Jun 18 2013
A few days before the Lake Almanor Hustle, I was having a lot of anxiety about Tevis. I am not sure what exactly triggered all of my fear. My guess is that it was a combination of things, coupled with “one of those days.” I had a pretty good pity party for myself before I got things packed up for the Lake Almanor 75-Mile Endurance Ride, our last competition before the Tevis Cup.
I was one of the first riders to pull into ride camp on Friday morning. After getting set up, I took a much needed nap while I waited for my friends, Linda and Teresa, to arrive. Once they got there, it was lunch and pre-ride time! Then Teresa and I decided to vet our horses in before attending the pre-ride meeting.
That night, as I was in the camper, I remember thinking I felt different about this ride. I wasn’t excited like I usually was for an endurance ride. I was feeling a bit lonely, since I was there without my family. I felt only half-committed to the 75 miles we were supposed to do the next day…
My alarm went off just before 5 am and I suddenly sprung into action, preparing for the long ride ahead of us with serious concentration. Two minutes before our start time, I was mounted and ready to go. Asali took off at the start with the usual power she displays in the beginning. The air was cool and I was looking forward to the sun warming my back later in the day.
We were only half way into that first 25-mile loop when I started getting this feeling that something just wasn’t right. Asali seemed a little “off” – maybe because she hadn’t been warmed up properly at the start? I felt disorganized mentally and kept thinking this must not be our day. Asali had thrown one back boot, and while I recovered it from the trail, it was useless, as the wire was broken. The trail was so rocky that I knew I was going to have to walk my horse the rest of that first loop until I could figure out a back-up boot in ride camp. That’s when I decided to call my horse trainer, mentor, and personal friend, Sheri Braun. I told her Asali didn’t feel right to me, although she wasn’t lame. I told her she was all over the trail and we had thrown a back boot and I felt like this wasn’t our day. The first thing Sheri asked me was why I was doing the ride. I told her it was for me. I had no doubt that Asali could go 75 miles, but I doubted myself and needed to prove that I could do it. That’s when Sheri told me I needed to let go of my agenda. I needed to center myself, put my focus back on my horse, and calm the heck down. And she told me I needed to follow my intuition, to listen to my gut.
I hung up the phone, dismounted, took a deep breath, and spent some time stretching Asali’s front legs out. When we threw a second back boot a few miles up the trail, Asali became a rodeo pony when the wire caught around her pastern. She bucked circles around me for what seemed like forever, and that’s when I decided I was going to rider option out of the ride at the vet check. Things just weren’t “right” that morning…
I walked into the vet check, excited about the fact that we were done. I decided I was going to help Linda crew for Teresa for the rest of the ride, but then Teresa told me her horse Magic had been pulled for lameness, a result of the hard, rocky trail. I told Teresa and Linda I had to pull as well because I couldn’t ride Asali barefoot with the kind of terrain this ride offered. I felt the fact we had thrown our back boots was a sign that we weren’t supposed to go on. Linda looked at my boots and said it wasn’t a sign; we had just simply worn our boots out (it’s true, we had hundreds of miles on those dang boots). Five minutes later, Linda returned with two Easyboot gloves in the exact size Asali needed. And then when I went to vet Asali, she received all “As”. There was no reason for us to quit.
I changed my attitude before we headed out for that next loop. I knew we had four 12.5-mile loops left and I decided we would just take it one loop at a time and see how far we got. I let go of my personal agenda. I knew we were one of the last horse and rider teams competing in the 75-miler, but I didn’t care. I threw away the anxiety I usually have about being in last place and decided we would just ride our own ride and enjoy the trail as we went.
On the second loop, I rode a few miles with a woman who was on the 50-miler. The company was nice, but we eventually had to go our separate ways. It was just Asali and me after that and I was reminded that some of my best rides had been when it was just the two of us. I was able to reconnect with my horse and I had time to reflect on and face my own personal doubts and fears. Asali carried me when I needed it and when I felt she needed encouragement, I would get off and walk or jog next to her. I can’t tell you what happened, but one 12.5 mile loop turned into 2 and then 3 and then 4. Asali and I were both pretty wiped out at 62.5 miles, but we had an amazing crew in Linda and Teresa, and when we headed out for that last loop, we both got a second wind.
We crossed the finish line just before dark and I was left feeling both exhilarated and grateful. Our completion was the result of a team effort – a friend who gave me some paramount advice, a crew who took care of my horse at every vet check so I could take care of myself, and an honest partnership between horse and rider. I learned one important lesson at this ride: if you just keep putting one foot in front of the other, you will eventually reach your destination. Take life one step at a time… it’s all about the journey!