So! In 2013, Dixie and I started seven rides and finished four of them. The best part of that awful record? All three pulls were rider option, not injuries.
I started off the season with yet another pull at my nemesis, the Rides of March 50 miler. I've finished the 30 there twice and pulled twice at the 50, and 2013 just wasn't my year. I had enough horse, but I was sick and only getting sicker, and the trustworthy old National Bridle saddle was starting to pinch her shoulders. I made it 35 miles before I could go no further, and she was starting to show some back soreness.
So we went home, bought a Specialized saddle, did some training miles in it, and got ready for the Washoe Valley two-day in May. The first day started off beautifully, and even the rain that moved in that afternoon didn't phase me. I was pretty beat up after a long day in a new-to-me saddle, but I got up and did it again on Sunday (with bonus sleet!). Dixie was extremely unamused, especially when it started sleeting on us that afternoon, but we got it done.
Washoe was also the first ride where I really ran a lot. I wanted to help Dixie get through her first two-day, and I'm familiar enough with the trails to know where to get off, so I ran a lot of the downhills. I remember getting off her at the top of Jumbo and slowly jogging down the whole thing, thinking the whole time that I'd run out of steam and have to get back on any minute. But I didn't - I realized I could run, in certain circumstances.
In June, we headed to Auburn for the Tevis Educational ride. It was hot as all get out, and I got a touch of heatstroke on the first day and didn't ride the second. But the educational talks were well worth the price of entry.
Getting too hot was really disappointing, but not unexpected. Heat is my kryptonite; always has been. I think this is the point where I started running on a more regular basis - I wanted to do some self-heat-conditioning, and just running fit the bill.
Two weeks after TevEd, we headed up to Oregon to try our first hundred, at Sunriver. My friends Mel and Amanda made the trip just fly by and took great care of me and Dixie, but we didn't finish. I was disappointed in myself (and the ride), but I was so thrilled that Dixie finished her 80 miles sound and happy that it almost didn't matter.
I licked my metaphorical wounds and did some endurance non-riding in July, with a trip to Washington where I got to volunteer at Renegade Rendezvous. Then I returned the favor by crewing for Mel at Tevis (who also didn't finish - I seem to have more fun than success at this sport!)
August was the much-anticipated second Tahoe Rim Ride. It's so beautiful up there! It's a hard ride, I'm not going to lie, but it's entirely doable if you ride smart. I'd been running more over the summer, and I ran a lot of TRR. Not fast by any stretch of the imagination, but I was off the horse moving forward with impulsion, and that counts, right? Dixie clearly remembered the ride, and I got this great picture of her right before the start.
"Why are you doing the camera thing already? Get on! Get on, it's time to go!"
And then we geared up to try Virginia City. We made two trips over to Reno to preride the parts of the trail I'd never seen before, then headed back at the end of September for the Virginia City 100.
It was simultaneously the most fun I've ever had and the worst experience of my life. Everything was amazing up until the point where I "hit the wall," then it was the lowest low point of a life that's had its fair share of low points. That two hours walking in the dark, when I thought I was all alone, that was hard.
But then I got back on my good horse, and she followed the glowsticks out to the road, and my friends were waiting to rescue me, and I was already plotting next year's ride as I passed out with Lucy's hot water bottle clutched to my chest like a baby. That's really The Thing about endurance for me. It can be the hardest thing I've ever tried, and it can be the worst decision I ever made, and it can be the stupidest excuse for a hobby in the universe - while I'm on the trail. But when I get back to camp I can't stop thinking about how awesome it is.
Not finishing VC is 100% on me. All of my pulls are my fault to some degree or another, but I should've had VC. The ride is really well run, and the trail is difficult but doable. Dixie didn't quite have the reserves to keep up with our friends, but I'm the one who didn't eat and drink enough to keep my head straight. I took a pretty hard fall at 50 miles, and by 70 miles everything that wasn't numb from cold was hurting, and I just didn't have it in me to keep going. NEXT YEAR, baby.
In October, I volunteered at Red Rock Rumble, then I got my tattoo.
The artist (Jonah at Temple) and I decided on that headshot from TRR as the basis of the piece, and I really couldn't be happier with it. It's objectively beautiful, and it's a tribute to my best friend Dixie. Some people with tattoos get really pissy about strangers gawking/touching/asking about their art, but me? Well, don't touch me, that's weird, but I dare you to ask! Do you have anywhere to be for the next hour? Let me tell you all about my horse.
I kept at it with the running thing, too. I wanted to give Dixie some down time, but I also wanted to be out with her on the trails, and that ended up as a lot of short (5-10 mile) rides where I hiked/ran a quarter or a half of the distance.
Some time in November, I signed up for a 10k (people!) race on New Years Day. I mean, what with all the running, surely I can finish a 6 mile trail run inside two hours, right? Right?? Anyway, that got me to shift my focus a bit. I've finally got enough long slow distance base to do interval training, so I've been doing hill sprints a couple times a week, with longer slow runs mixed in there. My focus is still on riding, not running - if I had to pick, I'd absolutely ride instead of running - but if I can do both, I will.
And then we finished out our year with the single best ride I've ever had, at GRS. I religiously did all my self-care stuff, and Dixie was just a perfect joy to ride. She never got tired, and I never got tired of being out on that trail, and we had no mishaps of any kind. It feels like it was the most boring ride story ever, because good stories require drama, but dude. So much fun.
On to 2014!
Well, first up is that 10k. It's going to be awful, but I'll get a t-shirt and some Auburn In'n'Out, and I've already paid my money, so I have to do it. ;)
I've been telling people that I was going to try Tevis in 2014 for about five years now, and it feels strange to say this, but I don't think I'm going to enter Tevis next year. It's really hard, and it's really hard for reasons that are entirely out of my control. I have a hard time keeping my shit together at the easier rides, and I don't think I have it in me to aggressively jockey for position on the Tevis trail, and aggressively cool down and trot my horse at eight - yes, eight - pulse and vet stops. It's unbelievably hot in the canyons, and the American Fire took out some much-needed shade. (It also took out two bridges, but that's not a deciding factor for me.) Maybe 2015, or maybe never with this horse.
What I am going to do in 2014 is head down to Ridgecrest, CA in February and try another hundred at Twenty Mule Team. Dixie's doing great, and I'm getting better at this stupidly complicated sport, and maybe we'll get it this time! Then off to the Nevada Derby in April, back to Washoe in May, and maybe the NASTR 75 at the end of May. The Derby is well-timed after 20MT, and I'm definitely planning on Virginia City again, and that's two legs of the Triple Crown (pdf). Go big or go home, amirite?
My friend Crysta is putting on Nevada Moonshine again after a couple years' hiatus, as a 30/50/100 this time. Riding Dixie in it is more than I'd be comfortable asking her to do, but hopefully I can sneak over to Reno and volunteer it. I didn't even enter the lottery for Tahoe Rim next year, but I'll be there anyway - Adventure will be the pull trailer again, and I'll hang out in base camp and get dinner ready for the riders, and Sunday we'll ride one of the loops and pull ribbons.
December is the month of "fantasy football" for my region's endurance riders, and I'm having a lot of fun plotting out my imaginary perfect year. Things will probably change, but I have high hopes that this is the year we get our first hundred and finish dead last in the Triple Crown. Anything else is just bonus.