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


mugwump said...

Really, really cool. You'll have to talk with me some day about endurance gear....

Kristie Hefling said...

THANKS for this wonderful account of you and Sinatra's Tevis Ride!! I had tears in my eyes while trying to finish reading about the victory lap!!! What a special time!!