Thursday 29 August 2013

FEAT’s annual adventure celebration

Almost a year has passed since the last Fascinating Expedition & Adventure Talks (FEAT) evening, where 10 South African adventurers took to the FEAT stage to relate their tales of adventure – in only seven minutes each. This October the audience will again be spellbound as they briefly journey over continents and oceans, up and over mountains, outside our borders and within our own country.

“FEAT has been going since 2010 and this will be our 5th event,” says FEAT organiser Lisa de Speville. “That’s 40 talks! And there are another 10 coming up soon.”

She’s often asked she has a favourite evening or a favourite talk. “Each event is a totally different mix and the adventures are totally diverse,” she replies. "They're all my favourites."

De Speville describes FEAT as a theatre-style evening that provides a platform for adventurers to share their experiences. “In only seven minutes,” she adds with a smile. This short-talks format is dynamic and fast-paced. Each presentation decorated by slides, which are projected on to large screens.

“The audience is enveloped in the excitement of the talks – people, places, experiences, dangers, emotions and successes,” de Speville says.

Instead of releasing a list of speakers upfront, as before, de Speville is announcing the speakers once-a-week in the lead up to the evening.

“There are events that I attend regardless of the line-up because it is aligned with my interests. FEAT is very much like this. Also, the audience is unlikely to know a majority of the speakers unless they’re specifically involved in that sporting discipline. That’s the nature of these pursuits – so it doesn’t really help to know names. Of course you may recognise one or two; but again this depends on your interests.”
The names of three speakers have already been announced.

There’s Chris Bertish, an accomplished Big Wave Surfer and competitive Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP) athlete. In August he crossed the English Channel by SUP, setting a new record for the crossing. This came only a day after completing a multi-day, non-stop expedition to SUP the Thames River (243km) from source-to-sea.

Richard Goodhead is another speaker on the roster. This Capetonian ran 6,000 kilometres from Cape Agulhas to Kilimanjaro two years ago and earlier this year he completed a three-month, 4,000-kilometre run from the southern-most tip of Argentina to Mt Aconcagua.

Back in 2002 Karen Hauptfleisch climbed Mt Kilimanjaro, which set off a chain reaction and her loves for African countries and adventures. Since then she has visited over 30 African countries, climbing to the top of their highest peak. There are 54 African countries, including the islands, so she has many more trips and adventures still to enjoy as she aims to visit every one of them.

“In fact, I don’t know most of the speakers – not in person anyway,” De Speville announces. “But, I love what they’ve done, I’m fascinated by their adventures and I’m sure you will be too.”

FEAT takes place at the Victory Theatre in Houghton, Johannesburg, on Thursday, 10 October 2013. Tickets (R190pp) are available online through Full event details including ticketing, speakers, parking information and venue directions are on the FEAT website at

Just when Cape Town has been feeling totally left out, FEAT is delighted to announce the first mini-FEAT events, in partnership with Mountain Club of South Africa (MCSA), which take place in Cape Town on the evening of Thursday, 14 November and in Jo’burg on Monday, 18 November 2013. Details for these events will be announced after FEAT in October.

“But,” says de Speville with a wink, “you can diarise the dates now”.

FEAT is made possible by its sponsors, Black Diamond, Capestorm and Powertraveller, and its media partner, Go Multi magazine. These companies proudly support a range of adventure sport disciplines, events and athletes.

A sense and scent of Spring

Running through my 'hood, I'm seeing the signs of Spring. Some trees got ahead of themselves a few weeks ago and now others are getting with the programme. I snuck out for a quick half-hour run at lunch time today, taking pics of some spring loveliness. In not long now the grass in the park will turn green again and the trees will be fully robed in their leafy gowns.

The most glorious bank of jasmine. Actually, there are two or three big bushes, all outside this one house. The perfume in the evenings, like it was last night - magnificent!
Fresh young leaves and buds on the Weeping Willows. I love it when the hanging twigs get that green sheen. Hard to photograph in the breeze. The poplars are becoming tinged with green too. 
Ah... blossoms. So pretty!
More blossoms. Oh my heart!
My favourite shade of green - 'new leaf'. It pleases my eyes and heart.

O Mountain Marathon on Sunday

I saw a buddy yesterday who told me about teams making really, really elementary and stupid mistakes at Full Moon this past weekend. He'd hear teams nearby (like 200m to 300m), see lights moving away from him (at a CP) and then they'd rock up two hours later!

Dare I say (again) that navigation is a discipline of adventure racing. This sport is no not about running fast or riding like a demon...

Mountain Marathon is the most fabulous O event for adventure racers. Off the top of my head I can't remember the criteria except that to be a Mountain Marathon the course must have a certain amount of elevation gain (more than 500m?) - anyway, it's more than standard cross-country O events.

We only have one MM a year, and it comes up on Sunday at Groenkloof. And, I've just seen from an email that we'll have a RED course. Where BROWN is usually the longest and most technical challenging, RED is longer but not as difficult navigationally - perfect for trail runners starting to find their way around.

Course Distances:
Brown 12.5km +/- 500m (Open M21+)
Blue 9.5km +/- 400m (Veterans M40+) (Open Women W21+)
Green 7.7km +/- 300m (Master M50+) , Veteran Women (W35+)
Light green 3.6km (Masters Women W45+)
Orange 2.7km
White 1.7km
Red ...tbc - aiming for 10-16km.

Date: Sunday, 1 September 2013
Venue: Groenkloof Nature Reserve

Registration: from 09h00
Starts: from 09h30

Courses: Six courses catering for beginners to advanced. Red course suitable for trail runners wanting distance without complex navigation

R70 Members
R80 Non-­members
R100 Groups

Pre-­entries -­
R10 discount for pre-­entries with payment into ROC account before 30 August

Please pre-enter if you intend running this weekend, even if you don't pre-pay and get your R10 discount you will still have a pre filled in entry form and save us capturing details on the computer at the event.

Also entry to the reserve is covered by your entry fees so please make sure you mention you are coming to the Orienteering event at the 'Boma'

Rand Orienteering Club Bank Details for Pre-­Entries:
Standard Bank
Boksburg 011842
Account no 025096311

FYI: Colours of courses (From British Orienteering Federation site)

  • White Courses (XS) are very easy with all controls on paths. They are mainly used by 6-10 year olds and family groups. 
  • Yellow Courses (XS-S) use simple linear features like paths, walls and streams. They are mainly used by under 12’s and family groups. 
  • Orange Courses (S-M) progress to basic use of the compass and route choice. They are ideal for novice adults or experienced youngsters. Long Orange courses are used mainly by novice adults wanting a longer run. 
  •  Light Green Courses (S) are ideal for improvers as the navigational difficulty begins to increase and uses simple contours and ‘point’ features. 
  •  Green Courses (S) are used mostly by experienced under 18’s and adults wanting a short but challenging course with a very hard navigational difficulty. 
  •  Blue Courses (M) are a longer, more physically demanding course in comparison to the green. The distances are more varied between controls and the course attracts experienced orienteers. 
  •  Brown (L) and Black Courses (XL) are very physically demanding and have a very hard navigational difficulty. They are for experienced orienteers only.
(Red is the longest but is navigationally easy - targeted at trail runners who want distance but don't have practised navigation skills)

Ride (run) for us

As the administrator of a sports club, Adventure Racing Club, I get a number of race notifications, which I pass on to my club email group if relevant. With the 94.7 Cycle Challenge coming up in November, I've had a vast increase in the number of emails from charity organisations seeking people who will ride 'for' them, representing their foundation.

The most recent one received offers those who sign up "fun goodie bags, cycle shirt, charity start time, hospitality before and after the race and a massage at the end of the race, just to mention a few of the benefits." Riders have to commit to raising a minimum of R1,800. A deposit of R600 confirms their participation.

Another sentence states that 100% of funds collected goes towards what the charity does. Thus, the money spent by the sponsor goes to paying for the hospitality area, catering, goodie bags, cycle shirts...

The charity has a title sponsor for this event. Riders would thus wear cycle jerseys emblazoned with the name of the sponsor company (and the charity) - mostly the sponsor, if photos from last year are anything to go by. Yes, mobile billboards on their bicycles for the corporate.

The charity seeks 500 riders. At a minimum of R1,800 each, that's R900,000 raised. And as some will raise far more, they could quite easily get over R2-million with a full complement of riders.

Looking at the team photograph from last year I count around 150 riders. That's a minimum of R270,000 raised. Interestingly, they raised R1,050,000 last year! Let's say they get 250 riders this year... they could raise around R1.3-million. Nice!

My question is... would the charity get more money if the sponsor put their marketing spend into the charity instead of hospitality areas, catering, cycle jerseys and handouts? Yes, yes, yes, I know this is a marketing exercise and not just a charity initiative... but what if? Goodies per rider are possibly in the region of R800 and then there's the hospitality area and hire of seating plus banners, printing, catering... And what about advertising pre-event to promote the initiative... I'm quite certain that well over a million is spent.

And you don't have the option of saying, "I don't want the goodies, I'll raise funds for you regardless. Rather put this money spend into the charity". For me it isn't about the goodies. But, it is actually all about the goodies.

The thing is that events like 94.7, Argus, Two Oceans and Comrades are big fundraising opportunities for charities and large total sums are generated by individuals seeking support from friends and family not just in good wishes, but in financial contributions to a cause that the participant supports. It's a boost for these foundations and a marketing exercise for corporates involved.

I get a lot of requests from people I know - and also those I don't know (very well or at all) to support their run/ride/swim by donating to XYZ charity. I don't respond to most because their causes, while totally worthy, are not my causes and I have initiatives to which I already contribute.

These mass participation events are one thing... I'm yet to be convinced about the feasibility of doing things like climbing Kilimanjaro to raise funds. It certainly costs in excess of R20,000 to do it and if you only raise R5,000? If the charity is so important to you why not donate that disposable R20,000 to it?

Awareness you say? It's about raising awareness too? Sure. But I can post regularly on this blog and on Facebook about the importance of blood donation without climbing a single mountain nor raising funds. A friend is a big supporter of Puppy and Kitty Haven and her posts reflect this. As a result, this animal shelter is front of my mind most days and she hasn't walked a step nor spent a penny.

Me, I'm fatigued by the constant requests. I don't 'approve' of there being multiple organisations (from two to 200 or more!) in support of a single cause and that these organisations are not 'friends' with each other. Rival organisations both aiming to protect sharks? That every Tom, Jane and Harry establishes their own foundation instead of partnering with an existing organisation to better their efforts... It just doesn't make sense to me.

Nonetheless, fundraising has its place and the manner in which funds are raised will appeal to each of us differently. Like me, go with what appeals to you - the cause, the person you're supporting or the method of attracting your support.

The important thing, I think, is to at least support something.

Sunday 25 August 2013


At the moment I feel very topsy-turvy and not quite with the programme. I started the English teaching course last week (I'm two weeks in now) and while I'm learning much about teaching and techniques I'm a bit overloaded! For sure, lesson planning gets easier with practise but for now I'm at the bottom of the curve and climbing steeply so everything seems to take soooooo loooooong to complete.

We had our first teaching prac assessment on Thursday night - I've got so many things to work on and to improve on for the next one coming up this next Thursday. And then our first written assignment has to be in this coming Saturday...

Talking lessons plans, I've got my final practical assessment coming up at the beginning of September to complete my British Orienteering Federation Level 2 coaching qualification. We've got a group of our experienced junior orienteers as our 'students'. I've been thinking about the direction to take my lesson and I think I've got an idea that will stimulate and hone the skills of these advanced level orienteers.

I haven't been in the best health so my running has been almost not there. The lady on the course with me was down with an awful cold when we had our first class last week - within a day that was me down with it too. I've been out for some walks and runs with the huskies but otherwise no hard runs for almost two weeks. I'm feeling irritable and jumpy.

Fortunately I'm on the mend at around 98% recovered. I'm running with the huskies again later today, which is as good for my mind as it is for my body. I'm looking forward to a better week of running ahead.

I've been missing my circus classes, which are on hold until I complete the English course at the end of October. Seems my timing is pretty good as there haven't been classes recently; they're moving venue and are still building the rigging setup for the aerial disciplines.

FEAT organising details continue to progress. I've released the names of three of the speakers and only 112 tickets are still available. Yay! Such excitement building around this 5th FEAT event here in SA. I'm visiting the theatre on Tuesday to confirm venue arrangements. I think that I'd be feeling even more excited if I didn't have the organising to do *grin* I love speaking to people who proudly announce that they've got their tickets - this automatically buoys my enthusiasm too.


Wednesday 14 August 2013

Something old, also new - teaching English

From the first histology prac that I taught in my Honours year at varsity - and continued throughout my postgrad years - to the academic lecturing block three years later; to the very many navigation courses I've taught and the week of primary school orienteering just last week... I really love teaching and my enjoyment and satisfaction just continues to grow. But, I don't want to be a full-time school teacher. I prefer courses, workshops and defined short-term periods.

And so, following my recent trip to Argentina, it almost feels like things have come full circle. Last night I started on a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course. My aim is to be able to use this to get back to Argentina to work there for a couple of months at a time, while working on my own Spanish learning. My plan is adult education, not children.

My bad experience at the Spanish school in Bariloche is actually a blessing in terms of learning experiences because I know exactly what it is like to not have a clue and to not enjoy lessons - despite really, really wanting to learn and absorb. From Spanish learning alone I've experienced excellent teaching (here), good teaching (there) and terrible teaching (there). I would not like to ever put my students through the latter. Ever!

My next three months are going to be even more crazyyyy than usual with a much increased course workload and teaching pracs, but I'm very excited about learning teaching skills, being more creative and learning more about my own language. It was through learning Spanish that I learned what a 'gerund' is in English - my native language!

FEAT 2013 - the ball is rolling (fast!)

Tickets for FEAT went on sale on Friday last week (a public holiday / long weekend). Over the past five days 170 tickets have been snapped up. Added to the tickets that I reserve in advance for speakers, their partners, media and sponsors, it means that the theatre is already half full!

If you'd like to attend (if you're in Jo'burg it would be sacrilege to miss it!), you can book your tickets through Full event information on > Events.

The line up this year is interesting and diverse. I'm being a bit sneaky-sneaky this year in that I'm only releasing who the speakers are one-by-one. It's going to be a great evening and I can guarantee that there are only a few names that you may recognise, depending on the sports that you're involved in. But you will love hearing their stories of adventures. This I guarantee.

Saturday 10 August 2013

Valuing female brains

I'm not big on 'celebrating' Women's Day (9 August in South Africa; public holiday); although I do appreciate the day off... This public holiday commemorates a march by 50,000 women (1956) who protested against the proposed amendments to the Urban Areas Act - protesting against the laws that forced black people to carry passes and have curfews (restricted movement).

It is now a day about women's rights. A day where workplace inequalities are highlighted. A day where violence against and the abuse of women is again brought to public attention.

And then there are the companies with their commercial offerings of make-up, perfume, lingerie, slimming aids, jewelry and kitchen goodies - specials for women on Women's Day.

And then there's all the internet waddle with pink and frilly images telling women how wonderful / special / amazing they are. Oh, and pretty and beautiful.

I do not approve of propagated hogwash like this; regardless of who is quoted. 
Last week a friend shared a link on FB for a piece written by a blogger on the topic of 'How to talk to little girls'. If you have a little girl or if you interact with a friend's daughter/s, please read it - I hope it changes your conversational perspective. I'm glad that this article was passed on to me because it will very much guide my interactions with my niece ('adopted' as I don't have any siblings) in years to come.

Five weeks old and snoozing on my shoulder - my favouriteness.
In short, some of the first comments said by people to little girls is "You are so pretty", "That's a lovely dress", "You look beautiful"...  All these do is to confirm, affirm and teach that looks are more important than anything else.

Sure, there is a place for appearance-related compliments but it is definitely a good idea to stay away from them as a conversation starter. And, to highlight the child's other interests and activities as important. Valuable qualities too - like being kind, considerate, interesting, honest, responsible...

This theme ties in with a conversation I had with a newly-made friend in Argentina. She's a similar age to me and was telling me about this guy and that guy that she's dating. So I asked how she manages to get to go on all of these dates, often dating more than one at a time. She meets them mostly through sports and friends and she finds that playing 'stupid' is the key. The less capable she appears, the more success she has.

Giving an example she says, "Say I've met a guy at a running race, I'll ask him about his shoes and advice for my next purchase". She laughs. She'll ask about training or races - generally acting uninformed and not very clued up. And it works, very successfully.

"So that's my problem," I reply. "In South Africa I'm asked about shoes, training and races!"

Something that stood out for me in Argentina was that a majority (and a seriously large majority) of women wear their hair long and, mostly, straight with a middle parting or a fringe. There's not much variety in hairstyles, colour (dark brown) and very few women with short hair - despite the abundance of hair salons. This same friend has long, curly hair. I asked her about the hair thing. "Men like long hair" was her response.

In years to come I hope to read, talk and play with this little girl as she grows from baby to toddler to child and into her teens. You can be sure that I'll value her mind and demonstrate this to her through our conversations and interactions.

Thursday 8 August 2013

I survived - school orienteering

I survived - and thoroughly enjoyed - my four days of orienteering activities at Sacred Heart College. I got to share a taste of orienteering with close on 350 children ranging in age from seven to 12/13.

The classes that most terrified me going into this were the Grade 1s and Grade 2s - I haven't got much experience with little ones and the Grade 1 and Grade 2 boys that I know are orienteering children so they can hardly be considered 'normal'. Orienteering children can be tossed into a forest and they happily make their way back.

First activity - coloured cones, to teach map orientation. I set out four of these grids so that there weren't too many children at each grid.
These youngsters turned out to be an absolute pleasure. It was interesting for me to adjust my explanations and demonstrations from Monday (older grades) for the younger participants in my Tuesday and Wednesday classes. They seem to have really enjoyed the games, so I think I did pretty well. And, I got loads of spontaneous hugs from these children, which was a welcome surprise. Hugs all around. Very, very heart warming.

Activity 2 - one of two different obstacle grids where the tape is a 'solid wall' that they can't go over, under or through - only around. The third activity was a 'real' orienteering experience using my orienteering map of their school - part of the property.
Across the classes (13 of them) there were children who stood out - a good number of them. They gobbled up my maps coming back for more and more and more. "More difficult," they'd request. So I'd trade them an 'orange' map for a 'red' map - my more challenging category. And they'd come back and say, "Another red!". A number of children really impressed me.

Of course there are always the few who don't get it (it's the same with adults so no reflection on the child nor their age) and some who don't care to get it; but the vast majority were enthusiastic participants who ran and jumped and searched and found.

During the school holidays, which starts now, I'll set up the permanent course on the school property so that it is ready when the children return. I'm really hoping that some of the very keen children will return home, telling their parents all about orienteering and that these parents will bring their child/children to an orienteering event.

A talented child that I presented orienteering to in 2005 and 2007 at this school - during this same programme - is now in Matric. He's actively involved in orienteering and I saw him in the distance today at the school - no longer the little boy who gobbled up my maps. In fact, checking up on the SAOF website, he is on our 2013 National Youth Squad. I haven't been at many O events this year so I haven't seen him for quite some time.

If only I could get a couple more just like him. But, almost more importantly, we need more parents like his dad too. It was maybe the weekend after I presented Mindworx in 2007 that they came to their first event - Dad responded proactively to his son's request to do more orienteering. And now six years later this young man has a shot at Junior World Champs and more in years to come.

My favourite part of Mindworx is receiving an envelope of letters written by children who chose orienteering as the activity they most enjoyed that day. They have to write a thank you note to the presenter. I've got a wonderful bundle.

Some of my stash ;)
Gotta love this one ;) (I've fuzzied-out her name)
How sweet is this? 
That was a good week and I look forward to further interaction with this school and children through the permanent courses and, hopefully, getting them into the O Schools League next year.

Sunday 4 August 2013

Ready for 350 little orienteers - I think

I finished my map on Wednesday and am VERY chuffed with the result - just to get an orienteer to test it out... Nonetheless, it is more than great for my kiddies this week.

The children will start off with some fun cone grid activities to teach them the basics of keeping the map orientated. Then, I've created a load of orienteering courses, each with three controls (there will be 23 controls out there in total) and I've coloured them green, orange and red according to difficulty for the various grades (1 to 6) that I'll see during the week. The plan is that once we've done the cone grids, the children will get maps showing controls and they'll run to the three controls on their map (lots of variation) and then back to me. Depending on how much time we've got, they could get in two to four courses. Children don't often wear watches so I can't say, "Be back in 20 minutes".

The children know their school so getting lost won't be a problem and I'm only using part of the map - the buildings and the fields to the right.

Phew! It has been lots of prep and map drawing but I'm quite excited about my week ahead. I'll put out my controls this afternoon so that they're all in place for the morning. It will take me a while to set out the grids and my first class is at 08h00.

Cards for the 'Counting Coloured Cones' game

Correx board 'controls' for the orienteering course. I'll use these for the permanent course that I'm leaving at the school at the end of the week. I've used alphabet 'codes' on the controls - the little ones can remember letters or pictures.

An 'obstacle' cone grid. I use metal droppers (4x4) with candy tape to create the 'walls'. The children have to run around the 'walls' to get to the correct controls.
Here's wishing me good luck!

Gettin' out for some O

On Saturday my club hosted an orienteering event at Waterstone College, a high school in the South of Jo'burg (Kliprivier / Walkerville). Brian did the course planning with Garry controlling and a bunch of other wonderful club members - Stijn, Cindy and Cobus plus Oli (kidnapped by Stijn from Cape Town) - helping out. This event was originally planned for late-April, but we got rained out. Yesterday we had more than perfect winter weather - yes, tees and shorts for running.

The turnout was superb, especially with the addition of a birthday party. A young teen from the school decided to use this event for her birthday party and so we had a bunch of teens taking part - and many of their parents too. We also had a few Saturday-only people - those unable to make Sunday events because of other commitments. The Gauteng Orienteering Clubs will look at scheduling some events next year on Saturdays to accommodate a whole new avenue of orienteers.

And I got to run too! I don't even think I feature on the points logs this year because I've done sooooo few events. Since I'm not in contention for any of the women's rankings, I decided to indulge and run the longer men's course - my favourite anyway. And even more fun is that over the 3.2km (straight-line) distance, there were 32 controls! For comparison, 'normal' would be 16 to 18 controls.

Since the whole fun of orienteering is finding the controls, this course was extra fun! And fast. School terrain is runnable and makes for flat-out running. A superb course too with tons of direction changes that would have had a runner or three making 180-degree errors.

I think my overall placing was fair (I haven't seen the results). My friend Paul did tell me that I beat him, which really is all that counts. His daughter told me that he had a sore ankle... I told her that I've had a cough for two weeks and that I donated blood the day before... It all balances.

Well done to my club mates for a super event and thank you to all the people who came to run.

My run.