How do I start this post? That I wasn't going to do Tevis til next year and certainly wasn't interested at all this year, especially with the date change? Or that sometimes an opportunity presents itself so vibrant you'd be a fool not to notice and act on it???? Life is short.
That was me Thursday night. It had snowed enough in Truckee that I was convinced there wasn't going to be a start there and that there wasn't going to be a Tevis this year, the second time in the history of the race. I kept going to the website to see something about it and then it was announced. The ride was starting backwards and going back up the Western States Trail. All the trails Ali'i & I have done since last year. Because of the nature of the ride, it occurred to me I could ride Ali'i on it. O.M.G. Then the adrenaline started. I was up til midnight running it thru my head, talking to a couple of Tevis friends and THEN, having 3 dreams that night that I was riding it. I could have thrown up. Sue came over Friday to see the puppies and I had resigned myself that that was a CRAZY idea, that Ali'i wasn't ready and how was I going to do everything before Saturday morning at 6:30 when the race started. Sue came and we played with the puppies and I separated 6 40 lb. cases of meat to re-freeze. When she left I got ready to go watch vet checks at the fairgrounds, but the wheels were totally out of control in my fluffy little brain. I already had several people encouraging me to do it, that I could always use the ride as a great training ride. It was in my backyard and the fear about the race wasn't there. It was weird. Really, so odd.
I got to the fairgrounds and ran into Ed right away. He told me I was a fool not to do this ride. He wished now he had his horse, but only came up to watch. So, off I was to see if I could sign up, vet in (and get EasyBoot Glue-ons put on my horse ~ thank you Christoph Schork, Garrett and Kevin of EasyCare).
I think I barely made the cut-off with 15 minutes to spare. I had my entry (& buckle) paid for from last year so I didn't have to fork over some $465. After you vet out someone puts a number on your horse's cute butt and you are given a wrist band with your number on it. You also sign your life away that you could die, your horse could die...you know, liability stuff. And I believe in those pages are descriptions of all the ways you could die....falling off a trail, mountain lions, the usual Tevis stuff that brings in so many people that want to live on the edge for 24 hours. There's also a company that you can buy insurance for $25 for the day for airlift type situations. I was too late to remember to do that.
After all of this massive excitement and canceling a doctor's appt of which I didn't tell them why, I went home, got Ali'i, trimmed his feet, trimmed his bridle path with my dog scizzors and washed him. We raced back to the fairgrounds and everything was done around 7:30 pm including listening to the ride meeting. Back home I had all the animals to feed & water, grab crew stuff for T and make sure I had everything in order to leave at 5 am from our house. It all happened. It was easy. I slept 6 hours. We got there, T helped me tack up in the dark and off I was about 6:10 am to find the start. I wanted to be last, or close to last and didn't want Ali'i to see 179 or so horses in a big bunch. He did because there was no way around it, but he was pretty well-behaved. I gotta say I would not want to be in the crowd. It was hard holding him back, but in the group of that many, it gets crazy. That has been my fear about Tevis and the traditional start. So, anytime someone wanted to get in front of me, I'd let them. Ali'i was all pissed about that but started to get his brain back by 3 or 4 miles. We were on a trail he was so familiar with.
Starting from the Overlook, there was fog in the canyon and surprisingly cool and every once in a while I'd get a look at the riders ahead as they wove around mountains. It was exciting and beautiful. And this was going to be a horse race. It was going to be fast and crazy. Lots of single track trails, flat trails and plenty of spots to pass. My goal only was to finish sound with my beautiful Ali'i. I was going to have to ride slow and get off and run/walk whenever I could.
At No Hands bridge was a crowd cheering everyone on, even though I was almost last. In the crowd was T. So cool!
About 1 mile up from there, I saw someone with a big chestnut and she was off the side of the trail picking up her horse's front leg. It did not look good for them. I believe she walked back to the Quarry and was out of the race.
Along the river going towards Poverty Bar, I rode off and on with 2 nice women who were from the Netherlands. We changed positions many times and I was very relaxed. As we were riding the woman in front had us stop because a mother bear and 3 cubs were running across the trail right above us. The cubs were so cute!! But, we didn't want to be too close.
I passed them and went across the river alone, though there was plenty of people on the other side (including photographers) to guide riders.
After the River Crossing (which I was pleased to see Ali'i wasn't going to be a nerd about going in), it was 3.5 miles to Francisco's which was our first vet check. Ali'i and I got there and there were quite a few horses there, 5 horses pulled.
Here we are getting ready to leave. Ali'i vetted out with all A's. I've got hay in my hand to walk out and feed him as we go. About a mile down the road, which is actually a very HARD, rocky road I was riding him and he did the same kind of spook he did on the Washoe ride in May and I went FLINGIN' on my back and smashed my head into the hard road. Ali'i took off trotting back towards Francisco's, got about 30' from me and I yelled "Ali'i HO!!!!" He stopped and was a good boy. I had a headache for about 20 minutes and my back & hand felt not so good, but I forgot about it after about an hour. Overall the fall didn't help me later on in the evening.
Cell phone shot. This is Cal 2 or The California Loop. This trail is a Super Highway. It was widened this summer and in great shape. Below is the American River. It's a long way down in spots. Way down...but it's still a one horse trail. Hard to pass another horse.
I rode the 18.5 miles almost entirely on my own. The girls from the Netherlands showed up about 2 miles before Foresthill and that's when I found the one woman actually lived here and spoke English with no accent so I thought they were a different group. We caught up with another man at the top who's horse seemed to have had enough. Ali'i was tired too, but he was never too tired to EAT. At the top in town there were straw bales that lined part of the road and he dive-bombed one. My little butterball is used to eating 24/7.
Here he is scarfing down beet pulp, LMF Gold, electrolytes & carrots. We didn't have anywhere to tie him but he wasn't going anywhere. Tony had made sandwiches for me and Ed Spitzer and Carl Bruno were there also to help me. Ed ran to get me a V8 and I slurped that down. I wasn't exhausted or thirsty as much as just kinda in pain from the Ali'i Spook Toss. Advil.
Here I am eating one of our AMAZING home grown tomatoes and laughing at Ed, Carl & Tony. It was really good to have them there. Kathie & Bob Ford also brought T over some beet pulp which I was out of and had no time to buy Friday evening.
I was off at 1:12 pm to do the Chicken Hawk to Mosquito Ridge then back. Mosquito Ridge was the only part of this trail I wasn't familiar with. It was about 23 miles and the grade down Mosquito Ridge I alternated trotting Ali'i and running on the ground. At this point coming into Foresthill I had already run maybe 5 miles off and on, including walking up some steep hills. It's a good thing I had an extra couple of pounds, though I have to say I think I gained weight by Sunday morning. I ate good.
Coming into Chicken Hawk for the second time and a "Gate & Go" the criteria for pulse was 64. Prior to that it had been 60. Ali'i was good there and got all A's. Since we were so far behind though 1-2 hours before cut-off times, Chicken Hawk sent out their Sweeps Riders before about 6 of us had gotten in. (Sweeps Riders are volunteer riders though nearly all of Tevis are volunteers, some 800-900 people). Anyway, I was going down Mosquito Ridge and all the people before me were coming up and they'd say "Are you in the race?" "Yes, I am. Thanks for sharing". Or "Why are the Sweeps riders before you?" "Because they made a mistake". I was laughing but at the same time was feeling like the loser Tevis rider.....but I sorta got over that when we actually finished.
Back to Foresthill Ali'i felt good and moved very well into the 2nd 1 hour hold. I passed a few people, then they passed me going up Bath Road.
The horse in front is Alecia & Flash, who I rode with most of the way back into Auburn in the dark. This short grade up (maybe a mile?) is where most of the crew waits for their riders to come up out of the canyons on the traditional ride. It's usually HOT and most of the horses need to be cooled down quickly. Foresthill is a fun vet check to crew at and easy to get to.
I was so glad to get here again, for me and probably a lot of people, the last part of the hard uphill riding. Ali'i vetted out fine and we were off to feed him again and rest for a bit. T put on my glow sticks (training from last year's 49 Crossing to Auburn ride in the dark) and I debated whether to change into warmer clothes. I didn't, but did wear a warm jacket.
T putting on my glow sticks. He was AMAZING. My one-man crew and with about 1/2 a day's notice. He sucked up all the craziness and was able to do what I needed for the vet checks and after-care. Having a great crew can mean so much and he was probably as exhausted as I was, but in a different way. I was so proud of him.
At 7:36 pm I was out of Foresthill and into the dark. I wasn't afraid or concerned like I had been in my head for all the years before ~ wondering about all the scary things I've heard about riding the Cal Loop in the dark. Alecia caught up with me and we decided to ride that part together. I'm really glad she was there. She got pulled last year and this year was going to do whatever it took to finish with a sound horse. I rode with her briefly last year at Wild West when Ali'i choked, though didn't talk to her much there.
Anyway, down into the first part, the moon was high and bright. Julie called me on my cell as she had no idea I was riding. I listened to the message on Sunday after I woke up. She was cracking me up. "I thought you were CREWING not RIDING!!!" Ha Ha Ha. So did everybody else!!! Including my horse!!!!
As Alecia and I rode, we got off occasionally and ran or walked with our horses. By this time I was feeling like shit, as far as my legs were going, not to mention my um.....foomer doomer (omg) and when I had to get back on, I could hardly pull myself up. Anyway, I was so stiff and sore, that every time I tried to get on poor Ali'i the saddle would slip BAD. The Cal Loop was widened a bit, but it's still a very narrow one horse trail and it's not recommended to get off EVER until you get down the hill. I remember Janine told me that last year that once you get on at Foresthill you don't get off. Alecia & I seemed to not care about that info. We were on and off many times.
It was SO dark in spots on that trail, and actually for the rest of the ride that I had to trust Ali'i knew where to go. My glow sticks were barely making out the trail and we trotted as much as we could, so that was a trip. It was crazy fun. But, then Alecia started to talk about mountain lions. We came upon a spot in the trail that Ali'i froze on and didn't want to move. Whatever it was bolted down the brush below him and then he was good to go. But then Alecia started in on how the hair on the back of her neck rises up if there is a mountain lion near her. "Like, I know if he's looking at me because I can feel it on the back of my neck". Oh shit. Tell me more and make me cry. (Her horse actually had been scratched up by a cat 3 months before so he was laid up for a while and that's why she was going slow with him.) It was way too dark and we had way too many miles to be talking about the Boogie Man so I told her to be quiet. Talk about deer and birds and even rattlers. No cats. So we rode on. A few more miles down the road I heard something rustle in the trees below us. I didn't say anything to Alecia, just wanted to get past, so I trotted Ali'i. But the hair raised up on my neck and sure as shit, she tells me the same thing. Geeezzzzzzz.......I was really glad she was there despite her kitty talk.
About 1/2 down right before Cal 2 was a water stop. Going up in the morning there was hardly any water, but at 10 pm at night, they had replenished it. Ali'i & Flash didn't want to drink, but eat. I was looking back at the volunteer at that water stop and all his glow sticks, then back at my horse and all of a sudden my head spun about a 1/2 a spin. I sat there for a second hoping it'd go away. We had hours left to ride and this was one of my fears. I also didn't have any anti-nausea nothing to take. I got off my horse and crouched on the ground for a few minutes. We walked out down the switchbacks and after a while I got back on but wasn't feeling really great. It wasn't horrible, but I didn't want to feel horrible.
After a while, more REALLY dark riding and trotting here and there, I got off to try and make myself vomit. Not my favorite thing to do, but even though I didn't actually vomit, I felt better and remembered I had peppermint candies in my saddle pack. That helped and I was not so worried. We rode on and the few people behind us started to pass us. When the last rider passed us, I was not so happy. She actually asked if she could pass, then parked herself in front of us. I decided that if that was going to happen, I was going to pass when I could as I think rider etiquette is, if you pass someone, then don't hold them up.
We finally got into Francisco's sometime around 12:15 am? I don't remember. It could have been later. I vetted Ali'i in right away and wanted to be out of there. He drank and snacked while I peed and grab 1/2 a sandwich. Alecia and I had talked that if I wanted to go on after that check I could, so I told her I was leaving. There was still the other rider and the sweeps riders so she wasn't alone and I knew we'd leap frog again which we did several more times.
I walked & trotted the 3 miles in the dark to the River Crossing, and after that it was very familiar trail. It was really getting dark now, even out of the canopies of the trees because the moon was moving behind the mountains. I caught up with a woman who was finishing for her first time so we rode into the Lower Quarry vet check. Ali'i finally was really showing how tired he was. The vet told me to not hang out too long because he could stiffen too much. So, some water, bran mash, hay and we were off. LeAnn & I were off, with "off duty" sweeps riders. (Sweeps riders have sections where they ride and then another group takes up where they left off). As we were getting to the 49 Crossing, which you can see in a distance with the flashing lights of a volunteer CHP, I started to feel like we were going to make it. Still a final vet check to go and we had plenty of time to come in, but weirder things have happened. Like as we were coming up to the road, there was a truck in the way and a woman off her horse which looked like she was just chatting to the driver. There wasn't an easy way around either side of them without risking going off a steep slope so I asked the rider to please move for us. It turned out the horse had started to stiffen and literally was not moving and they were waiting for a trailer. Oh my gosh. So close to the end and they didn't make it. Even though this race was not the same Tevis, it was still hard.
From No Hands into the Overlook Ali'i was very energetic. Also, the two riders behind us had caught up and there was a little bit of energy from all of us. Alecia and the other rider passed us, then we passed them, then they passed us, then finally I passed them and Ali'i and I were outta there. He flew into the last 1 1/2 miles at a very fast pace and I barely could see anything. Finally at the end where I wasn't sure where I was, I recognized the end of the trail where this year it was altered to have a new end in the stadium. Well Ali'i and I had never done that and when we were 100' from the end that Ali'i & I know and we had another 1 1/2 miles to go. I told him to trust me "Go left not straight". So he did, then I didn't trust him because all of a sudden I made him go in berry bushes and he saw the trail. I was reminded of the time Janine was 15 minutes from the end and her horse actually got stuck in berry bushes and DID NOT finish in time because she literally could not get him out. That's so messed up. But that's what makes this race so incredible. She has some 7 or so buckles now.
There was an "official" end before the fairgrounds before taking your "victory lap" so I got there, got a piece of paper with my placement on and trotted into the fairgrounds. At 5:14 am, we finished. I saw Tony in the center of the arena waving his arms and whistling and I finally got teary-eyed. And there were people sitting in the grandstand clapping and a woman handing me champagne. All at 5:14 Sunday morning. Almost 23 hours from when we started. Crazy. Crazy Wonderful.
At the finish we would have trotted under the sign but Ali'i saw that white lime on the ground and spun around the other way. Glad I stayed on.
My beautiful Khemali'i. What a good, good horse. What a trooper for doing a crazy thing like this race, a long time goal for me and not his personal goal at all. And to pull it off with no warning and finish sound. I love him so much it makes me cry.
I didn't get emotional about what we did 'til the Awards Ceremony yesterday. I was so tired after the ride I could hardly stand it and I know my little horsey felt the same way. He was double blanketed, legs wrapped and I was going to put him in a separate corral, but felt he'd do better in the pasture where he could walk around. I was so exhausted when I went to bed at 7 am I didn't move. Hear nothing, feel nothing. I woke up at 9 am and had every intention of going to watch Best Condition at the fairgrounds and told T we were going. Then I stood there for a second and realized I couldn't do it. I thought earlier when before I went to bed I'd never do this race again, that I did what I wanted. Even if it was Backwards it was still HARD. Somehow I think I'm screwed thou. I'm already figuring out how I'm going to ride it again. It is a disease. And I'm not the only one with it.
When Tony & I got to the fairgrounds Ed and Carl were there waiting for us. They were soooo sweet and so happy for our completion. Ed bought me this shirt. I just love it. They wanted to know all the details. They both panicked when they saw me go into Francisco's but not leave. Hours later they saw I had finished. Ed texted me to congratulate me at 6:47 am right as I was getting ready to fling covers over my head. I don't know if I even picked up the puppies. I have been tired before but maybe not ever this tired and sore.
Ed has some 5 attempts at Tevis and the farthest he got was Francisco's. He got pulled 3x's at Red Star, 28 miles into the race. This race was different, and maybe easier in a lot of ways, but harder than I expected. 5 VERY seasoned riders got pulled AT THE FINISH, one being a 2x winner of the Tevis. It was an "uphill" race rather than a "downhill" race. The difference was there wasn't all of the High Sierras that the first 50 miles is in and there was a lot more level ground without the rocks. That makes for a faster race and it was a horse race for the front runners. The horse that won Tevis also won Best Condition which was Jeremy Reynolds and Riverwatch. They did it in 12 hours and 31 minutes.(Ride time was 10 hrs & 31 minutes.) Boyd Zontelli held that honor of Fastest Time for years at 10 hours and 46 minutes with Rushcreek Hans (1981).
My BIG Tevis Buckle. I'm wearing this one. You might get sick of seeing me wearing it but I probably never will.
Thank you Ali'i. From the very depths of my soul. I love you so much.