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??


  1. Is that typical of potlucks on endurance rides? Other blogs haven't stated so, but I know potlucks can be a real crap shoot. You would think that a bunch of hungry horse riders would bring carb heavy food and a lot of it.

    1. It has been at the ones I have gone to and in fact I had such a horrible experience that it made me quit going to rides for 2 years. I much prefer buying a meal ticket and having it catered because then I get fed! Of course I was also exhausted, cold, wet and grumpy at this point and waited until the very end to get food, so that didn't help matters any.

  2. OD rides always have the main dish covered by the ride management with sides and desserts covered by the riders - however, even this can be a crap shoot as I've heard horror stories about everyone who ate a certain dish becoming deathly ill with food poisoning through the night! As a rule of thumb, don't eat the OD chili lol.

    Legit though, super bummer on the potluck!

    Overall, other than the food situation at dinner, a lot of your day one reminds me of my day one at No Frills. Nothing seemed perfect and yet I tried hard to keep my head up...yet internal spazzing was going on. "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..." I UNDERSTAND THIS SO WELL! And I agree, not a great cycle at all!

    My tent was also my saving grace. So nice to curl up and be warm and safe and sort of away from it all for a time!

    I'm so sorry your first day was so full of nerves and chaos and not-quite-rightness with the overall situation. But the overlying positives are a great vet in, a happy, healthy horse and rider, and the promise of a pretty sweet sounding trail!

    Looking forward to the rest of the story.

    1. ^ What Liz said! I couldn't say it better! And being Liz's friend IRL, I can confirm that it felt like I was hearing Liz's story of No-Frills again. So many parallels between her first solo endurance ride and your first 50. And I've heard about the OD chili that she mentioned...ugh. At least you didn't have that! ;) Your post definitely motivated me to pack an extra meal in case the potluck goes awry. I'm glad though that Gem vetted in well and that you ended up with a spot that ultimately wasn't too bad. Can't wait for the next part! :)