Yes, I made it!!! I rode my first 100 mile ride at Washoe Valley, Nevada, last Saturday and it was a lot of fun!!! I had a wonderful horse (thanks, Lari!!!), great help from Lari Shea and her crew, perfect weather, a challenging but beautiful and well marked trail that offered everything (rocky high desert, pine trees, mountain views, steep climbs, easy dirt roads and sandy lake side trails) and great company throughout the ride! I had been thinking about entering a 100 miler for a while but never quiet found the confidence to do it with one of my own horses. Whenever I thought that I was ready, I felt that the horse wasn`t and vice versa... There were all these doubts in my head, like: What, if I reach the point of feeling like I don`t want to go on? What, if my horse hits the wall `cause he`s never gone that far either? What about those endless hours riding through the dark? What, if we get pulled at 90 miles? What, if it starts raining at 10pm? ........
The idea of riding a horse with 100mile-experience had never occured to me, untill Lari Shea offered me to ride Nature`s Nikita, one of her big, strong Arab/Orlov crosses, at Washoe. I didn`t think twice. Although I had never sat on this horse before (not to mention that I`ve never ridden another horse than Slim or Zuma in an Endurance ride) I trusted Lari. If she thought that Niki and I could do it, I knew we would.
Thursday after work I flew from L.A. to Reno. Heidi Siegel picked me up from the airport (in pouring rain....) and I spend the night at her house (Thanks, Heidi, for the great dinner and everything!). The next morning the clouds were gone and we had a short 1 hour drive to basecamp where "my horse for the next 100 miles" was already waiting to take me on a test-ride. Trying to get on the 16h gelding was quiet a challenge (my guys at home are 14.2h) but once I made it up there, it felt pretty good. Niki has a big, floating trot and canter as well as a ground covering walk, which I really learned to appreciate the next day. With his "Let`s go"-attitude he seemed to be ready for anything.
The start for the 100milers was at 5am with a bright full moon shining over the snow covered Sierra`s. I was glad that Lari and I rode together on the first 50 mile loop. I pretty much just followed her through the various terrain while getting to know my horse better and listening to some great stories, and Niki seemed to be quiet content with Avanti`s company and kept on cruising down the trail. Just before we headed down into Dayton for the 32mile vet check we saw a wild Mustang standing on a bluff about 1000 -1500 feet from us. The stocky bay horse was watching us trot by. What a beautiful sight! I had never seen a wild horse with my own eyes before and I was thrilled. He was my lucky charm!!!
Niki vetted through the first and second vet check with flying colours. I was impressed by how fast his pulse dropped, especially for such a big guy. Both horses had been drinking well on the trail, wether it was out of water troughs, creeks or puddles. After the lunch hold Lari left 1 minute in front of me, saying something like "You`ll probably catch up right away...". That was the last I saw of her. Although Niki wanted to catch up with his buddy, I thought I`d better slow down a little, for the horse`s and my own sake. The next 20 mile loop had some climbing and some pretty rocky parts in it, and I didn`t want to take a chance. On the first steep hill, Niki acted like he was tired, so I got off and tailed up. As soon as other horses started passing us he kicked into a higher gear and dragged me up to the top. Of course he wouldn`t stand still while I was trying to mount and when I finally made it back in the saddle, I decided to stay there untill we got back to camp for the next vet check .
We left the 70 mile check at the same time as Dominique (? last name) and rode with her the next 26 miles. Our horses travelled well together and Niki sure appreciated to have a trail buddy again. It turned out that Dominique was also riding a horse that she had only met the day before, but she knew the course and therefore managed to get us over the pass and through the SOB`s in exactly 4 hours. Just before we reached the waterstop halfway through the loop, 3 riders passed us whose horses looked terrific. I remembered Lari`s words that "100 milers aren`t won on the first 50 miles". One of the 3, Judy Reens, stayed with us for the remaining part of the loop. We reached camp for the last vet check while the sun was setting. Judy`s and Dominique`s horses met criteria faster than Niki, who seemed excited and anxious to head for our campsite and see his buddies. I finally got him to stand still and drop to 60. He vetted through fine, except that his pulse was still a little high.
We left on the last 4 mile loop 5 minutes behind Dominique and Judy and I knew that we wouldn`t be able to catch them. And in a way I was glad, because I knew that there were 8 in front of us and one had to be 11th..... The last 4 miles took us down to the lake and along the shore before turning back through the dunes and towards camp. Little waves were splashing on the beach while we were walking through the sand and I was thinking "I can`t believe, we`re almost done!". I had expected to take about 50 - 60 minutes for this final loop, but Niki was full of energy. We had stayed in the vet area for the 15 minute hold so he knew that he wasn`t quiet done yet but willing to go a little further. We crossed the finish line in the last daylight at about 20.15 pm. What about all my worries re. riding in the dark......??? At the final check, Niki got all As exept for one B (attitude...:-)). What a great horse! He had taken such good care of me that I never reached the point of "Oh god, how much further...?"! Just a little sore and one good size bruise (from swinging my leg over the saddle to low and ripping off the cap of a waterbottle). I was hungry and tired and couldn`t wait to fall into my sleeping bag. But -- wait -- noone had told me how hard it is to fall asleep after riding for 15hours. I felt like I was jet-laged! My body was exhausted but my mind kept on going... Oh well, I didn`t expect not to have ANY problems at all, did I....???
Btw, Lari and her horse Avanti won the Washoe 100 by about 15 minutes (and 2 hours in front of Niki and me)! But Lari knows that I`m still waiting to hear the second part of that story she promised to tell me later in the day..... :-))
BC went to Marcia Smith and Samsoon, who looked phantastic the next mornining! And although about a dozen or so people were pulled (out of 42, I think), everybody I knew made it through the 100. The last riders finished at 3.30 am - WOW... guess, I`m really spoiled ..... :-))) !!! Thanks to everybody who helped to make May 1st my day!!!
Kirsten Topanga, California (Okay, I admit, I`m still a little bit sore. But nothing will ever compare to what I went through on my first 25 mile ride 2 1/2 years ago...)