So after flying to newark, staying with my parents for a day, driving my truck to virginia, hunting 2 days in a row, having christmas, picking up my trailer, driving to michigan, picking up Stevie and 2 horses, spending a night in oklahoma, a night in new mexico, a night in arizona, and stopping to ride the vegas strip...we are on our way to camp with the horses at Joshua Tree for New Years.
Then Mary Lee, fellow 2014 Mongol Derby Rider messages Stevie...
And instead of a cold rainy windy night in the trailer, we are tucked in snug and warm at Mary Lee's with the horses in the back yard.
Thanks universe! And Mary Lee!
I am now totally engrossed fiddling with Garmin BaseCamp and Google Earth. So you will have to wait for Training Rides Part 2 and tolerate my fumbling first attempts to create cohesive, comprehesible maps. If it doesn't make sense, tell me now. The maps are just beginning!
Start Camp was here.
From the insane scribble of GPS track, I have a pretty good idea of where stuff was in camp.
p.s. Assume north is up on maps unless otherwise specified.
I really did mean to make "Pre-Race Training" just one blog entry including test rides, the course, and other choice bits from Start Camp. But without making this entry a novel (which you don't have time to read all at once) and without leaving out bits you simply MUST know about...we'll start with test rides.
Oct 20 Test Ride - Inspiration (Group Ride)
First order of business, remove ticks. Some of the wounds from these ticks were oozy and weeping requiring some additional clean up.
Then off for our first ride!! Up through the jungle and out across the hill! Some of these photos are from the Sony ActionCam...you can see my helmet on the left edge.
When we got to the top of the hill, we stopped to let everyone make adjustments as necessary. I hopped off to adjust my stirrups for the first of many times. In this picture you can see the stirrup strap and girth straps...those black shiny bits. I will be complaining about these later. One of the ONLY bits of kit that seriously needs to be improved for next year.
After every test ride and every leg of the race, the horse is checked by a vet to ensure proper care has been taken and they are fit to continue. The time we enter camp is recorded and the horse must be presented to the vet and have a pulse of 64 bpm or below within 20 minutes.
Gut sounds, capillary refill on the gums, skin pinch to check hydration, and a trot away and back to check soundness are also part of the vet check. We are going to be asking these animals to give us everything and then some. It is crucial to care for them and catch any potential issues as early as possible.
Also, if a horse 'vets out', your race is over. Test Ride - Inspiration
The rest of the test rides are individual so we ride out at timed intervals. And follow a GPS track...that has just been loaded. The track is quite different from the Mongol Derby where it was just point coordinates for horse changes and navigation was up to you. In reality, we weren't really far enough apart to be totally alone.
The horses had been living at camp and riding these tracks for quite some time and some were more interested in catching up with their buddies and heading back to camp. Inspiration needed a little bit of extra...inspiration to go well on his own. Particularly when there were people standing in unusual places holding scary things. a.k.a. The Camera Crew
Test Ride - Eklips
The sun decided not to come out. It had been raining a LOT before we arrived, and our arrival didn't slow it down. Since I live in a desert, I was enjoying the stuff falling from the sky perhaps more than the others.
This was to be a full kit ride. I had my stuff together so strapped my sleeping bag to the cantle, put on my pack, and set off.
There were two training courses. We were riding the 2nd training course this time. Part way through, I somehow ended up following a dirt track that was close...but not ON, the GPS track...and discovered exactly why Barry was so adamant that, yes, you MUST follow the GPS track. I thought I could just scoot down the steep bit to the beach and be back on track...Nope. Cliff. Lesson learned. Test Ride - Klouter
Klouter would be my anchor for the last 5 legs (of 12 total). He had a comfortable yet ground eating stride I knew I'd be glad of by day 3.
By this point, the track was becoming familiar and we cruised along. Until we got close to the swimming spot. Coming across the beach, I saw rider Anthony in the water with his horse...but something was very wrong. He was in the deep swimming area where typically just the horse's head and back are above water. Instead I saw front legs thrashing. And Nicola was wading in. It sort of looked like the reins could be around a leg? But not. Nic told me, and Brent who arrived right after me, to stand on the shore hoping it would motivate the horse to go the right way. Nic reached Anthony and the horse...there was thrashing...Nic got hit with a hoof in the shoulder...and they both headed for shore. There was physically nothing tiny humans in the water could do. The horse thrashed a bit more then tipped over and just floated on it's side. We all called to it and eventually it righted itself and floundered to shore. Apparently this happens. And happened a bunch before we arrived with horses that did not make the cut and were sent home. They panic. Water in their ears disorients them more. And chaos ensues. It was terrifying to watch. But the they end up fine.
Anthony remounted and Brent, Anthony, and I rode back together in the fading light surrounded by twinkling fireflies. (Ooooo, aren't I poetic in the middle of the night.)
The next morning, I found out that 13 had become 12. Anthony withdrew from the race.
And we all immediatly scavenged his kit for anything we might have forgotten.
On October 19, after a van ride from the Durban airport to Wild Coast Sun Casino in Port Edward, we transferred to a slightly different mode of transport for the last few miles.
Everyone demonstrated their excitement a little differently.
We came down the hill and got our first view of Start Camp!!!!
The first order of business was a tour of camp.
Super big rider tents complete with cots. Throughout this series of blogs, you will meet many of my fellow riders as well as vets, crew, and other key people. This is Sarah Cuthbertson, a fellow Mongol Derby 2014 veteran and the brains behind eatsleepriderepeat.com. Check out her blog! She's waaaaaay ahead of me getting stuff posted so it's a good place to read an overview while you wait for my slow ass.
Baz then showed us the showers...HOT showers thanks to pumps in 50 gallon drums with fires under them.
There were even potties! (demonstrated by Joe)
But seriously, let's get to horses. We all went to the big tent to draw horse teams...and got a first look at...(ominous music)...THE MAP. Don't worry, course details are coming.
At this point, I was completely blown away by the level of organization. Going into this, I truly had no idea what to expect. I was ready to sleep on the ground, eat anything, and navigate to semi-accurate GPS coordinates based on vague directions of questionable accuracy.
Ok ok, horses. So we drew rider numbers and horse teams and headed out to meet our horses! While the crew was bringing up the horse teams, we got a chance to check out our saddles.
And here are my horses!!!! From right to left: Inspiration, Eclipse, and Klouter (who ended up being replaced by Pennie - more on that later). All nice and lined up for a picture...
...until I stepped into the frame and we all got distracted.
As always, stay tuned for Test Rides & The Course Briefing!
And if you haven't pitched in for the race documentary post-production...please consider it!
After arriving, I caught a bus to meet up with my couchsurfing hosts, Caroline & Heyne. They were delayed by a bad wheel bearing on the boat trailer...
...so I just caught a cab to the boat launch.
When we arrived back at the house I realized what a HUGE score I'd made in the new friend department...critters, diving, fresh juice? Could I ask for anything else?
With one full day before Rockethorse Racing would collect riders and take us to start camp, my new friends sorted me out to go diving! Somhow I don't seem to have any photos, but there was an epic surf launch, two awesome washing machine type drift dives including ragged tooth sharks, and then I felt a bit like this...
The next day, before taking me to the race pick up, we hit up Beach Bums for some R & Rs. We stood in the surf and toasted to Father Neptune for safe river crossings.
Next stop, Start Camp and Pre-Race Training!
In other news, I went climbing at Joshua Tree this weekend!