An Alberta woman who braved flash floods and unforgiving terrain for the toughest horse races in the world says it was a experience that was impossible to fully prepare for.
"One point, I think I walked five kilometres looking for my horse, then we had funnel clouds, pouring rain. One of the riders that I was riding with had an epileptic attack, I got food poisoning and was on an IV drip for day," Lynn Hamilton told CBC News.
The Devon, Alta., lawyer was one of thirty riders who took on the grueling the Mongol Derby — a race across 1,000 kilometres of harsh terrain, equipped with only a backpack and panic button.
"I changed my mindset from wanting to win to just complete because there was real dangers."
Natural disasters were not the only dangers. At one point, Hamilton witnessed one of the other riders being attacked and sexually assaulted during the derby — something that stayed with her for the whole race.
"With that kind of tone for the race, we just felt it was unsafe to be riding alone," she said.
Disappointment and disqualification
The experience and the terrain took its toll; Hamilton was one of the twelve riders disqualified from the derby.
"The organizers came to our rescue and said, ‘Listen you guys, you're just so far behind there's nothing we can do except carry you forward. You're disqualified and able to keep riding if you want,’ " she said.
"I was disappointed, to be honest with you. But the way I am kind of handling it, is it's okay and I went out and I did it. I stayed safe, I helped other riders and I didn't leave anybody behind."
Hamilton did cross the finish line. While disappointed by the disqualification, she found comfort that she was able to raise $11,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Association.
Despite the horrors and dangers she faced, Hamilton said she was most struck by the way that locals opened their homes to the riders.
"They let us into their gurs[huts], they provided beds for us, they fed us."
"That will be the memory I will take away — the warmth of the Mongolians.