Sunday 30 October 2011

Batteries recharged


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

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

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

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

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

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

Some pics of recent projects:

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

Tuesday 25 October 2011

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

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

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

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

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

One-hour run. Probably 8km-ish.

Pizza afterwards at Vinis.

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

Remember your reflective wear - for safety.

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

Monday 24 October 2011

Adventure rogaining

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Never too old

Nice little story coming through today from The Adventure Blog.

A 100-year old man, Fauja Singh, completed the Toronto Marathon on Sunday. He did it in 8h25. Toronto was his 8th marathon - he did his first at age 89. Interestingly, he ran Toronto in 2003 (aged 92) and finished in 5h40.

Ja, you're never too old to start or do anything. That excuse just ain't good enough.

Big pic from CBS News, who carried the story.

Sunday 16 October 2011

Energizer Night Race: all-girls team relay

Last night the Energizer Night Race absolutely rocked. It was held on Monaghan Farm, near Lanseria - superb venue. It has definite orienteering opportunities... Fabulous to see such a great turnout and excellent increace in participation from last year. We entered in the four-person relay team category, which was the major one last year. This year there were far more solo runners (like over 300!). There's also a mtb relay pair).

I really enjoy the 'dress-up' component of the race - it is fun to be silly - and we went all out with glo sticks, pink wigs and pink tops. There is indeed a prize for best dressed, which they'll announce this week. Fingers crossed ;)

Sarah, Lisa, Isabel and Nadine.
This pic was taken on my phone - I'm sure Erik and Jacques (photographers) got much better shots.
I was our first runner; Sarah second, Isabel third and Nadine bringing us home. The trail was superb - excellent condition - barely any rocks to trip over. Well marked too. My favourite section was the fairy-lights forest. Bronwen, who set it up, said the forest is home to hedgehogs - there are about 200 living and successfully breeding there. The route wasn't an easy one. Long uphill pull, super downhill (I pulled out a good gap on the peeps behind me here - didn't get overtaken bar one guy, after the first 500m), more uphill, a little downhill and the last section across the grassy field to the end was .h.a.r.d. work! I'd put my wig back on a bit too early, thinking I must be almost there (not knowing about the big loop around the bottom of the field) so I was cooking hot by the time I passed the timing chip to Sarah.

Max said the trail was 5.2km. I ran 39-minutes on it and thought I had a fairly smooth run (with a few little walks on the big uphills!). Either I'm getting older and slower or Max was fibbing... Isabel ran with a GPS and logged 6km. She's our fastest runner and she clocked 35 minutes - so I feel a little better. Sarah and Nadine were similar pace to me.

This is a really brilliant family event with runners, bikers, supporters and kiddies spread out on the soft lawns.

We will, for sure, be back for more next year ;)

Getting pimped for the run. From top to bottom: Nadine helping Sarah get her wig on straight; Lisa; Sarah; Isabel; Nadine; Just finished my leg - with Nadine and Isabel (Sarah was out running).
Me, Sarah, Isabel and Nadine (by Jacques Marais)

Glo-stick bracelets (photo by Jacques Marais)

Saturday 15 October 2011

Metrogaine Jo'burg lights up Norwood

The third Metrogaine Jo’burg took place on Tuesday (11 Oct) through the suburbs of Norwood, Houghton, Oaklands, Orchards and Orange Grove. These suburbs, like at the previous Metrogaine Jo’burg from Zoo Lake, are well suited to metrogaining because there are very few road closures, which opens up route choice options.

All participants received a Metrogaine Jo’burg reflective slapband, which can be worn on upper arm, wrist or ankle. Although it is a super memento, it serves a safety purpose. You can’t have enough reflective goodies. Bibs are still recommended in addition to the slapbands.

I went crazy with controls, setting up a vast number to accommodate walkers (many controls close to home) and fast runners. This is the thing with any rogaine format; even the top runners should have a choice in which controls to get and to leave – it really is no fun when you’re able to get everything in the allocated time period. I have included below a couple of routes taken by runners. With Tony Abbott stuck in traffic, Alex Pope ran as a solo and was thus an unofficial finisher. But his route is great to check out as he obtained the highest score, even with a 50 point penalty for being late. Nathan Thompson and Michael Crone won the 1h30 course overall and are also indicated on the map. Piers Pirow, who has an ankle injury, gave the course a go on his mountain bike. He did say that even though his route was a bad one, he did find mountain biking in this environment to be really slow. It is far more efficient to be on foot.

Mark Dickson and Gareth Evans covered 12-kilometres and collected 730 points to place as the 4th male pair (8th overall) on the 90-minute course.

Stijn and Fran Laenen were third overall on the one-hour course. They collected 550 points.

There were 49 controls out there and a total of 1780 points up for grabs.


There were a few gremlins out on the course. As I always say in the briefing, if you find something weird out there, don’t hunt, move on and let me know about it afterwards. With 49 controls out there, even though I aim for zero errors, they can happen.

The first was #49 where the green cement cylinder is no longer there. Although I generally select controls that are permanent fixtures, I can’t resist something a little more fun and in the time that this control was ‘placed’ the large green cylinder was removed (only the two white ones remain) and the house has almost been completed.

I haven’t been out to confirm but I think I must have placed the control for #35 on the wrong block – incorrect by one road. I had the answer down as being a blue wall, but 17 of the 18 pairs who went to this control said it was a white wall. The one pair who got the ‘correct’ answer must have done what I did. I have awarded the points to these pairs.

Control #31 – seems people couldn’t decide whether the wall was white or grey but looking at the stats... 23 pairs went to this control. 19 said it was white, 2 said it was grey and two were uncertain. I’ve kept the answer as white and the scores stay as is.

Control #45 The lights on the wall at house #44. Seems that the house number is #45... 13 pairs went to this control and all got it correct, bar one pair.

Palm trees at control #39... My control circle was a little South of the correct location. The answer was 2 – the two palm trees together on the corner. Little did I know that there were other palm trees around. I didn’t even notice them. Serves me right for peeking at the palm trees from the park instead of checking out the area around them too! If people said 4, they also got the points.

It is always important to remember that I try to look for things that will be visually clear to you at night. I’m scouting during the day but even so remember that the feature should be clear. The centre of the control circle is the control location, it is appropriately placed on the map indicating placement on the block and also the side of the road and the item will never be hidden behind a wall.

For me, Metrogaine Jo’burg events are about utilising our suburbs for more than driving through and as access to our houses into which we lock ourselves. As one participant, Bronwyn Hemer, said afterwards, "I enjoyed being out and about last night in a suburb that has so many people walking around at night. It reminded me of my childhood."

As someone who lacks sentimentality and throws away 98% of the medals and trophies I receive at races, these won’t ever be included in Metrogaine Jo’burg events. For me, taking part in any event is about the sport, the race, the challenge. Not about stuff. That’s also why Metrogaine Jo’burg can keep its low entry fee of R45pp, which covers slapbands and maps and keeps the event self-sufficient, not requiring sponsorship. 

The control sheet marking process is improving with each event but it still remains a time-consuming, manual process. I have an improved idea for the next one, which will be in April 2012. This should speed up the process dramatically. Post-event, I do go through every single one to check marking and adding. As a result, some results have changed slightly. Because of this, the whole results aspect of Metrogaine Jo’burg is low-key. People are encouraged to hang around afterwards to socialise and the results string goes up with control sheets added as they’re marked – participants get an idea of their placing.

Winners in the categories on each course get free entry to the next event. For this event I have two gifts and free entries for the pairs who collected the least number of points (excluding penalties) and most value for money (longest time out there).

  • First male pair (overall winner): Nathan Thompson & Michael Crone
  • First mixed pair: Jane Swarbreck & Anthony Mundy-Castle
  • First female pair: Lauren Freemantle & Zoe Goodbrand
One-hour course
  • First female pair (overall winner): Sarah Pope & Magi Lingnau
  • First male pair: Andrew Wiggett & Caroline Wiggett
  • First male pair: Patrick de Jongh & Ryan Burger
Lowest point score: Jonty Pile & Jacqui Glover (40 points on the one-hour course; first timers – they’ll get better with practise, which is why they get a free entry too)
Most value for money: Kim van Der Lith & Esti Louw (they spent 1h50 on the 1h30 course)

Full results are available here. (Excel file)

Thanks first to you, the enthusiastic participants who have taken to metrogaining like a duck to water. I’d like to encourage you to consider entering the annual foot and mtb rogaine next year (too late for this year’s event, which happens this coming weekend) and also regular orienteering events. The annual rogaine is held  in forests with the longest course being limited to eight hours for the foot rogaine and five hours for the MTB rogaine. Information on the sport of orienteering is available on

Fred Richardson and his son, Mike, assisted with control placements; Ray Chaplin accompanied me on one of the scouting outings. On the night, Nico van Hoepen came through and assisted with finish times; Ray and Fred took on the task of marking control sheets. Mike ran between the finish and the markers; Pam handed out cupcakes and stapled results... many hands make light work. Thank you.

Photos from Metrogaine Jo’burg, Norwood are available on Fred’s Facebook page.

Details for the next event (11 April 2012) will be available on this page on


Friday 7 October 2011

A team FEAT

That's the third FEAT event done and dusted. What an absolutely incredible night, again!

As I assimilate the evening and jump into all the post-event necessities, I have so many thank yous to wonderful people who make this event so smooth.

Without sponsors, FEAT just couldn't happen. Well, if it did your tickets would have to cost a lot more than double the R140 price. Even more wonderful is that FEAT's sponsors, Black Diamond, Capestorm, Hi-Tec and 32Gi, are as supportive of a variety of athletes and adventurers.

Go Multi and Getaway magazines really help to get word out about FEAT

Wonderful assortment of speakers representing many disciplines and experiences were the highlight and focus of the night. For me it is a treat to meet people I've heard about, read about and written about. As always, there are some I know and many I don't but when they leave FEAT and return home, relationships remain behind.

Andy, Craig, Frank, Gerard, Kim, Kobus, Marian, Ross, Simon - I cannot sufficiently express my joy at having you on the FEAT stage and for being part of this. FEAT is so much more than just a night of interesting talks around adventures. You inspire and have a wonderfully positive impact on the lives of the people you're speaking to.

After three events I have got the most amazing team of people who make things happen. Most of them have been with me from the start. Alistair Cronk is really my right-hand-man, handling the sound and music. This is a key element of FEAT so it's one of the main functions. He keeps control of everything happening on stage. Ray Chaplin spoke at the first FEAT event and has been on my team since. He came up from CT especially to be here. Ray kept the speakers reassured behind the scenes, rigging their microphones and getting them prepped. William was on the slide controls again; as with the first Jo'burg event. Although most of the slides run automatically, William keeps tabs on getting the speakers' talks started and sorting out any glitches as they arise. Max Cluer MCd the event again and his enthusiasm for FEAT is tangible. A dash jetlagged from MCing an event in the US, Max was on the ball, as always.

Fred Richardson and Tony Abbott were on 'airport duty' fetching the speakers flying in and delivering them safely to the theatre. Again, provided the flights all were on time (and they were, early in fact!) I had not a care in the world because in their capable hands I knew they'd get the speakers through to FEAT come hell, high water or traffic carnage. They also jumped in to helping with tickets, getting people seated and probably a dozen other little bits that I was completely unaware of. On this side too were my dear friends Pam and Lauren. They're the best face of FEAT people, meeting invited FEAT guests as they come in.

Willem Pretorius and Tiaan Ebersohn, who I used to work with, were on camera, shooting footage for the videos of FEAT talks. I go into edit next week at Hartiwood, owned my my friend Paul Kruger. I'll be working with Anel, who has edited all the previous FEAT events. She's a delight to work with.

Erik Vermeulen joined our team to take photos - he's away this weekend but will have photos out for us during next week. I'm sure he's got some great ones of the speakers in action.

Sibushi, new to our team, handled the lighting during the show. There was a huge amount of setup to be done, which literally took all day. They brought in extra lights and just got down to business. Lighting is so not my thing and he's a pro - again another worry I didn't even have to think about. Brett was also new to the team. Brought in as an extra set of hands, Brett got involved with any task that cropped up during the afternoon. Very reassuring to have him on board.

Andrew, from Stage Group, did all the AV setup and monitoring. As a slide-show based talks format, great projection is essential. All went smoothly.

I cannot begin to describe the peace of mind that I have during the event knowing that all of these people know what to do and that I really can switch off leaving them to it. If any crisis happens, I don't even blink because they're resourceful and have the initiative to make a plan.

Thank you everyone for making my adventure dream a reality.

Today, 7 October, is FEAT's first birthday. Here's to many, many more.


(photo by Etienne Marais, as posted on Twitter - @etbal, #featsa; tweets during the event by @HiTec_SA)

Wednesday 5 October 2011

Special stage mat for FEAT

Goodness - I can hardly believe that it is one sleep to FEAT. A blink of an eye ago it was three months to go...
About two months ago I painted the mat for the stage. I did something similar for the Jo'burg event last year -  the splash. But as I've simplified the logo I needed to make a new mat. This one is bigger and better.

FEAT Jo'burg 2010 - splash mat
Although it takes a chunk of time to do, it is wonderful fun. Why don't I just get a 'banner' printed instead of spending three-and-a-half days painting?

Well, if I exclude my time, it is cheaper than printing. I also questioned this recently when I had a vinyl 2x1m banner printed for only R600. But, although my vinyl banner is nice, when I compare it to my painted mat - chalk and cheese. The canvas mat with its base coat, two layers of paint and two layers of varnish is so much better. And I made it. I'm into items made with looovvveee - as this one was.

It kinda fits into my current feeling of all the knitting and crochet - making special things for special people; this special mat is for all the special speakers, audience and my team of people who make FEAT happen on the night.