Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sunriver analysis

:taps mic: Hi, yall.

The Sunriver ride story got a lot more hits than usual, and I hope my NW visitors don't think I'm hatin' on their region.  But I don't want my blog to sound like a paid advertisement for AERC, or Easyboot Gloves, or Tennessee Walking Horses, or whatever.  I just talk about what happens, good and bad, and keep plugging along.

And I know that even the best run rides can turn into nightmares for individual riders.  My last ride of the season in 2012 was Red Rock Rumble, and it was one of the most fun rides I've ever had.  It was also an area where I've competed a lot and done a lot of conditioning, so I was entirely familiar with the trail, the way the trail was marked, the ride management, etc.  I had a BLAST.  Three new riders behind me got lost (down in the river bottom past Lynn Lloyd's where the cows always eat the ribbons - see, I knew the area) and I'm sure they had a super-shitty time crawling up the canyon to get back to camp in the dark.  If they had blogs, they'd have posted drastically different stories from mine.  Sometimes shit happens!

So I don't hate the NW or the ride management or anything.  I had Issues, and hopefully the meta-issues will be discussed among all the ride managers who run hundreds, but I'm certainly not dissuaded from doing another hundred or riding the NW.

(I do have a secret fear that when I fly up to Renegade next weekend, someone is going to tilt the brim of his or her helmet back, slowly look me up and down, and drawl "You've got a lotta nerve showing your face around here, missy.")

Now, on to my usual analysis.

I have been more sore after 50s than I was after that 80 miles.  I stayed sharp mentally, too.  Again - this is my new soapbox that I will hammer home time and again til you're totally sick of it - it's because I took care of my body.  I ate and drank all day.  Every hour, I pulled a little baggie with a hundred calories of food out of my pack and ate it, with an electrolyte pill, and I drank my whole Camelbak between each loop.  My crew took care of my horse as soon as I'd vetted her at each hold, and they made me eat the whole time I was in the check.

I'm not gonna lie, I hated it.  The only good thing I ate was some potato chips, and I made a lot of toddler yucky-faces as my crew waved different things under my nose, but I just kept picking the least-gross option and putting it in my mouth.   I don't know if I could've kept eating all night, but I think I had enough fuel in the tank to make it the rest of the way - when it got dark, I didn't get queasy exactly, but I felt like I was full and there was no more room to insert food items.

I should have carried an oh-shit bag of nighttime gear the whole ride.  I'd taped my glowsticks to my breastcollar the night before the ride, but I didn't bother to put my cantle bag on Saturday morning - I was planning on putting it on at the last hold in camp, but I suck at math and it got dark before I got back.

Things I am never again doing an unfamiliar ride without:  a backup headlamp, with a mini-roll of duct tape to stick it on my helmet.  An emergency blanket (I did have one, actually, but it'll move to the cantle bag).  A maxi pad and a roll of vet wrap, in case someone trips on a rock and needs to be bandaged.  A pack of handwarmers.  And maybe a good GPS with spare batteries - I have a wristwatch GPS, but the battery only lasts 11 hours and it won't show you how to get anywhere, just how fast you're getting lost.

Any other oh-shit suggestions?

Dixie looked phenomenal.  I knew it would be tough for her mentally, and it was - she was so surprised and angry that we were still riding well after our usual no-more-than-12-hours, but there's just no way to prepare the horse for that.  I am really glad that my mentors prodded me into making the jump up, and I encourage my other new endurance buddies to do it too.  If you want to ride 50s, quit dinking around in LDs and get up to 50s.  If you want to do longer distances, rest your horse and pick what you think will be your best shot and do a 75 or a 100.  It's ... less fair to the horse, I think, to let it do years and years of single-day 12 hour rides and then suddenly "change the rules" on it and do multis or longer rides.

Oddly, Dixie's front boots rubbed.  She's got the hide of an ox and nothing ever rubs her, so I wasn't watching as closely as I should have been.  I couldn't get the neoprene of the gaiters on her front boots to line up, and where the fuzzy velcro bridged the gap between the neoprene I got rubs.  It just took all the hair off, no bloody wounds at least, but I feel like such an asshole for not checking more often and letting that happen to her.

I am not sure if it's just the longer distance that caused it, or if there's some other issue at play - her heels are a little too high, and the boots were new and a half-size smaller.  I'm going to try wrapping her ankles with a thin strip of neoprene, if I can't get the gaiters to stretch or her heels down enough for them to fit perfectly.

The advice to "not do anything new at a ride" is always sound, but it's the peril of moving up - everything you do at your first hundred is basically new, because you've just never gone that far before.

The boots never even budged.  It was a long ride, but not really an Extreme Test of Booting - no water crossings, no steep climbs, no bogs or deep sand.  I think they'd have stayed put though.

I think Dixie's back might have been a little tender.  I don't really know for sure.  She wanted to be left alone to eat and drink that night, and she pinned her ears and thrashed her tail whenever she thought I might possibly touch her, but I'm sure she was also worried that I'd put that damn saddle back on her.  And in the morning she was not reactive, not so I could really be sure anything hurt.

Her legs had a little bit of filling.  At this point I'm blaming the rubs on her ankles for causing inflammation that spread up her legs, and I don't think it's unexpected to get a little fill after 80 miles.

Monday she had a tiny bit of rubbed flaky skin between her front legs and on either side of her mouth.  I am not at all surprised about her mouth because I was D: hauling on the reins to try to keep her below a gallop for the first TEN MILES of the ride.  I am never, ever letting this horse do an LD again; she will be instantly convinced that she can race anything, and she just can't.

Aarene's fleece seat saver made my butt so very happy.  I think I will get those fleece socks for my stirrup leathers and try to ride without half-chaps - they are hot and heavy when I get off to jog, and god knows I don't need anything slowing me down further.  (At my slowest jog Dixie just flatwalks behind me, that's how pitiful I am, but I keep steady forward motion dammit!)

At every vet check I slathered on more Butt Butt'r and that's the other thing that kept me from getting rubs.  There's plenty of products that work, but I'm still on my original jar of Butt Butt'r so that's what I'm using.

I didn't use any heat gear - I have a helmet liner, a helmet neck cover thingie, a neck sausage, and a vest, all of which have those crystals so when you get them wet they stay cool for hours.  But we were at 5000', which is the perfect altitude for Funder, and it wasn't humid, so I was fine.  I rode and jogged throughout the heat of the day and didn't get too hot.

I wore my new sports tank top (thanks again C!) and that blue running shirt I've been wearing for four years now, and I stayed cool in the hot of the day.  A hoodie in the morning and evening was enough to keep me warm.

I had an entire clean set of clothes and shoes to change into at camp, but they weren't needed ;)

My right hip got really sore toward the end and wanted to cramp up.  I really, really wanted to walk the last few miles in, but I couldn't see the ground to walk, and I knew I couldn't get back on without a rock or stump and I couldn't see to find a safe one, so I stayed on.  And Dixie never quit on me and never took a bad step!  Next week I'm going to get another spot with Becky Hart and work on my position again, and I'll probably go back to the chiropractor this week and apologize for undoing all his hard work last week!

Shit that just doesn't matter on 25s matters on 50s.  Shit that doesn't matter on 50s matters on hundreds. The hardest long-term mental lesson I'm learning this year is to take care of the small stuff before it gets out of control and wrecks my ride, or worse, my horse.

That's all I've got for now, I think.  Comments are always welcome!


  1. I love your positivity and your focus on what you learned for next time. I think that must be a great outlook to have in endurance especially. Mostly I'm just in awe of what you do and how you do it - really, really neat stuff.

    How great is it that Dixie came out so well? That is the real success story here, I think. It's all on you and your great horse care, not just on this ride but figuring out what works for her over the years. Can't wait to read about your next ride!

  2. Well, you sure have a good attitude. I think you and Dixie are on track to some very successful 100 mile events. Don't want to name them for fear it could be a jinx. But I have total confidence in Team Fixie.

  3. Maybe add a rump rug to the saddle if the weather could be cool? I approach it along the lines of "if I broke my leg and we had to stop and wait for help for several hours, would we be comfy?". Even if the horse doesn't need it, you might (remembering the Stalley's story about getting lost up on the mountain at Big Horn and not having enough clothes and one of them ended up wearing her sheepskin saddle cover like a cape).

    Dixie might have gotten a little back-tender from a) going 80 miles and b) you walking a lot of that last loop in the dark - neither is something she does on a regular basis (and it doesn't sound like it was a long-term concern).

    The trouble with us back-of-the-packers on a 100 with smaller number of entries is that you do run the risk of your ride partner being pulled and running out of others to ride with (they have either also been pulled or are ahead of you), and therefore be faced with having to do the last X mile loop in the dark on your own. I suspect it's something you need to prepare for mentally ahead of time (not at 80 miles when you're already p*ssed off with the whole situation) and say "OK - we might be slow [but as Mel put it] we could still crawl the last loop and make it in in time" (but you also need to be confident that you have the support of RM to do that).

    The bain of Tevis is all the other riders on the trail... but you know you'll seldom be alone, and the further back you are in the pack, the more likely you are to have company :)

    As far as GPS units, don't know what kind of phone you have, but I have Motion X App on my iPhone. It'll let you pre-download the maps for the area you're going to be in, so although you probably won't have internet coverage out in the boonies, you usually have GPS for the phone - unfortunately without the maps, it just looks like a blip on a blank page, so not that useful. But if you pre-download the maps you *can* see where you are in relation to the rest of the world - and use it in an emergency even if the phone battery life doesn't allow for full-time use.

    > Every hour, I pulled a little baggie with a hundred calories of
    > food out of my pack and ate it...I'm not gonna lie, I hated it...

    [snicker] (she apologized to me a couple of days ago for thinking I was supremely pathetic because I couldn't cope with the basic task of eating at Tevis... After her boiled-egg experience, now she gets it).

    Think the last paragraph sums the whole thing up perfectly.

    Good stuff. Team Fixie will go again, and you'll be even better next time, having done your 80 mile "practice". :)

    1. I think two emergency blankets rather than a rump rug. I could see how I might want to keep her butt warm and dry if we got rained/snowed on, but she has never needed a rump rug under normal circumstances and it's just extra weight and heat. Good idea though.

      I am still used to having a phone with a busted GPS chip, and I honestly never even think about using my phone GPS. I am a little jealous of yours/pft's Spot, but I'd have to be seriously incapacitated to push the panic button on it.

      At least 30% of the time today I think I should not have pulled, I should have said "I'll just wake you up when I come back at five" and walked out of that camp to finish... but I have a sound, happy horse and we'll get it next time.

  4. Your analysis is right on Funder. Those little things really add up on a hundred, and I've always said a hundred is more than two fifties. Even though this particular ride was recommended to you, the disadvantage was that you couldn't go pre-ride it, or at least practice on the last loop into camp. But I admire you and Dixie for getting in there and giving it your best. Congratulations for your effort!

  5. It's easy to second-guess tough decisions, but most often your gut choice is right.

    If you think something is wrong, you're probably right. And if you take action to avoid the thing that's wrong, you'll never see proof that you were right!

    (tipping back my helmet brim, drawling: "You got all that, little lady?")

    1. I know I'm being really conservative with Dixie, and a lot of my friends think I could do stuff a tiny bit faster/harder, but ... she's my one horse. Despite all my cussing her, I love her immensely. I don't want to start over cause I broke her: my #1 goal is "keep the horse sound." That's more important than my ride record or the distance we go or just about anything else.

      :nods: Ma'am.

    2. Sounds familiar!

      I've been told that my horse *can* go faster/further, and that's probably true...but as you say: she's my one horse, and despite everything, I like her and don't want to break her.


    3. You've got that right! Horses are number one in long distance riding! Especially when you only have one! Lots of good comments and I love your positive energy. I can sense you are already gearing up for the next adventure! Someday we will ride together. My Joe is 18 already so we better plan it soon ;) Take care lady!

    4. You've got that right, your horse is number one in the team! Sounds like you learned a lot and are looking forward to the next adventure!

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. We hope to see you at a few more rides in this area. It was fun to finally meet you IRL (and the sweet Dixie too)

    -signed the 2 redheaded horses camping across from you :)

  8. silver lining post ..that is good .. every experience good or bad has learning points I suppose. I am curious about the thoughts you have on not fiddling around with LD's if what a rider really wants is to get to do a 50. Interesting thoughts on this subject on the AERC FB page as well. I need to research it more but I have to wonder if I have gone about all wrong with my mare. She does not eat and drink well at all. The most I have ridden her was 35 miles. Some theories are that with the shorter distances, a horse doesn't bother drinking/eating because they know they will be done soon. However in Maggie's case, in the last ride we did, not having eaten or drank since the night before, I could never , with good conscience keep riding her beyond this distance. Yes , she had A's and B's at the end of the 35 miles but I have to wonder what other thoughts might be on this?

  9. Here's a comment: Come get your award!


  10. It sounds like you and Dixie improve each time you do one of these rides. You learn what works best for you and your horse, and that's what matters, no matter what anyone else says. Congatulations on another good ride!!

  11. woohoo! you both did awesome and learned a lot. I also HATE eating during 50 mile rides, and it is so much more important on 100s. I can force myself to drink a lot but the eating part is hard.
    You're totally on the right track - Go Team Fixie!
    - The Equestrian Vagabond

  12. I love this post, because it's focused on two things: The future, and how we can do this better.
    I'm catch riding right now, but I'm hoping (depending on who is available...very possibly Dazzle) to try my first 50 at Foothills this year, and you bet I'll be using a lot of your tips...mostly the eating thing. Lots of eating.


Feel free to comment!