The Virginia City 100. What a weekend. I knew it was going to be hard, physically at the very least. What I didn't expect is for it to be so mentally brutal. I still feel beat up some 22 hours later and trying to sort thru why because I have 2 Tevis buckles. What was different?
I've heard so much about the VC 100 and many individual stories. I knew there were a lot of rocks and I knew it was as hard as Tevis. But I also heard it was "doable", sorta in the same breath that Tevis is only 50% doable. I ride my horses on a lot of hills, walking up, trotting, up, getting off and walking down on foot, over and over. I also love the Washoe rides and part of the VC 100 are on these trails. Technical appeals to me over flat, wide roads with miles and miles of trotting. I did hear the VC 100 had these too, and I was more scared of miles of trotting than anything. Regardless of the fear of endless trotting I entered my mare and T & I & 3 dogs were off to Virginia City.
Sage, Tirzah & Parker were the lucky ones to go. Sage is in season so I wanted to make sure her Foomer Doomer was shielded from any improper unions. We also got some heeling training in around Ride Camp. She was super smart there.
On the way down to Virginia City Jeremy had sent me a photo of a bay horse standing on the side of the road. Then we drove past and I got this photo. I was so excited to see these wild horses on this trip and this wasn't the last time. They are regular ornaments in this state.
We got to Ride Camp & were able to set REALLY CLOSE to Jeremy & Charlie. This was good because the plan was to ride with Jeremy and Charlie could take T to all the out vet checks. We had a blast with them and Charlie was a ton of help, which made things easier for Tony. They did an awesome job. Anyway, the mares were in love with each other. They could touch noses.
VC100 ridecamp coffee. Gotta love this!!
Connie Creech talking about the ride at the PreRide Meeting. She and Gina Hall were the ride managers and also put on the Washoe Rides. They are awesome women.
Here is the map. I looked at this a few times, except when it was dark. Then it was useless. The only loop I wasn't able to do was the final one (Yellow) of 24 miles, though part of it we had done in the am after the start, and the end of the 2nd (Orange) loop.
The girls again.....Jeremy's favorite thing to say about them "It's hard to tell who's the man in the relationship". Cracks me up.
Aura slept good, ate good and was very perky for the early morning start. We had to leave camp at 4:40 am to get to the start which was in front of the Delta Saloon. I got up at 3 am. Ugggg......
Devil horse. Ha.
Jeremy and I started towards the back of the group. Leaving out of town you get onto a dirt road, that climbs up. Good climb but not a hard climb. But, if you do it 29 times in one day, it becomes hard. The story of the ride.....lots and lots and lots and lots of climbs. Just when you think you're at the top there are 9 more mountains to climb and just on that loop.
Jeremy and I moved out at a nice pace early on and passed probably 10+ riders. It was chilly and windy, but nothing that a pre-menopausal woman couldn't handle. I was dressed lightly and was pretty happy with my wardrobe choice on this first 39 miles.
Jeremy took this photo after I took the one above. So beautiful! I love that the moon is still up too.
Here is our first "trot by", where a vet watches to make sure no one is lame. Tony & Charlie were there which was very cool to see them. This may be more of a "spectator" endurance ride than most. With Tevis, it's hard to see riders except at the two 1 hour holds. Here, with the open desert you can see riders coming in for a long time. Driving home today I was able to tell T where we rode. He was quite impressed as he said "You came all the way down here???" I said "Yeah, and that was only the first 8 miles".
Leaving the Trot By. From here we went down a very long canyon. Jeremy got off to run. Oh ok. I'll get off to run. Wtf. I am so out of shape. And I rarely run with Aura anymore because she goes too fast and has already run over me and twisted my ankle. I had to get back on Aura, so we trotted and walked down the hill. From there we got onto a road, then thru a housing tract and the vet check in a vacant lot. Aura dragged me thru the trot out on the vet check. She was hardly warmed up.
Here fun stuff happened. (45 minute hold). Aura ate like a starving dog and got mush all over her face.
T took photos of me and said mean stuff so I flipped him off. But not in this picture.
Jeremy ate something then vomited it all up. Surprisingly it didn't make me vomit. Maybe because the wind was going the other way.
We left this vet check happy that we were ahead of some other people who came in with us. One thing about our mares (and most arabians in general) is they pulse down VERY quickly. This is key to getting in and out of vet checks fast because if they don't pulse down to criteria, you have to wait til they do for your time to start. Our times usually started right away.
After we left this check I did my dumbshit move for the weekend. We trotted back up the asphalt road back towards the long canyon we came down but from there, we would take a very rocky canyon for MILES. Prior to that and still on the road, we were cantering our horses. Aura is very left sided and has a hard time taking the right lead. This is something she and I have been working on so I got the cool idea to try to get her into a right lead going around a light curve in the road. She moved up on Cali's butt and fumbled and I went flying left, then right, then left all 3x's seeing the ashalt at a very close view. Somehow I was able to finally slow her down and at the same time grab onto her bridle to keep from crashing. O.m.g. My right shoulder that's been ripped from various injuries got re-ripped and my left ankle that got sprained when Aura spooked into me 2 months ago got re-sprained. Jeremy gave me some Advil and 5 minutes later I was better. But so thankful I didn't go off. Sometimes I don't know what possesses us to do the shit we do. Things like that AND ride this ride.
Texting while riding. Not nearly as dangerous as texting while driving. Unless you are trying to get your horse into a canter on an ashalt road.
After "The Dumbshit Move" Jeremy and I went into Bailey Canyon. We picked off one rider and I don't remember seeing her much again. After a extremely long time of going VERY slow thru rocks and more rocks and short burst of trotting, we got out of that canyon and into the part of the ride I was more familiar with from the Washoe rides. We caught up to 2 more riders and realized that both Jeremy and I are secretly competitive. He wanted to pass them. My problem was I was starting to feel beat up. And my biggest issue was that Aura was still pulling me and wouldn't let up. It wasn't fun because if I gave her 1/4" of rein she would pull more. We got to one water stop and I told Jeremy I was exhausted and just wanted to cry. I also wanted to tell him to go ahead, but he must have already known that because about a mile later he was gone. The only problem with that is it was the part of the VC100 that's "cliffy". This ride goes very high up, but most of the time it's on wide roads, except this part. She was awful and had she been Ali'i I could have gotten off and walked with her, even on a narrow trail but she would have run me over and I didn't have my dressage whip with me to keep her off. Somehow we got off of the mountain and down into the Washoe Lake area. I love this part of the Washoe rides as there is a single track that is about 4 miles into camp. It's fun and the horses usually are very forward. Aura was more than Forward. She was a pain in the ass.
Rene Baylor Photo
The start of the single track. I didn't know Rene Baylor was there, but he called out so not to frighten Aura. I told him I wanted to kill her.
When I got into this "Trot By" vet check Jamie Kerr was there, who was one of the vets. Tony was there and I got off of her and handed him the reins and said "Take this fucking mare!" He said something, the vet said something, I said something and then I started to cry. I told Jamie I didn't think I could do it. He said "Do you want to 'Rider Option'"? I looked at him shockingly and said "NO!!". No I didn't want to Rider Option I just wanted to kill my mare. T threw a blanket over her and said something derogatory like I should just get out of this sport if I wasn't having fun. I walked away and went into the bathroom and just slid down the wall to the ground and sobbed like a baby. It was the start of the mental breakdown. The toughness of endurance. The toughness of this VC100. I also felt like I was over my head with this horse.
With barely minutes to spare I walked out and over to Tony, Aura & Charlie. Charlie gave me a hug. Jeremy had already left, so that was good because I wanted Aura to ride alone. I needed to go at my pace and a pace for her that was not going to exhaust her.
So we left. Lucy Chaplin Trumbull was there and told me of the several climbs that would tire Aura out. Jamie said the same thing. We made it to the top of the first climb quickly, then she started to calm down. It was starting to get cold and windy and I regretted not getting a jacket. All I had on was a thin shirt and a light windbreaker ~ that wasn't waterproof. The predicted storm was coming in and I kept thinking that it really wasn't going to be that bad, that it really never rains in the desert.
We went up several LONG grades to the famous "SOB's" or "Sons of Bitches". On the Washoe 50 miler they are done in the other direction. Either direction you take they are fucked. The way we were doing it on the VC100, the worst SOB is first. I got the retarded idea that Aura would take me up. She went about 3 feet then turned around and went back down, so off I went. I had already seen another horse & rider walking up, him on foot and realized that was one steep hill. And, it's LONG and slippery.
This is the 2nd SOB. You can't really see how far down this canyon goes, but it does. It is rideable and I did ride Aura up and down the 2nd & 3rd canyon. From there, this road winds around the mountain thru rocks. Lots and lots and lots of rocks. 12 miles to ridecamp from Washoe, but it seemed longer. Rocks, violent wind & rain made it much longer.
Surprisingly I was not freezing but I was very cold. And it didn't seem to matter much which side of the mountains you were on. The wind was fierce, I want to say 50+ miles an hour? Aura was finally settling down, but the weather was becoming an issue.
The last 5 miles I rode in with the man who was in front of me on the SOB's. I wasn't very chatty. But both of our horses seem a little defeated. When pelting rain hits a horse in the face, it is not their instinct to face it and this is what we were asking them to do and to do it mostly at a trot.
I got into the 1 hour hold & 2nd vet check back at camp around 2:30. Jamie was there to vet my horse and told me she looked great. She got all A's & a couple of A-'s on her card. Trotted out beautifully with great impulsion. We had done 51 miles.
When it was time to leave I debated on wardrobe again and chose my big, warm, non- waterproof jacket.
It was lonely. Aura was just starting to fall asleep when we tacked her up again. We immediately got into a short riverbed of about a mile where we just walked. Dale & his white arabian had caught up to us so it was this back and forth leap-frogging for about 15 miles. His horse was tired, my horse was tired. But, the funny thing is when his horse balked at hills Aura would just trot up ahead with nice impulsion. On this first part of the loop, (the Orange loop) the weather had really gotten bad. Even though I had my big jacket on, there were still places cold was getting in and my gloves were wet. It would slap rain on us for a few minutes, then stop, then the fierce wind would blow us dry a little. This went on and on, as much as the climbs and rocks. Relentless.
On this loop going up one canyon we saw an brand new Jeep that someone had decided to take down a steep road. Just at the top I guess he decided it wasn't a good idea and it was parked sideways there. God knows how he'll get it back up to the top, but it seemed like it was this guy's dumbshit move for the year. Though he probably thought 49 horses & riders trotting 100 miles in the horrible weather was pretty dumb too. I wished I would have gotten a picture.
Here was a band of wild horses just below our trail. They had crossed in front of us and watched as we rode past. After a water/hay/carrots & rider cookies stop (and we found out we still had 15 miles to go and it was 5:45 pm), we saw 2 other groups of wild horses. At this point I'm wondering in my mind how I possibly can go another 40 miles. This ride was really chipping away at me.
Sometime shortly after this my riding buddy suggested we keep up with the horses in front of us because the one rider knew the way in. I politely told him that I needed to ride at the pace that was good for Aura, which was a lot of walking and for him to feel free to keep up with them. So they disappeared. Two other riders eventually caught up to me and we rode together for about 4 miles. At dusk and after we had crossed the road towards what I thought was Virgina City (but was really a very long way around a couple of mountains), they also disappeared. I was feeling hopeful we were almost home, but at this point I probably had another 8 miles to ride, alone & in the dark. There were glow sticks infrequently, but lots of lime markings on the ground. The lime I could see in the dark and actively looked for them. I did not want to trot at all, as I didn't have my headlamp or my glow sticks. Why I didn't have the glowstick breastplate on my horse when I left at 3:30, I'll never know. Or the headlamp duct taped to my helmet. So we walked for hours alone in the dark.
Eventually I came to the part of the trail that overlapped with the last loop and riders going out for the last loop were confirming I was on the right trail. This also took a long time. Once done with the trail was a very long, slow ride thru town with a horse who I didn't want to trot, but was keeping up a great fast walk. This is when I was seriously considering an RO. The closer I got to the ridecamp, the closer I was ready to admit I was done. "I'm an alcoholic". That's what it felt like. I'm a loser. I'm a whiner/wimp/big baby/weak/................. I was cold and depressed and I didn't care anymore if I was any of those.
A 1/2 mile before camp 3 young riders passed Aura & I. I rode for HOURS at a walk with no one ever coming near. So, 1/2 a mile before the end of 75 miles these riders trot by and Aura was re-born. I had put a "Running T" on her at the last hold and even though she was all puffy and prancy and snorting, she was easier to control. It made it easier for me to keep her in check without having my arms pulled on.
We got into the vet check. I was ready to tell the vet I was considering a Rider Option. I trotted Aura out and she said "Well, your horse is lame so you can't really do that". She suggested I take her back to rest her for 30 minute and bring her back to have her re-checked. Aura was a little worse so we were pulled. By this time I was so fatigued and starting to feel nauseous. Like the headlamp & glow sticks, my anti-nausea meds were in the trailer waiting for the 3rd loop.
I wrapped Aura's legs, we blanketed her with 2 blankets and T feed and watered her. I took a shower, saw Charlie and he was going out the Cottonwoods for the last vet check, then the finish. I wanted to care but I couldn't. I was done.
At 12:30 am Sage stared whining, so I got up to take her out and saw Charlie there. Jeremy had just finished. He came in 13th place. He & Cali did a great job and he also told me he had an emotional breakdown at 75 miles. He told Charlie he wanted to Rider Option, but Charlie wasn't having any of that. Lucky for him Cali was good to go and Jeremy snapped out of it.
I think had Aura trotted out sound (all her other parameters were good), I may have pulled myself together for the final 24 miles. Dressed warm, and walked a good portion of it. I don't know.
This morning we were up by 7:30. I walked the dogs, fed Aura and talked with a few people. Dale, who I rode with for some of the first & second loop did not complete. He got lost for 3 hours and when he finally got back to camp he couldn't get a finish because he never got to the Cottonwoods vet check. Now, that's depressing. Another woman, who's red helmet light Charlie was watching coming into the finish about 100 yards from the end suddenly dipped and didn't come up again. Her horse tripped and skinned up his knees badly enough so he couldn't get a completion. Then there was the woman who I believe got separated from her horse, either by tripping or ??? and he split. He was gone all night, but she found him this am with all his tack, headstall (and reins still over his head) in the same spot she came off. He was hiding in a ravine. He was in good shape. She did a lot of sobbing I'm sure. In fact Tony said he never saw so many people sobbing......
Maybe one day I'll do it again. One day after I pre-ride the part I missed and psyche myself up properly. Maybe tomorrow I'll be back to normal and tell ya'll of my plans for next year's VC 100.......Until then....uuuuggggg......
Ridecamp dog ♥