Tevis Fever

It never goes away. It might ebb and wane for a time, but it’s always there, waiting.

51 days and counting until this year’s Tevis. This week, I’ve been working on finalizing details and travel arrangements for heading out there to crew again. Within a couple of months following the 2019 ride, Cathy put crew dibs on me for the following year…which, of course, got cancelled. So those crew dibs rolled forward into this year.

Earlier in the year, I was “meh” about it. Not sure I wanted to travel, unsure of how many restrictions would still be in place and have to be dealt with, how many hoops jumped through…just not sure it was worth it. But as plans have started to come together, and as life starts to once again slowly start resembling something a little closer to “normal”, without “new” attached to the front of it…I can feel myself getting excited again.

I can’t think of any other ride with which I am so emotionally involved. Interestingly enough, I think there are some rides I actually like better because they’re not quite as stressful, or require the kind of coordination levels that could put a wedding planner to shame. But Tevis has an undeniable magic about it. I’ve loved this ride for forever…reading about it was what even made me aware of a sport called “endurance” in the first place. Never mind that at the time, I was scared to venture outside the safety of the enclosed arena, and my trainer literally had to snap a leadrope on Mimi and pony us down the street to get me to leave the property. (Yes, true story. If riding students had an equivalent of the high school class “Least/Most Likely To…”, I definitely would have been voted “Least Likely Candidate in the History of Ever to Become an Endurance Rider.” I still live just a short distance away from my old trainer and we still stay in touch, and I’m pretty sure she probably just shakes her head when she follows my current shenanigans and antics.)

So the fact that the idea of a ride like the Tevis could subconsciously get its tentacles in me at a time like that…that’s Tevis magic. Ever since I started distance riding, that’s been my main goal. “Get to Tevis.” I was thrilled when I hit my 300 miles in endurance because that meant I was Tevis qualified. I crewed Tevis before I ever did an endurance ride — in fact, it was the first endurance ride I ever attended. (50th Anniversary, no less. Talk about a high bar.) I’ve had numerous opportunities to see and ride sections of the trail during times I’ve been out to crew. I was able to do the Tevis Educational Ride in 2017, and then in 2018, I actually won the Tevis entry at the AERC Convention raffle.

Of course, that bid for the buckle in 2018 was a long shot right from the get-go. Lucy generously offered me her Roo, after earlier searches for “a spare Tevis horse on a budget” (because I did not have the $ to lease one) didn’t really pan out anything. It was full disclosure right from the start — that Roo, although he knew the trails really well and had been over them countless times in training rides over the years and had even started Tevis twice, was not a 100-miler. He’s the best 50-miler worker bee around (I’d even taken him to the Tahoe Rim Ride in 2016), but with a record of 1/4 finishes in 100’s and 0/2 at Tevis, realistically, the chances of finishing were astronomically slim. But as Lucy said, “He would at least get me to Robinson Flat” and I would at least get to start the ride, and see the pretty high country.

And I got some “shot of a lifetime” Cougar Rock photos. (Ride pretty horses. Even if you don’t get a buckle, you still get gorgeous pics.)

Well, she was right about that — we did get to Robinson Flat. And then the day went pear-shaped for both me and the pony at that point and we both “rider option — metabolic”‘d our way out. Him, some preventative IV fluids at Robinson Flat and again back at Foresthill put him back to rights…and me? Pretty sure my crew-member-nurse-and-bestie was probably ready to hook me up to an IV bag as well, but settled for stuffing me under the air conditioning in a friend’s LQ with some crackers and ginger ale.

To this day, I still don’t know what went so wrong with both of us. Roo was “punky” — not full colicky, but uncomfortable, and kept stretching out like he wanted to pee, but wouldn’t. The only thing I can think is that there was a bear in camp the previous night that got a lot of the horses really stirred up, and it didn’t look like he ended up drinking much overnight, so may have started the ride already behind on hydration and never drank enough along the way to catch up.

As for me…let’s just say hanging over one of the large logs in the pristine meadow of Robinson Flat heroically puking my guts out and making the meadow slightly less pristine was never part of my mental image of how Tevis would go for me. I normally have a cast-iron stomach, and don’t even remember the last time I threw up prior to then. I don’t think it was the heat…although it got stupid-hot that year, this was still early enough in the day and at high enough elevation that I don’t remember ever feeling particularly warm. I had been doing a good job of hydrating, although probably could have eaten a little better. Just existing on a daily basis in Arizona in the summer is really good heat training, and Tevis usually feels pleasant in comparison when I’m out there.

So either I ate something that didn’t agree with me, or a couple of other outside factors combined…one, the air quality. Air currents had pushed the smoke from some CA wildfires into the Sierras, and we ended up riding through some major smoke layers. And two, I had really, really bad cramps. (Sorry, TMI, but file that away under “the realities of endurance riding.”) Combined with the design of the waistband of my tights created a lot of concentrated pressure, which definitely wasn’t helping.

Needless to say, that was about the most inglorious way I could have imagined my first attempt at Tevis going down, and after the fact, it sort of took some of the shine off. What was good about it was it took the ride off the pedestal I had placed it on. It really did take it down to the level of being able to look at it as “it’s another ride,” and took away a lot of the pressure and stress and laser-focus tunnel-vision I had in regards to it. Even though I knew realistically we weren’t in an ideal “set yourself up for success” scenario to start with, I hadn’t expected to fall quite that flat.

I did have some amazing parts of the day, though. Roo gave me everything and never faltered. He navigated through the technical Granite Chief wilderness, forged through dust clouds that were higher than my head, was an angel at the start, let us ride our own ride the whole way through, and was a stellar, brave boy the entire time.

I returned in 2019, once again donning my crewing hat, and successfully crewed my friend Cathy through. I enjoyed myself, but kept it to a short, Friday morning-Sunday afternoon whirlwind trip, not partaking in what had become almost my ritual tradition of “week-long Tevis vacation.”

And then in 2020, Tevis got cancelled. And I was relieved. Maybe I was ready for the break. After all, I had been steadily attending the ride from 2012-2019, and several other intermittent years prior to that. This way, I wouldn’t have to come up with an excuse for why I didn’t want to be there…but also wouldn’t have to contend with my inner FOMO.

Now, with less than two months to go until this year’s Tevis, I’m starting to feel that level of excitement towards this ride again. I feel like I can enthusiastically and whole-heartedly participate in Tevis-centric conversations with friends. Maybe that break was good. Maybe it’s the thought, in the back of my mind, the one that never goes away entirely, that I might be able to put myself on that Tevis path again, that I just might have a Tevis-capable horse. At this point…who knows.

Tevis 2022 is 408 days away. Just saying.

One thought on “Tevis Fever

  1. I relate to this post so much. Tevis has always been magical to me, though I’ve only been the one time. I never could have pictured the outcome we had, though I never expected to complete. At first I was like, “That’s enough of that,” but now I am even more obsessed than ever. I wish it wasn’t quite so far away because I think I’d be there crewing every single year. You certainly got the perfect Cougar Rock photos on your first attempt, which is awesome. I look forward to your posts on the subject every year, and this year is no exception.

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