Sunday 29 September 2013

Alastair Humphreys' 20 questions worth answering

About two weeks ago I read adventurer Alastair Humphreys' blog post "20 QUESTIONS WORTH ANSWERING HONESTLY – ONE YEAR ON…". They're good questions so I thought I'd take a bash at answering them.

  1. Do you earn enough money?
    Being freelance, earnings can be up and down. On the whole, I'd say no. Money offers freedom and stability. More money means more travel, more freedom to work on ideas that I have for things without worrying about today, more for savings and investments. How much is enough? Hahahaha - that's the question! All depends what I want to do at that time...
  2. Do you enjoy your job?
    Yes. I love organising events, writing for clients and magz and the orienteering projects. And then there are the websites and AR Club... they're not my job but they're my responsibility and obligation. The only thing I'm finding increasingly challenging is the juggling. While each aspect of the many things I'm involved in delights me, it's them all together that can be tough. If organising an event has 100 components to worry about; and I'm keeping on top of another 100 things for other projects as they come up... Most of the time I feel as if I'm doing everything at less than 100%. While my 100% may be someone else's 200%, the issue is that I am driven to want to do better and better
  3. Do you prefer Saturday or Monday?
    Being freelance there's often not much difference between a Saturday and a Monday for me... But I probably like Mondays more because they're energising - a new week, new day.
  4. What would you like to be doing one year from now?
    I've never been much good at planning what I want to be doing in a year from now - too far in advance, except where event planning is concerned. With my current Argentina/Spanish obsession, I'm aiming to spend the winter months in Argentina teaching English and learning Spanish. That's what I'd like to be doing. I'd also like to get back into foreign AR event reporting - I do love it.
  5. What would you like to be doing five years from now?
    Oh goodness! I have no idea. And I'm not too concerned about it either. Life offers up so many interesting opportunities. Five years ago I would never have guessed that I'd created FEAT nor that I'd be working on the projects I am and nor that I'd be doing PR writing for clients. And yet I enjoy doing all of these.
  6. What would you do with your life if you were a billionaire?
    I'd probably be doing many of the same things. But, I'd be able to hire people to assist on some elements so that I don't have to do it all by myself and I could let go of things I have no further interest in, when I have no more interest in them. I've got a dozen ideas for things and while I'm a hands-on 'control freak', I'd like to think that with the means I'd be able to have people that I trust onboard to take the weight off so that I could get other initiatives off the ground.
  7. Do you have enough spare time to do the things you really enjoy?
    Nope. But then being a person interested in a wide variety of things and who loves to do things, even if I lived on Venus, which has a day length of 225 Earth days, I still wouldn't have enough time; because I'd keep adding more things to do! As they say, give tasks to busy people 'cos they'll get them done. Even with all the things I have on the go at any one time, I do watch a few tv shows on DVD every week - and I crochet at the same time; I do see friends (but definitely not as often as I like). I rarely (scratch that - never) just sit around and soak up the sun. That would be nice here and there.
  8. What takes up a lot of your time but is neither unavoidable, rewarding nor enjoyable?
    There are a bunch of things and I'm working slowly towards being able to let go. Some days these things are enjoyable, other days they're just tasks that have to be done. Self-inflicted obligations - hahahaha
  9. What mildly pleasant, but pretty pointless things do you fritter too much time doing?
    Facebook, for sure. I use Facebook to keep up with sporty stuff, hobbies and odds and ends. I hide people who post too much or are distant / old connections, so that cuts down. I've recently spent less time on FB, which helps; but I also use it for FEAT, AR, Forest Run, content creator for a client... I also spend too much time answering emails. Working on getting this volume down.
  10. How much TV do you watch?
    Not enough! I do enjoy watching telly - but not just random stuff. I prefer boxsets of shows or DVDs of movies because then I can watch what I want to watch. My new favourites are 'Game of Thrones' and 'Suits'. I'm on Season 2 (DVDs) of both. Most nights, not every night, I'll watch an episode. Sometimes of just one or both.
  11. What would you like to do more of?
    Run, crochet, see friends, put more time into learning Spanish. I don't get out nearly enough, especially over the past two months; and this isn't going to let up until the end of October.
  12. What motivates you to do something well?
    Luckily this is an inherent quality, passed down from grandmother to mother to me. If you're going to something, do it properly. Anything less is a waste of time. The flipside is that some things don't need to be done as well or with as much attention and time spent; but not doing this is probably not going to happen.
  13. Who do you envy, and why?
    I've been thinking about this daily since I read Alastair's blog. At the moment I envy people who have lived in different countries and speak multiple languages.
  14. If you were 100 and looking back on your life, would you be happy with a life well-lived?
    Yip, I think so. Although I'd probably look back and berate myself for not having enough fun. To much planning, organising, working, advising and doing with far too little play and fun.
  15. What makes you proud, satisfied, and content?
    Doing and creating. Seeing ideas become tangible things.
  16. What makes you frustrated, bored, and unfulfilled?
    Not getting to ideas and projects. I sometimes sit on an idea for years until I can get around to pulling it off. Took me eight years to get Forest Run off the ground and I've been sitting on another - already scouted route - for four years... Immensely frustrating! And I've got such a nice idea for a community project thing... been sitting on this one for almost three years...
  17. What would you do if you had more talent?
    This is one thing I don't need more of!
  18. What would you do if you had more guts?
    I like to think I have guts - so not really needing more. But, I'm not a big risk taker - more calculated. 
  19. What would you do with your life if nobody was watching, judging or commenting?
    The same as what I'm doing now.
  20. What are you going to do about all this? Don't let things just sit and stagnate. I know what I want to do, at least for the next year, and I've got lists of ideas and cunning plans - it's about letting go of some stuff to make space for new. I've been itching for change for a few years and I'm steadily working towards it.
A year ago when Alastair initially wrote these questions, he answered them. Here are his answers from a year ago.

It should be interesting to read my answers in a year from now...

Adult bullying

I'm very fortunate that I have not been subject to bullying very often in my life. I have recollections of a girl in high school who used to threaten to beat me up. She was neither in my social, sporting or academic circles so we had little contact outside of geography class. She wasn't a concern.

A few years ago I ended up in full-time employment at a marketing company. There I was bullied by a grumpy man who thought he was the business. Unfortunately I was required to work with him (loosely, fortunately) on projects and the company did little to help. They even moved me to sit next to him! And HR wouldn't move me away despite repeated request. It would have made things far more pleasant had I not been sitting next to this dark-storm-cloud of a person. My heart would sink when I'd arrive at the office and see his car parked outside.

The thing is, he never directly said a nasty word but his actions, behaviour and demeanour towards me were designed to dominate. After a few weeks I remember calling a meeting with him to ask, "Why are you so nasty to me?". This didn't stop the problem. He was a a chunk of a bigger reason why I didn't stay there for very long. The relief I felt when I resigned was incredible.

image from Huffington Post -

The past half-dozen weeks have been very trying. I've found myself in a situation where I've been bullied.

Articles online about adult bullying focus on the workplace but they're appropriate here too. They say that adult bullying disrupts productivity, creates a hostile work environment and reduces morale. Adult bullies are described as people in a set pattern. They're interested in power and domination and they're not interested in compromise or working things out. They want to feel important and preferred and they accomplish this by bringing others down. This has a heavy impact on physical and mental health.

The one problem with adult bullying is that it tends to be verbal - the use of sarcastic and demeaning language that is difficult to document and yet it has emotional and psychological impacts.

Words that describe what I've been dealing with over the past number of weeks include: threatened, patronised, berated, chastised and then demonstrations of eye rolling, throwing their hands up in 'exasperation' or turning their back, huffing and walking away. All to show displeasure and to dominate.

I've spent hours running through incidents and asking, "Is it me? What have I done wrong?". Fortunately I'm not alone in this. I have a classmate who is treated the same way. And then I'm thinking, "I'm an adult woman; how can this be happening?".

I've arrived for every class with an open mind and aiming for a 'clean slate' and hoping that this one will be better than the last. But, it has been getting worse. To the point where I haven't wanted to go to class and I don't see the point in putting in dozens of hours every week. What for? Yet, I've paid hard-earned money to be doing this, something I was very excited about. I've been in survival mode for weeks.

After a really challenging session on Thursday and a supportive chat with a friend whilst driving home, I decided that this needed to be dealt with head-on; the only way to deal with a bully who wields power over you because they have something you want (a pass mark, in this case).

Yesterday morning we had an 'intervention'. We both brought our parents along as witnesses and support and we went through our expectations, what we came to this course for, how we've been treated and the changes we expect to see made so that we can get through the next five weeks in a more positive environment that is supportive and conducive to learning.

I really don't see myself as a confrontational person. I prefer to just not have people like this in my life. But, I'm trapped and something had to be done because I was emotional distressed, on the verge of tears all the time, and at the point where I couldn't see any light at the end of the tunnel. None at all.

Adults are not immune to being bullied. Dealing with it is the hard part - and, depending on the situation, the only way is to be confrontational (or to leave). Bring in witnesses, record conversations and strive for a workable outcome.

All things said, the intervention went well, the communication channels are open and we had a far more productive lesson yesterday. I'm hoping that the rest of the course progresses in this vein - it will be beneficial to us all.

Friday 27 September 2013

Pre-FEAT crazy dreams

It's happening already. Yeah, my annual pre-FEAT crazy dreams (this is what I wrote the week before FEAT last year).

I woke up at the ungodly hour of 6am following a terrifying pre-FEAT dream. Here's how it went down.

So, I'm there at the theatre. I have a feeling I only got there at like 6pm. I haven't been through my usual system where my technical people setup first and then speakers come in to get briefed at a certain time, and then we have drinks and snacks... what I remember starts backstage not long before the start.

There are a number of trestle tables and I see Alistair (my sound guy) has put the body mics on the table. But there's a whole lot of other stuff too - not my stuff. Just stuff. I also hadn't seen Alistair in person so we hadn't even spoken; he'd just left the mics backstage. We had no comms either.

There are random people coming and going - like sport tour groups - walking through backstage.

The clock is ticking towards 7pm (start time) and I'm trying to brief my microphone lady on how to rig up the mics - she's just arrived (Alistair does this, not me). I don't know where Simon is (MC). And then I hear he's out on the front of the stage.

The curtains keep opening and closing. It's Alistair trying to lower the huge screen for the projected slides to be displayed. He can't find the right button to lower the screen. I find a theatre guy standing on a big ladder far at the back of the stage. He lowers the screen.

I'm then trying to find a runner order sheet and Simon's script. Not one printed copy anywhere! I have a sinking feeling that I forgot to print them. So we don't know in which order the speakers are speaking or in what order the slides are for the speakers. My microphone lady doesn't know who to rig up first. And in any case not one speaker is back stage. I don't know where they are.

And then I get the feeling that it is going to start raining. I go to the front of the stage. There must be a kilometre or two between the stage and where the audience is sitting. Open air and lots of trees in between. I can just see a halo of light. It looks like a cement amphitheatre (covered, thank goodness) in the distance. Simon is speaking (about the weather) and we're hoping that they can hear him but I seem to think they can because Simon seems to have comms with Alistair, who is in the sound booth at the back of the distant amphitheatre.

And then I'm trying to get my laptop started so that we can see who the first speaker is... and there are more people wandering around backstage, passing through, and piles of stuff on the tables - but no printed sheets of my schedules...

Fortunately, I started to wake up just as I'm scratching around for my laptop and I actually roused myself fully awake instead of dozing on, just to get out of this nightmare. And so I'm up early, my computer is on and I'm working on the production schedule, running order and Simon's script. Hahahahaha.

There are interesting correlations to reality.

  • I was at the theatre on Wednesday evening and the big screen was up, not down.
  • My printer cartridge for my laser printer died this week - amidst much shaking to get it printing stuff I needed for my course. I'd ordered a new one last week but when I checked on Tuesday it wasn't here. I did get it yesterday though - in the nick of time!
  • Simon is a weatherman too - and last night, before I went to bed, there were a couple of drops of rain.
  • I usually have all the speakers and helpers and people together from 3 to 2 hours before the start so everyone knows what is happening and I have everyone in one place.
  • All my technical people (sound, lighting, video, photography) have a running order so that they know what is happening when.
  • I sorted out running order yesterday and started on Simon's script last night. In fact, I spoke to him yesterday afternoon saying, "I'll email to you in advance but you don't have to print because I'll have a copy for you at the theatre".

If history is anything to go by, as we count down to FEAT, which is sold out, this isn't going to be the first such crazy pre-FEAT dream. Keeps me on my toes ;)

Monday 23 September 2013

Skinny Bitch

Driving to and from English lessons, I've been listening to audio books. One of them recommended 'Skinny Bitch' by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnounin. I liked the title so I downloaded the sample on my Kindle.

It's helluva funny. Very much written in a Thug Kitchen-style with a generous sprinkling of well-placed swear words.

I've only read the sample but may download the whole book - just for the pure pleasure of the reading, regardless of content. I like their imagery.

Here are some gems from the first chapter...

Soda is liquid Satan. It is the devil. It is garbage. There's nothing in soda that should be put into your body.

Talking about aspartame in soda...

When methyl alcohol, a component of aspartame, enters your body, it turns into formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is toxic and carcinogenic (cancer-causing). Laboratory scientists use formaldehyde as a disinfectant or preservative. They don't fucking drink it.

Talking about junk food...

Not only are they bogged down with saturated fats, sugars, hydrogenated oils, calories, and cholesterol, but they also contain enough chemical residues to put hair on your chest.

...continuing on junk food and snacks...

Now before you decide you're so smart because you only buy fat-free snacks, get a hold of yourself. Whenever you see the words "fat-free" or "low-fat" think of the words "chemical shit storm".
On exercise...

Give up the notion that you can be sedentary and still lose weight. You need to exercise, you lazy shit.

Chapter 2... Carbs: The truth

Yet all carbs are not created equal. There are two types: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates suck and are as nutritionally beneficial as toilet paper.

These are just some of the funnies - there were many more. Whether they able to sustain such painting of colourful pictures throughout the book remains to be seen. I'm tempted to find out.

Sunday 22 September 2013

Baking - dog biscuits, peanut butter cake and kick-ass trail mix

With my first open Saturday (an open weekend, in fact) in six weeks, I was itching to bake.

First up was a batch of dog biscuits for my husky friends. I'm running with them on Sunday afternoon. I found a basic dog biscuit mix online and modified it. They're pretty good!

Lisa's Husky Treats
  • 1.5 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup biltong powder 
  • 1 Knorr Stock Pot (beef)
  • approx 1 cup warm water 
Mix ingredients together to form a firm dough (add more flour/water as needed). Roll into thick sausages. Refrigerate for 10 minutes before cutting into 1cm slices. Bake at 180C for 20 minutes.

Variations: use only oats (2.5 cups) if your dog is sensitive to wheat; substitute 1/2 stock cube or granules for the stock pot.

A friend shared a 'paleo breakfast bar' recipe with me. It comes out more like a cake than a bar. Again, I modified the recipe according to what I had on hand.

Peanut butter cocoa cake 
1/2 cup peanut butter (I used Yum Yum crunchy)
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
1tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda (aka baking soda)
100g papaya

Beat all ingredients together, pour into greased baking dish (batter should be around 1.5cm thick). Cook at 180C for 15-20 min.

Variations: use another nut butter (almond, macadamia) instead of peanut; substitute mashed banana for the papaya (I didn't have any bananas on hand).

It's quite a light, fluffy cake. Total grams going into the oven was around 240g and coming out around 200g.
Doing the math on the ingredients and the after-cooking mass... it looks like the nutritional count is around:

per 100g
Protein: 20.2g
Carb: 15g
Fat: 44g

I'd say a portion is around 30g (nice dessert treat actually).
per 30g portion
protein: 6g
carb: 4.5g
fat: 13g

Next, I re-worked my trail mix to give it a kick. I like trail mix but I don't eat it every day and it can be a bit 'bland'. I've previously made nut-date-seed balls, a lovely raw, vegan snack. Rolling the mix into balls is a pain in the butt, so I went for pressed squares instead. For the ingredients, I just pulled nuts and bits out of my trailmix container, whizzed it in my food processor, added cocoa and ba-ba-ba-boom! - trail mix, only better.

Lisa's kick-ass trail mix bites (no-bake snacks)

I made these really randomly so my recipe below is definitely not to be followed strictly. Make up according to your tastes.
  • 60g macadamia nuts
  • 30g Brazil nuts
  • 30g almonds (raw, unblanched)
  • 15g sunflower seeds
  • 2 tsp cocoa powder
  • 25g dates
Soak the dates in boiling water until soft. Put nuts, sunflower seeds and cocoa powder into a food processor. Process until finely ground. 
Squeeze excess water from the dates and add to the mix. Process until well mixed. Add a little water if needed. You're aiming for a firm 'paste' texture.
Place into a dish and press firmly. Refrigerate for 30 minutes and then cut into squares. Store in a sealed container in the fridge.

Variations: You need around 120g of nuts - you can use just one kind of nut or a mix. If you'd like this to be sweeter, add more dates. To make it more chocolatey, add more cocoa. Including coconut flakes (or desiccated coconut) is another option.

Looking at the nutritional content if the ingredients...

per 100g
protein: 12.5g
carbs: 23.6g
fat: 55.6g

I'd say a nice bite portion is around 15g.

per 15g portion
protein: 1.9g
carbs: 3.6g
fat: 8.4g


Friday 20 September 2013

Head in the sand - and garden and books

The past month and a bit has been unbelievably busy, especially as I started the teaching English (to foreign learners) course about seven weeks ago now. It has been nothing but late nights, loads of lesson planning, assignments... and I've still got another five weeks to go. It's a part-time course but the word must be used very loosely because if I was working in an office I have little doubt that I'd need to take a day off here and there just to work on course stuff... In fact, the other woman on the course with me is hoping to take Monday off work - and not to enjoy a long weekend, but to keep up with our case study assignment (due next week) and our next two teaching pracs.

We have got real students, which is the silver lining to what otherwise is actually a very dark cloud. While I'm enjoying the learning and planning and thinking and the students, there is a lot more that I'm not enjoying. More on this when I wrap up the course at the end of October - time then to reflect.

On Saturday morning I'm doing my English teaching lesson with my case-study guy -  a Russian chap.
Part of our course work involves making games (I think it is actually my next assignment theme too, after the case study one). I've created this board game for practicing present and past tense (and each of the four aspects).
FEAT is SOLD OUT! Delightful news. I'm in the fun, final stages of planning where printed items are coming back from the printers, deliveries are arriving and my wonderful team is lined up and ready for event night. I'm testing some stuff at the theatre next week... three weeks to go.

My veggie garden is happening! I haven't had much time to work in it although I do steal 15 minutes here, a half-hour there...

A few weeks ago I put plants that I'd purchased into the main bed - pansy flowers, sorrel, celery and egg plant. I also planted nasturtium seeds. The egg plants got zapped in the brief cold spell about three weeks ago but they're recovering and should be fine (I think I only lost one completely). The sorrel and celery are looking very good.

At home I've had seedlings in trays for weeks. They've been progressing too slowly but this week are doing better. I transferred some across to the outside bed this past week - Asian leafy veg, butter lettuce and two sunflower varieties. I've still got beetroot, swiss chard and some cherry tomato varieties in trays.

As for my Atlantic Giant pumpkin plant... I so need to get them into the ground. Two of the six seeds germinated and the plants are growing really quickly now.

Much to my dismay, I haven't been able to get around to much crochet. Over a period of a month I made sections for my first tree yarn bomb. I put it up on a Sunday night and by the Tuesday morning it was down. A gardener from a neighbouring complex, who brought it to me, said that the people were complaining... Yes, there are all types in this world. I expected as much but I'd hoped. I spoke to the one complainant through the intercom system and asked why she was complaining. "Well, we don't know what it is or who put it there," she said. I replied that it was yarn on a tree, created to be fun and pretty. She hung up on me...

The good news is that a friend has put me in contact with Little Eden - they're not far from me. I hope to get around there during next week to put it up there.

Back in July (and into August) I completed a crochet project that I started in Argentina (the blue shawl) and finished another that I'd started in December last year. The latter only needed a bunch more flowers made. Both look quite fancy but they're actually easy patterns.

I couldn't resist the temptation of starting a new project. With crochet time at a minimum, I'll make slow progress until November. But, nice to have something on the go anyway. This is a sample I tried the other night to test the gauge.

Carb watching has been very interesting and educational. I'm feeling great, which is a bonus. I log daily on (superb resource) - it's the only way to assess your intake; just as nutritionists get clients to keep a food diary. Same thing. I'm eating loads of green leafy veg, which is always a good thing. And I'm also being more creative in my foods and combinations. Just the kick up the butt I've needed for a while.

Running hasn't been great but is definitely better than the first five or six weeks after getting back from Argentina. Three weeks of a bad cough, recovered for a week, two weeks of a cold... I'm running nice and easy and comfortably again. I see my husky friends once a week and I've had a couple of other really pleasant runs in the last two weeks. I've been musing a lot about stress and running. Was chatting to a friend about this during a run on Wednesday. I'll save for another post. Still getting my head around some thoughts.

till the next one...

Wednesday 11 September 2013

Carb conscious

I'm interested in nutrition. Not obssessed. Just interested. Ah... back in the 90s some friends and I were following a guided-nutrition programme, which we got from our gym. One of those portion-substitution programmes were you target percentages of calories coming from fats, carbs and proteins, mixing and matching foods from various groups. This programme worked really well for me except that I found it difficult to get through the volume of food; and that was on around 2000kcal/day. Eating a cup of vegetables and a cup of rice and then a large amount of chicken or fish for dinner was especially challenging.

What I did find is that following this programme made my eating very strict. I was hard on myself. I remember joining at friend at university on a lunch break. He  persuaded me to have a cup of hot chocolate adding, "Stop being so hard on yourself". He was right. I don't think that I'd had a cup of hot choc for a few years by then. There's a limit.

For the most part, I've always kept the principles from this programme in mind - closer or further depending on my dietary inclinations, which have been predominantly vegetarian.

In recent years Paleo and Tim Noakes' Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) recommendations have been in the limelight. I've seen friends transformed - not only in mass but with substantial improvements in their running too.

As a vegetarian/pescatarian I love things like lentils, quinoa and Indian dishes of dhal and black beans. Hit me with some hummus and I'm in heaven. I favour many of my vegetables in their raw form and I devour salads almost daily. I've never liked butter on sandwiches, my skin crawls at the thought of dunking ciabatta in olive oil and it is only in recent years that I've added any dressings to my salads - usually just olive oil and balsamic vinegar. If the balance is off and there's too much oil, I can't eat it. I don't eat meat or chicken (the more I run the less it agrees with my stomach - go figure) although I do eat fish here and there. Not regularly and not often. Even during omnivore stages I've never been a big meat eater. As far as the starches go, in recent years I don't often eat either rice, potatoes or pasta (rice and quinoa are my favourites) more than twice a week. Sometimes not at all. But I do love fruit! My natural dietary inclinations are very not Paleo nor LCHF.

Following a two-week long gastric illness a few years ago (I thought it was a 24hr bug following a restaurant meal, but it obviously wasn't), I developed a sensitivity to bread. Well, that was what I pinned it down to. As much as I love a slice of toast or a cheese and tomato sandwich, it suits me better to keep my bread intake minimised. I also noticed a sensitivity to sweets. Fortunately I've never been a big sweetie eater but pop a bowl of jelly tots or a packet of White Rabbit sweets in front of me and I'll definitely enjoy them. But, my stomach won't. Within 15 minutes my belly expands. Bloating is so not nice.

Anyway, it has been a process and I figure that everything in moderation and avoiding foods that make me feel awful is the best way.

A good friend has been following Noakes' guidelines for a good number of months now and she's doing fabulously. Interestingly, her natural dietary inclinations are completely opposite mine. She enjoys her meat (with fat), can merrily slather Italian bread in olive oil and every morning she now drinks a 'coffee bomb' - coffee with a tablespoon of coconut oil. My stomach heaves.

When I'm stressed, I take everything into my belly. And since I returned from Argentina I've been super stressed. Multiple projects on the go, FEAT and the biggest stressor, a time-dominating part-time English course from which I'm learning much but not exactly 'enjoying' (for various reasons). While I'm not overtly stressed, my digestive system is and just a sniff of bread creates chaos. I've been looking at stuff on sugar, which I know we eat far too much of. It's nice to eat sweet stuff and sugar-loaded foods are readily available.

My friend recommended the Livin' La Vida Low Carb podcasts by Jimmy Moore and a South African food diary website and mobile app - Fat Secret, especially as it has South African foods pre-loaded (and you can add your own too).

So, I signed up (free) because I really do need to take a closer look at what I'm eating. Over the winter months I can easily eat three oranges a day (or more! yum-yum) without blinking. Throw in a banana too. How about some papaya and strawberries? Sugar. Sugar. Sugar.

Where I don't have four spoons of sugar in my tea nor packets of sweeties nor fizzy drinks, fruit is my sugary dietary downfall. If you're following Noakes' guideline of around 40g of carbs a day, then one orange zaps almost half of your allocation and three most definitely blows your quota.

And when I'm a bit stressed and strained, I suffer the effects of this sugary intake.

So, I'm being more aware. I'm using the food log to see where I have deficits and where I'm getting too much. Just like keeping a training log, it is only by putting down what you're doing that you can see where you need to shake a leg (Fat Secret has an exercise log component too).

Never mind a leg, I'm shaking a monkey out of a tree.What I've been doing hasn't been working. I haven't felt great for a number of weeks now and clearly I need to do something differently.

Now, I am.

Monday 9 September 2013

British O Federation Level 2 Coach

Hip-hip-hooray! This weekend wrapped up a year-long process of becoming a qualified British Orienteering Federation (BOF) Level 2 Coach. Last year in October eight of us spent two weekends doing coach training with two BOF trainers. And then followed a couple of months of written tasks and a series of progressive coaching lessons that we had to plan and teach. I finished my pracs in early June. Part of this included self-assessments and also acting as mentor to another trainee coach (and in return she was my mentor too). We check through each other's lesson plans and self-assessments, commenting on progress or adding ideas.

This weekend was our final assessment and we had an assessor out here from BOF to watch our lessons and add her very experienced feedback.

I chose a section of the map that had lots of contour features because my lesson theme was 'contours and rock features'. Our guinea-pig subjects were some of our more experienced youth and junior orienteers and our lessons were planned at a mid- to upper-mid level.

I had great fun assembling my activity and delighted in removing all vegetation features from the map. I also restricted compass use. I know that I rely a lot on vegetation and it is often faster to quickly orientate by compass when leaving a control rather than to focus on contours.

The activity went very well, taking these enthusiastic young participants into an aspect of orienteering that they'd never done before. Actually, I've never done this as a training activity either.

I was 'nice' in that I left some paths and also the fences on the map. The difficulty level goes up quite considerably once these are removed too.

It was an excellent weekend with much learned and I'm now a British Orienteering Federation Level 2 Coach.

I have a number of coaching plans cooking in my head, especially for my AR Club members and also adventure racers. But, these will have to wait until the months of Nov to March when daylight is longer and week-day evenings can be used.

Tree yarn bomb

If you don't know what a yarn bomb is yet... check out Wiki and try a 'yarn bomb' search on Google.

I've wanted to yarn bomb for a while, especially after seeing the many beautiful yarn bombed trees in Bariloche. But with other projects on the go, it has taken me a while to get around to it and probably a month on and off to make this small yarn bomb. Under cover of darkness, I stitched it to a tree in my local neighbourhood. It has survived Day 1.

Sunday 1 September 2013

I'm almost too embarrassed to show you my O track...

Well, I had a whopper today at the O event at  Groenkloof today. Yes, laugh all you want, the joke is totally on me.

If there's a take-home message, it is about the importance of keeping your head in the game... your eye on the ball... your finger on the pulse... because when your mind is anywhere but on the map and the terrain, you'll do what I did.

Where was my mind? On lesson plans and the ton of stuff I need to get started on today. Every Thursday evening now I've got teaching prac assessments for this teaching English course. We have to write up lesson plans, design activities, make flashcards and games... Zap. Time gobbler. This coming weekend is my first Saturday in a month that I don't have English class all day; but instead I've got my final orienteering coaching assessment with the British Orienteering Federation assessor who is out here in SA for this. Although I have an idea of what I want to do for my lesson, I haven't started creating courses, modifying maps, writing up plans...

After I reveal my errors from today, take heed of my words when I advise you to "Do as I say, not as I do".

Ready for some howlers?

I entered the BROWN course, my favourite. It's the longest in distance and as difficult technically as BLUE. The course distance measures - straightline - at 12.6km, according to our control description sheet. So, you can be sure that you'll do 16km. For my 16 controls, I covered 10.6km...

Mt track around #4 looks worse than it was. I think standing still (in despair) a few times made the track spike.
First control, awesome. Settled nicely into it and found my friend Tony who'd started ahead of me but was too low down - the result of a more difficult approach. We went to control 2 and 3 together and took slightly different angles to 4.

Control 4
Running faster, Tony was out of sight on the trail ahead of me. Using the corner of the trail as my marker to drop off it, I was looking for the junction of two dry streams. And there they were ahead of me. But no control. Mmmm... Another two orienteers (but not Tony) were in there with me. I found a good path, but knew I needed to be above the path so I ascended the watercourse, accompanied by another guy. And then we hit a main trail. Mmm... I decided to descend again, but coming in from the side. Nope. I hit the lower trail again.

Deep breath. OK, so, I need to be between two trails. Check. One is small and the other is bigger. Check. But the control isn't here. Check. There are no other orienteers to be seen. Check. So, what if the two trails that I'm between are not the trails that I think they are? What if there's another trail above the higher one?

And this is exactly what the case was. And when I found the control it was soooo easy. And, I have a VERY strong feeling that when I first ascended the watercourse and popped out on what was actually the lower trail and not the upper one as I thought, that I may have been able to see the control if I was looking for it.

Oh yes, the light green shading on the map should have been a dead giveaway too. I was indeed whacking through what would be nice green terrain; yet the control was in rough open terrain. Need to pack my magnifying glass for future events...

Bam! Loads of time lost. So silly.

Control 6
Should have been easy. Excellent approach - another 50m further and I'd have tripped over it. Control description says bottom of cliff and that the 'cliff' is only 1m high. Fine. But as I'm nearing where I think it should be, I look across but can't see any rocks. I thought that my angle was off and that I wasn't where I thought I was (especially after my episode at #4). So, best bet being to drop down to the trail, follow it and then head uphill where the bushes/vegetation is thicker and where there is a rocky line. That worked - although I followed the rocks to the left when I should have been a bit to the right. Not a serious error but I'd been so close.

I came in from the bottom left.
#7 was ok (slightly off but close). #8 was a good one. As was #9 and #10.

Control 11
I knew were #12 was as I'd passed it on my route descending to #8. I didn't check the control as I passed but the location was correct so I thought that I must be right.

My approach to #11 from #10 was shocking! I was just so misreading the rocky features. Best bet, stop messing around, go to 12 and take a bearing from there to 11. I did this and it worked nice-nice. I haven't shown my specific tracks here because it looks confusing as I used this nice open terrain (pleasant gradient) to move from 7 to 8 and also for my route home from #16.

Barking antelope
This is probably the funniest of all of the sections...

So, I'd been seeing Alex Wagner all over the place - from Control 6. He'd run fast but in totally the wrong direction. He must have run double the distance by the time I saw him at 12. And off he bolted, trying to keep with Nicholas. So, I hit the tar road and needed to cross the vlei. My map shows a crossing place. Cool. That's something else I did really badly - judging the size of the paths / tracks.

Anyway... I see two wooden posts and there's a trail leading into the vlei, which is dry but has long grass, which is much higher than my head. Having organised the SPUR Adventure events at Groenkloof a few years ago, I've been here when everything is crazy overgrown and not all of the crossing have been mowed. After about 15 metres the trail is no more but there are paths (probably animal) going into the grass. Cool, I'll just work my way through.

And then, something big, rustling in the grass, barked at me. Yes, a fright I did get! I backed out, hoping to loop around the creature and for it to hear me coming. And then I thought, "Maybe it is Alex, playing a trick on me". So I asked the grass, "Are you Alex or an animal?". No reply. Animal probably.

I kept working through the grass and moments later a very large antelope - big like a kudu - runs right in front of me. Woooooooooooaaaaa! I made it out the other side without much difficulty (the ground underfoot is fine - it's just the higher-than-head grass/reeds and no single defined trail) and as I approached the trail leading to #13, I saw a nice, broad, open crossing. Yes, I did laugh out loud. Just to put this into perspective, here's the Google Earth image. Hahahahaha. Go ahead, enjoy it too.

Fortunately #13 and #14 were fine. #15 was easy although my route leaving #14 could have been better. I turned off the dirt road on to a lovely trail, which I realised was the MTB trail. I got re-acquainted with grass as I left the trail to head for the tar road.

Control 16
In fact, looking at my track, my approach was really, really good. I thought I knew where I was - and I was right. My control description said 'cave', so I knew there would need to be some rocks around. On the map I could see two symbols showing pits. OK.

Just to give you an idea of what is happening here...

I approached from the right of the image (exit at the top - heading for home). See there... where I took a left? I could see the path  from here and thought I was being stupid about needing to go to the road and maybe I hadn't gone far enough... Lots of doubt. I walked a bit further and decided that going to the road really was the best decision because then I'd know exactly where I was. Corners are fantastic. After getting the control I headed for home.
I got to where I thought the control should be. In reality, it was less than 10m to my right. I didn't see the rocky features I was expecting which would have indicated that there could be a cave around. So, thinking that I may have overshot and missed, I decided to head for the path - to cross it - and make for the corner of the road from where I could take a bearing. I did waver in my decision but really, it was the right one. I got to the road, knew where I was (close!), took a bearing and found the control (working around rocky terrain as I went). I didn't actually realise I'd been so close until I looked at my track.

Already 2.5hrs in and with the clock approaching noon, I decided to head to the finish as I needed to get home to put in some work this afternoon. Looking at the rest of the controls (25 in total) and where I'd have to go, it was a wise decision. I was out of water and I don't think it would have taken me less than an hour or 90-minutes more to complete the course.

When I got back another O friend, Nico, said he went something like #1, #2, #5, #6 and back - and that took 90-minutes. Pat too confessed to short-coursing himself.

What I will say is that the mistakes were all mine. I haven't been to Groenkloof maybe for two years and I know parts of the reserve in general. But today we went to locations that I've never been near before and it felt very much like I was orienteering on a completely new map. The ROC planners really did a superb job of creating a very challenging course - some navigation sneakies and interesting terrain.