Or, “How to Top Ten and Turtle At the Same Time.”
Memorial Day weekend, I headed out to Quemado, NM with Stephanie for the Ride the Divide endurance ride. The weekend ended up being a good lesson in “not every ride is going to be a great one.” I’ve had (for me) an extraordinarily good ride season so far this year. I was due for a dose of endurance.
First, this happened:
I swear, I’m not a tire jinx. I’m just having a very…challenging…year for tires either belonging to me or in my proximity. But I’m not a tire jinx!
Fortunately, we were at a gas station when we discovered it, and fortunately it was on the trailer, which is light-years easier to change than a truck.
People are very friendly in New Mexico, at least based on the number of offers of help we received, but we were two capable endurance women and we had that tire changed and on the road again 20 minutes later, including the originally-intended stop to fill up with diesel.
Base camp is located at just a hair under 8000′ elevation and the weather was gorgeous all weekend. A bit windy (and dusty) but gorgeous.
|Quemado Lake, view from the drive in to camp.
Lake not actually visible from camp.
Lake briefly visible from parts of the trail. More visible if you
miss a turn and keep going almost to the lake.
The ride was small, with maybe a total of 50 entries over all three days and both distances. I did like the low-key setting and relaxed atmosphere of a smaller ride, but I also don’t want to see ride managers lose money on a small ride. :(
We checked in and vetted in…I was riding Rocco on day one. Went out for a pre-ride, survived, came back and went to the ride meeting, then had a delicious dinner of homemade pork enchiladas (thanks, Darla!).
It gets cold at 8000′ elevation at night and this happened overnight:
Steph’s heater decided not to work Thursday night/Friday morning, so chattering teeth accompanied my morning routine. Coffee, strawberry/banana juice, a croissant, and cottage cheese with a chopped-up hard-boiled egg made for a good breakfast, something I was very grateful for later on.
There were 16 starting in the 50-miler on day one, and pretty much everyone headed out in one controlled start amoeba pack. A small field makes for a pretty sane start, and we had a pleasant couple of miles of trotting along, winding through trees, ducking branches (who put that sharp turn on a downhill anyway?) and heading out across a lovely open meadow.
At one point, I looked across the meadow and saw a cow elk wandering just below the tree line. Prime elk country, with lots of water, grazing, and shelter.
And then it all kind of fell apart from there. Most of the pack was still mostly together at this point, and somebody realized we hadn’t seen a ribbon for a while. Cue lots of back-and-forthing and the larger pack splitting into smaller packs and winging off in different directions trying to play spot-the-ribbon.
And at one point, Rocco whiplashed me when he spotted a Rocco-eating bush and gave the appropriate Arab-teleport-and-spin-180 maneuver. I barely stayed on by the skin of my teeth, a handful of thick mane, and a slightly irrational desire to not fall off of 15.1+ hands tall.
AS it turns out, where we were supposed to go was the area where I’d seen the elk. Hmmm. Seems like somebody had herself a delicious ribbon breakfast buffet.
It wasn’t the best first loop one could have. That kind of mental uncertainty and frustration is draining and doesn’t do much for bolstering one’s confidence levels. (What the heck? I never get lost at rides and I’ve gotten lost/off-course/misplaced several times this year. Maybe there is something to the idea that, “If you don’t screw up at least some of the time, you’re not doing something enough.”)
Loop one was 10 miles and back to camp for a trot-by. I jumped off, trotted by, shed my jacket, visited the porta-potty, then hit the trail again for loop two, which was a 15-mile out-and-back. This section was probably the ickiest in terms of footing. Old logging road that turned into slightly newer forest service road that turned into maintained forest service road, onto more old logging road…and back the same way. It was hard to make time in the footing: when you’re dealing with softball-sized, ankle-turning rocks, you can only make so much time.
As an aside, boots were flawless. I’ve been riding in the new Renegade Vipers this whole spring and have put about 250 competition miles, plus another chunk of training miles, on them and love them. They’re the bright green boots that have been showing up in my photos of late. This ride, they got abused by really rough footing, lots of rocks, stop-n-go pacing, mud, and water crossings. (We might have squished a tadpole or two.)
|water stop partway through
Back to camp, I was feeling the ‘blehs’, having managed to eat one whole GU the entire first half of the ride. (Not for lack of trying, but Rocco wasn’t having anything to do with the sound of rustling paper or wrappers and threatened a spook-n-bolt every time I went to dig in my saddle packs. Thank goodness I wore my Camelbak and could at least drink.)
Rocco was down to 60 immediately and vetted through fine, the only ‘B’ for gut sounds. (He’d finally caught on to the grazing thing partway through the second loop.) Back at the trailer, I was all too happy to tie him to off, throw a pan of sloppy food in front of him, and slump down in a chair for the next 30 minutes.
Lunch was water, gatorade, bologna, cheese, apple slices, and tapioca pudding. After sitting and munching for a while, I was back to a much better humor. A bit of housekeeping (refill Camelbak, potty, bodyglide) and I was ready to tackle the last loop, 25 miles and another out-and-back.
This loop had some of the prettiest scenery of the day. A good part of the trail was on an old service road that wound up through a little valley. There was water, grass, and enough trees that we weren’t exposed to the hot sun for too long of periods of time.
It was a tiny little creek-lette, so rather than politely cross,
Rocco decided to show off his potential as an eventer.
Darla on Apollo behind me.
The footing was also much better for the vast majority of this loop, so we were able to make better time and keep a more consistent pace.
Ultimately, we finished at 6:40…11 hours and 10 minutes after we started, including the 45-minute hold. It also got upgraded to a 55 after riders’ GPS tracks showed that it was definitely over 50 miles. (I think mine was 54.7.) Rocco vetted out well, just another B on guts.
Management was kind enough to set aside plates of the spaghetti dinner for us, and we had a chance to put the horses up and get our dinner before the ride meeting. I was starving, having not eaten anything the entire second loop. (Please note this is not how I actually prefer to operate.)
16 starters and 10 finishers…I came in 10th. My first top ten…and I turtled at the same time.
Originally, the plan was for me to ride day two on Stephanie’s mare Kasha. Partway through the third loop, I realized just how late we’d be getting in to camp, and I still had to fit Kasha for boots, make any saddle/pad adjustments for her, and generally get myself presentable for a second day. I said, “No way.” Yes, I could get everything that I needed to done…but I was thrashed after day one. My lack of eating and taking care of myself had caught up with me and I really needed a day to recover.
I slept like a log Friday night, helped by the fact that the heater decided to start working again, so went to bed nice and toasty. I slept in until the decadent hour of 6:15, then stumbled out for coffee.
|morning of day two: Rocco paced and Kasha mare-faced
I spent the day as intended: lounging around camp, reading a book, taking a nap, refueling, re-hydrating. I felt better by evening, enough to go vet Kasha in for day three…but still not overwhelmingly enthused about going out again. Ultimately, it turned out that Steph took Kasha out on day three after I decided that one day was enough fun-n-games for me for that weekend. It also meant we were able to get an earlier start to head back home, since I was able to get camp packed up.
Coming home involved no drama and no blown tires.
So that was my Ride the Divide weekend. Having had a week to ruminate on it, I’d still go back and give it another go. It’s a beautiful area, and a challenging ride. But you need a challenging ride to tell you where your horse is at and what they can do. And it was a close enough, easy drive as well.
I honestly didn’t have any major revelations or gear changes at this ride other than to say, “taste-test electrolyte drinks before blithely mixing them up and guzzling.” Lemon-lime GU Roctane Endurance energy drinks are nasty. Weird because I love the grape and tropical fruit flavors…but the lemon-lime didn’t work at all. Sticking with my Succeed Clip2, since I know that works and I really like it.