(Photo by Deanna Ramsey.)

There is no question that the best part of 100s is riding them.

Or more honestly, the BEST thing is talking about having ridden a hundred a few days after having successfully done so, when you’ve caught up on sleep and have triumphed over two massive hurdles — forward stair descent and lowering-self-onto-toilet-seat-without-illegal-use-of-hands.

But the next best thing is crewing, for sure.

Last year I crewed my husband and Sarge through the VT 100, their first 100, with the unfailing help of Rich’s sister, Kathy, and brother in law, Fred. Last month, it was the Biltmore 75, and I crewed (mostly) solo. Next weekend, the plan is to crew them both through the Old Dominion 100.

Hundreds hold appeal to different people for different reasons, but for me, one of the great attractions is the Rubik’s Cube brain-occupation of preparing, considering ‘what ifs’, planning and executing that plan. I have an obsessively busy brain and with 100 miles of trail to contemplate, there’s much to keep a mind occupied.

To crew for 100 means the same obsessive level of attention to detail without the actual saddle time.

It means making lists, checking them twice, considering potential shoe losses and tack changes and things that could break, human and equine metabolic functions that could go awry, packing the items that could correct that mishap and enjoying the fact that it allows you to buy all sorts of sample-size pharmaceuticals for the RIDER.

For each 100, I replace outdated meds and leave the cashier at Wegmans stymied as to what physical ailment has left me in need of anti-diarrheal, sleep motion, and seven different skin protective products, including three types of sunblock.

It means checking batteries that may have gone awry in flashlights and headlamps, particularly if they were left in a cold, damp horse trailer through the winter, and contemplating what food or beverage might hit the spot for a rider who is feeling a little low at 63 or 84 or 92 miles and what sneaky yummy thing might sound heavenly to the weary crew person when they leave that hold.

Over the years we’ve found little tricks that have worked for us, not because of some genius of our own, but because we like to steal good ideas from others:

  • V-8 — loaded with salt and the next best thing to food when chewing and swallowing is just not within the capability of your rider
  • Body Glide — for a million different things (one for horse, one for husband rider, one for wife rider — let’s not make a mistake here)
  • Towels — lots of them in various sizes for various tasks
  • Desitin — this can be sold for a significant profit at the last vet check if you’re that kind of girl
  • Wet washcloths in ziplocs stashed in the cooler — someone is going to want to wash something out or just wipe the sweat from their face
  • Trash bags — this whole endeavor results in a lot of garbage (I buy the scented ones because it makes the truck smell less like a locker room housing a wet dog in a damp barn at 2 am)
  • Lists, lots of lists — because no one’s brain functions particularly well after the third hold
  • Crewing directions blown up BIG and kept always, and I mean ALWAYS on the truck dash board — because everything needs a home and no one needs the stress of HOPING they are going the right way when they’re worried their rider is running two minutes ahead of them
  • Diet Pepsi — which I’ve sworn off drinking mostly but you’ll find me enjoying, in a death-defying state of devil-may-care attitude any time from mid-morning on
  • Gallon jugs and water bottles pre-frozen in our chest freezer — thank goodness we haven’t transferred Farmer Dave’s beef to the freezer in our garage yet because we pre-freeze gallon jugs of water and all of our drinking water bottles in the freezer days before the ride and use every available bit of storage space to stash them in coolers and bring them to the ride; floated in a muck tub of water or in our 25-gallon water tank in the bed of the pick up, these make for a nice long-lasting “bullet” of chilling energy
  • Clothes (for rider AND crew) — dry socks, undies, rain gear, sweatshirt (yes, riders get hypothermic even when its hot), a spare set of EVERYTHING
  • Pick-me-ups for the rider — for me for a 100 that’s baby powder and deodorant, most every hold (somehow I believe that if I smell okay, all is right with the world)
  • Pick-me-ups for the horse (for Sarge that will mean lots and lots of apple wafer treats, which he finds irresistible, and a pair of ice boots if its miserably hot)
  • A wide and strange variety of food for horse and rider — because you never know what is going to tempt their palate when they arrive and both of them need to be focusing mightily on refueling

I’ll think of dozens of other tricks or stuff I pack the moment I publish this blog, but really, it’s all about anticipating the needs of the horse, the rider, giving them a REAL chance to rest, relax and re-charge for the maximum time each time you see them and to be ready for ANYTHING with regard to “stuff challenges.”

Spare stirrup, I got it. Two different girths, yep, those too. Pad change? Of course! Hell, if the second saddle we know fits will squeeze in there, we’ll have that too. Lots and lots of Velcro straps and latigo strings and shoes/EasyBoots/interference boots and our shoeing kit so Rich can tack on a shoe if he has to. This stuff gets buried deep down in the truck but if someone needs it, it can be dug out during the course of the hold.

NOTE: I must admit that excavation of the I’m-sure-we-won’t-need-this-but-I’ll-pack-it-anyway-items ruins any sense of order for the rest of the ride. During a short hold, it means stuff flies EVERYWHERE in the vehicle and often it stays exactly where it landed until morning-after-100 crew truck cleanout time. But you’ll still be a hero for having packed it!

Anyone who knows me knows that I believe I am heartily connected to my Polish roots, which means that I can fuss after and feed and clean anything in my midst when so motivated.  Then clean up, regroup and do it again. (As long as it’s not my office.)

I was born to crew.

And when they cross that finish line, and they will, I’ll cry (again) nearly as hard as I do when I ride across it myself.

It’s the next best thing to doing it yourself.  Which I will do. Again. I promise.

And at some point, I’ll lick my index finger, draw a little hash mark in the air and think “oh yeah, he owes me!”

Happy Crewing!