In the past, my adventures were written day by day, stage by stage, or in another similar logical order. I would like to introduce chaos with my posts about this race… because, well that is just what I feel like!
So instead of telling you what happened when (Ashley did a pretty good job of doing that while I was there, and the documentary should have this basis covered too!), I am going to choose a few topics and cover them. So if you have any questions about certain aspects of the race, please comment them below and I will make sure I write a post about it!
In the meantime, I have been campaigning around magazines to publish my story, so I do need something about my overall experience. So to whet your appetite, here is the quick and dirty about my experience in the race.
Waiting for my airport transfer, hopped up on coffee and excitement, I broke a sweat. In only a few hours I would be meeting up with my best friends from around the globe to take part in the inaugural Race the Wild Coast.
We had all signed on and pinched our pennies to ride 350km in an endurance race style event from Port Edward to Kei Mouth, South Africa, one of the most beautiful and untouched places in the country.
We met in the airport Steers restaurant and all anxiety dissipated as we caught up and met the new additions to our group – 13 riders in total, most of whom had a Mongol Derby under their belt. This was not your regular crowd of pony trekkers, but to us it felt like we were about to embark on a fun vacation instead of a remarkable race.
We really had no idea what to expect on our way to base camp, and were pleasantly surprised to find it well appointed from comfortable cots to camping showers fueled by campfires.
For the next 3 days we drew and tested our random team of horses, learned about the course and race rules in detail, and refined our riding kits – the 5kg of gear we were allowed to carry with us for the entire 5 days allotted to riding.
I drew a formidable team of 2 Boerpoerd horses and one young arab. Gerber would be my first ride, he was easygoing and sure footed, a great confidence booster, ensuring that I wouln’t have drama at the starting line. Ramkat was my second horse, he would ride the shortest distance, but would have to climb the most hills and swim the most rivers. He was so bold and clever! Asad was to be my last horse, more endurance type supposed to help me speed through the flatter sections toward the end of the race. Our training ride didn’t go so well, he was very spooky and I was worried about how he would handle after I was exhausted from 3 days of riding.
On race day, we had a very unexciting start on the beach, everyone quietly passing the line together. We all stayed together for the first leg of the race. After the first vet check, the group split into 2 and I remained with the leaders. Through the next leg, we lost another one or 2 to the other pack. Gerber and I came in again with the leaders and vetted down quickly, allowing us to be one of the first out in the morning.
Day 2 was slow, we had the most difficult terrain to ride on, and the morning rain caused everything to be slippery. 29 kms took over 4 hours to complete, but we had lots of beautiful scenery to enjoy along the way.
We had our first horse change, where the vetting area quickly became chaotic. Horses in and horses out! I was second through the horse change, and Ramkat was turbo charged! I was tossed an egg sandwich as I swung my leg over his back, and galloped off with a look of determination and egg sandwich on my face. We quickly caught up to Monde, the leader, and the 2 of us decided to ride together as we passed through the town of Port St. Johns – a hippie beach town where even at 10am there were already drunk parties through the streets. Sam Jones, 2014 Mongol Derby winner caught up to us partway through town and the 3 of us rode on. African music blared out of parked cars and people cheered at us, trying to get us to sprint and race for their entertainment. I’m sure they were disappointed. After all of that, Monde asked me “hey Sarah, do you want to fix your bit now?” I had no clue that I had forgotten to attach my bit to the reins, and had just ridden a fresh “machine” of a horse through the town. Oops!
The 3 of us stayed together for the remaining legs that day, which included our first swim and several other climbs and descents which made us think “they have to be joking.” We arrived into the finish camp for the night way sooner than the organizers had expected, and we had to have a mandatory delay in the morning so we wouldn’t be swimming rivers in the dark!
The 3 of us went out first again in the morning, and determined that having to wake up at 3am isnt the only downside to being the leaders, we came across a gate that was padlocked shut! Thankfully, I had brought a phone and we soon had help arrive. Halfway through this day, we got our 3rd and final horses. Fresh and nervous, Asad gave me some bucks and wiggles on our way out, but settled nicely as soon as we stuck him behind Sam’s horse’s bum. We did try to lead once, and in 2 strides, he had 2 major spooks and Sam and Monde agreed that this horse should not be our leader!
We spent the rest of the day with a butt in our face, but moving well, and again we came in so early that we required a delay the following morning.
Day 4 and we knew based on the pace we had set, we would be finishing this day. Almost a bit bittersweet as I don’t think any of us were ready to be done riding. We ended up with a slower pace than expected, in the morning there were some navigational problems (such as a fallen tree which required some rerouting, Monde spent close to a half hour finding a route for us and we were so grateful!).
With 2 legs to go, both Sam and Monde’s horses had lost a shoe and they were required to wait a half hour for the farrier to arrive. I set out on my own, in the lead, but not confident after Asad’s behaviour the previous day. I wanted to try, see if he had lost some of his greenness. Unfortunately, my fears were met with a 5mph giraffe trot as he looked everywhere except where we were going, and refusing to move out on his own. He was wasting a lot of his energy spooking and I was wasting a lot of energy trying to get him forward. At one point, exhausted, I broke down and cried on an endless beach. Growling and crying “why wont you just move!!!”. I had held it together until the thought crossed my mind that I might finish my journey hating this horse and being miserable. After riding for 4 fabulous days, I didn’t want my adventure to end on a sour note.
I was actually relieved when I looked back over my shoulder and saw Sam and Monde just behind me. Sam reached over and gave me a hug. Together we can get this done! I tucked Asad in behind them again and once again, he was forward and happy and clearly not as tired as I was!
The last leg went smoothly together, and we agreed that on the final stretch of beach, when we saw the finish flags, it would be a gallop to determine place. The horses kicked up their heels, and for a sweet 500m, Asad gave me his first honest effort of the race (haha). We couldn’t quite catch Sam and Monde however, as they were first to the beach and their horses were nice and fast! We finished 3rd by 20 seconds and I couldn’t have been happier. Monde took the win and Sam earned 2nd.
Asad was actually the first to pass the vet check, which made me very proud, and all 3 of us immediately took our horses to the river to cool. We were so proud of ourselves and so was the crew, we had just proven their long standing dream of running this race was possible. We remained for the rest of the day to cheer on the other riders as they came across the finish line, and cheered on the final rider who came in alone on day 5.
Whether you are a competitive distance rider or just want to enjoy some amazing horses, company and scenery while challenging your limits, this race should be on your radar. It will be held annually and applications for 2017 are now open. They also filmed us throughout the race and are hoping to have a documentary ready for February 2017. If you want to find out more about either, please click the following links for more info:
On another note, if you enjoy my writing and want to share some love my way, consider tossing a few dollars my way as a donation or by purchasing Eat Sleep Ride Repeat apparel by clicking the link below:
Your contribution will help me to pay off the small debt I accrued to participate in this race, which will help me focus on a new adventure for 2017 so I can keep sharing my stories with you! Thanks so much!