Wednesday, March 18, 2015

a simple tale

trail beckons

water rises

green glows

rocks recede

speed increases

walls fall

naughty waits

trail twists

tights tear

mud sucks

hasselhoff returns
horse rewarded

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

accidental finish

winter fuzzy ears
Have you ever just been trotting up the trail when a runner goes by? Then another? Then you're in the midst of one of the largest trail races in Northern California?

Yeah, I hadn't either, until this weekend.

I left the staging area intent on about 15 good hilly miles. About 5 miles in there was a man standing on the trail waving a couple runners on. There weren't many, I thought one of the local running clubs was just out for a day. Until a giant horde of them started coming down the mountain! We just gave trail, stood off to the side, let them pass. Moved on a bit, let them keep coming. We had to use shared trail for about a mile. I got asked if I knew the trail was closed about 50 times. Um no, or I wouldn't have come. It isn't technically closed, and I was very sorry to be in the middle of their race, but totally did not impede anyone's progress! I'm getting off trail as soon as I can!

two paths to choose, of course I picked the wrong one today!
I was so happy to see the turnoff for Pig Farm Trail (steep). That is literally what the sign says: steep. Yeah, steep, and nasty boot sucking mud. Up up up. Then stop, get off, fix boots. back on. Repeat. Fuck. I was not very happy at this point. And Major was raring to go!

Once at the top we headed to the staging area. Note: at this point I'm obviously an idiot.

And the staging area was closed. But not just closed, there were runner crews and cars and crazy everywhere. But I had to get through to get back to the other side of the trail, or detour back a really long way. (Stubborn or stupid, you decide. Probably both.) So I decided to chance it and led Major through the gauntlet of flags, streamers, balloons, blow-up finish line, blasting music and a timeclock. We crossed that finish line in 2:17.

previous finish line: add more banners this year, but fewer spectators for our crossing!

Except for one little jump forward Major didn't seem to mind the chaos. I don't think I need too many desensitizing clinics now! Once through the gauntlet, we headed to the other side of the staging area and left quickly!

tiny runner ahead, but not one of the racers!
ponds are full
but we still need more rain

I hate this part, Major too. Nasty footing.
crossing the creek, some salamander hanky panky,
The rest of the ride was the usual combination of lovely rolling hills and awful rocky trail. There is a spaghetti of trails out there, lovely ponds and creeks, though I always manage to get on the rocky, nastiest section eventually. There was one ridiculous moment when Major was stopped in his tracks. By a lost sweatshirt. On a bush. Luckily when we later saw a little tree wearing a lost hat he was fine. Major obviously possesses a fine fashion sense.

tiny salt creek

down, down more rocky trail
There was the nice pond trail, crappy rock trail, crossing Knickerbocker creek, more rocks, and going back down the hill. Major then lost all will to live and was convinced the horse apocalypse had come. I dragged him down the hill behind me for a couple miles, till I was annoyed and just got back on. At which point we encountered some riders heading our direction and Major had a miraculous recovery! Faker.

Major says "I think I'm done now"

All is lost...
going up Robie Point, almost home!

Ride up the Auburn side, one more death slog/hike down Robie Point, made a bit better with grass snacks (getting back on, damn, this horse has gotten taller.) Back at the trailer, four long hours later, 21 miles, unintentional overtraining. I wasn't planning such a long ride for at least another few weeks, but we had to get home somehow!

The real running trail race, 50k (31.2 miles) on super tough trail with tons of elevation, was won in a record-setting time of 3:04:48. That is seriously impressive! Major's real ride time minus stops: 3:27. Man totally beats horse. But I'm not trading in Major anytime soon. Except for the death slog/apocalypse sections, he was a star.

Training alone is hard, that motivation they get from other horses just isn't there. I do need more training with others, but that is a mental test for Major, not a physical one. Daylight has returned in the evenings, Spring is almost upon us (even though we never had winter) and we have many miles to go before we're ready for anything. But it's a start.

it's a hard knock life

Alternate titles for this post:
Many, many wrong turns later...
Do not enter, wrong way
Left turn at Albuquerque

P.S. As an aside, I was wandering old town Auburn that evening after dinner, and the Courthouse was just glowing. If anyone ever comes to town (like for Tevis), don't just drive by, but walk around it. The building, rock and brick work is just lovely.

Auburn Courthouse at night
impressive stairs

Monday, March 2, 2015

golden time

I was crabby. A 4:30 a.m. start to a super long annoying day at work that had led to me not getting off in time to ride. I wasn't in the mood to ride after dark in the forest. I didn't want to saddle up. I didn't want to hop on bareback. I wasn't in the mood to deal with any naughty behavior. But I also didn't feel like sitting around. In short, I admit, I was having a bit of a tantrum. Hey, it happens to us all sometimes (I hope!).

So I took a hike. Literally.

skeptical horse is reluctant

Major was a bit skeptical heading out on our hike. But he likes my recent plan: learn to walk and chew gum.

why are you up on that trail, just get on!

He will not grab a bite of grass while his feet are moving. I've never reprimanded him for trying, he doesn't even try. Stop moving, and he'll gobble it up. Every horse I have ever ridden will snatch grass when given the chance. Major is special. And annoying! My new strategy is to walk, slow way down, let him get a good taste, and I keep walking. When I get to the end of the lead rope I give a tug and a click, he comes trotting up to me, repeat.

hiking view: worth it
Golden sunset. Maybe it's not so bad out here, we should go back

He's getting better, but Major still can't walk and chew gum. But the green grass is overwhelming. And once I was out there, a mile into the forest, with my horse slightly ridiculously stopping and trotting to catch up, I felt much better. A stop with a lovely view sealed the deal. And back home I let him gobble the tall grass for awhile, and then snack outside his pasture (because the grass tastes better out there).

I can't hear you, my mouth is too full

sunset snack

Major and our hike got me out of my funk, though I was disappointed that I'd be away during the weekend. With a (hopeful) endurance ride coming up in two months, I was worried about continuing conditioning. Then I read the great "Check your privilege" blog, and I realized missing a weekend of riding to visit my grandmother was an important "excuse."

the drive was beautiful

goat hill! at the old dairy
I visited Grandma, and had a great time, went for some lovely walks "back home" and just decided to enjoy the time I had where I was, even if it wasn't conditioning the horse.

The small lake that felt so huge when I was a kid

the carousel at the park where I always wanted to ride the jumping one

curious geese

Because there will be rides, and hikes, there will be horses and there will be more views. But there aren't more grandmas.

fields of mustard

the trail less traveled