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Racing 94.7 with my Pilates Instructor

Updated: Jan 31, 2022

Chi is multidisciplinary in her sporting activities but one thing that never fails her is doing Pilates. This gives her the ability to test herself in different environments by reaping the benefits of Pilates.

Chi and I have been training on the roads around Joburg for the past 9 months with specific goals in mind. Sunday was a little different, not only was it our first race together, but we also got to enjoy racing on 97kms of fully closed roads between Soccer City and Kyalami Raceway along with thousands of other cyclists. Not having to worry about a single JHB motorist was an absolute treat. Thanks to the race organisers for another incredible day!

For years, this has been a highlight on the cycling calendar for all cyclists near and far. I’ve had the pleasure of racing it as a professional in the elite category, doing double laps for charity and cruising around helping friends achieve their individual goals. Each year holds some special memories.

A last-minute entry and I would end up lining up for a new edition of this race. Little did I know that this would be my most enjoyable edition and equally important to all previous attempts. I got to start with my good friend and Pilates Instructor Chi. As she eagerly suggested we ride together, she was due to set off at 07:15 in group L. Due to some poor planning (on my behalf) we ended up being a 07:45 start in group S. A chaotic drive only added to the pre-race nerves, we decided to not let that affect our race and put some good music on and embraced what was ahead of us. Soon after arriving, we found ourselves on the start line and all the pre-race nerves seemed to have disappeared. This lifted our level and in a moment we were off, along with a diverse range of cyclists navigating our way around some loony cyclists and past hundreds of others taking on their challenge. It was so interesting to see how different the perspective of the race is for the more casual cyclist. The route was down for half and into a strong headwind and then up for the other half back through the burbs with a tailwind.

It was quite early on into the race that I knew we were on for a brilliant day, after navigating the first 10 minutes of the ride and finding an efficient tempo in the windy conditions, I looked back to check-in and saw pure joy and determination on Chi’s face, no words were needed. We positioned ourselves well together finding the sweet spot in the gusty conditions and even had numerous cyclists hop on to the back of our train for a little assistance. On the way to the race we discussed some of our expectations, we wanted to dig deep, test and push ourselves as hard as possible with the target of finishing in a time of 3 hours 30 minutes AND with the ultimate goal of having fun through every pedal stroke. Race day is always unpredictable - conditions change, a new route results in some unexpected challenges, your starting batch and then any admin or mechanicals on the route can put a spanner in the works - all the uncontrollable. The race strategy was to push hard on the flats and downhills and then ride at a comfortable tempo on the uphills. Not sure if this was the case at the end of our ride, it was full gas from start to finish!

By this stage we had reached the high point of the race and had the M1 north insight, cutting corners and keeping the speed as high as possible as we whizzed down to Woodmead. On numerous accounts, Chi shouted “go faster” or “pick it up”, not to my surprise at all! We arrived at Kyalami Race Way with an average speed of 32 km/ph, calculations then began and there was a moment where the potential of a sub-three was on the cards, and this added more fuel to Chi’s fire! We pushed on! Flying around the race track, taking corners at high speeds, and never without smiles on our faces, it was just brilliant. The hard work was about to begin. Chi did not back down to the uphill battle that lay ahead, her game face was on as we tackled the first of the big rollers on the way home. We kept motivating each other on the climbs and as soon as the gradient lowered she was back on my wheel and holding the speed. Not one moment to rest, we were flying as the kilometres were ticking away. We reached the northern suburbs of Joburg and the support on the side of the road was amazing, on numerous accounts we heard people edging us on! Thanks for all the support in Joburg! It was now time to top up the energy stores, I scrambled to find some nuts and a gel, worried that it may be too soon to have the gel I offered the nuts. After a handful of dry nuts and a couple of coughs and some funny faces pulled we realised this was not the ideal race food option. We popped the gel and the glycogen levels were up, this unleashed a whole new beast in Chi! We flew up through Douglasdale together as we were mentally preparing ourselves for the long difficult slog up Jan Smuts. We passed thousands of people all morning and finally met up with three guys going at a similar speed to us, one of them on an e-bike, they became a small target for us as the cat and mouse games began. They were faster on the downhills but we managed to catch and pass them on uphills, each time sharing some good banter.

Thanks, guys! There was never a moment in the race where the challenge ahead was bigger than us! We soldiered on through Hyde Park and then on to the infamous Zoo Lake climb, digging deep and embracing the pain as we made our way to the top. Before we knew it we were riding over Nelson Mandela bridge, with all the hard work behind us now, there was a moment for a quick high five and then the final push to the end! It was at this point that I realised that I did not want our race to end, we were in our element but the thought of that did not slow us down! Showing more resilience, Chi set a good tempo in the windy conditions back towards the FNB stadium! It was clear that her Pilates stability was paying off in the moments. We did not manage to crack the sub 3 hour but we did manage to hold on to a 30 km/ph average speed. We will be back for more! In the closing KMs, Chi said to me, that as a measure of her fitness if she can hold a 30 km/ph for 100km bike ride and feel great at the end she is happy, and she did just that magnificently. I’m so proud of you. It was now time for the final kilometre, we battled our way into a strong headwind with the finishing banner on the site and some final words of encouragement. Again, we did not slow down as we crossed the finish line together with the biggest grins on our faces! What an amazing day, so much fight, so much fun, we emptied the tank and left it all out on the road!!

I loved being out there with my friend and seeing Chi’s grit, fighting spirit and determination to keep pushing on AND never losing the smile on her face. This was one of my favourite editions of the 947 Ride Joburg cycle challenge. High fives and big smiles, it will surely be a day to remember!

Stuart Fitzpatrick


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