For the first few legs of the Mongol Derby, there is at least some semblance of clarity. Those of us following the race from afar are able to cobble together a semi-cohesive narrative of what the heck is going on out there--where the riders are, their general state of well being, their placement in the pack. But as the field spreads out and pandemonium sets in, our handle on it begins to disintegrate.
We are now on the eve of the 10-day race’s halfway point, and trying to keep up is a mental exercise akin to watching a swim race in a pool full of talcum powder; every now and again a body part pops out of the water then disappears again. It’s a debacle out there, that much is for sure, but the specifics elude. The struggle is real even at Derby HQ, which tweeted yesterday:
“For those of you currently scratching heads as to who is beating who in this melee, rest assured it all gets logged and there will be placings, but the priority for now is letting people ride, managing the (INSANE) risk of being out, solo, in Mongolia, on horses, and giving 44 riders of different ambitions and abilities their best possible chance of riding 1000kms. Anyone who mounts up tomorrow for another round deserves your respect and admiration.”
Among those who will be hoisting themselves into the saddle for day 5 is Practical Horseman associate editor Jocelyn Pierce, who is out cold for the night at horse station #15. Jocelyn is smiling in every photo we’ve seen of her during this high-speed misfit debacle and seems to have evaded most variations of catastrophe thus far *knocks on wood*. She’s still very much in the hunt and her fan club couldn’t be prouder!
Texas wunderkind Devan Horn continues to dominate the race on a substantial lead. Every now and again another rider gets within striking distance, at which point she up and leaves them in the dust again. Her day 4 final resting place is horse station #18.
The nearest riders are Aussies Adrian Corboy and Annabel Neasham at horse station #17; they stand a chance to gain ground on Devan tomorrow as a vet penalty will delay her start. The rest of the field is strung out across the previous four horse stations as the passage of time exposes every rider’s truth: who’s in it to win it, who’s there on a lark, who came prepared, who is in over their head.
Forty riders now remain, with a small handful of retirements from injury or just plain “I’ve had plenty enough fun and I’m ready to go home now, thank you very much.” Heather ‘Flash’ Accardo, 37, from Louisiana was the latest victim having broken her collarbone in a bad fall today. Others are having a tough go of it -- by now everyone has a battle scar or two, and a few riders are battling a horrible-sounding stomach bug -- but they’re buggering on.
What will tomorrow bring? The riders at the top of the field face a swim across the flood-swollen Kherlen River 5 kilometers out from horse station #18. Sounds a bit treacherous, but according to Derby HQ: “If it's anything like the usual hazards of Mongolia, the horses will just sigh, roll up sleeves and crack on, while all the humans watch from between their fingers.”
We’ll be here watching from between our fingers, too. Until tomorrow ….
Missed out on the earlier stories? Get caught up on all the action!
Practical Horseman Associate Editor Jocelyn Pierce is competing in the Mongol Derby, a 600-mile expedition considered the longest and toughest horse race in the world, Aug. 8-27. Here’s how to follow the action, sponsored by Mane 'n Tail and SmartPak:
• Visit Practical Horseman for daily race recaps and Jocelyn updates from 2017 Derby finisher Leslie Wylie
• Follow Jocelyn’s progress live via her GPS tracker, read official reports via the Derby website, and follow @mongolderbylive on Twitter
• Tune in for Derby Dot Watch Party podcasts presented by Horse Radio Network in partnership with Practical Horseman, broadcast live nightly at 8 p.m. EST