Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Handing out beanies at Mponeng Primary

Yesterday afternoon I went to Mponeng Primary to drop off the handmade beanies and to help the school principal Rene and the teachers to place the beanies on each child's desk. They took time to consider each child and their preferences to choose the right size and colours. Judging by the children's expressions this morning, I think they got it right. Children who were not at school today will get their beanies when they next attend classes.

These colourful beanies were made by me, Abigail, Elaine, Brenda, Denise, Diana and Penny. Thank you kind people. xxx

We have leftovers of some very small beanies - for babies - and a bunch for those in the 3-8 year old group. I'll pass them on to an organisation here in Parys that has involvement with pre-schoolers in the township.

Here are some photos from my visit this morning.

These are the sweet pre-schoolers.
These are the next younger grades - 1 to 4.
The children in grades 5, 6 and 7 in the school's dining room. For many of the school's children, this is their only meal of the day.
Some children in a classroom.
And in celebration of the lovely handiwork that went into making these beanies... Here are photos of some of the approx 140 beanies!

Some of Denise's creations

A few of the gems from Abigail and her mom Elaine

These bright colours are me - with thanks to my friend Sylvi who gifted me some balls of yarn

Bren's combinations are delighful - I had to keep our children away from the ones with the lovely fuzzy yarn

Some of the 76 loom-knitted beanies made by Di and Penny in Cape Town.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Look at all of these handmade beanies!

Oh wow! I've just been putting all the beanies together that have been made with such warmth and kindness.

The courier just arrived with the stuffed-full bag of beanies crocheted by Denise and the large box of striped beanies from Cape Town, knitted by Diana Duchess and Penny West! Added to the bursting bag that arrived yesterday from Abigail and her mom Elaine, plus the bunch from Brenda and myself, the children of Mponeng are going to be the warmest and more colourful children around.

I've arranged with the school principal Rene to meet her on Monday afternoon. We're going to put beanies on each child's desk so that they have a lovely surprise waiting for them on Tuesday morning. I'll go along then too to get photos.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Zero Waste Parys - refilling bottles

Zero Waste Parys #2 for the 22 June 2017 issue of Parys Gazette

In my quest to focus on waste – what I’m buying, using, reusing, recycling and throwing away – I’m searching for zero and low-waste alternatives to items I regularly use. My aim is to refuse unnecessary packaging and to reduce the amount of waste that I put out on trash day. Items that I see regularly in my plastic recycling bag that I put out each week for the informal recycling collectors are plastic bottles. Instead of buying products in new bottles, there should be options to refill – not only water but also milk and juice. The good news is that there are.

We have an abundance of drinking-water stores in town where you can take along your own containers to fill them with clean drinking water. Prices range from R3 to R5 for five litres. Plastics are, by nature, a clean and hygienic material. Refilling your five-litre or 25-litre household containers regularly with clean drinking water will not pose a health hazard. Store water in a cool place out of the sun and keep an eye out for algae growth if you leave water in the container for a long period.

A good wash and thoroughly drying the container will solve this issue and make the container ready for reuse. What can pose a health risk are everyday drinking bottles. Contamination from hands and saliva ‘backwash’ can lead to bacterial growth, especially in bottles kept at room temperature for an extended period.

Disposable plastic bottles – the kind that you buy water and softdrinks in from the store – are not made to be reused repeatedly. They suffer from wear-and-tear, thinning, scratches and cracks (bacterial like to grow in these scratches and cracks!). Avoid buying throw-away bottles of beverages and instead invest in reusable containers that you can refill. Sports bottles and glass bottles are long-lasting alternatives. Just remember to wash them out with warm, soapy water between uses.

I’ve usually bought milk from the supermarket in plastic bottles or long-life Tetra Pak boxes, which are a recycling nightmare. With 2l milk bottles dominating my plastic recycling, I needed to do things differently.

Fortunately, we have the Farm Inn. Here they have milk on tap so you can take along your own containers to fill with fresh milk. This full-cream milk comes from Rietpoort Suiwel (Dairy), which is located only a few kilometres outside of town in the direction of Fochville. When it comes to hygiene and refilling containers, glass bottles are best for dairy.

Remember to thoroughly wash your bottles before refilling.

Farm Inn does have other dairy products – cream, yoghurt, butter, but these are in regular plastic packaging in standard volumes. Farm Inn is located on Van Coller Street, near the intersection with Luyt Str – less than 200 metres from the traffic lights.

If you’re buying milk from the supermarket, it is better value and less packaging overall to purchase Wynn-with Dairy Farm’s four-litre milk containers rather than standard one or two-litre options. These can be repurposed and upcycled for use in the garden or for crafting.

Fresh fruit juice 
Farm Inn also stocks fresh fruit juice on tap. Take along your own containers and fill them with fresh juice.

Reusing long-lasting plastic and glass bottles for water, milk and juice will already have a huge impact on the volume of plastic packaging that you throw out each week. This is an easy change to make once you know where to get your packaging-free refill.


The great beanie collection for Mponeng School

In the days before Forest Run when we were cutting and marking the trails, we saw children waiting by the roadside for the school bus. Some of those morning where really chilly and it was only mid-May. It is colder now and should be colder in July. None of these children were wearing beanies and I thought that this would make a great collective project as beanies are quick to work up and left-over yarn can be used.

I phoned the principal of Mponeng School, Rene, and asked if I could collect beanies for the school's children (there are about 87 children in the school from toddlers to matric) and also if we could go crazy with colours. She loved the idea and agreed.

I put out a note on Facebook and tagged crochet friends. And they passed on to their friends. Many regular crocheters and knitters are already involved in community projects - like Yvonne has been making scarves for a school - so they couldn't commit to beanies. Others were able to jump in.

I'm waiting for the courier to arrive this afternoon with two flyer bags stuffed full of beanies made by Abigail and her mom Elaine (24) and also from Denise (23). A box is on its way from Cape Town with beanies for the little ones (0-8), made by Di and Penny. I don't know them but they're warm and generous friends of friends. Ingrid from Australian Shepherd SA Rescue Organisation (ASSARO) is the link between us and she has arranged for the courier to bring the box up here to me. My aunt has made 13 and I'm on 13 too (more by the end of the weekend!).

Growing beanie pile
Important too are the people who contributed yarn. My friend Sylvi bought me six balls of colourful chunky yarn; Abigail's mother-in-law bought yarn for her to work into beanies.

I've just spoken to Rene. I'll meet her at the school on Monday afternoon. We're planning to put a beanie on each child's desk so that when they come to school on Tuesday morning, a colourful beanie will be waiting for them. I'll go through on Tuesday morning too, to take photos to share with the wonderful people whose hands and skills have created these beanies.

What fun!

My 41st birthday

My 41st birthday came and went on Sunday and it was a nice, quiet birthday at home. My birthday wraps up my annual 'Days of Running' birthday game. This year was a bit of a mish-mash of running, paddling and walking. I did skip a day or two - like on Forest Run day (20 May) - but I was with the programme for much of the rest of the 41 days. Having Rusty in my life is a great motivator too because I take her out everyday, whether for a short run or longer walk (she is still building fitness so I don't work her too hard on consecutive days).

My birthday morning started with breakfast in bed, made by Ruben (tea and rusk) and Kyla (toast and eggs) and a gift that Kyla made - a kind of paper-weight thing of my name, made from playdough.

We then headed out to our lovely hills of the Vredefort Dome for a hike. I haven't done the waterfall route for ages and so we chose this one. It is very overgrown and in two places I lost the trail. Fortunately I know where the trail should be and where it is headed, so I could pick it up again further along.

In about August last year we took the children on this route. They wanted to stop almost every 200m and there were tears and drama. This year, they were stars! They have done more hiking - most notably the three-day hike we did with them in October last year. They are also a little bit fitter. What a difference this made. They hiked very well. It is a 10km route with technical terrain and they did so well.

Rusty loved being out there with us. She is a magical trail dog.

Ruben and Rusty heading into the kloof below the waterfall.
Quick stop before a rocky scramble. 

Water! A trickle of water coming down the waterfall - the first time that I've seen water here. Ruben and Kyla enjoyed scrambling up here.
My doggy enjoying the view.

A girl and her dog xxx
Two monkeys
Quick stop

A sleepy doggy in her basket on Sunday night.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Proud of my blood-donating townsfolk

I'm really proud of my little town.

SANBS comes to Parys on the second Tuesday of every month. Whenever I go (every two or three months) to our mobile clinic I always ask how the participation has been.

Without fail the answer is, "Parys never lets us down".

Yay! for our townsfolk.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Zero Waste Parys

I wouldn't classify myself as an all-out radical greeny-beany, but I am aware and considerate especially when it comes to litter, waste and recycling.

Since I first got my hands on our pre-production prototype of our YOLO Compost Tumbler in mid-January, I've been an avid and successful composter. Putting our kitchen cuttings into it has made a massive difference to the bin in our kitchen (reduced volume and diminished odours) and to producing useful compost that I toss into the garden.

Top: Our small YOLO Compost Tumbler. Each shell is 45 litres in volume
Bottom: Our medium YOLO Compost Tumbler. Each shell is 100-litres in volume
I've been recycling plastics, paper, metal and glass for years by separating waste at home and taking bags to recycling sites or putting it out for the informal recycling collectors. They earn a living by collecting recyclables and taking them to recycling centres where they are paid a small amount - but an amount nonetheless. Having a compost tumbler completed the circle by being able to recycle organic waste too.

Even with all of this going on, my stomach turns when I see the volume of waste that comes out of our home - even if it is going to recycling. Every two weeks a bag like this goes onto our curb for Johannes, our local informal recycling collector.

Packaging is to blame. Almost everything is packaged in plastic - printed in bright colours to catch your attention and to make the product look attractive. The only way to reduce this is by changing my shopping habits and taking my refusal of plastic packaging up a notch further than just taking my own fabric shopping bags to the supermarket.

Zero Waste advocate Bea Johnson was in South Africa recently for a speaking tour. My mom put me onto her after she heard Bea on the radio. Watching a short video on Bea's Zero Waste Home website was the catalyst I needed to think about how to do things differently - especially around taking my own containers to stores.

A big one coming out of my home are two-litre milk bottles - my bunch drink a lot of milk. In the past two weeks I have eliminated these plastic milk bottles by filling up my one-litre glass bottles at the local farm store where they have fresh farm milk on tap.

This one was easy. Other changes require more thought, especially with supermarkets here where there is very little that one can pick from a counter and have put into your own container. But, I'm living in a small town and we have shop owners who may be keen to jump into offering more products in bulk containers from which customers can fill their own containers. Even our dried fruit and nuts store in town offers only packaged products.

I'm on a mission and with small-town change-is-possible in mind, I contacted our local Parys Gazette newspaper editor and asked her if there was space for me to write a regular column about waste and recycling and Bea Johnson's 5Rs of "Refuse what you do not need, Reduce what you do need, Reuse what you consume, Recycle what you cannot Refuse, Reduce or Reuse, and Rot (Compost) the rest (and only in that order)". When there is space the pieces will be published; otherwise they'll feature on the Parys Gazette website.

I submitted my first piece this morning and it is already online.

Added to this, I've created a 'Zero Waste Parys' Google Map where I'll add location droppers with descriptions as I explore my little town, speak to shop owners and find ways that I can reduce what I bring into my home by refusing to accept packaging.

Changing my behaviour and modifying my shopping patterns isn't going to happen overnight. My head is in the right space to do it and I have a plan. I need to make these changes. We all need to make these changes.

Monday, 12 June 2017

First canoe marathon event

The International Canoe Federation claims that "the sport of Canoe Marathon is a true test of a paddlers tactics, endurance and athleticism". While I'm not in this league to experience a 'true test', I did do my first canoe marathon event yesterday, with my friend Sylvi, the same teammate with whom I did the canoe triathlon in early May.

Sylvi is older than me so we competed in the masters category and as such had a 16km race distance. The event was held at Wemmerpan, in JHB -  a sweet dam with a two-kilometre lap. Marathon racing includes portaging and so every two laps (4km) we got out for a short portage (50m maybe). I quite enjoyed this as it gave me a chance to loosen my hips and shake out my legs.

The good paddlers out there, including Olympian Bridgitte Hartley left us looking decidedly pedestrian, but nonetheless we paddled well together.

It was about 12C when we got on the water and on the near side it was flat and calm and still (protected by reeds) but on the far end and far side the wind had whipped the water into a chop and it was downright chilly.

The biggest excitement of the morning came in the form of a near swim. We were out on the far end, focused and concentrating on getting through the chop. Two fast kayaks came past us and the combination of the choppy water and their waves saw us tip over. I didn't even see it coming! Well, Sylvi and I were tipped over sideways - so much so that my water was actually coming into my cockpit. I could feel it pouring in over my hip! My paddle had also been caught by a wave and it was almost under the boat, my right hand still clinging to it.

Sylvi, sitting in front of me, was horizontal and because we got tipped with no warning, there wasn't even time for her to brace. Or me. Her paddle was out of the water and in one hand.

As Sylvi says, thank goodness that both of us have some whitewater paddling skills because we essentially rolled out kayak upright using our hips, not paddles. That was so close. Neither of us wanted to swim in that frightfully cold water and we were both so relieved to be upright again. We only had a quarter-lap to go before having to portage, so we could empty the water from our boat.

We had eight laps in total and four portages to make it a good day out there.

We're still uncertain whether we turned correctly at the end - there was an extra bit of a lap to make up the final distance. We were either correct or we did about an extra three minutes of distance.

It was a good event and I'm keen to do more. In summer.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Solidarity haircut

A friend was diagnosed last week with breast cancer. Stage 3.

Last year she went for a mammogram which picked up benign cysts in her left breast. Two weeks ago she went for a biopsy after feeling swollen lymph nodes. Both the lymph nodes and cysts were declared malignant.

Last year I went for a mammogram to check out a lump. They diagnosed dense tissue and picked up two cysts.

We're a similar age. We're both sporty. We both don't have children.

She could be me.

Cancer doesn't discriminate. Instead of picking out animal-and-child abusers, murders and others with malicious intent, cancer seems to prey all to often on the better people of society. Special people. Friends and family.

Last week my friend, who has had long hair, said that she was going to chop off her hair, going for a pixie cut, to preempt chemo hairloss. I said I'd go with her and that I'd try a pixie cut too. Solidarity haircut.

She was in Jo'burg this week so she went to a hairdresser there on Tuesday. She looks amazing - transformed - and she has proclaimed that, "I should have done this years ago".

I went on Wednesday, here in Parys, and snip-snip-snip chopped my hair short. Probably the shortest that it has been for 20 years - since I first went from very long to very short. And I love it too.

Her second batch of results from tests and scans came back today. The good news is there is no sign of spread of cancer to lungs, abdomen or right breast. She waits now for medical aid approval and the chemo protocol from her oncologist.

None of us are immune.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

FEAT South Africa's official bye-bye announcement

About two weeks ago I received a lovely email from FEAT Canada director Sean Verret. He has done incredible things with FEAT Canada over the past six years. In his email Sean said that his FEAT Canada board had met and that they'd decided to end FEAT Canada. I understood completely as I've been struggling with the same dilemma for the past 18 months.

 As the founder of FEAT and creator of the concept, I didn't feel that I could just end FEAT - after all, I created it. Sean's email - and the decision by the board of FEAT Canada - gave me 'permission' to let go of FEAT too. FEAT Canada has just sent out their official announcement  (worth a read).

FEAT is not just a two-hour, one-night event. It takes months of planning and coordination and another whole chunk of months of writing adventure news stories, talking to people and keeping my ear to the ground. Like Sean and his team, organising FEAT meant that I wasn't getting out to do the things that I love. Last year, without having FEAT in October, I got to spend two weeks with my mom walking 320km of the Camino de Santiago route in Spain. I need more of this.

From October 2010 to October 2015 I had the pleasure of hosting 83 speakers on the FEAT stage from seven FEAT events and one FEAT Kids event. There are 75 videos of seven-minute FEAT South Africa talks on the FEAT YouTube channel for you to enjoy. Added to those from FEAT Canada, there are 198 videos of inspiring adventurers that share 75,000 views.

 On-the-day, FEAT came together because of a large team that included MCs, my sound guy (thank you Al - every FEAT event), audio-visual team, volunteers, ushers, photographers, videographers, video editor, sponsors and venue people. My singer-songwriter cousin, Roland Albertson, is the talent behind FEAT's theme tune which comes from his song 'White Wednesday'.

 FEAT - and all of you - have been such a big part of my life since mid-2010. FEAT had its time and now I need mine back. For adventures and to play more.

I am grateful for Sean's email which has given me 'permission' to also let go of FEAT and not to feel obligated to have to keep it going but, as Sean said later in his message to me, to celebrate what we and FEAT have achieved in these years.

 As I officially let go of FEAT, I feel a dash of pride in the event concept that I created and relief that I can say bye-bye now to it too.

 Thank you - speakers, supportive audience, sponsors and volunteers - for being part of this journey.

FEAT Canada's official bye-bye announcement

FEAT Canada has just released their official bye-bye announcement. Sean Verret and his team have been amazing. I'm copying their post below because it really sums up what goes into putting on a FEAT event.

Is it true? 

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably read either an email or social media post that says FEAT Canada and FEAT Kids are saying goodbye. Well what you have read is true and in the text below we’ll do our best to tell our story.

What have we done? 

 Before we say good bye, it’s worth realizing what we’ve created and how many people we’ve impacted. Since our first show in the Fall of 2011 we have hosted 7 adult shows and 4 kids shows. In total we’ve had 98 speakers, 11 sets of performers, and 11 MCs donate their time to help inspire you to get outside and test your limits. To put on those 11 shows our board of directors and over 200 volunteers have put in just over 10,000 hours of their time to entertain over 5000 live guests. Similarly, our online community of followers has reached nearly 5000 people including our newsletter and social media followers while our videos (including FEAT South Africa) have nearly 75,000 views since we started. Add all of those numbers up and we’ve reached nearly 100,000 people in one way or another during our tenure. Long story short, we’ve had impact. We’re extremely proud of this, and this makes it even harder to say goodbye. As Muhammad Ali once said, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth”, so we hope by saying goodbye that our rent cheques don’t bounce in the future…

Can’t we just put on one more show? 

Before we made this release, the most asked question was, “How about just one more show?”. It’s a question we’ve asked ourselves almost every year… One of our favourite FEAT Speakers spoke about the difficulty of getting to the start line and that we should celebrate start lines more than finish lines. We’ve managed to smash through 11 start lines and every single one has had its challenges, but we did it. We did it with an extremely passionate board of directors, a dedicated team of volunteers, and some paid help when everything just got too overwhelming. Many will never know how hard it has been to get to the start line for each of our shows, but in short our shows are a year long endeavour that starts shortly after the end of our last show and ends with the beginning of our next show. We might not be smashing though any more start lines, but we are crossing a finish line today with huge smiles on our faces and a few tears running down our cheeks.

So why are we saying goodbye? 

 Each individual on our board has a variety of reasons of both why we should continue and why we should say good bye. The most compelling dialog, however, is that while we’ve been inspiring others to get outside and do amazing things, we’ve neglected to do some of those things ourselves. Our team has decided, that while it is important to inspire others to be awesome and do amazing things, it is also just as important to live the lives that we attempt to inspire others to live. For that reason, we will no longer continue to put on the FEAT Canada and FEAT Kids events in the future.

Thank you

The last thing we want to say is thank you. We want to thank every single person who has helped us put on our events especially our speakers, performers, volunteers and partners. We want to thank the thousands of people who’ve attended our shows and watched our videos online. We want to thank the thousands of people who’ve interacted with us online and put smiles our our faces. Our tears are big today, but our smiles are even bigger.

Thank you for being a part of the FEAT Canada and FEAT Kids community.

Your FEAT Board of Directors
Sean Verret – Founder and Chair
Tiffany Melius – Vice Chair
Tanya Verret – Treasurer
Jami Savage – Director at Large
Caroline Walter – Secretary

Friday, 2 June 2017

22nd day of running - Hazel's Ten10 Challenge

As I got just over halfway in my annual birthday running challenge, I had one of the most inspiring runs ever.

My friend Hazel Moller is again logging massive miles for her annual Ten10 Challenge. She runs 10 Comrades distances between Johannesburg and Pietermaritzburg over 10 days with the 10th being Comrades itself. This year she has been joined on the road by Tumelo Mokobane, a long-time running friend of Hazel's. He has run a bunch of Comrades, ultras and 100 milers.

Hazel is passionate about animal welfare organisations. Over the past 20 years, as a runner putting in long miles in training, she has picked up countless strays on the road, which she has taken to welfare centres. She has also adopted a bunch of them.

Only two days before starting this Challenge, Hazel came away with grazed hands and knees after trying to catch a greyhound. Its neck was tied with a rope to its one foot and she thinks that it may have escaped from the nearby squatter camp. Greyhounds are used for hunting. Although she didn't manage to catch the poor thing, she says that it was at least heading in the right direction - away from the squatter camp.

Hazel does this incredible ultra-ultra-distance run each year to encourage friends and strangers to donate towards her fund, which goes to animal shelters to buy food and other expenses that these places incur. She values the work that they do and that there are these places to care for abandoned, neglected and abused pets.

We went down to KZN this weekend for work so I missed Hazel coming to Parys on Sunday. She stayed with my friends at Otters Haunt and my mom cooked a big meal for everyone.

Driving home on Tuesday, we met up with Hazel, her husband Chris and Tumelo on the road between Bethlehem and Clarens. Chris knew that I was coming but it was a complete surprise for Hazel. She was sitting on a stool having something to eat when we found them. I thought that she was going to fall off the stool!

She had been having a rough day, struggling with her lungs (she has asthma) and also her stomach (a flare up of an ulcer which affected her badly last year too). I ran a few kilometres with her.

Tumelo was near us and so I got to chat to him a few times. He is nursing a painful ITB inflammation but was still ticking along at a steady pace.

By the time I left Hazel she was in a better space and with only 15km to Clarens, she didn't have too much further (comparatively!) to go for the day.

She woke up with chest pains on Wednesday and went off to a doctor in Harrismith. An issue related to her asthma. It looks like the doctor sorted her out and got her back on the road. It looked like Day 7 went well.

Today is Day 8, Saturday will be Day 9 and Sunday will be their 10th and final run - Comrades itself.

I have known Hazel for very many years (actually, Tumelo too but more in passing from the running store where he worked, some events, and my old neighbourhood and first running club).

I burst with pride to see what Hazel accomplishes with her running - not just Ten10 but dozens of ultras where she excels. I'm crossing my fingers and toes too for Tumelo, that he nails this challenge. He has been going so very well.

On their Ten10 website you can see which route Hazel is on and you can join her for a few kilometres or 20. She welcomes company.

You can also find the details to donate money - by EFT or through GivenGain to PETS.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

The fate of FEAT

I'm good at a lot of things but I'm not very good at asking for money. When my wonderful and supportive sponsors of my adventure talks event FEAT went through a tough time in Dec 2015 and into early 2016 with the plummeting exchange rate (they're importers), I just couldn't face looking for new funding. FEAT is an event that doesn't generate enough funding just from ticket sales and so sponsorship is crucial. I also have to take on a bulk of the financial risk of presenting the event personally, with ticket sales only paying out post event. I just couldn't do it and so I decided to cancel FEAT 2016.

More than this, I realised that I was exhausted. Seven FEAT events and one FEAT Kids in five years. On top of Forest Run, Metrogaines, club involvements... just too much.

Putting the FEAT event together takes a good three to four months of my year. Sure, not 100% full-time work, but a considerable portion. That's excluding the time spent throughout the year keeping up with adventure news and writing stories for the FEAT website.

Getting a break from FEAT last year opened up my time and gave me the chance to spend two weeks with my mom walking a section of the Camino de Santiago route. With organising FEAT I spend so much time spent showcasing the adventures of others and no time spent enjoying adventures myself.

So 2016 passed and 2017 arrived and already we're five months of the year down.

In the last 18 months my life has changed considerably. I moved from Jo'burg to the town of Parys, got an instant family, created a new Forest Run, became the Event Director of our local Parys parkrun, am involved with our paddling club and I am establishing a new business - YOLO Colours - in an unfamiliar industry.

I haven't been able to see my way clear to being able to take on the risk of organising FEAT this year and being removed from the rush of Jo'burg, I feel quite out of planning and organising something in Jo'burg, far from my home.

FEAT Canada took place a few weeks ago. The FEAT Canada organiser, Sean Verret, has done wonders with his event. We 'met' when he first contacted me - I think it was shortly after my first FEAT event in October 2010. Sean, also an adventure racer, said that he would be interested in doing something similar in Vancouver, where he lives.

Sean jumped into FEAT and has not only presented high-quality, dynamic and captivating FEAT events, he also created the FEAT Kids version. Sean very much made FEAT his own and brought to it his strong organising skills, experience, passion and love for adventure.

Sean grew his event to bring on a team of people dedicated to tasks like social media, communication, sponsorship, venue liaison, ticketing and such. After 6.5 years Sean has presented seven FEAT events and four FEAT Kids events. Phenomenal!

Last week I received an email from Sean.
Our board of directors met last night and we decided to end FEAT Canada.  It was an extremely hard decision but the long story short is that the amount of time and energy that it takes for us to put on the event is impeding many of us from doing the fun things we like to do and inspire others to do with FEAT.
I can so relate to everything that Sean says. I am grateful for Sean's email which has given me 'permission' to also let go of FEAT and not to feel guilty nor obligated to have to keep it going but, as Sean says later in his message to me, to celebrate what we and FEAT have achieved in these years.

As I let go of FEAT, I feel a dash of pride in the event concept that I created and relief, as a result of Sean's email, that I can say bye-bye to it too.

I do still have some leftover FEAT Headband Buffs. As I type this in the winter chill of my office, I'm wearing one. It is my indispensable winter running-walking-sitting-visiting-doing piece of headwear. It fits right and it is neither too warm nor too cold on my head - even for running.

FEAT bye-bye special of R140 each. I can courier to you for R45 (door-to-door) and a bunch of these will fit into the flyer bag.

Monday, 22 May 2017

The magic of Forest Run

The 5th edition of my AdventureLisa's Forest Run took place on Saturday and we were blessed with the most perfect weather and a field of friendly and enthusiastic runners.

It is never easy out there - the Forest Run route is fairly technical and challenging. And as the day warmed up, the runners felt the heat.

What certainly makes Forest Run so very special are the people. The marshals are mostly made up of my friends and family, sometimes past runners, current runners' partners and sometimes strangers who hear about Forest Run and offer to volunteer.

In order of appearance on the route my magical fairies and elves this year included: Liz (my mom), Celliers (my fiance), Penny, Tersia, Sylvia, Andy, Maggi & Marcel (photographers), George & Joan, Sonja, Sarah, CP, Hugh & Taryn, Louise & Jan, Fred, Lizzy, Martie & JP, Karen, Tanja & Jacques, Warrin, Sharin, Duncan, Isaac & Lloyd (medics).

Martie made the delicious date squares this year. We've all eaten too many of them!

My mom Liz always puts in double-time on Forest Run, especially in the week before the event when she prepares meals for marshals, lunch packets for marshals (assisted this year by Martie) plus the food for the aid stations. It is a lot of work to shop, prepare, organise and pack everything and she does it so beautifully. She is also in command of the finish - recording the runner numbers and times as they reach the finish.

Celliers is my right-hand on the day and he keeps an eye on the waterpoints by dropping off marshals and driving through to check on them. We have little cell phone signal in most places of the route so it helps a great deal to have him doing the rounds.

Karen has helped me hugely this year with trail cutting and trail marking and she was out on the far side keeping an eye on the runners. We had a few issues with baboons taking down boards and markers in the week and as she knows the route as well as me, it was reassuring to have her keeping an eye on the spot where we know the baboons have been.

My marshals themselves... Some have been at Forest Run before - not just here but when it was out at Lakenvlei. They all have event experience - either from organising or a lot of participation or both. It so helps to have a team of people who have been at events before - who have been at this event before. With limited comms out there, I need people who can make decisions, deal with situations and who are adaptable to any situation that develops. They give me the freedom to stay at the finish to welcome the runners in.

Various marshals sweep from their points to collect the boards and tags that we put out. Sonja, Sylvi, CP, Sarah, Fred, Lizzy and Hugh cleared the route as they worked their way to their exit points. There is only one short section that doesn't connect with start-exit sections, which I'll clear this week.

Maggi and Marcel are my magical photographers and they'll be posting their photos on the Forest Run Facebook page in this week.

I left my fairy skirt at home on race day - in my hurry to leave the house I left it hooked over a chair. Nothing that some fairy wings didn't sufficiently remedy, but I did miss my skirt.

At the finish with two locals - Gerhard and Sean.
And then the runners. I'm sure Forest Run has the nicest collection of runners ever! This year I gave telephonic entries a try and many entrants went for this option - so I felt as if I knew many of them by the time race day arrived as we'd already 'met'. In addition to the usual email-entry-form entries, I also had entries by sms and whatsapp and Facebook Messenger! It was a bit of a juggle but actually worked really well.

For now I've got the results to type up, a report to write, runners to email, landowners to thank and a date to set for Forest Run 2018. I'll post a selection of my favourite photos later this week.


Friday, 12 May 2017

How about a Moo Igloo

Aside from two very full weeks with Forest Run trail preparations, our new product - the YOLO Moo Igloo - is in production and our first order gets dropped off at our local dairy Wynn-with Dairy Farm on Monday.

About a year ago they approached us about making calf hutches for them. We didn't have an oven wide enough at the time. Towards the end of last year we picked up the conversation and as of now we're able to make these beautiful calf hutches.

We've called our calf hutch a YOLO Moo Igloo and this is what it looks like.

A calf hutch is like a very large dog kennel for calves. The 'kennel' has an attached fence that makes a 'garden' and the calf lives in its own hutch-and-garden for up to three months, until its immune system is strong enough for it to join an outdoor living group. Hutches are spaced about a metre from each other so the calves can chat to each other.

These individual hutches are beneficial to the calves' health as they have their own food and water, their health can be easily monitored (easy to see if they're not drinking or eating and if they have diarrhoea) and the spread of diseases is limited - think runny nose in a nursery school. Of course the hutches provide shelter from the sun, wind, rain and cold.

We weren't initially going to make the pens, but then the dairy suggested we go for it as an option for farmers. Some farms will have existing pens that they can just attach to our Moo Igloo, but those expanding their herd may prefer just to get this pen from us together with hutches instead of making their own fencing. The cool thing about our pen is that it pivots to tilt upwards so that the hutch with pen can be dragged by a worker to a new spot. Being easy to move is a great feature - our local dairy moves their pens every week so that the calf has fresh grass under their hooves and to lie on.

There is a BIG agricultural show next week, NAMPU, and Wynn-with kindly invited us to have our YOLO Moo Igloo on their Valtrac stand (farming equipment). We're going through for the day on Tuesday and are so excited about being there. Just over a week later is the Royal Agricultural Show in Pietermaritzburg and our calf hutch will be there too. We'll plan to go along at least for a day too.

If you know any people with calves, sheep, goats, chickens or very big dogs, please direct them our way. 

Our range of YOLO products is slowly starting to grow. We've got the YOLO Compost Tumblers in our YOLO Green (garden) category and now this YOLO Moo Igloo in our YOLO Yellow (agricultural) range. Very exciting!

Monday, 8 May 2017

41 Days of Running begins tomorrow

Seven years ago I started a pre-birthday tradition of running every day for the number of days of the age that I'm turning. Every year the start date gets earlier... Tomorrow is my 2017 start date for "41 Days of Running".

I've got a very full plate with Forest Run coming up in two weeks and I'm quite certain that one run I may not get around to is on Forest Run day. Nonetheless, the challenge is on. This year I also have an energetic doggy companion, Rusty, as an added motivator.

Since having her in my life I have found it far easier to get out for runs because even when I'm bogged down with commitments, where I may not prioritise myself to get out for a run for me, I'll get out for a run for her. She is very good for me.

She did her second parkrun on Saturday and set a new PB of 30:35. Together we're still slower than me on my own (by 5 minutes), but as her fitness improves she'll be pushing me!

The combination of Rusty and this annual birthday game should be an excellent combination for my fitness improvement over the next 41 days.


First canoe triathlon

Yesterday I did my first canoe triathlon with my friend Sylvi. It was hosted at Rietvlei Dam in Centurion by TrailAdventure (Shane Gouldie is the organiser). We entered under the name "Parys Poppies" hahahaha

The event started at 07h00 so we slept over in JHB to have a quick drive to the start. We got there just after 6am. Very early! It was around 10 C, so not too cold. By the time we started at 7 I was in short sleeves.

The paddle
Sylvi and I have paddled four time trials together in her K2 and we're rocking. We had to paddle four loops of the course - around buoys. When we set off there was mist above the water - very pretty. We had an excellent paddle and were one of the first boats off the water.

Neither Sylvi nor I bike very often but we were game for this 20km bike ride. It was just right for us with a bit of jeep track, dirt road and not too much technical. We lost our lead in the women's race to the pink pair, who were way better mountain bikers. 20km is a really great distance for a short and fast race.

The run
The final leg was a 5km run. This was on a grassy track cut into the side of the hill. It wound and meandered and made up the distance. Not very exciting but not terrible either. We took it very chilled and rocked in at the finish.

We clocked in at 2:39 for the course and were the second women's pair.

We didn't take any photos and thought we'd find a few from the event. Nothing up yet. But I did see this on FB -  a pic taken by a supporter of the pink pair. I'm hiding in the shadows; Sylvi is next to me.

Thank you teammie - that was fun!

Friday, 28 April 2017

9 Freedom Runs for Freedom Day 2017

Last year I participated in the 9 Freedom Runs for Freedom Day and yesterday I had the pleasure of doing it again. This is a concept created by my friends Staci and Francis. When they first held the event in 2015, there were only 9 parkruns in Johannesburg. There are now many more. Each year they choose 9 parkruns and on Freedom Day (27 April), a public holiday in South Africa, we run each one, driving from venue to venue.

Last year I only ran 8 of the 9 as I drove through in the morning from Parys and started with the second one. This year I drove through the afternoon before, slept over and was in Benoni for the first one at 6am.

This event also gave me a wonderful opportunity to hang out with friends throughout the day. I travelled with Sarah for the first five, then with Tania for the next four and then Allison gave me a lift to my uncle's house. I had the pleasure of running with Allison, Sarah, Tania and Cindy (she came to the first two and then did some in Pretoria) and seeing other running (and orienteering) friends throughout the day.

There were a bunch of parkrunners in for all 9 and many others there to enjoy only a couple, plus parkrunners joining us at their home parkrun. We had a good crowd at each venue.

This was the line up for this year's 9 Freedom Runs for Freedom Day (Facebook page):

The schedule is tight! A new concept was introduced this year: leapfrog. You do only every second one, which allows for more time for participating and travel between events.

We were running consistently between 28-32 minutes, heading back to our car, drinking something, driving and getting to each venue with about 15 minutes before each start. Tight.

#1 Ebotse parkrun - 31:25

Ebotse parkrun is in Benoni and it was our first parkrun of the day. We got there in the dark and started to run as the sun was coming up. This one was filled with as much talking as running as I caught up with Sarah, Tania, Cindy and Allison along the way. It is a pretty route and a very pleasant parkrun.

#2 Springs parkrun - 29:10

More catching up and chatting for us girls at Springs parkrun. It was colder here than in Benoni and we were quite chilled until later in the run. This is a lovely park with a snaking route through large trees. It is a fast and flat route and very pleasant.

Tania and me with Sarah and Cindy just behind.

Tania and me.
Sarah, Cindy and me. 
We also had a nice hello here with orienteer Ian Bratt.

Orienteers at Freedom Runs - Tania, Sarah, Cindy, me and Ian.
#3 Boksburg parkrun - 28:16

The day had started to warm up by the time we got to the Boksburg stadium for the Boksburg parkrun. Another good route and a good time, despite Tania and I talking the hind leg off a donkey. Not too much climb here and some sweet sections. Good use of the area.

#4  Victoria Lake parkrun - 28:28

My first visit to this side of of the lake in many, many years - like since I was a child. Victoria Lake parkrun in Germiston is a two-lap route and is very pleasant, flat and fast. I ran this one with Tania and again we chatted from start to finish. Nice and warm now but fortunately with a cool breeze too.

#5 Rietvlei parkrun - 29:55 (28:20 last year, but it was only #3 for me then)

Sarah, Tania and I started out together at Rietvlei parkrun in Alberton. I ran here last year and I've been here for orienteering - it is a super venue. What was different this year is that they changed the direction of the route and this way is much better, especially as you have a mostly downhill finish. After halfway our trio started splitting up. Tania blazed up the hills - I took a little walkie to catch my breath and stretch out my legs.

This was Sarah's last parkrun as she has four days of orienteering over this long weekend. With a nice 25km in the bag, I transferred my kit to Tania's car, we all said bye and Tania and I headed off to Albert's Farm.

#6  Alberts Farm parkrun - 30:26 (31:26 last year and #5 then)

I actually had a good run at the Alberts Farm parkun, which is on the southern slope of Northcliff hill. I also know this venue very well from orienteering.

My time was a minute faster than last year - very surprising. Of course I had a walkie up a few hill sections plus even on the flat at the bottom of the park. My legs were needing the stretching but overall not feeling too bad. Definitely no chatting from me at this point. Allison and Tania are really good on the hills, which they ran. Another one in the bag.

Almost at the finish...
#7 - Golden Harvest parkrun - 31:58 (33:49 last year, also my 7th)

This is such a great venue for parkrunning and orienteering and I've been here many times over the year. Golden Harvest parkrun is one of the best parkrun routes - it really is a beautiful park and the route has so much diversity in scenery and terain. Again a better time than last year, which is great. And I had a few walkies too.

#8 - Midstream parkrun - 30:37

Held in the huge Midstream estate, this is a relatively new parkrun. The inaugural event held a few weeks ago has 1,200-odd participants! This is the most dull parkrun route that I've run. I can totally see the need for start and finish locations with sufficient parking space, which this has, but the actual route itself is uninspiring. There are so many pedestrian paths in the estate but I can definitely see the limitation of route options around parking requirements and the course being able to support so many runners. When you're a parkrun with over 1,000 participants, this is a big issue.

Tania, Allison and I ran this one together. Not much chatting. The route is mostly flat with a very slight uphill for the last two kilometres.

This one was very tight for time with parkrunners leaving Golden Harvest to get here and to run and then head to Bryanston.

#9 Bryanston parkrun - 29:10  (30:27 last year, also the last parkrun)

The group of parkrunners who did all 9 Freedom Runs
And finally, the 9th parkrun - Bryanston parkrun. Tania and I ran most of the way together and it felt good to hit the final one.

This is an out-and-back along the Braamfontein Spruit and is a pleasant run. I have no idea how the route supports >1,000 parkrunners each Saturday! I'll stick to enjoying it on Freedom Day when the numbers are low and the route is enjoyable.

9th parkrun done.
Orienteering friends Richard and Alison joining me and Tania at Bryanson (Jess there too but we only saw her afterwards).
After the run, we said goodbyes and Allison gave me a lift back to my uncle's house. After a hot shower and a cup of tea I headed back to Parys. After waking up at 04h40, 45km of running, 200km of driving between parkruns and then 140km back to Parys, it was little wonder that my eyes didn't stay open for very long once my head hit the pillow.

Girlfriends, it was awesome to hang and run with you for the whole day. My warm thanks to Staci and Francis for organising and to all of the Event Directors and volunteers for hosting these Freedom Day parkruns. See you all again next year.