Tuesday, May 7, 2013

2013 Washoe Valley II 50

I woke up at 3 am when the rain started.

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.

Seven intrepid fools riders were assembled at the start at 6:30.  Twenty-one ended up starting, but the number one secret to endurance riding is to leave camp as soon as it's time - start on time and get the hell out of the checks on time.  It actually paid off for us on Sunday!

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.

That black thing.  That's Cinder Mine.  You drop down into a valley, then climb up an absolutely endless gravel road, then you pass the mine and climb the rest of the way up an endless rocky jeep trail, then you're at the top of the universe.

Last year was hotter, and Dixie was less fit, and I thought we'd never make it.  She did her dead zombie horse plod, and she'd stop and pant and quiver every hundred yards, and it felt like we'd never get there.  This year, Dixie was just as unhappy about the climb, but she just. kept. walking.  Wayne was leading Vader up the hill, and he'd stop and pant every half-mile or so and Dixie would stop too, but she never asked to stop and she'd often get bored and start walking again.  She was such a rockstar.  

One of my all-time favorite books is The Hero and The Crown by Robin McKinley.  There's this one bit where Aerin, the heroine, is climbing an endless stone staircase in a tower to confront the Big Bad, and she's got a rash.  She's trying not to scratch the rash, and she's trying to keep plodding up the stairs, and she's thinking about the silly names of the gods in her pantheon.  "She had been climbing forever; she would be climbing forever.  She would be a new god:  the God That Climbs.  It was no more improbable than some of the other gods:  the God That Isn't There, for example (more often known as the God that Follows or the God That Goes Before), which was the shadow-god at midday."  

We were the Team That Climbs.

 The views were astonishing, though.
 That's Carson City.
 And the Sierras, where we'll be the Team That Climbs again for Tahoe Rim.
 Even Wayne gave up and got back on eventually.

 And finally, we were up and over to the water trough.

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 bit of a low point emotionally.
 The rain hit and it turned out to be mixed with sleet.  Dixie was irritable and furious about the rain and I couldn't let go of the reins long enough to get my (totally inadequate) hoodie un-velcroed off the pommel and onto me, so I just rode through it in my yellow long-sleeved running shirt.  I figured if we kept trotting, I wouldn't die of hypothermia before we got back to camp.

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.



  1. Congrats you two! Dixie looks fantastic after two days, and weather notwithstanding, sounds like you had a great ride!!

  2. These posts made me smile happily.

  3. Nice. But you mean Team Dixie (not fixie( right? Lol.

    1. Funder + Dixie is Fixie! (Or Fuxie, but that really doesn't sound right, or Dinder, and that's just not very good either...)

  4. That is freaking awesome! I really want to try this, you are an inspiration!

  5. 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.

    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

    AMAZING. And quite stupendous badassery, as welL!

    And yeah...Fuxie and Dinder do sound silly. Go team Fixie!...which is nothing like one of those hipster fixie bikes I hope ;-)

  6. Yay Team Fixie! So happy for you.

  7. Oh, I wish I could give you and Dixie a big hug right now. I am so very proud and happy for both of you! To say you did a good job, doesn't even come close. You two are ROCK STARS!

  8. Oh, I wish I could give you and Dixie a big hug right now. I am so very proud and happy for both of you! To say you did a good job, doesn't even come close. You two are ROCK STARS!

  9. Getting up to put a rain sheet on: tough.
    Getting back on the next day after 50 previous miles: difficult.
    Dragging yourself up that nasty cinder hill (I remember your story of it last year too): climbing hell
    Watching the rain storm blow in: You have got to be kidding me.
    Finishing the second day: Priceless.

    So awesome for you both, and Dixie is a multi-day horse!

  10. I couldn't be happier for you guys!! and the icing on the cake was that you had me giggling throughout the entire post.... because what you say is so true! yeah we are endurance riders but we don't like getting rained on we don't like getting up early and sometimes our horses are pissy in the afternoon...or is that just us who ride mares? Anyways, hearing about you and Dixie going for a weekend like this is almost good doing it myself. In fact Farley probably prefers it this way... anyways I'm practically jumping up and down and squealing for you guys

  11. Wow, top 10?! Congratulations!! I'm so happy for both of you, and what a great weekend all around!

    You endurance folks are a special kind of crazy! I mean that in the most complimentary fashion possible, by the way! :)

  12. This post brought tears to my eyes. SO friggin' awesome!! Proud of you two. :D

  13. Love the Hero and the Crown analogy! Apt and inspiring. Congrats!

  14. I think you and Dixie are both REALLY tough!!

  15. You. Are. Both. AWESOME!

    (and now i've got to edit some chapters to send to you....but you are SO AWESOME!)

  16. "but she didn't bite me or kick me, and some days that's all you can ask for"

    Sounds like you got a lot more than you asked for. Congratulations!


  17. Congrats!! You know you're an inspiration, don't you?

  18. Awesome!!! Congrats!!!
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your trip reports, too. Wow. I'm am impressed and amazed at the two of you. What a team!


  19. I grinned all the way through these two posts! Brilliant!
    Team Fixie Forever

    (Fuxie sounds a bit rude. And Dinder? Naw.)

  20. Fantastic! Enjoyed every minute of this ride with you! You tell it well. Pictures were awesome! Go, Dixie!

  21. Leave it to me, I saved the best - your ride story - for last! Much Congratulations on your back to back 50's! The storm was beautiful in the photos, even if wet/cold on you!


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