Monday, May 21, 2007

LBL Express 2007

Tanna checks out the mounting blocks
Wednesday afternoon, Daniel and I arrived at Land Between the Lakes' Wranglers Campground in Kentucky. Daniel set up Tanna's metal corral around the high line area while I busied myself getting other stuff settled. Then we headed to the restaurant for a yummy supper (that I didn't have to cook or clean up after!).

The weather was absolutely beautiful and the forecast called for high 70s and NO RAIN. What a nice weekend was ahead of us! That night was a little chilly. I had neglected to cover Tanna so he got his cooler on in the morning as soon as I woke up. He seemed to be doing fine, but I left the cooler on him until the sun got higher up and the day got a little warmer.

Daniel disappeared to scout out places to take pictures on Friday and I took a nice warm shower in the nearby showerhouse. I hung out with the cat until Daniel returned, taking full advantage of our extra vacation day. We headed for breakfast at the restaurant and then to visit Teddy of Running Bear. I couldn't think of a single thing I needed from Teddy, but it was fun looking around and talking.
April and Dr. Otis' horse
Back to the trailer to start getting my stuff ready for the vet checks. LBL has a 4 loop 50 with 2 away checks (in the same place) and then another check back near camp. I gathered water buckets, hay, apples and carrots for both checks. I decided to leave my saddle rack and a folding chair at the check near camp as well. I took stuff out of my large vet check bag and placed it into a smaller duffle bag that I would send out on the crewless truck.

I spent at least a half hour working on my hand-held heart rate monitor trying to get it to work. I had purchased a handle from Roger Rittenhouse (www.vmaxept.com) at Trace Tribute, but hadn't gotten it set up yet. I had a CardioSport Fusion HRM transmitter and watch. The transmitter worked nicely (could verify with my Garmin Forerunner 301), but I couldn't get the Fusion watch to pick up the signal. The watch battery was fine. Finally, after some frustration, I discovered the exact button I had to push and HOLD in order to get the watch to listen to the transmitter. I immediately lept up and went to play with it on my horse.

Daniel had been helping me and also showed me where to take Tanna's pulse manually on his jaw. Since I had the HRM working, I wanted to figure out how to use that and exactly where to place it on Tanna. I'm quite familiar with on-board HRM, but the handhelds I have no experience with. After several more minutes, I decided I had it down enough and stopped.

Back to the restaurant for lunch (boy, was I getting spoiled!) and then over to register. We got a nice thick entry pack with flyers and catalogs and a nice small sweat scraper. I really like small sweat scrapers! Easy to throw in a pack.

Daniel and I had brought two trucks. We had the big 3500 that pulled the horse trailer and has our camper on it. But we also brought my new-to-me Toyota commuting truck so that Daniel could easily get around while he was taking pictures on ride day. I took that truck and went to set up my vet check areas.

By the time I was done with that, it was time to vet in. I usually don't put my horse's number on him until the morning of a ride. But this time, I decided to go ahead and put his number on. I put 102 in big bold blue numbers on both sides of his rump. When I got to the vet in, I was faced with Debra LaComette's Rev, also with a nice 102 painted on him! Oops! I said I'd go get a new number when I got done vetting in. Tanna vetted in nicely with all As. His heart rate was a little elevated for him at 50. He's normally 42 or 44 on vet in. Everything else was a go, though.

Nancy, our timer!
When I got done vetting in, Nancy Gooch, our honored timer, arrived with the SERA scales. So I hung around while that was put together. Tanna weighed in at 794. Very respectable weight for him.

Before I left, a volunteer from the vet check told me my new number was 101. She had very nicely gone back to the registration desk and gotten my new number for me! How sweet was that? :-)

I took Tanna back to his pen and I continued getting everything ready for the big ride day. Finally I was done and spent some more time just hanging out and relaxing while waiting for the ride meeting.

The ride meeting went well and as expected. Forty minute holds, 64 pulse (except 60 for the LD finish per the rules), tack on at the first check due to chilly weather and a wind. Dr. Otis was the head vet, assisted by three other vets. 50 milers (19 of them) were to start at 6:30 AM CDT. 25 milers (26 of those) were to start at 7:30 AM. The 50 milers would take a combination of trail (including the knee-knocker -- KK -- trail!) and gravel road to the vet check. Then out for a loop and back into the vet check. Back to camp for the 3rd vet check. And a final loop back into camp for the finish. The 25 milers would do the first and third loops of the 50s.

After the ride meeting, I made supper, did a few last minute things and off to bed.
Getting ready
4:30 came very early and I stumbled out of bed to give Tanna his breakfast. I was cold, but fortunately, the camper warmed up while I made breakfast. The pre-ride routine went smoothly and I was mounted and ready for warm-up at 6:15. Tanna was being fairly good with no signs of being totally stupid, but he was alert and ready to go.

The startAfter the controlled start across the pavement and down a creek bed, the horses separated into 3 main groups. Front pack, mid-pack and back pack. I stayed with the mid-pack and when the mid-pack separated a bit into those that wanted to take the KK trail fast and those that wanted to go a little slower, I stayed with the faster riders. We flew along together, me trying to keep Tanna off the horse in front of him. The KK trail was just beautiful. Good footing, lots of fun and along the lake with the sun glinting off the water. Breathtaking! There was some very nice grass through this section, so I periodically pulled Tanna up and pointed him at a clump of grass. He would grab a big mouthful and take off after the other horses again.

Too soon, the KK trail ended and we were dumped out onto a gravel road. It was about an hour into the ride, so I pulled up and tried to electrolyte from the saddle. We can do this, but not, I discovered, in the middle of the first loop yet! Not with horses that left us and another group coming from behind. So I wasted some of my electrolytes before I got frustrated and jumped off. The riders were nice and asked if I needed them to stop. I waved them on and proceeded with dosing. I decided it was time to ditch my sweatshirt, roll up Tanna's rump rug and generally took a few minutes before we got going again.

April & Tanna on trail
I was frustrated at first because I got a bit of race brain myself. I had wanted to top ten at this ride, but I tend to waste too much time and was irritated that I was doing it again. It was good, though. It broke us away from a herd mentality. Me mostly!! After getting back on, I was content to just enjoy the day with my horse and come in wherever I happened to. I re-adjusted my ride plan to ride negative splits instead of having a placing as my goal and as such, the break brought our average speed down, which is good when you're wanting to take subsequent loops faster than the first loop!
April & Tanna on trailWe were happily trotting through the loop when we came on Daniel taking pictures. He informed me that I was the 14th horse to come to him. So I was running in 13th place (one of the horses ahead was running in the 2-day 100, not the 50). I was about a mile and a quarter from the vet check. When I was close, I jumped off and walked in. Tanna was interested in the activity, but pulsed right down. I headed to the pulse takers and the vets. I got through and found my duffle bag that management had brought for me. No crew for me. Daniel jokes that he started taking pictures to avoid crewing for me!

Coming into a vet check
Tanna would not eat. Not really a big surprise for him. He rarely eats at the first check. He ate hay on the way to the vet, but afterwards, he wouldn't eat. He got a B on guts; also normal for him. The rest were As. I took him into the sun and grass and he nibbled some, but eventually just hung out. I got him ready for the next loop and off we went by ourselves.

Off on our ownWe headed back out the same way we'd come in until I saw Daniel again. Then we continued past the turn and out on the loop. We saw the front 5 horses all in a row coming up a hill as we trotted down it. I believe they were Bud Davidson, Karen and Steve Cummings, Debra LaComette, and Ron Chapman. No idea what order they were running, but they were all together and looked like they were having a blast. Tanna was interested in them, but by now he knows he has to keep going the way he's going and not try to turn around and follow the other horses.

April & Tanna on trailTanna continued to trot and canter during that loop. Coming back up the same hill after making a keyhole shaped loop, we walked and he ate every step of the way. I just had the reins loose and my feet out of the stirrups as he weaved back and forth to get the best grass. Coming up out of the hill, we picked up a trot again as we headed back to the vet check. We came on Daniel as he was leaving the vet check to head back to camp to take pictures there.

April & Tanna on trailTanna got all As at this check, including guts. He had eaten and drunk really well during that loop. As a result, he didn't eat a lot in this vet check again. I took a bucket of water and cleaned him up. Unfortunately, I got him chilled, so quickly resaddled him, put his rump rug on, put an extra blanket over his shoulders and kept him in the sun as much as possible. I gathered up all our gear and dragged it over to the gravel road to be taken back to camp.

Trot out for the vets
Then off down the trail behind the buffalo pens back toward camp. I left the rump rug on for about a mile. Then I checked to be sure he'd stopped shivering. He had and seemed fine with plenty of pep and power. So the rump rug was rolled up and off we went again.

The turtle 25 miler had left the vet check about 10 minutes before us. She had asked me not to come up on her horse too fast so I didn't scare him to death. I assured her we would be careful and try not to startle them. We chased them the entire loop and finally caught sight of them as we came into camp. I dismounted and walked through the camp to the vet check. There is no running allowed in the camp, so I might as well walk on my own two feet.

Coming to the pulse box
I quickly unsaddled and took Tanna to the vet. Mostly As again with an expected B for guts. He hadn't eaten as much on this loop, although he was still eating and drinking well. But he ate and ate and ate and ate at this vet check. He ate until I begin to resaddle and decided it was time to think about working again.

Eating an appleOff we went on our last loop. Tanna seemed to be confused about this. He was not sure we should be going out again and not in this direction! I patiently told him this was the way and we continued on. We caught up with Trish Harrop. She was entered in the 2-day 100. We played leap frog with her for awhile while Tanna would stop to drink and they would catch up. Finally, we just kept going and moved off. Tanna was reluctant to leave the other horse, but I was insistent that we keep moving. I wanted to keep to a certain average MPH and I knew he had the gas, he was just having a brain moment. It was actually good training for him.

I was having a blast on the last bit of the loop going up and down the roller coaster hills. When we crossed the last creek crossing, we were quite close. Tanna cantered in to the finish line. We even turned on the speed for the last 100 yards to a good hand gallop. He had plenty of gas left in him and I was thrilled. I pulled him up, jumped off and walked into the vet check. Our average speed was lower for this loop than my goal, but I was still pleased with Tanna's overall performance.

I unsaddled and cleaned Tanna up some before I took him to the vet. He pulsed in around 50. I was pleased! He got mostly As on his completion (another B on guts) and trotted out nicely. The vet commented he looked like he could go again and I replied that was the idea! Even though we weren't going again, I like him to look bright-eyed and happy at the end of a ride instead of used up and exhausted. At the finish he weighed 760 pounds. He lost 34 pounds. About normal for him.
Vet check
We ended up in 12th place with around 6 hours 50 minutes ride time. Another horse had the bad luck of stepping in a hole during the vet check at the out check and had to pull.
Hanging out
I hung around the vet check letting Tanna eat for the next hour or so. He ate lots of grass, some more grain, some hay and drank. I think he might have thought we were going out again!

Tanny bright and happy after the ride
Thanks to Diane and Jerry Fruth for putting on this ride one more time. I had a blast!! I wish they would keep putting this ride on, but I know it's a lot of work putting on a ride and I know it's time for them to RIDE! Thanks to the vets and the volunteers and all the other riders. I really enjoy endurance and this was a stellar ride with perfect weather!

All pictures are by Daniel Johnson (my husband). http://www.PicturesDanielTook.com

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