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.

Lucky draw - please whoop for joy

Tonight I attended a lovely evening, a social meet-and-mingle and movie viewing to benefit the Faces of Hope Foundation. They provide financial support for individuals with life threatening illnesses. The movie we watched was The Ultimate Gift (2007; I didn't see it back then), a lovely feel-good movie. [Is it just me or does actor Drew Fuller look like a certain adventure racer?]

David James, the bad cop from District 9, did the MC-ing. He's a super MC and a general nice guy. I haven't seen the movie but having seen him tonight it is hard to picture this likeable fellow as a sadistic mercenary.

One of the pre-movie treats was a lucky draw. I LOVE LUCKY DRAWS. It isn't the prizes that I'm after - I just dig being lucky.

At orienteering we have lucky draws at prize giving. When AR Club hosts events I do the buying of prizes. The items are low value - dried fruit, sweeties, chips, cookies, biltong, chocolate... fun treats. And I love participating, whooping when I am called, clapping for others and if a name/number is called and they are not there or they don't respond quickly I answer with, "Snooze, you lose".

So, tonight we have this lucky draw with really, really cool prizes. People's numbers are drawn - and they just sit there, slowly getting up to claim their prize like they were being led to the gallows! Since the prize is not R1-million, they couldn't possibly be shell-shocked; they're just slow and unexpressive. If your number - we had only one each - is 76 and the dude calls 76, there's no need to hire a detective. You just need to shout "Yes".

I've seen this same 'Lemme not be happy about winning a prize' attitude at every event. What is it? Shyness and inhibition? Phhhllleeezzzeee! What is so wrong with expressing a little joy at being chosen to receive a prize? People look more like dorks when they're unenthusiastic than when they dance a jig up to the stage.

The thing about lucky draws is the following:
  • Generous sponsors have donated prizes - their product or services - for the lucky draw
  • Someone has taken a lot of time and effort to source prizes, cut-out numbers and to make it happen so that you have a extra fun element to the event / evening
Clapping, cheering and whopping is positive affirmation for the organiser - and prize sponsors - that you like and appreciate what they have done for you.

When your name is called, shout, "That's me!" or "Yay!", leap from your seat and claim your prize with a flourish. Your energy will infuse the crowd and get more people in on the fun. Whoops and yays are infectious, like laughter. Well, they work for me ;)

Next time you're at the same lucky draw as me, I do hope you'll join me with a few expressive whoops. And if you're not at the same draw as me, I do hope you'll lead your crowd with your enthusiastic cheers. Try it.

Thursday 29 October 2009

Colours of purple... and pink, in Jo'burg

I do most of my running training on roads in and around the suburb of Kensington. At this time of year the roads are beautiful, dressed in purple jacaranda trees and deliciously pink bougainvillea. I especially love seeing the bougainvillea in the jacaranda branches.

I took some photos this afternoon (rain on the way) - yes, Jo'burg really is a pretty highveld city.

Rows of Jacarandas below Langermankop (yes, I do run here on my own, in broad daylight - fast).

Highland Road has jacaranda trees pretty much all the way along from Sovereign Rd to Jeppe Boys.

Bougainvillea on the wall of Kensington Castle

Purple & pink together and two friendly guys who agreed that this was very pretty indeed.

Wednesday 21 October 2009

Run girls run!

How the World has changed! I can remember primary school days where I wasn't allowed to take part in certain running events - because I was a girl! And now girls play soccer and cricket at school...

I've been reading a number of running books recently - juggling books actually. I'm currently on Dean Karnazes' '50 Marathons, 50 Days'. Last night I read an interesting chapter that made me think back to those days where I wasn't allowed to do sports and other things because of my gender - even silly thing like whistling "Ladies don't whistle!" (despite this I can whistle a melody or stop a crowd like a trooper!).

In this chapter, Dean talks about a women-only running club; the organisation Girls on the Run, which aims to develop self-esteem and comaraderie in girls through running (he serves on its board); running as 'an almost perfectly gender-balanced sport'; and how, even in the 1960s, women were not allowed to run marathons. In line with the latter point, at the Boston Marathon in 1967, a female runner Katherine Switzer, shook free from the grasp of an official to cross the finishline. Things began to change, slowly.

In 1988, I was 12 years old and in my last year of primary school (Standard 5, now known as Grade 7). My school had an annual long distance running event. I can't remember what it was all about except that the pupils (only for grades 4 and 5 - I think) who entered would run a set number of times around the school's field. It was quite a lot of times as I recall. Girls were not allowed to enter and, as a result, no girl had ever taken part.

Sport admin and team organisation has evidently always been my destiny; at nine I was already organising sports house netball, swimming and running teams and events. So, by Standard 5, as the Captain for my sports house (Zebra - blue), I was no stranger to sports admin, events and the head master's office.

A few days before the long distance run I went to see Mr Johnstone, our head master. I explained that I thought girls should be allowed to run in this event and that it was not right that we be excluded just because we are girls. To his credit, he thought about it and gave me the go ahead to run.

Although I remember sitting in Mr Johnstone's office, I really don't remember much about the run - how far it was, how long it took, how many people ran... I am certain that my friend Chantelle ran part of the race... And I can only just remember the poles and tape that marked out the circuit around the field.

To my knowledge the event still exists and girls have been allowed to take part since that day in 1988.

Thinking of my recent adventure at the 6-day TransRockies Run... we had loads of womens pairs in the Open and +80 categories as well as many mixed pairs. I can't confirm but I'm still sure that there were more women running than men. How the World had changed! Thank goodness!

Talking Nobel Prizes

I've always had an interest in the Nobel Prize, particularly in the field of Physiology/Medicine, Chemistry and Physics - probably due to my academic background. These awards have been made every year since 1901. Even polar explorer, Fridtjof Nansen (one of my favourite polar explorers), won a Nobel prize - Peace (in 1922).

The one thing that really gets me about the people who win the Nobel Prize, especially in the sciences (medicine/physiology, physics &chemistry; I'm conveniently ignoring literature and peace), is their commitment, dedication and single-minded focus to their subject - for decades!

Take this year's Medicine winners (Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Carol W. Greider and Jack W. Szostak) for their work on the little bits of DNA (telomeres), that protects the ends of chromosomes, and the associated enzyme (telomerase).  Previous prize winners (1930 and 1984) had observed telomeres and theorised that they had a protective function.

Enter Blackburn, in the 1970's. She worked on mapping these DNA sequences, presenting her findings at a conference in 1980. And she continued from there (Greider was her graduate student; Szostak worked in a similar area - he and Blackburn collaborated).

Now, way more than 25 years after she got started in this field (she got her PhD in 1975), Blackburn's work, and that of her colleagues, is publically (in the most scientifically public way possible) acknowledged.

The Nobel Prize Chemistry winners (Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, Thomas A. Steitz and Ada E. Yonath) have had their PhDs for 35 - 45 years and you can be assured that for much of this time they've focused on the molecule that got them this award.

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2009 awards studies of one of life's core processes: the ribosome's translation of DNA information into life. Ribosomes produce proteins, which in turn control the chemistry in all living organisms. As ribosomes are crucial to life, they are also a major target for new antibiotics.
Although the ribosome seems to fit more under medicine than chemistry, their work is more chemical in nature.

I can remember sitting in post-grad and departmental focus group meetings where profs would discuss things they've been studying and analysing for 20 or 30 years! I just knew that I couldn't do it. I like change and variety and instant gratification. To work on something for 30 years and MAYBE get results...

I think that's what I like about writing; I write an article, send it off and a month or two later it is out in full-colour print. Online event reporting (or blogging) is almost better - what I write is published immediately.

Some people like long races, others like short; some people like yellow, others like blue. Our preferences and focuses - personal, work, play - are different. And while I had little inclination, nor aptitude, to labour for 30 years in a lab, I'm glad that there are people who are not like me because their contributions to science, and to the World, are important and impactful.

Monday 19 October 2009

A little bloody nose

Trawling the web today, looking for something specific, I found this quote. It comes from an episode of Star Trek  (Q who?) and the quote was said by the character Q. I think it is a pretty cool quote.

"If you can't take a little bloody nose, maybe you oughtta go back home and crawl under your bed. It's not safe out here. It's wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross; but it's not for the timid."
Sometimes you have to risk that bloody nose for all the other rewards that life offers.

Sunday 11 October 2009

TV games - big playground on set

I have had the most awesome week on the set of a new Gladiator-style tv programme, which will be shot in January 2010 and aired pre-FIFA2010.

I've been part of the Dream Team, which tests some of the games for the show. The producion team uses us as guinea pigs to test the lighting on set, the camera angles and also duration, difficulty and rules of the games. They'll make a test episode, which will never be aired, from the week's action as a demo of the show.

One thing I can say is that this show will make for awesome viewing. The games are way more physically challenging than Gladiators (I was a contender in the first South African Gladiator series in 1999 so this comparison is fair). It takes just over a minute to complete one of the big obstacle courses and when you're finished you can hardly talk from the effort. And you may have to go around again. And then there's the second half and another challenging obstacle course. Upper body strength is a big element especially on the cargo nets, which are a killer! And then there's the team thing; the show features teams, not individuals, so the team combinations are going to be key.

The show includes a soccer shooting component. My team, which wasn't as fast as the other, won 3-2 purely on our soccer goals. They were faster and had more scoring opportunities, but we scored the needed goals. I even scored a goal - Woohhooo!
Francois, one of my teammates for Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge, was on set with me so we got to spend the week together. It was a great opportunity to get to know him better in this fun, playful and relaxed environment.

The secon round of selections takes place this next weekend and there are a number of adventure racers in the running for a place on one of the eight teams that will make it on to the show. I'm rooting for them!

Thursday 1 October 2009

'O' so special!

This morning I stopped at my local blood donation clinic to do my thing. My last donation was in mid-June and after being overseas in August, I've been due for my next donation. SANBS has issued appeals on radio for donors to come through, as their stocks are very, very low.
South African National Blood Service (SANBS) is appealing to all regular blood donors, especially the group ‘O’ blood type to urgently come forward in their numbers to donate blood.
As an O Negative lass, my blood is in high demand.

So, why Group O in partiular? SANBS says,
1. Group O blood can usually be given to patients of other ABO blood groups
Regardless of their blood type, as the red cells in type O blood have neither antigen A nor antigen B. In medical emergencies, when urgent blood transfusions are required, there may be little time to determine a patient’s blood type.
Group O negative blood then comes to the rescue, as it can safely be transfused to patients of other blood groups.

2. Group O blood saves the lives of newborns
Babies born with blood disorders may also require immediate blood transfusions in order to save their lives. In some cases difficulties may occur in determining the blood groups of these infants. Group O blood is therefore important in supplying this ongoing need.

Babies also need "fresher" blood than other patients. While red blood cells stored for up to 42 days can be transfused to most adult patients. Only blood less than five days old may be used for transfusion to newborn infants, or in exceptional cases when babies require transfusions wile still in the womb (intra-uterine transfusion).

Why is Group O so special?
Patients in need of a blood transfusion as part of their medical treatment rely on blood donors of all blood groups to donate safe blood regularly. Therefore, your blood is vital to those in dire need of blood.

Group O blood is often in greater demand than other blood groups, which is why South African National Blood Service (SANBS) encourages Group O blood donors to donate regularly.
As I posted in May and June, I used to be a regular donor and then lapsed when I travelled frequently into malaria areas (this exclude you from donating). To be classified as a regular donor, with trusted blood, you have to donate three or more times a year. This is now my second and in mid-December I'll do my third.

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!

SANBS has superb permanent clinics scattered throughout South Africa; and they also hold mobile clinics at schools, offices and shopping malls. My clinic is in Bruma (JHB). The staff are friendly and the gifts are really cool - and useful. I got a first aid kit (some goodies in a zippered bag) this morning (see picture). I'm going to add some stuff to it and keep it in my car.

Whether you're Group O, A or B, pop along to your nearest clinic (see fixed and mobile clinic listings on SANBS website) during the next few days. They're even open late most evenings to accommodate after-work donors. The process takes 20-40 minutes (10-mins for forms, iron & BP testing and 6-15mins for donation and 5-mins to drink juice and eat cookies). And if you don't know your blood type, they'll let you know then and there. What fun! Take a photo on your phone and email it to me (reduce the size of it first, please).