Friday, July 23, 2010

The Tevis Cup, or Hanging in there for the Long Haul

The 55th annual Western States 100 mile/ one day Trail Ride (more commonly known as the Tevis Cup) is this weekend. Held on the weekend in July closest to the full moon (to better see the trail at night) riders on this quest attempt to ride their horse 100 miles, through some of the toughest terrain imaginable, and finish within 24 hours. Horses have required rest stops with vet checks, and any horse deemed unready to go on is pulled. Only about 50 percent finish in any given year. The balance take a trailer ride home.

I rode this race 25 years ago, in 1985, on a quarter horse/mustang cross named Daniel. I was fitter, lighter, tougher, and boy I'd do it again tomorrow if I thought I could. I wax nostalgic just thinking about it.

Riders start from a point near Squaw Valley, California (base camp was in the meadow at Squaw Valley when I did it) and ride all the way to Auburn, California.

They begin in the wee hours of the morning - 5:15 am - after months or years of preparation, involving long hours of trotting their horse up and down mountains several days a week, until the horse is not only physically but mentally prepared for the challenge. The trail itself snakes over granite ridges with insane elevation gains and descents,and trail hazards including a swinging suspension bridge and the infamous Cougar Rock (imagine rock climbing for horses.) Riders routinely clamber off and run alongside on the steep downhills, and follow behind, holding on to the tails or "tailing" their horses uphill. All this in order to save their horses for the long haul home.

Why would anybody do this? I don't know. Because they're half-crazy? To say they can?

Here's a picture of me and my horse, Daniel (my head is turned away from the camera.)This picture was taken at Squaw Valley about three weeks before we accomplished the actual Tevis ride itself, when a girlfriend and I pre-rode the trail in three days, camping out and completing about 30 miles a day. We carried all our food and gear with us, and it was hands-down the most fun I've ever had horseback. For the actual race, I traveled much lighter, with a crew of great volunteers at rest stops.

Today, the Western States Ride has its own website, with a live report on each rider in the race and even twitter updates. Finishers are still awarded the coveted Tevis Cup belt buckle.

Do I own one? No. Daniel and I made it through each and every vet check, and with just a few miles to go, in the wee hours of the following morning (after riding for about 23 hours straight) my horse was all done in. Tired. I urged him forward. "Come on boy, just a couple more miles, you can do it." Nothing. Nada. He had given me everything he had, so with tears in my eyes, I got off and walked my superb trooper, my palomino horse Daniel, to finish the last few miles. We came in just overtime. We didn't win a buckle. But we finished the course, and I brought my horse home tired, but completely sound. The endurance motto "To Finish is to Win" has made me feel like a winner all these years later.

The publishing world is a lot like endurance riding. You've got to train hard, hang in there, and there are peaks and valleys and tests of your endurance. My best horseback riding days are behind me, but I hope my best writing days are still in front of me. And believe me, I'm in it for the long haul.

What have you done that you're really, really proud of, that still brings nostalgic memories? Would you do it again? Feel free to share.


Amy Lukavics said...

An awesome, inspiring story by an awesome, inspiring lady.

You rock so hard, Linda!!!!!

Amy Lukavics said...

Oh, and the memory. I'm really proud of the time that I stood up during my last middle school orchestra concert and busted out with a (horribly executed)solo from Phantom of the Opera.

The instructor (of whom I butted heads with all year) had no idea what I was doing and his face turned the color of tomato sauce. My mom got it all on tape. The audience even cheered. The instructor was infamous for being somewhat of a dictator and I couldn't resist shaking him up a little.

I was so scared to go through with it but I did and now I'm proud. I'd like to think I'd do it again.

Linda Benson said...

LOL, Amy. That's a GREAT story. It's those things we do in life, that we're not sure we can but we try anyway, that make us proud of ourselves and give us strength for the rest of our life that are important, huh?

So now I'm wondering what song from Phantom of the Opera . . .

middle grade ninja said...

Good story. It's nice to know that we don't have to do the long haul alone:) Oh, and Joanna did the interview this week. Thought you would like to know.

Vonna said...

Though I love the outdoors, I've never been an athlete. So when my husband begged me to join him on the MS150 (a 2-day, 180 mi bike ride from Houston to Austin), I agreed just to humor him. The first training ride terrified me--30 miles. The rides got longer--50, 60, 70. By the time I rode across the finish line at 2 p.m. on the second day, I was laughing. Unbelievable.

All that training is a major time-suck, though. I did it again the following year, but I doubt I'll do it again.

Linda Benson said...

Ninja - Your blog is an endurance feat in itself, constantly producing quality interviews and reviews. I don't know how you do it, but it's great! Pat yourself on the back!!

Vonna - Wow, that's a long way to ride a bike. Very cool that you had that experience with your husband, and you did it twice. You've got bragging rights now, but most importantly, you proved to yourself that you CAN do it. Which is pretty darn neat.

And yes, training for any kind of sport takes time away from other things. It's a huge commitment.

Thanks for dropping by to comment!

Unknown said...

Great story, Linda. Having owned many Arabians, I'm very familiar with the Tevis, though unlike you, never felt gutsy enough to try it!

Monica said...

Dude! This is amazing! Wow, I am so impressed. :)

Susan said...

I'm proud of you for doing it at all! I thought about competing in endurance as a teenager since I tried just about everything else on horseback, but.. it never happened.