Tuesday 28 June 2011

June colours

Nah, I don't have tons of time on my hands - I'm just getting faster and doing small projects that take only a few hours to wrap up. Since I finished my crochet motif table runner, I've nailed a number of projects.

Top: A headwarmer for my friend's friend. This is the first one that I did in crochet instead of knit. It worked really well and is definitely the better way to make these.

Second row: A beanie for my friend's new little girl. It will probably only fit her for winter next year...

Next: Beanies for my two favourite little boys; they have birthdays  (five and six) over the next week and a bit. Looks cuter on than propped on an upturned bowl..

Bottom row: A headwarmer for a friend. She chose purple and I thought the pansies would look fabulous on it - and they do ;)

Now my mom wants one of these cute beanies... she even went to buy wool on Saturday for me to knit up for her - pom-poms and all. Child abuse! *grin*

Monday 27 June 2011

Hi-Tec Infinity and Salomon Crossmax: review

In this post I'm certainly not going to compare these two shoes because they're very different and, as you know, shoes are very foot and personal-preference specific. What I may love may be too tactile or narrow for you; and what is great on forest trails may not be as fabulous bundu bashing through highveld grass and rocks, rocks, rocks.

I've had both of these shoes for a few months. I haven't had a hotspot, blister nor discomfort. I've worn them at orienteering, on trails and socially. OK, let's look at them.

(L-R) - Adidas Supernova (road shoes), Hi-Tec Infinity, my foot, Salomon XR Crossmax, Adidas Response TR17

Hi-Tec Infinity
I had tried on both the men's and women's models and I preferred the fit of the men's shoe. Just 'cos the label says "men" it doesn't mean that girls can't wear 'em too.

Aside from the delicious colour, the first thing that caught my eye was the almost 'uniform' shape. As you'll see in the photo above of various shoes (and my foot) together, the Infinity doesn't have a mid-foot 'swelling'. I find this a bit odd because feet are not straight up and down; nor toe shaping.

Although this is quite a narrow shoe, on my foot I can feel that the shoe doesn't have as much space mid-foot, but, surprisingly, it hasn't caused me any discomfort. I think that what saves it is the less-structured, fabirc upper, which doesn't restrict the foot. Remember that when you run your foot splays to broaden even more.

What I do enjoy is when the shoe is wet. The upper seems to cling to my foot more, which I like.

The tread is vertical - in the direction of movement. I'm no aeronautical engineer but I fancy that tread should go at an angle - like 45deg or more to prevent sliding? I've found the shoe to be quite slippery on wet rocks and wet paving. Then again, not much sticks like glue on these surfaces when wet.

On surfaces with loose gravel and stones, especially downhill, I find that running technique probably has more effect on grip than the shoe. If you're landing solidly on your foot and trying to stabilise every step, you're going to slide regardless.

The sole of trail shoes is often flared to create a bigger surface area to provide better stability and weight distribution (often seen in road shoes). Being a more narrow shoe with no flaring, I see the Infinity to be a faster shoe, suited to runners who are lighter on their feet and confident in their foot placements. Less baggage. The midsole isn't more substantial than others, yet the shoe makes me feel 'higher' up.

Toe protection is very good; you may miss out on that black toenail if you slam your foot into a rock.

I find the heel cup comes up a bit higher than usual - half a centimetre lower would be better on my foot. You'd only really feel this on steep descents. I like the cutaway on either side of the ankle bones.

I don't generally destory uppers so I can't comment much on durability - but from the events and runs that I've done, the upper looks none the worse for wear and I find the fabric easy to wash after races.

This shoe has Hi-Tec's Ion Mask technology on the upper to repel water. It's fun to demonstrate but it doesn't really make too much difference to me. If my feet get wet it is usually because I've walked through a river, in which case water has gone in through the neck and soaked my socks too. Also my feet don't have issues when they're wet so I don't get too concerned about this.

The laces... Lots of people are fans of quick-lace systems. I'm not. I like regular laces that you tie in a double knot because you can change the lacing pattern, you can create different tension at the bottom, across the top of your foot and at the neck and my gaiters fix better on traditional laces - quick-pull laces have less tension. Let's say your feet are swollen. So, you loosen the laces to get more room in the shoe. Then your foot pops out the neck and slides in the heel cup. Mmm... I'm just particular so my comments on quick-pull laces (as applicable below as here) come from this.

For doing what they do - keep your shoe on - these laces do the job very well and the tension doesn't seem to loosen.

And weight... my shoe (UK 7.5) weighs 301g. Lighter than all my others - by 30 to 68 grams. When you're lifting up each foot x-number of times in a race, a light shoe feels nice-nice.

I wore my Infinity shoes at the Kinetic Adventure yesterday. I guess we were out for about 2h30. Good comfort, no problems and laces stayed as is and didn't need to be readjusted at all.

Although I've had absolutely no issue with this shoe I don't know whether I'd take it to run a 100km in. I would definitely change the laces to regular laces - that's just my preference. I also fret that the narrowness would be an issue over time and distance. My feet aren't broad, but they're not narrow either. Experience has taught me that with distance, duration and heat (feet swell more in hot conditions) if I feel a bit of narrowness in the shoe near  my outside toes, I'll be prone to developing 'triangle' blisters under my little toe and its friend next door. Man, I hate that! That said, this can happen too if a shoe is too wide - then there's rubbing on the outside of big toe too. So, it is based on past experience of other shoes and not the performance of this shoe that I'm hesitant. I've definitely been happy in them for three hours of uneven and rocky terrain and a few more hours would probably be just as pleasant.

Salomon XR Crossmax

Designed to be used on road and trail, the Crossmax is one of my preferred Salomon offerings. I still prefer the original S-Labs but have no serious complaints about this shoe.

The first two outings I did in this shoe were an 8km and a 6km road run. Although the ride is, as expected, different to a road shoe, my foot was comfortable. I remember doing a trail race about 12 years ago and there was a two kay section of road linking trails. Man, I really felt the hardness of the sole in my joints. No issue with this one on tar. I wouldn't make a habit of running on tar with any of my trail shoes, but it is nice to know that if you run on road to the start of a trail that you're not going to feel it.

I've got the lovely blue/grey colourway in the women's shoe (not this picture above which is the men's). My size in this is a UK8. The weight of the shoe is 331g.

(Compare to my old favourite Adidas TR17, men's shoe - UK8.5 and weighs 369g - this is with velcro around it from my desert gaiters)

The sole tread pattern makes sense - at an angle to direction of forward motion. The lugs stand out from the base of the outer sole. Not totally aggressive but definitely present. Sole is flared; not quite as much as my road shoes. Not made for bouldering or kloofing, it's not surprising that it isn't great on bare rock.

Because this shoe is a 'door to trail' combo shoe, the midsole is softer than Salomon usually uses - like in the XA Pro. Hard soles are nasty - for my weight and style.

The upper is structured through the use of heat-moulded bands. The Sensiflex band catches me right around the mid-foot bones and is there to give the upper structure. It is rubber-like and does expand with your foot. I do like the broad u-shape of the top of the shoe.

The top of the heel cup is nice and low and I feel no interference with my ankle bones with pronation and supination movements.

The laces - my comments as above apply to this shoe too. I really don't like quick-pull laces. Fortunately this can be remedied by replacing quick-pull with normal laces - something I still need to do.

I don't think I've had wet feet in these shoes... then again, wet feet doesn't really bother me.

I've had no blisters or hotspots or discomfort from these shoes.

(L-R) - Adidas Response TR17, Hi-Tec Infinity, Salomon XR Crossmax
In conclusion...

These shoes are very different to each other in fit but, for my feet, I've found them both to be pretty good. No discomfort, rubbing or irritation from either.

My main barrier to using both of these shoes for long distance races is purely mental - I'm sure they'd both hold up. I've done most races Adidas Response TR for so many years (like over a decade - for the most part) that I just trust them and generally favour these for long races. They're not bottom of the range, they're not top, they're pretty simple shoes but they suit my feet perfectly. Feet are so important to having a good race and as I loathe having sore feet I tend to be very cautious and conservative. When I've taken other shoes to long races in recent years I've had sore and sensitive soles, triangle blisters... So I tend to avoid other shoes for long races, keeping them to sprints, orienteering events and short-distance trail runs.

But, bit by bit I'm getting used to the Infinity and Crossmax and I wear them regularly. As my confidence in them builds with each run and race - like 2h30 at the sprint race yesterday in the Infinity - I'll take them out on longer distances.

Kinetic Adventure #3

Last night I thought, "You've got to be kidding! Why am I doing this race?". A cold front came through on Thursday night and it has been icy cold since. Saturday night was no exception and I dreaded having to wake up before six to get on the road to take part in this year's third Kinetic Adventure Sprint. It was only 3.5C when I left home and by the time I got to the race venue, almost an hour later it was 7C. By the time the race started at eight I was wearing cycle shorts and a long-sleeved thermal - perfect winter, highveld racing conditions.

I've got an all-girls, three-person team, Team AR, for this series of events; they're around 25-30km in distance and are helluva good fun.This year I decided to mix things up by having at least one new girl in the team for each race. It gives women the opportunity to race in an all-girls environment, which is very different from racing with boys. We race hard, have fun, make a lot of noise and are very encouraging and supportive of each other. I've mostly had more experienced racers with me and they've really enjoyed the all-girls team as we whoop it up along roads and trails.

For this race I was joined by Nadine and Louise. Nadine and I raced together in a team last year - in winter too - for Hardy's Ystervark (around 100km, I think) event. Louise was a brand new inclusion with only a few sprint races behind her. She kindly volunteered to race with us when our other lady needed to sit out to rest and rehab an injury.

This post is very much about Louise because she really did brilliantly today. Here's a lass who usually races further back in the field. She took a bold leap when she sent a lovely email to say, "I'll race with you", in response to my request on the AR forum. I mean, if you were a guy racing at the back of the pack and Cyanosis put out a request looking for a teammate, I can bet you wouldn't put up your hand.

Why do I think this? Doubt is a big one. If you had to race with a team who is usually at the front you'd be asking yourself, "Am I fast enough?", "Will I be able to keep up?" and "Are they going to get really frustrated with me if I hold them back?". It is helluva scary. Louise put up her hand to race with a women's team that has  been at the top of the series for two years.

Louise did express her misgivings on email but I reassured her that she would be fine and that we'd just take it as it comes. That's one of the things with Team AR: sure, the team generally does well but position is secondary to having a good race. I classify a good race as one that flows smoothly with good navigation, steady and consistent running and biking legs and efficient transitions.

And so it was that Nadine, Louise and I met up this morning at Glenburn Lodge for the Kinetic Adventure Race.

We had a really good first leg - a stage of running around the main Glenburn Lodge area, collecting checkpoints on the way. We were running with another all-girls team (Lizelle, Sarah and Shawnie) for part of if and we exited the transition on our bikes neck-and-neck with them. We overtook them at CP7.

Nadine is certainly a stronger and faster biker than me. She did a 70km race yesterday and won (I think ladies overall!). And I am in turn a stronger biker than Louise. Nadine and I worked really well to push Louise where the road surface allowed and for me it was really a pleasure to be able to assist her - I'm usually the recipient of a helping hand. There were some sections where we had an ant-trail of people pushing bikes, like on the walking trail, so we all walked along unpressured. We did really nicely on this leg, flowing smoothly from one CP to the next.

Off the bikes and on to foot for a nice run/walk leg on a walking trail - really nice section. Louise was feeling the race by this stage - she'd been working really hard from the start. On a few of the sections she grabbed on to my pack -  a little tug on the uphills really makes a big difference.

Coming into the finish we blitzed the short little paddle and were up and over the inflatable obstacles like seasoned pros. We crossed the line in second place.

There are a few very important points I'd like to make from today:

  1. Louise threw caution to the wind to race with us and she came out with flying colours. She came second today in what was certainly a faster time than she would have had. Aside from a bit of pushing and encouragement here and there, she did it. All her ;) She now knows what she can do.
  2. Nadine and I were more than happy to offer a hand. In a post-race chat Lizelle commented that Stephan always say that if you've got enough energy and strength to race ahead, then you should be putting that energy back into helping a slower teammate. 
  3. There will always be someone in a team who is slower than another in one or more disciplines. Always.
  4. Louise accepted our help. This is BIG one. I had a chat with a younger guy from another team because he wasn't helping their girl. He's stronger and faster; she's slower. While he's still learning how to offer and give help, she refuses his assistance. People, it's not about you. It's about your team. When someone stronger offers help, accept it gladly. Aside from increasing the overall speed of the team, it is divine. I love a nice tow. Towing saves the legs of the slower person so that they can keep going for longer at a faster speed than what they would be able to achieve on their own. The offer of help is not offensive; it doesn't mean that you are a weak slow-poke, it means that someone else is stronger and faster and able to share this with you to ease your load a bit. Just say yes and enjoy the ride.
  5. Related to the above point, especially in sprint races, guys are faster than girls. If you're a guy and your girl is faster than you, pull up your socks. If you're a girl and you're faster than your guys, upgrade and go to a more competitive team.
Heidi, Stephan and their team presented another well-organised and planned event today. These races are super fun and the atmosphere is social with racers coming back race after race to enjoy a Sunday morning of fresh air, camaraderie and multi-displine racing.

Nadine and Louise - I thoroughly enjoyed racing with you today. Thank you for being my teammies. We had a really good race.

[I'll update this post with some photos when I get my hands on them]

Friday 24 June 2011

Do it for you

As my involvements in adventurers and expeditions, through FEAT, grows, I keep asking, "What is so wrong with doing something for yourself, because you want to?". I keep getting emails about doing this for some or other cause or "to raise awareness". Very few - if any, actually - say anything like, "I'm running from A to B because it has always been something I've wanted to do".

I think what makes me even more antsy is the 'air of entitlement' that comes with it: "Because I'm doing this for orphans you must sponsor me" and "I'm riding my bike from here to there so you must donate to XYZ organisation". If you say to me, "My dream has been to spend five days pioneering a new route on ABC cliff face, would you sponsor R1/metre?", I'd probably do it. And if you give those Rands collected to the SPCA, that's your call. I'd do it because you're sincere and passionate and doing this because it is something you want to do for you.

I'm not saying that adventures undertaken with causes on board are done even if the person doesn't want to. Of course they do want to. But it almost feels like the cause is the focus and not the person or their physical undertaking. There seems to be so little enthusiasm coming across about the actual expedition, which is really what this is all about.

Here's another thing... friends and relations are the ones most preyed upon and most likely to contribute. They'd be happy to support you by sponsoring so many cents or Rands per kilometre/day/hour because it is you. And if you donate the funds collected to a cause of your choosing, fine. Sure, I'm in the firing line so I get many more donation requests than most, but I also think there are far more effective ways to do good than spending months on your bike 'for a cause'. Peeps, adventures should be about you, first, and causes, second.

Also, if people don't have specific organisation that they support, they'd probably be happy to put money towards someone else's cause. Me? I have organisations that I like to support so I'd prefer to put my R100 into their account, not that of another. Resources just get spread too thin.

Would it be more beneficial for you to organise a fund-raising bingo evening? Let's say your trip takes you away for three months. Would the organisation benefit more from you volunteering to manage their accounts for a year or to spend an hour a day cleaning animal cages or taking a week off work to help to build a house? How about purchasing a couple of cans of paint and organising a team of friends to paint rooms or the exterior over a weekend? Pull together some hot friends to do a car wash at a local mall (with the mall's permission) on a weekend. Or ask friends to put money towards your cause in lieu of wedding, birthday and Christmas gifts.

Consider of the hours you're spending writing emails to people to ask them to donate; when you could raise money more effectively in other ways.

How, outside of a small group of followers, do you raise awareness effectively around cancer (this is being done very well by many organisations), AIDS orphans and the plight of dolphins by walking from Cape Town to Timbuktu. A carefully-crafted expedition can achieve specific objectives but it is not going to improve international relations nor economic investment between India and South Africa.

Without leaving home you can rally support from friend and relations around causes. I've gotten friends to become regular blood donors just by speaking about it; I haven't had to run a kilometre.

When I think of people like Sir Ranulph Fiennes, I think first of his incredible expeditions - physical feats. Many of these have been fund raising initiatives in support of cancer organisations, multiple sclerosis and British Heart Foundation. He has raised millions of Pounds. But, this is Ran we're talking about and his reputation, built over more than four decades, makes him a fund raising success (announced as top celebrity fundraiser by JustGiving in Jan this year). His breakfast/lunch/dinner talks are booked out at x-hundred (or thousand) Pounds a table; the auction of signed memorabilia or used gear can fetch even more.

It saddens me that adventurers - first-timers, many of them - are not focusing on themselves and on enjoying the experience of their adventure because they're so caught up in causes and publicity and Twitter and Facebook and trying to get free stuff from here, there and everywhere.

It makes me think of how, traditionally, girls should be demure; they shouldn't display too much intelligence or independance or capability; definitely shouldn't tell a boy that she likes him and shouldn't whistle. Going after what you want - career, promotion - is still a bit of a no-no (in that telly programme - Cashmere Mafia the one lass gets dumped by her fiance when she gets the publisher position over him; it is not unrealistic).

And so I see this same behaviour when it is 'socially unacceptable' to climb a mountain, run the length of a country or to bike across a continent just because you want to, sans cause.

Finally, I come back to a wonderful question by UK adventurer Alastair Humphreys

Would you do this trip if nobody ever knew 
that you had done it?

Adventurers - do it for you.

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Lisa's Winter Metrogaine results

I could hardly believe that 72 runners would brave a navigation event, at night and in the dead of winter. But they did and within minutes of the start they were warmed up and running through the suburbs surrounding Zoo Lake.

Compared to the previous Metrogaine held in April in the Rivonia/Gallo Manor area, this course was wide open with only two road closures and no security boom access gates. This makes a huge difference to the freedom of movement of the runners and opens up the route choices dramatically.

My guess was that a clockwise route would be the most effective to give gradual climb up towards Westcliff, where the points were nicely stacked, and to descend the stairs – taking in a lovely view down below. Where there are lots of points available in an area, always remember that you are going to have to work for them! I also kept a good number of points reasonably close to the start/finish for walkers.

In terms of penalties applied... Many of the one hour course runners were late; few of the 90-minute course runners were late. Latecomers lost 10 points for every minute or part thereof that they were late. Wrong answers were heavily penalised to prevent runners from guessing answers. The penalty here was three times the points value of the control. It is very important to make sure that the correct box is checked as some wrong answers may have just been in error.

I only had two ‘funnies’ out on the course. At briefing I told runners that if they find funnies, to move on and not hunt for the answer (if they’re sure they’re in the right place, that is). Controls as indicated on the map are pretty accurate in terms of placement (how far down a road) and also which side of the road. All answers should be obvious, even at night, and I’m more than happy to give them the points if their explanation is sound. The date at ‘Glenshiel’ was one of them. I used the 1904 date on the round plaque (cement base), “Established in 1904...”. As it turns out, there’s another date of 1903 on top of the gate, which I hadn’t noticed. The other was the location with the answer ‘Freckles’. The sign was on the other side of the road.

Results take a while to get because of adding up points and scores. It is really challenging to work the totals with people coming and going and under time pressure; we also don’t want to keep people waiting for too long after the finish. I’ll be certain to pack calculators for the next one. A bunch of people jumped in to help and their assistance is greatly appreciated. Koki pen or highlighter marks on the answer sheets was definitely easier to check; light ballpoint pen marks can be missed in the rush.

We had a few bloopses with the points tally. I have checked every entry and they have been corrected on the results spreadsheet. But, it does mean that we had two errors in the overall results...

On the one-hour course, Piers Pirow beat Nathan Thompson. Piers had 660 points but lost 50 for being late; Nathan had 620 points but lost 120 for an incorrect answer. Andrew Wiggett and Caroline Kelly beat the father and daughter pair of Derek and Zoe Brentano. Wigs and Caroline had 490 points and lost 50 for being late. The tally on their sheet read 370 when it should have been 440. Derek and Zoe collected 420 points so they end up second to Wigs and Caroline. My apology for the errors.

One hour course
Solo: Piers Pirow, 610 points
Pair: Andrew Wiggett and Caroline Kelly, 440 points

90-minute course
Solo: Christo Truter, 620 points
Pair: Brian Gardner and Neal Markham, 1020 points

The winning pairs and solos got edible awards plus free entry to the next metrogaine. As the event grows, I will certainly include more categories, like male, female and mixed other than just solo and pairs.
Pre-entry worked really well because:
  • I know how many people are coming and thus how many maps and instructions to print and cupcakes to bake.
  • Little to no cash on the night so that I don’t need copious amounts of change and my mom, Liz, who handles registration isn’t a sitting duck with cash in hand.
  • I can brief the venue as to the number of people to plan for.
  • I have lists of people to check off and to make sure that everyone is ‘home’ safe and sound.
Thanks to Liz for assisting with registration and finish. And then there were a bunch of helpers to jumped in to assist with adding up points. It is a really tough manual job, done under time pressure. The counters that I saw included Susette, Jono, Fred and Piers. If I’ve missed you here, thank you for helping with this task.

Yes, there will be another metrogaine, probably only in September. I’m thinking around Tuesday, 6 September. I’ll confirm in good time. I have in mind an idea for a ‘Power Points’ control or two where you can earn extra points. All will be revealed...

Total number of controls: 42
Total point score available: 1260
Highest score: 1020 (Brian Gardner and Neal Markham)
Distance run by Brian and Neal: 18.6km with 295m of climb in 1:27:07
Highest one-hour course score: 610 (Piers Pirow – he had 660 but lost 50 points for being late)
Total number of runners: 72
Runners on 90-minute course = 21 pairs & 3 solo = 45 runners
Runners on the one-hour course = 12 pairs and 3 solo = 27 runners

1 Hour course Time Points Penalty -

Penalty -

Solo Piers Pirow 1:04:23 660 50 610
Solo Nathan Thompson 0:51:45 620 120 500 #41 is Multiguard
Pair Andrew Wiggett Caroline Kelly 1:04:59 490 50 440
Pair Zoe Brentano Derek Brentano 0:58:15 420 420
Solo Pieter van

1:04:38 440 50 390
Pair Fred Richardson Allison Glass 0:58:15 360 360
Pair Nicole Stuart Dring 1:05:12 390 60 330
Pair Roelof Letter Esmari Kilian 1:05:12 370 60 310
Pair Nicky Lance 0:58:15 280 280
Pair Sarah Pope Magi Lingnau 0:58:15 420 150 270 #15 is 2; #45 is 1
Pair Bettina Klein Anisa Govender 1:02:36 250 30 220
Pair Christelle van

Rory Meyer 0:57:34 160 160
Pair Chris Tamryn 0:59:07 310 150 160 #53 is mosaic
Pair Abdul Ebrahim Aneesa Hendricks 1:16:52 270 170 100
Pair Cameron Naidoo Angie Sanchez 1:17:57 290 180 150 -40 #55 is pick axe
90-minute course Time Points Penalty -

Penalty -

Pair Brian Gardner Neal Markham 1:27:07 1020 1020
Pair Alex Pope Tony Abbott 1:28:48 950 950
Pair Clinton

Jane Swarbreck 1:29:29 840 840
Pair Patrick de Jongh Ryan Burger 1:30:14 810 10 800
Pair Steven Yates Patrick 1:26:59 690 690
Pair Charl Keet Lizelle Smit 1:32:15 720 30 690
Pair Andrew

Shelly 1:21:23 660 660
Pair Mary Scorer Lynette Jones 1:28:27 650 650
Solo Christo Truter 1:29:09 620 620
Pair Shaun Brassell Alexander Retief 1:28:24 590 590
Pair Mark Dickson Gareth Evans 1:24:56 520 520
Solo Fernando Santos 1:28:49 510 510
Pair Chris vd Merwe


1:34:18 560 50 510
Pair Isabel Roux Ilse Karsten 1:25:26 470 470
Pair Erik Vermeulen Karin Derwort 1:26:59 450 450
Pair Jacques Booysen Zurika Untiedt 1:31:04 450 20 430
Pair Lobby Goulding Pam Goulding 1:24:27 410 410
Pair Allyson Towle Phillip 1:21:23 370 370
Pair Susette Meffan Jono 1:29:09 370 370
Pair Larry Harmer Nadine Nunes 1:15:18 370 370
Solo Ari Vlastos 1:24:26 440 150 290 #53 is mosaic
Pair Francis Rogan Petra Anderson 1:21:04 370 90 280 #31 is white
Pair Justin Nolan Barry Schooling 1:32:54 330 30 300
Pair Duncan Crous Yasmin Palmer 1:17:29 260 80 180 #48 is metal

Tuesday 21 June 2011

35 Days of Running - DONE!

This afternoon I wrapped up my '35 Days of Running' adventure with a little six kilometre run, on legs that were a bit tired from yesterday's orienteering event.

To give you some numbers:
Week 1: 42.3km
Week 2: 42.7km
Week 3: 50.5km
Week 4: 46.7km
Week 5: 43.6km
TOTAL: 225.8km

Average of 6.4km/day.

In total I logged just over 28 hours on my feet (add in my other sports - specifically pole and yoga over these five weeks - and you get 41.5hrs of exercise in these five weeks).

Of the 35 runs:

  • 5 were orienteering events
  • 4 were long walks with my mom
  • 2 were run with friends
  • 24 were run on my own, from home
  • 6 runs were between 4-5km in distance

There were definitely three and certainly five days in the 35 where I found it really hard to get out there. But once out, it wasn't that bad and I enjoyed my runs.

This challenge has been a good and important one for me. Aside from building on my inconsistent foundation, this challenge was very much about focusing on me; on making time for me and something that I love and that is important to me and not to always push me-things aside for other-people-things.

Finding 30-minutes for a 5-6km run is not impossible; most of the time it isn't really that difficult. I will add that during winter it does help that, being freelance and working mostly from home, I could take advantage of warmer afternoons on those wickedly chilly days to go for a run; this would have been much, much harder if I was tied to only mornings or after-work sessions.

As to how I'm feeling after these 35 consecutive runs... About two weeks ago I was feeling a bit tired for a few days, but this was post blood donation so probably more that than the running. I didn't push any of the days, sticking with runs that were usually six to eight kays in distance with one 10km each week. Today my legs were tight after yesterday's orienteering champs event but after 20 minutes they were feeling much better.

I'm certainly a bit leaner. My body responds quickly to my dominant discipline; like last year my arms and shoulders were way bigger from all the paddling and yoga has certainly built my core.

Overall I'm feeling fitter and healthier and disciplined and content. I'm going to use this base in both running fitness and personal discipline to incorporate some hill and speed sessions plus a longer distance (15-21km) once a week; I'm definitely not feeling fast (steady 5-6km/hr depending on gradient) and do need to pick up speed.

Now you're asking, "What happens on Day 36?". Well, I'm not sure yet. Maybe a run? Maybe a self-practise yoga session? I'm a bit addicted to drawing in my running tracks so going for a day without a colourful track... And since I've done 35, how about 36 and 37 and 38?

And, as Clive says, is any reason not to run good enough? It usually isn't.

Saturday 18 June 2011

35 and counting

Today the sun rose on my 35th birthday; ja, that's 35 years on this planet. The first dozen years passed slowly; the next half-dozen moved a little (only a little) faster; the next half-dozen were pretty swift and the last decade has been a tornado - fast, turbulent and excitingly wonderful.

When I woke up this morning the world was not any different; it never really is, even on one's birthday. I am lucky enough to have Gauteng Orienteering Champs fall on my birthday this year. It's usually a training camp or Champs around this time.

I was hoping for a really good run today and most controls were reasonably good; just one made the house of cards fall down. Oh dear... 15 minutes on a control that should have taken a third of this to find. If I'd stuck to the open ground instead of going through the bushes... I would be the only one straight-lining it through the bushes eh? On the path and in the open I would have seen it fairly easier once nearby. I was within five to 10 metres of it the whole time and just didn't nail it. It's the silly errors that hurt the most.

I'll think about putting my O map from today up here. Most controls fine - just #14 that was really nasty. *sigh* Mmm... where's that hole to go hide in?

I'll tell you another mistake I made with the first few controls; I just didn't trust myself. Voortrekker Monument two weeks ago gave me a bit of a navigation wobbly. Sure, not bad and not terrible, but not great. I prefer great. Hahaha. So, I was a bit hesitant on the first few and the third one, visible on the approach and blowing in the wind... I just didn't believe it was my control because it was so clearly visible. I definitely expect the controls not to be visible on approach - that really had me foxed and questioning my navigation.

Oh well - I do hope that the kinks have been ironed out and that my thinking cap will be on straight for the long distance champs tomorrow (Sunday) - my favourite event.

Thursday 16 June 2011

Sore paw, nice nite O runnin', full moon run and metrogaine

I've been running on a sore paw the past few days; actually, two sore paws.

At dance class on Monday night I started off by cutting the back of my right heel on the bottom of the pole. Really silly. Not a deep cut but a nice vertical slice that is irritated even by walking on my heel - like one of those paper cuts on the bend of a finger that keeps opening. As I've realised, I think I did a bit of bruising at the same time because it is more sore than just the cut should be. It is actually better running on it than walking as I don't heel strike much when running. And then, about an hour later, I bruised the forefoot of my left foot! That was a sore one and I've felt it on runs. On Tuesday it was quite swollen and felt like I had a wad of gauze under my sole - much improved this morning.

The bottom of the poles in our studio are quite rough with big nuts, an edge and a rough thread on the metal, which turns to secure the pole. I've clipped my toes before - on odd occasions - and it hurts. I haven't done this kinda bruising damage to my feet before - and twice on one night! Silly.

Tues and Wed were nice and short 5km and 6km runs to go easy on my paws.

Tonight is a night orienteering event hosted by the junior orienteers at Wits University, my alma mater. Although I don't go on campus often, it is familiar ground and I enjoy the tricky navigation between buildings, so I'm looking forward to it. The thing with Wits is that there's a lot of up and down. We start running from the bottom of campus - bottom of the hill - and will certainly do lots of up and down. *phew* Nice to do this run for D31. Straight line distance is 3km... I hope to make 4km from it - may need to run around the field a bit to make sure.

Friday is the full moon run (awesome total eclipse last night eh?) but will be a short one because of SA O Champs on Saturday. Email/text me if you are planning to run with me; I'd rather head off earlier - like by 17h00 - for a short run because of Gauteng O Champs this weekend (middle distance on Sat a'noon and long distance on Sun morning).

I finished scouting locations for my Winter Metrogaine event on Tuesday. I think it's a pretty good route and running through the suburbs around Zoo Lake at night is going to be fabulous. Today, a public holiday, I'll finish all the graphics on the map, removing street names and typing up control location clues. Remember that entries need to be by Monday morning for map printing. http://www.ar.co.za/2011/05/winter-metrogaine-21-june-2011/

Tuesday 14 June 2011

It's not a scarf

I finished my 'scarf' last night... but it is now a table runner and not a scarf. The colours are delicious but the motif shape isn't right for a scarf. There are 36 motifs in this. Initially it took me an hour to make one motif. Now I'm more practised so it takes about 40-minutes for one. Lots of hours in this bright and happy handiwork adventure.

Here are some colours to brighten your Tuesday.

Would you believe that I'm not the only lass picking up an old craft after many years. Here's a funny one for you...

My dear friend decides to knit her husband a jersery for winter. She finds a neat pattern and gets to work. It's one of those multiple-row pattern repeats and she makes a few mistakes, pulls everything out and starts again. Her husband asks her why she bothers because she can just go and buy him a jersey. If she takes the cost of the wool and her time.. he asks her how long it took to knit a certain length, say 30cm, and she replies, "about 10 hours". Puts perspective on the real 'cost' of a hand-knitted sweater. She says that is not the point and that she wants to make this for him.

This was a while ago.

I saw her on Sunday and asked after the jersey. Her eyes rolled skyward as she explained that after the knitted pattern wasn't working out, she pulled everything apart and went for a simple rib. She finished the entire back of the jersey to discover that because the pattern prescribed in the knitting pattern hadn't been done, it had altered the size of the garment, which was now way too big for her hubby. Instead of pulling it all out again, its a blankie for the dog. No more jersey knitting for her for a while. Hahaha.

An adventure indeed!

Monday 13 June 2011

Day 28 - one week to go

I've just completed my 28th run in my '35 days of running' challenge. Today my legs are feeling quite tight after Saturday morning's yoga class - it really gets my hamstrings, but it is just what they need after all the running.

I must say, these four weeks have passed really quickly and it hasn't been too much of a mission to get out for at least a 30-minute run on all but a few of the days. It is sometimes a squish when I'm in a rush to finish something or get somewhere, but for the rest, I've looked forward to the runs. It does help that I don't have children or a stay-put, 8-5 office job. On the really cold and nasty days I could take advantage of a break in the weather to get out in the later afternoon, benefiting from a little warmth in the air.

This week I've got a bit of venue and terrain variety with a night orienteering event on Thursday night at Wits and then Gauteng Orienteering Champs on Sat and Sun. All but two of my runs (also on Google Earth but not in this screen shot as they're North, in Pretoria) have been from home - nice, colourful pattern. I take great delight in drawing in my route every day.

I'm still keeping to relatively short runs, averaging six to seven kilometres a day. Longer runs are only around 10-12km; and not more than twice a week. I'm logging around 50km a week, on top of yoga and dance classes.

Ja, people are asking me, "What happens on Day 36?". Mmm.. I've got another seven days of running to contemplate this.

Fly away lantern tethered

A few weeks ago I saw this 'hot-air balloon' Chinese paper lantern at Asia City. The lady at the shop tells me that you light the block of something-flammable and that the lantern will fly. I couldn't resist such a delight for only R15. Yesterday I tried it out, assisted by some friends.

It takes about a minute after lighting the block of flammable-something for the paper balloon to fill with hot air. There's a thin metal wire frame that keeps the mouth of the balloon open; and it is in the centre that you hook the flammable block. With a roaring flame below and black smoke filling the balloon, it pulls from your hands to launch itself sky ward.

The only thing is that I'm a bit of a party-pooper because I couldn't just let the balloon launch itself into the air. I had images of my balloon littering the 'hood when it came down and/or setting fire to something and/or the metal ring getting caught around a cat's neck or bird's leg... So, I tied a piece of string to the ring and let it ascend. Fred took this lovely photo of the flying lantern on its tether.

It doesn't stay alight for very long because the flammable block dies within a few minutes; it slowly descends.
Only a tiny flame on my side of the flammable block remains -
not enough to keep the sky lantern afloat.
I've just found on Wiki that these are called Chinese sky lanterns. Popularly used during Asian festivals.

I'm too greeny-beany sensitive for my own good because I'd love to go to the Lantern Festival but I would be paranoid about the burnt-out lanterns being picked up afterwards. Litter, litter, litter - my pet hate.

I totally agree with Wiki where it says, "As sky lanterns contain a flame, there is the danger that they can cause a fire when landing on flammable ground. They can achieve quite a height and launching them in strong winds is not recommended. After the balloon lands, the leftover thin wire frame may present a hazard to any animal tempted to swallow it."

A wide open paved surface, no-wind conditions, eco-friendly lanterns and a large 'army' of clean-up people would be on my list of festival requirements.

It seems that there are eco-friendly lanterns. "In 2010, lanterns have been developed to become 100% wire-free. Instead of metal, flame resistant wool is used which can be ingested without causing any harm. However these can still be fire hazards."

How cool to go to a Lantern Festival eh? Beautiful!

Physiology research: CO2 tolerance in Felis catus

Sometime this past week I hit on a really cool research project for a physiology student: Carbon dioxide tolerance in Felis catus, the domestic cat.

Not inside (for a change!), on top.
I often wonder how Bracken, my kitty, is able to spend hours - like hours - under a duvet, in winter, without suffocating. Just how much air is able to filter through a duvet and blankie to oxygenate the air supply? My theory: cats have a superior tolerance for low oxygen environments.

I looked on Wiki and they say that cats can tolerate high temperatures. I don't think they're very good at tolerating low temperatures, sun-seeking animals that they are. Nothing on Wiki about high tolerance for low oxygen environments - a whole new research field opens up.

As I type this, my Felis catus is in a low oxygen environment. Puuurrrrr.

Thursday 9 June 2011

C-c-c-cold run

I don't believe the thermometer sitting on my desk in my home-office. It says it is 15C. I don't think so. I've put it on the windowsill and it still says 15C. I believe the weather service.

7C at 16h48, when I was out running, with windchill dropping the temp further. Ja, today has been frikkin' cold. But, nothing that long tights, thermal long sleeved top, running shell and two Buffs (onc around my ears and one around my neck) couldn't handle.

It was harder to get out the door today than Saturday but luckily I did not to have to brave the heavy rains of yesterday morning nor the drizzle of this morning. Just an overcast sky and a cold wind. Brrr... I selected a cold-looking, cyan colour for today's Google Earth track.

Still, by getting out to do my Day 24 run I felt badass, like the honey badger, who also runs all over the place (if you haven't watched this YouTube video, do so - it is very, very funny).

Bring on Day 25.

Missing manhole cover mission

Missing manhole covers pose a serious risk to walkers, runners and pedestrians - and it is one of the reasons I don't always run on pavements/sidewalks, especially at night. The metal manhole covers are regularly stolen, to be sold to scrap metal places. It is really difficult for the municipality to keeps tabs on the many, many manholes because covers are there one day and gone the next.

Earlier this year a man fell into a sewerage-filled manhole in a suburb only a few kilometres from me. Three weeks after the incident he was still fighting the bacterial infection that resulted from infected wounds - never mind the horror of falling into sewerage!  I've heard of people stepping into holes and fracturing a leg or severely bruising and wounding flesh.

I have a really superb DA councillor in my area, Michele Clark. The cover of a deep hole was missing for a week, maybe more, on the pavement near home. Michele's team replaced the cover within 24 hours of receiving our report. I've now started on a 'manhole mission' to report missing covers and broken drain covers when I see them during runs.

I take a Google Map and put a red x on the location of the missing manhole. Michele dispatches her team from the Ekurhuleni Municipality to replace the cover.

Cement covers are popular replacements because there's no value in stealing them. In my email I try to specify whether the cover is round or rectangular and where it is (on the road or pavement). There are different types of drains and holes so I hope that this gives them a bit of an idea of what kind of cover they need to take to fix it.

Find your municipal representative in your area and be proactive in your approach to this problem instead of waiting for them to come across it by chance. It will get fixed a lot faster if you notify them.

25th donation

This morning I made my 25th blood donation at my local SANBS donor centre. With June being 'Blood Donor Month', it was kinda fitting to hit this milestone. Regular readers may recall that I set out on a mission two years ago, to regain my 'regular blood donor' status after too many years of not donating - often in malaria areas, neglectful...

Just remember, that while you feel like a hero when you attend a blood donation drive, in order for all of your blood components to be used, you do need to be a regular donor - that means that you need to donate at least three times a year (you can donate every 52 days, so that pretty much makes for a maximum of six donations a year). See blood donor drives as an opportunity to start achieving regular donor status as opposed to a once-off contribution.

14 June is World Blood Donor Day; if you're able to donate, give your pint. The SANBS website (www.sanbs.org.za) lists fixed donor sites and mobile drives.
Blood is composed of several different elements, namely red cells, plasma and platelets, each of which fulfils a particular function. These can be used for specific purposes so that each unit of blood can be used for more than one patient. The more regularly you donate, the better the chance of your donated unit getting used for all components.
SANBS has found that its regular donors are its safest donors. These people are familiar with the danger of the window period and they know what risk behaviour entails. They have been through all SANBS’s education processes.
 If you are donating blood for the first time, your red blood cells won’t get used. Your plasma gets quarantined until your next donation. If all tests come back negative after your second donation, the quarantined plasma from your first donation will be used. This also applies if you haven’t donated blood for a while.
Once you have made three donations and your blood still tests negative for sexually transmissible diseases, all the components of your blood gets used. You have to donate blood regularly!

Wednesday 8 June 2011

O' dear... a little rusty

I have been waiting in anticipation for the colour-coded orienteering events to start again.

To explain, the orienteering season here is year-round. The year starts with short-course events. These are usually held at venues with really runnable terrain, like schools and parks. Lots of lawns, fields, flowerbeds, parking areas, paths, roads and buildings. You need to think quick and run fast. The navigation is pretty easy, only made a little challenging by the pace. The longer course is probably up to four kilometres; the planners look at a 20 minute winning time.

Colour-coded courses, on the other hand, are so named because a number of courses are offered and they're 'labelled' according to colour, where yellow is the shortest (2km) and easiest (controls on paths, visible as you approach) and brown is the longest (usually around 10km and up to 16km at a Long O) and most technical in navigation (controls not visible as you approach, fine navigation, not on paths/junctions etc). Blue is one below brown and navigation difficulty is similar but distance is slightly less.

Last year I didn't make many of the colour-coded events because of clashes with other races so it was with delight that I headed off to the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria on Sunday for my first CC events in... well.. umm... eight or nine months! And it showed in my kuk outing.

Here's how it went...

First, we had to draw in the controls off a master map. This is in the red pen that you can't really see. After scanning in the map I drew the controls in on computer, with lines linking them. The yellow dotted line is the route I thought I ran, from memory of my surroundings. The yellow/green line with black border is from my iGot-U GPS logger, put together on QuickRoute software.

Control 6 to Control 7
Hmmm... Options were to go East from 6, along the path and then head South on the less defined path towards 7; OR to cut across the open ground and bash through the vegetation (green) to 7. I took the latter option, which actually seems to have been not too bad. It seems that the less defined path was quite non-existant in places and others had a worse time of it than me.

I purposefully aimed off, thinking that it may be difficult to hit 7 straight on and also reading 'clearings' - of sorts - within the vegetation would be difficult. My objective was to make it through the bushes and to hit the path uphill of the control and to then attack it from open, grassy ground. I did veer a little too far off, but the stone wall gave me a perfect fix on my location. I heard lots of voices around here - many runners battled to find 7. I saw Piers and Michael at this control.

Control 7 to Control 8
Should have been really easy. And, in fact, my route was pretty direct.
When I got to where I thought the control should be, I couldn't see it.

As you can see from my track, I was within five metres of the control initially. I then moved towards the forest and worked my way back again. *sigh* Some minutes lost here because I didn't go North enough - to me it seemed like the control was more in the vegetation and a bit more North than where I'd put it on the map. Easy to lose minutes with this kind of thing. When I did see it I could have fainted; I'd been so close on first approach and would have see it if I'd looked to my left. Doh!

Control 11 and Control 12
Very inelegant - both of these.

Let's deal with 11 first. I made a good line up to the control. Should have been easy but for the grass, which stood higher than my head. I had a feeling that I was a bit too far to the left (only a few metres, it seems) but was not certain how far I'd deviated. So, I headed up to the road to confirm my East-West orientation and then turned down into the grass to hit the control. Again, it was one of those time wasters.

12... oh dear. Messy. I leave 11 and head slightly downhill, contouring. I landed on a very good path, which I thought was the one just above 12. Then - and this is the really silly part - I didn't have much to go by to indicate when I should leave the path, turn left and head for 12. So, I look up and see a telephone wire type setup overhead. Yay, I think. I look on my map and see the black line (the one 'running through' the tree - green circle). So, I run until I get under the lines and then think that I need just run a little more before turning off. And then, BAM, I hit an unexpected junction of paths.

Orienteers reading this will realise my error... The black line is a North-South line, not a power line! In fact, there were no powerlines indicated on the map at all. North-South lines are usually blue and because I had my map folded into a little square and my mind was apparently absent, I made such a stoopid mistake. Took me a while to realise what a moron I was!

When I got near 12 there were a bunch of people looking for it, too much to the West. I moved a little to the side and we nailed it.

Control 16
Looking at this same map above... 16 was a nightmare for many. The only saving grace was that I lost less time than some others from 15 to 16; 15 minutes for me, 28 for Piers, 29 for Tony, 26 for Cindy... It should have been an easy control but with grass higher than my eyeballs, it was really hard to find the control on a rock. And, I'll add that I think the control was in the wrong place, a little too high. You can see this from my track - where the track is and where the control is marked on the rocks indicated on the map. And, indeed, there were rocks where drawn on the map. I took a bit of a grid-search approach, walking through the grass in the surrounds to find the control. *sigh*

Control 18
My last 'nasty' was control 18 - and, again, it shouldn't have been. How many times do I have to learn not to trust a soul and not to listen to a word they say?

So, Tony and I leave 17. He's just ahead of me. We bash through the bushes, trying to keep in semi-open ground. We hit the path and I look left, expecting to see a cliff there, which I do. We run up to it. The control was indicated as being at the top of the cliff. As we get there Wiehan comes running from the top of the cliff, on to the path and says he's been looking for it but hasn't found it.

So, I think that I've bloopsed and that I ended up higher on the path that I thought and that I should have turned right on to the path, not left. I'm also checking the vegetation and thinking that maybe we're too much in the open. So, we all head down the path and into the more green vegetation. I find another rocky cliff and head into the bushes to check on top of it. I get tangled in thorn trees and have to fight my way out. I get back on to the path thinking that it must be at the first cliff just as Tony arrives to confirm this. Wiehan must have passed within a metre of it and just hadn't seen it.

I ran 10km and it took me *sigh* just over two hours. Sarah Pope won the Brown course for ladies in 1:44 ;)

Orienteering 1, Lisa 0.

This is what keeps me coming back to orienteering after 12 years in this sport... ;)

So, weekend of the 18 and 19 June is Gauteng Orienteering Champs with middle distance on the Sat and long distance (my favourite) on the Sunday. Unfortunately we've only had one colour-coded event to get into the groove, which I'm evidently not in yet! I best keep my thinking cap on for the next week and a bit to get my mind in the right frame.

Thursday, 16 June is a public holiday. The juniors are hosting a night event at Wits on Thursday night. That's going to be fun running around campus at night. It's a fundraiser for the Junior World Champs. And Jeremy, who has been orienteering in France - with varying degrees of success (blog posts with photos and videos of running in snow on RSA Orienteers blog) - is hosting a fundraising event for the National O Team at Golden Harvest Park (near the Dome/Northgate) from noon on Thursday. It includes an 'ad hoc' relay, which should be fun.