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  • Writer's pictureEmmelia Potts

The Mongol Derby Day 9: The Day of Dysentery

Updated: Jun 4

All Photographs by Kathy Gabrielle, Shari Thompson and Bayarsaihan Ochiroo

The last related blog post from day 8 of the Mongol Derby can be found here.

horse rears on a horse line
Spicy horses in the foggy mornings

Camping-24

“Morning!” Erin chimed chirpily as 530am rolled around.

“Morning” I replied groggily whilst itching a plethora of insect bites that had materialised under my skin overnight. “How are you feeling?”

"Sore and in need of some drugs, but good thanks” She smiled as the three children watched her comb her long blonde hair.

I suddenly panicked about our Naadam racing horses still being tied up on the corral and sat bolt upright. I craned my neck to peer out of the window, praying these prized possessions had not taken off during the night. The dense fog from the night before was still lingering on the landscape, however, I could just about make out three equine shapes in the distance, still next to the corral. I was suddenly filled with relief and happiness.

horse tied to a corral in Mongolia
Another riders horse tied to a corral

“Happy penultimate race day!” I beamed at my racing partners for the day as Seb began to wake. “Not long now and we can have a shower!”

“It’s a good thing it is the last day” Erin grimaced “The cats punctured my air mattress so tonight is going to be rough.


Whilst Erin mourned her creature comfort I caught sight of a small A5 sized mirror on the chest of draws next to me. Did I dare look at myself for the first time since starting the race? I dared. I was horrified. Part of you expects to lose weight over the Derby and you expect to look tired and malnourished but just how awful I looked after eight days took me by surprise. My eyes were sunken into my skull with dark bags circulating to demonstrate the sheer lack of sleep bestowed upon me.  My skin was ashen white with smatterings of peeling sunburn and angry blisters and spots dotted around my chin. I looked gaunt and haggard. My hair was another issue altogether. Erin and I had taken the opportunity to give our hair brush on the previous night to redo any plaits and attempt to tame our manes before finishing. My hair had fallen out in clumps and in the stark light of day, I could see just how bad its condition was. It was brittle around my hat line and generally had turned to flaking straw. It was the first time the reality of what I had put my body through hit me. I looked down and poked my now protruding hip bones and ribs. What had I done to myself? One last look in the mirror and I smiled

“At least the fake eyelashes are hanging in there!” I chuckled to myself giving them a delicate prod.


As we packed our kit up and started to make our way outside the parents of the children returned. The mother entered the house and the father followed us to the horses. As we grazed the horses he eagerly pointed at tour mounts asking us if we were mounting.

“How do we say we need to graze them for an hour before he can get rid of us?” I pondered.

A failed charades attempt followed. Eventually, he got bored and wandered back to the house to gather some cigarettes.

“What is the plan today then?” Seb asked

“3 stations and no camping?” I replied “The more we do today as a last push the less worrying we have on the last day and making the cut-offs. We can relax tomorrow if we push today”

My friends nodded their heads in agreement. Today was going to be difficult but we had our goal set. Little did I know just how difficult it would be.

 

After an hour of grazing we started to get the horses ready for our 7 am leave. The man of the house sauntered back down to us to lend a hand with a look on his face that said “These people stand no chance of mounting these horses unless I am here”. I must say I was grateful for his help. By day nine my body was broken. The drugs from the previous day were no longer pumping around my bloodstream, walking let alone mounting a horse was tricky. My knees had ground down so much I was struggling to straighten them when required and the hip flexor twinged with every movement. The skin issues were being kept at bay but every time I mounted I was reminded of the angry popping pimples that needed time to heal. This was joined by the general aches and pains and overall exhaustion.

“I need that bum jab at the next stop,” I said to Erin.

She nodded and agreed.  “Plan A is passing the vet and jet jabbed up”


Whilst daydreaming about the sweet painkiller relief I had to look forward to my stomach churned and did a flip. I ignored it assuming it was because I had eaten breakfast and was generally starved compared to being at home.


Tack on, the horses ran around at the end of the lead reins with anticipation.

“Seb, how are we going to get on these two without someone leading us?” I mused “We are going to have to mount at the same time and charge off together”


Fortunately, the man of the house, who had been watching us tack up our moving bullseye, could sense my concern and wandered over with his hand open to take Erins lead rope. She mounted first on her reliable steed and stood waiting for chaos to ensue. The rest of the family came out of the house to wave us off and to watch the show.


The man casually clung to the end of the lead reins whilst Seb flung himself elegantly astride his steed and whilst I tried to haul my broken body onto number five. Ignoring the searing pain in my knees and hip flexor I threw myself down onto horse five like a sack of bricks and that was it. Seb and I were off, with Erins' horse in hot pursuit, desperately trying to keep up.


We waved a fond farewell to a family as we took off to the dirt track from the day before.

“Back on the road for 10km and we are there!” I shouted to Seb who was gunning along beside me once again. “Nice and easy!”


After a couple of kilometres, Sebs horse dropped back and five found a nice rhythm, still frantic, yet less demonic. He would still charge off when Seb and his racing partner came too close. Seb and Erin must have figured this out as they gave five a wide berth and let me gallop in front navigating us to the next station.


I was enjoying the speed, we were covering ground quickly and the climate was much cooler today. Generally, I was content albeit not with the sounds coming from my abdomen which hurt. After a few kilometres on a horse, it became increasingly unsettled and I felt quite nauseous. Assuming it was a lack of food and water I carried on trying to focus on navigation and looking out for the horse station rather than dwelling on feeling sick. Surely it would pass?


After half an hour the horse stop materialised in the distance through the fog. I battled with horse number five for a while to try and make him walk into the station, he was not having any of it. After the fourth attempt of a decrease in pace and nearly vomiting over his neck, I decided to let him gleefully trot into the vet and jumped off as soon as I could.


As soon as my feet touched the floor I doubled over in pain and clutched my stomach, I was going to be sick. I glugged down my final mouthfuls of water to quell the nausea. Fortunately, five passed the vet check with flying colours and a non-existent heart rate as did Seb and Erin's horses.


The two men who had led Seb and I out of Horse Station 23 the day before approached us after the translator shouted something towards a nearby jeep. They had come to collect their prized possessions.

“Please tell these men that those horses were incredible and SO fast,” I asked the translator.

She passed on the message and they both grinned and nodded at us, saying something in Mongolian back to the translator.

“They are successful racehorses, they are very quick” She relayed to me.


On taking four and five from Seb and I the men gave the horses a brief stroke down their necks. It hit me then how lucky we were to have ridden those two horses, not only were they those men's pride and joy but they were also very loved.


After watching five be led back to the previous station out of the window of his owners jeep I suddenly needed the long drop.

“What on Earth is wrong with me?” I thought as I jogged along to the hole in the ground, resembling Captain Peg Leg from my dodgy knees and hips.  


As I released all the bodily fluids from both ends I pondered what could have happened overnight to make me so sick.

Mosquito bites? Did I suddenly have a serious infection from a mosquito? No surely not.

Did I have a delayed heat stroke? No, I felt okay now on that front and it was cold today.

“Ah the communal sheep organ buffet” I realised.

“You okay Potts?!” Erin yelled across the camp.

I stuck my fingers down my throat to get the last remnants out of my body of any rotten sheep. “Not really,” I admitted as I materialised from out behind the makeshift toilet “I think the sheeps organs have got me, I might have mild food poisoning.”

She looked concerned

“I will be fine though” I added.

I was not going to get this far and pull out from a mild bought of dysentery and sickness. 

 

From here on I struggled to the point where I only remembered glimmers of what happened on this day. Erin and Seb got me through the remainder of day nine and without them, I would not have finished the race. Therefore, a lesson to be learned for the Derby and a warning to all future competitors is, alone you will go fast, in company you will go far.

A Mongol Derby horse station view
The view from inside a food Ger on a horse station
HS 24-25

After the abolition of my bodies contents, I followed Erin wearily over to the station Ger to fill up with water and make our plan for the rest of the day. As I tried to force-feed myself rice pudding I Figured this leg looked straightforward again, although we now had main roads with traffic to navigate. Other than that it was fairly straightforward, just a hill up ahead with a saddle to go over.

“Be careful on the roads near the town, it is busy and the main road will have traffic on it” The race crew member told us as they observed us studying the maps.  

“Okay, so no out-of-control galloping then or potential death,” I thought as I planned a route with Seb and Erin.

We started to make tracks just as other riders came into the station. We had yet again overtaken people. I was feeling too rotten to celebrate this and given we were not going to have a top-ten position it did not matter where we finished. Finishing was all that mattered.  


Seb went to pick out his next horse as Erin and I went to the medic for our daily dose of painkiller injections.

“Are you okay?” The medic asked me after the drugs had been speared into my bottom cheek.

“I think I have food poisoning…” I replied “…but I will be fine”

“Okay, you should stop and rest if you think that is what you have…” He began to retort and then saw my unimpressed face. “…or take it slow and make sure you drink plenty”

I plastered a smile on and agreed to look after myself. As always we selected our horses from a pot of numbers, tacked them up, checked them over, took them to the vet to sign the horse out, signed ourselves out, checked our bearing and target on the horizon to aim for and then mounted up. We were now a well-oiled machine with this process.

Horse selection on the Mongol Derby
Picking a number from the pot of doom

I had acquired a small, dainty horse on this leg who looked much like another pony I used to ride called Peanuts. In a bid to emotionally attach myself to this horse for the next 30 km I therefore called him Peanuts. From what I recall he was sweet-natured, easy to ride, but not the fastest. He cantered diligently when asked down the grasslands for around 10km until we reached the edge of a large town and the main road we had been cautioned about. The road was set up higher than the tracks we were on. One rider selected a route up the dirt slopes to get to the main road edge and another looked out for oncoming traffic one way whilst the other looked the other way.

Between the three of us, we navigated the road crossing, seeing our first real vision of humans destroying a beautiful landscape. This was my first recollection of rubbish on the step. Previously everything had been pristine, dreamlike almost. No rubbish in sight, not a bean. It was as if humans had only recently inhabited the countryside, leaving no trace. However, near this town, the once lush grasslands were beginning to be tarnished by laziness and disregard for something so beautiful. Once we were over the road and the horses were kicking tins and plastic bags over the earth as they trotted the three of us could not help but comment on how the landscape around this area differed just by having a concentration of humans nearby.

“It’s a real shame” Seb said as his horse kicked a Pepsi can to the side.

Women canters horse on the Mongol Derby
Peanuts having a canter before we reached the town

As we left the edges of the main road and started to ascend towards the saddle of the distant hills Peanuts began to wither. Fortunately, Erin and Sebs horses were quicker and had huge amounts of stamina left to spur Peanuts on. I eagerly road with any energy I could muster to try and keep him engaged. They do say horses respond to how you ride.

Nervous riding = nervous horse,

Chill, lazy riding = lazy horse,

I was hoping that by lying about my energy Peanuts would be a Duracell bunny.  This worked to a degree.

“The station should be over the saddle and then straight in the distance” I mentioned to the others.

I put the GPS in my pocket, I now needed to focus on riding and not vomiting down Peanuts neck.


I continued to ride with gusto, shouting words of encouragement to Peanuts as we met ravines we had to drop down into, pop over a small ditch and then clamber up the other side. As the rain-filled clouds began to descend the higher we climbed a dense unrelenting drizzle started to blanket the atmosphere. We soldiered on slowly climbing the hillside with the small canyon obstacles keeping us entertained. Rather than slowing down I would kick on and rally down and up the dips in an attempt to maintain momentum.

“Potts you are crazy, do you have no fear” Erin chuckled alongside me as we clambered out of a gorge.


At the final climb, all our horses began to slow down. I looked behind us to take a glimpse of what would be yet another breathtaking view. The one thing you can count on in the Derby is that every climb has a Kodak moment at the top! A few hundred meters behind I could see four riders. “Guys!” I think we need to try and stay with these chaps I gestured behind. “They might give our horses a bit of energy”


As the four riders overtook with a few hellos and checks to make sure we were all okay, Erin, Seb and I kicked our horses on to keep up. Luckily they responded in a bid to stay with a herd. It was not long until we hopped off to walk the horses in.

“You guys walk on ahead" I said as I lept off my horses back, "my little chap is tired” I shouted to Seb and Erin.


Peanuts and I walked quite contentedly in the murky Mongolian drizzle as I chatted to him about what I needed to do at the next horse station. He was quite a sweet little chap and politely listened, pottering along behind me.


It took Peanuts a while to pulse down, however, he cleared the vet check after some TLC and was returned to the rest of the horses in a holding pen prior to the horses being released.

Long drop visit, food, navigation, water, get the next horses. The well-oiled machine continued.


“Potts!” Erin yelled across the camp as I left Peanuts “Give me your bag whilst you sort yourself out and we will fill your water up. Sebs got a route mapped out for the next leg so we are good to go”


Overjoyed with the kindness I threw my bag to Erin and dashed to the long drop, aware that now I was not focusing on horses I was focusing on my swirling stomach once again.


HS 25 – 26

This leg looked to be another long one. Despite Seb and Erin having planned a route I dug out the GPS whilst precariously hovering over the long drop hole to get a steer on options for the first half. I recalled two options from previous looks at today's maps and indeed there were two routes over the next cluster of hills. Option one was up and over all of the hills with a long 10km climb and a 5km descent, followed by going down a track around the edge of the grassland to the horse station. I figured we could cut the corner off to make up some time. Option two was over half the hills for around 5km with a steeper climb down a sharp descent and a longer route through the grasslands. Given the hassle I had previously with suspect grasslands ending up being marshlands I hoped Seb and Erin had gone for option one with the view to cut across the corner rather than stay on the tracks.  

 

As I approached the food Ger Erin handed back a fully stocked backpack and some sweets. “There are some good meet and pastry parcel things in there” She smiled

I immediately wanted to be sick but nodded and smiled at her as I crossed the Ger threshold. I knew I had to try and keep eating or I may be pulled off the course. The smell of freshly cooked food hit me as soon as I was inside. Usually, this would have been welcomed and well received but today was not one of those days. I breathed through my mouth to prevent the smells from triggering my gag reflex and tried to force-feed myself some broth and bread-like nibbles. After struggling to keep a few mouthfuls down I realised this was in vain.  Instead, I ventured back into the dreary weather to select horse number three of that day.


My next horse was a beautiful liver chestnut with a spikey mane and a beautiful large, king face with welcoming eyes. He was calm to be around and would stand with his head resting on my back when I was talking to the vets or waiting. I felt safe before I even mounted him. He was like a big, sturdy, horse barge and therefore we shall call him this for the purpose of this blog. I did not name this horse though as I was not in a naming horses mood on this day!

“I think you might be a slow one” I whispered to Barge “But that’s okay today, today I just need easy horses that will look after me, please. Nothing exciting”


All three riders were ready to go with waterproofs donned for the gloomy weather ahead. I checked our bearings and pointed out the direction we wanted to go in, however, there was a fence faintly visible through the rain.

“Urm guys I think we might need to follow the other riders up there” I pointed out some riders that had just left the station.

“Yes that’s okay we are going over the hills” Seb replied “It should be easier to follow that track, with less chance of getting lost and flooding”

“A man after my own heart” I thought to myself, I was thrilled with this plan. “Ace, lets keep it simple” I grinned back at him.


I took Barge over to an empty water trough and decided that now was the time for mounting blocks. He was tall by Mongolian Horse standards and I was no longer a jack in a box. I hauled myself onto him and started to walk around. There was very little response, he was as safe as houses and exactly what I needed right now. I looked over to Seb and Erin mounting. Their horses were similar.

“This could be a very long leg,” I thought as the rain grew heavier and I watched Jessie hit the fence line. She began to track back and eventually found a space to start climbing the hills.

“Over there!” I pointed towards her “Let's follow Jessie”

 

With everyone mounted and Jessie pinned as our target we steadily cantered to the base of the hills that loomed over the horse station.


The horses continued to climb and we stayed on the dirt tracks as other riders scattered around the hills selecting their own shortcuts. However, the three of us agreed to stay on the paths and keep it simple, keep it easy. The climb on this leg was long and gradual. It made up the first half of the ride and we were certainly not on racehorses. All the horses flitted between canter and trot, never quite finding a steady rhythm. As the horses delved in and out of their pacing  I would now flit between  “woo we are nearly done with the race” and trying to encourage Barge to quicken his pace to “I feel like death and want to sleep”. My mood was as unpredictable as my stomach as I grew increasingly agitated and poorly.

Riders leave a Mongol Derby horse station
Seb, Erin and I leaving the horse station

“Guys we are at the top” Seb pointed up ahead. Sure enough, the ground began to disappear up ahead, opening up into a wide valley meandering down to the grasslands. Up ahead were further angry rain clouds engulfing the skies I checked the GPS spot for the next horse station.

“Ace! The station is over there in the distance” I shouted up ahead. “See the mountain range in the distance? We need to be at the bottom of that, the Gers should be there.”

A new lease of life pumped through my body and I urged Barge to trot on down the valley towards the grasslands. We had 10 km left as the crows flew. The only issue with that calculation was that our route was blocked.

“Guys is that a farm in the middle of our path?” Erin asked as we sped down the valley

“Yep. We are going to have to follow it around” I shouted. “We won't be going as the crow flies and making short cuts”

Riders in the Mongol Derby
Me beginning to lag and feel the struggle of the day

Surely enough we reached a fence and turned right to follow it along until an opening became apparent. We trundled for miles and miles out of our most direct route to follow this fence line with no sign of it ever ending.

“Should we go back and follow the other route?” Was mentioned.

However, we all agreed that we were now committed and that surely the fence line had to end somewhere. It could not go all the way to the hills flanking the grasslands all the way around! We continued to trot along the perimeter of the farm with sporadic pauses to discuss options and check maps. Seb was the first to become angry with the fences, and I shortly followed.

“We are never going to get out of this grassland!” I yelled ahead. “The fence will never end!”

I was having another one of my meltdowns which was mainly stemming from needing the bathroom and holding in the urge to vomit with every movement. Seb managed to keep the momentum and our conversations soon turned to home and what we were looking forward to on returning. It was a welcome distraction for a time but I sat quietly out the back focusing on keeping everything inside my body. One hand was riding Barge, the other clutching and rubbing my stomach. After going five kilometres off our planned route due to the fence issue we eventually tracked our way back around to start heading to the horse station. The diversion had cost us at least an hour.


The last ten kilometres of the leg saw the temperature increase but the relentless drizzle continued as the grasslands became marshes. We trotted past local herders on their horses surveying their land and had a couple of groups of young lads on horses ride towards us, cheering us on, trying to tie us into a race with them. At any other point during the race, I would have found the magic in this moment, and in hindsight I do. However, at the time I was praying for the station to creep into view as the kilometres crawled by.  

Struggling rider on the Mongol Derby
Focusing on staying awake and on Barge

“THERE!” Seb yelled “We are here!”

Sure, enough a white Ger appeared in the distance as a welcome white blemish on the green surroundings. Seb and Erin dismounted; I stayed aboard Barge.

“Are you jumping off Emmelia?” Erin asked.

“Nope I don’t have the energy to walk, and I am trying to stay very still”

She nodded knowingly. “We are nearly done with this day; you have got this. Just one more stop”


The thought of one more thirty-five-kilometre leg was excruciating. I was done. I just wanted to lay down and sleep in a fetal position with a bucket next to me.  

“I don’t have another leg in me today,” I said to Barge sadly, I was broken.


As Barge wandered into the horse station I clocked Erin and Seb passing their vet check and slightly hoped that Barge would fail so I could stay here and lay down for the rest of the afternoon. However, Barge passed straight away as Erin wandered over to collect my bag to refill again. She had clearly noticed the struggle and was making sure I was okay.

“Potts you have not drunk much on that leg” She quizzed

“I am struggling to keep anything in my body” I confessed.

“Urm should we not be putting you in a medics jeep to be looked at?”

“Maybe, lets just try some food and water from the Ger” I concluded, not wanting to worry anyone and not wanting to close the option of another leg. We still had a few hours left to ride and could make it to the next station if we pushed on.


Erin wandered over to the Ger as I made excuses to see her inside as I perused the station for the long drop. It was on the other side of the horse stop but way out, I was never going to make it there on time. I turned on my heels, walked as far as I could back from where I had ridden Barge and vomited out anything that was left in my stomach, mainly bile and water. The world went blurry, my head spun and my stomach flipped again as I hurled air up. There was nothing left in my stomach but my body was still not happy.  Bent over, shaking, eyes streaming and heaving over and over. I thought the near sunstroke had been bad, but I could safely say at this point that this was the worst I felt during the Derby and my recollections on the rest of the day are not fantastic as I was in corpse mode.


I recall making it inside the food Ger where I was met with a gleeful Seb and a focused Erin. “There are bottles of Coke!” Seb grinned as Erin buried her nose in the maps for the next leg of the day. Surely enough on the table in front of us, there were a few bottles of small Cokes. I tried to be excited but could not fathom eating or drinking, therefore I packed one in an easy-to-reach pocket for sipping, knowing I would be glad of the sugar in the next 24 hours. I once again tried to eat, and once again failed.


Erin and I looked at routes, ran them past Seb and not wanting to be left behind I confirmed that I was okay and could carry on.

Coke on the mongol derby
Coke on the Derby, a welcome sight
HS 26-27

My final horse of this day was a red roan, Appaloosa horse. I did not name him at the time but lets call him Red. I also do not recall much of this leg apart from the first few kilometres where the horses all trotted up the unrelenting valley climb obediently. This was until Red decided that trotting was no longer favourable and started to slam on the breaks every few strides, testing me at every opportunity. This resulted in choice language from me, and Seb and Erin playing Mr Motivator. They cautiously steered their horses into the lead allowing me to just sit as a passenger on Red and follow them on the never-ending climb. Occasionally I would look up to see if we were any closer to the top of the valley, I was constantly saddened to see we still had many miles left to climb. Erin would frequently turn back and tell me to drink and to check up on me. It was very much a role reversal of the mid-way point. I was so grateful for her and Seb and can honestly say without them I would have curled up in a ball at the last station and refused to move.


As the leg progressed I started to stop talking all together and drift in and out of consciousness. I would fall asleep to be woken by a jolt from Red or a check-up from Erin.

“You Okay Potts?”  

“No” I finally replied “I am struggling” I finally swallowed my pride and admitted I needed looking after and needed to just sit and follow my friends.  


This was going swimmingly well and I managed to just sit in silence, focusing on staying aboard Red, until we reached the top of the valley. There were two options, carry on following the road, the correct option. Or the slightly strange detour Seb made to climb further into the hills flanking the valley.


Seb opted for the second route with a further climb through beautiful purple meadow flowers and grasses carpeting the ground beneath our feet, licking at the horses’ knees, it was delightful. I did not say anything for the twenty minutes or so that we climbed. I continued to sit in silence, trusting Seb and Erin had everything in hand, not caring if we were going wrong as I started to dry heave off the side of Red.


“Urm sorry guys I might have gone wrong” Seb admitted after a time.

I looked up and sure enough, I was met with the most beautiful view opening up into a vast grassland of deep, dancing grasses with mountains dotted in the distance. We could see for miles with the sun beginning to lower in the sky behind the highlands casting hues of oranges onto the ground.


“Wow” I thought and then looked at the path in front of us. There was not one. However, I could make out the road we should have followed a way below us in the valley descent. Immediately in front of our horse's hooves was a rather steep, shale rock face. It was just about rideable and I was all for not doubling back on ourselves.

 

“Shall we retrace our steps?” One of the others suggested.

I had already started approaching the ridge.

“I need to get off this horse and lay down or I’m going to pass out” I replied. “We can make this work, the roads just down there”

“Sorry guys!” Seb continued to apologise profusely as our horses slipped down the rock face like little mountain goats.  

“It's fine Seb, that was a hell of a view and this is more exciting than roads!” I smiled. "I have also got many people lost during the past few days, yourself included, it happens"


Fortunately, the horses of Mongolia are as sure-footed down scree as they are over holes in the ground and after some trepidation as to whether I had made the right call with my stubbornness, the rocks began to transform into meadow flowers. The horses found their feet rather than skiing down steep hills and we persevered to the road we should have taken.


“Five kilometres!” Seb said as he took the lead once again to navigate us safely to the station.

“Where do you want to get off Emmelia?” Erin asked.

“I am riding in, I am in real fear of pooing myself,” I told her as I realised whatever was left in my body that could not come out of my mouth was working its way down under.

“There are some hedges?!” She chuckled pointing to a few loan bushes that had appeared as the meadow flowers had vanished to the classic steppe grass stubs.

“I can not promise I will make it to a hedge if I get off nor the station. I just need to get to the stop and get off. You two go on, I am going to sit still and hold onto everything” I grimaced.

She nodded and gave me a gentle smile. The other two went off ahead and I stayed on Red and sat as still as humanly possible trying to hold my bowls in.

“You okay!?” A call from a crew jeep sounded behind me, tearing towards the horse station that was glimmering in the evening sunset. I nodded and smiled.

“Just keep still Emmelia, not long now” was all I could think

Women walking a horse in the mongol derby
Red being a saint and looking after me

“Potts give me your bag and horse and go to the long drop” was the first thing I heard on arriving at the station. I crunched over, swung my leg over Reds behind and crossed my legs handing him to Erin. I hobbled to the long drop and made sure that everything was out of my body for a clean slate the next day.


A swell of different emotions hit me on leaving the long drop. Elation, that I was done for the day and that we only had two stations tomorrow.

Gratitude, for Seb and Erin putting up with me for the day.

Sadness that tomorrow was the last day and that I had not appreciated today at all.

Happiness that I had made it with the others.

Relief that the day was over.


All I wanted to do was lay down and not stand up again until the world stopped spinning. Today had been tough. I sauntered up to Red, got him through his vet check and followed Erin to a Ger full of happy riders all excitedly talking about the finish line tomorrow.

“How are you Potts?” Erin asked as we found a space for the night.

“Not good. I need food and water but I still can't keep anything in” I replied “Lets re-evaluate in the morning". She looked concerned. “But!" I added mustering every morsel of strength I had left “We only have two stations tomorrow, we are so close!”


I unpacked my sleeping kit and laid my exhausted, malnourished body down hoping for a total reset for the next day. I drifted off to sleep immediately hoping that the reprieve of unconsciousness would remove me from the hunger in my stomach, the pains in my belly and the spinning room.

 

“Everyone! We have nearly done it!” Someone shouted full of glee. “Tomorrow we finish the Mongol Derby!”


“I hope so,” I thought as my eyes closed “I really hope so”


Day 9 Derby Lessons:

  • Communal sheeps organ dinner is not the best idea whilst on the Derby

  • If a herder is offering you help outside of a horse station, take it

  • If your stomach is churning and you feel sick, you likely have gut problems, act accordingly. Do not take Imodium or other constipation tablets or you will be keeping the infections in your body. Get to the long drop and get it all out ASAP, drink plenty of water and try to eat.

  • Alone you will go fast, together you will go far. There is a lot to be said for having people around to help when you are struggling.  Unless you are going to try and win I would recommend riding with other people, especially in the closing days of the race when things are unbearably tough.

  • Keep drinking even when it's cold.

The next related blog post "The Mongol Derby Day 10: A Sad Yet Triumphant Day." can be found here.

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