With one completion and two attempts, if you want real advice there are many many more suitable sources. Therefore the list below should be considered as "for entertainment" purposes only!
My aunt is considering on riding the Tevis next year, and if she does, it will be a fulfillment of a near life-long dream for her. She's been preparing for this ride before I even knew what Tevis was. If we were having a heart to heart over a good, hot cup of tea, here's what I would say.
Lots of good advice is given such as "ride your own ride", and "don't hurry, don't tarry" and I would agree, but sometimes it's hard to see how this applies to the actual ride. Here are some of the specifics of how I applied these concepts.
- Ride, really ride, the vet checks and the gate and goes. Spend just as much time planning your strategy for the g&g and vet checks, as you do for the trail. How you ride through these checks (and the welfare areas that are not checks) can significantly impact your ride. My strategy is to try and not get caught up in big lines or checks. Either vet in ahead of a big crowd (my preference) or spend extra time and let them get ahead of you. Know exactly what you want to accomplish during a check and keep it simple. Food, drink, electrolyte for the horse. Food, bathroom for rider. Volunteer to refill water bottle. All my other needs are scheduled for the one hour holds. A related concept is: Don't waste time doing unnecessary things. For example, I didn't bother with courtesy pulse checks and I didn't bother dismounting into vet checks. Neither was needed and by getting into the check faster, she was able to eat and drink sooner. I didn't strip tack to pulse down. Strip your routine down to the very basics of what is actually needed for you and your horse. My priorities were eating and drinking for us both. I saved all the other "niceties" for the one hour holds. Because at Tevis....Every moment is important - At a "normal" ride that doesn't require me to ride so close to the cut offs, I do all sorts of things Farley doesn't NEED, but I do anyways because they are nice to do for her. At Tevis I'm focused on one thing - how to get through the vet checks as soon as possible and spend no time in lines so that Farley and I are either riding and making forward progress OR relaxing. Standing in line, standing for multiple pulse checks, and fiddling with equipment is wasted time.
- Expect to ride close to the cut off times and don't worry about it (but still have them with you) - My first year I didn't carry the cut off times with me. My philosophy was that it didn't matter what the cut offs were because I was going to ride my ride so matter what. But then I got stressed because someone told me we were close to a cut off (we weren't) and I pushed her harder than I should have. And I didn't have a guideline for how fast I was going - it would have been a red flag to realize that I came in 1/2 hour behind the guideline pace, only to be several hours ahead of the guideline several checks down the trail. This year I carried the cut off sheet, which included the guideline pace. I also had my 2009 pace times listed. I used my 2009 times in 2 ways. #1 - I wanted to ride the second third of the race slower. By evaluating the 2009 times, I was able to establish times for each check that I DID not want to go faster than. #2 - for references purposes I could see how long it took me to travel from check to check. So, even though I might be 2 hours behind my '09 pace, I could judge how long it would take me to the next check, based on the previous year. I would advice against just writing your predicted pace on your arm, marathon style, or just carrying your goals for each check. Because the ride changes as you ride, it was important to me to have all the pieces of information with me so I could adjust pace and times as I went along. To do that I needed - each check with mileage (both mileage from the previous check, to the next check, AND the overall total mileage from the beginning), my '09 times into each check, my '09 time between each check, and what I *thought* I would be riding in '10.
- Have a detailed plan for the one hour holds for your crew. Divide the tasks into several priorities so if you are short on time you can quickly decide what can wait. I tend to drop details during the ride that seems "too much of a bother". Therefore I assign those tasks specifically to crew members and do NOT rely on myself to do them. The priorities of the different tasks are going to vary for you and your horse. For example, Farley isn't prone to scratches. I apply desitin as a preventative, but if for some reason it doesn't happen, I won't waste time to get it done. Farley DOES get boot rubs if the proper procedure isn't followed (boots completely scrubbed clean, show sheen applied to her legs prior to application) so if I need 5 more minutes at a check to get it accomplished, I will take the time.
- Do what it takes to make sure that you, as the rider, is in a good mental state. I'm not a person that regularly thinks to take OTC medication. Medicine makes me vaguely uneasy and most of the time it just doesn't occur me that I need it. Probably, my need for medication to get through a 100 speaks to my unprepared-ness of a rider. I'm willing to accept that and while I work on that, this is what I need: Ibprophen and caffeine pills.
- Be ready to leave your riding buddy at an instant. If you agree to start Tevis with a friend, hopefully you have both agreed that you will continue "as long as it works". Think long and hard about this, and be prepared to actually leave when the time is right. Both years I started, I rode with a friend, and both years I ended up leaving them behind far sooner than I had thought. Both years, my friends finished. In 2009, D* got delayed at the Robinson exit CRI and I had to make the decision to go after waiting for 5-10 minutes after my out time. This year, Kathy's horse uncharactertiscally took 30 minutes to pulse down at Redstar, early in the race. Farley was down almost immediately, and after waiting ~10-12 minutes, I decided I needed to leave. In both cases my friends encouraged me to go on, and I would have done the same for them. I cannot stress that enough - be prepared to ride this race alone if necessary. When I ride in boots I usually ask Kathy if, in the event of a boot failure, would she mind stopping while I resolve it ONCE? If I have another malfunction then I'm on my own! A problematic boot can take a lot of time when stopping multiple times, and I don't think it's fair to my riding partner.
- What rides will really help me to prepare for Tevis? The Tevis (at least in 2010) requires 300 endurance miles for the rider. Let's assume you start Tevis with the minimum required miles.....not all miles are created equal. At least for this rider/horse team, 300 miles of duck miles would not have been enough to prepare me. I think it's important to do an evaluation of the rider/horse weaknesses and chose prep rides that focus on those weaknesses, along with rides that will be similar in terrain to the Tevis. Flat, sandy, desert rides with great footing are fun.....but aren't necessarily good "specificity training". The 2 types of races I found most helpful were multi days over similar terrain, and "easy" rides of distances longer than 50/55 miles. To that goal, I did 2 days at wild west, and a 65 miler at 20 Mule team (an "easy" desert ride). I continued that trend in 2010 but stepped it up a notch - 3 days at wild west (similar terrain), 100 miles at 20MT (long distance over easier terrain).
- Lastly - beware of overtraining and bringing a tired horse to the ride. The horse you have 4 weeks before the ride is the horse you can expect to ride at Tevis, fitness-wise. Nothing you do in those 4 weeks will matter, except perhaps make them more tired. Those 4 weeks are best spent on behavior, having fun, and spending time in a non-stressful way.
So there's the advice I would have given myself when I was first dreaming of riding the Tevis 10 years ago. Any one have anything else they would like to add?~