February 25 2019
It hurts to breathe - I’m suffering from full-body work over - but we got it done:
20 Mule Team - Turtle version:
I was super happy to complete the 100 for the sixth time (on three different horses) and got my 5,000 miles in the process. I don’t ride many rides each year, so was happy to reach this milestone.
This year I had the pleasure of riding Andrea Maitland’s mare Lily - chaperoning her #2 horse, Wyatt, on his first 100.
We had a couple of incidents of Wyatt’s brain falling out during the course of the ride, so had to adjust our pace accordingly. Add in some unexpected course changes, and we found ourselves several hours behind schedule, both a little frazzled (Andrea from dealing with Wyatt’s antics, me from riding a strange horse in a strange saddle on too little personal conditioning [i.e. I haven’t actually ridden anything close to a conditioning ride since last summer]).
By 65 miles, I was close to tears trying to get everything done in the “hour hold”. Of course we were parked about as far away from the vetting area as possible. I opted to switch to my treeless saddle for the final 35 miles, but that meant switching stirrups and rump rug onto it, attaching a pommel bag, and transferring the contents of the bag; I needed a headlight taped to my helmet (the moon didn’t rise until 10:45 and was then behind cloud cover - and riding rutted trails in pitch black is much tougher than I realized - even if the horse can see the way); I needed glow sticks that actually gave out light taped on (the red ones make you visible to others, but don’t actually give out any ambient light); I needed to switch out my entire lower half of clothing - and “anti-chafe” my legs which were rubbed to cr*p from the strange saddle; I needed to tack up Andrea’s horse (health issues mean she has difficulty you that time of the ride); and I needed to feed myself.
Thankfully, Anne Williams (fresh off her 65 miler, and “off to take a nice shower” - b*tch)(and I mean that in the nicest possible way) drove past and came to my pathetic-state rescue, helping me with all the above)(well, not the clothing/anti-chafe part). Many thanks to her.
The result was we were out 30 mins late (not helping our “tight on time” schedule), but at least we were out.
Doing the math as we set off into the darkness to anxiously spot glow sticks, I realized we had to maintain slightly over 5 mph for the next seven hours. Which may not sound bad, but it includes several long climbs and a couple of descents, and sand.
Andrea had “Endomondo lady” on her phone, calling out the miles as we checked them off. I told her we needed 12 minute miles, or below if we wanted to finish. In addition, I worked out that we needed to be in to VC5 by 3:30 latest.
We stuck Lily in front and told her “trot” and trot she did. That little mare maintained a consistent trot for the next 15 miles, much of it uphill in sand, carting my extra 35-40 lbs of unused-to weight (her usual rider Andrea is less, er, “muscular” than I).
By the time we reached the 395 crossing (80 miles ish) around 1 am, we’d bought ourselves about 25 mins of time. Just as well, as we both got dizzy and peculiar when we stopped trotting here, and Andrea’s body decided enough was enough, and she had the pleasure of her first endurance-induced puke fest. Thankfully Wyatt didn’t care (stood in front of hay), and after 5 mins of wavering, she sucked it up (so to speak) and off we went again.
We even caught and passed a couple of riders at this point and worked hard enough to get into VC5 by 2:45.
It was freezing at this check, but the horses scarfed down mashes and Andrea scoffed down tums.
To show you how far gone I was, when we arrived, I unclipped my tailing rope from the saddle, hopped off the horse and walked her over to the in timer. Only when I got there, I realized that my tailing rope wasn’t actually attached to the horse - I was just holding an empty rope - and she’d gone off, got herself a drink, and found the hay.
The vet pronounced her “a little stiff” (you think? After what she just pulled off?) and by then we had 2:45 hours to get the last 10 miles, so we took it really easy on the way in and finally got in at 5:40 am (ride start was 6 am the previous day).
This would have been fine if, by then, I wasn’t hallucinating from tiredness (not the first time on this ride). Amongst other things, I hallucinated an elephant, two dragons, an extra horse that Andrea was ponying, and an overhead banner that was so real I reached out to touch it (it turned out to be the skyline). I had to hand-walk Lily down the long hill to stay awake, and at one point when she stopped to pee and I leaned over her neck, I fell asleep completely.
But get it done we did - and Wyatt was still rooting and pulling and wanting to go faster at the end of his first 100 - amazing.
Many thanks to Andrea for hauling the horses from AZ and entrusting me with her gem of a mare. Such a great mare to borrow.