Monday, November 5, 2012

Lake Sonoma 50—2012

Major rockin' the trail! Baylor-Gore Photography.

To save you the trouble, we completed! Following is an overly long post with too many photos...

waiting for his buddy Friday
Major was loaded in the trailer and ready to pick up Friday and C at 8:30 am. Then a long (for me, three hours) drive to Healdsburg. But I was going home! I grew up in the area, spent many winter days up out of the fog at Lake Sonoma. A little fog on the way there, but blue skies and gorgeous weather when we arrived at Ridecamp.

another trailer ahead, and a fog bank

gorgeous weather in Healdsburg

settling in to ridecamp
We tucked the truck and trailer over on a side, so we could use the high-tie on the trailer for Major and the ones provided for Friday. There were many rigs still to come, and soon the lot would be more than full!

What are we doing here?

Major was completely unconcerned about all the goings-on, and was happy with a full bag of hay. Vetting was simple, no issues, as we went for a short warm-up ride.

Quick, easy vetting
warm up ride on the red loop

ridecamp filling up quickly
Dark comes too quickly this time of year, but the bed in the back of the truck was super comfy. The horses got light blankets, and I crawled into bed totally early. The ride managers had changed the start time from 6:30 to 7:30, which was MUCH better!

starting at dark-thirty

So onto the real story: the ride! There were three loops for the 50. Blue, then red, then blue again. I started a bit late, wanting the fast people out ahead. It was a tough start, only because it went downhill for at least a mile, and not a gradual downhill, but pretty steep. So I needed to keep Major pretty well contained, and he listened OK, but it would have been nice to let him move out a bit. Luckily there was no big misbehavior, but I saw plenty of bucking and people walking down the hill.

And on we went. Major was fresh but listening, when I stuck him behind a group of three other riders. They were moving out nicely, but then slowed too much, so we took the opportunity and passed. We came to a good uphill climb, Major's favorite, and powered up. I knew late in the day that climb would be much harder! There were more than 90 riders, and never did a find a nice pocket for myself. I really would have liked to, especially on the first loop. I didn't want to go too fast, but was often stuck behind people going a bit slower on single-track. Major wasn't really able to move at a good pace for him. He was a little frustrated, but totally behaving, so I give him extra credit. I do think it is hard if Major can't move at a "normal" pace for him, because it uses different muscles, he wasn't quite able to stretch out. I saw most of the trail from behind someone, which isn't my ideal situation, but you take what you can! There was one section with lots of ribbons missing, everyone was milling around, and it became quite a mess. Luckily some riders who had been before thought the trail went one direction, and I decided to follow them. We finally saw another ribbon, but it was quite confusing.

We came into the first vet check strong. And too hot. It took us a bit to cool down (10 minutes, too long), but then we pulsed just fine. Our hydration scores were B's, which the vet was OK with, as we got an overall A. It was hot out (75 degrees, in November!) and lots of horses were already having problems. Just a half-hour hold, where Major worried about his buddy Friday (doing the 25) and didn't eat as well as he could have.

sparkly water

But out onto the red loop we went. I found a more compatible rider, and had a nice time. This loop wasn't quite as steep, and had lovely views. A couple of slower downhills I even managed to take a couple photos, but not of the cool, winding trail through madrone, oak and bay forest. It smelled so good!

nice views along the way

Red loop went by quickly, and we were back for our one-hour hold. Major found a bucket of apples and ate a few, while again my awesome crew/SO helped sponge. I pulsed in and vetted fairly quickly, the vet was happy with Major's pulse of 52, but B again on hydration (everything else A).

Just a few, but boy are they delicious!

This hold Major managed to drink and eat some hay. He wasn't interested in his mash, but enjoyed some apples and carrots. A veritable smorgasbord was in front of him, while I ate a peanut butter and jelly and chocolate milk.

Major is NOT thrilled to be leaving camp! Look at those crabby ears!

Too soon we headed out, blue loop again. Major wasn't too happy to leave the trailers again, but he grudgingly left. He perked up nicely when we were on our way, and we went along for awhile with the rider from the second loop (I'm terrible with names, sorry!). We passed them up on hills, and got caught on the downhills. On one big downhill I got off and hiked for a bit, which gave us both a break!

blurry, cool redwood grove, I was getting tired, maybe it really looked like this

still looking pretty happy halfway through the final blue loop

Major was getting tired towards the end. I had no lagging this ride, but he was just tired. He drank well at the few troughs, and still wanted to trot the hills. About five miles from the end I did lose a wet, muddy boot. The guy behind me noticed, and I just popped it back on. We were taking it easy, but then we passed a couple people, Major found another gear, and we headed into the archery range region with plenty of energy.

archery range trail

I tried to get him to drink before the finish, but he knew we were just a few hundred feet away. So we trotted up the hill, and we were done! He seemed pretty strong, so I went to the trailer, where his friend Friday was waiting (who had successfully done his second 25-mile LD, at 19 years old!). Major was much happier, and ate mash, and hay, and drank. Crew/SO was awesome, and took off tack and sponged my sweaty horse. I had an hour to vet, but Major seemed good, so led him over to vetting.

Coming up to the finish (shadow of my crew/SO/photographer!)

Where everything was A! Taking it easy and drinking on the final loop had brought his hydration up, and he still had plenty of impulsion. I was happy to be middle-of-the pack (they said 51st) and not to have any issues. There were quite a few horses who were being treated for tie-ups, and also some heart-rates that wouldn't come down. I think the unseasonable heat, even with horses who were clipped, was just a lot to handle for some horses.

final vetting, all A's!

It was about 4pm, and there was no dinner or awards. Many people packed up and went home, but I wanted to let Major rest, and didn't want to drive home three hours in the dark with a horse who just did 50 miles. Since Major and Friday were relaxed in camp, staying was the best option. We had plenty of company, interesting that most of the larger rigs left, and it was more people with two-horse trailers and trucks who stayed.

sunset over ridecamp

The best part after the ride: a shower! Wonderful SO boils a pot of water, we add it to a cool bucket. Sweep out the back of the horse trailer, put down a clean towel, and wash away. Feels great to be clean. Again crawled into bed pretty early, I think we stayed up till 8:30, woohoo! The horses were super quiet all night, as were we!

The horses looked good in the morning. Major had a tiny bit of filing, but that is his normal after standing around (even at home if he is confined at all). C and I packed the horse stuff, SO packed the human stuff, and we were on the road by 9am.

We're ready to go home now!

It seemed like a long drive back, but we were just all tired. Back home Major did exactly what I expected: trotted up the hill, rolled and drank his "own" water, then went to look for food. I'm super proud of him! Overall a fun ride, with more elevation change than I thought (about 7,000 feet, though I can't trust my GPS). I would have preferred to not see the same trails over and over. The red and blue overlapped quite a bit, and we did the blue loop twice. I know logistically that it is easier to put on a ride where every loop comes back to base camp, but they said in previous years the trail went more around the lake, which would have been fun to see other scenery and trails.

route and elevation
Fall colors and happy horse and rider. Baylor-Gore Photography.

I ran my GPS app (Strava) the whole time, but the mileage is way off (even if it was a "short" 50, I don't think it was only 31 miles!). I think the elevation or trees must have really thrown it off. I haven't had that issue before at home, and if anyone is interested, here is the GPS track of the entire ride.

I am way too proud of my horse. And my friend C and Friday did great. And my great SO who is awesome crew not just for me, but for C, and who also managed to help put a boot on a horse who lost a shoe, catch a loose horse, and help our other friends too.

Now we rest. No more rides till spring, nothing on my calendar. I want to do some fun rides, maybe a picnic ride by the lake, explore a couple areas that are nice in winter, and just hibernate a bit. I'm ready for a warm fire, hot chocolate and a good book. Major is ready to be taken for nice walks to eat the new grass, and to hide from the raindrops. (I say that now, give me a couple weeks and I'll be anxious to do something!)


  1. Congrats! Trails look beautiful but never could get excited about going to that ride. Glad it went well! Major sure looks like a powerful guy :)

    1. The trails were nice, but I don't think I'd go again. Repeating the trail really dragged me down, and Major likes seeing new trail or he gets bored, fast! I do think it would be a lovely place to go horse camping in early spring, the horse camp is nothing fancy, but great trail access.

  2. From what I've heard about the ride, your GPS was pretty accurate. 35-ish seems to be what most people report on that "50". :) I've never been; didn't realize it was so much repeat trail, so won't worry about putting this one on the bucket list. Glad you and Major had a great time and he's made such a wonderful comeback!

    1. Damn, that's a short ride! I was a little worried about his healed splint, though it had been fine on training rides. Leg stayed cool, I was so happy!

  3. Congratulations on another 50! Major looks great in the photos and the fall colors really add a nice backdrop. We've already headed into the rainy season up here :( , that combined with hunting season and we're stuck with arenas and parks for a while.

    1. Thanks! It was pretty out, but too warm. Only in California was it 75 in November, and 60 and raining at my ride in June. I'd go a bit stir-crazy with hunting and rain closing trails!

  4. It was apparently a good weekend for 50s. Glad to hear you guys did well and that Major's holding up! Hopefully you get some quality restful ride/bonding time in this winter with him.

  5. Congratulations! Enjoy your hibernation. I have really enjoyed reading about your rides this year.

    1. thanks, winter will be a time to has been a busy year (and I hardly do any rides compared to many!) I hope to read your upcoming adventures too.

  6. Great ride story! Totally happy for you, but I have to admit, I'm jealous too. I very much wanted to ride Lake Sonoma but it just didn't happen. Enjoy your down time this winter!

    1. It was quite lovely, the weather was perfect, I'd love to explore more of the trails there. The crappy weather is certainly helping with my down time!

  7. thanks for the nice write up. We are doing our first 50 on this trail and it is nice to have GPS info on the grades we will climb and decend.