Wednesday, July 23, 2008

2008 Bandit Springs

Saturday July 19 2008

Well, I HAD good intentions: I set my alarm to get up to see Nance and Jazzbo off, with 16 other starters, on the 100 mile start at 5 AM (along with seven 80 milers). I DID open one eye, and saw that it was too dark to take pictures, so I closed that eye after re-setting my alarm for the start of sixty-six 50 milers at 6 AM.

I opened both eyes for that one, and saw the light was good for photos, but it was oh-so-chilly outside - frost on the ground and inside my tent! - and I was so warm in my sleeping bag, so I missed that start too.

I did finally get out of bed for the 7 AM start of the forty-three 30-milers - including Bruce and his daughter Belle, and the four teams of 30-mile Ride N Tie. The sun was up and had melted the frost, and the grounds were quickly warming up.

Hundred mile riders started coming into camp off their first 20 mile loop at 7:10 AM. Some of the front runners got lucky and saw some wild horses; and in fact Nance and Jazzbo were followed briefly by a stallion, which might have not been so lucky if the stallion hadn't lost interest after a while.

After the 30-minute hold in camp, I jumped in Jim Archer's pickup, and we headed out of camp - picking up Jim and Gail from Seattle on the way - for the out vet check in the middle of the second loop at 30-miles. Jim Archer was crewing his wife Vicci and for Nance on the 100, and for Bruce and Isabelle on the 30. Jim and Gail's daughter was riding her first LD with her friend - all newcomers to the endurance sport.

The directions to the out vet check were probably pretty simple - for most people, involving only one or two turns along the way. We did read the directions, but, probably due to telling too many stories on the way, we managed to get lost. Then we had no idea where we really were, so we blindly guessed the rest of the way, and ended up driving into the vet check with just a few minutes to spare before Bruce and Belle rode in. Belle is a petite junior - made to look even smaller riding Nature's Kruschev ("Krusty") - Steph Teeter's BIG, WIDE, black Orlov trotter (we weighed him on a truck stop scale on the way home: 1250 pounds!) that competed in his earlier days all around the US, and in the 1999 Pan Am Championships in Canada, and in a World Championship in France in 2000, and the World's Most Preferred Cup in Dubai in 2001. He seems to be enjoying his semi-retirement, squiring around a junior for her first rides in endurance.

Out here at the second vet check, at 35 miles, I attached the Raven bag to Captain Calypso's saddle, and stuffed the Raven in the bag with his head sticking out, and off they rode, Melissa the Aussie and the Raven II, on an endurance trail adventure together.

You'd have thought the drive back to camp would have been easy, but, we managed to get lost again, and quite turned around, until we noticed that somebody had, lucky for us, come along and put pie plates up pointing the way to the Vet Check. We used these as a crutch, looking in the rear view mirrors, to get back to camp.

It was still a reasonably cool day - which was good during the hills the horses had to pull on the 1st and 2nd loops - as the limited distance riders began arriving at the finish. Out on the trails the horse and deer flies were bad - swarms of them in places, biting not just horses but people - but we were blessed around camp with no insects at all. Michelle Green on her palomino Saddlebred came high-stepping into the finish first. Karen Brauer on Frodo came in first on the 50 mile ride.

The first of the rugged Ride N Tie teams came in, Liz Perkin and Darcie de Feritas on Punkin. I saw all the runners come in, and a bit later, one runner going back out. Wow - somebody elevating? To 60 miles? Maybe the Ride N Tie rules had some new options? No... it turns out that the team of Ben Volk and Tim Rubin had passed their horse that was tied up down the trail - like 8 miles or so down the trail! They'd been in first place, but one of them passed the horse right up. (I hear this is not so difficult to do when you're concentrating hard on running and the competition.) They could have gotten a ride out to pick the horse up, but the runner who passed the horse ran right back out to get him and ride him back - giving them a completion. Those were the Really Rugged Ride N Tie'rs!

Meanwhile there was another race, or chase, of sorts going on. Darlene Anderson's chihuahua Oso decided he wasn't interested in the Ridecamp Leash Law (Janelle offered to sell $5 baling twine leashes to those who didn't bring their own), and he escaped. I was by the road taking pictures when I heard a bell rustling through the grass, and saw, occasionally, a pygmy dog popping up like a jumping bean 3 feet out of the tall grass to get a view. I called the dog but he ran away, swallowed up by the grass, on an apparent mission. A couple of young girls came searching for the dog; and as soon as Darlene finished the 50 mile ride in 21st place with Max Merlich on Junior (who had been entered in Tevis) and 3 other riders, she and Max and others joined the search, on foot, on 4-wheelers and in cars. It went on into the night before he was spotted again about a half mile from camp, though he still wouldn't let any humans get near him. Darlene, worried sick, was going to camp out near him.

Meanwhile, as it neared dark, Frank Elmer - who won the Bandit Springs 100 last year - came in first in the 80 miler, with Hugh Vanderford coming in second while riding alongside Gloria and Haily Daeumler. In the 100, Katie Gliwaski narrowly led Naomi Preston and her husband Lee Pearce, all of whom had ridden last in the Sunriver 100 a month ago. They had a comfortable lead over the rest of the 16 riders - only Dick Root had pulled so far, earlier in the day.

Melissa and the Raven had hooked up with Tony Benedetti and were riding together in 4th and 5th place. Melissa was keeping a close eye or hand on the Raven - "I'd ride a hundred yards, then reach back to make sure he was still there. Then I'd ride on another hundred yards, and check back again!" Going out on the next to last loop, in the dark, Melissa about had a panic attack a mile out when she reached back and didn't feel the Raven head poking out of the Raven bag. She thought she was going to have to tell Tony to stop, until she discovered the Raven had slipped all the way down into the bag. She kept him well stuffed down inside with the bag cinched up tight for the rest of the ride.

Nance and Vicci's horses were looking well as they came in for their vet checks... only Vicci looked to be in pain from bruised shins. She didn't complain - she told Nance on the trail, "I don't want the whine bottle!" - but she did have her shins wrapped up in horse cool wraps by Susan Favro's bottomless pit of Healthyasahorse supplies, which happened to be right next to where the Archers and Wormans propitiously and conveniently set up their crewing area. Ridecamp was strung out a long way on the edge of the meadow, and instead of wasting 10 minutes at each vet check walking to and from the horse trailers, it was much more convenient to set up by the Favro's - Susan fed us all both nights with tortellini so she couldn't get rid of us anyway.

Vicki Giles had joined up with Nance and Vicci Archer for the last two loops of the hundred. Vicki was riding the mighty mustang Robin Hood (over 13 seasons of competition: 8765 miles, 21 wins, 24 BCs, 4 Tevis finishes, only 6 pulls), and they both appreciated the company at this stage of the ride.

At the 5th vet check, 90 miles, Lee Pearce and Naomi Preston had caught up with Katie Gliwaski. Katie vetted through within minutes and passed the vet check, but later, she returned to the vet and withdrew her horse, as she just wasn't feeling right. Gloria Vanderford was pulled for lameness, leaving her great granddaughter Haily, a junior, looking for a sponsor to ride with. Kelly Nutter picked her right up and they rode through the dark together on the last loop.

Compared to most endurance races around the world, it's pretty low key here in the Pacific Northwest region. Aussie Melissa's husband Steve commented on the competitive, but casual atmosphere (they were enjoying it). Most of us like it that way. No big spotlights that you can see from outer space at the vet checks (a set of lights was hooked up to a generator, but the lights didn't work at first, so people pulled out their flashlights and headlamps and pointed them at the horses, and a pickup's headlights was turned onto the vet ring) - though we did have a nice big bonfire going for roasting s'mores. No mellifluous announcers broadcasting the riders and horses coming in.

It was Lee and Naomi arriving first in the dark, the full moon just rising over the ridge and throwing long tree shadows across Ridecamp, with Lee himself announcing, "Hundred milers coming in!" That brought cheers from the bonfire gang and the generator was turned on for the lights that were now working. Both horses looked great trotting out for their completions, in a ride time of 13:33, and again an hour later for their BC exams.

I was sort of hovering around the finish line with Steve and Ernie. They were of course waiting for Melissa and Captain Calypso, and I was waiting (not anxiously!) for the Raven. And an hour later, we spotted some swinging lights emerging from the dark - the swinging glowsticks from the breastcollars of Melissa's and Tony's horses. They agreed to tie for 3rd, and vetted through looking good, and the Raven was still smiling, stuffed down in his Raven bag. I guess he only did 80 miles, but since he rode with an Aussie friend, I think he gets Extra Special Credit for a hundred mile ride.

I tried my best but couldn't stay up much past midnight for Nance and Jazzbo. It was getting quite chilly, with a little breeze - one that would feel good on the riders and horses, but that made the waiting crews either crowd around the bonfire or huddle under horse blankets. Nance and Vicci Archer and Vicki Giles arrived in camp later than expected - at 1:30 AM - Robin Hood had lost a shoe on the last 10 mile loop, so they spent some time covering the foot with duct tape - they didn't have an easy boot that fit over his big hoof - and walked the entire loop. And after 16 hours and 47 minutes in the saddle, and covering 100 miles, dismally, Vicci Archer's horse vetted out lame at the finish. Argh!

Fifteen minutes later Kara Nutter and Haily Daeumler rode into camp and successfully completed; and next, an hour later, came the first of 3 generations of the Yost family riding in the 100: Chris and Kara (celebrating her birthday on Saturday!), followed a half hour later, at 3:18 AM, by Chris's son Gentry, his wife laura, and their daughter Chandler, finishing her first 100 miler. They'd had a wee bit of trouble finding their way on the trail - the first 5 miles had, at twilight, been overabundantly marked with glowsticks, and the last 5 miles, a slight underabundance. But they all eventually found their way with no mishaps, and all passed the final vet check. Chandler didn't get a whine bottle today either. Throughout the day, her grandpa Chris kept asking her, "Do your legs hurt? Does your back hurt? Does this hurt? Does that hurt?" to which she replied No, no, no, and no. Chris wasn't whining, only commenting, when he said "Well that all hurts on me!"

For the rest of the night, if you could call it that, Ridecamp settled into its peaceful dead quiet that comes after a good day's ride.

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