ridecamp@endurance.net: [endurance] [Story]Elk Valley 50, "The Crew"

[endurance] [Story]Elk Valley 50, "The Crew"

Diane E. Nelson (nelsonde@ttown.apci.com)
Mon, 15 Jul 1996 10:52:05 -0400 (EDT)

We opted to do the long pull up Seven Mountains instead of I80 all the
way from Hazleton this time, mostly 'cause I wanted to pass by the
Scheetz where the best MTO hoagies in the world are made! "The Red
Baron" roared up the mountain at 55, not a hiccup, not a pause. The 30+
miles into Elk Valley runs through some of the best scenery Western PA
has to offer, narrow valleys ringed by steep sided mountains, twisty,
winding road....a town precisely every 4 miles with a charming white
church and well-tended cemetary. All company towns from the
mining/logging days but lovingly maintained.

We pulled into the Zanot's drive, me very tentative as I gawked at the
sharp turn into the field through what seemed like an impossibly narrow
opening. Gene Zanot immediately came over to give me advice and
support--and yes, it was a full 14 ft wide but I took it at a diagonal to

If you haven't had the opportunity to partake of the incomparable Western
PA hospitality, you really should try to do so! The Zanots went out of
their way to make the entire competition first class. The location is in
a drop-dead gorgeous spot, mountains towering all around, a lovely stream
at the base--not the fire-engine red of so many of the Western PA
streams, but crystal clear.

We set up camp and tack shop in good order, took Odie for a toodle to
visit and "take care of business". The weather was warmer than
expected--in fact we had been tentative about coming since Hurricane
Bertha was roaring up the coast and a front was supposed to move in from
the west, leaving that area in a dreadful squeeze between competing storm
systems--we packed for wet! But instead we had a beautiful, sunny
afternoon to enjoy visiting with all the new arrivals.

Pit crewing on this ride is a no-brainer. Four loops, all back to base
camp. We set up near the stream with shade trees all around, plenty of
grass for the horses. Miss B is a challenge to handle--she is relatively
inexperienced (in fact this was only her 2nd 50, the first time with
Kevin aboard) and very nervous, requiring a calm, steady atmosphere and
lots of positive reinforcement. And of course she came into full
standing heat! I lugged all the buckets, a saddle rack, chairs, plastic
boxes filled with do-dads & shoes, food & drinks, enough electrolyte and
Pro-Bi to sink a ship...and still had more to do the next morning!

Kevin isn't bad to crew for...and I have the benefit of knowing what to
anticipate he'll need at each vet check. I came armed with a selection
of chocolate pudding, tuna salad made from "Suddenly Salad-Caesar
variety", and Mr. Purdue's chicken tenders marinated in Italian
seasoning, applesauce and at least 4 varieties of gatorade. Yumm! Of
course, Kevin didn't really eat all that much...but I sure enjoyed myself!

Ride day dawned cool and cloudy--perfect weather. We got Kevin mounted
without needing 2 people to hold Her Ladyship this time and she settled
into a nice warmup. 40+ riders took off for the day's adventure leaving
the crews to kibbutz and prepare for the first onslaught in 1.5 hours.
Odie got one of his many trips to the stream to wade and chase sticks,
visiting with all the ladies who fussed over him.

The first riders roared in as expected, making super good time
considering the mountain they had to climb within the first 2 miles!
Kevin was only 15 minutes off the pace at this point. Miss B came in
very fresh, still raring to go but her pulse dropped nicely and I didn't
need that much water to cool her down. We let her nibble grass but she
wasn't really interested in her bran mash or carrots--typical at this
point. All the holds were 40 minutes--a really good time frame to allow
the riders and horses a chance to rest and see if any problems are

Miss B handled the mountains extremely well--we knew she was
underconditioned for this sort of ride so Kevin tailed up the second
mountain--a hogback ideal for tailing. Miss B has tremendous thrust from
behind that makes climbing easy for her. The second loop was uneventful
but the third took a little bit more out of her--I could tell from a
slightly irregular heartbeat and it was no surprise when the CRI spiked
from 11 to 16. We took her back to the shade and spent 15 minutes
cooling her off and encouraging her to eat. We also upped the amount of
Pro-Bi to 30cc mixed with EnduraLyte, even administered a separate dose
of 20cc just before she went back to the vet--passed but the vet
cautioned Kevin to take it easy.

I tried a new technique for cooling--our water was lukewarm (direct from
the stream) so I sponged, then whisked the water away, sponge, whisk in a
smooth 2-step motion. The advantage is that the water never heats up
sitting on the horse, you always have a constant stream of cool water to
do the heat transfer.

I can't say enough good things about Pro-Bi. It has made a real
difference in how Miss B handles competitions. This time her gut sounds
were all A's, all day!

She & Kevin came in at 8hr, 48min--just right. Miss B finished with A-
overall. She was a tired puppy but still had spring in her stride and a
willing attitude. I suspect being in heat was not in her favor but it
never presented a "management" problem.

We decided to leave after a rest period--rain was on the way & I'm still
paranoid about not having 4WD. This time we took I80 most of the way
home--Kevin snoozed while I mentally wrote nastygrams to PENNDOT about
the wretched state of our PA highways. Got back after midnight and Miss
B hopped off the trailer so fresh and eager I could hardly believe my eyes!

Even the next day she was totally sound, not muscle sore at all! What a gal!

Kevin did a lot of this ride on foot -- but even he was in good
shape the next day (ah, youth).

I'd heartily recommend to anyone to put this ride on their calendar for
next year...I know I will (it will be "my turn").

Diane @ Safe Haven