Thursday 30 September 2010

Are you on my team?

I love a good story, especially one with a moral. As a child, I treasured my beautifully illustrated book of Aesop's Fables. I would happily read the stories again and again. Well-known tales include 'The tortoise and the hare', 'The boy who cried wolf', 'The crow and the pitcher' and dozens of others.

Three months ago my mom was hired by a small company to sort out their bookkeeping and accounts after business partners - who had their hands (up to their friggin' shoulders) in the cookie jar - had created a financial nightmare.

In response to my story about an incident related to FEAT, my mom told me a tale. Three others follow.

The boss and the accountants

In this story, my mom's boss' accountants contact him to say that he must pay R100k in tax to SARS. Ja, just like that. My mom asks them for the assessment where she finds various late-submission penalties, which were incurred because the accountants had not submitted in time, and other errors. She tells the accountants to submit a query to SARS and that the penalties are not for her bosses account, but for theirs - afterall, he pays them to handle this stuff for him.

My mom then turns to her boss to explain the situation saying, "These people are not on your team". He employs these accountants to fulfill a much-needed task and he trusts them to look out for his best interests. None of us are experts, qualified or even interested in things we have to do - like tax returns and plumbing - and so we hire people to do these things for us. And, we expect them to take care of us and to do the best for us. Someone who is on your team looks out for you and they do their best for you too.

The woman and the little pieces of paper
Yesterday evening I went for a run, taking to the roads and hills of my suburb. The weather is perfect - not too hot, not too cool - and the trees are dressed in the freshest green. It is a wonderful time of year for evening runs.

A woman, who had been sitting on a grassy verge, stands up just before I reach her. She picks up her backpack and I notice a number of little pieces of paper lying on the lawn. I stop and begin picking them up.

"Are these yours?" I ask.

"Yes," she says.

"Well, they don't belong here. These belong in the rubbish bin, just like the rest of the litter lying around these streets."

I gesticulate, pointing at a coke bottle, discarded packaging and other lumps of litter.

"I live in this suburb, I run in these streets and this filth is disgusting. And do you know why it is here?" I ask. It's a bit of a rhetorical question because she'll get an answer whether she responds or not.

"It's here because people don't care. I do."

I turned around, continuing with my route up the hill.

The bakkie and the parked car

This morning I spent over an hour standing in a queue on the pavement outside SARS, attending to an IRP5 query on my assessment. A guy in a bakkie pulled up, parking in a spot near the front door. The spot was vacant because yellow lines (and a sign) have designated this a bus parking area. He pulled up right up the ah-sss... err... bumper of a parked car, so close that I would not have been able to squeeze my shapely leg between the two vehicles. The parked car didn't have much space in front of him either; more, but not much.

I left my spot in the queue to walk out on to the road and around to the bakkie driver's window where I pointed to the parked car and asked, "How is that guy meant to get his car out?".

"I'm just going to pay," he replied.

"I've been on this section of pavement for an hour," I told him. "And you have to stand in the queue too so this is not going to be a quick process."

I suggested that he reverse a little to give the guy in front some space. I walked back to my place in the queue, next to a friendly lady.

"I'd like to think that someone would do that for me," I explained to her.

The bakkie guy drove away, put off sticking around either by me or the prospective one-hour (or longer) wait.

He-who-would-have-been-parked-in returned to his car not three minutes later.

The printer and the brochures

After deliberating for a few weeks whether to spend R1500 to R2500 on printing 400 brochures for FEAT next week, I decided to go ahead because they will be really special to the speakers and sponsors. I put in a couple of late (very late) nights to work on the design, layout and content. Last week I dropped the artwork at the printers. A friendly call this morning announced that my brochures for my FEAT event were ready for collection.

If there is one thing I love, it is seeing something I've written or created in tangible full-page colour. It's one of the reasons I so love writing for magazines... that smell of fresh printing and the delight of colours on the paper... After 10 years I still rip open packaging to get at my articles, just to see what they look like in print. I'd been waiting for that call for a week.

The lady hands over the box and my heart drops. In that first glimpse I notice a patch of streaky printing. "Maybe it's only that one," I think. I pick up a few more. Same. I open up the brochure and notice a white border at the bottom despite the 5mm bleed that I'd included in the artwork; a trimming problem. I detect more streaky printing where the 'FEAT green' should be solid and there are streaks across Pierre's face on the back. Yes, the whole box of 400 brochures and the event takes place in exactly one week today.

The lady calls over the graphic designer, who submitted my job. I ask for the manager/owner too. They offer to trim the white line from the bottom, if I'd like to wait. I'm not crazy about this solution. I notice that the logos on the front fold are almost on the edge of the page, when they should be centred. It turns out that instead of printing on a large sheet and trimming to A4, they printed to A4 without resizing the artwork accordingly. I mention this. And that's to say nothing of the streaky ink. "That's the printer," says the lady.

Hugh, the manager (or owner) apologises for the trimming errors saying that my job should have been printed large sheet and then trimmed. "So, why wasn't it," I ask. He offers me a 20% discount on my next print job. I pay the balance and walk with my box to my car. I put the box in the boot and walk to my door.

I hesitate. I walk back to the boot to grab a brochure. I walk inside again, asking for Hugh.

"I have a story to tell you," I announce.

I tell him about the one about 'The boss and the accountants'.

I then explain what FEAT is about and why I created it; because I love adventures and expeditions and I have such admiration for adventurers, many of whom I know; because I believe that these brave and courageous people need an event like FEAT to bring them together to share their tales; because they are important to me; and because this event is something that I have created and that it is special to me.

"Every one of your staff here are on your team," I add. "They work hard at their jobs to make this business a good one. I come to you with something that is very important to me and I am spending what I consider a lot of money to print this brochure. When these pages started coming out of the printer why didn't anyone notice these things that I saw in seconds? Why are none of you on my team?"

I continue: "I walked back in here because even though people at my event may not notice the streaky printing, the off-centre folds and the white line at the bottom, I did. These brochures, the speakers, the event's sponsors and the audience are very special and important to me and I expect this to be important to you too."

Hugh is reprinting my brochures, on large sheets - trimmed to A4. I'll collect on Monday.

Hugh - thank you for listening. Thank you for caring. Thank you for being on my team.

Readers, care. Care enough to stand up for yourself, for things that are important to you, for people who are important to you and for things that you would like others to do for you. And the people or companies in your life who are not on your team? Replace them whith those who will support you and everything that is important and special to you - not because you are paying them to do something but because it is important and special to them too.

Monday 27 September 2010

Seeking greater challenges

In a final comment from the Richard Burton book that I have been reading... (I've finished it).

The guide is discussing the difficulty of the journeys (he went on four in total with Burton, Speke and other explorers including Stanley). He speaks of suffering and wonders how they all endured it. He also questions how the Englishmen endured the conditions when they came from a place where the heat, animals and sicknesses were so different (both Burton and Speke suffered terribly from malaria and other tropical fevers which nearly killed them).
"It was only at the end of that first journey that I realised what I should have known from the beginning: without this suffering the wazungu do not feel alive. Just before we reached the coast [returning after finding the lakes], I understood that they depend on suffering the way others depend on alcohol or khat or ganja. So it was no surprise when I saw the wazungu again, less than two monsoons later."
He goes on to say:
"Even the others, Bwana Stanley and Bwana Cameron, kept coming back, drawn to their own suffering: all of them did, except the ones who did not survive. They only had to get back on their feet and they were already planning their next journey. It did not have to be easier or more comfortable, the next one. Eh, far from it. They sought out more pain next time, they sailed even closer to death, like a fisherman who is not satisfied with surviving the reef but is compelled to try ever more impossible channels, channels where is boat can only be dashed to pieces."

It's not so different where modern adventurers, mountaineers, climbers, kayakers and, indeed, adventure racers are concerned...

Sunday 26 September 2010

Kayak hoist

A few weeks ago I made a kayak hoist in the garage. For months before I had to ask a security guard, who is conveniently based on the corner nearby, to help me lift the double on to my roof and the off it again after paddling. This has been an irritation because the guards knock off at 6pm... What then? I'd then phone a friendly neighbour to assist.

The hoist works brilliantly because I can drive in, undo the tie-downs, hook the rope under the kayak and clip the loops (carabiner connection). The kayak is suspended a few centimetres above my roof rack. It's as easy getting the kayak on to the racks.

I keep wondering why I didn't do this earlier... and then I remembered that my house people had so much stuff in the garage that there wan't even enough space to wheel the lawnmower through it!

It takes me five minutes to rack and load the kayak, which is too heavy for me to lift on my own from the floor to the roof. Easy-peasy. Simplifying things like this makes disciplines more accessible and less hassle.

More from Burton: hearts, paths and firsts

I've only got a few pages left of my book on the explorer Richard Burton. In the last few chapters a number of comments have caught my attention.

Burton and Speke have a massive caravan of people, porters, slaves and goods for trade moving from the coast of Zanzibar inland, in search of a great lake they'd heard about, which they suspect could be the source of the Nile River. There seem to be over 100 people.

Many of the porters come from the Nyamwezi tribe. They seem to have been a tribe of hunting people until they began earning a living carrying loads on their heads for traders and explorers like Burton. Only half would make it home alive and with a wage in their pockets. And after returning home, they would have to soon set off again "with a bale of a bundle on their head and a good view of death. And they couldn't always stand that view. So they fled."

The narrator of this section, a guide who led the caravan, goes on to explain what happened when these porters fled.
"They ran away in the night, and sometimes we went after them and sometimes we let them be, and sometimes they were caught by another caravan and brought back to us. Then they were whipped with a koorbash, a scourge plaited from hippopotamus hude, a terrible weapon, especially when it was new and as honed and sharp as the blade of a knife. Or they were hanged. I tell you, whoever invented that punishment couldn't tell cleverness from stupidity. There is no lash of any whip in this world that can prevent you taking the path your heart has set you on. When your fear or despair or anger or longing grow too strong for your reckoning, weighing mind, then you do what your heart tells you to do, even if all the torments of Hell in this world and the next are waiting for you."
We are not unlike the Nyamwezi people. We are contracted to indoor jobs to earn money we need to support ourselves and families. That view of sitting under neon lighting, behind a computer, within a screened cubicle is one that not many manage to successfully flee. But, ultimately, the ones who listen to their hearts do make it because nothing can prevent them from taking the path that their heart has set them on. They find a way. You'll meet some of these brave 'escapees' at FEAT.

A decade ago, when I was in turmoil and at the point of making a decision to walk away from 6.5 years of studies, I went to see a psychologist - uncertain whether I was crazy and impulsive (this had been building for many months) or making a sensible decision. I clearly remember him telling me, "Lisa, follow your heart; it knows what you want to do". The next day I handed in my deregistration papers and I have not for one day regreted it.

I liked something else that the guide says a few pages on about Burton and Speke setting their eyes on the first great lake.
"At the beginning, none of us knew what was in store for us, none of us could imagine what we were going to experience, and if we had been able to, none of us would have embarked on that path of scars and suffering. [...] and the wazungu [white men], my brothers, are strange creatures. I can recognise them, I can tell them apart, but I will never be able to understand them. They think a person's highest calling is to go where his ancestors have never been before. How can we, who are afraid of going where no one has been before, understand that? How can we understand their happiness at performing a task they have set themselves? You should have seen the expression on their faces: they were as happy as a father holding his newborn child, as happy as someone who has just falled in love when he sees his sweetheart coming... [...] This was the look on their faces when they reached a goal that no other wazungu had reached before them."

I read a release today about a new expedition called the '737 Challenge'. According to The Adventure Blog, "Welsh adventurer Richard Parks plans to reach the top of all of the Seven Summits, as well as both the North (last degree) and South Pole (last two degrees), in just seven months - starting December. He's calling his expedition the 737 Challenge, which stands for 7 Summits, 3 Poles, 7 Months. Mt. Everest, the highest mountain in the world, is sometimes called the 'third pole'."

Ja, another first, if he gets it right.

It's nice to be first to find, discover and do things. This is motivation that has driven not only exploration, but also science, medicine, technology and other research. Thank goodness. Long live the desire to achieve personal goals whether they are accomplishments just for your own pleasure or feats that change the way we see our abilities and the world.

FEAT - less than two weeks

My event, FEAT, kicks off in less than two weeks now. On Thursday, 7 October, 12 South African adventurers will take to the stage to talk about an aspect of their most recent expedition - or a topic related to adventures. The key thing here is that each speaker only get seven minute to talk. Yes, exactly. Fast, dynamic and entertaining - all rolled into one evening of live talks.

Although I've been cooking up this puppy for months, it was officially announced on 15 July. Tickets went on sale on 1 September (317 of them) and today, 12 days before the event, there are only eight tickets available on Computicket. I'm delighted that I'm not the only one who thinks that FEAT is a great idea.

As the days count down to the event, I've got a load of last minute details to take care of - and then the day will be here.

In advance, I have a number of people to thank.

Deon Braun, editor of Go Multi Magazine, was out running with me in early-May at Suikerbosrand and I told him about my idea for FEAT. He loved it and told me to go ahead and that Go Multi would provide support.

That night I drew up a draft concept and emailed a number of adventurers. Over the next few days they got back to me to say that they were in.

The same goes for my sponsors - Biophys (Michael Graz), Buff (Adventure Inc - Eric Riemann & Christo Snyman), CapeStorm (Ian Little and Tony Mantovani) and Hi-Tec (Shayne Vervoort). Neither of these people hesitated to give their support (and money!). Thank you.

And, from the start I've just had super responses from everyone I've dealt with - from the venue (Wits Theatre) to printers, media, people involved with the event, friends, family... It really helps to have so much positivity from people when you're putting something like this together on your own. And because of all of these people, I haven't been alone in this.

So, in less than two weeks a dream I have had, to bring South African adventurers together and to promote and publicise the incredible things that these people do, is going to come true.

Dream makers - thank you.

Paddling pleasure

On Friday morning Steven and I paddled at Emmies. Public holiday - the dam was quiet.

After a couple of laps Steven asked, "How many laps have we done?".

"Four, I think," I replied. Based on time and the number I'd counted this seemed right.

He sighed. I sighed.

The next six laps went faster but each one was a sssslllloooogggg.

This afternoon, in pumping wind and glorious sun, we paddled at Germiston Lake, my favourite spot. The southern side of the dam was rough with the wind blasting and waves hitting us side-on. We did extra large laps around all the buoys and clocked our best times.

We were both feeling a bit blah after Friday's paddle; this afternoon's session has renewed our paddling spirits. I love paddling into driving wind and in conditions like this the lake is exciting. With smooth water on one side and waves on the other there is little opportunity to get bored. What a pleasure!

This is why my shoulders are stiff

Ah man, this is too much fun not to share it. I've been aiming to get a twisted grip handspring for months - granted, I haven't given it much focus and I have maybe tried it a few times every couple of weeks.

Well, two weeks ago one of the girls in my class attended a workshop and learned these two techniques. I almost got Technique 1 right after a few tries. As for Technique 2, I could barely rotate around nor get my feet off the ground! Well, a week later (this past Wednesday night), I gave it another go and nailed both! I've felt euphoric since and can't wait to work on this some more to get it more steady and to hold the top point for longer. Hands and shoulders can only take so much in one dose (on top of paddle sessions three times a week!).

This vid was shot on Friday morning. I also gave the standard twisted grip handspring a go and - probably because it wasn't filmed - I got it right for the first time; straight as a pencil up in the air with only hands on the pole.

Ja, it is the little things that bring such delight ;)

Thursday 23 September 2010

What do you do at night?

Many people watch tv at night. Some read; some work; others tune into the radio.

By choice, I haven't had a telly for just over two years now. As a result, I tune into the radio most nights, switching between 702 (talk radio) and Jacaranda. I don't always listen to what is on, but it's there.

As for activities... I'm a computa-holic so I'm most often on my computer answering the endless flow of emails, updating websites, writing blogs and articles, crunching through admin and organising people and activities - it never stops! I love dvds, which I watch on my laptop - usually on weekends. Reading is a winner, but I generally read really late at night before sleeping.

Last week Thurs, at 22h00-ish, I started baking a cake to take to a friend's braai the next day. By midnight I was on my hands and knees plotting the size - on my kitchen floor - for a mat that my mom and I painted over the weekend for FEAT. This is the thing with being a night owl - to me, nights are for doing stuff, not switching off (except when I'm camping - then I'm lights out by 20h30!).

While cake baking I started thinking about this blog post topic as I often do things like this late at night. If I had a tv... I would most certainly watch programmes I didn't really want to watch but would be watching regardless.

For me, anything goes at night. What do you do at night?

Wednesday 22 September 2010

White patches on world maps

I'm reading a book ('The Collector of Worlds' by Iliya Toryanov) on the life of Victorian adventurer and explorer Sir Richard Burton (1821-1890). Aside from being the first westerner to make the hajj pilgrimage (disguised as an Arab), he was also the guy to discover the source of the Nile (with John Speke). I've got about a third of the book still to go. Some sections drag, but overall the book is an interesting read.

The other night, I found some lines that I really enjoyed.

This is in the chapter where Burton is in Zanzibar, waiting to journey into the interior on this "most ambitious undertaking of his life" to locate the source of the Nile. He mentions the recognition that will come from solving "the mystery of the source of the Nile that has gripped and amazed the world for two thousand years". But this isn't really his motivation.
"What other aim can there be except to find a meaning for the white patches on the world's maps?"
I kinda fancy that adventuring in the mid-1800s would have been my thing; or even the late-1800s. But, instead of pioneering cross-country skiing with Nansen or filling in the white patches on the world's maps with Burton my role in the world at that time may have been to marry at 16 and cook dinner every night for hubby and seven children...

Mmm... in this light it's not so bad living now, even though Google Earth has the white patches covered.

Sunday 19 September 2010

Hennops Pride O

Adventure Racing Club hosted today's orienteering event at Hennop's Pride, which is past Fourways, on the way to Harbeespoort. I haven't been to O for ages; the event have been far out and I've found the long drives, plus time contraints, to be O-limiting.

But, today I was out there and feeling great! I had a bad run with coughing and flu pre- and post-Swazi Xtreme so I've only really begun to feel good again this past week.

The terrain out at Hennops is grassy and rocky with patches of scattered and dense vegetation. The Hennops River runs through the place too and there are a number of dry ditches to add some interest.

Although I'd wanted to run Brown course (the longest), we had such a great turnout that we ran out of maps. I was starting almost last after helping with registration, so I dropped down to the Blue course, which was technically the same but 600m shorter in distance (as the crow flies). My run was mostly great - just two errors. I won ladies on the Blue course.

CP5 - CP6
Problem was basically that I came out of CP5 through the grassy, open area and hit the road. I wasn't sure exactly where on the road I was. Lots of junctions here because of the 4x4 tracks. I headed down and dropped too low, very quickly. I realised I'd come down the first 'loop' and not the second. It was a bit of a clamber up some rocks to get to the CP. When I look at this track... well, stoopid error.

CP15 to CP16
Like a horse bolting for home after a good run, I lost concentration and contoured too much around the hill. I had my eyes set on some vegetation (the wrong vegetation) but I was also confused because I felt too close to the hill, which I was. Also, I had wanted to hit the road near the CP; I hit a road but it was the wrong one. I realised this when I saw the fence. Took me a few moments to pick up my error - luckily it was a quick downhill run to the control. I met up with another guy at exactly the same point; he'd done the same thing. Really silly mistake, but that's errors in orienteering.

Track mapped by an igot-U unit and worked up on the map by QuickRoute orienteering software.

Tuesday 14 September 2010

It's gotta be the shoes!

A few weeks before Swazi Xtreme (early August) I felt a twinge in my right knee. I thought I'd strained it at dance class as I had been trying some tricky moves that had me attempting to twist like a pretzel whilst hanging by one leg.

My knee didn't give any trouble during Swazi but the niggle was back a short time afterwards. I didn't run for two weeks after Swazi as I was down with awful flu. We're now five weeks after Swazi and some short runs done each week my knee wasn't outright sore, but I could feel that something wasn't right.

Considering that I've never had knee problems, I knew that something odd had to be up. The week before last I did some short, 30 minute runs and I'd get home feeling 'something'. I started ice, arnica and anti-inflam treatments to allieviate the inflammation and calm things down. By now I'd starting thinking, "Mmmm... shoes!". I suspected my two pairs of road shoes (I alternate runs in them), which each have over 1000km in their soles and another pair of casual trainer-like shoes I'd been wearing a lot because of the cold. I stopped wearing the casual trainers but the niggle persisted (I still think these contributed to the niggle - they're very suspect).

Last Tuesday I did a run and felt great until 3km when I felt that twinge coming back; definitely time to try new shoes.

I got my new road shoes on Thursday and ran in them on Friday evening, for 30 mins before circuit training. Nothing. Not a twingle, not a niggle. Nada.

I did Kinetic Adventure on Sunday. Nada. I ran last night on the road. Nada.

I was chatting to Steven (ADAC teammie) on Sunday after Kinetic. He ran Comrades in May and was fine. Then he picked up a right knee niggle at Kinetic Full Moon in late June and it played up again at Swazi. He's been going to physio since Swazi but the problem persisted. He began to suspect his new (new as of May/June) trail shoes. He stopped wearing them recently. Steven used his Comrades road shoes at Kinetic on Sunday and felt no twingles or niggles in his knee.

Steven's trail shoes, like my road shoes, will never be worn by us again. They're marked.

In 2000 I picked up inflammation in my left shin. It developed into a mild stress fracture and I just couldn't get rid of it. It would subside and then pick up within minutes of running. I knew so much less about running and shoes then - I could have been healed months before - so it took a while to realise that the problem was worn trail shoes. I got new road road and trail shoes and never had another problem.

In about 2003 I was on the tv crew for an adventure race in the Drakensberg. I took my new shoes to the race to chase teams. A day after the race I was limping and suffering from pain in my groin. I didn't know why because I couldn't remember sliding or falling or tripping. I went to physio and she couldn't find a problem. She put that silly machine on me and charged plenty. I went about three times and had no relief. Then, a week or two later I went on a shoot to Botswana. I'd been doing ok - I hadn't been running. I remember getting out of the van to run across the road to a store. I put on my takkies, which I hadn't worn for days, and within a 10 minutes I was limping, badly. I took the shoes off and never put them on again. Problem went away within a few days. And this was a brand new pair of shoes!

Shoes are such a major part of what we do and the effect of a bad or worn shoe can be huge.

The thing is, the only way to tell that your shoes are past their sell by date (or whether a new pair is wonky) is when you experience aches or pains in your bones and joints, slight muscle fatigue, new tightness or shin splints.

The outer sole (tread) and upper of your shoes may look ok, but the midsole could be shot.If the tread is well worn, the midsole will certainly be too. The midsole the part of the shoe that provides stability and cushioning and it may lose functionality unevenly, which is when niggles crop up. There probably wouldn't be much of a problem if the sole degraded evenly all over.

Mileage guidelines say that you should replace your shoes every 600-800km; but I also know guys who get 2000km out of their road shoes. If you run 40km/week, you need to buy new shoes (at over R1000 a pop!) every 3-4 months.

The hammering that your shoes take does depend on frequency of running (it's suggested that you alternate two pairs of shoes to allow midsole to 'uncompress' fully between daily runs) and your weight; heavier people are harder on shoes.

Other suggestions for monitoring your shoes so that you can replace them before niggles crop up are:
  • Check the midsole for wrinkles/creases. You'll find them in areas of high load like under the heel and ball of the foot.
  • Place your shoes on a table and check them out from behind. Are they leaning to one side? Midsole cushioning is probably worn. Look for asymmetry - one shoe fine and the other not. This causes problems too (compensation issues).
  • Twist the shoe: a shoes with a worn midsole will twist more easily and to a greater extent than a new shoe.
  • Try on a new pair of the model that you are currently wearing. If your old shoe feels flat in comparison, it is. Replace.
Buying new shoes every few months is a costly exercise; but far less expensive than the emotional, physical and psychological effects of niggles and injury and countless physio sessions. Always suspect shoes if you pick up a niggle.

Sunday 12 September 2010

Triumph at Kinetic

This morning was the fourth, of five, Kinetic Adventure events organised by Heidi and Stephan Muller and their team of helpers. Our women's team, sponsored by Triumph, saw me, Lizelle van der Merwe and Lizelle Smit racing together again. We were beaten at the last event (end-July) by the team of Nicky Booyens, Landie Visser and Susan Sloane, so it was nice to have our top place on the podium back today. But, only just. Another ladies team came in only a few minutes behind us!

Team Triumph AR: Lisa, Lizelle v/d M and Lizelle S pre-start
Today's event took place at the Helderfontein Estate, North on Main Road near Lonehill. It's a superb area and the event was a good one. Fast, but good. I felt great on the first run but awful on the cycle. Coming back from three weeks of flu and illness after Swazi (and two weeks of hucking and coughing before Swazi), it was little wonder that I didn't handle the fast pace very well - I'm only recently back to running and building up again. The final Kinetic Adventure race of the Series in late-November should be a better one for me. Thank goodness my navigation was spot-on today! Lizelle and Lizelle were stars, working it hard from start to finish.

That's what we like, the top step. But we've got to watch it because other really super women's teams are chasing hard and fast!
Our thanks to Triumph; they sponsor our entry. We're all Triumph girls - they make the best sports bras! thanks also to Heidi, Stephan and your team and event sponsors. An incredible amount of setting up, planning and organising goes into these events. They have a super vibe and are always such fun. We really appreciate every minute you invest in these events, and the sport of adventure racing.

Up the pole

In addition to orienteering, ultra trail running and AR (and related disciplines - mtb, paddle trekking etc), I also do pole dancing. Hahaha - you can stop with the jokes now (I'll do parties if you have enough R200 notes to tuck in my hot pants).

I attended my first class a week after Swazi Xtreme in May 2008. I woke up with stiff shoulders and arms the next morning and decided to sign up. It's a fantastic upper body conditioning workout that made me feel great. I caught on quickly (it helps going into pole fit and strong already) and in January 2009 I started teaching. I teach an advanced pole class on Wednesday evenings.

Split grip invert. Only her
hands are in contact with the pole.
When I say 'pole dancing', people immediately think strippers, bump & grind and sleazy clubs. But, the sport is quite different to this stereotype. There's a big different between gyrating around a pole and the sport of pole dance. Sure, pole dancing can be super sexy, but it is also a gymnastic discipline of strength and grace. And it's a very popular sport - thousands of women attend pole classes in South Africa and dozens of countries around the world.
Most countries have a national pole dance competition and there are also bigger competitions like European Champs and World Pole Dance Competition. And, incase you're wondering, men can also pole dance (there's a mens category at some events) - it's usually a display of strength with tricks like those horizontal flag moves.

Pole dance isn't just about 'ho heels and skimpy outfits. Ja, 'ho heels are popular because of pole's roots; and the skimpy outfits are part and parcel - skin sticks to the pole, fabric doesn't (unless its PVC/latex). Not wearing little shorts for pole dancing is like going to a tennis match without a tennis racquet; and you'll land on your pip too!

Last night we had the Miss Pole Dance Fitness SA competition at the Lyric Theatre at Golf Reef City. The first part of the show was the amateur (less than 6 months of classes) and intermediate entrants. The girls were awesome. We had two from our studio in the intermediate category - one placed second. The professional (many of them pole teachers) and pairs competition started later in the evening. It was an inspiration. We've got some really talented dancers in SA.

Tracey Simmonds, former Miss Pole UK, now living in Pretoria. This move is called 'Jade'.
Her 'attachment' to the pole is waist and inside of thigh and under her arm.

One of the night's highlights was a pole demo by Jenyne Butterfly, the first World Pole Dance winner and multiple Miss Pole Dance US winner. She lives in Las Vegas and is also an aerial silk performer and instructor - now that's something I'd like to try! Jenyne is known for routines that incorporate a lot of strength moves and holds. She makes lifting and moving your own body weight look so easy but it really is not. While I can do a good number of fancy-pants tricks, I have neither her flexibility nor strength so some moves I just cannot get... yet. Her routine last night was... unbelievable, but also motivating to see the technical moves that can be done if you have the strength and flexibility. I've got a lot to work on!

This clip below is from 'Pole Show' in LA. The first part of her dance is very sexy; the second part is more strength moves and proper 'pole dance'.

This video below is also awesome. The dancer is Oona and the competition was 'Battle of the Pole 2010' - she won. All the girls wore the same outfits (black hot pants and crop tops) and no 'ho heels. Most competitions allow any costumes and the girls choose outfits to suit their theme and music - there's usually lots of sparkle and big heels. Oona's routine is excellent and she also does some amazing strength and balance moves.

If you want to check out more pole dance clips on YouTube, just search for Pole Dance and names like Jenyne Butterfly, Felix Cane, Susie Q and Tracey Simmonds.

* Pics from wikipole

Three furry house guests

My old neighbours moved into a new place at the beginning of this month - in Potch; but they had to move out of their old place in Hartees at the end of July. Their four kitties (Karel, my feline kindred-spirit, died during this time) lived with me for three weeks in Jan when they moved from here to Hartees, so I offered to babysit the three cats since they know me and the property. Their dad, Stefan, comes to fetch them tomorrow evening to take them to their new home.

I'm going to miss my little house guests when they go; they have really integrated into my life. They're all lovely little personalities and have showered me with attention and loves.

Leo is a Persian. He's actually a little guy, light as a feather, his small body hidden by tons of fur. He's got a funny squishy Persian face, tiny nose and big eyes. He has this thing about talking to me when I'm washing dishes and he's become a shower buddy, dozing on the mat while he waits for me to finish.

Alex has the softest and silkiest fur ever. She's a mixed breed - not quite sure what. She's very anti-social and doesn't do cuddles or people. She darts around and doesn't make friends with humans. Interestingly, she is the one who sleeps on my bed at night, not the others. She started this a day or two after coming to stay. She sleeps on top of my feet and stays there the whole night. When she hears my alarm go off, she walks up to me for tickles and scratches. We're at the point now where I can pick her up, without her whining at me, and we can do strokes and tickles for a minute or two. She has absolutely beautiful green eyes.

Stella is a Maine Coon and she's the softest and floppiest cuddly cat I've met. We do lots of pick-me-up loves. Her home is on my couch, where she snoozes at night. She loves her snacks (we do crunchy snacks every evening when I get home - all three come running!) and often goes for Leo's snack dish, when she has finished her portion, 'cos he's slow at munching. She squeaks at me when she comes in from being outside, to announce her arrival. Leo licks her head.

Demonstrationg the 'Over Shoulder' and 'Upsidedown Kitty' holds. Stella would stay like this all day!

A few days a few days after they arrived, Stella fell ill. I took her to 'Uncle Larry', our vet, in the nick of time. She had a blood parasite, caught from ticks or fleas and when I got her to Larry first thing the next morning (she had looked ill the previous afternoon and didn't drink, eat or move the whole night), her temperature was through the roof (critical, system shut-down, having convulsions high), she was metabolising red blood cells, her heart rate was extremely elevated and she probably would have been dead within a few hours. Larry worked his magic and Stella has recovered completely.

Their mom, Louise, has been sending me pics of some lovely little 'children' from a kitty haven... And I saw a pretty young stray grey tabby outside the dance studio last weekend. I quizzed the car guard about her - she hangs around there and gets food from the people who live in the staff rooms; but she is a stray and doesn't come up to people.

I'm half-way tempted to adopy a kitty. My 'baby', Bracken - a beautiful tabby - is 15 years old now and she lives with my mom; I stop past to visit her often. But, I have reservations about adopting a kitty because of the associated 'parental' obligations to vet bills, safety (there's a busy-ish road on the one side of the property) and having kitty looked after if I'm away. It's not something I want to take on right now - having a pet, to me, is a big responsibility and a long-term one too. For now, I'll continue to befriend 'Stripes' (I don't know his real name) a young tabby that lives next door.

So, it has been an absolute treat for me to have these three little house guests staying with me for six weeks and home will feel very empty without them. Their parents have missed them (their two dogs have probably missed them too) and I'm sure they'll love their new home in a safe and quiet neighbourhood.

Generation bump

My circuit training buddies for our Friday evening sessionare a bit younger than me. We're talking an age gap of nine to 16 years.

This Friday we were talking about the Kinetic Adventure race and who would be racing and with whom. I say that I'm racing with Lizelle and Lizelle again and add, "It's a bit like, 'Hi, I'm Larry. This is my brother Darryl and this is my other brother Darryl.".

I start laughing and they're all looking at me with blank expressions.

They were only just born in the 80s, of course they wouldn't know 'Newhart', a tv comedy programme with Bob Newhart as the owner of an inn. According to Wiki the show aired on CBS in Oct 1982 and run until May 1990.

Larry and The Darryls didn't appear much in the show until the second series and by the third series they're much-loved regulars. Everytime they make an appearance, Larry introduces the group with, "Hi, I'm Larry, this is my brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl.".

I found this lovely clip online, from the second episode of 'Newhart' when the brothers make their first appearance on the show. [Larry, played by William Sanderson, is Sheriff Dearborne in the True Blood series]

Friday 3 September 2010

Answering email

I get a lot of email - it does go through phases but there's generally enough of it to keep me very occupied. As a result, I also send a lot of email - in reply, nature of my work and general communication. My life (work, sport, social, friends and family) has been very much running through email since early 1995 - that's 15 years now.

As the volume of email has increased over the years, I've become very 'controlled' in my approach; I try to send emails to people the way I'd like them to be sent to me.

Sometimes, when I'm just saying hi, I don't ask questions. This is an undemanding email that is just making contact but not expecting a reply or responses.

I aim to confine a topic to each email - not multiple themes in an email - labeled with an appropriate subject heading (very important!).

I also try to reply properly to emails to limit back and forth volleys; if I can solve a problem or attend to an equiry first time, I won't have to deal with another five emails from the same person around the same topic. With this in mind, I try to ask the right questions when I email people.

I also try to whack through my inbox everyday so that I don't start the next day with left-over emails. Often I'll just reply with "Done", confirming that I've read their email and completed the task. Very rarely one slips though, but I'll usually catch it when I sweep through my inbox to cleanse every few weeks.

It's the complicated and demanding emails that I find most challenging; those that ask a lot of questions... most of these are AR-related. Advice on how to find sponsors, how to get into the sport, what clubs to join, training advice... people, please... just phone me, use Google or give it some thought yourself. I don't have time (nor the inclination) to write long replies to this stuff - so I don't. Most of it is on anyway.

While looking for an image to accompany this post, I found this useful article "Yes, you can stay on top of email (productivity tip)" by Michael Hyatt.

On a related topic - being in media work it is amazing how many editors (many, not all), producers and such never bother even to reply with "OK, thanks". Nothing, nada. For people who are contacted by media and the public, I'm sure they get lots of email. And there is certainly a ton of useful content that they miss. The problem is easily solved by hiring a wannabe-student, someone who wants a career in media (tv, radio, PR, magazines), to reply-to and log emails every afternoon. Pay them student rates and they score great in-house experience. It's a matter of creating a spreadsheet and pulling out the senders name, contact details and topic of the email. How much easier for the producer to look through a neat list than a scary, overloaded inbox!


Cruising in a K3

Last night at the Dabs time trial I paddled for the first time in a K3. My boat partners were Amy (driving) and Steven (piggy in the middle). Amy's a very experienced paddling and she drives up a storm so we were often in the thick of things. We logged a 55min time trial for the 10 laps, which Amy says is "very respectable". There were five K3s on the dam - a good number.

The first time I saw a K3 was in about 2003 when I was taking photos at a river race (Liebensbergvlei). I took a really great photo of paddlers with a lovely tree behind them - it took a while for me to realise that there were three people in the boat, not two. I've seen K3s at time trial recently and wanted to give it a try. Awesome!

Ant Stott and company dropping
down Cradock Weir
Searching the web I see that Ant Stott paddled Fish River Canoe Marathon last year in a K3 Yeti, which he says is "an extended, high-line Accord" made by Pope's Canoe Centre. He adds that he "was very impressed with the boat's handling; the rudder responds at the same speed as a standard K2 making it really easy to control through the rapids. As a result we had perfect runs through Keith’s flyover, Salt pans rapid and over Cradock weir". There were 40 K3s at this race last year!

I do hope to paddle this K3 more often - it's just good fun.