‘To finish is to win’: Penn Valley woman Nancy Martin, 66, completes Tevis Cup 100-mile ride in first attempt
Not every competition is about finishing first, or how well one fares in comparison to their peers. Some endeavors are more about the journey rather than the destination. Sometimes, simply finishing is winning.
“Our goal was to finish, have the horses look good and take as long as it took, and that’s what we did,” said Nancy Martin, a Penn Valley resident who took on the 100-mile Tevis Cup Endurance Ride for the first time in late July. “To finish is to win, and that is so true at Tevis.”
The Tevis Cup is a premiere equestrian event in which riders and horses navigate 100-miles of rough terrain that follows portions of the Western States Trail. Beginning at the Robie Equestrian Park, south of Truckee, riders have 24-hours to traverse the trail and reach the finish line at the Auburn Fairgrounds.
Martin had done a few endurance rides in her life, but nothing on the scale of the Tevis Cup. Despite some early nerves, she embraced the challenge.
“I think it’s part of getting older,” she said. “I’m 66, and I know that isn’t old-old, but you’ve done all the big things in your life. You’ve gone to school, you got married, you bought a house, you have kids. You do all these big things then it’s like you can get really complacent and just sit, or make a goal and that’s how I felt.”
There were several challenges along the way, but Martin completed her goal and did so with a big smile on her face.
“I was grinning ear to ear,” said Martin. “We did it.”
Martin, riding her beloved horse Monk, started the Tevis Cup at 5:15 a.m. July 24 and completed it at 4:55 a.m. the next day, finishing 46th out of 133 entrants. Only 63 of the 133 riders who started the ride were able to complete it.
“It was such a long day, but it felt like it went by like that,” she said while snapping her fingers. “I was so happy. Just so happy we met our goal.”
Martin had to overcome several obstacles along the way to accomplishing her goal. Fortunately, she was riding a horse she knows and trusts, and had an experienced riding companion in Lindsay Fisher, who was riding Monk’s father Bucephalos.
“I trust (Monk), totally,” Martin said. “He’s just the most sane Arabian horse you’ll ever meet. I really love him. He got me through it, him and Lindsay. I couldn’t have done it without Lindsay, I don’t think, because she’s just so organized and done it so many times.”
Fisher, a veteran Tevis Cup rider, said she was impressed with Martin’s ability.
“Tevis is a very tough day. It’s exhausting,” she said. “I was just taken aback by Nancy’s enthusiasm, her strength and the positivity that she had throughout the entire day. She was always smiling, always positive. … I was so proud of her. She’s tough. She’s definitely tough. It was a very successful day.”
Fisher has completed eight Tevis Cup rides, several of which while riding Monk and finishing in the top-five, including a second place finish in 2017. This time around, she was on Monk’s father, Bucephalos.
MONK AND BUCEPHALOS
Monk is a bit of a celebrity in equine circles, said Martin, and people at the event were excited to see the well known horse tackling the Tevis Cup along with Bucephalos.
“Monk has a huge fan base,” she said. “It’s like having a kid that is a star in some sport. Everyone was really excited about Monk and his dad doing the ride together.”
With Martin on Monk, and Fisher on Bucephalos, the group navigated the trail with a steady but deliberate pace.
“They worked so well together,” said Martin. “(Bucephalos) is better on the downhill. Monk doesn’t like the downhill because he has a little arthritis, and so we put (Bucephalos) up front on the downhills. Monk is really strong on the uphills, so we put him in front on the uphills.”
Fisher said the 2021 Tevis Cup experience was different than others in her past.
“The horses were going really well, they were both really strong all day, and I kind of sat back and enjoyed the trail,” she said. “I certainly took it in more than I usually do. When I was on Monk, a lot of the years were more about being competitive and you can kind of lose perspective as far as the beauty and taking it all in, and this year we did. It was nice in that way.”
Both Fisher and Martin said the horses had no issues making the trek together.
“It worked really well,” said Martin. “By the end they were nickering at each other. They definitely worked well together.”
TRIALS OF THE TRAIL
It wasn’t all smiles on the trail, as there were several obstacles Martin faced along the way. However, she was able to overcome them with the help of Monk and Fisher.
“I thought the most difficult part would be the very beginning because the horses are so amped up, but Monk did really well, and Lindsay went first and was sort of my brakes for Monk,” Martin said. “What turned out to be the scariest part was leaving Foresthill. You get on what is called the California Loop, so you ride right through Foresthill on the main street, and it was just getting dark, and by the time we got to the single track it’s totally dark and the moon isn’t up yet, and it’s a soft, switchback, narrow trail with a big cliff, and you can get disoriented. And, you can’t have white lights at all. You only have a little red light. That, I gotta tell you, I was really scared. That was mind over matter.”
With no desire to finish among the leaders, Martin and Fisher gave their horses plenty of time at the vet checks along the way.
“There was no pressure,” said Fisher, who normally rides alone when she competes in the Tevis Cup. “That is until we realized we were taking it too easy and needed to pick it up.”
They did pick it up, and both finished with 20 minuets to spare.
“I’m so grateful for Lindsay for riding with me, because without her I would have been scared to death,” said Martin.
Martin also expressed gratitude for the many supporters and volunteers that she came across on the trail, as well as her husband, Chris Martin.
“My husband, I can’t tell you how much he’s done for Monk, he’s amazing,” said Nancy.
Despite a few lost fingernails and toenails, Nancy said she felt great after the race and is planning to continue competing in endurance rides.
“Monk looked great and I felt so good, I was shocked. I thought I’d be dying, but I felt great,” she said, adding that Monk is a big reason for her success. “Monk is just a little Penn Valley horse, but he’s amazing.”
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, email email@example.com
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