Monday, November 30, 2015

Success! And yet, failure - Carolina 100

Because I'm some kind of special (or maybe just a masochist), when my friend and endurance mentor Mary Howell mentioned needing a rider for her Siena mare less than a week out from the Carolina 100, I quickly filled out my entry form and fired it off to her.

I've been plotting and scheming when to attempt my first 100 for nearly a year now, but the time just hasn't been right yet. We'd originally attempted this plan in March, but weather moved in and the plan was flushed down the drain. In the time since, Siena has completed numerous 50s (one with me aboard) and multiple 75s. I knew also, she was in peak shape under Mary's training program. I enjoy riding the mare, evidenced in my 3 50s on her since 2013, so a 100 sounded just fine!

My drive to SC was with minimal issue on Friday. I caught up with Mary upon arrival and chatted with some other endurance riding friends of hers before the ride meeting and dinner.

At the meeting, I learned I would be starting with 27 other 100-mile riders at 7a. There would be five loops of the following mileage: 28.7, 14.2, 28.7, 15.5, 15.5. The first three checks would be 50 minutes and the final check would be 30 minutes with optional tack-on.

The big loop sounded a bit intimidating, but I knew it would go by quickly enough. The second iteration of it during the heat of the day would definitely be trying though!

I, very surprisingly, slept VERY soundly that night. I even dreamt of starting the ride and riding several miles. No anxiety!

Temps that morning were in the mid-upper 40s - which had been the high in WV! Highs for the day were predicted to be in the low 70s with no precipitation in the forecast. Perfect.

I used my orange tack on Siena with Mary's newer model Ansur saddle. Oh. My. Goodness. That saddle is a dream! I felt so balanced and secure in it! I rode in an older model Ansur on Siena in 2013 and fell in love - it's why I now ride Q in an Ansur! I told Mary she'd cursed me again, now all I desire is one of the newer model Ansurs...unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?) they can only be had to the tune of $3900. Even a lightly used one chimes in to the tune of $2500 - both way out of my price range! Maybe one day.

Mary and I started near the front of the pack. The only two folks in front of us at the start went on to complete the ride in first and second place.

The trails were predominately sand roads and trails, all wide enough for a vehicle to traverse. Deep sand was intermittent throughout, but nothing crazy for very long. Fortunately, the heavy rains SC experienced earlier in the month lent plenty of water along the loop!

Siena and I on the first loop. Photo by Becky Pearman

Mary and I along with Amy Stone aboard her Anglo-Arab mare Kricket settled into a nice ground eating 10-11 mph pace. A lady on her 14hh POA/Appy mare rode with us for a time, but eventually moved out beyond us. (What a little engine that mare had! She would go on to complete.)

A group of 5 or 6 ladies rode along with us for a mile or two, but we let them pass after a mile or so, opting for a slower pace. There was plenty of day ahead - no need to burn up the horses on the first loop!

We ultimately took 3 hours and 15 minutes to complete that first big loop. Almost a third of the way done with the mileage for the day!

Unfortunately for me though, Siena trotting out lame at the first hold. Slightly off on her right front. A 48 pulse and all As on everything else. And thus, as quickly as it had begun, my 100 mile hopes for the day were dashed!! The lameness was subtle; Mary suspected it was likely a stone bruise from a misstep. Regardless, better to quit while we were ahead before it became anything worse!!

Honestly though, I wasn't too bothered by the pull. It was the right thing to do for the horse. I was grateful she wasn't in any worse a way. (I re-presented her to the vets around 3p and they all said the lameness, while still present, was even more subtle than it had been previously. Encouraging!)

I quickly reverted into crew mode for Mary for the next couple holds.

Mary's account of the rest of the ride is here.

Ultimately (spoiler alert), she and Amy completed at 12:15am in a 4th place tie!


One of my 30 before 30 goals was to *compete* in a 100 mile ride. When I originally wrote the goal, it was to complete a 100-miler. Within hours of writing that, I modified it. 100s are tricky. Beyond the combination of a good, fit rider on a talented, fit horse, 100s require some luck. There is a lot more time for things to go awry.

So, while my first attempt at a 100 was foiled, I still count the whole experience as a success. I had the initial cojones to sign myself up and start the ride. It didn't go as planned, but I still had a blast. I'll definitely be seeking out my second attempt at a 100-miler in the near future!

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