Monday 30 October 2006

Rogaine: How to get up a waterfall

What an awesome event this weekend! Of the 4 Rogaine events held annually this was certainly the best in terms of strategy and difficulty.

At previous events it was possible for all controls to be collected within the time period. But this year... it was impossible to run (and bike) this entire area to locate all controls. So, decisions really were about going North or South and how far you would be prepared to go to efficiently collect as many points as possible in the event time period (8hr for foot and 6hrs for bike). And, the best thing is that we barely saw any other pairs the whole time because the route options were not clear and defined. It was wide open. So, only when you got to the end could you find out where people had gone and how you'd done.

The Kaapse Hoop area is mountainous and the terrain - inside and outside of the forests - is tough. Aside from a couple of older, smooth forests, the rest was damn difficult going and much of the time you were either ascending or descending.On Saturday Tania and I had a fabulous and challenging route. If you're still wondering how we got up the waterfall... path to the valley floor, rock fall that Tania cunningly spotted and a body-width crack in the cliff that I fortunately found... phew!

Must say... we made a bloops in the beginning (at least we didn't run 180° in the wrong direction like we did last year) and got trapped by fences and vegetation but then warmed up, then took a dodgey route into the ravine and thought we'd lost loads of time. But we hadn't done too badly. A highlight of the morning was seeing a caracal catch a little buck (maybe a duiker? Couldn't see it clearly 'cos the caracal had wrapped itself - and its jaws - around the little thing). First time I've see a caracal up close in the wild. We walked far more than last year and so it was only when we got to the finish that we realised that we'd done ok in terms of route. Those that went North did a lot of running.

On Sunday it was the mountain bike Rogaine (3hr and 6hr options), which I did with Tim. I'm a lazy mountain biker so the mountains we'd covered the day were additionally daunting; it's one thing going up on your own, it's another pushing your bike up too.We did well for the first 3rs and then tried to take a ride indicated on the map up the side of the mountain from #2 to #1 - big points controls. We were ok for a while and then the trail fizzled and we were in bush. We hunted around, couldn't find access so we backtracked. We probably lost about 30-mins. We nabbed the next two controls and from #7 decided to head to the road end in the valley and bike-carry up the valley side (southern) to the road. We actually did pretty well until confronted by a cliff wall. Soooooo close to the road (probably about 50m) but we just couldn't get through. We tracked downwards again, sliced by vines and fallen branches. This was a strategic move that didn't pay off. That was a whack of time lost and we ended up flying back - on the main road - in the pelting rain, to finish late. I think we lost something like 175 points!

If this move had paid off... oh well... all part of the strategy eh?

Pieter, George, Joan, Botha family and all the other helpers and assistants who hung and collected the 80 controls that were spread around this massive area... thank you for putting this wonderful event on. Rogaines (and other orienteering events) are that much more intensive because of the mapping that has to happen. Pieter put in weeks of work in creating this map.

Tania and Tim, you're wonderful teammates and I thoroughly enjoyed our adventures.

Adventure racers... diarise the Rogaine for next year. It is the best way to really work on your navigation and is an exceptionally challenging orienteering discipline.

Pieter, consider my entry already in for next year. x

Friday 27 October 2006

Rogaine racing

I am so excited because this weekend it is the annual Capestorm Rogaine. Rogaining is an orienteering discipline that has you roaming the hills and valleys in search of orienteering controls. But that's not all... The controls are assigned a points value according to their location and difficulty. A control located furtherest from the event base will be weighted more heavily than one easy to find and close to home. The objective of the game is to return to base within the prescribed time period. If you're late? You lose a chunk of points for every minute that you're late.

This year there are two foot Rogaine categories for Saturday. Pairs (you always compete as a pair) can enter either the 2.5hr or 8hr events. For the mountain bike rogaine on the Sunday there are 3hr and 6hr events.

How it works is that you're given a map at the start. The location of all the controls for the event are printed on the map - little red circles. You then have to plan a route that will efficiently take you to as many controls as possible so that you're not zig-zagging all over the place like a headless chicken. Towards the end you'll probably find yourself bolting for home before the cut-off 'cos you really don't want to lose the points you've worked so hard to collect.

When you're out there the time really disappears as you're so focused on finding the controls. But, 8hrs is still a long time. The best thing about Rogaining, especially for novices, is that you can stay out as long or as short as you want to. When you're tired, you return to base, even if it is after only 6hrs. Participation is key.

Interestingly, an 8hr event would be considered "short" abroad where major Rogaines are generally 12hr or 24hrs in duration (the shorter time periods are not uncommon). Unsurprisingly, adventure racers tend to do pretty well. Infact, Michael Tobin and Mike Kloser, of Team Nike fame, won the Rogaine World Championships in 2003 when the event was held in the US.

I'll be running with my orienteering friend Tania. We ran together for the first time last year and had a wonderful experience. In regular orienteering we're "rivals", looking to win events and score max points towards the annual orienteering log. This was the first time that we'd orienteerer together and it was brilliant.

What was really neat is that we sometimes see slightly different routes from one point to the next, which we discuss while running (we each run with a map). Sometimes we may pick my route, other times we'll pick hers and sometimes we combine sections to create the most effective attack. The thing here is that there's no right or wrong when it comes to route choice; some routes are just better than one and together we discover routes we wouldn't have seen on our own. It's really invigorating.

Aside from wanting to keep our paws on our ladies trophy, we're aiming to a decent overall ranking. Competition is stiff and this event is won from speed and cunning.

On Sunday there's a mountain bike orienteering event. I'm doing the 6hr one with Tim. It's going to be great fun as I missed the mtb events last year and the year before. Woooo hoooo!

Now, as I type, I'm sooooo excited about the events this weekend. I've just spoken to Tania and she's just as thrilled. Rogaining my ultimate event because it combines my two favourite disciplines (running and navigation) with my two favourite elements (distance and time) and a dash of excellent companionship.

In advance... Pieter Mulder, thank you for putting on this event again. It's my 4th out of 4 and you can definitely count me in next year for my 5th ;)

Tania and Tim, I'm really looking forward to playing with you in the forests this weekend.

I'm outta here...

Monday 16 October 2006

Is it a sport or a skill?

I've never liked golf. And, my dislike doesn't really have anything to do with the game as much as the extensive television coverage. Have you ever tried running for 60-minutes on a treadmill with only golf to watch?

I'm a treadmill junkie and for years I've vaguely watched golf, tennis, cricket, soccer and rugby purely because they're screened at gym 24/7. These are 5 major sports and I've never been partial to any of them. My favourite month is July, when Tour de France dominates because I run like the wind, keeping pace with the cyclists. I also enjoy coverage of marathons (Olympic), track (everything from 100m - 10 000m), summer winter Olympics (variety and novelty viewing) and anything that has a bit of pace and is inspirational (I'd love to run 3:20 kilometers).

Tim plays golf and I always tease him about this game being a skill and not a sport. I appreciate the dexterity, agility and hours and hours of practise that it takes to make the little white ball go where you want it, but there's no heart rate acceleration due to physical effort (I'm talking extended time over 140bpm, not just stress/pressure/tension related increases).

A sport is defined as an activity requiring physical ability, physical fitness or physical skill which usually, but not always, involves competition between two or more people.

A skill is defined as an ability, usually learned and acquired through training, to perform actions.

So, it seems that there's a bit of skill in sport and no sport in skill... ?

Consider orienteering... it's definitely a sport of skill and it's this dimension that keeps me coming back for more. Over the years I've minimised the destruction my errors cause but there's still room for (a lot) of improvement. I have never had an absolutely perfect run; there's the 30-seconds wasted here and the less-desireable route-option there... In striving for that 'perfect run', I'll keep coming back till I'm well over-the-hill. The mental appeal will outlive my physical prowess.

Then, we get back to golf...
I went with Tim to a driving range about 2-weeks ago. I sat and watched the people and enjoyed the evening air. I tried my hand at the chipping green and felt like I was playing putt-putt; and it was pretty fun. But, I also wanted to whack the ball and see whether I could make it fly on the driving range. Defending my pride and ego, I decided to phone the place and arrange for a lesson so that the next time I went I'd at least know how to hold the club...

Well, I had my first lesson on Saturday... and troops, I hope it's not too late for me to make my fortune as a pro. That little white devil flew as straight as an arrow and a number of times missed the hole by no more than a meter or three. What a kick! And my new coach was thrilled. I booked another lesson for next week.

Would you believe... I went to the driving range on my own last night, whacked balls for an hour and came home quite pleased with myself.

Like orienteering, I can feel the need to achieve that "perfect" shot. I'll be back at the range later this week.

So, am I a covert? Nah... not completely. I'm happy with the driving range (for now) and I still don't like to watch golf on the telly when I'm on the treadmill. But, next time it's on I'll defintely be checking the players' posture, form and swing...

Monday 9 October 2006

Running training: 3-weeks done

I'm now about to start my 4th week on Norrie's "10km in 45-minutes" programme. You want to know how it is going?

Overall - pretty good. But, I will confess that I haven't stuck to the programme 100% and I haven't been 100% consistent. But... I've definitely upped my running over the past 3-weeks and I'm thoroughly enjoying the fartlek sessions.

This past week (week 3 of the programme) the speed intervals were just that bit harder than before. On Tuesday I had to do 4 x 400m in 1:40 with 2-minute rest between sprints and on Friday I did 3 x 800m in 3:30 with a 4-minute rest between sprints. The thing with fartlek is that you start with a warmup (I do 3km to warm up) then you do the speed session and then you cool down (I do a 3km cooldown). To cover the 400m distance and the 800m distance I run at 14.5km/hr on the treadmill. For the rest sessions, I slow the machine down to 10.5km/hr and get my breath back at this easy pace.

This programme is meant to be done on a track but I do confess to being a treadmill junkie. I like the controlled environment of the treadmill. When I set a speed, I have to stick to it (or risk being flung off the back!); on the road or track you can slack off.

The 800m intervals were good, hard work and I definitely relaxed into them more towards the end.

Yesterday (Sunday), I ran the Germiston 15km with my friend Heather Graz, who was up in Joburg from Cape Town. We had a lovely run, chatting the whole way, and finished in an easy 1h24. I was feeling terrible before the start - the result of two consecutive late nights and early mornings. For a change I wasn't pushing for a time and instead enjoyed running with my friend and catching up on news.

I'm definitely feeling faster and stronger - certainly a result of the speed workouts. My basic "easy" speed on the treadmill is up and I'm finding the max speed, 16km/hr, quite comfortable for sprint sessions.

This week the intensity goes up a notch. On Tuesday I'll run 5 x 400m in 1:40 with 2-min rest between sprints and then on Friday 3 x 100m in 4:20 with 5-min rest is on the cards. The other days are easier runs ranging from 5-8km.

As always, I'm cross training. Before my treadmill sessions I ride the spin bikes for 15-20mins. My run is followed by stairmaster (all-time favourite), circuit weights and an eliptical trainer session. Sometimes all three, other days only 2 of the 3 variations; depending on time.

There are 4-weeks left of this programme. If you're working on your running, let me know how it is going.

Monday 2 October 2006

How often do you race?

I get asked this question quite often and I presume it's due to and my AR writing for magz and such.

My answer? Not often. My racing history has been somewhat dishevelled. In '99, 2000 and 2001 there weren't that many races and most were distance. I did a good number in that time before starting to work on the Adventure Zone tv crew. Accordingly, 2002 was a very exciting year and I attended most adventure races but to work, not play. I also got overdosed on AR.

I got back into it in 2003 with a short race or two and my annual favourites, the 250km Swazi Xtreme and 8hr Rogaine. I also got back into road running with a few races (in the late 90's I used to do races most weekends) and ventured abroad to run Jungle Marathon 250km in Brazil.

I still raced intermittantly in 2004 (Swazi again) and then got into online race coverage, which is where my travels started. Away a lot from late-2004 and through to the end of 2005 there was no way I could commit to a team and when I was home I preferred to stay home. But, I did get to do 2 x 50-milers in 2004 (in the US) and the 250km Coastal Challenge ultra (Costa Rica) and Swazi and Surf2Rock in 2005. I also attended a number of short races where I took photos and helped with marshalling and such.

This year I've had a bit of a focus on ultra running and am trying to get my run times down. I ran a 100-miler in Jan, a 12hr circuit race in April, did Swazi X end-April and Puffer at the end of August. I up for my 4th 8-hr Rogaine end-Oct and probably Skyrun in early Dec.

My racing preference is for long distance and multiday races and I'm not likely to take part in many sprints (they're hard work!). I also like to race less frequently so that when a race is coming up I get sooooo excited to be taking part. I don't want to become blase and feel that it's "just another race".

Finally, organising a team, support crew and all the other bits is admin. I do a lot of admin and organising daily and there are times when I'm just not into any more of it, even if it is for a race.

Still, I do think it is really neat to race often. It is fun, motivating and social: road running races do this for my running training.

So, while I remain actively involved in AR, you're not likely to see me at ARs every month but inbetween you'll see me on the road, at orienteering or on trails running an ultra.