Tuesday 20 December 2005

Merry, Merry, Happy, Happy... Hoorah!

With just over a week until we ring in the New Year I'm gettin' into a reminiscing mood - reflecting on a year that has flown past... once again. Yet it's weird how January seems so far away now.

My year seems to be metered by the reduction in the length of the AR Calendar, from which entries drop as weekends pass; major international events, which I've had the fortune to attend; and changes to www.AR.co.za. I usually revamp the site every 12-odd months but this year I've made 2 major cosmetic changes!

In 2005 we saw 3 SA teams travelling abroad; Jabberwock to the Arctic Team Challenge and Powerade Cyanosis and Energy to the AR World Champs. We also had a number of notable foreign teams on SA soil.
2006 is going to rock too. Team MadScientists (you'll hear more about them in the next month - Michael & Heather Graz, Wessel Cronje and Jonathan St Clair) will be competing in the Patagonia Expedition Race in Chile in mid-February and Powerade Cyanosis and DueSouth have their sights set on Primal Quest in the US in late-June. You'll be able to follow daily coverage of these events right here on AR.co.za - yippee!
[UPDATE: Team Jabula (Shaun Wright, Kerensa Argyriou, Jerry Argyriou and Tim Sindle) will be participating in Australia's XPD from 20 Feb - 3 March. Living abroad now, they're ex-teammembers of local teams Linden Cycles, Scarpa and Terramanzi]

I'm also very proud of our new photo gallery. The system is run by smugmug, a US-based service. I first used Checkpointzero.com's setup to upload images during Raid World Champs, the Salomon Russia 250km and again during the AR World Champs. It's so user-friendly and is easy to customise. I then wanted my own gallery for AR.co.za. I've been very impressed with their system, their reasonable pricing structure and also with their efficient and friendly customer service.

Advertisers don't walk off the street everyday and the ones that come through to AR.co.za are looking for something specific - you! These advertisers are just so precious and are vital to the continued existance of AR.co.za. They support us and our sport, please support them. I'd like to thank Run Like a Girl, Salomon, First Ascent, Landrover G4 Challenge, Eden Challenge (Jan Heenop), Kreature.co.za, Montrail, Magneticsouth.net (John Collins), Black Diamond (RAM Mountaineering) and the Mondi Shanduka Newsprint Challenge (Les Willows) for their belief over this past year.

Phew! This next year is going to be even busier and will see even more advancements to the site.
I'd like to thank all of you too for your support of AR.co.za; looking through the calendar, reading the articles, sending through your reports and photographs and general browsing around. AR.co.za will soon turn 5-years old and every year our traffic has advanced. Here's to continued growth and informative content in 2006. Cheers!

Finally, my wishes to all of you for a warm festive season and year ahead of good health, improved racing and of course, success & happiness in all areas of your life.

Friday 25 November 2005

Walking with Heros

AR World Champs had many interesting points but the highlight for me was walking down the beach on the last stage of the race with Team Nike Balance Bar. I have had the privilege of getting to know the team members - Ian Adamson, Mike Kloser, Michael Tobin & Monique Merrill - over the past year and my respect and admiration for the team just continues to grow.

On Saturday, at the second of the two river crossings on the beach, I was waiting for the team to arrive. Actually, I was sleeping in the car, catching a little shut-eye, when they were spotted on the horizon. Derek Paterson, a fellow journo and friend with whom I was travelling, came to the car to wake me from what was a very, very sound slumber. It was a well deserved nap as I only got to bed after 4am when I'd finished typing my reports.

I watched the team approach and then started running down the beach to get away from all the other photograpers on the shore. The team approached steadily. For a while I kept bounding ahead of them, snapping pics (I have a theory... taking pictures is sometimes like bird-shot. The more you take, the more chance you have of getting a good one). My photographer friend Tony di Zinno caught up to us while I was walking with Mike Kloser, asking questions about their race. Tony, camera at the ready, offered to take a photo. Ian Adamson joined us and I now have a very, very treasured photograph of me walking with the team and two of my heros, Mike and Ian.

You know when you have a special moment? Walking along the beach with this teams was one of them for me. And, I am just so fortunate to have had Tony there to capture the moment. Thank you Tony D.

Monday 7 November 2005

If the shoe fits

On Thursday evening last week I went to a talk on running shoes presented by Norrie Williamson. This was good timing, especially following recent postings on the AR mailing list about suitable AR shoes.

My philospohy about shoe purchasing is a simple one: Go to a store that stocks a good range. Pull out everything they've got in your size. Try them all on and purchase the shoe that fits the best. Do not buy anything that "may be ok once I've worn them in a bit". And remember that even though I rave about my Salomon GCS Pro's and my Adidas TR Response shoes (and your buddy raves about his/her shoes), it doesn't mean they're going to be right for you. And, not all models within a brand will suit your feet.

As a result of Norrie's presentation, I'm trying out a new lacing system, which is more open and puts less pressure on the top of my foot (see diagram). I'm also going to 'alter' my old running shoes, which are straight lasted, so that they allow more mid-foot flexibility and side-to-side torsion - like a curve lasted shoe.

The lacing change is an easy one to make and I will admit to being chicken about making any major changes to a set-up that already works for me, especially as I don't have trouble with my feet or joints. But, this time I am keen to experiment because even though I'm not having any problems, these changes may further improve my running (on and off-road) and be better for my feet and joints long-term. And, if I don't give it a bash, I'll never know eh?

Shoes are made for a wide-spread, generalised group yet we're individual with different feet, running styles, biomechanics and preferences. There are many modifications (minor and major) that you can make to transform your shoes from decent to perfect. Don't be afraid to do so.

In his book, "Everyone's guide to distance running", Norrie has written a section on shoes: what to look for, what things like Air, Gel, Torsion and other technological features are about and he has a really good "shoe questionaire", that you can complete and take with you to a shoe store to assist in refining your purchase. On- and off-road, the principles are the same. Bear in mind that you won't get any decent advice from bulk/general sports stores. A specialist running store would be your best bet... The only problem with this equation is that educated specialist stores seldom stock a good range of off-road shoes.

My feet are my life and accordingly shoes are my most important equiment items. This probably applies to you too. Ask your friends what they like about different shoes, consider your options and try on everything. Techno jargon aside, if the shoe fits, wear it.