Tuesday, September 02, 2014

That Spring-y feeling

While I love the heat of summer, this Spring-y time of year is a delight. I've been feeling Spring-y for a few weeks as some fruit-tree blossoms have been out for a while and trees have been getting buds since the beginning of August already. Things are now accelerating and every day brings new delights.

This evening on my run there were a number of spots with fragrant jasmine bushes. I could barely inhale deeply enough to absorb the scent fully.

And the number of people... More often than not I do not see any other runners or cyclists in the evenings. Today - at a guess - at least nine runners and one friendly cyclist! Spring is here indeed.

Wouldn't I just love to run beneath these blossoms! Actually, I'd probably walk. Or, more likely, I'd just stop and stare. Blossoms are a delight.

MTBO season underway

Our mountain bike orienteering season is up and running with once-a-month events between now and November. The MTB rogaining event at the end of July got things going with this past Sunday's event getting the ball rolling even more.

As my club was hosting the event, with mapping and planning by Brian and controlling by William, I was through at the venue - in Broederstroom - to help setup and with the starts. Starting late, I decided to do the middle-distance course so that I'd be back in good time.

I enjoy MTBO far, far more than just bike riding. I think of it as 'mission-orientated' mountain biking.

I had a bit of an issue with my map board. I got this map board many years ago when I had another bike with skinny handlebars. My current bike has fatter handlebars so the bike-board mount doesn't fit. For the rogaine, I put on a handlebar extender, which worked perfectly. But on Sunday... the handlebar extended jiggled loose and so it was bouncing and flapping my mapboard all over the place. This was from about control 9. I'd been having such fun until then... At one point nearing Control 10, the board flipped up, caught the wind and almost flipped me over. Fortunately I wasn't going too fast so I did a rather elegant slide-fall. I've got an improved idea to sort out my mapboard for the next event.

Overall my routes were fairly decent. Only one bloops near the end... Let's see the overall map.

Overall, MTBO navigation is easy because the controls are on paths, not hidden in pits and bushes. But, as you move faster on a bike than on foot, you've got to really watch because distance is covered really quickly so it is easy to overshoot. In MTB O you're required to stay on tracks - no bundu bashing with your bike.

I use a lot of features like rocky mounds when I navigate and so adjusting to the lack of detail was quite different. Brian did a good job with the mapping and putting in some vegetation. If you can read contours, that helps too. The amount of route choice in MTBO really depends on the venue and how many tracks are available. In reality there were more tracks that what you see on the map - just cattle tracks. Now in winter they look fairly clear but in a few weeks when the vegetation is up they'll disappear.

Control 7 to Control 8
Brian spoke at AR Club this week about his recent participation in the MTB O world Cup event in Sweden. In foot O we plan courses aiming for no in-and-outs and to have 'flow' in the course. Apparently this isn't a big concern in MTBO with routes often doubling back. Brian's course didn't have much of this, but there were some in-and-out controls.

The best route from Control 7 to 8 looked to be going via Control 9... but as I don't like re-tracing my routes I decided to swing around. The route was fine, but it wasn't the fastest option. An O friend was close to me going through the gate; he took the route via Control 9 and got to 8 just before me (he cycles a bit slower than me too, which verifies that this was the better option).

Control 12 to Control 13
I know, I know. You can say it... "What were you thinking?". Evidently, I wasn't.

With my mapboard flapping I wouldn't ride-and-read, as I usually do. So leaving 12 I took a quick look and thought "first left". The '0' of the 12-80 had caught my eye and I was aiming for that. Doh! Interestingly, there was a control there (for another course) but I'd realised on approach that I was in the wrong place so the control I saw was irrelevant by the time I got there. A better route would have been to stay on the track from 12 all the way to 13...

I overshot a little after 13... I didn't see the right-turn and realise a little further ahead that I'd gone past. Not a big bloops, but one nonetheless.

It was good fun being out on my bike, which I don't ride often. I'm looking forward to the next MTB O at Northern Farm on 28 Sept. (click on my link for the event sheet).

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Five weeks to FEAT

Just as a cobbler's children have no shoes and a plumber's taps drip, so I've been negligent of FEAT here on my blog.

Today I announced the first speakers in a newsletter to subscribers and publically. It's a double-whammy with Ryno Griesel and Cobus van Zyl. They'll be speaking about what went into setting the Drakensberg Grand Traverse record earlier this year.

I'm fortunate to have wonderful support from FEAT sponsors and friends in helping to promote the event.

This weekend Powertraveller are at the Getaway Show in JHB with Cape Union Mart and Trappers. They're offering a cool deal where anyone buying a Powermonkey Extreme solar charger will receive a FEAT ticket.

Outdoor Freedom is an outdoor store in Centurion. Leon has been a long-time supporter of FEAT. He has two tickets to giveaway - by lucky draw - to a customer who makes a purchase of R500 or more until 30 September.

What has really struck me with this FEAT are how FEAT regulars are really spreading the word and bringing along their friends - sporty and non-sporty alike. The block bookings are rocking!

I was at the Linder about two weeks ago to sort out the projection and lighting setup. Standing on the stage looking up and standing right at the top looking down gave me such butterflies! It's an impressive venue!

That's the AV guy on the balcony. FYI - the stage is 16m across and 9m deep
Next picture taken from near the open stage exit door (bottom left of stage).

Ja. It's a good thing that I love a crowd ;)
As always, there are many hundreds of bits and pieces that go into the event - September is usually the month for details as all the big things - like venue, MC, speakers, flights, sound, AV and lighting are booked anything from nine to three months before the event.

I hope to see you there too.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Three remarkable young men

Last week I travelled to Polokwane for orienteering / navigation coaching activities. First was an orienteering teacher workshop in the settlement of Lebowakgomo, which is about 40km South of Polokwane.
I've mentioned Ephraim a number of times - he's our star and an accomplished orienteering mapmaker. A natural from the get-go. He recently wrote his final exams for his electrical engineering studies. His focus is on heavy current.

 Tebatso was with me for the Big 5 O earlier this year. He is also an engineering student. He came through to GOC Champs in June and he assists Ephraim with the Polokwane Orienteering Club.

 And then there's Lefa. I first met him at the GOC Champs in June when he came through with Ephraim and the other school and college students. He's another Ephraim-recruit from college - also engineering. Like Ephraim, Lefa's 'hobby' is doing architectural drawings - floor plans, external views from all angles. You can't believe how good they are!

 These three young men have just written their final theory exams. There are problems with Eskom and thus their practical (apprenticeship) opportunities, which are meant to start now that they've completed their exams. But, Eskom are having issues and can't accommodate the students.

 Instead of wasting their time lazing under trees, these guys are back at their old schools as teaching assistants, helping with maths classes - and bringing orienteering activities to their schools.

 At the teacher workshop, all three were on hand to assist with the orienteering activities, explaining the games to the teachers with one-on-one attention. They also helped me with putting out and collecting cones. 

I'm just so impressed with them as there are so many unemployed (and retired) people who waste their days when at the very least they could be sharing their skills and abilities with communities and organisations who need volunteer assistance.

 These guys are making their own opportunities but I can't help feeling that they may appreciate an open door, especially in the engineering realm, which is what they have studied. They currently reside just South of Polokwane.  If anyone reading this blog has the scope to employ / provide apprenticeships for these bright, self-motivated young men, please drop me a note and I'd be delighted to put you in contact with them.