Tuesday, April 10, 2007

New Zealand Nationals 100 km

Sunday April 8 2007

I moseyed out of bed and into camp about 7 AM, fog lining some of the valley, a nice sunny day after it looked like it might rain all night. It was cold and crisp and some of the warm horses were steaming.

I kept my eyes and lenses on the strappers and some of the riders coming off loops and going out. As the day went on, Linda and Trevor finished together, 8th and 9th. Picksy did very well. Go little Lord of the Rings horse! Gemma Haywood won the ride, and 16 minutes behind her, Tony Master and Angela Doel had a flat-out sprint down the lane and around the corner on the short run in camp over the finish line, to the entertainment of everybody in camp, with Tony finishing just a length ahead. Angela won Best Condition in the judging later. Sandie's horse Mateus vetted out lame after the second loop, and David finished successfully on Zaandel, his first ride since his accident 2 years ago. Lois Hosking finished on her gray horse Cyden Sharif. Sylvia Ireland finished on her hose Miami; Sylvia was taking a break from her duties on the organizing committee: directing arriving rigs for 3 days (the first one in the dumping rain) and cooking breakfasts and dinners for hungry people on very little sleep! 40 riders started the ride and 26 completed.

Also on Sunday was the 80km Junior ride starting at 6 AM; 9 started with 7 finishers. Winner was Michael Wakeling, finishing just a few seconds ahead of Lewis West. I was standing in the lane when the first 5 Juniors came in, and they were flying by me like hurricanes!

I was bumming another cuppa coffee off Trevor and Company, when Leon the South African saddlemaker came by and said he'd just been on a quad ride with Sheldy (I think it was - he's on the quad in the picture), one of the landowners, and I just HAD to get out there and see the trail and the surrounding countryside. I tracked him down, and he happily took me out to see the first part of the first loop of the 160km (they actually did this twice, both in the dark) and the 120 and the 100 (done in the dark). 15 landowners allowed the ride to take place on their land. My driver was one of them. "Do you ride?" I asked him. "No. I don't like horses, my wife is allergic to them, and my mother is one of the top dressage judges in New Zealand. But when you live in a small community, you're involved whether you like it or not. I don't mind it at all." The track we went on was pretty amazing - it went up and down, up and down, some STEEP ups in there, and some steep drop offs to the canyons far below - all of this traversed in the dark. Thank goodness there'd been no rain overnight because some of that would have been treacherously slick. The scenery was just amazing, and most of the riders missed it because of the dark.

Then the big dinner/awards presentation started about 6 PM. Big catered 4 or 5 course dinner, and lots of good dessert. Yum! I was sitting with Trevor and his gang. When dinner was over, 250 people plus all crowded into the hall, and not everybody fit. The RiffRaff (like me) sat in the outer hall where I couldn't see anything but I could hear. Paul Jeffrey handed out the prizes. He individually called up the 1st-5th place finishers in each of the rides. Here, you don't just come up and get your award and get clapped for: 1st thru 5th places all got to say their Thanks pieces. And I was told EVERY finisher used to get to say their Thanks. Oh my lord! It's a nice idea, but my God, it goes on forever. I was getting sleepy, and I could see other heads nodding off and eyes closing. At the last 3-day ride I rode in, in Nevada, the Duck asked if everybody wanted to hear the finishers' names read off. The loud chorus was "NO!!" We of course don't have strapping crews that do so much work, either. And the endurance awards were over, then came the awards for the Competitive Trail Rides.

I didn't even stay for any of the entertainment - singing, dancing, DJing - because I was getting up at 4 AM to leave with Paul Jeffrey and Jo to head off to Paul and Madonna's home near Auckland, for my last days in New Zealand. I said my goodbyes to the great friends I've made here, and I headed off to bed.
I set my alarm for 4 AM, and double checked it before I crashed.

It was really set for 4 AM, and I really did double check it!

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