Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Big South Fork Endurance Ride

The Big South Fork ride in east TN in early September is a favorite ride and well-attended. This year boasted 3 days of riding. I seem to have problems getting to this ride, though. The last two years injuries (mine) have prevented us from getting to BSF. I thought all was well this year. But then my horse came up dead lame a week before the ride due to an abscess. He seemed better on Sunday, though, and we continued to make preparations to leave.

To make a long story short, we took Tanna to BSF on Tuesday, but I was unable to start him. He was quite lame again on Wednesday. Dr. Otis, Dr. Ken, and the Schoechs were very helpful in getting Tanna comfortable again, but he was in no way going to do an endurance ride.

I was bummed and wanted nothing more than to pack up and head home. I'd been looking forward to riding at BSF again and again it wasn't going to happen. However, Daniel said we're here, let's stay for a day and hang out. Well, I'm not good at just hanging around. I need something to do! So I decided to volunteer.

I was up early Thursday morning, but not as early as if I was riding. I ate some breakfast, checked on Tanna, and headed for the start line not far from our trailer. I greeted the riders, still bummed that I wasn't one of them, but happy to see my friends in the pre-dawn. The 50 milers took off at 6:30 and the 30 milers quickly followed at 7 AM.

I then presented myself to Susan Kasemeyer and Nancy Gooch and asked what to do. I enjoy being a vet scribe, so was assigned to help the vets during the day. I caught a ride with Nancy and Susan to the away check and made myself useful where I could. Then we sat and waited for the first riders.

The first riders started coming in around 8:40 AM. The 50 milers were coming in from a 20+ mile loop and the 30 milers had a somewhat shorter loop. I positioned myself with Dr. Ken (who was suffering from a lost voice) and scribbled down grades and notes about the horses as Dr. Ken dictated. I trotted some horses out, listened to riders discourse about their loop and directed riders through the vet check process to keep the lanes flowing as freely as possible. We had a couple of short breaks, but we were busy for about an hour and a half.

Then it was time for some of the volunteers to head back to camp for the next vet check. I hopped into Dr. Otis' truck for the ride back. At least one vet was left to take care of the remaining riders that had yet to appear and some pulse people and a timer remained behind.

Lunch was set out for the volunteers, but just as we started to partake, the first riders began coming in. Ooops! I grabbed a half-sandwich and my clipboard and ducked back into the vet area.

The rest of the afternoon flew by as I continued to help Dr. Ken and other vets as I was needed. It was interesting to see the horses coming in for their finish exams. Some were obviously tired, but others were perky as if they'd done nothing all day. I took mental notes as Dr. Ken gave riders advice on trotting out, hydration, and shoeing. I realize I need to work with my horse on trot-outs.

I was tired by the time I made my way back to my trailer after the awards and ride meeting, but I'd had so much fun helping out and seeing all the people and the horses. I thought I'd want to go home after helping one day, but I knew after a good night's sleep, I wanted to help out again.

Friday morning, I got up, ate, checked on my horse and headed out to the start. After the 50 milers got on down the trail, I hopped a ride with Dr. Lisa Garren and Dr. Bucky to the vet check. This was a different out check than the Thursday check, since Nelia and Eric make sure to have different trails for Thursday and Friday.

On Thursday, the volunteer staff was short vet scribes and pulse takers. We seemed to have that covered on Friday. Nancy was still at camp for the LD start, so I ended up with a timing clipboard in hand and posted to be the in-timer as the riders came in off the trail. I had never done any timing duties before. Susan K pointed at the trail and said, don't forget to write their time on their cards. :-) The first couple of riders heard Susan yelling at me, "Take their cards!" Hehe. Duane Barnett was kind enough to help me get into rhythm for the first several riders.

Nancy showed up and let me continue to do in-timing. We teamed up. She did the out-timing and helped me with in-timing when several riders came in at once. Duane showed up from time to time helping distribute rider cards. I tried to notice the riders, but mostly I was calling out "what's your number", muttering numbers and times aloud while I wrote on cards and my sheet, and counting the riders in over and over trying to figure out how many we were waiting on. I'm sure everybody thought I was addled.

At some point in the process, Nancy announced that I was doing great and handed me the out-timing clipboard, too. Off she went to take care of something else. I looked wildly around for a minute and then settled down to business. I kept looking for Nancy to return and rescue me (and the riders) from my timing skills. She did return for a couple minutes, took the out-time sheet from her clipboard, handed it to me and said she and Susan were going back to camp for the front runners. I was doing great and she'd see me back at camp. Yeah, if the riders didn't pommel me first! Ok, deep breath, get organized. There comes another rider!

When I looked up again, Nina Barnett was hobbling toward me with more out-times. (Nina had a run-in with a horse a few days before and had a very pretty bruised up foot.) I resolved to go to her to get the out-times so she wouldn't have to do that again. Nina took care of the pulse timing and I did the in/out timing. It was fun!

Time flew by until we were down to waiting on our last rider. In she came. I took her in-time and Nina and I were convinced we were almost done. Until the crew guy for the last rider came up and said "that's not her!" Oops. The rider that had just come in had started late and I didn't have her on my list to look for. We waited longer for the last rider, who finally come in. We sat around and chatted until the last horse's hold time was complete and she was on the trail headed the right direction.

Then Nina and Duane gave me a lift back to camp. I had a bit of a break at this point. Nancy and Susan had the timing duties taken care of, there were plenty of pulse takers (thank goodness; I'm no good at pulse taking), and the vets seemed to have plenty of eager scribes. I wandered over to check on my horse, chat with Daniel, and then got a bite to eat.

Around 1:30, Nancy radioed to Susan that she was ready to head to the finish line, would I go relieve her at the in/out time station? So off I went for more fun. All the LD riders were back in camp. There were around 25 50 miler riders still on their 3rd loop and 5 front runners had gone out on their 4th (and last) loop. A few more were in camp, pulsed in, and waiting out their hold. It was a perfect time to switch timers. Nancy called out numbers and times as I wrote them down on my own clipboard.

With only 50 miler riders on trail and pretty spread out, it was a much less hectic time. I was sitting right by the road in the shade between the two main camps. I watched the camp activity and chatted with campers, riders, and crews that came to hang out with me while waiting for their rider. Susan, Nina, or Neila would periodically radio more riders and out times to me, as well as the occasional pull.

A couple times, I wrote numbers of pulled riders on a scrap of paper and sent them to Nancy at the finish line via a rider going out on their final loop. One rider informed me it'd be a long time before Nancy got the note as she was going slowly. I assured her that was ok. Nancy was waiting on the finishers, but didn't want her looking for pulled riders!

Around 4 PM, the next to last rider came in off her 3rd loop. Susan radioed me and said she thought that was all. I still had one more rider number on my list that hadn't come in yet. I radioed back and asked for information on the rider. Sometimes pulls occurred that I didn't find out about until later. To make a long story short, we discovered the rider, Alice Goff, was missing and had been on the 15 mile 3rd loop too long. No other riders remembered passing her on trail. The rider was found and delivered back to camp later that evening during the award/ride meeting.

I had a great time at BSF. Even not riding. :) I have helped at other rides before. Usually I'll help out during vet in. I've done minor crewing duties, I've marked trail, helped plan a ride, pulled ribbons, but I've never just out and out worked a ride because my horse wasn't up to par. It was a blast. I really hope Tanna is better for Cave Country Canter and Yellowhammer, but if not, I'll be helping out and having a great time.

No comments: