Katy Willings’ Mongol Derby blog: what’s Mongolian for “it hurts here”?

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

    Read all of Katy’s blogs

    (end ovdoj bain: Mongolian for “it hurts here”, my latest key phrase…)

    Friday, 5pm: further reconnaissance this week. I am going to skip my training diary, suffice to say that I have done plenty and it has all been suitably arduous. Had two sessions with Bruno the Personal Trainer this week, and I’d say he has finally broken me. He tried to console me today by saying that my forearms would return to their normal shape and size by about tea time. Well, Bruno, it’s tea time now, and I still have two very fat forearms, and I can’t lift my arms above shoulder height. This is not very becoming. I did manage a full chin up on Wednesday though, which raised a few eyebrows. And today managed a quite nifty double set of press-ups with one leg on a Bosu ball, and both hands on a wobble board. So, pain, yes, gain, probably. Though if it’s that kilo I gain I’ll be livid. The point of all this agony is that I will know what it feels like, and not be unduly stressed, if I encounter my physical limits on the Derby. If I can move those limits back a bit too, that will be a big help.

    I have lined up a record six different horses to ride over the weekend. Off home to the Shire this evening, whereupon I am going to a party with the theme Myths and Legends. I woke up in a cold sweat at about 5am this morning (it was a riding morning and after last week’s oversleeping debacle I was determined to be up and at ‘em) and it occurred to me I had done nothing re costume. I nonchalantly batted the idea of taking Tucker and going as Lady Godiva, but Mum was understandably not keen, though I think T would have thoroughly enjoyed it. Unmounted, my options seem fairly limited. Guess I’ll raid the tack room when I get home and see if I can construct some sort of Boudicca get-up…

    Sunday, 6.30pm: I went as Nike, her on the back of your Olympic medals if you care to look. Amazing what you can do with four safety pins, some florists’ wire, and, thanks to a quick roadside stop on the way to the party (I was already three hours late, seemed pointless to rush) a sheaf of wild grass which passed quite satisfactorily for wheat. The residents of Oakley, near Basingstoke, looked suitably perplexed at my harvesting.

    No cross training this weekend, it’s all been in the saddle, and Saturday’s horses all went beautifully, despite my not getting in until 2am and then having to get up early to preen for the (quite devastating) photographer from the local paper who came to immortalize me on Tucker. My arms have at last returned to their ordinary dimensions and may even have a nice new dent at the tricep, which is something I have always coveted. All is forgiven Bruno.

    Today I had another very constructive training ride at Plumpton, again organized by Endurance GB South East Region, who have been tremendously friendly and encouraging about the Derby. I was reunited with Maggie, Mirage, Caroline and Mistral, and we covered 30kms in two hours bang on, which given the number of gates we encountered on the South Downs and the serious hills we negotiated en route, was a solid performance all round. I found the hill work much more tiring than last week’s course and was fighting sleep all the way home, which doesn’t bode all that well for Mongolia really, I’ll need to do three of those rides back to back to achieve my target time. Still, better to know these things now than arrive thinking I’ll breeze through… And I had better luck with my underpinnings today, minimal chafage and quite a comfortable evening ride on Ella completed since.

    Now, back to my reconnaissance: I continue to be weight obsessed but at the moment this is more about the 10kgs limit we are allowed to carry on the horses. I am hoping to order my saddle bags this week and can then spend a productive few weeks weighing, packing, unpacking, and considering the relative utilities of all sorts of knick-knacks. Obviously, I am going to have to leave a lot of things which could be very useful behind. Here are some suggestions…

    In the YES camp –

    * tent (1.3kgs)

    * sleeping bag (c. 1kg)

    * phrasebook (c. 120g)

    * GPS (c. 200g)

    * medical kit (we were given super kits by LifeSystems at a riders’ meeting a week ago. Including a fairly ominous looking body bag, presumably for the hasty repatriation of our remains if it all ends badly)

    * sunscreen (going for the foil pouches I think, they ought to be lighter)

    * duct tape (c. 200g)- it saved my life about ten times on the Rickshaw Run – no way I am adventuring without it

    Beyond this, it’s all to play for. Some snake-bite serum perhaps? A pepper spray to see off wolves and rabid dogs? (Or as an emergency condiment, if I just can’t face any more boiled mutton?)

    I am awaiting a delivery from the Ethical Superstore, a magical online shop selling all manner of hippy stuff, but also some indispensible things like biodegradable toothpaste (we will not be able to use sulphates and normal foaming toothpastes anywhere near the water supplies out in the field), and, my personal favourite, Mooncups. (Google it ladies). Looks like my ukulele is going to take up too much space, which I am sad about. Not sure what I am going to do for musical entertainment actually. A harmonica maybe? The nomads love a sing-song after dinner I am told, I should really work on a few numbers for them. This might have to wait until my ‘tapering’ week just before I fly out….

    Some comedy titbits for the brave few who have got to the foot of this blog….

    Me, simpering to unfeasibly attractive local journalist on Saturday morning… ”So, busy day lined up? What else are you photographing today?” Him, checking his schedule… “Yeah, jam-packed actually. Just off to photograph the Festival Place Ice-Cream Eating Tournament”. Pre-order your Basingstoke Gazette now to see who ends up higher on the billing – T and I, or the town’s champion ice-cream consumer.

    I prepared a picnic for team On the Hoof, including some pretty diesel brownies, made with some of our home-grown eggs (finally, the girls are laying!). I remarked to Rob that the first egg had been a double-yolker. “Yes”, he said, “I thought that one might be”. I think he might have been spending too much time with those chickens.


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