Wednesday 27 July 2011

30 days. No cheese.

Coincidentally, my decision to not eat cheese for a period comes just as I found that TED Talk last night about trying something new for 30 days. In fact, yesterday was my Day 1 of no cheese. Here's the thing...

I love cheese. My favourite food is cheese and crackers and I prefer my lunchtime cheese and tomato sandwich to most other options. I don't eat volumes of cheese - for no other reason than self-restraint - but I do love it. My favourites are fairly plain, like emmental, Tussers and Woolies' Daily Cheese. Toss in some low-fat cottage cheese on toast, a sprinkle of feta in a salad, a treat of plain goat cheese, a wedge of Laughing Cow or a wee slice of Brie and I'm delightfully happy.

A few months back I got this idea that if I eat cheese at night I struggle even more to wake up in the morning than usual. I surfed around on the web but found nothing to this effect. There was a 2005 study by the British Cheese Board around whether eating cheese before bed caused nightmares. The study only showed that, depending on the cheese, sleep quality was improved and that dreams became more colourful and vivid than normal but that cheese didn't induce nightmares. My problem with the study was that they gave 200 study participants not more than 30g of cheese each night - that barely covers a Provita!  [And, in addition, they has no non-cheese-eating control subjects, which makes this a bit of a flawed and subjective experiment that seems more an exercise in public relations. I would have gone with EEGs...]

Anyway, I left my research at that and for a long time I haven't munched cheese at late at night; but on the whole waking up is never easy, even after a good 8hr sleep.

I didn't really think about this again until Monday morning, when I woke up feeling like a truck had driven over me. The reason for this, I think, was that I went to a cheese and wine on Sunday afternoon and then because I didn't have anything for dinner, I had a cheese and tomato sandwich about 30 minutes before I went to bed. As I don't drink wine, we can eliminate that puppy; I think cheese is my downfall. On Sunday I munched on delicious ciabatta with brie, emmental, a little of that cranberry stilton...

The culprit compound in cheese is suspected to be the amino acid tryptophan, which is said to be an effective sleep aid. Tryptophan increases brain levels of serotonin (calming neurotransmitter) and melatonin (sleep-inducing hormone).

The thing is, lots and lots of foods contain tryptophan, including milk and eggs and yoghurt and poultry and soy and chickpeas... also dates and oats. If cheese is meant to increase the vividness of dreaming, then why does tryptophan-containing milk soothe and induce restful sleep? Amount of tryptophan? Maybe.

I'm a bit more on the side of Chris, from The Naked Scientists, who says, "Cheese is a rich source of neuroactive compounds including the monoamine called 'tyramine', which has provokes the release of adrenaline." Tyramine is derived from the amino acid tryosine. He goes on to describe how, when we go to sleep, a small part of the brainstem (the locus coeruleus) switches on to trigger REM  (rapid eye movement) sleep, which occurs in the deeper sleep phases and is associated with dreaming.

The cells in this region contain neuromelanin, which he describes as "the neurological equivalent of a suntan" - they colour the cells blue. He says that neuromelanin is made as a biproduct in the synthesis of the nerve transmitters noradrenaline (a relative of adrenaline) and dopamine. These chemicals are derived from tyrosine, the same stuff used to make melanin in skin cells.

"So the locus coeruleus, which triggers dream-sleep, uses noradrenaline as its nerve transmitter. Since cheese contains tyramine, which has the ability to potentiate the action of adrenline-like nerve transmitters, it is likely that eating cheese before bed fools the brain into thinking that there is more adrenaline washing around than normal, making dreams more vivid."

I haven't noticed a cheese-induced dreaming effect, but my sleep may be more restless (I generally sleep like a dead dog no matter what) so when I wake up after a cheese night I'm still tired because I haven't slept properly?

And then there's the digestion element. Eating before sleep means your body will digest it while you sleep, which could reduce sleep quality.

Mmm... whatever the reason for my symptoms, I'll pass on cheese for the next 29 days (yesterday was Day 1) to see what happens.

Try something new for 30 days

Great TED Talk by Matt Cutts (only 3:27 - nice and short). In this Matt suggests trying things you've always wanted to do for 30 days. This resonates with my '35 Days of Running' in May/June; it was an incredibly rewarding experience.

The 30 day activity could be additive or subtractive.

Additive activities may be to ride to work; to take a photo of something specific (yourself, partner, child, growing flowers, buildings) or just a photo; to cook a different dish for dinner; to draw a picture; to write five pages of that novel that has been burning in your heart... every day for 30 days.

Subtractive activities could be things like cutting out sugar or chocolates or coffee or tv for a month.

The best part of this concept is that one month you may want to cut out sugar and the next month you want to run every day. No activity is a life sentence - it's just a month.

I've got lots of things to put on a 30 day list... what to attempt first?

Tuesday 26 July 2011

Playing catchers with running loops

About 11 years ago I had a running buddy who was faster than me; lots faster. We had a few running 'games'. In the first, we'd battle with each others' pace for the first part. I'd then turn around while he ran a distance further. My objective was to get back to the start before getting caught. The second game was when we'd run routes that linked up at a mid-point; my route was a bit shorter. The first part of the challenge would be to get to the mid-point before the other; and then the race was on to get to the finish before the other.

The fun of these games is that you can run with someone else without running with them, if you follow.

My mom, Liz, is preparing for her first walking adventure in September. She's doing El Camino in Spain; all 790km. She got her backpack last week and so she's been walking with it most nights. Sometimes I walk with her but as her walking pace is far slower than mine, I often find it frustrating and unless I load on layers of clothes, I get really cold because the walk doesn't warm me enough.

I do enjoy going out with her and together we motivate each other, especially on evenings like tonight where the cold front and icy wind from the snow-covered Drakensberg has settled on Jo'burg.

Sometimes we play 'the loop game' where I run bigger loops, meeting her at various points along the way. This evening we had our best loop game yet. Liz's walking distance has increased beautifully as she is steadily getting walking fit - plus backpack conditioned. On today's loop run I got in 11.2km; she did 6.9km. There were  three meeting points, plus finish. For me the fun is catching her before she gets to the meeting point - she nearly got me on one of them!

So, if someone slower than you wants you to get out on the road with them (support, encouragement, company), go for it. But suggest this loop game, which is fun for both of you.

I'm the pink track; Liz is the green track. Stars are meeting points.
When we meet up I sometimes walk with her for a bit before splitting off again.

The challenge of yoga

Although my Ashtanga progress has been pretty good, after six months of one or two classes a week, I'm not even at the first of these four most difficult of the Ashtanga Primary Series moves; just forget the last one - that's ridiculous. I'm not even getting the first right.

It is really, really difficult to get your thighs on to your upper arms and then to balance on your hands and get your feet off the ground. That's what I'm working on... just the first part.

What is really cool about this video is Maria's unbelievable display of balance, strength and grace - she makes this look doable. It isn't (for most people!). Just try the thing where she jumps her feet forward, from downward dog, next to her hands ("Jump the feet lightly around the hands," says the narrator)... Superb balance and amazing strength. Wow!

This video has big-time aspirational value. Whether I'll ever be able to do these moves in my lifetime, I don't know; but I can certainly try.

Thursday 21 July 2011

Flying spirals at X-Alps

Today (Day 5) of racing at Red Bull X-Alps has been fantastic. With conditions good for flying since early this morning, the pilots have been in the skies and covering big distances.

With paragliding, the pilots try to gain height and they do this my latching on to thermals and spiraling upwards. It is incredible to watch them moving on the live tracking.

Log into the live tracking to get an eye full. As I type this, most of the Top 10 are now on the ground, including Pierre Carter from SA. This is seriously addictive.

Wednesday 20 July 2011

Trackin' Red Bull X-Alps

Two years ago I got hooked on Red Bull X-Alps. I had never heard of South African paraglider Pierre Carter, but I knew of his support guy, James Braid, as I am a friend of his sister. I received James' regular updates and put them out on and copied through to the adventure racing community, who lapped up the adventure of this event. The online tracking then was good, as I can recall, and this year it is even better.

This event was very much instrumental in the path that my life then took. I'd already quit my job at a marketing agency, which I really did not like and ideas had been forming around adventurers, expeditions, media, PR... X-Alps was very much the catalyst for FEAT. Pierre was a speaker at my first FEAT evening in October last year (this is the video of his seven-minute talk).

Every person who received James' reports or tracked Pierre or just heard about the event were captivated by it. Adventure. Expedition. Racing. Mountains. Trekking. Flying. The perfect recipe to enthrall people.

Red Bull X-Alps started on Sunday and I've been glued to the live tracking (goodness knows what this is doing to my bandwidth). It's even more exciting because this time around I understand the event, I now know Pierre and James and they're doing damn well. Pierre has been Top 10 since the start.

Today was super exciting because Pierre took what turned out to be a not-so-great route. It could have paid off if conditions had been good for flying, but they weren't. His progress was slower than those in the valley and I kept shouting at the screen, telling Pierre to, "Get off that damn mountain!".

And upfront.. oh my word! Christian Maurer (SUI1), previous winner, and Tomas Coconea (ROM) and FIN1 and AUT4 (country codes assigned to each athlete; Pierre is RSA) have been moving it and hoping places; well, except for Christian who leads the field.

Because of the flying element, this race is very much about catching the right winds and conditions. Miss it and you are severely affected. I mean, check out these stats from today - Pierre vs Christian. With so much more flying under his belt, Christian has made incredible headway. Most athletes were not so lucky - maybe getting in a little glide here and there. Must say, Christian seems to have a knack for sniffing out TO (take off sites) and thermals. This evening, while I wasn't watching, he had a BIG flight. Just read a post online that says he got in four hours of flying! That's a long time to rest your feet and gain ground; it has catapulted him ahead of ROM, FIN and AUT4 who were much closer earlier.

As much as this race is about strong mountain running, navigation and trekking, there is this flying element that really shakes things up. This morning Pierre was a few kilometres off Christian. Zero flying has him now 80km back in 7th place. Tomorrow is another day and still 666km to go for the leader; so at least another four days of racing, if not more (he won in 10 or 11 days last year).

The online tracking is live and friggin' phenomenal. This afternoon I watched a guy take off - may have been Christian. And as he got into the thermals he spiralled upwards. I watched his tracking line making the loops - right before my eyes! And with pilots taking off and flying over other athletes and landing ahead of them... So much excitement from following a race in Europe, from my computer in Jo'burg. Remarkable!

From the online tracking, if you click on the flag of the person, it brings up a window. You can click on the little icon for their stats (as above), profile, athlete diary and a guestbook to leave them a message. Man, we so need this setup for expedition adventure races.

While I'm not a huge Twitter fan, when it comes to races it is a superb accessory. The hash tag for Red Bull X-Alps is #rbxalps and there are a bunch of people hanging out. I'm learning quite a bit about athletes, conditions for flying and on-the-ground happenings - real-time. It is seriously disruptive to my day (added to an addiction to the tracking) but helluva fun.

The athletes should be into the compulsory stop/rest/sleep time around about now - from 23h00 to 04h00 every day. So I'm just checking the stats before I turn in too - ready to tune in when I wake up. Go Pierre, go!

Monday 18 July 2011

Scouting for a run, by bike

A few months ago my friend Alex had a great idea for a runabout run. I stitched together some maps and planned a route. It was only on Saturday that we got out to scout it, on our bikes. Always easier to scout on bikes especially when you don't know where the road closures are.

We all met at Sandton City on Saturday afternoon. There was me, Alex, Tommy, Tony and Nathan. Nathan seems to be the only one who missed the email to wear his AR Club cycle top... but he still arrived in blue so we were all matching (actually, there wasn't an email - just fun coincidence).

It is really fun to ride through suburbs that you don't know at all. Well, just over 2hrs later we found ourselves at our destination, the Rhodesfield Gautrain station in Kempton Park. My route proved good because we did not get trapped by any road closures. A few places the route can be improved as there is construction going on that wasn't on Google Earth. 27km to Rhodesfield on mostly road and a few kays of trail.

We'd seen on the web that bikes were not allowed on the Gautrain unless in bike bags. We were hoping to get lucky on a quiet Saturday afternoon. The station manager was really sweet and helpful but said no can do. He offered us the option of taking our bikes to the airport to have them wrapped. We chose to ride back to Sandton.

Interestingly, there were some pretty-looking bike racks outside the station enterance. Please tell me who in their right mind would ride to the station, leave their bike there all day (even if it is chained) and then fetch it when they return later? The manager said that there are a few people who bike commute. They ride with their bike bags, pack the bike into bag before getting on the train and then unpack and ride off on the other side.

I do think it would be really productive for Gautrain to assign the last compartment to accommodate people with bikes - like by taking out a few rows of seats the bikers can stand with their bikes or lean them up against each other at the back. After all, the ride only takes 10-15 minutes...

Our route home was pretty good and direct. It also saw us riding through Alexandra on London Road. It was just starting to get dark so we rode fast. Amazing that just as you crest the hill you're in Wynberg.

Total distance covered was 52km and it was just so much fun playing around together. Then we went to Tony's place to watch both Expedition Africa shows, which he'd recorded for us. Both very good - stunning footage and graphics; well assembled. I definitely favoured Andrew King's production (D4 Productions) of Merrell Adventure Addicts. What stood out for me was that the team narrated the show from their pre-, during and post-race interviews and also that the focus of the show was only on one team. Because of this they were able to get across more of the emotion, challenge, difficulty and duration of the race. It's really hard to cover multiple teams, a 500km distance and a 5-day duration in an hour, which is what the ATV Productions episode did. Considering this, it was still a good show but I only wish they'd had another two or three hours to play with. I'm sure they had a lot more super footage (great shots) and content; but time is always the limiting factor in broadcast. Well done to both crews for quite different and really good productions. You can watch the Merrell Adventure Addicts show online. It's big - Nathan said it was about 250MB, but worth it.

A scouting ride with friends and pizza and adventure racing telly afterwards (plus some TdF from Sat afternoon) - an absolutely wonderful day.

Friday 15 July 2011

67 minutes of crochet (invitation)

Monday, 18 July, is Mandela Day. It's a day that was created in 2009 to celebrate Nelson Mandela's 91 birthday and his 67 years of 'fighting for social justice'. It has become a day, worldwide, where people are encouraged to 'give' 67 minutes of their time to "to inspire individuals to take action to help change the world for the better, and in doing so build a global movement for good."

I'm going to add some colour to the day by offering to teach you how to crochet. I had my first 'student' yesterday and our session went really well; Thato is an absolute natural! I'm inspired to teach you too.

So, this is how it will work...

Over the next day or so I'll organise a venue; it will be in the Bedfordview area and will be from 18h30 or so. Venue will have edibles and drinkables. You just need to RSVP with me by email so that I can get you a crochet hook, yarn and wool needle. I'll also print out some stitch instructions, a pattern for a motif, a simple flower and my pattern for a basic beanie.

I'll teach you step-by-step the main stitches - chain (ch), slip stitch (sl), single crochet (sc), half-double crochet (hdc), double crochet (dc), half-triple crochet (htc), triple crochet (tc) and picot (picot-3). They're all variations on the same theme so really easy to do.

I'll teach you how to read a crochet pattern and to make a pretty motif, including changing yarn colours.

It will be R30 - R35 for the hook, yarn, needle and printouts.

In return, you need to make a lovely beanie (takes only a few hours - really, really easy) and to give the completed item to a homeless person / street light beggar.

If you'd like to come (not just for girls, guys too please), please drop me an email - or text/give me a call - 082 936 2509.

It's ok to just say, "Hello"

Running around the neighbourhood I always say hello to the people I pass - newspaper sellers, pedestrian commuters, security guards and construction workers. Something I've noticed is that most of the time the standard response is "hello-how-are-you?" or just, "how-are-you?".

I prefer to just say hello and to ignore the "how-are-you" part because 1) they don't know me and they certainly don't care what my response is to their question and 2) I don't ask it in return because it is of no interest to me how they are.

This applies to general interactions too.

Asking people "How are you?" is just a habit of speech and the response of "Fine, thanks" or "I'm good, thank you" is standard. No thought; no interest either in the answer given and received.

I do ask this of people that I know, where I care about their answer. Although, because I'm in an anti-how-are-you mood, I'm focusing on asking something more specific.

Sunday 10 July 2011

O at Stirrup Glen

I had a bit of an odd orienteering day today. I describe it as a trip-trap event where I'm not racing but instead I'm enjoying the run, the area and the navigation.

Navigationally, my run today was mostly solid. A few little oddities here and there, like in the quarry.

Coming to Control #13, I had a good line approaching from the South - the less steep part and avoiding the loose piles of broken slate (all over this place; big mounds marked by the blue-grey splashes). When I entered the first quarry (top), I made a beeline for a nice entrance into the next but then realised, when I could see over the wall (over 3m steep in places; or more) that I was one quarry too soon. So, I got into the right quarry and took a while to figure out the vegetation. There are not bands of trees - there are trees all over.

I got near the control, which was marked at the foot of the wall, but uncertain as to where I actually was, I got on top of the wall, taking my position from the road. I tracked back on top of the wall and dropped down on to the control before climbing out again on my way to 14.

After running down the road you'll see where I was a bit indecisive. I initially thought I'd run along the quarry wall (see brown contour lines with 'eyelashes' indicating downhill). Tania also considered this option and it didn't work for her either. Trees all over. Then, since in past years I've been along the road below, I thought I'd have a bit more of an adventure and take the south-west road. Well, pretty much where my track has a little red dot (that's me stopping), there was no more road... so I turned around and took the road (bottom right corner).

Here's an interesting one - from 11 to 12...

12 was marked as a significant tree. The track from 11 to 12 wasn't completely defined, but it wasn't totally clear and straight either. I reached the clearing and thought that I saw the significant tree. Didn't spot the control so I thought that I had it wrong. I continued to the junction and then headed into the clearing where I saw the control. I had actually been in the right clearing and on my second shot I saw the same tree; only the control was tied to a broken branch or stump or such nearby and wasn't at the base of that tree. Then again, the green X is for a stump and not a standing tree (green circle outline). Doh! It pays to read the symbols properly.

That was about it for funnies. A little hesitant on some of the controls in my approach but no hunting today and just a nice, chilled morning out in the brisk air.

I took my Hi-Tec Infinity shoes out to the O. They're strictly not really made for this type of off-road, off-path running. They did pretty well and made it through unscathed, despite some rocky sections. I'm settling into them a bit better and gaining a little more confidence in them over gnarly terrain.

Jo'burg before

Running and driving around Jo'burg I often imagine what this city was like before it was a city - back in the days when gold had just been discovered and the suburbs were farms. Grasslands with antelope, many hills with valleys and streams and a number of bigger perennial rivers like the Braamfontein Spruit and Jukskei.

Jo'burg is such a stupidly planned city. The rivers and streams have been cannelised and we have no major green belt areas; with the exception of the Braamfontein Spruit from Emmarentia and through Delta Park and up towards the N1. It is no longer continuous though and there are places where I've gotten stuck. There's also the Sandspruit (I think) behind Rivonia; but the land on either side is either minimal or poorly maintained in most places.

I have this image in my mind of a better-planned Jo'burg where the rivers were open with 50-100 metres of  open ground/park on either side for outdoor activities and as pedestrian/runner/biker commuting thoroughfares.

In planning my recent Metrogaine from Zoo Lake, I happened upon the Parkhurst Residents Association website where I found some old maps drawn when the suburb began and the land was divided into plots (see the History page). But, even more interesting was the section, written by a resident, on the Parkhurst Donga (see Environment page - scroll down - Jan '07).

In short, the author noticed that people living half-way up her road were on the market every few years. Sections of Parkhurt are built over the Parkhurst Donga.

Underneath Parkhurst, there is a network of storm water drains that carry stormwater and anything dumped in the streets (like trash, old bottles, engine oil, swimming pool water, dog pooh, etc) to the Braamfontein Spruit. And underneath the water drainage channels, they also carry much of our sewerage down to the main sewerage pipe that runs along the western bank of the Spruit.
This system was started in the southern end of Parkhurst (ie Little Chelsea and the streets running up to about 16th Street) in 1930s and completed in the northern end (16-22 Streets) by the early 1950s when the suburb was finally fully developed. 
50-70 years on and things have changed. The sewerage system has aged; trees have got bigger and are causing problems with their roots; more of the suburb has been concreted and paved which increases run-off; never ending building means sand and pebbles are carried into the system; and new granny flats and en suite bathrooms increase the waste water load. All this has meant that our underground water systems have become overloaded and degraded. 
By far the worst offender in the Parkhurst pollution stakes is the infamous Parkhurst Donga. This donga runs diagonally for several kilometres from the intersection with the Braamfontein Spruit between 19th and 20th Streets where it crosses into Parktown North around 13th Street and then continues into Rosebank. Until it was canalised and eventually covered in the 1950s, it effectively cut off the northern third of Parkhurst from development. 
The properties that straddled this donga were the last to sell in Parkhurst.
The donga was covered over and theur are houses, roads and gardens over it.

The author (I don't know who the author of this post is) walked up the donga a few years ago with a caving friend and noted a lot of erosion and damage from storm-water runoff along with greater sewerage loads. The sewerage pipes are too small to cope with the load from Rosebank, Parktown North and through Parkhurst. So, there's a not so lovely mix of storm water mixes, waste water, poop and toilet paper and ends up in the Braamfontein Spruit.

Residents who live over the donga have a big problem with damp and smelly drains (odours coming up from the donga); same with bad smells coming from nearby storm-water drains.

On the site was a reference to a 1952 aerial photo of the suburb. I couldn't find it anywhere on the site and so I emailed Tim Truluck, who is the environmental guy and also a councillor for the area. He kindly sent me the aerial photos from 1942 and 1952. Fascinating. I've pulled off a Google Earth image of the same area. I've made it black&white for comparison (old and newer photos on GE - right down the middle). Right-click and open the image in another tab. That should give you the full-size image to look at.

Amazing eh? Jo'burg in 1942 would have been incredible for mountain biking, trail running, horse riding...

On this topic of what places use to be like...

This an amazing video of a TED Talk by Eric Sanderson. He wondered what the island of Manhattan looked like before it became the concrete jungle that is is now. Really, really good.

Tuesday 5 July 2011

Trail World Champs in Ireland on Sat

You may have heard about the IAU Trail World Championships coming up, this weekend (Sat, 9 July), in Ireland. Fab news is that we have adventure racer presence in the form of Bruce Arnett and Jeannie Bomford. I seem to think that Iain and Su have some AR events under their belts too. ARers rule!

When the team was announced in early June there were questions around the team selection. No, there were no disagreements about the runners selected being suitable - they all are, but on how the team was selected.

The invitation to run was a surprise to all of them and the trail community had no idea about the World Trail Champs, that ASA was involved (the ASA Track & Field Commission selected the team) and which SA races would count. There are a number of men and women who would certainly be in contention for a place on this team but they may not have done the races assessed to select the team. We also don't know how/why ASA chose the races that they did to count. The most media publicity around these events? There are many, many other ultra trail races like like Addo 50miler, Skyrun, PUFfer, Amatola, Mnweni...

You may also be questioning why trail running's poster-runner Ryan Sandes isn't in the line-up. I haven't asked him but can presume that either he didn't get invited or was unavailable to run. With reference to the former, to my knowledge Ryan didn't run in either the 2011 African-X, nor the 2010 The Otter and nor the 2010 Table Mountain Challenge; he did win 4 Peaks and PUFfer in 2010. With reference to availability, Ryan is currently in the US and about to run the Leadville 100, a trail mountain ultra in Colorado and he has just recently run the North Face 100 in Australia.

IAU is linked to IAAF, of which ASA is a member. We can hope that for next year ASA Track and Field Commission will, under counsel from the trail running community, will notify runners of which race results will count for team selection for the World Trail Champs in 2012. We have many competitive and competent ultra trail runners, many of whom could have been eligble for a place on this team if they'd done the races considered in the selection process.

Would they have knocked out any of the current team members? Maybe, maybe not; but all runners interested in competing for SA in the Trail World Champs should have the opportunity to try out - not just be lucky that they chose to do a specific race.

But, this is a stepping stone and nice to have ASA supporting these runners (expenses paid for athletes). I'm under correction but I don't think that any of them have ever competed in an international ultra trail race, including Bruce. As you'll agree, a wonderful, wonderful opportunity for our trail runners to stretch their legs abroad. I hope to see many of our runners' names cropping up on the live race coverage.

IAU Trail World Championships 2011 site is The IAU website, at will carry ticker tape-style live coverage during the race.

Elevation profile of Saturday's race

Monday 4 July 2011

Captivating adventure talks at FEAT

Adventures progress from planning to execution. The expedition takes place and at the end, successful or not, the adventurer returns home. Then what? There’s the struggle to fit in to ‘normal society’ again, to resume work and family responsibilities, deal with shifted priorities and the persistent feeling of “I must be going mad!”. As one adventurer says, “No one really understands what you have endured or achieved and there is always a story that is never told because of this”. At the third edition of FEAT, in October, psychologist Gerard Finnemore tells this story.

A fast-paced and inspirational event, FEAT is an evening of time-limited talks where each speaker has only seven minutes for their presentation. Talk topics presented by the nine speakers are diverse but all related to the expedition and adventure sports genres. FEAT is an annual event.

“I’ve loved every talk at the previous two FEAT evenings and I’m already looking forward to this one coming up in October; presentation topics are diverse, entertaining, informative and captivating,” says FEAT director, Lisa de Speville.

FEAT Jo’burg also welcomes ‘weatherman’ Simon Gear, who links meteorology to the adventure environment and big-wave surfer Grant Baker. “And I love the story of novice adventurer Dan Skinstad paddling around Iceland with seasoned adventurer Riaan Manser,” says de Speville. “I can easily imagine convincing someone to join me on a multiday run or bike adventure; but getting a novice, who has to learn how to paddle for the expedition, to agree to a 5000 kilometre kayaking trip around an island with turbulent conditions and on near-freezing water... Lovely!”

Skinstad and Manser are currently on this ‘Around Iceland on inspiration’ expedition. Poor conditions have slowed their progress dramatically and the trip will take longer than the originally anticipated four months, which would have had them back in August. “I’m really hoping that Dan makes it back in time for FEAT in October,” says de Speville.

Earlier this year FEAT introduced its ‘FEAT Award’, which celebrates an adventurous spirit by contributing up to R10,000 to make an adventure possible. Used wisely, this money can go a long way. After six weeks on the road, around-Africa cyclist, Charmaine Dudley had spent only R1000.

“The Award winner will be the one with an original, captivating and inspirational adventure concept,” de Speville adds. The Award applies no restriction to age of applicant, destination or duration of the expedition. The application form for the FEAT Award is available on the FEAT website and entries must be submitted by 29 August 2011.

Other speakers at FEAT Jo’burg include sports scientist Ross Tucker and adventurers Kobus Bresler and Kim van Kets.

FEAT takes place in Jo’burg, on Thursday, 6 October 2011 at 18h30, at The Alexander Theatre in Braamfontein. Tickets are available through Computicket from Monday, 1 August 2011. Tickets are R140.00 per person. R5 from each ticket is donated to the >FreeMe Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre

FEAT is made possible by its sponsors – Black Diamond, CAPESTORM, Hi-Tec and 32Gi. These companies also support adventurers, making expeditions possible.

For more information, visit the FEAT website at and FEAT page on Facebook at>. Photos and videos from the two previous FEAT events, held in Jo’burg and Cape Town, can be viewed online.

Friday 1 July 2011

Swimming and statues

I'm busy reading Lewis Pugh's book, 'Achieving the impossible' -  a birthday pressie. It's not a book I would have bought myself because Pugh's swims in icy water like the ones he has done in Antarctica, North Pole and more recently, on Mt Everest, have just not appealed to me.

That said, I am thoroughly enjoying his book. I'm about half-way through (currently in the year or 2003/2004) - he has just swum around North Cape in Norway. These exploits I find far more interesting that one kay swum in polar water. My friend's friend swims a kay or more every morning, every season, in the frigid Cape waters. Not minus 1C, but still damn cold. Definitely not for me. Brrrr...

One kilometre is classified as long distance, in swimming (seems to be; don't know if this is an official classification?). And it isn't really long distance, if you know what I mean. Half IronMan distance is a 1.9km swim; IronMan distance is a 3.8km swim. And then there are the Robben Island and English Channel swims, which really are long distance. Pugh has done both of these - and many other 'proper' long-distance swims.

I've never met Pugh but I get a really nice feeling about him from his book.

In the section of his book that I read last night, I really enjoyed the following. To quickly put it in context... it's New Year's eve in 2003 and Pugh is in New Zealand at a hotel near Mt Cook. He leaves a party and goes to find somewhere quieter. He finds himself at the statue of Sir Edmund Hillary. He lies down on the grass, next to the statue, looking up at the sky. He's thinking about what he wants to do with his life; he doesn't want to go back to being a maritime lawyer, despite the financial security. And he's also thinking of other adventurers, like Neil Armstrong. And then he says,
What differentiated them from others? The key, it seemed to me, was they took on the challenge that excited them. They weren't scared by their dreams. And for me, the thought that hit home that night was straightforward: you don't see statues of corporate lawyers.
Pugh chose to be, as he describes, "a pioneer swimmer; an explorer of water" with a defined goal to be the greatest pioneer swimmer in history. His aim is to cross seas and round capes that no one has dreamed of doing before and to swim in waters so cold that no one would think it possible to survive. So I may not get the cold thing but I get the rest.

Pugh certainly is a pioneer swimmer and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of his book.

By chance I saw this statue of a businessman (corporate lawyer? hahaha). No name. No head.
Probably lost it after hitting it against the wall too many times. I'd rather be the Hillary statue too.