Monday 30 January 2012

Sharing the trail

I always rave about Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve because it really is a jewel. For me it is 35mins from home over the weekends and always fabulous no matter what the weather.

My buddy Fred moved up to Jo'burg about a year ago now and he had never been to Suikerbos - so we went through on Sunday afternoon. With weather settling into its old patterns with afternoon showers, chances were actually quite good that we'd get drenched. It was raining when we arrived so we sheltered at the hotel reception until the hard downpour and lightening had passed and then set off in post-rain brightness.

Were we lucky! Glorious conditions - cool but not cold - with the view clearing with every minute. Yes, muddy and sloshy and slippery, but that just made it more fun.

We did the longer route - the first time that I've done it for ages. The signboard always read 17km but I've been convinced that there is no way it is longer than 14km - max. This time I ran with a tracker and logged 11.8km. On the signboard at the split someone has erased the old number; they've written 11.5km. I'm with them. The longer route is actually a much nicer trail underfoot and we also were on the lower 'plain' and so were surrounded by a herd of zebra and bontebok.

Part of my mission for this run was to take my Vibrams (Bikila model) for a spin. I haven't worn them for ages and I've never worn them on anything other than nice grass. I didn't want to overdo it so I probably only ran in them for a bit over a kay. Great news is that my feet felt fine and, more importantly, no sore feet or calves today. Luckily my natural strike is forefoot, which minimises the transition.

As we got back to the parking lot, some people were pulling in with bikes to go for a ride. I tried to get a photo of Fred's legs and the heavens opened. Pouring! We really did have the best of luck to start and finish in a rain-free window.

A lovely outing made even more fabulous by being able to introduce a fellow trail appreciator to this wonderful highveld gem.

Friday 20 January 2012

It is done! Thailand, here I come!

Oh my goodness! I've just booked my first-ever, non-event holiday abroad ;) Thailand, here I come!

As per my modus operandi, this vacation isn't all about beaches and hammocks. I'm in for lots of yoga at the Yoga Retreat but I'm doing classes, not a full retreat - not in the mood for the full chakra-aromatherapy lecture thing. Instead, I've booked to do a Thai massage course.

And, I've got good running plans...

The island of Koh Phangan has a perimetre of around 50km - perfect for an end-of-holiday ultra. Leading up to this I'm in for exploratory daily runs to visit waterfalls and other sights on the island.

And then a weekend visit to a neighbouring island recommended to me.

I also thought of doing a Thai cooking course but I think I'll settle in for a few days and see how my time works out with the yoga, running and massage course. Cooking courses are a few hours a day over five days, so it may be an option in my second week there.

My one friend has just returned from here and he's got loads of tips for me on things to do and see both in Bangkok and on the islands - looking forward to tea on Tuesday to get the scoop.

I first thought about doing this almost exactly a year ago. At the end of December I decided to just do it and this morning I booked the ticket for mid-March. How delicious!

Run A Heart, Sun 12 Feb

While Randburg Harriers have their annual Valentine's Nite Run on Fri, 10 Feb (arrrgggghhhh - thousands of people!) and there's a new trail run in the bike park on the 14th (R90 for 10km! - but they have a good infrastructure set up there), I'd like to add my own contribution - RUN A HEART on Sunday, 12 Feb at 18h00.

Bonuses are:
  • No need to fight through crowds of people at the run
  • Entry is essentially free (see below)
  • No traffic on a Sunday evening (great start to the week ahead!)
  • Doesn't interfere with your Valentine's dinner plans
Date: Sunday, 12 February 2012
Venue: Meet in the upper parking lot at Bedford Centre - outside Vinis. (see directions below)
Time: 18h00 sharp to run so arrive 10-15 mins earlier
Distance: around 10km, not more
Entry fee: little treat (see below)

Little treat
Your entry fee is a little treat for someone else. Please come armed with a little treat (wrapped so we can't see what it is). I'm thinking Turkish Delight, Sally Williams nougat, chocolate... Between R20-R30. You can bring something non-edible, but make sure that it is not gender specific. Edible is first prize.
Little treats will go into a basket and when you are finished you get a treat.

The route
The route will be marked so you can run at your own pace - I'm sure faster and slower little groups will form. This is a social run, not a race. Good for walkers too.

I've got two routes conceptualised - will decide on one for us - but this is the general idea. Yeah, you do have to use your imagination a little... the routes are kinda hearts eh?

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.

(Mike, I hope we're going to see you and your Edenvale friends?)

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Shoulda done this years ago!

Tonight was the first night of the photographic short course that I signed up for last week. I loved every minute of it! We went through real basics and I really learned so many little things. We've got homework for this week and I'm so looking forward to jumping right into it. The next five weeks are going to be really exciting. Man, I shoulda done this years ago.

And, would you believe, I bumped into someone I knew! In '94, when I was first year at varsity, I waitressed at a local Italian restaurant. There were two guys, brothers, who regularly came in for pizzas. Well, the one, Trevor, is in my class (the other is now in New Zealand). Can you believe it! I often worked on Monday night and they would come in pretty much every Monday. They were, at that stage, setting up their computer business and now, 17 years later, it is going strong. They would put in loads of late nights at work and, as a result, ate a lot of restaurant food. I still remember their favourite pizza ;)

Trevor and his wife have this really cool thing. Every second year they give each other courses for xmas. He has always wanted to do a photography course - his wife gave it to him for xmas. She's doing a chocolate decorating course.

Following on this thread, my friend Lauren and Pam give each other experiential gifts. It could be going to see something or a wonderful spa treatment... so many options.

Ja, I like. Courses and experiences make for wonderful gifts. So much better than stuff.

Ah... and next week I'm going to be a pole student again. I'll still keep teaching once a week but I'll be attending a class locally, at another studio, which I'm really looking forward to. The instructor has a strong gymnastics background - fabulous. For about two years now I've been teaching once a week and that really has been about it for my pole activities - I should really have been doing so much more. Tick-tock. Now that this studio is in my 'hood, I'm going to take full advantage to learn, learn, learn and to try new stuff. Much of the advanced moves I know I've learned from YouTube! Will be so nice to be spoon-fed by a teacher ;)

This really is turning into 'the year of the student' and I'm loving it.

Thursday 12 January 2012

Please dehorn our rhino

Yesterday eight rhino bodies were found in Kruger. This brings this 12-day year total to 20 rhino killed for their horns. Indeed, 443 were killed last year - that's more than one per day most of the year. A clip on the news last night showed a baby rhino pacing next to the body of its dead mother.

I'm all for these anti-poaching organisations and there are many funding ventures to support these initiatives. I've got one of Woolies' My Planet cards, linked to the Rhino Fund; this is one of many.

But, I have to question just how effective any of these initiatives are? For as long as rhinos have horns and the Chinese and Vietnamese continue think it will make their willies bigger and stronger (or alternatively that rhino horn is life-saving medication) and the sale of a rhino horn can fetch millions per kilogram, the slaughter will continue. Doesn't take an actuary to do this math.

So, just put all that anti-poaching money into tranquilising and dehorning rhino and then have a big fat keratin bonfire.

'People' say that this isn't an option because tourists won't come to our game parks and reserves to see rhino without horns. Bull. Rhino are impressive even without horns and people don't come here just to see rhino; they come to see the other animals too. A rhino sighting is a bonus.

Dehorned rhino at Alzu
Driving back from the Big 5 O on Sunday we stopped at the Alzu petroport on the N12 between Belfast and Middelburg. They've done a big revamp there - nice facilities and such. Men can take look out over animals at a water trough, while taking a whizz in the gents bathroom, from behind a floor to ceiling window. The animals that they're looking down on include zebra, eland, wildebeest, buffalo, some other antelope and yes, rhino.

I saw two adults and a youngster from the parking area. Both adults had been dehorned and they didn't look any less magnificent to me. In fact, I was thinking, "How cool! Next time I'm here these rhino will still be alive because of this". You can't say this about rhino with horns.

I'm no conservationist expert and truth be told I have no idea what is actually happening within the rhino protection programmes but I do know that whatever is happening is just not effective enough. One rhino killed for its horn is unacceptable. 20 killed already this year... no, no no!

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Courses and acquiring skills

This pic is a gem - found online. Thank
goodness for neat and nifty digital cameras.
This year is kicking off to a great start! There was the Big 5 O week, with five days of orienteering, and now I'm booked on to a photographic course. It runs over five weeks at one night a week for three hours and then wraps with an outing. Although I've been taking pics for years and have a good eye, there are many fundamentals that I don't know and also how to apply many of the functions on m camera to getting better images. Course starts next week! I've driven past the place a dozen times and on Monday I wrote down their web address and yesterday - click-click - I registered. I'm actually pretty excited about another course they offer; but good to get a solid grounding in basic techniques and then to do the next one later in the year.

I also have another possible course lined up in late March - waiting to hear back from the lady.

This past year, although I didn't do any courses, I did do a lot of learning. In Jan/Feb I started Ashtanga yoga and within a few weeks had learned the Primary Series. I still can't do the last bunch of postures in the Series but maybe in a decade I'll be able to.

And, a BIG one, I learned how to crochet by checking out videos on YouTube and online instructions. It is really easy and I've had such pleasure from this hobby. I currently have two big projects in progress.

There's Baby Blankie, which for now will remain unphotographed because the Person-For-Whom-It-Is-For reads this blog and blankie is over halfway now so I don't want her to see it. Luckily it will be a while before baby gets here so I've got time. (Looking back, there isn't a pic of Baby Blankie on here - but I know there's one elsewhere... shhhh).

Project Two is a granny square blanket - maybe for myself (nice for weekend afternoon napping), maybe to give away... I'm making it with five colours, four different square sizes and three granny square variations. I learned a few lessons from making my first square blankie during winter - this time around I'm joining as I go, which is a more smooth process and neater for the joins.

After spending so much time on the baby blankie since October (goodness - three months already!) I was itching for some variation in colour so I'm juggling both at the same time. It's going to be a beauty. I've got this book with something silly like 150 crochet borders - for projects like blankets. I haven't yet decided on a border for either project. Will decide when I get there. So, wanna see Project Two?

And, I have a crochet buddy! I found out a few months ago that this person crochets but it was only recently that we got together for a session. He (yes, a guy who crochets, climbs rocks and mountains, trail runs and is into adventure sports!) recently finished a scarf for himself and this past week he made one for a friend. We got together a week ago and sat on a park bench at Emmies and made stuff. I think another get-together is on the cards for lunch time on Monday. We've got some fun projects planned.

Yes, this is another year for learnings - I like accumulating skills. Definitely can never have too many.

Sunday 8 January 2012

Big 5 O - Day 5, fast 'n fun & well done!

The final day of the Big 5 O wrapped up today with a fun sprint event in the Nelspruit Botanical Gardens. I ran 2.7km and we had 24 controls to find, which meant we were running fast and punching controls faster. It is a tricky area with many little paths so it made for a quick-thinking course. Excellent fun.

I had a decent run. I got caught by Michele, who started a minute after me, approaching the third control. Going from 1 to 2 I took a wrong path. I corrected quickly but lost that minute. I then dropped Michele going to 5 when I went left and she went right. Right was b.a.d. 'cos the area was blocked off. She realised early and turned around - others didn't. I managed to make and keep a gap that she couldn't close.

I caught Cindy along the way and was caught by one of the Junior squad, Jessica. Cindy and I dropped her at a point and then she caught us again with a few controls to go. Helluva fun.

This is my map from this final event.

This is the first time that we've had a 5-day O in South Africa and how wonderful to have so many foreign orienteers participating. In fact, we had more foreigners than locals at this event.

My race number. Lovely touches included our names, country flag and start times for every day - very, very useful!
Overall I was really pleased with my orienteering. My worst control was #11 on Day 4. #1 and #3 weren't great either. These are those wonderful levellers that O throws at you. Keeps me on my toes and keeps me coming back again and again to O events - constantly striving to minimise errors, run faster and to make better decisions. As the Malawian manager from the backpackers, where I stayed in Sabie, said to me on Saturday evening, "Not every day can be Sunday". So right.

Sweaty after the sprint; at the finish with my
event memento, a glass 'rhino' paper weight
For the rest of the controls, a few I overshot/missed by a few metres, correcting within seconds. Most of the controls - like the majority, I ran straight on to, finding them without hesitation.

I'm hoping to have a better year of orienteering this year. Last year, especially in the last five months, I missed soooo many events - just too much on the go. And these were my favourite longer distance courses.

The load of work in putting this event on fell to the organising committee - I'm not sure who all the people on this committee were but they certainly included Nicholas Mulder, Ian Bratt, Craig Ogilvy, Richard Lund and Michele Botha. They really did an amazing job in presenting this event.

The actual events on each day were shared by the four Gauteng orienteering clubs - WITSOC, AR Club (my club), RACO and ROC. There were many people from each club involved in planning the courses (many different courses for different age groups), putting out controls, collecting controls, running the starts and finishes, setting up the event area... I thoroughly enjoyed the choice of terrain and courses and five days of orienteering is wonderful fun.

Clubs - well done! The effort and time that you all put in to this event definitely does not go unnoticed - THANK YOU!

The next Big 5 O will be in 2014. Whether you're an experienced orienteer or novice, there's so much to gain from participating in this event. Highly, highly recommended ;)

Saturday 7 January 2012

Big 5 O - Day 4, Oh dear

So there I was thinking that I've had such nice runs with no blunders to type about... today changes that!

I was one of the first runners out of the starting grid this morning with a nice and early start time of 09h00; I've been starting at 10-ish. Good conditions too this morning after a hot night last night. We've dropped a lot of altitude from the Belfast region - from 1900m to around 1400m - to Sabie.

So, shooting out of the starting grid I got tangled in a piece of barbed wire lying in the vegetation... was it a sign of things to come?

Here's my full map.

I screwed up Control 1... I know, I know... my worst thing to do ever!

I'd been told that a lot of the forest conditions here weren't great so I decided to play it safe and to approach from the top - the road. Easier running. From the road I spotted a control and it turned out to be one on another course; I hadn't totally expected it to be mine but thought it was really cool if it was. I then went into the 'clearing' - within a circle of rocks, which is where I expected to find my control. Nada. So, I went around thinking maybe my direction was wrong and I spotted another control for another course. I headed back into the clearing, which to me looks like the dead centre of the circle. Nothing, I must have looped again and was heading back towards the clearing when I saw Sarah approaching - she started six minutes after me! Arrggghhh... Just then I spotted the control. Bugger!

Control 2 was an easy one.

Control 3... this was purely my own fault because I read some dashed black lines as a path/trail of sorts when they are actually cliffs! Doh!

Took me a while to realise that the overgrown forest road I was on was not the black dashes (see where the purple straight line is drawn) but was the road marked on the map. There's something a bit odd with this track because I didn't go through that light green vegetation area. Once I realised my error I went straight to the control. Surprisingly, on the bit of road just going off to the right, that's where I caught Sarah. She should have been way further ahead but she got trapped in that darker green band when she exited the control.

Control 4 was slow going through head-high lantana. I had initially thought of running around to the top but then decided that the vegetation boundary may work. There was another control further down from ours, which we found and the going was good. Then it got bad, and slow. Almost at Control 4 we saw Zigg on the other side of the marsh. She may have started behind Sarah? Talking to another lady after the run it seems that the better choice would have been to go from the top...

Controls 5, 6, 7 were A-ok - although I should have approached 6 from the other side. No biggie.

Control 8, I overshot slightly. When I first got to the correct rock cluster I took a look at where I thought it was but didn't see it. So, I thought I had the wrong cluster and went a little further to the next bunch before deciding that where I was had been correct. Turning around I saw the control... Zigg got there moments after me.

I really enjoyed the run from 8 to 9. I chose to stay higher and then enjoy the big downhill. Fabulous running!

Control 10 was fine... but I approached it from slightly higher but I still saw it on approach.

Control 11 - the bane of my day. I haven't anchored my track - I anchored the track at the control points at the other controls - wanted to see if this could show me just what happened!

The open ground marked is not really open ground - lantana everywhere - head high! OK, so, initial approach was ok, then up through the vegetation to the rocks. Didn't see the control where I though it was. There were runners spread all over searching. Standing on the rocks I checked out the vegetated rocky outcrop to the West - check. It was really horrible clambering over rocks and through fallen branches and lantana... I saw a guy I know - on another course - and asked whether he was looking for the same control. He was. But, on his map it was printed in a different place. I was really confused. Anyway, the minutes ticked by and I starting trying to extricate myself from this situation by getting more into the open. As I headed in the same direction one of the guys who had been searching found the control. Arrrggghhhh.... It took me 19 minutes from control 10 to 11. Awful, awful, awful. One of those controls that makes you want to bash your head against the nearest rock.

The rest of the controls were all fine but I was way out of sync. 13 shows a squiggle but it was just me going through a gap between rocks and then around the boulder.

So... definitely not a good run for me today. Although the majority of my controls were really good, the bad ones kinda override the good.

Still, a good day out; playing in the forest still beats most things. I covered 11.8km on this 8.7-kilometres-as-the-crow-flies course.

Tomorrow is the final day -  a sprint course through the botanical gardens in Nelspruit. The course is something like 2.6km, but with 24 controls. When you consider that the course today was 8.7km with 22 controls... ja, we'll be punching every few metres. It should be very exciting.

Friday 6 January 2012

Big 5 O - D3, longer distance, good run

It stormed all afternoon - big time torrential downpour - and poor Nic and Ian out putting out controls for today. Power went out late afternoon and is still off this afternoon. But, day dawned beautiful with good temperature and a clear, blue sky.

I'd been looking forward to today's course because of the longer distance and being in the forest.

It was fabulous and I had a pretty good run. It felt way shorter than even yesterday's course and reaching the last few controls I kept thinking, "Man, this can't be it!". I would probably have enjoyed the men's course, which was a few kays longer.

Terrain was reasonable and runnable in places; not runnable in others. I could have done with running more. For most of the course I was with some of the other girls on the same course with me, which isn't my favourite - I like to feel alone in the forest. But, we shared the work and took turns leading into the controls.

I was really happy with my nav today - good hits on the controls. #16 was my only odd one in the crags. I went in to the correct part and walked around the cliff but not far enough. Then I thought I had gone to the wrong one, which I hadn't. As I started to move to another section I saw a runner leaving from near where I'd been so I went back and found the control a few steps on. Crags / cliffs can be tricky.

The more straight-line runs are on good terrain; the deviations and wiggles are usually where I'm getting around something or trying to find a more smooth surface with less branches to trip over!

So, here's my map from today (if you click on the images I'm posting you'll get a bigger image than what you can see here). I'm just waiting for Sarah, who is out collecting controls, and then we're off to Sabie. Another long distance event tomorrow - yeeehhhaaa!

Thursday 5 January 2012

Big 5 O - Day 2, mis-punch!

Garry takes over my start call-up job

Well, Day 2 of the Big 5 O is done. This time we took to the streets and surroundings of the town of Dullstroom. Whoa! Cookin'. I started off by manning the start, calling competitors to line up. Garry took over from me and just after 10am was my turn to run.

Straight-line distance today was same as yesterday at 4.8km. I forgot to turn on my tracker so am not sure what I ran on the ground, but it would have been a bit more.

Control 1 is always the one I want to nail nicely - it's a real confidence slammer when you screw up the first control. Today, I hit #1 spot-on, surprisingly because there wasn't much to go on in the dense trees.

I really chugged from control 1 and through to control 6. Up in the town it was roasting hot! It was a long leg to control 6 and there were lots of options. I guess mine was ok - probably reasonably fair. I caught Salome at Control 5 and we took slightly different routes to 6 and got there at the same time. I slightly overshot (like less than 10m) because the path didn't look like much of a path at first glance. On the path I hit the control, punched and left.

BUT, as it turns out, I mis-punched here. Ja, I got a DNF today ;( I haven't mis-punched a control in maybe eight or more years! Turns out that in this region there was a control on the cairn (black circle with dot), the root stock (there's a green 'x' at the end of the path) and the clearing (light coloured spot). So, each point is probably 15m from the next. I punched the clearing instead of the root stock. Arrrggghhh...

I usually always check the number on the control against my control description sheet but it seemed so obvious. There are lots of root stocks around, the path is indistinct and there wasn't one clearing because there are kinda open spots - so I didn't really notice the clearing where I punched to be a clearing worth mapping.

Anyhoo - I only found this out when I finished - there were a couple of us who made the same error. Some people punched the wrong one first and exiting the area saw their correct control. According to the regulations controls have to be at least 15m (sprint map regulations - though this wasn't a sprint map; colour-coded regulations say 30m) from each other so strictly speaking this complies with regulations... but it's a bit of a nasty. Still, nothing worth really querying - not like I'm in the running for a win. And, my mistake entirely for not checking the control number...

The rest of the course went well and I hit the controls spot on.

For me, these first two days have been about finding my 'O legs'. I haven't been to a proper O event for a while... I think the rogaine in October was probably my last and it isn't the same kind of technical and precise orienteering navigation. The events that I've really been looking forward to are the long-distance courses tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday. I've got a 10am start time tomorrow so it will be hot, but I'm hoping that being in the forest it will be cooler - humid, but cooler for good running.

We're back at our accommodation now and all ready for a nap. It is promising to rain - I can hear the rumble of thunder around. Till tomorrow...

Wednesday 4 January 2012

Day 1 of the Big 5 O is done and what an afternoon! This morning was very warm with blue skies and by the time we assembled at the event 'arena' it was actually quite cooking with a good dose of humidity. You could tell the difference between the locals and the foreigner at a glance; locals with caps, sunblock and tops with sleeves and the foreigners with their pale skin exposed to the elements. Clouds above signalled the possibility of rain but what we didn't expect was the massive downpour complete with marble-sized hail stones!

Walking to the start
For me, a good course today. I haven't been to O for months so my objective was to run a nice, comfortable and clean course. I'm running in the women's elite category, which means that this is the longest and most technical of the women's courses. My course today was 4.8km as the crow flies with 45m of climb (ja, nice and easy going). According to my logger I ran 5.7km -  a bit of this, maybe 200m, includes the bit down the start chute and to the start control and then from the finish to where I remembered to turn off the logger. So, I ran about 5.5km. I'm not sure of my time but it would have been in the region of 45-50 minutes.

Runners at the entrance to the start chute, waiting to be called
Terrain: Pretty decent and mostly runnable. I've put my track in to QuickRoute and the colours show walking (red), slower running (yellow) and running (green). As the terrain was pretty friendly most of the yellow would have been more rough ground - like where branches cover the forest floor. Crunchy.

OK... so, the only control I took a really whacky angle on was control 3. Not sure how I went wonky but it was easy to fix and I didn't lose much time. Then, 7 to 8... I purposefully went high to avoid the more dense vegetation, long grass and swamp of the marsh area. Then a very easy run through to 8.

In the start chute. You spend one minute
in each of the three boxes.
It was around here that the rain really started to come down. By Control 9 it was really raining, plus hail. By 11 it was seriously coming down and by 12, in the open, we were pelted by hail stones - big, stinging ones. There is a definite benefit to running with a cap - keeps the rain off your face and the hail stones were bouncing off my peak. From 14 to 15 I could barely see the other side of the marsh because of the mist! Very, very exciting to run in these conditions ;)

Tomorrow we're in the town of Dullstroom for a similar distance course but in a more urban terrain. My club, Adventure Racing Club, is hosting this one so I'll be starting late and helping at the start area before my run. Cindy and Cobus van Zyl and Eugene and Michele Botha have done all of the organising and planning for this event. The four Jo'burg orienteering clubs are sharing the load at this first international event by taking turns to organise each day's event. Well done to the student club, WITSOC, for presenting a really superb course today.

Tuesday 3 January 2012

Forest people

You get people who love the beach and they head there for every holiday. I'm not one of 'em. I'm a forest-river-lake-mountain person. I'm in the Belfast/Dullstroom area for the Big 5 Orienteering event, which starts on Wednesday. We got here at lunch time today and after a bit of chatting, reading and a snooze, I headed out for a run. B-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l! This area is just so splendid.

Aside from beautiful flora and odd critters - like the crab pictured below - I also saw a cat. It came bouncing out of the forest, along the road for a few bounds and then back into the forest. zip-zap. It was quick so I didn't see much more than spots. Mmmm... After looking at pics online I'm more swayed to it being a serval than a genet. Bigger than what I've seen in the genet pictures.

Some pics from my run,..

Monday 2 January 2012

Big 5 O - five days of orienteering

Wooohooo! Getting so excited! I leave tomorrow morning for the Belfast/Dullstroom area - I can smell those pine trees already.

The Big 5 O -  a five-day international orienteering event - starts on Wednesday and we've got around 100 foreigners attending. There's probably about 70 locals so the turnout is decent. At last call there were around 12 countries represented. What fun this is going to be ;)

This is the first time that we've had an event like this in SA. The Scottish 5-day and others are well known. How wonderful to have something like this here and with such good foreign attendance. SA is a good spot for foreigners to come and for many years we've had top Brits, Finns, Swedes and others coming to train on our maps in these forested areas during their winter. With the 2010 orienteering World Champ (male) in attendance and some other hot shots, we're sure to see our asses; but, for me, it just makes me realise just what really good navigation and running speed can produce. I'm gonna do my best but I'm not under any illusions about coming close to the top foreign women - they run faster in the forests than I can sprint on tar!

How this event works is that we start off with a forest event at Lakenvlei, which is a lodge between Belfast and Dullstroom. The course is 4.8km (as the crow flies) with 19 controls. Yay! Then, the next day (Thursday) we're in the town of Dullstroom - another 4.8km course but with 12 controls.

I'm really looking forward to the long courses on Friday (also Lakenvlei area) and Saturday (Sabie) which are 10.4km (24 controls) and 8.7km (21 controls) respectively. The final day is a 2.3km sprint course in Nelspruit.

It's going to be a good week!

Sunday 1 January 2012

An eventful year

While in Cape Town I spent a day with a buddy that was totally 'frivolous'. It started with a productive 6am run with friends on the trail above Newlands on the side of the mountain. By 9am I was hooked up with the aforementioned buddy for eggie breakfast (soft boiled eggs with 'soldier' toast). We hit a market to check out stuff, meandered over to Hout Bay for lunch, via another crafty market in Constantia. Had lunch and meandered over to Kalk Bay to listen to music and hang out with peeps. Back in CT by dark and then I spent the evening chilling with other friends and watching stuff on telly.

In short, this is the kind of day that I rarely have. I enjoy shooting the breeze but for the most part my weekends involve events (ok, on this mentioned weekend I did a trail race the day before and then the mountain run with friends the next morning) and if I'm at home, then I'm usually tied to this computer doing something or other - although I have made a concerted effort to get off this computer and do other stuff - thus my crochet hobby. When I pronouned that, 'This is so decadent to just hang out and do 'nothing'" my friend asked, "So, how many events a year do you do?". Whoa! Good question.

After three years of Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge and then getting FEAT off the ground for Oct last year and running straight into the second FEAT in CT in Feb, I was hammered. Absolutely and totally pooped. I decided not to do any events - as in adventure races, except for the sprints with my girly team and orienteering - and to just chill for a few months.

When there's a gap, I fill it (hahaha) so I took up ashtanga yoga through my initiation to acroyoga (initially by Team Yogaslackers in Abu Dhabi). Ashtanga is so me and I went to classes twice a week for most of the year. I have really experienced great benefits from the practise. The wheels fell off the cart just before FEAT in October because I just had so much on my plate and I live a 30min drive (in no traffic) from the studio. Some Saturdays I did run or bike there but when time got tight it was just too much. So, I didn't do much in the way of events but I did go to yoga and most of the informal acroyoga sessions, which we had every two weeks or so in the first few months of the year.

I began the year with my fun, 'Seven days, seven friends, seven runs' project. This expanded to become '35 days of running' in the lead up to my 35th birthday. I'm going to do this again this year - '36 days of running' - starting on Monday, 14 May 2012.

To celebrate's 10th birthday, I organised a metrogaine. This is a time-limited, urban, point-scoring orienteering event. The first one rocked and so I organised another on the winter solstice. 72-odd runners braved the dead of Jo'burg winter to run and demanded more. I organised the third and final metrogaine for the year in October - almost 140 runners and walkers participated. I've got the first two of the three for 2012 scheduled on 11 April and 21 June 2012.

And, of course, there's orienteering, with events about every second Sunday on average. I went to a number of the short course events, which are easy navigation with fast running and are usually held in parks or on school properties. Surprise-surprise I won the senior category - but keep in mind that I was certainly beaten by a junior or two and a veteran or two. I didn't even think that I'd run enough events to complete the log.

In terms of the longer colour-coded orienteering events, which can take 1-2.5hrs and are held in more bushveld terrain, I didn't go to many of them in the last half of the year but I did run Gauteng Champs on my birthday weekend with one terrible run (on my birthday) and one ok run - nothing dazzling.

On the event side my girls team took part in the five-event Kinetic Adventure series of sprint adventure races. At only 20-30km, they're fun and fast and we have great fun and Team AR won the series overall.

I skipped the Kinetic Full Moon, Double Moon and Expedition Africa 500km races; and also the Ystervark events - all adventure races. I did run the inaugural Fish River Canyon Ultra - 65km run down the Fish River Canyon in Namibia - fabulous! That was at the end of August. And then it was through to the annual foot and bike rogaine in October, with Sarah.

I started a casual 'Full Moon Run' thing in February - inviting friends to run with me after dark on a full moon night (or a night near full moon). It went well in summer but fizzled in winter and then I got bogged down so I was slack about coordinating more. We did have one November... I'll probably bring this back for the first few months of the year.

In April I got away for my first non-event weekend away in some time. A bunch of us went to the Drakensberg over Easter weekend. We walked the trails and enjoyed the scenery - lovely ;)

As for workshops/classes; I still teach a once-a-week pole class (been three years now!), I taught three (or four?) navigation courses, attended an advanced pole workshop with Suzie Q (Australia) and two other pole jams/workshops; and some other odds.

So, for a year with  a reduced amount of events... at a guess I probably participated in 25-30 events, organised a bunch more and attended this and that. Oh goodness... when I reflect back - no wonder I've been so damn fried this month - so friend that I have not done a single of my intended 'December projects'.

I haven't had a proper holiday in a very, very long time. Like a two week holiday - away from home, email, computer... I know exactly what I want to do and where I want to go - it's about making this time for me and just booking that ticket. I really battle with stuff like this. True to my nature it won't be a total feet-up affair, but with just enough activity to keep me occupied. Now just to pick a date and book it...