This past weekend I was at the Run for the Ridge endurance ride at Fort Ridgely State Park in southwestern Minnesota. I wasn't riding and didn't have a horse with me; I was filling in at the last minute for a vet who couldn't make it. This scenario is bound to make me a little grumpy, as I much prefer to ride than to vet, but it turned out to be a very interesting weekend for me. This ride offered a 100 mile ride and was the first time I'd really been involved in a 100 in any capacity. Four riders ended up starting the 100 at 5:15 am Saturday (in the rain and pitch dark), and watching them, their horses, & their crew throughout the day & night to follow encouraged me to consider making my vague notion of doing a 100 someday a real, honest-to-goodness goal.
I was impressed with the riders' and crews' cheerfulness throughout the hours, as the dark & wet predawn turned into a soggy morning, then a lovely afternoon, and finally into a clear, cold, and moonlit night. They took the adversity of iffy trail conditions, many miles of boring gravel road, and missed turns in stride, somehow making it seem like fun. I never heard a word of complaint from any of them! The horses just kept on trotting, clearly well prepared for the job at hand.
Throughout the long cold hours after the rest of ridecamp was snug in their beds, several people opted to keep me company waiting for the last riders to return, and shared their own stories, advice, and encouragement of their 100 mile rides in the past, how to condition & prepare for them, how to choose a "good" first 100, etc. The last two riders emerged from the dark at 2 am, on their ghostly grey horses faintly luminescent in the moonlight, and, although relieved to be done, were still cheerful and appreciative of our efforts in camp to allow them the privilege of 100+ miles (plus due to a few instances when they got off course) over 21 hours.
I was really impressed. I want to do a 100 someday.
And now I need another nap!