OK. So I snuck Scott`s Flat up on both me and the horse, which meant that I didn`t have to fret about it nearly so much. This worked much better, no worrying about what to feed, when to feed, how to condition, nothing, just that very easy "oh well, if we don`t finish...never mind..." feeling. Much better.
(Despite that, I still had the obligatory "horse does something in paddock and pulls its foot off" type dream the night before we`re due to leave. Perhaps it`s part of the rules?)
Camp looked a lot like Robie Park, only without the dust. My friend Karen had saved us a place in amongst the trees, so we set up the horse in front of his piles of buckets and haynet and even got to sit around (albeit briefly).
The ride started at 6am, only it didn`t start at 6am - it was a lie, and a ploy to get us up even earlier than we needed to. You had to start going along at 6am and go 2 miles down a paved road to the official start for 6:30. Ack. Got ready pretty much in time, except for forgetting to put on the HRM, and then having Patrick hunt for a pair of woolly gloves just as we were leaving, but it was better than last time.
Off we went, along the 2 mile paved road, Provo and I sidepassing in an elegant manner. He`s quite good at lateral movement. We did shoulder-ins and piaffe, all sorts. Very accomplished we were.
Karen laughed at us.
I got tired.
And then we were off. Provo was behaving pretty well, not brilliantly, but at least he was under control - unlike the woman who galloped past us, shouting "I`ve got pneumonia and can`t stop" (??) Very odd. We went along a nice uphill logging trail for a good long while - Provo`s pulse up in the sky with excitement at all the other horses he`ll be able to catch and overtake (?? We have never done this, so I`m not clear why he thinks this will happen).
Eventually the logging road ended and we dipped down into a creek and then up a vertical bank. I`m not kidding, it was almost vertical and went up and up and up (dodging in and out of the trees). Whee!
The horse in front of Karen started to slip and began lunging wildly and throwing clods of mud into Karen`s face, so she got to spit dirt for a while. About half way up, I decided to take a double loop of Provo`s mane (instead of just hanging on to it). At one point we were heading straight for a tree (no steering when all you`re thinking about is staying on) and I thought we were going to hit it, but at the last minute Provo veered to the side (I didn`t *think* he was that stupid). And then we were on the top. (And we thought of you, Glenda ).
More dirt road and then into a wiggley knee knocker single track section. Somehow I ended up in front trotting and cantering through this bit, but of course we were going too fast, so that when the trail made a sharp right, Provo and I didn`t, and instead went crashing into the woods. I`d hoped to just turn him around and rejoin where we`d fallen off the trail, but he had other ideas - cantering after Weaver who was continuing on the trail (all the while with Karen laughing her head off). We crashed through more undergrowth, over downed trees, in between trees, and I really thought we were done for - if he didn`t knock me off on a tree, he was sure to skewer his leg open on one of the multitude of sticks in there. But no, we spat out onto the trail behind Karen and carried (me a little weak at the knees and resolving to stay behind for a while).
Staying behind didn`t help. Even though Weaver is wider than Provo, he`s easier to steer, so I still whacked my knee on a tree going between two of them (there were a multitude of these, so I`m surprised I only did it once), but at least we stayed *on* the trail.
Eventually we came down into the first vet check at 16 miles.
I was pooped.
It`s bad news when you get to the first 16 miles and are already pretty much used up. At about mile 10, my legs started to rub on the saddle flaps, so I`d been performing bizarre wriggles on the saddle, to try and reduce the friction. No such luck.
By the time we got to the PnR area, Provo was down to 60, and I was just starting to unhook my sponge and call for a PnR person, when I noticed he was back up to 83. Too many *things* to look at. So I let him eat some hay (Karen squeaking at me "don`t let him eat, it`ll keep his pulse up!") just to get him focused on something (other than gawping) and when we did finally get a PnR person they said he was the lowest horse they`d seen all day. Oh well.... better to be low than high, I `spose.
The vet was Jamie Kerr and he told me not to worry about the dribble-covered time-in card I was offering him, cos he`d spent the morning checking anal tone...
I had interference boots on all four of Provo`s legs in an attempt to keep him from beating the hell out of his ankles. Of course, all four were too big so were slipping down his legs.
The worst one was the left rear, which would slip down on average every thirty seconds, causing me to have to get off and reset it and then struggle to get back on again.
But he was surprisingly good for all this, standing without being held - even though he did run into me when the guy next to us reversed his horse into us. But it was a real pain - but I was too paranoid to take them off.
But by the time we got to that vet check, all of them were filled with grit and mud and crud from all the boggy bits we`d ridden through, so I had to splish them in a bucket to try and get them clean.
Eventually (and you have to remember, it was probably still before 9am), I figured out that he wasn`t actually interfering on the boot that slips down every ten seconds, so I could probably take it off, so I looped it onto my saddle... Got the other three boots on, and we were off again. Personally, I`d have rather just sat there quietly for another half an hour, but Karen dragged me out. :(
Another section - more trees, more opportunities for Provo to fall off the trail (only this time I was a bit stricter with him about getting back on trail before killing us both).
There was a nice open bit, winding through some manzanita bushes, followed by another dip down to a creek. And another vertical ascent.
Funnily enough, as we were coming down into the creek, there were lots of moss-covered evenly placed rocks on one side that reminded me of a place I train called China Wall - this is a bank shored up by Chinese workers during the gold rush to help the mining trails. Well, this was the same thing, and when I was talking to Larry, the barn owner the following day, he mentioned it too, so I guess it`s the same idea. That`s the odd thing about riding around here, so many of the places you go are old gold mining trails.
So we go up the ascent, a lady, a guy, Karen and me. Karen knows the guy and is chatting to him on the way up, asking him why he`s only doing the 30 instead of the 50? "Oh, he says, this is much too much trail to do a 50 on"...
This guy has hundreds of miles on him, and he doesn`t want to do the 50??? What does that tell me?
We get to the top of the hill, and Provo`s HR is at 203. This should give you an idea about what sort of hill it was. We are quite astonished by the highness of it all. Karen says she doesn`t think she`s ever seen such a high HR on her horses. I wonder (slightly uneasily) if the HRM actually goes any higher...
(It`s OK, I checked - it can go up to 240 - so we weren`t even close )
But it drops down like a stone again, and before I can start breathing again, we`re back off down the logging road. I start to hurt and wish I`d never started endurance riding.
I`m OK, so long as we don`t go downhill, even slightly... but that`s all this trail seems to do... up a bit, down a bit, up a bit, down a bit... And none of it is smooth, it`s rutted and muddy and, in places has big lake sized puddles stretching from one side to the other. Thinking back, I think this was part of my problem. I was permanently tense on this stretch - and this was where I should have been resting.
Somewhere around this point, while scrabbling, trying to get yet more pain killers out of my pommel bag, I dropped my tube of desitin...
(all important, for Provo`s rubbed interference marks - he wasn`t interfering, but the boots put on to prevent him doing so were so full of mud that they abraded away the scabs covering his old interference marks, leaving him with pink bits. :( So I needed the desitin. Next time, I`m leaving the boots at home)
..causing a very rude remark to enounce from my mouth (particularly seeing as I thought Provo had trodden on the the tube) and making me have to get off to retrieve it. Provo took advantage of the situation, by turning sideways on the trail and stretching out like he wanted to pee... and then doing nothing.
So I`m watching him: will he? won`t he? does he need to? Is he faking it? has he got some problem preventing him doing it? fret, fret... ah no, he`s just discovered that, like pretending to drink from a creek, if he stands in this position, all I do is gape at him, and he gets to rest.
I take advantage of a six inch high rock and do a particularly impressive off-side mount (Ann would be proud of me).
By 20 miles, I couldn`t trot downhill any more at all. So I took up a faint wailing sound, just so`s Karen would know when to ask Weaver to walk. I tried to just make faces, like the ones Weaver makes when he`s going up a hill (such a strange horse), but quickly discovered that Karen can`t *hear* the faces, so she carries on trotting. Wailing pathetically is much more productive.
We went down another near vertical slope (OK, slight exaggeration) which was pretending to be a road. There was a piece of land for sale paralleling this "road", but we weren`t sure what exactly you`d do with the land once you`d bought it - there was no way of actually *getting* to it.
At the bottom of the hill was yet another creek. These creeks were all really pretty. Gravelley, stoney bottoms to them, tinkley clear water. I made a mental note to come back here when it gets hot later in the summer, and ride around on these trails and take time out to sit in the creeks.
We played duelling pulses and for once Provo actually beat Weaver by about 4 beats.
We played sponging. Karen demonstrated her very cool à la Julie Suhr method of sponge attachment (lots of short loops), while I explained that I was too scared to attach more than about three foot of string to mine, for fear of it getting loose on the saddle and causing the horse to gallop in a wild panic, 20` of sponge line dancing between his back legs.
Admittedly, this paranoia means the only way you can actually sponge is by flopping horizontal along the horse`s neck and waving your arm down the side of it. If the horse isn`t on the horizontal, you need to prop yourself on the front of the saddle. Of course, you need to hold the reins with one hand (because they are too short to reach the pommel) and prop yourself on the front of the saddle in the other, and if you don`t have three arms, you can`t actually sponge...but I`m working on it.
Then we went up a looong hill. I was proud of that there Provo. He strode up that hill like a man. Even Weaver had to skip to keep up now and again. They both drank from a large lake sized puddle and eventually we made it to the 26 mile trot-by.
Karen elegant flips W`s reins over his head and hops off him.
Lucy struggles to persuade Provo to stop briefly, slides off him, being careful to keep his neck in her armpit, so that when her legs reach the ground, she can hang off the horse and not put any weight on them.
We "trot by". Provo trots. Lucy waddles.
They drink from the trough (by this time, mucho drinking is going on, regardless as to the source of the water) and I drag Provo over to a handy truck tailgate and slither back on him.
We continue. I don`t feel too bright... my thighs are killing me, my calfs feel black and blue from rubbing on the saddle, I still can`t trot downhill and am just generally not feeling like the world`s happiest camper. The next 4 miles crawl by (mostly, because we are crawling along). Karen is very patient, and doesn`t try to suggest that we trot very often (probably because she`s sick of listening to my muttered wailing).
And finally we get to the lunch hold. I hand Provo to Patrick, pull off his tack and Patrick takes him away to be vetted. This tells you how badly I was off. Patrick is willing to crew (sometimes) but "doesn`t do trot outs" - he can`t run, and if he tries, limps too much. But in this case, he takes Provo and vets him through fine. No problems there.
The hour hold for the lunch check was held in someone`s front garden. I say "garden" - this place was about five acres big - green grass, pretty view of the lake behind the house (that is, if you`re capable of walking around the house to see it... I wasn`t, but I`m told it was lovely). I sat in "the Chair"... and sat...
..and sat... and sat...
I peeled down my tights and inspected the damage to the inside of my calves. It was distressingly minimalist. No huge violent bruises or scuffs, just a couple of faint red patches. Huh? What`s the point of all that pain if you don`t even have any- thing good to show for it?
I was so grateful that Patrick managed to sort Provo through the vet check - leaving me to concentrate on what I needed to do - recuperate. I ate a bit (tunafish) and drank a bit (gatorade) and sat a good deal. Patrick was most excellent - removing tack and whisking the horse away, and I`m so relieved that he volunteered to crew at the last minute (he vowed after AR50 that he wasn`t going to do it again)(funnily enough, he said that at the end of Scott`s Flat too)(but then, so did I :)...)
When they returned, Provo proceeded to tuck into Weaver`s special grain and beetpulp mixes that Karen had packed in her crew bag.
During a discussion the night before, Patrick and I had agreed that there was no point bringing Provo anything other than hay to the lunch vet check, because he wouldn`t eat it. So he amply demonstrated our stupidity by grazing his way though Weaver`s lunch. Luckily, all Weaver wanted was grass, so he didn`t miss out. The RM had provided hay and apples, so Provo munched his way through them as well.
And then it was time to go again. :(
Got the tack back on the horse. Decided to give up entirely on the interference boots, on the basis that they were a stupid idea, but then got paranoid and looped a rear boot to the saddle and stashed a front boot in my Camelbak "just in case" (you know full well that if I`d left them at the check, twenty seconds after leaving, he`d need them again).
Patrick gave me a leg up (otherwise I`d still be there) and we trudged up to the out-timer. At least at this point, Provo was more willing to go out than I was - which is a turnaround - normally at this point he looks a bit puzzled and says things like "er, weren`t we finished? Isn`t that why you took all my tack off and gave me a large amount to eat? You mean we`re not done??"
I think he`s slowly learning as we go along. He has a whole 200 miles of 50 milers under his belt now (not to mention another 55 in LD) (he`s practically a "proven gelding" ), and is starting to realise that any excuse to stand still is a good one. Standing in creeks. Standing to pee. Standing to have your tack adjusted - that sort of thing - all fair game.
We went along the dirt road, past the boy scouts placed in strategic locations to prevent helpful locals rerouting the trail. Apparently, so Patrick told us, there`d been a big panic in the morning, when they discovered that someone had stolen the start/finish banner, and, par for the course for this ride, had pulled a load of the ribbons for the second loop. RM was expecting this, however, so although it meant for extra work, they were ready with people and ribbons to re-mark trail. Hurray for RM!
We disappeared into the woods and climbed up and up towards hw-20. The trail was steep and zigzagging, but it was lovely and quiet out there... well quiet until we got to the log landing where a large monster was moving logs around. Luckily, the horses didn`t realise the danger they were in, so just flickered the odd ear uneasily.
We crossed hw-20 and let the horses drink and munch at the check there - we were to loop out and disappear for a few hours before returning here for a real check - and then off we went into the woods again. I was alert enough to notice that we missed a turn (coo - that was good going!) so we had a double back a little. We followed singletrack down through the woods, out onto another dirt road towards yet another log monster. This one had huge horse grabbers on the front and was making a load of noise. We began to fret as we got closer, but the guy was really kind, shut off his horse plucker before we got to him and even pointed out where we were supposed to be going. Once again, the horses, unaware that they had just narrowly skipped death, failed to run away or panic.
Along the road a little further we went, to some lime arrows that said "go down here". Someone had taken them literally, and gone straight down the bank. I squawked a bit, until we realised there was actually a slightly less steep access point about 4 foot further on (points off for lack of observancy). This single track went straight down, under giant redwoods, with a soft easy footing.
The next few hours were basically spent going up a dirt road, down a singletrack, to a dirt road, to a single track, to a dirt... But at one point the trees opened up and the view was glorious - you could see straight out across the 1600` deep Yuba River canyon over towards Malakoff Diggins:
Kerry Drager - Sacramento Bee (Published Jan. 14, 1998)
...Malakoff Diggins, northeast of Nevada City, documents the 19th-century battle over hydraulic mining. Cannon-like water monitors blasted away hillsides to get the gold, sending tons of debris downstream and causing flooding.
"In 1884, after years of debate, a federal judge handed down what was perhaps America`s first precedent in environmental protection, effective prevention of the North Bloomfield Mining Co. from hydraulic mining," according to National Geographic.
Today, Malakoff Diggins combines dramatic scenery -- eroded cliffs and carved columns -- with the restored gold town of North Bloomfield. Between storms at the park, which sits at 3,300 feet elevation, winter can be a beautiful time to explore, says ranger Ken Huie...
We saw deer - synchronized head swivelling from the horses - and skipped along (well, kind of plodded, really). I could still trot all uphill bits (just as well - this gave me a chance to study Weaver`s facial expressions up close).
Karen got off her horse a lot to pee, but I think she was just showing me up - I was being polite and never looked, so it could be that she was faking it just to make me feel bad. At the time, I thought I was drinking well, but subsequent discussion proved to me that I was hopelessly underhydrated. I should stick to my motto for motorcycling in 100 degrees: "drink `til you feel like a squishy peach". I failed dismally.
Watering the trail is good, apparently, as it flushes all that stuff out of your muscles - you know the stuff - that which causes you not to be able to walk or sit down for three days after a ride? Like I say, I was not well hydrated (here I am, writing this, four days later, and I can just about walk).
We came back past some number takers we`d passed once already (no worries, we were supposed to, that`s what they were there for). This time, they were able to tell us that we only had another four miles to go before coming back into the 44 mile vet check.
We positively zoomed along the trail and within seconds (seemingly) arrived. That was never four miles! (unless you`re counting in "Lucy miles" which I use for training purposes to keep me cheery - "yes, that ride we just did has got to have been at least 17 miles" (read: 3)).
I felt pretty wobbly walking Provo into that check, but he was raring to go, striding on purposefully, dragging me behind him. For the trot-out, he zoomed off, me tottering behind him, causing the vet to say "That`s an A" in conclusive tones. He scored well in everything except skin tenting, where his skin was a baggy C. I was ecstatic. He`d started the day with a whole load of Bs and had gradually worked his way up into the A zone - particularly for hydration and gut sounds, so I felt that he and I had pretty much done our job properly. Shame about the rider .
The horses ate and drank. Patrick patted me and stuffed me back on the horse, and so off we went for the final six miles. And bliss of blisses, he`d had bought my shipping boots (which double as Lucy leg wraps) to the check so I was able to complete those final miles in relative comfort. Hah! Yeah, right.
For the first five minutes, it felt like total luxury, as though I`d encased my legs in two fluffy pillows. I was wriggling contentedly when Karen announced we were going to trot "just along this short stretch next to hw-20".
The "short stretch next to hw-20" went on for about seventeen miles, wound its way in and out of the trees, and was filled with drunken college students on bicycles - lots of them. Now and again, we`d come across them lying across the trail in gales of laughter. And we trotted, and we trotted, and we trotted. My blissful leg feeling was starting to wear off. Around each tree, I`d peer hopefully, looking for the road crossing. When it finally came, I was almost beyond caring and had taken up a wailing "I wannna cross the rooo-ooadd" lament to keep myself cheery.
After that, things went downhill. We did literally go downhill. I had to get off and walk it for a few miles. It didn`t help. I found a tree stump and struggled back on and listened to the plaintive noises coming out of my right knee. It wasn`t happy. In fact, it was pretty pissed off. All the pain that had been in my calves and my quads had migrated to that one knee and the only way I could trot was by holding on to the mane with one hand, and propping all my weight off my knee on the pommel with the other. The trail (same as at lunch time) crawled along. I got very quiet (must be something wrong ) and wondered how on earth I`d got into such bad shape so quickly, when, a few miles before, I`d been trotting purposefully (well, faking it pretty good, anyway).
I made Provo walk very slowly. He objected and tried to jig. I asked him to sidepass. He obliged. I had this sickening "didn`t we do this already, 49 miles ago?" feeling. We cantered to catch Weaver up. I held tightly to that mane. Any smart moves on Provo`s part would no doubt see me lying on the ground, and I wasn`t at all keen.
And then we were at the finish. Next to the pretty lake. With another two miles to go to get back to the camp and the final vet check. Ack.
Patrick met us on the bicycle and we trudged along the paved road and finally made it home. I always like to lead the horse in that last bit, but at this point, that was kind of out of the question. My right leg wouldn`t go straight, let alone allow for casual leading.
Back at camp, I sat quietly for a minute, while Patrick took the still-marching pony to the final check. But I really wanted to see his final vet through, so I waddled up to the check area.
As I came up, Provo, standing in amongst all the people, looked up at me and whickered! It`s one of the best things I`ve ever heard from a horse! Provo is not one to even notice you - most of the time he`s busy with other things - so the fact that he saw me and greeted me as part of his "herd" was wonderful and made the whole thing so satisfying. We went along, we finished, and the horse actually likes me at the end! Definitely makes it all worthwhile. Such a sweet horse.
(and he vetted through - not quite as spectacularly as the previous check, but good enough - thanks to Patrick for once again trotting him out. I promise next time I`ll be in better shape and will do it myself...)
* * *
So what did I learn?
Scott`s Flat is a really nice ride. RM is excellently cheery, know what they`re doing and are switched on enough to know there will be problems before they even start, so they can correct them. The trail is excellent and pretty and fun (except for the diving into the woods part) and well marked, and the vet staff were great. I`d recommend this ride to anyone. Thanks SF RM!
Patrick spoke to three separate people who`d done American River 50 two weeks previously, and they all thought that SF either seemed at least 20 miles longer, or at least longer than 50 miles.
Karen, coming off a 100 the previous weekend, thought it seemed kind of short. Pah. Spoiler.
I didn`t drink enough.
I didn`t eat properly.
My painkillers (5 x tylenol) are not strong enough). but unless I can drink more, I`d better not try anything else.
I didn`t relax on the trail enough, which is why I got so sore, so quickly. I need to ride at a fast pace much more often to get used to zooming along, but staying relaxed with it.
I need to get a horse that has a more comfortable trot. Oh, I do - it`s Mouse. Uh. But I have to ride her further than three miles. Never mind...
I need to remember to wear my shipping boots at the very start of the ride (or at least get some fluffy down-to-your-ankle extensions for my sheepskin saddle cover). Karen told me three days later that she wears long knee socks up inside her tights. Why did she wait until three days *afterwards* to tell me this, huh?
It takes more than 50 miles at 5 mph and a few hills to get Provo tired. Unfortunately, until I get better at this, he`ll have to continue at that pace though - but it should add to strengthening his back. Compared to last year, he`s stopped stretching out his neck in a "my back hurts" manner (including cantering with his nose three inches off the ground, which is a little alarming), so I think our slow work up and down hills has really paid off - except that now I`m incapable of going at anything more than an amble for more than three minutes at a time.
And a good time was had by all. :)