For some reason I was nervous prior to going.. I'm not sure exactly why, but I think I was hoping that we could complete another 50 and that I wouldn't find out the first one wasn't just a fluke?
I had everything packed and was on the road by 9:30am. Despite the early hour, traffic slowed to a crawl on I-5 right by Portland Meadows. It was slow going from there until we cleared the Terwilliger Curves.
It's been years since I've driven the highway from Salem to Sisters and I'd forgotten how absolutely gorgeous the Detroit Lake area is. Despite being kinda scared of water I really wanted to stop there and get in the lake! It was the perfect summer picture: blue sky, sun, the lake, the boats, the beaches, and the forest. I was feeling more relaxed already and by the time I cleared the pass and encountered my all time favorite- Ponderosa Pine trees I was getting excited too!
Sisters was as cute as ever and before I knew it we were at the Rodeo Grounds. The parking was a lovely green meadow and I found a spot at the end of camp that was close to both water and a porta potty.
I set up camp while Cartman grazed on the hi-tie and then we went for a nice grazing walk about. There were quite a few trailers there and still room for more. I was saving a spot for M. next to us and expected her to arrive around 6-7pm. We walked and grazed.
I checked in and then walked C over for the vet-in. With that accomplished I could now relax a bit and get everything ready for the morning. It was really nice knowing that Michelle and Tucker were on their way.
Around 7pm Michelle and Tucker pulled into camp, the drive had been quite hectic (I can imagine) and both were excited to get out of the truck and trailer. We set up Tucker to eat some hay and them M ran to check in while I walked Tucker to the vet. He passed beautifully despite being off the trailer for only about 15 minutes!
Ride meeting was just about to start and I was determined not to miss it. After feeling kinda out of it doing the Bare Bones trail ride without attending the ride meeting I was not going into this ride missing any information I could get.
I've never attended a ride where the 50 had just one hold but this one did. So much for the boyscout motto, I was unprepared...
Doing the LDs I've gotten into the habit of feeding C his electrolytes in mash prior to the ride and at vet checks. I have never dosed him with a syringe. I had mixed most of my electrolytes into small quantities of grain for top-dressing over beet pulp. With one hold we would be out for 4-5 hours on each of the two loops. I decided to take some of the grain/elyte baggies with me and try to get him to eat it out on the trail.
Soon after the ride meeting (which was refreshingly brief) we were back at the trailer to choke down some dinner. About this time I realized that I had forgotten something.... Actually I knew I had forgotten something as I always do. So, about this time I realize what it is. My lettuce. I eat salad every day for lunch and at every ride I attend I have it for dinner. Usually salad with chicken, and avocado on Fri. night and salad with steak on Sat. night after the ride.
Hmmm.... I had the chicken, the dressing, the avocado.. but no lettuce. I decided to mix it up a bit and have a carrot salad with chicken. It was pretty good and I didn't go to bed hungry:)
Cartman had eaten a ton of grass Friday afternoon while we cruised camp, he was actually turning up his nose at Alflalfa! I gave him an assortment of hays to choose from- alfalfa/grass, straight alfalfa, and local grass and on Sat. morning it appeared he had eaten some of each variety.
The 50's went out at 5:30am! It was an early morning for us. Luckily I am usually up by 4:30 on weekdays so it wasn't too hard to get going. I poured a Starbucks Via into a half bottle of water and downed it first thing. There was no time for heating water and drinking hot coffee this morning. I wanted to make sure I was at the start no more than 5 minutes past time as it was a controlled start.
Everything went smoothly and at 5:25 I was saddled and ready to go. I'm not big on getting on early and riding around camp. I imagine if I was going to try and go out fast I would certainly do it, but since I have, so far, kept my focus on going out relaxed and easy it makes no sense to get on and mill around with all the other horses that may, or may not be behaving.
We said bye to Michelle and Tucker (they were doing the 25 this time) and headed over to the start.
It was barely light at this point. I could see fine, but it was still dark enough that things in the shadows looked odd and the second we passed the out timer Cartman gave me the biggest spook he's ever done. For a second I thought "uh oh!" He jumped sideways and started to whirl around. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted the offending article, a giant wooden spool standing on its side.
Thank goodness for that fancy "Memal" leather on the new saddle because I was able to stick to it and we kept walking. Cartman was now on high alert. I seriously felt like I was riding a giraffe. I tried to keep a light contact but encourage him to drop his head a little and relax. No way, no how, it was not happening.
The sun was coming up fast and the trail was beautiful, everything was getting a golden orange glow and we were going west so could enjoy the sights without being blinded by the sun.
As soon as I felt comfortable taking one hand off the reins I started trying to take some pictures. Looking back at the time stamp on my camera this was one hour after the start! Holy cow- is this what happens when you get your horse fit enough to do 50s???? I had hoped that doing the longer distance would make Cartman more mellow, as he would know he had a long way to go. Maybe this will come later as he gets more experience but for now he has become the fire-breathing dragon, for miles...
I really can't complain though, at his worst he is still a pretty good boy and I never felt unsafe or that he was not paying attention to the trail.
We leapfrogged with several people and finally got into our own zone about mile 5.
It was already warming up at 7-8am so I got off at every water set (they were ample- thank you ride management!!! Every time I thought about water we would come to a trough). So, I got off and sponged him at each trough. He didn't seem to mind it as much this ride. Previously the sponging just seemed to really irritate Cartman and I'd end up with more water on me than him. Not fun.
We got into our own little zone and just kept chugging away at the trot. Trot is Cartman's gait of choice, despite the fact that he's a TB and really should prefer the canter! I was just loving the trail. At times I was all alone and it was so still and quiet out there. Heavenly. I decided that Central Oregon really is one of the most beautiful places on earth. I love it and feel really comfortable there.
There were some rocky places on this ride and some places with stationary rocks hidden under the trail dust. I pulled C back to walk whenever I saw a section like this or whenever we headed down much of a hill.
We rode through some burned area, but I'm unsure if this was from the fires this year or previous ones. It was really neat to ride through- there were still burnt trees that had fallen across the trail but it was easy to go around. I guess this would indicate that these areas are recent burns. Either way, the underbrush was starting to come back and was a brilliant green in contrast to the blackened trees. This area was beautiful in its own way and I hope they don't re-route around it next time.
Soon we had looped back around and were again at the second water trough crossing. Here we headed back onto the pink/white loop towards camp. I figured this must be about mile 15? Cartman had eaten a little bit of the grain/elyte mixture and had started to drink a bit by this time. He did drink well at the one stream we crossed.
He was still feeling strong so when we got to long stretch on some fine red gravel road I let him canter. I think he knew we were heading in the direction of camp because he wanted to go! Finally I pulled him up, realizing I hadn't seen a ribbon for a few minutes.
I looked down at the trail, too few hoofprints. I turned him around and we started walking back to where I'd seen the last ribbons. Soon I saw another horse and rider approaching. I asked her if she'd seen a ribbon recently and we both started looking for tracks. There were several sets besides mine going back towards the way we'd come. I started walking back and really quickly saw a pink ribbon, then another. Aha, the third one was on the ground and I'd blown right by the others because I was cantering and not paying attention. Sorry Cartman. Luckily we'd only gone a few hundred feet or so extra.
We picked up the trail again, this time single track and soon we were running into riders going out on the common trail- 25 milers already through their hold and going out for their last loop.
We made it back to camp and gave our number to the person at the gate. She seemed surprised that we were doing the 50. I explained, yes, we're just slow!
Cartman passed the vet check well and I finally got him to pick his head up out of the grass long enough to get back to the trailer! I unsaddled him and got his mash with electrolytes into the feed pan.
I like the hour hold, its enough time for me to re-organize my saddle bags and replenish water and snacks, plus sponge the sweat marks off Cartman and still have time to eat. I was starving as I hadn't eaten a bite out on the trail.
I drank a protein shake, ate some Greek vegetable salad and some chips, then drank a bunch of Fierce Grape Gatorade. I felt a small headache coming on so right before re-saddling I downed a Starbuck Double Shot and two Excedrin Migraine.
I swapped out the saddle pad for new ones and was back on and out of camp on time! Hey, there's a first time for everything :)
Leaving camp was much more relaxed this time, and I noticed they had moved the gigantic spool. I mentioned it to the guy at the gate and he's like "Yeah, I remember you!"
Michelle was just getting back and passed her completion exam as we were leaving. Yeah Tucker!
We picked up a nice trot and had made it about a mile when I noticed something odd. I didn't feel quite right. I kept going for a while but was feeling even more not right as we trotted on. Uh oh. I decided to walk for a few minutes and see if it went away.
It did not. I started to feel like I did when I went deep sea fishing with my parents in Mexico. I had to sit very, very still... Unfortunately this isn't really possible to do on a moving horse. I felt bad pulling him back to walk but had to. We walked and walked and walked. Finally I got off and walked with him.
I have an iron stomach and can count the times on one hand that I've gotten sick enough to throw up. I will do almost anything to not throw up. I finally decided it was either do it- or take the next 10 hours to walk the last 25 miles on foot.
Soon after I felt much better and managed to climb back up on the horse. We ended up walking for about 45 minutes so had lost a lot of time. Thankfully Cartman was still willing and we finally got to the first water set.
Here we were at mile 30 heading out and run into two riders already headed back in! It was a fortuitous meeting as they were very nice and gave me some great advice:) I told them it was his second 50 and one asked if I had electrolytes for him. I was a bit embarrassed to admit I did not. Instead of making me feel bad she took a tube out of her pack and told me to give it to him.
I'm always torn on the "don't try anything new at a ride" rule, but sometimes you just have to do it. I could tell these riders were experienced and I decided to trust their judgment. I gave Cartman the dose of Pink Electrolytes and then rinsed his mouth with water.
They also told me that this next section was the hardest part of the loop and to sponge him as much as possible, take it slow, let him eat when he wanted to, and keep going and we'd get through it. This was just what I needed to hear at this point. I can't thank them enough for taking the time to stop and help!!
After I had Cartman all sponged off again we headed out for the second water set and the blue and white loop.
We started passing lots of riders heading in. Thankfully Cartman is not bothered by this and still kept chugging along on the trail. There were a few riders that I know and they encouraged us to keep at it. Some seemed concerned that we were just heading out. Very nice people.
Finally, we arrived at the second water set. I've decided that Pink stuff is magic because C. drank, and drank, and drank, looked around, put his head down, and drank some more! I thought he was gonna dunk his whole head.
He really perked up and as soon as I was back in the saddle we headed out at a nice trot onto the blue and white loop. This loop wasn't too long, it had some sand and a few rocks but also some nice long spots where we could lope. Cartman decided he was famished at this point and I just let him graze as much as he wanted. I knew we were probably the last ones out there but I was really having fun and he seemed to be having fun too. Why hurry??
At one point we came around a corner and C spooked again (not as bad as with the spool) I looked over and a big deer was running right alongside us in the woods! We hit one more water set on the blue loop and again Cartman drank well. :)
Before long we were back at that second water set and headed back to camp. C totally knew where he was now and he didn't really want to stop long for grass or water. I knew he'd tanked up at the two previous troughs and had eaten quite a bit on the last loop so I didn't worry at this point. We were in the homestretch!
I stopped to take a few pictures and was feeling really well. Since I did get that horrible back soreness at the end of Sunriver I had decided to get off and walk or run some on this ride. I did walk about a mile total during the second half but running with Cartman was somewhat of a disaster. He is simply too fast. I can't run fast enough to keep ahead of, or with him and I end up having him almost circling me. So much for that idea.
Apparently all the walking while I was pukey and the getting off at troughs did the trick though, because I was feeling good as we headed to camp on this ride. Seriously, I didn't want it to end. We were about 1/4 mile from camp when my phone rang. Michelle wanting to know if we were OK. I assured her we were and that we were almost back.
As we got to the gate there was Anna and several other people waiting for us, they all jumped up and down and yelled "hooray!!!" I tried to get a picture, as we have never gotten such a reception before- the benefit of being the Turtle, I guess!
We headed straight to the vet, pulsed in and he got all A's on his card!!!!!! She said he looked great and I had taken good care of him, this made me very happy.
I got C back to the trailer and Michelle had cleaned up his area (so nice!!) so all I had to do was untack, and relax.
I spent the rest of the afternoon drinking a gazillion gallons of water and Starbuck's Refreshers. Finally about 8pm I got really really hungry. Some other campers were grilling hamburgers and they smelled SO good. I may have to break down and bring the grill next time. I can guarantee I won't forget my lettuce again.
We let the horses graze and wandered around visiting. At one point I spotted the Appy that belonged to one of the pair of nice riders that had given me the Pink stuff. I was able to meet "K and D" (I won't use their names, as I didn't ask if it was OK to blog about them- it still seems really awkward to me to do that). I got some more information about the electrolytes they use and some general endurance training info. It is so nice when experienced riders (and they are) are willing to share!
We managed to miss the awards- didn't hear the horn. But saw everyone heading back afterwards. We went over and got our awards- a nice little door organizer with the ride name on it. I also got the Turtle award for being dead last. This was a nice handknitted lap quilt! Love it. I don't think this being last thing is bad at all:)
The next day we were on the road by 8am and Cartman was back in this pasture by 2:30pm. Looking good!