Friday 20 April 2012

Dressing appropriately - for chilly weather

It can be challenging to dress appropriately for a run when the weather is chilly, not cold. On a run you heat up within a few minutes and even a light-weight long-sleeved top can feel too warm; but short sleeves may be just a little too cold.

While I was away my friends at Hi-Tec sent me their new thermal underoos to try (Hi-Tec Coolman Seamless) -  a long-sleeve, close-fitting, thermal top and leggings.

Last week I went for a walk with my mom. It's quite chill in the evenings now and on walks I tend to get quite cold because my mom's pace is slower than mine. I put on the top and added my favourite-favourite running garment ever, a sleeveless The North Face Hydrogen Vest, which a friend from the US gave me about two years ago. It's from their Flite Series -  a range of really light-weight running apparel. The Hi-Tec thermal top is a snug fit and not something I feel comfortable wearing without a layer over it.

This TNF vest has a thin windproof fabric on the front and mesh on the sides and back. I think I wore it almost every day last winter, with a light long sleeve top (or short sleeve with armies) because it just works so well. We really don't get cold enough here (in Jo'burg) to run with more than this. This style doesn't seem to be available any more - there is a men's one, not women's.

Well, within five minutes, even in the chilly air, I was cooking. And throughout the walk I was a bit too warm, even after unzipping the vest. I'm going to have to let these Hi-Tec thermals wait a bit until it is really, really cold because this base layer really is effective.

I usually run in the evenings when there's still a bit of warmth from the day -  a bit. At the moment I'm fluctuating between short sleeves (I warm up within minutes) and a very light long-sleeved top (yesterday this was just too warm but last Saturday morning it was perfect). I'm probably going to start wearing my armies again, with short sleeves - when I get too warm I just roll them down.

For the next month, during this season transition, it is still going to be hard to judge what to wear to run but as soon as those winter cold fronts start to hit then those thermals will come out.

Tuesday 17 April 2012

My tall, straight, white friend

I had a great conversation with my tall, straight, white friend's short, teenage, black son over the weekend. We were discussing people who romantically prefer people of the same gender. I've ranted before about this classification of people by their sexual preference and recently about 'firsts' - being the first to do something and how silly the classifications can be.

In reassuring my young friend that if, along the way, he meets a guy who does it for him, then that it is A-ok I also broached how it was not correct to classify people according to sexual preference, even when introducing / speaking about them.

We don't say, "I'm having lunch with my friend tomorrow, the one who likes his wife to spank him" but we do say, "I had dinner last night with my friend, the gay one". What makes this ok?

Just as we say, "I went for a run with my friend this morning" and not "I went for a run with my tall, white friend this morning". A classification is not warranted.

I've just seen a post by First Ascent on Facebook. They're congratulating Sibusiso Vilane on his recent North Pole achievement. This completes his 'Three Poles' conquest (Mt Everest, South Pole and North Pole). The post reads:
Performance tester Sibusiso Vilane arrived at the North Pole Thursday 12 April 2012. This was the final hurdle to becoming the first black person to complete the Three Poles Challenge, having already conquered the South Pole and Mount Everest. It was Sibu’s Goliath Challenge. Well done Lion man...You are making the lizard proud!!!!
Obviously this post got my fingers itching. It's a neat achievement regardless of ethnicity. This is a terrible habit.

Looking at expedition stats on Explorers Web - you do get stats for oldest and youngest and first (overall, men and women) but you don't get listed for being the first Greek woman, Thai man, black, coloured, Asian, South African born or gay.

The achievement is an achievement and that really is enough.

Monday 16 April 2012

Bringing colour to autumn

I haven't done much crochet the past month or so - having been away. Over the past two weeks I've put in a couple of nights to try something new -  a sleeveless vest for a baby. The demo one I made first came out well but I wanted nicer colours and yarn. At least I got a feel for the sizing. This vest is for a friend's baby-to-be (baby shower coming up this weekend). It is probably sized to fit a 4-6 month old so it will be perfect for summer later in the year (baby due in June).

I went with a local natural yarn that is 70% cotton and 30% bamboo. It has a lovely silkiness to it (from the bamboo) but is lighter in weight overall than 100% bamboo.

I'm still working on this blanket. It has four different square sizes in five different patterns and colours. It's a combination of a few things that I've seen and liked on the web. But, I swear that my next blanket will have squares of a single colour and not this multi-coloured nonsense that has me spending more time sewing in ends than actually crocheting! Still, it looks pretty-pretty and will be lovely once done. Still a good few months to go for this one.

Sunday 15 April 2012

Running for the sake of... exploring

Saturday morning I was up before the crack of dawn to meet Fred and Charlene at Pirates for an Emmies (Emmarentia/Spruit) run. Charlene is not new to running but she is new to wanting to improve her running. This was her first run with Fred, who has been assisting a number of new runners. I just tagged along.

From Pirates we headed through to Van Riebeek Park (this is the name of the park area below the dam wall) and into Emmarentia proper. Wonderful to see so many runners, bikers and dog walkers enjoying this most beautiful morning. We did a 9.9km loop, ending back at Pirates where there is a Saturday morning market. So we had a cup of tea/coffee while we chatted.

After hot drinks, Charlene went her way and Fred and I drove off to Delta Park to leave my car there for 'Run Part Two'. And this is where all the exploration happened.

Jacques has a new trail book on the go and before leaving for Thailand I wrote up three Jo'burg trails. On my return he asked if I could do the one on the Braamfontein Spruit, a popular spot for runners and mountain bikers. I agreed immediately because the chapter on trails on Jo'burg would not be complete without a piece on the Spruit. As I said to Jacques, "It would be like a Bloody Mary without the tomato juice".

I know the Emmies and Emmies to Delta section very well but I haven't run much of the rest for ages. So, off we went. The area is looking so fabulous and the trail is divine. The last time I went through the one section we had to crawl through some vegetation but this time that stretch is looking great and the trail is well used - with thanks to some bikers (more bmx / trick bike than mtb) who have built ramps around here. We got through no problem and continued on.

Not sure how far we would go on this outing we then got to a hill and decided to go up and take a look to see what was on the other side. We ran up and over and then kept going. We ran through to the 12th Avenue bridge, just short of the N1, which we could almost see. We needed to get back to the nearby shopping centre where Pam, Fred's wife, would be fetching us. With Fred running a half marathon this morning we thought it best to rather get a lift back to Delta instead of running the 15-odd kilometres back.

We both got such a kick out of this run because we ran sections both familiar and unfamiliar and totally enjoyed discovering what was around each corner. Yes, this is what running is all about.

And, it has planted a seed for an AR Club trail run. To share the goodness. We're looking Sat, 7 July for a "Dead of Winter EMMIES TO N1 AR Club Trail Run". A to B. The run will be open to everyone. 8am start. More details as we make 'em.

Friday 13 April 2012

Good fortune

It is so much easier to pack than to pack away after an event. This afternoon I finally got around to packing away the bits and pieces from Wednesday night's Metrogaine. And there in the bottom of a bag I found a lone fortune cookie.

First, youngest, oldest... records that diminish feats and inspire achievements

An article came out in the Irish Times on Tuesday about an eight-year old girl who is now the youngest person to stand at the North Pole. The headline reads, "Irish girl 'youngest ever' at North Pole".

In short, she flew there in a helicopter with her dad, got out and stood at the pole. No hauling of sleds or even trekking the last degree. The previous record holder was the eight-year old daughter of polar adventurer David Hempleman-Adams, who also flew to the pole (to meet her father).

The sentence in this news report that really got me fired up is the following: "The Donovan family will have to apply to Guinness World Records to have the feat verified."

Feat? You've got to be kidding! It is hardly a feat to fly to the North Pole and stand there for a photograph.

I'm really not into all of these firsts. Even when there have been many people before, it seems that a 'first' needs to be sucked into any adventure. The first person/man/woman (there are 196 countries so that makes for lots of nationality firsts). The first person with (insert illness/disability). The youngest (overall and nationality). The oldest (overall and nationality). The fastest.

And, considering some 'firsts' do they diminish previous achievements or inspire others to attempt them? As in... "Even a 13 year old can climb Mt Everest" or is it, "If a 13-year old can summit Mt Everest, I can too?"

Thursday 12 April 2012

Metrogaine last night

What a fabulous night! Lots of people new to metrogaine / orienteering / rogaining and I was also absolutely delighted to have orienteering friends Garry and Jeremy doing their first Metrogaine (about time guys!).

Top scores were absolutely incredible - Brian and Neal with 1540 points (out of 1640 - they only missed getting three controls) and they ran around 19km in 1h28. I don't think I can run that fast downhill, much less at night, on a hilly route and locating checkpoints. Phenomenal! Alex and Jeremy and Garry and Michael not too far off this either.

I've put a report with results and map on AR -

Special mention and thanks to Fred, Pam, Mike and Kyle for their help. Many hands make light work - and keep the event running smoothly ;)

These photos - all by Fred.

Next metrogaine is Thurs, 21 June - yeah, winter solstice. Running = warm.

Wednesday 11 April 2012

Metrogaine Jo'burg tonight

I'm sooooo excited for Metrogaine Jo'burg tonight. I think this is the most excited that I've been and it is probably because I ran the course, with Fred, on Monday morning (what a glorious morning it was with crystal clear skies and a fresh breeze).

We ran 10.3km in 1h21 of running (came in with a good nine minutes to spare) and in this time we only collected 51.5% of the total available points - and this from 50% of the available controls.

I've got my eye on a number of entrants who can navigate well and they're faster runners than me and Fred - so they should beat us. I look forward to seeing their routes.

I'm also super excited about the treat that I ordered for the entrants at the finish. Last year I baked cupcakes and while this is fabulous and doable for 60 or 100 runners, it is just too much for me and my normal-sized oven to handle for 230 entrants. So, I have a just-as-special treat for you instead.

Tomorrow I'll post some pics and my customary post-event report. For now, I've got to finish folding and labelling clue sheets...

Metrogaine Jo'burg got the nod from Runner's World SA in their April 2012 issue as the event to do this month in the 'Adventure Racing' category. After tonight it will be the favourite-favourite of every participant ;) RW (Lisa), thank you for the vote of confidence.

Monday 9 April 2012

Finally dealing with this book thing

I’ve mentioned my ‘book issue’ before. It’s this silly, irrational attachment to my adventure/expedition books. When I moved 15-months ago, my stuff went into storage and included were boxes of books. Sure, I thinned the collection before moving but there were still a good number of them in boxes – I’d estimate the number at easily over 100.

Keeping books in boxes in a storage garage is somewhat like having pretty diamond jewellery in a safe. You know they're there and that they're possessively yours but they're just sitting there doing nothin'. What’s the point really? Surely fabulousness should be shared?

While in Thailand I decided to move towards detaching myself from this book bond. Think about it... even the books that I have completely loved and delighted in ‘living’ the adventures in their pages I’ll probably never read again. There’s just too many new (and old) adventures to read about to re-read ones I’ve already enjoyed.

And then, at 3am in Dubai airport I bought a Kindle. I’d been walking up and down for two hours and what else do you in Dubai airport at 3am other than buy cool gadgets? Unintentionally I got one of the new fancy ones with full colour, the Kindle Fire. Although the battery isn’t that of the Kindle readers, it does allow for the download of books with pictures and also magazines. Boom – two birds with one stone.

On Monday I pulled all of my boxes of book out of storage and on Friday I sorted through all of them. I’ve also realised that what is more important to me than the physical book is the memory of it. In 20 years I may want to read about one or other mountaineering or polar expedition and I don’t want to have forgotten about it. So, I made a list. Of the book titles and authors. And just looking at the list of names is almost as good as looking at the book to trigger my memory of the adventure and pleasure of reading about it.

Today I finished sorting through the books and have whittled my book collection down to four piles.

There are those I’m sending to a friend in the E. Cape, which will be donated to rural school. These include my ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy (given to me by my mom for my 13th birthday) and other fun odds. The few fiction books that I’ve hung on to over the years are ones I won’t forget. I re-read ‘Lord’ before the first movie came out – that must have been over 15 years after I first read it. So, I figure that if I want to re-read it in another 15 years I’ll buy it digitally.

Then, there are the books to ‘share’ – this is the bulk of them. I’m working on a plan for this – more in another post in, hopefully, a few days.

And then there are the unread books, which will go to the ‘share’ pile once I’m done. I went through a phase a few years ago where I got my hands of loads of adventure books at book sales and second-hand stores – more than I could read before another would arrive. I got behind.

There are the ones that I’m not yet able to let go of. These include Ranulph Fiennes’ ‘Mind Over Matter’, which he signed for me in 2002 when I attended a breakfast talk he gave in Jo’burg.

I also attacked my home-office this weekend. Magazines, magazines, magazines. G.O.N.E. No more paper – gonna get them on my Kindle. From now on.

Most days I’d happily toss my technological demons - phone and email - in the trash, but these e-readers are a technology to be embraced. I’m looking to it as the means to strive towards a paper-free home environment – books and magazines included. After this weekend’s endeavours I’m feeling very chuffed and nicely liberated.

Thursday 5 April 2012

Two weeks in Thailand

What a fabulous trip with no email, no writing, no blogging, no phone - and I didn't miss it for a moment. Always nice to return home but as nice to be away.

I had two days in Bangkok and I used the time to do a lot of walking around checking out temples. I bought a map of the city and did some good mileage between the Grand Palace, Khaosan Road, the Golden Mount, a food market and a half dozen other temples. Two days was enough.

Loads of buddhas (interesting to learn of the seven hand gestures), cloud trees in the Grand Palace gardens, deep-fried chicken heads and necks (top centre) and other sights.

Khaosan Road at night - taken from bus as we were leaving Bangkok
A bus and ferry trip took me overnight from the city to the island of Koh Phangan (pronounced ko-puh-nung - ko as in 'cough').

Koh Phangan
I stayed in the quieter North-west of the island in Haad Salad. I was booked for a Thai massage course so I made this my base so that I could walk to class. I got to the island on the Sunday noon and started the course the next morning, finishing 10 days later - straight through the weekend (all days are very much the same here, whether weekend or week day). Over this time I did a few runs, a yoga class, and acroyoga session, three cooking classes and I went to a festival thing at a recently opened temple.

The rest of the time - lots of reading.

I loved the massage course - so much to learn and remember. Very rewarding. I'm now in practice mode and needing bodies. Take a number - the queue is long! After the course I went for two Thai massages (different places) to compare what we learned with what is done in practice - I prefer what we learned ;) Athicha is good, really, really good.

My massage class (photo unfortunately out of focus).
Back - Taki (Leslie's husband - he was a 'body' on our last day).
Front: Tanya (she did the class previously and lives nearby - she was a 'body' for us on most days), Leslie, me, Athicha (our teacher) and Pasha. Photo taken by Athicha's long-suffering husband, Ted, who was also a regular 'body'.
View of Haad Salad from Athicha's place. I stayed down below, almost on the beach (to the right of the photo).
I didn't run as much as I thought I would (only four one-hour runs); although I did a lot of walking around every day.

I didn't do as much yoga as I'd intended. A guru dude (Sri V. Sheshadri) was out from Mysore, India (home of Ashtanga) for two weeks (exactly over the time I was there) so instead of being 300 baht a class (little over R100) it was 1000 Baht (R400) a class. Craz-e! I went to one class (the one guy I know said, "Come, come" - but he didn't say the price so I went thinking it was 300B!). Class at 7am was packed - about 35 students.

Sheshadri is totally charming and I'd be hard pressed to find anyone on this planet who didn't take a shine to him immediately. I thoroughly enjoyed the class; one was enough for my budget. Yes, yoga is indeed all about money, just like so many other things.

I also attended an acroyoga session - I do so enjoy acroyoga.

I did one cooking class at a cooking school. Very neat and tidy and professional (  A highlight was definitely the trip to the market in town to get ingredients.

The three dishes that I made at MyWokandMe, with Chef Oi. In the back (purple plate) is a stir-fry veg with tofu; next is a phad thai (traditional and popular dish) and in the front, deep-fried fish cakes - the first time in my life that I have deep fried anything!
I did another cooking class with Jang (she has a small restaurant) just down the beach in Haad Salad from where I was staying. This was one-on-one with her (I was the only one there on the day) and we made four dishes. I cooked in her restaurant kitchen and learned so many little tricks. Fabulous. Two nights later I went there for dinner so Jang asks, "Do you want to cook your own dinner?". We chose something and she taught me how to cook it. A total treat and superb fun.

And then I went back to My Wok and Me for a 'fruit and vegetable carving' class with Chef Oi. Helluva tricky. I spent five hours there! I was expecting some simple, novelty-type carvings. Not a chance! These were difficult and complicated.

I took the melon and watermelon 'home'. I gave the melon to the sweet lady that I bought a fruit shake from every day, after massage class, to use as a display; and I shared the watermelon with people at the place where I stayed.

Would I be able to replicate these again at home? Oh goodness! I bought a melon this week to carve up this weekend so we'll see...

I spent two weeks sweating non-stop! Hot and humid. It's fine if you're sitting still, in front of a fan, but if you move... The route up to my massage class was a walk along the road and then a steep stairway up a steep hill. By the time I got to the top I was drenched and would sit in front of the fan for five minutes to dry off!

Five-minute walk - lots of sweat!

Not quite as good as we have here but still fun to catch for photos in the evening. The sun rarely touches the sea as it usually disappears behind a bank of cloud.

It was a good trip and I really needed the time away for a good break, which this was. Nice to have learned a number of new things and to have had a lot of time to walk around, read many books and to enjoy a number of afternoon naps. Just right.