Derby Diary #11
December 1, 2020
And the fun continues…
Sara Klymkowsky ~ “We got bucked off, got lost, suffered sunburn and heat stroke one day and hypothermia another. I was absolute rubbish at navigating to the surprise of no one.
Something happens to flesh when it’s constantly pounded, and the pain of my legs Day 3 or 4 on a jackhammer trotter was hard to ignore. That kind of constant pain plays tricks with your mind; but it also passes, and I had so many favourite moments that will stay with me forever. The quiet and cool morning legs on fresh horses. A mid-race bath in the river. A golden dog that followed our team along for many kilometers. The strange feeling of still being on horse-back even when you’re tucked warm inside your sleeping bag at night.
I had the best team that came together out on the steppe. Catriona and Uma made the experience for me. Wonderful people with incredible horse skills and temperament. I learned so much from them, and since the race, we try to travel together or see each other when we can. Most of the Mongol Derby is stories and experiences that you keep in your memory, but the true friendships that extend beyond the race are absolutely priceless.
One rainy cold day, brave Catriona jumped on a feisty horse and was injured. We stayed inside, waiting for the medic to come attend to Catriona, watching team after team pass us by. The woman who lived there helped us get tea and warm up. We were joking around; she was trying on my helmet, communicating with hand gestures. She took such good care of us, body and spirit. Looking back it was less the race itself, and more the people you met, and Mongolia, period. It explains why I’ve been back again and again.”
Sam Franklin ~ “I remember getting up one morning with tears in my eyes because I was unsure if I was going to be able to keep riding. It was day eight or nine, the back spasms, which rendered me breathless every time I moved during the night, had finally broken me. My teammates Molly and Rachel were so concerned they grabbed Intrepid Medics’ Andrei but there wasn’t much he could do at that point.
Two summers prior, I was laying in a hospital bed. I’d fallen 40 feet while rappelling down a rock face. I was lucky to be alive, but had broken my back, wrist, and cracked my sternum. The Derby was my two year anniversary from the accident and the biggest reason I signed up.
Flash forward to the present, I told myself the pain was definitely not worse than falling off a cliff, but that was a lie. But I did what any person insane enough to do this race would do: finished crying, put a smile on my face, lit a cigarette and said “Fuck it, let’s go.”
The fun part of it all was the people I got to ride with. Molly and Rachel kept moral up. We’d spend 14 hours a day racing, laughing, and getting to know each other. It also helped when I had a fast horse. One day, I pulled this beautiful chestnut stallion who only knew one speed: fast. The whole leg was through a desert with hundreds of goats. We had navigated to this sandy road next to a river so he had plenty of room to just haul ass. I remember at one point laying horizontal across his back after about five miles at a full gallop, trying to stop him so I could catch my breath. He showed no signs of stopping. I don’t think I will ever ride a horse quite like him ever again.
I think the whole race for me was an adventure. Going across the world, never riding an endurance race in my life, not knowing anyone before stepping off the plane in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capitol. It was all definitely out of my comfort zone. The personal growth I experienced from the Mongol Derby could never be measured. I would say Mongolia as a whole changed me and my personality for the better. My spiritual growth was exponential, and I came back knowing more about myself than ever before. I think the Mongolian people are so spiritually connected to the land and the horses, and while I could never fully understand that connection after just 10 days, I can definitely say there is something innate that you feel while you are there. You feel connected to the history, people, and horses. It’s hard to describe but I can sum it up by saying this: I wake up every day a year later and feel the draw to return, to hear the horses thundering across the steppes with only distant mountains obstructing my view. I don’t think the sensation will ever leave me.”
Photos by Hunting Photography by Sarah Farnsworth, @Ian-Haggerty-Photography