Monday, November 22, 2010

Broxton Bridge, Nov 2010...Before the ride

At Yellowhammer, I learned that Broxton Bridge was going to be put on in November, the week before Thanksgiving. I missed the ride run there in May due to Tanna being sick. I determined to shoot for the ride in November as Tanna's comeback ride.

Tanna and I set out on a training program incorporating LSD, hill work and speed work, about 30 miles a week of work for 6 weeks, leaving a week for rest before the ride.

In the days leading up to the ride, I began to try to figure if I should take Serts along. Broxton Bridge was a Friday/Saturday ride, which meant I could only do one day (I don't compete on Sabbaths). Serts might just be a bit of a bother. So I shot a quick email to my buddy, Joe Schoech, who happened to be the ride manager and asked if I should bring Serts for trail marking. Joe replied within a day indicating that I should bring Serts, so that settled that.

Discussing the email with Daniel, Daniel asked if we could leave Sunday. We weren't scheduled to leave until Tuesday because my farrier was coming mid-morning Monday and there wouldn't be time to drive the 450+ miles to arrive on Monday. Short notice, but I texted my farrier and asked if he perchance had an appointment. Tony texted me quickly giving me an appointment on Thursday. I learned during that appointment that the guy who had been scheduled for it canceled about 30 minutes before I asked for an appointment!

I began to panic, thinking I wouldn't be able to get packed in time. I'd been a bit lazy about packing since I'd have Sunday and Monday to pack. But by 7 PM, Saturday night, I was ready. God really wanted us to go Sunday!

Early Sunday morning, we finished the last bits of packing, loaded the horses and headed out for Ehrhardt, SC. Daniel was driving the 3500 pulling the trailer and I followed in the Toyota. Taking the Toyota was another last minute decision. The trip was thankfully uneventful. I switched blankets back and forth to keep the horses comfortable during the trip when we stopped.

We pulled into camp about an hour before dark, giving us enough time to pick out a spot with water and electricity and set up camp. Well, Daniel set up camp while I held onto the horses and chatted with Joe, who had arrived some hours before us.

As we talked, I began to see the reason I'd brought Serts. There were some challenges with the trails. In that they were not finalized yet. Having been around some ride managers during the days before a ride, I could appreciate the stress involved with having people to mark trail and nothing to tell them to do. Riders coming in 4 days to ride a trail that was not ready for them, much less marked. Eeeeeek.

After we got settled, the 3 of us began to look over maps and the trail possibilities. We had 2 trails that Joe was pretty sure of. So the plan for Monday was for me to take Serts and go mark one of those loops while Daniel and Joe consulted with the property manager on what other trails we could use to make up the remaining loops. The decision which loop for me to mark was made simple when we realized we only had the proper color flagging for one of those loops. Well, easy one there.

Monday dawned early and started with camp "chores." Feed the horses, walk the horses, clean the pens, breakfast, hot shower. What? Hot shower? Yes, indeed. The bath house boasted 3 large shower stalls (at least on the ladies side). Each stall had a changing area, sink, toilet and hot shower. Very nice. The only thing I didn't like was no electrical outlets to blow dry my hair to keep me from freezing in the early morning chill. But hard to complain about hot showers, right?

After breakfast, Joe drove Daniel and me around the property, showing us the trails and some tricky spots we would have to mark. We took the Toyota and had no trouble driving the trails. All the trails were wide enough to drive a truck or tractor down. We spent some time discussing the hurdles and how to overcome them.

Back at camp, I saddled Serts, gathered my marking supplies and headed out to mark a 15 mile loop. It took me a good hour to get into a groove and figure out what I was doing. I was tying ribbons to clothespins on the fly and finally fell into a rhythm to tie the ribbons while looking for the next place to put a ribbon and Serts trotted. Gotta love Serts. He's a great horse. :)

A few miles out, I came to a spot that I couldn't figure out what was going on. I knew where I needed to go, but not how to get there as there was a don't-go-there barrier. I stared around trying to figure what the deal was and finally just went around the barrier and continued marking. There were a good many spots that I couldn't mark as the trail wound back and forth beside and in fields. I only had clothespins and ribbon with me. No pie plates, flags or stakes. So I took a waypoint on my trusty Garmin Forerunner 305 to point out to Joe and Daniel later and continued with what I could do.

About 3.5 hours into my excursion, Joe and Daniel drove up on Joe's trusty red mule. I showed Joe where the barrier had been that I couldn't figure out and requested they bring me my rain jacket as the sky was threatening rain. I was also out of clothespins. When they got my items, they headed off to figure out the trail I'd missed while I continued on. It took them a bit of looking to figure out what was going on, but they did figure it out.

Finally, after 5 hours of riding, I returned to camp. Luckily, the rain had held off. Serts was good and tired and Tanna was thrilled to see him. After taking care of the horses and getting some supper, Daniel, Joe and I reconvened at Joe's trailer to go over the day's events and see what progress had been made. More chatter and map data and decisions. I would go out again on Tuesday with Serts and mark the fun ride trail, which had been decided on, while Daniel and Joe continued to tour the trails, piecing together more loops. Things were going slowly, but were progressing.

Tuesday morning, I saddled up and headed out again, in the rain. This time, I knew what I was doing and had no trouble settling into a groove. The fun ride trail went along with the 15 mile loop I'd marked the day before (cutting out some miles, of course), so it was a matter of double-checking my markings from the day before and adding green/white ribbons.

Serts was barefoot and got a little pokey as the day went on. I never did settle on a good reason for that. He might have been bored as he'd seen the same trail the day before and he bores easily. He might have been a tad footsore as he has flat soles. He might have just been tired as he hadn't been worked a lot since Chicken Chase. Whatever the reason, I decided he was done with trail marking unless there was just no other way.

Marking the fun ride trail went well and I was back in camp in a timely manner. Daniel and Joe were still trying to piece together the remaining loops. They had a 20 mile loop, pretty much, but were still working on the remaining 15 and 10 mile loops. Since Serts was done and there were no trails to mark anyway (the ribbons for the 20 mile loop still hadn't arrived), I asked Joe what to do. He told me to go watch a movie, but I offered to go get supplies instead, so I cleaned up and headed to the tiny town of Ehrhardt for my next adventure.

I was asked to go to the hardware store to get flags to put along the fields where there were no trees and to find some ribbon for the 15 and 10 mile trails that were still being worked out. I was told the store was next to the post office. Well, I had difficulty locating the store and drove around for a bit until I finally located it. I went in and the owner was very helpful and I cleaned him out of red ribbon and blue ribbon and picked out some pink flags, blue flags and orange flags. Blue was the only color that matched our ribbons, but you take what you can get.

When I got up to the register, I realized with growing alarm that this gentleman would not be able to take my debit card and I had no cash and my checkbook (even if he'd've taken it) was back at the camp. Sure enough, when the total was rung up, he said he needed cash, but there was a bank up the street.

So I headed off on foot to the bank to use the atm. In bewilderment, I walked around the bank, but no atm. I went inside and no atm. I stood in line and the poor girl looked abashed and said, no, they had no atm, but the gas station down the street did.

Back to the hardware store, muttering under my breath the entire time. I told the owner I was still looking for money, but I'd be back. I drove to the convenience store, which thankfully did have an atm and the atm actually worked and actually gave me enough cash for the purchase. After paying for the purchases, I dropped into the grocery store for some applesauce for Tanna and then drove the 7 or so miles back to camp, forgetting to get ice in all the excitement.

At camp, I fussed around a little until Daniel and Joe showed up. We sat at Joe's trailer, wrapping blue ribbons around clothes pins and then red ribbons around clothespins. All the while talking about the trails. The men had finally figured out the trails to put the blue and red ribbons on. Yay!

That night, I went to bed early. I was quite tired and was asleep by 8:30 PM. Daniel stayed up poring over maps and trails and going over and over the last 3 trails that still needed to be marked. I probably would have done the same, but I didn't have a computer and looking over somebody else's shoulder for that type of thing is not a good idea for my type A personality. Better for all involved for me to sleep!

First thing, Wednesday morning, Daniel explained to me that he'd rearranged the trails. He'd discovered 2-way traffic for way too long that would have been confusing at best and really hard to mark and keep straight. I told him to make sure Joe knew about it before we went out to mark trail. So Daniel and Joe had a conversation. Joe had found the same problem and they were right on the same page for getting it straightened out.

After breakfast, Daniel and I headed out on an ATV provided by the Broxton Bridge facilities to mark the red and blue trails. Joe took his mule and headed to the black/white and green/white trails that I'd marked on Monday and Tuesday to place flags and pie plates to make the trail very plain.

It took Daniel and me a little bit to settle into a routine that worked for both of us. We had hoped to be done marking both trails by noon to begin marking the 20 mile black/gold loop in the afternoon, but the day wore on and on and I began to realize that wasn't going to happen. I had a fit when we were marking the blue trail and realized that some of our red ribbons were down. The facilities crew were out cutting limbs back from the trail and had cut down some of our ribbons! I was not happy and had visions of having to remark the entire 10 miles of red trail. Fortunately, that wasn't the case and we only had to replace a few ribbons.

Later in the day Wednesday, Susan Kasemyer showed up to park beside Joe. Yay! Also a few trailers were trickling in. And Tamra Schoech, Joe's wife, arrived well after dark.

After taking stock of the clothespins we had left, I decided we needed some more. Susan had about 150 in her trailer she gave us, but we still needed more, so Daniel and I headed south to Hampton to buy more clothespins and eat at Taco Bell. Back at camp, the 4 of us tied black/gold ribbon (which had finally arrived via FedEx!) to clothespins to be hung Thursday. Talk about coming down to the wire! We had one day left.

Thursday morning, Daniel and I left as early as we could get away to mark the black/gold loop. It took us all day to mark that trail. We put up roll after roll of orange ribbon strung between trees or stakes to indicate to riders not to go past them. We put up countless red plates that were also meant to indicate not to go past those. We wrote on white pie plates and stapled them to stakes and trees. And, of course, we put up ribbon after ribbon after ribbon.

Joe and Susan drove the red and blue trails, checking the markings, adding clarification where they thought necessary and analyzing some of the trickier intersections. Then they followed along the black/gold trail. At one point, they came on a point where they were stumped. They came around a turn and the black/gold ribbons just stopped. They thought they had missed trail somewhere, but no, Daniel and I had skipped marking that because a tractor had been out scraping the trails and we didn't want to follow him. We came back to mark that spot just as Joe and Susan were trying to figure what had happened!

Finally, we finished putting the ribbons up! The trails were marked! Except for one last piece, which Joe and Daniel would have to do after dark. They would have to go back out and put up barrier ribbons where they couldn't put them up because of vehicles still going through the trails.

We headed back to the now full camp where I hurried to register to get my vet card and vet Tanna in for the Friday 50 before dark. I took Tanna to Dr. Ken for the vet in and explained Tanna's history with the colitis and EPM in April/May and asked him to look carefully for any signs of stress that could indicate a problem. Dr. Ken asked some questions about the history and his training and his last long ride and then pronounced us good to start. I thanked him and headed back to camp to gather my vet check stuff as much as I could before it got too dark. Then I zipped off to shower before the pizza supper.

Ride meeting was at 7 PM and I listened to Joe talk about the ride coming up and fidgeted waiting to "help" with the trail section. I think Joe just wanted somebody else up there to take the stares. Tamra helped out when Joe was showing all the signs for the riders to ignore. Then I held up the ribbons while he talked about the trails they marked.

50 milers had 3 trails. Black/gold - 20 miles. Blue - 15 miles. Black/white - 15 miles. There would be 2 50-minute holds. Not sure of the pulse, but I usually just make sure Tanna is at 60 bpm or below, so I didn't really care. Pulse is generally 64 or 60 at the checks. Start at 7 AM.

25 milers had 2 trails. Black/white - 15 miles. Red - 10 miles. One 50 minute hold. Start at 8 AM.

The Fun Run was the Green/white trail - 10 miles. Start at 10 AM.

After the meeting, I fielded some inevitable questions (after all I was standing up there with Joe talking about trails, so I must know stuff). Then I reminded Joe he still had to go out on trail to put up barrier ribbons. I saw Daniel and Joe off on their excursions and then finished prepping for my ride the next day, walked the horses and went to bed.

Come back in another day or two for the actual ride part of my adventure.

No comments: