Friday, September 20, 2013

A PSA for all the ladies out there

In case you ladies weren't aware yet, Jockey is making a product now called Skimmies. I like them roughly a zillion times better than my Smarty Pants.
  • They are thinner and lighter. 
  • They breathe!
  • They don't bunch.
  • They come down closer to my knees and don't ride up.
  • You can pull the waist all the way up to your bra-line, or leave it where it naturally falls (they are REALLY stretchy).
  • They do have an inner thigh seam, but I have yet to notice it while riding because it isn't bulky at all.
  • I can also wear them under skirts at work. 
  • They come in sizes that fit sturdy women like myself.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

OR100 (Part II: Don't cry for me)

Shortly after we arrived, I met "my" junior, Evita. (IKR?! I did my best to be cool and not the extremely lame adult who jumps in with a crack about show tunes from before she was born, but COME ON. How cool is it that her name is Evita?) (Wait, do the kids still say "cool"? Is trying to be cool lame now? Is calling something lame... extra lame?)

She was older than I assumed (16 in fact), quiet, respectful, friendly, and a good rider. I literally can not say enough nice things about her. I'd ride with her again in a heartbeat, junior or not.

At a quick conference after the ride meeting, I just told her and her camping buddies, Heather D. and Paige, that I wanted to let the hot-shoes get out of camp before we left. I'd wander over to her trailer before the start and we could leave together and under control. We'd be shooting for 6-7mph and sensible behavior. This felt especially important because this was to be Evita's first competitive distance (I think she said she did the trail ride at Bare Bones before this).

Flying the pirate flag in camp.

My plans actually worked. I was up by 6:30, shivering from the icy desert night but wanting to be sure Blue had food in front of him for when the 50s went out. We were camped right on the trail out of camp and I didn't want him to pitch a fit when the thundering herd went by.

The rare "sleeping on the horse trailer floor" selfie.

Looking the other way.

I shouldn't have worried. My horse is a consummate self-preservationist with a long memory. I am CERTAIN he remembered how far we went at Sunriver, because he was positively lackadaisical at OR100. He wasn't slow on the trail or anything,  but he didn't waste any energy on meltdowns in camp before the start. There was plenty of time for both of us to eat and have a good stretch before I mounted up and shambled over to Evita and Heather D.'s trailer.

We had a completely uneventful start. Blue and Evita's horse, Corky, bonded right away and marched out of camp in a line of slow starters.

From the left: Evita and Corky, Michelle and Chance, me and Blue and Tiia and Jackson. Photo by Kathleen Jepson.

Marching out of camp like the wonderful, sensible horse that he is. I really love him. Thanks, Kathleen, for such a great start photo!

Once we were off the initial single-track and the Blue was reasonably settled, we struck a brisk trot and started passing the slowpokes. We were only a couple miles in when we got to Jessica Anderson's photo spot. The result is that the horse and I both look fresh and eager. Note also that I was already sleeveless at 8:15 in the morning. The day was definitely warming up fast!

Booking along on a loose rein. Note my western Oregon "tan."

We left the group and made great time through the whole first loop. We caught up to Karen of Wren Loop at each water stop, but she'd inevitably get ahead again until the next trough. I guess we were going about the same speed, huh?

Before we knew it... and well before 10 a.m., we were back in camp for our 30-minute hold. Someone who had a GPS told us that the loop was a little short. Nevertheless, allowing for our late start, we still did a solid 8 mph. Frankly, Corky had a lot more in him, but Evita held him to a pace that was right on the threshold of Blue's ability. They would be tremendous training partners for us—the kind of training partners that would push Blue to speed up. It's a shame they don't live closer.

I rode most of the last little bit into camp, so Blue took a few minutes to pulse down. The half-hour hold flew by, but neither of us was in a huge hurry to hit the trail again, so we had leisurely potty and snack breaks before mounting up for the second loop.

By then, of course, it was quite a bit warmer and full sun. The footing, which had been well-traveled by then, was softer and deeper than the first loop, but there were fewer hills. Mostly we kept to the same pace as the first loop, except for a mid-loop walking-and-gossip break with Michelle and her greenie, Chance.

Michelle and a whole lot of desert. I'm pretty sure that next speck in front of her is Karen.

Evita and Corky waiting for me and Blue at the top of the hill.

Just trottin along.

Leaving Michelle for the last time, we entered the dustiest, loosest footing of the day. We wallowed through much of it slowly, floundering our way down the hills.

There just isn't a good way to show how dusty it actually was. Take my word for it.

Train robbing selfie.

Camp was in sight, as were several of the horses in front of us.

But poor Evita was desperate to pee at this point. Even with camp in sight, she really couldn't wait another minute. I had a selfish moment where I wanted to tell her to hold it and tough it out. We were almost in camp; we had a decent chance of placing, according to my mental tally. But good mentoring won out. I turned off my personal racebrain, thinking of all the times I've had to stop awkwardly along the trail myself. Evita was practical enough to know that she needed to put herself and her horse ahead of making a big, impressive top-ten finish her first time out. Good girl!

That out of the way, we got back on the trail and headed into camp. Minutes later, we stripped tack and pulsed down fast for 12th and 13th place. Not too shabby at all.

I think it was especially unshabby because Blue did the whole thing with no hoof protection of any kind. BTW, someone actually stopped me in camp to tell me how good his feet looked. That sure wouldn't have happened last year when he was still in shoes.

Blue vetted through like a champ, but as soon as the pressure was off he dropped the pretense and let me know he was good and tired. I tied him on the shady side of the trailer with a cool, sloppy mash, but he fell asleep without eating it. I was pooped, too. The distance was nothing new but the slight increase of speed certainly caught us off guard. I stayed awake long enough to make sure Blue was just too sleepy for his mash, not colicky. Once he was in his pen moving around and nibbling again, I figured I could take a little break. This break turned into a three-hour marathon nap (have I mentioned before that I barely sleep the night before a ride but sleep hard and heavy as soon as it's over?) that was only interrupted by the hot winds of midafternoon.

That 90 in the lower right is the temperature... and there was no shade within 40 miles.

Blue would roll, snooze, eat, snooze, drink, snooze, roll for the rest of the day. Over night, he ate every scrap of hay that was left. I'm glad I saved back some for the trailer ride, because by the end of the weekend, he had eaten literally an entire bale of hay and several pounds of concentrate food.

Sunday morning I was awake bright and early to pack up my camp. I wanted to have everything ready to go as soon as awards were over, and I managed it. :) Blue looked like a million bucks. If anything, he appeared to put on weight through the weekend. A second day might have done him good.

"Good morning, Mom! Is it time to go race again?"

A morning stroll before awards.

 As it was, we had an uneventful drive back.

By late Sunday afternoon, you wouldn't have known we'd even left for the weekend.

It must have rained while we were gone, because there was even a hint of green grass in the turnout. (Everybody say hi to Torgrim, the newest horse at the barn!)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Oregon 100 (Part 1: Pre-ride)

Digression the first.

So what happened with the blog is that Brian had a relapse. Maybe you remember, maybe you don’t, but he had been having chest pains bad enough to land him in the hospital a couple times this Spring. Over the summer, that was mostly quiet. And then, suddenly at the end of August, everything kind of went to hell all at once again.

As you may have guessed, I find this recurring illness both scary and annoying, like a spider in my hair. He’s fine. He didn’t land in the hospital this time (knocking very hard on wood) and seems to be on the mend again. The antibiotics and painkillers seem to knock it out. What I want to know is why it keeps happening.

Maybe we’ll talk about it at greater length another time. (I know how much horse people like to research obscure equine health ephemera, so surely some of you know of an uncle’s cousin’s brother’s secretary who had tubercular pericarditis.) (I don’t actually know if that’s what it is.) (I just can’t help looking at symptoms online.) (Even though my day job frequently involves telling people not to use wikipedia to self-diagnose.)

Digression the second.

September 8 was the Waldo Hills Heritage ride. It’s a 12-ish mile trail ride in the hills outside Silverton. Many of the endurance people in the area use it as an opportunity to introduce young, inexperienced horses to low-speed group riding.

While Blue and I were dawdling around the parking area waiting for Kara to tack up her youngster, we ran into Brenda. She offered us a ride to Oregon 100. I had been hoping she might have space, since riding with someone else saves me a little gas money and often means I can pare down my packing to the bare minimum.

Well that all would have been great except a couple days later Brenda got one of the worst yellowjacket stings I’ve ever seen. She couldn’t get her foot into a riding boot, let alone put weight on it.

So I was back to square one. I didn’t have a ride and my husband was seriously ill.

But, dammit, I already missed Bare Bones and Santiam. I was going to do the 50 at Oregon 100 if it killed me!



I had been working under the assumption that I would be doing a 50 at the Oregon 100. Both because I had heard it was a relatively easy ride and because I am sort of trying to legitimize myself as an “endurance” rider.

Well, as Brian’s health became scary and I started to feel the walls closing in, I thought maybe an LD would be a better choice. Neither of us was sleeping well, I hadn’t been to the barn all week, the stress was making me feel less than stellar. And then Brenda got stung, and I was suddenly back to driving myself. Another  50-mile ride all alone in an unfamiliar place seemed… not so awesome.

I really only needed to give myself permission to wuss out and do the shorter distance. Facebook presented an opportunity in that respect: Someone was looking for a sponsor for a junior in the LD. Although I’ve never sponsored a kid before, I decided to call it a sign and offer my help.

The drive from Silverton to Brothers is mostly a straight shot—a shot that takes about four hours and during which one experiences no fewer than three micro-climates. Going from the gray, misty, heavily forested foothills of Western Oregon to the Ponderosa high desert above Bend and then on to the shockingly barren “real desert” of central Oregon is really something.

Real desert.

The turnout surface of a barefooter's dreams.
The Oregon 100 takes place on a chunk of property that boasts a single living tree. Everything else is this talcum-consistency moon dust topped with a layer of kitty litter gravel and sagebrush. That is pretty much all you see in most directions. There are dark, mysterious mountains on the far horizon, but mostly this area has an excess of sky. It reminds me more of my Nebraska childhood than it reminds me of Walla Walla. But, oh, the smell. The sage-and-cedar smell on the wind was wonderful.

And the animals! Sorry no pictures, but I saw a herd of pronghorn antelope on the way to camp, and met a cute little horned lizard after I parked. The coyotes sang us to sleep at night.

I like the wooded mountains where we live now. I like the ocean (where we spent labor day). I like the cliffs in the gorge. I like the desert. I can only conclude that I like variety. Oregon has plenty of variety. Ergo (Latin!), I’m fond of it.

Blue seems fond of it too. There’s no way to know what he remembers of his foal-hood, but he was born in a place a lot like the course of OR100… probably within 40 miles of ride camp. He certainly knew to eat the bunchgrass and keep his eye on the horizon.