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Race Day 2

Posted on 26 October, 2012 at 0:21 Comments comments (0)
originally posted by Katherine at 23rd August 2012 at 18:29
 
Race Day 2:
 
Up and at ‘em at 5:30am! With the intention of being on a horse at 7am, the mornings tended to start pretty early. It looked another cool rainy day, so after doing a quick recce of my bodily needs - no physical complaints so far, just a bit of a rub spot on one shin from the buckle under my fender, tended to with the ubiquitous duct tape and my secret weapon – raw lamb’s wool; some nice milky tea and noodles for breakfast, I was ready to saddle up and carry on.
 
Ronald and I were ready to go about the same time, so off we went on that morning’s candidates, two horses that started out as perky but quickly wore down the further we went past 20 km. We had passed Erik, Anne, Alya, George and Jess earlier along the line. George was on the ground, hunched over his saddle attempting to repair a broken girth strap with his leatherman and some rope.
 
“You okay?” we asked as we passed them by.
 
Except for some bumps and bruises, he was fine, but cursing the saddle that had let him down (literally). Fortunately, some of the Derby crew happened along with another saddle and they were up and running before long.
 
Our horses ran out of steam on a cross-country leg we had the misfortune to navigate onto. We had been passed on the road by Unenburen (the head of the Derby horse department) and a translator earlier who shouted out “GPS it from here!” so we did – which turned out to be a mistake as we lost great amounts of time and tired out our horses from slogging up and down mountainous hills. At one point I asked Ronald what his GPS was saying;  it had became a common cross-check for all of us to compare GPS readings for accuracy, and he replied “Don’t have one.” Oh well, I thought, a purist! “Nope, lost it yesterday” he replied. “What does your map say?” I asked. “Don’t have one. Got wet. That’s why I’m with you” he replied. So it was that our riding experiences together became one of me navigating and Ronald entertaining me with his incredible skill of being able to smoke at a walk, trot or canter. He had been in the Derby the year before, so he was a wealth of info about many things, not the least of which was “Always follow the road. It’s the fastest way.”
 
Hmmm…but why were we on some cross country trek then? Bad, if well-intentioned advice, that’s all I have to say. Or maybe it was a translation issue – poor Unenburen later on in the race had a laugh with us, as he was pointing to the right side of a river, with his translator repeatedly saying “Follow the left side, follow the left side…”
 
A quick change at HS3, and we cantered on our way to HS4 with a grey companion horse that ran most of the way with us. He only veered off around Bayan Onjuul (a soum, or village) to run around with some other buddies, and we were reminded once again how wild and free this land really was. It was not uncommon to pass huge herds of horses, goats and sheep, all milling around with no boundaries whatsoever. It was only by virtue of the fact that the herd tended to stick together that they didn’t stray too far.
 
 
 
Tag along horse following Ivo
 
 
We navigated successfully around what appeared to be a lake on our (my) GPS, when in actual fact the lake was dry. At one point a young Mongolian boy joined us on horseback to point out the way, ran circles around us, probably laughed at our comparatively feeble riding skills, and disappeared…
 
We caught up to Erin and Ivo, who were moving very slowly. Erin had a knee injury from day 1 that was not getting any better; she would end up withdrawing from the race as the medics determined she may have a fracture. Ouch! We promised to see them at HS4 and kept moving.
 
 
 
Erin pushing on in spite of the pain
 
HS4 appeared around the edge of a hill. It became one of our essential truths about the race: if you see gers in the distance, the horse station will be the one furthest away; if you don’t see any gers in the distance they have hidden the horse station behind something – it never failed! But we were finally into HS4 at around 6pm, lots of time to change horses and keep moving. But what was this? It was Anne, stretched out on the floor of one of the gers – she had parted ways with Alya, had been a bit lost, walked in the last few kilometers and was feeling so wretched she was considering not carrying on. The people who owned the ger had been extremely kind to her, albeit lacking the English necessary to converse.
 
As fellow competitors with the idea that we weren’t in it to win it, we decided to call it a night, wait for Ivo and Erin to catch up, boost Anne’s spirits with our incredibly funny stories about life and move on in the morning. Through the one family member who spoke English we learned that the ger family had been planning on moving camp and were a bit put out to be honest. They also said they had been caught off-guard by the sheer number of people passing through their camp, expecting the 34 riders but unprepared for the extra amount of staff milling about. We felt a bit sheepish about imposing ourselves on them for one more night, but at that point there was not enough daylight to continue.
 
 
 
Medics Kate and Deb attend to Erin's knee: "If it was any worse we'd have to amputate". Not really.
 
 
Evening found us curled up in the one ger which housed the satellite TV, watching a rebroadcast of the Olympic boxing match in which a Mongolian competitor had done really well. We crashed on their floor, and it was the first night of many when the Mongolians were quite fascinated with my sleeping bag – a fluffy down-filled bag of an electric blue colour. I finally realized by the end of the race that this colour is very significant for the Mongolian people, and learned that it is the most sacred colour in their culture, representing the eternal blue sky. It is the same colour found in their “hadag” silk scarves, which are the highest symbol of honorary greeting. You can find these scarves all over the place – tied in trees, to monuments, on temple doors. Apparently they thought I was sleeping in one giant blue hadag – lucky me! This didn’t stop them from staring at us, however, and I awoke at one point early into my sleep, sat up, and found a whole line of Mongolian men just watching us sleep…
 
 
The lucky blue sleeping bag -and what's that in the bowls - coffee?!

Race Day 1

Posted on 26 October, 2012 at 0:05 Comments comments (0)
originally posted by Katherine at 23rd August 2012 at 18:21
 
Race Day 1:
 
The night before had been an eventful one in terms of pre-race celebrations – much vodka and beer and airag had been drunk, toasts toasted, goats roasted, feats boasted. Being a lady of a certain age (I left my wild ways a few years back) I was in bed nice and early; had to use my “Mom voice” at one point to send a few young ones either to bed or out of the ger for those of us trying to sleep (“If you’re not going to sleep, then GET OUT!” I think I said, ha ha), so was feeling pretty good on the first day of the race, sore ribs and road-rash-face notwithstanding.
 
We had pimped our saddlebags, tested out our GPS units, had a final weigh-in of our bags and it was off to the start line. I chose a nice little bay, not too big, not too small, and noticed that he had a swastika brand on his left hip – good thing I was aware that this symbol had the more positive meaning of “well-being” in the Buddhist sense (the prevalent religious belief of the Mongolian people) than the one we associate with the Nazi interpretation. So it was me and little “Well Being” on our way to the start line, where everyone was lining up for the official countdown and start to the Derby. I had already decided to pull back and away from the mad rush of the charging start line, as I had learned the hard way what it feels like to be on a bolting horse. Poor little “Well Being”! I think he actually found a way to canter sideways and then almost backwards as I pulled him to the side to escape the madness – if left up to him I would have no doubt been in Horse Station 1 within the next two hours. My strategy was (and would remain until day 9) to pace myself, survive and arrive unscathed at the end of 1000km. None of this mad racing stuff for me! The adventure was first and foremost!
 
 
 
Heading up the trail with my first horse "Well Being"
 
I rode alone for most of the way, crossing paths with the South Africans Simon and Craig, then seeing Alya briefly before we chose different paths across the hills. I remember riding through three different wild herds of horses, seeing incredible mountainous landscapes and arriving at HS1 around the same time as Eveline. “Well Being” came in with an excellent heart rate, I grabbed a quick bite and another horse, and was off to HS2.
 
Somewhere along the way I met up with Ronald, Anne and Eveline again, and we arrived in HS2 with a bit of daylight to spare, finding the South Africans, Erik (who had galloped the entire way and greeted us wearing his sleeping bag), George, Jess, Alya and a couple of the UK girls, making for a full ger our first night out.

Pre-Race

Posted on 25 October, 2012 at 1:40 Comments comments (1)
originally posted by Katherine at 23rd August 2012 at 18:14
 
Wow what happened? I blinked and August is three quarters over. I have been half-way around the world and back, met some incredible people, seen some incredible things, survived some incredible challenges and am now faced with the daunting task of putting some of it to paper. Just because I like to do things the hard way, I will begin my chronicle without the assistance of visual cues to remind me of some things, as my luggage (including my cameras and memory cards) has apparently decided that it prefers to take in the sights of Seattle Washington, instead of following me further up the line to Victoria BC. Oh well, that just means that I am spared the horrific task of laundering my “riding clothes” ie. sweat and dirt encrusted socks, tights and shirts – for another day or two. Or maybe I will just surrender these items to the circular file…I honestly don’t know if I can get the stink out.
 
So where to begin? I last left you (aside from my brief on-the-trail updates regarding beer for breakfast) when I was about to begin day one of pre-race training. Our first day of training took place in Ulaanbaatar at the luxurious Ramada hotel, and was the first time most of us competitors had a chance to meet up face-to-face. In the chaos of map-handing-out, body-weight-weighing-in (remember we had a strict 85 kg weight allowance) and race-course-revealing, we finally had a chance to put faces to names and shake the hands of people we had only met online so far. I did get one comment from Simon from South Africa: “Not OUTLAW Kate?” when we introduced ourselves – I forgot to ask him what he meant by that, but at the time I wondered if he was expecting me to be sporting my six-shooters and buffalo hide chaps, instead of dressed in jean capris and T-shirt? Anyways, I am happy to say everyone passed the weigh-in, graduated from Training Day 1, and we all looked forward to travelling to Start Camp for the next two days of training.
 
If there is one thing I will forever remember about Mongolia, it is how it is such a land of contrasts. In the middle of chaotic post-communist-occupied rubble-strewn Ulaanbaatar you can find excellent hole-in-the-wall restaurants and stores selling incredible quality jewelry while outside people beg on the streets…no different than any other large city I suppose; but the contrasts were even more significant once you left the city. You began to see the nomadic families living as they have lived for hundreds of years, and then coming into their gers at night to watch the Olympics on satellite TV; or the herders dressed in traditional “deels” roaring around on their (quite nice) motorcycles, rounding up their herds of horses, goats, sheep, or cows.
 
 
 
 
Heading to catch the bus to the Start Line, photo courtesy Cozy from Down Under
 
 
 
 
The Magic Derby Bus
 
 
It is with this idea of contrasts in mind that I found us on our way to Start Camp, travelling over a dirt track (their idea of “roads”) in a luxury tour bus; the driver was trying to figure out how to jump across a railroad track that seemed to have inconveniently sprung up out of nowhere. I can only imagine what we looked like from a distance – a huge bus just roaring across the steppe – it seemed so random and out of place. Later on in the race, a bus in the middle of nowhere would not have surprised me at all – we would be cantering down the track and someone would yell “Car!” and we would move over to let a late model Toyota Camry or some such drive on past.
 
But cross the railroad track we did, and arrived at Start Camp, a collection of 6 or 7 gers, a horse line, washrooms (the last I would see until Day 9) and dining tent facilities.
 
 
 
Home for the next couple of days
 
 
 
 
Oh Canada!
 
 
 
 
Christoffer and his famous golden stirrups
 
 
I looked around at the bald-ass prairie and thought “Well, this is pretty much what I expected – it looks just like southern Alberta to me”, and I’m sure my travelling companions got tired of me saying over the next number of days “It’s just like Alberta! With no fences! And way more horses and goats and sheep!” At one point I had a surreal moment when I thought I had been transplanted back to the Hand Hills, such was the similarity of the landscape to where I’m from.
 
After settling into our gers, we were finally introduced to the tack we would become so familiar with (some more than others…details to follow) and once that was accomplished, it was finally time to get on the horses which were the reason we were roaming about in this magical land, after all.
 
 
 
Herders work to get the horses on the line
 
 
 
 
A contrast of old ways vs. new ways
 
I will forever remember settling on my first horse, a cooperative-looking dun with a dorsal stripe…and I will forever remember hitting the ground doing around 20km/hr when my saddle slipped up on his withers, then to the side as I tried to correct it and sailed over his right shoulder. I remember thinking “Ground!” as I saw the inevitable happening…the vet crew that witnessed the crash said it was spectacular. In my own (weak) defense, we had cantered/trotted/raced for the better part of an hour, I knew the girth had loosened up somewhat but thought I could get to the end of the first ride without having to stop and tighten it. I didn’t factor in the absolute thirst these horses have for racing (it is what they love most, and what they are encouraged to do by their handlers) and once my horse had begun to run neck and neck with Julie’s, it was impossible to stop him.
 
I got up from where I had hit the deck, knew I was bleeding from various parts of my face and thought “Great! The first one to have a wreck and I can’t even hide my wounds under some piece of clothing!” Nope – my lip was cut, I had abrasions on the left side of my face, and later on I suspected I had wrenched/bruised one of the ribs on my right side as I couldn’t even hoist myself up from my bed without downing a bunch of T3’s first. Great way to start a race – but in the end, it made me more cautious (a good thing at my advanced age, I reckoned) and gave me a good healthy respect for the ways of these horses. At the end of my 9 days of riding, I had no more injuries (except for the stiff neck muscles from my headstand on day 9 – more details to come) and am happy to say I came home without so much as a chafed ass.
 
First one to have a wreck, first one to break a saddle – fortunately Campbell Costello followed my horse and saw where he had finally shed the saddle – it came back with the billets ripped off the girth, a little worse for wear for sure. As the days went by, my saddle was not the only one to suffer this fate, so I felt a little better and not just a little sympathetic to the riders who had the same experience.
 
 

Fun and Games in Mongolia

Posted on 25 October, 2012 at 0:33 Comments comments (0)
originally posted by Katherine at 7th August 2012 at 00:21
 
It’s been a busy couple of days in UB. Yesterday seemed to pass in a blur – one moment I was meeting Erik from the US and Ivo from the UK at 40K Café on Peace Avenue; the next moment I was cursing the pickpocket who stole my telephoto lens right off of my camera! That’s right – I survived a trip to the Black Market unscathed, but once I set foot into a swanky cashmere store on Peace Avenue, I was easy pickings for some sad low-life with a quick set of fingers. And it’s not like I had been warned or anything; but I guess I had let my guard down. I was happily perusing scarves and sweaters when I looked down and had a classic Canadian reaction: “Oh dear, my lens has fallen off! I’ll just trot back to that souvenir section because they probably have picked it up….wait a minute…”
 
But no, it was well and truly stolen. I trudged back somewhat dejectedly to Zaya’s, considered barricading myself in my room to ensure no further catastrophes, but there was Alison with a wonderful pick-me-up - new arrivals at the guesthouse – Canadians! I was pleased to make the acquaintance of Gaye, Al and Gerhard from Kamloops BC, who are joining Alison on a 14 day horse trek in the western provinces. Wow, and I thought the Derby was ambitious! Needless to say, we enjoyed some excellent visiting, ventured out into the public for sustenance and beers, and salvaged what could have been a somewhat wretched day.
Luckily I had my other non-telephoto lens with me and I was able to carry on with some photos today on our excursion out of town to a Mercy Corps project. You’ll just have to use your imagination as to what those specks are way back in the distance, as I would have zoomed in on them had I had my other lens (I hereby curse the pickpocket once more.)
 
Early this morning at the crack of 10-ish, ten of us Derbiers, a couple of Mercy Corps people and our faithful photographer Ben all piled into a mini van for a trip to the Huh Nuden textile and garment cooperative in Zuunmod Town in Tov province. This cooperative, a beneficiary of Mercy Corps, produces some of the beautiful handmade wool and felt items that you can find for sale all over UB. I am happy to say that with funds raised specifically by us Derby competitors, they have been able to install heating so they can continue to work through the winter months, and to install a wheelchair ramp, giving the disabled of the community a chance to access the building and earn a living.
 
 
 
 
One of our hostesses shows us the proper way to spin the goat and camel fibres into yarn
 
 
 
 
Erik from Team USA apprentices for a job with the cooperative
 
 
 
 
Why does the camel have a black hat? I guess all the red hats were taken.
 
 
 
 
Erin from Team USA gratefully accepts a cup of airag. I have to say I didn't mind it all - it's kind of like beer mixed with milk. I had two cups and survived to tell the tale.
 
 
Our visiting done, airag drunk, mutton devoured and goodbyes said, we carried on to the Manzshir monastery located in the valley of Bogd Khan Mountain National Park, enjoying some incredible scenery, a bit of history, and even some hiking.
 
 
 
Enroute to the remains of the monastery, most of which was destroyed under theoccupation of Mongolia, and is now in the process of being restored
 
 
 
 
Blue prayer cloth tied to monastery door - it is customary to say a prayer or ask for a blessing and leave a cloth behind
 
 
 
 
A prayer offering stone - I am happy to report I left an offering of tugriks to ask for safe travels for me and my companions in the days to come
 
 
 
 
Mattias from Team Sweden jumps for joy high up on the side of the mountain near the monastery - check out the view!
 
 
 
 
Intrepid photographer Ben from the UK does his best "Usain Bolt Imitation"
 
 
 
 
Time for a little yoga on the mountain
 
 
 
 
We had some fun playing ball with this young Mongolian girl
 
 
 
 
High five!
 
 
 
Tomorrow begins the official countdown to the start of the Derby, with the first day of pre-race training. Then it’s off to the start line on Wednesday morning (the 8) for two more days of training, and then we’re off! If I don’t get a chance to update before then, I’ll be checking in periodically via text from the great beyond. Don’t forget to check www.mongolderby.com and watch my marker move with astonishing speed. If it’s going too fast, just assumed I have changed my mind about this whole deal and have taken off in a borrowed jeep for Kazakhstan. Either way, wish me luck!

Hanging Around In UB

Posted on 24 October, 2012 at 23:36 Comments comments (176)
originally posted by Katherine at 4th August 2012 at 15:27
 
Greetings from Zaya’s Guesthouse in downtown Ulaanbaatar, home of numerous itinerant international guests, some pretty good coffee, and for the next four nights, yours truly. Zaya not only runs a good show, she is a wealth of information about Ulaanbaatar, what to see, where to go, and even where to score a cell phone that will see me through 10 days of Derby mania.
 
I’m not really sure where Zaya is from, but from her accent I would almost guess Russia. Having a conversation with her made me feel like I was in some cool James Bond movie; although we were chatting about room policies and housekeeping rules, I wanted to slam down a shot of vodka, light up a smoke and say “Yes, but how much for zee veapons?” ha ha!
 
Anyways, it is a very decent place, full of people from all corners of the globe coming and going and doing all kinds of interesting things. I met a great lady named Alison who hails from New Zealand, and being the intrepid explorers that we are, we paired up today to hit the “Black Market” situated somewhere east on Peace Avenue (“Get on the bus, head east and start asking locals where to get off” were Zaya’s uncharacteristically vague instructions…)
 
And what is the Black Market, you ask? No, not what you are thinking (“Make sure nobody steals your kidneys” Jordan warned). It is a flea market of immense proportions, housing pretty much anything you can imagine from A – Z: carpets and cloth of all shapes, sizes, colours and textures; cookstoves, furniture and the materials to construct your own ger. We wandered through acres of shoes, enough pairs of pants to outfit the Mongolian army, some guy filling pop bottles from a 10 gallon drum of what I am sure was airag; and somewhere in the hardware section, tack similar to what I will be seeing in the coming weeks. I am so glad we are not using the traditional Mongolian saddles!
 
 
 
A ger in beautiful downtown UB
 
 
 
 
I am torn between visiting the "Destroy" beauty salon, and the "Grease" beauty salon I saw yesterday. I completely avoided the "Camel Toe English Pub".
 
 
 
 
Sock Monkey models the "Hatguur" hat I scored today at the Black Market for only 21,000 MNT
 
 
Meanwhile, back at the guesthouse, I also ran into a lady named Susan Fox, an American wildlife artist. Susan is here in Mongolia for the seventh time, will be heading out into the country in search of more subject matter for her incredible paintings, and was happy to share her wealth of knowledge about Mongolia, the wildlife (including horses), the people and the customs of this beautiful country. I had the privilege of seeing some of her portfolio – check it out: www.foxstudio.biz
 
I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of some of the other competitors – Erik Cooper has hit town apparently, but is lost somewhere looking for a cell phone and is probably in the clutches of the evil beer-selling kidney stealers; no word yet from the Dubai girls. Off to the countryside to visit a Mercy Corps project on Monday and then Tuesday it’s Day One of training camp. If the pedestrian-hunting taxi drivers don’t get me, I will check in again before we head off to the great beyond. And as they say here in Ulaanbaatar: “Saikhan untaarai” which means “Goodnight, sleep well”. Or maybe it’s “Walk down the street at your own peril, silly foreign girl”….
To be continued…

I Am Here

Posted on 24 October, 2012 at 23:28 Comments comments (0)
originally posted by Katherine at 3rd August 2012 at 04:03
 
Well, here I am in Ulaanbaatar – I made it. This all seemed like such a far off event back when I signed up in November. Crazy how fast time goes and one day you wake up in a foreign city, check out the view, plug in the kettle and begin digging through your luggage to make absolutely SURE you packed your stirrups (I did – my Canadian flag and Team Canada hockey jersey are snuggled around them, sharing that awesome Canadian karma that will see me through the next while.)
 
The trip here was long but uneventful – roughly 15 hours total flying time, with a 15 hour time change, so I apologize for sounding so stunned and un-witty. I will come round soon enough and start spouting off anecdotes for your entertainment. Ulaanbaatar and Mongolian in general are going to be good for that I think; the drive in from the airport early this morning (1:30 am) gave me a good introduction to the wonky organized chaos that I am sure I will continue to enjoy. I haven’t played chicken with a gravel transport truck since I was 16! Good thing the speed limit seems to be slightly slower than blistering at that early hour or I may have been a statistic.
 
I have enjoyed the first night in the beautiful new Ramada City Centre hotel, thanks to Dawn who insisted I not stay at the airport. Good call. Those benches looked pretty wretched, even if I had pulled out my sleeping bag and made myself a nest…but now I am packing up and moving to a smaller guest house, because somehow I thought that I needed to immerse myself in the local flavour (because there will be a lack of that in the weeks to come, I am sure, ha ha.) Will catch you up when I have the chance, and there may even be photos!
 
Global BC News August 1 starring Outlaw Kate and Natasha:
 
This hit the news as soon as I left – this was the second interview I gave with Global as the first interview seemed to have disappeared with the journalist who conducted it (he was off to London shortly after our interview, completely understandable how things can go a bit awry in those circumstances) but the lovely Kylie picked it up again and there you go. And just so you know, my riding companion is Natasha, who along with her mom (my friend Marion) owns and operates Jingles. Natasha is a bit of an adventurist herself (she gets that from her mom, no doubt) and has spent time in New Mexico wrangling the mustangs fresh off of the range. She has some pretty cool stories and experiences – very impressive given that she is the ripe old age of 23. Mongol Derby 2013 or 2014 Natasha??

I'm Off (My Rocker)

Posted on 6 October, 2012 at 12:46 Comments comments (1)
Originally posted by Katherine at 29th July 2012 at 19:05
 
Good day eh.
 
I do believe this will be my last instalment before I get on the long-haul flight bound for Ulaanbaatar, so now’s the time to pony up and say all those thank yous that I have been saving for last.
 
My sponsors – wow, who’da thought people would actually take me seriously enough to want to send me cash and cool prizes like coffee and shirts? But they have, and they did, and I am so completely humbled by the support I have received, both monetarily and in-kind:
 
Viterra, through the auspices of Lorine McCook – for helping me finance this beast, and thanks to them I will be sporting a lime green Viterra shirt which will no doubt become some shade of “burnt pea soup” by the end of the race;
 
Millard’s Contracting – Millard and Colleen, you two are inspirational and I am proud to wear your name and call you my family;
 
Hand Hills Holdings Inc. – the beast of a company helmed by my husband Gordan – all good things start at home, and this adventure is no exception;
 
The Fabulous Ms. Jo – your stirrups are almost as fabulous as you! I wish I could wear the top hat you returned to me, but they say a helmet or it’s a no-go;
 
The Amazing Dawn – Ms. Jo’s daughter and my best friend, the woman in charge of my logistics, master list-maker and countdown queen – we are also scheming on how to export a ger from UB to Delia, Alberta, Canada (it will be a business expense – harvest meal shelter is what we’re calling it.) She is amazing (see photo – amazing, I tell you);
 
 
 
The Amazing Dawn
 
Mason Farms Ltd. – one of the most progressive, successful and long-lived farm businesses in the Delia, Alberta area, owned and operated by the Dawn and Barry Mason family – they were just honoured at the 100 Calgary Stampede as one of Alberta’s oldest and proudest farm families ever. I don’t have to sleep in the Ulaanbaatar airport, thanks to the Masons and a little bit of their canola harvest;
 
Bill Herman of Herman Kloot and Company – Drumheller’s finest legal minds, headed by Bill, a fellow runner (he runs way better than I do) and a believer in adventure;
 
Kicking Horse Coffee Company – coffee, ‘nuff said;
 
Heidi Jenkins and Skin and Bones Cosmetics – Heidi, you are a true pleasure to know, I admire you greatly and I will smell and look really good on the Steppe thanks to your amazing product;
 
West Stitch Advertising - run by the most capable talented ladies in all of advertisingdom – Jackie and Kay – see the shirt they made for me? Jackie and I go way back – to grade two as a matter of fact. We were also related at one point (long story) and I am glad she is still my friend and puts things on my shirt like “Picky Nosepick”. Long story there too, will share one night in a ger, while in a delirium of riding fatigue and vodka fumes, I am sure.
 
My cheerleaders:
This is where it gets really tricky, because there are so many people I am grateful to for so many, many things. I take inspiration wherever I find it, and once you start looking, it is everywhere:
My daughter Jordan, Sundance Kid and partner in crime – it’s our policy not to get really mushy except in rare circumstances (even then, we usually crack a joke just to lighten it up a bit), so I will save all those things I want to say to you for when I see you in a few weeks. Love you times a Brazilian though. (How much is a Brazilian again??);
 
 
She's strong AND talented AND beautiful
 
My family; my friends, my siblings; my Dad who did NOT say “What the hell for” but instead said “I’ll bet it’s going to be pretty” and “You sure like to travel” or some such. However, I must confess I soft-sold this just a bit: “A bit of horseback riding in Mongolia” is how I put it, I think, ha ha….
 
The people I have met in the last five months out on the coast, from my wonderful neighbours the Kiers (whose daughter Jacqueline is my best friend in the under 10 category – see her artwork?) who toasted me one night around a campfire with a memorable send-off: "Here’s to Outlaw Kate, she is f#cking brave!” “F#cking brave!” everyone echoed; to my inspiration Miki Dekel, who gave me her wisdom, some homemade blackberry wine, and her lucky bandana to wear on the trail;
 
 
 
Whatta girl, that Jacqueline - I love the "Kipper - wherever he is" part (Kipper's been AWOL since April, sadness)
After delivery of this send-off card, she toasted me with a pumpkin square, gave me her "lucky ring" (it glows in the dark) and tooted a bunch of noisemakers, just to scare off the Mongolian bad spirits, I guess.
 
 
Dom – oh Dom, where has the time gone, I’m going to miss you buddy! Here’s one last photo of him, doing his “giraffe imitation”. That horse will eat anything, I’m telling you.
 
 
Maple leaves...mmmmmm....I only let him do this as it was entertaining to see just how far up he could stretch his neck. Down the cake hole!
 
 
If I’ve forgotten anyone in my Sunday morning caffeine-induced packing-mania haze, I truly apologize, and will catch you up from Mongolia, I am sure. I have the best of intentions to pick up a cheapo cell phone and SIM card, to be able to send very short text updates to my blog while in the race. Most likely will be things like “Still alive” or “Just say no to Russian vintage vodka”.
 
So au revoir, until I get to the other side of the Pacific, and a little shout-out to my fellow Canadians – let me hear it back:
 
COO LOO COO COO COO LOO COO COOOOOOO……..
 
Take off eh.

The Countdown Is On!

Posted on 6 October, 2012 at 12:35 Comments comments (103)
Originally posted by Katherine at 25th July 2012 at 23:18
 
Well, here I am blogging instead of doing something more productive like, oh I don’t know, weighing each and every lithium battery I plan on taking along, as the word on the street is that our 5kg weight allowance will be strictly enforced. None of this hiding contraband tequila bottles down our riding tights! Let them try to find it, is all I have to say.
 
And while I really intend on getting out for physical exercise and riding this afternoon, I have to admit that I just crawled out of another salt-water bath, as I had some bizarre dog-leash accident (don’t ask) and have been nursing what looks like whip marks on the backs of my knees. Outlaw Kate is injured! Oh no! The worst part of this was prying my riding tights under-layer out of the wound the last time I rode. Yuck – I know, eh. But not to worry, don’t run to the bookie and adjust those odds just yet. I will rebound with enough application of alcohol – er – antiseptic; both inside and out, that’s what they do out here in the west. A little bit for the wound…a little bit for the patient…a little bit for the wound…
 
Training has gone well, and at this point, it’s ready or not, here I come. I was able to get out to Hornby Island last week to visit some great friends from my Rocky Mountain House days – Lesley Roberton and John Sharpe, and their Swiss sidekick, the indomitable Regula. Not only did we have some excellent visiting time, they also introduced me to their good friend and neighbour Pam Gordon, who owns the wonderful Icelandic ponies Prinsessa and Dropi (his name means “Droplet” in Icelandic). What a blast it was riding through the trees, rocketing across some hay meadows, and experiencing the Icelandic’s distinctive gait called the “tolt”, all near the incredibly beautiful shores of Hornby Island. Did I mention Pam is 81 years old, actively farms, and could probably outride most people half her age? What an incredible woman – she is my newest hero.
 
 
 
Pam rides Prinsessa across the meadow
 
 
 
 
Dropi and I take a moment to enjoy the view
 
 
 
 
Day 2 – Off for a bit of a “scamper” which in Pam-Speak means catch me if you can, small fry!
 
 
I also had the pleasure of an outing with Marion Grau, who owns Jingles, Dom’s (only) friend at the stable. We managed to get in some riding on some cool trails in between starring together in the Global BC TV news hour (the segment will air at some point in the future when news is especially slow) as a very nice man came out to interview me with respect to my entry in the Derby. I would tell you to set your PVR but I have a feeling that fascination with this adventure might get overshadowed by the upcoming London Olympics…oh well, I’m pretty sure I had helmet-hair and horse-grime-face anyways.
 
 
Heading for home
 
 
 
On the trail with Marion and Jingles
 
And let’s see…yep, I think that’s about it for now. I will be assembling my kit very soon, weighing the pros and cons of taking Jordan’s lucky Olympic torch (she was a torchbearer in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics) vs. a Bic lighter. And what about my pillow and sock monkey? I really can’t decide. One week until departure, so I’d better get it sorted.
I have also had the extraordinary pleasure of corresponding with a fellow Canadian and 2011 Derby participant Jason Tse. Between Jason and Sophia Mangalee, I have been able to get a pretty good picture of what's to come in the next few weeks. Their advice, stories and insights have been invaluable. Thanks so much you two!
 
Later!

What Is That Ringing Noise...

Posted on 6 October, 2012 at 12:21 Comments comments (0)
Originally posted by Katherine at 16th July 2012 at 20:43
 
I was awoken this morning at 5:15am by the ringing of my bedside phone. Holy early morning, Batman! I thought. Must be Jordan, pulling an all-nighter study session and now famished, was looking for that famous pancake recipe – who else would call here so ridiculously early? But no, it was the radio station QR77 out of my home province of Alberta, wondering if I would care to do a live radio interview tomorrow morning, 5:15am BC time? Huh?
 
Then I clued in, coffee deprived state or no, that the lovely Aleesha Harris of the Vancouver Sun newspaper had indeed published her article on yours truly. Check it out! She makes me sound almost cool, and way more normal than I really am:
 
 
Then the CBC got involved, so in addition to QR77 first thing in the morning, I will be doing a live interview on CBC’s noon program tomorrow, in Alberta. A very nice lady named Mindy called me for a pre-interview interview, and I managed to babble on about…stuff…hopefully I will sound not quite so dorky and incompetent tomorrow. Stage fright! Actually, Mindy asked something along the lines of “Is it a challenge to stay focussed? Are you nervous?” and my first thought was, well, I was doing fine until this morning, and now all hell has broken loose! Anyways, I will put it out of my mind, get on with my day, and pray hard tonight for the gift of eloquence to please visit me tomorrow, amen.
 
So what else…I’ve been in touch with another competitor from the USA – Erik Cooper of team Squaller Holler, and I learned that he has friends in Ulaanbaatar – how cool is that! Some homies to hang with when he gets off the plane. And Sonja Timani and I had a nice conversation about raising the stakes of winning this thing (she offered up some ante that was very interesting…very interesting indeed…) and she also confessed a fear of drinking the vodka, lest she go blind. “Well geez Sonja” I said, “I don’t think you have to drink the whole bottle.”
 
Think of me tomorrow, while I am blundering my way through my interviews. How do people handle this publicity, I ask you.

Where's My Raspberries!

Posted on 23 September, 2012 at 22:23 Comments comments (0)
Where's My Raspberries!
 
originally posted by Katherine at 10th July 2012 at 05:36
 
It hit 27 degrees here today – summer has finally arrived on the west coast. A nice change, especially after the lingering months of Mayvember and Juneuary, when the temps barely got out of the single digits. But the warmer weather meant a long, slow ride today, instead of anything more flashy, as commitments this morning kept me from getting out to ride in the cooler hours of the day. As a consolation (or not, depending on your viewpoint) on my long ride, I stumbled across the nudist beach. Good thing I was riding Dom and not Julie, as you may remember she has a deathly fear of snakes :P
 
Not that I was looking or anything, but some of those guys had a pretty decent tan, and not a tan line to be seen. “Do you ride bareback?” they asked. And then “Do you ride bare bareback?” Ha ha! So after a brief (1.5 hour) pit stop, just to recharge, let Dom graze, and feast – er – rest my eyes, I was back on the trail.
 
The time is absolutely flying by with only three and a half weeks to go until my departure. I have been sticking to my schedule of preparedness, but one day last month thought “What the heck – let’s throw in a little trans-Atlantic travel” and off Jordan and I went to visit friend and family in the Allgau region of Bavaria, in southern Germany. In between enjoying the incredible scenery and listening to the constant clanking of cow bells as the dairy cattle wind their way through the villages going from barn to pasture, I managed to get in a little cross training in the form of beginner klettersteig climbing. What the heck’s that! I can hear you say – so check this out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Via_ferrata as well as my photos and you’ll get the idea.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Climbing the Nebelhorn in the Bavarian Alps near Oberstdorf Germany
 
In addition to the physical and mental workout, I had a chance to reintroduce myself to a little bit of altitude. Having lived at sea level for the past four months, I was curious about how it would feel to be over 7000 feet http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nebelhorn I am happy to report only slight disorientation, loss of focus, inability to remember my own name; sudden urges to sing Chris de Burgh tunes; and only one serious “SHREK!! I’M LOOKING DOWN!!” moment.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The visit was excellent all round, and the milk run home from Munich to Victoria BC was a good intro to what I’ll be enduring in the way of travel in a few short weeks.
 
I arrived back home from Germany, expecting to see the stirrups, fenders and saddle bag I had ordered from Franco C Saddlery (the official saddle makers to the Derby, located in beautiful South Africa) sitting on my doorstep, but no such luck. So like a normal person, I considered calling them and leaving an anonymous message on their machine, along the lines of “WHERE’S MY STIRRUPS!” I am practiced at this, as I once ordered some raspberry canes to plant in my garden from a distant supplier; after many weeks of waiting when they didn’t show up, I finally resorted to that archaic method of communication – the telephone – only to get an answering machine. How unsatisfactory was that! I hung up. A day later, tried calling again, same answering machine, but instead of leaving a coherent message, I blurted out “WHERE’S MY RASPBERRIES!” and slammed the phone down. Didn’t leave my name, the details, nothin’. The raspberries finally did show up, and they probably forever wondered who the nut was who left the message…now that I think about it, they probably had call display and knew EXACTLY who the nut was. Oh dear.
 
Anyways, I have contacted Franco C (by email), and yes, my order has gone into the great black hole of the Canadian postal/delivery system. They have kindly offered to resend the order, and man, I really hope it turns up this time or I will be fashioning stirrups out of Hello Kitty duct tape (thank you to my friend Dawn, who felt my duct tape should be distinctive and sophisticated.)
 
And what else…let’s see…there’s some chick from Dubai who has been cyber-stalking me; she seems to think she’s got the winning formula for the Derby, but I dunno, she looks a little frail and delicate to me. I suppose I had better throw in that extra hankie because I expect to find her in a puddle of tears somewhere beside the trail. Actually, her name is Sonja Timani, she’s an accomplished endurance rider and I am very much looking forward to meeting her. She sounds like an absolute hoot – but I’m still going to kick her ass :)
 
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