June 22-23 2012
Earlier this year, I was looking for a 100 mile ride as a prep for General Lee before Tevis. Colorado Mountain Mettle sounded perfect. It had away vet checks, plenty of hills and rocks,and beautiful scenery. As a bonus, it was a two day ride, so We could do the 50 on Piper on Day 1 and then the 100 on General Lee on Day 2.
It was about a 770 mile haul for us, so we broke it up into two days. Basecamp was a nice open field with good grazing. Plenty of room for pens. RM had put out plenty of horse water tubs. Everything was good to go. Then it warmed up, and warmed up some more until it went crazy hot over 100 degrees record temps. I think some folks decided that it was going to be too hot, so they stayed home. It was hot, but humidity was in the 5%-10% range.
So on Day 1, we took off with 16 other riders. After a gradual climb through open fields. we hit the woods, and started serious climbing. Even though we were gaining and losing a lot of elevation, the trails had lots of switchbacks.In the first 12 1/2 miles, I only got off Piper one time to tail a short way up a hill. The vet check was swarming with helpful volunteers. I try to avoid knowing where we are placing wise, so am not sure where we were at this point of the ride. After a 30 minute hold we headed out to a new piece of trail that wound up on the Colorado Trail.
This is where the fun began. It was beautiful, but very technical. Lots of up and down, and twisty trail. Then there was a section that needs a name. There were three places of about 100-200 feet each of steep slippery rock. Think of Cougar Rock times three. Except this was narrow, and tree lined. There were also two low hanging trees. I dismounted and led Piper through. There was also some steep hills that I tailed up, and some I led down. We went through Aspen groves, pine stands, and spectacular overlook views. By the time we covered the 12 1/2 miles to the next vet check, we had taken over 2 1/2 hours. Piper is not a fast flat open land trail horse, but does well on the tough trails. He has great recoveries. It was fun to see the vet's face when Pipers pulse was 44 only 4 or 5 minutes after getting to the check. After the CRI trot out, it dropped to 40. After a 30 minute hold, we turned around and did that section again in reverse. It was the hardest 25 mile
trail I have ever ridden. Adding to the fun was the heat which got around 100 degrees. Even though Colorado is very dry right now, there was still water on the trail. In places we might not have any, the RM put out tons of tubs for drinking and sponging.
We had now done 37 miles. It was now seriously hot. We had a 1 hour hold. I had been drinking more water than at any previous ride. We have done rides with high heat and humidity, and this heat wasn't as draining, we still drank a lot. Piper had done a hard 50 mile ride in Missouri 4 weeks before in 6:40. This ride we were going a lot slower. The last leg was not nearly as difficult as the last 25 miles. One of the best things on this ride was the views of the Denver metro area from the ridges as we headed home down the ridges.
We cruised on home and were surprised to find that even though our ride time was 9 hours, we were in second place. It would up that only 8 of the 17 entries came in and completed.
By the time we had awards, ate some dinner, took a shower, and got General Lee vetted in and ready, I only got 3 1/2 hours sleep. That morning we started off at 4:30 am. Only 7 riders answered the call for the 100 miles. My wife thought I was crazy to do this 100 after such a tough 50, as the temps were going to be even warmer. The first 38 miles had road, and trails in a county park that were nice and flat with mostly excellent footing. We had an away vet check, and then came back to base camp for the one hour hold. Then we headed out to do mostly the same trails we had done the day before. General Lee was strong and eager. When we vetted in, he acted like a wild untrained horse. He must have known what was coming :-)
By the vet check at 58 miles, we lost several riders.No major problems, but smart riders quitting before their horses got injured. The tough 12 1/2 mile stretch seemed even longer on this day. I was riding with Pauline Middleton, a first time 100 mile rider whose horse had a nice fast walk and trot. We had to hustle as the had a 7:00pm cutoff for leaving the river hold. RM didn't want riders hitting that slick rock section in the dark. We made it with 5 minutes to spare. After the turnaround and hold, we had gone about 3 miles back home and caught the lead horse, when I noticed Paulines horse had twisted a shoe. we stopped, and I pulled it off. If we tried to trot too much, she would have gotten back to the next vet check with a torn up hoof, and likely a lame horse. So we walked...and walked...found a few places to trot, but mostly...we walked. It got dark. it got dizzy out. Pauline had some electrolyte in an insulated water bottle that kept me going. We got to the vet check, and a friend of hers re-shod her horse. My wife had shown up to the vet check and took care of Lee for me, and I just rested. I was toast. Worn out, over heated, underfed, and sleep deprived. So I tried a 5 hour energy drink, and we hit the trail. The trail boss for the ride , Linda, was riding drag, so she went out just behind us. Lee was full of energy, and we trotted in the dark making time. Pauline was having problems, so we slowed down. More walking. About 2:00am, we came on the first overlook views of Denver. After being in the middle of nowhere for so many hours, it was an impressive sight to look out at all the city lights. We stopped several times to admire the view. After more time we finally hit flatter land.
I told Pauline we had two options. #1: Agree to tie for 2nd place. ( there was the rider ahead of us, Amanda Fant from Texas, but everybody else had pulled). or Option #2: The Race of Death. Run our horse as fast as they would go ...downhill.. in the dark... after 96 miles... I told her that Lee was up for the Race of Death, but I preferred the tie option. She did too:-)
So at 3:35 am, 23 hours and 5 minutes after leaving camp we came to the finish line. Both horses vetted through great. I was so weak, and unsteady, I had to get a volunteer to trot my horse out. We had indeed finished to win. The next morning General Lee, did his BC presentation like a horse vetting in for a ride instead of a horse that had done a really tough 100 miles. He got BC and High Vet Score. We received very nice awards which included a very nicely designed belt buckle. None of the 100 mile horses required any treatment on a tough day. The RM, staff, vets, and volunteers were all terrific. They made our successes possible.
This ride is a very tough test of horse and rider, but well worth the effort. Under normal weather conditions, we would have had much higher completion rates both days. The views are spectacular, and varied. We plan to come back and see it again. Put it on your bucket list if you like riding well marked challenging trail with great views.
Paul N. Sidio
KMA Chazz Piper
VA Southern Gentleman ( General Lee)