Sunday, October 29, 2006

Yellowhammer Ride Story

Tuesday morning, October 3, Daniel and I finished packing and headed out for the Yellowhammer 3-day Pioneer Ride in Alabama. The drive was pleasant, although a bit warm. This was our first visit to the Yellowhammer ride. We attempted to go in 2004, but about an hour before we were to reach ride camp, our engine blew. We spent the next several days fixing the truck and getting our horse home. Then in 2005, I was recovering from a broken arm and didn't want to risk reinjury to myself. So when we reached camp with no mishaps, we were thrilled.

Tamra Schoech, the ride manager, met us as we drove in and we figured out where to park. Soon Tanna was in his livestock corral panels and set up with a large muck bucket of water and some hay.

I spent Wednesday morning getting my saddle ready for the ride on Thursday. I was planning to ride Tanna in the 55 miler. I also packed my away vet check bag as the first vet check was to be out. The remainder of the vet checks were all in camp for the rest of the weekend. Around 11:30 or so, Daniel and I meandered over to the registration canopy and hung out there all day. Watching people arrive and attempting to direct them to suitable parking spaces. There were a lot of people rolling into camp. The weather was predicted to be nice. Warm on Thursday at 88 degrees or so, but cooler on Friday and Saturday in the mid-70s.

I enjoyed hanging out and chatting with people as they came by to register. During the afternoon, I registered myself and vetted Tanna in for the Thursday 55.

At 5 PM, the ride meeting took place. Tamra welcomed everybody and thanked the numerous volunteers, many who had been there since Saturday or Sunday helping with all those things that need doing for a ride. Then Sarah Engsberg described the trails. We were to go out of camp on the Blue trail to the out vet check 18 miles from camp. The second "loop" completed the Blue loop back to camp for another 19 miles. The Blue loop incorporated some rolling hills on the road. They are hoping to do a 100 next year at Yellowhammer and they wanted to try out the road on some of us to get feedback for using the road in the 100. The road was gravel. Some of it wasn't a whole lot of gravel, though. Anyway, after the second vet check at camp, we were to do the final 18 mile loop to the finish on the Green loop. Then Otis Schmitt, the head vet, got up to do his thing. 64 pulse (60 at the end for "the short race"), tack off at all checks, holds 50 minutes.

Then Dr. Otis diverted from the normal ride meeting routine. He said "Ya'll know Becky over here and how we've been hanging out together for awhile now..." Becky joined him in front of the crowd. "Well," Dr. Otis continued, "We went to Heflin this morning and got married!" Of course the group went wild with excitement and cat calls. They had snuck off and gotten married Wednesday morning! Then had hung around camp all day without telling!!! Then a cake was produced with "Otis & Becky" written on it and we all had cake in celebration of their wedding. What a great start to the weekend!

Otis & Becky and their cake


Ok, back to the boring stuff! I have to say, I really, really liked the ride meeting at 5 PM! After the meeting and the wedding reception, I still had time to fiddle around camp getting ready for the next days ride and got to bed by 8:30 or 9 PM. I think I got the most rest I ever have before any endurance ride!

Thursday morning I got up at 4:15, 2 hours before the start and went through my ride morning ritual. Dress in my endurance costume, feed Tanna, feed me (oatmeal and fake hot dogs for protein), saddle, forget how to saddle and have to resaddle and reposition and saddle again. Finally I was ready and mounted up while Daniel held Tanna. I had not ridden him the day before. I like to ride the day before a competition, but it seems that's when he acts up worse, so I consciously did not go for a ride. He was jumpy and tense, but controllable and no rearing or bucking ensued. :-)

I warmed Tanna up and went to the start to give my number to the timers who would keep track of us riders all day. My number! OOPS. Forgot to put that number on his butt. So I went back to the trailer and wrote a big "7" (lucky 7, I was told) on Tanna with a livestock crayon. Numbers generally are used for horses in the 50 or 55 mile competition while the 25 or 30 mile competitors are assigned a letter. This makes it easier for the timers to distinguish the riders.

I hung back and started pretty close to the back. I usually do this. Occasionally, I'll start mid-pack, but most often, I just start in the back. There was a controlled start for the first few minutes to allow all the horses to safely cross the pavement onto the trail and allow the sun to come up a little bit more. After the trail was open, I found myself riding with Joe Schoech and Sarah Engsberg. Joe was riding Kit (he has another nickname...). I'd ridden with Joe a couple times before and always found it a pleasant experience. Joe is the nicest guy and is a great mentor for those that are fortunate enough to ride with him. After awhile we were 4. We caught up with Tracie and the four of us walked, trotted, cantered, and chattered our way to the vet check. The miles flew by and we reached the vet check around 9 AM, where Daniel was taking pictures of the horses going in and out of the vet check.

Tanna and me coming into the first vet check

We four split up as we went looking for our vet check areas. It took me a few minutes, but I finally found my vet check bag. I unsaddled Tanna, got some water and presented to the vet. Dr. Ken Marcella vetted us and asked about my electrolyting schedule and commented on his nice shoe job. After vetting through without issue, I returned to my area set up right next to Sarah and Joe. We talked and chatted some more while we took care of our horses and ate. The horses enjoyed eating one another's food. I'd never really had that experience before as I've most often had my vet checks alone. It was nice. :-)

Joe and Sarah could have left long before me, but they tacked up with me as my out time was at 9:59. I'm almost always late leaving a vet check and this was no exception. We were only a couple minutes past my out time. Sarah and Joe had gone on ahead, but I wanted to see if Tanna would drink one last time from the common buckets. He did drink some. I finally left when Sarah yelled at me to find out what I was doing.

The three of us took off down the road on our 2nd loop of 19 miles. There was more of the road for while and then we veered back into the woods. I don't remember much of this loop, to tell you the truth. After awhile, the loops just manage to blend in together! I do remember Tanna started drinking about 4 miles out in this loop and drank really well the rest of the ride. We got back into camp around 1:10.

I went directly to my trailer to unsaddle and then back to the vet to vet in. Again, no issues vetting in. His pulse was under criteria and everything looked good. I returned to the trailer and tied him in front of his food and hay and went back into our camper to make me something to eat and sit down for a few minutes. The 50 minute hold flew by and I was again late leaving.

I didn't see Joe or Sarah so figured they went on without me. Sure enough, I saw Joe just leaving out as I walked toward the out-timer. I mounted and followed from a distance. Tanna, however, did not really see Joe and Kit, so wasn't motivated to leave camp. I gave in and we moseyed along, not really trying to catch up, but it would have been nice if we had. We had done the first couple of loops in pretty good time and we had over 5 hours to complete the last 18 mile loop, so I wasn't concerned about making the cutoff.

About an hour into that loop, Mr. Barnett caught up with me as I was hand-walking Tanna down a hill. At the bottom of the hill, Mr. Barnett went on along and I hung back, allowing them to get out of sight and down the trail a little. I remounted and we walked for awhile longer and then picked up a nice trot. I enjoyed riding along the beautiful trails. Plenty of water on trail. The trails were gradually always going up or down. The trails are very nicely laid out, though, so you don't necessarily noticed the gradual incline and decline, well, except on the nice short roller coaster up and down trails! During one part of this loop, I could have sworn I heard somebody behind us. Two female voices it sounded like. Tanna also thought he heard something and we were distracted for a bit.

We finally made it to the finish line at just after 5 PM. I passed a sign that said "1056 to camp. Run....Run." I puzzled over that sign. Was 1056 the name of a forest road? Or had they named the trail? Oh, well, it did say run, so I asked Tanna for a canter and we cantered until we saw Nancy, the finish timer waiting for me under the finish line. Wow! That was an unexpected surprise! I was done! Never did catch Joe, but I didn't really try very hard at all. I wanted to complete and be ready to go the next day.

Tanna and me coming into camp after the finish!

I took Tanna back to the trailer and immediately untacked him. I cleaned him up a bit and took him to the vet for his completion exam.

Our completion trot out

Returning to the trailer after completion

He completed just fine, but was stiff in his right hamstring. I paid attention to that. I massaged him some and walked him several times between the completion on Thursday and the start on Friday. I went and got my map and my vet card for the Friday 50, ate (thanks to my husband who fixed the meal while I complained of soreness and rubs), prepared for the next day's ride and went to the awards/ride meeting.

24 started in the 55 and 16 completed. I was 16th and Turtle (last place). Joe teased me a bit and said that this was my FIRST Turtle ever. This was not my first turtle. It was actually my 4th Turtle. Coulda sworn I had more Turtles than that! I got an award for being Turtle. A nice statue of a turtle looking at a snail hitching a ride on his shell. The bottom says "Yellowhammer 2006." That's going on my desk at work! :-) I also picked out a T-shirt with the Yellowhammer logo for my completion award.

Turtle award

Friday's 50 mile ride was on different loops. We would do the entire Orange loop for the first loop. This was a 20 mile loop that would include a 10 minute stop at 12 miles so Otis could watch us trot out. Then back into camp for the first vet check and 50 minute hold. The second loop was the Orange loop again, but a shortened version at 17 miles. The final loop was pink at 13 miles. Pulse was again 64.

Back to camp to get some sleep. I checked Tanna and he was better. No more tight hamstring. I set the alarm and got up at 1 AM to walk Tanna and feed him, then back to sleep until 4:15. Start time wasn't until 6:30 on Friday, but I wanted a little extra time to walk Tanna around and loosen him up before the start.

Preparing for the start

When I went up and gave my number to the timers for the start, I trotted Tanna for Otis to watch to make sure he was ready to go out again for the second day. This was nothing special for me, all the riders were required to do it, but I was glad of it since I wanted to be sure Tanna was not still stiff from the day before.

The Orange loop followed the same trail as the Blue loop from Thursday for 7.5 miles. After the controlled start, I again found myself riding with Joe and Sarah. This time we also had Sandy Thompson and Betsy Knight with us for a little ways. After awhile, Betsy decided her horse was calm enough and headed down the trail. Tanna bounced around and wanted to follow, but I held him back and we moseyed on along. Soon Sandy also decided to move out and left us. Those of us that place last do not often ride fast. ;-) At the 7.5 mile mark, Joe also headed on down the trail. He wanted to get some good training on his horse to take to the Nationals in a couple of weeks. I was just out to complete our first ever back-to-back 50s and was setting a very conservative pace and walking many of the downhills.

Sarah and I rode along. Sometimes she fell back and then would catch up again. We were riding fairly close together when we came to the trot-by. Joe was waiting there, but took off soon after we arrived. There was a nice water crossing there and I dismounted and sponged and ate a granola bar. Becky was nice enough to take my jacket from me as the day had warmed up some and didn't look like it was going to rain anymore. It hadn't rained, but had looked like it might earlier. The LD riders began to over-take us at this point.

I hate to admit it, but I had been hoping Otis would say Tanna was off so I could stop. Terrible, I know, but true! But, no, Tanna was clear to go and I remounted and Sarah and I took off up the road. Up and down, up and down. There were funny little jokes on pie plates along this stretch. "What is a turkey's favorite holiday song?" "I'm dreaming of a White Christmas" "What do you get when you cross a turkey with a banjo?" "A turkey that plucks himself!" "Time flies like an arrow" "Fruit flies..." "...like a banana" Very entertaining! Thanks to Mrs. Barnett for writing all those and Susan K and helper (??) who put them out!

Near the end of the first loop

Near the end of the first loop

We got back to camp around 10:30. I vetted through and took my hold at my trailer. Daniel was around somewhere taking pictures, so I was crewing for myself for these rides. Tanna ate some hay and hung around sleeping. I resaddled and headed out. Sarah was hanging out in camp for awhile, so I went out on my own. Back over the Orange loop for the shortened version. About an hour and a half later, Sarah caught up with me again while I was off fiddling with the heart rate monitor. I was using a mohair girth that I haven't used a whole lot, but my usual neoprene girths had started to create girth galls during my 15 mile training rides, so I was using the little-used mohair girth I bought at Hoosier Daddy earlier this season.

Anyway, we finished that loop. I thought I was going to pull. I was going very slowly and I thought after my hold, I'd only have a little over 2 hours to finish the last 13 mile loop. That's not a bad pace, really, 6.5 miles per hour, but that's faster than I'd averaged all day, as my first two loops I averaged just over 5 mph. I'd have to really kick it up a notch to make time. I decided to just vet through and decide during the hold. I stopped at the in-timer to get my time into camp. I dismounted and jogged to my trailer and quickly stripped tack and went to the pulse takers. Out time was at 3:20 PM. What? That meant I had 3 hours and 10 minutes after my out time to do 13 miles. How had that happened?? Well, fiddlesticks, I couldn't use THAT as an excuse to quit. I could almost walk the entire way and still make time. I had mistakenly read one of the time fields on my GPS and had thought that was the time of day, when it really was just the time I'd been out on trail for that loop!

So I went back to the trailer for my final hold. Tanna ate and ate and drank the entire hold. I think he was thinking I was going crazy at this point and we just weren't going to stop. We have done a 50 on a Friday and then another 50 on Sunday, but this was our first genuine attempt at back-to-back 50s. Daniel showed up and I got to chat with him while I rested and watched Tanna through the window of the camper. At 3:10, I jumped up and resaddled and headed out on my last loop. The timers asked me where Sarah was. I told them her horse was tied to her trailer so I assumed she'd be along soon. I decided I was going to go ahead and kick up the pace for the last loop. Tanna looked good and had eaten well at the check, so I figured we could do this unless something felt off or wrong.

So right out of the vet check, we picked up a very good trot. We had been over this trail in and out of camp several times so I was pretty familiar with the footing by now and asked Tanna to canter quite a bit of it. In no time we were up crossing a gravel road and back into the woods. We paused and Tanna drank from the red mud/clay puddle (orange juice, Tracie called it!) before heading into the rolling single-track trail. Very fun trail, especially at a good pace! I was having a blast and Tanna seemed to be enjoying himself, too. Sarah caught up with us and I told her I wanted to kick up the pace and move out on this loop. So we took turns leading through this loop. I'm sure Sarah and her horse were happy to move out, too!

About a mile or two from the finish we came up on another rider. It was Joe! Wow, I thought he was long gone. He was on the ground so we stopped to see what was going on. His horse had a sore back and he had been walking a lot of the loop to save his horse. A trail rider came through and said that the finish timer (Nancy) was getting tired of waiting for us. So we all headed up the hill, Joe still on foot. We continued on that way. A couple times Joe mentioned for us to go around him. I said "No way, Joe, you're not gonna cheat me out of the Turtle award after I worked so hard to go so slow!"

We got to the sign "1056 to camp. Run....Run." I had missed the ' mark before. The sign read "1056' to camp. Run....Run." Oh, FEET! Ok, the sign makes sense now. When we were in sight of the finish, I stopped Tanna and let the others go ahead. Daniel was taking pictures and Tanna was dancing and snorting in irritation. When Joe and Sarah crossed the finish line, I let Tanna go and we cantered to the finish line. Whew!!! Again, I finished just after 5 PM. And again, I was 16th place. And once again, I was TURTLE!!! Yay. ;-)

Crossing the finish line!

Joe and Sarah coming in to the finish

I went to the trailer and stripped tack for the last time. I cleaned him up a smidge and left his butt rug on. When I went up to vet in, Joe was vetting out his horse. I asked Daniel to get Tanna's larger navajo-type blanket that would cover his back muscles, too. I had left it on his butt when I went out on the last loop and some good samaritans told me and then got it out of the road for me when it fell off. Daniel went to get it for me.

When Tanna trotted out, the vet asked me to trot again as she saw something. So I went again. She said she didn't see it the second time.

Completion trot out

Completion exam

Completion exam head shot

Joe explained to me later that this meant that Tanna is sore and he worked out of it since it got better the second time out. Good that it wasn't a brewing lameness issue, but still soreness that needed to be addressed. I settled Tanna back in his pen, covered to keep him warm and keep his muscles from cramping from a chill.

20 riders started the 50 and 16 finished. For my second Turtle award, I got a statue of a little turtle on top of a large rock. Very cute. And I got another t-shirt for my completion award. I could have chosen something else for completion, but I had worn my Thursday completion award during the Friday ride and really liked it.

Turtle award

What a great ride! I really enjoyed it. I'm very pleased with my horse. He is happily hanging out in his pasture with his buddy and is fine. He has a very slight soreness in his back where I had water bottles in my cantle bag. I, unfortunately, changed the configuration of the bottles and I believe that is the reason for the soreness. Also, on training rides at home, I rarely trained with water bottles. Have to alter that.

Thank you so much to Tamra Schoech and Sarah Engsberg for managing this ride. They worked very hard to turn out a very nice ride with nicely marked trails and water and nice awards and the best timers (Nancy Gooch, Samm Bartee, Jim Underwood, Jackie Mitchell) and vets (Otis Schmitt, Ken Marcella, Page Jackson; I know there were 3 others, but I don't know their names. Thanks to them, too!!!) and all the volunteers that made the ride run very smoothly. And thanks to Joe and Sarah for riding with me and encouraging me through mine and Tanna's first back-to-back 50 milers!

Congratulations to Otis and Becky!!!!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Garmin Forerunner 305 vs Forerunner 301

I use a Garmin Forerunner 305 to help me in my endurance endeavors. This unit has an integrated heart rate monitor that I have altered for my horse. This way I can monitor heart rate, speed, distance, and average speed while I ride.

Before I had the Forerunner 305, I had its predecessor, the Garmin Forerunner 301. I really liked the 301, but since I've had the 305, I do not use the 301 anymore.

One thing about the Forerunner 305 is that the expected battery life is only around 10 hours. I go very slowly and my 50 mile competitions can run 12 hours including breaks, so 10 hours is not good. So I got a AA USB battery extender. This is a generic box that is used to charge USB devices using 4 AA batteries. Since the 305 can be charged via the USB port, one of these works well.

I take extra batteries to the vet checks if they're out of camp, but just charge in my truck at in-camp checks. I have a USB plug-in for my car and then just plug my Forerunner 305 cradle into it. Works just fine. I did 2 long 50s (9 hour ride times) last week with my 305 and had no issues with the battery. I did charge during one of the vet checks each day and every night. Never got to charging at the other vet check each day. I've also used the 305 for 5 other long 50s this season and never had a problem with the battery by giving it a boost every little bit. If you have a crew to remember to charge for you at least every couple of loops, you won't
have any trouble getting through a 100.

I'm actually really lucky that my sport has holds where I can recharge very easily. Some other sports are harder to deal with the reduced battery life. This is one thing that disappointed me about the 305, but I really haven't been inconvenienced by it as much as I thought I would.

Now, the thing you might have to think about in a 100 is the memory. I got about 95 miles worth of detailed data on my unit. This is also something you have to think about with the 301, which is also a good unit, but not as good satellite reception and doesn't have some of the workout bells that the 305 has. For me, my hubby downloads the data to his laptop every 2 or 3 loops, so I don't have to worry too much about lost data, but if you don't have a laptop, you'll have to be a little creative, but saving all the detail data can be done. The trackpoint recording thing, though, is very dependent on the trail. The curvier the trail, the less mileage can be stored because the unit is storing more trackpoints to cover the entire trail. If you're going straight for a long time, the unit won't record a trackpoint as often. Garmin calls this "Smart" recording.

I have a 301 and a 305. I can tell you I have not used my 301 since I got my 305. I love my 305. I like the much better reception without having to mess with the external antenna. With the 301, I used mount an external antenna on my helmet, but it's a pain (not to mention more expense) and I don't have to do that at all with my 305. I suspect the 305 is better than the 301 with the external antenna, anyway, but frankly, I don't want to mess with the external antenna stuff anymore and so I don't care to do many tests. I really should, I guess, but...

For those interested in this external antenna solution, here is where I got my battery box. http://www.pc-mobile.net/gpsant.htm

I got the actual antenna from www.gpsgeek.com. But like I said, I don't use this solution anymore because it's a pain.

I like the 305 because it's much more configurable than the 301. If I want to see one
HUGE data field per screen, I can do that. I can have 1-4 fields per screen.

If I have 1, it's really big.

If I have 2, they take up 1/2 of the screen each.

If I have 3 fields, the top field takes up the top 1/2 of the screen and the other 2 split the remaining half.

And if I have 4 fields, they each take 1/4 of the screen. Even at 1/4 screen, I can see the data just fine. Now, if you have 3 or less screens, the 305 will show the heart rate (in addition to the 1,2, or 3 other fields) as the teeniest, tiniest font you've ever seen!! That takes a magnifying glass and perfect stillness to read! So I don't even count that as a useful thing.

You can see 3 different screens. These screens all can be configured with 1-4 data fields and all the data fields can be configured to whatever you want. You can have the watch stay on one screen and you can switch between the screens by pressing a button. Or you can have the screens cycle automatically for you.

For example, I have the following set up. All screens have 4 fields.

Screen 1:
Current Speed (upper left)
Total Time out (upper right)
Total Distance (lower left)
Current Heart Rate (lower right)

Screen 2:
Lap Speed
Current Lap Time
Lap Distance
Current Heart Rate

Screen 3:
GPS Accuracy (to be sure I still have a good satellite lock)
Time of Day (to be sure I make the cutoff!)
Lap Average Heart Rate
Current Heart Rate

I have these cycle for me automatically so I get to see everything in turn. I have the heart rate on every screen, so no matter when I look at the watch, I can see the heart rate.

This really helps me with pacing and being careful with my horse through a 50 mile endurance ride.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Yellowhammer Pictures

Daniel took some good pictures last week while we were at the Yellowhammer Endurance ride.



Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Fastrack & Neigh-Lox

Before each endurance ride, I make 2 or 3 quarts of Fastrack and Neigh-Lox mixed with applesauce and water. I use my Braun blender to mix it all up, then pour into a quart mason jar. I make 1 quart for each day I'm going to be riding and an extra quart for good measure.

First, I put in 12 oz of applesauce and about 1/2 cup of water. Then I weigh out 4 oz of Fastrack and 8 oz of Neigh-Lox. The Neigh-Lox is in pellet form, but my Braun blender is very capable of making the concoction smooth and easy to pull up in a 60 oz syringe. I put some more water in and turn the blender on about level 3. At some point, I usually have to stop the blender and open up the top. I use a spoon to mix the Neigh-Lox down into the rest of the mixture and then add more water. I turn the blender back on and slowly add more water until the consistency is correct. Then I pour into a quart mason jar. These go into the fridge until we leave at which point they are put into the cooler.

Throughout a ride, Tanna will get this mixture by syringe. He thinks it's the best treat ever! And it encourages him to eat his regular food and I also give it after any electrolytes to help buffer his stomach from the salt.