Friday, January 30, 2009

In Memory

I didn’t even suspect that Tevis 2007 would be my next to last completion with Sinatra. We had been battling squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer, on Sinatra’s left upper lip/nose area for the past few years. That summer, the cancer was very much in remission and was nearly gone entirely. Unfortunately, in the Fall it came back with a vengeance. After numerous trips to several local vet clinics, and a trip down to UC Davis for a consult with the equine oncologist, the very hard decision to retire Sinatra to a life of leisure, food and fun out to pasture with a herd of other horses was made. Sinatra enjoyed 4 months of living in horsey paradise before having to be euthanized due to his cancer in December 2008.

I find it fitting that our very last ride together, was also our very first - The Rides of March here in Reno, Nevada. Also, they have now moved to a new ridecamp location, and Sinatra's ashes are scattered among the hills overlooking the new trail. From our very first 30-mile limited distance ride in March 2003, to our last 50-mile completion in March 2008, Sinatra was my partner and friend. He could be a total pain in the butt (heck, be bucked me off on BOTH of those rides), but he could also be my steady-eddy trustworthy trail partner. I'm very blessed with some of the precious memories he left me with:
  • The faces he would make when I would scratch in all the right spots. I think he could stick his upper lip out 4" and roll his eyes clear back in his head. How I couldn't ever clean his corral without him "accidentally" backing up and WHOOPS! putting his butt right in my way to be scratched.
  • An early morning start at the Tour de Washoo ride, where a coyote stood on a rock at eye-level with me not 50 feet from the trail and watched us trot by.
  • Power trotting the California Loop at Tevis after 80 hard miles - so strong and sure in the lead, his dark coat gleaming in the moonlight.
  • The time he went down on his knees unexpectedly, with me mounted, to get a drink out of a puddle that was in a deep depression, and forgot to LIFT his head to compensate and scuba dived clear up to his eye balls in mud. He blew mud balls out his nose for hours! I laughed so hard I nearly fell off.
  • Having to stand in my stirrups to slow him down coming into camp on our first 100, I was so awed by him that day/night.
  • Being asked to have Sinatra sponsor other horse's through a ride, many times! He had "steady chug" down to a science.
  • Winning the Hairiest Horse Award at our Spring local schooling show... by a LONG shot!
  • How he would go off the trail and plow over the top of taller bushes to scratch his belly and legs when he was sweaty. And how at Sunriver he did it with a small pine TREE and was grunting and groaning with pleasure while rocking back and forth, branches sticking out every which way, me on top. All 3 of us girls riding were laughing so hard, I was in tears.
  • Our quiet moments together in the evenings
  • His expectant face - waiting for something to eat - everytime I got in my trailer at a ridecamp, and how he wasn't often disappointed.
Good bye my buddy – on your back was accomplished the dream of a lifetime. You will always be in my heart. I miss you... so much!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Tevis 2007

When I was about 7 years old, I was taking lessons and learning how to ride horses from a wonderful lady by the name of Terryl Reed in the Auburn, California area. Terryl told me about this 100-mile trail ride, that both she and her brother had completed, where you got to ride all day and all night through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. And you got a belt buckle just for finishing the ride. I remember being awestruck and totally inspired, thinking about HOW COOL that would be!

Fast forward to last year (2006), I had been competing (well, COMPLETING anyways) in the sport of Endurance for 4 years and had finished my first 100-mile ride at Sunriver, Oregon in June. I found myself entered in my first Western States 100-Mile Ride, better known at the Tevis. Last year was a big learning curve for us, and I eventually found myself 4 minutes overtime at the Michigan Bluff vet check with a horse that was done for the day (go here for complete ride story):

This year, was truly just MAGICAL. Fate was on my side from the very beginning. At the AERC Convention in February, I had purchased a bunch of raffle tickets and had put about half of them into the National Awards drawing, hoping fervently to win the single Tevis Entry that the Western States Trail Foundation had generously donated. My mom and I had gone out to lunch, and at lunch I had stated how much I hoped to win the entry, my mom stated how much she hoped NOT to have won the entry, since it is non-transferable and she didn’t feel up to riding that trail yet. Words cannot express my utter shock, amazement, and pure joy that I felt when we came back from lunch and went by the raffle booth to find MY NAME as the winner of the Tevis Entry! I was totally speechless, just making some strange noises and pointing, until much squealing ensued. I had a huge smile on my face and was walking on clouds for the rest of the day, heck, the rest of the MONTH.

I really feel that I did everything “right” this year in order to be my most successful at the ride. A big thank you to my friend Lucy Trumbull who met me in Foresthill and did several pre-rides with me. In April we rode from Foresthill to Deadwood and back, and in June we rode from Robinson’s Flat to Foresthill. Having this knowledge of the canyons and this critical section of trail was *invaluable* for helping me to plan our pacing for ride day. The other thing that was PRICELESS was attending the 2-day Educational Ride hosted by the WSTF at the end of June. At this ride I went with the faster group, led by WSTF President Tom Christof, and it allowed me to experience the trail at a faster pace and to push both Sinatra’s and my current conditioning up a notch. It also allowed me to realize that I “can” trot this or that section if I wanted or needed to on ride day. As things worked out, we did RF to FH with Lucy in mid-June (16th) and then two weeks later rode that same portion and then the final 32 miles of FH to Auburn the next day. Sinatra did great both days, in fact was feeling a little TOO good on Day 2. This combined with the other training we had done this year, including the Patriot’s Day 100, left me feeling that he was fit and ready for the ride. Fate was on hand again when I changed my desk calendar to the month of July – the title for the month was “ENDURANCE – Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened.” – Helen Keller

The week before the ride was pure chaos it seemed with finals at school (Summer Semester) and month-end close at work and I ended up scrambling around and trying to get the last of the stuff together on Friday morning, feeling way too stressed about all this packing and ready to just throw the horse in the trailer and say to hell with the rest of it. I ended up leaving Reno about noon, about two hours later than I had wanted to but at least we were on our way. My mom, sister, and husband would be crewing for me and Lucy would also be on hand to lend assistance when necessary and help to drive the small flotilla of rigs that I ended up with (don’t ask).

Finally arrived and got settled in up at Robie Park. Went to the new rider briefing, nothing unexpected, they talked about pacing and the change on the Michigan Bluff stop to a new vet check down the road, but it was nice to just have my thoughts reinforced and to know that there were no changes or surprises to the game plan I had in place. Got Sinatra vetted in, we were number 181 (which my mom pointed out, 1+8+1 = 10 = 1+0 = 1 = first buckle).

Vetting in at Robie Park:

We went to the main rider’s meeting, and then returned to have dinner and go over some last minute stuff before finally going to sleep. I did not really sleep well, the neighbor’s horse somewhere was neighing, I could hear hoof beats from some horse walking around for a while, then about 1:30 am I heard this really loud crashing through the brush and trees in our camp. I got up to check to make sure Sinatra was still tied where he belonged, he was and was just kind of standing there looking around. I stroked him gently and told him to go to sleep (something I was still fighting with). We found out in the morning that the loud crashing was a BEAR who came and stole the 20 pounds of carrots that I had left sitting right next to the tongue of the horse trailer. Luckily I already had carrots in my saddle and crew box so we were able to make due.

The alarm went off at 4 am and I remember wishing for another hour, since I had just finally started to actually sleep about an hour or so earlier. I got up and started my day. Found out I had forgotten my lantern so saddled and put on EZ boots by the glow of my headlamp. Sinatra was kind of wound up and didn’t want to hold still. Not normal for him but I lunged him for a couple of minutes when we were all tacked up and he settled right down. Last year they had let Pen 3 out at 5 am to walk down to the start, so I planned on being there at 5 since going around in circles with a ton of other horses made Sinatra kind of anxious last year. Instead we got there at 4:56 and they were all already gone! Yikes! Thoughts of how I just totally blew it, that was it, my Tevis was over, ruined, and how I was never going to be able to pass everyone and make time were blasting through my head as I asked Sinatra to trot down the dark road to the start. Thankfully we caught up to the group as they were still walking down the road and gently wove our way at a slow jog up toward the front of the group. We all ended up standing on the road anyways for about 5 minutes, waiting for the official start so I was able to relax and breathe again. I found Cynthia LeDoux-Bloom in the dark and Cosmo and Sinatra stood by each other as we waited. Thankfully Sinatra was very calm and relaxed. Cosmo was pawing occasionally and the lady in front of us was having to do some evasive maneuvers and was doing circles with her mount.

Soon we were off and the yo-yo effect of all the horses in front of us was in full force, trot, stop, walk, trot, stop, etc. down the road and past the two ditches that caused such a problem last year. I breathed a sigh of relief as we cruised over both of them. As the sun started to rise, I realized I had forgotten to put on my glasses in the dark! They were in my truck, which thankfully would be at Robinson’s Flat, so I just had to make it through the most technical part of the trail without my glasses on. =) Thankfully I’m not totally blind and was able to manage okay. We worked our way down to the Hwy 89 crossing, I passed Dave Rabe and Connie Creech, both multiple time finishers and fellow NV riders, and vowed to myself to either stay WITH them or in front of them today. If anyone could pace through this ride, it was Connie or Dave.

Right before the Hwy 89 crossing, a nice lady Sharon on her horse Skylar tucked in behind me. When we were on the single-track leading into Squaw Valley, a guy trotted past - off the trail in the brush – on our left. Skylar did NOT like that and started jumping around and being very upset. I had a horse with a ton of red ribbons on it’s tail in front of me and a horse jumping around freaking out behind me and I just tried to keep Sinatra calm and prayed that he would not lose it as well (this has been a big issue with him in the past). Sinatra did SO GOOD and took the entire hubbub very well; even when poor Sharon got dumped and Skylar took off up the trail. It was unfortunate that someone passing in a not safe area caused this wreck. I don’t even think the guy knew he was the cause though, since Sharon rode it out for so long before her horse just exploded. I yelled “Rider Down! Loose Horse!” and checked on Sharon, she said she was fine and was starting to get up and move around so I continued down the trail as the horses in front of me started to move off. This was crowded single-track with a ton of people behind me so there wasn’t much else I could do. I told her to just keep walking and someone would catch her horse. Soon we all stopped again and then we passed Skylar, tied to a tree off the trail.

The going was much easier the rest of the way into Squaw High Camp. I chatted briefly with Kathy Sherman and her daughter Tara, Ranelle Rubin came by and sang the Tevis song for me, which promptly got stuck in my head but I only remember about half the words (I need to get the rest of that song from you!), I introduced myself to Dean Moon, a gaited horse friend of my mom’s, I said “Hi” to Pamela Swartz and her mare JAC Chico’s Fortune, who we rode our first 100 with last year (it was their first 100 too). She went on finish in 18th place, so it shows that it doesn’t really matter where you start. Sinatra drank well at High Camp and we trotted out of there with me eating a granola bar in one hand, drinking this FABULOUS elyte drink (Succeed Clip2) in the other and the reins on Sinatra’s neck, which got a few chuckles. =) We were both relaxed and settled in for the day.

Trotting up to Squaw:

Cowman wasn’t up at Watson’s Monument this year so Sinatra cruised right on by and we started down into the wilderness. It was much nicer this year, as we were in smaller groups so the dust wasn’t as bad as last year. The trail was in much better shape also, the WSTF had spent a lot of time up there last fall and it showed. There were still the deep bogs in a few spots and some boulders and such, but overall much safer and much nicer than last year. I think I really enjoyed this section more because although it was still quite dusty, I wasn’t in the back of a big group so I could actually SEE what we were going through most of the time. The wilderness section went by quickly and soon we were trotting into Lyon Ridge. Sinatra tripped and pulled off an EZ boot right by the “One-Mile to Vet Check” sign, I stopped, got off and went back but couldn’t find it so continued on with just the one boot on. He was fine for his trot by, no issues even though he only had one boot, so at the LR stop I hopped off, gave him some grain I had in my cantle pack, put another boot on, went to the bathroom (Sinatra did too), got a quick bite to eat and some cold water from the volunteers, and then we left off toward Cougar Rock - total time, only 10 minutes.

Last year, Cougar Rock was a non-issue for Sinatra and I, he just climbed right up and over like it was no big deal. Not so much this year. To me, Cougar Rock it is a part of the history of the ride and to ascend the rock is to honor the foundations of the ride. I had to wait at the bottom for the rider in front of me to go up. Sinatra and I headed up, and right when we got to the point where you have to make the right hand turn and go up the ledge, some horses went by on the bypass trail. Sinatra started to turn and go over that way (not cool) so I was trying to keep him pointed in the right direction and urging him forward. Then, since I wasn't allowing him to turn, he decided to BACK UP off of Cougar Rock! He ended up by spinning around and I was literally *hanging* off his right side. I had my heel hooked over his neck by his withers, my right hand still on the reins and his first two braids (closest to his ears) in my left hand. He stopped and I was able to slither off onto my feet. I got back on and THEN we went up and did it correctly. =) This video doesn’t show the acrobatics on my part, the guy told me he missed it because when Sinatra turned around he started looking for a place to hide; we’re about 5:15 or so into this:

Going successfully over Cougar Rock:

So after my adrenaline rush, we cruised on in to Red Star Ridge. We just kept going with the steady forward motion. Trot where you can, walk where you have to. Last year this was kind of a low point for Sinatra, he really wanted to just take a break here. This year he was doing much better. This is a “hard” check for him though, he’s normally pretty hot and since there is limited shade and water, takes longer than normal to pulse down. I had a super nice volunteer all to myself here and he helped me to sponge, sponge, sponge, to cool Sinatra while I let him eat (if I can get him to 68 eating, he’ll be 60 for the vets no problems). After about 5 or 6 minutes I took him over to get vetted through. When I walked him over to the vet line, it was in the sun and his pulse went up to 68 again for a couple of minutes so I poured some more water on him in line until it was our turn. He vetted through fine (52) and then we left out on my least favorite section of trail, the hard packed gravely road to Robinson’s Flat. We alternated walking and trotting, talked a bit with Rebecca on a mustang, whom we would see later in the day, and were happy to finally arrive at Robinson’s Flat at 11:07 am, 6 minutes ahead of schedule.

My husband was waiting for me out on the road and soon my mom joined us with a bucket of water. We offered it to Sinatra to drink but he declined so we started sponging him with the water. A quick stop at our crew area to strip tack, sponge Sinatra quickly all over, and wipe my face off with a wet towel and we walked over to the vet area. Last year there was a hose hooked up near the pulse box, but this year I didn’t see it so sponged his neck quickly with some water that was there, took his pulse by hand and walked him into the P&R box. He was down and we went to stand in the long line to see the vets. My mom and Lucy brought me a bucket of water and a mash for Sinatra. He still didn’t want to drink (he had tanked up at Red Star and will tend to drink a lot at one and then pass on the next water) but greedily devoured his mash and glared at all the other horses around him to make sure they knew who it belonged to. All the pictures I have of him in line he has his ears back making ugly faces. He did share some with Cressy Drumond’s horse Legs, but only after Legs let Sinatra have some of his alfalfa cubes. The line moved slowly but eventually we got the see the vets and Sinatra was cleared to go. He got mostly A’s but with a B on impulsion since he really just doesn’t see the point in doing trot-outs. He’ll come along eventually but doesn’t see the need to look all perky and put his tail up, he’s conserving energy. =)

We got back to our crew area and I sat down and tried to eat something. I was feeling good but just couldn’t get the food to go down (normal). I changed my shirt and cleaned up some more, drank some juice, and took a Gu. AJ and Lucy took turns giving Sinatra a massage while he ate hay. Soon it was time to saddle up for our exit CRI. I got so see my friend Leslie and her mom Lynda (our two mom’s are friends and are both Lynda with a “y”). Her sister ended up finishing in 9th PLACE on another of the JAC horses. Things were a little wonky for the exit CRI as one volunteer was trying to enforce the “no pulse until 3 minutes before your out time” and the people taking the pulses would just kind of do it whenever. We got to the front of the line and Sinatra was at 42 (yay!) and pulsed in the same after his trot out. The ladies doing pulses at the other end commented on how LOUD his heart was, in fact the one lady started to listen and then called the other over, “You have to hear this one.” I was beaming like a proud mama. =) I got to the out time one minute before my official out time so mounted back up, relaxed for a teeny bit more, and left promptly on time. Lucy pointed out Sarah who was riding Yahoo, Yahoo was a two time Tevis finisher, having taken Sarah’s dad and mom successfully through the ride in previous years. She told me to stay with Yahoo, but we ended up passing them and staying ahead until just before Michigan Bluff.

Getting ready to leave Robinson’s Flat:

Leaving Robinson Flat was great. Sinatra was moving freely and knew exactly where he was, what was ahead, and what he needed to do. I had left my bridle at RF and opted to ride the rest of the way in his rope halter so he could eat more quickly at the vet checks. We’ve done that lots of times and he had been being such a good boy all day I had no second thoughts about it. Thanks to my wonderful crew who remembered to bring my rope halter, since I had started with my biothane combo! We went up toward Little Bald Mtn and soon started down the switchbacks on the back side. There was a little traffic along here and I caught myself getting anxious but told myself to just calm down, things would work out. Once we got off the single track and onto the rough dirt road, Daniela Mielke caught up to us. Her horse and Sinatra paced well together and we took turns leading as we mostly trotted our way into Dusty Corners. We both kept expecting to see it “around the corner” so were happy when we finally made it in. That is a LONG HOT stretch, mostly in the sun, with no water since having left RF. Sinatra was VERY thirsty and started drinking out of the first available trough, which was shallow, brown, and somewhat warm since it was supposed to be for sponging.

Both horses tanked up with water and Daniela and I left pretty quickly to go ride MY ABSOLUTE VERY FAVORITE PART OF THE ENTIRE TRAIL, the section from Dusty Corners to Last Chance, including Pucker Point. Gosh I just love, love, love this section. The footing is fabulous, it’s mostly flat, you’re in the shade for the majority of it, it’s beautiful, green, lush, and scenic. Oh! That is the BEST part!!! I look forward to that section each time I get to ride it! =) Pucker Point is not bad at all, just a chance to make your heart flutter a bit and to check out some of the best views along the entire ride. That pool down in the river thousands of feet below looked so cool and inviting! Sinatra had lost another Easyboot (new style again, I never lose the old style) so Daniela had kindly waited for me to put another one on and Connie Creech and her friend Hiromi from Japan caught up to us along this part. Unfortunately Dave Rabe had been pulled at RF. Daniela and I continued on into Last Chance together, arriving at 2:20 pm, 5 minutes ahead of my schedule.

Arriving at Last Chance (look at that STRIDE!):

The volunteers are just wonderful at this ride, but they really just get better and better the farther you go. At Last Chance, I got handed a nice cool drink and some Succeed electrolyte caps, which I promptly took since I hadn’t been taking the ones I had with me. I took another Gu and had some cool melon. Sinatra had a good drink, got sponged, and then ate hay while we stood in line for the vet. A volunteer resoaked my Cool Medics vest (all the little gel things had come out in the wash so it would dry out fast) and filled my water bottles for me. We had to stand in line for 10 minutes (I was watching the time) to see the vets here but Sinatra was able to eat hay the entire time so it was both a blessing and a curse. After last year’s overtime pull, I felt a very strong urge to just keep moving on this entire section so tried not to let myself get stressed out about having to wait. There was nothing I could do about it, so I tried to take that time to relax and take inventory on how things were going for Sinatra and me. We were both doing well but I knew I needed to eat more, watermelon and Gu may get me to Foresthill, but not much further.

I lost Daniela at the vet check somewhere and Sinatra and I headed out on our own, ready to meet our next set of trail buddies as we tackled the canyons. We headed down into the first canyon, the shorter but steeper of the two big ones. I knew from the Educational Ride that if I got off to run down, I would not have the strength and stamina to tail up. And I knew from last year and pre-riding with Lucy that Sinatra would benefit more from my tailing up than from my leading him down. So he and I worked our way down the switchbacks. We would trot everywhere we could, which included the first 10 – 20 feet of each switchback and anything that wasn’t too steep, too rocky, or too rooted. That’s actually about ½ the way down the canyon. We caught up to a group right before Swinging Bridge and two ladies and I elected to go across the bridge to the creek on the other side than to go down to the river, hoping to get ahead of the crowd on the way up to Devil’s Thumb.

This didn’t work out very well, since there were riders at the creek when we got there and they were blocking the trail so we had to wait our turn. Then as we were watering and cooling our horses, the riders who had gone down to the river tried to squeeze past us on the trail so they could start their climb. It all worked out but it would have probably been easier to go down to the river when there are that many people. Sinatra and I started our ascent up to Devil’s Thumb, I had decided to ride him up at a walk until he stopped and then tail the rest of the way up from there. Crystal Costa and her junior, Allie Smart, were with me as well as Connie and Hiromi. Connie was in front and maybe about 1/3rd of the way up, her mare Shardonney decided it was time for the riders to get off and walk. Crystal and Allie continued on but Connie, Hiromi and I all got off to tail. After a few switchbacks, we put Sinatra in the front since I could tail him and Shardonney was being stubborn and wanted Connie to lead her. We climbed and climbed and I concentrated on watching my footing and drinking regularly. It was pretty hot and my vest had mostly dried out again. I’m pretty disappointed in my Cool Medics Vest, I’ve only used it 5 times and had washed it only 2 times (after Tevis last year and after the 2-day ride) and all the cooling beads are gone. What a waste of money that was. =( Sinatra was doing a good job of just steadily climbing up the canyon. Eventually, my lungs couldn’t take anymore so I got back on. Hiromi decided to wait for Connie, so Sinatra and I rode the rest of the way up to Devil’s Thumb. We were both hot and tired and happy to be at the top when we arrived at 3:55, 10 minutes ahead of schedule.

Last year I spent a lot of time at the Thumb getting Sinatra cool and letting him eat. This year we stayed long enough to fill bottles, both get a good drink and soaking down, and then pushed on down the road to the vet check at Deadwood. We arrived at Deadwood at 4:05, 15 minutes ahead of schedule. Kevin Myers having to back his horse Czar out of the check, waving goodbye to the crowd, as we arrived. I think a few riders had trouble getting their horses to leave the oasis of the vet check at this stop. =) I got Sinatra cooled down and pulsed in and then let him eat for about 5 minutes. He was feeling pretty fatigued at this point, but I was expecting that. He was still very gamely forward down the trail, just getting hot and ready for a break. I took him over to the vet and he vetted through but the lady vet commented on how he was looking a little tired. I told her I planned on resting here for a while and took him back over to the mash. My friend Dana was here, she’s a sweep rider for the SOS group, so it was nice to visit for a bit. Sinatra’s right eye was VERY swollen, it was almost swelled shut! We wondered if he had been stung by one of the numerous bees around but I could not find a stinger in or near his eye. I rubbed his eye gently, looking for something, anything, and he took a little power nap for about 10 minutes. Once he woke up and started to eat again, I let him eat for a few more minutes and then decided to head on down the trail.

We left about the same time as Crystal and Allie and all headed down to the second big canyon together. They were trotting faster so it was Dave Putnam and I that started the descent together. Dave was going to get off and run. He asked if I would stay behind, so it would be less dust for him on foot and I told him we’d try it. Pretty soon I asked to pass though as Sinatra is a pretty good downhill horse and we were able to trot faster than Dave was running. I actually got to descend this entire canyon by myself. It was great and SO MUCH better than last year, when we were in a big hurried group, stressing and rushing the whole way. Today it was just steady, trot where you can, walk the rest. Just keep moving forward. So that’s what we did. I thought a lot about other people and horses along this section. The riders from last year, those that were pulled, those that went on to complete, Nicole Weir and her tragically lost horse Rebel, Cliff Lewis and Kaput, who has a spring named after him, Flying Willy and Don Bowen, my pre-rides with Lucy and Roo and our comments about “soft eyes” as whoever was in the back would try to NOT watch the front horse’s feet go sliding off the side every now and then. =) Sinatra felt strong and steady under me. Every now and then we would get a hot dry blast of heat, like being in a pottery kiln, but thankfully it was only in “pockets” and overall wasn’t too bad. My attitude toward the heat was probably mostly a state of mind and the fact that I had been “heat training” by riding in the heat and not using the A/C in my car all summer.

We crossed the bridge at the bottom and said “Hi and thank you” to the lone volunteer down there. I asked if he needed my number but he replied in the negative, just there in case he was needed. Sinatra and I started up to Michigan Bluff and it wasn’t very long before he stopped and looked back, “Okay Mom, time to get off and tail” so I obliged him. We had a little debate about the correct way to go at one of the intersections, I had to jog and get in front of him to get him on the UPHILL trail, he had chosen the easier but incorrect downhill one, and pretty soon Dave caught back up to us, he was still off and was tailing up as well. I stayed off for as long as I could take it and then got back on. I knew if I wore myself out entirely then I would be a hindrance in my riding for the rest of the night. I knew from riding with Lucy that we could walk the entire way up the canyon and make it to MB in an hour. That was comforting knowledge to have so I stayed back with Dave as a few riders passed us, including Sarah on Yahoo. Pretty soon, Cressy and Legs caught up to us as well and we all came into MB together. My crew was waiting there and it was good to see everyone. Sinatra drank thirstily at the troughs and my husband noticed his flank was quivering. I gave him a dose of elytes while my crew sponged him. Lucy stole a handful of hay from another crew and he ate that quickly and then we left. I didn’t want him standing long after that big climb and the subsequent quivering in case he decided to cramp. He actually moved out great leaving MB, and chose to trot a fair amount of the road into the new vet check at Chicken Hawk/Volcano Road. I was relieved to be through MB, the spot where we were pulled last year and to be on my way.

Leaving Michigan Bluff:

Crockett Dumas and Melissa on the mustang caught up to us on the way into the Chicken Hawk vet check and we all came in together. Sinatra started slurping up the mash they had on hand and I let him eat for a bit while we were in line for the vets. Terry Reed was there so I got to chat with her. It was so cool to be out here, living my dream! =) Sinatra vetted through well, the same vet that was a Deadwood saw us here (how do they do that??) and she commented that he looked better. It was starting to cool off and I bet poor Sinatra thought we were nearly done, having normally finished his rides in Foresthill. =) Cressy and I ended up leaving the check at the same time and rode through the last canyon into Foresthill together. I met Cressy at the Educational Ride, she is from New Mexico but we have several mutual friends in Texas and both talked to the same newbie at the Ed. Ride that was interested in getting started in the sport. He was a really nice guy that was so excited about doing all of this. Cressy and I answered many countless questions and then Cressy told me she saw him at the Gold Country ride where he completed his first 30! I was very happy for him, I love that passion new riders have because I still feel that same way.

When Lucy asked me after the ride what my favorite part was, I told her Foresthill. It was so AWESOME, encouraging, special, magical, etc. to have all the people cheering you and your horse in to the check. AJ and my mom met me out on Bath Road and we quickly stripped the saddle and I led Sinatra up the road amongst clapping, cheers, and calls of “Go Sinatra!” or “Yay Sinatra!” It’s pretty fun having a horse with his own fan club. =) I had people cheering for us by name that I didn’t even really know or recognize, and the In Timer at Foresthill made me smile when she said “Oh good you’re here! I just love your horse!” We arrived at FH at 7:45, about 15 minutes behind my schedule but still doing well and I was not concerned with the time. I walked him right in and he was pulsed down. He was still very warm though, you could feel the heat coming off him so we spent a few minutes sponging him until he was much cooler to the touch and letting him eat before I took him over to be vetted. I was concerned that he would try to roll on the nice sand they put in for the trot-out area, he did that at the Ed. Ride, but he resisted temptation. One of the vets who does a lot of our local rides, Dr. Rob Lydon, checked Sinatra out here. In fact Dr. Lydon was the head vet for my ride, the Nevada Moonshine Night Ride, this year. I just feel much “better” having a vet who has seen my horse before in several rides looking at him. It’s kind of a comforting thing I guess and it’s always nice to see a familiar face.

Sinatra looking hot and tired at Foresthill:

We went over to my mom’s RV and I took a shower and changed my clothes while my sister cooked a skillet dinner (pasta with chicken). I had to wash down the walls in the shower when I was done because there was a brown layer everywhere I had touched. Even after the quick shower, the towel was dirty when I dried myself off. The dirt just gets into your pores and I think under your skin at this ride. Feeling more refreshed I grabbed a plate of food and then went out and sat next to Sinatra while my sister and Lucy got my glowbars put on my breastcollar and AJ massaged Sinatra. My mom took care of all the rider stuff, filling bottles and checking on food and encouraging me to sit and eat. Dinner was fabulous and I ate quite a bit, I had been STARVING since Deadwood, but no trail snacks had appealed to me. All too soon it was time to saddle up and head out. After some confusion as to where the out timer WAS, I was on my way, not having lost any time.

Wow! I was so excited to have made it this far! Once you are through Foresthill, your chances of finishing are something like 80%. My spirits were soaring as we were going through the town of Foresthill. It was still dusk, light enough to see but getting dark quickly. People were still out cheering the riders on, seeing the passing crews with their trailers was exciting, and I was still hearing an occasional call cheering us on by name. As we started down onto the actual trail off of California Street, I was happy to see Cressy in front of me. Legs and Sinatra seemed to get along well together so we made a pact to ride together from here on in, not leaving anyone alone in the dark. Cressy was in front for much of the first bit. She had glowbars on as well and it was nice being able to use the glow from Legs to see what was coming on the trail. We got down to Dardanelles Creek, Sinatra had jumped it BIG on the Ed. Ride but thankfully he only hopped across it tonight. Cressy and I had hit it off as well as our horses so we were enjoying talking, which really helps the time to pass. We had nice fresh strong horses, after a break and some food and the cooler temperatures, they were both feeling great. Both horses had done 100’s before and were doing very well. I love the night time part of a 100, it’s probably why 100’s are my favorite. It’s just awe-inspiring to feel your horse get so strong and forward after such a good long day on the trail. Sinatra seems to love the night too and will really pick up speed, often times going faster and stronger than he has all day.

After a little while, somewhere after Dardanelles but before Cal-1, we met up with another rider. She had gotten separated from the group she was with and so joined our little group. She introduced herself as Diane (Dalton was her last name). We all got to talking and after about 30 minutes she said something about how her son’s birthday was the week before the ride and I commented that my son’s birthday had been just before that (on the 19th) and suddenly I paused, “Are you Forest’s mom??” She started laughing “Are you Taren’s mom?” Yep, we were. =) Our sons had met at the High Desert 2-day ride last October and being only 4 days apart (both had just turned 5), they totally hit it off and were inseparable all weekend. In fact, Forest’s dad even got Taren riding on a 2-wheeler bike with no training wheels that weekend. The two boys have been great “ride buddies” since then when we happen to be at the same ride. She had done the Ed. Ride as well and that was the highlight of Taren’s weekend, was playing with Forest.

Lots of stories were told and histories shared and we all had a nice ride on the California Loop. Both Cressy and Diane were surprised how much of the trail I remembered (I had ridden this section 3 or 4 times now) and how I would be able to tell them when a specific part was coming up. I actually really enjoyed this section in the dark. The trail would glow faintly like a soft silver ribbon in front of us. Where there were less trees and the canyon walls weren’t so steep (many times the moon was behind the opposite side), we had bold shadows following our every step. We all took turns being in the lead and I ended up being in the front when we were on Cal-2 and came across a rider that was down (Roger Yohe we later found out). Two people were sitting quietly on the edge of the trail with glowbars, and they called out and asked us to slow down as we approached (we had been trotting this section, Sinatra quite speedily with me nagging at him to slow down). I could see another person down the hill with lights over a rider, and then we were past that spot and moved on. Crystal and Allie had caught back up to us at this point and we were all a little somber and quiet for the next few minutes. I said a quiet prayer and watched the moon glistening off the river below. I remembered last year driving back to the fairgrounds watching that moon, and how this year was so much better, to be out in the night air on a strong horse under it’s light. I love the color of Sinatra’s coat in the moonlight. I don’t know if it’s the tiredness, or the dehydration, or what but I always get very philosophical at night and just overwhelmed with thankfulness to be able to do these rides and participate in this magical sport.

Before too much longer we could see lights in the distance and knew Francisco’s was ahead. I had expected this to be the longest section of trail between checkpoints and that had proven true. It had taken us 4 hours to reach Francisco’s and we arrived at 12:42, 3 minutes ahead of my schedule. The plan was to take care of our immediate needs and then move on. The check wasn’t that crowded when we arrived and I put Sinatra in front of some food while I went over and grabbed a PB & Honey sandwich and had a volunteer help me find something “with caffeine and sugar.” We laughed as we dug through an entire cooler of Sprite and Caffeine-Free Diet Pepsi before I finally found a regular Pepsi. The volunteer opened it and gave me about ½ in a cup, they were trying to ration the remaining few. =) I thanked her, drank the soda and then took Sinatra over to be vetted. Dr. Lydon vetted us through with no issues. I went to the bathroom and then checked on Cressy and Diane. Cressy was good to go but Diane hadn’t vetted yet. I gave Sinatra some more elytes while Diane went to vet, but she decided to take some extra time and wait awhile before leaving, her horse QT was just not quite himself (unfortunately I saw later that she pulled here). The check has begun to get really crowded so Cressy and I said goodbye quickly and mounted up and left. It ended up we still spent almost 20 minutes there, I’m not sure how the time goes so quickly.

As we rode out of Francisco’s we took it slow and easy to let everyone get their night vision back. We were both very happy with how we were doing on time and how the horses were doing as well. I took another Gu as I was feeling a little “funny” but not something I couldn’t just concentrate through. Pretty soon Dave Putnam caught up to us again. He called us his “canyon girls” since it turns out he had done the first canyon with Cressy and the second canyon with me. Dave warned us about a big group of riders that was behind us, so we moved steadily along to try to stay in front of the crowd. I marveled at this a little, I had only been in small groups or on my own for most of the day. I never was in a really large group, other than at the vet checks, all day once we got over Watson’s Monument, nearly 70 miles and many, many hours ago. I must have gotten lucky and found a little “pocket” to ride in. Or maybe I was just enough ahead of the “trying to make cut-off crowd” that I had been in last year.

Cressy, Dave and I did our best not to tarry on this section and to keep moving along. Soon we were in the deep “fump, fump, fump” sand and I knew we were near the river. I was excited to see the river crossing checkpoint, having read about it in many past stories. They had a little “bar” set up and were telling riders to go between the glowbars. It was marked out like an airport runway in a broad path with lights on both sides. Problem though, it was marked out through the DEEP part and Sinatra, having crossed the river twice before, wanted to go to the right and go across the more shallow (but much rockier) bar that he knew was on that side, beyond the marked path. I had to really pull him hard and even smack him once with my dressage whip to get him to GO STRAIGHT. I gasped as the freezing cold water soon went nearly up to my knees. Sinatra was pissed off at me and marched quickly through the river and out the other side, climbing the steep bank. I didn’t have the opportunity to stop and talk with the moon, Sinatra was out of there, thank you very much.

The three of us walked and trotted along the single track and before long were making the left-hand turn down onto the wider river road and two-track trail. We kind of puttered along this section and soon some other riders started to pass us. The first ones by were Crystal and Allie, calling to us to “Come on girls, we need to go.” Cressy and I thought we were doing great on time and had been planning on taking it pretty easy into the Lower Quarry vet check, we didn’t think it was very much farther up ahead. Then a couple more riders passed us, trotting by and urging us to continue. Then Cynthia LeDoux-Bloom came by and specifically said “Come ON Crysta! It’s a lot farther than you think! This is what you have been saving your horse for all day, we need to TROT this section. You don’t want to miss the cut-off NOW!”

Thus forewarned I instantly had a mild panic attack and fell in with the group of riders. It was dark but we were all doing our best to move out and get down the trail. I lost Cressy in the mix, I thought I saw her white helmet up ahead but when I worked my way through to catch up to her, I realized that horse didn’t have any glowbars on and wasn’t Cressy and Legs. I looked back over my shoulder but didn’t see her there either. Oops, great, I lost her. I hope she’s with this group somewhere! Turns out I was riding with Kathy Sherman and Cynthia, so we buzzed along and pretty soon could see the lights from the Quarry lighting the wall on the far side of the canyon. When we crested the hill, it was nearly blinding after being in the dark for so long to look down upon the brightly lit vet check.

I hopped off and it felt like I had two large blisters on the balls of my feet that burst when I hit the ground. I had to pause for a minute and just hold onto the saddle. Pretty soon I was able to hobble my may down the hill and into the vet check. The volunteers instantly put a blanket on Sinatra when we arrived and we headed straight for the food. We arrived at 2:57 a.m., which was 3 minutes ahead of my schedule. I am BEYOND thankful to Cynthia! She TOTALLY saved my ride. I had no idea it was going to take us that LONG to reach the Quarry and I might have very well missed the cut-off if she hadn’t of said something and pushed us onward.

We came in with quite a few riders, there must have been at least 10 or 15 in the group in total over a few minutes or so. I put my hand near Sinatra’s girth and could tell his heart rate was down, so I hauled him unwillingly from the food and over to the vets. He trotted out sound and we were cleared to go! ONLY 6 MILES LEFT!!! I took him back over to the food and went and got a bite to eat for myself and something to drink. I found Cressy when I got back and she had successfully vetted through as well. We decided to try to get out in front of the crowd, many people had not vetted yet and a line was starting to form. We grabbed a few more bites for the boys and headed over to the out timers.
Cressy and I left the Lower Quarry at 3:15 (another 20 minutes that went SUPER fast!) and were in high spirits. We both KNEW we could walk in from there and make the 5:15 cutoff. We both became ultra conservative and didn’t want to risk our ride at this point. We trotted off and on down the nice road to the Highway crossing. We crossed without issue and compared our planned schedules to our actual times and how happy we both were on our way down to No Hands Bridge. Dave Puttnam caught back up to us on this section and we all trotted gently across No Hands Bridge in the moonlight. I was grinning from ear to ear and felt tingly all over.

Legs knew where he was, having pre-ridden this section a lot in the month between the Ed. Ride and tonight and really put it into high gear. I’m not sure if they were just walking or trotting in bits but soon Cressy and Dave got pretty far ahead. Sinatra got a bit anxious and trotted mach-10 to try to catch up. At which point I became even more paranoid and fought with him to slow down. I REALLY didn’t want him to trip over something minor in the dark and then get pulled for lameness at the finish line! So Sinatra and I had a “debate” over how fast we should be going and just after Robie Point, Sinatra settled into his fastest smoothest walk EVER! He was really super loose and just flowing and nearly gliding under me, but moving along really swiftly (for him anyways). Another lady on a gray came trotting up at some point and when I asked if she wanted by, since I intended on walking in from this point, she said not to worry about it and just fell in behind us.

I kept expecting to see the lights from the finish around the next corner, maybe the next, hhhmm, what about this one? The lady behind me told me that we would hear the finish before we could see it, that the lights don’t really show until you are nearly there. Soon I could hear it, the murmur of voices and cheers as another horse and rider team accomplished their goal. Soon I could see the lights and we were climbing the hill to the finish line! I looked over and smiled to my husband and my mom, up and waiting for me! At 4:38, Sinatra trotted gallantly up to the water trough and partook of the sweet taste of victory (well, it was probably just a nice cold drink for him). I was grinning like a fool. Dave Rabe was the first person to come up to me, he kissed my cheek and told me what a great job we had done. I was beyond excited and so proud I felt that I would burst. I hugged my family and together we walked Sinatra over for his trot out at the finish line. He was declared sound so we made our way over to the stadium for the official finish. Dr. Kevin Lazercheff, who had vetted me at my very first 50 back in July of 2002, was there. I told him “Don’t you DARE pull me at the finish!” and he laughed and joked with me. Sinatra vetted out wonderfully and I got on to take my victory lap around the stadium. He trotted out strongly and proud, and even spooked a bit at various things, and we completed our victory lap. My Dad, who had been following my progress online all day, had woken my step-mom after I crossed the river and they had made it just in time to see me do my victory lap. I had tears in my eyes and a smile on my face as we crossed under the banner welcoming the riders to Auburn. Together we had done it, we accomplished the dream of a lifetime.

~ Crysta Turnage and CT’s Sinatra, The Tevis Cup, July 28, 2007

Patriot's 100 - 2007

Well Sinatra and I completed our 3rd 100 at the Patriot's Day 100 this last Saturday. What a great ride! They are hoping to host the National Championship from this location and it would be a fabulous spot. The ride camp is hosted by a summer youth camp (Coppercreek Ranch) that has horses, arenas, a pool, showers, flush toilets, and a big meadow for all of the riders to park in. Unfortunately, since camp hasn't happened yet this year, we only had 1/2 the meadow as opposed to the full length like is normally offered for their fall 2-day ride, so I ended up tucked in the trees across from the goat pen. Sinatra looked warily at the goats at first and then forgot about them. They were actually pretty cute and would bleat hopefully at me every time I fed Sinatra all weekend. This was a first time 100-mile ride, run by the very capable team of Kassandra DiMaggio (manager), Centella Tucker (secretary), and Dr. Rob Lydon (head vet). One thing that I really liked about this ride, is the vets had us riders "rate" our horses on a scale of 1-10 at each check point with how we thought they were doing. This seemed like a really neat tool and it would be cool to get some parameters established so people have a better idea of what to say.

I drove up Friday afternoon with no issues, arrived a little later than I had planned but still had plenty of time to set-up camp, etc. My friend who had planned on coming to crew was not feeling very well so she elected to stay home. So it was tent time for me once again. I have been pretty spoiled lately and been able to sleep in my mom's RV at most of my last few rides, it had been a while since I had to break the tent out. Unfortunately, my air bed finally died on me this weekend after 2 years of use. I was really glad I had brought an extra sleeping bag as that served as my padding to lay on. There were 2 vets at this ride that had not seen Sinatra before, so I was asked questions about him and how he does on rides. I think the guy vet was impressed when Sinatra P&R'd at 36 during vet-in ("Yawn," he says "Where's the food?"). =) He's not what you would call an "excitable" horse.

The start was at 5:30 and I overestimated how long it would take me to get ready so I was up a little too early (4) and had time to kill. I was still one of the first one's on my horse and just walked Sinatra up and down the road to where the start would be. We were actually camped a little ways from the main vetting, entrance/exit areas. Sinatra was so riled up (NOT) he was chowing down on grass while the other horses paced back and forth waiting for the start (good boy). We don't really have fresh grass at home for him so it was a treat that he just couldn't pass up. Once we started on the controlled start though, wahoo look out! He was so strong, just pulling my arms out and flying along. He did keep it to a trot as asked but MAN was he strong. I had to have my friend get in front of me so I could use her horse as a "brake" somewhat. Luckily for me they put in a great big climb right at the start so it was up, and up, and up for us for 1,000 feet or so. That helped to adjust the attitude a little and I started to have my more normal horse back. We crested the mountain and started down the backside. Pretty soon came to the first water stop, Sinatra said no to the water but ate some hay. On down the dirt road, through another number check, through a boggy cow meadow, along the resevouir and into the first away vet check at 18 miles. My friend's horse just wasn't herself so she pulled here. We pretty much trotted in, walked the last few 100 yards, hoped off and Sinatra was below criteria as soon as I could get a P&R on him. This was only supposed to be a 15 min hold but the line for the vet was a little long. There was only 1 vet at this stop and lots of horses. I let Sinatra eat wet hay for a while and then stood in line. He was at 40 =), same vet who had checked us in. He kept taking his pulse twice because he just could not believe it! I rated him a 9 since he was mostly still pulling on me and felt GREAT! I slurped down some fruit and then headed out on our own. Pretty soon two riders caught us and we rode with them for a while and then I decided they were going faster than I wanted to so I got off and walked for a while with Sinatra back down the mountain on our way back into camp.

Back into camp at 30 miles for a 1/2 hour hold. It was about 9 am or so at this point, honestly I hardly paid attention to the time all day, I knew I was going to make any "limits" so just rode to my horse and tried to leave the checks fairly on time. Came in, poured some water on him, took him over, 56. Cool, he's doing awesome! Sinatra got to meet the lady vet this time (I'm horrible with names), he was at 44 this time. She laughed when I said that was the highest he's been so far! I still gave him a 9 at this point, he was so strong coming back in on that loop. Looking good, back to our campsite to eat. I fed Sinatra and restocked my saddle bags with carrots, filled my bottles, checked on my friend and her horse, and then it was time to go. Grabbed a teeny bit for me to eat and we left about 10 minutes late. This is where I screwed up big time.

I have a sensitive stomach that does not do "well" during rides. I haven't ever puked (yet) but often wish I would so I could just get it over with. At this point, I was still feeling good and felt like eating, but I did not take the time to eat. I didn't really have anything quick and easy I felt like having (#1), I am extremelly picky about what sounds good to me during a ride (#2), I was feeling somewhat rushed (#3), and I was just trying to get further down the trail before it started getting warm (#4). My stomach shut down on me during this loop and I just could not really make myself eat the rest of the day. Actually, it's taken me about two days to recover. I hardly ate yesterday (Sunday) either.

So we left out on the 20-mile loop that comes back into camp. Sinatra and I were riding by ourselves and our motivation started to lag a little on this loop. It was starting to get warm, we were going uphill, it had been a while since the last water stop, and I was feeling pretty pukey. So we kind of just putzed along and I tried to keep myself "up" and focused on moving down the trail. Sinatra usually hits a lull around ~35-40 miles so I wasn't too concerned or worried. At the water stop, a group of 4 riders caught up to me. It was Connie Creech, Dave Rabe, Tom Sherwood, and Cynthia (who's last name escapes me right now... Le something). Cynthia is super nice and a lot of fun, we met at the Washoe ride last year and have seen each other at rides off and on since then. So she and I rode back towards camp together, chatting and having a great time. Unfortunately, about 2 miles out of camp, there was this huge black horse-eating log buried in the backside of a manzanita bush and when Cosmo saw it he did this huge sideways teleport jump and Cynthia came off. Cosmo, being an efficient endurance horse, took off down the hill through the brush, taking the shortest way back toward camp. After checking on Cynthia, Sinatra and I started trotting down the trail, around the switch back, and hoped to find Cosmo somewhere on the way back to camp. She told me to find him and tie him up or try to pony him back. Well I got all the way in to the out timers, I checked and no Cosmo. Cynthia's daughter was crewing and came running to go back to her mom. I gave her a water bottle to take, I had thought about that after I left Cynthia, and took Sinatra over to the P&R people. I hosed him off and he came down quickly. We vetted through, looking great still, I gave Sinatra a 7 this time since it was getting warmer and he wasn't as perky, starting to slow a little. Just as we were walking out of the vet area, Cosmo came into camp! He had looped around and came in the way we had come in during the morning (from the opposite side). I nice volunteer took him over to be reunited with Cynthia, who was still walking in. I didn't see her again but she got back on and did finish the ride I was told. Great job!!!

We had an hour hold at this point. Sinatra chowed down and I made myself eat some tuna and crackers. I drank a juice and then got all ready to go back out. We would not be coming into camp again until the finish, having a single away check that we would see at 65 and 85 miles on a figure-8 loop. I checked with Connie and she said I could ride with her, Dave, and Tom. I went ahead and put my glowbars on so I wouldn't have to do it at one of the 30-min away holds. It was weird putting them on around 1 pm! I mean, it's the middle of the day! The four of us left camp and headed back out on the same trail as the 20-mile loop we had just ridden. Went out to the water trough where they caught up with me last time. It was a great checkpoint. Lot of cool water for the horses, they even had a hose hooked up to the tank, and cool drinks for the riders. From there it was "5 miles" to the vet check. Unfortunately it felt more like 10 miles! Lots of uphill on that section and it was getting warm (I think the highs were low 80's so never really bad). Tom's little horse Blackie really loved to move out and be in front and well ahead of the group. Sinatra did not get along with Connie and Dave's horses, they all kept making faces at each other so I put him in front of those two or well behind and that seemed to work out well. He actually did best being in the "middle" in a little gap by himself in that group.

We made it to the vet check and everyone vetted through well. I still gave Sinatra a 7, he was doing well and holding up great. The meadow where the check was had wild spearmint growing amongst the grass so it smelled absolutely fabulous around there. Sinatra happily settled himself in front of some left over mash, ignored his own and ate for the hold. I was hoping he would eat some more grass or hay but he liked the mash too much, so oh well. I personally was not faring so well. I wanted to barf but didn't want to make myself. My stomach just felt "full" and I kept burping liquid up. I was also pretty tired feeling, not surprising since I hadn't really fueled myself all day. I took a caffinienated Gu and washed it down with some water. That seemed to help. The next 20 mile loop was the best one all day! Lot of gradual and steady climbing up, up, up the mountain, and then looped around and came down, down, down the backside with views of Lake Almanor and Mt. Shasta. It was fabulous. Kassandra had already been out hanging up glowbars, but everyone was riding so "fast" that all of the riders were through most of that loop before dark. It started to cool off and Sinatra really perked back up. Mister go, go, go came back and he was feeling great. I had switched after 50 miles and was just riding him in his rope halter, which he does respect so we had a really nice loop. I took another Gu on this loop and was feeling marginally better myself.

Back to the minty-fresh meadow and vet check right as dusk was falling. We were glad we got in before dark as it allowed us to find our stuff without having to pull out the flashlights to hunt through our crew bags. Sinatra pulsed down quickly, he was pretty high at first but came down in a minute or two of standing there. I didn't want to wet him at this point as it was getting cool and I didn't want him chilled. I gave him an 8 at this check since he was feeling more energized and really very forward. I tired to make myself eat a tuna sandwich, but think I only had about 4 or 5 bites. I just kept chewing it until I would wash it down with some water.

Soon it was time to go. I had taped on some battery-powered LED glowsticks (from WalMart) on my breast collar. I thought I had used these before, but turns out I had used ONE before, right between his front legs. The one's on his shoulders were longer and I could see the ends sticking up. They were so bright my eyes could not adjust to the dark since I had two bright spots glowing up at me from point blank range. Yay for me as I was in the back and Tom, Dave, and Connie took off and were FLYING along in the dark! Eeek! I was loving it and hating it at the same time. =) I just held on to Sinatra and prayed he wasn't as blinded by the glowbars as I was. I couldn't see a damn thing except Dave's white shirt in front of me now and then. We were booking down the trail, I just prayed Sinatra didn't trip and go splat. I didn't want to be a whimp though and ask them to slow down or stop. Eventually we slowed down and Connie asked how I was doing. When I explained my problem she stopped with me long enough for me to reach over and turn off the two glowbars on his shoulders. Unfortunately I didn't realize the one between his legs was already off before we took off again to catch up to the guys. So no glowbars at all this time, weeeee!!! Hang on! =) It was actually better but still a little unnerving. When we got back to my favorite water spot (on the 20-mile loop), I was able to reach down and turn on the between the legs glowbar. Aahhh. Much better.

The last 10 miles or so back to camp went quickly. I got a bloody nose at one point and was thankful I had some tissue with me. I just pinched it shut and didn't really say anything, just kept trotting a long. Going through the "knee-knockers" was a lot of fun. Connie was in front, I was second, and Dave and Tom were behind me. I could see this faint glow from the bars on Connie's mare but it was really fun having Sinatra bend and turn and weave around the trees and catch the 180-degree turns from having done this trail earlier in the day. Pretty soon we were at the last little creek crossing and then only a short bit back to camp. He felt so good, I was not concerned at all. Yay Sinatra, good boy! We came in and Dr. Lydon vetted us through. He was getting a little tight in the rear but overall looked good and we were done. I got back to my camp and could hardly believe when I looked at my watch, 11 pm!!!! WOW! That was super fast for us! I never would have expected! I was hoping to be done around 1 or 2 am but 11! I never would have guessed. It was a good course, could really be deceiving with all the elevation changes but mostly lots of long gradual ups and downs, those Nevada horses' fortes. =) Actually, all of the riders were in by 1 am or so (I think). Congratulations to Jr. Colton Medieros on his first 100!!!

I took care of my boy and collapsed into bed. I had to leave before they did awards at 11:30 or noon the next day (my son had a B-day party to attend) so I don't really know much about how things turned out. I think they started 35 or so and it was a 100-miler only. It was excellent training for Tevis and I'd say at least 1/2 of the riders/horses there are planning on Tevis for this year. So this ride is a fabulous addition to the West region calendar in this May time spot. Great ride, I certainly hope they do it again. We will be back!

Twenty Mule Team 100 - 2007

My 20-Mule Team ride started on December 23rd, the Saturday before Christmas. We were down at my parent’s house and I decided it would be fun to take my son roller skating, something I had not done in about 15 years. We went to the roller rink with my mom, my son, and my sister and less than an hour later my mom was driving me to the ER since I had fallen and hurt my arm. As we were driving in the car, with my arm propped up on my jacket and a bag of ice on the top I looked at my mom and said, “You know what this means don’t you? You’re going to have to saddle Sinatra for me at 20-Mule Team.” =) She looked over at me and shaking her head laughingly said, “Girl, you’ve got it bad.” Yes, I do.

Fast forward about 5 weeks and we are entered and getting ready to go. The arm ended up being a minor fracture of my radius. I called and rescheduled my cast removal for the Thursday before the ride rather than the originally planned Tuesday after. I lied and told the scheduler I had a wedding to go to and didn’t want a cast for in the pictures. =) I had to thank my aunt for that excuse, it worked perfectly. I had been able to saddle and ride with my cast just fine, but couldn’t wear a glove so that was of concern to me. After removal and x-ray the doctor pronounced me totally healed and able to go do whatever I wanted to with that arm. He kind of blinked at me funny when I said “Oh good. I’m doing a 100-mile ride on my horse on Saturday.” He wished me well and I went back to work testing my shortened range of motion in my wrist.

I met a very nice lady through a mutual friend from the Reno-area who was also planning on going down to 20-Mule Team. Jean and I made plans to meet after work on Thursday and drive down to Bishop and overnight at the fairgrounds there. It was to be Jean and her horse Chi’s first 100 and Sinatra and my third (finished Sunriver, overtime at Tevis). The week getting ready to go was just crazy, work was hectic, I was busier than normal with my husband’s business, and then just all the checking, cleaning, packing, organizing that goes into going to a ride, compounded because this was our first ride of the season and I hadn’t been through everything since our last ride in October. The drive down on Thursday went smoothly. I would highly recommend staying at the Bishop fairgrounds. They gave us two box stalls and had the water turned on for us. Very pleasant and easy to deal with, although not quite so easy to find our stalls in the dark but we managed.

Woke up and got a fairly early start and arrived in Ridgecrest around 10:30 or so Friday morning. My mom was coming down to help crew and ride the 35 mile LD with her TWH and she pulled in a scant 5 minutes after we did. Got the horses out, walked and settled and then the buzzing of clippers filled the air as I redid the trace clip my boy had been given in October but had since grown out to about an inch or more. I just clipped the underside of his neck, entire chest, and outer flank areas. I then hosed him off to help wash off some of the dirt, hair, and such. It’s been so cold in Reno (highs in 40’s) that I hadn’t been able to bathe him at all for several months at home. He was a fuzzy looking new man by that afternoon.

We got all checked in and vetted. I know I’m not at home when I get asked by every third person what kind of horse Sinatra is. People in Reno have gotten used to seeing him over the last 4 years but he is certainly noticeable and does stand out from the rest. Unfortunately I don’t know his breeding nor have the slightest clue. He’s a very red chestnut sabino with a big blaze, four high white stockings and two blue eyes. I was able to meet a couple of people from some of the online endurance lists when they recognized my description of my horse and came over to say hi. =) It’s always nice to put a face to the name. A short ride, packing of crew bags (I would be on my own for most of the ride so had two different bags for the two main away checks), and the ride meeting then it was time for bed. I was exhausted from the last week and the long drive and went to bed around 9 pm and slept VERY well.

I woke up just before 5 am to get ready for the 6 am start. It was a fast and easy process to get into the clothes I had laid out and drink something for breakfast. I had made oatmeal with good intentions but I just can’t do solid food before a ride so had a chocolate Ensure and some water. Sinatra had lain down and slept the night before and looked ready to go but wasn’t overly excited, which was perfect. There was a controlled start at 6 am and Jean and I rode over about 5 minutes later and walked out of camp on a loose rein, the dust from the horses in front of us visible on the horizon. I knew my boy was fit and ready for a 50 or 65 but since I was unsure of how conditioned and ready we were for a 100 our plan was to take it slow and steady and just see how things went. I was planning on about a 5 mph average, which isn’t a whole lot slower than the ~6.5 mph we normally ride but would be a good pace to get us through the day and our first ride of the season.

We had been warned that this ride can be harder than it seems and riders may have a tendency to try to go too fast. The course had a few hills but a LOT of long gradual climbs and descents. Plus it was fairly sandy and could be deep in places. Luckily we have the benefit of being able to train in the sand, hills, and rocks at home but listened well and rode according to our horses. Jean had planned on trying to stay with Sinatra and me although Chi would have preferred to go much faster. =) We cruised along through the morning, getting off trail once and having some riders yell at us so we could turn around and go back. We had the opportunity to repay the favor just a few miles down the trail. She later caught up to us and thanked us, her horse was ready to go and she had to pay a lot of attention to him. We came into the first check at 15 miles and after a quick drink I took Sinatra over where he was a 12 (48) for P&R. The guy complemented me, said that was the third he’d had all morning and my horse was in really good shape. The Duck vetted us at the check and we were OK good to go.

The 15 minute hold went quickly, Pamela Burton with Chronicle of the Horse took some pictures of us and soon we mounting up to go. Sarah Martin, also from around the Reno-area decided to slow up a little and joined us as we left. It was uphill for the first 5 miles or so out of the check. We rode briefly with Bruce from Utah till the first water stop on this check. Then it was a BEAUTIFUL ride downhill through a long sandy canyon to the next check and hour hold at 31 miles. There were some sections of big sandy-type boulders on this part that the horses had to be careful on. Sinatra is so great with tricky footing, he would put his head down to check it out then cruise right over. We got to the 31-mile check around 11 am, about 5 hours after we had started. I found my crew box and Sinatra happily ate his mash and the hay that was provided. He vetted out great again, I think got a B on guts but I wasn’t concerned since he was eating well and gut sounds can be so subjective. CRI was 12/11, I’ll take it. =) He promptly rolled in the powdery dirt after having his check (tack was off), something I was expecting (he LOVES to roll) and prepared for. I brushed him off, ate my own lunch and enjoyed watching the front running 65-milers coming in.

The hour hold was appreciated by horses and riders but soon it was time to hit the trail again. The three of us (Sarah, Jean, and I) set off from the check for a few fairly flat and fast miles. The front running 65’s caught up with us shortly and started to pass. Sinatra didn’t mind but Jean’s horse Chi was getting pretty upset. He’s off the track and is very competitive. I suggested that maybe she let him go a little faster like he wanted to and just wait for us at the next check. It was taking a lot of energy out of him and her to fight each other like that. Sarah’s mare Sierra would kind of get going too so they took turns using Sinatra (in his rope halter and loose rein) as a road block. I had a lot of “I love this horse” moments on this ride. =)

Soon we began a long steady climb up and over the ridge of mountains. We trotted some short stretches but walked the large majority. Jean went ahead and let Chi go on a little and we soon lost sight of her. After cresting the ridge Sarah and I got off and walked, down, down, down. We’d say hi or chat briefly with the 65’s that passed us on this section. I remember one guy telling us what a good job we were doing as 100’s to get off and give the horses a break. Heck, my knees needed the break at least as much as Sinatra did! Back down onto the flat and we remounted and trotted the 6-8 miles or so to the railroad tressel and a water stop. Sinatra had a little bit of a low spot at this point, I think when his little internal odometer rolled past 50 and he wasn’t back in camp. =) A bit of a break with some hay, water and some grain I had been packing with me helped to improve things. It was a short 4 miles or so to the next vetcheck, which a group of us tried to make slightly longer by missing a turn. Maybe some ribbons were vandalized but we eventually found the trail again.

Into the vet check at 57 miles and Sinatra wanted to eat, eat, eat. I put a little water on his neck and he pulsed down and vetted out well. The same vet that saw him at 31 mile check saw him again at this point. She still gave him a B on guts and this time a B on gait, he wasn’t overly motivated to trot out (only wanted to eat) so may have been dogging it. I found my crew bag and gave him another mash and ate a little something. I had packed glowbars for out here just in case it was late, I didn’t want to have to be coming into camp in the dark since the moon wouldn’t be up yet. I taped a couple on my breastcollar during our 15-minute hold. Sarah’s mare looked a little funny on the right hind so she took her over and massaged her before getting cleared at her recheck. The last 100-miler, Gail Hought with Hought Tack, caught up with us and we rode the 8 miles into camp together. The sun set as we headed in and by the time we were in the neighborhood before reaching the fairgrounds it was dark. I leaned over Sinatra’s neck at the walked and cracked the glowbars. It helped to light the way and more importantly allowed any approaching vehicles to see us coming. I trotted on ahead, knowing Gail and Sarah were going to walk in and I could use the extra time for Sinatra to eat.

We got into camp just after 7 pm and Melissa Ribley vetted Sinatra. He had mostly A’s with a few B’s, I think maybe impulsion, but he was going well with a 60/60 CRI right off the trail. I took him back to the trailer, pulled tack and let him eat. I looked in at Jean’s rig but it was all dark inside and Chi was resting comfortably with his blanket on. I was tempted to see if she wanted to go back out but didn’t want to wake her if she was asleep. I decided from the looks of things that she was done for the night and felt a little sad for her. My mom grabbed me some of the dinner they were serving (tri-tip YUM) and I devoured most of it. At this point, as I was saying I wanted to get a few things together for her to take out to the 92-mile check (same one as the 57-mile check) she kind of looked at me and said “WHAT?!?” and I knew I had lost my crew. =) Luckily Sarah’s husband was going so I threw a few things in a bucket for him to take out. I already had a little crew bag out there and my mom’s from her 35-mile ride was out there as well so I should be set. We refilled all my water bottles (4) and I restocked my pommel pouch with 2 lbs of carrots.

Sarah stopped by when she was ready to go and we headed out together. Unfortunately Gail had been pulled so Sarah and I were bringing up the rear. Hey, someone’s got to do it and I’ve done it enough times to hold the title well. =) The full moon had come up by then and was shining so brightly that the glowbars were pretty much unnecessary. We had both layered up as riders and put rump rugs on the horses, preparing for the cold and dark to come. Both horses left camp willingly, no balking, no trying to turn, just right on out. Good ponies. I knew where the turn off for the start of the 35-mile loop was and we trotted most of the first 8 miles or so out of camp. Soon we started heading up a gradual climb, mostly trotting but walking every now and then. Suddenly I saw these weird lights in front of me, green and then flickers of red flashing on and off and kind of moving. A UFO? A 100-mile hallucination? Nope, just another rider heading back towards camp. He was entered in the 100 as well but his horse was out of gas so he was calling it a night. We offered for him to come along with us, nice and slow and he thanked us but declined. We continued on and made it to the top of the climb and I spotted the water troughs lurking in the dark, concealing their precious fluids from those not quite so wary. Both horses drank well and we had a really nice ride along the hillside running kind of parallel to the town of Ridgecrest down below. I bragged that MY ride, the Nevada Moonshine, had prettier, albeit much shorter, city views and we talked off and on about night time trail markings, Sarah having ridden my ride last June. =)

We eventually turned left and started heading through the hills (mostly down) to the highway crossing below. We could see the occasional car passing by in the night, helping to guide us how much further we had to go to reach our first destination on this loop, the highway crossing and radio checkpoint at 17 miles. We got off and walked the long downhill towards the checkpoint, Sinatra would occasionally go off trail and walk over the top of some of the brush on the side of the trail in an attempt to scratch his belly and between his legs, which were getting quite itchy. Again, normal behavior for him and something that is both funny and exasperating when he does it. When things started to level out I encouraged Sarah to get back on, her mare was getting more tired, and we trotted into the check. We chatted with the radio operator while the horses drank and ate some hay, thanked him for being out there and confirmed we were the last two riders. Seems one was unaccounted for but they got everything worked out while we were there, I think it was maybe the guy that had returned to camp or maybe one of the RO pulls. Sinatra was getting quite hungry at this point, it was about 10:30 pm, we made very good time on that section.

We crossed the highway and headed off to go up and over the next set of hills. Sarah had ridden all 4 days of DVE on her mare in December so knew where we were. Unfortunately what passes quickly during the day on a fresh horse takes longer in the dark of night on a more tired one. We headed up the next mountain, trotting on the flat and walking up the hills. Sarah got off and started to lead her mare again and I took a break and walked Sinatra as well. Eventually we crested the ridge and headed down a long sandy road running back toward the railroad tressel. We were around 80-85 miles at this point, maybe a little more. About halfway down the canyon, I’m off leading with the reins looped over my elbow and my hands in my pockets. I feel the slack slip through and hear a soft grunt behind me. I turn around and Sinatra has lain down in the middle of the trail to roll. He’s on his left side and wiggles around scratching. I tell him, “Get up!” and tug on the reins but he kicks and rolls all the way over instead! Fully tacked! At this point I yell at him to “Get the F*#$ UP!” and he does but starts to stagger around to the right. His eyes are rolling in his head all weird, I’m holding his halter right by his chin and have his head steady in my arms. He staggers nearly a half circle to the right, legs crossing and uncrossing then just stands there looking down the trail a little weird. Sarah and I are both very concerned at this point. What is wrong with him? Is he just dizzy? A blood rush from going down, rolling completely over and then getting up so quickly, especially with his head pointing downhill the entire time? Something more serious? Did flipping over with the saddle injure his back? I check is heart rate (62) and put my ear to his flanks and hear guts sounds. I offer him a carrot which he quickly eats and looks for another. At this point, we decide the only thing to do is continue walking him to the railroad tressel. I keep a close eye on him and he seems fine. Walking straight and true and willingly, I do not have to pull or encourage him along. His ears are perked forward and he appears just normal. After about 15 minutes or so I decide to get back on and see how he feels. I mount carefully, watching for any signs of back soreness but he doesn’t move, flinch or even flick an ear. I discover that he popped the lid off one of my bottles and drained ½ of another, so parts of my saddle are wet. I ask him to trot and it’s just like normal, soft and easy down the trail, ears perked forward or slightly back on occasion to check in with me. He seems totally fine.

Sarah continues to lead her mare the rest of the way to the tressel and we stop for some water and hay for the horses. I take the last of my grain out and pour it on the leftover hay for two thankful mouths to devour. Sarah calls her husband to let them know where we are and that we will be there shortly. After a quick 5 minutes we pull their heads up and head toward the vet check. Sarah gets back on and we alternate walking and trotting this section. Sinatra is feeling just wonderful and is quite perky now that he is certain of where we are and where we are going. I have to rate him back and slow him down more at this point than when we started the ride in the morning. Sierra is happy to follow along behind at this point but seems to be doing well. She is stiffening in the rear end so the goal is to keep her moving gently forward. We come into the check and vet the horses through. The Duck looks them over and pronounces them okay to go on. We’re told that we can leave when we like, we don’t have to stay the entire 15 minutes but it works out that way since we let both horses eat. I look for my crew bag(s) but they have already been packed, the check is ready to go as soon as we are. Thankful for having put some items in Sarah’s husband’s care I feed Sinatra some more grain, let him eat hay and have a little something myself. I get something more to drink from one of the volunteers and then Sarah is remounted and ready to go. I mount up and we head out for the last 8 miles.

We walk the first little hill out of the check and then trot off and on, the highway crossing comes very quickly and we scoot across after waiting for a car to pass. They had slowed down when they saw us on the side of the road and I can only imagine what they thought of two horses and riders standing on the side of 395 at 2:30 in the morning. =) We trot the next flat section along the highway and then make the left hand turn into the last set of hills to go over before we arrive back at camp. After a little while, we realize we are off trail and can’t see any glowbars. I turn on my headlamp and there are only tire tracks on this road, no hoofprints. We have a very good idea of where we are, about where the trail should be and know where to head so we continue to follow the road. It has more hills and rocks than the correct trail would, but it’s going the right direction so we continue on. We’re up higher on the hill more, riding along the ridge top as opposed to down at the bottom where the right trail should be. We keep our eyes peeled for glowbars but still don’t see any. Several intersections come and go, we check most and debate about heading down towards town and trying to ride in from there or to continue on our present route. We decided to do our best to follow where the trail “should be” and keep riding forward. Pretty soon Sarah sees a glowbar and we meet up with the correct route coming up the hill to join the road we were on. Relieved, we make the turn and follow the right trail as it starts to head down through the hills toward town.

Sarah gets off to lead down the hill. We’re both getting tired and quiet as the night goes on. No longer laughing, joking and telling stories. Each lost in our own ride and our own thoughts. I’m enjoying how beautiful Sinatra looks in the moonlight. His coat is dark and glowing back at me while his white markings seem to shine with an inner light of their own. He is still forward and willing to move out. Just a gentle squeeze and a kiss will get him moving. I feel the night air and find it interesting how we will ride into cooler and warmer patches depending upon how the currents flow through the hills and valleys. It was a beautiful day for a ride, warm and sunny without a cloud all day or night and not windy nor too cold as these desert nights can be. Last year the riders were in the dark and snow, tonight it is a clear shining sky with a full moon to light our way. I’m starting to get sleepy and a little sour in my stomach, just ready to be done and I know Sinatra must be to.

We finally come out down into the neighborhood and I encourage Sarah to get back on so we can trot the flat sandy roads back to the fairgrounds. She finds a rock and mounts and only goes about 10 feet before Sierra hunches her back and starts to drag her right hind leg. Very concerned Sarah jumps off and we both are worried about Sierra. Sarah continues to walk her and she doesn’t appear to be too sore while being led. She is a little short strided behind but not overly bad. We reach Fire Mt. Arabians and the horses are happy to discover Jackie has left a trough of water out. Both drink thankfully and then we head off to camp. It’s about 4 am and I tell Sarah that I really need to finish and get off, I don’t know how much longer I can walk along in the night. She tells me it is okay to go, that she’s just going to walk in, I check with her again, feeling a little guilty but she assures me it’s alright. Sinatra trots off willingly but slows when he realizes we’re leaving his new buddy behind. I encourage him on. Suddenly he’s not so brave by himself, pausing to study each glowbar suspiciously and eye the dark bushes with caution. I hear Sarah call her husband and let him know where she is and what is going on. For the last time we turn and head down the last road to camp, it having grown longer and longer throughout the day and into the night. Sinatra walks out quickly and willingly but finds reason to spook and balk when I ask him to trot for any length of time. I think he can hear Sarah and Sierra behind us (I think I can on occasion) and doesn’t want to leave them too far behind. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to move out, but he didn’t want to keep going and I think was finding excuses to pause and hope they would catch up.

At 4:42 we came upon the finish line which was now vacant and just a soft white line glowing on the ground. Sinatra took a quick sip of water and then walked the rest of the way into camp. I remember from crewing Tevis seeing the horses come in with a strong forward walk and a determined and focused look in their eyes. I was pleased and somewhat awed to see that same expression on my horse’s face now. I hopped off right before the paved road and led him into the quiet sleeping camp. I found a volunteer who woke up Melissa and she emerged to vet us through. Sinatra did very well and I received a complement on how well he looked. I was appreciative and took him back to our trailer, Sinatra pausing to nibble any bits and pieces of hay that crossed his path. He was ravenous, I’ve never seen him that hungry. I fixed him a mash and he pounded that down while I pulled tack and rubbed his few sweaty areas with a towel and curried him a little. While bending over to take off his Easyboots, which he had on over shoes, I started to retch and dry heave. My body was done and letting me know it didn’t appreciate the further abuse of squatting down and hunching over. I politiced his legs (without wraps), checked that he had plenty of hay and water and staggered into my mom’s RV. It had been a very long day and night and I was grateful to fall into bed and eventually my mind allowed my body to sleep.

I woke up after only about 2-3 hours of rest. I laid in bed and tried to will myself back to sleep but it would not come for some elusive reason. I got up and took Sinatra for a walk, letting him roll and roll as he so wanted to. He didn’t exhibit any of the weird stumbling from the prior night, which I was grateful for. We went to awards at 9 am and found out that 24 out of 40 had completed the 100. I was VERY HAPPY to hear that Sarah and Sierra had received a completion as well, their first 100. Sarah had worked very hard to ensure her mare would make it through the end and had probably walked 15 of the last 35 miles on foot. Sierra had been tight but after some massage trotted out well enough to pass. They actually only finished about 10 minutes behind me. Sarah can walk quickly and Sierra was motivated to keep going once Sinatra had disappeared into the night. After awards my mom and I had some breakfast and then cleaned up camp. I debated about trying to take a nap before driving home but just could not sleep when I tried. I decided to just drive as far as I could and then would pull over and sleep for a while when necessary. I don’t really have camping accommodations with me (normally sleep in a tent at rides) so would have to just rest in the truck. I took a shower in my mom’s RV and then we left together. I was kind of dreading the 330 mile drive home, but thanks to a great audiobook a friend lent me the time went fairly quickly. I stopped every couple of hours to get Sinatra out and walk around. In fact the Hall’s and I both pulled into Bridgeport at the same time and got the horses out. I made it home in only 6.5 hours and didn’t have to stop to sleep at all, but was thankful I didn’t have to drive even 30 minutes more. Sinatra ate and drank well the entire trip home, preferring his orchard grass hay to his alfalfa, definitely not the norm but I was happy to oblige him. He got out and I couldn’t get the halter off fast enough before he went over and rolled and rolled and wiggled and scratched in the DG to his delight. He looks great, my little 100-mile horse.

Tevis 2006

I was about 7 years old when I heard about the Tevis. I've wanted to do it ever since. So 19 years later I found myself actually entered in the ride and heading up to Robie Park. I wasn't really nervous until Thursday afternoon, and then it all kind of hit me at once. I had done my first 100 this June at the Sunriver ride in Oregon, but I knew Tevis was a whole different ball game. My horse Sinatra was ready and we were going to give it our best shot.

I didn't sleep much Thursday or Friday night. Listened to the rain on the motorhome roof Friday, just after we went to bed. Sinatra was dry under his blanket though. In the wee hours of the morning when I went to check on him and begin our day, he was still laying down, very common for him. He had eaten all his hay within reach (while lying down) so I kicked some more over under his nose. We were seeded to start with the third group and got stuck for almost 20 minutes at the small gully before I was able to get off trail and pass people by jumping the ditch with my horse. He was strong all the way up to Squaw High Camp. Stopped for a quick drink of water, scooped him, and then we were off again. I looked behind me shortly at another rider on a gray horse, "Are you Barbara?" It was Barbara White, going for her 28th buckle attempt. Unfortunately this would not be her year. Cowman was up at Watson's Monument and I had to have him take his hat off so I could get past. My horse was absolutely petrified and frozen in place! Granite Chief wasn't too bad. Not like what I was expecting. The rocks were much smaller than I had imagined and there was a lot more foliage. Thanks to the wet winter we had my horse was totally over his fear of bogs and trudged right through. There was a junior who got hurt up there and we all had to wait while they got her back up on her horse and to an area where people could go by. It was dusty, dusty, dusty there for a while. One point it was so thick I could hardly see my horse, right then he tripped and I thought for sure he was going to flip over on top of me. There was a small gully or something and thankfully as he stumbled forward he hit the up-part and was able to right himself. Cruised into Lyon Ridge right around 9:00, a little behind schedule but still doing okay. I spent an extra 5 minutes here letting my boy eat some of the XTN (grain mix) I had brought along. At Cougar Rock, everyone around me went right onto the cutoff trail but I asked my boy to go left and he climbed the rock like it was no big deal (which it wasn't). I really wanted to do the rock as tribute to the ride, the history, the memory, etc. Wendell Robie and his men rode DOWN the thing with a pack horse so how hard could it be right? =)

Red Star was pretty crazy when I got there. They had a lot of pulls there this year, I'm not sure why at this point. The cool water tasted so good to the riders and hot horses. The weather actually wasn't too bad this year, I don't know if it was ever over 100, even in the canyons. I wasn't prepared for the layout at Red Star so when I trotted for the vet didn't realize I would be heading off down the trail, not really to return. I could have but decided to continue on. I met up with Bill from Maine at this point, we would ride together to Deadwood. He was good company and his horse was happy to follow along behind Sinatra. It was a slow 7 miles for us into Robinson Flat, too bad because that was some pretty good road to make some time on. My boy and I were both ready for a break though. The tights I had on have done 50's with no issues but I had a bad rub going on my left inner thigh by the time I got into Robinson Flat. I was happy to get there at 11:30, about 1/2 hour later than I wanted to but with the 2 hold ups, I was riding the pace I had planned. Sinatra was a little high until he had a good drink and a soaking from the hose, then he came right down. He and I both don't do heat well so I knew my challenge would be keeping him cool. All A's at the vetcheck and we were good to go out at 12:47. Food for him and some for me and we left right on time. The new trail out was horrible, personally I would have preferred the road. Very rocky and very dusty, but just doing our best. Lucky and Romeo caught up to us on this section as well, she would join our little group. Romeo was happy to go in the front and set a nice pace. Sinatra liked to be by him, but Sinatra has always been partial to studs. Got through Dusty Corners and Georganne from Auburn joined us to make a group of 4. Cruised down the Pucker Point trail (loved it, and everyone went "That's Pucker Point?"), and on into Last Chance at 3:00, right back on my "schedule". Sinatra had a C on guts at Last Chance but a 52/48 CRI. The vet said they had a lot of low gut sounds and wasn't too concerned, so we hung out for a few minutes letting the horses eat. We eased down into the first canyon, down, down, down. Bill was in front on the Swinging Bridge and I followed behind him. It really does bounce and swing, especially with more than one horse! Sinatra's eyes got big but it was no big deal. Then the big climb up, and up, and up, and up. WOW! We walked the whole way and Sinatra and Romeo just stopped a couple of times to catch their breath. I had put some water on Sinatra in this canyon and regretted it. There was no breeze and it just heated up and got warm. We arrived at Devil's Thumb at 4:55, we cheered when we saw the chair at the top. Yeah! We're almost there! Super nice people working the aid station, filled bottles, held horses, and gave us some hay. I scooped and scooped until Sinatra was cooler. Lucky and I each grabbed a flake of hay and led the boys the mile into Deadwood. We lost more time doing this but Sinatra went from a C at Last Chance to an A on gut sounds, so it was probably the right thing to do.

Lucky and Romeo got pulled for a minor right front lameness at Deadwood. I felt so bad for her! We kind of got held up here waiting for the vets, one was treating a horse and they require 2 vet's opinions to pull for lameness. So I had to wait while the concurred on Lucky and Romeo. Lucky, I really hope you can make it back sometime! Love that big boy of your's. It was fairly late, 5:30?, as Bill and I left Deadwood, I think Georganne was pulled here as well but I'm not too sure. Bill's horse didn't really want to leave the check and he told me to go on ahead. I knew I was going to have to push for time to make the 7pm cut-off to Michigan Bluff. We trotted where ever we could. I got behind a lady and guy that were running, they let me by when they had a chance, then passed me again when Sinatra stopped to drink. Then we passed again. By now there were about 10 of us trying to hurry, hurry, hurry. Watching the clock, minutes ticking by too fast. Down, down, down, that canyon was LONG! Can we make it to the river by 6:15? Not steep too much (at least not on the trail, never mind the drop-offs, but they don't really bother me), you could trot a fair amount so we did. When we reached the sign to dismount due to the mine cave in, everyone jumped off and walked the last little bit to the bridge crossing at the bottom. Back on, and we only have 1/2 hour to make it the 2.5 miles and 1,800 feet up to Michigan Bluff. Yikes! Trot, trot, trot, up, up, up. Sinatra is breathing hard and I'm having to use my crop. I'm glad I don't have my HRM hooked-up, I know he has to be really high. A really nice lady on a gray is behind me, calling out her horse's readings, encouraging us (THANK YOU whoever that was), onward, upward. Sinatra is giving me everything he has. I'm telling him if we just get to Michigan I won't ask for anything more and he can just cruise the rest of the time. Just keep trying for me, and he does. We come to a small stream and he stops to drink, I encourage him, others go by. He needs the water so I let him drink until he decides to follow those that have left us. One lady is behind me, she asks to pass, was kind of rude ("You don't look like you're going to make it"), so I let her by at the next switchback. We go to follow but some of the motivation is gone without anyone behind us now. Still, up and up we climb. Sinatra still trotting for me, really tired now, I'm having to urge him on more often. We come out of the woods and into the sun, there is only dust in front of me, no other sign of the riders, I look at my watch - 6:55, will we make it? How much farther? Then Sinatra just stops. "I'm done Mom", he says, his legs are shaky. I pat his neck and climb off. I was so proud of him. I cried a little (am now in fact), he tried so HARD for me! I can't believe I even asked him for that, and he did it, he gave me everything he had. I loosen the girth and we start to walk in. He's still breathing hard, so we stop every so often for him then trudge on. No one else is around, no dust, no voices, just the two of us. Pretty soon I see a house, and a sign - Vetcheck 1/4 mile. We were close, maybe only a 1/2 mile out when he stopped. But he's done, I don't have enough horse to get to Auburn left and I wouldn't even dream of asking him. We continue to walk slowly in, me stopping to pet and reassure him often. He did so good all day. So forward and willing and patient when he needed to be. Soon I see a volunteer, he asks if I know I'm overtime and I reply in the affirmative. Teeny bit more and I can see my crew (my mom and sister) standing by the In Timer. I can tell my mom is trying not to cry, so am I. It's 7:04 when we reach the in-timer, we missed the cut-off by 4 minutes, but that's okay, our ride was over somewhere back in that canyon anyways.

We pull tack and cool Sinatra off. At 10 minutes his HR was still 80, he was tired. His appetite was good though and he dove into the hay and carrots. He was pretty grumpy though, didn't want to be touched or messed with so we left him alone for the most part. He was sore in his hind end and a little crampy, but better by the time we left Michigan Bluff. I was the 2nd rider to miss the cut-off, someone in front of me missed it by 1 1/2 minutes. I think a lot of the horses in the group were pulled anyways, I believe Joyce Stoffey was the only one to go on to finish, but I may be wrong. Sinatra was looking a lot better by the time we got to Auburn and settled him into his stall. He was still a little stiff and sore on Sunday but was doing much better Monday. I took him down to my mom's house in CA as she has 10 acres of pasture, so he's on vacation for a month or so. I brought one of her Spotted Saddle Horses back up to Reno for "Fat Camp". Sinatra loved me again by Sunday, he was following me around and nuzzling me like normal. Made me feel much better, they can be such forgiving animals.

Will we do Tevis again? At Michigan Bluff I would have said "No, not on Sinatra, it's just too hard on him." Now I'm wondering.... Maybe with a little more hill training, and better pacing. I had only pre-ridden from Foresthill to Auburn so now I've seen most of the trail and have a better idea of what to expect. I think back to where I might have made better time, what I could have controlled, and the stuff the held us up beyond our control. I look at the pull list, we got a lot further than most people. My husband, who in the 4 years I've been doing endurance has never come to a ride, came to help crew Tevis, and he is really encouraging me to try again. He went from begrudging my time spent with my horse to telling me I just need to condition him more. =) So we'll see. I still want that buckle so badly, and next year will be the 20th year of this dream.....