Endurance Racing, Race the Wild Coast (South Africa) 2016, Rider - Sarah

The Upsides of Leading

Didn’t see this one coming after my last post, The Downsides of Leading, did you? 😉

If you are just coming to this blog for the first time, Welcome!  I know I have been doing a bit of a blitz for new followers and I really hope that you enjoy my writing and keep coming back.  To paraphrase, I have recently returned from South Africa where I competed and placed a remarkably close 3rd in the inaugural Race the Wild Coast, an adventure horse race of 350km of beautiful beaches, mountains, river swims, thorny forests, soggy clothes, chafed thighs, fantastic riders, and rugged horses.  I am writing about my adventure in a variety of topics until I feel like stopping!  So ask questions… you may just see a blog about it!

  1. You get to cheer on all the other riders

This was without a doubt the most fun aspect of leading.  We are a tight knit group and for a while we wondered if a leading pack would ever break away, because it was a bit of a vacation for this masochistic group of adventurers.  So at the end of each day when the other riders trickled in, it was not uncommon to see us cheering, and sometimes even pitching in to help them cool their horses.

The finish line compounded this tenfold, where on day 5, we scattered from the bar during breakfast, a handful of food in hand and climbed up, and descended the forested mountain in our flip flops to the beach where Malcolm would finish.  Oh but to get to the beach, we also had to row across a river in a dinghy.  Yup, we grabbed paddles and trucked it to make it in time.

When Malcolm’s head was spotted over the beach horizon, we went NUTS.  Then Malcolm dismounted his horse to give it a break, 20m from the finish line!  There was a collective gasp among us and Barry ran out to get him back on the horse to cross as a rider.  It was hilarious and the moment he crossed, he was swarmed.

All us riders at the finish flags, I am in the middle in front!


2. You learn a lot from your fellow leaders

It became very apparent to me during this race, exactly why Sam won the Mongol Derby and Monde came close.  My main goal or strategy was to make sure I could keep up with them and while doing so, I picked up a lot that I can take home with me.

Sam rides fast, i mean really FAST!  But the amazing thing is she never over rides her horses.  She seems to have an innate ability to know exactly how hard to push her horses, and when to back off. She makes it seem effortless.  Matching her pace taught me what a competitive pace looks like, but I still have a long way to go before I have the same sense she has honed with her lifetime of experience.  She also commanded the horse stations – vetting in and being mounted before I could even figure out where to look for my next horse.  She is a master of efficiency.

Monde is a master of reading terrain to find the best route and has a lot of little tricks to save his horses for the long haul.  He is the very definition of riding smart and he certainly earned his win, taking impeccable care of his horses and of us too!  A true gentleman, he saved our sorry butts a few times.

3. You get more free time

Ok, I wanted to put this as a downside… but I simply forgot, so I am attempting to spin it as an optimist.  By leading, we were in early.  This gave us more time than the other riders to get things done in daylight – setting up our beds, preparing our supplies for the following day, pulling thorns from various body parts and treating wounds and chafe.  Then we laid about lazily sipping our Striped Horse brews and just enjoying life by the beach.

Why did I want to put this as a downside?  I could have definitely gone for another day of riding… or two… or just send me back the way I came, I’ll see you in another 4 days!  Chafe be damned.

Photo credit to Rockethorse Racing

4.  You excite the pants off the people tracking you at home

I have been there… following that little dot along the screen for a big race like the Mongol Derby, or this year’s Tevis Cup, its exciting!!!

Every so often when I was riding, I would think to myself, a bit astonished, OMG People are following us right now! And wondering if we had made allegiances, or if we if we were going to try to make a break for it.

Coming home, I saw how facebook lit up every time I took the lead, especially when I had the 33 minute lead on Asad (aka Ass-hat) and Sam and Monde closed in on me.

Its really cool to know how the excitement is being shared!

How cool was their tracker?!?!
How cool was their tracker?!?!

5. You learn that you  DO have it in you

After my non-completion in the Mongol Derby, I wasn’t sure if I could be successful in finishing Race the Wild Coast.  I didn’t go into the race with the mindset that I had something to prove (in fact I purposely tried to block that thought from myself), but it was an important element in my experience.  Finishing this race has been a huge confidence boost for me and I am forever grateful to Barry and Joe and all of the crew who worked tirelessly to put this together and gave me a chance despite my previous failure.

This race was DAMN hard, probably the toughest challenge I have ever faced, but if it weren’t so hard, it wouldn’t have been so satisfying.  To race to the finish with 2 of my best friends and top class riders, that was the cherry on top.

Photo credit to Rockethorse Racing

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2 thoughts on “The Upsides of Leading”

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