Sunday 19 April 2009

Stirrup Glen, first O colour-coded event of '09

Today I ran my first colour-coded orienteering event since... Maybe August/September last year - before World Rogaining Champs and before Abu Dhabi...? What a superb event today - very technically challenging too. I didn't have an outstanding run, but chose to take it slower, get into the groove again and limit errors. I ran tha brown course (longest) and only had two nasties (Control 3 and 18; 18 should have been easy! Doh!), hitting the other 17 controls without hunting. I'm especially pleased that I had a really good section through the quarry.

The Gauteng orienteering calendar changed last year to host the short sprint/park events over Jan - April and then the colour-coded events for the rest of the year; this year was the same. In the past the sprint and colour-coded events used to alternate every second weekend or so. Now that the sprint season is over, my favourite longer distance events are on. These events make for great trail running and navigation training. Most maps at 1:10 000, which are super for just enough zoom-out with sufficient detail.

I've posted my map below, with the route I ran in pink. Click on the image to get a bigger picture. If the page gives an error, just click your refresh button and the image should load.

Next event is in two weeks, Sunday 3 May at Hennops Valley. Adventure Racing Club orienteerers, Cindy and Kobus van Zyl, are the course planners. There will be 5 courses, ranging from short & sweet to technically challenging.The event sheet will be online on or during this week (not yet available).

Saturday 18 April 2009

Puma's glow in the dark bicycle

Puma has really led the way in terms of offering active clothing that looks like it fell off the runway; and that because they have focused on making fashionable, not just functional, active wear.

I've recently learned about their Urban Mobility range of products because of a posting I saw about this funky commuter bicycle, the Puma Glow Rider; the third edition in their Puma bike series. Although it comes in red, it was this glow-in-the-dark version that really caught my eye. (seems like this bike was launched in mid-2008)

It is a single gear bike designed for urban commuting. It has twin disc brakes - front and rear - and a locking system that is part of the frame. The bike also has a semi-folding mechanism so that it can be easily carried onto the subway, in an elevator or packed into your car. lists Puma Glow Rider's price at £825 and their review isn't entirely glowing.
For pros, they say, "Looks great. Low maintenance. Easy to fold". For the cons they say, "Glow-in-the-dark effect only works in pitch darkness. Wobbly and slow. Not unstealable, but easily trashable ".

The do compliment the simple brakes and singlespeed gears with carbon steel chain: "You can ride this for ages without problems". And when it comes to how it rides? Well, Stuff says, "The bike is slow, heavy and wobbly".

Still, it looks great, which seems to make up for its other weaknesses. There is a Puma store in Joburg in Maponya Mall in Soweto, but I doubt that this bike has made it to SA.

Bake your own cake from scratch, then eat it

Far from being a philosophical posting about getting what you want in life, this post is actually about cake - the delicious baked treat that goes so well with afternoon tea.

I've been into baking for goodness knows how many years. I used to bake cakes most weekends for the ladies in my mom's ceramics class, trying different receipes each time.

Although I love baking, it isn't something I get to do very often. Nonetheless, every April I bake a cake of sorts to take to Adventure Racing Club in celebration of's birthday. Last year it was cupcakes; this year I went all out with made-from-scratch chocolate and lemon poppy seed cakes.

Out of convenience, I do like using box mixes (choc or vanilla). They're pretty good and you generally just need to add eggs, milk and/or oil. Easy. But, I also find that these box cakes are quite small and the prices keep going up. So I opted to make a BIG chocolate cake from scratch, trying a new recipe. Delicious!

Staying with the theme of size of cake and cost, I did a costing on the price of the ingredients for a large made-from-scratch cake vs a box cake (yes, I do have better things to do; but I thought the exercise would be entertaining). The one thing to note is that you do need to invest a little bit more in the beginning for long-lasting baking ingredients like baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and cocoa powder; you'll use them with each cake you bake and they're always useful to have in the cupboard.

Box Cakes
There are pretty much three brands of chocolate cake that you'll get your hands on easily: Ina Paarman @ R28.59 (650g), Pillsbury @ R32.99 (510g) and Moirs @ R19.39 (400g). With Pillsbury you just have to add 2 x eggs and 80ml oil. I'm not sure about the others. So, let's go with Pillsbury as I know what needs to be added and it is in the middle in terms of dry ingredient weight (excl. icing).

Pillsbury chocolate cake mix, R32.99
2 x xlarge eggs, R2.67 (more pricey if you're using free range, grain fed etc)
80ml sunflower oil, R0.85
TOTAL: R38.32

AND this total excludes icing.

Lisa's made-from-scratch LARGE chocolate cake
500ml water, from the tap (negligible)
660g caster sugar, R12.50
250g butter, R9.00 (half of a 500g block)
35g cocoa powder, R4.70
1tsp bicarbonate of soda, R0.35
450g self-raising flour, R3.46
4 eggs, R5.33 (x-large eggs)

TOTAL: R35.34

My cake is not only cheaper than Pillsbury, but based on dry ingredients it clocks in at just over 1.1kg! Yes, my cake tastes better AND it caters for far more people.

As for the icing, I lathered that delicious Nestle Caramel Treat (R13.99) on top. A good chocolate butter icing is another excellent option (you need butter and icing sugar - you would already have the cocoa powder).

Just incase you'd like to bake this cake, I'll include the directions below. As a note... this recipe is quite different to others I've made where you mix dry ingredients, add wet ingredients and shove in the oven. Other methods involve creaming the butter and sugar, adding eggs and then the dry ingredients. With this cake you melt the butter with the water, sugar and cocoa (delicious!) and then add to dry ingredients.

Lisa's made-from-scratch LARGE chocolate cake

500ml (2 cups) water
660g (3 cups) caster sugar
250g butter (you can go for 200g - makes little difference)
35g (1/3 cup) cocoa powder
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
450g (3 cups) self-raising flour
4 eggs (I use x-large)

  1. Preheat oven to 180C (or 160C for fan ovens). Grease (I use Cook'nBake Spray) and flour a large baking dish (26cm x 33cm) - I used a 23x23 dish and left the cake in the oven for a little longer because the cake is thicker.
  2. Combine the water, sugar, butter, sifted cocoa and bicarb in a medium saucepan; stir over heat, without boiling, until the sugar dissolves. Bring to boil then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 mins. Transfer this mixture to a large bowl and let it cool to room temperature (I let it cool for a bit until it was just warm).
  3. Add sifted flour and eggs. Beat with an electric mixer until the mixture is smooth and pale in colour.
  4. Pour into baking pan; bake for about 50 minutes or until the cake pulls slightly away from the sides of the pan. Once removed from the oven, allow the cake to stand for 10 minutes. Turn it out on to a wire rack to cool.
  5. Only ice the cake once it has cooled completely.

Recipe adapted from The Australian Women's Weekly: Cakes, Biscuits and Slices.

Happy baking.

Monday 13 April 2009

Rogaine Champs '08: interviews on YouTube

Got a link from the 2008 World Rogaining Champs (Estonia, September 2008) to some YouTube videos. OK, so this one is shot in the dark and you can't see us; but you can hear me - and sort of see me. I was racing with Heather Graz. The next interview is with Nicholas Mulder. Nic was racing with Liz Mulder.

The camera crew found us at the one water point; we did see Nic here too. This was not long after sun down - certaily not later than 20h00. Temperature dropped big time and just stopping to refill our hydration systems caused us to shiver big time - teeth chattering too. We ran most of the night because it was the best was to keep warm.

This is the link -

Shelters for adventure racing

The topic of what to use as a shelter for adventure races was raised recently on the National discussion email group. The shelter you choose will depend on;
  1. Number of people in your team (pair vs 4's)
  2. Season (summer, winter, wet, dry)
  3. Terrain & location i.e. Northern KZN vs mountains
  4. Your team's experience and ability (front of field vs rear)
  5. Your navigational abilities (few, quick errors vs spending hours off-track)
  6. Your sleeping/bivvy bag (rated to 0C vs plastic bag)
  7. What the race director specifies

A fly sheet is fine for an experienced team who plans to sleep for two hours. They rarely make nagivational errors and to spend two hours outdoors, in summer (no rain), then the fly sheet works to keep wind out - or to sleep on top of it like a ground sheet.

In winter, mountain or cold and wet conditions, a full tent - with flysheet - will be in your best interests. This also applies to inexperienced teams, even if the conditions are warm and pleasant. If you sleep for six hours outside of transition, you may as well make those six hours as good as you can get.

I found the following two shelter examples in the Men's Health Buyer's Guide 2008/2009. There are other brands available (see some available through Ram Mountaineering). The key point is that the lighter it is, the more it will certainly cost.

Saturday 11 April 2009

Scouting for my trail run - part 2

It has been almost a year since I got out to scout part 1; 4.5 years since I first decided to plan this race; and 3.5 years since I fixed on the area plotted the route on a topographical map and later flew through the area on Google Earth...

I am indebted to Debbie and Mark (Foodstate) and Janique for joining me yesterday. Magnificent weather, incredible scenery and tough terrain.

I emailed the nearby Innibos Guesthouse, which I'd seen on my exit route from 'scouting part 1'. I dropped Elzette an email on Thursday, asking if I could leave my car there. She was super friendly and accomodating - I wasn't even a guest - inviting me to leave my car there anytime. It is a lovely venue, situated on a citrus farm - about 30km from the Hartebeespoort Dam wall on the Mooi Nooi road.

On our way down and back to the tar road, we went through a settlement. The people were really friendly too, waving and calling hello.

On our way up to the ridge summit, we passed a flowing stream. When I was last in the area in June last year it was dry all around. Debbie and I took a drink - we'll see what the repercussions are today... if any.

This is really a great time of year and some of the grasses are still green too. Saw BIG spiders!

We took an earlier exit, so our plan of leaving a car at the start and another at the finish backfired. We ended up on the tar road, needing a lift. The nearby police, in their van, were of no help. But, they did show us which hand signal to use to flag down a taxi. Within 15 minutes a passing water truck stopped, and they gave us a lift. Very friendly guys; they spend their days delivering water to the informal settlements.

Trying my hand at catching a taxi.

Ooohhh... look what I caught!

One thing I realised on this outing is that the terrain is really tough and slow going in places. I've had a complete re-think about the route and I have many hours to spend on Google Earth and many trips to make before the route will be ready for public consumption.

My plan is to assemble a bunch of 'test runners' at the end of winter and to have the run ready for this time next year. That's the plan... The thing is that I have this A to B route fixation because of the views and superb locations at the start and finish; so the challenge is how to make this work and not keep you out there non-stop for 2-days!

More on the development of the route as I get out there. I'm glad to finally be able to commit the time and planning to getting this route sorted. Way cool.

Lunch time!

Saturday 4 April 2009

Amazing Race, amazing fun

The Amazing Race (full name, The Amazing Thinking, Laughing Race for Charity) on Saturday afternoon was an absolute blast. It is a car-driving event that takes participating teams to clue-based locations around Joburg's suburbs. The event is organised by a guy who works with me, Dean, so I asked whether I could enter a team on bikes - like we do for regular urban events. He gave me the go ahead and so I was joined by Lauren, Debbie and Mark for an afternoon of superb fun.

One of the race's really cool elements is that you are encouraged to dress up - and to dress your car up. Being on bikes, we didn't go the full hog, but we did don blue glitter wigs, fasten those bobble things to our helmets and wear long pink socks. Next time we'll have to be more creative; there were some incredible outfits on show.

The race clues are pretty difficult to decipher. Some are quite cryptic, others require an alphabet key and yet another was a 'predictive text' code. We did buy lifelines pre-race so that we could phone race organisation for help; we used it for the predictive text clue.

There were 10 clues in total (the 11th was a clue that essentially translated as "you're wasting your time there are only 10 clues" - hahaha) and because we were on bikes we needed to work them all out before we started so that we could plan the most efficient route. We only got the clue cards at the start, which was from in Bryanston at 13h30-ish.

We started working through the clues, checking on those that required us to be at a specific location at a certain time. We decided to stay at to watch the programme on CNBC, looking for the answer to the clue in the ad break. But first we needed to get a balloon, draw a face on it and give it a name. He was briefly christened 'Barry' and had to appear in photos of us at each location. We got 'him' from the garage Wimpy across the road; then we zipped back to to finish working out the clues and to watch the telly.

As soon as the ad was over (right near the end of the show!) we left for the roof top parking at Sandton City. This would have been at 15h00 and we had to be on the roof by 15h25 to watch for skydivers and to see where they landed as this would give us our next clue. From to Sandton City this means flying down William Nicol, heading South (nice) and then hauling up Sandton Drive. Oh my goodness! This was helluva tough and I was feeling quite lightheaded by the time we stopped on the roof.

The skydivers landed in that park below Sandton City (down the hill again!) but as we needed to get to Sandown High (up the hill) we decided to shoot off there first and then down to the park, certain that the skydivers and crowds would still be around. Lauren and Mark know Sandton well so our route to the school was super fast. There we had to kick a rugby ball over the posts. Mark had one attempt and then Lauren took advantage of women being able to kick from a little closer. She let fly with the most brilliant kick to score our conversion. Snap-snap photo time and we were off to the park. The answer here told us to get a drink from News Cafe in Woodmead.

One of the really cool things about being the only bike team is that the cars were absolutely phenomenal. Every where we went the other competing teams would hoot and cheer - a really great vibe from start to finish. In terms of numbers - doubled from 95 teams last year to 195 teams this year.

From the park we headed up again and along Rivonia, heading South, to Oxford Road to look for the fake political poster. Took a while to spot it "Togetha we can lurn mor" for political party 'ABC'. Now in Saxonwold we shot through to Zoo Lake, nailing the next clue, which directed us to Sandton Field and Study Centre for an Easter Egg hunt. Fortunately we hit the sign at Zoo Lake spot on (purely luck!)- other teams we running all over the place. Before going to Sandton Field and Study we decided to go for the Bordeaux clue.

From Zoo Lake we wove long quiet road to get back on to Jan Smuts, heading North through Rosebank, Dunkeld and Blairgowrie to a park in Bordeaux. Here there was a big gumtree with a red ribbon tied around it that read " 'Search A.R.". We already knew about this because I'd been getting dozens of calls from competitors who found in their search. What the clue actually meant was to search for Amazing Race on ''. We didn't get this clue either. The answer would send you to the lemon-something church in Linden. Great unintentional advertsing for and really funny that I happened to be taking part in the race!

We'd decided to leave the location at Randburg Waterfront out because we only had just over an hour left until the cut-off at 18h30. That gave us enough time to get to Sandton Field and Study and the Paint Ball place, Battle Zone, near The Campus on Sloane, not far from the finish.

The cool thing about Sandton Field and Study is that we could take advantage of being on bikes to short-cut across the spruit and through the park to get back on to William Nicol. Then an uphill haul to Battle Zone. There Mark and I hid behind targets while Debbie and Lauren shot at us. They're good shots so within seconds they'd hit the boards twice.

Back on our bikes and off to the finish at We clocked in just after 18h00.
Of the primary clues we left out the one for Action Sports in North Riding (clue 5), the place (restaurant?) in the Fourways Gardens Shopping Centre (far end of Cedar; clue 8) and the Twinkle place at the Brightwater Commons (Clue 10). Of the additional re-direct clues we did Sandton Field and Study but left out the drink at Newscafe Woodmead and the lemon church.

Back at a party was in full swing; we only left hours later.

In terms of distance and stats... My GPS gave us a total distance of 46,92km. This accounted for an elevation gain of 842m; that's an accumulative 1600m ascent and descent. We climbed some BIG hills, which is no wonder that the average ascent gradient was 15%.
Talk all round is that the clues this year were way harder than previous years (very, very clever clues). Only 10 teams completed all the clues within the cut-off; some making it with only a minute or two to spare! Last year the winners were in two hours before cut-off. Most certainly challenging even in cars.

This race is awesome and whether on car or bike it is a must-do. I would definitely do it again - on bike - even if we don't stand a chance of getting to all the places, because it is just so much fun. It was also my first chance to do an event with Debbie and Mark (Debbie did Kinetic's race last weekend with me and Lauren); and together with Lauren we had a great afternoon of biking. Thanks for your enthusiasm team ;)

Dean, the organiser, really put on an incredible event. The company that we work for, Penquin, sponsors the running costs of the event. All entry fees go to the supported charity.

Great concept, superb event and this race will be a fixture in my diary. Well done Dean and your team.

Indulgent health food - sneaky fats

In an effort to improve my nutrition and give more focus to my training (one out of two isn't too bad is it?) I've been thinking a lot about fat. Fat, fat, fat, fat. I'll get to my thought on indulgent health food in a bit; but first some thoughts on calories and energy.

I like to think that I've got a pretty good nutritional foundation. I'm aware of food portions, the importance of variety and that cheese is evil of all fatty evils (for me anyway - I love cheese). But sometimes you have to spring clean; to take stock and get back on track, which is where I am now.

So let's start at the beginning with energy expenditure.

Energy expenditure is the amount of energy, measured in calories, that a person needs to perform activities - from basal metabolic functions like breathing, temperature regulation and maintaining circulation to walking around and participating in sports.

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) refers to the number of calories your body needs just to keep you alive. This value decreases as you age, which is why you can't eat the same volume of food at 65 as you did at 18 and still expect to maintain a constant body weight - you will get fat. There are formulas and calculators, like this one at BMR Calculator, that give you an indication of your BMR calorific requirements.

Other lifestyle factors then increase your calorific requirements. Do you walk or drive to work? Do you sit behind a desk all day or does your job involve being on your feet or manual labour? And do you exercise regularly - with low, medium or high intensity - and for what duration? There are a number of online energy expenditure calculators (try a few). Alternatively the Harris-Benedict Equation is a simple and more general one-size-fits-all calculation where you multiply your BMR by an appropriate activity factor.

So once you know what your general calorific requirements are, you can then adjust accordingly to lose weight or gain weight. But this also means that you need to look at what you're currently eating so that you can first compare how your current intake compares with what you should be consuming. Even more than this how much of the three calorific macro nutrients - protein, carbohydrate and fat - you're consuming.

Looking at protein... intake factors depend on your lifestyle and gender. The general recommendation for runners is around 1.0g - 1.8g of protein per kilogram of ideal body weight. Read this article on Runner's World. My (female, sporty) recommended protein intake is 1.4-1.6g/kg of body weight (15% - 20% of total calorie intake).

The recommended fat intake percentage for runners is around 25%. This doesn't mean 25g. No, no, no. These percentage recommendations don't refer to GRAMS, they refer to PERCENTAGE of total calorie intake. As fat contributes a hefty 9kcal/g, this is only 62g of fat based on my calorific requirements. And it is way too easy to hit this target (see below).

And so the balance of 50-60% is awarded to carbohydrates, which are easy to consume; fruit, veg, starches. Carbohydrates, like proteins, contribute 4kcal/g.

Focus on fat
Fats are sneaky because they hang around in disguises - especially the sugar coated variety common to chocolate, ice cream and other such delicious treats.

And then there are the 'healthy' disguises like avos, heart healthy marg and olive oil. Time and time again I hear people saying how good olive oil is for you... sure, as an unsaturated fat it is better than a lump of lard, but when it comes to calories, fat is fat.

Let's see how fats sneak in to everything you eat with this basic example:

Breakfast: 2 eggs on toast and a glass (275ml) of 2% milk
Eggs are great for protein, with the white being the protein source (91% of the white is protein; around 9g per egg and it has little to no fat). The yolk is the wicked part as it contains the fat - around 10g per egg. It does contain many nutritents but fat is the weighty issue here. So, if you have two eggs, that's already 20g of fat. I'm assuming you're going to skip the marg/butter, but if you don't then you're looking at 4-10g of fat depending whether you have one slice or two and how heavy-handed you are with your spreading. And then your glass of 2% milk will clock in at 5.5g. So, that's easily 35g of fat for breakfast...

This makes you re-think your lunch of 4 slices of that lovely homestyle seeded bread (check the labels - easily 10g of fat, or more - per 100g; and 4 slices will weigh more than 100g) with cheese (around 25g fat/100g) and tomato. And then there's dinner... And if you had a chocolate during the day, you quota could have been blown by lunchtime.

Without becoming the fat police, it does help to be aware of how easy it is to exceed recommended values for fat intake. So yes, it does help switching to fat-free milk. if you eat your cereal with milk, and to fat-free cottage cheeses and yoghurts. But if you don't drink glasses of milk and you only use it in your one or two cups of tea or coffee a day, then using 2% is A-ok.

Indulgent health food - sneaky fats
A healthy food outlet promotes their smoothies (certain ones in their wide range) as 98% fat free. I usually order the 'original' size (it's the biggest one) of their yummy mango low-fat smoothie. This is a whopping 750ml of mango delight. So, at 98% fat free it means that there is 2% fat. Where water is approximately 1g : 1ml, smoothies are heavier, but for convenience I'm going to work on 1g : 1ml. 2% means 2g / 100ml so at 750ml... yeah, 15g in this smoothie! Almost a quarter of my daily allowance! And if I was being realistic, where 1ml of smoothie weighs more than 1g... a 'healthy' smoothie becomes even more of an indulgence.

Label reading is a good habit; you'll be surprised by how much fat you find in most 'healthy' products.