Monday, June 17, 2013

2013 Sunriver 100: Babes in the woods

This is long even for me.  tl;dr:  Another RO, no lameness or metabolic problems, horse looked very good at 80 miles.

I'd heard from several people that Sunriver was a good first hundred-mile ride:  experienced ride management, great footing, and a relatively easy ride (compared to Tevis or Virginia City, at least!).  So I'd kind of built this season around attempting my first hundred at Sunriver.  In retrospect, what a shitty idea.

When Dixie finished both days at Washoe in such good shape, I started planning my trip to Bend, Oregon, and lining up my crew.  Yes, crew!  My incomparable friends Mel and Amanda agreed to go to Sunriver - it was Mel's first time crewing, and Amanda's first time even seeing an endurance ride.

We made the 12-hour trip north on Thursday.  We stopped several times for the pretty princess to eat and stretch her legs, and we amused ourselves along the way by pointing out all the Supernatural-type motels, gas stations, and possible haunting sites.  Dixie came off and on the trailer like a rockstar, and when we finally interpreted the cryptic directions to ridecamp, she unloaded for the last time looking like she hadn't been anywhere.

I appear to attract snow.  Since it's June, and we were really tight on space, I elected to leave the Buddy Heater and my purple parka at home.  Another idea that was stupid in retrospect:  I found a snowstorm, and for a while I thought we were actually going to drive into the snow.

Thursday night was unbelievably cold for one week before the summer solstice.  The water froze, and Amanda almost froze in her big roomy 4-person tent, but luckily she came in the truck and warmed up with me.  My little nest in the backseat of the truck is cramped, yet very warm, and there's room for at least one more in the front seats.

Friday was quiet and peaceful, watching camp slowly fill up around us.  I was nervous, of course, but my horse looked SO good!  The trails looked nice and the weather was perfect.  Mel and Amanda had some stupid theory about making me pre-eat and they kept feeding me.  They took the truck and went into Bend and found some of the best BBQ smoked chicken and brisket I've ever had.  I drank several Deschutes Brewery Twilight Summer Ales, in honor of the Deschutes River around there somewhere.  (hint: I found it on Saturday!)

By Friday afternoon, Dixie looked about as good as she's ever looked.
Yall know that ~I do what I want~ and I am a rebel and a rule-breaker, so instead of following the standard advice of not trying anything new, I went ahead and crammed a new pair of size 0 Gloves on Dixie's front feet - that's a half-size smaller than her usual 0.5 Gloves.  But I've been pulling her toe back pretty sharply and her feet look really good and tight, and the 0's fit textbook perfectly.

The ride meeting was low key and laid back and I was having such a good time!  There were 29 entries that night - maybe one more on ride day?  I was so pleased that they had such a good turnout.  I met Ruth, saw Diana and Bud from ATG, saw Becky and Judith, met this cool lady M who was also trying her first 100 on her spotted TWH mare, and I'd like to apologize at this point if I talked to you and forgot to mention it!

There were no maps.  That just made me a little sad on Friday night, but at this point... I think that's a red flag for me.  If I don't get a map in the future I should pack up my toys and go home.

Dixie was a hot hot hot firebreathing mess the next morning.  I got tacked up and mounted, somehow, then headed over to the start.  We milled around a big group of fresh hot hundred-mile horses for what felt like a long time, and eventually someone went and woke up the outgoing number-taker and she got our numbers and we were off around 5:10.

Dixie yanked and fought as hard as she could for about ten miles.  She was so bad I had to one-rein-stop her a couple times, which I haven't had to do in a very long time.  I think she wanted to try to win a fifty, but she didn't realize we'd signed up for twice that distance.  Eventually, we fell in with M and Dazzle and the rest of the pack pulled away from us.  We let the horses zip through the first loop at 6 mph, then 5 mph for the second loop, and we were back in ridecamp for the first longer hold.

After hold #2, the day started to get warm.  We headed back out to repeat the first leg of the trail, back to the river check for the lunch hold, and then off to the last away check at a different location.  It was hot, but the ride's at about 5000' and the air is lovely and thin, so I didn't really have any heat problems. I mean, I was hot and I'm not good with hot, but it was easy for me to keep myself cool enough.

This is the Beer River.

The middle part of a ride always sucks for me, and I grumbled my way through the afternoon, but everyone I know who rides hundreds says it doesn't get fun and wonderful til the day cools off and it starts to get dark.  I was so excited to get to ride in the dark, letting my smart girl watch the trail and riding from glowstick to glowstick in a dark forest.

I had no illusions that I'd finish fast or even mid-pack, but I really thought Dixie and I could finish that ride within the allotted 24 hours.  At the ride meeting, Lois the RM talked about how she loves hundreds and she wants to boost attendance at them, and I know she's been running this ride for quite a while.  There weren't any cutoff times, and I thought we'd get a fair shot at finishing.

Mel and Amanda kept both me and Dixie eating good all day.  I never pushed D too hard and she didn't ever get that sad, tired, discouraged look in her eyes.  She pulsed down fast and she ate at every opportunity and I was really proud of her and how I managed her.  I was pretty proud that I kept eating, too.  And now I understand just how punchy and stupid you get by the dinner check, and how easy it is to sound like a mentally challenged three year old when offered food.

At one point they offered me a hard-boiled egg, and I thought it sounded ok, but I couldn't get it peeled.  (In my defense it was a pretty fresh egg.)  I ended up ripping it in half and gnawing the middle out like it was a tiny ovine fruit or something.  At the next check, Amanda offered me another egg, and I was like "I can't make it do, Amanda, open it for me."  She did something magical with her fingers and offered me this egg and it was the purest, cleanest, whitest thing I've ever seen.  The ride was unbelievably dusty, and everything I breathed, looked at, touched, and tasted was covered in silt - except for that egg.  That egg was like a shining white beacon of purity.

It was hard to eat that entire egg but I did.  Everything I ate was a struggle and so worthwhile.  That is my new advice to wannabe endurance riders:  you have got to learn to eat, more than anything.

Anyway so we headed out of the last away check at 6:30.  They said it was fifteen miles to camp.  My crew took my GPS from me to charge it - it wouldn't have lasted that loop, much less the whole ride.  They offered my headlamp but the day was still warm and I thought I wanted to dunk my helmet at the next water so I didn't take it.  It was only a fifteen mile loop and we'd get in to camp in plenty of time.

So away we went.  Dazzle was getting pretty tired, and Dixie was all pissed off that we were clearly riding more than twelve hours.  (This is why they say you need to get to the distance you want to ride as fast as possible, and it's why when I decided I wanted to try a hundred I just went for it immediately.)    Anyway the frontrunners started meeting us going the other way - the trail back to camp was common trail with the last loop.  Does that make sense?  We'd go back to camp down this road, have a hold, then turn around and head back out on the same trail.

The trail got pretty shitty as it started to get dark.  Not the shittiest trail I've ever ridden - I love you, Nevada, but I'm looking at you when I talk about shitty rocky trail - but not the kind of thing I'd let a horse trot down in the dark.  Gradual hills, but the trails had those foot-deep foot-wide erosion ditches winding down them, and there were random rocks scattered on it.

The RM and her assistant appeared ahead of us on a quad.  They were out hanging glowsticks for the last loop, and they were very surprised to see us.  They did not know we were still out there, and they had been pulling our ribbons to head back to camp.  And obviously not hanging extra glowsticks for us.

We soldiered on because there was nothing else to do.  And honestly at that point we were still both committed to finish.  I mean you always kind of think "well if my horse isn't ready to go on it'll be a bit of a relief to get pulled," but if our horses were doing well, we were going to finish the damn thing.

The sunset was beautiful.

I had taken a light hoodie, just in case it got chilly at dusk.

We kept meeting the other riders, and they were cool and encouraging.  Eight miles to camp.  Five miles to camp.  "When you get to the gravel pit, you're only a half mile from camp."  Twilight fell but we started to realize that there weren't very many glowsticks.

My understanding was that you ride from glowstick to glowstick at night, so when you're at a glowstick you can see the next one far ahead of you in the distance.  We couldn't see the next glowstick.  In the hour where it started to get really dark, we probably saw five glowsticks?  Nothing to do but keep going.

At some point I started taking stock of what was happening, instead of just riding and walking and watching the scenery.  I had three glowsticks and a flashlight app on my cell phone.  About 80% charge, but no reception (I left it in airplane mode so it wasn't sucking battery looking for a signal, but the flashlight app drains the battery fast so it was my emergency light.)  I checked with Melinda and her phone was dead, but she had a little flashlight on her pack.  Neither of us had headlamps, she had no glowsticks for her horse, it was cloudy with a quarter moon thinking about rising, and we had no map.  M had not had crew force-feeding her all day and she was almost as tired as her horse.

Finally, as it got absolutely really dark, we found the gravel pit.  Not a pit?  Like one of those gravel depots where the forest service stores equipment and gravel to repair their roads?  Anyway it was on the paved road, Century Drive, and we could see cars whizzing by.  Camp had to be to the right along that road but we knew better than to try to ride along it.  There were no glowsticks in sight.

I decided that we'd ride down the trail for fifteen minutes.  If we didn't see a glowstick then, we'd turn around and go back to the gravel pit.  M could hold my girl and I'd take a glowstick and a flashlight and stand by the side of the road and wave somebody down and make them call the sheriff or something.  M could turn on her light periodically and check for side roads off the main road we were on and see if there were ribbons anywhere.  I told The Plan to M and we got down to it.

There is no way in hell it was a half mile from the gravel to the camp.  I found them both on Google Earth and it was a hair under two miles.  But we stuck with the plan and eventually we could hear the cheering from the camp as the winners came in on the other side of camp.  We yelled some but I guess they couldn't hear us, or they thought we were finishers, because nobody looked for us.

Anyway we kept slowly finding glowsticks and every time we did, I checked my watch and reset my internal oh-shit timer.  I don't know if the glowsticks on Dixie's breastcollar helped her or not, but it was almost too dark for a horse to see, so I think maybe it did.  But I couldn't see to walk in and I had to ride, even though D clearly wanted me to get the hell off and do my share.

Mel had just gotten fed up with it and was about to head out and check the first/last few glowsticks when we stumbled around the corner into camp.  I gave Melinda a huge hug, cause we really did something tough even if we didn't do what we hoped to, and we went to pull RO.  Dazzle was too tired to go on, and I think Dixie had the miles left in her but I didn't have the heart to walk her down that shitty, underlit trail all alone.  I just didn't think anybody cared that we were still out there, and I thought that if I didn't turn up, nobody would come looking for us until Mel and Amanda called the sheriff the next day, and fuck everything I was done.

I don't think it's supposed to go like that.

Anyway, everybody mid-pack had already gotten pulled, so they got to shut down their hundred super early that night!  Yay for them!

Dixie vetted out just fine.  She trotted out (paced out) with a solid B for impulsion, no lameness, no hanging pulse, eating and drinking like a champ.  I'm so proud of her.  She could've finished a shitty-ass twenty-hour turtle ride.

We got her tack stripped and blanketed her, but we didn't pull her boots.  Her legs were filling just a bit so Mel wrapped them for me.  Amanda made me the best hot chocolate I've ever had in my life and I slept like a dead thing that night.

More in a while; I need to go get the trailer unloaded and go check on my badass girl.


  1. Damn. Great job for what you did accomplish, 80 long miles with a healthy horse! But even sitting at my desk I was getting discouraged by the lack of glowsticks on a dark, unknown trail. And that the RM didn't know you were out there! Out alone on a unknown trail, no map and inadequate lighting, just too much to deal with.

    There will be a better time and place, I'm sorry this didn't go as well as you hoped.

  2. Wow, just wow. I would have been pissed and frustrated they weren't better organized and nobody even noticed riders hadn't checked in yet. Glad you guys made it down the dark trail and found your way with no major injuries or mishaps.

  3. That totally sucks. As a former RM, I don't see how a RM can lose track of/forget about some of his/her riders????? There is NO excuse for that. And to have it impact your ride like that, cost you a potential completion, totally sucks.
    I hope you'll try another 100. You certainly have the horse for it, and I'm sure you can do it. Hang in learned a lot about your horse on this 80 miles, and also about yourself. You know Dixie can do it. And you know the importance of taking care of yourself. Rest up, and take aim at another 100. Don't know where you live, or if there are any more 100s in the next few months near you, but I can attest that 20 Mule Team in S. Calif. is well run, well marked, and the Ribleys WILL NOT forget about you.

  4. Wow--how frustrating. I would be super pissed, but then, I have no patience for organized events. But you put so much into this and you and your horse did so well--it really sucks that because "management" didn't give a flying you know what, you weren't able to complete the ride. So glad you and Dixie did well and came through unscathed. From a non-endurance rider's point of view, that's what counts. And I guess its still a good prep for 100 mile rides to come. Hopefully they will be better managed than this one.

  5. I'm so proud of you guys (and a wee bit choked up). Circumstances may not have given you that first hundred, but DAMN I'm PROUD OF YOU BOTH. Management in AERC needs to get a grip that support is important when you are new at anything. No matter if it is your first LD, first 50, first multi-day, or first 100. You need maps, trail markers (not everyone has memorized the trail folks). The general attitude is kind of us experienced been there done that sorts have it under control, that is the majority, the rest....well take your licks. NO EXCUSE that RM didn't know you guys were out there. What if you had been in trouble? Now I'm going to go cool off...

  6. I'm so proud of you guys (and a wee bit choked up). Circumstances may not have given you that first hundred, but DAMN I'm PROUD OF YOU BOTH. Management in AERC needs to get a grip that support is important when you are new at anything. No matter if it is your first LD, first 50, first multi-day, or first 100. You need maps, trail markers (not everyone has memorized the trail folks). The general attitude is kind of us experienced been there done that sorts have it under control, that is the majority, the rest....well take your licks. NO EXCUSE that RM didn't know you guys were out there. What if you had been in trouble? Now I'm going to go cool off...

  7. Way to stick tough in some really bad, and I am going to say a tad scary, situations. I'm extremely disappointed that they had no clue that you were still out there. I would think that being the RM, that should be the number one priority!

    I am so glad you guys made it through ok. You and Dixie are just amazing!

  8. I had always heard such "good" things about Sunriver being a great ride for your first 100. Guess Not! Congratulations to you & Dixie for getting through safe/sound & smarter than you were before!

  9. Epic fail on the part of management. *Every* rider needs to be important, be they a top tenner or a turtler. No excuse for "losing track" of you guys.

    I agree with Dawn -- 20 Mule Team is an excellent ride, having crewed it this year. (Management/vets are even cheerful when you wake them up at 3AM to vet your finishing riders.)

    Proud of you and Dixie for rocking 80've definitely got the stuff to be a great 100-mile team!

    (PS -- Some grocery stores sell *pre-peeled* hard-boiled eggs. Best thing ever.)

  10. Wait, the organizers _didn't know you were still out there?_ new to this and all, but I kind of feel like that falls into "you had ONE JOB" territory. Mistakes and miscommunications happen, but what a total bummer.

    I am really sorry the ride took such a frustrating/disappointing turn. I hope those 80 miles give you confidence to take along to the next 100.

  11. I had never done Sunriver before, and was surprised how crappy some of the trail was. I'd been told is is a relatively easy ride, but those jeep roads with the rocks and ruts were awful. I rode in full daylight and they were awful. Can't imagine doing it in the dark. Since I've never done the ride before, I don't know how it compared to previous years. I know they mentioned in the ride meeting that quite a bit was re-routed this time. Nevertheless, I don't envision it becoming one of my "must-go" rides. Also, still digging grit out from under my fingernails/between my toes. The amount of dust that was out there can not be exaggerated.

    Also, I have some dark, blurry cell photos of you at the start looking like a BOSS. OK if I post them?

  12. I'll be putting up my crewing story soon, but a couple of things I want to post here. Dixie looked better than eighty percent of the horses vetting through. I think twenty mule team would be perfect. Funder isn't exaggerating her experience. If anything this entire post is an understatement. Funder did right by her horse. I'm so sad so mad so disappointed so disillusioned. If Funder had come out od the woods never wanting to try another 100 and going to focus on multi days I think I really would have hit someone. How dare they crush my rider who was on track for a very solid first 100 finish with zero issues?

  13. Holy hell... you don't THINK it was supposed to go like that?
    I don't ride endurance and I'm damn sure it wasn't! The people who put on that ride have some explaining to do. While it won't make things right you should have your fees refunded. That is utter bullshit, to not have the trail properly marked and to forget riders!!!
    I knew a bit of this from FB but reading the blog, now I'm pissed for you.

    But, to look for a silver lining... it seems like a really good sign that Team Fixie is up for a full 100 :)

  14. You are so completely bad ass.

    I did the Moonlight 50 in Vermont with Rayzer in 2011. It was her first fifty and her first time riding in the dark. Our riding buddy who had been at our side all day got pulled at the last hold, just as complete darkness fell. The trail was rocky, but well maintained. The glowsticks were the way they're supposed to be, as you described... when you're at one, you can see the other... and we had a full moon. I CANNOT imagine riding in the conditions you just described. How miserable.

    I think you absolutely made the right call by pulling RO. With that said, I am so sad to hear that this was how your first hundred miler experience went down. It's SO depressing that you did everything right on your end and really had your horse 100% ready, only to have failings on the part of management.

    Still... you and Dixie are both amazing and I continue to cheer you on. I am SURE you will get that 100 under your belt before you know it. 80 is nothing to sneeze at, either.

  15. Wow - that is really wild! You and Dixie are badass indeed! I can't believe you could lose track of riders on a course like that - I mean, wouldn't they have a list or something? So glad that you and M made it back to camp ok.

    I guess the good news is that your crew force feeding you helped keep you a bit more mentally sharp and Dixie is in awesome condition,so you can totally complete a 100 in the future.

  16. Wow Funder what a mess. Well done you & Dixie for doing as much as you could and finishing with loads of gas left in the tank. I'm sure your next 100 WILL be much much better.
    And I'm very glad to hear that the sudden change of kit (Size 0 Gloves) was not a mistake. I was afraid I was going to read that Dixie ended up lame.

  17. Bottom line, you did right by your horse. Good on you!!! There's always more rides.

  18. Ok, I find it terrifying that they didn't even know you were still out there. That said, you and Dixie are awesome! So incredibly impressed by what you guys pulled off. You should be proud.

  19. DIXIE IS SUCH A SUPERSTAR. And YOU are such a f*cking badass. People SUCK. Suckity suck suck. And as outraged as I am (and sad and disappointed) I'm focusing on the fact that you and Dixie came out of this healthy, strong, and eager to do more. That is such an awesome awesome thing and I just know your next go will be better.

    In more positive tones, you've been nominated:

  20. Well, I think everyone's already covered what I might have said.

    You done good, Team Fixie. I'm sorry the RM failed you.

  21. Sorry it went unplanned due to something you had no control over. You will never forget this ride, that is for sure, and one day will be telling newbies all about YOUR first attempt at a 100. Hugs to you and that awesome endurance horse of yours. You two have come such a long ways!!!!

  22. It must be heartbreaking to have prepared so well for your first 100 and then to have it be such a disaster. As someone new to endurance riding, I'm blown away by your experience. Everything I've read talks about how positive the events are, and your experience is a wake-up call for me to be careful about what rides I enter and to be prepared for less-than-stellar management. Thank you for sharing your story, even though it must have been hard. I hope you and Dixie kick ass your next time out:)

  23. I'm sorry that happened. Dixie sounds amazing and y'all are going to kill it at the next one which I'm sure will be more organized.

  24. It's too bad someone thought to tell you camp was a half mile from the maintenance's a good 2 miles, all downhill, and hard to deviate from. When we saw you out there, I figured you'd make it back to camp before dark. I know the last trail was glow sticked all the way 'round because we came in just before it got good and dark.
    I'm very sorry you had such a negative experience. Other than the dirt, which is a Sunriver ride staple...this has always been a pretty good ride. My boy and I finished in good form.
    Very sorry you had such a negative experience!!

    Take care,
    Darlene Anderson

  25. Funder, here you are! I told Sherri that I was looked for you at the awards meeting but didn't see you. So sorry to hear you had navigation problems but that you and Dixie are ok. Dang and you were so pumped to finish. Dixie is amazing and you should be very proud of how you both handled the ride. This is that first notch of "Experience". It was so good to see you and give you a hug. We sincerely hope you'll come back up next year for another try at a 100 in Oregon or Washington. Congrats on your 80 successful miles!

  26. I followed it all on FB but without seeming redundant, I just wanted to tell you again how great it is to see you achieve this. You've come a long way baby, regardless of the RM messing up royally. I do hope you let someone know in the hopes of keeping this from happening to someone else. I likely would have died of heart failure, being a bit lost /stranded , in the dark in unfamiliar territory! That is terrifying. Your strength and resilience and dedication to the well being of Dixie are truly inspiring. Keep it up...

  27. I want to say nasty words to that RM for you. It's their whole job to know where their riders are and NO ONE SHOULD BE FORGOTTEN!! What if your horse hadn't been such an awesome rockstar of a horse and you or she'd gotten hurt? Dumbass RM wouldn't have realized it till all the other trailers left but yours. I'm so irrationally angry for you and I'm so sorry that your first 100 wasn't the smashing success it should have been.

    On the bright side you now know your girls got the ability to be at least a conservative 100 miler horse. That in and of itself is amazing knowledge as not every horse is cut out for that. That puts you one major step closer to Tevis and at least you know at Tevis their super vigilant about keeping track of their riders.

    All in all... count it all as a success I think. You've learned a lot about yourself and your horse and hell, your a lot braver than I for riding for time at night. I'm a retarded scaredy cat riding at night and shudder even at the thought of riding night alone. This probably means I'll never do 100 but hell I'll always cheer on those 100 miler riders and happily work my way back to 50s.

    PS, SUPERNATURAL!! *geek*

  28. I hardly know what to say. At least in a h/j ring, dressage ring, or even out on cross country show management knows WHERE I AM!!! Or at least knows that I am out on course. I hate that you didn't get to finish, but I'm certain you and Dixie *should* have finished, and finished well. Just . . . wow.

  29. Yikes, that just sucks. They put you in such a dangerous position. Glad you and Dixie came out safely.

  30. I read Mel's post and I just HAD to see your perspective too! Man, I don't blame you at all for pulling. Sounds scary...especially with no one knowing you were there. I especially liked your phrase, " The egg was like a shining beacon of purity" lol


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