The 100-mile race, the rough terrain of the Sierra Nevada's, nor the 120-degree temperatures were the most nerve-racking parts for Ken Wolgram.
Lining up at 5 a.m. with more than 200 other horses are what makes Ken Wolgram nervous about the Tevis Cup Ride.
"That is the most nervous part of the whole ride," he said. "This is the third time I've done it, and luckily I've had no problems. But that's the nervous part for me."
Wolgram and his wife, Betty, were among 211 competitors who took part in the 51st annual Tevis Cup Ride.
The Tevis Cup Ride is the oldest modern day endurance ride, having been held annually since 1955.
Wendell Robie, an Auburn, Calif., businessman and devoted rider of the Sierra high country, first organized the ride. While many people doubted that any modern-day horse could cover the rugged trail from Lake Tahoe to Auburn in a single day, Wendell and a few of his friends proved them wrong in August 1955. He continued to hold the ride annually and organized the Western States Trail Foundation to preserve the 100-mile trail and ride.
"It's known as being the hardest endurance ride in North America," Ken said.
Competitors are asked to complete the 100-mile ride in 24 hours.
This year, both the Wolgrams finished the race in the allotted time period. While they didn't win the race, they said winning isn't what the race is about.
"The attitude here is to finish is to win," Betty said.
In the three years Ken has competed, he has finished twice, while this year was Betty's second year competing and first year to finish.
Betty, who finished last year's race 35 minutes late of the 24 hour time limit, said last year's race taught her a lot about herself.
"At first I felt like I failed, like I failed my horse," she said.
But after talking to a well-known endurance competitor who did not finish the race, as well, Betty said she felt better.
"She said to me, 'I might have failed to finish but I didn't fail to try.'"
While Betty didn't finish last year because of saddle problems, she continued to work at finishing this year's race.
She said, along with her husband, they would ride at least once a week on 20 to 30 mile rides to get them and the horses in shape for the 2005 Tevis Cup Ride.
The hard work paid off for Betty as she finished this year's race "with 30 minutes to spare."
"It was really emotional to finish that ride," she said. "I really felt humbled about the whole thing. The awesome athleticism of the horses makes you feel real grateful and small."
Just finishing the race is an accomplishment as only 42 percent of people finished this year's race. Last year 55 percent of competitors finished.
"The terrain there is so rough," Ken said of the ride. "That is what usually takes out most of the riders."
Essentially the ride is broken down into thirds. The first third is a ride in the wilderness area that involves lots of rocks and steep climbing. The second third takes place in deep canyons where temperatures can exceed 110-degrees. The last third is a ride in complete darkness.
With the different parts of the ride, Betty said it takes a complete rider and horse to finish.
"It there is a hole in the rider or horse, the Tevis will find it," she said.
Betty said she did the race as a personal challenge.
"Because it's there, you want to try to do it," she said. "It's an honor to know you and your horse can do it."
Ken's reason for doing it is a little different."Peo--ple used to do it all the time," he said. "That's the reason I do it. That was the way of doing things back then."
Nevertheless, when this year's ride started and finished, the Wolgrams rode together -- something they said made the ride special.
"We supported each other," Betty said. "I couldn't imagine riding that ride alone."
"(Riding with Betty) was what was so great about it," Ken said. "It made everything even better. I am just glad we are able to do things like that together."