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.
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.
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.