Home Current News News Archive Shop/Advertise Ridecamp Classified Events Learn/AERC
Endurance.Net Home Ridecamp Archives
[Archives Index]   [Date Index]   [Thread Index]   [Author Index]   [Subject Index]

[RC] Endurance, Carolina Style: Part Sixteen - Howard Bramhall

If I had known then what I know now I would not have left the barn to go out on this last loop.  What happened to the four of us out there on that bust-your-butt blue loop, bringing in the rear for the 50 milers, on that late afternoon had turned into a serious survival training course: to finish is to live.  There was Pat, a seasoned rider, Paula, a fellow Floridian, Barney, from Georgia, and myself.  We had joined up with one another and stayed together after riding close to 3 miles into the loop.  Things were going OK, the trail was very narrow and choppy, constantly going up and down (not another friggen HILL!!!).
And, then it hit.  Slowly at first, but increased to such a degree and so quickly, the four of us found ourselves in nothing less than a complete downpour.  The clouds above us had split wide open and, in a matter of minutes, we were completely soaked.  The chopped up trail turned into some serious mud bogs, the climbs and descents quadrupled in danger.  The ride transformed from one that was a vigorous challenge to one of survival; for you and your horse.  And the water, it began to flow downward, going against you and your horse when climbing, and with you, as if traveling downriver in a raging current, while descending.  Welcome to Vietnam: the monsoon season had just begun.
At that very moment I recalled a conversation, earlier in the week, while listening to Abbie and Deb, from nearby Boone, talking about this year's local weather.  Abbie said they had gotten so much rain weeks prior to the ride, that if it were to happen the week of the ride she would have to cancel.  Deb, without hesitation, had agreed.  At the time I thought the two women might have been exaggerating, things couldn't become that bad that quickly 
just because of a little rain. 
Well, here I was with three other riders, witnessing exactly what does happen when the clouds open up above the Leatherwood trails and I can tell you the two women were right on.  And, there we were, half way into the loop, with no choice but to press on.  Going back would be just as bad as continuing.  If someone is going to die today, it might as well be while traveling in the right direction.  
The jacket I had on was not a great one for this type of weather but it did have a hood which fit, barely, over the top of my helmet.  My glasses were fogged and soaked.  I could feel the water swimming between my toes with boots filled to the brim.  When I dismounted I found it even more dangerous to travel on foot ahead of my horse.  I looked around and noticed the other riders were not faring any better.  My paradise, the land I had come to love had suddenly transformed into a slippery sloped, raging deluge that brings home the notion of one's own mortality.  I looked up at the sky, rain pouring into my face, and defiantly screamed out, "Is this the best you can do?"
On and on we trekked, up, and down, up and down.  I started wondering how many climbs my horse had left in him; I knew I couldn't handle many more.  Where is that sign?  The one indicating this is the last hill we must climb today.  I heard Paula, saying something aloud, up ahead.  One of the nicest, most pleasant endurance riders you'd ever meet, there she was, soaked to the bone, traveling on foot with her horse behind her, walking through mud up above her ankles, and she was talking to herself as if she had completely lost her mind.  As I focused on her words, I realized that Paula, just a lovely woman to be around under normal circumstances, was out here cursing like a Sailor!
The four of us continued on.  None of us even considered stopping and waiting.  I think this was because of a fear that it could actually get worse before it got better.  Or, the strong desire to get out of this situation as soon as we possibly could.  I do recall thinking of how pleasant it would be to get out of these wet clothes and dry off, sitting inside my warm and toasty Sub, wearing a clean, dry bathrobe, with a cold Bud in my hand.  This image, and it might not be a pleasant one for some, urged me on through the mud, the slop, the pouring rain, and up another hill.  This has got to be the last damn hill!