Endurance Riding

May 01 2012

And It Begins…

Published by under Endurance Riding

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FINALLY! The 2012 ride season has started for us!

On Friday morning, I loaded up Asali and drove to Folsom Lake in Granite Bay for the American River Classic (ARC). I had decided on the ARC for a few reasons – one, it was fairly close to me (less than a 3 hour haul), two, it was a point to point ride (I love not having to repeat trail), three, they offered a Pioneer Division (the challenge sounded right up my alley), and four, it covered part of the Western States Trail, ending at the same finish line as the Tevis Cup (how cool is that?!).

I arrived at the ride alone, which is not unusual for me. I knew most of my endurance friends had attended Yosemite Gold Cup the weekend before, so I was not expecting to see anyone I recognized. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see Roberto and his son, Vasco (I met Roberto at Cache Creek last year and then his son and mine did a fun ride together at Hat Creek Hustle last June). I had the pleasure of camping next to Roberto and Vasco, and then at the pre-ride meeting, I enjoyed Sharma’s company (Sharma is the author of Tevis, From the Back of My Horse; she signed a copy of the book for me and Jakob at the AERC Convention back in March).

On Friday night, as I tried to fall asleep in the back of my horse trailer, I felt this wave of excitement and nervousness. Because it had been 7 months since our last 50 and we failed to make it to the limited distance ride that was to mark the start of our 2012 season, I wondered if we were conditioned well enough for this ride, especially since I had heard the ARC was a technically challenging, tough 50. I also began to go through everything I needed to take with me in the morning, making a mental note not to forget anything. I had entered the Pioneer Division, meaning that I was to be the sole caretaker of my horse for the entire 50 miles. I had no crew, nor did I have a crew bag that would be delivered at the vet checks by ride management. Everything Asali and I needed for the day would be carried either in our saddle bags or around my waist in my new waist pack. I had grain, carrots, electrolytes, 2 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, lots of snacks, 3 water bottles, 2 vitamin waters, extra hoof boots, ibuprofen, sunscreen, sunglasses, chapstick… somehow, I fell asleep during my list, as if I had been counting sheep.

My alarm went off at 4:15 am. I woke up, got dressed (in my funky new purple riding tights), gave Asali a mash, put on her new Renegade hoof boots, got her saddled, took down her electric fence paddock, locked up the truck and trailer, forced down a banana and a breakfast bar, and somehow mounted, all by 5:30 am.

I did not start with the front runners. I hung back and started out at about 5:40. This was part of my new strategy, to keep Asali from bolting at the start. It worked. Although I could feel my own anticipation channeling energy to her, Asali did not take off running. We kept up a good warm-up pace, following the glow sticks in the dark of the early morning.

At mile 2 or 3, we threw both back hoof boots. I dismounted and decided to strap them to my saddle rather than put them back on. The trail had relatively good footing and since we train barefoot, I knew Asali would be fine. We continued on our way, encountering many difficult hills, with boulders we had to pick our way through. There were also narrow passes, with sides so high, I had to be careful not to scrape my legs or catch a stirrup on something. Asali would just bulldozer through each obstacle as if it was nothing, which increased my anxiety. When the trail mellowed out a bit, I breathed a sigh of relief, enjoyed the early morning sun, and made Asali stop while I snapped a few photos of the water.

Endurance Riding

Endurance RidingEndurance Riding

Endurance Riding

At some point during the ride, I ran into Peggy, a woman I had ridden the first part of a ride with at Wild West. Although at first we didn’t remember each other’s names, we certainly remembered our short time together on the trail last year, and we were thrilled to reunite. Our horses remembered each other too. Peggy was riding with a friend. Michelle and I had never met, but Michelle knew who I was right away, for she has been following my blog.

Endurance Riding

For the rest of the ride, Peggy, Michelle, and I played leap frog. I would ride with them for awhile, then I would take off alone with Asali. Then they would pass me during one of a few stretches where I decided to hike or jog next to my horse. At one point, I joined up with an ear, nose, and throat surgeon, a gentleman named Jim. We talked about our careers – his as a doctor, mine as a nurse, before he went on ahead and I decided to hang back with Peggy and Michelle. I was enjoying riding the ride slow. My goal was not just to finish, but to finish with a lot of horse left.

There was something magical about riding this trail too – from Granite Bay to Auburn to Cool, back to Auburn. We traveled on the Pioneer Trail, riding as pioneers, and then we met up with the historic Western States Trail. The American River Classic is the oldest sanctioned 50 mile endurance ride in the world, and I was thrilled to be experiencing its history, and hearing the stories that traveled through the roar of the American River below.

Endurance Riding

Endurance Riding

The highlight of the ride, for me, was racing across No Hands Bridge with no hands. I gave Asali permission to choose the pace. I sat on her back, with my arms stretched out in the wind, merely a passenger. We were carried across by the same energy those Tevis Cup riders felt every year as they crossed this same bridge in the dark. And although we were the very last horse and rider team to enter the final vet check, I was cheered on by a young volunteer, a girl in elementary school. Before we left the vet check, she said, “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose. It matters if you finish.” I responded with a thumbs up, an enthusiastic “Amen, sista!” and continued on my way, knowing exactly why I love the sport of endurance.

Peggy, Michelle, and I met with some challenges just 4 miles from the finish, but we, together, worked as a team. We suddenly were not competing against each other, but with each other. We crossed the finish line at 5:06 pm, as the very last riders, all of us logging the same end time, knowing that the victory was shared amongst us. And I, along with Asali, could have kept on going…

Endurance Riding

17 responses so far

17 Responses to “And It Begins…”

  1. Ann Byrnson 01 May 2012 at 11:00 pm

    Congratulations on finishing your first fifty of the season! Kudos to brave Asali, too! I’m proud of both of you. Love, Mom

  2. carl solaon 02 May 2012 at 1:08 am

    What will you do next? I don’t know of anyone else who embracess life as much as you do.

  3. Kadra Gillilandon 02 May 2012 at 5:06 am

    Glad this one turned out good 🙂

  4. Dadon 02 May 2012 at 8:51 am

    Excellent!!! As always, I enjoyed the read.

  5. JayaMaeon 02 May 2012 at 11:00 am

    Mom and Dad: Thank you! Looking forward to seeing you both this month.

    Uncle Carl: Your comment made me smile. And next, I plan on a 75 miler and then next year, the ultimate goal: the 100 mile Tevis Cup. 🙂

    And a note to my fellow endurance riders: I did not share this in the post above, but I just have to brag – Asali has finally learned to pee during a race! As many of you know, I have been worried about the fact that at each endurance ride, she has refused to pee until the ride is completely over. On Saturday, when I squatted behind a bush on the side of the trail to relieve myself, she joined me in the pee party. YAY! I know you endurance riders (as well as my nurse friends) can appreciate this.

  6. Diane Mulhernon 02 May 2012 at 8:09 pm

    Hi there. Great to meet you, too. You are an inspiration! to enjoy each moment of life. Hope to see you again for your next lllllllooooooonnnnnngggg ride.

  7. Michelle Herreraon 02 May 2012 at 8:58 pm

    Nice article for your blog !!!

  8. Kathy Davison 03 May 2012 at 3:16 pm

    WOW! You amaze me. Congratulations and thanks for sharing.


  9. Meena Ahluwaliaon 03 May 2012 at 5:19 pm

    You are amazing!!

    Meena Auntie

  10. Sharmaon 03 May 2012 at 7:00 pm

    Hi Jaya,
    I’m so very proud of you and Asali for completing the American River Classic 50 as a Pioneer rider. That’s a HUGE accomplishment and puts you well on your way on your conditioning program as you prepare for the Tevis next summer. I enjoyed reading your blog (thanks for mentioning my Tevis book) and hope to see you and your family in a week at the Cache Creek Ride.
    Best regards,

  11. irish horseon 03 May 2012 at 10:08 pm

    Congrats, especially on the Pioneer part, that is a lot to carry around with you, finishing is winning, turtle or not! I “met” you briefly at the ride, I was a newbie behind you almost to Auburn. I only did the 25, barefoot all around (I had a failed glue-on attempt). Good luck at your next ride!
    irish horse recently posted..AR ride story

  12. Ashley Lawon 04 May 2012 at 10:51 am

    I loved your artile!!! Yay Pee!!! by the way! lol Go Asali!!!

  13. Jassi Uncleon 04 May 2012 at 5:50 pm

    Well done ………keep it up and enjoy…..

    Kind regards,


  14. Sairose Pabanion 04 May 2012 at 7:49 pm

    Well done – amazing – certainly is endurance to say the least!

    A good read. Keep it up. I share with all my colleagues at work and talk about our niece who we are so proud of.

    Love xo

  15. Carol Baileyon 06 May 2012 at 6:10 pm

    I LOVE reading your stories! xoxoxox

  16. Heidi Smithon 06 May 2012 at 9:45 pm

    George Putnam and I were there – it was an absolutely perfect day! Great race organization, wonderful vets and friendly riders. Sounds like you had a great day too!

  17. JayaMaeon 07 May 2012 at 6:54 am

    Wow… thanks, everyone, for all the great comments! 🙂

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