Friday, September 27, 2013

2013 AERC National Championships

September 27 2013

Yes, the same ones in which I pulled myself for metabolics!

Since I pulled so early in the 50 mile ride, I made it back to camp for some nice shots of the exciting galloping finish. Two days later was the 100 miler, and despite running around like a headless chicken doing this and that, including putting out glowsticks on the trail close to dark, I got some shots throughout the day of that ride too. Here are a few shots from the 2 days at the rides in and around City of Rocks National Reserve.

Riders on the 50 mile ride:

The awesome sprint between two skilled riders and awesome mares for 1st place on the 50: Christoph Schork and Stars Aflame (also the 2011 100-mile AERC Champs) by a length over Dennis Summers and Hey Soulsister.

Kevin and "Far" - 3rd place. Kevin said the ride was "frantic" - all day! Far was on a mission, going fast, all day. Even when Kevin got off to run down the hills, it was full speed! "It was crazy!"

Gina Hagis from Vermont finishing 10th. That's Castle Rocks State Park in the background. Gina and Tom arrived at the ride site a few days early and helped set up camp and mark trail, and Gina rode and finished the 50 and Tom rode and finished the 100, and they helped take down things after the rides. They were the wonderful kind of folks that you felt you'd known for a long time, and you gave a big hug to when they left, even though it was the first time you'd met them!

Riders on the 100 mile ride:

Riders leaving the first vet check.

I don't know these riders, but the light was fantastic at the first vet check at Elephant Rock at 17 miles.

Canadian Elroy Karius on 18-year-old Apache Eclypse, at the first vet check. They finished the 100 miles… only to get pulled at the finish for lameness - ARGH! Still, Elroy said it was one of his best rides ever on his horse.

Early leader Bev Gray and Jolly Sickle at 60 miles at Castle Rocks State park. The pair, who were 2012 National Best Condition champions, finished 6th.

Colorful Bev Gray and Jolly Sickle at the first vet check

Robert Ribley on his sometimes ornery Crow Pony. He and his wife Melissa finished 29th and 30th.

100-mile winners Kevin Myers and Farrabba (Stoner). I rode this horse on a training ride in Colorado last year! He's fabulous. But don't just take my word for it. (He also won the Haggin Cup, Tevis' Best Condition award, in 2012, with Rusty Toth aboard).

For more photos, and my good story on the event, see:

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Horse is Fine, Rider is Not Quite

Saturday September 21 2013

I asked my surgeon the most important question ever: "So, how soon afterward the surgery can I RIDE?"

"Two weeks," he said. "Don't do anything strenuous before that."

So I started riding again, 2 weeks and 1 day afterwards. Short rides - 6-8 miles a day. The first day back was a little sketchy… I felt a little faint at times (although I blamed that on the heat, which is usually totally legit), and I had to take a long nap afterwards. I rode a little bit every day for a week; and then we came to City of Rocks to start setting up for the AERC National Championship 50 and 100 mile rides - setting up camp, marking trail on foot and horseback. Nothing longer than a 12 mile ride, or 10 mile hike (downhill), but it all felt good. I wasn't up for running a marathon, but I was ready to ride more.

And then I rode the AERCNC 50 miler on Bodie.

Or, well, part of it.

The first 17 miles to the first vet check was great. It was a cool morning, and Bodie and I had a great time, trotting over the Boise-Kelton Stage route and Salt Lake Cut-Off through Emigrant Canyon, and over the California Trail through the valley of City of Rocks National Reserve, and on to the vet check at Elephant Rock.

And then I sat down while Bruce and Nance crewed my horse. 

And then it hit me. I was tired.

The longer I sat, the more tired I got. "How far is it to the next vet check?" 23 miles? 23 slower miles, a lot of climbing? 

And then I was exhausted.

A heart doctor/runner/endurance rider did a study where he found that riding a 50 mile endurance ride is the equivalent stress on your heart as running a marathon. I wasn't up for a marathon.

I'm an endurance rider. I've been tired, sore, scared and hurting while riding, but I've never quit an endurance ride, unless it was for the horse. I quit this one. Gave myself a metabolic pull. I had overestimated my super hero powers - I wasn't up to doing a marathon yet. (Besides, if I'd fallen off my horse out on that 23 mile loop, I wouldn't have been doing him any favors.)

I felt bad about wimping out, but when I revealed to Dr Mike the vet about my recent surgery, and said "But the surgeon cleared me to ride after 2 weeks!", he said "But did you tell him what kind of riding you do?"

Dr Matt the vet said, "This isn't your average trail riding…"

Oh, yea. If you ride endurance you don't really think about it, but 50 miles is a whole 'nother ball game compared to short trail rides.

That made the quitting a little easier to stomach, although it's disappointing to discover I'm not as immortal as I thought I was. (I mean - a little surgery - come on!)

Well, anyway, it was a nice training ride for both of us. The horse is fine. The trail kicked the rider's butt. I just need a little more time before I'm up to doing a marathon.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Dude

Wednesday September 11 2013

He's a rogue. A rascal. Exasperating. Time consuming.  Escape artist. FAT.

You've heard the stories:
How he'd escaped every single pen but one on the ranch. How he destroyed fences so he could escape. How he was always on a diet. How he was always getting into things (trying to escape), particularly in the middle of the nights.

But of course he was always entertaining: the time he bonked Steph in the forehead with a hammer, (he was trying to help her fix a fence he broke); how he rounded up cattle with Connie and Finneas and me and Jose, without a rider; how he always knew when he was in trouble when I yelled at him (his head popped up in the air and his eyes pop-eyed with the expression It wasn't me!; how you could jello-poke his fat deposits on his butt; how he cracked me up making funny faces; how he enjoyed (somewhat) exploring rides; how he was, really, just a good looking dude to gawk at; etc.

You may also remember the big hole he left in my heart, DESPITE EVERYTHING, when Steph sold Dudley to a new home in the wine country of California in May of 2011.

I got to visit Dudley on my travels in California this July at the Smeding's ranch, where Dudley was undoubtedly advising them on the subtle flavorings of their fine wines at Flying Horse Winery. Undoubtedly he also posed for their logo. Or he probably thinks he did.

The prodigal son is meeting us (undoubtedly being chauffeured in a limousine) at the AERC National Championship at City of Rocks this week, and he is coming home!

"I missed him," Steph said. "He's family."


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Traveler Tales!: The Other Side

Saturday September 7 2013

Writing. Travel. Horses. Photography. Not always in that order, but they've always been intertwined, all spiraled together in my DNA.

I never kept a 'diary' growing up. It was Budget Traveling that started my writing: detailed hand-written journals that I'd spend hours on keeping up at the end of every day, no matter how exhausted I was, be it trekking in the Nepal Himalaya, wading though chaos in India, working on a racehorse farm in Ireland, or after a long day of barfing from rough seas crossing to a Greek island. I wrote, and I wrote.

In addition to the travel journals, I'd hand-write letters (back in the day!) regaling some of these adventures - the funny, scary, ridiculous, amazing, and exasperating - and send them home. They always got great reviews from friends and family. Most were thankful to read about the entertaining adventures, and not have to experience them personally!

Some of these Traveler Tales were so popular, they have now been turned into e-short stories!

The first Traveler Tale: The Other Side, a trek on one of the world's most beautiful - and toughest - hikes on the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal's Himalaya. Some of you originally read this short story as a blog entry on here. It's now off my blog, but available on Amazon, Barnes N' Noble, (and soon),  iTunes and Kobo.

More Traveler Tales are available; they'll be featured soon on here.

And coming soon: Racehorse Tales! I kept journals of my days as a groom on the racetrack. I had a great variety of horses: some that could run like the wind, some that couldn't run a lick; lazy ones, crazy ones, delightful ones, mean ones, funny ones, egotistical ones. More to come on these later.

The Traveler Tales on my website:

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Tease

Tuesday September 3 2013

It was so deliciously auspicious: 60% chance of heavy rain, and a Flash Flood Warning.

And it started out so promising. The skies dimmed; a light rain began falling in the morning. It lasted an hour… the mountains disappeared, the horses got wet…

Finneas even rolled and covered himself in mud, something he rarely does (he rather likes to stay clean and shiny, because he's a grandson of the Black Stallion).

It lasted another hour…

and fizzled. Sun came out and dried the ground in shorter time than it took to get wet.

Showers and thunderstorms are still likely through tomorrow night, but the sun is gaily shining and I don't hold out much hope. I'll believe it when I can dance in it.