Thursday December 30 2010
It's not for the faint of heart, this endurance riding. When night comes and you're wet and chilled to the bone after vetting in your horse in the chilly down-pouring rain, and in the dead of night the spitting rain lashes your windows and the hurricane wind shakes the horse trailer you're sleeping in, your horse's tail is clamped to his butt and he shivers under his wet blankets, you entertain the thought... "I don't have to ride in the morning if I don't want to..."
But, when you get up in the dark morning, and it's just finger-freezing cold and the desert rain has abated to icy showers, and the howling wind has diminished to occasional tail-raising gusts, and the storm clouds hang low but hold back... you reason the weather's improved 100% and you're saddling up to hit the trail.
Mother Nature threw every kind of weather she had at the 42 riders (half of what had signed up before the ride) on Day 1. Rain! Wind! Hail! Snow! Sleet! Snowballs! Gusts! It kept all riders guessing all day, though every redesign still required multiple layers of clothing. Ride manager Rusty was somewhat aghast at the snowballs falling on his ride in the desert, when it was 75 degrees just a few days ago. In the late afternoon, just after he'd mentioned that he could see more blue sky, and that the waves of clouds weren't quite as dark, and the snow balls weren't quite as big last time, it snowballed so hard and heavily that you couldn't see across basecamp and the ground was briefly saturated in white.
Dennis Summers on OMR Tsunami set the pace on the 50 and finished in front just over 4 hours of ride time later. Not surprising. It's Tsunami's 8th win in 23 starts. It's Dennis and Sue Summers' first Arizona winter in their new house down the road. Sue rode her half Arabian, half American Bashkir Curly horse AM Humvee to fifth place. Humvee has over 3000 miles and has only 2 pulls in 52 starts over 11 seasons (he's 8 for 8 in hundred milers).
Christoph Schork and DWA Powerball finished second, and his partner Dian Woodward and HL Vanhelsing finished third and got Best Condition. Dian and Christoph came to Arizona to escape the Utah winter. Dian didn't think she'd need her winter riding tights and rain pants, so she didn't bring them. "It's Phoenix for crying out loud!" It was only Vanhelsing's fifth ride
Sandra Fretelliere flew down from New York (also expecting hot weather) and rode ride manager Rusty's horse Ripper. Ripper dumped Sandra on Wednesday and ran home without her. Today he tried a few "nasty spooks", and some near bucks when her riding partner Bill's jacket started flapping in the hefty breeze, and he had a brief runaway session when Bill's horse Cheymas bolted off on a run. The hail was a bit challenging too... but they stuck together and finished 6th.
Peter Hommertzheim - riding his big mule Big Kate - should have gotten the Resolution Tough Sucker award. He was riding with a healing torn rotator cuff and torn breastbone cartilage, and broken ribs from an accident 6 weeks ago. Not to mention he was riding in shorts (Rusty said "He's the Dave Rabe of Colorado!")
27 of 30 starters finished the 50 miler, and 10 of 12 starters finished the 25 miler, with Ron Bowers winning the 25.
Nothing but clear skies in the forecast for days 2 and 3, just what you expect for an Arizona winter. Except for the minor details of fleece and down riding gear.
(Lots more photos at http://www.endurance.net/international/USA/2010ResolutionRide/index.html )