Sunday, November 30, 2014

Tevis 2014 Part Two, Ride Day

Tevis, 2014, Ride Day
August 9, 2014

I had a great 5 hour sleep on Friday night and woke up Saturday at 3:00 a.m. for the 4:45 a.m. Tevis start.  I fed Rio his breakfast of grass hay, checked his water, and went back to bed just to be cozy.  I got back out of the warmth of my bed and husband to get myself ready at 4:00 a.m. and at 4:35, Rio was tacked up and we headed to the start.  There are two pens for the start of Tevis. Pen A is for those who want to go a faster pace and you have to apply for qualification to get in the pen. I did not bother applying to be in pen A because I knew I would not of qualified that year.  With Rio's being out of competition for a year and a half,  my AERC races in 2014 were more conservative than usual. I did qualify to be in pen A for our first Tevis in 2007. One of the benefits of being in the first pen is that you are less likely to get stuck behind people and groups riding a slower pace.  Much of the Tevis trail is single track and it is not easy and/or safe to pass others. 

It is dark when we start this ride/race.  It is a controlled start and at 4:45 a.m. the horses and riders leave at a walk from pen A with 3 front leaders assigned.  Then pen B follows with 3 front leaders assigned.  Riders are informed not to pass the front leaders of either pen during the controlled start.  I knew where I wanted to be, which was right behind the pen B leaders.  I thought it was a very smooth start.  My horse was so calm while waiting to start, as well as the controlled walking start, that I thought something might be wrong.  Well, once we got to the official start and we were able to move out, I knew that nothing was wrong.  Rio felt great. 

This was our fourth Tevis start.  We had successfully finished twice before, so we are both familiar with this trail.   This year's ride was the best ever.  Because of the recent rains, there was literally no dust on the first section.   I guess the riders in pen A had really moved out, because once we were 3 miles or so down the trail, there was only 1 horse/rider in front of me, who I did not need to pass because she was moving along down the trail.  When we crossed the highway, we passed one horse/rider, and we did not see any others until we got to the Squaw Valley hill climb.  It was really nice to ride with the 2 woman I rode with briefly on the first section, but we all knew that we were riding our own ride, taking care of our horse on the vet checks individually.  If we met up somewhere down the trail after the vet checks, great, if not, have a good ride.

One of the best parts of  Tevis for me this year is that for the majority of the trail, it was just Rio and I, which is quite unusual for Tevis.

When we left the Hobson Canyon vet check (trot out only), there were only 2 riders in front of me.   There was room to pass, but I did not need to pass because they were going a similar pace as me.  I did pass the two riders at one point about 2 miles before Cougar Rock.  These riders were riding mules.  One of the riders asked if I was going over Cougar Rock, and I replied no, that I was taking the bypass.  They were going up Cougar Rock.  I took the bypass, and than it was just Rio and I heading into the Granite Chief Wilderness with no one in sight in front of us.  I had the biggest smile on my face (all day).  A few miles later, a different rider caught up to me and I asked her if she would like to pass, but she said no.  This part of the trail is quite technical and a steep uphill climb.  There are parts where you can move your horse out, but other parts are just too steep. 

I soon arrived at the first major vet check, Red Star, and Rio vetted through just fine.  I am sharing some info that I have learned through experience, but it is just my experience.  I used to not let my horse eat until his heart rate got to criteria or less, because eating makes horses' heart rate increase.  After doing several endurance rides, especially 100's, I now let Rio eat if he wants to when we first arrive after he has drank..  Since changing my protocol, Rio pulses down sooner than usual.  By allowing him to eat, his head is down and he is more relaxed.  At Tevis,  the volunteers and I are sponging Rio down to cool him while he is eating.  Previously, when I did not let Rio eat until he was pulsed down, his pulse rate would go down to 60 and then bounce up to  68-72, taking sometimes 10 to 15 minutes before becoming stable.  Now, even if his HR is at criteria when we arrive at a vet check, I let him eat 5 minutes or so before I get his official heart rate taken.  It takes 60 seconds or less of not eating for his pulse to come down.  Also, for a horse to successfully complete a 100 (IMO) it is helpful if he eats more and mandatory that he is drinking well.  So, for many gate and go vet checks at Tevis, I took at least 5 to 10 minutes minimum to let Rio eat before getting Rio's official pulse. I realize that riders going a slower pace  might not have this luxury, but Rio makes up this time on the trail. 

The next 8.5 miles from Red Star to the Robinson Flat vet check is on a dirt rode.  We cantered a lot of this section and when we arrived at the Robinson vet check at mile 36, my amazing crew, Jeanlaurie Ainsworth and Peter, helped me cool down Rio and get his pulse down pronto.  Another successful vet through, and then we had an hour hold to take a break and have some food before the second part of the trail:  the canyons.

Robinson Flat Vet Check
Good to go!
After the one hour lunch hold we left 2 minutes late, but it worked out great.  Two riders were ahead of us, so it was nice for Rio to see some other horses.  There was another horse/rider behind me.  We rode similar paces.  I never caught up to ride with the two in front of me, and the person behind me only passed me when I had to take a pee break.  Rio and I left Dusty Corners (not a vet check, but water and food for the horses, and awesome volunteers to assist us riders with snacks and hydration)  with the same 2 riders in front of me and the same rider, behind me now, but we were spaced apart. 
In my previous post (Tevis, 2014,  Part One, Robie Park), I explained that Paul Sidio contacted me prior to Tevis to ask me if I wanted to wear his #113 Tom Quilty bib that he wore at the T.Q. endurance race (Australia), as my Tevis number this year was #113.  I said it would be a privilege, which is why you see me in the orange vest in the photos here.
When I arrived at the Last Chance vet check, I gave them my rider number, and then they gave me the little slip of paper that indicates my time in that I give to the vet.  I looked at it and asked if that number was correct because the time said 1:13.  I thought they might of accidentally written my rider number on the paper instead of my time in, but it was the correct time in.
One of the benefits of riding in my own little bubble during most of the trail that day was that there were less riders/horses at the vet checks when I arrived.  I do my own thing at vet checks and often take longer than others, but when we left Last Chance, the same 2 riders that were in front of me coming into L.C.  were about a minute ahead of me, and the same rider who was a little bit behind me coming into L.C. was a bit behind me. 
When we were approaching the first canyon decent, 2 new riders caught up to me.  When you start the canyon decent, it is single track with nowhere to pass until you reach the bottom, and it is technical.  It was perfect timing for Rio and I.   I  asked the 2 new riders as well as the other rider who was riding behind me to go ahead of Rio and I because Rio is not a good/fast downhill horse.  All the riders disappeared from site within a minute.  I had gotten off Rio to walk this section.  We did not see anyone else on our entire decent down to the American River.  No one caught up to us, which I am very happy about because then I would of felt pressured to go faster. 
We arrived at the American River and took our normal 5 minute plus break to cool off.  It was just Rio and I and the volunteers.  There were more volunteers than usual  here because a fire from the previous year had burned down the Swinging Bridge, which is the normal route that we take.  The bridge is being repaired but had not been completed.  We had to cross the river to get to the other side.  The volunteers were there to show us where to cross the river and ride up to meet the trail.  Thanks volunteers! I was almost done cooling Rio and myself off and taking off for the climb up when a group of 10 or so horse and riders showed up.  2 riders left ahead of me, and the climb out was fantastic.  Just Rio and I again. 
When we arrived at the top of that canyon, which is not a vet check, but a great stop to cool horses off and let them drink, I got off of Rio and took close to 10 minutes to let Rio eat, drink and relax. Although this is not a vet check, there are many volunteers, port a potties, water, hay and mash for  horses, and refreshments and snacks for riders.   A super great volunteer saw me cleaning my sunglasses, and he took them from me and did a pro cleaning job for me.  The next vet check, Deadwood, is only a mile away.  Many riders who had ridden out of the canyon behind me arrived and stayed a few moments at this stop and then moved on to the Deadwood vet check,  as this is where they were planning on taking extra time to let their horse eat, drink, etc.  I was able to get in and out of Deadwood quite fast because of the break I gave Rio at the quieter place. However, after we vetted out, I took extra time for Rio to eat because he was so hungry.  I also syringed him with electrolytes before heading out.    
Guess what my in time was at Deadwood?  Haha, 3:13.  I was only a minute off arriving at Robinson Flat at 10:14, and only 4 minutes off arriving at the finish at 2:17.  See here:
On to the next canyon, El Dorado, and I headed out with an endurance acquaintance, Amber Clark, and her friend.  I actually think that Amber and I are more than acquaintances.  I consider here a friend.  In any case, she is a wonderful human being and horse woman who I have been privileged to of met though endurance riding.  We rode together with others off and on from that point on until the bottom of the canyon, including endurance rider extraordinaire, Barbara White. We were riding similar paces at that point, but because Rio is not a good downhill horse, I asked to go last.  This canyon is not nearly as steep as the first one.  It was a really nice section riding with good company.  When we got to the bottom of the canyon and crossed El Dorado Creek, the horses had a drink of water/break and Rio and I started the climb out first.  Rio did great on this uphill section.  There were 2 riders in front of us, but not too close.  One rider, Barbara, caught up to us, and I asked if she wanted to pass, and she replied, when it is safe, which is the answer that most riders should ideally say.  (I did come across a group of riders later that night when I was wanting to pass who were not polite, but I will get to that later).  I pulled over when it was safe and continued our climb up to the top of the canyon to Michigan Bluff, which is not a vet check, but there is water for the horses, and crews can meet the riders there.  I have never had a second crew person besides Peter in my previous Tevis starts and finishes, but this year I had a second crew person, Jeanlaurie, who I had only met at my previous endurance competition, the Wild West endurance ride in Nevada City, CA 6 weeks previously, along with her husband and endurance riding daughter, Rachel. Jeanlauri met Rio and I at Michigan Bluff and between the 2 of us we were able to give Rio some extra cooling relief while he ate and drank, and then we were off to the Chicken Hawk vet check. 
Rio vetted through great at Chicken Hawk.   This was another one of the vet checks that I took extra time before and after vetting through to let Rio eat more.  There was water, hay, and mash for the horses after the horses vetted through, and I let Rio eat for an extra 10 minutes or so at this check.  He was just inhaling the mash. 
The next major vet check, Foresthill, was only  6.5 miles away, This is where our 2nd and last one hour hold would be, and where I would be meeting my full crew.  It is always a great experience coming into the Foresthill vet check.  The people who live in Foresthill, along with riders' crews, line the street that we ride into and cheer us on.  It is like a parade.  Rio was pulsed down when we arrived at this vet check because I had taken his tack off and hosed him down with the hose that one of the generous Foresthill residents who lives on the street that we were on provided for Tevis riders.   I went ahead to the vet check right away versus letting Rio eat since I knew he would have an hour break to eat.

Peter put glow sticks on Rio's breast collar and my headlamp on my helmet.  I put my headlamp on my helmet as well as take a small flashlight with me, but they are for emergencies only.  Horses can see well in the dark, but light hinders their sight at night.  Although it was quite early in the evening, Rio was cool and shaking, so I put his cooler on him.  I put ice boots on Rio's legs and  then sat down and tried to eat. 

Another helpful hint here I want to share is that a fellow endurance rider had recently told me about a human electrolyte called Tailwind that had really helped her on endurance rides. I had purchased some a few months previous to Tevis and tried it with great success on the Wild West endurance rides I had done prior to Tevis.  I have a really hard time eating on endurance rides, especially 100's.  This is what I ate all day:  A yogurt for breakfast, a few bites of my sandwich at lunch, a few bites of pasta for dinner, and 3 power bars out on the trail for snacks and some fruit available at all vet checks.   That's it.  I felt great and strong all day and night long because of the Tailwind.  I am not a good eater during endurance races, but I am a great drinker.  I rode all day with a Camelback filled with Tailwind electrolytes in the water.  I  also had a glass of water with Tailwind with my breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  When I arrived at the Robinson Flat vet check/ one hour hold, Peter refilled my Camelback with more electrolyted water. 

I ride with a Camelback for my water needs as well as 2 water bottles attached to my saddle to cool Rio, which I refill with horse water on the trail. 
Rio and I ready to ride home to Auburn.
New friend, Tevis Crew, Jeanlaurie Ainsworth.
We left Foresthill at 7:41 p.m.  It was nice to leave with an hour+  of daylight left.  We trotted through the town of Foresthill on the dirt trail and walked on the asphalt sections. Soon we arrived at the California loop trail, which is a single track trail that  gradually winds it's way down, down, down, down to the American River.  At the first section on the Cal loop,  I was riding with a few other riders.  I would guess 4 or 5.   Although Rio is not good at going down steep down hills, he is good at going down gradual grades.  I was in the middle of this group trotting the same pace as me.  One rider caught up and asked to pass when safe, and we did so when it was safe.  Soon we caught up to a group of 3 or 4 riders.  They asked if we wanted to pass, and the front rider said no, but one other rider and myself did want to pass, and we did so when it was safe.  It was still light at this time.  We 2 riders passed, and the other rider who was in front of me was out of site in a few minutes.  It was just Rio and I again-for many miles of trail. 
It was magical.  No one in front of us and no one behind us.  We arrived at CAL2 at 9:12 p.m. It was dark now.  There is water for horses at CAL2, and there are volunteers who take the riders numbers as we go by as well as offer riders water if we want any.   A mile or so down the trail after leaving CAL2 I came across a group of 3 riders.  When I saw them walking in front of me, I slowed down to a walk and stayed a horse or two behind and let them know I was there.  They did not ask if I wanted to pass, so I asked if I could pass when it was safe.  The rider in front of me said to the other 2 riders in a tone like I was really putting them out:  "there's another rider who wants to pass".  I repeated that I only wanted to pass when safe.   I was not in a hurry.  I think that some riders are grouchy about people wanting to pass because not all of us are polite about it.

A note about riding at night.  The first time that I rode Tevis, in 2007, was the first time I had ridden at night on an AERC competition.  When I was riding at night, in the dark, it was trippy and magical.  Trippy because what I thought were rocks or boulders were only shadows from the trees.  If I would of tried to steer Rio, I might of steered him over a cliff.  Instead, I did not steer him at all.  I centered myself on him and did not lean one way or the other, as Rio flew down the trail at a fast trot. 
I passed when safe and then Rio and I moved on at a fast trot in the dark. We did not catch up to any other riders/horses until about a mile before Fransico's on the dirt rode.  I passed a few of them.  Rio vetted through fine here, but we stayed at least 15 minutes extra for Rio to eat.   There were many riders/horses at this vet check.  When I left, I lucked out again, and for that entire section of trail, from Fransico's to the Lower Quarry, it was just Rio and I. 
More magic.  Some of the section of this trail is in the open, and it was so beautiful with the full moon lighting everything up.  We arrived at the River Crossing with the usual great group of Tevis volunteers who are having a party while taking our rider numbers as we arrive.   Rio and I crossed the American river with the moonlight glistening on the water and glow sticks at the bottom of the river showing the best way to cross.  The water was high, going up past where my stirrups were.  I put my feet on Rio's back behind me to keep them dry. 
 It is only 9 miles from Fransico's to the Lower Quarry vet check, but Rio and I hit a bit of a lull about 3 miles after the river crossing.  I had not taken my Camelback for this last section of the trail (after Foresthill), and my energy level was low for the first time that day.  A rider's energy effects the horse's energy, so for about 2 miles before arriving at Lower Quarry, Rio and I slowed down more than usual and took more walking breaks. 
I always put the water from the water bottles on Rio's neck to cool him down if he is hot about a quarter of a mile before arriving at a vet check.  Then I dismount, loosen his saddle, and take his bit/bridle off of him.  He was pulsed down when we arrived at Lower Quarry, and my plan was to let him drink as much water as he wanted, vet him through, and then go back to let him eat and drink more where the food and water was.  The usual awesome volunteers came to assist us, and because there were very few riders at this vet check at that time, we received a lot of attention.  There are horse blankets available to put on horses rumps if needed.  This is a good idea, which I always do at this stop to help prevent Rio from cramping up.  This is the reason I wanted to vet Rio sooner than later.  One of the volunteers offered mash to Rio and before I could say that I was going to wait until I vetted Rio through, Rio stuck his head in the bucket and started gobbling it down.  It was hard to pull him away! 
I vetted Rio through and instead of leaving then, I advised I wanted to take Rio back to where the food and water was so that he could eat more.  On many of the gate and go vet checks at Tevis, there is more food and water for horses at the point where the rider out check is, but not at Lower Quarry.  I took Rio back and let him eat for 10 minutes or so.  I ate some fruit and drank some lemonade and felt fully revived. 
While we took our extra 10 minutes, many riders/horses arrived.  When we left, we were with a group of 3 or so.  Before the road crossing, a few more riders caught up to us.  There was probably about 6 of us.  This next section is single track until no-hands bridge.  This part is quite technical, especially in the dark; however, we were all trot/walking at a similar pace.  After crossing the bridge, the group of 6+ broke up.  Some went ahead and a few slowed down.  Even though much of this section after the bridge is pitch black, Rio knows this trail.  We passed the riders going slower than us when there was room, and then it was just Rio and I again flying down the trail, although now we were not going down.  We were going up, up, up.  We passed 2 more riders, and for the last four miles or so as well as the finish, there was no one in front of us or behind us.  Rio felt great!  I think he could of trotted up that entire 4 miles, but I took walking breaks.  We finished at 2:17 a.m. in 27th place. 
After Rio had his fill of water there, we proceeded to the Auburn Fairgrounds across the street and rode our victory lap. 

It's not over until Rio passed the vet check,  which he did with flying colors. 
We both finished feeling strong.  If I were to of given myself an overall grade at the end of this ride like the  horses receive, I would of given myself an A.  In 2012 we had a successful finish, but I was a pile.  I would of given myself a C- at best.  I had used up all my strength by mile 70 or so, and I was also nutritiously drained.  I vowed to not attempt Tevis again unless I was stronger.  I succeeded by joining a cross-fit strength training gym in May this year and discovering Tailwind electrolytes.
I was so elated.  What a journey I had that day with Rio as well as the last 9 years since purchasing him and riding endurance.  This last year has been a very good one for me/us. In 2012, two weeks after our Tevis finish, Rio was in a horrific barbed wire accident.  I have not written a blog about it yet because I did not start my blog until February, 2014.  Rio's rehab lasted for 9 months, and he was out of competition until January of this year.   
This is a photo of Rio's injury approximately 2 months after the accident.  You can see healing taking place, but proud flesh had developed so I took him back to the vet to have it cut off.  Four months of full leg wrap.

With the exception of the one 55 mile endurance race that I rider optioned out of, Rio has had 100% completions this year.  It is understandable why I have such a big smile here at the 2014 Tevis finish.  The icing on the cake is that after our Tevis finish, we were only 15 miles short of the 3000 mile AERC milestone as a team.  I will jump ahead here to say that we successfully finished one more 50 mile race in October, which brings our total endurance miles to 3035 for 2014.
It's been a great year!

I have one more blog to publish next week regarding 2014 Tevis: Part 3, Sunday Awards.
Links that may be of interest:
1.   The Tevis Cup:
2.   Google map video of the Tevis trail courtesy 
3.   Youtube video courtesy Jenni Smith of part of the Tevis trail.  This is how we do it!
4.    Tailwind Electrolytes:
5.   Article written in my hometown newspaper regarding my Tevis experience:


  1. Fabulous! Thanks for sharing ��

  2. Lou, I'm glad you liked my Tevis story. Thank you for reading it! Jenn