Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ozark Trails 100

Keith Kibler
April 2011

Keith's blog at http://shawneesunrisefarm.net/simplemachinesforum/index.php?topic=142.msg190#msg190

Paul Sidio is my friend. We have ridden several 50s together and one previous 100. When I heard that he had the idea of doing a point to point 100 in the extremely remote Ozarks in So Missouri I was immediately interested. When I learned that no one had made it more than 65 miles, in the last ride, I did have a bit of concern. So, when Paul asked if I could help clear part of the trail, I took the chance to help and preview the course at the same time. The trail was no worse than the Shawnee National Forrest and that is where we normally train and ride. I took some advice and invested in Vettec for additional hoof protection.

The week before the ride featured my 2007 ford developing a head leak. The truck could not be repaired in time and Sandy’s truck could not pull the live aboard. Our only option was a stock trailer and a tent. Sandy said, “great, I love a tent”. She was not being sarcastic and is such a trooper.

Sandy, the super crew!

We went to the ending spot, which was a horse campground called Brushy Creek near Black Mo. As we set up our tent outside the stock trailer, I had the thought that the Clampets had arrived. We slept in the tent through a night of raining and headed off to the Bass River resort for the start.

Barry and Linda Cole were the race directors. They took Paul Sidio’s vision and had the courage and daring to run with it. They are to be admired. I do!


Nine riders started the ride in the 100 and one in the 75. We were supposed to start at 5:45. It started to rain. The Forest Service predicted rain and more rain, which meant seriously swollen water crossings. The race start was pushed back. It was announced that the race plan was modified and that we would find out more later but that we would not be riding point to point. We would ride down the trail until the 20 mark and meet our crews. Sandy is as thrilled with Endurance as I am, but 100 miles is too far for her. Sandy is a wonderful crew and I looked forward to seeing her.

We all put on our rain gear and took to the trail. Lucy Estebook and her fine Arabian "Flyer" went to the lead. Kate and I went with her. We wound around the trail and had a blast together. We were the first though the "gate and go", which was around 9 miles from the start. Lucy’s horse threw a shoe and she had no boot. I gave her what I had. At the first Vet check, at mile 20 we were 18 minutes up. Sandy put a little smaller boot on Flyer.

Lions and Tigers

The race director told me to ride until I got to Hazel Creek Campground. He said I would know it when I came to a sign that said “Hazel Creek Campground”. We were told to turn around when we got to the sign. Off we went and Flyer was flying. I stopped to take a nature break and found Lucy on up the trail, across a small wide spot in the trail, that had a couple of picnic tables. There was no sign of a “Hazel Creek” sign and so we kept going. We eventually came to a sign that said that “Hazel Creek” was was 4.5 miles behind us. It was not our best moment. We turned around. We headed into the vet check knowing we had ridden at least 9 miles too far on the trail. Flyer was done as a result of the shoe issue.

As Kate and I started to leave, the co-race director was on the mobile to the race director. She said, “don’t leave, the race may have to be canceled because of flooding.” Someone started to pull Kate’s saddle. Then the race director said, “the other riders are across a creek that can’t be crossed now and here is what we are going to do. You can go on but you have to turn around and come back. As long as you do 100 miles you can ride back and forth. Just do a 100 miles.” I agreed, took off, went to the creek, and then turned and came back. Did I say it was black as ink out by now?

When I came back for the next vet check, I was told that the race had changed again and that the other riders were now on the same side of the impassible creek. I was told to ride until the next vet check. I did that. On the way the rain increased and it actually started hailing. Kate paused and seemed to ask me what I had gotten her into. As we racked along, I noticed two orange beads glowing in the brush off the trail. I went back and looked again. It was a large rattle snake coiled on some dead fall. We left him alone. I continued to ask Kate to step into raging creeks in the dark. She never missed a step. She did step into a deep spot in one crossing that left me thinking we were going under.

Lions, Tigers, and Bears

We got to the vet check, and the race director said I had to ride some extra miles, to make up the section where the others had crossed the creek that I couldn't cross, and I did that. At one point, I was told to ride down a trail following glow sticks for 5 miles. I did that and on the way back I noticed that a second set of glow sticks were on the trail. I was in a loop. 5 miles became 7 miles. I could not find my way back to the vet check. It started to rain again. It was 2:30 am and I had been sopping wet 17 hours. I called out loud for help. No answer came back. I was on the verge of panicking. The only thing I could think of was to get off of Kate and sit under a tree and wait for help. I realized it might take days to get that help. I was desperate. It was time to pray. I did just that and got the answer of which way to go. 15 minutes later and I found myself at the vet check where the other riders were waiting. We all did 4 miles of road riding and the race director told us to head down the trail for 10 miles to the finish.

Kate was in racking mode and off we went. A mile later, Kate and I came to a point where the trail went into a larger trail that made a sharp right turn. It had an OT sign on it but it did not look right. I went backwards on the trail, and found my friend Paul and the other riders and asked if there was a road ahead. I heard “what road” back from the dark. I turned Kate around and we went back to the sign and headed down the wider trail. I heard the others behind me. I turned and went back to where they were and they were gone. I could not believe it. I called for them. I called loudly. I heard nothing.

So, I went back to the vet check again and the vet crews were gone. I turned around again and went the mile back to the sharp turn. I knew something was wrong. I looked closely at the OT sign and saw there was a second OT sign behind it and a smaller trail. At 4:30 am, in the rain and with wet bifocals, I simply could not see the second sign. I was elated to have found the right way on trail again but realized I had once again given away the lead. Worse, I would now have to hustle to finish within the 24 hour time limit.

We were now well over 100 miles, not including the back and forth over the last few miles at the wide spot. We had 10 miles to go and Kate acted like she was starting the event. We racked on. I watched the GPS and the clock and I knew it would be close. The trail wound around so much it became maddening. Dawn broke and it stopped raining. By 7 am I had 35 minutes to finish and I knew that if I could stay on Kate, we would make it.

We racked into the final vet check to find my Sandy’s beaming face and what sounded to me like thundering applause. Everyone thought I was lost. Sandy knew we would make it somehow. I had a problem. I could not get off of Kate. I could not raise either leg. Sandy and another helper took my feet out of the stirrups and I hugged Kate and rolled to the ground. Once Kate completed I was standing talking to Sandy and all of a sudden a wave of emotion swept over me and I started crying. I felt like a complete goober but I really couldn’t help myself.

I had gone from elation to despair to elation and been wet and cold for 24 hours. Our finish time was 23:35. The other riders had done their 100 miles. Not including the riding back and forth at the wide spot, Kate had carried me 119 miles and finished 15 minutes behind the leaders. I love this horse.

Lions, Tigers and Bears, OH MY!

It appeared we were the only horse that could stand for BC. I fed Kate and got 1½ hours of sleep and a shower. When I went to the vet, the race director came up to me and said, “You are not going to believe this, and I am SO sorry”. I had no idea what he was talking about. He said that one of the other female riders from Wyoming was objecting to my getting placing because the race directors had had me do parts of the course in a different order than the others when they thought the impassable creak was separating me from the competitors. I was in shock. I mentioned I had done what I was told to do to the best of my ability and he said he totally agreed. He said they knew I had done the mileage and more but she was objecting.

I told him I understood that someone might object to Kate standing for B.C., but I had no idea why someone higher in the placing order would object to our getting last place. He said it was crummy, that he knew we had done well over the 100 miles, and he was visibly upset.

This man had done a wonderful job and the last thing I wanted to do was see him upset by anybody. I told him that I argued for a living but would not argue for myself and accepted my belt buckle as my completion award. I should say, “Kate’s completion award.” They made a special “hard luck award” and he announced at the awards lunch that I had done everything asked of me for 24 hours and that Kate was a super horse. I truly appreciated that.

It has been my pleasure to have completed over 80 triathlons, 2 Ironmans and 10 x 500 mile biking events. This race was the hardest thing I have ever done. The trail is not impossible as 6 of us completed the event. However, you need to have a really tough horse, a crew and a good attitude. I would also say that faith would be important. It sure was for me.

I will cherish my belt buckle the rest of my life. Thank you Barry, Linda and Paul!
Rack on my friends. ( Well. Many of you can “trot on”)
Keith and Kate
Got to go hug my horse, well, as soon as I wake up.

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