Thursday 31 January 2013

'The Competitiveness of Orienteering' in Do It Now

It's always great to get orienteering articles into magazines; orienteering is even less mainstream than adventure racing despite it being a HUGE sport way up North in the Scandinavian countries.

This one has just come out in the February 2013 issue of Do It Now magazine. They've done a great layout on this one. Jan Kocbach's photograph looks fabulous. My thanks to Elri Flamengo (Editorial Director) for saying "Yes!" to orienteering and for giving this feature article a comfy three pages.

End of 31-day Challenge

A month ago my mom proposed a 31-day Challenge to get back into the swing of walking regularly. She's planning to do a section of the Camino in France in September. I decided to join her.

Looking back at my log I did fairly well.

Over the past 31 days:
  • I logged 190km
  • On two days I had double running sessions; that's how it happened.
  • I missed seven days of foot-based activity whether running/walking/hiking (without missing these I could have logged around 240km for the month!)
  • On two of those missed days I was so frikkin' stiff from Fred's Westcliff Stairs Challenge that I wasn't even walking so lekker, much less able to run. On one missed day I drove to Dullstroom for Highland Tracks and on another I was at AR Club doing run licenses and memberships. The other three days were not activity free as I was at circus class (one day was an MTB + circus day).
Although running is my primary discipline, I usually aim for five or six runs a week plus other activities like circus. It's a good balance. I had a really good, steady and consistent December so I'm feeling really good. 

My mom did really well. At the start of the Challenge I made her a month planner to tick off her days completed - she doesn't keep a training log. I started off with stickers that I had on hand and then I went and bought prettier, fancier ones. 

She was really consistent but missed a few days. There was the weekend of lots of rain and then the past few days the wheels fell off her routine as she has had to deal with such kuk on a project that she's managing (in short, a consultant hasn't done what he was meant to and they're into testing phase). She's getting back into the swing on things and already her walking has improved.

Nice challenge.

Wednesday 30 January 2013

Waterfalls, kloofs and maps at Highland Tracks

I haven't been to a weekend adventure race for ages! This past weekend I went to Team Lickety Split's event, Highland Tracks, as a control collector. This means that I got to go out hiking and playing while pickingup the signs at the checkpoints after all the teams have passed through the leg.

The race was held in the Dullstroom area and the organisers really discovered some amazing sites (and sights) that they incorporated into their race route. I only went out in the area used for the second hike (of three) and it was absolutely stunning!

On Saturday Mark Human (ARer and in this case the race doctor) and I went out to look for teams, find some checkpoints and to stretch our legs. We didn't find many teams but we did get some nice photographs. On Sunday morning I whizzed through a section to collect a bunch of controls - teams had only cleared the area late Saturday afternoon.

I was SUPER impressed with their maps, especially the Ama Poort Poort Hiking Map that Sue worked up. I've written a piece about this on The post looks at what I appreciate in race maps and how Sue really got it right (see pics with captions below too).

Here are a couple of other photos that I took on the route.

Mark in one of the pretty little kloofs.

Alec Avierinos went out there as a solo, testing his Neverest system.

With Mark at one of the beautiful waterfalls.

Yay! Another checkpoint located.

I can't resist little yellow flowers!

Flying! Mark making like Jeb Corliss. Here we were on top of a big waterfall and the wind was howling on the edge - updrafts from the waterfall.

Flowers. Waterfall. Pretty.

It's incredible how many kloofs are in this area!

While control collecting on Sunday I found these hay bales. Beautiful scent. Reminds me of my childhood where I spent many a school holiday riding horses, hanging in stables and jumping off hay bales on a family friend's farm in Zimbabwe.

These two did really, really well. Two novices racing together. The didn't complete the last hike but nonetheless they can be really proud of their first race.
Pic from Mark. All colour coordinated with my custom pink O gaiters.

Pic from Mark. This is what the checkpoint markers look like.
A superb race map. Neat, pre-plotted checkpoints. Printed on waterproof paper. Customised so that only the map section needed was printed on the A3 page. Shading shows the area of the Ama Poort Poort Hiking Map.

I totally love what Sue did here. She enlarged this area from the 1:50,000 topographical map, added in the trails, trouts dams, some vegetation features and the farm's numbered 'tourist spots'. There is no way that these relatively close-together control locations could be distinguished on a 1:50,000 map so Sue did just the right thing to create this map. I believe that the farmer's original 'hiking map' was really bad. She has given this map to the property owner to use for his guests. 
Well done to William, Sue and your team for presenting this lovely race.

Friday 18 January 2013

Fred's Westcliff Stairs Challenge

So Fred put out a January Extreme Challenge to our Adventure Racing Club members: 10 reps of Westcliff Stairs. Sarah and I did the Challenge this morning. We got lucky with the weather - cool with light drizzle. That the stairs got a little slippy certainly reigned us in on the down, which was good.

We took it easy from the beginning knowing that the stairs would kick. There are LOTS of them. Our first split was probably slower than all but my final split.

To keep count of our reps, we put 10 stones at the bottom, moving one over with each rep completed.

The first six reps were A-ok. You definitely feel it a lot more from the 7th. The 9th was probably my worst and on the way down I nicked a finger on a join in the railing. I'd taken to dragging my hand long the railing on the way down - brushing off the rain. I skinned a bit of a finger - ow! Nonetheless, I seemed to feel better on the up on the final rep.

Sarah finished just ahead of me with 56:25; I clocked 57:50.

Fred did say we could crawl if we needed to... Sarah gives it a try on the way up. Turns out we didn't need to. But if there's been a few more reps...
I give crawling a try - downhill!
Sarah - done! (OK, so I asked her to look tired - she didn't really - see below)
10 reps and Sarah is still lookin' like she can take down more.

Lisa & Sarah
What a super Challenge! We're already looking forward to Fred's February as-yet-undisclosed Challenge.

Sunday 13 January 2013

Published! January bonanza

I hit the sweepstakes with a bunch of stuff coming out at the beginning of January in Go Multi and TRAIL magazines.

I think this one came about when TRAIL magazine received a reader question. TRAIL passed the email on to me for my comments; Carine added some comments too. And here - in the new issue (Jan/Feb 2013) of TRAIL - you've got some trail loo etiquette.

A review on the Salomon Mission XR trail shoe in the new (Jan/Feb 2013) issue of TRAIL magazine.

An advert for this year's Fish River Canyon Ultra (Namibia). I spotted it in the Jan/Feb 2013 issues of TRAIL and Go Multi magazines. Yes, that's me in the photo - making my way into the canyon. I ran in the inaugural event in August 2011 - my first time in the Canyon. And I had an absolutely fantastic day. I'm away when this event takes place this year (it's four days after my birthday!) but I can recommend it highly. Great way to see the Canyon - in one day. My race report is here, on this blog.
My new column, "What makes tough?" in the new (Jan/Feb 2013) issue of Go Multi magazine.

Thursday 10 January 2013

Book flashback - The Day of the Triffids

For weeks SABC were promoting the start of their new series, The Day of the Triffids, which is screened on Monday nights at about 22h00. First episode went out this past Monday.

I read the book - written by John Wyndham - way, way back when I was about 13. I clearly remember ripping through books one after another at our high school library (yes, I was a year younger than my standard; I was 12 when I started high school - and 17 when I started university; June birthday). And The Day of the Triffids was one of them. I remember reading another one or two other Wyndham books, possibly The Kraken Wakes and certainly The Chrysalids. But it was the Triffids that stuck in my memory for over two decades.

The only things I remember about the Triffids was that these plants walked, had a whip-like accessory and that they ate people.

After watching the first episode on Monday I bought a copy of the book on my Kindle. I've only just started it - it's good! I'll definitely try to watch the whole of this 2009 series on telly. So far so good.

While we're talking tv... I borrowed Fred's 'The Walking Dead' Series 1 DVDs. OMG! Not your regular zombie movie. I'm hooked. Only six episodes in Series 1 - nailed those puppies in three nights. Aiming to get my hands on his Series 2 this weekend. The first episode of the 3rd season premiered in the US in October. With 10.9 million viewers glued to their sets this premiere became the most-watched basic cable drama telecast in history.

17,000km through Russia - in two weeks

I regularly receive notices of events - most quite ordinary. And then, occasionally, I receive a note about something that looks really, really exciting. For whatever reason, when I read the word 'Russia' in anything, I'm all ears. Although this is a driving event it caught my eye because it looks awesome, includes ‘sports sections’ and takes place in Russia - in winter! I’ve only been to Russia once and I absolutely loved it; the vibe, the people, the mountains… I was made to feel so very welcome.

This morning I received an email from a Russian fellow from a company called ‘Expedition’. They organise an event called ‘Expedition Trophy’. It’s along the lines of a Camel Trophy or Dakar event in that it is a driving expedition – 17,000km across Russia in two weeks. The event starts on 23 February 2013 and wraps up on 8 March 2013. It’s a winter race.

This company, Expedition, is a big multi-national company. They operate in many countries including the UK, Emirates (Dubai), Poland, Serbia and the US. They’ve got 360 retail stores that sell everything needed for a successful expedition; they have their own restaurants that serve northern cuisine (delicacies and natural food) and; this is where Expedition Trophy comes in – they organise various events.

 Expedition Trophy 2013 is an on- & off-road rally. The 17,000 kilometre route goes from Murmansk (North of St Petersburg) to Vladivostok, total around 17 000 km). Bojan Dimitrijevic, from Expedition, says that the event is much like Camel Trophy and Dakar, but more adventurous, exciting and inspiring.

 “We abstract from the usual race concept and go deeper into peoples experience and emotions. We offer an opportunity to see Russia from inside out, all of it, it’s beauties and amazing sceneries. During the way, contestants will cross many stages and see historical and just beautiful places of interest.”

 As far as entries go, there’s a 6-person team (at least one woman) category – two race vehicles. Entry is USD $6,000 per team. Entrants can do either the full route or only some of the stages. Here’s a tantalising proposition from the event organisers:  if a team enters the full route of the race (including competing in all sports sections of the race) and if they complete the route from Murmansk to Vladivostok, the organisers will refund the registration fee IN FULL!

 The only tricky part to this event is that teams have to provide their own race cars and if they want assistance crews and support vehicles they’ll have to organise these too. I’m sure the organisers have local contacts for vehicle hire. This is an annual event so while the time may be too short to get over there now for this year’s event, you may want to follow it online this year and diarise for next year.

 The event website is They also have a Facebook page.

Bojan sent this link to a promo video.

Sunday 6 January 2013

Kudus 15km road race

I ran Varsity Kudus 15km this morning for the first time since 2008! I used to run it most years and, as I recall, I got frightened off by the volume of people in 2008. Well, this year there were probably even more people and the route is quite different from years gone by. It's a good route -  a tough one loaded with ascents in the second half. The route change has made a big difference to the crowd feel - not as much congestion from the start. The mass of runners flowed very smoothly.

I decided from the start to just have a chilled run and to go with the flow - I didn't even bother to try to work my way through the crowd. And I had an awesome and easy run - even walking a dash on some of the hills.

Me with Jason (running friend from Fred's neighbourhood), Fred and Vix. Photo taken by Charlene.

I think I only did two road races last year... Mmm...

Must say, every time I do a road race I thoroughly enjoy the vibe... the rest of the time I can barely face having to wake up so early. But it is a fabulous way to welcome the day.

Thursday 3 January 2013

Almost 100 adventure racing articles

In April this year turns 12 years old! In this time the site has accumulated almost 100 articles that discuss many aspects of this sport. Some have been written specifically for the site; others were first published in magazines and then posted online. You'll find these on the AR website by clicking on the 'Articles' link at the top of the site.

Articles in each category are listed mostly chronologically with older articles below and most recent ones at the top of the category.

General adventure racing articles
Mountain biking
Equipment & gear
Support crews
Rules and guidelines

Tell. Don't ask.

I have a neighbour who asks a lot of questions. It's her way of making conversation but it is really irritating. She 'catches' me almost daily and throws a flurry of questions my way. She's not really interested in the answer; just the asking of the question. These range from "Do you think it is going to rain?", which I now answer with, "What do you think?" to "What's that?" and "What are you doing?". I can't even begin to describe the barrage - it's a trait all her own.

But it makes me think back to so many times in the past year where I kept thinking, "Stop asking, please. Tell me something instead".

Asking really has become a way of conversation; a way to connect with people.

On one side it is meant to be polite conversation. You ask people how their day / race / holiday went. You ask them what they do for work. You ask about their family and children.

Questioning is also pure laziness. How many emails do you send asking people stuff that it would really take you only a few clicks to find out? If you had to write a letter (pen and paper), put it in an envelope, lick a stamp and post it to the person would you still ask them the question?

And then there's the 'obligation' side of things. You ask a question and the person is obliged to respond.

Me, I'm into telling. This blog is a case in point.

And I love to be told stuff too.

Yesterday I received a lovely newsy email from a dear friend in the US giving me an update on the happenings in his life. We haven't been in contact much this year so I hung on every word about his family, work and running.  And, guess what? There were no questions in his email.

He wasn't being impolite. The purpose of his email was to update me on his news. He knows that he'll get something equally newsy in response.

See, he gets the sharing of news. He knows that I'm interested in his life and activities and similarly he's interested in my activities. I don't need to include, "So, what are you up to these days?" or "How is work going?" or "How'd your daughter do at college this year?" or "Got any cool races coming up?". He feeds this stuff to me. Sharing is caring.

When I go walking with my mom I tell her stuff. I tell her about projects, people, plans and stuff coming up. She's not as good at spitting stuff out although some times I do get good stories from her. (As she reads my blog she may get more into telling after this post?)

While I've been known to quiz people out - especially where there's juicy news to be known and they're not being very forthcoming (a dash of coaxing required) - I'm actually not very big into asking because I figure that people will reveal what they want to, when they want to. It doesn't mean that I'm not interested.

Yes, I'm into telling. I most enjoy you to telling me what you're up to. Races, projects, plans, excitements, resolutions, goals. To tell just for the purpose of telling. No asking, not instruction. Just telling.

And please, no need to be polite by asking me questions in return ;)

Wednesday 2 January 2013

Training log

I first started to keep a training log in about 1991 when I received a log booklet at a running race. I kept a paper-and-ink log for a few years and then didn't log much in the mid 2000s. I started logging in late 2008 - this time an Excel spreadsheet. Sure, I've dabbled with online logs but I like to have my file on my computer for my own purposes. I've got no inclination to share my run routes/log daily.

My spreadsheet has columns for run distance and time as well as time entries for other activities like mtb, paddle and 'other'. Other is usually pole dance, yoga and circus class. I hooked up a graph function to represent run distance each month as well as time spent on disciplines - I don't usually use this although the content populates automatically. For me the most important thing is that at least six days a week have entries in one or more columns.

I've never added up mileages or times so I was totally impressed when my friend Ian (in his 40s) posted his run log for the year on the 31st...
339 days of running
Highest week 123km (this week!)
1 sub 3 marathon
A 21km PB (81:05)
7h45 comrades

Seven podiums
Marathons on three continents
Lifetime mileage at 87,028km (including 86 marathons or further) 
So, I added up my mileage for the year... oh goodness. Do I feel inadequate! I've only logged close on 1400 kilometres for the year (minus a number of logs where I was away and couldn't remember what I did). April to June and October to December were my best quarters. I've never been big on high mileage training and it shows in my total vs Ian's. Nonetheless, I'm super impressed with his achievements for the year. To my credit, he isn't putting in 3-5hrs a week of circus school / pole class too.

I'd like to see my running numbers for the year go up so I'm going to aim for over 2000km this year. Yeah, that sounds like a good plan.

31-day challenge

Some people - like me - train year in and year out regardless of goals, races and such motivations. Sure, I'll mix up the disciplines more as a race approaches but for the rest I'm doing something pretty much every day of the year. Others need the prod of an approaching race to get out the door.

My mom is like this. She admits to needing something to work towards. Her 2013 adventure will be to walk a section of the French Camino route. There are Camino routes all over Europe - all leading, ultimately, to Santiago in Spain. She did the traditional pilgrimage route over five weeks in 2011 (this is her talk on Camino de Santiago from FEAT Jo'burg, October 2012). She's looking at September for this adventure.

This means that she has to get back into the habit of walking regularly. The first few months will be about getting fit and acclimatising her feet and legs to walking again - speed, duration and distance. As winter approaches she'll put on her backpack and steadily increase the weight to its 10-kilogram 'race weight'. By September she'll be ready for weeks on her feet, with a loaded backpack.

To get back into the swing of things she decided to do her own 31-day challenge this month; walking every day. I'm joining her (but with running and sometimes a walk with her). You're welcome to join the challenge too. Only 29 days left after today...

A new year - 'Hola amigos' - Adventure Dream

It's another year.

In years gone by I'd get all excited about New Year. It's a time to put the trials of the previous year behind us and to feel excited and energised for all that awaits.

Both last year and this I feel like an exhausted runner standing at the starting line of a race that I don't want to run and having to take numerous deep breaths to psych myself into putting on foot in front of the other.

On the other hand, there are so many things just in the first six months of this new year that I am totally excited about.

I'm back to circus school from Monday - hip-hip-hooray!

Then, late-January kicks off with the Orienteering Schools League. I've got a ton of stuff to write and prep between now and then but I'm looking forward to the League (and the camp that follows at the beginning of March) and hope to see the sparkle in the eyes of many children as they realise that they can find their way from A to B.

In the last few months of 2012 I finished writing the second level of school activities and games so I'll have many school visits to do. I really enjoy interacting with the teachers - teaching them how to teach orienteering skills - and also with the children when opportunity presents.

I've got a nice project to start working on now for Cape Union Mart, one of my clients. They have an expo thing at the end of February.

And, of course, there's my fabulous Forest Run on Saturday, 9 March. I've got a super volunteer team assembled and a ton of organising and logistics to put in place. My list of things to do for this event is a long one. But, it is going to be super fabulously amazing!

In late March I get the chance to run. It's the five-day Namib Desert Challenge. I'm really looking forward to this. I'm running well, feeling good and looking forward to the race.

April is comparatively 'quiet' with no major events. It's's 12th birthday so I'll have a Metrogaine Joburg event on - a week night.

May... Expedition Africa time. This is a 500km adventure race organised by Heidi and Stephan. I had been planning on racing... I mean, it's the Drakensberg! But, because of my June-July plans (I'll get to this in a mo) I may have to can this idea and instead volunteer.

This year my 37th birthday looms. Continuing in the tradition of last year and the year before, I've got '37 Days of Running' starting on 13 May. This is 37 continuous days of running - leading up to my birthday - for the age that I'm turning.

Here's the [even more] exciting part...

I've been to South America a few times. In 2003 I went across to run in the inaugural seven-day Jungle Marathon in Brazil. I spent a week in Buenos Aires on one of those great packages where you get flights, seven nights accommodation, city tour, tango evening and such for next to nothing. I went on from BA to Manaus, in Brazil and absolutely loved the race (won ladies and was 10th overall) and the jungle.

In early 2005 I ran the inaugural five-day Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica. A super fabulous event. Straight after this I headed to the tip of the South American continent to write for the Patagonia Expedition Race. That was three weeks in Chilean Patagonia and I fell in love with the place. I was back there in early 2006 and decided then that I really, really wanted to learn Spanish.

I signed up for a course here with Slade and the Spanish Academy. Slade is a superb language teacher and I learned more in one lesson with him than in three months of French at Alliance Francaise. It was here that I had the idea of heading to Argentina to do intensive Spanish lessons for four weeks. While I have a basic understanding of the language, I'm not conversant and especially now when almost seven years have passed.

Last year at FEAT I did a new thing - Adventure Dream postcards. The audience was asked to write down their Adventure Dream - something that they really want to do. Anything counts. I realised that learning Spanish was top of my list - still.

About a month ago I was chatting to Marianne Schwankhart (climber/adventurer; we met through FEAT 2010). She has recently done a course with Slade and she has spent quite a bit of time travelling in South America to climb. When I told her of my plan to go to Buenos Aires she suggested Bariloche instead. Great suggestion as it is an outdoorsy destination rather than a city, which suits me better. It's on the Argentina-Chile border - right up against the Andes mountains. At the 2005 Patagonia Expedition Race there was a cameraman (also an adventure racer) who came from Bariloche and I remember him speaking highly of the place - beautiful, town on a lake, mountains surrounding it, snow...

So, I looked into it...

And last week I booked my flight, accommodation and the Spanish course. Yes, four weeks away to learn Spanish! My adventure dream. I've been working through these awesome Spanish lesson podcasts to revise and to build a bit of a vocabulary again. I should be through all 80 of them by June. You're placed in lessons according to what you know... I really don't want to go all that way to go through 'Hola' and 'Como estas?' again.

I chose to go over this winter period as our schools are on holiday so I won't miss out on stuff for my orienteering project. I can handle odds and ends for clients online. And the double bonus is that Bariloche is a mega snow ski destination (from July) and I've never skiied. I'll definitely sign up for some lessons.

So, that's the first 6.5 months of 2013 for me! And, of course, in between all of this is writing, media releases for clients, various projects, website admin, smaller event participation... BOOM! Time to jump in.

Warm wishes to you too for a full, rewarding and adventurous year ahead.