Thursday 9th August – Day 1 / Part 2
By 7.30am we are saddled and ready to ride. Racers are huddled with anticipation, waiting for further instruction before moving to the start line.
As a team of 4 in an individual race we have all agreed that the best way to get through the early stages of the race is to stay close together, make sure we go at the speed of the slowest horse and keep out of the pack.
We are given some parting inspiration from Race organiser Katie whose final parting words leave us with no doubt of what lies ahead, before quoting Mike Tyson’s “everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face'“.
With that, the start line banner is dropped, and chaos ensues. 45 rides making their way out of a narrow starting shute at varying speeds and directions. Horses shying at cars, drones and banners. We managed to stay largely out of trouble. Some horses bolted, some shied at nothing and some horses were already walking.
From here you could almost write the script.
Rob and Jack start to drift ahead on 2 good horses with complete disregard to the plan we had put in place only 10 minutes before. From here, they only drift further ahead, without so much as looking back to check on the ‘team’ before taking a right turn, off the suggested route of the GPS, towards what can only be described as Mongolia’s answer to Everest.
Still trying to stick to the ‘ride together’ plan, Ed and Henry follow them into the mountain range. Almost instantly, Ed’s horse starts to tire. From fast canter, canter, slow canter, trot and eventually to a walk.
By 3/4 of the way up, Ed’s horse had thrown the towel in completely and was now sitting down on the ground eating grass refusing to get back to his feet.
As Rob and Jack summited and made their way down to the first checkpoint, Ed and Henry had made the decision to skirt back down the mountain to the prescribed track and follow the rest of the riders into station 1. On arrival, they were delighted to see Rob and Jack waiting for them there. Unfortunately, Christopher Columbus (Rob) had incurred a penalty due to a lame horse and as a result, had to sit stationary at station 1 for the 2 hours.
Buoyed by the speed at which Rob and Jack covered the first stage, and concerned by the lack of it from Ed, the explorers instructed Ed and Henry to continue to station 3 where they would wait for the boys to catch up, who would be only moments behind by then.
Ed and Henry experienced a change of fortune and got on 2 fantastic horses and moved though to station 2 with ease. They moved slowly between 2 and 3 to let the others catch up and avoiding penalty. As they rode into station 3 they were sure that the next horses over the hill would be Jack and Rob and they would press on for station 4 before curfew.
Jack and rob were now back riding like scolded cats out of station 1 and trying to make up lost time. They flew through the field on the run to station 2 and upon arrival to the vet’s station, it was obvious jacks 2nd horse needed a little longer recovery than his first.
His heart rate was 92 on arrival, giving him 30 minutes to get it below the 56 limits.
As the minutes ticket down, and the heart rate refusing to do the same, things got desperate. The boys had the horse in the river, bucketing water onto its back in a last ditch attempt to try and get the heart rate down. As the 30 minutes expired jacks horse could only manage a heart rate of 70 and he was issued with a 2h vet penalty himself.
Rob waited and again, they watched the field come through station 2 and move on in the race. After serving Jack’s penalty, they moved out of station 2, in last place.
Oblivious to the drama behind, Ed and Henry indulged in some food, had a nap, dried their clothes and pondered what on earth could have happened to them, before being informed of the 2nd vet Penalty. Still hopeful the boys would make it in time to ride on towards station 4, they waited by the horse lines, watching other competitors , one by one, come into the station.
As the minutes before the 8pm curfew ticked down, Ed and Henry having been sitting at station 3 for over 3 hours, two exhausted, frustrated, and saturated figures appeared on the horizon as Rob and Jack made their way into station 3 right on 8pm. By this stage, over half the field had caught up and given the thunderstorms that were now on top of the camp, had decided to stay the night.
As we crammed into our gurs alongside the wet riding gear trying to dry, saddles and sleeping bags, already sore from less that 100km of riding, we wondered what the hell we had got ourselves into. Ed and Henry also pondered if Rob and Jack would have waited had they not received the penalty at station 1.
We had now lost 1 day of the race due to the GPS issues at start camp and another half day in penalties. On current pace we wouldn’t make the finish line in time.
Day 1 Stations Travelled: 3
Day 1 Km travelled: 103km