Saturday 31 December 2011

New Year's Eve 10km (or Ou Jaar's 10km)

That's my annual New Year's Eve 10km done and dusted. Instead of going to the 10km in Pretoria, which I've done the past three years, I headed out to the 10km in Vanderbijl Park. This town is about 70km South of Jo'burg (about the same distance as the Pretoria run). Way, way quieter than the Pretoria run and quite friendly. Even better was that we left an overcast and on-and-off drizzle in Jo'burg and got a clear blue sky in Vanderbijl.
There were more people than this lined up at the start (but not that many more) - quiet but friendly event.
I'll be back next year ;)
Interestingly, I ran my 10km PB at the 1999/2000 New Year run in this same town; but a different venue and route. I went there with my friend Roger, who has lived in Scotland and a few months ago moved to Australia. And, this same running club hosted a 21/50km run that I went to with my friend Michael a few years ago. I ran the 21; he ran the 50km. Lovely memories of friends and races from other years.

This year's running crew included my mom, Liz, and Sarah and Fred with his wife, Pam, and son, Mike. And then there we were met by Tommy with his wife, Izaan, and sister, Merle, and their friend Ferdi with his two dogs. Nice crew ;) Tommy ran his 10km PB tonight - an awesome 38 mins. He hasn't run a 10km road race since the New Year's one in Pretoria two years ago. He certainly has been running sub-4 mins prior to this run but nice to have it confirmed now. Well done!

 So, nice outing, lovely evening, friendly people on the road and a good start to 2012.

 To all of you - warm wishes for a year ahead that is kind to you.



 (For my non-South African readers... 'Ou Jaar' is Afrikaans for 'Old Year'. Where we say New Year's Eve, they say Old Year's Night)

Friday 30 December 2011

Facebook likes and un-likes

Yes, I'm on Facebook and have been for some time. When I initially joined I mostly ignored it, only occasionally responding to friend requests. Under pressure from friends to 'get with it', I started to become more active by dropping occasional comments and hitting the 'like' button for photos and status updates.

It's a bit of a keeping up with the Joneses thing, especially for FEAT and AR - I have separate pages for both. It just isn't cool not to have social media representation. I look forward to the days when social media is no longer 'in'. (wishful thinking?)

What I appreciate about FB are links to good resources like adventure sport videos; I am happy for my 'friends' when I read of their recent sporting (and other) accomplishments (but I do not care to follow your daily training log); I enjoy captioned photos (not too many of them - just the best selection) from a recent holiday / adventure / race; and other miscellaneous odds. It is also a super platform to keep occasional contact with people; I find it especially useful for people I've met through adventure races abroad.

There are a few things about FB that drives me completely insane...
  1. People who post multiple status updates daily: Arrrggghhhh... I dabble in Twitter (for AR and FEAT) and some peeps have Twitter and FB linked so you get a double-dose of the breakdown of their day. If you post many updates I've probably hidden you on FB or unfollowed you on Twitter - or both. I do not need to know what is happening in your life step-by-step during the day. Indeed, to paraphrase a comment I saw on the web, FB is the 'externalising of one's thoughts and imagining that others care to ponder them'. Status updates are more effective when they're informative and beneficial to your friends.
  2. Quotes as status updates - what's with the posting of quotes by famous and not-so-famous people? If one friend posted a quote here and there it would be fine; but when many friends post quotes daily - it's a bit overkill. There are hundreds of quote-resource websites; if I wanted to read quotes, I'd go there. FB should be about YOU, not quote-a-day. 
  3. Photos posted without captions. How about a bit of who, where, when?
  4. Attention-seeking status updates that beg you to enquire further or express sympathy. Like... "I've had such a bad day" or "Just got back from the doctor". Phleezzzee! Your post is written inviting and expecting 'friends' to ask, "Ag shame, what happened?" or "Oh no, I hope you're ok. Get well soon".  As a comment on the web about FB psychology says, "It’s as if we are reaching out to the world, trying to quench that ever-present thirst for attention and sense of importance". 99% of the time I do not respond to any of these; not because I don't care but because I'm not a fish that needs to be lured. If you have something to say, say it - like, "Just got back to the doctor after having three stitches on my elbow - I came off my bike this morning; nothing serious". 
Having been online for 17 years now I'm probably more guilty than most at living a life (and work) that is VERY online based. I do most of my communication through email; I organise almost everything through email and I 'see' friends more regularly through FB/Skype/email than I do in person.
The approach I've taken to social media is to make any updates or tweets informative - about a run/race/place (past, present or future) or share a FEAT video. I don't (and won't) share what I had for lunch or my frustration at standing in a queue in the post office.

Thursday 29 December 2011

Origami strawberry

Just 'cos...

I got into origami in early high school after seeing a book on paper folding. I could whip up an antelope, sunflower or crane in a jiffy.

Got a buzz a few weeks ago and found the strawberry online by chance. I made it in early December at about 01h00 when I saw the instruction image lurking on my desktop (it had been there for at least three weeks) and figured, "Oh well, what better time of day to make an origami strawberry than one o'clock in the morning...". Takes less than 10 mins and is absolutely delightful ;)

Tuesday 27 December 2011


During my house sitting stint I got to watch satellite telly and although I caught a few favourites, like Law & Order and CSI and a movie or three, I gravitated towards some shows I'd never seen before. I took a shine to 'What not to wear' and 'How do I look?' on Style and also found 'Clean House' (also on Style) and 'Hoarding: Buried Alive' on TLC. OMG!

Occasionally, while out running, I catch a car going into or out of a garage and some of those garages... they need a visit by 'Clean House'. What I find most incredible is how partners and children put up with the collecting / messy / don't-throw-out tendencies of their partners/parents who seem to control the household. Sure, they finally crack and call 'Clean House', but that they live for so long under and on top of stuff...

As for the Hoarding show... goodness. I think the only difference between the people in Clean House and those in Hoarding is that the latter are usually alone - partners and children have left - and the stuff has accumulated for in excess of 10 or 20 years. They end up sleeping on top of piles of stuff because their bed becomes buried and they can't sit on their couch, sit at a table or even prepare meals in the kitchen - there's just wall to wall piles of stuff.

Ja, it's an addiction. People just can't let go of stuff and having and being surrounded things 'feels' like security or some kind of safety.

What I have enjoyed about Hoarding are the psychologists, who help people to let go and deal with the emotional issues, and the professional organisers, who work through the stuff with the hoarder around what to keep and what to discard. It seems to me that the Clean House crew just move in and clean, which I like too. There's something very satisfying in the transformation of the homes and the lives of the people concerned.

I'd quite fancy to be a professional organiser. I remember years ago when I was working for Let's Play and I had to sort, organise, count and pack a huge amount of donated sports equipment (see photo; click on it to see bigger). It was such a kick.

I regularly clear out at home too. Magazines, papers and such accumulate so quickly! I've recently been doing cupboards too. Over time I find that there will be items that I don't wear for a year - they go bye-bye. People I knew had a small place with limited cupboard space for clothing. They had a rule; if you buy a new tee shirt, you must throw one out. You can have new stuff, you've just got to trade an old item for it. I like and have been using this approach for some years.

A friend passed me on to this website - The Minimalists. The posts here, written by two guys, are about "minimalism and living a meaningful life with less stuff". This is a great post from one of their archives about a guy who reduced everything he owns to 288 items.

 On that note, my fingers are itching. Need to dig around for more stuff to throw out...

Suikerbosrand in summer

Under overcast Jo'burg skies, we headed out to Suikerbosrand yesterday hoping for the best; and that's exactly what we got. Months ago I took my mom out to Suikerbosrand for the first time -  a pre-Camino walk. She was really keen to get out there again to see how she'd improved over the months. My dad and his partner, Therese, joined us - they regularly head out there as they're avid birders. My dad has always been really sharp at spotting and identifying birds and he's really good at bird calls too. I definitely didn't get this gene.

Mom, Dad, Therese, me
We started out just after 8am and there were already dashes of blue in the sky. A light drizzle - really light - cooled things down and for the rest of the morning it was just absolutely perfect - light breeze, cool conditions and a clear sky.

Saw a good number of birds, butterflies, dung beetles and many shongololos (for non South Africans, this is a millipede). Only saw animals in the valley before the end - lots of them but they were a good distance away. Probably zebra, wildebeest and some antelope. Vegetation all over is green and lush with lots of pretty flowers all over.

Looking North, towards Jo'burg

I do so love coming out here - and only 35 minutes drive from home! ;)

I tried making some panoramic images...

Saturday 24 December 2011

Merriness, time shifts, naughty little dog and baby blankie deadline

Merry season
Thank goodness for Christian holidays - enjoyed by us all. Christmas comes at just the right time to turn our New Year into a substantial festive holiday season.

The nice thing about the end of the calendar year is that it provides an end, and a new start. We wind up our year and then jump into the next.Without it... nah, wouldn't be good. It's a psychological thing - I like. It's like finishing a project. Sure in reality, project continue into the next year, but it does provide opportunity for finishing, starting, reflecting and renewing.

Time adjustment instead of time zone
During my recent Cape Town visit I thoroughly enjoyed the evenings that stayed light until 8pm. In Jo'burg we're now light until a bit after 19h00. That extra hour seems to give you 'more' time. Although Cape Town would really benefit from daylight savings in winter, two time zones in South Africa is so not feasible. Yeah, it works in other countries but, call me cynical, I don't see it working here. Remember too that we've already kinda got two time zones - GMT +2 and 'African Time').

But a time adjustment... This could work.

I spent my first two years of high school in Potchefstroom and we had this thing where our clocks essentially went into daylight saving in winter. In summer school would start at 07h30 and in winter everything shifted 30 minutes later.

To get more out of summer in Jo'burg - considering that it gets light around 04h30, if you started work at 07h00 and finished at 16h00 (instead of 08h00 to 17h00), then you get three hours of daylight, after work, to play. Or even start at 06h30 (afterall, it has already been light for almost two hours) and finish at 15h30. Nice eh?

The little dog
Dog sitting is going well and the little Jack Russell and I are running well together. We had a little altercation earlier this week when he did a despicable deed. I ignored him for the rest of the day (which this attention-seeking fellow did not like) and he didn't get to go run until the next day. Needless to say he has been an exemplary citizen since as he knows full well that he was a bad, bad dog. That sweet face is tough to resist but doesn't work on me when he is a beast.

We're having fun out running - he runs very nicely - and we've been meeting other dogs - and their owners - in the neighbourhood.

Baby blankie deadline
About two months (or more) ago I started on a crochet baby blankie for my friend's as-yet-not-conceived baby. I'd delighted to report that I now have a deadline. As we're in the first trimester with a first pregnancy we're holding our breath for the next 10-weeks that all progresses smoothly.

My mom has been watching the steady progress of the blanket. Depending on what I'm up to, I add a square or three a night - and sometimes I don't get to it for a week. This blanket is certainly a labour of love. My friend has dogs and recently when showing it to my mom she joked, "Imagine if your baby blanket ends up as a dog blanket". Funny - not.

Wednesday 21 December 2011

By chance running companion

I'm house sitting for my friend; it's more pet sitting than house sitting really. Two labs, one Jack Russell and a cat. The Jack Russell, Rikki, has the cutest face but a typically naughty temperament; but that said he is better behaved with me on my own than when I've been a visitor.

I took him out for a run on Friday evening and he's a nice running companion. He's good most of the time, only going crazy when he sees other dogs behind gates and as he isn't my dog and I'm not sure how well he interacts with other dogs, I keep us at a good distance. With me, he gets little leeway to bark at other dogs because I keep the pace and whisk him away without missing a step. I'm sure I spoil all of his fun. We went walking on Saturday evening and he was also very good.

Last night I took him out for another run around the neighbourhood. We're getting more comfortable with each other. Nearing home I saw a guy running with a rottweiller, not on a leash. I took a different route but nearing home noticed the guy and dog approaching.

Rikki, on a leash, went ballistic - the rottie was very well behaved. I told the 'dad' that this wasn't my dog and that I wasn't sure what to do with him around other dogs. After a while I put the little dog on the ground and he calmed down quickly, making friends with Rex, the rottie, as I chatted to his dad, Jason. He was taking Rex home - the dog was pooped and not being a great running buddy that evening (it was quite hot still) - and said he would head out to run more. I suggested that I'd be happy to join him after putting Rikki inside. He agreed and we decided to meet on the corner a few minutes later.

It turned into a lovely run going into dark - much cooler than the evening had been. And it was great that I could get in more of a run, which I'd been considering doing anyway after dropping Rikki at home but I certainly wouldn't have gone so far and nor would I have had a route as interesting.

This is the thing with running - provided you're not in a rush, it can be easy to make running buddies. In past years I've occasionally picked up a running buddy on a run; easy when you're going in the same direction and are from the same neighbourhood. The cool thing is that my friend whose house I'm looking after is also a runner - I'll introduce him to Jason and Rex when he gets back and they can run together too - they live a block apart.

For now, I've got a run scheduled with Jason on Thursday evening. It's great 'cos he obviously knows this suburb and adjacent areas really well so I'm seeing parts of the area that I've never been through before. His company is appreciated - it can get dull always running on your own, as I usually do - and with company I'm getting in slightly longer runs than I'd do on my own. All good and three cheers for this festive running season.

Thursday 15 December 2011

Muizenberg trail race

Goodness, I have still needed to post my pics from Saturday's trail run on the mountain above Muizenberg. It was a First Ascent Trail Run organised by my friend, Ugene Nel. The week before I headed down to CT Ugene gave me a buzz to say that he'd heard that I would be in CT and he asked what was I doing on Saturday morning. Well, I roped in Heather and Michael and off we went to Ugene's event.

With Michael and Heather before the start - yes, check out that blue sky in the background ;)
Blessed with good weather, it was the most perfect morning. Race distance was listed at 12km - could have been longer? From the Westlake Arms we walked up the hill, on to Boyes Drive, for the start location - at the Silvermine trailhead. Lots of people! What really worked well was that we were set off in batches - there were 10 start groups with up to 20 runners in each group. We would start in Group 9.

The route started at the bottom of a hill so it was a beeegggg climb up, up, up. Heather and Michael are mountain goats so I took it in my stride - nice and chilled, breathing steady and pace regular.

Looking down on the first ascent - not even at the top yet! We came down this at the end.
As soon as I crested the ridge - stunning! And the trails... smooth, secure footing, fast. I'd caught a couple of people on the climb and even more on the 'runnable' section. I felt like an F1 car.

Lovely, lovely running!
Not a soul around. Heading for Bailey's Corner (in the background is the sea)
The next exciting part of the trail was when we came around what I believe is called 'Bailey's Corner' where you can see Muizenberg's beach. Not a great angle for a photo - almost looking into the sun - but very pleasing for eyeballs.

And then, we went up - again. Big up.

A section of step-step-step rocks going up-up-up.
And then, at the top!

At the top - a bit before the descent.
I saw Ugene just before this last bit of the climb and he chirped something to the effect of, "Looks like you're on holiday," in response to my steady uphill trekking style. Hahaha. I ran a 2:20 and placed 19th lady (of 41). Lekker. Makes me think I should have run more. Oh well. What a lovely morning it was.
L-39s doing a formation display
And then, later in the afternoon back at M&H's place, which is near the Ysterplat airforce base, I was treated to some of the airshow. Late in the afternoon the jets came out. There were three L-39s and then a Hawk. I thought these were cool. But these two sub-sonic training jets paled in comparison to the Gripen. The roar of the engine as he flew past the apartment (7th floor, corner unit facing the base) - oh my goodness! I want one for xmas! The thundering engines - deep into your core. Love it!

This fabulous day wrapped up with watching my cousin play at The Assembly in town. His band - The Roland Albertson Band - sounded fantastic. Excellent sound at the venue and good lighting made for a superb night. (you can download and listen to tracks from the link above)

I thought this one may have been of the Gripen, but it seems to be the Hawk.

Monday 12 December 2011

Running in the early morning rain, in Cape Town

I've been in Cape Town for a couple of days for work and play and visiting - home tomorrow night (so still more time for play). Although my schedule has been non-stop with instructing an O workshop, meetings and visits, I had a good dose of play on my agenda this weekend.

Saturday began with an early, early morning that saw me heading out with dear friends Heather and Michael to AR buddy Ugene Nel's run on the mountains above Muizenberg. I got some great pics but they're on my camera and I didn't bring a USB cable to pull them off. Not a USB cable in the house - so I'll post pics and a story from the race after I'm home. Suffice to say that it was a lovely morning with perfect weather, lots of elevation gain - 1200m and the first hill was a BIG one from the start - and stunning trails and views. I placed 19th lady -  a very fair result for a harry-casual outing. Heather rocked in as 5th lady.

On Saturday night I went to watch my fabulous cousin playing at The Assembly in CT town. His new band - The Roland Albertson Band - is rocking. The venue had superb sound and lighting and they were superb. Really easy listening music and a great vibe. On Roland's website ( you can listen to his music and download tracks. FEAT's theme tune comes from the track, White Wednesday.

Then, after little less than 5hrs sleep I was up again and M&H and I headed out for a run. We picked up their friend Gerhard on the way and parked on that cable car road. It was drizzling lightly so we donned rain jackets and set off towards Block House and on to the contour path. Bit of wind at first but once we got into the vegetation - fairyland! Really stunning.

8, 9 10... autotimer! With Heather, Michael and Gerhard
Our initial plan had been to run the trail and then go up and over the mountain; but there was heavy cloud up top and it was certainly to be howling and miserable up there. So we chose to turn around and run back. The weather had started to clear so the view over the city was lovely - even saw a rainbow.

Gerhard, Heather and Mr Rainbow
The day evolved to be a beautiful one - no cloud, no rain, which I spent sight seeing, visiting crafty markets, lunch in Hout Bay and hanging in Kalk Bay. It only gets dark here after 8pm, so it gives lots of time for really hanging out. Lovely.

Sunday 4 December 2011

Exploring raw

I've got a couple of buddies into raw food so it has been on my mind for some time. Not radical raw food eaters, but where they look at getting 60% or more of their food from raw fruits and veggies.

I've never been a big meat eater, even as a child and I don't think I ate red meat at all for almost 10 years (in the 90's) - it just doesn't agree with my tummy, especially when I'm running more. In general, I eat red meat when served it; I don't buy or cook it myself. It is kinda the same with chicken and I think I have almost a seasonal response to it because sometimes I'm fine with chicken and other times not - depends perhaps on what has been pumped into the chickens? Again, the more I run, the less my tummy tolerates chicken, leaving my belly upset.

I've also been very wheat/gluten aware since an illness five years ago when I'd been out for dinner and the next day suspected a 24hr bug of sorts as I was sick as a dog. My friend, who ate the same meal, was fine. The 24hr bug turned into a 10 day bug and I couldn't eat any wheat products without my stomach writhing in agony and my belly extending within 30 minutes. I did all the blood tests - no allergy. Just a sensitivity that developed as a result of the illness. When, even a month later, my gluten tolerance was low, I cut out all wheat products for a few months and then slowly introduced them but in limited quantities. If I go through a phase of eating more wheat products (cereals, sandwiches, pasta etc) I feel it coming back again.

Recently these sensitivities returned - feeling wheat and meat sensitive, lethargic and lazy. So, two weeks ago I decided to revert to simple, vegetarian eating to get back on track. As it happened, I went to a health shop to pick up some grains and at the counter they had a book, Rawlicious, which caught my eye. I've looked at various raw food books over the months but this one, written by a South African couple, was the best presented and has recipes with products that we get here.

So, I've been exploring raw food and have increased my intake of raw, plus some cooked, and I've stayed away from food with eyes.

I attended a raw food workshop, presented by the one author, and it was quite an eye opener. He's a vegan (too extreme for my liking) and rarely eats anything cooked. A bit too extreme for my interests. The first part of the course was a bit too much of the 'selling' of raw food eating - not my thing as I was on the course because I'm already with the programme. My objective was to learn a bit more about food preparation techniques because raw food is not just salads and juices.

And that's the key - not to think of raw food as a radical-bunny-hugger-hippy-child-of-the-earth way of eating. I'd classify it as a culinary category like Chinese, Indian or Spanish cooking. It's a whole new realm of food preparation and as such there are raw food 'cooking' courses, which I hope to explore too.

The highlight of the day was lunch. Oh my goodness! Absolutely incredible and tasty. Like really amazing. You can't believe what is made from raw foods - it really isn't carrot and celery sticks.

The other aspect of raw that appeals is the variety and creativity in foods and preparation techniques. I certainly get stuck in the butternut-courgette-carrot-broccoli routine; maybe a dash of potato, onion, spinach and mushroom. I walk the aisles in the supermarket and find little that makes me think, "Yum". I've been very un-food-stimulated for too long. The raw foodists bring in variety and exciting tastes with seeds, sprouts, seaweeds, grains and nuts, in addition to the veg and fruit that we commonly find.

So I'm back to being fully vegetarian (not vegan) again and it is working for me. I'm running nicely again (best since August), lungs are feeling great (they weren't, depending on what I'd eaten) and I'm trying new foods and food combinations.

For me, if something isn't working and I'm feeling kuk, then it is time for a change; time to try something different, because more of the same isn't going to produce a different outcome. Cutting out meat and eating less cooked food is the something different. Lots to learn, loads to try and I'm already feeling better for it.

Fifth and final Kinetic Adventure for the year

This morning was the last of the five-series Kinetic Adventure races. They're 20-25km adventure sprint races; and they're classified as this because the contain the three primary AR disciplines (run, bike and paddle) with a navigation component (control locations marked on a Google Earth image).

I've been taking part in these races for three years now, with an all-girls team. It has been a really fun journey to race with girls and this year I brought in and alternated a new girl with almost all races. For many it was their first time racing in an all-girls team and they all totally enjoyed the experience.

Me, Sarah and Vix at race briefing

Vicky has been with me for four of the five races this year; Sarah came in for the last two and I also had Jackie, Nadine and Louise in the team. Girls, thank you for your enthusiasm and energy and being game to give this all-girls thing a try - I really enjoyed racing with you.

Today's race turned out to be our worst result ever - in three years - and all because I got a nasty puncture! We were rocking in the front-ish pack and just after crossing the railway line my rear tyre was flat. I pulled out a stick, not a thorn, that had penetrated the tyre plus, at that spot on the tyre, a double layer of tyre liners (the thick white kind!). Although this tube didn't have slime (not sure why it didn't as I usually use slime) this was not a hole that slime would have plugged.

We stopped, hopped off our bikes, got the wheel off and started trying to get the tyre off. Mission (almost) impossible! The issue was that when I got my bike in July last year, through a friend, he had tried to 'convert' my tyres to tubeless (or such) and had used a glue on the tyre and so the tyre was mostly stuck in the rim. We couldn't get to the tube. After a bit of a battle and lots of tyre levers we got it sorted. And while this was going on two big clumps of teams passed us. Oh dear.

Vix has a go at a bit of tyre pumping
And once we got the new tube in we started pumping it up. I haven't used my pump for ages (haven't had a puncture since I got the bike - had bought a new pump) but it was barely pumping air. Such a nice fancy pump and it was almost useless. Some back stragglers came past and a kind guy loaned us his pump to complete the process. Whoosh - works well! Sarah has put 'New pump for Lisa' on her list of Santa.

And we were off. And then, just past the CP at the water crossing, I heard something odd - the one side of the tyre popped off the rim. Crazy! We deflated the tube, got the tyre back on and then pumped a dash of air into it (using my kuk pump - Sarah's didn't have a bike valve conversion). There was too much distance to just run my bike in. Riding was tough on the pap wheel but we made it back ok - but very far at the back; like where we've never been before!

Vix and I did the paddle and then it was up and over the inflatable obstacle course to the finish. To my knowledge there were three all-girls teams; we came third. Oh dear! And with such a short race there was absolutely no time to make up what we'd lost.

On stage with the other two girls teams
Anyway, a good morning - always great to be out and Heidi and Stephan's Kinetic Adventure events are always enjoyable.

What is cool is that we retained our overall position as winner in the women's team category and for our efforts will each receive a pair of Asics' new Fuji Racer or Attack shoes when they land in the new year. Our thanks to Steve, from Asics, for this wonderful prize.

Series winners! Vix and and Sarah with Steve (Asics)
Next week I'm in Cape Town to teach an orienteering workshop and some meetings and some visiting. On Saturday morning I'm running Ugene Nel's First Ascent trail run with my friends Heather and Michael (they'll probably be running ahead of me - racing snakes!). Looking forward to it. And that will probably sum up my event participation for the year.

Friday 2 December 2011

Getting more awesome

As you know, FEAT Canada took place in Vancouver on 15 November. One of the speakers, Jen Olsen, is a mountain guide - one of only seven female internationally certified mountain guides in the World.

Her FEAT talk is online and in her talk she mentions facing her 40th birthday in a few weeks and she adds, "I've been feeling devastated about not having a husband, kids or a pension plan".

She then refers to a quote she saw on Facebook that goes: "Everyone I know is getting married or pregnant... I'm just getting more awesome."

Right on, Jen. I can relate (not about being devastated about not having a husband or children, but that there's a spate of marriages and pregnancies).

Here's to awesomeness!

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Amigurumi friends

My baby blanket crochet project is progressing - slowly. I've been itching for colour and to whip up something quick-quick. On Thursday evening I heard Nataniel on a radio ad, speaking about a toy collection through Checkers stores. I got online, found some patterns and whipped up these three amigurumi. The baby monster (yellow) only takes one episode of House to crochet.

Toys (new and used) can be placed in collections bins at Checkers.

Monday 28 November 2011

Senior moment

On Saturday night, my mom and I went to watch the most recent of the Twilight moves, Breaking Dawn (part 1). Our teenage cousin got us both into Twilight; we've read the books and have seen the previous movies. This one was sweet (they really could have put the whole book into one movie) but this isn't a movie review.

With youth flooding the ticketing desk, we get directed to the popcorn counter - the lady can issue tickets from the one terminal. We tell her the movie we want to see. We select our seats. She says, "That's one adult and one senior". So I ask, "What's senior - 60?". "Yes," she says. My mom is not yet 60 - she's got eight months to go. But I just couldn't bring myself to correct the young lass; she would have been so embarrassed. Instead I give my mom a big hug.

We watch the movie. Lots of smooching between Edward and Bella. Jacob is growing up and looking more dishy; I can see what my cousin sees in him (Team Jacob). Mom and I are Team Edward (although I'm way more into the most delightfully wicked vampire sheriff, Eric - Alexander Skardgard - from True Blood). I don't get what Edward sees in Bella - she reminds me of Frodo from Lord of the Rings. Snivelling. Anyhoo...

We walk out of the theatre and mom nudges me.

"It's because of you".

"Me what?" I ask.

"She thought I was a senior because of you. It doesn't happen when Judy and I go to movies." Judy and mom are similar age.

Indeed, having a daughter with a good dose of grey hair, despite my youthful complexion, would scoot mom right into the 60s classification. We both think it is helluva funny. As we walk she keeps poking me and saying again, "It's you".

Two years ago I took the plunge to never colour my hair again. Turning grey at a young age runs in my dad's family. He was completely silver in his mid 30s. My aunt says she was the same.

I found my first grey hairs at 21; more in my mid 20s and by 28 I was covering the grey with dyes close to my natural colour. Fed up with being a slave to colour (it's a pollutant, dries out your scalp and hair, my hair grows really fast and I think regrowth looks trashy), I decided to let the grey grow out. I chopped my hair short and it took a year to eliminate the colour residue. At the same time, mom took the plunge too. She reasoned that if her daughter is grey, she couldn't very well still be a brunette.

It was the best decision that we both could have made.

Grey is traditionally associated with aging. If someone has grey hair they couldn't possibly be young, could they? Of course they can. This is a nice article on MailOnline about "Why are today's women going grey at 25?".

I remember a spread in Time Magazine about Hillary Clinton, when she was running in the elections. The article was Hillary and some other women and it discussed whether it was 'right' for them to let their hair go grey or does grey hair make them old and past their sell-by date and thus not credible to be in positions of responsibility - or so public perception goes. Grrr... But look at George Clooney or Richard Gere... grey is sexy then.

Ja, just as the article I linked to above says,
"While men get given the silver fox sobriquet when they start to show signs of salt and pepper, when it comes to women grey equals grandma. From society’s perspective, a woman with grey hair is over the hill and has reached the end of her reproductive life."
In my book, grey is just a hair colour. It's my natural hair colour. Grey doesn't change my brain cells nor add another 20 years to the amount of time I've spent on the planet. But, it does get my mom into movies at R8.00 less for her ticket.

[Veteran 90s supermodel Kristen McMenamy has gone the grey route too - and it has given her modelling career a boost. She made the cover of VogueShe is now 46 - article on MailOnline and MSNBC Today (with photos of other silver foxes - male and female). I like.]

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Odds: Israeli cosmetics, mountain people & saying and being sorry

Israeli cosmetic brands
What's with them? For over a year now there have been those temporary 'stores' in shopping malls, in open 'square' areas. Cosmetics like moisturisers, exfoliators, sunblocks, wrinkle smoothers, fat disappearers... All very expensive. All with Israeli. And all manned by absolutely charming young Israeli men. Lovely accents and so smooth.

I don't like to ignore sales people at these stands so I tend to smile and nod hello in passing. Big mistake. The first time I got caught I was urged to rub an exfoliator (Dead Sea salt concoction of sorts) into my hands, and then they spray/rinse your hands with water and your hands are silky soft (I find this stuff quite greasy). And then there was an amazing moisturiser and must-have sunblock. The price? About R2000 for the moisturiser that should last for a year - because you use so little. "Do you not think that your skin is worth less than R200 per month?" Actually, no, I don't.

The first guy was good but not as charming as the third - I know, I know - I keep getting caught when my guard is down and I'm grabbed and seated despite protests. It's another one of those things where one wouldn't want to be rude and to tell them to play on the highway...

I asked the third guy what the deal is with all of these Israeli cosmetics. I asked whether they were scraping every ounce of goodness from the floor of the Dead Sea. And I asked how come they're all out here. He said there were environmental policies in place to protect the Dead Sea and that they make more money working out here than they can at home.

On Sunday I was chatting to Pam. she got caught too. And, she bought a small product. Not a R2000 moisturiser but she's keeping mum on what she paid because it was more than what she usually pays in the supermarket, no doubt... She also commented on how absolutely charming these guys are. Very smooth. She knows it. I know it. They know it. But it is generally done in a nice way such that they can get away with it. Helluva silly.

Mountain people and valley people
I remembered another story from Frank Dick, the coach/motivational speaker guy from the UK. It was about being a mountain person vs being a valley person. I found this typed online:
"There are two types of people in this world, valley people and mountain people. Valley people seek the calm and comfortable ground of shelter, safety and security. They may talk about change but do not want to be involved in it, especially if this means breaking from the routine of what has worked okay up until now. Their concept of achievement is not losing, so playing for the draw to them is all that’s needed. Their concept of fitness is being fit to survive. They are the people you meet who sentences begin with; "I would have", "I could have" or "I should have".
Mountain people have decided that valley life is not for them and seek to test ambition on the toughest climbs. They know that there is a rich satisfaction in reaching the top and the fight thats needed to get there. They live for the test of change and enjoy the resilience required to bounce back from the bumps and bruises that come with the mountain territory. They not only talk about change, they deliver it. They take the risk of winning because to them there is no such thing of a risk of losing. People can lose without training or practice, it comes quite naturally, so where is the risk in that? They know achievement is not always reflected in a gold medal but is always measured by the excitement of knowing just how much further their best shot takes them, when they take the risk of winning. Achievement is balanced on the finest of edges but they know that. Whatever the outcome of the contest, they are always accountable for the result. They are winners and they know it."
You can watch Frank doing this walkin' 'n talkin' presentation in this snippet here:

Why are you sorry?
I think we need another word that has a similar meaning to sorry. These synonyms don't quite work for me. I've recently started noticing how often this word is used in an apologetic context; just like it's overused cousin, 'humbled'.

I think that I'm finding this word irritating because we're turning into an apologetic society; we apologise too much for things that really do not merit an apology nor forgiveness. We apologise for being... ourselves. This is what has really struck me and is the reason for this post.

In writing this it is difficult to conjure up a good example for you...  The word's use is too flippant; it lacks gravitas. It is quite fine to apologise when you bump into someone in a mall (an accident); but a 'pardon' or 'excuse me' would suffice.

Sorry, for me, is more emotive. Stronger. More meaningful. You can feel sorry, be sorry and say sorry. Like being sorry for someone over the loss of a loved one. This is in the context of expressing sympathy, grief or dismay at another's misfortune. I'm ok with it in this context because it isn't apologetic.

When you're sorry for your wrong doings... I have a feeling that post-misdeed remorse comes about because while doing the action you know if is wrong; because, certainly, by apologising, you know full well that what you did was wrong. Better to ask forgiveness than seek permission eh?

There's also that joke about a husband apologising to his wife by saying, "You're right. I'm wrong. I'm sorry".

During this week, pay attention to how many times you hear people say sorry and consider what they're sorry about. Also try to catch yourself before you say sorry just out of habit. Don't. Try another word to apologise - if an apology is actually necessary; if you're apologising for something tangible. But, instead of being sorry, do right. No apology required then.

Words are a dime a dozen but they do count and I think that it is important that a couple of words like sorry should be a little more treasured and are said only when you feel sorry and are sorry.

First paddle - of the year!

In preparation for Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge in 2008, 2009 and 2010, I paddled two or three times a week for the last six months of these three years. I really got into it, especially in the second and third years when I felt completely at home in the kayak. This year, with plenty of other distractions like FEAT and yoga, I haven't paddled at all!

Jonathan sent me an invitation about two week ago to join him in a double for time trial in Germiston. He's an experienced paddler with loads of river racing under his belt and he'd been quizzing me about my interest in doing Dusi some time. And that's how I ended up on the dam tonight. And a good thing too as I've been itching to get back on the water for about three months now - the timing was perfect.

Rain starting to come down; we got off the water with lightning threatening all around. Darkness came early tonight - heavy black clouds. Illumination in this unstable cellphone shot from security lights.
We got on the water and it was great that on getting into the boat, an Ascent, I felt pretty comfortable. An Ascent is only a little notch up from an Accord. These kayaks are similar; both nice and stable. We paddled a bit and then jumped into the time trial.

Earlier in the afternoon the wind had been howling with the approaching storm but for time trial it was actually perfect. Germiston can whip up into a frenzy and that's what I thought we were in for. It turned out just lovely. We did three laps and then noticed paddlers getting off as there was lightning all around. We had the boat loaded just before the rain started to properly descend.

It really felt good being on the water and it was fun to paddle with Jonathan. Over the festive holidays I'm planning to put in some time in my single... haven't sat in this one for at least 18 months. Better pack my swimsuit!

Jonathan, thank you for getting me back on the water. It has been too long. Your nudge and invitation to join you really was just what I needed. And I look forward to another session in about two weeks.


Monday 21 November 2011

I don't feel like sharing... today

I popped out this morning to run some errands and bumped into a chap I haven't seen for years - maybe 15 years or more. I'm not sure how we know each other but it dates back to school days, although we went to different schools. I have a feeling that we went to the same aftercare, which would have been around grades 1 to 3. We've lived in the same area so over the years during school we would bump into each other. I know his name, but not his surname. And, aside from hello greetings in passing, I don't really know him.

Turns out he has recently returned to Jo'burg after years in the UK and then Cape Town. He studied journalism (he's been working in landscaping) and is looking to get back into writing / PR in the travel-type genre.

So, he suggests that we go for coffee and chat.

Mmm... I'm battling with stuff like this at the moment. I find it really difficult to prioritise activities when things hit from all sides. Many existing responsibilities and commitments and even more things I'd like to do.

To say, "No" is hard - well, I find it hard. "No, I don't want to go for coffee. I haven't seen you for 20 years and little interest to sit around chatting." Sounds so rude, doesn't it. And yet, being direct would probably be the best route.

It's the bit like the example of a lift door that opens and inside is a really unsavoury character (think serial killer) and your instinct tells you not to get in but backing off would appear rude and could offend the guy, so we get in. It would have been better to say, "I'll wait for the next one".

But, I have given him my email address because I could maybe assist with a contact here or there (as a freelancer I do know how hard it is) but to spend an hour chatting over coffee... I'm so not energised for this.

A few weeks ago a woman with good intentions did an email intro between me and other lass as she felt that I would be able to assist her friend. The friend sent me an email saying, "I would love to buy you a cup of coffee so you can share much of your adventure racing knowledge! When would you be available?"

I love AR but there's a limit. I've spent a decade writing about AR and putting it on for everyone to read and enjoy. It's all online. Now, if I'd spent 12 years studying a degree in AR would my knowledge be taken so lightly? Do you say to a specialist doctor, say a neurologist, "Hey, let's meet for coffee so you can tell me everything you've learned about neurology in 12 years?". You can read up about neurology on the web. The joy!

I did decline the coffee invitation and directed the lady to the over 100 articles that are on, which are there for her and everyone else.

I've also had a number of emails from friends (like more than five, less than 15) putting people they know in contact with me for me to teach them how to navigate - because they know how much I love teaching and how much I love navigating. Generally, the person is about to do an event like Mnweni Marathon, Skyrun or Freedom Challenge and they need to know (or think they need to know - depending on the event) how to navigate. There's usually a time factor with the race only a few weeks away.

Considering that I've never seen any of these people at orienteering (best foundation for learning basic principles) and that a snap theory course, with no practical experience, will not help them much out in the field where they will need to interpret contours, plan routes, make decisions... it would be a wasted time investment on my side. I'm swaying towards the principle of 'helping people who help themselves'. To my knowledge you can get hold of a GPS tracks for both events and if people show up at orienteering then I'm more likely to be inclined to assist them.

So, today, as the end of a very long and challenging year approaches, I don't feel like sharing. I may feel like it tomorrow or the next day, but not today.

Be better

On Friday and Saturday I attended the SASCOC Coaching Framework conference where the new Coaching Framework policy was signed off and handed over to the Department of Sport and Recreation. In short, there's a stronger focus on sport - across disciplines - with specific attention to Sport in Schools. Federations, like our Orienteering Federation, are encouraged to expand into schools across Provinces, which is what we're doing.

One of the speakers on Saturday was Frank Dick, OBE. His coaching credentials are extensive and he is also a motivational speaker, using sport and his coaching experiences as themes. And what a speaker this guy is! Funny, insightful, fluid and energetic -  a pleasure to watch and to listen to.

One of his stories was an absolute gem. To paraphrase... A nine-year old girl sees him working with athletes at a track and asks him to coach her. A short period later she's lined up at the start of her first 100m  race, against seven others. She finishes 8th and is feeling down at finishing last. Frank tells her, "But you finished 8th and you ran 18 seconds". She again says that she was last. He tells her that she ran 18 seconds which is faster than the 19 seconds she ran previously. So, in fact, she's just run a personal best.

Great perspective. This story continues around being "better today than you were yesterday... everyday".

Great message.

Frank illustrated it with this clip of Usain Bolt, when he ran 19:30 in Beijing in 2009. In the second slow-mo replay the camera is on Bolt's face and it is clear that he is running against himself, against the clock - he's striving not just to be better than the other runners that he has annihilated; he's running to be better than he was yesterday.

And this message comes in parallel with a super blog post this past week by marketing guru Seth Godin.
The other day, after a talk to some graduate students at the Julliard School, one asked, "In The Dip, you talk about the advantage of mastery vs. being a mediocre jack of all trades. So does it make sense for me to continue focusing on mastering the violin?"
Without fear of error, I think it's easy to say that this woman will never become the best violinist in the world. That's because it's essentially impossible to be the one and only best violinist in the world. There might be 5,000 or 10,000 people who are so technically good at it as to be indistinguishable to all but a handful of orchestra listeners. This is true for many competitive fields--we might want to fool ourselves into thinking that we have become the one and only best at a technical skill, but it's extremely unlikely.
The quest for technical best is a form of hiding. You can hide from the marketplace because you're still practicing your technique. And you can hide from the hard work of real art and real connection because you decide that success lies in being the best technically, at getting a 99 instead of a 98 on an exam.
What we can become the best at is being an idiosyncratic exception to the standard. Joshua Bell is often mentioned (when violinists are mentioned at all) not because he is technically better than every other violinst, but because of his charisma and willingness to cross categories. He's the best in the world at being Josh Bell, not the best in the world at playing the violin.
Other people don't count. You - the best you - does.

Thursday 17 November 2011

Mulberry hunting

I guess I've always taken mulberries for granted because they're so available in Jo'burg and I've been eating them every year since I can remember. In the past I've thought, "I really need to make something with them", but haven't even gotten as far as a mulberry jam. It's probably because I don't have a tree and so I usually munch on the run when I pass trees hanging into the road.

With timing running out before the berries go bye-bye, I decided to get myself some for a dessert. I has been hot, so their days are numbered. Last night I was on a mission. I started by going to an old haunt in Kensington where I remembered a tree with a good yield of sweet, juicy fruit. Nada. Not a mulberry in sight - all finished. As you may recall I had a silkworm thing happening last year so I paid more attention than normal, needing to pick leaves almost daily.

I headed back through near home and tried some trees on my regular running routes. Nothing either - they've all dropped their fruit in the past week. I got lucky on my last try -  a tree with lots of berries but higher than I can reach. Good thing I'd packed my little step ladder (just a two-step one, like you'd use in a kitchen to get to items on high shelves). It worked, barely, and I got enough berries for a dessert attempt.

Most recipes online are for mulberry cakes, crumbles, jams and smoothies but I didn't feel like any of these so I made a phyllo treat - mulberries plus finely chopped apple and a drizzle of honey sealed in phyllo layers. Came out nice-nice.

I was wondering why mulberries are so neglected and don't have the glamour of their berry cousins: strawberry, raspberry, cranberry and gooseberry. Part could be that they don't keep very well - they're squishy very soon after picking. And then there's the colour issue - the juice stains (as I recall from childhood) and turns everything it touches a deep purple. I learned something else - the stalks. They cannot just be plucked from the berry - the need to be snipped.

I thought about heading back to the mulberry tree today with a taller ladder, but I'm past it now after last night's dessert, which was yummy. Instead, I've decided to get my own mulberry tree to cultivate for next year's season.

Monday 14 November 2011

On rock and ropes

This weekend I was out at Waterval Boven for a wedding and yesterday I climbed for the first time in many, many years.

I've always liked the sport of climbing but it has never been a focus. At varsity I would climb the wall against the library every O Week (orientation week, held the week before lectures began) and it must have been in second or third year when I was tied to the Mountain Club's table until I joined. I did one trip out to Northcliff, which was fun.

Through adventure racing I've been exposed to ropes - up, down, across - so I'm really comfortable hanging off ropes, I know a couple of knots and I'm familiar with carabiners, harnesses, ascenders and descenders... I'm happy to walk or hang off anything - rope attached - and I don't get nervous about it. This familiarity helps, but it certainly doesn't come close to making me a climber.

Yesterday, Gustav from Roc 'n Rope took us out to play. He's well known to adventure racers from his years of rigging ropes sections at Swazi Xtreme (he recalls that he was at eight of the 10 events). It has taken me a while to join the dots but I knew many other climbers at the wedding from seeing them 'around'. They've been on Gustav's crew at the races. I'm usually so focused at races that superficially I'm interactive but I don't remember much later. I recognise the faces, have a good feeling about the person and have no idea where I know them from. The penny is dropping slowly.

So, the first climb, Charlie led, clipping the rope in as he progressed. Gustav followed and set up a top rope - I'm definitely in no position to lead. Goodness gracious. And then up I went; but it wasn't smooth sailing. The route was a short one and is reputedly a 'tight 16' - it verges on 17. Ja, this doesn't meant to much to me except that I found it helluva challenging. Burning hand muscles - totally unfamiliar holds and grips - and burning forearms.

Charlie ascends with infinitely more experience and style than me. Gustav below.
I learned to lay back, where my hands were in a crack, my feet pushing against rock (not away from the rock but parallel) and my body to the side against the face. That was fun.

"I must put my hand where?"
At one point I said to Gustav that he could lower me down - my forearms felt like they would pop if I went an inch higher. Instead, he kindly let me sit on the rope to let my arms and hands rest and the guys shouted guidance as to where to look for next holds. I made the top - not very gracefully.

At the top! Gustav, totally at home on rock.
We moved on to another spot. Here we met up with other wedding guests, who were making good work of more challenging faces. One of these was Peter Lazarus, the guy who 'found' Waterval Boven and opened it as a climbing spot.

I wasn't totally keen to climb because my hands and forearms still felt so whacked, but both Gustav and Charlie said that it was way better than the first one; a solid 16 with a friendlier face, ledges to rest on and more holds.

Again Gustav leads, to set up another top rope on this second climb.
I'm glad they convinced me to give it a go because on this one I had way more fun and didn't feel as much like a trout trying to swim up a salomon's river. There were a few places where my technique seriously lacked elegance and others where I felt like I was doing the right thing, shifting my weight well, using my legs and finding good holds. It's quite a kick.

The wedding was lovely, the weekend was restful as well as social and playful. I also had a lovely forest run with Kyle (he spoke at FEAT Jo'burg in October last year) and a yoga session with Charlie, munched mulberries and even got in a swim - in a swimming pool (doesn't happen often!).

In the driver's seat

Running with Kyle - he's as light-footed as a bokkie
I can spend ages picking and eating mulberries! A favourite summer past-time. Charlie rediscovered this treat (seems they don't have mulberry trees in Cape Town).
It is interesting to compare what I'm used to with the climbing 'scene'. As adventure racing types, when we play we head out for a spot - say a run at Suikerbosrand - and we say hi, go run for a few hours, say bye and head home. Climbing is very much a whole day or weekend sport where the environment is really social. Then there are the multiday trips and expeditions... in AR our multiday races are fun and social, in their own way, but it is different. It's not an 'around the campfire' getaway. I was chatting to Piers about this; he's a cross-over with one foot in AR and mulitsport and the other in this climbing and exploration community.

Boven is an awesome place to go play. It's about a 2h30 drive from Jo'burg, there are tons of accommodation options (check out Gustav's Roc 'n Rope page) and you can run, bike, climb and chill to your heart's content. My first time in the town, even though I've driven past it countless times.

My previous battery recharging only lasted a few days. I think this one will last a little longer.

Sunday 30 October 2011

Batteries recharged


  1. Drained of one's physical or mental resources; very tired.
  2. (of resources or reserves) Completely used up.

I've felt drained the past two weeks or so. After a non-stop few months and especially a very busy September and October, I've run out of steam. This weekend was a good one to recharge - little time on computer, lots of time spent reading and napping, a dash of crochet, a four-layer cake baked... perfect.

After last weekend's rogaine, where I felt good on foot and bike, I've been down with a snotty nose, borderline cough and a constant low-grade headache. As a result I haven't done any running this week; just two walks with my mom, which were lovely. This afternoon I went out for a run - just before the beautiful highveld storm hit. Legs felt great, nose/head not so great, but improving.

Then I did a yoga session, which made me feel even better. I came off my bike (a slide more than a fall) and injured my right hand (just soft tissue bruising). I tried a yoga session on Tuesday and only made it through some sun salutations. Downward dog and runny nose is not a great combination - and I couldn't put much weight on my hand. So no handstand practise either. I'm really glad that this is a new week with a clearing cold and healed hand.

It's always amazing how my running is a sign of how I'm feeling. When I'm drained, as I have been, my running takes a dive. And is isn't that I'm physically tired; just emotionally fatigued. Organising events, fighting battles (like this past week's trail running saga), writing reports, catching up with clients... Putting out, sending, posting, giving... after a while it catches up.

So, this weekend was good and I'm feeling more ready than I have for a while to face this new week head on. I'm putting myself on my own Seven Day Challenge, starting Monday. Yes, running every day for the next seven days. Back on the bandwagon.

Some pics of recent projects:

The green-silver-natural hexagons are the beginnings of a baby blanket for my friend's baby-to-be;
a four-layer rainbow cake for lunch with my mom, dad and aunt;
new crochet book arrived on Thursday (with my order of Ranulph Fiennes' new book) -
I made this friendly little caterpillar on Saturday night.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Time for a full moon run (Tues, 8 Nov)

It's summer, it's hot, the evenings are divine and nights are perfect for running.

Next full moon is on Thurs, 10 November. But, I'm likely to be away later in that week (probably from Thurs 10th, or even Wed, 9th) so, how about we do a pre-full moon run on Tuesday, 8 November - starting at 19h00 from outside Vinis, Bedford Centre? Moon is up at 16h36. Will be high and beautiful by the time we get going.

Turns out that this Tuesday is moon apogee - when the moon is furtherest from the earth (perigee being its opposite - when the moon is closest to the earth). According to, "If you were to photograph a full moon at apogee and perigee (using the same lens), here's how the two sizes would compare"

Pace, distance, duration
This is a social run. Pace is no faster than 5:30 (on a downhill). More likely a 6:00 / 6:30 pace. Perfect for lots of talking and joking. Route goes into Bedfordview (or Morninghill - still to decide) and includes suitable stops to catch breath / tie laces / cross roads / smell fragrant flowers.

One-hour run. Probably 8km-ish.

Pizza afterwards at Vinis.

Bedford Centre is in the suburb of Bedford Gardens. Use the entrance on Arbroath/Kirkby Rd (Arbroath changes to Kirkby here, near the intersection with Smith Rd). This will take you on to the upper, open, parking level. After going through the boom, park anywhere around here. You'll see a Steers and a Fish Aways. Just down from this is Vinis. Stand anywhere around here, looking like the runner you are.

Remember your reflective wear - for safety.

P.S. Drop me a note if you are keen to come. Nice to know before hand whether it is me, myself and I or whether we've got company.

Monday 24 October 2011

Adventure rogaining

This weekend was the 9th annual Foot & MTB rogaine, held in the forests of Kaapschehoop. I've raced here two or three times already but while the terrain is somewhat familiar, you've still got to do the distance and find the controls.

With Sarah, pre-start of the 8hr foot rogaine
This year I teamed up with orienteering friend, Sarah Pope. This was Sarah's first 8hr event and she did really well. She's done all the previous rogaines - the 4hr options - and has done one AR of 6hrs - so this was quite a jump to be on her feet for 8hrs. Truth be told, I'm good on my feet for hours; but Sarah is probably a better orienteer than me, despite being 16 years my junior.

New scoring with sectors
The organisers decided to spice things up with a new scoring element where they divided the area into five sectors, each having controls of 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 points. If you clear a sector, you get a bonus 50 points. There were a total of 30 controls. For eight hours and over this area, I would have liked many more controls (finding controls is the fun part, not running 5km between them!).

At Control 1, most northerly control. 50 points.
I also found that once you've decided to go North or South first (as it is with this area), it is then a matter of clock-wise or anti-clockwise and then everyone going for points is on the same course with little opportunity for strategy or route choice. While I'm not against the sector concept, there should be more points in each sector to allow for more choice and decisions about what to get and what to leave. And, if you get a poker-like 'full house' of 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 points in that sector, then you get bonus 50. Many of the 10 pointers in normal rogaining would have been allocated a higher points score and strategically I probably wouldn't have gone for some of the ones here - but with the points bonus, if became feasible (and compulsory, really).

Adventure rogaining
We decided to go North and we cleaned up the sectors there. Then, with three hours still remaining, we had to go South. Long distances for not many points, especially as we knew we wouldn't have enough time to clear a sector and it would be way too early to come home. From control 9, in the North, we were hooked up with Debbie and Mark and we all decided on the same plan, time allowing.

The plan was to get 17 and 18, drop into the valley on forestry roads, run on the main dirt road past Battery Creek and with an hour or so still to go to begin the assault on 15 and 14 to clear the sector. If it took us too long to get on to the road to Battery Creek, we could 'escape' up the Barrett's Coaches road and call it a day - not enough time, too much distance.

At Control 18 with Mark and Debbie. The adventure begins!
What happened is the following...

We nailed 17 and 18 without breaking a sweat. Easy peasy.

Leaving 18 we peeked into the 'rough open' area to find the vegetation impenetrable. Pity - would have been fun to drop through this area. We backed out and took a foot path on to a road leading to what looks like a hiking house. We filled up with water and stood on the deck checking out the view.

The first forestry road we took was great - lovely running, soft underfoot and a little overgrown in places. Definitely not often used, if at all. But, road matched the map. Hit a junction, right turn and then first left.

First left started ok and then got overgrown and was then impenetrable. We backed out and looked at options.

Option 1: Maybe the road we were on wasn't on the map and that our turning was a little ahead?
Option 2: Back up to the junction and continue straight BUT an out of bounds area was marked on the map - so not an option.
Option 3: Return, uphill, the way we'd come and head for home.
Option 4: Head down the relatively open spur, hope to hit one of the other forestry roads marked on the map (we suspected they could be overgrown too) and see what happens.

Oh dear, ja, this is what happens when a bunch of adventure racers/orienteers have two hours on their hands.

We took Option 4. The relatively open spur became very overgrown spur and we dropped (actually, crawled would be a better word) right down to the river - the only place we figured would be open. Next followed a dash of kloofing with bouldering, wading across waist-deep pools and sliding down rocks next to small waterfalls. It was spectacular and helluva fun - but not great for optimal rogaine point scoring!

To cut a 1h40 story short, we came to the top of a high waterfall with no easy way down and spotted a fallen over tree on the river-right bank. We used this to scramble up towards the baby trees we could just see (the logic being that if there are baby trees, there should be a road of sorts to access them).

Vaguely aware of where we'd popped out, we headed in the right direction, picked up the Barrett's Coaches road (steep, hot, uphill) and headed straight for the finish, getting in four minutes late.

Only now, looking at Google Earth and my GPS track can I see that my first thought - Option 1, could have paid off. The road we were on wasn't on the map. Nearby, also a re-entrant/valley to the right, also on a spur... Looked the same. I did think the road veering South was a bit odd. Looking at this, it is very odd. Just a wee bit North and we'd have nailed it. So, the roads we thought may longer be there, may still be there - plus part of a road that was never on the map.

Here's what our map looked like for this area...

Perspective. Control 17 and 18 with forestry roads and river
The pink xxxx mark an out-of-bounds area.

Ja, now the problem is crystal clear!
Not quite so fresh as daisies a t the finish after that adventure rogaining - but what fun!
After all the excitement on Saturday, Sarah and I took it easy on the bikes on Sunday - very conservative. We cleared a sector, picked up some other controls and came home with 50 minutes to spare. Very chilled. Very hot out there with >35C temperatures.

Northern side was very bland. New trees planted after last year's fires (or the year before?)

Me munching on corn nuts and control 14 in the tree behind us.

With Craig Ogilvy from ROC - organising club.
We did get the Senior Women's trophy (confession: only senior women's pair). We were
beaten (520 pts to 600pts) by the Vets Women's Pair of Vicky and Cindy. Well done girls!