Tuesday morning, Daniel and I finished packing and headed out for the
Yellowhammer 3-day Pioneer Ride in Alabama. The drive was pleasant,
although a bit warm. This was our first visit to the Yellowhammer
ride. We attempted to go in 2004, but about an hour before we were to
reach ride camp, our engine blew. We spent the next several days
fixing the truck and getting our horse home. Then in 2005, I was
recovering from a broken arm and didn't want to risk reinjury to
myself. So when we reached camp with no mishaps, we were thrilled.
Tamra Schoech, the ride manager, met us as we drove in and we figured
out where to park. Soon Tanna was in his livestock corral panels and
set up with a large muck bucket of water and some hay.
I spent Wednesday morning getting my saddle ready for the ride on
Thursday. I was planning to ride Tanna in the 55 miler. I also packed
my away vet check bag as the first vet check was to be out. The
remainder of the vet checks were all in camp for the rest of the
weekend. Around 11:30 or so, Daniel and I meandered over to the
registration canopy and hung out there all day. Watching people arrive
and attempting to direct them to suitable parking spaces. There were a
lot of people rolling into camp. The weather was predicted to be nice.
Warm on Thursday at 88 degrees or so, but cooler on Friday and
Saturday in the mid-70s.
I enjoyed hanging out and chatting with people as they came by to
register. During the afternoon, I registered myself and vetted Tanna
in for the Thursday 55.
At 5 PM, the ride meeting took place. Tamra welcomed everybody and
thanked the numerous volunteers, many who had been there since
Saturday or Sunday helping with all those things that need doing for a
ride. Then Sarah Engsberg described the trails. We were to go out of
camp on the Blue trail to the out vet check 18 miles from camp. The
second "loop" completed the Blue loop back to camp for another 19
miles. The Blue loop incorporated some rolling hills on the road. They
are hoping to do a 100 next year at Yellowhammer and they wanted to
try out the road on some of us to get feedback for using the road in
the 100. The road was gravel. Some of it wasn't a whole lot of gravel,
though. Anyway, after the second vet check at camp, we were to do the
final 18 mile loop to the finish on the Green loop. Then Otis Schmitt,
the head vet, got up to do his thing. 64 pulse (60 at the end for "the
short race"), tack off at all checks, holds 50 minutes.
Then Dr. Otis diverted from the normal ride meeting routine. He said
"Ya'll know Becky over here and how we've been hanging out together
for awhile now..." Becky joined him in front of the crowd. "Well," Dr.
Otis continued, "We went to Heflin this morning and got married!" Of
course the group went wild with excitement and cat calls. They had
snuck off and gotten married Wednesday morning! Then had hung around
camp all day without telling!!! Then a cake was produced with "Otis &
Becky" written on it and we all had cake in celebration of their
wedding. What a great start to the weekend!
Ok, back to the boring stuff! I have to say, I really, really liked
the ride meeting at 5 PM! After the meeting and the wedding reception,
I still had time to fiddle around camp getting ready for the next days
ride and got to bed by 8:30 or 9 PM. I think I got the most rest I
ever have before any endurance ride!
Thursday morning I got up at 4:15, 2 hours before the start and went
through my ride morning ritual. Dress in my endurance costume, feed
Tanna, feed me (oatmeal and fake hot dogs for protein), saddle, forget
how to saddle and have to resaddle and reposition and saddle again.
Finally I was ready and mounted up while Daniel held Tanna. I had not
ridden him the day before. I like to ride the day before a
competition, but it seems that's when he acts up worse, so I
consciously did not go for a ride. He was jumpy and tense, but
controllable and no rearing or bucking ensued. :-)
I warmed Tanna up and went to the start to give my number to the
timers who would keep track of us riders all day. My number! OOPS.
Forgot to put that number on his butt. So I went back to the trailer
and wrote a big "7" (lucky 7, I was told) on Tanna with a livestock
crayon. Numbers generally are used for horses in the 50 or 55 mile
competition while the 25 or 30 mile competitors are assigned a letter.
This makes it easier for the timers to distinguish the riders.
I hung back and started pretty close to the back. I usually do this.
Occasionally, I'll start mid-pack, but most often, I just start in the
back. There was a controlled start for the first few minutes to allow
all the horses to safely cross the pavement onto the trail and allow
the sun to come up a little bit more. After the trail was open, I
found myself riding with Joe Schoech and Sarah Engsberg. Joe was
riding Kit (he has another nickname...). I'd ridden with Joe a couple
times before and always found it a pleasant experience. Joe is the
nicest guy and is a great mentor for those that are fortunate enough
to ride with him. After awhile we were 4. We caught up with Tracy and
the four of us walked, trotted, cantered, and chattered our way to the
vet check. The miles flew by and we reached the vet check around 9 AM,
where Daniel was taking pictures of the horses going in and out of the
We four split up as we went looking for our vet check areas. It took
me a few minutes, but I finally found my vet check bag. I unsaddled
Tanna, got some water and presented to the vet. Dr. Ken Marcella
vetted us and asked about my electrolyting schedule and commented on
his nice shoe job. After vetting through without issue, I returned to
my area set up right next to Sarah and Joe. We talked and chatted some
more while we took care of our horses and ate. The horses enjoyed
eating one another's food. I'd never really had that experience before
as I've most often had my vet checks alone. It was nice. :-)
Joe and Sarah could have left long before me, but they tacked up with
me as my out time was at 9:59. I'm almost always late leaving a vet
check and this was no exception. We were only a couple minutes past my
out time. Sarah and Joe had gone on ahead, but I wanted to see if
Tanna would drink one last time from the common buckets. He did drink
some. I finally left when Sarah yelled at me to find out what I was
The three of us took off down the road on our 2nd loop of 19 miles.
There was more of the road for while and then we veered back into the
woods. I don't remember much of this loop, to tell you the truth.
After awhile, the loops just manage to blend in together! I do
remember Tanna started drinking about 4 miles out in this loop and
drank really well the rest of the ride. We got back into camp around
I went directly to my trailer to unsaddle and then back to the vet to
vet in. Again, no issues vetting in. His pulse was under criteria and
everything looked good. I returned to the trailer and tied him in
front of his food and hay and went back into our camper to make me
something to eat and sit down for a few minutes. The 50 minute hold
flew by and I was again late leaving.
I didn't see Joe or Sarah so figured they went on without me. Sure
enough, I saw Joe just leaving out as I walked toward the out-timer. I
mounted and followed from a distance. Tanna, however, did not really
see Joe and Kit, so wasn't motivated to leave camp. I gave in and we
moseyed along, not really trying to catch up, but it would have been
nice if we had. We had done the first couple of loops in pretty good
time and we had over 5 hours to complete the last 18 mile loop, so I
wasn't concerned about making the cutoff.
About an hour into that loop, Mr. Barnett caught up with me as I was
hand-walking Tanna down a hill. At the bottom of the hill, Mr. Barnett
went on along and I hung back, allowing them to get out of sight and
down the trail a little. I remounted and we walked for awhile longer
and then picked up a nice trot. I enjoyed riding along the beautiful
trails. Plenty of water on trail. The trails were gradually always
going up or down. The trails are very nicely laid out, though, so you
don't necessarily noticed the gradual incline and decline, well,
except on the nice short roller coaster up and down trails! During one
part of this loop, I could have sworn I heard somebody behind us. Two
female voices it sounded like. Tanna also thought he heard something
and we were distracted for a bit.
We finally made it to the finish line at just after 5 PM. I passed a
sign that said "1056 to camp. Run....Run." I puzzled over that sign.
Was 1056 the name of a forest road? Or had they named the trail? Oh,
well, it did say run, so I asked Tanna for a canter and we cantered
until we saw Nancy, the finish timer waiting for me under the finish
line. Wow! That was an unexpected surprise! I was done! Never did
catch Joe, but I didn't really try very hard at all. I wanted to
complete and be ready to go the next day.
I took Tanna back to the trailer and immediately untacked him. I
cleaned him up a bit and took him to the vet for his completion exam.
He completed just fine, but was stiff in his right hamstring. I paid
attention to that. I massaged him some and walked him several times
between the completion on Thursday and the start on Friday. I went and
got my map and my vet card for the Friday 50, ate (thanks to my
husband who fixed the meal while I complained of soreness and rubs),
prepared for the next day's ride and went to the awards/ride meeting.
24 started in the 55 and 16 completed. I was 16th and Turtle (last
place). Joe teased me a bit and said that this was my FIRST Turtle
ever. This was not my first turtle. It was actually my 4th Turtle.
Coulda sworn I had more Turtles than that! I got an award for being
Turtle. A nice statue of a turtle looking at a snail hitching a ride
on his shell. The bottom says "Yellowhammer 2006." That's going on my
desk at work! :-) I also picked out a T-shirt with the Yellowhammer
logo for my completion award.
Friday's 50 mile ride was on different loops. We would do the entire
Orange loop for the first loop. This was a 20 mile loop that would
include a 10 minute stop at 12 miles so Otis could watch us trot out.
Then back into camp for the first vet check and 50 minute hold. The
second loop was the Orange loop again, but a shortened version at 17
miles. The final loop was pink at 13 miles. Pulse was again 64.
Back to camp to get some sleep. I checked Tanna and he was better. No
more tight hamstring. I set the alarm and got up at 1 AM to walk Tanna
and feed him, then back to sleep until 4:15. Start time wasn't until
6:30 on Friday, but I wanted a little extra time to walk Tanna around
and loosen him up before the start.
When I went up and gave my number to the timers for the start, I
trotted Tanna for Otis to watch to make sure he was ready to go out
again for the second day. This was nothing special for me, all the
riders were required to do it, but I was glad of it since I wanted to
be sure Tanna was not still stiff from the day before.
The Orange loop followed the same trail as the Blue loop from Thursday
for 7.5 miles. After the controlled start, I again found myself riding
with Joe and Sarah. This time we also had Sandy Thompson and Betsy
Knight with us for a little ways. After awhile, Betsy decided her
horse was calm enough and headed down the trail. Tanna bounced around
and wanted to follow, but I held him back and we moseyed on along.
Soon Sandy also decided to move out and left us. Those of us that
place last do not often ride fast. ;-) At the 7.5 mile mark, Joe also
headed on down the trail. He wanted to get some good training on his
horse to take to the Nationals in a couple of weeks. I was just out to
complete our first ever back-to-back 50s and was setting a very
conservative pace and walking many of the downhills.
Sarah and I rode along. Sometimes she fell back and then would catch
up again. We were riding fairly close together when we came to the
trot-by. Joe was waiting there, but took off soon after we arrived.
There was a nice water crossing there and I dismounted and sponged and
ate a granola bar. Becky was nice enough to take my jacket from me as
the day had warmed up some and didn't look like it was going to rain
anymore. It hadn't rained, but had looked like it might earlier. The
LD riders began to over-take us at this point.
I hate to admit it, but I had been hoping Otis would say Tanna was off
so I could stop. Terrible, I know, but true! But, no, Tanna was clear
to go and I remounted and Sarah and I took off up the road. Up and
down, up and down. There were funny little jokes on pie plates along
this stretch. "What is a turkey's favorite holiday song?" "I'm
dreaming of a White Christmas" "What do you get when you cross a
turkey with a banjo?" "A turkey that plucks himself!" "Time flies like
an arrow" "Fruit flies..." "...like a banana" Very entertaining!
Thanks to Mrs. Barnett for writing all those and Susan K and helper
(??) who put them out!
We got back to camp around 10:30. I vetted through and took my hold at
my trailer. Daniel was around somewhere taking pictures, so I was
crewing for myself for these rides. Tanna ate some hay and hung around
sleeping. I resaddled and headed out. Sarah was hanging out in camp
for awhile, so I went out on my own. Back over the Orange loop for the
shortened version. About an hour and a half later, Sarah caught up
with me again while I was off fiddling with the heart rate monitor. I
was using a mohair girth that I haven't used a whole lot, but my usual
neoprene girths had started to create girth galls during my 15 mile
training rides, so I was using the little-used mohair girth I bought
at Hoosier Daddy earlier this season.
Anyway, we finished that loop. I thought I was going to pull. I was
going very slowly and I thought after my hold, I'd only have a little
over 2 hours to finish the last 13 mile loop. That's not a bad pace,
really, 6.5 miles per hour, but that's faster than I'd averaged all
day, as my first two loops I averaged just over 5 mph. I'd have to
really kick it up a notch to make time. I decided to just vet through
and decide during the hold. I stopped at the in-timer to get my time
into camp. I dismounted and jogged to my trailer and quickly stripped
tack and went to the pulse takers. Out time was at 3:20 PM. What? That
meant I had 3 hours and 10 minutes after my out time to do 13 miles.
How had that happened?? Well, fiddlesticks, I couldn't use THAT as an
excuse to quit. I could almost walk the entire way and still make
time. I had mistakenly read one of the time fields on my GPS and had
thought that was the time of day, when it really was just the time I'd
been out on trail for that loop!
So I went back to the trailer for my final hold. Tanna ate and ate and
drank the entire hold. I think he was thinking I was going crazy at
this point and we just weren't going to stop. We have done a 50 on a
Friday and then another 50 on Sunday, but this was our first genuine
attempt at back-to-back 50s. Daniel showed up and I got to chat with
him while I rested and watched Tanna through the window of the camper.
At 3:10, I jumped up and resaddled and headed out on my last loop. The
timers asked me where Sarah was. I told them her horse was tied to her
trailer so I assumed she'd be along soon. I decided I was going to go
ahead and kick up the pace for the last loop. Tanna looked good and
had eaten well at the check, so I figured we could do this unless
something felt off or wrong.
So right out of the vet check, we picked up a very good trot. We had
been over this trail in and out of camp several times so I was pretty
familiar with the footing by now and asked Tanna to canter quite a bit
of it. In no time we were up crossing a gravel road and back into the
woods. We paused and Tanna drank from the red mud/clay puddle (orange
juice, Tracy called it!) before heading into the rolling single-track
trail. Very fun trail, especially at a good pace! I was having a blast
and Tanna seemed to be enjoying himself, too. Sarah caught up with us
and I told her I wanted to kick up the pace and move out on this loop.
So we took turns leading through this loop. I'm sure Sarah and her
horse were happy to move out, too!
About a mile or two from the finish we came up on another rider. It
was Joe! Wow, I thought he was long gone. He was on the ground so we
stopped to see what was going on. His horse had a sore back and he had
been walking a lot of the loop to save his horse. A trail rider came
through and said that the finish timer (Nancy) was getting tired of
waiting for us. So we all headed up the hill, Joe still on foot. We
continued on that way. A couple times Joe mentioned for us to go
around him. I said "No way, Joe, you're not gonna cheat me out of the
Turtle award after I worked so hard to go so slow!"
We got to the sign "1056 to camp. Run....Run." I had missed the ' mark
before. The sign read "1056' to camp. Run....Run." Oh, FEET! Ok, the
sign makes sense now. When we were in sight of the finish, I stopped
Tanna and let the others go ahead. Daniel was taking pictures and
Tanna was dancing and snorting in irritation. When Joe and Sarah
crossed the finish line, I let Tanna go and we cantered to the finish
line. Whew!!! Again, I finished just after 5 PM. And again, I was 16th
place. And once again, I was TURTLE!!! Yay. ;-)
I went to the trailer and stripped tack for the last time. I cleaned
him up a smidge and left his butt rug on. When I went up to vet in,
Joe was vetting out his horse. I asked Daniel to get Tanna's larger
navajo-type blanket that would cover his back muscles, too. I had left
it on his butt when I went out on the last loop and some good
samaritans told me and then got it out of the road for me when it fell
off. Daniel went to get it for me.
When Tanna trotted out, the vet asked me to trot again as she saw
something. So I went again. She said she didn't see it the second
time. Joe explained to me later that this meant that Tanna is sore and
he worked out of it since it got better the second time out. Good that
it wasn't a brewing lameness issue, but still soreness that needed to
be addressed. I settled Tanna back in his pen, covered to keep him
warm and keep his muscles from cramping from a chill.
20 riders started the 50 and 16 finished. For my second Turtle award,
I got a statue of a little turtle on top of a large rock. Very cute.
And I got another t-shirt for my completion award. I could have chosen
something else for completion, but I had worn my Thursday completion
award during the Friday ride and really liked it.
What a great ride! I really enjoyed it. I'm very pleased with my
horse. He is happily hanging out in his pasture with his buddy and is
fine. He has a very slight soreness in his back where I had water
bottles in my cantle bag. I, unfortunately, changed the configuration
of the bottles and I believe that is the reason for the soreness.
Also, on training rides at home, I rarely trained with water bottles.
Have to alter that.
Thank you so much to Tamra Schoech and Sarah Engsberg for managing
this ride. They worked very hard to turn out a very nice ride with
nicely marked trails and water and nice awards and the best timers
(Nancy Gooch, Samm Bartee, Jim Underwood, Jackie Mitchell) and vets
(Otis Schmitt, Ken Marcella, Page Jackson; I know there were 3 others,
but I don't know their names. Thanks to them, too!!!) and all the
volunteers that made the ride run very smoothly. And thanks to Joe and
Sarah for riding with me and encouraging me through mine and Tanna's
first back-to-back 50 milers!
Congratulations to Otis and Becky!!!!