2016 Sunriver 100 – Jala Neufeld
I do not even know where to begin. It started a few weeks ago when I finally committed to registering for the 100. From that day forward, my motto was “I got this.” I had to keep saying it, keep thinking it, whenever I had a doubt about it; I got this came out of my mouth.
Nicole and Greg were instrumental in helping me prepare, checklist, packing lists, going over ride plan, crew plans, what ifs, and reinforcing the “don’t let the good idea fairy take over!” Yah, she Nicole told me that. I always have some really great ideas (NOT!) I got this.
The weekend before the ride, I flew to Wisconsin for a work related training event. I arrived back home on Wednesday, Nicole picked me up from the airport and we went and checked on Belle. She was looking good. Her weight was up, she was full of energy, and her legs looked good. I had taken her for her “blow out” ride the Friday before I left so that’s always a worry on how she will come out of it. I got this.
Thursday morning, travel day. Finished packing on the loose ends from the house, getting ready to load the truck to take to the trailer, and….. the truck won’t start. I got this, it’s ok, I got this. Slight change of plans, load up the car with everything, take it to the trailer and Greg will deal with the truck and his last minute errands. We can still get out in time, I got this.
Kim and Kat helped to finish packing the trailer, we got everything in place, went over lists just to make sure. I got this. Greg still wasn’t back, and I couldn’t reach him on his phone. It’s ok. I got this. Kim and I enjoyed a cup of coffee watching the ponies play out back. I got this right. Yep I got this.
Greg rolls in, and we hook up, load up Belle, and off we go. My super crew included Greg, master of everything especially taking care of me and Bell, Kat, my go to for my elytes and best little runner, and Kim, best massage therapist, motivator and everything else. I got this.
Rolled into ride camp and immediately started to get things in order. Kim, Kat and I unpacked, getting Belle ready for the night and arranged sleeping quarters. Greg got the cooking area all set up and made the best dinner. Homegrown pork chops with stuffing!! It was so good. Ok, I got this. It’s also getting really cold out, I mean water buckets freezing kind of cold.
After dinner I took Belle for a walk. We went down to the water tanks; she thought they were going to eat her. Ok Belle, we can’t have a spooky horse, so as she’s thinking about freaking out, I jump and holler, OMG I thought she was going to come out of her skin, I laughed so hard. She gave me a look, oh that look. She settled down. We had a conversation as we were walking. Just reminding her that we’ve ridden in the dark before, we have always been fine, she just needed to breathe and relax. We got this. We are almost back to the trailer and Belle does a complete freak out like something was eating her ass. Girlfriend you got to quit this there is nothing there!! Come on now, breath, relax, we got this. Took her a few to get herself back together, but she was really worried about what was behind her. I can assure you it was nothing. Then I look up, the sky is spitting snow. Are you serious! SNOW!! In June?? Alright I need to get some sleep and get warmed up. I made sure Belle was tucked in, warm and had plenty of food in front of her and off to bed I go.
I was so cold, I couldn’t warm up. I was hoping that Kat and Kim were staying warm in the back of the trailer. Nothing was moving so I assumed they were tucked in. I didn’t sleep very well, kept getting up to check on Belle. Every time I opened the door, she just looked at me, go away woman I’m warm and trying to sleep.
Friday was nicer; the sun was out, but still cold. Took all day, getting elytes ready, vet check bags packed, little naps, walking Belle, registering, ride meeting, going over ride plan with my super crew, breathing and just generally trying to relax. Many people came over and wished me the best. I was asked numerous times if I was riding with someone. I said no, I know my horse, and it’s something we can’t do and be successful, not this ride. I had to be able to make my own decisions out there without the influence of another horse and rider. I assured them I would be ok, I had my super crew, I had spot, I had a lot of support both on the grounds and back home. I would not be alone. I got this.
Completed my registration, Anna was so sweet in giving me my lucky number: 313. Got in line to vet in, got the number on the butt, vetted thru with a HR of 40. No backing out now. I got this.
It was hard going to sleep Friday night. I layed in bed and closed my eyes, but every little noise had me awake. I check on Belle at least three times. I got this, get some sleep I told myself.
Ok, this is where things get fuzzy, so bare with me.
Wakeup 0330, check. Coffee to warm up (it’s flipping cold and raining), oatmeal for breakfast, start mixing elytes. Check – I got this
0400, start giving elytes, brushing Belle, prepare for tacking up. Check, I got this
0430 Greg comes out to help me saddle up and keep Belle warm, lifts me into the saddle. Go over the first two loops and what the plan is, check, I got this.
0455 Check in, I got this
0500 Trail open, we WALK out!!! WALKED!!! Oh yah, I got this.
Belle is listening, we walked the first bit, then picked up a little jog, a couple of horses passed us and she’s still with me, head in the game. The first hill, a couple more riders pass us and she is starting to fret a bit, so check check, come on girlfriend, me and you, no one else, we got this. She responds and out we move. Within the first mile we have settled into a comfortable pace, not to fast, not to slow and we can’t see anyone front of us, a couple riders behind us but they are not messing with Belles brain, all is good.
Get to the first water tank, and the I asked the radio guy (hindsight 20/20 look, don’t ask) which way everyone went, he pointed to my right, so off we go. We move out and she’s moving nicely, comfortable, turn the corner and the front runners are coming back at us. Ummm. They informed us that we are going the wrong way, we should have went left at the tanks not right. I had about 4 or 5 riders now that stay with me as I call Lois, there is no way I’m going to put on any extra miles at this point without verification of where I’m at. Lois confirmed our location and confirmed where we went wrong. Alright, it’s ok, I got this. We start heading back and now I have a complete ass of a horse under me. She thinks she’s heading home, we are hopping and popping and going sideways. I’m doing my best to sit, breathe, talk to her, reassure her all without crying. I got this, girlfriend, we got this.
Ok, past the point of our mistake, she settles in a little. Cruising along, and oh my we start going downhill. I had to walk, I have to save those shoulders, to early in the game to mess anything up. I was passed by a few of the 100 milers. Which is ok, I want a completion, I want a happy horse. She doing well, listening, lifting, using her body correctly. THEN, the front 50’s come up on us, I pull over, let them pass. Belle lets me know that this is not right, she doesn’t belong behind anyone. Oh boy, come on girlfriend, not a time for a temper tantrum. We have this conversation, I wait till she settles down, I’m not moving till you figure this out. Finally, she listens and we are going forward again. Aaaannnd, here comes another 50 miler. Annndddd we have this conversation again, this time it didn’t take as long. Girlfriend, we got this, I got this, trust me, I need you.
We are cruising along down the trail, hit a little single track through the trees, she loves those, just a bebobing along annndddd… no more ribbons. Ah hell, where did I go wrong, I back track, she’s confused, thankfully it wasn’t very far, but now my emotions are all over the place, I’m crying, tears are rolling, and saying over and over I got this I got this I got this. My garmin buzzes at me and I see 20 miles pop. What the hell, no way, there is no way was have gone 20 miles already, ok, well if we did then we should be coming up to VC right. Yah… my mind was gone, I couldn’t think. I was stressed, so much has gone wrong already. It’s cold, it’s wet, I’ve taken two wrong turn already. I’m still crying as we come up to another radio guy, after my last experience with the radio guy I’m not asking nothing. But I see water, let’s drink. She said no thank you…. Ok, if we have truly gone over 20 miles you should be drinking right… that’s her thing. So we keep trucking down the trail, playing leap frog with a few riders as we manipulate the ups and downs of the terrain. My GPS buzzes again…. 30 miles, NO FLIPPING WAY HAVE I GONE THIS FAR!!! So I stop, I look really hard at my Garmin, holy hell, Jala you are an idiot!! I forgot to clear my last ride out. You have NOT gone 30 miles you have gone 17. Ok I feel better, I really do, then I cry because I’m an idiot. But I’m going forward and I’m saying out loud, I got this, I really do, I got this. Get over it and move on.
We stop in the meadow to grab some grass, she grabs a mouthful and tells me we have to keep moving forward, so up into the single track we go. Remember, she loves the windy single tracks. We pass two riders and keep going up the hill, two riders come up behind me. It’ Celena and Carol. For some reason I felt a wave of relief over me seeing those two. Celena said we were about 3 miles from VC. Oh thank you lord, I’m doing ok. Just seeing those two brightened my day. Even though it was in passing, it was awesome. Ok, I GOT THIS!!
Come out the single track and I see Cassidy hiding under a tree with a blanket around her trying to keep her camera gear dry and herself warm. Oh I was so thankful to see her. I stopped and chit chatted for a bit, letting Belle eat the luscious grass. She informed me that camp was just around the corner. Belle and I jog a little and when I see the vehicles I start walking. Camp sees me and cheers, it was an awesome feeling to come into after the rough start we had. Belle immediately pulses down and wait. It’s a full check not a trot thru like I thought. OH shit!! I told my crew not to worry about the first one, I had no one out there. Oh shit oh shit, it’s ok, really it’s ok, it got this. Paige comes running up to me and asks what she can do to help, I wanted to break into tears right there. I was so very thankful she was there. I do my best to take care of me and Paige was awesome feeding Belle from her hands and helping me with elytes. I leave camp 10 minutes late, but it’s ok. I want a completion, not going on placings.
And off we go. I really don’t remember much of the next stretch. Other than being cold and wet, UNTIL we are a couple miles from camp and it starts flipping snowing and snowing hard! I know I’m close to camp because I hear the mule hollering for its friend. I laughed, I’m close and I know it. I start walking down the big hill coming into camp, come around the corner and I hear Greg’s voice, “come on mama, we got you!”. I wanted to cry again. We come across the line and Belle immediately pulses down. Greg runs her through vet check and the girls take Belle back to camp to take care of her. Greg throws me in the trailer next to the heater and starts to take my wet clothes off. As I’m stripping I’m hollering out the elyte instructions, Kat is all over it. She was spot on with getting those all set up.
Time to head out again. Back up in the pink look to the same VC area. I really don’t remember much of that loop. I remember coming in to VC, I saw my bright orange shirts and knew all would be good. My amazing crew did a fabulous job taking care of me and Belle, she was looking good.
Time to head out to the next loop. I tell you what, I am so thankful that Washington bike riders are respectful. Oregon bike riders are ass hats. I came across at least four of them, not one spoke to me, not one stopped. They just kept going. Ass hats. Come up on Tani and Layne. They said to be thankful I didn’t run into the motorbike and the four wheeler. And into the last out check I come. The sun was finally out and belle was a little warm, so she took a couple minutes to pulse, but she did. She looked good. We are at the 68 mile mark. But I’m starting to feel it. My body is telling me enough is enough. But my crew was the best, they kept me motivated, took care of Belle.
Greg throws me up on Belle and off I go. This loop was rough for me. I was hurting in places I shouldn’t. I walked a lot, Belle was confused. But she carried me. I came up on a rider that was also walking. We rode together for a bit. Belle did very well at maintaining the pace, just nice and easy, walking when my body said no more. A few riders came up behind and passed us and the one we were riding with went off with them, so it’s just Belle and I again. I hurt, I really hurt. I was crying my body ached so bad. I slowed WAY down. Belle got to eat a lot of grass, when we could find it. I didn’t have my Garmin , it had died, so I plugged it into the truck to charge for my last loop so I had no clue how far we had gone, what pace we were keeping. My mind was starting to go numb. But… I got this. I just needed to get to camp. We stopped at one point, I cried and Belle ate. I bet you I was there for at least 10 minutes just trying to pull myself together physically and emotionally. I told Belle, come on girl, lets keep going forward, we have to be close to camp. We come around the corner, literally just around the corner and there was camp. I wanted to cry again. And yet again, my amazing crew took care of Belle and made sure I was ok. Belle cleared vet and we took her to the trailer.
We kept that saddle on, so she knew she was not done. She was so confused. We are 80 miles into the ride. We are at camp, it’s getting colder as the sun is getting ready to set in about an hour or so. My crew is amazing, lifting my spirits, letting me know that my team is behind me and waiting updates. Belle looks amazing. She’s eating and drinking and peeing and pooping and taking care of her and me. She has been a complete rockstar, but we are not done yet. One more loop. I got this. I put on dry clothes and a heavier coat and Greg lifts me into the saddle. My body says no more, but my mind is back on track, Belle is saying what the hell…. We got this. I was cheered as I left camp for my last loop. Garmin back on, I know where I’m going. Music is playing. My goal was to get down those nasty hills before it got dark, I think Belle was thinking the same thing as she cantered along. We got to the first downhill and she sighed. I apologized to her, I knew I couldn’t get back on if I got off, so she carefully carried me down the hill. We cantered to the next one, and she again, took care of me going slowly down the hill. I got this. The worst of that loop is over. The sun is going down and it’s starting to get dark. I’ve been watching the four wheeler tracks, they were putting glow sticks up. I was ready for the dark to come. Belle and I have been doing night rides at home. But ya know, riding a new trail at night is a whole different experience. Glow stick to glow stick, that what I was told to ride. I got this Keep my eyes open and up. I kept my headlamp off so I could see those sticks easier. It made a big difference. Trust my horse, trust my Belle to make the right choice in where to put her feet. I got this.
Paige had told me she would meet me at the water tanks with some alfalfa for Belle and a bottle of water for me. We are now about 14 miles into the loop and I thought we had missed each other, it was dark. I come around the corner and I see headlight, vehicle headlights, I hear Kat!!! OMG I was flooded with emotions. Paige hand fed Belle a whole flake of alfalfa, Belle was relaxing again. Kat handed me my water, I guzzled it. We stayed there for at least 10 minutes, letting Belle just chow down. Paige said she would follow me out, but not turn on the headlights so I didn’t get sick. I’ve been running without lights and I was afraid it would mess up my night vision also. Belle had a burst, of energy, she knew where she was, we were only about 4 miles out and it was mostly road, she cantered along. I only saw the truck once behind me. The next water stop Belle guzzle, she had learned to drink at every stop now. She guzzled, and off we go, she’s moving out. We are coming down the hill into camp, come around the corner and we see camp. I hear my crew, I hear the cheers, I’m crying, I did it I did it. And….. Belle stops. I mean just stops. I urge her forward, thinking she might be scared of all the lights, nope, he had to pee. We all laughed. I cross the finish line, Greg had to lift me out of the saddle. I can’t move. I don’t remember who did what, but Belle’s tack was off and her blankets were on and she was over at vet and I was confused and Kat took me by the shoulders (apparently I was freaking out a little) and says, ”Jay, she pulsed, she completed” OMG!! WE DID IT WE DID IT. I’m actually numb now. Greg took care of Belle, Kat video’ed everything. I remember very little. I remember getting hugs of congratulations and getting some very much appreciated hot chocolate. I remember laughing at Greg’s BC trot out. I remember hearing her CRI numbers, I remember that she looked fantastic. I remember that my crew did an amazing job of taking care of us.
True emotions of what I accomplished didn’t really hit till we are driving home. I read my team page comments, and was overwhelmed at the support they were giving from afar. I cried when I read all the words, I cried again when I read it outload to Greg who was driving. I cried again when I got to Nicoles.
This was such an amazing experience. I can’t thank everyone enough for the support, the cheers, the comments, for being there. I would start naming you all individually but I am afraid I would miss someone. Because it was everyone. It took a village to prep, ride, and complete and without you all I don’t think I could have done it as successfully as I did.