Sunday, August 22, 2010

Tidbits gleaned

On this trip west, Boomer ate like a champ. Last time, not so much. In 2008, he got out of the trailer after 3000 miles and looked like a rescue.

What was different?
1) His feed: was getting Seminole Dynamix pellets 2 years ago. I switched feeds a short time afterwards. He now gets Seminole Equalizer (a ration balancer) (1lb/day), whole oats (3lbs/day), and Maxi-Glo pellets (3lbs/day). This is divided into 2 feedings. On occasion, he’ll eat beet pulp. He does not eat beet pulp on trips/away from home (unless it belongs to another horse . . .!).
2) Supplements: Ordinarily, he gets selenium yeast powder (Platinum Performance) plus 1000mg natural vitamin E capsules (5000IU currently). Since supplementing him with selenium, his right hind end issues at the end of a 50 mile or longer ride have abated. I also supplement with 3000mg magnesium powder. He gets Farriers Formula (a pellet) for his hooves and a cup of whole flax once a day. I also give him some loose mineral (Seminole Grass Balancer) and salt.
I have found that Boomer tends to leave his feed when he is stressed and if there is powdered stuff in it, well, then forget it! He’ll ignore the whole mess. For this trip I wanted to supplement with stuff to ease his stress, particularly on his stomach. I found a pelleted pro/prebiotic. I also gave him pelleted U-gard and pelleted magnesium. I omitted the mineral and salt. The only powder he got was the selenium which is a tiny amount due to the way it’s made.
Using the pelleted versions of his supplements seemed to really help as he cleaned his feed up without a problem.
I’ve since learned that there’s a pelleted electrolyte—a Farnam product. I would consider using it in the future.
3) Ulcergard! I bought a few tubes of Ulcergard. Not cheap but I think well worth it for the trip. I gave him the maintenance/preventative dose starting a day or 2 before I left and continued for a day or 2 after we got to Auburn. I really think this was one of the key factors in him maintaining his appetite. He had about 10 days prior to the ride without it. I gave a few doses on the trip home as well. I think this was a big factor in keeping Boomer eating.
4) Hay: Hay is Boomer’s issue. He is not a hay eater. I buy a wide variety of hays for him, trying to get him to eat. He has fragile teeth which may contribute to his hay fussiness (he goes to the vet for dental work every 6 months in an effort to keep things in good shape; he almost always has a broken molar or 2). I had started feeding him several pounds of orchard grass and timothy hay pellets in addition to his mix of hay. He was eating the hay pellets well, until the week I was leaving to go west. He decided he no longer wanted the stuff nor has he done more than pick hay pellets since. He did LOVE the California orchard grass. He ate more hay in California than I’ve ever seen him eat. Now if only I can get those 120# bales of California orchard grass for $12 like I did out there! He will eat alfalfa; sometimes he’ll eat peanut hay. What I usually give him is a mix of coastal, timothy, and orchard grass. I avoid the alfalfa except at rides and post-ride for a few days.

And you cannot discount the presence of a 2nd horse--a buddy who is going through the same thing, there all the time. The "herd" thing may also have played a big factor in how well Boomer traveled on this trip. And it wasn't that much more work, much due to the fact that Farley is the easiest horse on the planet to deal with. I think he needs to be cloned!

During the ride I used Lyte Now paste for electrolytes, BCAA paste a few times (I usually use powder BCAA mixed in with the powdered Enduramax elytes and applesauce plus CMC liquid), and a probiotic paste. I used the pastes because they were just easier to manage although I did use my usual mix at the 2 one hour holds. It was worth the extra $$ to use the convenient pastes.

Something I regret not doing: My saddlepack has 2 rusted D’s on the front sides. I don’t use them. I’ve been meaning to cut them out because I worried they may rub. I didn’t cut them out and sure enough, they rubbed. The left side pretty much blistered and Boomer ended up with a patch of hair and skin falling off about a week later. Moral to the story—don’t put off doing a little fix. While it might not be a big deal on a shorter ride, it could become quite a problem on a much longer ride. Sorry Boomer!

Something I’m glad I did: I sprung for 2 $20 “extreme” insulated Camelbak water bottles. I had insulated bottles but they got hot on the short rides in CA. I was in REI and saw the extreme bottles and decided “what’s another $40?!?”. Ha! Well worth it on the big day. The water/elyte mix stayed cool and never got so warm that I gagged trying to drink it.

I used a different human elyte powder drink mix for Tevis. I bought 3 different products plus S-caps (electrolyte capsules) from I had used the Ultra mix at Longstreets and found it agreed with my system. For Tevis, I used Clip2 and Amino. I can’t remember which one I took when I but I think I started with Clip2 and then went to the Amino after Foresthill. I did feel better and more alert than I had on previous 100s. And I may have been less sore afterwards due to the BCAAs. Well worth experimenting with if you’ve not found that perfect drink mix for a long ride. I did supplement with a few S-caps over the day as well. I also took some supplements from They may also have helped with some of the post-ride soreness. I’ll need to experiment some more before I know if they really helped or not.

I ate whatever I could get down. It wasn’t much though but the drink mix contained calories, protein, and even fat. I couldn’t even finish a Power Bar pre-ride. I did eat a banana. If there was watermelon at a gate and go, I grabbed it. I had some cantelope for the one hour holds. I had fried chicken and a sandwich as well. I don’t think I ate much of either though Eating is a big issue for me when I ride (and when I run far as well). Something yet to work on.

Random Stuff

Random thoughts

Completing Tevis was the culmination of almost 4 years of work. I had not had a horse previously that I felt could do the job so I never really considered it. In 2006, I had the chance to see Tevis for myself when I helped the Bowens of California (I was chief rig mover!). I repeated the trip in 2007 and crewed for Paul Sidio and Ron Chapman. All 4 completed which made the experiences all the better.

I bought Boomer in late April 2006, an impulse buy at an auction that I went to in order to people and horse watch. I’d done well in August 2004 at a different auction when I bought Eclipse on a whim. I didn’t realize that not only could lightning strike twice and I get lucky a 2nd time in getting a sane rideable horse, but that I’d end up with a horse that could go 100 miles. I think the first few rides on Boomer was when I thought “hmmm, Tevis horse?” and from there, the goal was set.

Despite some setbacks and hurdles, we did get there and the experience was far more than I imagined it would be. Boomer outperformed my expectations and finished looking far better than I had thought he would. I am not so sure now that we’d have finished in 2008 when Tevis was cancelled and I did the Big Horn as an alternative. Things do happen for a reason.

I’ve always been one to do things differently from others. I do march to my own drumbeat; always have, always will. It’s just the way I am. I’ve learned that to wait for the right time, right place, right whatever can often leave you never doing something you’ve longed to do. Do we every have enough time or money? I won’t try to figure out how much my Tevis quest has cost me. Far more than the $1400 a Western States 100 runner commented that he spent in his race this year. He wasn’t sure it was worth it, even though he finished his race. And all for a belt buckle?!! It is silly when you think of it that way. I know I could have spent that money on more practical things to include training for Anglos. However, I may never again have the opportunity to do such a thing. Time, age, horse issues, etc, etc, etc, all get in the way of getting to such a ride. It was time to take the chance. I’m thankful that the endurance deities smiled down on me and Boomer on that day.

During the ride, I thought many times that I would NEVER do it again. I said the same thing for the Big Horn as the trip across the slick rock in the dark was terrifying. It took me months to even think about doing the Big Horn again. Tevis only took me a day or so before I started thinking that maybe I’d like to do it again once day. Funny how fast the feeling of sure terror abated! But now I can understand how Tevis repeatedly calls to some riders and why they come back year after year. It is unlike any other ride I’ve done.

So, bottom line, if there is something you really want to do in life, make a plan and get going. Avoid the naysayers and the negative thoughts. You may be amazed to find that you can do it and end up with memories to last a lifetime.

Homeward Bound

I saw Chris and my brother off early Monday morning and finished preparing to leave for the white knuckle drive across the mountains. I was going to use my same stops on the trip home so the drives got longer as the days passed instead of shorter as they did on the trip out. This worked out well since the horses were recovering and didn’t have to deal with the longest trips first thing.

I got into Elko, got the horses settled, and ran out to grab some dinner. Pizza sounded good. The service was terribly slow and I wanted to get back to turn the horses out individually in the arena. Grrr! Finally I got done and back to the fairgrounds. I took Boomer out first. He spent his time looking for Farley, calling to his love. He took off trotting and moved beautifully—nice and sound. I went and got Farley and swapped them out. Farley didn’t waste his time worrying about Boomer. Instead he rolled and then started to play, tossing his head. I was just amazed as to how good these 2 horses looked. Later that evening, I heard another rig pull in. I looked over and saw a man walking, or rather gimping. Ah, that looked like a post-Tevis walk. Sure enough, it was. They were from SD; 4 riders had started and 2 had completed. Another case of 50%. They also stayed over at Rawlins the next night, arriving much later than I did.

Both of the private places I’d stayed at on the way out had absentee owners on the trip back but both told me to stop and stay anyhow. The advantages of being a repeat customer!

The last day of the trip was the longest and I hit Atlanta at rush hour. Atlanta is bad when it’s not rush hour. The locals cannot drive nor will they yield space. I’ve learned to turn on blinker and start coming over. They’ve learned to get out of the way! Lots of stop and go. When I finally got to Hahira, Chris and Susan Wilson were there waiting. Chris had spoken with Pam Linahan and got us use of one of the pastures. I was leery about turning Boomer out with Farley because Boomer is a bully. But apparently, this trip changed Boomer’s heart and he was in love with Farley. He followed Farley around like a love sick puppy. It was funny as they moved around together, shoulder to shoulder. I was dismayed that Boomer came out of the trailer off. Not just a bit off but way off. He’d been fine up until Friday. After being out all night, he was almost back to normal. I guess the stop and go traffic along with the long trailer ride stiffened him up.

It was not a happy time when we loaded the 2 horses into separate trailers. They called to each other with Boomer doing the most calling. It was sad to split them up. We stopped for breakfast and they called to each other some more. Whenever I stopped on the drive home, Boomer was calling for Farley. When I got him home and he realized where he was, not a peep! It was as if Farley was just a distant memory.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ride Day

Ride Day!

We woke up at 3am and fed the horses. Time to get the day going. We were able to get ourselves ready plus make sure our Super Crew of Two (SC2) also had everything they needed along with reviewing the grand plan for the day. Tacking up went smoothly to my relief. Sometimes this is where things suddenly don’t work. The girth will decide to get stuck and not let me tighten or loosen (English style buckles; shouldn't be a problem, right!?!). I’ll forget the HRM and have to redo the entire mess. The saddle pad will stubbornly refuse to sit evenly across my horse’s back. Or worse scenario—my saddle will fall off the horse and the velcro’d panels will pop off (and this has happened before, once FOUR times in the same tacking up process with my can’t-stand-still little black monster). But all was well and soon we were ready to mount. Naturally, right after I easily got on, I realized I had forgotten my sunglasses. ARGH! I remembered where I had put them and they had not wandered off so the situation was quickly righted and I was back in the saddle.

With goodbyes called to the SC2, we were away, walking along in the darkness of Robie Park, moving towards the group 2 holding area. By the time we strolled up, the group had been released up the road. Dust in the air ahead showed us the way and we passed by the truck taking our numbers. It was a nice walk up to the starting area. I moved Boomer across the road from side to side using my leg and asking him to yield to the bit. He was responding well and loosening up nicely. Eventually we came to the end of the pack. Perfect timing as we only had to endure standing for a few minutes before the trail was open. Both horses were relaxed as we walked out and eventually got trotting down the forest road. Boomer felt strong as we moved along in the early dawn but he was responsive and not trying to go faster and faster. No fuss at all. A perfect start to the day.

The first part of the trail quickly becomes single-track. The views of the surrounding mountains are breathtaking as the sun rises and the light changes. We came to the four narrow wooden bridges which both horses crossed without any hesitation. Farley was in the lead and on a mission. He was feeling good! Boomer followed his buddy. We came to the snaking trail that takes you down to and then under Hwy 89. You come back up and then hook around to ride across the bridge, the sounds of hoof steps hanging in the early morning air. There are spectators at the crossing cheering on the riders. Our last bit of paved road until Foresthill. On we went towards Squaw Valley for more spectacular views.

We found ourselves behind Cathy Perry, the speaker at the first time Tevis riders' meeting. We figured if we were hanging with her, then our pace was good as she was after her 20th buckle. Who better to follow?! We stayed in her vicinity for a good portion of the trail through Lyon's Ridge.

Then the big climb over Emigrant Pass began. The trail is wide here—vehicle plus wide—so you can relax as you climb and look around. At High Camp, there were water troughs that the horses eagerly drank from. The technical trail and mountain air seems to bring about thirsty horses earlier in the ride than we are used to. On up we go. Near the top, we saw Cowman, a character of sorts who has done this trail as a runner and a rider. He was wearing a black running skirt along with his cow horn hat. Very fetching! We hit the top of the climb and I saw Watson’s Monument but with the sun glaring in my eyes, along with the dust that is making them tear, I forgot to look back at Lake Tahoe, focusing instead on the trail ahead. Still, what I do see continues to be breathtaking. This ride has no shortage of views to remember.

The trail now narrowed to single track and Farley continued to lead the way. We hung alongside the mountains on narrow strips of trail and trotted along. We trotted on trail that I would neer have believed I would have trotted on but you had to in order to make time. This is how it is the entire ride--trotting stuff you'd never dreamed of trotting. I'm sure those out west are used to such stuff but for a Florida girl, I was cringing. I kept silently apologizing to Boomer and praying all would be well with him.

The part of the trail I was dreading was approaching—Granite Chief, a 3 mile section of rocks, boulders, and bogs. This year the bogs were not bad; many had been washed clean of the dirt, leaving only the rock underneath exposed, sometimes with water on top and sometimes not. This section is a destroyer of leg protection as often the trail is in a narrow gulley with rocks on either side at the level of pastern, fetlock, and cannon bone. Many riders do this ride without using leg boots on their horses. I am not one of them nor am I one to not fully pad my horse’s hooves for protection against that rock with our name on it. Why take the risk? And hearing Sara talk of horses getting joint punctures from the rocks in this section, thus ending their ride and possibly their careers and even lives, I would recommend using as full of leg protection as you can. Unfortunately, I could not find a pair of full hind boots that would not rub Boomer so he wore his usual ankle boots. He only got a couple of scrapes above the boots but wouldn’t have had those had he been wearing taller boots.

We scrambled and stumbled our way through. At times, it’s not THAT bad and other times, I had to question what I was asking my horse to do. But on we went and eventually we got to a much kinder trail. We came into the trot by at Lyon’s Ridge. More water troughs but the water was so cold that our horses refused to drink it. We quickly gave some electrolytes though since they had drank well earlier. Then we did the trot by the vet, holding our breaths and hoping we didn't hear “STOP!”. We were good.

A few miles later, there it was—Cougar Rock. My plan was to go around, taking the bypass. I’ve seen the videos and photos and heard the tales of falls on the rock. While a cool photo is nice, I was after the buckle. A few years ago, a rider from MO on a beautiful half-Arab pinto got the most gorgeous photo on Cougar Rock. However, the next 2 photos in the sequence showed what happened next and it wasn’t pretty as the mare slipped and went down on her knees. She was pulled later in the day for lameness. The next year, they returned, skipped the rock (after all, they could not have improved on that one awesome photo!), and got the buckle.

I asked Chris what she was going to do and she said “I’m going over the rock!” and away she went when the spotter at the base sent her. I stood there with mouth open and heart racing. What was I going to do?? Go for it or go around? The spotter said I could go and I said that I wanted to watch my friend first because I wasn’t sure I could do it. Chris and Farley cruised up and over the rock like it was nothing. They made it look so smooth and easy. Boomer watched his buddy go and wanted to follow. I took a deep breath and said OK and away we went. I was terrified! I knew from my jumping days that I had to think forward and ride the same. The trick is to follow the arrows painted on the rock for the safest pathway. The volunteers call direction and encouragement to help. Boomer never hesitated, never slipped, never stumbled. He motored right up and over that rock like it was something he did every day in the pasture. The feeling once we reached the top of the world (rock!) was amazing. I whooped and hollered with exhilaration! Boomer had done it!

As I rode away to catch up with Chris, I heard a clatter and “Oh no!” I looked back and saw someone running over on the top of the rock. I wondered if I had spooked a horse with my celebration and worried about that as I caught up to Chris. I told her I thought something had happened back there but she correctly said there was nothing for us to do but ride on as there were plenty of people there to assist in whatever had happened. No one came up behind us, despite there being a lot of people behind us across the last few miles. It was a bit later when other riders finally caught us. I asked what had happened and learned that one of the photographers had fallen, striking his head. The riders said it was a horrible thing to see and were understandably upset. I was relieved I hadn’t sent a horse over the edge but saddened to hear about the poor photographer.

From later reports, the photographer had stood up after I passed because there was a gap behind me. He went to stretch and stepped back. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any rock behind where he stepped so he fell 15-20 feet, hitting the rock below. One of the other photographers was a former Marine and experienced in field emergency response. Medivac was called but could not land so a smaller highway patrol helicopter was brought in to move the man to a location that the larger medical chopper could get to. Both wrists broken, one broken leg, and a broken nose. He spent a night or 2 in the hospital and was released to recover at home. He’ll never forget Tevis 2010!

Due to the emergency response to the downed photographer, the riders behind us HAD to go over the rock. The bypass was no longer an option as he fell on that side. And insult to injury, no photographs were taken of their scramble over the famous Cougar Rock due to the remaining photographers helping their injured friend.

The next challenging portion of the trail is Elephant’s Trunk. I can’t say for sure which portion was actually it but there were 2 intense portions of trail, one that had you riding on the side of the mountain on a small level (well, kinda level) trail with mountainside sloping above and below with nothing to stop your slide down if you "left the trail." Another portion was a steep climb up and up and up a center trail with slopes of rocks on both sides. That climb was harder than Cougar Rock due to the length of it. The horses were working hard but still they went on.

After all this fun, things settled down on the trail and became much easier (all is relative though!). The trail widened to a jeep track, allowing for more relaxed trotting (breathe Debbie, breathe!). Soon we were coming into Red Star Ridge, a bit later than I had hoped but still OK. This is the first gate and go vet check. The place was swarming! Milling horses everywhere in a tight area. I’d seen this spot a few years ago on a pre-ride jeep jaunt. It did not look as confined as it was on ride day. Amazing how the addition of dozens of horse and riders and volunteers can really tighten things up! The horses were thirsty and drank well. The vet line was long and slow moving. I got in it, hoping Boomer’s pulse would be down by the time I got through. Chris was ahead of me. I vetted through in good shape but didn’t see Chris waiting at the end of the trotting lane. The vets do the assessment, hand you back your card, and have you trot out one way. If they don’t yell, you are good to keep going. This is done to decrease the congestion in the gate area.

I fought my way back to the swarm, looking for Chris. The vets had not liked how Farley was moving and told her to come back in 10 mins for a recheck. What!?! I’d been behind him for 28+ miles and he was moving fine. When it was time, Chris fought her way to the front of the line for the recheck. The vets hemmed and hawed but I told them he looked fine to me and I should know since I rode behind him frequently and had seen him when he wasn’t fine. They let Chris go reluctantly, telling her to “watch him.” OK, now how do you “watch” your horse that might be moving funky behind?!?

The recheck slipped us further behind on our goal time for Robinson Flat. I wanted 11:00. I would settle for 11:30. On we went. Farley decided he was done with leading which is normal for him. Boomer doesn’t care where he is in the pack and he was still interested in going although uphills he was now taking at a walk. Fortunately, this 7.5 miles is fairly level on a hard packed forest road. There’s enough rocks and holes and ruts to call for some caution but you can do a decent pace through here (again, all is relative!). I did it in an hour.

Farley and Chris started to fall back. I debated what to do. Do I stick with them or press on in case Farley wasn’t right enough at Robinson Flat to go on? The cut-off for Robinson Flat is noon and once you start pushing cut-offs, things get a bit nerve-wracking or at least they do for me. Maybe it’s the 19 years of military service that has embedded the adage “Early is on time; on time is late” which results in anxiety whenever I start running behind. Farley pulsed down much faster than the much thicker Boomer so he had the advantage coming into vet checks. I decided to push on, figuring Chris would only be about 5 mins behind at the most and I could always use the extra 5 mins on the hold to let Boomer eat.

I rode down the road into Robinson Flat and spied the SC2 in their snug pink Team Florida t-shirts. We got Boomer’s tack off and my brother and I continued up the road to the vetting area. He did not know where Sara had set up the gear, having arrived much later than she did. I asked how the rig moving went and was relieved that all went smoothly and that I still had a rig (and a brother!). Boomer was very hungry and grabbed at the alfalfa hay near the vetting area. The pulse parameter was 60 here (as it was at Red Star) but Boomer came down well and we vetted through without a problem. I didn’t care what marks I was getting on the card. I just wanted to be handed back that card. The B for gut sounds is a normal finding for Boomer and the way he was looking for food told me he’d be fine. But, I could not find my stuff and after stumbling up a churned up hill and back down, stumbling over roots and rocks of the freshly marred soil (thanks to logging in that area a few days before the ride), I gave up and walked back down where there was a bale of alfalfa and water. I knew eventually Chris would arrive and Sara could tell me where to go. Chris finally arrived and vetted through without a problem. She came in 14 mins behind me but I decided to wait in hopes we could continue to ride together. The hold went by too fast. The horses ate enthusiastically and we less so but we got enough plus more fluids. Time to go. This year, the exit CRI check was gone. Hurray! We got to the timer and went out a couple of mins late. ACK! Now I was really stressing. At least the next part of the trail was such we should be able to make decent time.

Leaving Robinson Flat, you trot along the trail under huge pine trees. Then you hit the open side of the mountain, bare due a fire several years ago. Dust, dust, dust. I’ve not mentioned much about the dust before but it’s there the whole ride. Sometimes almost not there but other times so thick and heavy that you can’t see the ground in front of you. It got heavy here. Farley started to lag again and again I was stewing about what to do. In the end, I rode on, knowing my anxiety level about the cut-offs would only increase unless I got a decent margin built back up.

The trail from Robinson Flat to Dusty Corners soon becomes an easy to ride trail with no terrifying drop-offs. I fell in with a few others trotting down the trail, taking this bit of “easy” trail to relax some. At Dusty Corners, the volunteers offered watermelon and refills on our water bottles while the horses drank. I left out of Dusty Corners for Last Chance, falling in as last horse behind a string of about 6 others. Trot, trot, trot. Dust, dust, dust. The guy in front of me commented how nice it would be to ride this trail at a slower pace so you could enjoy the scenery. There were parts of this trail that got scary and I joked that instead of looking for “Pucker Point” I wanted to know where “Puckerless Point” was because I needed to unpucker! I was too scared to look out over the canyon as we hung on the side of the mountain, many thousands of feet above the bottom.

I came into the Last Chance gate and go and Boomer once again drank well but when I offered him some hay, he just stood there, looking tired. We had just covered 50 hard miles of trail in 9:25. Take out the hour hold and the 20 mins at Red Star and we are talking a ride time just over 8 hours for 50 miles. I’ve done FLAT 50s in FL in more time than that! I offered him some oats and he took some, then some more, and then some more. He perked back up and took the hay and I let him eat while I drank a few glasses of lemonade and ate some watermelon. Again, this was a check where the vets did their assessment, handed you the card, and told you to start running to trot your horse out. They’d yell if you were good or not. I got the “Good!” call and kept going, only stopping at the stepstool to get back on. The first canyon was next and I knew we’d be slow so wanted to get to it.

I found the first canyon a bit intimidating going down. Narrow, well, it’s ALL narrow! Lots of ruts and rocks. Due to my trashed ankle, Boomer was stuck toting me the whole way. We picked our way down, traveling behind a man from Canada who had ridden Tevis many times before. I asked him questions about the rest of the trail and the cutoffs. He said usually you start picking back up some time as the day goes on but you needed to keep moving. So move we did, even if it was at a walk. At the bottom is the Swinging Bridge. Some riders dismount; others ride across. I elected to ride for fear that if Boomer got upset, he might step on me as we crossed the narrow bridge. He’s not good about my space not being his space on a good day and if he gets worried, forget my space being mine. So I rode across. I felt the bridge sway some but Boomer didn’t seem to be bothered. No biggie. After all those miles in the back of a moving horse trailer, what was a swinging bridge?! Some riders go down into the river but while you can really cool your horse down, you can spend a lot of time there. On the other side of the bridge there’s a creek that you can sponge from and let your horse drink from but Boomer wasn’t interested in drinking from it. I told him that he’d be sorry in a few minutes as we began the big climb with 36,000 switchbacks. Well, it seemed like 36,000 but I think it's really something like 36.

We weren’t fast going down into that canyon and got even slower climbing out. Boomer self-regulates his pace. When his pulse gets into the 160s, he stops. Once it drops, he’ll restart. I’ve found if I sit and let him rest about 30 seconds, he’ll go again when I ask. Otherwise, he balks and stops even more frequently. So I’ve learned to be patient. Thus became our pattern . . . walk, climb, stop, walk, climb, stop. A rider tailing came up behind us. I offered to get over at the next spot but he said he was OK being behind. His horse, however, wasn’t and was full of power. The rider just needed a break! Eventually they did go around. You can move over on the switchbacks and let others pass. I did a lot of this climbing out of the canyon. Maybe Boomer would have gone faster but I didn’t want to burn him up. Plus, it was hot. Not Florida hot with humidity that saps the air out of your lungs but just plain hot. And Boomer was working hard to cool himself.

It was on this climb out of the canyon that I saw a sight I’d hoped not to see: a horse down off the trail. Oh no! But unlike Ice Joy, this horse was alive and none too happy about her predicament. A volunteer (an ultrarunner getting in a run after helping at one of the holds) was down in the gully with her, keeping her calm until they could figure out how to get her back onto the trail. The rider was OK. It had to be a horrible experience but both were OK and the mare escaped with just a few scrapes. I heard she was initially upside down with her neck pinned but they got her upright. Glad I didn’t see her in the upside down state. I did not see the memorial to Ice Joy, probably because I was focusing on looking straight ahead due to the drop-offs.

One hour and 22 mins after leaving Last Chance, we crested the canyon at Devil’s Thumb. There used to be a Boy Scout troop working that area, eager to pour water and sponge hot horses and riders. Unfortunately, they disbanded and no other group has stepped forward to help at this location. But there were still volunteers there, just not the hoards of young eager scouts. I tossed water on Boomer and let him drink. He was really blowing to dissipate heat. The gate and go at Deadwood was a mile away and I decided to get going at a walk, utilizing the ultrarunner technique of “relentless forward motion” to get us there while giving Boomer a chance to cool down along the way. The pulse at this check was 64. It took several mins to get Boomer’s pulse down but it got there. I let him eat and drink while we waited for his pulse to drop. I think this is where a vet said that Boomer looked tired. I wanted to say “Well DUH!” but refrained. Boomer was eating and drinking and had recovered. Total time in that gate and go was 12 mins.

On we went to El Dorado Canyon. I had hiked down into this canyon from Michigan Bluff a few years back so had an idea of what was on the other side. In contrast to the first canyon, I found this one had a lot of trot-able trail going down so trot I did. Yes, it was scary because once again, the trail was narrow and hanging on the side of the mountain with a looonnnggg dropoff. I actually passed someone going downhill! Her horse decided to trot after mine so down, down, down we went. We were passed on the uphill side though, by this horse and several others. Sigh . . . but I can’t expect a FL horse to be able to climb out of canyons with any great speed.

The climb out was a repeat of the previous canyon. Long and slow with frequent stops. Fewer switchbacks. I got into Michigan Bluff at 6:26. Cut-off for Chicken Hawk, 1.5 miles away was 7:30pm. Boomer drank well but I wanted to toss water on him. I saw someone I knew from the Big Horn who was crewing for his wife and daughter. He had a small bucket so I borrowed it and dumped several bucketfuls on Boomer. Away we went out of Michigan Bluff. I longingly looked at Gary and Judy Hall’s home, thinking of the time I’d spent there on previous visits. I knew there was beer in the bar refrigerator. Had we stayed there prior to the ride, Boomer would have quit for sure, especially after those 2 canyons. And I may have been OK with that!

The hard packed road to Chicken Hawk allows you to move out a bit which I did until the road turned and started to climb up to the vet check. Boomer slowed to a walk and I decided to just hop off and lead him up, giving him a break from carrying me while we were on footing I could walk on without fear of upsetting my ankle. Boomer again drank and ate. As soon as his pulse was in the 60s I got in the vet line, knowing he would be down to 64 by the time it was my turn. Instead of trot on and go, we had to trot back to the vet. B’s for gait and just about everything else. It was time for a break which would come after the next smaller canyon but I had to keep moving.

I found myself riding with my 2 Big Horn saviors, Jack Evers and Sue Basham. Without them, I’d have never finished that ride. It was neat to ride along together. I mused about how you don’t hear a lot of comments about this third canyon (Volcano Canyon) so maybe it wasn’t much to worry about. Ha! Probably nothing to the locals but still something to Florida peeps! But then we hit the paved Bath Road that leads up into Foresthill. Took 55 mins with another 2 mins to pulse. I was in at Foresthill at 7:58, 32 mins before cutoff.

The SC2 were waiting well down Bath Road. There’s a point past which crews are not permitted. They seemed to be close to that point for which I was grateful. We pulled Boomer’s tack and started throwing water on him. My brother and I walked up the road and to the timer while Sara waited for Chris. Once in the main area, Boomer went for the water troughs and hay. He was starving. This is when I learned something new. Boomer’s pulse drops when he’s allowed to eat. Didn’t know that but then he’s usually not ravenous like he was during this ride. Just needed a handy pulse-taking volunteer to help me discover this.

I held my breath as I trotted Boomer out. The vet looked happy and then made my day when he said “I want to tell you that your horse’s trot looked really good; lots of energy and impulsion.” I wanted to kiss the man! Those that know Boomer know that he’s pretty laid back about vet check trot outs. To have him look lively after 68 miles of tough trail was wonderful. I was grinning from ear to ear as my brother and I walked back to our little area. They had done quite the setup, complete with pop-up canopy and multiple chairs. A buffet of horse feed and hay was laid out which Boomer dove into. I kept looking at my watch. It was rapidly approaching 8:30, the cut-off for Foresthill and no Chris. A few mins after 8:30, she walked up with Sara, having just made it in—the last horse to pulse in by 8:30. Farley looked good and was doing well but they were no longer just dancing with the cut-offs; they were stepping right on them. I was 32 mins ahead of them which really wasn’t much but I knew from past experience that Boomer can really come to life after dark. The trail was pretty much downhill from Foresthill. Little did I know just how you got downhill!

I was waiting to go out before my out time. Those of us waiting were definitely happy and ready to move out. Once you reach this point, the odds of you completing go up dramatically. I went out with Jonni Jewell from TX. We trotted along in the dark, approaching the “downtown” area of Foresthill. You cross the road, ride along a nice path, then cross back for more path. Then it happened . . . the path ended. No warning in the dark. Dirt, then a dark side road. Jonni was in front and yelled “road!” and checked up. I saw sparks fly under Hank’s hooves as he slipped. I said “whoa” to Boomer. Don’t really know if I physically pulled him up or not because at this point in the day, he has a really good “whoa!” Regardless, he pulled up fast, too fast, and slipped on the road. Down we went. I don’t know how I landed or if I even really hit the ground or instead just stepped off. All I remember is the horrible feeling of Boomer going down and all it implied as he hit the asphalt. I saw him down and scrambling to regain his feet, still slipping. I remember seeing the cars on the road on the other side of us, a long string of lights heading through town and back to Auburn. Boomer finally got up and started to walk away and I jumped and grabbed the reins with visions of him running out into the traffic. I could see some scrapes on him but no active bleeding. Just road rash stuff. Left hock, stifle, elbow. Thought he had one on his knee but it wasturned out to be oil or black dirt as it was gone by the end of day. He looked upset so I wondered if he was injured somehow. Jonni apologized for forgetting about the side road but it wasn’t her fault. It really should have been marked somehow or had a spotter there as most people are trotting on the good trail while they can. I knew the roads around Foresthill had taken down horses in the past and had said I would dismount and lead my horse through the town but that thought had never entered my mind prior to the ride when I needed to remember. I felt terrible for Boomer. He didn’t deserve to fall and had done nothing wrong. My ride was probably over, all because I wasn’t careful and aware. And who knew how injured Boomer might be.

Jonni said to trot him and I jogged and Boomer trotted alongside sound. I was relieved but also wondered if it was adrenaline helping him to ignore the pain. I told Jonni I would stay on foot through the town until I got off the pavement. She was able to move out better than I was on foot and soon Boomer and I were alone as we walked through the little town. We turned at California Street and walked to the end where the dirt once again resumed. There was a volunteer there to make sure we made the correct turns. I found a spot to remount and got on, still shaken by the fall and the possible consequences, wondering if I was doing the right thing by continuing on or if I was a better person to turn around and return to the vet check and call it a day. I asked Boomer to trot and he felt fine. Not even a bobble. So I rode on, watching and feeling for an aberration in gait, any hesitancy. There was nothing.

Into the dark we went, alone on the California loop. It took a few minutes for my eyes to fully become accustomed to the moonlit night. The trail narrowed and went under trees, blocking the moon’s light. Now and then I’d see light down below. Then I realized what I was seeing—it was the river with the moon reflecting off of it. And it was waaaayyy down below, some 2000 feet or so. The trail was narrow and had switchbacks that were marked by a glowstick. Turn and drop. I got scared. Very scared. It was hard to breathe. One wrong step, one missed turn . . . . Sure my horse doesn’t want to fall. He’d just proven that back in Foresthill. It upset him to fall. Lions can eat horses that have fallen. But the horse doesn’t know that if he falls on this trail, lions are the least of his worries. He might have a chance with lions. He won’t have a chance falling hundreds of feet. I told myself to stop thinking that way and trust. Trust Boomer as he’d not done me wrong in the dark before. Remember how he stopped and dropped his head in the final yards of Longstreet’s Charge when we came down the trail under thick tree cover and a moon that had yet to rise. He took care of us then. I just had to believe he’d take care of us now. And, if I wanted to complete this ride on time, I HAD TO TROT! So I trotted, looking straight ahead.

After a mile or so, I caught up with someone. Ah, someone who will hear my screams if we take a bad step. Someone to guide the way. Turned out he lived a few hours away and had actually ridden the trail about 15 times during the daylight. A brave man, riding this trail when you can really see the drop-off! He was on a KY Mtn Horse that had a big walk on him. We moved along with him gaiting and me trotting but soon I learned he was also scared, despite the familiarity with the trail. He’d never ridden it in the dark and his horse was young so the trust wasn’t fully there yet. But he did well, moving out on the stretches he was comfortable with. A few people caught up with us. We came into a lit wide spot on the trail—the start of Cal 2. There were water troughs there along with people. The horses drank well and we went on. Eventually others joined us so there was string of riders clinging to the side of the mountain, going along, switching back and dropping, criss-crossing down towards the river. I know some may have been able to go faster but I did not hear any complaints in this section. Only when the trail got gentler, more open, and less scary were there some grumbles and as soon as it was safe, we let people pass.

Finally, the lights of the Francisco check appeared in the distance. I saw a few riders on foot leading their horses towards me. They had been pulled. I expressed my sympathy. Would I be joining them? I was worried if the effects of the fall would rear their ugly head. My goal was to get in, pulse down, vet through, let Boomer grab something to eat, and keep going. The volunteers were eager to help and I had one trot Boomer out. He looked good and I let out my breath. We were OK to go on. I let Boomer eat some more, made a pit stop of my own, and we got going again. I lost my gaited horse friend who had helped me get through that scary trail. I decided to ride on, knowing with the numbers still out on the trail I’d either catch up with someone or someone would catch up with me. And I’d not gone half a mile when others caught up with me and even passed me. I slipped in behind and away we went towards the river crossing.

The trail was much gentler here although there were still sections that were narrow with drop-offs. You just wouldn’t drop as far! I’d actually seen a piece of this trail years ago, enough to scare me (yet I still wanted to do this ride!?! Crazy people!). It was actually a bit wider than when I’d seen it which was a relief. Early on in this section, I ended up finding myself riding behind Steph Teeter. Her friend had a red light headlamp which seemed to work well. Then a rider came up behind me with a white headlamp that was very bright. Not good at all as it would cast a huge black hole in front of me. I told her that as soon as the trail was safe I needed her to pass me because the headlamp was not working for me and actually making it unsafe for my horse. She didn’t seem to get it and it took several explanations before I felt she got I wasn’t being mean or nasty but that it was a problem riding behind someone with a bright light. I got her to pass me and all was good. No problem riding BEHIND a rider with headlamp and it was actually a comfort. She asked if I was scared and I emphatically yelled YES! I told her I was terrified at times but you have to trust and ride on if you want to make it.

The river crossing was deeper than I thought and my feet got a bit wet. Boomer is 15 hands so that gives you an idea of the depth. I’d heard that it was cooler down by the river but not this night. It stayed warm so the river was refreshing. Boomer was strong and moving well, willing to do whatever pace I asked, unless it was uphill when the only pace he was doing was walk at his speed. I was OK with that.

Once across the river, the trail is mostly driving width. Trot, trot, trot. We had a little uphill at some point and a guy next to me started fretting about time and the cutoffs. Now we were WALKING on a WIDE trail and he was fretting. That tells you how messed up and non-functional your brain can become. Plenty of room to go faster and pass. I told him he could go faster, “just like this” as I asked Boomer to trot and we quietly wove our way around slower riders. We weren’t flying, just trotting easily along.

The moon was so very bright that night, almost too bright and glaring, especially after the miles on the California loop. But it was beautiful. And now that the miles left were dwindling down, I relaxed and looked around and up. Unfortunately, so did my headlamp wearing friend . . . FLASH in my eyes as she swiveled her head. Sigh . . . I just learned to watch what she was doing so I could avert my eyes. There was no sense getting in a tizzy about the situation as we were all trying to reach the same goal. There were some other riders that could have learned to think that way as they complained and grumbled, wanting trail when there was no place safe to pass. I know I told one that I’d much rather get out of their way than hold them up but unless they wanted to die, they’d have to wait because I wasn’t going to scoot over on the drop-off side. This made me think back to the runners I’d encountered on trail races and how encouraging and polite they are, something that is sometimes lacking in endurance. We could do better.

It was along this section that I saw what I thought was a sign on a tree. We were going through a dark tree covered section of the trail when the sign appeared in front of me. I kept trotting and the sign got closer but slowly closer. Hmmm, why was it taking me so long to get to that sign? Another minute passed and then I realized what I was seeing. It was a rider on her horse and the “sign” was her lighter colored shirt contrasting against her dark horse. No wonder I didn’t run into that “tree” with the sign on it! It was obviously becoming a long day!

The lights of Lower Quarry can be seen some distance away. It seems like an eternity passes before you reach that check. The trail actually goes a bit past and then you drop down to the vet area. Ah, a downhill approach to a check! Finally!! Again my plan was to vet through as soon as Boomer’s pulse was at parameters (68). He had other plans as he draggedsme to the hay that had been set out. I worried about him stiffening up so grabbed a handful of hay and coaxed him to the vet. The vet could certainly see my horse was eating so that should give me points. I again had a volunteer trot Boomer out. Still looked good but I could see some fatigue showing. The vet commented on this. I told him about our meeting with the road in Foresthill and he actually sounded mad that I didn’t stop. Maybe it was just me and the late hour. But, he handed me back the card with its boatload of B’s. B for gait . . . no problem! I’ll take it! I’d seen Boomer trot and he was moving evenly so I was OK with the marks. I took Boomer over to some hay and told him he had 5 mins to stuff his face. It was after 3; 2 hours to do the last 6 miles, 6 miles that I’d pre-ridden with 3 miles of it that we’d done 3 times. I left the check at 3:24, giving me just under 2 hours to finish it up. We’ve walked 8 miles in 2 hours at the end of Boomer’s 2nd 50 when he’d given me such fits all day and worn himself out, resulting in a poor recovery at the previous check and me staying more than an hour to let him eat and rest. 6 miles ought to be a snap.

I was alone at first, trotting along under the moon on the wide trail. It was not too far along here when I saw my 2nd “thing” of the night and this time, I wonder if what I saw wasn’t a ghost. I could see a rider ahead of me, riding along the right edge of the road, the side above the river. I wondered why the rider was riding there when the road was so wide and had such good safe footing, unlike the edge that often had eroded places and holes. Before I could catch up to the pair, they were gone! I shook my head. Sure glad I was almost done.

I could see the rig for the pulls coming towards me in the distance. Super courteous driver—turned off their headlights so not to blind the oncoming riders. I hoped it would not be of much use. Unfortunately, it was used to haul out my gaited pal when they were pulled at the last check. So close! 4 were pulled at that 94 mile mark. What a heartbreaker.

I got to Hwy 49 with some other riders. It was manned by volunteers and a police officer. As we crossed, I noticed Boomer hesitating. It took me a moment to figure out what the problem was—he was worried about slipping and falling again. I let him carefully step across the road. He never slipped but he must have remembered that last encounter with the road and didn’t want a repeat. We were across safely and climbing up the trail, minutes from No Hands Bridge. Closer to the end. The moon was still very bright and blinding at times but now the dark of the night was starting to soften as dawn approached.

There were a few people at No Hands Bridge calling encouragement. I crossed it and enjoyed the moon. I couldn’t believe I was there and so close to the finish. Just a bit more. Boomer seemed to know where he was but he was so hungry that he was looking at every little thing along the trail as a possible snack. There wasn’t much and I told him that soon he’d be home and could have all he wanted. Several of us rode along in little groups and I found myself with my Big Horn friends. I joked about repeating our Big Horn finish. Sue had been told to walk her mare in but she went on to complete. Jack had gotten lost last year in these last miles, going overtime at the finish. There would be no repeat of that this year as he also completed (Sue said it was because she was there to keep him straight). I ended up passing them. We climbed to Robie Point and went back down and turned right. At this point, Boomer really knew he was almost done and he started moving out. Nice strong trot. I let him move out and soon we were alone again. Step by step, we got closer. The trail narrowed to single track with a drop-off on the left (by comparisons, it was a sissy drop-off!). I heard something on the upside of the trail scrambling. Great, something was about to spook my horse in the last mile and we are going to take a spill. But Boomer was on a mission and all he did was flick an ear to the side as he trotted along. I was told it was probably a bear and it did sound clumsier than a deer. Maybe it was a bear because had it been a deer, I’d have been on the ground because Boomer doesn’t do deer!

I could hear noise above and see the sky appearing brighter from artificial light. Another turn and we started the climb to the finish. Boomer stopped trotting because it was uphill and he was done with trotting up hills, even if he was almost home and could eat. We walked out of the trees and into the light and the waiting people. Cheers went up and I saw my brother Joe there smiling. We’d finished the 100 miles. Now to get through the final vet check.

Boomer didn’t want the water in the fancy trough. I didn’t waste time standing there but led him across the parking lot and then the little wooden bridge over the channeled water. The final vet check was being done in a field. There were water troughs set up and Boomer dragged me to one for a long drink. I took him towards the vet and asked if there was someone who could trot him out. My brother is not a horse person; he is good for holding but we didn’t practice trotting out. They found a volunteer happy to do the job. Turned out she was a friend of Sara’s and very happy to help one of the Florida riders. I pulled out my ride card and handed it over to the scribe and blinked when I recognized Judy Hall. How cool that Judy was there to see my finish. She and her husband Gary had opened up her home to me on 2 previous visits and patiently answered my questions about the ride. The vet completed the assessment and it was time for the fat lady to sing. Off Boomer went at a trot. It was beautiful!! He was moving freely and evenly and with IMPULSION!! I was so happy and stunned the same time. Boomer had done it!! We finished with 28 mins left on the clock too, 74th out of 96 completers. I hugged Judy a 2nd time as I left with Boomer and my brother.

The stunned joy I felt at the knowledge that we had completed Tevis stayed with me on our walk back to the fairgrounds. Boomer was still dragging me everywhere so I handed him off to my stronger and more rested brother. We went down to the stadium where I got on Boomer for the last time so we could do our victory lap. I was a goofball and got all into whooping and hollering and fist pumping as I crossed the finish line in the stadium. My finish line photo shows this “celebration” as Boomer sports an “Oh brother . . . like she trotted 100 miles or something” look. I got off once we finished and we walked up to the trailer to pull all the tack. My brother said he’d have carried it from the barn to the trailer but it was a bit far to do that and much easier to just get it done in one step.

The walk back to the barn was very dangerous as Boomer went for anything he thought he could eat. I was glad there were few people around, people who may have been carrying feed and hay. It would have gotten ugly. I got him back to the stall he’d been living in and he dove into the feed, hay, and water, moving all over as he went from one thing to another. This added an element of comedy as I attempted to poutice and wrap his legs. I got knocked over several times before it was all done. I had problems with the tape I use to secure the wraps. My brother assisted and I didn’t pay attention. When I looked, one leg was almost completely covered in tape! Definitely that bandage was secured!

My brother had already given me the bad news that Chris had been pulled at Franciscos for going overtime. That dampered my spirits. I had hoped she’d get ahead of the cutoffs and give up that dance with time but time had gotten her. Sara had an update at the barn. Chris was on her way back but Farley was awaiting transport. Both were OK and that was what was really important. Chris arrived to witness the knock down, drag out expo Boomer was doing to me as I wrapped his legs. She said she was OK but that trail had gotten to her when she found herself alone in the dark on the California loop and realized how freaking scary it was. She’d slowed to a crawl and had even gotten off Farley to lead him, thus being found by the drag riders who dragged her into Franciscos. She’s now an unofficial drag rider member.

There’s a post check 1-2 hours after your finish. It is mandatory. I dragged Boomer out at the one hour mark. The SC2 had gone to bed as had Chris so it was staggering me and my still hungry horse. Back to the stadium. Pulse was 60, eh, not too happy about that but the rest was OK including the trot. This is a safety check. The fact Boomer was mugging everyone and everything for food helped the vet not to worry about the 60 pulse. I’d had a fleece cooler on Boomer and that may have contributed to the pulse as it was still warm out, having never really cooled down. I pulled it off him once we got back. Boomer was very happy I did that because he could really roll and scratch those itchy places. I left him eating and drinking and rolling. He looked happy.

I then realized I’d screwed up. I wanted a shower. The showers were at the bottom of the hill below the barns. Where was my shower stuff? In the camper waaayyy across the fairgrounds, over by the railroad tracks. Uphill. Ugh. Nothing to do but hobble along. I crept along and when I got to the base of the hill, looked up. I now knew how Boomer felt. Another darn hill! It was a slow process but I got up the hill. It was past dawn now and pretty light. Life was stirring around me. At least I had my shower and post ride stuff all put together in a bag already. Just wished I had told my brother to grab it and take it to the barn. While I was at the rig, I got the handy dandy walking stick I’d bought but not yet used. I wanted it in case I felt unstable on my ankle as I was going around Auburn but hadn’t felt the need. I needed now. I crept along back to the showers, walking stick in hand. I’m sure I was a sight as I know how dirty I was. A volunteer at Deadwood had brought me a washcloth to clean my face. She said it was pretty bad then. It had now been over 9 hours and 32 miles since I last cleaned my face. We won’t discuss the amount of dust and grime on me. Glad they had a good drainage system in those showers! The shower was worth the effort and it felt wonderful to be clean and dry.

Before going to bed, I walked back up the hill to check on Boomer. Farley was back, having been put into his stall by the nice transporters. His head was up with ears pricked, looking at me as if to say “Whaz up!?!?” He had plenty of hay, feed, and water and seemed content and healthy. He also looked like he had a lot left in the tank. With the knowledge that both horses were set, I hiked to the camper, finally getting to bed at 8am, some 29 hours since I’d gotten up on Saturday. Yep, definitely a loooonnnnggggg day.

Tevis 2010--The Wait

The Wait

Now the wait began. Boomer had eaten throughout this trip and looked good after 3000 miles of travel. Farley had eaten less and lost some weight but filled back out to his pre-travel weight by the day of the ride. I think Boomer actually GAINED weight during the 10 days as he ate pound after pound of hay. We joked about his hay belly as he had certainly filled out in that area. But so much better than not eating. The stalls stayed shaded all day; definitely this was the best barn to be in. Twice I retreived Farley's empty feed pan from Boomer's stall, knowing Farley didn't clean it up. The way Boomer was eating everything in sight told me it was a case of "Hey Farley! Are you going to eat that?!? If not, let me help you clean your plate!"

Despite my early arrival, others had beaten me to the fairgrounds. Mary from Washington state was there with her 3 children, her friend who had ridden Tevis previously and her 2 teenaged sons, and her friend's mother Lollie, or "Granny Nanny" as she was called as she was in charge of the 5 children. Those were the best group of kids as they camped under the big oak tree. Lollie kept them busy and I never heard any whining or crying. We had a good time hanging out under the tree in the evenings.
Chris had gone on Ridecamp prior to my departure asking if anyone would like to help crew for us. I had my brother Joe coming down from Seattle to help; he'd move the rig at the very least but having a 2nd person would ensure our stuff would be waiting at Robinson Flat. A local vet, Sara Harrison, responded. She had recently moved to Auburn and has the goal of riding Tevis in a few years. She had experience working Tevis as a treatment vet but wanted to see it from another view. SCORE! And, due to her riding skills, she was able to come over and take Farley out for a pre-ride on our first Friday in CA.

After much fun and readjusting, Sara finally got Farley's saddle set and tight enough. Chris had warned her it was a bit of a pain and that was no lie. But finally we were on the trail with a plan to ride to No Hands Bridge and back. We dropped down under the trees and onto a nice shaded trail. Very nice. But it wasn't long before the trail narrowed with an open drop off. The view was spectacular but scary. Uh oh! This did not bode well for my nerves! After a few wrong turns (hey, we got some bonus miles in and got the see the river up close!), we made it to the bridge. It was awesome to ride across. Going back, I tried to envision how the trail would feel in the dark under the moon on Tevis night. I prayed I'd get to experience the thrill of crossing the bridge and traveling the final few miles. Both horses enjoyed the outing and handled the technical trail well. They certainly knew they weren't in Florida! And I was happy that my ankle felt OK while riding with the splint-like brace in place. I went through 2 20oz bottoms of water on this relatively short ride and was parched by the time we finished. We went past the trailer and up to the camper where there was cold water in the coolers. The horses just had to wait for us thirsty riders. This told me I would have to carry more bottles of fluid than usual.

On the Saturday before the big day, I had plans to run a trail 10K over in Cool. It was part of a longer 12 hour race (day or night or both for 24 hours). I had entered months ago with the thought running it would serve many purposes: stress relief, diversion from stewing about Tevis, a chance to see more of the area, a jump start to getting back into regular running, and the opportunity to meet some of the local runners. My ankle injury was not going to let me run but I still went, figuring I could volunteer. In the end, I decided to walk the 10K. I did a bit of trotting along and found myself alongside a nice lady who was going to walk it. Ah, company! We walked and talked but soon she started to struggle with the heat and eventually stopped. I went on to let the race director know they'd have to retrieve her from the trail as she was out of steam to continue. I found myself jogging along when the footing was safe, ankle brace in place. It felt good. In the end, I stayed around for a while and helped on Sunday morning to tear down the aid station. It was a nice way to spend some time and not obsess further about the ride.

I took it easy on Sunday as I had overdone it a bit on my ankle (like, DUH! And I know better!). But it sure was fun doing it!! I had more colors appearing in the ankle from the damage I'd done. All considering, it really didn't hurt like it looked like it should hurt but that may have been due in part to use of the splint brace.

On Monday I again rode out on the trail, this time with Mary from Washington and her crew. We rode to No Hands Bridge without the bonus miles I did on Friday. And this time we went on to Lower Quarry and back. Another hot day but I was more prepared with extra water beyond the 2 20oz bottles I usually carry. I found the trail and dropoffs less scary which I took as a good sign. Boomer was well behaved and easy to ride while feeling strong. The trail between Lower Quarry and Hwy 49 is pretty much a racetrack compared to the other parts I'd ridden--good footing and WIDE. This would certainly be welcomed by Sunday morning.

Later that afternoon, my brother arrived. He'd been wisely staying in Donner-Tahoe at a friend's, avoiding the oppressive heat wave. He set up his tent at the top of the hill, later to be deemed "Uppity Acres" by Chris. Prime spot out of the way. He's a very experienced camper so knew how to live well with minimal stuff. That evening we went to dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Old Town Auburn. Loved the salsa and chips. But it was hot salsa and my gut wasn't happy later. I swear it made my internal temperature go up 5 degrees and as it was hot (upper 90s but that was cooler than over the weekend), I felt like I was cooking. Still, the food was worth the suffering.

Tuesday, Chris flew in. We were both excited. And, naturally, the flight was delayed. It's always that way when the anticipation is so high. I had left Auburn early so I could get an oil change on the truck plus do some shopping. I ended up with plenty of shopping time which meant I spent plenty of money. But finally Chris arrived. We stopped for lunch and then got back to the fairgrounds. Farley stood and looked when he saw Chris, as if he couldn't believe she was there. He definitely seemed happier. We took the horses for a walk down the road to the overlook and then over to the finish line area. Some people were there picking blackberries. They were huge berries. Other people came by and started talking to us and Chris ended up interviewed for Way cool!

On Weds Chris and I went to breakfast in Old Town. We went to Awful Annies that is the opposite of the name. They have a nice porch area to sit on. As we were seated we noticed a sign that said "Due to unfortunate events, dogs are no longer permitted." Well, you know we had to ask what the "unfortunate events" were! Seems there were 2--one involving a dog fight and another in which a doberman had bitten our waitress. Makes some of the dog events during ride meetings seem minor!

After our wonderful breakfast we went for a ride. Unlike my first reaction (EEK!), Chris loved the narrow trail high above the river. Her repeated "OMG, IT'S BEAUTIFUL" soon was shortened to "You know!" We rode along to the bridge, taking pictures along the way. When we turned to head back, Farley trotted ahead. Boomer was concerned watching his buddy leave and moved out after him. About 1/3rd from the end of No Hands, he went into a canter which had me whooping and hollering. By the time he reached the end of the bridge, he was in a gallop and I was laughing and trying to pull him up. He had figured out which way was home and home was where he was heading. The ride back was much quicker than the ride out as the horses knew the way back. We hoped to repeat the trip Sunday morning.

Thursday morning we went to Denny's for breakfast, with Joe and Sara meeting us there so we could get our plan together. Our super crew of 2 (SC2) hit it off well. We had a good time laughing and talking about all sorts of things totally unrelated to the ride. It was funny when the waitress realized that Tevis was on Saturday as I don't think they had really thought about it. The vets meet there for breakfast that morning as do a lot of crew people. I hope they were ready!

We spent the rest of Thursday getting stuff together. Due to Robie Park's dustiness, I decided we'd go up on Friday as the horses were happy and comfortable in their stalls. Chris and I hit the grocery store and tried to figure out what we'd want to eat on ride day plus buy food for Friday. We got everything set and relaxed.

On Friday, we were on the road by about 8:30. I dreaded the drive over the mountains so it was another slow process. The drive up to the turnoff for the ridecamp turned out to be hard for my truck. I'm not sure what that was about but we were soon crawling at about 25mph while I watched the temperature gauge creep up past midway. This was the first time that had happened on the entire trip and it worried me. I had a long line of cars behind me when I finally reached the turn. I took a deep breath of relief as I drove towards the gate that is used in the winter to close that road off. There was a red Audi parked so the opening was blocked enough that I could not get by. I yelled to the driver to pull up and instead he put it reverse! I screamed for him to stop and when he did, he was about 1 inch from hitting my left front stall on my trailer. I was already stressed and now this idiot!! He finally got his brain engaged and pulled all the way forward and I was able to get by. Up the paved road we went without a problem, my nerves jangling but starting to ease up. Then the right turn that you need to make on the gravel road popped up. I tried to turn but my 25mph speed was too much and I started to slide on the gravel. I think I just about pushed that brake pedal through the floorboard while I prayed that we'd stop in time. The truck stopped, I reversed a bit, and got the turn done. By this time, I was done with this whole Tevis thing, the final little drive to camp pushing me over the edge. Chris laughed and stayed calm and I eventually settled back down but I was very happy to park that rig! We ended up re-evaluating where we'd parked and moved closer in and very near a porta-potty.

We got camp set up with Farley on the Hi-Tie and Boomer tied to the other side of the trailer. Boomer could not see Farley at first and got very upset but Farley eventually moved so Boomer could see him so he settled down. Boomer kindly flipped his 5 gallon water bucket soon after I filled it. I had not hauled a lot of water so this was going to be a problem. Later that day, once Sara and Joe made it, they used Sara's wagon to get more water. Both horses ate and drank well while in camp. I think waiting until Friday morning to go up was the right decision as the horses didn't have much time to get spun up due to the camp atmosphere. By staying in Auburn, they had another day of good eating and drinking in them, something I think made a difference for both.

We checked in and got our packets, then loaded up the horses with their tack and walked down to the vetting area. After dropping our tack, we went to the vet. I was so nervous, way more nervous than I'd ever been at a vetting. When the vet asked how I was doing, I told him my stomach was churning and I felt like puking. He laughed and said "It's ONLY Tevis so why be nervous!?" The vetting went fine and the moment arrived when the volunteer put the huge 139 on either side of Boomer's rump. Considering the size of Boomer's backside, his numbers were gigantic! Both horses seemed relaxed as we went back to the rig. Now it was time for some shopping and then the first time Tevis riders meeting at 3pm. I'd sat through 2 of these when I had crewed but there is always something new to learn.
One thing that Cathy Perry stressed was not rushing at the beginning. Since she was going for her 20th buckle, we figured whe was a good authority on ride tactics.

Our SC2 went to the crew meeting at 5 to glean some tidbits there. Soon the time of the ride meeting was near and we'd yet to finish putting together our crew stuff for the next day. I felt so disorganized. How could one hang around for days on end and then have to scramble to get stuff together?! We grabbed out dinner and chairs and started the hike to the meeting area. Joe said he knew a shortcut. That sounded great so we followed. We were foolish. We blindly followed a person who has hiked up mountains and through woods all over the NW. His shortcut may have been shorter, and certainly less dusty, but it was not a stroll in the park. We started laughing so hard about the supposed path that it impeded our progress further. There I was, bad ankle and all, staggering through the woods, stepping on branches and rocks, going down hills, and trying to stay upright. But we did make it in one piece, still laughing away as we found a spot to sit. The ride meeting was much shorter than I'd remembered from the past and this was a good thing as I recall walking back to the rigs in the dark. We still had daylight when it was over which really helped in our final preparations.

I went over everything again with my brother. He assured me he'd be fine moving the rig and that Sara would go straight up to Robinson Flat while he dropped the rig off at the fairgrounds and picked up his jeep. I got in bed around 10 and then remembered a few other things I wanted so it was probably 10:30 before I really settled down. I was surprised that I was able to sleep but I did fall asleep after a bit when my brain finally wore itself down and stopped whirling. We were here and ready to start the ride of a lifetime.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Tevis 2010--Prologue and the Trip West


2010 found me again contemplating Tevis. I made the trip west in 2008, arriving in Auburn 24 hours before Tevis was cancelled due to fires. The trip was not a total wash as I headed back east and hooked north to ride the Big Horn 100 in northern WY that was scheduled for the same weekend as Tevis that year. Boomer completed the 100 with 40 mins left on the clock. He hit some really low points between 60 and 75 miles on that ride but had come back to life in the final 25 miles. It was an awesome ride and one I want to repeat.

Still, the Tevis dream lived on. I again entered in 2009 after battling saddle fit problems most of the season. I thought I had them licked but a final 20 mile conditioning ride on July 4th showed me I was wrong. I cancelled without ever leaving the driveway and put Boomer out into the pasture for a few months to let his back recover so I could again start the process of getting a good saddle fit. It took a good portion of the next year but I finally got it about 97% right. A tough 75 on a north GA mountain on Memorial weekend was the final test and Boomer passed it with flying colors. I sent the entry in that following week and began the final preparations. It happened rather quickly and not within the plan I had laid out the previous summer when I had decided to aim another horse towards Tevis. She, however, had some issues over the ride season to include a tie up and I never was able to get enough miles on her to feel comfortable with such an event as Tevis. So, sometimes Plan B turns into Plan A and turns out to be the better plan in the long run.
During the trip in 2008, the unexpected "dry run" Boomer had not eaten well and had lost a considerable amount of weight by the time I got him to CA. He did start eating once I started the trip back east and had traveled well since then but none of the trips had been longer than a day. It would be nice to travel with another person and horse but I wasn't sure if my rig could handle hauling 2 horses that distance. My riding buddy of the past few years and on all 75 miles of Longstreet's Charge started mulling over Tevis herself. Chris and Farley are an awesome team and Farley and Boomer share the same "no rush, we'll get it done" attitude when going down the trail. This is not always a good thing as they sometimes seem to really get into a "no rush" mood and keeping them motivated can be tough. But they do get it done and sometimes even faster than we thought.
We discussed using Chris' rig as she has a living quarters trailer and mine consists of a pop up camper that decided it had popped up for the last time prior to Memorial weekend (the final "pop" was not a good sound as I started to put it up at that ride and once I saw that a bracket had pulled away from the frame, I quickly closed it back down and called it good). The problem became one of time away from work--Chris' workplace just couldn't be without her for the 3 weeks the trip would require. We were bummed and that was that. Or so we thought. A mutual friend suggested to Chris that I take her horse out and she fly out to ride, thus only needing to be away a few days instead of 3 weeks. After a suspenseful week, Chris' boss agreed and we were scrambling to coordinate the plans. Chris had a flight booked in less than 30 mins after getting the OK and this was AFTER she faxed the entry form! There are very few horses I would be OK with hauling as a 2nd horse to my own, especially when going alone but Farley is a chocolate lab dog in disguise and truly one of the easiest horses I've ever handled in 35 years of horse ownership. I felt honored to be trusted with Chris' best friend Farley and relieved that everything went well over the 3 weeks. I could not have lived with myself had something happened to him.
The Trip West

I drove up to Hahira, GA after work on Friday, July 9th. Chris was to meet me at the Linahan's farm where we would spend the night and get everything ready to roll the next day. I was worn out from a hard week at work plus the numerous last minute preparations. It seems that no matter how long of a lead in time I have, I am always scrambling with things at the end. This time was no exception. I had to excuse myself and leave Chris to finish packing stuff into my trailer. I was so tired that I was asleep within minutes and didn't even hear Chris going in and out of the trailer. The next morning everything was ready, all neatly packed. And I don't think anything was forgotten!

I got rolling up the road with a destination of Mount Vernon, IL for our overnight stopover. I used the same stopovers that I used in 2008 since I knew the ins and outs of them from that trip. This was the longest leg of the trip--about 585 miles. Atlanta went by easily but not too many miles north the interstate slowed to a crawl. Nothing worse than a traffic jam with horses in tow on a hot day while driving a stick shift truck. I listened to an audio book as we inched along. My phone rang and it was Chris. She asked out the traffic jam was going! Seems another friend, Shelley Scott Jones, who has a summer home in north GA was heading south and recognized my rig. She called yet another friend (Jackie Baker) who called and left Chris a message, telling me to "stay right" as the accident was in the center of the interstate. Sure enough, when I got to the source of the backup, there it was in the center of the interstate--an Expedition that had been towing a cargo trailer had rolled. It was on the wrecker as I went by. As bad a day as I was having dealing with the traffic, it wasn't as bad as that guy's. Traffic quickly got back up to speed and all was good. I went up and over Mount Eagle, TN without any problems, boistering my spirits that my truck could handle the load. And it continued to do so throughout the trip other than one occasion. I had just entered southern IL when again the interstate ground to a halt. Another accident ahead.

This time I could see the emergency vehicles so I was a lot closer to the incident. But instead of creeping along, we were completely stopped as a medical helicopter flew in. It sat on the ground for at least 20 mins. I never saw if anyone was loaded into it or not. While we were parked, I opened up the trailer some more for better air flow. The horses were entertained by some donkeys in a pasture on the other side of the interstate. You'd have thought they'd never seen such creatures! At least the boys were alert! Finally we were moving again. I had called the barn owner to let him know I was going to be later than expected and he was fine with that. Nice stopover--Richardson Stables in Mt Vernon, IL. VERY clean and large stalls and super nice owner.

I enjoy leaving early in the morning and watching as the day comes to life. The scenery along the interstate between Mt Vernon and St Louis is one of fields and farms. Very pretty and restful. Then once you hit St Louis, you are greeted with the sight of the magnificent arch. Several years ago I had the opportunity to do some sight-seeing in St Louis and the arch was my first stop. The views from the top are spectacular and the ride up in the little tram carts are interesting and not something for those who fear tight places.

I hit rain as I went through Kansas City. And there was construction on the interstate. Not a fun combination to deal with when towing a trailer. This time the accident was on the other side of the interstate. I was impressed with the construction of a bridge over one of the big rivers (you cross the Mississippi, the Ohio, and the Missouri rivers; some of them you cross more than once, something I've yet to figure out!).

The next stopover was in York, NE at a private overnight stabling farm, Diamond B, out in the middle of cornfields. Farley got a shock when he looked out of his stall window only to find a large cow standing right there. His expression was priceless! The next morning showed rain on the radar and sure enough, it was raining once I got on the interstate. Fortunately, the rain was moving east while I was heading west so it only was an hour or so before we were out of it. Nebraska is a long state to drive across but it's interesting to see how the terrain changes from the flat fields of corn in the east to more rolling terrain (with corn still) and then to open prairie at the west end of the state. I-80 follows the Platte River so most of the trip is flat and easy driving. There were numerous signs and even monuments to the past as I headed west.

I used the Cabelas in west NE as my long stop for the day, refilling hay nets and water buckets before doing some shopping. Only bought a few things but enjoyed the break looking at cool Cabelas stuff. They have a few pens set up for horses, something I didn't notice until after I left.

The next overnight stop was at the fairgrounds in Rawlins. I was able to use 2 of the pens near the area for the horses so they had plenty of room to walk around and roll. You pay for the use of the place by placing your money in a little lock box-- the honor system. Not the fanciest place around but do-able.

So far, everything was going well. Nice and uneventful, until the morning I was to leave Rawlins. I was stepping out of the camper for the 2nd time that morning, on the way to boot and then load up the horses. Instead of stepping down onto the step stool, I failed to stay in the moment and stepped across to the tongue of the trailer. I'd done it many times before without a problem. This time was not one of them. I rolled my right ankle, coming down with my full weight. There were a couple of loud pops as the ankle gave. Stars lit up the morning and nausea swept over me. I could not believe what had just happened. I had potentially ruined my chance to ride Tevis by being stupid and careless. As I rocked and gasped in pain, I fumed over the incident. Eventually I was able to hobble and get the horses ready to travel. I was so thankful that Farley was easy and that Boomer cooperated and didn't drag me as I limped along. Of course I couldn't find the elastic Ace bandage I knew I had somewhere in the rig. Nothing to do but drive on so I did, 100 miles to the next town of Rock Springs which had a Walmart. I bought an Ace bandage plus replenished my ice for the ice bag I had. I was thankful the cruise control on the truck worked. And I was thankful that the day was only about 520 miles of traveling. I had called my workplace and they felt I should see a doctor but I declined, worried that a doctor would want to cast my leg, thus really ending my Tevis ride plans. I figured that I had 11 days before the ride and that with care and use of the splint and pain meds, I'd manage. It's not always a good thing being a nurse who works at a military clinic servicing the Special Operations community . . . some of their hard headedness rubs off after a while! The photos below are how things looked 2 days later. The colors only grew more extenstive before bigging to fade.

To take my mind off my ankle, I tried to take in the views. WY is a ruggedly beautiful state. It's also a very windy state and I saw that they had taken advantage of those winds by putting up windmill farms. Those white windmills creep me out for some reason and there were plenty of them to see.

After leaving WY, you enter UT. Red rock lines the interstate. When hauling horses, you must stop at the port of entry in UT and complete a form. Failure to stop can result in a fine, just like in FL. Over some mountains and down into Salt Lake City we traveled and then we were crossing the salt flats. I always stop on either side of this stretch because it is long and desolate and I don't trust fuel gauges!

Once across the flats, it's NV time. Climb over a mountain, drive across the long flat basins, climb a mountain, repeat several times.

I reached Elko, NV and stopped at a CVS pharmacy. There I found the ankle brace I was envisioning. It was the same type that let me finish the Big Horn when my left ankle had decided it no longer wanted to play, flopping over and not bearing weight for no obvious reason (although after discussion with a neurologist about the left hip/buttock pain I had that same day we decided it was due to sciatic nerve impingement). I got the horses settled for the night, propped my damaged swollen bruised ankle up on a pillow, took something for the pain, and went to sleep.

The final day of the trip was a short one of about 400 miles. The Nevade miles were easy ones. I made a stop just east of Reno at a Walmart and bought a pair of cheap sneakers that were wider than the trail running shoes I'd been wearing. Made it a lot easier to get on and off. I checked on the horses and was startled to see Farley's eyes looking back at me. Not only had he gotten his fly mask off but he'd also gotten out of his halter somehow. I was able to lean over the divider and retrieve both items; neither was damaged nor was Farley other than a small scrape over one eye that may not have been there prior to starting the day. One of those weird horse "how on earth did you do THAT?!" things. Got him set back up and away we went.

At the NV/CA border, there's construction. Seems it was there 2 years ago as well. The interstate narrows to a single lane west with barricades on either side. It was a white knuckle drive for me and I'm sure there were many drivers behind me cursing. I was happy when I caught up with a semi--now it was HIS fault we were going slow!

I'd forgotten how rough I-80 is over the Sierras and how scary it is for a Florida driver. I looked over to the south of the interstate and thought about how the ride across those very mountains as I soaked in their beauty. Those CA miles crawled by as I cautiously drove along but soon the ups and downs eased and the signs for Auburn came into view.

With relief I had made it to the fairgrounds without anything more than a damaged ankle. Gene, the Tevis "greeter" was waiting and directed me to the barn where Boomer and Farley would call home. Livestock 2, probably the best barn to be in for the horses although the humans would tire of the hikes up and down the hill. I quickly settled the horses and then made a run for shavings and hay. Once I got the shavings spread into the stalls, the horses rolled in appreciation. And the hay! Boomer LOVED the California grass hay. He isn't much of a hay eater ordinarily but he was enthusiastic about the west coast stuff. Farley had been eating hay quite well while picking at his feed. Both were drinking well and seemed to settle in just fine. Now the wait would begin.