Friday, May 22, 2015

Over 3500km on my Inov-8 road shoes

Two years and seven months ago I got a pair of Inov-8 Road-X 255 shoes.

Back then, in November 2012, I wrote this after my first run in them:
"I settled on the Inov-8 Road-X 255. I had my eye on trying the 238 too, which I did. I found the fit to be a bit of a toe squeezer and I didn't like either the foot-in-feel nor how it felt under my foot. The 255 and I were born to be together. I've had one run in them - last night - and we felt right at home with each other."
31-months later I've still been running in THE SAME PAIR of shoes. Sure, for trail and orienteering I'm in trail shoes, but for everything else I've been running my Inov-8s and the only reason I want to replace them is that they're old and ugly and the heel cup is worn (and has been for months).

There are so many new shoes in divine colours and I feel like new and funky. Aside from this my old shoes are probably good for many more months.

My Inov-8 Road-X 255 bought in November 2012
Depending on what is happening, I run between 25km to 55km per week. Around 40km is usually my style.

Although I usually keep a training log, I had a gap of a couple of months (twice) where I wasn't with it. Some distance is done in trail shoes, like for orienteering and off-road runs.

But, if I conservatively go with 30km/week... that's 120km/month... that's 3,720 kilometres!

I ran in these shoes to second for my friend at Washie last year. I did about 70km that night in these shoes; the longest single stretch. They've done a few half marathons and the rest local runs ranging from 5km to 25km.

Wanting new pretty and colourful shoes, I turned to the Inov-8 website to see what they had going.

Lo-and-behold I found my same-same shoes going for a steal.

For a little new and different I decided to try the women's version of this same shoe (Road-X 238 - despite what I wrote more than two years ago they're a good fit now - go figure) and fortunately - this being old stock with random sizes - I found a colourway in my size. Click-click. Only R495. Unresistible!


With different upper fabric used, I'd presume that this women's model is a year or two newer than my old men's version of the same thing.

And then I saw another model, the men's Inov-8 Road-X 233, which is described as a "long distance racing flat". They had a more boring colourway of the same shoe for R695, but they didn't have my size. So I got this more funky pair for only R895. Click-click. Added to my shopping basket.

Gotta love old stock!


With shoes going for R1,500/pair these days it is scary to try a new shoe and for such a good price I was prepared to give these a try having had such a good track record with my first pair. I have no problem buying old models.

I ordered on Tuesday night and got delivery on Thursday morning. Fabulous!

I've still got a cough so I've spent the week walking instead of running. Both pairs have had a session each and I like.

I have been super happy with my Inov-8s. Being quite flat and without much cushioning they're definitely not for every runner. But this is exactly why they've lasted so long and so well. I've never had as much mileage on a pair of road shoes.

Here's a picture of the soles of my old and new shoes - same type of sole (Road-X)
Old shoe below. Used and some wear spots... But we're talking over 3,500km of tar!
Close up of the forefoot part of the sole. Old sole on the left. And you can still see patterns on the sole and the letters 'FLEX'. I'm a forefoot striker so this is even more impressive.
I know of some guys from Bedfordview Running Club who would squeeze out 2,000km from their running shoes (these guys run >100km/wk). I thought that was a lot as I'd never got close to that from cushioned running shoes. I've so totally exceeded this with my Inov-8s and I'm chuffed.

Looking on the international Inov-8 website it looks like the brand has discontinued their road shoes as they only offer off-road and fitness shoes.

With two pairs in hand, here's hoping that I get another happy 8,000km of road running from them.

Hip-hip-hooray!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

An Afrikaburn experience

It's really difficult to describe what Afrikaburn is.

Based on the original Burning Man of Nevada, it isn't a music festival. It isn't a hippy gathering either.

But it is a mass self-sufficient camping experience on the open flats of the Karoo with an arty and creative theme. It's about people and kindness and giving and friendliness and whacky outfits.

Friends have been over the years and this year was my turn to give it a try. It's a long way to 'Tankwa Town'. We left Parys on the Monday late afternoon, heading to Bloemfontein for the night. We drove through the next day to Calvinia, a town that won us over for its neat layout and litter-free streets with wide pavements.


The dirt road to Afrikaburn is just outside of town and it was a magnificent 100 kilometre drive to this pop-up town.


We arrived at Afrikaburn on the Wednesday afternoon. The event started on the Monday and apparently by the time we arrived there were only about 5,000 people there with another 6,000-odd expected to arrive over the next few days. And that they did! We found our timing to be perfect - arriving in time that most of the big art sculpture and other installations were up.

We camped in a new area (green circle on map), purposefully staying away from the loud zones. Unfortunately the whole place was actually a loud zone (more on this later) and we had a big noise maker (the ship) where the red circle is drawn.


Our direct neighbours (Australians, Capetonians - mom, daughter and daughter's friend - and a guy from the Transkei with his Dutch girlfriend) were really friendly and made for pleasant company.

This area is vast - far bigger than it looks on paper. Big and open and sandy and dusty and flat.



We cruised around on our Qhubeka bikes in the day and stayed on foot at night.


We ended up having fairly lazy days. We'd wake around 07h00 and then doze on and off before getting in another good two-hour nap once the ship stopped blasting doof-doof music at about 08h00. This was really, really irritating.

Then we'd get up, make breakfast, drink tea, chill, say hi to neighbours, get our bikes ready and then spend a few hours riding around and checking out the sights and art works and theme camps. We'd return to camp in the evening and I'd head out to run - sometimes with Celliers keeping me company on his bike and other times on my own (while he made dins). I had such lovely runs out here.

We'd be back out at night, draped in fairy lights, to see the night sights and lights and burns.

We both knew of friends also attending Afrikaburn. Neither of us bumped into a single person that we knew!

The theme of this year's Afrikaburn was "The Gift" and people randomly gift strangers with items. We were gifted a random hug from a stranger, some cold grapes, a slice of cheese on a cracker and a small plaster-sculpted head.


Face painted by our neighbours
We loved the friendliness of the people, amazingly creative outfits - during the day and night, environmental consideration (no litter, clean camps), lights at night - on people, bikes, camps and structures, the few performances we watched, mutant vehicles and the burns.

One of the very many mutant vehicles cruising the open plain
While porta loos are rarely pleasant, we appreciated the clean pit toilets. These had a c-shaped 'wall' of shade cloth for privacy, opening to a view of the Karoo. Toilet paper was provided in abundance with notes written on the bucket lids about what can and can't go into the pit (only pee, poo and toilet paper). Saw dust was also provided - a handful to be tossed into the pit when done. These were very well managed.

We were disappointed not to see (or be at the right place at the right time) more performances and acoustic jams.

We caught a fabulous jam at The Temple of Rock theme camp. Very memorable. We sat down and stayed to listen.


We also thoroughly enjoyed a sunset acrobatic performance.


We also caught a bit of a burlesque show and a dash of stand-up at another theme camp.

We also loved the sculptures and structures and interactive art things in The Binnekring.




A massive smoke ring. We heard a sound, saw a black atom bomb-like cloud of smoke from which this ring formed. Amazing! (Metamorphosis pre-burn in the background)
I can't even begin to describe the wonder of the lights at night. I'm sure there are photos out there by photographers that do justice to these.

The burns were just wonderful. These are huge, rip-roaring fires that eat up the big wooden structures that are built each year.

This year's Clan Burn structure.
This was a wonderful silent burn. No blasting music.

Metamorphosis going up in flames.
Subterrafuge didn't burn last year as conditions weren't good.
Bye-bye Subterrafuge
If there is one thing that stood out as incredibly disappointing it would be the noise. All day and all night. Doof-doof music blasting from mutant vehicles and theme camps. This was one big non-stop cacophony.

We expected the loud music to be confined to the marked loud zones with random music (from different genre) being played at camp sites and theme camps. What we didn't expect was the extent of the noise pollution with each mutant vehicle / theme camp trying to out do the next. And all playing soul-less doof-doof music.

Here's the cracker... during the day or at night there could be between 10 and 200 people 'dancing' around a noise blaster. 100-200 was certainly rare. Let's say there are 30 or even 40 noise-blasting locations. At an average of 50 people (way over what we observed), that's only 1,500 to 2,000 people 'enjoying' the noisy offering.

What were the other 10,000 people doing? Walking around, looking for other listening options, hanging at their own camps and walking far out into the open Karoo for some peace and quiet.

The burns were magnificent but definitely marred by the surrounding mutant vehicles each blasting their own foul tunes.

When we watched Subterrafuge burn, we sat in a quieter spot. From somewhere a touch of classical music played and a woman standing in front of us said something like, "Finally, a bit of classic!". It was downed out by louder doof-doof.

The Clan Burn was a silent burn. What bliss! Around us people commented how pleasant this was. We could actually hear the structure burning.

Considering the spirit of the event, which is about giving and sharing and kindness... this constant noise goes totally against what the event is.

I'm all for having the loud zones as indicated and theme camps playing an assortment of music (more live would be a winner) at a reasonable decibel level so as not to encroach on the camps next door.

There were a good number of children at Afrikaburn. They seemed to thoroughly enjoy it, racing around on bicycles and wearing funky outfits.

Although we smelled weed being smoked all over the place, it wasn't grossly abundant. We're under no illusion that there was probably a lot of recreational use going on but we didn't encounter it. I think this is probably more prevalent within the theme camps. Camped around us were generally older people (same age as me and even a good number in my parents' age bracket) and this certainly explains why we didn't see much in the way of recreational drug and alcohol abuse.

We didn't take many photos. There were lots of pros out there and you can see glorious photos through the Afrikaburn Facebook page.

Overall we enjoyed the experience. I wouldn't go back every year but I'd definitely go back in a few years.

This will give me enough time to collect cool items for outrageous outfits...

Monday, May 18, 2015

Western Cape orienteering training camp

Last year, for our annual orienteering training camp, I was assigned to planning fun skill-related warm-up games. I was away during this year's camp, which is held annually for our youth, junior and senior orienteers to coach and practice advanced orienteering skills. Some participants are preparing for World Orienteering Champs (senior and junior); others are improving orienteers and the camp adds skills and experience.

We decided to offer a camp for our Cape Town orienteers; so instead of bringing them up-country we would bring the camp to them.

I was the coach for the camp, planning all the skills activities. I was ably assisted by Bruce, an experienced orienteer with local experience. Two dads, who also orienteer, were roped in to put out the control flags for the activities. And then we had six teenage orienteers from Cape Town and three from Jo'burg (plus one mom who helped out too). A fine team for the weekend.

We were based at Oak Lane Cottages, a popular mtb and event location just outside Grabouw. Accommodation there is simple but sufficiently equipped and clean and tidy. The location is superb - apple orchards, forests and farm dams. Our orienteering locations for the weekend were three forest areas - all popular weekend mountain biking venues.

Kobus, another Cape orienteer, kindly provided me with the OCAD (orienteering mapping software) files of the maps, which I could modify for the activities I planned to do. These are active forests and so chunks have been felled since the maps were last updated - and sections have burned. Kobus updated the files by blocking off these areas before sending to me.

I've never orienteered in this area. It was quite daunting planning activities without knowing what the terrain was really like. Would the floor of the forest be overgrown at this time of year? How rough are the 'rough open' areas? Are the features that I'm using for control locations still there?
Armchair planning has its limitations and risks.

We all met up on Saturday morning at Oak Lane to head off to our first forest - Klipdrif, which is accessed via the next forest that we would use, Eikenhof Dam. I kept our areas close to minimise travel time between locations. I had four sessions planned that I hoped to get through on Day 1. Timing on these camps can be challenging, especially when you throw less experienced orienteers into difficult skills.

We got lucky with generally superb terrain underfoot and even where it wasn't ideal, it wasn't bad. When our dads returned from putting out control flags they were able to give feedback like, "Don't expect big bushes for the vegetation features marked on the map; they're not that significant".

Session 1: Groovy Baby
To give our dads time to get control flags out for the second and later sessions, we started with an activity to get the orienteers into the groove of the map and the terrain and the scale. We had the participants in pairs, heading in opposite directions. Each person had to put out three controls (using cones), mark the location on their map and swap maps with their teammate at the map swap location marked on the map. I gave them 10 minutes each way as I didn't want them to go too far out.

It is far more challenging to think of sites and place controls than it is to collect them, so 20 minutes each way would have been better - and this is what most did anyway.

The session was fun and a few learned not to underestimate the ability of their teammates. They will definitely place cones in more challenging locations next time.

This is a super training activity that any pair can do any time. It solves the problem of putting out and collecting flags as it is done by each participant.

Session 2: Purple Circle (aka big circle, small circle)
This is one of my favourites for orienteers and adventure racers alike. Essentially this is an attackpoint activity that focuses on the final attackpoint - a feature that both confirms your location and leads you right close to the control, which may not be on such a distinct feature.

For this activity we placed the orange-and-white control flag at the attackpoint and used only a square card (less visible) at the control location.



I purposefully chose some less optimal attackpoint locations and in our feedback the participants suggested features that would have been more appropriate.

For this, and all sessions, I planned five loops per session. Each loop was colour-coded (so that I could keep track!) and varied slightly in length and difficulty. In terms of length, loops ranged from 500 metres to 1,2 kilometres, depending on the session. I planned for each participant to do 2-3 loops per session; even those with injuries that was them walking or taking it easy.

Lunch
I'm not so big on breaking for lunch as it can get chilly in the forest. I encouraged everyone to snack bit-by-bit between sessions instead of eating a load in one go (not great for running!). Keeping our momentum going and bodies warm, we drove through to the Eikenhof Dam forest for two more sessions.

Session 3: Missing!
I chose a section of forest that looked like it had few obstacles and that the terrain could be traversed straight-line on a bearing. Missing! is a compass-focused activity where I removed all detail between controls.


It can be difficult to judge distance in forests and over rough terrain, especially where pacing techniques are affected by the terrain and irregular strides.

Compasses play an important role in orienteering but they're not always needed for much other than keeping your map orientated. We rely on contours, vegetation and rock features too. This activity takes these away so that the only tool you can use to find your way is the compass. This is actually a superb activity for adventure racing night navigation training.

Session 4: The World is Round
I love this one! We stayed in the same area of forest, just moving uphill for a new start location. For this activity I created a round map with no North-South lines and no other indication of North. I even cut the maps out so that the shape of the A4 page wouldn't create an up or down. I also rotated the control numbers so that these wouldn't give North away either.


This activity is all about using features (no compass) to navigate. It has a strong focus on keeping your map orientated at all times to the terrain and features. For extra fun, I made a map version for the longest loop option where I also removed the paths and vegetation and rock features.

Day 1 done
Having worked through lunch, we finished ahead of schedule. And by the time we'd collected controls, bundled into the cars, stopped past the shops in Grabouw and returned to Oak Lane, we still had lovely evening time available to shower and chill on the lawns and shoot the breeze. I went for a run; the orienteers played 'cricket' using a plastic bottle as the bat.

Instead of a night orienteering activity, we hung around together indoors to chat about training and skills and injuries and events. I asked each participant what it is about orienteering, for them, that has attracted them to the sport and keeps them coming back for more.

Their answers were interesting and insightful and all agreed that being outdoors, visiting interesting places and having the opportunity for travel were attractions. Orienteering is a small sport here in South Africa and our community is close. And this they also mentioned. The people of orienteering are not just competitors but family.

Day 2
Session 5: Squiggly Lines
Contour lines are so much more than decorative squiggles on a map. They indicate elevation, tell whether terrain is going uphill or downhill and they give you stand-out terrain features to use in navigation. This is the realm of hills, saddles, re-entrants (the beginning of a valley), depressions and spurs.

For this activity I removed all the rock and vegetation features from the map. In hindsight I should have removed the powerlines too but not quite knowing what it would look like out there, I decided to leave them in.


Everyone did really well and I was impressed with how well each orienteer self-corrected and analysed their errors.

Session 6: All together now
The other sessions were all about taking it easy, focusing on the skills and not worrying about time or racing.

This 'mass start' activity put the runners on two courses, with parallel controls, racing through the forest. People (and other nearby control flags) are big time distractions when you're racing and so this activity was all about that - keeping your head in the heat of racing with distractions all around.

There were three legs and each leg had two to four controls. We would re-group at the last flag for each leg and then re-start.


All done
It goes without saying that our orienteering children, youth and teens are generally really good and solid kids. Being on this camp I'm again reminded just how fabulous they are and what a pleasure it is to spend a weekend with them.

They work hard, run hard and play hard. They're always enthusiastic and keen to jump into the activities and eagerly head out to collect controls at the end of sessions.

They get along well with each other, welcome newcomers and are always keen to help those with less experience.

Andries, Carl, Dylan, Laura, Lindo, Matthew, Miguel, Tim, Roark - thank you for being such good company.

I couldn't have made it without Tania's (our head coach) hand in bookings and admin; nor without Sam and Brett placing controls and Bruce helping with coaching, shadowing and one-on-one interactions. Reece, Andries' mom, came down from Jo'burg and she jumped into taking photos and helping out where ever needed. Kobus kindly facilitated the maps and permits to access the forests.

We've posted photos in an album on the SAOF Facebook page.

And, of course, this camp happened because of the planning and foresight and focus of the South African Orienteering Federation on improving the skills of our coaches and orienteers.

What a treat it was for me to be down there for this camp and I look forward to following the exploits of those going to Junior World Orienteering Champs in a few weeks and seeing everyone at National Champs, Big 5 O and other events over the coming months.

Coughing and spluttering

I've been in Cape Town for a few days to coach an orienteering camp (more on this in my next post).
While in the Cape I've had the most wonderful runs. The Lower Tokai Park was just a treat on Thursday and Friday; and on Saturday evening, after a day spent with our young orienteers in the forests near Grabouw, I took on the six kilometre 'yellow mtb route' from Oak Lane Cottages, which is where we were staying.

All around Oak Lane are apple orchards, farm dams and forests - just my kind of area.

Here are some photos from my run.








 I felt great on the run but only a few hours later my throat felt a little scratchy and my chest  a little tight. By morning I was definitely down with a bug - coughing, congestion, runny nose, blocked ears, elevated heart rate... 

I'd been aiming to hit the yellow route again before leaving but it was no longer an option. After 21 consecutive days of wonderful running, I'm barely up to walking.

I haven't been ill for at least a year or three so this is disappointing. And I've been running like a champ too! Fast, hard and free.


Nonetheless, it is the cold-and-flu season and after a couple of non-stop months I'm clearly susceptible. I hope to kick this in a few days to be back in action.