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  • Writer's pictureEmmelia Potts

The Mongol Derby: Aftercare Considerations

Aftercare is as important as training for a challenge as grueling as the Mongol Derby
Aftercare is as important as training for a challenge as grueling as the Mongol Derby

Finishing the Mongol Derby, often considered the world’s longest and toughest horse race, is a remarkable achievement requiring thorough aftercare to ensure your physical and mental recovery.

You spend so much time preparing for the Derby and everyone is willing to advise you on how to train for and cope during the grueling event. However, no one warns you about the months after. You will be sore, you will be exhausted and you will be famished for weeks on end. Here are a few things you may wish to consider after the Derby.

Physical Aftercare
Hydration and Nutrition:
  • Rehydrate:

    • Focus on rehydration with water, electrolyte drinks, and other fluids to replace what was lost during the race even if you were like me and drank 3 litres each riding leg.

    • Take salt tablets not only during the race but also after in case the year you partake in is exceedingly hot. I took a couple during the hot days when salt crystals were forming on my face and took some the week after as it continued to be hot. The seasonsing on the food in the steppe is limited so you may well end up lacking salt. Do not OD on these, consult the packaging and instructions for how often you should take these and when.

  • Nutrition:

    • Consume balanced meals rich in proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats to aid muscle recovery and replenish energy stores. You will need to do this for months after. No one warns you just how deprived of nutrients your body becomes during and after the Derby. You are already on a restricted diet with limited fruit and veg, combining this with exercising all day for ten days results in using whatever stores you had built up in no time, leaving your body well and truly depleted. I would have taken vitamin tablets with me for the race if I had realised what a mess I would have returned in.

    • Scurvy, the nutrition-deficient disease associated with pirates that I managed to get during/after the Derby. The doctors thought it was bed bugs from the steppe when I returned to the UK and they saw my skin. They treated my peeling, bobbly rashes as such. After a few weeks of no improvement and my hair starting to fall out, they reined that I had scurvy and put me on a specific diet overloaded with fruits, veg and fish. I was eating healthy on my return but not enough to compensate for the gruelling Derby depletions, therefore I needed intervention that could have been avoided if I had been educated. It took a few weeks of this diet with tablets but eventually, my skin all began to go back to normal. I was totally under-prepared for this side of the Derby so please do ensure that you are stocking up on healthy nutrition pre-race, taking vitamin tablets with you for the race and as soon as you hit home or the capital again eat as much fruit and veg as possible!

    • Be careful, your alcohol tolerance will have reduced.

    • You may not be able to eat as much as you could prior to the race. I was really hungry on returning to the capital but despite wanting to stuff all the food into my face I could just not eat large portions after not eating much for ten days and also the stomach issues I had on the steppe. Eat small and often when you return from the steppe to ensure you keep your body going and make sure it is nutrient-dense foods.

Rest and Sleep:
  • Adequate Sleep:

    • Prioritize sleep to allow your body to repair and rejuvenate. The week after the race try to sleep as soon as your body asks for it and sleep through until you need to. I abolished all alarms on the week after the race.

    • The first sleep back in your bed or in a hotel will be the best night's sleep of your life!

  • Naps:

    • Short naps can help if you feel excessively fatigued during the day. I was taking three to four 30 minute naps daily for a few weeks after the race alongside a good eight hours a night. Some of this may well have been jet lag though. Do not assume you will just be able to continue a normal work day the week after the race. Factor in that this race will exhaust you.

Muscle Recovery:
  • Massage:

    • Consider a professional massage to alleviate muscle soreness and improve circulation. You may want to leave this if you have rubs and skin issues like I did. The first massage I had was when these had been resolved. In the mean time I stretched and did yoga.

  • Stretching:

    • Gentle stretching or yoga can help relieve stiffness and improve flexibility. Also, try to do some mobility and light strengthening exercises to keep the body moving so you do not cease up. Nothing over the top, but some light body weight mobility can help during your rehab portion of the adventure.

  • Ice Baths/Contrast Baths:

    • Use ice baths or alternating hot and cold water to reduce inflammation and speed up recovery. This was ideal as soon as I returned from the steppe I spent the morning of the next week in the hotel doing hot and cold showers to ease pain.

Medical Check-Up:
  • Doctor’s Visit:

    • Schedule a medical check-up to address any injuries or health concerns that might have arisen during the race. Do this pre Derby and have it planned in for when you return.

    • If you have future travel adventures booked then ensure you have your jab bosters booked in. Chances are you had to have a few new injections for Mongolia and it is cheaper to have the boosters then to start the course again.

  • Physiotherapy:

    • If you have specific injuries or areas of pain, a physiotherapist can provide targeted treatment and exercises. Speak to your doctor about this. Lower back issues and knee pains seemed to be quite common in the 2023 Derby so be prepared for this sort of wear and tear and to broach it with your health professionals. It might be that you can resolve most issues with a personal trainer or sports masseur.

  • Sport massages

    • Get a course of these booked for when you return. Ideally, have one before you leave also so the professional knows what it is you are undertaking and can prepare accordingly. You won't be able to have a full body massage in one session, they are usually broken down to target certain problem areas. You may be returning with a number of problem areas so be prepare for this on your return time and finance-wise.

Skin problems after the Mongol derby
If you end up with a scabby rash like this all over your body its either scabies or scurvy get to the doctors
Mental and Emotional Aftercare
Mental Decompression:
  • Reflection:

    • Take time to reflect on your experience. Journaling can help process the journey and emotions. Writing a blog off any notes is a great way to relive and decompress too.

    • I kept each map of the race and really enjoyed going through the routes when I returned home.

  • Mindfulness and Meditation:

    • Engage in mindfulness or meditation practices to reduce stress and enhance mental clarity. This is a great one for when you are on the steppe too. Deep breathing and just grounding yourself helps you remain calm. Doing it after the Derby can help control the panic with the new void in your life. It is quite a large portion of your life to suddenly vanish.

    • After the Derby on the bus back there were a few riders who were dreading returning home to their normal life after this life-changing experience. It spurred on discussions about what was next and this can be quite overwhelming. For me, it was career and work. I realised I wanted to change, life was too short. In the moment this was a huge realisation and was quite overwhelming. Thoughts of "What would I do instead?" "How would I sustain my lifestyle with a pay cut?" "Where so I start retraining?" All flooded in at once. A deep breath and reminding yourself of where you are and that it does not all need to be answered right now really helps to calm the questions trying to fill the void now left from the Derby.

  • Reconnect with family and friends:

    • If you were like me for the three months leading up to the Derby, horses consumed everything. I would go riding instead of seeing none horsey family and friends, in a bid to prepare myself for staying alive on the Steppe. Most Derby participants will have equine friends and family who can help and get involved in training. I am lucky to have a few friends of this nature and our relationships did not suffer at the hands of Derby training. However, my none horsey family, boyfriend and friends were put on the back burner slightly. After the Derby was the perfect time to make up for lost time and to spend long periods with them instead of riding.

Sharing Your Experience:
  • Talk with Fellow Riders:

    • Share your experiences and stories with other participants. This can provide emotional support and a sense of camaraderie. Some of the riders from 2023 set up a WhatsApp group so we can all stay in touch. I also have a few of the riders who I speak and meet up with. Bonds are formed on the Derby like no other and you really should hang on to those. Its great fun to re live it all with these people and it helps process it all.

  • Social Media or Blog:

    • Document your journey online to share with friends, family, and followers.I do this blog mainly to help people who are thinking of doing the same adventures and do not know where to start or what to expect. However, a large portion of it is to decompress and document so I can relive the craziness of the various adventures.

  • Therapy:

    • A few people had bad experiences and a few struggled to comprehend going back to normal life. Consider speaking with a therapist or counsellor if you experience post-race blues or difficulty readjusting to normal life.

  • Support Groups:

    • Join support groups or communities for adventure racers to connect with others who understand your experience. There is a Facebook group for Derby Veterans and as mentioned above Whatsapp groups are a great way to keep the conversations going post-Derby.

Practical Aftercare
Equipment Check:
  • Inventory:

    • Check all your gear for damage and make necessary repairs or replacements. Most of my kit did not make it back from the Steppe. Anything that did need a really good wash and stitch-up.

  • Clean and Store:

    • Clean and properly store your equipment to maintain its condition for future use.

Plan Future Activities:
  • Stay Active:

    • Plan future physical activities or races to stay motivated and maintain your fitness. Ensure you do have a period of rehab training though before you start to embark on your next training regime. It is critical to ensure you are fully recovered before starting to re build.

  • New Goals:

    • Set new goals, whether related to riding, fitness, or other personal aspirations, to keep your momentum going. I have a long list of sporting adventures i would like to try and just go through and pick a few out for the upcoming years. Try to lump them together to work with each other. ie if you have climb Everest base camp, Kiliminjaro and the three peaks challenge on the list, lump those together rather than putting a swimming the channel in the middle. Plan your adventures to utilise specific fitness already built up. If you speak to a PT about this they can help you manage your adventure planning and put a long term plan together.

Travel and Relaxation:
  • Vacation:

    • Consider taking a short vacation or extended break in Mongolia or elsewhere to relax and enjoy some downtime. I had a week in the capital to unwind before returning home.

  • Local Sightseeing:

    • Explore the local culture and sights in Mongolia if you haven't already, as a way to unwind and reward yourself for your accomplishment.

The capital of Mongolia
Take some time to explore Mongolia and unwind

Taking a holistic approach to aftercare will help ensure a thorough and effective recovery, allowing you to cherish your achievements and prepare for future adventures. Never feel like you are less of a person for taking part in the correct rehab routine and behavious you need to fully recover and look after your self before embarking on the next venture!


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