Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Endurance History: 2007, Part III, Our First 100 Mile AERC Competition: Tevis and More

Our First 100 Mile AERC* Competition:  The Tevis Cup*, 2007
Next:  Virginia City 100 mile, 2007.
Swinging Bridge, Tevis, 2007
I have not written a post related to my past endurance competition history for a few months. Now that I am back at it, I realize that writing this blog about my last few races of my first year of AERC competitions in 2007 are huge events.  Two challenging 100 mile races and ending the season with a two day, 50 miles a day competition. 

My/Our First Tevis Attempt
If you read back in my previous blogs regarding my endurance history, I state that my first competition was a LD (limited distance) ride in August, 2006, and my horse, Caartouche CS (Rio) and I were both newbies to endurance.  I had read everything I found about the 100 mile endurance ride, The Tevis Cup  (Tevis), and I decided to enter it in 2007 after having a 100% completion rate our first year (9 AERC 50 mile+ races at that point) and being able to complete the two-day Tevis educational ride a month prior to Tevis.

Tevis is one of my favorite AERC rides/races.  I live in the Eastern Sierras in Mammoth Lakes, CA., and Tevis is practically in my backyard. 

We finished!  Not only did we finish, we finished strong.  16th place out of  183 riders that year.  Tevis has about 50% completion rate every year.  I figured that one of the reasons I placed so well was probably because 30+ horses were pulled at the vet checks who were riding ahead of me.  Tevis is an extremely challenging trail.  It is considered the most difficult endurance race in the world.  100 miles in 24 hours, including all of the holds and vet checks.

Rio and I finished Tevis with only a 1 crew person:  my wonderful husband, Peter.  Besides having a conditioned horse, I was also in good condition that year.  I was a runner and ran distances/races from  10k's to (2) marathons.  Unfortunately, when I was riding the Tevis educational ride, I sprained my left ankle when I was off my horse jogging down one of the canyons.  Because of this, I could not get off my horse at all in the canyons during the actual ride/race.  To this day, I still have issues with my left ankle.

Besides Rio and I both being in good condition, I was VERY organized for this event.  I had lists for each major vet check on what was needed, and I went over them in detail with Pete.  Before starting Tevis, I had already decided I would not be going over Cougar Rock.  I would take the alternate trail.  I know why people ride up and over Cougar Rock, but my thought, especially after taking the alternate route is-really?  Also, my horse has steel shoes which makes for less traction.

My favorite parts of riding (and completing-Yay!) Tevis that year:
1.  Having a well conditioned horse and being able to enter Tevis.
2.  Nothing seriously bad happening to my horse ("Tevis Gremlins") after entering Tevis and prior to arriving.
3.  Being at Robbie Park in Truckee and going through the pre-ride events: getting my rider packet, checking out all the vendors, vetting in, going to the ride meeting, and seeing friends.
4.  Going through the high country (first section/36 miles), especially after the first 10 miles or so from the start, which is congested and DUSTY on the (mostly) single track trail.
5.  Taking Rio down to the American river below the swinging bridge (in the canyons) to take a 5 to 10 minute break and letting Rio drink and cooling him off with the refreshing, cold, river water before our next climb out of the canyon. 
6.   The wonderful and amazing volunteers at this race.   Crew are not allowed for most of the many vet checks, but they are not needed.  For each vet check that I arrived at, I had a personnel crew of 1 to 4 volunteers.  Someone sponging my horse down on the right and someone on the left.  Someone holding my horse for me if I needed to use the restroom.  Someone offering me watermelon or some other refreshing nourishment.  Someone offering my horse mash.  I had my own pit crew! The volunteers at Tevis are one of the major perks of attending this race.  I appreciate it very much.  Thank you so much all you wonderful volunteers!
7.   Riding into the Foresthill vet check. People are lined up in the street 1/2 mile or so and cheering all the horses and riders in.  Endurance racing is not much of a spectator sport since we are out there in the wilderness. This is one of the few times where I have seen spectators. 
8.  Riding the last section, from Foresthill to Auburn, when the sun goes down and I was riding at night.  That was magical for me.  Mainly single track, a full moon but lots of trees with shadows.
I could not see the trail. I had glow sticks on Rio's breast collar, and I rode with a headlamp in case I needed it for an emergency, but I never needed to turn it on.  Horses can see at night, but lights hinder their sight.  Rio was flying down the trail at a fast trot, and I did not steer him.  If I did, where I thought the trail went at times would of been off a cliff.  Instead, I just focused on centering myself, and I did not look or lean in any direction.  I had to trust him completely. Not only did Rio keep us moving fast and correctly on the trail, he missed most of the rocks!

And then we finished and past the final vet check.  Finish time was 1:25 a.m.  At that time, there were no spectators at Auburn stadium watching the horses who finished.   That did not matter.  My husband/crew was there for me, and my good friend, mentor, Dick Dawson was there as well. Dick had volunteered that year, which is what he and his wife, Carolyn, to just about every year, except when Dick is riding the Tevis.

I love my horse.  I had Rio in a paddock with many of the other horses at the Auburn Fairgrounds, and every time I checked on him he was eating.  I had done so many multi-day rides with Rio that year prior to Tevis, I think he was thinking that he better eat and drink as much as he could in case we were doing another endurance ride the next day.  Most of the other horses all around him were laying down sleeping. 

It was a bit hard for me taking care of my own horse without a crew.  My husband helped me in many ways by driving to the two major vet checks and then to Auburn and setting everything up for when we arrived, but I took care of my horse.  It was ok.  The experience made me stronger. 

I give some of the credit for the successful completion to myself, but really, it was Rio who did it.  I just didn't screw it up.  I am lucky to have a horse who loves doing what I love to do. I am also lucky to have a non horsey husband who supports what I love to do. 

Today, June, 2014
We now have 2 Tevis completions out of 3 starts.  Rio was in prime condition in 2008, but Tevis was cancelled that year because of the fire that was occurring at that time.  I entered in 2009 and Rio was pulled for lameness at the first vet check at mile 36 at Red Star.  Rio was experiencing an off and on lameness issue that year that was not properly diagnosed by my local vets.  I will be writing in more detail about that in a future blog.  Briefly, Rio was diagnosed in October, 2009 with a suspensory injury.   I successfully rehabbed him and in 2012, I entered Tevis and we had our second successful finish.  A month after Tevis, 2012, Rio got caught up in barbed wire and had a horrific injury to his right hind leg.  15 months of rehab for that one, which I will be writing more about in another future blog.  In January of this year, we entered and completed a 50 mile AERC race and had a successful finish.  We had another successful endurance race in April.   We are entered in 2 of the 3 days of the upcoming Wild West ride this weekend, 6/20 and 6/21.  If Rio does well, I am thinking of entering Tevis again this year for our fourth attempt.

Virginia City 100, September, 2007
I entered and completed the Virginia City 100 mile race 6 weeks after Tevis in September, 2007.   That ride was more challenging for me than Tevis.  It is very rocky.  The most difficult part for me was coming back and leaving base camp 2 times.  Once is not too bad, but the second time arriving at basecamp at 9:30 p.m., neither Rio nor I were feeling enthusiastic about going back out for another 30+/- miles.  We finished at 2:30 a.m.  My favorite races, whether it is 25, 50, 75, or 100 miles, is either one big loop with out vet checks, or point to point like Tevis.  Although this race is not on my list to ride every year, I most definitely want to attempt it again.  The last time I rode it was their 40th anniversary.  If my horse is ok to go, I think I will attempt it again on their 50th anniversary.  Rio will be 17. 

High Dessert, Two Day 50's.
We did 2 days of 50 miles a day at the High Desert race in October, 2007 for 2 more successful completions to end out the year.  13 starts and13 finishes. We had done this same 2 day race the previous year.  This time, we had our warm camper to sleep in.  Rio felt great.  We finished in the top 10 both days.  Sorry about the below photo.  I don't know how to switch the orientation. 
Moving On Down The Trail

* The links below are  helpful/informative to learn more about AERC and the Tevis Cup.
1.  AERC (American Endurance Riding Conference):
2.  The Tevis Cup:
3.  Excellent Google Map video of the Tevis Trail (thanks to Endurance.Net)