Check it Out!
[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next]
[Date Index] [Thread Index] [Author Index] [Subject Index]

Biltmore Blues (Long)

On Friday, May 4th, Sunny and I attended the Biltmore 50/100.  I was
looking forward to this ride, since I missed Pirate Run...needed a fix
bad!  Anne Ayala is a great ride manager and her rides are known for
great trails and even better management. This would be my first time at
an FEI ride and I was looking forward to experiencing it first hand.
MUCH more on this later. Film at 11:00.

We left about about 7:00 AM Friday and tiptoed through Nantahala Gorge
to Asheville, the location of the beautiful Biltmore Estate on the banks
of the French Broad River. Hauled Flinn Anderson's horse Abe along with
Sunny. Flinn dropped him off over here Thursday evening. On the way over
here, a piece of styrofoam insulation came loose in the roof of her
trailer and caused him to scratch the side of his hock on the trailer
partition.  However, it was just a scratch and we rode for a couple of
hours and he was fine.  This was to be Flinn's first 100.  I was in the
50, so plan was for me to come over and help crew for her when I
finished.  My best crew guy Gabe Buckler couldn't make it (his house was
getting a new roof), but Joan Tipton would be there and Flinn was
bringing along our friend Leslie Palmer to help out.  A formidable
group. Joan and I arrived about 10:30, weaving through the Estate roads
to the barns and pasture campsites.  First thing I noticed was that the
main campsite with all the management, vet check, crew area, check-in,
etc. was reserved for FEI only.  Open riders were to camp down the road
about 1/4 mile on either side of the main site. inauspicious
start. However, we found a nice spot next to the fence, setup our
awning, corral, etc. and made the guys comfortable to wait for Flinn and
Leslie. They showed about noon, settled in and we wandered down about
1:30 to pick up our packets and vet-in. Electrolyted Sunny off the
trailer, at evening feed, and early morning feed. He was VERY
hydrated...sloshed when he walked!   

Great group of vets, led by Ray Randall. We were given rider cards,
something called a "pulse card", and there was a complicated maze to get
through in a specific order with lots of "guardians" (stewards) around
to make sure no one strayed from the straight and narrow..ummmm..I mean
complicated and convoluted. Present your ride card here, your pulse card
there, weave through the incoming rider line to get to the out timer
which was on the other side of the vet check from the crew area....I
never did figure it out...but my crew got me through it.  Why did I need
a "pulse card" anyway?  Sunny vetted in just fine, but Abe was a little
off on the leg with the scratch. A consultation, some rechecking, and
they recommended she not start. Flinn was devastated, but like me, if
there is ANY doubt, she will always err on the side of her horse.  In
retrospect, I think he was just a little stiff from the trailer ride and
if we had trotted him around a little before vet-in, he would have been
just fine. (He trotted back and forth at least 50 miles while Sunny was
gone, anyway...he was just fine when I got back!)

Anne conducted a great rider meeting as usual.  Good writeup on the
trails. Three loops of 18.9, 19.2, and 14.2. Top Ten would have CRI 30
minutes after finish and BC exam in 1 hour.  Two 50 minutes holds.
Pretty standard stuff. Pulse criteria was 60, which would be much harder
than 64 in the 70 degree plus heat. Finish would be on a hill in a
pasture below the Biltmore Mansion...looked good for a possible run-off
should the situation arise. <grin> I don't have exact numbers, but about
120 in the 50, and 70 or so in the 100. Controlled start for the 50 at
7:00 AM. Was a little concerned that cars were not allowed on the road
by camp except between 6:15 AM and 7:00 AM.  Makes it a little tough to
get your stuff down to the checks....and get it back.  I think most
people, like us, ignored some of this silliness and did what we had to
do to get by.  We at least hauled it down there and back by truck, just
dropping it off.  After having to walk all the way back to the trailer
at the 2nd vet check to get my farrier tools, I was not a happy camper.
Why not make all the FEI people park somewhere else unless they were
crewing? They weren't going anywhere. At least reserve SOME area for us
to park long enough to drop off our crewing equipment instead of having
to park along the road and climb through a live electric fence.

Tacked up about 6:15, warmed Sunny up and trotted to the starting line.
Milled around the start jockeying for position until the trail opened
and Sunny and I were off and running in the first 15-20 riders.  Pace
was BLAZING fast!  Couldn't believe it!  Biltmore is not tough, but it
is rolling hills.  Knew if this continued there would be lots of pulls,
mostly metabolic and I wasn't disappointed. Only 75 of the 120 or so

First loop (Red) had a checkpoint since there was a lollypop back
through the same spot on the way back to camp.  When our little group
showed up, there were 5 or 6 people milling around yelling
"Numbers?...Give us your numbers!" I gave my number to at least three
people while trying to ask which direction to go out on the lollypop
loop. Would you believe none of these people knew which way we were
supposed to go? I don't think they knew why they were supposed to write
down numbers! Some riders chose wrong and ended up back in camp, which
resulted in them having to repeat the loop later. After some discussion,
we came up with a consensus, and took off on the lollypop. Came back
through the checkpoint, another barrage of "Numbers?...Give us your
numbers!" and boogied on through the last couple of miles to camp.  This
was a beautiful trail, through woods and pastures, over little bridges,
single track at times, by ponds, geese and ducks everywhere. In the
woodland trails the orange wild Azaleas and Dogwoods were in full
bloom.  The Azaleas were spectacular, a bright pumpkin color, and the
Dogwoods startling white in the shady areas. All the trails were well
marked and easy to follow, although the little plastic "arrows" instead
of ribbons require that you pay close attention.

We walked in the last 200 yards or so to the first vet check, stopping
to hose off Sunny at a pasture faucet along the way.  He was down by the
time we got the heart belt on.  Slapped on the rump rug and headed to
the in-timer.  Stopped at the vet gate by another "guardian" who
informed me Sunny couldn't wear his heart belt into the vet check?
Hello? What difference does THAT make? I can have my tack on but not my
heartbelt?  Besides, it holds the front of my rump rug on! OK....I can
play, long as I know the rules, silly tho they may be. 

Sunny vetted in just great...a little dehydrated due to the pace and
lack of opportunity to drink.  Great gut sounds for a change, and lo and
behold he ate and drank well at the first hold!  Sunny's quick recovery
kicked us out the first check in 7th place. Looking good! Rode along
with three other riders most of the second loop. With about six miles to
go, Sunny threw a left front shoe.  Pulled over, put on the easy boot
and continued on.  After loosing it twice, finally slowed down to an LSD
trot so he would keep it on.  Arrived at the 2nd check with Sunny not
even sweating and went straight to the vet check. Put the shoe back on
and negotiated the maze over to the out-timer. Amazingly, we were still
about 7th, with several of us leaving together.  However, the lost shoe
had ruined my chances of catching the leaders. 

Sunny was doing so well I decided to see how many people I could run
down before the finish. Bumped into a few of the 100 milers on the last
loop, and missed a turn talking.  I had passed Angie and she ran me down
and sent me back a couple of hundred yards to the turn at the bottom of
the hill.  Thanks, Angie...saved my butt...owe you one.  Passed two
riders at a water stop, and caught up with three more a couple of miles
from the finish.  Sunny is cantering along comfortably, breathing
easily, with only a light sweat.  About three miles out, it started to
rain, and the wipers on my glasses aren't working! Three of us together
now, with me in the back, Sunny pulling on me, sensing the excitement.
At the turn into the woods, just past the one-mile-to-go marker, I
passed the rider in front of me and pulled up tight on the other two. 
Single track here, with no opportunity to pass. Only chance is to blow
by at the left turn into the pasture.  Knew the rider in front of me
would turn inside, so no choice but to take the outside and let Sunny do
the rest. The rain is harder now.  Sunny's head was even with her
horse's butt as we made the turn at a canter and rolled into full
gallop. Sunny blew past the first horse! I was leaning over his neck,
rain pelting down, mane in my face yelling "Get him, Sunny..Go GET him,
Boy! We went flying up the hill with the Biltmore Mansion on the hill in
the distance, gaining at every step. Unfortunately, just not enough
distance....we crossed the finish a neck length back in what we
"thought" was 5th place just behind a beautiful Paint Arabian owned by
Ann Stewart.  Great horse, Ann!

The finish line was at the top of the hill, and were we surprised to
come flying over the hill at full gallop into a DOWNHILL!  Took me half
a mile to get Sunny stopped!  He was headed for the barn! Scary! 
Finally got him turned around and cantered back up the hill to present
my rider card.  

IMHO, this was the most disorganized, poorly managed finish I have ever
experienced. The finish was being videotaped, so apparently no official
actually "observed" with their eyes the order of finish.  (Maybe through
the camerea?) All three of my crew were there. The other riders and my
crew all gathered around giving our numbers and in what order our group
of four finished. I was second in that group. Finally sorted it all out,
we thought. Adele Dennard and another rider arrived just behind us, not
racing.  We were then given a couple of minutes talk on standing for BC,
told if we wanted to do that, we would be weighed in here at the finish
line, put the tack back on, then be back at camp for a 30 minute CRI.
Meanwhile, during the mass confusion here, Sunny is standing out in the
cold rain after galloping flat out for a mile. That's when I started
really getting P*&&^% Off! Little did I know there was more yet to come.
There was some kind of electronic scale, and after a couple of false
starts, everyone got weighed in and Sunny and I headed back to camp with
my crew.

We arrived to camp with only a few minutes to the 30 minute CRI. Sunny
is waaaaaay down now, so we did the completion and 30 minute CRI at the
same time. Flinn was taking Sunny through and the rider just in front of
me asked me if I knew when we were supposed to return for BC judging. 
"An hour after you cross the finish line, of course", I replied. "Well,
that's not what the vets say", She said. "It's half an hour after you
have reached pulse criteria". Huh? That makes no sense.  If I have an
hour to reach pulse criteria I could wait till the last minute and have
a lot more time for my horse to recover than a rider who presented
immediately after reaching criteria. This means that BC exams are not at
the same time after finish for all horses in the Top Ten.  I track down
Nina Barnett, who knows everything.  We go over to the little tent where
all the vets are congregated and ask.  Yes, that's true.  An half hour
after reaching pulse criteria.  I try to explain why that's not fair to
the group, including Ray Randall to no avail. OK, whatever....doesn't
matter to me. Sunny was down and complete in 30 minutes, 30 minutes
later is an hour after finish.  After the awards, I spoke with Ray for a
few minutes.  He stated that what he said in the ride meeting was 30
minutes after the 30-minute CRI, which would be an hour after
finish....but that is NOT what he and the other vets said at the time I
presented, and there were several witnesses, including Nina, and at
least one other rider standing there. I simply don't understand why this
happened. I wish someone would explain this, along with all the other
unbelievable stuff that went on at what, up till now, was one of my
favorite rides. In no way, do I wish my comments here to detract from
the great job the vets did at this ride.  It was outstanding.

I decided at this point I had "endured" all I could for the day, so
Sunny, my crew, and I retired to our camp to relax, kick back, and laugh
at all this stuff.  After all, in spite of all this, we were 5th out of
120 or so riders, I had a lot of horse left, and he was clean, relaxed,
and happily munching and drinking with his buddy Abe, unlike many others
with tubes all over them. We were enjoying the afternoon sun with a cold
one and just feeling great.  Little did I know what was yet to come!

We arose bright and early Sunday morning, cleaned up the basic stuff and
headed over to the awards ceremony.  Great coffee cake, but somehow the
coffee pot got unplugged and we ran out of coffee.  Minor detail.  Anne
did her usual masterful job as MC. Great hay bag for all completers,
pewter cup for Top Ten, miscellaneous other prices from IAHA, others. 
Roger Rittenhouse even donated two heart monitors for
"middle-of-the-pack" finishers. 

When they got the the 50 miler Top Ten, Anne announced that in 10th
place was....Jim Holland! Hello? Tenth? My crew is flabbergasted! Joan
is so upset she is sputtering and can't talk.  Adele stands up and says
"That's wrong"! Several other riders speak up.  Anne finally says
"That's what we have in the computer. We'll do it like we have it now
and and sort it out later." After the meeting, Anne and I went over to
the trailer, accompanied by Adele Dennard to help sort it out.  Thank
you, Adele....for hanging around to help! Anyway, it seems that they
entered the finish times on the computer from the rider card...NOT THE
FINISH TIMER'S RECORD! It seems someone had entered a wrong time for
finish on my rider card.  Well, it sure wasn't me! Well, why don't we
look at the video tape?  Well, unfortunately, the finish line timer had
"taped over it", but he did have some notes that showed the times. 
After some discussion, and help from Adele, it was decided that I
probably finished sixth.  My crew (three of them) says it was fifth. I
don't know. I was too busy at the time. OK...I'll take sixth.  I
finished right after the Paint.  If the Paint was 4th, I was 5th.  If he
was 5th, I was 6th.  Joan was taking pictures.....hopefully she has
Sunny and the Paint in one of them. Anne promised to send me a final
order of Top Ten by Email.  Anne, I love you to death and I know from
many years of riding and working with you and attending your rides that
this is not your fault and you will do your very best to make it right.  

Can't give you an order of finish for the 50's....not a clue. 
Hopefully, I was in there somewhere........

I know there were other problems with the 100 milers....but I was too
busy with my own problems to worry about that.  Perhaps Angie can
provide info on the Top Ten and some additional details?

Thanks to the Kanavy's and the Fruth's for helping to sanction the
National Championship Ride as FEI.  Can we retract it?  Were it not the
National Championship, I would not go....nor will I attend ANY other FEI
ride if there are other rides available. At this ride, I felt like a
"second class citizen". There were too many "officials", too much
confusion, too much incompetence, too little communication and too much
favoritism toward "FEI". If this is where Endurance is going, I'll
switch to some other discipline. 

My sincere thanks to my crew, who got me through all this. They busted
their tails for me all day.  Even some of our friends who got pulled
came over to help out with Sunny.  We rode smart, fast, didn't miss a
beat, and finished high in the Top Ten with a sound horse in great
shape.  Had we not lost the shoe, we had a chance of winning. Sunny gave
me whatever I asked for all day, and really turned it on when we needed
it! In addition, Genie took three great pictures of Sunny!

Jim and Sun of Dimanche

    Check it Out!    

Home    Events    Groups    Rider Directory    Market    RideCamp    Stuff

Back to TOC