9th August 2013 – by Prometheus Medic Chris Abbott
Out of sight, but not out of mind
As the race progresses, the ﬁeld has separated into several distinct groups. The 5 front runners are an all female ensemble, virtually guaranteeing a female winner for the ﬁrst time in Mongol Derby history.
From what reports we get from other members of The Crew the racing is getting pretty heated up front – sadly we don’t get live updates on rider positions so we are only drip fed tit-bits of information about what is happening at the head of the race. The second group of riders are a pack about 5-8 strong, who are about 120km behind the front group, and are looking good to ﬁnish within the 10 day time limit.
The ﬁnal group consists of individuals who have either pulled out of racing voluntarily, and are ‘along for the ride’ (literally), or those who have thrown in the towel and been moved to a nearby Urtuu and are awaiting non-urgent evacuation back to Ulaanbaatar. Physically all the riders have been pushing themselves hard for 6 days now, and for some the strain is proving to be too much – it is not called endurance racing for nothing!
Deb and Chris had their ﬁrst day of seeing no riders at all, and responding to no requests for medical assistance – cheers easy! They spent the day moving from one Urtuu to the next, maintaining contact with the lead group, whilst being able to retrace their steps and respond to any emergencies that may occur in the rider group behind them.
Whilst at Urtuu 16, the resident champion jockey, a child of 13 years old (professional jockeys in Mongolia range from 6-14 years old!) insisted that we ride one of his horses, using his silver embroidered ceremonial Mongolian saddle (and traditional Mongolian safety equipment - see photo).
Deb, having seen what these horses can do to inexperienced riders, rather sensibly declined, and ‘volun-told’ the doctor / novice-horseman that the opportunity was his, and that it would be considered exceedingly rude to refuse. Luckily, having recognised which end of the horse pointed forward, Chris was able to survive 10 minutes in the saddle, and escaped the ordeal mostly unscathed.
Whilst at Urtuu 16 Deb and Chris did their bit for international relations by seeing one of the herders children, a 6 month old baby who had had a cough for a few days. The patient was healthy, happy, and other than a mild cough and a runny nose, was ﬁt and well - we gave reassurance and advice about appropriate medications that could be sourced in the local town.
In contrast, James was kept busy at the back of the ﬁeld responding to more cases of gastro-enteritis, and also one fall which resulted in a minor injury to the rider’s lower back. The rider, who was already suffering with groin strain after 6 hard days in the saddle, felt that they could not continue, and was moved up to the next Urtuu to await evacuation to UB tomorrow.
Deb and Chris experienced a very different Mongolian landscape today – decidedly more Alpine in nature, and found themselves having to ﬁght their way across rivers and through forests – with Deb at all times directing Chris to “check the depth and speed of that water” (photo below), and “clear that fallen tree out of way” (photo above) from the safety of the Land Cruiser (see photos). It’s nice to see that the good old NHS hierarchy of ‘Senior A&E Sister’ > ‘Junior Doctor’ still rings true even in Outer Mongolia!
We are currently settled at a rider-free, vet-free Urtuu 18, positioned within 30km of several legs of the race as it U-turns back toward the ﬁnish line, only 2 days away for some of the riders.
We are looking forward to seeing how the next couple of days unfolds!