This is by no means a hard-and-fast rulebook of how crewing must be done, but instead more of a look back at my crewing experiences, since I have managed to properly blog about absolutely none of them. I’ve not been in the position (yet) to have to write crew instructions, but this is coming from the perspective of one who has been the crew, and what is helpful and useful and what riders can potentially do ahead of time to make for a very happy crew.
I’ve been very fortunate to crew for friends and fun people. I’ve not had the experience of grumpy riders, or demanding riders, but instead riders who have been conscientious about things like providing water/snacks for their crew, and being gracious, grateful, and generous in how they’ve treated me before, during, and after the ride. (This is why I like crewing: It’s been a positive experience for me.)
Crew instructions are good. Cherish the rider who hands you a multi-page stack of instructions that spell out their routine and expectations of what they would like to see happen. Whether all of this actually happens is another story. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to clarify what something means.
Take care of yourself! Know how it’s important to take care of yourself while riding? Same goes for crewing. Blessed be the rider who provides for their crew with extra water/snacks, but don’t assume that will always be the case. Check with them ahead of time on whether you need to provide for yourself or not. Making sure you as the crew stays hydrated and fed means you won’t pass out partway through the day, thus being completely useless. (People electrolytes are good, too.)
Sunscreen! You’re going to be out in the sun all day, and very likely wearing fewer clothes than when you’re riding. (Unless you’re crewing at a cold, windy, winter ride, in which case, you’re probably wearing more layers. But since I’m coming at this from a mainly-Tevis perspective, odds are good attire will be of the shorts-and-tank-tops variety, thus, sunscreen.)
Crewing is so glamorous. If you’re lucky enough to be assigned position of “food intake monitor,” be prepared to get slopped on. Degree of mess will depend on exactly what your rider chooses to feed their Muggins, and what Muggins deigns to consume at any given point. Rule of thumb: The more rice bran, the messier the slop. Some horses are, in theory, delicate and neat eaters. I’ve yet to come across one. Roo, in 2009, was probably the neatest eater, and even he managed to dribble on my shoes. You will also, at various points, be sneezed on, used as an itching post, and guaranteed to come home with electrolytes in your hair. And the dirt just goes without saying.
Be a Learning Sponge. I have learned so much about Tevis, and endurance in general, by crewing. I spend a lot of time at this ride just quietly taking in everything around me and watching the very experienced riders.
Cooling gear is not just for riders. Those cooling vests and neck scarf things feel really good in the late afternoon hanging around Foresthill.
Hurry up and wait. The modes of Tevis: frantic, anxious, impatient, relieved, ecstatic. Frantic comes in when you’re racing the morning clock and traffic, trying to get the rig from Robie Park to Foresthill, then the crew packed up and to Robinson Flat before your rider comes in. Anxious is after you’ve set everything up and the waiting starts. “Is that them?” “What number were they?” “Is the pull list updated?” “When are they going to get in?” “What’s the time cutoff?” Impatient is sitting around Foresthill in the middle of the afternoon, feeling utterly useless for several hours. Relieved is when the familiar bay/grey/chestnut/whatever comes into sight, decked out in their color scheme du jour. And finally, ecstatic is when you get to see your beaming rider cross the finish line under the bright lights of the stadium. (That’s the late hour making your vision blurry, not happy tears, really…)
Be a cheerful, smiling presence. Don’t volunteer to crew unless you really want to be there. The rider has enough to deal with without a grumpy, whiny crewperson. You don’t have to be a Brilliant Endurance Rider to be a good crew. Knowing the front end of the horse (food goes here) from the back (don’t get kicked by) is a great start, and the ability to schlep heavy objects will make you invaluable to the other crew members.
Say good-bye to sleep patterns. Part of the fun of Tevis is being up for all hours. Last year was a new record, when I stayed up for 26 hours straight. Caffeine is your friend. I try to “bank” sleep in the week leading up to Tevis weekend and have found this actually does help. For the past week, I’ve been really good about sticking with a regular sleeping/waking pattern, and getting a full 8 hours.
You might get the bug. Or you might not. To some people, they don’t “get” Tevis and it’s just another ride. To others, it’s the ride of a lifetime. For me, crewing was enough to ignite “the bug” that’s been biting at me ever since that first crewing experience nine years ago.
Now that I’ve probably managed to scare everyone off…don’t worry! I didn’t know a thing about endurance before my first crewing experience. NATRC, yes, which helped, but Tevis was literally the very first endurance ride I ever attended. Talk about your trial by fire. But it got me hooked, and two years back-to-back of crewing gave me the nudge I needed to start down the endurance path.
I’m sure there is stuff I have missed along the way (memory usually winds up a little fuzzy by the time Tevis week/weekend is over) and I’m sure I’ll come up with other stuff to address after this year’s ride, but for now…
8 days and counting!