kitThe last two weeks have zoomed past and today I realize that in seven days I leave for Mongolia. It’s a bit surreal that my departure is so close now, having spent the last 11 months completely focused on this one goal.

This past week I met another Derby rider – Michelle Tanaka – who drove nine hours from Arizona to come ride with me in Moab. On the first day of her stay, she got kitted out in her Derby gear (giant helmet visor, camelback, and photographer vest OVER the camelback) and hopped aboard a green broke Arabian named Ozi that Meryl and I have been training. Ozi was a bit freaked out, having never encountered a rider resembling the hunchback of Notre Dame and proceeded to scoot and canter laps in the round pen as Michelle tried to calm him.After only a few minutes she said she was ready to hit the trail.

This girl is a lot braver than I, who bailed from Ozi just a week earlier when he did a big spook and bolt at a man in the neighbourhood who was pushing a bucket and pulling weeds from his driveway.

Her gear preparation is also well ahead of mine. She can pack her saddlebag in seven minutes and seems to have prepared for every eventuality. She’s got her medicines organized in little baggies and even knows how to use her GPS, while my GPS sits in the barn, covered in dust and batteries dead. I told her my navigation strategy was ‘lurking.’ “You know, I’ll just kind of follow behind some riders who seem to know where they’re going,” I told her.

Michelle’s riding and gear made me feel incredibly underprepared and so she was able to cajole me into camping out and not showering for a couple of days while we were riding. It sounded like a good idea, but I have to confess that the first night after the fly blew off our tent in a wind storm and we both decided to just sleep in the house, I snuck off to bathe. “I don’t think it’s necessary to practice being disgusting,” I told her, to which she replied “My philosophy is to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

Michelle could win this thing. I mean, how many other Derbyists are practicing not showering and wearing the same clothes for three days?

I have to thank her for pushing me outside my comfort zone, though. I did survive two days of sleeping outside and riding in the desert without a shower. I also learned that it takes me 13 minutes to pack my sleeping kit. I attribute this to having only one good hand, thanks to my broken pinky, which leads me to my next update: another injury.

My latest injury.

My latest injury.

Yup, I’m now down another digit on my left hand. At this rate I won’t have a left hand by the time I get to Mongolia.

A couple of days ago, I was riding one of the youngsters out on the trail. He’s actually quite a solid horse with very little spook, but for some reason a piece of garbage on the trail (an old rolled up carpet) scared the crap out of him. He jumped about six feet to the left and spun to run the other way, in the process somehow I sprained my thumb.

Surprisingly, I’m ok with handling the reins with my left hand, even down a finger and a thumb. It’s the other things that are difficult – doing up buckles on the tack, lifting the saddle, stuff like that.

So next week, when I return to Canada, I take my mangled hand to the orthopedic surgeon and ask him to make a miracle happen before Mongolia.