Its Friday morning at 10h30 and I have just chatted to Chris Norton of the BMT cycle store in Stellenbosch, who is linking me up for this interview with Rachel Kolisi.
Rachel is doing a charity ride, the Extreme Ride 4 Hunger, contributing to positive change in SA through cycling. A great match for Ride2Live.
As the name may hint, the Extreme Ride 4 Hunger is pretty extreme – a 1000km cycle in only 6 days, from Kimberley to Cape Town. With four 100mile plus days, right in the heat of summer this is certainly no “fun-ride”. The ride takes place from 2-8 March and is in aid of Meals on Wheels. A charity doing incredible work amongst South Africa’s most vulnerable communities, serving more than 2 million meals a month through more than 700 service centres.
I get on the phone, actually expecting a voicemail, but Rachel answers immediately with a friendly “Hi, it would be great to chat, but I’m actually just starting my training session at the Sport Science Institute. Can we speak at 13h00?”. At 13h02, I get a sms from her saying that she can speak now, but has to pick up the kids at 13h30! It’s just another regular jam-packed morning for a sporting mom (and wife of Springbok captain Siya Kolisi)…
So Rachel, that was a good training session? Yeah, it was pretty tough. I have a set training programme that I do every day and today there was a lot of hill climbs!
What does your training generally involve? Before committing to this ride, I normally trained about 5-6 days a week and I just decided to keep doing my usual routine and then include the spinning on top of that. I now do at least an hour’s spinning after my usual training session.
I must admit its tough and taking its toll, but the Sport Science Centre where I train is really great. I can get straight from boxing to spinning. There is even a playing area where my daughter can play while I train.
Do you feel ready for the ride in roughly a week’s time – a 1000km in 6 days is rather extreme? To be honest I haven’t been out on a bicycle for years! I actually have NOOO idea what to expect, but that’s good. I don’t think anyone can really prepare themselves fully for this challenge. In a way I’m kind of glad that I’ve never done such a long ride before….
But do you think you can do it? Yes, I am strong mentally. I am determined and competitive. When I have to do it, I will do it. For now its tough going through the demands of training, but I know I will do it.
What do the kids think – do you think they will become roadies? To be totally honest, I’m not crazy about the idea and a bit hesitant. Even though I love it, I’m a mom first. Maybe they should try golf, something that is not so extreme (laughs).
So, how did you decide to do the ride? Well, actually the Meals on Wheels guys approached me via my instagram page and told me about the Extreme Ride 4 Hunger. When they gave me some stats on hunger in South Africa, I was really inspired to join. I try and get involved in good initiatives that contribute to changing the nation and this sounded like a great opportunity to make an impact.
Do you find the challenge somewhat daunting? As we are nearing the start date, it’s getting more and more intimidating. To be honest, there was actually a point about a month ago where I messaged the guys and said: “I haven’t started training, I don’t have a bike yet…. I don’t know if I can do this and I don’t think it’s going to go well”.
They phoned me straight-away and said “Rachel we need your involvement, our charity can really do with your support”. I couldn’t back down and say no, so here I am!
To contribute to Meals on Wheels, is what really inspired you rather than the challenge itself? Yes, my husband and I got to a point where we just said, there are so many of us in South Africa that complain all the time about stuff. People always just blame it on the government, but what are we doing to change the country?
If each of us just do one thing, or two things, to help change things – that will make a massive impact. If you just sit and complain whole day, that will not help anyone. We should just go out and do something – we all need to go out and contribute.
I am just so grateful to be part of this. What Meals on Wheels are doing is so amazing.
You wouldn’t believe it but I’m actually getting flack on social media that I’m doing this for attention. Listen…there are WAAAY easier things to do to get attention, than spending 6 days cycling a 1000km (in mid-summer through the Karoo)!
I have to ask, now that you’re an extreme cyclist – will you do the Cape Town Cycle Tour on the Sunday after your ride? [Laughs]…actually there have been quite a few people who have approached me. Guys, as much as I really, really, appreciate the offer I think I’m going to give it a skip!
Do you have a race strategy? I just keep telling people, somehow I need to get from point A to B, its as simple as that. I need to get home to Cape Town and its going to get done. It might take me a long time, but it will get done.
It must be hard being away from the kids though? Yes that will be very challenging. I’ve just come back from an overseas trip with my husband [Siya was nominated for a Laureus Sports award]…and I was away for 5 days and that was very, very tough for me.
Luckily this ride is falling at a time when Siya has a bye week. So he can actually look after the kids and get a good taste of my life!
They say its all about the bike, what do you think of yours? Honestly as mentioned, I haven’t ridden a bike for years. When I first got it I was just so surprised at how light it is. It is incredible. I’ve been out on it a few times and its just incredible [Editor – Rachel is doing the ride on a beautiful and versatile Trek Emonda Sl6, provided by the cool guys at Trek].
At the Sport Science Centre Dr Jeroen Swart also helped me with my setup. I keep on hearing that he is the expert…luckily been able get it set up properly at least! Mike Posthumus at the Sport Science Institue has also put me on this great cycling programme, so I am just really grateful to all these people.
Any plans for your final week of training? Well, next week I’m planning on doing a little fundraiser for MOW- “Come ride with Rachel”, where people can get a taste of what training is like on a day to day basis. It will be Tuesday at around 19h00 pm at the Sport Science Institute. People can come down and join us for a ride and donate whatever they feel is appropriate…even if its R50! People can also go and donate on the Extreme Ride 4 Hunger page.
With that our energising chat closes as we discuss going out for a quick ride the following morning. “Rachel, what time shall we meet for the ride tomorrow? We can go early, I’m up at 5…I’m a Mom!” We really admire Rachel for taking on this massive challenge, especially not being an experienced cyclist. Where some people take challenges on like this for the sole reason to push themselves (and the cause being only a secondary benefit), with Rachel it is evident that the ride and the personal thrill & satisfaction that will go with completing it, is the side-thought and her authentic goal is just to make a positive contribution to changing the country and drive positive change!