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Roo n' me got one step closer to being a real endurance team when we completed NASTR 75 last weekend. 75 miles was a first for both of us, and didn't come without a few nerves (for me at least - Roo din't really care one way or the other <g>). We've been having some saddle rubbing issues which weren't completely resolved, so I was feeling kind of out of sorts as far as riding, having ridden the last two long rides in two different saddles (a demo Sensation and my old Sportssaddle), but opted to go back to my Barefoot Cheyenne for this ride. I was trying out some new thicker, firmer inserts in my Skito pad, and I was also demo-ing a Thinline Ultra pad over the top, in the hope that this would help the problem.
Ridecamp was at the Dayton, NV Rodeo Grounds – a big dirt lot full of stickers. Got Roo settled in and vetted through. He impressed the crowds by doing a little rear as he set off on his return trot-out, prompting the comment that we definitely had to do the 75.
My friends Dorothy and Dennis were also at this ride and we'd decided that Dorothy and her Andy would ride with me n' Roo, while Dennis would go on ahead with Bailey. Bailey is one of those horses that you just don't slow down and he and Andy just didn't pace well together, so Dennis was going to see how he'd be if he wasn't quite so constrained. Unfortunately Andy suffers from separation anxiety so we weren't sure how this was going to play out and were ready for any histrionics. Personally, I think Dennis was extremely selfish in opting to ride, when he could have spent a happy day crewing for Dorothy and I - some people <tut>.
Filling the Crew Boxes
Ride management were going to take our crew stuff out to the check for us, but we needed to take it over to the pile the night before (I knew we wouldn't have time to shuttle it over there in the morning). We spent a long time that evening trying to figure out what we needed - filling boxes and coolers, trying to work out what things we could combine. There would be a single out-check, which we'd visit three times before the final leg back to camp. One of my problems was that I'd decided to try glopping desitin all over Roo to see if that helped his armpit galling - but I only had one tube and would need it first thing in the morning when tacking up and out at the vet check. Dorothy came to the rescue with a second tube, so we were set. We took enough beetpulp + feed for all three horses (or so we thought), as well as a big cooler of people water and food. In the crew box went a variety of clothing including sweatshirts (we weren't sure how long we'd be out there) and CoolMedic vests, as well as blankies for pones in case of emergencies, my rump rug, a couple of pans, a small bucket (which D luckily remembered, otherwise it's hard to soak the CoolMedic vests), D's old stirrups (she was trying out some brand new ones and wanted to make sure she had her old ones just in case), BodyGlide, talcum powder, sunscreen, and a big sheet to spread out and dump tack on during the hour tack-off hold.
Exactly who was it that perpetuated the myth that horse-people like to get up early in the morning? Why did we have to start at 5 am? OK, so maybe it is cooler, but all the same - getting up at 4 am for a hobby is just wrong.
The dusty wind dropped overnight and had been a beautiful night out there with a big fat moon. Roo got his early morning BP + LMF + carrots and I set about putting on his splint boots. Having Bailey and Andy for company a few feet away helped greatly to keep him still and by 4:30 he was ready to go - including remembering the HRM, the desitined armpits, and my helmet (something that usually gets locked in the trailer). Unfortunately, I didn't remember breakfast, so made do with downing an Ensure This was a bad idea and I was queasy for a while afterwards.
Getting on Roo first thing can be interesting - you get on and you get moving - very fast - sideways - before regaining some semblance of control (OK, so I just hold onto the mane very tightly and do my best to stay on top). So long as we went forwards, all the energy went in the right direction and I was relieved that we weren't held up at all. Dorothy and Dennis stopped briefly to adjust something, but Roo and I kept on going and they caught up again within a minute or two.
I was surprised that no-one else was at the start, but it turns out we started about ten minutes late, so that explained that. The start of the ride was along an open dirt road and within a half mile or so Roo settled nicely and Dennis and Bailey began to trot away from us. Andy's head came up and he began to jig. Dorothy and I pretended casually that nothing interesting was happening and continued to walk and chat. After another half mile or so Andy dropped to a walk and apart from the odd whinny, and a tendency to check behind him at regular intervals in case Bailey miraculously reappeared back there, he never fretted again about his lost buddy. Just to be sure, Dorothy and I walked the first couple of miles, having no desire to meet up with Dennis at the vet check at 26 miles.
Loop 1 (Orange)
|The hard, smooth dirt
road degenerated into normal NV rocks at regular intervals, so it
wasn't like we blitzed along.
At one rocky downhill, I hopped off and walked and ran with Roo for a bit to get my knees to loosen up - four hours of riding had made them crunchy to say the least.
We were eventually caught by the first three 50 milers who'd started an hour (actually 50 mins) after us. The eventual winner passed us, but the other two ladies rode with us into the vet check.
The vet check was a hive of activity and we were dismayed to spot Dennis and Bailey still there. Dorothy hid Andy behind Roo and luckily Dennis' 40 minute hold was up and he left within a few minutes of us arriving, so Bailey and Andy thankfully remained oblivious to each other's presence.
Roo got planted in front of a pan of slurpie, which he proceeded to drool all over everything within a six foot radius of him - including our CoolMedic vests soaking in the bucket of water. During trot-out, Roo didn't score terribly highly for impulsion (it was time for a nap), but I got an A+ for animation. Connie Creech's husband, Kenny, was hard at work over the BBQ turning out hamburgers and hot dogs, so I scarfed one of those down for my breakfast. Just as well - none of the 7 or 8 food items I'd sent out in the cooler appealed in the slightest.
We got out of the vet check around 11:15, having changed into our vests and I foolishly took off my sun-shirt and slathered on sunscreen. Regardless of the fact I missed the backs of my upper arms which were decidedly pink by the end of the loop, the sun beating down on my bare arms was much hotter than if they'd been covered.
The blue loop started innocuously enough - a bit of easy uphill dirt road. We came upon a water trough fairly soon, which was confusing when we compared it to the map, as it made us look like we were about a third of the way around - hmmm, this loop's going quickly.
At the top of a downhill, we hopped off to stretch our legs - only to discover that this wasn't "just a downhill" - this was a ludicrously steep, loose rock and dirt slither. Several times Andy stopped to look back, as if to say "Surely this can't be right?"
The downhill - note Andy and
the bottom left hand corner. The wash at
the bottom followed the contours of the
hill down to Carson Valley (right)
|At the bottom of this
steep downhill, we came into a narrow, deep-sand wash that wound its
way down towards Carson Valley. The sun was bright and high above
and the white sugar-sand reflected the heat right back at us. We
were still off and walking and I tried to keep to the side where it
was slightly more hard-packed, without much success.
we having fun yet?
At one point D asked me "...so why are we on foot?" I replied "deep sand", which was about all I could manage to get out. I figure we'd be no quicker on the horses, given the sand, so might as well save their tendons.
A few months ago, I'd bought a pair of gaiters to wear on just these type of occasions - excellent for keeping sand, grit and rocks out of your shoes. Of course, my gaiters were cleverly put away in a drawer at home, which was of little use to me, but hey, at least I remembered my shoes this time.
Now it was time for some speed (relatively speaking). The next section was a fun twisty singletrack in the sagebrush overlooking Carson Valley with wide open expansive views. Sadly at this point, my main thoughts were "hot" and "deep sand" - so I wasn't exactly taking in the scenery with the amount of enthusiasm I should have been, although I did try hard. D and Andy led this section (just as well, since I would have chickened out from the sand) and set a good pace - except for the places they missed the trail and shot off into the bushes, prompting much giggling.
At regular intervals I'd get out the map and try to compare it to anything around us. As far as I could work out, the map and our current location were not comparable. We didn't seem to be on the map. So we kept following blue ribbons, kept looking out for the powerlines (which the map said we'd cross twice), and kept trotting along. Several times we came upon dead cars and for some reason, both pones wanted to inspect one dead camper van up close - not exactly sure what the allure was there.
The further we went, the weirder the trail got. The ribbons got more and more sparse and I started to wonder if someone had redirected us "just for fun". We passed a barn surrounded by junk and the dirt road seemed to be going in the opposite direction to where I thought we ought to be going (not that I could tell from the map). The sun beat down.
Finally, we came upon another water trough. Yay! We are on the right trail. Heartened by this discovery and the knowledge that we might actually know where we were on the map, we set off again, much enthused. We weren't clever enough to think of resoaking our CoolMedic vests, since we knew we'd be back at the vet check in "just a few miles" and in any case "there's a nice breeze blowing".
Immediately after leaving the trough, we dropped into a pretty little sandy wash that seemed to go up the hill a little ways. Of course, we knew we'd only be in this wash for a short while, so tried to ignore the fact that the high sides blocked the aforementioned refreshing breeze (and the sun beat down), and ignored the fact that the deep sand meant that trotting wasn't an option (and the sun beat down), and ignored the fact that the only edible vegetation was some dry saw grass (Roo didn't care - he was hungry, so had switched to "eat dry twigs if necessary" mode. I'd already fed him everything I had with me in the saddle bag) (and the sun beat down).
To deal with the heat, you zone out. You practice imagining you're back in the womb. You try to think of other things. You drink water. You look at the GPS. You look at the map. You eat a Gu. You drink some more water. You try to avoid thinking about what the deep sand is doing to your poor pone's tired legs (poor pone, who's dying of starvation at that very moment and therefore having to walk slower and slower). You wonder if that saw grass is going to cut slices out of the pone's tongue. You look ahead and try to pretend that the wash isn't really going all the way up to that mountain...
And finally it ended - we were spat out onto another hard dirt road which we followed for a short while before hitting another water trough and a cheery sign saying "vet check --->". Once again, fools that we were, we didn't resoak our vests - taking the sign to mean "vet check - just over the next rise", which of course is not what it meant at all. What it actually meant was "vet check four or five miles further down this really hot, hard-packed dirt road".
Finally we saw it glittering in the bushes ahead - just over the next rise. But it was an optical illusion - we came over that rise, and it wasn't any closer. Arrg. Roo had gotten past the "eat dry twigs if necessary" mode and was now firmly into "fed up" mode and I was having to make deals with him like "just trot to that next bush... come on... you can do it..." Needless to say, we were pretty happy when we finally got to the check at around 2:30 for our hour hold.
This was the first time I'd taken the saddle off since we started over 50 miles before, so I was pleased to see that his back looked no worse. That's not to say it looked good with its bald rub, but the area wasn't chafed and he wasn't at all sore - much to my relief. Once vetting was finished, we settled the pones in front of slurpies and left them to it - and they proceeded to eat everything we had.
We learned that Dennis had come into this check two hours ahead of us, but that Bailey hadn't pulsed down properly (black horse who doesn't sweat well - bad combination in the hot sun) and had been pulled and they'd been trailered back to camp. The good thing about this is it meant that we had more food for Andy and Roo - and we certainly needed it. When I'd packed his feed the night before, I thought I was being over-generous with the amount, but thinking back, I'd been packing for a 50, not a 75. Note to self - next time, double the amount of food I bring along. Because of the heat, Roo was less inclined to eat the alfalfa provided and really only wanted slurpie wet food.
Kenny was still hard at work over the BBQ, so this time I tried a hamburger. Once again I inspected the contents of my lunch cooler and nothing appealed - but I forced down another Ensure - the third that day. I put my sun-shirt back on, but left my resoaked vest on underneath. After an hour, we stuffed the pones back in their tack (Roo looked like he could use another hour's nap) and climbed on. We were leaving in the same direction as the blue loop, and neither pone was even remotely thrilled by this fact. After establishing with the out-timer that we were five minutes late leaving (again), we then had to jiggle and peddle and wriggle on top of the pones to persuade them to move forwards, which they began to do with tiny baby slow-motion steps.
Once out of the check, they resigned themselves to their fate and started moving normally again. As we trotted down the dirt road, I could feel one of my stirrups banging and for a bad moment thought maybe it was broken. I peered down and discovered that my crupper was dangling down the side of the horse, knocking into my foot. Erm... isn't that supposed to be around his tail? So I backed Roo into Andy, D pushed the crupper strap under his tail and I leaned backwards and was able to get it snapped in place. Roo gave us a dirty look.
Within a mile, we turned off the main dirt road onto a little side double-track. Everyone coming back from this yellow loop - including the 50 milers who also rode it - said this was their favorite section of the ride. I suspect it's because it was nice and even and the footing perfect for really opening up. The only snag is, when all parties - horses and riders - have reached flop stage, "opening up" isn't high on the agenda.
We caught up to Denise Wood and the wondrous Frolick. Denise said the mare was a little stiff, so she was going to take it really easy and walk the next loop to give her a break. Since Frolick can walk at 5 mph (<jealous>) this was a good option for her. Given that Roo had slowed to his "shuffle along, then jig to catch up" pace, and his walk was about 2.5 mph, we agreed to continue trotting and left Denise behind.
At this point, if I'd been driving a car, I would have been concerned about falling asleep at the wheel. A couple of times I shut my eyes and only opened them because it left me feeling a little queasy. Roo wasn't feeling any more motivated than I, and we dragged along behind D and Andy. A couple of times we found some grazing by the side of the trail, so stopped and let them munch for a bit, which definitely helped. Finally, when we reached the back side of the loop and were heading back in the direction of camp, D announced that what we should do is trot for ten minutes, then walk for five. I looked at Roo and told her I didn't reckon I could get him to trot for that long. I was right - after one minute of trotting, I was starting to peddle. To their credit, we did get into a regimen of four minutes of trotting and two minutes of walking - and we were going uphill. Once we crested the rise, they were a little more cheerful and as we went along the last mile of dirt road (for the fourth time that day), Roo broke into a canter and we loped along for a bit. As we were riding in, we passed several 75 milers coming out who were ahead of us, setting out on the last section back to camp.
Back to the check for our final 20 minute hold. While volunteer John Collier took his pulse, I noticed that Roo was leaning away from him with an uncomfortable look on his face - the desitin wasn't doing it's job and his armpits were getting sore. He also wasn't at all keen to be dragged from his food over to the vet to be checked out, and although he did trot gamely, the vet said he looked very stiff. This sent me into paranoid frets, worrying about the last 14 miles we still had to go.
In retrospect, I figured out several things. First of all, the main reason he looked a bit stiff was that he was trying to avoid rubbing his armpits any more than they already were, poor guy. This is probably also one of the reasons he was cantering (right lead) coming into the vet check - cantering was more comfy. The skin on the left side wasn't abraded, but was showing signs of swelling. If I'd been smart, I would have loosened his girth for the journey home and hopefully made him more comfortable, but my brain was seemingly overcooked and I never quite put two and two together. <sigh>
Secondly, one of the reasons he was so sore on that left side became more apparent when I was scrutinizing photos a few days later and noticed his center breast collar strap pulled over to one side. The loop on the girth that it clips onto had slipped to one side and was pulling the girth into that armpit. Ack! I thought back to as we were leaving on the second blue loop, how I'd put him in a little ditch and hopped on - only to realise that I'd forgotten to tighten his girth. A kind lady at the vet check tightened it for me - but I never thought to check the girth loop (and by the same token, didn't stretch out his legs to pull all the skin taut either. <grrr>). This is another example of stuff that you can get away with when doing 50s, but it can really bite you when you are out there for longer. I was lucky and got away with it, but need to be much more careful in the future.
Thirdly, looking at his desitin-smeared girth afterwards I was able to tell which parts of the girth he was rubbing on (the trim, the billet keepers, the billets...) and figure out what he needs instead. Mission accomplished - today I bought him a girth I think will work for him, so hopefully we're a step closer to keeping him comfortable.
By now it was 5:30 and the sun was a little less intense. Off came the CoolMedic vest and the sunglasses and I left them in the crew box. I stuffed a baggy of cheese slices and pepperoni and some bite-sized brownies in my pack - no horse food left to put in there. Luckily there was a pan of feed leftover from a previous rider, so Andy and Roo were able to munch on that once they'd finished their own slim pickings (I hasten to add, there was copious amounts of alfalfa available - it's just that they didn't seem to want that much).
20 minutes goes by quickly and we were predictably late (again) leaving the check (one of these days I'll get that part figured out - but suspect that I'll need crew for it to happen as my time-keeping skills are less than impressive at the best of times). Once again the horses weren't that keen to leave on that *same* stretch of road (no doubt suspicious that we were going out on that blue loop again), so we demonstrated once again their embarrassing lack of motivation.
Several of the riders we passed on the way in had mentioned that they were going to walk a good chunk of the way back. We had until 11 pm to finish and it was 6:10, so we had plenty of time, so we too opted to walk out the first part. D and I shared the brownies and I ate the pepperoni. Andy walked. Roo trudged. We lagged behind and would then trot slowly to catch up. Eventually, Andy got far enough ahead that he vanished behind some bushes, so Roo opted to canter to catch up. Two bouts of that evidently woke him up, as when Andy vanished out of sight on the next stretch, Roo set off in hot pursuit at a fast trot, down a hill, and paid me little heed when I suggested we slow down a little. And that did it for him - for the next ten miles he trotted along very happily. We all woke up and began to feel better in the cool early evening.
We turned onto the pink loop, which was a side canyon to the first one we'd been in early in the morning. This trail was really fun - winding through the trees and dropping gradually downhill. Much of the time we were on a little shelf above the creek bed. The footing was pretty good - i.e. we were able to trot most of it, just slowing occasionally for rock piles or wash crossings.
During of the second loop I'd been feeling the heat and been wondering if I was up for the extra distance (75 miles seems like a long way when you're only 30 miles into a ride and already wilting), and during much of the third loop, Roo had been dragging so badly that I really wondered if he was up for this extra distance. But as we continued to trot cheerfully along, I revised my opinion on both of us - this didn't feel so bad. Part of the problem had been that neither of us had done much heat-training as it just hadn't been that hot so far this summer. It's not that it was super-hot this day, but more than we were used to dealing with while exerting ourselves. Riding a draggy pone is never much fun and I start to plan how I could probably ride him in a halter - and then he gets his second wind and suddenly the kimberwicke doesn't seem very effective. In the cooler evening, it was starting to be fun again.
We soon caught up with Lauretta Ward and her stallion Shaba. Lauretta reported that Shaba too had lost any interest in speeding along on Loop 3 and had been pretty much unmotivated ever since which made me feel a little better. Having company evidently cheered Shaba up too, as he tucked in behind us and they rode with us for the rest of the way back to camp.
The pink loop canyon fed into the orange loop canyon that we'd started the day on, only in reverse. About eight miles from the end as we were trotting along a sandy stretch with D and Andy out in front, they slowed for a wash and Andy was so busy looking at the rocks that he didn't notice the fence on his right - until it was TOO LATE AND IT LUNGED AT HIM. Only by leaping athletically sideways was he able to protect himself from certain death. Unfortunately, D wasn't paying attention to the eye-plucker qualities of the fence and promptly fell off. I thought she'd saved it, I really did, until her foot went level with my arm...
OK, so this is a slight
cheat photo - this was taken in the morning,
but the patch of sand on the other side of the rocks is where
Andy tried to protect himself from instant death.
Andy didn't go far and D sat on the ground for a minute or so, catching her breath. It turns out that's the first time anyone's ever fallen off Andy and the look on his face was priceless. He had no clue what had happened and after that for the rest of the remaining few miles, he refused to go in front and was very suspicious of every rock and bush we passed. Roo was tired too and not feeling up to leading, but he did a reasonable, if slow, job up front. We managed a little bit of trotting, but mostly walked the rest of the way in since D's hip was hurting. At one point I looked at Roo's HRM and laughed, since he was walking along at 65 (final criteria was 68).
We finally hit the last mile or so of dirt road right as it was getting dark. We met Dennis and RM David Jewkes coming out with glo-sticks to light the way for us and Denise (the remaining rider behind us). And we came in to the finish right at 9:25. YAY!
Back at the trailer, Roo was starving and frantically stuffing hay into his mouth. In the last quarter mile, his left rear seemed to cramp up a little, so I was anxious to vet him through as soon as possible in case he stiffened up. I helped D off Andy and left her to wait for Dennis to get back, since she was too sore to trot Andy out. After letting him munch for a short while, I grabbed a small flake of hay and took Roo over to the vet. On our way across camp, I trotted him a little to make sure he stayed limber - which was perhaps a mistake as vet Susan McCartney who saw us immediately said "his pulse is a little high" <gulp>. But all was well - Roo got all As for everything except a B on mucous membranes. I was stunned. This was the same horse who was dragging the middle 20 miles and was pronounced "stiff all over" at the previous vet check.
So I was proud as anything of him - he did so good. We may never win anything, but he does such a good job taking care of himself and plugs away even when he's not overly keen. Gold star to that pone.
Will we do more 75s? Definitely. Would we do NASTR 75 again? I'm not sure <grin>. It was a definite high finishing what is regarded as a tough 75 and finishing in such nice shape, but I don't think we enjoyed the second loop enough to want to do it again (I'd definitely do the 50 again - those canyons were so much fun). But perhaps it's like childbirth - by this time next year, I may be more than willing to try again.
Many thanks to RM David Jewkes and secretary Connie Creech and their band of helpers for putting on the ride - we did have a blast, even if it didn't seem like it at times <grin>.
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