Sunday 30 January 2011

Teaching teachers to teach O

On Saturday the SA Orienteering Federation held its first teachers' workshop. It was put together by Tania Wimberley with assistance from co-presenter Michele Botha; I was one of the happy helpers.

We had around 60 teachers present and it was great working with them to teach some basic orienteering games that are easy to replicate at their schools without the need for fancy equipment, terrain, maps or compasses. Orienteering is included in the Life Orientation syllabus, except that very, very few teachers know anything about the sport of orienteering.

This course is part of the Federation's strategy to grow and develop the sport of orienteering; and the more people on the ground introducing children to this wonderful sport, the better.

Tania really put together an incredible workshop with activities that were fun and meaningful. The teachers certainly got a lot out of attending this course.

The school's orienteering league starts on Monday afternoon and runs for five weeks. I hope that this year we'll get some talented youngsters coming through to regular orienteering events. There are also a bunch of Come and Try It events over the next few weekends. All events for the year are on the orienteering website's 2011 Event Calendar.

Tania and Michele - well done. Your superb organisation and planning made this workshop an absolute success ;)

Wednesday 26 January 2011

Full Moon Run, Fri 18 Feb

Next Full Moon Run will be on Friday, 18 February. 19h00 for 19h15 start.

  • Friday, 18 January 2011
  • Time: 19h00 for 19h15 start. If you are late, tough.
  • Venue: Upper car park at Bedford Centre, Bedford Gardens (cnr Kirkby and Smith Rd - Arbroath becomes Kirkby -). Meet in the region of Vini's. There are also other foodie places like Fishaways on the exterior of the building. I access the Upper Level (open air) parking from Kirkby Road (if you're travelling South, take the entrance on your right).
  • Distance: 10-12km
  • Route: Scenic route through Kensington to a wonderful viewpoint. Moon rises at 18h44.
  • Pace: Conversational; this is a run, not a race. Probably 5:30 - 6:30 pace according to gradient.
  • Bring: Water bottle and reflective bib - be visible as this is a night run
  • Drinks, pizza or whatever afterwards at Vini's (pizza/pasta place - they have outside seating for sweaty, smelly runners).

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Tuesday 25 January 2011

Media, dude. Media.

To clarify upfront that this post has been written in response to David O'Sullian's question of why we don't hear much about Marsha, depite the fact that she is an accomplished athlete, good leader etc. This post is a comment on the lack of media coverage of women in sport. It is not about what David O'Sullivan does or doesn't do in his professional media capacity around sports coverage nor his knowledge of women in sport. I received a reply from David and unfortunately he thought that I was attacking his work in sports media. Not at all. This is about media in general; the post is an answer to a question he posed. What I missed is that the question was rhetorical. He's right - I'm not good at subtlety.

On Friday morning, 702 talk show host David O'Sullivan, who was standing in for John Robbie, made some comments on the sports news, specifically around the captain of the South African women's hockey team captain, Marsha Marescia. The news item told of the team's 4-3 victory against Azerbaijan (world ranking of #14). This was the first of 18 test matches that the team will play over the next month.

David commented on Marsha and what an awesome hockey player she is. He also said how she has always been such a superb ambassador and leader. Marsha made her international debut in 2001 and I remember meeting her briefly at a Nike launch - she was a NikeWomen ambassador - no updates on NikeWomen website since July 2009.

David then went on to say something to the effect of how she is so fantastic and yet we hear so little about her. He then questioned why that would be so and added how she is quite pleasing to the eyes too. I'm paraphrasing, but you get the gist. [To correct, Xola Ntshinga made the comment about Marsha being pleasing to the eyes.]

"David, David, David...

You want to know why? Media, dude. Media.

Listen to the sports news on your radio station and what do you hear? Rugby, cricket, football and golf. To be more precise, men's rugby, men's cricket, men's football and men's golf. Now check out the weekend newspapers. Count the number of references to women. Sportswomen do not often feature in sports news.

Media creates household names. Media applaudes achievements. Media chooses what the audience should know about. Media chooses focus sports. And these are generally male team sports. Big money, big sponsorships, big media coverage.

Women make headlines when they're a) hot (not necessarily a leader in their sport, just hot) or b) something goes wrong. Women's beach volleyball at the Olympics is a tv viewing hit; and not because of the strategic dynamics of the game. 'Top SA cyclist', to quote SuperCycling, Carla Swart recently became a household name; but not for her cycling achievements but because she died in an accident during a time-trial training session last week. Tennis is probably the only sport where women get reasonable - not quite comparable, but reasonable - media coverage. And because of media support and coverage, women's tennis is popular.

What about our accomplished female paddlers, climbers, freedivers, mountain runners, triathletes, adventure racers, surfers, swimmers... Add polar adventures, mountaineers and long-distance adventurers to this mix; locally we have really accomplished female athletes.

Media, dude. Media.

Sure, top female sprinters can't run 100m as fast as the top male sprinters. We can't benchpress the same weights either. We are built differently. We are no less than any sportsman, David. Female athletes train hard and they're as committed and dedicated and focused on their sports.

I am very appreciative to GSport... for Girls!, an initiative launched in 2006 by Kass Naidoo and her husband, Ryk Meiring. GSport supports and promotes the achievements of women in sport. As gsport quite rightly says, "Men’s sport is well established, well-funded, and well-covered by the media. Women’s sport, by contrast, is mostly sustained by a dedicated volunteer base of participants and supporters and rarely receives media coverage."

Something else that I have a big issue with is that the lack of media support of female athletes means that there are few to zero sporty female role models for young girls. I have yet to hear a young girl proclaim how she'd like to be just like Victor Matfield... Role models are very important; media helps to create them.

David, I'd like you to try to name 10, or even five, South African women who excel in their sports. On this point, it would be relatively easy to rattle off the names of 10 male rugby, cricket, soccer and golf players - but what about other sports? How about 10 sportsmen competing internationally in sports other than those featured in your sports new bulletins n-number of times a day. [David can name many women in sport; I know that I can't outside of those I follow in sports I enjoy. Interestingly, I don't watch or follow rugby, soccer or cricket but I can name a good number of players.]

While I don't imagine that people will suddenly flock to watch women's rugby or cricket matches, realise that there are many more sports out there aside from rugby, cricket, football etc. These are traditionally male sports and that's where all the attention is focused. But what about the dozens of other sports that exist where South African women excel internationally?
TV coverage is another whole issue and tv will go where the money is, which explains the constant coverage of the well-sponsored male team sports. Print - newspapers and magazines - can easily carry news on women in sport and as for radio, the achievements of women in sporting events can be added easily. This is not a money issue; just thoughtless neglect.
David, I'm about to host my second FEAT event. I invited you to attend the first one in October last year because I am appreciative of the coverage you have given to adventurers interviewed on your show. It's a pity you weren't interested in it because I had two really remarkable women speaking. Marianne Schwankhart is an accomplished big wall climber and she is the only woman in the world to have climbed all three of the Torres del Paine in Chile; Mandy Ramsden is a mountaineer and the first South African woman to nail all Seven Summits.  
And now, at the event in Cape Town in February next month, I'll have four interesting women on stage. Allyson Towle is a newcomer to adventures and expeditions; she recently completed a self-organised sea-to-summit expedition in Chile. Benita de Witt is a sports physio who founded a method for identifying and eliminating injuries. Hanli Prinsloo holds all South African freediving records and her work with the world's best big wave surfers has won her international recognition and acclaim. Tatum Prins is an exceptional adventure athlete with awesome achievements in adventure racing and mountain running.

So, in summary, that's why you don't hear much about Marsha Marescia.

Media, dude. Media."
On this topic of media coverage, I did a quick search online and found these:

Monday 24 January 2011

Green like grass

It seems like green is this season's colour - and not just on the trees.

I'm a very lucky devil to have a pair of the new Hi-Tec Infinity trail shoes. I've been eagerly waiting for them to arrive since I slipped my foot into the demo pair in March last year. I felt like Cinderella trying on that glass slipper for the first time. I haven't taken them for a run yet because this pair is a half-size too big; but after I've swopped them next week, I'll be taking 'em out. This green on black is absolutely delicious - I just love what they've done with the design. When my mom first saw them she said, "You can't take them out; they'll get dirty". Yeah, that's right ;)

I've been needing to get a second pair of road shoes; my other pair are about six months in and I do prefer to alternate pairs. When I bought my new Adidas Supernova shoes last week I was delighted to see the colour - and they just happened to be green. This is substantially more bold in colour than Adidas has been before - I like.

I'm loving summer with the bright greens; grass lush from all the rains we've had; Pride of India trees in bloom and flowers out all over. And in my green shoes I feel like I blend in - fresh and bouncy ;)

What a FEAT!

With the second edition of my FEAT event happening in just under three weeks, I'm in full swing with final preparations.

I've got an interesting mix of speakers - interesting and diverse content. Also delighted to have good female representation in the speaker line-up.

I spent the weekend wrapping up the event flyer/brochure. Wooohooo! Finally nailed it after many, many hours of playing around - it looks amazing!

If you missed out on tickets after it sold out in Jo'burg last year, be sure not to snooze this time around. If you're not in Cape Town, then encourage your friends to come. Yes, talks will be online in the weeks after the event, but it really isn't quite the same as being there. I also have a number of treats planned for the night, which are especially for the audience.

I'm in Cape Town next week for a quick stop - yay, an interview on SABC3's breakfast show, Expresso, on Thursday, 3 February 2011. At this stage the time is anything between 05h30 and 07h30. I'll get more specific information closer to the time.

Onward and upward!

Writin' proper

This one came through on email...
In this world of hi-tech, I have noticed that many who text messages and email have forgotten the 'art' of capitalisation. Those of you who fall into this category, please take note of the following statement:

'Capitalisation is the difference between helping your Uncle Jack off a horse and helping your uncle jack off a horse.'

I cannot stress enough that proper use of grammar can be most important.

... and spell checkers won't correct this ;)

Thursday 20 January 2011

Night Runner, Fri 21 Jan

I love running at night. I especially love those crazy, quiet hours during ultras - like at 2am or 3am - when the streets and settlements are silent.

For a year or two I've been sitting on the idea of a full moon night running thing. And, with the moon currently big and beautiful, I quite fancy a run.

So... here's the gig:

  • Friday, 21 January 2011
  • Time: 18h45 for 19h00 start. If you are late, tough.
  • Venue: Upper car park at Bedford Centre, Bedford Gardens (cnr Kirkby and Smith Rd - Arbroath becomes Kirkby -). Meet in the region of Vini's. There are also other foodie places like Fishaways on the exterior of the building. I access the Upper Level (open air) parking from Kirkby Road (if you're travelling South, take the entrance on your right).
  • Distance: 10-12km
  • Route: Scenic route through the suburb of Bedfordview. Moon rises at 20h12. We'll also run past the 'fish tank' house.
  • Pace: Conversational; this is a run, not a race
  • Bring: Water bottle and reflective bib - be visible as this is a night run
  • Drinks, pizza or whatever afterwards at Vini's (pizza/pasta place - they have outside seating for sweaty, smelly runners).

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Saturday 15 January 2011

Email stress out

One of those little snippet things in a current woman's magazine says:
50 - the number of emails received a day it takes to stress out the average person. Use electronic flags to prioritise important emails, then file away the ones that can wait for a day or two.
What this silly little snippet doesn't realise is that if you file away the ones that can wait then you'll have these plus the next day's 50 emails, plus the next day's 50 emails...

I suffer from email stress because I have this thing about completing each day's emails by the close of that day, which is often around midnight (or 1am, or 2am).

Many websites give advice that aims to reduce email stress. Some of it freaks me out even more. Sure, it's easy to delete and not respond to jokes, chain emails, unsolicited offers and those that you're cc'd into by people to keep you in the loop about something. I do respond to emails without a clear request (they irritate me, but I still respond) and invitations (to say yes or no).

Although I'm relatively comfortable not checking my email every five minutes, I do like to keep on top of it during the day; I'm usually online for the bulk of the day. When I'm not at my computer during the day I get back to 20-40 emails, which I then work through to clear my inbox for the next day...

I'm also getting really better at keeping my responses short; although I do aim to answer questions properly so that I don't get tied into a back-and-forth volley. Sometimes I just respond with 'Done' - like when I add an event to the AR calendar or update details. It works for me and the recipient, who gets both acknowledgement and confirmation with this one word. A website suggests trying to keep your reponse to within a sentence or two and no longer than five sentences. I like. Would be nice if incoming emails were this short.

I was laughing with friends last night when we were commenting how now, at the beginning of the year after the holidays, it seems almost rude not to start your emails with "I hope you're well and that you had a good holiday" and "Best wishes for a wonderful year ahead" before launching in to what you want to really say. From February this nicety can be thrown out the window.

I've also had this thing about questions in emails. I really enjoy emails from friends where they go ahead and spit out what they want to say - telling of their recent holiday, new job, exciting project. Although it is good etiquette to ask after your recipient, it makes me feel obliged to respond. It's nice to just read.

I'm not big on phoning - unless I need an immediate response, which is not often - so I do favour email. I like that my recipient can read my email at their leisure and that they can consider a response (if one is needed).

All in all, email is super - it is convenient and practical - but it is also a health hazard. Email does get me down, yet it is a valuable communication tool. I'm trying to keep my emails more work related, preferring runs to chat with local friends ;)

Friday 14 January 2011

Seventh day, seventh friend, seventh run

For my last 'friend' run of the week, I met up with orienteering and rogaining friend, Tania, in Ferndale. I met Tania many years ago through orienteering, getting to know her much better in recent years after we became rogaine partners. She whips my butt at orienteering but we make a super rogaining partnership. I haven't had much focus on my orienteering for the past two years, especially with the long course events that I so enjoy (Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge prep really disrupted my O attendance). I hope to be able to give her a bit of competition this year - I will have to work really hard!

It has been raining all day in Jo'burg so I suspected that we were going to be in for a wet run, but we got lucky with a light drizzle in the beginning, which stopped after a short while. Tania took me on a super route through Ferndale and towards St Stithians, a school we use for orienteering short course events. They've got a really nice trail loop around the perimeter of the property.

When I chatted to Tania earlier she wanted to check that we were still on for this evening, what with the afternoon traffic and the rain. I'd circumvented the traffic by heading through early to drop off a kayak and run other errands in the area. As for the rain... "You're my seventh run buddy for the week so come hell or high water, we're running," was my reply.

And that's just the thing that this fun exercise this week has taught me... Running with my friends has been so enjoyable; both for their company and for the runs - my favourite discipline of 'em all. And having my friends all lined up and committed to our runs has meant that no matter what, we would be running.

As I said to Tania, I have not had seven days of consecutive running for way, way too long. Clive's comment about "Is it a good enough reason not to run?" has been at the front of my mind all week and when I think of all the runs I missed last year because of this or that... Achieving balance between work-play-this-and-that is hard but possibly made easier, like this week demonstrated, when I prioritise me - and rope in some friends to keep me company.

Dane, Tony, Allison, Roger, Sarah, Nicholas and Tania - thank you friends for making this the most wonderful week of running, chatting and enjoyable company. You've really helped me to kick-start my year, to prioritise me and this discipline of running that has been a major part of my life for the better part of 18 years.

Thursday 13 January 2011

Sixth day, sixth friend, sixth run

This afternoon I had the pleasure of running with my orienteering/AR friend, Nicholas. Nic is an incredibly accomplished orienteer (there's not a junior or senior trophy in the country without his name on it - a stack of consecutive years!) and adventure racer (Team Cyanosis) with numerous wins locally and a good smattering of international events under his belt.

We met at the Exercise and Nutrition Centre in Rivonia, where we were having our Adventure Racing Club evening later on. From Kinetic (nickname for the place as it used to be called the Sandton Biokinetic Centre, owned by adventure racers Heidi and Stephan Muller who race as Team Kinetic), we ran up and over to the Braamfontein Spruit - first heading South and then crossing the spruit to head North.

Super weather (the threatening rains stayed away) and a fabulous run. The vegetation along the spruit is pretty grassy as the result of the good rains and conditions. Lots of daisy-type yellow flowers out too.

And purple flowers too!
We logged a good dose of urban trail running and contemplated how incredible this city of Jo'burg would be if they'd thought just a little bit ahead to preserve our highveld rivers (not just confine to canals and cover with roads), leaving 100m either side for trails and recreation. Most of our possible green belts are fenced in so they can barely be used... *sigh*

We made it back to Kinetic in good time, tucking into a tasty stir-fry dinner.

Nic - super run, super route, super chatting. Thank you friend.

Wednesday 12 January 2011

Fifth day, fifth friend, fifth run

This afternoon I ran with Sarah, a friend from orienteering. Aside from being an accomplished junior orienteer, she's giving us seniors a run for our money. The challenge will certainly be on this year! And, if I can blow Sarah's trumpet for a moment... inbetween orienteering (participation, assisting at events, junior squad, Junior O Champs overseas) and other activities - including AR, she has just received her Matric (final year of school) results; seven As and a B+ (she only just missed another A). That's really, really impressive!

We live about 3km from each other so we met at an intersection between us. I told her that we could run where ever she chose... Have I mentioned yet that it was a hilly run? We waxed some really big ones in our area! The climbs were worth it for the clear afternoon 360 view of Jo'burg city and surrounding suburbs from the top of the hill, standing next to the [much vandalised] Scottish War Memorial.

We attempted a jump-shot with camera precariously placed
and on self-timer ;) Scottish War Memorial in the background.

Fortunately after all that climbing, our return route was much more gentle on the heart, lungs and legs ;)

Sarah pointing East, down the valley.
Up here, we're really on top of the city.
Sarah, a lovely run and a good, tough route. Thank you. I'm sure we'll whack a few more of these in weeks to come ;)

Tuesday 11 January 2011

Fourth day, fourth friend, fourth run

An absolutely beautiful late afternoon for a run with Roger, a good friend of many year. In fact, Roger was on my support crew for my very first AR (we met via a teammate), a 250km in the Glengarry area of the Drakensberg. Roger was on my team a few months later for the Cederberg 500km. This was in 1999.

Roger has lived overseas in Scotland for a good 7.5 years now; he landed in SA last week so his timing was spot-on to be my running buddy this week. What better opportunity than a lovely run to catch up on news and plans?

We took a nice jaunt around the 'hood, trip-trapping down towards Gilloolies. Place is sadly quite neglected, except for the 'weekend picnic' part. Still, the park is very green and we saw lots of ducks. Our road section took in a mix of busy and quiet roads made pretty by the Pride of India (Crepe Myrtle) trees in bloom.

Roger - so super to see you and I look forward to another run before you set off again ;)

Monday 10 January 2011

Third day, third friend, third run

My Monday run buddy is one of my oldest buddies ;) Allison and I went to primary school together and as I recall, although we knew each other from age 5 (yes, we started grade one at age 5; Allison is a month older than me), our friendship really developed when we were in the same class from standard 1 (grade 3 under current terminology). We also lived in the same area (in 'those' days schools were zoned so children attending a school lived within spitting distance of the school) so we'd play together after school sometimes.

Allison now lives in Pretoria (after many years in CT, then Barberton); but often months go past and we don't see each other in person - as it happens. She's been into her running for a few years now, clocking an awesome Comrades last year (sub-9!).

Up, up, up on top at Fotheringham Park
The route I concocted for her this evening (perfect evening; blue skies, gentle sun and everything bright and green and lovely) was a 'reminiscent' route through Kensington. Fun spots included Fotheringham Park, which overlooks Joburg South; Kensington Castle, Rhodes Park and even Allison's old house.
Allison outside Kensington Castle
My dear friend, I hope we will run more together. xxx

Sunday 9 January 2011

Second day, second friend, second run

So, today's run was going to be at Suikerbosrand, with Tony, after photos with Ben. It was raining - not great for cameras. So I returned home (I wasn't far away when we made the call) and climbed back into bed, after sending Tony a message saying, "Let's run later". What a treat to laze in bed with my book and a cup of tea and to have a second snooze. Lovely.

Tony and I have many things in common. One of them is that we're both nightowls - we like nighttime to work and do things, often going to bed after midnight. We get up early for events, with difficulty; our common preference is to get up only once the sun has warmed the earth. My sms was very well received ;)

A lovely Sunday run with Tony.
Tony and I headed out just before noon, in perfectly overcast and cool conditions. We did a really super neighbourhood run and made it back just as the sun started shining and the humidity picked up. We couldn't have asked for nicer conditions.
Tony, thank you for being my Sunday run buddy. Next time we're hitting your trails.

Saturday 8 January 2011

First day, first friend, first run

What a treat! This evening I ran with Dane, a friend I know through parkour. Actually, to clarify, Dane is very much 'Mr Parkour' in South Africa - the person very much behind the sport here. Aside from being an exceptional traceur and athlete, he runs workshops, training sessions, parkour forums and website, jam sessions, features in tv ads and movies (stunts and parkour)... Ja, he's good.

Dane came through to meet me and I took him on a super scenic run through the suburbs around home. We had rain earlier in the afternoon but is held off to award us with the most beautiful evening and perfect running conditions.

The glorious thing is that I have no idea how long the run took. Maybe 90 minutes? Time does fly when you're having fun ;) We chatted the whole way, catching up on months of news, waxed the hills (lots of them on this route) and enjoyed the views (expansive from up on the ridge).

Dane, thank you for this lovely run ;)

Seven days, seven friends, seven runs

On Thursday I hooked up a run with my friend, Dane, for this afternoon. He's getting into his running and as we haven't seen each other for a while, I thought it would be nice to do a run-'n-chat with him.

Then, my photographer friend, Ben, asks about a nice spot to shoot a running pic for a magazine. I send through my suggestions and then receive a call in response asking whether I'll meet him there on Sunday morning to be the runner. Okie dokie. So, I figure that since I'm out there, Tony may want to come through and we can run after the shoot. He's keen. So, that's Sat and Sun sorted.

So I'm then thinking about fixing up runs with different friends during the week -  a nice opportunity to catch up.

Monday I'm running with Allison. She's meeting me at my place - I've got a great route in mind.

Tuesday is still available (Lauren had to pass as she's injured her foot). Am waiting for confirmation from another running friend.

Wednesday is a local run with Sarah - we live about 2.5km from each other.

A run with Nic is on Thursday, before our AR Club evening; probably in the area around Kinetic.

And Friday is a run with Tania around Bryanston.

Seven days, seven friends, seven runs. What a great start to the new year ;)

Wednesday 5 January 2011

Calendar of international AR events

Over the years I've dabbled with calendars of international adventure races for myself, especially during the years when I was doing race reporting for SleepMonsters and Checkpointzero. Then, yesterday, an AR friend emails to ask about a race in China. I only know of one long one but couldn't find a thing on the web. So I turn to Clive Saffrey's comprehensive calendar of events (he emails it our every quarter or so - ultras, marathons, etc) and there's nothing there either.

Then I start playing. First, I deleted all non-AR events from Clive's calendar - also deleting short AR events - everything two days or less. Not much point travelling overseas for a one day race with a team, gear, bike boxes... I've only selected races that are long enough to be worth travelling to.

Then I cruise to Geoff Hunt's AR World Series website and start adding to Clive's list. Then I trawl my memory and the internet. Et voila! A really interesting spreadsheet results. OK, so it's 1am - off to bed.

I figure that this is great content for and it has been on my mind for years... I know of a number of local racers who would love to go abroad to race but don't know what is on offer, how pricey are entry fees...

Next morning, first on my list is creating the International Event calendar on I populated the content one-by-one, going to each of the event websites to find the really important information - country, date, disciplines, duration/distance, entry fees, supported or unsupported, staged or non-stop... and there we have it -  a super quick-look at what is available this year.

OK, so it took friggin' hours, but it is done - and not a day too soon! I'm back to work in the morning. It's setting up this kind of stuff that is the real pain. It gets easier (and faster) from here. And, my friend over at The Adventure Blog, Kraig, has spread the word so you can expect to see this calendar rocking with great content that is relevant and informative to those who like a dash of 'exotic location' with our racing.

When you have a mo, check out the calendar and let me know (comment below) which races tickle your fancy. I'm a sucker for South and Central America so Costa Rica AR (goes through Panama and Nicaragua too!) looks attractive, as well as Huairasinchi in Ecuador (and it you win you get 4 nights on the Galapagos Islands!). As for Raid Centrale Paris , which takes place in Corsica... my friend went trekking there and her photos of this island are magnificent. Terrex Coast to Coast in England (across England, East to West) is very accessible - direct flight to London. Nice, nice, nice.

Monday 3 January 2011

Seven years of consecutive days of running

I have an AR/ultra/media friend, Clive, who is now just over 2550 consecutive days of running. He holds a top position in a major international company, has a family, travels extensively for work, participates in races regularly and, with all of this, he has run every day for almost seven years.

I dropped him a note to ask how he does it. I know that I'm constantly striving for some kind of balance where I don't compromise on time for me (especially for running) in place of completing tasks for others. And yet, again and again, I find that I miss out on this or that run. I also think it is silly because running is important to me so making time, even 30-minutes, should be easy.

I felt it a lot this year, especially over the past six months, due to paddle training for Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge. Sure, my paddling is great and I've been loving it, but the time dedicated to paddling was to the detriment of my running.

I dropped Clive an email to ask, "How do you do it?", plus some specific questions, and this is his reply:
Before I started my streak I'd always trained a lot, maybe 330 days a year so the step up to 365 days wasn't much. After I realised that I had run every day for three months I wanted to go for six, then a year... Well you can guess the rest. Once I had done a year the question was always: "is it a good enough reason not to run?" and the answer has always been no. So in the end it becomes a virtuous circle.

Yes, there have been times when I could hardly walk with injury or badly hobbling after a race (Badwater 2009 springs to mind) but I've always managed something.

I've always got running kit somewhere, in the car, in the office and so on. I travel all the time so managing my time is critical and when I think I won't have control of my day I make sure I run early in the morning. By the time night comes around I'd rather have a glass of wine :)

But we always compromise, my kayak is less than a couple of kilometres away and I should have paddled more these last few weeks; my bikes haven't been ridden for weeks; I would love to have done some more abseiling recently. There is never enough time...

Self-inflicted disabilities

A dictionary definition of disabled is "crippled, injured, incapacitated". Wikipedia has a more extensive definition that incorporates multiple factors:
A disability in humans may be physical, cognitive/mental, sensory, emotional, developmental or some combination of these.

An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations. Thus disability is a complex phenomenon, reflecting an interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives.

An individual may also qualify as disabled if he/she has had an impairment in the past or is seen as disabled based on a personal or group standard or norm. Such impairments may include physical, sensory, and cognitive or developmental disabilities. Mental disorders (also known as psychiatric or psychosocial disability) and various types of chronic disease may also qualify as disabilities.

A disability may occur during a person's lifetime or may be present from birth.
It's one thing to have a birth defect or disability as the result of injury or accident; it is quite another to have a self-inflicted disability that prevents you from enjoying so much that life has to offer.

I'm so used to mingling with sporty friends who have full range of motion and if they want to go on a four-hour run/walk, they are perfectly able to do so. Over the festive season I encountered many overweight people - not obese, but certainly carrying a good too many kilograms - including young, young children.

Aside from the associated health risks (heart disease, diabetes, hypertension), movement and mobility is severely restricted. Walking up stairs leaves them huffing and puffing, they're unable to trim their toenails (belly in the way), getting out of a car is awkward, a quick walk to the top of a hill to see the beautiful view is out of the question, playing run-around games like catchers and stuck-in-the-mud is uncomfortable (chubby children avoid these fun games), airline seats are a squeeze, backs give problems (yours would give you problems too if you carried a 20kg backpack all day, every day), picking a dropped item from the ground is challenging and even walking becomes a problem.

Take a good look at shoppers in your local mall and you'll see many weight-induced 'deformities' - legs that splay because thighs get in the way and feet that turn outwards; bad posture from large bellies...

Although an extra two to five kilos is probably better than being a too-thin waif, it is way too easy to gain excessive weight (good cooking, tasty treats, yummy large meals, too little exercise, convenient snacks). The carrying of too much weight is incredibly restrictive to activities and mobility... I'm especially distressed to see so many young children disabled in this way.

Weightloss must be the #1 New Year resolution; people vow to lose weight by giving up food items and going to gym regularly. It rarely works because the mechanisms are all wrong.

Giving up junk food completely is silly; restricting yourself to four chocolates a month (instead of 4 a week) and an occasional burger when you really feel like it (not just because it is convenient) is more realistic. Ditto with reducing the number of times you eat out (take out included) in a month and instead saving these outings for special occasions. What's the fun in completely cutting out foods you like? It isn't sustainable.

As for going to gym - gym isn't for everyone. It's more important to find an activity you enjoy - dancing, walking/running in social groups, martial arts, mountain biking. If you didn't like gym before, you won't like it now.

One thing I've found from pole dance fitness is that the women (from 18 to 50's in my class) inevitably lose weight - steadily - over time. And it isn't just because they're exercising regularly and firming up. When you've got to wear little shorts (skin grips on the pole, fabric doesn't) and the room has large mirrors on the walls... Large tees and loose trackpants have no place in my studio. In pole dance fitness we lift our own body weight constantly - it is far easier to lift 60kg than 80kg. And if your movement is restricted by unnecessary mass, there's a lot you can't do. And the 'girls' want to learn more and do more - so the weight sheds.

The human body is an amazing thing - it can be so able and agile and strong. We don't wish disabilities through injury, accidents or illness on ourselves or others - so why do we disable ourselves through self-inflicted abuse?

This year, aim to change your perspective on weightloss and gain. See too much weight as a disability that prevents you from doing so many wonderful activities (everyday activities too) instead of just fat around your midrif. Maybe this will help to get you to where you would like to be.

Sunday 2 January 2011

Kisses from a wolf

My mom has friends who have two wolves - gray wolves. They're about six years old now and they are just the most beautiful animals around.

Wolves were brought into South Africa many years ago by the military in the hope of using them for border patrols, as wolves just keep on going and they run and cover vast distances. The primary problem was that wolves bond with their initial handler and they won't take instructions from a second person - lovely pack hierachy. So, it didn't work very well.

As beautiful as they are and as much as I'd love one, wolves are not 'normal' pets. These two were trained from when they were pups (and for years) - not just puppy socialisation classes; intensive training at home. They live on a farm; they hunt anything that bounds on to the property (bunnies and bokkies, beware! - wolves eat every morsel); and they're kept stimulated.

Kisses from a wolf.
When sitting up straight she is taller than me seated on the floor.
I was so taken with these wolves yesterday - I haven't seen them for a few years. I just couldn't get enough of touching them - and they lap up loves. They're sharp too - not just smart 'dogs' - really, really clever. They watch everything and they reason too.

Wolves are not dogs. As a result, many have ended up in sanctuaries because people just can't handle them once they progress from the cute puppy stage.

On this point... my new ex-house tenants (they moved in to the house beginning Dec, I moved out of the cottage this past week) have a young border collie. She's probably 18 months to two years old. In the week when I returned from Abu Dhabi, I didn't see the children play with her once and it doesn't seem like she was taken for any walks, even though there's a big and lovely park a block away. They left the day after xmas to go away and they asked a nephew to stay at night and also feed the dog. He was not there even one night and on Wednesday Layla had no food.

Border Collies are high maintenance dogs; they're athletic, agile and intelligent so they need to be run and stimulated. This poor lass does not even have one toy in the garden. She hung out with me a lot, coming to my door to ask for loves, tickles, conversation and attention. Very sad :(

I heard at least a handful of other similar stories during the festive season from people with neighbours went away leaving bowls of food and water for their animals while they hit the beach 1000km away...

I look at the wolves and I feel happy and at peace because they live in a wonderful environment with people who are committed to their care; and then I look at Layla, a sad and lonely dog, and I want to kidnap her - after giving her 'folks' a good hiding for neglecting this beautiful dog.

This is a time of year when many people get puppies and kittens - either for themselves or for their children. Peeps, it is wrong! It is a big responsibility to be a guardian of an animal and I think that people take it too lightly. It is not enough to provide shelter and food so unless you're really going to be committed to your pet for the next 12 to 18 years, please don't get one.

Suikerbosrand treat

What better way to start the new year than with a lovely, long morning at Suikerbosrand with friends!

This morning I headed out with Alex, Michael, Nic and Tony for a run on a part of the reserve that I've never been to before. As the trails are only visible in some sections, it was a bit of a bundu bash too - my trail outings very rarely do not include a bundu bash element so it was expected ;)

Suikerbosrand is looking stunning - fresh, green, lots of flowers and quite a bit of water flowing in the streams. We saw a small herd of eland just after the start and again near the end; a small herd of zebra, about five wildebeest together, a springbok and a real winner, a female eland that we were really close to (and she didn't run away for ages!). Nic and Alex saw two young jackal too.

A lovely outing - thanks friends.

Me, Michael, Alex, Tony and Nic

So many pretty flowers!
Tony and Alex walk past the female eland
Tony, Michael and Alex check out the beautiful green hills

Saturday 1 January 2011

New Year's Eve run

A bunch of us headed out to the New Year's Eve run in Pretoria last night (we did it last year too). Although a smaller bunch of club runners, we did have company of other friends - Sarah, Richard, Wayde and Andy - in the field. It's such a super way to start off New Year's Eve and, indeed, the New Year.

Here's to lots of running, good health and many adventures over the 365 days ahead.


New Year's Eve AR Club runners - Nic, Nando, Tony & Lisa

I'm delighted to have my younger cousin, Chloe, visiting from the UK.
She came to watch the run - her first intro to road running.
I'm hoping to be a positive influence on her *evil grin*