Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Crewing Tevis 2016 by Adrianne Buschling

These two extraordinary athletes took me on quite the adventure! Tevis Cup 2016 will forever be a treasured memory for me. Huge thanks to Bobbi, Willie, and Bobbi's husband Mark for the opportunity!  

We arrived in Sacramento on Thursday night, and were fortunate to have a lovely place to stay overnight. Early Friday morning, we got up, showered, loaded up, and headed out to Robie Equestrian Park, which is where the ride began. We got settled in, I braided Willie, and Bobbi checked in and got Willie vetted in (pic is them at the vetting in process). As suggested, I took lots of electrolytes and drank lots of water. We were at 7000' elevation in high desert, and we didn't want to get dehydrated or succumb to altitude sickness. Well, I now know that I can NOT consume ANY of the electrolyte products on the market - especially the caffeinated ones!! OMG, I thought I was going to die by about noon. My heart was racing, I was shaking so badly it was interfering with braiding, my whole body just flat out felt weird! But I survived, and by night time, I was starting to feel a little less wonky. 

The drive into and out of Robie Park was stunning. Everywhere you looked, there was a view worthy of a post card! I wish I had managed to get more photos, but I either didn't have my phone (camera) with me, or we were driving as fast as we could down dusty forest roads in a 4x4 pickup truck with a big camper, hauling a trailer - which doesn't exactly yield awesome cell phone shots. I guess I get to keep those memories tucked safely away in my memory bank. I hope to return to the area and explore at a much slower pace with my husband and our pups - I'll take pics then :-)
We set up camp, went to a bunch of meetings, checked out some of the vendors, and attended a pre-ride dinner down by the beautiful meadow (darn it, why did I keep forgetting my camera??? Oh yeah, I was spinning out on electrolytes, caffeine, and amino acids, lol!) After dinner there was one last meeting, then we went up to get ready for the start. We eventually settled down around 10 or 11 pm. Sleep eluded me, but I was happy to get to lay down for a while to let my muscles relax. By 2:30 am, Bobbi was up feeding Willie. After he ate what he wanted, I went out and did some pre-ride body work on him. By 3:30 am, Bobbi and her husband Mark were tacking him up.

It was glorious in the mountains, chilly at night, crystal clear skies, and so many stars. And the moon was vividly bright... The Tevis Moon! I massaged Willie by moonlight, and he was ready - he most definitely knew where he was! 4:30 rolled around, and Bobbie mounted up. She headed up to the starting line along with 171 other riders, the buzz of anticipation thick in the air. Shortly after the start at 5:15 am, we charged out of that park as the clock struck 5:30 am (per ride rules we couldn't leave before 5:30). We had to cover 90 miles to get to the first vet check we'd be crewing, Robinson Flat. With the obligatory Starbucks stop and quick pit stop to fill up the truck, we were lucky to make it with 5 minutes to spare before they cut off vehicles from entering at 9 am. Then it was our turn to get busy. 

Mark (Bobbi's husband), Lynn (her friend and neighbor) and I were Bobbi and Willie's crew. Considering we barely knew each other, I'm positively amazed by what an exceptional team we made! Bobbi had provided us a spreadsheet with all the things we needed to bring to each stop, and where to have what set up. She knows her stuff... As demanding as this event is, thanks to her guidance, we managed to make her stops calm, refreshing, and timely. Willie ate and drank like a champ - he was all business, and completely in his element! As we were getting ready to send Bobbi out of Robinson Flat, I noticed something didn't look quite right, and earned my keep by realizing she didn't have her cooling vest. We got it to her in the nick of time, and she headed off into the canyons.

We cleaned up our stop and headed back to the rig. We were on double duty as a horse ambulance, and thought we'd be taking 2 horses to the next stop, Foresthill. Since we also had to take the two horse's riders, Mark asked if one of us would volunteer to ride down with another ambulance, so there would be enough room in the truck. I volunteered and rode down with two riders who had been pulled due to their horse's being lame. Listening to their conversations really instilled in me that endurance riding is definitely a lifestyle, not just a hobby! Many of these people were raised doing endurance, and come from generations of endurance riders. Everyone seems to know everyone, and they have so many stories to share - some funny, some sad. 

Upon arriving in Foresthill, the first thing I noticed was the heat. I kept hearing, this isn't so bad, it's been way hotter in the past! Yikes!! I've been in Western WA for 10 years now... I haven't seen as much sun as I did on Saturday and Sunday in my past 10 years cumulatively!! I'm just glad it wasn't hotter! I immediately thought of the horses and riders picking their ways through those three canyons. Tough as nails really doesn't do them justice. 

Again, we got to work, scoping out the situation, picking out a spot to crew Bobbi and Willie, and eventually settling down in a shady spot to watch riders come up Bath Rd after their grueling ride through the canyons. Many residents of Bath Rd come out and set up chairs, cheer on the riders, set out hoses, buckets of water, and carrots - they're super supportive! Bobbi and Willie came riding in around 7:15. Willie pulsed down quickly. We took him to our crewing spot for feeding and massage, while Bobbie changed and got ready for their night time ride along the narrow trails. At 8:15, they set off into the night. 

We cleaned up, got the rig packed up, and set off to the Auburn Gold Country Fairgrounds. There was a specific parking area we were looking for, and it was tricky to find, especially in the dark, but we did eventually succeed in finding it. We got camp set up, both for us and for Willie, then took the gear we'd need down to the stadium. We came back and tried to get some sleep, but incoming rigs, chatty/sleep deprived/loopy people, and a particularly loud train made sleep elusive yet again. I decided to check my phone to see if I had finally gotten cell service, and I had... It was tenuous, but there! There were so many messages! I had pretty much forgotten about my phone by this time, as I don't think I'd had service since the airport! 

After a while, the influx of rigs slowed, and I managed to fall asleep for about an hour around 2am... Thankfully I set my alarm for 3am, cause Bobbi and Willie were making good progress, and we needed to get moving up toward the finish line. The actual finish line (where their ride time ends) is quite a ways up from the finish line everyone sees in the pictures. The riders cross the finish line, then their crew walks down with them to the stadium (but can't crew in any way yet). There they take their victory lap and cross under the more visible, commonly photographed finish line. 

We were so excited to see Bobbi and Willie coming up the hill at 4:30 am! We walked them down vet check, Willie pulsed down quickly and trotted out sound, passing with flying colors and earning their official completion! I went to work massaging him while he ate for an hour or so, at which point they did their final vet check and were deemed "fit to continue" (the unofficial theme of Tevis - the horse must always be fit to continue). We cleaned up the crewing spot, took everything back up to the trailer, and got Willie settled in to his pen for the evening. By the time all was said and done, I think it was daylight again. 

After a couple of hours failing to attempt to sleep, I got up and started to break down my sleeping stuff, and got all my things packed up. We went out for coffee/oj and got a quick bite to eat, then returned to watch Best Condition, where the horses who placed 1st - 10th in the ride are presented for evaluation. CRI (cardiac recovery index), soundness, and many other factors are evaluated and considered, and the winner receives the Haggin Cup.

All too quickly, the time came for us to make our way to the airport. I got checked in, met up with Lynn (we rode to the airport together and were on the same flights leaving from and returning to Portland), and after an hour and a half delay, headed home. I think I made it home around midnight thirty (this morning)... I was completely, deliriously exhausted. 

Whatta trip! I learned so much about this sport, and met many wonderful people. The horses and riders are true athletes. The ride was extraordinarily well organized, everything flowed seamlessly. Three people who hardly knew each other pulled together to make a top-notch Tevis crew for the incredibly well prepared and conditioned Bobbi and Willie. Well done team!!

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