Wednesday 31 August 2011

Fish River Canyon Ultra

Almost a year ago, to the week, I first found out about the Fish River Canyon Ultra in Namibia, presented by African Extreme Promotions. Old-time Namibian adventure racer Russell Paschke and Tinus Hansen are the organisers.

Distance & route
Although the well-known, four- to five-day Fish River Canyon hike is listed at 85km, I think that this run is around 65km, which is plenty distance on varied terrain through the canyon. The event starts with an 8km run from a viewpoint. This is on a good dirt road and it is a very gently undulating, mostly down, gradient.

The descent into the canyon is steep in places and you've got to watch your footing. This isn't the standard descent used by the hikers and as such you skip out the nasty boulders between the start of the hike and Sulphur Springs. This descent spits you out just upstream of Sulphur Springs. Looking online, the section from the bottom of the regular hiking descent to Sulphur Springs takes people on the five-day 'programme' two days to complete and it is tough. I think it was a really, really good decision by the race organisers to leave this section out. When they did the race record in 2003, they did this section and Russell said it took them just under three hours. Although the time is not too much more, the effort and fatigue level will be exponentially higher, especially for runners not at the front of the field.

The rest of the route flows down the Fish River, crossing it 20 times, to Ai-Ais.

I ran with my iGot-U tracker logging my progress from the start of the descent. I filled in the track from the start and had to add about 4km at the end when the logger battery was done (I hadn't completely recharged before leaving home). I've got 64km measured on Google Earth from the logged track plus the bits I added at the start and finish. Ah - we also took shortcuts across some of the bends, which would have reduced the distance compared to strictly following the river. The hiking trail goes cross-country too and the routes are marked.

At the hiking trail 80km mark.
Heat and water
At the time of running the river was still flowing after super rainfall during summer and into early winter. The water is good for drinking straight out of the river - no purification drops required. Delicious! And, with 20 river crossings, there is plenty of opportunity to drink from the river, so you don't need to carry a lot of water.

Heat. Yeah. Nice and hot from about 10h30 to 16h00. Real heat. Not much of a breeze down there so you feel the heat. It was light when we started at 06h00 and was dark at 18h00.

The race will probably be held in July next year so conditions will be cooler but amount of daylight will be less.

The terrain is varied throughout from an abundance of fields of rounded river stones/boulders to soft sand and firm trail. The hiking trail is not always distinct and after river crossings it usually hugs the rocky mountainside, away from the boulders. On the approach to and departure from the river at every crossing, there are boulder fields to negotiate. These are taxing on your feet and you quickly learn which boulders are more pleasant to walk on than others.

Just into the canyon; sun hadn't made it down here yet. Yes, this is a boulder field. Nice-nice. John in the very orange top; Roelf ahead.

I made all but one river crossing with dry feet, hopping from boulder to boulder.

Lovely photo, by Roelf (stitched together from three images). 'Table Mountain' in the background. Here I am with John. This is where we got our feet wet - no boulder field.
The map provided (1:50,000) with drawn trail and crossing points was spot-on. Although you don't need to use a map to navigate (just follow the river!), it's useful to check where the best crossing place is located; sometimes it could be between bends and other times it is on the bend. And, by making crossing you cut out distance around the bends. I lost time on one crossing where I ended up just downstream (following a 'trail' of sorts) and had to negotiate a boulder field upstream and then nasty rocks on the other side. A swim would have been better (deep section of river; mostly it looked fairly shallow).

The runners
A small field of only nine runners; two women, including me. Roelf was the only other South African; the rest were from Namibia. Nice to see Alpheus again. We met at the inaugural Namib Desert Challenge two years ago; it's a five-day event run in the Soussousvlei area. I do so love inaugural events because of the small field and it is novel being the first to do a course.

I ran 11h39 on the course and without too much effort would be able to take 45 mins off this time. In cooler conditions, maybe more, although I ran nice-nice even in the hottest part of the day. Race winner, Frans, with Hentie in second, were two hours (exactly, I think) ahead of me. I came 5th; first lady.

I flew SAA from Jo'burg to Windhoek on Thursday afternoon. Flight was R2400 (I got a good deal as I booked early; I believe flights are usually around R3600). I stayed at the lovely Klein Windhoek Guest House. They have a super breakfast spread, including those delicious little Portuguese custard tart things. Great way to wrap up scrambled eggs on toast. Also a bar for drinks and lunch or dinner. Nice big flat-screen telly in the room, with the many MNet and movie channels.

Friday morning we drove to the Canyon; a massive 700km trek South - it's an eight-hour drive. I was with fellow runners Clive and Hentie with Clive's son, Timmy, doing the driving (thank you Timmy!). It's a long, long drive through the towns of Mariental and Keepmanshoop to get to the Canyon. It really makes sense to split the trip into two days and to overnight in Mariental or Keetmanshoop (500km from Windhoek).

It looks to be about 420 kilometres from Upington to Fish River Canyon; I'd definitely look at this for next time around as I'm not big on long car trips. On the drive down I was eyeing the railway track that runs near the highway. Looking online I see that it runs from Windhoek to Keetmanshoop; and from Keepmanshoop it is only a 200km drive to the Canyon... I would really fancy an overnight train trip there and back - better than a drive from Upington; that would be neat.

There is a small landing strip at Ai-Ais; but this would probably have to be a charter flight

Superb! From start to finish. An absolutely brilliant location for the pre-race overnight camp on a spur overlooking the canyon. Event sponsors Windhoek were superb with a big marquee tent, lights and an endless supply of refreshments - lots of beer plus water, juice and sodas. Catering on this night was absolutely yummy; a braai with veg, baked potatoes and even a choc mousse for dessert. Tents with mattresses were provided; just got to bring your own sleeping bag. A toilet trailer (fancy chemical toilets; not the plastic box type) was parked at the camp.

Pre-race overnight camp. What an amazing spot!
Like a laager; tents ready and waiting for us. Yeah, it gets windy up here.
Delighted to be in Nam. L-shaped headstand time.
At first I thought "Vygies!" and I was right. These are part of the vygie family.

From Wiki: Mesembryanthemum crystallinum is a prostrate succulent plant that is native to Africa, Western Asia and Europe. The plant is covered with large, glistening bladder cells, reflected in its common names of Common Ice Plant, Crystalline Iceplant or Iceplant.
Post-race at Ai-Ais we stayed in the campsite where the ablutions are good and a swimming pool is nearby. Dins was a meat or chicken stew. After races I crave fresh and crunchy and I favour veg so I would love to see a salad and veg option added to the menu. Next morning was breakfast at the hotel - cereal, eggies etc.

Prize giving was at 11am on Sunday (last runner was in around 22h00; about 15h30). Super finisher's tees and trophys. We then departed for the drive back to Windhoek but other runners stuck around for lunch and an afternoon of R&R next to the pool and dins, before Monday departure. the organisers stayed on for a clean-up initiative along a section of the canyon. As you can imagine, with a large volume of hikers there's a proportional volume of litter. Must say that although I did pick up some little, I didn't see much. Russell did say that the Canyon people do clean-ups down there a few times a year.

One of about four or five groups of hikers we passed. So super to see groups of teens and, especially, girls out doing this multi-day hike.
Bragging rights
The final element that makes this race cool - aside from spectacular scenery, interesting terrain and superb organisation - are the bragging rights. It is really just a super-cool thing to be able to run a multi-day hiking trail in a day. You get 24hrs for an 'official' finish and I presume that most people will do it in 9h30 - 17h00 if they have a smooth day; obviously more difficult with boulder fields and river crossings when Mr Sun goes bye-bye.

This was my first time visiting Fish River Canyon and super to see it in the way I most enjoy - fast. Hahaha. I had an really good run and a super day out. I ran where I could and trekked the un-runable sections. Nice and steady with plenty opportunity to check out the scenery. I ran the last six kays with speed, aiming to get in before dark. Just made it.

So, yes-yes-yes, a highly recommended run. No need to be super fit but you do need to spend time on your feet in preparation for this event. Race entry fee this year was R5,000, incl. transport to and from Windhoek, hosting, meals etc. Rate is certain to be different if you arrange your own transport, say coming from Upington rather than from Windhoek; keep an eye on the event website for info on next year's event. It's a wonderfully exotic destination that is close to home.

My thanks to Tinus and Russell for inviting me to run in their inaugural Fish River Canyon Ultra; to Sally for fetching me at the airport; to Timmy for those hours of driving; to my car companions, Hentie and Clive, for your company and to Francois from Klein Windhoek Guest House for warmly accommodating me. Lovely to see such superb sponsor involvement from Windhoek (the brewery). And fellow runners - what a wonderful experience!

My track. North is on the right. If you click this image you should be able to get the bigger version.

Seven Day SPRING Challenge

Wooohooo! Blossoms are on the fruit trees; my wisteria has buds; the jasmine is fragrant; and I'm wearing a tee shirt sans sweater. That means that it is time for a Seven Day SPRING Challenge! Are you up for it?

Here's how it works, as before...

Seven days. If you forgot all about this and don't start 1 September, start on the 2 September.

ONE - Decide to do this. Come on, what you gotta lose?

TWO - Make it public. Comment on this post. Public expression aids commitment. Whoop-whoop!

THREE - Set a distance/duration. Make each session tangible by setting a minumum distance or duration for each day - like run/walk a minimum of two kilometres or do any exercise for at least 20 minutes. Walking your dog for five minutes doesn't count; walking your dog for 20 minutes does (and your dog will love it too!).

FOUR - Priorise YOU. What I've learned so far is how easy it really is to prioritise yourself when you commit to it. Too often we skip yoga classes, runs and rides for deadlines, this and that... I know I'm guilty of this. Ask yourself, is your reason for not going for a 20-minute run/walk/ride good enough?

FIVE - Any activity counts. It doesn't have to be just one. You can choose to walk or run every day for seven days or mix it up with other disciplines. Just do something every day, for seven days.

SIX - Keep a log. Whether you count kilometres or hours, record what you've done over the seven days. I really enjoy recording my runs with colourful tracks on Google Earth as a rewarding visual tally.

SEVEN - Be proud. It's a mind thing to make your daily dose of exercise a priority. You can do it and you will be very proud on that seventh day.

I can guarantee that this Seven Day Challenge will help to get your training back on the wagon and it will  refocus your attention on you and what is important to you (fitness, health, exercise, de-stress, freedom).

My challenge? I'm going to run every day for seven days. Nice way to stretch my legs out after the Fish River Canyon Ultra. I'm also doing the 'Try something new for 30 days' thing to do 10 sun salutations every day this month.

As for the not eating cheese for 30 days... I stopped eating cheese on 26 July and didn't touch it for two weeks. Then I went to a relative for lunch and there was some cheese cooked into the meal. It was only then this weekend in Namibia, that I had some cheese on a sandwich that was made for me while travelling. I haven't had any of my usual lunchtime cheese and tomato sandwiches.

Has this helped to make my morning's brighter? Mmmm... not sure. Spring's arrival has probably made a bigger difference ;)

AdventureLisa's AdventureMom

Last night I dropped my mom, Liz, off at the airport for her flight to Madrid, Spain. Here's how she ended up there...

AdventureMom at the airport
In mid-February, while watching the video of talks from FEAT Cape Town, she says to me, "I need an adventure".

So I asked, "What do you want to do?".

"I'd like to do something like Allyson and Marc." They were FEAT speakers and they did a sea-to-summit adventure in Chile.

"Well," I answered, "that was their adventure. How about choosing a place you've always wanted to go to and then we'll look at a creative way for you to get there?"

She has always wanted to go to a Buddhist temple/retreat in Japan so she started looking around online (this was pre-earthquake). Turns out that Japan is pricey to go to and to stay there so it didn't look feasible. That's when she found El Camino, The Way of St James, a pilgrimage walk in Spain. That was it - her heart was set on this.

And so she began walking regularly to build her fitness. I've mentioned this a few times in recent posts as I usually walked with her once a week. So, from March, she's been walking four times a week and for the past six weeks, at least, she walked with her backpack, weighted with bags of mieliemeal.

She has taken seven weeks for this trip; six of these will be for walking. The total distance is around 790 kilometres. She has her official pilgrim's passport so that she can stay in monastries (much more economical) and she can also get cheaper meals at some places.

Her life, for the next seven weeks, fits into a 35-litre backpack. She carried it on to the plane as hand luggage (8.5kg)!

AdventureMom landed safely in Madrid this morning and she then caught a bus to Barcelona. She has got her bus ticket for Pamplona, where she'll stay tonight.

Although I'm totally envious of her adventure, I'm even more absolutely and completely proud of my mom for setting off on this wonderful walking adventure, on her own. She is going to have the most incredible experiences over there.

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Would you forsake moisturiser?

I'm reading a regular fiction book at the moment (well, just started and not completely into it - one of my mom's book club books). There's this delightful paragraph near the beginning.

A couple are lying in bed chatting. They like to play question games like "If people were cars, fish, weather, dogs, puddings - what would they be?".

This following one really got me smiling. He said to her:

"If you could have anything. Anything at all in the World. A Porche, a villa in Tuscany and a Lear jet to get to it, an endless wardrobe. Or the power to cure all sickness - cancer, AIDS. Or to end world poverty. But to have that you had to vow never again to to buy or use, in any shape or form, moisturiser. What would you choose?"

Like his wife, I'd be sorely pressed not to hang on to my moisturiser or similar lotion - even for world peace. But, I've figured out a way to work around this... I'd have to use my 'wish' to include transport to a mild and temperate climate, away from Jo'burg. Man, this place eats up your skin! Here the air is so very dry and lotions are a winter essential.

I'm current head-over-heels in love with my friend Jax's Body Balancing Cream. It's an aqueous cream blended with a delicious mix of essential oils. Aside from it being superbly moisturising (it's a body cream, not a face moisturiser but I'm not totally fussy about stuff like this - one lotion fits all when I travel, like this weekend). I cannot get enough of the scent. I can't really pinpoint any one specific scent and overall it isn't floral and it isn't woody - the blend just works beautifully together.

Packed for Nam

I'm packed and ready to head for Namibia for the Fish River Challenge. Flight tomorrow is at lunch time and I'm so looking forward to meeting race organiser, Tinus Hansen. It is quite something to get an event off the ground; planning, admin, logistics, funding... it's a big project. Well done to Tinus and his team. We started talking about this race at the beginning of September last year so I've eagerly anticipated it for a year. And now it is here! Hip-hip-hooray.

This is my first major race of the year. I was so pooped at the end of last year; juggling full-time job with a client plus freelance client commitments, new Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge team (third year of participation) and lots of paddle training, getting first and second FEAT events off the ground... let's just say that when this year rolled around I so wasn't ready for it and I've had little respite. Aside from the Kinetic Adventure sprint AR events, regular orienteering events and the odd other race here and there, I haven't done any proper racing. Yeah, I even skipped Expedition Africa because I couldn't face organising a team, gear, travelling etc.

On the other hand, training has been good. In May when I started my '35 Days of Running' leading up to my 35th birthday. I really needed this to regroup and take my running back a notch in order to go forward a notch. That has been the most wonderful foundation and I'm feeling great. At the beginning of the year I started going to ashtanga yoga classes - I usually go once or twice a week. This month I've been slack with other committments... but I do get in some shortened self-practise sessions. I've nailed some really tricky acrobatic moves in pole class, I've even done some rides on my bike outside of races! and I'm learning how to do a free-standing handstand (my technique has improved and shoulders and wrists are adapting, but I'm not there yet).

But definitely time for a trip and an adventure. Feet have been itchy, really itchy, for months.

Nice this about this Fish River Challenge... it's me, my running shoes and my day pack. And a lovely little flight from Jo'burg to Windhoek - flight duration of only an hour. I've put some TED talks on my phone to watch during the flight (if I don't fall asleep, which I'm in the habit of doing on planes, especially short flights!).

In packing my stuff today I was thinking how I've developed habits over the years. I've got this red/pink floral Hawaiian print fabric bag that I got my race info and goodies in at H.U.R.T. a 100km and 100-mile run in Hawaii, which I did in Jan 2006 (was it?) with my dear friend Bob with Heath as Bob's support and our entertainment. At an AR it is the bag that holds my Buffs, crop tops, knickers and socks in my race crate. For a race like this, I fill it with the clothing I'll be wearing on race day. I think this bag has come with me to every race since I got it.

My 'jungle Buff', which Bob gave me after I ran the inaugural Jungle Marathon in Brazil in Sept 2003, also goes to every race. It is in my Hawaiian bag, ready for Saturday morning.

I use little drybags for headlamps, spare battery, space blanket and knife. I usually move knife to top zipper pocket on race day. when you need a knife, you'll need to to be accessible.

Race food is usually similar from race to race, with some variations. This time I've got gels, 32Gi chews (my new favourite), some bars and then crunchy munchies like corn nuts, salted mixed roasted nuts, some Woolies crisps and some crackers. Got some dried fruit roll, cut into bits (a banana-something one and a berry one) for when I feel like a bit of sweetness; I don't usually.

I always pack my light-weight Capestorm Helium jacket. It is just over eight years old and has also accompanied me on every race and every trip in the last nine years. Our team won that Clarens 150km (or there abouts) that Hano organised in early 2003. It's the original version and I still favour it above all the new stuff. It is not much like the current version.

I've got a small first aid kit. Of course it has a sachet of Arnicamill Arnica oil and a bunch of myprodol / genpyn (red and green anti-inflam capsules). If these can't fix the problem, then you've got a big problem. Also always carry spare contact lenses, small bottle of solution and a mirror. Always have lip balm. Got a little container of baby powder (feet) and a sachet of Arnicamill's fabulous anti-chafe cream. Good for chaffing; excellent for between-toes lubrication. We used it with great success in Abu Dhabi last year. Also got a couple of token plasters; but as always I aim to never let a hot spot get to the point of being a blister.

What else... Have packed my little -GotU unit to track my run - and to see post-race how slow (or not) I'm moving through the canyon. From what I remember from the winter Kinetic Full Moon last year, I've got just under 18 hours of battery on the unit. So, I'd better move my butt! I've had this little thing for well over a year now, I think, and I really love using it at O events, odd runs and logging paddle distances.

Got my camera. A run is not a fabulous run unless I get some good photos.

Have a new toy I bought last week -  a Vapur anti-bottle water container. Nice thing about this little friend is that I can't fit a bottle into my pack. I prefer to run with a hydration reservoir anyway but I always think a bottle could be useful - maybe I'd want a rehydration sachet with some delicious river water? Because this is a flat unit (and not completely rounded even when filled) it fits neatly in the netting compartment on the outside of my pack. I've got the 500ml anti-bottle. And, it has a little carabiner so I can't lose it. How cool is that?

And I've got two headlamps packed - Petzl Myo XP and Black Diamond Spot. I like them both and figure that when it gets dark two headlamps are better than one down in the canyon when you want to still keep moving swiftly. I look forward to playing with them in the proper darkness of the Namibian night (moon is almost gone).

And lastly, I added some decoration to my backpack -  a crocheted flower. Hahaha ;)

I'll take pics in situ.

Oh golly - time to get to bed. I won't be posting from the race. Delighted to be out of contact for a few days.

Till Monday night - byyyeeee!

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Granny square blanket - in progress

Yay! After about three weeks of crocheting granny squares most nights I have completed the tally of squares. In this picture the squares are places, but not yet stitched together. After stitching I've still got to do the multi-row, multi-colour border - it should go pretty swiftly. It's stitching the squares together that takes time. I started on it last night but wasn't happy with the stich I used (single crochet). I think a needle-and-thread whip stitch will work better.

Granny squares are the foundation of crochet and I've found that with the practise of making square after square that I'm getting way faster. This is my first blanket; and, yes, it will be given away to a local organisation. I'm getting pure delight in creating this piece but I don't want to keep it. I'd prefer to spread the colour goodness. Will probably take me at least another two to three weeks to finish this project.

If you're feeling inclined, this is the pattern that I'm following: Blanket Statement by Lucy O'Regan on the Stitch Nation website. I love her colours. The blanket needs 11 different colours, so I had to go with what I could get my hands on in the same yarn.

Flowers in the desert

I've gone for a really festive floral fabric for my AR Desert Gaiters for my 100km Namibia run this weekend through the Fish River Canyon. This full shoe covering is great for sand and river crossings. Gonna be good for this run - and colourful ;) With these err... loud gaiters, it's a good thing I'm not a wallflower.

Thanks to my desert-gaiter-making elf, Liz, for making these so beautifully for me. xxx

Classes 'n workshops

I've been thinking a lot about active classes. Sure, you can join a gym for about R450/month (note that the gyms don't advertise their rates on their websites - you have to provide your details and they'll call you). You get group classes like aerobics, katabox, yoga, pilates and spinning as well as weights, circuit, treadmill and other cardio machines, shower facilities and maybe a pool too for seven days a week, almost every day of the year (bar xmas day and new year's day) and for a wide hour range. That's pretty good value. So, let's say that I go five times a week, that's R22.50 per visit.

Yoga classes at a yoga studio... well you're looking at cheapest of R32 per session for five times a week at one class per day. But, a studio may only offer two or three of the classes you want each week. And if you choose to only go to these classes two or three times a week, you're paying R60 to R65/class. If the rates were less would we see more than five people in each class? For yoga, because I live a distance from the studio, I just get a 10 class card that lasts two months; I aim to do one self practise each week - doesn't always happen.

Pole dancing... classes are R50/class at two classes a week. R45/class if you're on a six-month contract instead of monthly. I've been teaching for two-and-a-half years now and except for the odd group private class (three or four of us) with a more experienced instructor (ex Miss Pole UK), I haven't been to classes for at least 18 months (as an instructor I don't pay fees at my studio).

Workshops are cool. I haven't been to many, but I'd like too. It's just the cost that really gets me. If I only did one discipline and no events like O events, road races, AR events it may feel different to constantly dishing out money?

Next month there is an advanced pole dance workshop with Suzie Q and Toby J. I've been a big fan of Suzie Q ever since I saw her in the video of her second place tango-themes dance at Miss Pole Australia in 2006 (the original video is no longr on youTube). It's a two-hour workshop with Suzie and Toby for R300.00. I'm really looking forward to learning some neat stuff from them.

Here's a fun video of Suzie Q and Toby J from a pole thing in Dec last year. Camera a bit too close to the stage most of the time; but shows some nice pole doubles stuff.

Then, there's an acroyoga workshop with Olivier David. He's an ashtangi and he does acroyoga stuff. I did two workshops (donation basis) in January and would really like to do more. The one workshop is R300 for two hours. It's on the same afternoon as the pole workshop. There are two other workshops with him at another studio; R450 for two hours. Quite a bit eh?

The one thing I've found is that some workshops have only a handful of people attending. The cost? I'm sure. A workshop with five people lacks the vibe of a workshop with 15 people.

My navigation workshops are R150, including a manual booklet, full-colour printed maps (O, Google Earth image, topographic) and they're fully booked (max. 20 people; I usually limit to 16).

And then I look at the educator training course we held in Polokwane this weekend to teach teachers how to teach orienteering; R200 for the day (09h00 - 16h00) including material (manual, activity material - printing and laminating cost R105) plus tea and light lunch (rolls with fillings). Sure, I'm not looking make a living from teaching nav courses and SAOF isn't looking to make money out of training teachers and SAOF covers costs for having us (instructors) there, but when I look at the amazing value from both of these, with change to spare, then it just makes me feel that these other workshops are a bit pricey for only two hours?

Thursday 18 August 2011

Google Earth's image update

What a treat! When I opened Google Earth tonight I noticed that they've updated their images of where I live. From the brown and drab images that must have been taken in the winter of 2007 or 2008, they've updated with bright green summer images taken on xmas day last year (25 Dec 2010).

As we near the end of winter I am so ready for warmth (lots of it) and green.

I took two of the captures from my 35 Days of Running and placed the new version next to it. Looks a bit like colours are over saturated and I don't think resolution is quite as good as the old image - loads of glare too. But, the green of the gardens and trees is way better than dry brown.

Log on - they may have updated your 'hood too.

Sunday 14 August 2011

Road runner beep-beep

This morning I ran my first road half marathon in about 18 months. Mmm... I think my last 21km was the Phalaborwa Half in January last year... I haven't done many road races for a few years; maybe only one or two a year. In the mid to late '90s I was often running races most weekends. I then didn't do many in the early 2000s and got back to road races in 2002, running one or two a month; sometimes more. And then for the last few years I haven't had much interest in road races, although I do most of my running training on road.

Yesterday I was having tea with Fred and his family. He mentioned that it looked like the field was getting set up for a race at Old Eds. Online checking confirmed the 10km and 21km distances... why not go for the 21 eh?

I seem to recall entering this race about two or three years ago. I woke up feeling not quite right but went anyway and by 5km I was really not feeling great. As this is a double-lap route, I ducked off at 10km... My last road race was the New Years 10km.

This morning I was feeling pretty great and if I'd ended the run at 10km I would have felt 'cheated' out of a good distance as many of my regular runs are 10km now (I've really focused over the past three months on re-building a solid running base - my favourite discipline - after too much distraction, like with paddling, and rather erratic running for a few years). We'd had a slow start, caught in the crowds, which was actually nice. We lost a lot of time, hitting 10km on 60 minutes. We made up a bit of time up to 15km, running good splits. From about 13km to 16km was quite a bit of uphill and the last four kays were pretty smooth.

One thing I do really enjoy about the road racing scene is the vibe, odd comments between runners here and there and being surrounded by a bunch of runners making our way through tree-lined neighbourhoods. The only thing that puts me off are the early mornings. This morning was an 8am start, nice and leisurely - it's the summer races that start at 06h30 that kill me. But hey, the summer Wednesday night races will start again in September; and these I enjoy.

So, I'm feeling really good after my half this morning. I will confess that these days I find road races quite daunting. I find it far easier to run 50km off-road than 21km on road... go figure. This spontaneous race was well timed with the new FISH RIVER CHALLENGE 100km coming up in TWO WEEKS. Yes, indeed, a race I've been looking forward to for almost a year is almost here. I fly to Namibia next week Thursday - the count-down begins. I've never been to the Fish River Canyon so it is going to be fabulous. My running camera is packed ;)

(Talking road running... this is the youtube video flying around; a scenario of what happens when Wile E. Coyote finally catches the Road Runner. No more beep-beep.)

Thursday 4 August 2011

July yarn colours

I haven't done as much knitting/crochet this past month as I would have liked... but I did make a knitted sleeveless vest for my friend's baby-to-be out of a deliciously silky bamboo yarn, a crochet headband with little flowers for a teenage friend's birthday and I worked on a few flower patterns.

With the little vest - my first time knitting a pattern (hearts in this case) into something. I can handle a one colour change; two colours or more would take more practise (and a lot more motivation!).

I also attempted some fancy stitches for a project I've got cooking in my mind (top and bottom)... It just takes soooo long to figure out the pattern. I've got this odd book that I picked up at a second-hand book store but the explanations are really bad -  a crochet diagram would be much easier. It can take three or four hours to do something like the pink and green bubble gum ball section because I have to pull it out and try again and again and again! The purple one (bottom) was easier to do and I just love the multi-purple/pink shade yarn that my friend Tania gave me for my birthday.

As for the stripey crochet piece... new project. Started it over the weekend and I get in a few rows each night. Mmm... maybe will take me another week or so to finish it. Am loving the colours!

Wednesday 3 August 2011

Handstands UP!

"Handstands up!" was a call that rang out on playgrounds (and in swimming pools) as a child. We'd do all kinds of leg variations like ballerina, banana splits and jellyfish. My handstand was decent, but I've never been able to stay up - not that I ever really tried. No need. Now I have a need; a desire.

On Saturday I saw a flyer at the yoga studio advertising a 'flying workshop' presented by another studio where level 1 focuses on handstands, shoulder stands and some yoga variations. My headstand is rocking, as is my l-shaped headstand but I want to progress to more difficult handstands. I'm unfortunately not around on the day of the workshop but seeing that a gymnastic coach was involved, it reminded me of a woman I 'met' a few years ago.

When I was still working at Let's Play (Supersport), Cindy McCall-Peat from the Eagles Tumbling Club in Benoni made contact. I sent a crew out there and they shot a really super insert for the show. I didn't meet Cindy in person, but I remembered then that she had invited me to come around to the gym saying that it was never too late to do gymnastics...

I dropped her a note and tonight I went to my first 'adult gymnastics class'. My specific objective is to learn how to handstand properly and tonight I learned so many tips on take off and alignment that my handstand is already plenty more stable and strong and is staying up longer. My coach tonight was Thato and he's a super teacher with a great way of explaining what and how to do.

We also did cartwheels. There's a cartwheel and there's a cartwheel. Of course I've been able to do a fairly decent cartwheel since I was a tot but tonight I learned new form and technique. I say 'we' but it was really just me and another girl. No other adults. She is probably about 14 and this is her second week. Her mom was a competitive gymnast and suggested she give it a go. This young lass wants to get fit and become more flexible.

On the drive home, I realised that there are a number of gymnastic moves that I'd like to learn like a handstand walkover and a flickflack, neither of which I can do. I guess they've kind of been on a 'bucket list' since I can remember. Coincidentally, I was chatting to my mom about a week ago about gymnastics and asking why it wasn't on our radar when I was a child. Participation in sports really stems from exposure to a discipline. We didn't have tumbling at school and I didn't know anyone who did it as an extramural activity; so, I didn't do it.

If you're a parent reading this, expose your children to as much as possible. Even consider letting them do a year of this and a year of that - different disciplines like dance, tumbling and orienteering, along with their mainstream school sport. It isn't about being expert or competitive at any of them but just that they have the exposure, they spend a sufficient time at it to know whether they like or not.

The interesting thing is that having now been at pole dancing for three years (and teaching for 2.5) and now with acroyoga and Ashtanga yoga... all really are very much gymnastic disciplines. Cindy was saying that they have some capoeira people through there to work on handstands and other balance moves and they've also had some parkour people come there too - again, these are both disciplines with gymnastic roots.

With all of my activities, I unfortunately can't commit to gymnastics even once a week; but I've diarised a couple of classes every few weeks to check in with Thato to correct my technique and form and to learn new stuff. For now, I've got lots of homework from tonight. My ultimate handstand objective is to be able to do a push up handstand where you stand, legs wide. Fold forwards, hands on ground and lift legs up - straight and wide, into a nice, tall handstand. How awesome will that be!

I've put some photos below to get you excited about handstands too ;)