on either side of the horse and headed to the start.
I was planning on riding Day 2 with my friend Wayne on his firey little TWH Vader. Vader is a year less seasoned than Dixie, so he'd done the 25 on Saturday rather than try two 50s, and Vader was a fire-breathing monster at the start. We separated at the ride pics, a mile into the park, and I didn't catch up for a couple miles.
I have questionable decision-making skills at the best of times, and that morning I'd decided that since I was cold I'd just wear sweats over my tights instead of half-chaps. They rode up to my knees in about a mile and I spent the first loop constantly worrying about where my feet were, trying to keep the leathers from rubbing my calves.
Day Two shares a lot of trail with Day One, but it's all backwards from Day One so it really feels like you're riding something different. I climbed up Bobcat with Connie and Lou, and Dixie really felt strong powerwalking that big canyon. We caught up to Wayne on the downhill, then Connie and Lou disappeared up Jumbo and Wayne and I stayed together for the rest of the day.
The drizzle had slacked up on the climb, and the view was just gorgeous. The big valley to the left is the north end of Washoe Lake Park, and the tiny white dot on the near hill is a rider - Courtney on Max, I think.
But then we got to the top of the mountain and it started to snow. I am not even kidding, it totally started spitting snow at us. Happy Cinco de Mayo, Nevada style! Wayne and I were sick of riding so we hopped off and jogged/slid down the back of Jumbo. Wayne is a runner who's new to endurance, so he jogs a lot more than I do, but he's a good influence on me. The SOBs on Saturday had reminded me that I can't climb uphills, but I know I can do the downhills, so I got off every time he did for the downhills.
The climb was tough, but the downhill run gave Dixie a good chance to recover, and she felt fine when I got back on for the traverse around the back of the hills. Not a too-fresh wild mustang, but surprisingly not tired! We wound back around to the water trough where the horse had gotten loose Saturday. Courtney and Max had passed us on the downhill, and we caught her at the water, but she took off a bit faster than us and stayed gone the rest of the day. We worked through the hills, made one last climb, and ran down the mile to camp.
Dixie was down and looking good when we got in. Her CRI wasn't great, like 60/62, but it wasn't awful. She ate pretty well at the hold, and she'd been drinking good all day, and I was incredibly sore but I knew we could finish. I took off my sweats, put on my half chaps, got cold, and put the sweats back on top. The hour flew by as they always do and before I knew it we were mounted up and headed out again.
Dixie and I always get all shitty and resentful with each other after lunch. I'm used to it, so I don't even care anymore. For about an hour or two after lunch, I just hate riding and she hates going back out and we sulk slowly down the trail together. It's the part of the day where I really honestly need another rider around to help pull us down the trail. So we just sucked our way down the south end of the lake, admiring the gorgeous views and every now and then feebly trotting to keep Vader in sight.
The way I think about Day Two is: you climb Jumbo in the morning, then there's some easy stuff and you're back at camp. Then you head out and it's easy and then you have to climb Cinder Mine and that's the worst thing in the universe, but it's literally all downhill after that. So that hill we were climbing in the video is "the easy stuff." We worked our way up that thing and did a couple ten miles of mostly flat mostly ok sand roads and then there it was, looming like Mount Doom, waiting for us.
And then we went back down.
After Aerin defeats the Big Bad, the tower collapses (as they do). "The sound of the mountain tower falling was so loud she could no longer make room for her thoughts, and so she gave up thinking and blackness hurtled past her, and heavy fragments of that blackness fell with her but did not touch her, and she wondered if she might fall forever, as she had climbed, and thus perhaps become the God That Falls, or perhaps the God That Climbs and Falls." We were the Team That Runs Downhill Til The Human Can't Run Anymore and Rides Downhill.
But really, running and riding downhill is easy, even with a bruise on your thigh that's bigger than your hand from your thigh slamming into the pommel. Dixie knew we were going home, and she felt good under me, and all we had to do was switchback a couple ten miles down the hill and we were back in camp.
We had a fifteen minute hold, then another seven miles around the park. When we came in, Wayne and I were in 7th and 8th place and there were maybe fifteen riders total still in it. During my time as the God That Climbs, we'd seen a few more riders come in to the water trough at the bottom of the mine road, but we hadn't seen anybody on the long miles coming downhill back to camp. We were comfortably in 7th and 8th, and when we headed out we were feeling pretty good.
The horses set up a good but tired pace, where we'd trot/gait for 3 minutes or so then walk for a minute. We worked up the fun little winding singletrack to the north end of the park and watched a huge cloud of cold rain blow down the Sierras and over the lake toward us.
It was a short squall and it blew over in a few minutes, and the desert air had me dried out by the time we got back in. We sort of kept not-so-secretly glancing over our shoulders, waiting for someone to catch us.
When we hit the north end of the park and turned for home, the horses perked back up. They'd been trotting out easily enough when we asked, but when we were facing the trailers again they started picking up a trot on their own. In the last two miles, Crisanne and her friend appeared out of absolutely nowhere and blew past us, bumping us back to 9th and 10th place, and we had to fight to keep the horses from galloping in behind them. (MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! Enough horse left to fight about running in after two days of 50s!) We kept checking, and at about a mile out, there was one rider visible behind us.
Look, I'm not a racer. I always knew I'd never top 10 unless there were only 10 or 12 entries, and that's ok. If I wanted to race, I'd buy an Arab and race. But top-tenning would just be the icing on a very sweet weekend, and we were far enough ahead of the lone rider to make it, and... well, we let 'em trot the rest of the way in to top-ten.
I threatened to make Wayne rock-paper-scissors me for placing, but he didn't have a First TWH award and I did, so I let him take 9th and I got 10th. We finished at 4:10, three minutes faster (15 minute hold vs 10 minute hold) than on Saturday.
Dixie was HANGRY (that's when you're so hungry you're angry) so I took her by the trailer first. I stripped her tack and let her stuff her face, and when she came up for air I dragged her over to vet out. It was undeniably the worst trot-out I've ever performed and I don't know if I even managed to run fast enough to make her trot, but she looked good. Her back was all A's, with just a little bit of puffiness where I need to shave the edge of the saddle pads down a bit. Her final CRI was 52.
And we got loot! Turned out we were first middleweight too, so I ended up with a big mesh thing - I think it's a cooler? Cause it's not fitted like a fly sheet? and interference boots and a logo'd bag that I stuffed a set of boots in. Plus Steve finally gave me our awards for last year's NEDA rides - Dixie got 10th high mileage horse (and I'm super proud of that, considering we only rode half the available rides) so I got a plaque, a NEDA tee, and a gift cert that I used on a big sturdy hay bag from Henry.
And I cried. I could not stop giggling and crying. She looked SO good and she did SO well and my horse is just a stupendous badass.
Tomorrow I'll post some more: gear review, plans, the trip home, but I've got to go do boring real life stuff now.
TEAM FIXIE FOREVER!