What if they had a ride that wasn`t any fun?
Well, maybe not much fun. That described the QS 50 this past weekend out at Grant Ranch. This ride is put on by the Quicksilver Endurance Riders in San Jose and is capably managed by Brian Reeves. He told everyone well in advance the ride would be rain or shine and true to his word, the ride did happen. In the rain. Driving out on Friday afternoon it rained, setting up Friday evening it rained (but not too bad), but Saturday morning it was coming down, with a nice cold wind thrown in just for fun. I asked Judy if she really wanted to go out there. "Yep," she replied. It would be her last ride of the season until Death Valley so she wanted to give it a go. Groan. I decided to go out and ride but with the firm decision that I would turn around the instant the surfaces got to slick or slippery for my horse. I`m not willing to risk an injury in the mud for any ride, and based on my experience at riding in a sloppy Garin Park, you can`t ride in the rain without falling all over the place, or your horse building up six inch mud balls on his hoofs. Much to my surprise the soil content at Grant Ranch cooperated. There were a few slippery downhills here and there but nothing really dangerous. It was just really, really wet.
There were about 75 people signed up with about 40 of them scared off by the rain. (smart people? We`ll see.) Endurowest`er Linda Cowles was there with two horses (!) She had transplanted Texan Mike maul ride Gavlin, she rode her Appy Cammie (doesn`t look anything like Warpaint) on the horse`s first 50 mile ride. Jack and Diane Enderle toughed it out and started in the soup. Val Weizer did double duty and not only rode Brian`s amazing horse Goofy, she rode drag and picked up wet ribbons. Mary Thompson-Moore was the ride secretary, Nancy Elliot worked as head wet, er, I mean head vet. And who can forget Maryben Stover out there in the rain, working ever-so-hard to make sure all the riders were treated to warmth, encouragement and hospitality.
The weekend actually belonged to who I think is probably the most amazing individual the endurance world has ever seen. The one and only Julie Suhr came to the ride with a lifetime total of 24,950 miles. That`s right, this ride would put her over the 25,000 mile mark. That`s just about the distance around the earth at the equator. She and her ever present husband Bob rode the ride in good spirits all day and finished 11th and 12th respectively. There are not enough congratulations to convey what everyone felt when she got her completion. Way to go, Julie. Everyone out there hopes they can do what you have done.
I started out in the rain in the dark in the wind fighting mud, water, puddles and wild pigs. Okay, so it wasn`t quite that bad. (but we did see three huge, I mean big, wild pigs) A few riders (myself included) made a wrong turn and ended up a little lost but turned around and found the trail. Just as I found the course Judy was going by on Warpaint. He`s easy to see at night. We rode together with the Appy being a total butt-head. He just has to go fast all the time. Not much fun for Judy, though. We rode along with Dennis and Joyce Souza from up north off and on, becoming increasingly soaked as the morning wore on. Rain gear, rain schmear- we got wet. At least the trails were not slippery. The first loop was 15 miles that seemed longer due to all the walking we did. Not to mention the fact you could not see much due to the clouds and fog. There were not a lot of horses yet most were sort of bunched up within a few minutes of each other. We rolled into the first check as wet as can be. Shatta was at 52, Warpaint took his normal few minutes to come down to Nancy`s pulse criteria of 60. I waited for Judy and together we went back out into the mire. Wait a minute! Together? What`s going on here? We rode an endurance ride together was in 1990, on our first ride. Wow. We have never had compatible horses due to age and such and Warpaint sort of needs to be ridden alone. She was working hard to keep the feisty critter at bay.
The second loop had a HUGE climb in it that seemed to go on forever since you could not see anything through the fog and clouds. Straight up, then down a long way back into camp. But not before we got to see Maryben out there in the rain, cheering us on! (I needed cheering) Lunch was a nice break while we covered the horses and retired to the camper. Did I ever say how much I LOVE my camper? Out of the soaking wet rain and cold, into the heated, warm, dry, soft camper where I made some hot soup. That really helped me change my mindset. It was a tough chore to drag ourselves back out there, but those two horses were doing this without complaint. I changed clothes (Why?) and headed back out with Judy on the longest loop of the day, the now infamous damn pink loop. It was okay up the long climb again but once up on top of the ridge it was really miserable. Pouring rain, severe winds blowing the rain sideways, fog, clouds, cold, then colder, riding with your eyes shut, soaking wet, soaked trails- not a lot of fun. It took a long time to get down from that horrible ridge back to camp for the third time. No hold this time, just P&R and go. I decided to leave before Judy since Shatta was down when we got there, so I headed out for a mile or so until I made another wrong turn. I went a mile or so the wrong way and figured out this was wrong when another rider came back facing me. Oh well- so we`ll do a 52 mile ride. Who should be there on the correct trail but Judy. I guess it was destiny for us to do the ride together after all. (or my stupidity for getting lost again) We rode on, still raining, on the last 8 or so mile loop. Warpaint seemed to be slowing down a bit so we took it real easy, not wanting to hurry in the sloppy terrain. The common trail was getting beat up and quite muddy in places, but still not too bad overall. We mostly walked up and down the MANY hills and took it easy trotting everything else. We reached the turn back point towards camp and what`s this, the rain is letting up a little! How can that be? We trotted back towards camp, actually reminding ourselves that we didn`t have to ride on this trail any more! We passes a guy at a water trough but other than that didn`t see many other people out there. Imagine my surprise when Brian told us we finished 6th and 7th! He said we made up time on the pink loop. Perhaps it was to get down off that ridge faster!
The poor horses were as dirty and muddy as I have ever seen them. What a performance. I was really pleased to see how Shatta looked at the BC judging. He got the second best vet score which really made my day. (sort of) Most riders were just happy it was over. Linda got pulled at vet 1 on Cammie but her boy Gavlin under Mike`s capable hands tied for second. I think there were only 2 or 3 pulls and most people who started the thing finished. The stupid thing was that after the ride ended the rain stopped. Why? Who knows. Life isn`t fair sometimes. The BBQ banquet was superb and really tasted good. The riders got lots of finishing goodies for completing the wettest San Jose ride in a while. Brian did a great job considering the conditions.
You know how when you are doing something miserable you say things like `that`s the last rain ride I`ll ever do?` Then when it`s over things get a little better? And two days later you start remembering how it really wasn`t that bad? And you might even consider riding the ride again? Even if it rains? Maybe.