October 29, 2014

So What Next?

I must admit - I haven't ridden since the 50. I always give Gem a week off after a ride. Even for LDs when most people are back on a day or two later, she gets a week off. I figure it is only fair after having asked so much of her. It lets her mentally chill back out, any sore muscles can relax and she won't lose that much fitness in a week. If I ever venture into 75 or 100 mile rides, she will get an entire month off just to be a horse in her 35 acre pasture.

But that isn't the only reason for my hiatus. I'm feeling very much not motivated right now.

For the last 10 months my sights have been firmly and unwaveringly set on doing a fall 50. It is what got me out of bed at ungodly hours to spend precious hours away from my son riding alone through the woods. It made me push myself and Gem. And now that the deed is done, I feel deflated. Other than some minor tweaks, overall her performance was beyond my expectations and so I don't have the same level of stress to get me on her and get her going. Yes, with some more speed work and conditioning we could very well top 10 and with her CRI the way it is and her trotting so beautifully at the end we might even stand a chance at BC, but I don't really care to do either of those. An 8 hour 50 is just fine for me.

Don't get me wrong. I'm elated at the completion, her CRIs and our time. I'm so glad I made new friends that hopefully I can catch on the local trails from time to time. But having sought this one goal for so long, now I feel no push to get in the saddle today. What difference does it make if I ride today or tomorrow or next week? We have nothing to strive for right now.

It doesn't help that a look at the calendar shows no options for me until February. Right now I need to maintain fitness more than gain it and that won't require too much. Heck, to gain it I rode pretty much only once, maybe twice, a week all summer and she still pulled off what she did. She doesn't need many miles to get ready.

It also doesn't help that the evenings are now dark before I get to the barn which eliminates any chance of riding during the week. I'm going to use my week nights to start running to build my own core and lower body strength for the next 50. I owe Gem a better ride.

I've been toying with the idea of taking dressage lessons over the winter. It may help make her more ratable and might just help with her insanity at ride start. I don't own an English saddle though and feel kinda dumb doing it in my western based endurance saddle. I'm sure it can be done, but I have other reasons for shying away from this. Mainly, past experiences with bad trainers. My spare time is very limited too, so a weekly lesson means no trail time and I desperately need trail time for my own sanity. It is a trade off and I'm not sure the price is worth it.

What I think is a better and more feasible idea is to hit some of the winter hunter paces. They are close, way cheaper and a lot of fun. It will also give me a ride like start (they are staggered by 3 minute intervals down here) and I think more exposure to that will help us tremendously.

I'm sure I will get on her shortly. I just need some horse free time right now.

October 28, 2014

Hydration or Lack Thereof

As I have pointed out, Gem was behind in hydration from the get go and the amount she took in was just enough to keep her going. But it wasn't pleasant watching her peripheral clues slowly diminish at each check. To briefly review, her skin tenting went from B to B- to C and cap refil from A to A- to B.

Afterward I talked with the vet a bit about it. I was worried because that is what I do and she was not. She pointed out that her gut sounds remained a loud and clear A in all four quadrants throughout and with her amazing CRIs, there was no way she was that dehydrated. But still....

I believe that she started out slightly dehydrated (reason she began drinking at mile 4 versus her typical mile 10-12) but the question is why and what could I do differently?

I think the first mistake I made was when I loaded her up. It was early and she hadn't had breakfast, so I fed her at the trailer prior to loading. I do this frequently so that she has something in her stomach for the acid to work on during the trip. But then we went 5 hours and she refused the bucket when I stopped to pee and again when I stopped for gas. She drank fairly well at camp, but not nearly enough.

I had always used Finish Line electrolyte paste in the past. With her history of not eating well, top dressing them on her grain isn't a good idea. Lately, however I have been giving her Grand Vite and she eats the powder readily. When I went to Biltmore in July I looked at the ingredients and it had everything the Finish Line did, in larger quantities, minus sodium. For that ride, in much sunnier and hotter conditions, I added table salt and mixed with homemade applesauce giving her a scoop morning, hold and after. Her hydration stayed at an A for all parameters all day with much less water available, not eating during the hold and at a much slower pace (5 1/2 hours for 25 miles). With that as my prior experience, I planned to do the same for this ride. Only it didn't seem to do her any good. In fact, when she didn't drink the entire second 20 mile loop, I bought some new stuff from Running Bear at the second hold. It was too late though since pretty much hydration is determined in the first 25 miles of exertion and she was already depleted.

Finally, I fed dry grain. I know everyone feeds a wet mash, but I had never had any success getting her to eat period. When we did the first 20 mile conditioning ride and got lost for 5 hours, the light bulb went on for her and she ate readily at the trailer. Ever since when we ride and she gets offered grain, she eats it. But it also has to do with the grain itself. I've always fed her a high protein low starch grain, mostly Strategy or the generic form of it, but this new barn feeds a sweet feed I've never heard of. It is still a 12% feed, similar to Stategy, but is covered in molasses and man does Gem love it. She has never refused it yet.

So what am I thinking of changing? A lot. Scientifically I know that you should change one thing at a time, replicating all other variables, so that you can hone in on the one ingredient that changes it all. But I'm not going to follow that rule. I'd rather change a lot and never know what is essential as long as something is working. Of course, keep in mind I also really really love keeping things as absolutely simple as possible.

  • Wet the hay. She chomps down during the entire ride and will empty her hay bag given enough time. If I get her used to wet hay, this will give her some water during transportation, but since it isn't a super long drive or a ton of hay the risk of mold is pretty nonexistent as long as I always remember to fully dump the bag.
  • Go back to Finish Line paste. It has always worked for me in the past. Is endurance friendly without bicarbonate, and easy to give. I can still use the Grand Vit as a top dressing the night before and after the ride to make sure she gets all her vitamins in. As an aside, she doesn't get any on a daily basis due to being fed in the pasture with others and playing musical bowls (the reason she doesn't get different grain as well), but I always give it to her when I ride and the entire week leading up to a ride.
  • Using the paste also makes carrying it with me on trail a heck of a lot easier. The applesauce is messy and gets everywhere. If I had any on me, I would have given her some on trail around mile 10/30 or so when I started getting nervous about her lack of drinking. I'm against electrolyting when I'm uncertain how much water is available. The thought of shoving sodium down her throat and then leaving her without water for an hour makes my stomach turn. But this was the same portion as the first loop and I knew there was plenty of water for her. Even had she not drank then, it might have kicked in at the hold and made the last loop better.

  • I'm going to spend the winter getting her mash friendly. She isn't incredibly picky, but isn't going to gobble down something just because it is in front of her either. I don't intend to make it as soupy as some I've seen where it is more water than grain because I still have a lingering concern over her not eating, but even damp is better than dry.
Hopefully the vet is right and her skin and cap refill were inconsequential in the grander scheme of her hydration status. I don't want to take any risks though. The next ride I can even try to make is in February, so I have plenty of time to make the above changes.

October 27, 2014

Winner, Winner!

In all my posting, I forgot about the most important thing!!

My give away winner.

Our official time was 8 hours and 8 minutes and that makes LIZ STOUT the winner :)

Liz - please email me your physical address (agemofahorse@gmail.com) and I will get your signed copy out to you ASAP.

Thanks for those who played.

October 26, 2014

The First Long Loop

The Universe has perfect timing.


Right before I sped off to TN, Endurance News showed up at my door. I leafed through it looking to see if the articles had any pertinent information and low and behold one article screamed out at me. I read it closely and spent some time mulling it over before I put it away for another day, preferably after the 50.


The article was about the apparently new trend to put long loops (defined in the article as 20 or more miles) at the beginning of 50s. Since I knew that my ride had a beginning 20 mile loop, this caught my attention. The article was very biased, as most non scientific non peer reviewed articles tend to be, against this new trend and laid out a nice argument.


Basically it pointed the finger at RMs and riders wanting the ride to be easier, have no or less away checks and be cheaper to boot. It went on to detail how it was extremely detrimental to the horses themselves. The most poignant remark they made, or at least the one that hit me the hardest, was pointing out that in a 25 you have a hold in the middle and didn't expect the horse to do the entire thing. So why make the horse basically do an entire LD before the first check?


When I read it, I found myself nodding in agreement eventhough I had no experience with loops of this length. Unfortunately, it added another layer of pre ride stress to my already pretty fried brain. I even nearly wrote a post about it, lamenting about how cruel it was to continue putting on rides this way.


But, I stopped myself and instead focused on the task at hand and rode those long loops.


And you know what? Now, with a tiny bit of experience behind me, I don't find myself agreeing so whole heartedly after all.


There were some pretty good arguments in the article and I'm not saying that I love these long loops, but it did work out very well for Gem. Having such a long first loop was best for us for several reasons:


  1. It allowed us to get the kinks of ride excitement out of our system and calmly go down the trail, getting into a lovely groove. Had the loop been only 10 miles we might have come in still anxious and hot, not settled well at the hold thus not eating or drinking and getting even more out of control. Gem eats and drinks splendidly after 20 miles, but doesn't feel the need after only 10-15 and sitting at camp not watching her eat is very stressful.
  2. Less holds. For me the holds are stressful. I'm on my own and for those who always have help, please take the time to thank those wonderful people. Maybe do a ride without so you can fully realize what it is they do for you. Less holds meant less time scrambling around, fewer vet checks so more gauranteed miles as we made if through (even had we got pulled after the second hold, we still would have gotten 40 miles in), and a more relaxed atmosphere.
  3. I know the article did its best to kill this one off to, but I liked the longer distance because it did separate the group better. A 10 mile loop will still see a lot of horses bunched up and this kills your hold time pretty substantially. Prior to this ride, I had not ever experienced a line at vetting and so when I had 10 minutes eaten away standing in line, I was quickly growing worrisome. The second loop had a barren vet check and the end? No one else was in sight.
  4. On that note, less checks also means more time available for forward motion. We had two 50 minute holds and so that left 10 hours and 20 minutes for motion. If we had had shorter, more numerous loops with 50 minute holds, less time overall would be available to move down the trail. The pace would have to be faster to make up for it. Yes, you could probably withstand a faster pace because you were out there for less periods and had more forced rest breaks, but for us having the time to spend on the trail was nice.
  5. It taught Gem to just keep moving. When the loop is shorter there is a tendency, at least for me, to mentally break down easier. Counter intuitive I know, but hear me out on this one. When I have 20 miles to go, I mentally kick myself in gear to put the miles behind us as quickly as possible. That large distance is looming ahead of us and so, while I give Gem time to eat and drink on trail, I am always keeping up the pace. Gem seemed to blossom under the steady pace. On shorter loops, it would be easy to mentally slow down because "it's only 10 miles"
  6. And finally, it was less saddling up. Each time we came into camp, Gem thought we were done. She has no clue if be are doing one, two, three etc loops that day. When she rests, it could be for the day or for a short time. Then I re tack and we head out and she starts slow and sluggish. With less holds, it meant more time with her locked into the task at hand: move down the trail. It was less risk of her shutting down and giving up for the day.
Now, I don't think the longer loops are all sunshine and roses. If your horse isn't doing so well, it is a long time to be out and about. If your horse isn't eating or drinking well, you are spending far more time away from the amenities of your crew/camp.


Gem was behind in hydration from the get go. No water was specifically placed on trail, but it wasn't needed. The creek was never far away and the recent rain had left large and very frequent puddles along the trail. In fact I dont think a single mile went by without the chance for a good hearty drink. Gem drank heartily the entire first loop beginning at mile 3 or 4 and didn't slow down the entire time. And yet we still came in with a B for skin tenting and I watched it plummet with each hold thereafter. The question is why and would it have been different had we come into camp and hour to hour and a half sooner?


I don't know the answer, but I suspect it wouldn't have made a difference. I think she was behind from the trailer ride and overnight. She finished a bucket over night, but that isn't all that much and I would have been happier had she finished a second one. I also believe that my elytes were useless. She never drinks before 10-12 miles, so the fact that she started at mile 4 showed me started thirsty and we weren't going to catch up.

Had we been shooting for a 75 or 100 we would have never finished.


But I don't agree with the article saying that a shorter first loop would have helped. Like I said, she drank very well and frequently. An additional hold wouldn't have helped much.


So those are my thoughts. For those of you who are experienced in endurance, what are you experiences and thoughts? Do you like shorter, more numerous loops or longer and fewer?



October 24, 2014

After Thoughts

Well...there you have it. Gem was almost a rock star, minus that whole bucking-throwing-me-in-the-dirt thing, for the entire trip up and back. Me? I had mental issues, but fortunately I worked through them and managed to have a great time and make some new friends. Would I do it all again? You bet!!!

I didn't completely follow the golden rule of not trying anything new on race day. Sometimes it just doesn't work out that way, but all in all I am very, very pleased with how things worked out. Some things do need tweaking for the future, so here is my list of what went well versus what didn't.

Things That Worked

The absolute best thing I did all day was use Body Glide on Gem. In the past, I have battled girth rubbing and someone suggested I try it. I had never tried it before and thought it couldn't hurt, so I lathered up her armpits and the front edge of her girth area before the ride and at every hold. 50 miles later - not a single rub, sore spot or lost hair. Yippee!!!!

A sports bra. I'm not particularly well endowed and I've always gotten away with just my usual bra for rides, but for some reason I grabbed the sports bra before leaving home. In as much as you can love a vice grip on your chest, I liked the feel of it during the ride and will not go sans sports bra again.

The Camelbak was perfect for me and since I had the fleece vest and then a higher collared long sleeve shirt for the entire ride, I had no chafing issues. I drank the entire 2 L bladder the first loop and then split the next 2 L on the last two. I was never thirsty and I completely avoided the post ride headache I typically get.

Nature Valley Chocolate Pretzel granola bars were a life saver out on trail. I shoved one in my Camelbak and made myself eat it at the 2 hour mark each loop. It had just enough sugar and salt to go down easy and perk me back up, plus it was satisfying enough to last until camp. I will have to remember to bring these along again.

Gem's saddle, girth (cleaned and much softer), Reinsman pad and halter/bridle.

I am always amazed at Gem's hooves and this ride was no different. It was rocky with those palm sized rocks that fit perfectly for a sole bruise and yet 50 miles later she didn't have a single off step, chip or crack. In fact her feet looked as though I has just trimmed them to perfection. Ssshhh....don't let on that I don't ever trim or rasp her...ever...last time the farrier was out was in February.

My Irideon tights got destroyed after Biltmore and I waited entirely too long to replace them. In fact, the exact model I had was a special addition for Rolex that year and are no longer available, so I picked the Issential line and went for it. They arrived the day before I left and the first time I wore them was for the ride. They fit well and were super comfortable for those hours in the saddle.

Gem gobbled down her grain all day which is the reason it gets on the "worked" list. I'm just happy she ate anything since in the past she refused.

My eating was pretty much the best yet too. I ate the shaved rotisserie chicken breast which was easy to eat one handed, sat light in the stomach and provided needed protein. The granola bars count here too. I drank a ton of water (see above) on the trail and supplemented with Coconut Water at the holds for elytes and sugar. I was never hungry feeling, but also never felt tired and full.

Things That Didn't

My reins. The reins came with the halter/bridle and are a lovely nylon webbing in black and red. They provide a great grip and I have never had her pull the reins out of my hands. Unfortunately, they created a massive blister that extends from the distal to middle joint of the ring finger on both hands. It hurt badly enough that I stopped at the Running Bear trailer to buy a set of biothane reins at the first hold. She only had rubber reins (looked more painful than mine) or biothane reins with nylon webbing, so neither would work.

Snaffle bit. Gem is definitely getting herself a Kimberwicke over the winter.

Her grain  goes in this category too because while she ate it all hungrily, it was dry and didn't help the hydration issues we had. I was so pleased she ate anything that I happily let her go, but now that I know she will eat I am going to slowly get her used to some mashes.

I've never had an issue with her hydration before, but even though she drank a ton that first loop we were behind the 8 ball, so to speak, beginning with the first loop. I bought new elytes after the second loop, but by then it was too late. I think I will return to the Finish Line brand I used up north and had worked really well. Also, in the future I will bring a tube along with me to use on those longer loops if she decides to fall behind. I don't want that salty mixture sitting on an empty stomach though, so will probably only use it on trail if I know there are plenty of opportunities for grass.

Things I'm On The Fence About

Crew spot. I made the decision to walk back to camp for several reasons. One it would be easier for me to get things done if she was in her pen and I had two free hands. Two I would have complete access to everything I brought with me, so I could easily change things up if needed. Three she tends to be a royal PITA at crewing when there are a lot of horses around. She walks all over the place and tears down the tent and pays more attention to everything else and less to things like eating, drinking and resting. This crew area was much less frantic and she might actually have settled down well. The downside to going back to camp was the 12 minutes it ate up each hold walking back and forth. It made her move more and rest less, so in the end I really don't know what I should do. If I had crew I would lean more towards staying fi she looked content and chilled, but when I fly solo it is hard to hold her and get anything else done (like eat, pee or refill my camelback bladder)

Overall, I am thrilled with her and the ride. She gained strength throughout the day, pulsed in amazingly well and even behaved at the trot outs. Her feet were like concrete and without steel we actually slipped less than most out there. I think our conditioning was adequate for the task and those trails were not beginner friendly in any sense of the word I have ever known.

I would recommend the ride to anyone though. The ride staff was amazing and once I stopped to smell the roses, the trails were superb. She most likely will hold it again next fall and even hinted at a possible spring ride. Get your entry in early though - camping is very limited.

October 23, 2014

Barefoot Shine And Wine 10/17/14: Friday

At 4:30 in the morning, I finally gave up any hope of restful sleep and dragged myself out of my warm cocoon to put my muddy boots on. When the tent opened  blast of cold predawn air hit me, but what actually took my breath away were the hundreds of brightly lit stars still filling the sky. It was ride day at long last!!

I buzzed around camp getting everything ready while Gem ate her breakfast.. With a full Camelbak slung over my shoulder, we wandered over to the start. The one thing I really need to get used to in the SE is the pre-ride check in. In the MW the trails just opened and off you went as you saw fit, but down here everyone has to be at the start 15 minutes before. I stayed on foot until the trail opened and then watched as everyone scampered out of camp and down the trail, each with their own dreams, fears and goals in mind.
All tacked up and ready to go

Once the last rider was out of sight, I hopped on up and headed down the trail. All three loops began on a paved road covered in loose gravel and immediately headed down a short, steep downhill. I wanted a controlled trot. Gem wanted to gallop. I won. Briefly.

At the bottom of the hill was a sharp 90 degree left hand turn into the woods. Fearing that people might miss it, the RM stationed herself in front and guided everyone in. We turned left. And then the world exploded. The best I can figure is that Gem took the opportunity to ditch the annoying fly that was holding her back. She leaped over a large rock spanning the entrance, dropped her right shoulder and bucked. I, very ungracefully and very much not happily, flew over her right shoulder and landed with a thud in the mud. Right in front of the RM. She came running over and helped hold my idiot mare as I just about as ungracefully re mounted. What a start to the day!

Well, I figured that the worst was probably over with now and it was a great way to leave an impression 100 yards away from the starting line. Then I remembered that she dumped me during our first 25 together (although that was around mile 20 or so). I didn't recall agreeing to this tradition.

As we moved on down the trail I was tense, slightly miffed (ok...very miffed) and my mood wasn't much improved from the day before. It was looking like a long 50 miles. I made note of the trail as well. What had been described as "beginner friendly, few rocks and no hills" was panning out to be very much the opposite. The trail was strewn with palm sized rocks, slick mud and deep erosion lines from the previous week's rain. The rocks were easily displaced and Gem was slipping and sliding a lot more than I was comfortable with. She was locked onto the horses that she knew were up ahead  and I spent the first 2 miles fighting to keep her to a dull roar and praying that we wouldn't fall in the slick conditions.
Blurry, but there are a ton of rocks, mud and slick leaves

Two miles in we caught up with the riders in front of us. They asked if we wanted to pass, but I was happy to stay behind and asked if they would mind us tagging along at a safe distance for a while. They didn't and Gem and I settled in about 2 horse lengths behind them and cruised along.

Unfortunately, their pace was much faster than I had wanted and I quickly became worried that we wouldn't be able to keep this up for very long. At the 3 mile mark we found the creek that we would follow for the next 5 miles and they peeled off to offer water to their mounts. I decided to push ahead to see if I couldn't create a bubble of our own and focus on a more sedate pace, but they quickly caught us again when Gem stopped to drink/stall at a puddle.

I sighed and settled back in behind them mentally preparing to get pulled at the first hold. I didn't see how we could keep this pace up for 50 miles when we didn't train at such a pace, the footing was slick in most spots and deep in others and her bare feet were bound to get destroyed with all these rocks. And then the hills (that weren't supposed to exist) began. They were blissfully short, but I don't think I've taken Gem up anything as steep as those before. They were near vertical and she huffed, puffed and did her best to propel us upwards while the rocks slid out from under her straining feet.

I got off a to hand walk her up the extremely steep hills. It helped to stretch my legs out too
About this time I thought it was only polite to introduce myself to those leading the way. I am so very, very glad I did. It turned out that they were a husband/wife team who lived very close to me and trained on the same trails. They were extremely friendly, helpful and turned out to be the best trail companions. Of course, at mile 4, I didn't know this.

We sped away along the trails and honestly the first 10 miles are a blur filled with mental decay on my part as I yelled and screamed internally at the pace, the footing, the hills and life in general. I was unhappy even though I was spending a beautiful morning out on gorgeous trails with new friends and if that kept up we would definitely be pulled at 20 miles.

But then something magical happened at mile 10. I got my head out of my own ass. I don't know what finally forced me to do it, but I am sure the unflappable husband riding ahead making comments about how much he liked Gem and the solid riding of his wife had a lot to do with it. Whatever it was, it stuck with me the rest of the ride and I relaxed, breathed deep and enjoyed myself for the first time since I had left home. Gem was enjoying the pace quite a bit (much to my surprise) and kept right up with the other two. We leaped frogged our way down the trail with me leading a ways here and there, but mostly I tried to stay back and not intrude on their day. We talked some, kept quiet a lot and just kept going forward. Gem drank at every single water puddle, stream crossing and creek  and ate all the grass she could shove in her mouth along the way.

Before I knew it, the first 20 mile loop was behind us and we were approaching camp.

The only part of the entire trail system that I was not fond of happened to be a part we would do 8 times that day. When you came in off the trail you had to go down the gravel/paved road about a quarter mile to a large gazebo that housed the timers, then walk back down that same road to vetting. Once the hold was up you had to go back to the gazebo to start the next loop which took you back past the vetting and down the steep hill to the woods. It was a lot of time on that darn paved/gravel road.

Anyway...the first hold was here and I quickly dropped tack. Even with the fast pace, Gemmie was not sweaty so I opted not to sponge her with the frigid water to avoid cramping. I didn't have a heart rate monitor, but knew she had to be down to at least the 64 mark, so I hopped in line for the vet. She pulsed in at 40! The volunteer taking pulses was very impressed. Unfortunately, the LD riders came in off their first loop at the same time, so I wasted about 10 minutes of my hold waiting for the vet.

 I walked up to the vet and waited with bated breath. She had slipped and slid all day on those rocks, but she didn't feel off at all. She got a lot of A's but B for muscle tone due to a stiff left hip and B for skin tenting which I found odd with how much she drank all morning. She trotted out with A's for impulsion, her CRI* was 40/40 (everyone at the vetting area remarked how amazing that was and I got the best CRI of the day at that point) and we got the green light to do another 20 miles.

I had already committed us to going back to camp for the holds and I don't know if that was smart or not. We sauntered back and she scarfed down her food, ate her elytes and drank a half a bucket of water. I was soooo excited to see her eat!! She has never eaten anything at all, not even hay, at a ride before, but ever since that 5 hour debacle of a conditioning ride, she eats when offered. I ate some shaved rotisserie chicken breast which hit the spot, refilled my camelback (I had emptied all 2 L on the first loop) and eventually we walked back to vetting to tack up and head out. I met up with my new friends again and we all left right smack on time. It made my heart sing!

The second loop was basically the first one in reverse with only one small section changed. Gemmie was reluctant to leave camp and I began the loop a little worried that she was too tired to continue on. We lagged behind our companions for the first 3 miles, but then Gem locked back in on the task at hand, found a second wind and powered down the trail like we hadn't already gone 20 miles that morning.

I remained calm and focused myself and noted that the trails had definitely improved since the morning. The turning of the ground by the hooves and the sun coming out had really dried most of it and the second time around the ground was much less slick. The rocks were still present and the hills were still steep, but my perspective was changed and instead of stressing about things I couldn't change, I relaxed and enjoyed the sun on my face, the brilliantly colored fall leaves, the feel of my horse powering down the trail beneath me and the company of new friends.

There was one added section to this trail that required you to follow the creek bed. We all laughed at the description of "beginner friendly" trail as our horses plunged belly deep in the cold water and walked through the middle of the creek up stream to follow the trail. All three horses handled it well with the confident gelding/husband team leading the way.

Walking up the creek bed
Sorry it is so blurry

The day definitely warmed up as promised and soon I was wishing I had ditched my vest back at camp. Gemmie was covered in sweat as well and we stopped more often to offer water at the puddles. Unfortunately, as well as Gem drank during the first loop she decided to not drink at all this time around. I don't know if she was water logged from before or just the fact that she knew exactly where we were and wanted to just get it over with and end up at camp, but by the end of the loop I was getting more and more concerned at her lack of drinking.

We covered the second 20 miles at about the same pace as the first and pulled back onto the gravel/paved road about 2 1/2 hours after leaving. This time I sponged her neck and front legs to help remove the sweat. There was no line at vetting, so we headed over and pulsed in at 40 again pretty much right off the trail. She went down to a B- in skin tenting and an A- in capillary refill which was better than I imagined with barely any water intake over 20 miles. She was still sound and happy, A for muscle tone this time and her CRI was 40/48. I talked a bit with the vet over that and she wasn't concerned. She said that it wasn't unusual for the CRI to spike if the initial pulse was that low to begin with. Still I was concerned, so after we got the ok to do the last 10 miles I stopped by the vendor trailer and bought a different type of elyte which I promptly shoved down her throat.

She ate, drank and rested back at camp and since we had our full 50 minutes this time I was able to lay a towel down and relax on the ground a bit while I ate and drank too. Still 50 minutes isn't much time and soon I needed to get back to vetting to tack up and head out one last time.

I promised Gem this was it as we made our way back to the gazebo to start our last loop. She had never been out 3 times before, so I was curious to see how she would react. The other two started out strong saying that they always forced their mounts into a canter on the last loop to wake them up early on. It worked for them, but Gem was not ready. The last 10 mile loop started down the paved hill, but then made a right hand turn and headed down a long gravel/dirt road before catching back up with the end to the first two loops. I watched as my crew got farther and farther ahead of us, but we had 4 hours to do 10 miles, so I didn't care.

I told Gem she could almost walk the whole thing if she needed to just as long as we made forward progress. After 2 miles, she once again perked back up and picked up a lovely 9 mph trot and we sailed down the trail.

This last 10 mile loop was magical for me. We were alone and while I enjoyed and needed the company early on, I really loved the solitude now.  I took in the fading sun sparkling off the yellow and red leaves and the smile never left my face. When we were 6.5 miles out Gem started to slow down again and I told her it was just like our training loop back at home. We got this. This was easy.

From there on out I let her walk the steep hills, but we trotted the flats and easier hills. I even asked for short canter sections on the flats to loosen up her back and get her stretching out. I didn't want to over push her, but also didn't want her cramping up or becoming sore by taking too long out there. "Never hurry, never tarry" is my motto most of the time out on trail. With only a few miles to go we came across some LD riders who were turtling their first 25 mile ride. I slowed down to say hello and see how they were doing, but then asked Gem to keep trotting on down the trail. To my surprise and satisfaction she did so readily without even a single fuss.

Before long we saw the finish line on the back side of the gazebo and crossed it at 8 hours and 8 minutes. A heck of a time for our first 50!!! I was elated, proud of my amazing mare and extremely tired and sore. She felt good and strong under me and could have kept going if I asked.

We headed to vetting where I dropped tack one final time and we pulsed in at 40 yet again. The pulse taker was extremely impressed with us all day and so was the vet. Gem hadn't drank more than a sip or two on that loop either, so I wasn't surprised when her skin tenting stayed at a B- and her cap refill dropped to a B. She trotted out sound and her CRI? 40/36!!! The vet was amazed, remarked that she was definitely a keeper (is there a 100 in our future??) and said not to worry about the other markers. If she had been dehydrated there was no way her CRI would be 40/36 after a decently paced 50 miles. I laughed about the 100 saying that I had to survive a few seasons of 50s first. I was still concerned, so I spoke with the vet about ways to improve her drinking and the only thing we could think of was the fact that I don't feed a wet mash. More on that another day.

We made our way back to camp and she settled right in with her grain, hay and gulped and entire bucket of water down. I ate a little more, and then wandered back to vetting to close down shop before I got too sore to move. I refuse to make Gem carry even her saddle back after dragging me around all day (I won't even after a LD) and so I forced my aching muscles to work once more as I lugged all her tack, the buckets and saddle rack home. I made one final trip to wrestle with that stupid pop up and finally I was all finished and able to sink into my chair and not move.
Gem 50 miles later, a little tucked up but looking great

I know this is already too long, but I just have a little more to add. Friday night was a catered dinner and I ended up sitting with the same people I had Thursday night. Only this time I was in a better head space, so I was talkative and friendly. And you know what? I had a wonderful time chatting it up with those around me about the day. Two people had finished the LD, one had rider optioned at the first hold of the 50 and two others were going to do rides on Saturday. We all laughed, looked at our ride pictures (I bought both of mine and will scan them in soon) and shared stories of the day. I felt at home, content and when I went to bed that night it was with a smile on my face and dreams of our next 50 dancing across my closed eye lids.

A beautiful sunset to end the day

* CRI - Cardiac Recover Index. Take initial pulse, examine horse, trot out 150 feet or so and come back. Retake pulse 1 minute later to see how well the hear tis recovering from that minimal exertion. Should remain same or maybe 2-4 pulses above. If much higher, can be a sign of metabolic stress.

October 21, 2014

Barefoot Shine and Wine: Thursday

Ah...Thursday. A day dominated by high stress and a poor attitude. Not surprisingly the two are intimately related in a cycle that seems to only end with some sleep and a change in perspective.

The morning peeked through a dense layer of low hanging grey clouds in the wee hours of Thursday. I awoke with a pit in my stomach and my brain going about 100 miles an hour thinking of everything that needed to get done. Fortunately, I had painstakingly thrown packed everything except the food in the truck the night before. I had tears in my eyes as I kissed Wyatt goodbye and headed out the door. I soon found myself heading on I-85 N towards TN.

The drive from SC to TN winds through a part of the Smokey Mountains and any other day I would have soaked up the magnificent views, but I was so keyed up with stress and worry that I barely even registered the beauty around me. Pockets of rain kept popping up and the temperature was holding steady in the low 50s, neither of which were improving my mood. I admit to wondering why on earth I was heading out there alone in weather this crummy several times during the 5 hour drive, but I didn't get lost and crossed into the central time zone which granted me an extra hour and so when I saw the sign for Catoosa Riding Stables up ahead, I turned left with a little ray of hope.

The instructions said to check in at the lodge prior to parking, so I pulled in behind two other rigs and walked inside. I was greeted by a frazzled volunteer who asked me to find Jenna (whoever that was) and get assigned a spot and then come back to sign in. I headed outside wishing I had a clue who Jenna was. Once out front I ran into another lady who was looking for parking so we paired up and before long a third person joined our party. As I stood there I took in camp which truly was beautiful even covered in a thick layer of mud.

Eventually the RM came along and asked if we needed anything. I desperately wanted to get Gem off the trailer and into her pen in time to relax before vetting. She said that with all the rain they were assigning spots based on the rigs, so we all showed her what we had. I silently prayed for a spot close to vetting since I was without crew. The other two were more bold and stated that they had to be close to vetting, but in the end neither tactic worked. She clearly explained that with all the recent rain everyone had to back into the spot leaving the nose of the truck as close to the road as possible. This way if someone were to get stuck they could use their truck to pull them out. No tractor was allowed on the muddy grass. Unfortunately, as we walked down the drive to find our spots we saw someone who decided not to listen to the rules. Want to guess how deep the ruts those tires made as they spun helplessly? Anyone want to guess the RM's blood pressure? I shook my head as the person came over and complained instead of apologized.

The RM pointed out two spots for the others and then proclaimed that she had the perfect spot for a small rig such as mine. Hmmm..this could either be very good or very bad. We walked down the drive past all the other campers, past many open and lovely spots and eventually wound up in front of the three cabins on property. At which point I saw the RM's head explode for the second time in the 10 minutes I had known her. Apparently two people had decided to park right in front of the cabins without permission thus taking up the spots reserved for those residing inside (who had paid a lot of extra money to do so). What is it with people? Why can't they just follow the stinking rules?!

Anyway...having lost my faith in humanity we eventually made it to some other person's property (not really, but it felt like it) where she pointed out my spot and then she walked away to deal with the people who had made her life complicated. I looked at my spot. I had the entire inner part of the drive's cul-de-sac all to myself. But...I looked back over and the lodge with vetting on the far side of it was so very far away. I was out in the middle of nowhere all alone and miserable without any neighbors or friends. My mood took an immediate nose dive.
My camp spot. Way beyond those far trees is vetting. But at least I had room to spread out.

But I couldn't stand there feeling sorry for myself for long. Usually in situations such as this I self implode. I tend to get very frazzled and start one task just to get stressed that another isn't getting done, so I jump ship but then find another task more important etc... It isn't a good cycle. This time, as I stood there looking at the distant lodge, I told myself to focus on one task at a time in the order of importance. First up: get Gem off that trailer. To do this I needed my corral, so I set it up and since nobody was going to be close to me I made it big. Then I added hay and filled two water buckets. I still needed to officially sign in and the crew area was out that way, so I grabbed all my stuff for that and, 75 pounds heavier, I limped on over. I dumped it all on the ground then checked in and grabbed my t-shirt.

I debated a long time about what to take to crewing. I decided on two water buckets, a sponge, scraper, chair, saddle rack and pop up tent. It wasn't supposed to rain, but the shade would be nice and I bought the darn thing for this purpose, so I might as well use it. I buckled down and wrestled the 50 pound monster to a basic pop up shape at the perfect height.... for Wyatt. It needed to go higher. I read the directions and applied pressure right where it said to, but it wouldn't budge. I pushed. I pulled. I jumped on it. I grunted. I groaned. I tried to cheat and went to the inside and pushed up and pulled out and jumped some more. And then I smashed my finger in a joint and it hurt and I punched the darn tent which hurt some more and stood there hidden beneath the tarp and cried. I was tired, hungry, alone and frustrated. Was it even worth all of this? Why do people think endurance is even fun? Maybe it is only fun when you have friends along with you. I want to go home.

A few minutes later I said screw off to the tent and went back to eat some lunch and get Gem for the vet in process. I'd try the tent again later. Or maybe I would just burn it.

Back at camp it was time to set up my own tent then grab Gem to vet in. I decided to time the journey back to vetting to see if it would be smarter to grab her hay/grain/elytes and stay there for the hold. I randomly stated that 10 minutes was my cut off. Anymore than that and we would stay. The walk took 6, so I committed us to returning to camp at each hold. Gem vetted in with all A's as usual and a heart rate of 32. She is a rock star at camp these days and really just doesn't care anymore. She looks sleepy and bored with it all and can totally fool you into thinking she is an easy going mare.

When we sauntered back to camp, I had a couple of hours so I finally crawled out of the wet mud and grey gloom and into my tent to snuggle under the sleeping bag with a book. It felt nice to be warm and dry.
All set up. Eventually I got a very nice neighbor. I don't think Gem liked my tent.

At 4:30 I wandered over to the ride meeting and pot luck dinner, but first stopped back at the hated pop up to give it one more go. I balanced the stupid thing on my head, jammed my foot under the leg and bared down with all the gusto of a person staring down an enema. One corner raised mercifully high up into the sky. I repeated this exercise three more times and with only a slightly pounding head I eventually had a pop up standing tall. I shoved all my crap under it and headed inside.

The trails were described as being very muddy, but still firm and with no rain all that day they should hopefully stay the same or improve. It was called beginner friendly as well. There was one creek crossing that was up due to the rain, but good footing. Rocks were described as infrequent and short lived when they occurred so that there were plenty of parts to really move out on and make up for lost time. Hills? Not really present.

It all has to do with one's perspective.

And finally, to wrap up this long story about not riding.....there was the pot luck. For those of you who have stuck around since the beginning you will know that the pot luck was the straw that broke the camels back and led to my leaving endurance back in 2010. Here I was again on the verge of another dreaded pot luck.

When I enter a pot luck I plan to bring a type of food that the vast majority of people eat and in a quantity that will feed a bunch of starving horse people. A simple concept. But apparently I am in the minority on this. I watched the table get laden with food which ranged from "oh crap I forgot about this, lets pick up cookies from the gas station" to seriously labor of love type food. But what got my attention was the person who brought the itty bitty smallest container of sliced strawberries I had ever seen. Obviously this was from their own food stash for the ride the next day. It would feed just about that many people: 1.  Apparently everyone else thought only 5 people would be eating that night.

At the end of the meeting, they asked for any first timers to gather around the vet in the corner. I wasn't a first timer to rides, but this was my first 50, so I went over to see what wisdom they had to impart. I was glad I did as we chatted about strategy, the trails and the holds. By the end of it the 4 of us who attended wandered back to the food laden table. Only to find it bare. Completely and totally bare. No food. No beverages. Just empty containers. Oh good. This again.

I was tired, hungry and grumpy, so I just made my journey back to neverland, fed Gem her dinner, threw more hay at her, refilled the water and called the hubby to say goodnight. I shoved some food from my cooler in my gullet and went to bed early to hopefully get some sleep before the next morning. Why was I here again??

October 20, 2014

Barefoot Shine And Wine 10/17/14: Preview


The entire experience was amazing, exhausting and taught me oh so much about myself, my horse and life.

Because this was not only my first 50, but also my first trip out completely alone I am going to break it down into the individual days. Don't worry, future rides won't go into that much detail, but this one is important enough to get it all out and on paper/screen.

What all can you look forward to?

Part 1: Thursday
  • A slightly tempered bad attitude made worse by a low hung grey sky and pockets of cold rain through the Smokey Mountains
  • Losing faith in humanity at check in
  • Losing faith in myself setting up. There may have been some tears involved
  • Why pot luck dinners are the worst things on the planet
  • Ride meeting with changes to the ride announced
Part 2: Friday
  • Christening the first 50 the way I did my first 25. You have to love consistency
  • Meeting new friends the hard way
  • A 12 mile losing battle with a 900 pound beast
  • Giving up and giving in - in a good way
  • A much needed new perspective
  • Holds, holds and more holds (well, 2 to be exact)
  • Eating, drinking and electrolyting
  • A magical third and final loop
  • Crossing the finish line
  • An exhausted dinner
  • A borderline insane request from a stranger having me question my own attitude in life
Part 3: Saturday and Beyond
  • Pain, lots of pain - in a good way
  • Packing up and a beautiful sunny drive through the magical fall leaves in the Smokey Mountains
  • A shotgun partner
  • Arrival back home
  • Checking on Gem the next day
So hang in there and enjoy the ride coming up. It is a good one with a major shift in my own expectations, beliefs and point of view.

Not to spoil anything, but most of you are facebook friends with me anyway, so you know how it all went in a general way. If you don't want to know now, you can stop reading this post and wait until part 2 gets written and published. Otherwise.....


And we did in style :)

I will wait to post the official time until part 2 and then will also announce the winner of the book as well. So hang in there, enjoy the ride and I will try to write it as honestly as I can.

October 15, 2014

Leaving Tomorrow :)

Tomorrow morning will see one very excited and very nervous woman driving her truck and trailer from SC to TN to sign in for the 50 mile Barefoot Shine and Wine ride. Look out here we come!!!

I worry that I am setting myself up for disappointment. This ride has been such a long time coming that it holds more weight in my emotional health than it probably should. The more I think about the significance of this ride, the less it seems to be centered around our arrival at the finish line safe and sound.

Yes, the goal is and will continue to be finishing 50 miles sound and happy in 12 hours or less, but honestly even if we only make the first 20 mile loop or heck don't even get to start, I feel like I've already won the war.

This particular war started nearly 5 years ago when I brought home a fugly little bay pony who didn't listen a darn under saddle and wasn't safe out on trail either in a group or alone. She scared me more than she thrilled me and more times than not I left the barn in tears vowing to sell her.

Gem's transition throughout the last 5 years has been a remarkable one in a physical sense, but really she hasn't changed a whole lot personality or maturity wise. She does things now she never would have done 5 years ago, but it isn't because she grew up, got bold or became a different horse. No. It is because I grew up, I got bold and I became a different rider.

The war has never been with Gem. It has always been against myself. My timidity, my fears, my lack of bravery. I was afraid to go out alone on trails, I was afraid to canter in open spaces, I was afraid to drive the truck and I was afraid to go far away from home.

And now I look at myself and all the things Gem and I have done to get to where we are today - standing on the brink of a massive adventure. Tomorrow morning I will pack up my horse and drive 5 hours alone to set up camp at a ride where I know nobody and then ride 50 miles alone and bring her home. The person I was 5 years ago never would have done that, but the person I am today is ready to go.

So, while I will be insanely disappointed if we don't get to cross that finish line 50 miles away and bring home a completion, I feel as though I have already won. All I really care about is bringing Gem back home safe and sound so that we can enjoy the next 5 years together.

October 9, 2014

One week to go!!

Can you tell just how excited I am??? I leave one week from today to achieve a goal I have had for 4 years now. So close. So very, very close.

Monday I went out to ride, but as I was grooming her I realized how little day light was left. While I love the atmosphere of hushed ancient panic to get all the calories in as possible before winter hits, the sound of leaves crunching underfoot and the crisp breeze of autumn, I really dislike the sun setting earlier and earlier. My nights at the barn are quickly becoming extinct.

Instead of hastily getting a couple frantic loops on the grass tracks in before it was too dark to be safe, I opted to just hand jog her around them. I instantly wished I had prepared for that and wore shorts instead of my cotton breeches. We set off at a good clip down the grassy track separating the mares and geldings and worked on our trot out command. She was behaving well until we reached the back corner and came down the long, far side of the gelding pasture. It really is all my fault because I was feeling good and enjoying the endorphin rush I was getting from taking an early evening jog with my horse on a warm fall day. I picked up the pace and let myself sprint down the far side, urging Gem into a race (like I could ever beat her on foot!) and let out a happy "squee" as she tossed her head to the challenge and charged alongside of me. Well, the geldings took the challenge up as well and soon Pete and three others were racing alongside us on the other side of the fence. This was too much for my Gemmiecakes who became nervous and didn't know if she should still listen and stay beside me or take up the challenge of the geldings and race ahead. I kept her in check until we reached the end of the pasture and she settled again as we made it alongside the arena field toward the road.

I had already decided not to jog alongside the road on foot. She is really good around cars and such but it only takes one jerk honking, screaming or throwing something to result in a broken bone or hurt horse, so I planned to just turn back around and go the way we came. As we neared my turn around point, a herd of horses from across the road came charging towards us to their fence. I didn't know horses were even over there and by the look on Gem's face, she didn't either. She let out the loudest, most disgruntled snort I have ever heard come from a horse and spun around. She was up, up, up and pranced with tail flagged and the most gorgeous Arabian floating gait I have ever seen her do. Too bad she doesn't do that under saddle! Now my alarm bells were ringing. I could take my flaming dragon alongside the road or back alongside the hopped up geldings again. I chose the geldings to be away from the road and we managed to go along the far side with her prancing circles around me and trying to canter in place when I made her stop. Eventually we turned the corner to the back side and she calmed down enough that I asked her to jog the rest of the way back. Good grief!! I don't need either of us hurt now!!!

Before I left I grabbed a small amount of grain and mixed in her vitamin powder and gave her both as a treat as well as to hopefully continue the trend of her eating well after working.

Tuesday I had a lull in my schedule at work and the weather was stunning. Sunny and 80 with a slight breeze. I didn't have enough time to ride, but could get a bath in, so I grabbed Her Highness who was most decidedly not very happy to see me two days in a row. I told her it was spa day, but that didn't seem to cheer her up at all. I shampooed her up then applied conditioner to her mane and tail and let it soak for a bit before rinsing. I noticed that she is maintaining a great body weight (still a BCS of 6 :) and looks really good right now. Eventually I unhooked her from the cross ties and let her graze in the barn yard until dry. Once dry we headed back to the cross ties for a brushing and once again I gave her the grain with vitamins which she scarfed down. Back out in the pasture, she looked at me funny and walked away shiny and clean to roll in the dirt.

Wednesday morning before work I headed back to the barn to meet the vet for her health certificate so we could legally leave the state next week. She came right up to me and laid her head in the arms :) Back in the cross ties she went while we waited for the vet who showed up on time, had at least a clue about what endurance is, and was thorough but quick. While he filled out the form, I loved up on Gem and scratched her neck. She rested her head on my shoulder and slowly it got heavier and heavier until she fell asleep!! That's a first!!! The vet commented on how wild my endurance Arab is and we all laughed at poor Gem. Once he left I attached her lead rope and went to put her back out, but she wouldn't budge an inch. She stood in the wash area looking at me like I had lost my mind and would not move. I looked at the hubby and he laughed saying that she was looking for her grain. So I went and got her red bucket and put some grain and her powder in. Once she licked it clean, she readily walked away and back out to pasture. Spoiled mare!

Now it is Thursday and all my tack is sitting at home waiting to be cleaned. I think I may give Gem the day off and work on cleaning the tack instead. I told myself that I would pack as much as possible this weekend to take stock of what I need to get last minute and what I can make do without and tonight may be a good night to start that endeavor too.

One week to go and I am getting more and more excited as the days go by!

October 6, 2014


I love free stuff and I hope you do too!

 I met Amber (yup, using her real name because it is all over the book!) at Biltmore while she was crewing for T in her 50. She had mentioned to me then that she had written a book and was really excited about it being picked up by a publisher. I had kept it on my radar and once I heard about the book launch I was eager to go. Saturday we drove over to a nearby horse park and I purchased two copies of her book - one for myself and one for this give away. What perfect timing!

The book is called For the Love of Horses and is about her journey with her first horse. She became an endurance junkie while on his back and learned many lessons about herself and life along the way. She has a deep Christian faith and ties each lesson she learned on the back of her gelding to a lesson about life and faith at the end of the chapter. I am about half way through the book and have enjoyed it.

At the launch were a number of her horse friends who play a role in the book. Each person signed a chapter that included a story about them. The winner of this give away gets their very own signed copy which is awesome not only for the freebie but because it helps to support my friend :)


Post a comment on this post stating your best guess for our ride time in the upcoming 50. Ride time is the official time which is generally posted a few days after the ride. I won't use my Garmin time because a) I'm pretty sure it will die before 12 hours is up and b) official times are just that....official.

The winner will be the closest time to our official time whether over or under.

You may list a time over the 12 hour limit, but that is quite mean ;)

You may also guess a pull and at what mile, but again... mean ;)

You may start posting whenever you want, but are only allowed one guess. Entries close Friday October 17th at midnight.

In the event that I don't even get to start - I will personally write each entry on a piece of paper and draw it out of my baseball hat while I drown my sorrow in free wine Thursday night.

In the event of a pull and nobody guessed a pull (again....mean but accepted :) - I will personally write each entry on a piece of paper and draw it out of my baseball hat hoping it is still legible from all my tears.

Once the official times are posted, I will inform everyone of the winner!


This is a 52 mile ride with a 12 hour time limit.

Look over at the left side bar for past distances and times for a guestimate on how we typically do.

Be honest in your guess - this is completely for fun and to support Amber's book so I don't care and won't be hurt by over times, long times or anything of the like. Just pick a time and see what happens!

This is our first 50 and I am a very conservative rider.

Ok....guess away!!!

October 4, 2014

Plans Now Until The Ride

Having never done this before, I am not 100% sure what is really needed in the 2 weeks leading up to it.

I knew that I wanted to get one last long ride in 3 weeks out and was happy with how that went last weekend. Now that I know we have a 20 mile loop to conquer, I am extremely happy we did it and did it well.

My plans are fairly light from here on out. I believe in entering with a well rested horse. I'm not convinced that anything I do right now will really add that much to her fitness, but ti does run the risk of injury or fatigue.

With that in mind my plans are:

  • A fast paced, but short ride on the amazing tracks at the barn this weekend. Thinking 5-7 miles or so with a lot of cantering to open her up. We both enjoy this immensely and it is a nice break for monotonous trotting.
  • Try to get in 2 rides during the week next week. Short 30-45 minutes of either arena or track work if time and weather permit. 
  • Then nothing. No riding next weekend or the week leading up to it to allow her to rest, eat and relax. I will go out and check on her, love her up and let her know I haven't abandoned her, but no real work.

I also plan on finally ordering a new pair of riding tights to replace mine that got ruined at Biltmore. I know, I know...nothing new on race day, but mine are disintegrating and super not comfortable for that long. I will re order the Irideon Issentials even if they no longer offer the red stripe.

And last, I will be taking all my tack home with me this weekend to clean, clean, clean. I don't want to clean right before the ride in case something is off or needs replacing, but I want it clean. I figure 1 or 2 short rides won't get it too dirty before we head out. If weather permits the mare will get a bath next week as well.

October 3, 2014

The Devil Is In The Details

The RM sent out an email yesterday to confirm participation and food requirements. Thursday night is a "free" (meaning included in ride fee) social with wine provided by a local vineyard and snacks. Each riders gets one additional meal included (Fri or Sat) and could purchase more meal tickets as they wanted, but she needed to verify how much food to order for each night.

The ride has long been sold out and there is a wait list apparently a mile long, so she also wanted to verify attendance in order to allow those who wanted to go have a spot.

Unfortunately, while the email contained plenty of detail about the food being served it provided none about the actual ride. I guess I know where priorities lie ;)

I shot back on email confirming my arrival Thurs and ride Fri. Originally I had bought an extra ticket for Friday's dinner for the hubby, but now I don't need it. I paid in full at time of registration and the extra ticket was $15. I asked if I could just donate my ticket to help pay for a volunteer's dinner and she was super happy to accept. I know it isn't much, but any bit helps. These rides are really expensive for RM to put on.

I also asked for more information about the ride itself explaining that I am a newbie 50 miler and nervous as all get out.

She was super nice and responded to relax and that the trails are super friendly and really well marked. There will be 3 loops with all holds back in camp. YAY!! I was super worried about an away check without any helpers and no experience with this.

The first loop is 20 miles. I am very glad that I took the time to do some 20 mile training rides lately. She should be a little more relaxed having been this far without food and a break now and I am much more confident that we can get through it.

The second is 15 miles.

The third is 17 miles.

Wait....that is 52 miles! I don't need extra miles, but I do understand the near impossibility of using trails to equal exactly 50 miles without doing some strange back tracking, weaving and circling.

And that is that. I don't know the hold times, but expect something between 40-60 minutes. I am thinking she will be pretty good for the second loop since she has done LDs and expects to go back out. The third is where it will get interesting. She will be hungry and tired and expecting to get to be done, but then boom....17 more miles!!!  I am also hoping this really drives home the necessity to eat whenever possible.

The only other thing I know is that there are 20 riders in each distance each day. This means a much less stressful start unless all other 19 riders happen to be super insanely fast and leave us in their dirt.

Ready or not here we come!!!

October 1, 2014

I Must Confess....

I'm a little bit of a nervous wreck over the upcoming 50.

Maybe I am putting too much pressure on myself and my horse. To be clear: I don't give a hoot about winning, top 10, or BC. I just want to finish. I don't particularly care if I take 11 hr 59 mins to do so either. I just want to finish.

But there is this nagging voice that has started in my head. It asks questions like:

"Have I really conditioned her enough for this?"

"Is it even fair to ask her to do this for me?"

"Would it be worth the try if I break my horse in the attempt?"

"Are we even fast enough?"

"Why not just drop down to the LD since I know she can do that barring an accident or freak happening?"


I was fine, bold and ready until the bottom fell out of all my plans. The hubby and W were supposed to come spend the weekend with me and help support me emotionally as well as what they could for water buckets, grain, e-lytes etc... at the holds. S was supposed to ride the LD Saturday and have time to help me get Gem and myself through the second half of our ride.

But neither are going anymore.

It became highly unpractical to bring an almost 2 year old to ridecamp for the weekend, renting an RV was insanely expensive and the closest house to rent is 40 minutes away. Then I changed my plans to ride Friday and go up Thurs so I could come home Saturday and only miss 3/4s of one weekend day with W. S can't leave Thurs and doesn't want to drive 4.5-5 hours alone, so she is re-routing to another ride that is closer and the same weekend. I briefly thought about changing my plans as well, but the other ride is on all deep sandy trails and Gem hates sand plus hasn't been ridden in it in well over a year. It would be a disaster to ask her to go 50 miles in deep sand when not prepared.

So I am alone for this. I won't know anyone in camp, won't have anyone to help crew, won't have anyone to take a celebratory finish line picture or give me a consolatory hug if we get pulled.

Yes, I am feeling a bit sorry for myself right now, which is not something I am prone to do at all.

Anyway....I am going to defeat the nagging beast encouraging me to wimp out on the only goal I had for 2014. I want this first 50. I want it badly. I just don't want to break my horse in the process.

I know this may be far fetched, but I have a small hope of still getting a decade award. She is 15. A horse just did Tevis at 22. If I manage her right, pick the right rides, and ride smart it is possible to do a 50 when she is 25. But every year we waste waiting to begin, is another year longer we have to keep at it. So now is the best time.

I may need to adjust my thinking a little. I desperately want that 50 completion and this is my only option for 2014, but maybe that is too much pressure. Maybe I need to just go into it and see how far we can get. Can we do 1 loop solo and without aid? How about 2? How about 3 or 4 or 5? Actually, I don't know how many loops there are and I am praying fervently that all holds are in camp since out areas will be very difficult for me to handle.

Deep breath. I need to go ride tonight.