by Mike Everett
May 7 2015
"The time is now!" Those are the words I used to motivate myself to get Razz and me ready to do my first one day 100 mile race. Razz was approaching his 21st birthday and I was bearing down on turning 61 on April 1st 2015. It was time for Razz and me to have our own special time together.
I first saw Razz when he was less than 24 hours old and knew he was for me. He was an impressive Anglo/Arab baby. I finally bought him when he was four years old from his breeders Claude and Marion Brewer. He was Marion's baby. When I bought him she cried as I pulled off. Marion was concerned I would ride him hard and use him up.
Razz was my first round draft pick and my plans were to make him the best possible athlete I could without compromising his wellbeing and long term comfort. He would define my skills as a coach. To everybody's surprise I turned him out for two years to mature.
We started conditioning him at six years old and he has had a stellar career.
I have always been on the cusp through the years of doing a 100 mile race myself but have deferred to Ruth Anne riding and me crewing because it was best for the performance of the horse. Plus, I can't express enough how much satisfaction I get watching Ruth Anne riding and enjoying her time competing.
But, "The Time Is Now!"It was time for Razz and me to do our 100 together. We owed it to each other at this point. So I committed and set a realistic goal to do Biltmore and keep it a priority.
I consulted my neurosurgeon and we made a plan to time my spinal stenosis therapies with the training and ride schedules Razz and I needed to accomplish our goal at Biltmore. Everything went as planned for the most part; almost perfect, really.
The most comforting aspect came into play when Ruth Anne stepped up a couple of weeks before the ride and told me she was going to crew for me. Then Elise Rogers agreed to crew too. We were set. I was confident with the crew in place. I was getting extremely excited to accomplish my goal with Razz.
Razz and I could complete The Biltmore 100 if I rode smart. It was all on me! He was ready and needed me to lead.
The ride began and Nancy Sluys and Zanie and Razz and I started in the rear at a controlled pace. Our horses really paced out well together and came into the first check well. Razz did not drink at all on the trail or in the hold. He is always that way at the first check. Makes me worry but I know he will be fine after a few more miles and he was. He started drinking like a fish and eating everything in sight. He looked stronger as the day went on. He and Zanie became girlfriend and boyfriend. It was fun.
After about 35 miles, in camp I was asked if I was having a good time and I said it was the best time I have ever had at a ride. They said, "yeah but you have only been about 35 miles."I said, "Yes, that is true but it is the first time I have ever been 35 miles on my way to 100 miles." I was so pumped to have this challenge before me.
Nancy Sluys and Zanie and Razz and I came in to the 86 mile vet check. On that loop we had come up on a rider on his final leg of the 75 and a lady on her last loop of the 100. It was a rather slow pace but fun in the dark as Nancy started singing one of her favorite endurance songs. Full moon, dark woods and Nancy Sluys singing. How sweet it was!
Razz vetted through with all As and only 14 miles to go with an out time of 12:44 AM. I was pumped and I felt really good. Home stretch...baby!!!!
Then BOOM, BOOM, BOOM! Zanie was tight in the rear and Nancy pulled! I had lost my prescription glasses and Nancy led us the whole previous loop because I could hardly read the signs. I was not sure I could follow the trail and was talking about pulling. Everybody was rallying around me and telling me I could do it. I was contemplating a rider option but when I said it, I felt soooooo empty. I felt really good and Razz felt really good. As everybody kept cheering me on, I processed the loop in my mind's eye. Pam said, "Trust Razz". Sudi said, "Razz knows the trail now". Elise said, "There is no reason to stop". A turning point was when my lovely and calm wife looked at me and said, "Dad you can do this". Debate over! We tacked up Razz and he trotted out of camp. We were going to complete.
Razz and I trotted about a half mile out and when we got to where our horse trailer was parked he stopped dead cold. When Razz stops.......Razz stops! He would not go. So I got off and hand walked him while he continuously jerked back for almost three miles before I got in the saddle to continue.
Little did I know Stagg Newman had a plan to see me through. All through that loop Stagg, Ruth Anne and Pam Burrows were at different points to cheer me on and let me know how far it was to the finish. This loop was the most fun loop of the whole race. I really was confident and comfortable at this point. God's full moon was shining in the partly cloudy sky and it silhouetted the big trees with definition. Deep in the woods it was magical. I felt like I was following the yellow brick road in The Wizard of Oz. I was waiting on the trees to throw apples and start shouting at me. Ha, Ha!
Finally we passed the big sheep pen where the big dog had been and then on past the cows to the top of a hill overlooking the Biltmore House on the left. Spectacular place. I reached in my pommel bag and got a container of Razz's sire's cremated ashes and sprinkled them from the top of the hill. The gray ashes sparkled in the moonlight as they drifted to the ground. The moment was so moving to me to be with Razz, my first draft pick, on The Biltmore Estate at 4:00 am spreading his Daddy's ashes.
I have always understood the definition of the AERC motto "To Finish Is To Win" and thought it was just ok. On this magical morning, I felt it's meaning. Razz brought me on in for the win