Katy Willings’ Mongal Derby blog: Kitten’s Got Talent

  • Former international pony dressage rider Katy Willings’ latest update on her progress training for the Mongol Derby

    Read all of Katy’s blogs

    This is not me blowing my own trumpet. I am not referring to my skills on the ukulele, or in the karaoke bar, as too many have witnessed both for me to get away with such an outlandish claim. I am referring to the SuBo-style emotional breakdown I flirted with all weekend during a series of giddy highs and scream-inducing lows. Basically the wheels have fallen off my previously, er, very wheelie Mongol Derby administrative wagon, but as with so much in life, if you are prepared to see things as a challenge rather than a personal attack (and can pop out into the garden, swear like a trooper and hammer your fists on the earth for a few minutes), you soon discover the silver lining. Well, some of the time.

    Friday 7pm: fairly perfunctory gym session. Bruno had left me with a training programme to complete in his absence, but I have to say it’s not nearly as fun without him. I cut most of the last circuit out and accidentally-on-purpose neglected to do the treadmill session at the end. I’m sure he’ll have words with me about that this week, we have two sessions pencilled in. Best start on the Nurofen now…

    Friday 8.30pm: home, light housework, write list of all errands to run and things to do over weekend and pack bags accordingly. Going to have to be hyper-organised. Bop along to Lady Gaga at Glastonbury who has a jet-propelled bra on. Groovy… Waste a good half an hour trying to locate car keys amongst various kit bags, handbags, running packs, drawers, pockets, fridge. Drive home mostly in silence having lost my iPod (a whole week it’s been gone – curses!), broken off my radio aerial (left it screwed on going through a car-wash – more curses!) and somehow broken my CD player (I don’t think this one is my fault actually).

    Saturday am: ride Tucker, the Boy Wonder, who has covered himself in glory this week by winning twice with mum and qualifying for the regional champs. As I have said before, he goes much better for her. Unsurprising really as I generally get him out of bed at very unsociable hours, and he is a creature of habit. The new riding boots are gradually submitting which has allowed me range of leg-aids. Previously it was just “off” or “on”, which had caused us a few problems, but today we are a great unit.

    Slightly frustrating interlude while awaiting the photographer for the local paper. I dashed in after riding T, washed hair, put in rollers, slapped on enough make-up to scare the horses (no, it actually did), and emerged after 20 minutes looking like Girls Aloud Do Horseriding. All in all, ready to charm the readers of the Basingstoke Gazette into parting with some cash for Mercy Corps, and with a bit of luck, some high-tech camping equipment/a GPS/some saddle bags/some scouting skills for me. Sat and had a brew while waiting… and waiting. Phoned the paper. They’d be there 11am Sunday, they said. Hmm. Balls.

    I also had a happy reunion with Ella, who arrived as a 3-year-old when I was 16 and whom I sold to Amy Sanders the day after I completed my finals. She has come back to roost and is in fine fettle, and in a neat grass-is-greener life-swap, Amy went to London for the Hyde Park Calling festival, and I stole my girl back. She found my soft waves and smoky eyes pretty amusing.

    Saturday pm: quest for big pants. Lacy knickers are not the Derbyist’s friend. I made a quick trip into Amazingstoke for numerous errands. “Did you definitely mean to pick these ones up?” ventured the blousy lady in Triumph, underwear outfitters to ladies who take their underpinnings seriously the world over. I had gone for some pretty big pants, it’s fair to say. I think my withering glare settled the matter, and she duly took my money and respected my choice.

    Saturday evening: I had intended to get in a decent cross-training session, and had brought my bike home with a view to cycling the 20 miles to my brother Tom’s house, thus rounding off a decent day’s training. I had lent Alfonse, my precious bike, to a friend the previous weekend, however, and she had swapped my cleated pedals for flat ones for use with normal shoes. In doing so she had apparently mauled the screw fittings of the pedals, as I struggled for 20min to get the flat ones off, and couldn’t get the clip pedals back on. Things got a bit heated, and in the end Rob, my stepfather, responded to my distress signal, which consisted of me beating the ground with my pedal spanner, throwing pedals across the yard and screaming an unbroken string of quite original obscenities, and tried to help. When this proved fruitless I gave up and Rob kindly drove me half way to Tom’s and I proceeded to run the rest of the way. By the time I arrived in East Stratton after an hour watching the sun set and listening to Beethoven’s Violin Concerto (and running, obviously), I had calmed down considerably. It occurred to me that it was nice to have the option of reaching your destination on foot should more energy-efficient modes of transport let you down.

    We discuss what food, if any, I should carry during the Mongol Derby, bearing in mind the demands of extremes of temperature, a very tight weight limit, and a total absence of fresh fruit and veg — the Mongolians are notorious salad-dodgers. Mum and I think biltong and dried apricots are solid choices. Tom recommends strawberry laces. I am actually coming round to this idea…..

    So what has this taught me in preparation for Mongolia?

    1. Things are bound to go wrong. You can’t always be in control of everything, and if you have to always be in control you are going to find the whole exercise very, very painful. Feel the chaos, enjoy the chaos….

    2. By the same token, try and get your act together. No-one likes a flake. On that note, its back to work. It’s going to a tough week at work and I am terrified of letting them see how tired I am and how much extra stuff I am cramming in. “Could show more engagement” etc…


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