Munga Grit Tankwa 2022

Half Ain’t Easy!

I was a bit nervous and anxious before this race as I was feeling a bit underprepared. Not fitness-wise but equipment-wise. I hadn’t tried and tested things enough. The day before race day I was still trying to decide which bike bags to use and clothes to take. They tell you to pack as light as possible…I’ve never been very good at that. My main concerns were not to get cold or get lost! Fortunately I nailed these. The route is self navigated with the GPX file uploaded on your device. I stupidly had been worried that my power bank wouldn’t be big enough to keep my Garmin and light charged; it finished on 67% 😂 My small back up battery wasn’t needed 😏

There was a chilly wind on race day morning so I had a quick clothing plan change. I decided to start with a base vest, long sleeve base layer, cycling jersey and gilet; seemed a lot for the beginning of April in SA! In my bike bags I had a thermal running jacket, windproof jacket, merino buff, ear warmer head band and a pair of marigolds (the best value gloves you’ll find) – when the temp dropped to 5c at night and everyone else had frozen fingers for once I didn’t!
We started at midday on Friday at Kaleo Guest Farm, north of Ceres. In the back of my mind I hoped to be finished by 6pm on Saturday.

Like always, everyone flew out the start chute like they were starting a 50km race (despite the 2km neutral zone), me included! ‘Don’t burn matches now, you’ll pay for it later’ I kept telling myself, but it’s always so easy to get carried away with the adrenaline rush. The field (of about 90 I think) spread out quickly and I could get into a comfortable effort level. My Garmin was set to the map view so I wasn’t aware of my heart rate.
I rode with a friend Gus for a bit. It was nice to have a chat but not long after the first Jojo tank at 42km I eased away. I felt really comfortable on my aero bars.

I reached WP1 (101km) late afternoon. I had a quick visit to the toilet, a good picnic on marmite sandwiches and banana bread, lubed my chain, put a banana and bars in my pocket and off I went. I rode with a guy called Marc very briefly. Its always funny how you ride next to someone in silence for about 5 minutes and then you realise you might be spending several hours with this person so you introduce yourself and start chatting. And then I eased away again.
The sun set and the temperature began to drop. I was comfortable with what I was wearing and thought I should be fine til RV1. It’s usually colder in the early morning so I wanted to save my extra layers til then.

At WP2 Nespresso coffee and muffins went down very well and some boiled potatoes. I had another quick pee – I was peeing a lot for me, possibly from the cold, but I was making sure I took plenty of electrolytes and salt pills. (I think I ended up using the bathroom at every WP and also once at the side of the road – possibly just an excuse to have a rest…!) I stuffed another banana and some bars in my pockets and off I went.
After the water point it felt like we went around in circles. I managed to have a stationery side fall as my cleats must have got full of dust and I couldn’t get unclipped. I hit my nose on my handlebar and wasn’t sure if I had blood dripping out of my nose or it was just snot!!

We seemed to have had a head/side wind all the way so far. I was hoping the wind would die down….it didn’t!!
For some reason my light wasn’t being charged and it died. My other cable was connected to my Garmin. I put on my backup light and decided I’d manage with that til I reached RV1 and could sort it out there.

At 200km we hit Ouberg Pass. The 9km climb initially seemed fine except for the gale force wind! And then it got steeper and windier! I literally got blown off my bike! I started having issues with my bottom gears – the chain kept not moving across the gears and then it would jump right across and off and get wedged in between the spokes. (I got it fixed after the race – I’d somehow managed to bend the hanger) It was pitch black so I couldn’t see much but managed to keep getting the chain back on. But then I couldn’t get back cycling as the wind was too strong. I seemed to walk a lot of the pass, as did most people! I even got blown over while walking with my bike!

The next moment I was in total darkness. My backup light had died too. I could see a few lights below coming up the pass. I used my phone torch to take the cable out of my Garmin and put it in my main light. I had light again! But now my Garmin backlight went off so I couldn’t see the map! I quickly managed to find the right setting to get the backlight to stay on!

RV1 was a great stop with much needed soup, lasagne and coffee. I put on my extra layers and marigolds. It took me ages to get my other cable back into my Garmin due to everything being in the way – race board, Garmin mount, tri bars etc. But I managed to get both the light and Garmin charging again so I was good to go.

I can’t remember much of the next section except it might have been when I cycled into the only wet/muddy hole on the entire route. I wasn’t paying attention and cycled straight into it, ground to a halt and put my foot in what felt like sinking sand! My foot and wheels were covered in thick mud!

WP3 had delicious pancakes and watermelon. I didn’t stay long here. I felt rude turning away the hosts amazing hospitality but I didn’t want to waste time.

I think this next section was the only part with no wind. Middlepos village was pretty dead as it was probably about 3/4am!

I reached RV2 (311km) as hints of sunrise were appearing to my left. Great timing as it would mean that after a quick food stop I would be able to ride down the slightly treacherous Gannaga pass in daylight. My body clock was being tricked and I began to feel slightly less sleepy. I had a good feed on rice, cheese, pumpkin pie and coffee.

I loved the stunning decent. But the next 100kms was never ending and pretty horrible! The headwind was relentless. The road was either corrugated or deep sand. There were several choice words used in this section! I stopped a few times – another pee 🙄, taking off my extra layers, tightening up my tri bars, finding my Minstrel chocolates! I took chocolate as a treat for nearer the end of the race but I needed it sooner. And Minstrels in sugar coating were less likely to melt. In hindsight I should have taken a couple of BarOnes too – they would have frozen at night when it was 5c so wouldn’t have melted too much.

I tried to keep as aero as possible on my tt bars into the wind. Which I also think saved my hands. Often after these long mtb races you have numbs hands but the fact I was on my bars a lot meant that my hands have been fine after the race. And my back was fine – fortunately being a triathlete I am used to riding lots of kays in tt position.
I hadn’t needed to use Jojo4 but I used the next tank at 384km.

I was in a very deep dark hole from 400 – 425km. And I’m sure I almost fell asleep at one point. That 25km took forever! The dust from passing cars didn’t help either. Fortunately I found a very long rope at WP4 and managed to crawl out! It’s amazing what coffee, chocolate milk, vetkoek and potatoes can do!
By now it was around 2:30pm on Saturday. It was pretty hot (about 30c actually 😂🥵) so took my long sleeve base layer off and taped it to my bike – I had run out of bags or pockets for it.

I felt great again. I left the water point on a mission. Skittery pass was loooong but I managed to power up most of it, avoiding using my eagle gear in fear of the chain falling off. We had some lovely downhill sections here. I smiled to myself and was grateful to be where I was.

I was delighted to see the final Jojo tank – my Garmin had been telling me to do a u turn despite my navigation arrow being on the course – so I was obviously hoping I hadn’t gone wrong!

It was getting close to 6pm. Would I be able to get to the finish before then? I worked out I probably wouldn’t but I could still finish in daylight. I overtook another rider with about 5kms to go and I started hammering it towards the finish. A flood of emotions as I saw the Munga flags at the entrance to Kaleo Guest Farm.
I was so happy to see Cobus at the finish line, and a bit over whelmed!
I couldn’t quite believe I had just ridden 500kms!

A massive thanks to my coach Dave (Wingman) for preparing me for the race, to Corne my bio for making me strong and rehabbing my niggles, to Maureen for massages and lino and fixing my niggles!, Johan my mechanic for fixing my bike when I break it! and Brett for awesome Pavé kit.

Thanks to the organisers for a great and tough race. A little less wind would have been nice. Thanks to the wonderful WP and RV hosts for all the delicious food. We would literally have died without you!
A truely awesome race which will take you to places you’ve never visited before, both physically and mentally!
Now to decide whether to enter The Munga (1100km) at the end of the year…!

1st lady
11th overall (90 starters, 52 finishers)
30hrs 06mins

Strava: click here to view activity

7 thoughts on “Munga Grit Tankwa 2022”

  1. Yes yes yes… The Munga will change you. U will see parts of SA never seen. U will go to very dark places.. Where tears don’t work and have no meaning, so push through and come out enriched! Xx well done my friend xx so proud of you (can I say that)

  2. Congrats on a fantastic ride! Well written and entertaining race report too.

    The Munga is worth doing for sure. A mix of the horrendous and truly wonderful that is unforgettable. The half distances like the Grit or 36One can be really brutal but they are not long enough to be truly transformative, out of body experiences. Life changing is a well used cliche but it may just be true for the Munga. It’s the only event in over 30 years of racing (including Kona) that I can say that about.

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