October 18 2021
by Jay Mero
Virginia City 100 lived up to it’s reputation. Rocks, rocks and more rocks but also lots and lots of climbing and ups and downs.
We had a rough couple weeks leading up to the ride. Our 3rd mare Stella our friend Chelsea was going to ride decided to skid down some pavement two weeks before and redecorate a front knee. Then Lena struggled with her feet and shoeing, and was lame off and and on, better and then worse, ten days before the ride. ￼￼ I wasn’t sure we’d be able to fix it in time. Lots of hand wringing. Turns out after much anxiety and diagnosing and shoes taken on and off - fixing one problem, then creating another problem - the last lameness was just a couple close nails on her LF. The problem was there were no other holes to use, so a late Tuesday 4:20 pm call and plea to Riding Warehouse (they were amazing and got the boots to me next day)and I had a new set of big enough Easy Boot gloves to go on over the front shoes to hold everything on since the LF only had 3 nails holding the whole thing on.
After all that drama things seemed to smooth out. The trip to camp and the pre ride was all easy. It was wild to literally ride through the middle of Virginia City and warm up in a parking lot on Main Street to await ride start at 5 am.
The trail lived up to its reputation for sure. Rugged. Beautiful views. And all up or down on some pretty gnarly stuff. Reyna and I wanted to be competitive but still finish. We spend most of the day riding with or just behind the leaders - generally in 4th to 6 th place. We were not able to bring any of our own crew, but our friend Justin Loewen who’s horse my friend Chelsea did ride, was amazing and crewed for us. Reyna’s mare started to look a bit shaky with some front end lameness around half way and then by the 76 mile hold she was consistently off. Reyna graciously took her pull in stride and changed gears to help Lena and I the rest of the night. So Lena and I had to go off in the dark on hour own for the last loop. Lena has always been independent and strong willed enough to just keep on going, no company needed. Most horses and riders need some support and help on long 100s especially in those last hours in the dark, and try to pair up or ride in groups. Not Lena, she’s the same strong, willing horse all on her own. We were sitting comfortably in 4th by then, with over 3 hours on the next place and I just wanted to cruise it back in without tearing up any more body parts on the mare or myself. We spent over a third of our ride time - 5 and a half hours, of a total ride time of 14 hours and 14 mint - in the dark, again no head lamps.
Lena brought us in safe and sound for a 3rd place finish, about an hour off the two leaders, friends of ours, who decided to have a race off to the finish from the last 94 mile check in. At that time they had only been a half hour ahead of us. That’s how fast they were going the last 6 miles of the ride. The other lead horse of the day was pulled at the finish for lameness (gee we know how that feels ￼). Lena’s finish pulse was 48 and she snorkeled her way through buckets of mash during and after the ride. The next morning Lena did not look as good as she did for the Tevis BC showing. I think the extra weight of the easy boots over the shoes and just the trail took its toll. We finished up with a bit faster ride time than even Tevis. We presented for BC, but she just wasn’t quite sound on her LF or quite as perky. My friend Kassandra’s horse, who was second and was involved in the race in, looked amazing and was awarded a well deserved BC.
All in all a super fun weekend. We are grateful for the time with friends and for their help, the challenging but beautiful trail, the exceptional ride management and for yet another opportunity for Reyna and I to ride together. At least we have one buckle to show for the effort and Reyna’s mare looked much better the next day. It’s also a hoof/shoeing thing, they are half sisters and share the same cursed feet issues. So a long, long well deserved rest for these girls - I don’t think we’d ever ask horses to do Tevis and VC 100 again in the same year, unless it’s a 3 month gap between the rides again. And even then we’d consider it carefully, as they arguably are the two toughest 100s out there, certainly the two toughest in the West.