Sunday, December 13, 2015

Virginia City 100 - Part 1 - The Prep

(The more I wrote on this subject, the longer it got, so I finally split it into three parts. I started writing it almost ten weeks ago and have been masticating on it ever since. To write it brings back the feelings of fatigue and being out of sorts)

* * *

It has been two weeks since Fergus and I completed VC100 - me for the third time, him for the second, and I'm still suffering from a strange melancholy over the ride and I'm not exactly sure why. It could be that I'm just burnt out from the season (I am), that I'm still tired (I am), or that it's time to take a break (it is), but I have this vague sense of unease that I didn't do right by my horse that day, although on the surface of it we had a great day.

* * *

Recap on Past

To recap, in 2012 Fergus and I did back-to-back Tevis and VC100 and although he was great at Tevis, he just didn't sparkle at VC the same way. I always wondered if it was because he was still tired from Tevis that year (the rides were 6 weeks apart), or if the trail didn't suit him (did all the hard-packed trotting hurt his feet?), or if he preferred the competition of all the extra horses at Tevis (200 starters, as opposed to the 30-45 who usually start VC), or if it was just that the Tevis trail is "home" and he likes it.

So this year we came back, hopefully more rested and knowing the trail ahead. Unfortunately, I don't think he was in as good shape this year. He's had a slow slide into some "issues" (covered in the "Pre-pre-VC" post three weeks ago) which I think impacted him. He was still able to perform, but not to the same level as he did, say, for Tevis 2014 (which I still maintain is probably the best ride I will ever have on any horse in my lifetime). His rear end definitely isn't as strong and he's lost muscle-tone on his back. So I knew he'd have some limitations and that I'd need to work around them. I planned on being very conservative on the uphills and not pushing him or letting him overdo it. And, looking back, I'd say it pretty much worked, although it didn't seem that way at the time.

Fergus the Magnificent

Firstly, before I get into all the oddities, let me say that Fergus was absolutely phenomenal at this ride - he ate more than I've ever seen him eat before and was absolutely ravenous from about mile 45 onwards. He couldn't cram it in fast enough. He dived into the wet hay in a small trough at Jumbo both times, and never came up for air (I've never seen him eat wet hay before). I thought he was going to take out Katie Kenworthy's fingers when he lunged for the hay she was holding at either 75 miles or the finish (memory hazy). He tried to eat the vet secretary's clipboard. Vet Chrysann Collatos watched him dive into a hay pile after she vetted him and said dryly "I'm a little concerned by his appetite" <snort>.

He had amazing recoveries - I think 56 was his "worst" CRI, while he was a 52/44 at the first 24 mile vet check, and 52/48 at the finish 24.5 hours after I got on him the previous morning. Other than getting a complete hosing at the trot-by at Washoe Lake at 39 miles (we were hot-hot-hot in the afternoon sun), I didn't put any water on him all day.

So other than the expected "Bs" on gut sounds (during which he was stuffing in food as quickly as he could), and a "B" on attitude at 76 miles, he pretty much had an "A" filled day. Can't complain on a tough 100 miler:

A Long Day

It was a longer day than expected (perhaps VC always is?), but not for any particular reason - the Virginia City 100 trail is just tough, and rocky, and has some ridiculous climbs on it. And comparing times from past years, I think the trail is actually getting slower, particularly when I go back to 2010 times - I *know* Uno is slower than Fergus, but we still can't match the times from that year. I spoke with Meredith Mayerhoff who's been riding the trail for years and she thought it was lot rockier and more eroded than in past years. So you just can't move out in some places the way you could in the past.

Couple that with not having Connie Creech to follow for large sections of ride, and we just moved slower.

Lack of Sleep and Other Offenses

To the growing list of "things I messed up on", add lack of sleep and trying to do too much the day before.

As usual, I opted, to drive up to Virginia City after work on Thursday night. This might have worked out if I hadn't left work late, which bumped me to leaving home late, and then I had a comedy of errors trying to fill up with diesel which further bumped me - all of which meant that Fergus and I weren't settled in camp until around 2:30 a.m.

The following morning, almost immediately, I had kind people bringing me donations for the horrendously fast-moving Valley Fire that started the weekend before. (intense dash-cam footage from the fire as it happened).

(We had a chain set up - I would pick up horse donations from VC and transport them to Auburn, where I'd meet up with Aurora Grohman and pass them off to her. She, in turn, would take a trip westwards and give the donations to Emily Pendergrass. Emily lived in Middletown and although thankfully her house didn't burn, she lost her barn and its contents. She set up a pickup point for local horse people to come by and "shop" for needed items).

The final outcome of VC100 donations - a huge truckful of goodies

So not much sleep, followed by a low-key but ultimately stressful day Friday trying to get everything done - including a last minute attempt to get his pad shimming right (as you always do the day before a 100), a pre-ride to see if that shimming would work (it seemed to. But it in retrospect didn't. At all.), a trim (just to really set my back up nicely) and glue on Fergus.

On Thursday around 3 pm I had a conversation with pft from work about bathing Fergus. It went:

"Ack, I meant to ask you to bathe Fergus today..."

"It's a little late for that - he won't dry before the sun sets and then he'll be wet in the trailer going over the mountain".

"Hmm, never mind..."

This should have put "BATHE FERGUS AT CAMP" to the very top of the list, but instead it fell off the list altogether.

The advantage of a short grey horse? Dirt shows up very clearly. Disadvantage of a tall, dirt-coloured horse? It doesn't and it turned out that Fergus was pretty dirty.

The pad and shim combination I went with in the end was his cotton-bottomed Sensation pad, the high-tech Jen-X inserts and some wimpy shoulder shims that might have worked if they'd been twice the thickness. An inspection of the sweat pattern after leisurely pre-ride to the cemetery and back seemed to indicate that set up would work. (<sigh>)

Since the glue and boots would need to "sit quietly" once applied, I couldn't glue until after the pre-ride, so to get him vetted I slapped on some strap-on boots, and then had to wait for Kaity to return from her pre-ride before gluing. We were going with new Renegades-with-gel-bottoms-glue-ons on his front feet (with Easyboot Glue-ons in back) and I was unfamiliar with the gluing protocol for those. The theory was that the cushy gel-sole would help protect him against concussion and he would stay comfortable, unlike at NASTR 75.

We got things glued, but much later in the day than I was comfortable with and I never got a "sit quietly" moment the entire day.

So to say I didn't feel rested would have been a massive understatement.

On to the ride itself.

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