Thursday 31 December 2009

Running, not ringing, in the New Year

A bunch of us went through to the New Year's eve for an Old Years 10km road run in Pretoria. The run started at 5pm so it was still very hot outside (Nic's car said it was 32C when he arrived at 16h30). A pleasant route winding through the suburb of Rietondale.

There's nothing like a nice festive run to welcome another year.

Wishing you all health, fitness, happiness and fulfillment over the next year.

Tommy, Sarah, Mike, Lisa, Nicholas, Garry T and Alex

Rietondale is a lovely leafy suburb. The route was confined to a small area where it meandered up, down and between residential blocks. The course is a double-lapper where the second 5km lap is only a little different to the first. There were three places where residents had their garden sprinklers on - we all made a bee-line for the water.

Nicholas, Garry and Alex shooting the breeze post run.

Next career... showgirl? With my 'Old Years Run' medal...

World Run runner in SA

In 2005 and 2006 he ran 26,000 kilometers around the World, travelling West-East from Europe and through Asia, Australia and North America. 38 year old Jesper Olsen is currently running North-South from Europe, the Middle-East and through Africa. He has just entered South Africa from Swaziland.

World Run 1 (two years, 26,000km)

World Run 2 (currently underway; started July 2008)

Jesper has logged just over 19,200km in the past 18-months! As he runs through South Africa he'll generally be following the N2 highway from Swaziland, through KZN, Eastern Cape and along the coast to Cape Town.

Jesper welcomes runners on the road with him - you can check the Live Coverage tracking on the World Run website to locate him (he is passing Pongola Dam). Jesper generally covers 30 – 45 km a day, at about 6min/km.

He also appreciates a comfy bed, good meal and friendly company so if you live near his route, do make contact with Phil Essam, Jesper's logistics guy ( We already have a number of people who will be hosting Jesper, with lots of space for more hospitality. And if you've got a few days on your hands you can be a support driver for Jesper.

If you are able to accommodate Jesper, the general procedure is as follows:

You first make contact with Phil letting him know where you are located. He'll plan you into Jesper's itinerary and send you confirmations. Jesper will then make contact with you via mobile phone (sms) as he nears your neck of the woods. You pick him up at the end of his ‘run day’ and then take him to your home for the night: a meal, bed and then take him back to spot where you picked him up the previous day to continue his run - perhaps join him for a bit? Phil (his vital support link, based in Canberra) describes, "I think the biggest thing Jesper likes and appreciates is people joining him on the road for a run, kind words and conversation and the bed/meal for the night". It's just a great way for Jesper to experience a country.

Jesper, welcome to South Africa!

Wednesday 30 December 2009

Kaalvoet (barefoot) insights

Earlier this week I posted about Kaalvoet Jaco Swart, the guy who is walking around South Africa on bare feet; yip, no shoes.

I was very interested in the condition of his feet - blistering, bruising, thickness of his soles, thorns, walking surfaces etc. I dropped him an email in the morning and was delighted to receive a reply from him last night. Jaco got married in early December so he is currently at home with his wife. Heading out again shortly after New Year.

This is what Jaco has to say about his feet...

Lisa: Pre-trip preparation?
Jaco: Because I am not a competitive athlete of any sort and the fact that the objective of Kaalvoetsolo is not a record attempt, but a personal pilgrimage, I did no formal preparation before the journey, apart from not wearing any shoes for two months.

Lisa: How did your feet adapt to daily walking? I assume you're not getting any blisters between your toes and that your soles have thickened substantially? Any peeling skin because of your thickened soles?
Jaco: My feet are holding up extremely well, after almost 4000km, they feel quite strong. But, I have to add, I wake up every morning with sore feet. The terrain I walk on varies so much, my feet have to continuously adapt to anything from gravel, rocks, tar, sand and thorn-strewn footpaths.

When I set off from Cape Town on 15 January 2009, my feet took extreme punishment for the first two weeks. As you would know, Cape Town has very few and short beaches towards Cape Point and Muizenberg, so the first six days meant that I walked 98km out of 106km on tar, with only 8km between Noordhoek and Scarborough, along the beach. 

As for peeling skin, I made a shocking discovery, three days BEFORE I set off, when both feet just started peeling without apparent reason. No blistering, pain, sensitivity or anything; the thick skin literally just started coming off like heavy dandruff. So I started the walk on virgin soles, which is probably why I had bad blisters by the end of day 1. These broke on the morning of day 2. Apart from resting up for a week or more, my only alternative was to bind my feet with plaster, the broad white Elastoplast one we used for 1500m on tartan when we were at school.

From Hermanus to Kosi Bay, most of my walking was on sandy beaches, forest footpaths and coastal rocks, which made it much easier and my feet recovered quickly. I have not had any blisters at all since then, but I often suffer from bruising of the soles, as well as abrasion, with the soles wearing so thin that they sometimes start bleeding. But this happens almost exclusively on tar. Gravel and other rocky terrain also ontribute to the bruising. My favourite surface is firm moist sand at low tide and my least favourite... well, no guesses, it is tar. If I never have to walk on tar, ever again, it would still be too soon.

As you surmised, I have had no blisters or chafing on any other other parts of my feet, such as between my toes.

Lisa: I saw a photo in your gallery of those devil thorns in your feet. Do your hardened soles protect against the thorns?
Jaco: I cannot say that thorns do not bother me, but those smaller devil thorns and "duwweltjies" are not much of a problem anymore. It is only the bigger stuff like acasia and spike thorns that I still have to watch out for. However, it is excruciating when I get a thorn in those softer parts [between my toes].

Lisa: Have you been treating your feet with anything to harden them?
Jaco: I sometimes treat my feet with meths [methylated spirits] to make the soles hard and Dubbin [commonly used to treat and waterproof leather hiking boots] to give them back their suppleness.

Lisa: The return to barefoot running is a current movement. Shoes seem to contribute more to injuries than not because they alter your natural foot strike pattern, causing more impact and biomechanical imbalances. Because of being barefoot, I'm assuming that you haven't had much problem with joints, tendons, knees and ankles?
Jaco: I have always maintained that barefoot is healthier because it is more natural. As a child, we never had real running shoes and we never had any problems with the injuries that are now "typical" to running. It was only since I started running with shoes, in the army and after, that I developed shin splints, sore ankles and tendonitis. My knee has not given me any trouble so far, but I am prone to inflammation, and have had a few episodes of inflamed hip joints and same in my left ankle, all of which, in retrospect, I attribute to bouts of over exersion, my own fault.

Barefoot running seems like a great new trend to me, provided it takes place on natural surfaces. Just like we were not originally designed to wear shoes, we were also not meant to do our running on tar and concrete. My personal experience has convinced me of this.

Lisa: Are you walking and running, or just walking?
Jaco: On this journey, I have only been walking. Since my days in the army, it has been a firm resolve of mine, to never, ever run with a hiking pack on my back again!

Jaco contines his pilgrimage shortly after New Year. He'll be dropped off in Mafikeng, where he was picked up pre-wedding, to continue his journey. He walk through the Kalahari and Richtersveld at the hottest time of the year. "I am a bit apprehensive about what to expect," he says. I'll be interested to know how his feet handle the heat - certainly the Khoi people manage. Once he sets off, he'll have 2000-2500km to go before his journey's end.

Jaco - you are an inspiration. But I'm not going to be trading in my trail shoes any time soon!

Radio gaga

Have I had fun these past two days!
Yesterday (Tuesday), I spent an hour in-studio at 702 radio with Simon Gear, chatting about the sports of adventure racing and orienteering. Simon is a friend, so it was good fun being in studio with him. He does know what adventure racing is about and a few months ago he came through to orienteering with his family - so he is well-versed.

I also announced on-air that I am looking for novices to take part, with me, in the Diamond Dash 50 in late-Feb. I've already had a few 'applications'. I'll recruit other experienced racers to take additional novices through this race. My objective is that these novices, with their new-found confidence, will enter the Kinetic Adventure series with each other. Hip-hip-hurray!

And this evening, recruited by producer Tehilla, I chatted to David at community radio station Chai FM about adventure racing. Years ago he did Ironman and he's done Dusi, so he understands endurance sport. And, he also remembers watching Eco Challenge episodes many years back. David is currently standing in for the regular presenter on the show and I look forward to joining him again, on his show, in the near future.

Simon, David and Tehilla, thanks for the opportunity to chat about adventure racing on your shows.

I loooovvveeee radio...

Playing at Suikerbosrand

Since returning from Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge, I haven't been sleeping very well. It's weird, because I usually drift off in less than two minutes and I sleep like the dead. After races and travelling I'll usually have a night or three where I wake up at odd hours, but I shouldn't have a disrupted sleep pattern three weeks after the race - that's unusual.

Take yesterday... I woke up at 02h30 - no particular reason: hot, perhaps, dogs barking in the neighbourhood... I tossed until 03h00 and then pulled out my laptop to mess around on Google Earth. I tried to go back to sleep at 05h00, unsuccessfully. Turned on my machine again and then slept from 07h00 - 08h00. Lovely. So, by last night, I was feeling way sleepy. And, it would happen that I'd sleep like death - hopefully back to normal - on the night when I'd needed to be up at 05h45!

My alarm went off this morning and I [almost] leapt out of bed, like a child going to the zoo, because I would be playing with Nic, Alex and Clinton at Suikerbosrand. I've been wanting to go for ages - I haven't been there for at least two or three years! - today was the day.

Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve is managed by Gauteng's Department of Agriculture, Conservation, Environment and Land Affairs. And there's been a whole Protea Hotel thing happening - they seem to have taken over the environmental centre (now a conference facility) and they've built some nice looking chalets. From what I can tell from their website, it looks like they've also taken over Kareekloof, on the other side, which has a caravan and camping park.

We set off on the 'overnight' trail - but to be honest, a trail that is walked-and-run in 3h45 is hardly an overnight trail... Nonetheless, we jogged past the sign that warns 'No day visitors past this point' and hit the hills.

In places the trail is decent but most of the way it is indistinct and overgrown. It doesn't look like it has been used for some time; and definitely not used with any regularity (the western 'day walk' trails are used regularly). Nic has run the route a number of times so he led the way through open grassy areas, where we saw red hartebees, zebra and pretty yellow and purple flowers, and through 'forested' leafy vegetated areas around Koedoeskloof and back up across some of the highest areas in the Reserve. The trail around Koedoeskloof, where an overnight hut is located, is difficult to follow - we did a bit of searching.

Suikerbosrand really is a gem that I most definitely under-utilise. It is fenced, safe and scenic with many kilometers of trail - enough to keep me busy for many hours: trail running and mountain biking. The first rogaine was held here many years ago and in eight hours we covered not quite half of the Reserve.

If you're in Gauteng, Suikerbosrand is definitely a place to keep in mind when considering a venue for playing.

The South-eastern side of the Reserve - Clinton is taking a photo of some antelope (one male, two females). Could have been eland - they're fuzzy and far away in my photo. Not much of the trail visible around here.

There are a number of different routes in the area; they're either day walks or 'overnight' trails that lead to hiking huts.

Clinton in a pretty glade in Koedoeskloof

Th Springbok overnight hut: dusty inside - not used for a long time. The 'facilties', a smaller building adjacent, is non-functional. Looks like the shower piping has been ripped out - probably for the copper. Loo is nothing you'd want to use.

Above and out of Koedoeskloof, which lies below (lots of trees - thorny trees!)

Pretty yellow flowers - like a meadow

Jo'burg is a high altitude city; and Suikerbosrand is just a bit higher. Here Clinton points to a hill, which has a spot height of 1896m. The highest point in the Reserve - and the info pamphlet says it is also the highest point in the Witwatersrand - is 1917m. We're up on a 'high-lying plateau'. Not much in the way of fauna 'cos the vegetation up high is more unpalatable than lower down.

Almost back at the start.. a lovely morning of trail running

Three pints in six months

Yesterday afternoon I made my third blood donation in 6-months, achieving my aim of again being a 'regular' donor.

A regular donor is someone who donates at least three times a year (you can donate every two months - so that's six times max per year). You're a trusted donor. And the benefit of becoming a regular donor and maintaining it, is that all of your blood components are used - red blood cells, platelets & plasma.

As a reminder, from my posting in October...

It is VERY important to become a regular donor. Once-off donations cannot be used effectively. "The more regularly you donate, the better the chance of your donated unit getting used for all components," says a FAQ response on the SANBS website ( Regular donors are the safest donors because they understand the donation process and factors that exclude them from donating within defined window periods, like medication, risky sexual behaviour and illness.

SANBS explains that if you are donating blood for the first time, your red blood cells won’t get used. Your plasma gets quarantined until your next donation. If all tests come back negative after your second donation, the quarantined plasma from your first donation will be used. This also applies if you haven’t donated blood for a while. Once you have made three donations and your blood still tests negative for sexually transmissible diseases, all the components of your blood gets used. You have to donate blood regularly!
Of interest... the one nurse at my donor clinic told me that 89% of blood donors only start donating after they have been on the life-saving receiving end of a transfusion. This startling statistic came from a survey that SANBS ran. She explained that her brother was one of these. Blood donation was "not for him" - until he was hijacked, shot in the abdomen and received 45 units of blood! He has now done 11 donations.

And 45 units is not unusual... it often takes 30-60 units to save car crash victims...

What you waiting for? Ring in the New Year by giving a pint, before having a pint.

Tuesday 29 December 2009

Calling all novices!

I'm looking for novices to race with me at the Diamond Dash 50km in the Cullinan area on 20 February 2009.

The criteria
You should be new to the sport of adventure racing and you need a mountain bike (and you should be able to ride it).

How to apply?
In no more than 200wds, tell me why you'd like to do this race with me, or another experienced racer.

If I get a good response, I'll pick two people to join me and I'll recruit other experienced adventure racers to also make up 3-person teams, taking two novices onboard with them.

And, the best thing is that you can then enter the Kinetic Adventure Series with your own teams after this one.

Email me at

Walking around SA, kaalvoet

There's a guy, Jaco Swart, who is walking around South Africa, kaalvoet. Ja, without shoes. He started his adventure in January 2009 and, just before xmas, had covered 4000km.

Jaco was one of the guides on that awful blackwater tubing accident on the Storms River... must have been in early 2000... Of the 14 clients, only one survived, making the total number of survivors five, including Jaco and three other guides. His left knee was shattered and he spent 27 hours clinging to a log, wedged in a crack in the rockface, waiting for rescue. This walk is, for him, a personal thank you for his survival and injury recovery.

His website is and the blog on his progress is

Looking at some of the pics in his most recent photo gallery, he has got really good looking feet. And, I'm sure that not wearing socks and shoes means no blisters... I'd be keen to find out from him about this. I saw a photo where he has those devil thorns in his soles, but his soles must be thick and tough as leather after 11 months of walking kaalvoet. And, going with the whole 'barefoot running/walking' principle, I'd guess that he hasn't got any knee problems either. Mmm.. I'll drop him a note to find out.

Thanks to Fred for this one.

Saturday 26 December 2009

Gifts I'd rather not receive

It's xmas, a time of year synonymous with gifting. But there are some gifts that I'd rather not receive - like those brought to me with peeps of delight by 'my' cat. I say 'my' because he is actually my neighbour's cat - but he spends a lot of time with me.

Karel the Cat is a generous soul; he delights in frequent gift giving. As we've bonded, I'm the frequent recipient of gifts. I've had full birds, half birds or just a wing and I've also received many mice (usually deceased) and also a big rat. Most of the time these are nightly gifts, delivered with peeps, purrs, rumbles and the excited jingling of the bell around his neck, in the small hours after midnight.

Fortunately I don't get gifts every week; but there are times when his affections peak. Like this week. Karel has really leapt into the festive spirit of giving. A few days ago he delivered a dove, after midnight, dropping it on my bedroom floor and lying back, like the sphinx, so that I could delight in his offering. The dove and cat were urged out the window. This morning, at 04h30, I received a mouse. And I've just taken delivery of another (not quite dead) mouse.

I'm sure another cat would be charmed; I'm not entirely - for obvious reasons. But, considering the spirit in which they're given, and his unabashed delight in these captured treasures... As a concession I thank him for his kindness and consideration before tossing him (and the gift) out the window.

There are another three cats here (none of them mine; my kitty lives with my mom), but Karel and I took an immediate shine to each other and he has been a loving companion for well over a year. He is quite protective and he tells the other cats off when they come visiting. Sadly his folks are moving at the end of January; I'm very fond of this cat so I'll miss him dearly.

If you're wondering about his breed... Karel is a Maine Coon. He's the first I've ever 'met'. They're known for their larger than normal size, intelligence, love of water, big paws, soft and silky fur... very affectionate too and often talkative, especially when bearing gifts.

Snoozing on my couch... I do overindulge him.

Thursday 24 December 2009

Festive cheer & xmas lights

It's Christmas time again... that's the really weird thing - this year has flown and yet last Christmas seems like an age ago.

After a very gloomy week of post-race blues, following an absolutely awesome experience at the Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge, I'm again rocking 'n rolling and working on a new design for  Yes, yes, yes - I'm finally getting around to it; this has been a project pending for two to three years! It will be ready for early January.

Between now and New Year I'm in Jo'burg, making the most of the best weather in the country and the quiet vibe. It's a nice time of year because I get time for guilt-free running, biking and paddling (guilt-free 'cos I'm not thinking that I should be working) and guilt-free chillin' 'n readin' on my comfy couch (guilt-free 'cos I can be lazy without thinking that I should be training or working). Lovely!

So, as the silly season hits, I wish you all safe travels and a festive season filled with love, laughter and xmas lights...

Tuesday 22 December 2009

Andrew sets new Drakensberg Traverse record

Trail runner Andrew Porter set a new record for the Drakensberg Grand Traverse this past weekend (17-20 December 2009). He took 20 hours off the record set by Stijn Laenen and Andrew Hagen this time last year. Stijn and Andrew broke Gavin and Lawrie Raubenheimer's long standing (10 years) record of 4 days 9 hours 39 minutes.

In setting this new record, Andrew covered the 210km high-altitude distance, solo and unsupported, in 61 hours 24 minutes 11 seconds.

From Andrew's blog posting (20 December 2009) on

"It is with great relief to mention that I have finally completed a fast, lightweight and solo traverse of the berg, in a new record time of 61 hours 24 min 11 sec.

Having learnt a few valuable lessons on previous attempts, I decided to wait for a good break in the weather and then go for it. The kit was essentially unchanged from previous attempts, except that this time around I decided to use an iPod to help out on some of those long, lonely sessions, usually with a hard hill ahead.

I left Sentinel Car Park at 4am Wednesday morning (16 Dec), in the by now, obligatory mist. That cleared after about 15 min and I carried on up the zig-zags to the chain ladder.

The haul across Mont-aux-Sources, Cleft Peak and Champagne Castle is by now getting a little too well known, and I made it to Champagne Castle at 19:00 Wednesday. By midnight, I had crossed Mafadi, which had been a touch bleak due to a strong, cold wind that blew right through everything I had with. I decided to spent the remaining hours of darkness next to a small, but sheltered band of rock shortly after the summit.

Day 2 (Thursday) started a little later than I would have planned beforehand, but another day of perfect weather saw me safely to Giants Castle and then across Thabana Ntlenyana before sunset. Once again, the cold wind made me choose a bivyy in the narrow valley you decend into before heading out onto the Sani flats.

On day 3 (Friday), I started out just before 4am and headed out into new territory south of the road. Things went generally well, even though I was now well short of the target 40 hours I had had in mind. Once again, I had perfect weather, which this day even managed to give me sun, with a cooling wind on top, with a blessful band of mist on the way down Thomatu Pass so that I could not get discouraged by the sight of a border post that just not get closer.

I finally reached the Bushmans Nek border post after a rather long and exhausting time. The feeling of relief that I do not have to endure another cold night out there with min gear is rather hard to descibe!"

So what is this Drakensberg Grand Traverse?
It is a traverse of the Drakensberg that starts from North to South. It starts from the Sentinel Car Park perimeter fence and the stops at the Bushman's Nek Border Post perimeter fence. Various checkpoints have to be visited along the way. These include:

* the Chain Ladders
* Mont-aux-Sources summit (3282m)
* Cleft Peak summit (3277m)
* Champagne Castle summit (3377m)
* Mafadi summit (3451m)
* Giant's Castle summit (3314m)
* Thabana Ntlenyana summit (3482m)
* Thomathu Pass must be used to descend to Bushman's Nek

The only other rules are that it needs to be entirely self-supported (i.e. no seconds, food caches or resupplies) and entirely on foot. GPS is allowed.

Future attempts?
Nicholas and Ryno from Team Cyanosis are rumoured to be planning an assault on the record in January - weather permitting.

For reference:
Dec 2009: 2 days 13 hours 24 minutes (61h24m11s), Andrew Porter
Dec 2008: 3 days, 9 hours, 52 minutes (81h52m52s), Stijn Laenen and Andrew Hagen
1999-2008: Around 15 unsuccessful attempts
1998: 4 days 9 hours 39 minutes (105h39m), Gavin and Laurie Raubenheimer (I'm not exactly sure when Gavin and Laurie set their record. Approx 9-11 years ago)

Thanks to Stijn for his information on the GT checkpoints and heads-up on Andrew's successful trip.

Monday 14 December 2009

Atlantic rowing race postponed

The race was meant to start 6 December. It has been postponed to 16 December (Wednesday). South African Peter van Kets will be rowing across the Atlantic solo. His website will be covering news of his progress.

Saturday 12 December 2009

Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge 2009

An amazing experience with a wonderful team!

Our race reports and a lot of stunning photos, with captions, are on our team blog at

Christo, Alex, Lisa and Francois at Qsar al Sarab Desert Resort (Day 5)

Tuesday 1 December 2009

Rowing across the Atlantic, solo!

South African Peter van Kets is about to begin rowing across the Atlantic, solo. He won the Woodvale Challenge two years ago, with Bill Godfrey. He's now aiming to do it solo and going for the record. The race starts Sunday, 6 December 2009.

A few weeks ago I interviewed Peter to get a bit of a profile on him. I've been building a website to represent South Africa's adventurers and their expeditions - it isn't online yet 'cos I'm still messing with it and collecting content. I'm also still deciding exactly what to do with it.

In the interim, here's the profile I wrote on Peter. You can follow his progress through the event website (link above) and his personal websites (links below).

Birthday: 2 September 1966

Website:, (for 2009 Atlantic Rowing Race)

As a full-time adventurer and motivational speaker, Peter takes advantage of the ocean environment that his home town of East London offers. He is married to Kim and they have a four-year old daughter, Hannah.

Although he rowed across with Atlantic, Peter's favourite sporting disciplines are paddling and surfski. Yes, left-right-left-right forward progression with a paddle vs sculling with oars with your back facing your destination. Good friend Cliff Coombe, Peter’s shore manager for the 2009 Atlantic Rowing Race, introduced him to paddling (in 1996). Peter has since paddled SA’s major races, like Dusi, Fish and Berg and featured in a number of sea kayaking documentaries. Rowing? That came later. Bill Godfrey taught him to row, specifically for the Atlantic Rowing Race. When not on the water, Peter rock climbs and surfs.

Winning the 2007 Woodvale Atlantic Rowing Race is Peter’s proudest sporting achievement. “Ja, that was a big one – most definitely,” he says. His silver SA Canoe Marathon medal is another hard-earned achievement of which he is proud.

Food is a crucial to an expedition’s success. Freeze-dried meals give Peter power and he can eat them day after day without retching. “I pretty much just get on with it,” he says. “I don’t sit there wishing I had a hamburger. Sure, it isn’t like normal food at home, but it is fine especially if you have enough variety in the flavours.” The Chicken Tikka meal rocks Peter’s boat: “I like spicy food”.

Peter really enjoyed reading Riaan Manser’s book, 'Around Africa on my bicycle'.

Out in the ocean, encounters with people other than imaginary friends are rare. He’ll have to save his German, picked up as a child growing up in Windhoek, and Hebrew, learned studying for a year in Israel, language skills for when he reaches shore.

He does sing 'Row, row, row your boat' to himself. He also sings other songs for which he knows the tune but not the words. “I use whatever comes to mind and it usually turns out quite funny,” he confesses.

Peter isn’t very material-possession orientated, but if his house was burning down he’d make a grab for irreplaceable items like his the photographs of family, friends and places that document his life – that is after saving his family and cat.


Although Peter has done a number of sea kayaking expeditions, like from Tanzania to Pemba, for documentaries, he is most well-known for his 2007 Woodvale Atlantic Rowing Race victory, with Bill Godfrey. They completed the race from the Canary Islands to the West Indies in 50 days 12hrs and 15 minutes.


On 6 December 2009, Peter sets off on his own to row solo across the Atlantic in the 2009 Woodvale Trans-Atlantic Rowing Race. This expedition is expected to take him up to 70 days to complete. Looking ahead to the more distant future of 2011, Peter plans to circumnavigate the Tropic of Capricorn by kayak, trekking, cycling, paragliding and rowing.

Peter is the BRAND AMBASSADOR for CapeStorm, New Balance, Garmin and Suunto. Liberty is his SPONSOR for the 2009 Woodvale Atlantic Rowing Race

Monday 30 November 2009

Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge 2009

Hip-hip-hooray! After months of anticipation it is time for the Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge - we leave in the morning.

Race start: Friday, 4 December 2009
Race finish: Wednesday, 9 December 2009

The following links will help you to follow the race online:

MTB O so much fun

The final event of this year's mountain bike orienteering was held on Saturday morning out at Protea Ridge, which is pretty much on the southern side (and a bit further along) of the ridge behind the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens. Goal-orientated mountain biking is my favourite type of biking - zooting here and there while hunting controls.

Nicholas Mulder has coordinated this series of events and while the turn-out at some was excellent (around 100 entries), attendance at others - like Saturday (38 entries) - was quite shabby. It's a pity because Saturday had perfect weather, excellent terrain with its 4x4 and quad bike trails and a just-right course. "All those who took part appear to have had very enjoyable rides with lots of positive comments coming from the finishers," says Nicholas. "Most importantly is that all 38 participants finished their respective courses and there were no disqualifications."

As per the results for the long course (there were three courses), "the race was won convincingly by Alex Pope (Witsoc) in 1h11m, who continues to improve his results consistently on the bike. Second place went to Gerard Van Weele in 1h31 and third to Glynn De Klerk (RACO) in 1h43. First lady on the course was Lisa de Speville (AR Club)."

Nic doesn't mention whether any other women rode the long course... *grin*

There will be another five-event MTB O series next year. When the dates come out, do diarise these really good navigational mountain bike riding events.

Sunday 29 November 2009

Kinetic Adventure season wraps up

The fifth and final event of the Kinetic Adventure events took place this morning at the Waterfall Estates in Kyalami. What a superb venue! Excellent mountain biking area - good mix of dirt roads, jeep track and single track.

Still clean! Team Triumph AR pre-race.
(L-R) Debbie, Lauren, Lisa

Our regular girls Team Triumph AR was together again (Lauren was at Southern Storm for the last-September event) and we had a great morning out. We also had tough competition with Susan Sloan, Vicky Wirsam and Nicky Booyens (Buff Girls) entered into the team category. We certainly knew that they would be faster than us, especially on bikes, but we hoped we'd sneak through on navigation. They flew through the course to beat us solidly and take the win at this final event of the year's series. We came after them to take second place.

Team Triump AR... one step down. Nicky, Susan and Vix on the top step.

These Kinetic Urban events are excellent fun and each has a different element. Heidi and Stephan also put a lot of effort into the event area to keep improving the setup. Music, Alistair on the mic, the McCain's hot chips van, cold water from USN and a wonderful vibe. The course was well planned (again!) with lovely elements and a good use of the area.

And... we're all AR Club members ;)

First, our thanks to Lizette from Triumph for their sponsorship of our ladies team throughout the series - and for her wishes of luck for the races. Although it would have been nice to make it five out of five, four out of five is a good ratio ;)
We've been very fortunate to receive Triumph sports bras. We were Triumph girls before the series and we remain loyal to their superb products. Girls, I can very highly recommend their new Seam-Free Crop Top (I love the hot pink colour!). It is even better than their Medium Support Crop Top, which many of us wear - and I've been wearing for years. Comfort, support and drying is much better.

Triumph girls - Debbie, Lauren & Lisa

Heidi, Stephan and your race team and sponsors - wow! The first race was good and with every event they got even better. Thank you for the effort you have put in to create a wonderful race atmosphere and your attention to detail - from the event area, to goodie bags, prize giving (with abundant lucky draw prizes!) and bringing in variation to the courses. Consider our entries for next year already in!

Sitting around at prize giving. There are always so many cool lucky draw prizes!

Carine, thank you for slotting in when Lauren was away. It was fun to race with you.

Lauren and Debbie, you girls are wonderful teammates and I look forward to racing with you both again.

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Make your own mini gaiters

While we make the best AR Gaiters - we've had lots of practice - you can give it a try to make your own pair. We make three styles - Mini, Desert and Adventure - for different purposes in a range of colours and fun prints (visit our website and Facebook page)

Today I finished making sand gaiters for Team for our race in Abu Dhabi next week. My new 'Rolls Royce' design results from the many variations that I've made over the years. They're easy to make, especially this basic 'AR Mini Gaiter' design. You can sew these gaiters by hand (or even use fabric glue?) but they are obviously longer lasting if sewn by machine.

What you need
  • 0.25 metres of 4-way stretch fabric (I use regular lycra)
  • 1.5 metres 'panty' elastic (it is about 0.8mm in width)
  • 1 metre thicker elastic approx 15mm wide and thicker and stronger than the 'panty; elastic (this goes around your ankle)
  • 25cm length of velcro (2cm width)
  • Box of pins, thread, sewing machine/needle, sharp scissors and possibly a friend with sewing skills...
Measure and draw this pattern on a piece of paper (you'll need to join two sheets together).

NOTE: This is an average pattern size. Because lycra stretches it generally works for most shoes. BUT... there are differences in fabric, even lycra (thickness and stretchiness) and this makes the biggest difference. Sometimes these things are a bit of trail and error...

  • Fold your fabric in half, with right sides facing (in lycra, the right side is a little more shiny). Make sure the fabric is flat - no bumps and kinks.
  • Place your pattern on the fabric and pin around the edges.
  • Using a sharp pair of scissors, cut out the fabric (double layer)

Start with one piece of fabric (it's like maths... what you do to the one side, you do to the other).
  • Pin a 45cm length of the thin panty elastic to the bottom of the fabric (against the wrong side). Tip: I pin one end first, then the other. Then, stretch the elastic (yes, lycra is a bit longer than the elastic) and pin in the centre. Then repeat inbetween the ends and the centre.
  • Sew the elastic to the fabric
Tip: ALWAYS pin and/or tack before you machine sew. If you have an overlocking machine, use it. If you just have a straight sewing machine, then stitch in the middle.

You can leave the bottom as it is... but I prefer to hem it.
  • Roll the stitched elastic base up, pin and straight sew. This makes a neat hem. ('Panty' elastic will now be 'hidden')

  • Repeat the same pinning and sewing process with the thicker elastic. I check the length required by measuring around my own ankle according to how tight I'd like the top of the gaiter. You do want it snug, but not cutting off your circulation. Probably about 22-26cm.


  • Fold the shape in half, right sides together. Join the sides. This is where an overlocking machine is really great. If you sew with a straight machine, or by hand, sew two rows. Remember to pin and/or tack first, before sewing.

You've essentially got your gaiter. Now to add the velcro - this fastens the gaiter to your laces.

Prepare the velcro by doing the following:

  • Cut a 9cm length of velcro - both the fluffy and hooked sides.

  • Cut another 3cm length of velcro - also both sides

  • Tack (rough stitching) the short fluffy length on top of the long hooked side - both facing up (not stuck together). Do the same to the other two pieces.

Now grab the gaiter you've made. With it turned inside out, flatten it so that the main seam lies centre. Tack the velcro (double layer part) to this bottom end; then sew by machine. I make an X pattern.


Now try them out!

  • Turn them right side out

  • Slip your foot into them (velcro towards your toes)

  • Now put your foot into your trail shoe. Tie your laces.

  • Pull the back down over the heel. It won't slip because the elastic keeps the tension. Then hook the velcro over-and-under your bottom-most lace and stick the fluffy side on to the hooked side. Et voila!

Repeat with the other piece of fabric to make the pair. You'll notice that the long parts of the velcro are opposites... so you can stick your gaiters together when not wearing them.

Happy sewing.

More festive lights

I really like festive lights. Small, twinkle fairy lights - but not necessarily on a tree. I like them hanging - in malls, offices, decorating the outside of houses in movies and twinkling behind windows. They're just... just... pretty.

Last year, I bought one of those 'icicle' strings and put it up on my lounge windows. I so liked them that I left them there all year, turning them on most nights. They're warm and friendly both inside and to passersby who see them from the street.

Today I bought a string of 'curtain' lights, which are now attached to my sliding security gate. I'm now waiting for it to get dark so that I can try the eight different settings - chasing, sequential, combination, slow fade, steady on...

My mom's friend has the most divine festive lights (LED) hanging lamp in his kitchen. The string is twisted through a round wire frame. I bought the lights to make it last year; but only got around to it over the weekend. It looks fabulous and now needs to be wired into the ceiling.

While I really like festive lights - all year round - I'm not quite into doing the whole Santa and his reindeer setup. Sure, I like to look at them in photos from the US (where they go all the way), but I'm not about to drape my home in ornaments and decorations. Perhaps these all-out festive light decorators started with only a few strands? Hahaha

While looking on the web for things to do with festive lights I found this cheeky website - Ugly Christmas Lights. These are photos taken by people of really bad, garish house/garden festive light (and ornament) get ups. Towns have competitions too! And if you're getting into this, take a look at Planet Christmas' 'showing off' page. Many of these would be at home on the Ugly Christmas Lights site.

A few years ago I was in the US just before Halloween. I loved running past the homes and checking out the pumpkins, ghosts hanging from trees, spiderwebs, gravestones and everything else holiday-themed. I could see myself getting into this type of thing if I was in the US. Scary eh?

The Digital Photography School has 20 really cool photos of festive lights - decorating people (and a dog). I think I need to get me more lights!

Thursday 19 November 2009

Fancy a runabout?

In his book, ‘50 Marathons 50 Days: The secrets to super endurance’, Dean Karnazes mentions a distance running concept he calls ‘Runabout’. It is inspired by the Australian Aboriginal practice of walkabout.

Once you’ve developed a good fitness base, Dean says, “Pick a weekend morning to set out the door with a running pack containing a credit card, a cellphone and some fluid and snacks – maybe also a map or GPS if you want to get really sophisticated. Choose a direction (say, north) and start running. Keep running until you feel like taking a break. You can jog, walk or hike – just try to stay on your feet. When you’re ready for some more running, go for it. If you see a Starbucks and feel like a latte, stop and grab one.”

He recommends making a day of it and says you shouldn’t worry about how much distance you’ve covered. Focus on staying on your feet and on moving forward one way or another whether by running or walking. Aim for six to eight hours.

Dean likes to start before sunrise and finish after sunset. He finishes by saying, “Rarely in our modern society do we spend an entire day outside, and there’s just something enchanting about watching a day go by from the exterior of a building rather than locked inside.”

I like.

'Time to think' theme crops up again

A blog was posted on Mail & Guardian's 'Thought Leader' section by Elaine Rumboll that deals with the frenetic pace of our lives and the importance of 'time to think'. I've extracted the following bits that make a lot of sense...

"According to a recent article by Linda Stone [it is actually by Carl Honore] titled, “In Praise of Slow Thinking” [In Praise of Slowness] published in the Huffington Post, “the greatest thinkers in history certainly knew the value of shifting into a lower gear. Milan Kundera talked about ‘the wisdom of slowness’. Albert Einstein spent hours just staring into space in his office at Princeton University. Charles Darwin described himself as a ‘slow thinker’

All these great minds recognised the importance of having time to think, to mull things over, to consider all options. If they didn’t, we might never have had the opportunity to enjoy the results of their world-changing work."

I also liked this paragraph...

"There is no time to plan, no time to reflect, only time to do — and this is manifesting itself in something akin to a “flight or fight” response to life’s demands. In the process we are missing so much, including the discovery of our own true potential and possibilities for innovation."
And I pulled this from Carl's article (nice one)...

"Slow does not mean doing everything at a snail's pace. It means doing things at the right speed -- fast or slow. In other words, you don't have to ditch your career, toss the iPhone and join a commune to slow down. You can be Slow anywhere. ... It's about striking a balance and using time more wisely."


Monday 16 November 2009

Seeking a life unplugged

Creative thinker Dion Chang (although he is often associated with fashion, he isn't a designer - just a trend analyst) was on the radio last week, talking about his new book '2010 Flux Trend Review'.

The one item in the radio interview that caught my attention was 'The unplugged revolution'. I recently addressed the whole adventure/expedition issue in a post and how these brave adventurers are answering a natural calling to explore and make their own tracks across the globe.

From Dion's perspective, we start our day with gadgets and clutter (alarm clock, radio, electric toothbrush, processed food, traffic, telephones, computers, printers, paper everywhere, emails...). We're always 'on' and although these tools have been created to make our lives easier, they weigh us down instead.

This topic has actually been in my mind for the better part of two weeks. We send emails getting answers with a day. In years long gone we would have written a letter, which takes time to get a response. And while speed is good for productivity, it has created a rush-rush-rush lifestyle. We probably do more in a quarter than our grandparents (or parents) did in a year. Dion quite rightly says, of the information that bombards us daily (news, emails, advertising), "the quantity of messages has long superceded the quality".

So this is where Dion's 'Unplugged Revolution' comes in - 'people going back to nature, exploring spirituality and embracing traditional practices like craft and gardening'.

I think this also explains the success of multiday sporting events (get away from it all association) and, I suspect, a greater number of explorers.

This busy pace of life also ties in with something else I've been thinking about - 'time to think'. For the past few years I've been chasing my tail, non-stop. Races, training, work, organising, admin, club, email... it just doesn't end. It was only when I left my day job in June and got a bit of free time in early October that I was able to think about some things.

Also, being in a fairly creative industry (PR, media, communications), time to think is important. When you're chasing your tail and rushing from one client to the next, you cannot possibly have time to come up with creative solutions and fun ideas - they're only half there. This is what it was like at the agency I worked for - no time to just think.

From experience, good intentions are often just that - but I am trying to make sure that I keep some open time in my life specifically for thinking (running is good thinking time too).

Philosopher, Winnie the Pooh, has this to say on the topic...

"Here is Edward Bear now coming downstairs on his head bump bump bump behind Christopher Robin. It is as far as he knows the only way of coming down though he feels there really ought to be a better way if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think about it." – A A Milne, Winnie the Pooh

Have you got time to think?

If you had time to think you could have come up with this too...
(and yes, I did sing through all the options too)

A week of walking

Ray Chaplin is now a week into his 'Walking the line' expedition, where he is walking from Cape Town to Beit Bridge following the railway line. His journey started on Sunday, 8 November 2009.

His first week has not been without its share of excitement...

Day 1 (Sun, 8 Nov): he put in a solid 46km from Cape Point into Cape Town - in the rain.

Day 2 (Mon, 9 Nov): Ray was picked up by the cops; not for doing anything wrong, but because they were concerned about his safety. Crime is rife along the N2 and he is carrying a backpack loaded with cool gear that he is testing.

Day 3 (Tues, 10 Nov): He started where his friend at picked him up - from under police protection - the previous day. He spent the day walking into a driving headwind. Ray passed through Stellenbosch and spent the night camping in the police station grounds of Pniel.

Day 4 (Wed, 11 Nov): Ray awoke after a night spent with his tent battered by strong winds and pouring rain. His mood was lifted when a stranger, who'd been following him on SportsTrack, brought him a cup of coffee on the road. After slipping on the railway tracks and injuring his knee, Ray made it through the Du Toitskloof tunnel and spent the night in the grounds of a lodge on the other side.

Day 5 (Thurs, 12 Nov): His route passed through Rawsonville, spending the night near the Brandvlei dam on the other side of a fence bearing the sign, 'Trespassers will be shot'. Fortunately his hiding place wasn't discovered...

Day 6 (Fri, 13 Nov): Ray headed to Toeka, through Worcester, stopping to make an appearance at the Cape Union Mart. He spent the night behind a garage in Toeka.

Day 7 (Sat, 14 Nov): Prior to his departure, Ray had battles with the railway people - they wanted to stop him from following the line. On this day he finally reached the section of line that was part of his original route plan. The day was not without excitement. It included encounters with children wanting money and a conversation with a child who wanted his cellphone. Ray passed through a number of train stations that are no longer used and was advised many times by DeDoorns locals about the safety hazards of the area.

Day 8 (Sun, 15 Nov): Ray's day started with a jaunt through a squatter camp near the line and passage through a tunnel used by the locals as a latrine... he also picked up a tail, which he lost after he picked up his pace. He travelled through another tunnel, making it out just before a Rovos Rail train approached, storming along the tracks. His next tunnel was 13km long - and he has two train encounters, ducking into 'cubbyholes' inside the tunnel when they passed! But nightfall Ray was ill, probably from contaminated river water. He does filter his water and add purification tablets, but it wasn't enough.

Day 9 (Monday, today): Ray is still ill and vomiting. He has decided to rest today to recover.

"I've re-filtered the water and dropped in another round of tablets... and it seems to be ok this morning. I haven't been sick, but am exceptionally weak & can't even look at food! Not a good sign when I only have 500ml wate left. I HAVE to make it to the dam about 2km ahead today to re-supply... further than that I am not concerned.

I'm in my tent at the moment and got the shivers, so gonna climb back into the sleeping bag for a while & try warm up."

What a week!

Ray is posting superb updates on his website, and also through Facebook, with photos. You can also follow him through SportsTrac. All links on his website.

Tuesday 10 November 2009

'30 Seconds' and half a lifetime

On Saturday night, after the rogaine, a bunch of us played the board game '30 Seconds'. Christo and I were the only ones in our 30's; the other five ranged between 20 and 22.

So the one guy describes an item to his friend as, "It's like the first kinds of soap on tv, the one the old folks watched". Yes, you've got it, Dallas. While I was more of a Falcon Crest girl, I certainly know the trials and tribulations of the Ewings, JR, Miss Ellie, Pam, Bobby (dead, then alive) and the rest of the family. I also still remember the old schoolyard song sang to the show's theme tune, "He's mean, he's rich, his wife is a b-ch, he drives a big limousine.... he lives in a palace on the other side of Dallas and his name is JR". Hahaha.

So then Christo gets a card and he prompts his young teammates with, "It's an old tv show with the guy who cleaned the house and his daughter and the blond lady; Tony Danza was the guy". "Who is Tony Danza?" was the reply. Anyone older than 7 in the mid-late 80's would know Who's the Boss? - classic tv programme.

We then giggled about watching programmes in simulcast (being Afrikaans, Christo watched the badly dubbed Afrikaans version; I tuned in to Radio 2000 to listen to the show's original soundtrack in English, while watching it on telly). A classic simulcast programme was Remington Steele, with a younger Pierce Brosnan.

Christo and I got chatting about all those old classic tv programmes that we grew up watching. They were mostly wholesome; people were less abusive to each other.

In the morning I woke up thinking about two of my animated favourites, which I watched in primary school - Robotech and ThunderCats (first aired in 1985). We would run around the playground being Lion-O, Cheetara and Wileykit and Wilykat - and if you flicked your hair just right in the swimming pool you could get your hair into a Thundercats' hairstyle!. Thunder-thunder-thunder-ThunderCats - Ho! I am soooo Cheetara!

I've just done a search on YouTube and, what do you know, I found the intro episode to ThunderCats and I've also discovered that a new movie was on the cards from Warner Bros, due for 2010-ish. Looks like it has been shelved.

Even more fun is this fan-made 'movie trailer' on YouTube, created by a graphic artist. It isn't a trailer from the real movie; this guy has spent a year and a half (on and off) pulling sequences from other movies to create ThunderCats characters from well-known actors. All the effects were done frame by frame in Photoshop. It is awesome! It's creator, Wormy TV (this links to his blog), has used Brad Pitt and Mel Gibson as Lion-O, Hugh Jackman as Tygra and my dream date, Vin Diesel, as Panthero. Watch this really cool Thundercats Movie trailer (fan made) - it is delightful.

Aside from all this reminiscing, my thoughts about this age thing is that we are so used to taking part in sports with people much younger (and older) than ourselves; we don't often notice the age difference. A simple game of '30 Seconds' was a light-hearted reminder. The reality is that Christo and I are 12-13 years older than our Abu Dhabi teammates. It's a good thing that questions about 80's (and early 90's) tv programmes are not adventure racing disciplines! hahahaha

Walking around South Africa

There's a guy, Kyle Meenehan, who has been walking around South Africa's perimeter since 9 May 2009. He's pulling a cart, loaded with his necessaries. Kyle blogs ( every week or two (or less), updating readers on his progress and experiences. The posts make for good reading.

A recent nasty experience isn't on his blog; South of Mocambique border, as he headed to Richards Bay, Kyle was robbed and robbers tried to scam money from his Dad saying they had kidnapped him. It all ended ok and he continues his journey.

With the exception of Mountain Club of South Africa (MCSA) support, Kyle's adventure is unsponsored. He won MCSA's SuperTramp Award, an annual cash prize awarded by the Mountain Club of South Africa to young people planning expeditions or trips of interest.

"The sponsorship has made the walk possible, covering the bulk of my food and accommodation costs and for this, I am incredibly grateful the MCSA, the committee members who determine the winner of the Supertramp Award, and the anonymous donor who funds it," Kyle says.

As he started from CT and is currently walking down the East coast, Kyle still has quite a way to go. The total distance is around 5,800km and he says that the route never strays more than 100km from the nearest coastline or border. What an amazing journey!

Thanks to Darrell for letting me know about this.

Monday 9 November 2009

Foot rogaine map and route

Below I've included our foot rogaine route. We headed West from the event centre (Lakenvlei Lodge, on the dam - double circle) and then 'across' the dam below the dam wall before angling mostly North. We moved in a clockwise direction, working our way uphill (starting from control 204, 207, 223 etc).

Where the forest terrain was good, we cut through the forest. Where it was nasty, like on the South western side, we stuck to roads.

For comparison, Christo and Nathan, the winning team, headed East first, working from 201, 205, 231, 230, 221, 220 and then they zigzagged, getting the furtherest North controls in an anti-clockwise direction. They descended on the Western side going 227, 213, 212, 211, 208, 225 etc. They did leave out 246, 244 and 248. They may have gotten 245 (I can't remember). They also left out 209 and 206, which were close to home. And, I think, those were the only ones they left out.

Rogaining fun in the rain

Ah... one of my favourite events of the year - the annual CapeStorm Rogaine. It was, as usual, a super event, even though it rained almost non-stop. This meant that the temperature was perfect for running, we didn't run out of water and it was actually great fun running in the drizzle. The pity is that less than half of the 100 teams entered showed up for the race.

I've put up a brief post on our Team blog. I'll add more here in the next day or so with a map of our route.

On adventurers and explorers; walking the line

I have given much thought to adventures and explorers the past few months; it is tied in with a project that I'm working on, but it is also a personal interest thing. I have long had a near-obssession with adventurers - of days gone by and modern; my bookcase bears witness to my fascination with polar expeditions and seafaring explorers.

Where I happily run multiday foot races or I participate in multiday adventure races, there's that built in element of safety and of the known. An expedition, on the other hand, especially a solo endeavour, is often about doing something never done before, venturing into the unknown and little explored and travelling from one place to the next under your own steam. An expedition, by its nature, should take an extended period of time - like more than a month or two.

Modern day explorers row across oceans, man-haul through polar regions, cycle around continents or go faster, higher and longer than anyone before them.

The effort, planning, thought and logistics that goes into preparing for an expeditition is a massive undertaking. Food, equipment, route, communication, sponsors... your bases have to be covered because help is not readily at hand.

At a lunch last weekend I was chatting to an older chap about adventurers and the expeditions that they undertake. He asked, "How long has this been going on and why do they do it?"

Humans have always been explorers - they have headed out since the beginning of time to discover new places and people on our planet. Blank maps were gradually coloured in as the great unknown became known. Whether seeking resources, aiming to conquer new lands or curiously wanting to know what was on the other side, people have always ventured forth, exploring their surroundings.

Now, we can colour in those blank sections for ourselves with the help of Google Earth and Big Brother satellites. In the most tame version of exploring, we travel to foreign lands as tourists, we watch Discovery and Nat Geo and we attend events that pass through out of the way places. We may load up a Landy to drive through a country, stopping at sites along the way. The more adventurous hop on motorbikes or bicycles, touring through countries, mostly keeping to inhabited regions.

The most adventurous aim for uninhabited regions on self-sufficient, human-powered expeditions. Why? Because they need to.

Exploring and adventuring is, I believe, the natural order. Sitting behind a desk, working on a computer under fluorescent lights IS NOT natural. But, it is the way of our society. And while most of the population enjoys or is tolerant of this, there are people who just cannot survive in this environment. In order to 'fit in' most of the time they have to take time out to answer the urge that makes them restless - they have to travel and explore. And to do this many of them compromise and sacrifice personal and professional elements that are traditional desirables in modern society.

I first met Ray Chaplin on email - must have been about 5 or 6 years ago. We met in person some time later when Ray moved back to SA after working for some time in Dubai. Ray has a penchant for adventure and expeditions. In 2007 he cycled solo for 41 days across South Africa from Cape Town to Pretoria. This, and other shorter trips, gave him a taste for expeditioning. He has just started (yesterday) his most challenging undertaking - a walk from Cape Town to the SA-Zimbabwe border at Beit Bridge along the railway line (for the most part). It will probably take him just under three months to complete this 2100km solo journey; and then he'll cycle back to Cape Town!

Ray's expedition is called 'Walking the line' and while this relates to the railway line, I think it is also fitting in terms of 'normal society' vs heading off on expeditions.

And why is he doing it? Because he NEEDS to and WANTS to. He's answering the call. To make this trip commercially viable Ray is doing extensive product testing - gear in the categories of packs, sleeping bags, stoves, apparel and footwear. He'll put these goods through very similar conditions over a period of roughly the same duration and distance, writing up reviews along the way. Ray is a gear guru so his reports will make for good and insightful reading.

You can follow Ray's adventure through Facebook, Twitter and by satellite tracking and postings on his website at

It is so easy to enter races and to participate in organised sporting events; it really is a completely different thing to set off on your own, even where the unknown is known. Goodness, I'm chicken riding my bike on Jo'burg's roads on my own... I have great admiration for Ray and the many other explorers who take off on these brave journeys to follow their hearts.

Take care out there friend. See you Dec/Jan.

Saturday 7 November 2009

Foot photo makes foot guru's blog

John Vonhof is THE ultrarunning and adventure racing foot care guru. He's also a friend - we met at Primal Quest in the US in 2004 and have remained in contact since. John wrote a sweet post about the photo I sent him from the TransRockies Run (Aug 09, Colorado) where I prepped my foot, with Matt's assistance, for Salomon's daily photo competition.

John has a super blog and website - the best foot care resource around -

Friday 30 October 2009

Branded sporty tops

I haven't had branded clothing for many years - so I am delighted to present these fabulous branded First Ascent Trail Tee shirts. As I'm currently arranging branded gear for Team and I thought I'd open the branded clothing up to you too. And perhaps you may want to wear it while you follow our team online as we tear across the Gulf and the desert at the Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge in December (works for rugby!).

The Trail Tee is a relatively new item in First Ascent's trail running range and our team is wearing them for racing in Abu Dhabi. We've decided to go with white as Abu Dhabi is a 'clean' race; no mud or wag 'n bietjie bushes out in the desert. White is also well suited to road and trail running, general training and gym - I won't be taking mine orienteering because the white will turn brown in minutes!

The mens First Ascent Trail Tee is available in small to XXL.
The ladies First Ascent Trail Tee is available in small to XL.
See the sizing chart on First Ascent's website.

This special branded First Ascent Trail Tee is available in white only.

While looking at branding options for Team, I discovered the most fantastic rubberised badges. The background is clear and the lettering is elevated. Each top will have two badges; one on the sleeve cuff and one on the back, just below the collar. These are the best badges that I've had for in 8.5 years - they look amazing.

The mens and ladies Trail Tees are R215.00. This price excludes delivery. On order, I will provide banking details. Confirmation of transfer confirms your order. Orders must be placed by noon on Monday, 9 November 2009.

It will take about two weeks from when the orders are placed until you receive your shirt. If you're in Joburg/Pretoria, I will happily hand deliver at local events or Adventure Racing Club evenings. If you're outside of Jo'burg, your shirt/s will be sent counter-to-counter by Speed Services. I recommend asking your friends if they'd like one too as it is more cost effective to share the postage. Speed Services is currently R61.66 up to 1kg (approx 5-7 shirts - weight affected by size and whether male or female shirts).

In addition, I'll include a reflective slapband with every shirt. These are valued at R10 each and are brilliant for cycling/running in poor light, or at night.

Place your order by emailing Please specify:
  • Sizes
  • Number of items
  • Mens or ladies First Ascent Trail Tee
  • Delivery preference (hand delivery or counter-to-counter postage)
    If you specify counter-to-counter, include your POSTAL ADDRESS and NAME of preferred post office.
Yay! This is so much fun!

Tag team fun

Last week, navigator and friend Nicholas Mulder comes for tea. He hadn't been to my new place so he heads in the general suburb direction. I'd sent my address on email in the morning; but he hadn't retrieved it before leaving.

My phone rings.

"So where do I go?" Nic says.

"Where are you now?" I ask

"I think the end of Rocky Street."

I can only think of Yeoville - phew, haven't been there in decades.

"What can you see in front of you?" I ask.

"A big hill. I think I passed that old observatory place."

"Does the hill have a cross-statue thing?"

"No, a red water tower."

"Cool, that's where I run. What direction are you headed?"

"South." An orienteer in everyday life too.

"OK, you've got to get over this ridge and into the valley."

A moment passes.

"Look for a park on either side of the road, in the dip."

"I can see it," he confirms.

"Ok, go up the other side. You're heading for the base of the hill with the tower. You'll see a big building at the bottom of the hill. There's a set of lights too."

A minute later.

"I've come through the dip and I'm at the lights. The building and hill are in front of me."

"Turn left on to the main road."

"I'm there," he confirms.

"Take next road left - about 300m. Then the next road, on the corner - green and white, that's me."

A minute later he arrives. We were both grinning.

"Tag team," he says emerging from his car.

Directions, navigation and orienteering are about what you can see. In orienteering you're likely to find control planted on top or at the foot of cliffs (also known as crags). These are not adventure racing-scale cliffs, they near vertical rocky areas that are a physical barrier to easy forward progression. Yes, even a one metre cliff is a physical barrier (rock climbing is not a sub-discipline of orienteering).

Details on orienteering maps, like cliffs, boulders, significant trees, man-made objects and vegetation patterns are drawn by the mapper according to what is visually significant to a human moving through the terrain. The features they indicate are features that an orienteer would notice.

When people usually phone from the road looking for direction, they shout off road names or store names. Sure, I run around the area but I really don't pay much attention to road names and I don't know every road and shop. What worked so well with Nicholas is that he gave me what I needed to direct him. A big hill with a red water tower is very visually significant to a human in a car. He also clarified the direction in which he was travelling. I gave him terrain and feature information and used what he'd already observed (go down the hill, into the dip, look for the park, get to the base of the big hill).

And, most importantly, he did as directed. He didn't say, "I'm coming up to a road, should I take it?". He didn't second guess, he didn't assume, he didn't make his own decisions; he followed my instruction. And because my instructions were confirmed at regular intervals - no long gaps between features - he had no reason to doubt.

This is a bit of what navigation within a team is like. The navigator throws out instruction and encourages team participation. "Let me know when you see a path to you left; it should be in about 500m" or "Tell me when we've done two kilometres; we should reach a road junction" or even "When the powerlines come close to the hill, we need to turn off the road and head up". And if what the navigator calls matches their instruction, their teammates will trust their directions.

Our little tag team activity was excellent fun and I'm sure we'd rock at skattejag. I've also always fancied being a rally-car navigator; but I'd get awfully car sick reading a map at pace.

Next time you give someone directions to anywhere, pay attention to what would be visually significant to them - large malls, hills, towers, deep dips, parks, dams and even rows of trees. Little signs really don't register.