Monday, May 19, 2014

Pre-NASTR 75 - In Which I Fret About the Ride

NASTR 75 is next weekend and although I'm feeling good about how Roo feels after last weekend's 30 mile training ride, I'm stressing about the ride a little more than I'd realised.

There are several things going on:

Early Rising and Getting Out There:

Last week I read that the ride starts at 5 a.m. Visions of trying to get pft, me, Fergus, and Roo ready in time (not to mention sorting Finn out) makes me nervous, as does the concept of probably having to get up at 3:30 a.m. I just don't do well at 'organizing' that early in the morning and the thought of it gives me a bad tummy. ('course I know that, once on the horse and going along, I'll be fine - but I've got to get there first).

Horse Footwear

I thought I had a plan for this, but the more I thought about it, the less good a plan it seemed to be. Here's the basics:

Fergus does fine in strap-on boots (provided I put him in boots that hadn't reached their sell-by date several months ago and are super-stretched and baggy) - has no problems with gaiter-rubbing, but he *really* does well with cushioning. He trots along fine on hard-packed terrain, but just *flies* as soon as you put him in soft footing. So my plan was to put him in Easyboot Gloves and cushion the underside with sikaflex sole pack.

Roo, OTOH, tends to get gaiter rubs on the front of his pasterns where the two edges overlap, so I figured I'd use the set of glue-ons that I ordered for him for 20 Mule Team 100 (which we didn't go to), and also cushion him with sikaflex.

The problem with this plan was when exactly was I going to glue the two separate horses? I had vague ideas of doing Roo one evening during the week prior to the ride, then popping Fergus in his boots on Saturday afternoon and pumping them full of sikaflex through holes in the underside. And then I thought about the reality of this plan. About how, despite other people's experiences, mine were that, as soon as you opened the tube of sikaflex you had to use it all up because next time you tried to extract the screwdriver you'd jammed in the opening, it will have set up solid.

After a txt-discussion with a friend on Friday morning, she suggested that if I wanted pft to have a hassle-free ride and wanted to reduce my angst, I should probably glue both horses.

Yesterday I checked and found I have shells for Fergus, but knew that a single tube of Adhere was not going to be enough to glue eight feet - especially when four of them are Fergus' (he wears size 2.5s on front and 1.5 or 2s on the back). So off we went on Saturday to the farrier supply in Auburn and picked up a second tube of Adhere.

I'll still have to glue the eight feet one evening next week, but will trim them up today (Sunday) and make sure everything fits well.

Update since writing the above:

This afternoon I trimmed Fergus and discovered that, whilst I can fit 2.5s on his front feet and that's what he'd wear in Gloves, in reality, trying to glue on 2.5s is going to end in tears. They need to be whacked carefully to get them to seat properly and are really tight. Not going to work well with the extra space glue takes up. Urk. I have shells in 2.5 and 2... but no 3s. Hence will be calling around Monday morning to find somewhere that can guarantee to get a pair of 3s to me by Thursday.

The extra expense of needing to buy things that I thought I had covered is not great. But let's face it, any expense right now is not great. To do this thing right I'm digging deep into my "ride slush fund". Guilt R us.

Update since writing the above (I can't write this stuff as fast as things change):

Poked around online and it looks like Long Rider's Gear have two remaining size 3 glue-ons in stock, so I just ordered them in the hope that they'll send them out first thing Monday. I've had good luck ordering from this store in the past and they were very speedy. Which probably means this time around my package will get send to Grass Valley instead of Garden Valley (yes, this has happened in the past) and will take an extra three days to get here.

Pft's First 75:

This will be pft's first foray into anything over 50 miles and I so want him to have a good experience. I'm not him, so I can't make it work for him, but I can offer support and suggestions.

One thing we discovered at NV Derby is that although Roo can match Fergus' "easy trot" pace, it's not something I particularly felt he ought to be doing, so I was often asking pft to ease up a bit. This meant that he got more beaten up than usual trying to keep Fergus off Roo's red line.

Which leaves me with the dilemma. Do I send them off on their own? Or do I ride with them?

Plan A 

was to send pft and Fergus off on their own so he could pace appropriately for them. That's not to say that overall they'd get there any faster than us - but when they were moving out, they'd be moving a lot faster than me and Roo (who does much better in the long run if I can get him to a steady slow continuous trot). That was my plan when I had KT, Funder, Angela or Aurora as potential riding buddies. Unfortunately, all four of them are now out for various reasons - which would mean finding someone else who's style is slow and steady. Not that many of them around.

Whilst I've met some lovely people and spent a fun day riding with complete strangers, I've also had some really awful experiences when you get in that weird situation where you end up riding with someone who doesn't really want you there, but you're stuck riding with them the entire day because they're going the same speed as you. They usually have their own riding buddy (so, again, don't want you around) and end up ignoring you, or making it generally crunchy at water troughs, etc. Have no desire to do that for 75 miles.

Roo doesn't like riding alone and needs a buddy, so I'd either have to find a willing partner pre-ride, or not go that route at all.

Plan B

I think Roo can actually keep up with Fergus fine, so right now I'm aiming for Plan B which is to just ride with pft and Fergus and it'll all work out. Roo may go a little faster than perhaps I'm comfortable with towards the end of the first loop when you can move out, but he's been training with Fergus all year, so it won't be unreasonable for him to go F's speed. Plus Fergus should be nicely settled by Loop 2.

Unfortunately I then started thinking about the very end - the last few miles of the ride when you generally walk in, lit by the streetlights of Dayton in the distance. Roo and I did the ride in 2007 and he got pretty crunchy in those last miles - even had some strange rear end muscle spasm thing in the last half mile which *really* freaked me out. But come on Lucy, that was *seven* years ago...

But I still got to thinking about how nice and big Fergus can walk - particularly at the end being lured in by the promise of the trailer. I don't think I want Roo jog-trotting the last three miles of the ride, which is what he'll have to do to keep up. Hum. Maybe I'll be speed-hand-walking the last three miles in. Awk. That's going to be a hard end to a long day.

Triple Crown:

Some things are fun. Some things are hard. And some things are fun because they are hard. If you manage to achieve a goal you set yourself, there's no better high. Unfortunately, before the high (even if things look good), you still have to suffer nerves and worry - precisely because your goal is harder than the average activity.

This year I've set myself two goals - finish Triple Crown with Roo and finish Tevis with Fergus. Both, I think, are attainable. But both could equally go the way of the toilet if things don't go as planned and hoped.

If NASTR 75 was just another ride, I'd start it and just see where it took us - and if it didn't work out, then, oh well, it didn't work out (but I probably learned a ton in the process). But because of wanting the Triple Crown goal to work with Roo, I really want to finish this 75 - and I want to finish it in good shape - not finish it by the skin of our teeth. I want my worries about Roo not being "up for longer distances" (based on past performances of over five years ago) to prove unfounded and for him to take it in his stride as I suspect he actually can. But only by trying will I find out.

And I really want pft and Fergus to finish - pft because he could really use a bright spot in his life right now, and Fergus because doing the 75 is an integral part of his (what right now isn't quite where I want it) Tevis training.

So I guess I made this bed for myself, and now I get to sleep in it :)


NASTR isn't a super-hard ride in terms of climbing, but it's got a lot of fiddly stuff on it and a lot of varied terrain to figure out how best to get through - and it's still 75 miles. You have to manage the horse sensibly and balance not going too fast with moving out as much as possible on the trottable sections.

The coolest thing about this ride is discovering that horses can actually trot over rocks without falling over or laming themselves - particularly in the dark. You start the ride tip-toeing over every rocky stretch (of which there are many for miles on the first and last loops as you work your way through the riverbeds in the bottom of El Dorado and Illinois canyons), and by then end you just let them get on with it and are astonished to find that - huh - they're actually quite good at it.

Having finished the ride three times before (and had one pull with Uno in 2010), I know the ups and downs pretty well, so can coach pft appropriately (get him to eat pick-me-up items when things start to lag).

Loop 1: cheery
Loop 2: start cheery, enjoy the fun parts, and then gradually slide into the bleahs before disappearing into them completely on the last miles and miles slog into the vet check ("it'll be just over the next rise!... Ok, it'll be just over the *next* rise.... well, allright then, the *next* one...")
Loop 3: wish you could take an afternoon nap and feel generally unmotivated to do more than trudge
Loop 4: horses perk up, it cools off, you are sucked towards the finish by a mysterious forcefield only felt by horses heading towards their trailers.

The trick is to get through those middle two loops.

And the trick will be getting Roop to the finish without him pooping out or getting crunchy. This will only be the fourth time he's gone over 50 miles, and although he finished the 75 and a 100 (got pulled at Tevis at 65 miles), he's not a super-horse and I wouldn't say finished those longer distance rides "seamlessly". That said, I've finished many more miles in the interim, am more experienced and wiser than I was for those previous times, so in theory can manage him better, right Lucy?

p.s. My fingers look like hell from continuously chewing on them.


  1. OOOohhh! Such excitement and worry and adrenaline! I wish I was still on that Triple Crown train but it was a rapid departure with a saddle issue. Thanks again for the saddle trials, looking forward to trying treeless!

    Wishing you and PFT and the steeds the very best of safe, sound, and successful trails!

  2. I didn't realize NASTR had canyons named El Dorado, etc. Are there little rivers or just sandy bottoms? This was fun to read.

  3. Ahhhh I'm so jealous ahhhhhh!

    Good luck with the boots. Everything else will fall into place just fine :)