Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Main Divide 100

Victoria Thompson
It's kind of hard to figure out where to begin this story because it began so long before the actual race, so I guess for the sake of background I should start two weeks prior to race day.
I told Kat long ago that I would help out with the race in whatever capacity she needed me for, and as the race date came closer she decided my services were needed in the shuttle department. The forest the ride would be in was subject to closure because of Southern California's lack of water this winter, so the forest service was only going to allow 6 vehicles inside its borders to man the vet checks. Two vehicles belonged to the vets, Kat's truck with the evac trailer, the shoer's truck, the truck belonging to the communications director/vet check manager and me. All crew personnel would have to be shuttled to and from vet check 2 (3 and 4). That is where I came in. I have a 4 x 4 and I'm an experienced off-road driver.
Two weeks prior to race date Kat and I went for a drive up the mountain so she could show me where I would be going and allow me to decide which road I would prefer to use. We started out going up Bedford Canyon to the Main Divide to the vetting area (vet checks 2, 3 and 4). Then we came down the Main Divide to Indian Truck Trail to base camp. I didn't bother driving the easiest road in, Silverado Canyon, because it was just so far away from base camp that it was useless to me as the shuttle driver.
So, which road to choose? The Hellishly steep, shorter, but wider Bedford Canyon; or the longer, easy decent, narrow and rocky Indian Truck Trail? Well, I was leaning toward Indian Truck Trail as we were driving down when all of a sudden this screaming alarm goes off in my truck. I'm searching the dash trying to find the problem when I finally spy the 'low tire pressure' light in the far corner of my dashboard.
I came to a stop and we got out and checked the tires. Everything seemed fine to us. The alarm stopped sounding, but the light remained on. We continued on our way. Not too long after that the steering wheel was just too mushy for something not to be flat. We stopped at the intersection of the Main Divide with Indian Truck Trail and got out. Air was quickly escaping from the left front tire and by the time I moved the truck over to a flatter section it was totally flat.
What is the first thing every father has taught their children to do when they buy a new car? Pull out the jack and spare tire and learn how to use them. I've done that with virtually every car/truck I've ever owned ... except this one. So, out comes the owners manual so I can find the jack and figure out how to get the tire down. Kat is reading the manual while I assemble the jack and insert the rod into the hole to bring the spare tire down. Crank, crank, crank, cra... Stopped cold. I couldn't budge it anymore. I make some snide comment about how much I hate grubbing around in the dirt and Kat comes back with a me too. Silence. I guess my raised eyebrow stare did the trick because Kat got down on the ground and crawled in under the truck to see if she could budge the tire. A couple of motorcycles drive by without so much as a howdy do, so did a couple of 4x4's too. A motorcycle rider stopped and after watching a few minutes asked if he could help. I hate grubbing around in the dirt so much I wasn't going to let that offer go to waste. He got under the truck with Kat to hoist the tire to give the chain some slack so Kat could slip the link that was hung up loose so I could continue cranking the tire down. Didn't work. I went off to look for tools and this guy came up and started wenching the tire back up. Then he came down really fast, the link was freed and he brought the tire the rest of the way down. Since Kat was still on the ground she unlatched the tire from the chain and brought it out. She was so dirty and I was so clean (relatively speaking that is) I handed her the jack and let her go back under the truck to position the thing. The guy started cranking away on the jack, so I just stood back and watched. I helped a little with the jack after the guy got tired, but pretty much he and Kat changed the tire. I felt a little guilty. I'm perfectly capable of changing a tire. I just didn't want to, so I watched.
Turns out it was 'old home week' with this guy and Kat. They both graduated from Colombia University (business). He's the president of the business school club. She belongs to it. Turns out her ad agency has done business with this guy (something like that - I sort of tuned them out when I realized I couldn't be part of the conversation). She almost had him wheeled in as a volunteer drag driver for one of the legs of the ride, but he was busy that weekend and couldn't come.
We continued down the road and I decided that Bedford Canyon would be the wiser choice in roads to use.
Fast forward almost 2 weeks to Wednesday, 3 days before the ride.
Lynne Glazer and I went down to Wildomar for our appointments with hairstylist extraordinaire Julie Herrera. While there Julie got a phone call and was overheard giving directions to her house from Rancho Cucamonga.
Melissa from Telluride, Colorado was coming all the way out here to do her first 100, and she was going to become a member of Julie's team (sorry Melissa I don't remember your last name). She was bringing her Paso, Cabo, out for his first 100 as well. She had also been driving through one of the nastiest storms we had all year on Tuesday (which isn't saying much since we only got 2 1/2 inches of rain - but the winds were Hell) and was looking forward to stopping.
We were still there when she arrived and we all got cozy in Julie's salon. Before you know it she was telling us her 'life story', including how her hair came to be the rather unusual shades of red/orange. It's not my place to tell you her life story, but suffice it to say we found her fascinating, funny, charming, engaging, and all around totally cool. Her horse is cute too.
We left Julie and Melissa and headed home to our own horses.
I had planned on working Friday, but decided at the last minute to not bother. Good thing too, because my Friday was extremely busy and I just barely made it to the ride meeting. I had been using my truck as a temporary tackroom since moving Taffy up to Chris Herron's Bar-H ranch (only in CA is a few acres called a ranch), and had only moved my tack into the newly constructed building a week before. There was still a lot of garbage in it, though, not to mention filled with hair, sweat and dirt. I finished removing all the junk from the truck and took it to the car wash. Yes, I had my truck washed and waxed the day before I was going to be driving it up and down dirt roads. Then there was the grocery shopping I had to do. Couldn't just shop for a few things for myself. One has to anticipate the unexpected at endurance rides and bring extra provisions of all sorts. That took awhile. Then I had to prepare the house for my husband to be by himself for at least 24 hours - poor man is helpless without me. Lastly, it being the last of the month and the price of stamps rising on Monday, I decided to pay the bills and get them to the Post Office. That just always takes forever because my hand has a hard time writing all those numbers.
I finally headed out to base camp. Normally a 30 minute trip from my house (with 15 of those minutes just getting me to the freeway), on this day it took nearly 1 1/2 hours because it was rush hour and Friday all at the same time. I left my house early in order to gab with people, but it took so much time to get there I barely made it before the meeting began. Normal ride meeting (yes, Julie, the ride starts at 5 AM) with the following exception. I was no longer needed as a shuttle driver because the forest was open to all. The rain we had on Tuesday was enough to keep the park open, and since all the crew people had 4x4's they were going to drive themselves up. With gas prices the way they are I was more than just a little pleased, but dismayed that I no longer had an actual job. That ended quickly when Kat added that I still needed to drive her down to the bottom of Harding Truck Trail so she could drag ride that section back up to the vetting area and the rest of the ride home.
Since I didn't have to be at base camp at the crack of dawn to begin shuttling people up the hill, Lynne and I agreed to meet for a hot breakfast at 7 AM before we went to our respective places for the day. Lynne to take pictures and then sit at an intersection to point the way for the riders. Me to vet check 2, 3 and 4. I got home after the ride meeting and found that my husband did indeed pull our camping gear down from the rafters when he got home from work, so I loaded up the truck (with his help) with everything except our tent and went to bed.
Yes, Julie, the ride starts at 5 AM.
I arrived in base camp about 7:30 in the morning after an enjoyable breakfast with Lynne Glazer. Seems neither of us could sleep past 4:30 even though we had the luxury of staying in bed. I picked up some rider gear that had been left for me to take up to the vetting area and started up Bedford Canyon. It's hard to describe the views as I drove up. Breathtaking is close. This time of year Southern California mountains are usually covered in deep green grass, golden poppies and a gazillion other wildflowers, but this year everything is various shades of brown, brown and more brown. It was still spectacular. I could hardly wait to get to the top so I could also get the ocean view. Arrived at the vetting area about 8:45 and was only slightly disappointed by the view to the west. I could look down to the beach cities in Orange County, but the ocean and Catalina Island were covered in fog. Later in the day it would thin out and we would be able to see boats on the water, but Catalina remained hazy all day.
Dr Fred Beesom was already there. I parked near him and he helped me unload all my gear. We set up my umbrella between our rigs and settled in. We chatted and talked shop, read and hiked around. Fred did a little 'house cleaning' and I came away with some tackle box inserts to give to my husband for his fly tying hooks. And we waited. It was close to 10 before anyone else arrived.
We learned that all the riders got into vet 1 within 40 minutes of one another. Heather Van Fossen's horse was slightly lame and was pulled. Melanie Wier was pulled for OT. Yes, all the riders got to vet 1 within 40 minutes of each other and Melanie was OT. That is how difficult this ride was, and that was just the first 20 miles. There was also one accident. There was a difficult water crossing with some riders opting to get off and lead their horses across and others deciding to stay on and let their horses navigate the steep descent into the wash themselves. Dede Wolf chose to get off her horse. Now I'm sketchy on the details, so don't take this as fact. Her horse bumped into her and knocked her off balance. She fell down and her horse wound up stepping on her wrist. She got into vet 1 and was treated as humanely as possible :-) Dr Susan Garlinghouse wrapped her wrist and deemed her fit to continue, the horse too, and she climbed back on and left at the end of her hold.
The first horse left vet 1 just after 10 AM. If this had been any other ride horses would have been getting to vet 2 before 11. We sat back and waited. More people began to arrive. Questions regarding the way back down the mountain came up. Most people couldn't believe the way they came up (Silverado Canyon) was the easiest road, just the farthest from base camp. One truck arrived making so much noise we thought the transmission may have gotten too hot. We ate lunch, took naps, conversed about everything under the sun, and waited.
Lynne had given me a copy of Angie's book, and I had taken it along to read while I was waiting. We starting telling stories about the funny things that happen to crews and volunteers and decided a book needs to be written about those as well. We also decided we had the perfect spot for a vet area because we were being entertained by other motorists all day long. Let me explain. The vet area was located to the side of a very large intersection. The Main Divide, Harding Truck Trail, Silverado Canyon Rd and "The Climbing Hill". "The Climbing Hill" is a big steep section of hillside that off-roaders created when some idiot (probably on a motorcycle) decided to see if they could get up it. 4x4's followed and eventually it became road width. The problem is it doesn't go anywhere. Once you get to the top you have to turn around and go back down. Not everyone is capable of getting up it either. This is what was so entertaining. We'd sit and watch some poor slob in a jeep chicken out when his wheels would start to spin half way up and he'd back down and leave. Then some guy in a suzuki would just keep spinning his tires until they caught something and get flung out of the bad spot and crawl the rest of the way up the hill. They would always stop at the top and get out to look back down. We'd whoop and applaud when they made it to the top. I tell ya, it was better than television. Of course, there we were, armchair quarterbacks all, proclaiming our abilities to get up The Hill in our subarus, camrys and trucks pulling our trailers. We really needed someone with a video camera. One of the things everyone talked about with this ride were the roads to get up there. We were all driving 4x4's. Nobody bottomed out, put a hole in their oil pan, broke an axle. We had a transmission get too hot and a flat tire (but the tire didn't go flat until it was back on pavement). I thought the roads were just fine. They were dirt for crying out loud, but we complained bitterly about how awful they were. Then a little Mazda Miata pulled up in front of us. We shut up after that. Kept cheering the hill climbers though.
We had sweeping views of the trails, so when the first rider was spotted (and the others soon after) there was still a good 15 minutes before they arrived. Kim Fuess took the lead in the beginning and never let go. She got into vet 2 a little after 1 PM. Within the next hour and fifteen minutes all the riders were in and had met criteria. The last horse to make it to criteria had one minute to spare in order to be out of vet 2 by cut off time.
You would not believe the language coming out of those women! It was enough to make a sailor blush. Everyone was exclaiming how hard the trail was, and everyone had huge smiles on their faces. The push for the ride name change was in full swing by this time. Stephanie Fine came crewless and as soon as Steve Grice (the shoer) heard this he and his wife took her under their care. One less thing I had to do. Her stallion is really nice and was still looking good at this point. Dede Wolf's National Show Horse was being a real pill. Apparently he doesn't like motorcycles and bicycles and was jumping around whenever he heard one (there were lots of them up there). Her crew was having a hard time getting him to settle down and eat, but he looked good and was given the OK to continue. Dede's hand was the only thing that was worrisome. She was anxious that she wouldn't be able to control him with only one working hand, but she opted to continue. Renee Norris's crew didn't make it up in time, so that left her and buddy Sharon Helms without food. See, this is why I always come prepared for unforeseen problems. I got them settled under some shade and eating, and then took care of their horses. Both seasoned endurance horses there really was nothing to do. They did it all themselves. They ate. Finally Melissa and Cabo came in. Nicest little Paso I've ever dealt with. All my Paso dealings have been the show ones with all that brio. Cabo was so calm, cool and collected I thought he was dead. He was great. It was the heat of the day now, and coming from Colorado it was pretty hot for him. It took him awhile to meet criteria, but he got there. Passed the vet check too. Everyone would be continuing on from vet 2.
Strange thing in vet 2. All of a sudden there were bees everywhere. Landing all over the horses. Horses never minded. They didn't bother any of the people. Nobody got stung. There were just bees everywhere. The only thing I could think of was they were going after the water that had been poured on the horses. These were honey bees and quite docile. I was using my hand to gently brush the bees off Diva and Skylar and never got so much as a buzz. When it was evident that the horses weren't bothered by them I quit brushing them away. When the horses left vet 2 a few of the bees stayed on the wet areas by the water tubs, but they left shortly and were never seen again.
Later I was to take Kat down to the leg 4 checkpoint, but I finally asked her who was going to drive her truck and trailer down the hill. That brought a look of surprise. Something she didn't think of. I recruited my husband. There was one cell phone that worked up there, so I borrowed it and called home. Unless we could find someone else, my husband would meet me at a grocery store parking lot at 11 PM to come up and drive Kat's truck down the hill. I called him back up 5 minutes later and told him to never mind. Susan Garlinghouse's husband, David, agreed to stay with us until the last rider left vet 4 and drive my truck down the hill. Greg ? would drive Kat's truck and trailer and I would drive Greg's truck and haul the porta potty down. Problem solved.
So we waited some more. A few of us were wagering on when the first rider would come back from leg 3. This trip was all along the Main Divide. No significant hills to climb just no level ground. Hard, rocky whoop-de-doos for 23 miles, all in the heat of the day. I chose 6:17 PM. Steve Grice chose 6:08 PM. Another chose 6:30. Kim Fuess crossed the line at 6:08 PM.
Now the riders spread out. Julie Herrera came next with Charisse Glenn close behind. Cheryl Searer and Stephanie Fine came in, but weren't looking too good. Cheryl's horse was off in the rear, and Stephanie's stallion was having a hard time coming down. Dede Wolf arrived with an entirely different horse under her. Total attitude change. Got to business and ate and drank like there was no tomorrow. He looked good. Renee, Sharon and Melissa brought up the rear. Skylar looked pooped and Cabo was a little zoned out. Cheryl and Stephanie were pulled, but neither horse was in such bad condition that they had to be trailered out from vet 3. They were given lots of rest and were allowed to slowly walk downhill to the checkpoint at the mid point of leg 4 where a trailer was waiting to take them back to base camp. Dede Wolf, after a valiant effort to continue the ride with a possible broken hand, RO'd at the mid point checkpoint of leg 4, and was trailered back to base camp with Cheryl and Stephanie.
Renee, Sharon and Melissa were the last to leave vet 3. It was dark, the weather was cool/cold and for the next 9 1/2 miles they would be going downhill. It was now time for me to drive Kat down Silverado Canyon around to the checkpoint. Suzie Kelly was providing a horse for Kat and another volunteer to ride drag for the remainder of the ride. I hadn't driven Silverado Canyon yet, and it was dark, so I didn't put the pedal to the metal. This was suppose to be the easy route. BS! While there was less than 4 miles of dirt road there was 10 miles of the worst paved road I have ever been on in my life. I've been on Jeep trails that were better than that. You could really get going for a short distance, but then have to come to a screeching halt because of a pot hole. Excuse me, pot hole isn't quite the right word. Bottomless pit, black hole, Grand Canyon, Hell and Perdition, those are more appropriate words. I got Kat to the checkpoint about 10:30. Renee, Sharon and Melissa had just arrived. The concern that Susan G had over Skylar and Cabo were laid to rest. They were refreshed and doing really well. Perky even. All the riders were still in good spirits enjoying the pampering that the checkpoint volunteers were giving them.
I said good-bye to Kat and headed back up Silverado Canyon. I ran into Susan G as she was headed back to base camp. David had her convinced that Bedford Canyon was too steep for their car (he drove it earlier in the day and was horrified), so she was going the long way around. I got back up to the vet area to find that Kim Fuess had come and gone, Charisse was there but leaving soon. Julie came in and went to sleep on a chair next to Shereen while Shereen just ate and ate and ate. She looked like a homeless person with a very large dog. Eventually Renee, Sharon and Melissa came in and woke Julie up. Kat and the other drag rider were close behind. Everyone was fed and watered (Julie got a nice nap) and they left vet 4 just before 2 AM.
We got everyone packed up and headed down the road. All the crews chose to go down Bedford Canyon as opposed to the longer Silverado CAnyon, and would be back at base camp in less than an hour. That left Greg, David and I. I was putting the last of my gear into the back of my truck while Greg and David hitched up the porta potty. Slight problem with that, they couldn't get it on. It seems the ball was too big for the hitch. So, at 2:15 AM I drove my truck in front, Greg came next with Kat's truck and trailer and David brought up the rear driving Greg's truck. The guys were wondering why I didn't just go back Bedford CAnyon, but I'm sort of a mother hen. With David bringing up the rear, if anything had happened to Greg how would David get around him to go get help? Also, I roped David into this and felt kind of responsible for him. I wanted to make sure he got back to Susan safe and sound.
It took us an hour and 15 minutes to get down the hill. I was surprised by the number of vehicles we passed coming up the hill that late at night. I guess the teenagers have to go somewhere to drink. Greg and David switched trucks at the bottom of the road. Greg went home and David and I headed back to base camp. We arrived at 4 AM. Susan was waiting for us and made some coffee. Kim Fuess crossed the finish line at 1:30 AM and that was it, so far. Her horse looked great. The three horses that were trailered in were all just fine and happy as clams. Everyone else was asleep.
About 4:30 AM we heard someone outside Susan's RV say, "We're here." Julie and Charisse were sitting on their horses waiting for people to come out. So, we gave a whoop. Julie had left a great deal behind Charisse, but she said all of a sudden Shereen recognized the road as the way home and kicked it into high gear. Julie caught up with Charisse and they came in together. The horses looked tired and happy to be done, but pulsed down immediately. Sleepy crews took the horses off for their much needed food and rest. The riders soon followed. Both girls opted out of BC judging when they heard Kim had come in 3 hours earlier.
Finally, at 4:44 AM, 16 minutes before cut-off time, the remaining three riders came into base camp holding hands. We gave cheers and checked horses. They all looked great. There was a small amount of confusion when Melissa couldn't find her gear. I could have sworn Ken put it in his truck for the drive down, but in actuality he put it in mine. We got Cabo blanketed and bedded down for the night (morning).
Kat and I did a few minor chores and then it was time for me to leave. About 5:30 I crawled into my truck and Kat went into Susan's RV. I had a 30 minute drive to get home and about 15 minutes left of energy, so I moved over to the passenger seat, pulled out my sleeping bag, tucked my pillow under my head, reclined the seat and fell asleep. I didn't hear Suzie Kelly drive up and park behind me, I didn't hear Kat walk by and look in. I was O-U-T out.
I jerked awake at 8:15. Slowly came to life and got up. Not too many people were up and about, but enough were coming alive that we got breakfast and the awards ceremony ready to go. Dede Wolf left early to go to the doctor. At this time I don't know if her hand is broken or not, but she was one heck of a trooper to have gotten as far as she did even if it isn't. Kat asked me to go around and wake people up at nine, so in my most obnoxious voice I went around pounding on windows and yelling, "Time to get up. Breakfast." God it was fun.
So, what do people bring to a pot luck breakfast. Donuts, cinnamon rolls, bagels and cream cheese, bacon, egg casserole with pasta and veggies and scrambled eggs with everything but the kitchen sink in them with homemade tortillas. I grabbed a tortilla, smeared some cream cheese on it then put a bunch of scrambled eggs in it. What a feast. The protein kicked in and I was suddenly wide awake.
Kim Fuess got BC. Five of the six riders that completed were riding their first 100 mile ride. Four of the horses that completed were in their first 100 mile ride. Two horses were pulled for slight lameness'. One horse was pulled for metabolic reasons. One rider was over time and one rider optioned out. No horses were treated during or after the ride. Every single entrant told Kat to hold the ride again. I may have made fun of the cursing that was going on during the ride, but not one rider said they wouldn't come back. These ladies, even the ones that didn't finish, had huge smiles on their faces. The finishers knew they had truly accomplished something that was thought to be impossible. They used their heads, listened to the vets and came out safe and sound. I'm just as proud of them and their horses as I could be and not be related to them!
OK, so what happened after everyone left breakfast. Some went back to sleep. some packed up and went home. I was now wide awake and Kat was saying she was going back up the mountain to get the porta potty, so I went with her. We had to drop her trailer off first, then head back up Silverado Canyon. What a rush. If you like roller coasters you need to ride with Kat at the wheel. It was better than Magic Mountain. She asked at one point if she was scaring me and all I could say was, "Christ, no. I'm having a ball." She flew up that mountain. We got to the vet area and cleaned up the hay that was still there. Then we hitched the porta potty to the same ball that was on Greg's truck earlier. I have to admit there was a trick to putting it on, and the guys didn't know that. But we got it on and headed out going down Bedford Canyon. This time Kat had to crawl because of the 'brown yeti' that was following us. You should have seen the door flopping open and the toilet paper streaming out behind. We finally taped the toilet paper up and shoved all the stuff that was trailing behind into the bucket Kat shoved in the commode's hole. It took a very long time, but we finally made it back down to base camp. We looked inside. The bucket held the contents of the glory hole in place, but she decided to donate the bucket to the porta potty company and left it there.
I left base camp about 4 PM and pulled up into my driveway at 4:30. My husband helped me unload the truck and I went to take a shower. Instead of a steak dinner my husband got me a hamburger, but I really didn't mind. I hadn't eaten since my eggs at 9 AM and I was hungry enough to eat anything. I figured I'd be ready for bed after I ate, but I wasn't sleepy. I Emailed a couple people. Found out Lynne Glazer had also suffered a flat tire on Indian Truck Trail. Decided not to work on Monday and went out on my back porch to watch the birds. Suddenly a chill wind brought my head up off my chest and I went in to bed at 7:30.
Next year I expect to see a full contingent of entrants.
Until then, happy trails.

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