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National Championship Ride(Long)

WOW, What an event!  The 2001 National Championship was just
outstanding! Had everything you could wish for in an Endurance Ride.

The WEATHER was constantly changing. Chilly Wednesday nite, sunny and
warm Thursday morning, raining on Friday, sunny on Saturday, and raining
again Sunday morning. Woke up at 4:00 Saturday morning to the sound of
rain sprinkling on the roof of the trailer. Foggy and gloomy at the
Saturday morning start of the 50's. Flinn Anderson and I tacked up in
the dark and a light mist, taping our rain pants to our boots with duct
tape. Seemed to be very HUMID for some reason, even tho it was early
morning and cool. 

The STRATEGY was to ride our BEST ride AGAINST THE TRAIL, take what it
would give us and not worry about what anybody else was doing.  Flinn
and I agreed to stay together and maintain a reasonable, but safe pace. 
Most important was to FINISH with sound horses. On Thursday, the 100
milers had a low completion percentage, and they had the advantage of a
dry trail.  We would be riding on a slippery, muddy trail. However, the
rain would provide us with water in mud puddles that would not normally
have been there.

The START for the 50 was controlled behind a lead horse up the mountain
for 20 minutes so.  The horses around us were VERY well behaved, and
seemed to enjoy ambling along in a large herd.  Riders exchanged
greetings, names, and comments in the early morning dark, nice.... We
were in the first 25-30 riders and stayed there about all day. As we
climbed up the mountain, the sun struggled up through the clouds and
fog, and suddenly the world changed to pure gold as the light filtered
through the brilliant fall colors.  A magic moment! 

Got to ride with Brittany Dial for several miles.  She's just so much
fun to be around and talk to. Says her Mom is doing better, but still
has a way to go. Good job, Brittany!  Don't think I could have done both
the 100 AND the 50! 

The TRAIL was challenging...downhills, uphills, rocks, bogs, sand,
mud...and the most spectacular scenery. The falls colors were blazing in
a million hues of red and gold. When the breeze picked up you were
riding in a soft golden rain of leaves.  Cave Run Lake sparkled
blue-green below, popping in and out of the hills as we rode the ridges,
then descended to ride for miles along the shoreline.  On the last leg
back to camp, we climbed up ridges on narrow switchbacks and around
giant rock outcroppings before coming out on an overlook above
ridecamp.  The whole vally was in bright sunshine below and we could see
the entire camp.  Flinn was riding along just screaming with the pure
joy of having the opportunity to ride in such a beautiful place on such
a beautiful day. On the last loop coming down the mountain, she was so
loud our crew could hear her in camp!  (In the 100 mile ride, after dark
you could see the glow sticks of the riders coming down the mountain)
Comic relief was provided by a Saddle Club who were camping just down
from the 50 vet check on Stony Cove.  We kept bumping into them all over
the trail.  They were very courteous, moving off the trail for us.  They
were counting riders and giving us progress reports. (I think our
numbering system had them confused)  They were certainly feeling no
pain! <grin> Kinda enjoyed having them around to cheer us on!

The STAFF were excellent.  The DBDR staff were everywhere and made sure
we had everything we needed.  They were just great.  There was so much
to see and do, just couldn't fit it all in. I needed to clone fact, I think Diane Fruth found a way to do that...she
couldn't have possibly been in all those places.  She was just
everywhere! Thank you, Diane....I will remember this ride as one of the
best ever!  Connie and Mike were just great hosts.  Thanks, Mike, for
entertaining our crew, Joan, Cindy, and Leslie with your stories....Joan
mentioned some tale about "hairy legged guys in tights"? Hmmmmm.. <grin>
Lynne, you did a GREAT job with the web site.  Joan was on the cell
phone all day calling her family and friends directing them to it. 
Looking forward to the other 50 pictures. Saw that trailer you had over
there with all the PC gear...high tech! 

The AWARDS were great.  Nice shirt, lots of raffle stuff. BC in the 50 a mule!  Great job!  

The FOOD was never ending.  Great Turkey and Beef Brisket, veggies, and
lots of other stuff at the banquet. My plate was so full I looked at the
dessert and decided to come back....think it was Cobbler.  When I came
back it was ALL GONE! WAH!!!  Oh well, probably wouldn't have been good
for my girlish figure anyway.  Sunny couldn't carry a heavyweight.
Another night we had Pizza, and there were treats (candy bars, oranges,
snacks, etc.) at the vet checks. Class Ride!

The ENTERTAINMENT was lots of fun.  Got to pick a little guitar on two
nights with Tommy Crain and John Crance.  Thanks guys, for putting up
with me.  Amy Whelan, who has a GREAT voice, sang for us.  Several
others joined us as well.  If anybody knows the guy who got up, borrowed
Tommy's guitar and sang the AERC song, I sure would like to have the
words and music to that!  Another lady sang a Patsy Cline song..... My
fingers were worn out!  Some unexpected entertainment was provided by
some non-AERC riders who showed up at the party Saturday nite.
Hmmm...gotta admit, it was different!

The JUNIORS in the 50 just wowed us by crossing the finish line together
holding hands with all of us applauding until our hands hurt. Hope
someone got a picture of that.  Unfortunately, I don't think any of the
100 mile juniors finished. Angie, congrats on the great job you did with
the juniors.

The PHOTOGRAPHERS were everywhere.  Great shots by the Silers and Lynne.
Gonna take me days to sort out all he pictues. The "Winners Circle"
picture was really nice, and Joan joined me in that shot.
fact, she pushed me behind Sunny so all you see is one eye, my dirty
white socks and muddy tights.  (Didn't have time to change and get there
in time for the picture) Our thanks to the Rojeks for those....they
emphasize our "To Finish is to Win" motto. Joan got a great picture of
two riders reins over their shoulders "dragging" their horses, noses
extended, over the finish line....seems they preferred to go straight to
the trailer! <grin>

The VETS and vet check volunteers were just unbelievable.  Kept
everything moving, never had to wait. Thanks to all of you.  No way it
could have been any better. Best in this area I have ever experienced.

The DISAPPOINTMENT was that Flinn Anderson finished but did not get a
completion. She and I rode together all day, being as careful as we
could.  We walked all the way down the last hill, mounted up and
cantered the last 100 yards across the finish line.  Sunny and Abe
looked great.  We walked them over to the trailer, rinsed them off, and
they dived into the water and beet pulp mash. Put the heartbelt on Sunny
and he was way down.  (His final CRI after 30 minutes was 52/52. By the
way, Susan, his gut sounds were A's all day.  In fact, both horses were
mostly A's all day.  Sunny stayed a little dehydrated (B on skin tenting
and cap refill)...he didn't drink on that long 23 mile first leg, and
apparently never caught up. Put the heartbelt on Abe and I thought we
were having mechanical problems with the heart monitor.  Pulse was 60,
then 80, then back to 70...just couldn't figure it out. He's alert,
eating, drinking, nothing abnormal that we could see...just his normal
laid back self.  Double checked with the stethoscope, which also gave
the same results. Finally our time expired and we had to take him in.
Just couldn't get him down. Ken Marcella (who is also his vet in the
real world) came over to check him out. Seemed to feel that he had
pulled something somewhere, but was so fit that he had not been ridden
quite far enough for it to be evident.  He's one tough little guy.  We
brought him back an hour or so later and he appeared to be off in the
right rear...maybe high up.  This was apparently elevating his pulse.
Felt so sad for Flinn...this was the first ride she or Abe have ever
failed to complete. Would rather it had been me. <sigh> In spite of our
caution, both horses took a fall out there, and that may have caused the
problem.  Abe fell to his knees and Sunny's back feet went out from
under him. I had my feet out of the stirrups ready to bail, but he
recovered and we continued on without any injury.

The DEPARTURE Sunday morning was messy.  Started raining Saturday nite
during the party and rained all night and into Sunday morning.  Rain
squalls with gusty wind slamming things around. Just a miserable night.
We felt like the "Soggy Bottom Boys"  Anyway, a few trucks and trailers
needed a tow to get out of the pasture. Finally we just threw everything
in the trailer and rolled out about 10:00. Whew!  Great ride, but glad
to be back home. Will take a week to get dried out!

Thanks to everyone for such a great experience.  You're gonna have to
really work at it to do any better next year.  I'm looking forward to
being there....sign me up! Next time, Flinn!

Regards, Jim, Sun of Dimanche, and Mahada Magic

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