Old Dominion 2014, A 50 Mile Perspective...
Off an on over the years as I've done endurance and competitive trail, I have thought I’d like to try the Old Dominion endurance ride one more time. The year I first started endurance, is when I decided to tackle that monster...but, I was much younger then and really didn't think of it as a ‘monster’, just a very long ride. I did all of one competitive trail competition as a warm up to the OD in 1975, on a five year old half Arab mare that I bred. Oh my, ignorance is truly bliss. My sister and a neighbor friend went also. My dear Dad was our crew. It was an adventure in many ways. My sister did get her buckle on an Appaloosa with only minutes to spare. Sister was lame for more than a week. My friend didn't finish and neither did I. Looking back, I probably should have gone on and finished but, caution and ignorance made me pull at around 75 miles.
So, I tried it again on the same mare 1977. Again we failed to finish. This time it was me, unable to control a medical condition that has dictated my life way too often. But, we did make it to around 80+ miles. This time that friend that was with me before got her buckle, and another friend that joined us this time, got hers too... so, at least some of us were successful.
Took a break from distance riding now and then to family commitments, life in general and still that darn little medical condition. Bred and rode a few horses along the way, did some showing with my kids, then back to distance riding, mostly CTRs, with an occasional endurance ride and several LDs when my granddaughter joined me. Amazing how times passes.
Anyway, that Old Dominion was still nagging in the back of my mind. Talked to others that had done it, some loved it some hated it. Always they talked of the ROCKS and hard surface. My current main ride, Noways (the one who taught me how to fly) is a fast horse who loves to canter, but is also a great mountain horse. He never, ever gives up and has many times kept me going when I’d just a soon slow up. He would be my first choice for the 100, however, like me he has some years on him and I have to pick his races. And I didn't feel he was 100% at this time.
My newest horse, of four years, Titan who I mostly got for my granddaughter, Paige to ride in order to keep up with Noways, is a more mellow boy and can start feeling sorry for himself when things get tough. But, he is steady and strong with great legs and feet. So, I was strongly considering him as my mount for the third try, 39 years later!
To test myself, I rode back to back 50 milers at Top of The Rock in May. I was exhausted after the second day’s ride and made Titan’s back sore, I’m sure because I was not riding as balanced as I should have been. Granted both horses got 3 rd place, so we were not moseying along.
So, I rethought it all over and over...finally decided the 50 miler at OD was enough challenge for my old body.
We had a Kentucky contingent going, so it was way more fun. Robby and Diane Doll (who was going for her third OD 100 mile finish), Mary Lynn Stockdale and her husband, Greg Jones, Mary Kolb, and myself who were hoping for 50 mile finishes, and Vickie Crance who was going for the 25 miler.
I had only ridden Titan two times since his last race, where Paige had tied for first and BC at the Indy ride four weeks earlier. So I knew he was fit, but well rested, however, I on the other hand need to continue to ride or I get way too tired and sore. But, alas, I was in it, so off we went to Virginia for yet another adventure in the mountains.
We were camped next to a rider from Iowa who was riding Calvary 100. I was up when she was saddling up in the dark. It was so sweet to hear her talk to her horse as she kept putting on all they would need for the days ride...oh my the confidence one must have to tackle that trail as a Calvary rider! (Note: she did finish!)
Had my usual peanut butter and banana ride breakfast..it stays with me great, but oh I have to gag it down.
Pulled Titan out of his pen and he immediately started to shiver all over. It was cool but it was mostly nerves that had him humped up. Poor guy. He is mostly mellow, but internalizes his nerves. His butt muscles were bunched up so bad I was afraid he would tie up, so I saddled him and hand walked him hoping to warm him and settle his nerves some. Hard to do when everyone is doing the same, some walking, some trotting and some cantering...goodness. There were to be 65 of us in the 50. Warm up can be a bit nerve racking.
I checked everything and looked good, so I climbed up. He was still humped up some, but connected right away with Mary’s horse as we warmed up. Got off again to tighten the saddle one last time then made our way to the start.
Mary Lynn and Greg opted to start later in the pack, but we did see them at every VC though out the ride.
When we had less than a minute to start, I realized I had indeed forgotten something! My Renegade that I usually carry in case of a lost shoe...and this ride is one that you really don’t want to do without foot protection. Remember, ROCKS. It was like that moment in the Black Stallion movie when Alec looks down when the race was about to start and he realized The Black was bleeding from a kick to his leg. Alec wanted to stop, but The Black was having none of it, the gates opened and off they went...well, that was what it felt like. Titan was going ~ now! So off we went. I sent up a quick prayer, and told myself that he was just shod this week, and my farrier is one of the best... faith and luck had to be with me this day.
The weather Gods blessed us all day with clear skies and cool breezes and low humidity...a first for the OD in it’s history. And we got to enjoy it.
Titan can be a bit of a hand full at the beginning but manageable, so we clicked along getting into a good steady pace. It was still a bit muddy in places, but the rocks were the real challenge and started right away. We passed a few and some passed us, still we held steady, our goal being a good thoughtful pace for our horses abilities, and wanting to finish the ‘Beast of the East’ in good form without thoughts of racing.
With lots of twists and turn, ups and downs, for 15.7 miles, we eventually came into the first VC at Bird Haven. Oh my, it was a lovely shady place, but very confusing and congested. All distances come into this check, (I think around 160 horses) so the crews were set up in a close, unorderly fashion. Since none of us (Ducks) had a crew, we had to send our crew bags out with the volunteers. So, we had to do some walking and searching to find them. Then, find the pulse box, then the vets. Mary’s horse, Kracker and Titan pulsed down in the same minute I think about three minutes after arrival, so that was good. Then we had to find the out timer to get our out time. Not fond of this method.
Titan wasn’t interested in food or water, which gave me pause and sent up alarms in my head...he was alert but only nibbling at the hay and food I had to hold for him. We had 45 minutes here, just enough to find the porta potty, down some water, refill our water bottles, and a snack for ourselves before heading out again.
I paid close attention to Titan as we trotted along. He wasn't very enthusiastic so I got more worried, but he was going along steady, and he often settles down after the first loop. So on we went. He perked up then after an half hour or so, thank goodness, and his electrolytes kicked up his thirst so he began to take advantage of the available water. Then we had the big climb ahead. Holy smoke! Up, up and more up. Hard pulling climb, add some rocks, big rocks, medium rocks, small rocks, rocks on top of rocks. There were times when I wasn't sure we were on trail and kept looking to see if there was a way around boulders that one had to navigate. Titan is a careful trail horse so we did OK, but still slipped and slid and sent up sparks. Our pace was just beyond a crawl. All the while I was hoping those shoes stayed on. Saw a few lost shoes here, and an Easy boot too... The farriers would be busy this day. Just please not me! It took us well over an hour to get over that monster mountain. This was the most difficult and the longest loop of the 50 miles.
As hard and challenging as it was, it was also incredibly beautiful...the mountain laurel was in bloom and hung over the trail. The occasional vistas went on for miles over the valleys and the breeze was like cold air conditioning...we are truly blessed.
Titan and myself, Kracker and Mary Kolb...riding partners all day...:) Still haven't learned how to re-size those scanned photos...so sorry I did not purchase the ones Becky had at the ride with the Old Dominion name on them...:(
Titan knew when we made that turn for home and really perked up. Hurrying on down the mountain on a rocky, sort of gravely road/trail. We took time to pull off trail on some grassy areas and let our ponies graze and let some riders who had followed us over the mountain pass. We continued on into Laurel Run VC. No crewing here, but more than half way through it now! Lots of great volunteers here to help in any and all ways..held our horses while we took care of ourselves, water, hay, even grain, which Titan thought was a good thing now. Thank goodness. Again our ponies pulsed and vetted through on the same minute. Mary Lynn and Greg were about 20 minutes behind us, having a good ride. So off we went again. Lots of gravel road this time, and I have to say it was a welcome relief...so we made some time here. The down hills were getting to my poor feet, and bothering Mary too, so we downed Advil and rode on through it, with occasional walking with our feet out of the stirrups, trying not to grumble too much...:)
Back to Bird Haven for the final check. Both horses ate good here, and we finally figured out how to get our out time so our horses could continue to eat. Still don’t care for this way of doing it. Without a crew member it is a real hassle. Anyway, this one was a short 20 minute hold, but we let the boys eat as much as was available and zipped everything up so the volunteers could pick up our bags to take back to camp. (It turned out that we had to unhitch and go get them ourselves the next morning. Thanks, Mary and Greg!) Then off we were again. Only 6 .5 miles to go! Titan was on a mission for home now and flew down the trail. Thankfully it was the best trail of the whole ride and we made good time. In short order, we were back on the main road to camp. Finished at 4 something...didn’t get my ride card...bummer. We were surprised to find we were 13th and 14th placing.
Vickie was waiting for us and helped get us get untacked and cooled off. Titan took a bit longer than Kracker, but soon we both went to the vets and got our final check...
Vickie was kind enough to trot Titan out so I could see how he went too. He checked through great, but the Vet did comment that he sure was mellow, was that normal?...ha, ha. He was through with that trailography!
Wa Hoo...finally got a completion at Old Dominion, only a 50 miler, but still a good challenge but doable for us. Even got a buckle...:)
Mary wanted to get on home so got her ride shirt and started home. The rest of us decided to do the awards brunch and enjoy the whole ride to the end, even though we had a long drive in front of us.
It was delightful to watch the 100 mile BC judging and then the short talks from each of the 100 mile top ten. But, the best of all was the winner of that challenging 100 miles...a 14 year old girl, who was more than an hour ahead of the rest of the field...gives the sport hope for the future!
A huge thanks to the many, many helpful volunteers that make this challenging ride so enjoyable and to the management that had to organize it all...THANK YOU!
Noways and Titan Tales of 2014...
Because we (husband, Lee, dog, Lucy, and horses Titan & Noways) did not arrive in Arizona until much later than I had hoped, we missed a couple of rides I had really looked forward to. But, the weather was splendid all winter long and my boys got good regular works, both fast and slow. I am so fortunate to be able to ride right from my house, onto some of the best footing and spectacular scenery in the country, so missing a couple of endurance rides was disappointing, but certainly nothing to complain about.
Noways, bath time.
It had only rained once since we first arrived, and although there were some cool mornings, the days were sunny and warm...until...you guessed it..rain predicted for the first ride we were finally going to in 2014...oh well, I have yet to melt, but really do not care for cold rains. I was feeling lucky so went ahead and traveled down to Marilyn’s Old Pueblo ride in Sonoita. It is the fourth or so, time for us so I knew the trails well enough and it is a beautiful area. Even get to ride over some of the Arizona Trail, which is really, really beautiful. I so hope this trail will not be lost to mining...
Noways and Titan on their Hi Ties, chowing down before the ride.
I had both boys with me and decided to ride Noways the first day which turned out to be the 55 miler. My plan was to ride Noways the first day, skip a day to get myself rested, then ride Titan the third day. And it looked like the weather would time just about right.
I’m always a bit concerned at the start on Noways because he can sometimes be quite demonstrative about how he dislikes leaving Titan at the trailer. So we walked out with some other riders doing the same until he proved he had it together, then started to trot, passing a few riders as we zipped along through the desert. I love this time of day just before the sun peeps up over the horizon, the horses breaths coming fast, the sound of hooves making haste over the sand, rocks and brush... heaven!
The trails were well marked. Thank you!! And we just proceeded along, first riding with one then the other, some 50 milers, some 30, some old friends, some new. Adjusting Noways race brain along the way. We had a vet check, and hold, then off we went again, then back for a stop and go. Here I let Noways have a snack while I filled my water bottle and off we went again. This loop we were by ourselves and Noways was starting to dodge the rocks...lots of rocks on this loop, so we slowed some and just got along at our own pace which was much slower then earlier. My only complaint at this ride are the gates. The kind that you have to use lots of muscle and a bit of cussing to get to work... Then I get to hunt for something to help me back on my tall horse. This also really upsets the pace. You can be going along at a good speed, then stop, dismount, struggle to open the gate, start to struggle to get it closed, then here comes more riders. Wait and let them through? So now your lead is lost. Or go ahead and shut it so they have to do the same? Seems kinda mean... Not sure what the proper thing to do is. I really wasn’t racing, but it seems unfair either way. Anyway, one more loop to go, the shortest, so out we went again, alone. Again, Noways was wanting to dog it, and I realized he was holding up, the footing was good, but he was just jogging along like a Quarter Horse. Ah oh, he has done this before, waiting for someone to come along and sure enough, about halfway round, a friend came up while were at the water tank. Suddenly, Noways was feeling just super and wanted to dash on home...What a stinker. He had me fooled again... Rode in with Marcelle and her new horse, who is quite dashing BTW. We ended up third...I had no idea we were in that position, none...Thought we were maybe in the top ten, but, third ! Nice.
Next day the rain and wind moved in...really moved in, as in I could hardly see the neighbor’s trailers it was blowing so hard. First dust, then rain, cold rain. I was really feeling for the riders that had decided to brave the weather. Tough ones for sure. Nasty, nasty...
I was feeling very well after the rest and was looking forward to riding Titan the next day. When there was a bit of a break in the rain, I checked Titan in and then changed their rain sheets for winter blankets. The boys were shivering and scarfing down the hay. Thankfully they were on the side of the trailer that was somewhat protected from the wind, but still they were miserable. When they suffer, I suffer. Stood around and listened to the quick ride meeting and headed back to the trailer to make an early night of it. The weather front was to move out during the night, so I wasn’t that worried.
Ha, no sleep at all... it rained hard, the vent over my bed decided to leak. Wet bed, wet sheets, blankets the whole bit...so I found some plastic and a dry blanket and wrapped myself under that...then it was drip, drip, drip all night long. When I dared to move, the pooled water ran off onto the bed, and slipped right onto my back. Argh...this went on all f’‘’ing night long. About 5 AM, I was frazzled, and decided to wimp out. So naturally the sun came out and the air was clear and bright by start time. No matter, I was done for, with a headache that gave me a Clint Eastwood squint. So we headed on home to warmer temps and sunshine...
Now of course, I wished I had gone ahead and ridden Titan that day as it turned out to be lovely and all the riders came through just fine.... but then again, who knows. I try not to worry over my decisions.
It was nice to get back to warm Rio Verde. So easily spoiled I am...
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After some thought and friends talking it up, I decided to go over to California and ride the Bar H ride. It had been scheduled for the same weekend as Old Pueblo, but rescheduled when that cold rainy front was predicted that weekend. So, three weeks later, off we go again. I was looking forward to a new ride. Packed up husband, dog, and both horses and headed off West. I had never ridden a ‘Duck’ ride so was a bit concerned, but new experiences are refreshing, if I do not get lost...I hate to get off trail. I do not do GPS, and knew they did that a lot, so was a bit worried that the trail may not be marked well. But, it turned out to be marked really well indeed! Whew...
Some of the ‘Zonies’ (AZ endurance riders) put on a potluck/pitch-in which was yummy as only other’s cooking can be...Some really good cooks here...:) Ride meeting was informative, but I was still a bit uneasy with the new procedures. The Vet Checks were very different. No rider numbers, no vet cards...etc.
This time I decided to ride Titan the first day and Noways the next if I felt rested enough. So, if I did not ride the second day, at least Titan would get a ride in. Since I was a bit unsure of the markings, and in unfamiliar territory, I tucked in with ridding buddy Barb Debbi. Her friends call her the trail savant with good cause. So I felt good about it all. Titan is a good boy and rarely gives me cause to growl at him, and he does not wear me out like Noways can. So off we went about mid pack.. The first loop was 25 miles and really beautiful with trees, a few streams, good footing and well marked...whew... We had some entertainment for a few miles with a group dressed up as Kiss...:) Riders had a stop and go on this loop and although it was a congested, confusing mess, (at least to my eyes) we got through well enough and were off and going quickly. I have to mention here how easy it is to pulse down in the low humidity of the West...my boys who are used to breathing and running in pea soup all summer in the SE, fly through the VCs here. No frantic sponging, no buckets or tents set up at the VCs, easy peasy...
First VC, pulse down and Vet said just do a trot out before we leave...OK. Back at the trailer then back for the trot out, then out again with Barb and Suzie. The second loop ( Oh my gosh, what happened to that beautiful trail?) somehow cast us on to a different planet...no trees except in the deep bottoms. Straight up, straight down. Claw up the long climbs, slide down the other side. People target practicing with guns right on our trail! Not a good feeling as we wound our way over, down around those hills. Strange abandoned vehicles on the mountains sides, beautiful homes on the tops of those climbs, and lots and lots of dogs...Must be a lot of pit bull rescue here. They would pack up and wait until the horses were close enough, then shoot out for the most effect. At least they were behind fences. Titan took it all in stride, what a good boy he is. This loop took us 2.5 hours to do 10 miles...whoa. I was glad to see that one over. Then in to the VC,
then out again. We were informed we were 8,9,10th...oh man, sometimes I don’t want to know. :) So off we took hoping to maintain that position. Well, naturally we took our instructions literally when we actually needed to make a turn right away, so we went out nearly a mile when we decided we had messed up. Back tracked and knew we now had three more riders ahead of us. We eventually catch up and ride along with them...them also being ‘Zonies’. Again not an easy loop with some good climbs and hill top ridges. Finally back to the Nursery (huge) where the Bar H ride camp is. Titan was eager still, so we ended up in a trotting race with Lancette to the finish...what fun! Got 10th, by the skin of our teeth...:) Very proud of Titan, he is such a good ride.
While on the second loop from hell, I decided not to take Noways over those climbs, so we got a good rest then headed home the next morning. But, many did go out again, and most on the same horses. They are tough riders and horses for sure. My hat is off to you.
What a cool top ten award! Nice, Thank You!
I have to mention here, that Barb and her friend Suzie got off and tailed up and slid down a lot of those climbs on foot...good gosh, tough ladies... Titan had to carry me the whole way...thank you Mr. T...:)
* * * * * * *
I was really wanting to stay in warm, sunny AZ a little longer, and go to the Mt. Carmel ride up in Utah the end of the month, but home was calling. Kentucky’s winter was not so good to say the least. We had busted water pipes, strange electric problems and on and on with this endless, relentless winter weather waiting for us. So gave the horses a week + to rest then packed up and headed home ward.
Thankfully, both Noways and Titan are good travelers and made the trip well. When I got them unloaded, their heads went down to the grass and I had to drag them to their paddocks...they really miss that green grass! Even, Lucy rolled around in it like a lunatic...
We had one week before going to the Top of the Rock ride in IN. Paige came one evening and we took the horses for a quick spin on the farm. All pistons were firing and they were feeling good and rested. So off I went with both horses, hoping to ride them both myself, as Paige had school duties and it is a Friday, Saturday ride. So again, it was me and the boys. And, again, I was hoping to ride both horses.
It was so good to see my friends again after the long winter. They were all winter weary and glad to be back in the saddle and at a ride, without the cold blasting down... Nice weekend, with just a quick front to move in over night. It actually did exactly as predicted. Light rain though the night with one short heavy rain shower. It quit at 5 AM and I dashed out to feed. Noways was up for the first days ride and again he was a good boy, just on the muscle and ready to go. We hung with some friends for the day, going much faster than I did while in AZ. Noways loves it and is always trying to get to the front. If he sees a horse ahead, or knows one is ahead, he works and works to catch them. This is hard on Janice...
There were five of us running up front and it stayed that way all day. We took turns leading, having fun. It was a bit cool with light misty rain, which the horses did well in. Just had to throw on a cooler at the VCs. I was in the lead going out on the second loop just going along nicely when I realized I hadn’t seen any orange ribbons for a while. Went along a little while longer then finally gave it up and turned back. Meet Ann the next rider. We discussed it a minute then turned back until we found the last orange ribbon. There it was but no turn, so back up the trail again until finally saw a ribbon on the ground then about a mile more and they picked up again..But, lost my lead...urgh... By the time we made it back to camp, there were five of us again. Noways pulses down quickly, so I still got out first on the final loop, but it turned out to be slick and really boggy mud, so we slowed down. About half way through, the group caught me again and we rode on in. Karen and Ann wanted to race, so Cindy and I held back and let them go at it. I do not like to race much although Noways does...Cindy and I tied for third and were happy with that. As it turned out Noways had lost a shoe near the end, (didn’t know it until I was cleaning him up for the vet check) so it was a good thing we did not make a run for it on that gravel road. He looked really good at the final vet check moving like silk...:) Love that horse...
Had pot-luck at the awards, and we ate as though starved...My back and shoulders were killing me and I was concerned about riding the next day, but I made up my mind I could do it. I usually feel much better after I eat.
Saturday, the sky was clear, but it was a bit windy, so stayed cool most of the day. Titan was not eager to leave his buddy, especially since Noways was yelling his head off... I tucked in with Diane and Robby, as I knew they would ride a solid, steady pace. For the first few miles, Titan slipped on up with the front runners, but they were going at a pace I didn’t like, so when the trail turned off I circled him until Diane and Robby showed up. Much better...:) The only thing I don’t care for on this ride is the amount of black top we have to do...scares me, but my boys seem to get along just fine at a trot. Later in the day, it warmed up and got slick, so had to slow way down on it...My bones would not do well hitting that surface.
Right away, I discovered that my back did not hurt at all, but boy my shoulders, and calves were talking to me...Advil was failing me big time. We got that first long loop done in good time, actually about 10 minutes faster then the day before. The trails had dried up nicely, so guess that is why. We three kept seeing the lead riders ahead of us. There are some out and back trails, so it is easy to know how far ahead they are. Finally made it back, Titan took about four minutes to pulse down, went to the vet, and headed to the trailer. When we were headed out again, Diane said we were now third, fourth and fifth! Gosh, a few in the lead group got pulled after the first loop.. Or was it the second...my memory fails me, especially when I am exhausted...and boy was I exhausted. We zipped around the second loop, again a bit faster than the day before. Again, checked through quickly, and out again. I was third horse out, and watched Jinnifer gallop out in second about a minute ahead of me...she was all smiles! Karen was in the lead at this point and I never saw her again...that girl rides for the win and does not look back! This is when it gets easy to get caught up in the race. Finally we were out and were able to keep Jinnifer in sight along the tornado (two years ago) devastated roads that run along the ridge tops. But then we were in the woods and I lost her. It was fun to see pleasure riders out on the trail. They were really nice and always encouraged us along. Titan wanted to join them in their layed back ways...nope onward we went. Still we slowed a bit and Diane and Robby caught up and onward we went.
Mr T heading to the VC at the first loop. Advil is working here...
When we were headed out again, Diane said we were now third, fourth and fifth! Gosh, a few in the lead group got pulled. Third loop’s mud had dried up remarkably and although I have yet to check, I’m sure we went much faster than I had the day before. However, once again, my pony lost a shoe on this loop. Unlike Noways who will ignore the pain of a lost shoe until it REALLY hurts, Titan let me know right away that he had a flat tire... Hopped off,(well, eased off on wobbly legs), smacked the Renegade on, wondered around until I found a bank high enough to crawl back up on Titan, who stands a good 16 hands, but had somehow grown to 18 hands during the ride...Diane and Robby waited for me here, and I surely do appreciate that, although Titan is pretty good at doing the waiting game at this stage of the race, unlike race brain, Noways. Made our way back up to the gravel road that leads us to the finish, then suddenly, Robby’s horse, Sunshine had a flat tire...oh no, no boot. So he dismounted and lead her the final mile to the finish. Diane and I agreed to tie for third. So again we were third in a tie...:)
Karen won, and Jinnifer got second and BC!
Exhaustion: ( noun - fatigue), (noun - weakening), (the act of exhausting something entirely)
Oh my, can’t say I have ever been that exhausted... but, at least I proved to myself that I could ride 50 miles two days in a row... I really hoped I could do multi days, but now not so sure of it...maybe if I had a day between rides to recover more fully?
Anyway, a wonderful weekend with great friends! Huge thanks to the Ride Managers that work so hard so we riders can kill ourselves with fun... and to those who stepped up when they saw I was exhausted, and trotted my horses out for me!! Tom Keith, Jinnifer Plumber, and Robert Plumber... :) Mary Lynn suggested we carry $5 bills with us for our trotters... not a bad idea.