It started off as a publicity stunt, something so difficult no one was sure if…
They say good things come in threes. The Alt Tour. Cape Epic. And now The Munga. Less than six weeks after wrapping up Cape Epic, Lachlan Morton will once again find himself in South Africa. This time it’s to race The Munga, a 1,000 kilometer mountain bike race across the South African desert in the height of summer. With a 100 hour time limit and about 6,500 meters of elevation gain, the race features ten water stations along the course as well as five supported race villages where the competitors can rest, refuel, and get mechanical help. Apart from that, Lachlan and the other riders will receive no outside help. “To be honest, I don’t know a huge amount about the specifics of the race apart from the fact that it’s really long and very remote but I’m looking forward to discovering it as it goes,” Lachlan says. “There are five different checkpoints and then the rest of it is unsupported where you’re looking after yourself. I like races that have that element where you’re left to your own devices.”
Not knowing the course specifics would understandably stress out a lot of riders, but Lachlan finds that appealing, freeing even. “The big thing for me as far as a mental mindset going into something like this is to never have too many preconceived ideas of what it’s going to be. I’ve always found the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had have been when it seems like I’m not super prepared. It frees up your mind to be able to take it as it comes as opposed to having a really strict idea of your plan and what it’s going to be and then not knowing how to adapt when it doesn’t really go that way,” he says. That’s not to say that he’s going into The Munga completely blind. Lachlan says that “for this race, water is a big issue. It needs to be a priority, so I’m working out how much fluid to carry. And lighting is important of course because you’re going to be doing some night riding so that’s a main consideration.” Racing through the Karoo desert in the midst of summer means high temperatures in the day that will plummet come nightfall and Lachlan has to be prepared to ride through both extremes. “It’s a very harsh environment that the race travels through,” says Lachlan. “You’ve got really hot days and super cold nights so that will be a big challenge and something that’s difficult to pack for. In the moment it could be difficult to manage because the heat can get to you really quickly, as can the cold. They’re both things that can stop you in their tracks. I imagine that’s going to be a very big challenge.”
Another challenge? Sleep. “The race is right on that limit of you need to sleep somewhere but you don’t need to sleep a lot, so that’s often difficult to work out. I could have this idea that I’m going to sleep at kilometer 500 for four hours and then get there and feel fine, but then get halfway through the next day and realize I’m really tired. My approach is generally if I feel tired and I want to stop, then I stop. If I feel fine and I’m not tired, I just keep going. When I need to sleep, I’ll just aim for one of those race village checkpoints and get some rest. When I feel up to it, I’ll just go again,” Lachlan says. While that might sound intense, Lachlan thinks it sounds almost decadent. “If you’re setting up a bivy and a sleeping bag, you have to work out when and where I need to do that. With The Munga, there are the race villages where they have bedding set up which is a bit of a luxury.”
By now, Lachlan is something of an old hand at ultra racing but it feels like a brand new adventure every time he’s on the start line. “I love just applying myself fully to something that requires all of you and just adapting to whatever situation you’re in. I like being on the start line and not knowing what’s coming. At these races, you’re relying on yourself and you don’t really know what kind of a challenge you’re going to come up against. That’s a cool feeling to have. That’s what attracts me to these kinds of adventures.” When he inevitably faces tough moments, Lachlan remembers why he’s out there, on his own, riding his bike in extreme conditions, when he could be relaxing at home. “If I didn’t want this difficult moment, I shouldn’t have come at all,” he says. “You just have to take that. The best things always come from when you push through and come out the other side. That’s where the real reward is. Just be present in that hard moment and be aware that it will pass. Ultimately, you’re going to get humbled out there and The Munga is going to be very difficult, but I’m looking forward to having that one, singular challenge for a few days.” Be sure to check back next week to track Lachy’s dot and stay up to date with all the latest info from the 2021 Munga MTB race.