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.....