Tuesday 31 December 2013

Big 5 O - Day 2

I'm really chuffed to say that I had another really good day out - albeit dragging my feet a bit on the hills... But navigationally... no complaints. In fact, I'm having a hard time choosing sections of maps to show you because my lines were pretty straight and true and effective.

I will brag about my charges first...

A lot of improvement since yesterday. It seems that our evening activities are paying off.

Tseke and Mary doing Spot-the-Difference.

Ephraim and Tebatso working on their Spot-the-Difference games.
We've been focusing on map symbols and colours so that we know what the map is telling us. If you don't get these, it's like reading these lines but now knowing the alphabet and so the words mean nothing.

These were just provisional results but I think they still stand...

Tebatso is one of mine - he won the short medium course today.

Lesedi is one of mine too - he's moving up to short medium on Thursday. 'Mary' is our Mary. She really did well today - even beating Diketso. Although Tseke was disqualified for missing out two controls I'm totally please with him. All the controls that he punched were in the correct order and they were all for his course.

Juliet missed out the last few controls as she was out of time and had to get back to the start/finish. Aside from this he route was clean and tidy. Same with Mary.

Ephraim is running longer and more technical courses. Aside from a really bad one on Control 1, he got all of his other controls. But as he mis-punched #1 (another control from a different course), he was disqualified.

With Ephraim before the start. Yes, the sun came out today.
Diketso and Juliet before the start.
OK, back to my course...

(on this map my route to 1 is a bit wonky as I'm not sure when the tracker started to record. It would have included some or part of the start boxes etc... I haven't proportioned the track so it isn't lying in the right place. The track doesn't start at the triangle, where it is currently positioned and I didn't make those curves. Just sayin').

I've pushed the track colours to enhance the orange/red - areas when I'm going slower. Sometimes slogging uphill, walking through thick undergrowth and/or tree branches lying on the forest floor...

At Control 6... I was heading in the right direction through thick lantana. And then I found a gap in the vegetation but it pulled me a bit too much right. And then I saw a control on the men's course and knew I'd overshot (it was on some boulders - I was looking for a depression between humps of vegetation). So I had to turn back a bit to get my control.

The steep hill leaving Control 11 - OMG! Geezzz - that was n.a.s.t.y.!

I should have taken the track through the young forest (light green) to #12. Instead I stayed on the road and hung a left. Chatting to others who did take it, it seems like it was decent and going through the light green wasn't bad at all. I did see the track but then went for the easy running option.

The track is a bit wavy from 16 to 17... I was on the trail though and not wandering in the forests.

My only real error for the day was being 'dragged' from 19 to 20 too far left. I was initially heading in the right direction - according to my compass. As I came around the rise the hill I spotted another runner on my course. I'd seen her be a bit wonky on a control or two before this so I should have known better... I did see the root stocks, which I was looking for - except they were the wrong ones. I realised quick enough and scooted on to the road to get my positioning right and then headed back into the forest on the right line again and got the control.

Tomorrow is a rest day but there is a fun novelty metrogaine in the Kaapsehoop town, which we'll do. I think I'll hook our runners up into pairs, which will make it that bit more fun. And then we can play some more coaching games in the afternoon. I think tomorrow it may be time for COMPASS skills.

Monday 30 December 2013

Big 5 O - Day 1

After a frustrating time in Polokwane on Saturday evening and Sunday morning (I'll write a silly story about Avis - or should that be a story about silly Avis? - on my return...), I headed off to Nelspruit with my charges from Polokwane. There's me, Mary (our O dedicated-and-passionate teacher), Juliet (a trainee teacher who will be working at the school next year, and six teenage students - one girl and five boys.

We got into Nelspruit on Sunday afternoon, having driven all of the way in rain and - in parts - thick fog. We're staying at a lovely backpackers on the southern side of town.

Last night we played a few of my O games, in preparation for the first day's event.We started with a cone grid in the parking area of the hostel - to practise map orientation. Complete with paired duels! And then we came indoors - good thing too as it was drizzling again - for a map symbol memory-match-style game. We also spoke about scale and on the map vs on the ground.

And then on to today...

This first event of the Big 5 O five-day was held in the very rocky area just near the town of Kaapsehoop. It's an area crazy with rock features ranging from the size of a regular 'ol rock and a bus. And in sections it is like a maze, where big boulder features tower all around you.

Rocks! A photo by Mary.

A control between rocks - to give you an idea of size. Photo by Mary.
I went into this event knowing that I haven't done many O events this year and certainly not anything technical so I wasn't aiming for heroics but rather to minimise errors and have a good, clean sweep of the course.

I'm delighted to say that I did ;)

I didn't search for controls but hit most spot-on or very near too - knowing all the time where I was and adjusting accordingly.

Orange highlighter shows where I think I ran (drawn a few hours after run) and then I've overlaid my GPS track.
I've pulled off a few to discuss.

Control 2

To decipher this track... I approached from the top left of this block and crossed the little stream. As this was my first time heading into the rocks I was adjusting to the size of the features. I thought I'd counted the massive rock features correctly but I ended up between the next set of rocks - a little too far (not exactly as shown - I wasn't on top of the rocks). So, I did the one thing that should be done but isn't often - I went back to my last point of certainty - the stream-path junction. And then I properly assessed the rocks and hit the control spot on.

I was quite chuffed with myself because this is a navigation-correction point that I always stress with my nav and O students. "Go back to your last point of certainty and try again," I tell them. And, as I'd done just this last night, it was a lesson I made use of successfully. It also gave me a better feeling for the rocks and a building confidence.

Ah... map scale is 1:5000 and the distance between the two 'spikes' that you're looking at here is probably no more than 10 metres.

Controls 5 to 6

Although this looks a little messy, it wasn't really. Coming into 4 I just missed my rock feature and had to loop around other big rocks to get it. No problem.

After 5 I wanted to take the less distinct path around but found it to be more overgrown than indistinct. I got so far and then couldn't get through the vegetation. So, I backtracked and headed cross-country, having to loop around large rocks. As I wasn't quite sure where my control was, I hit the path (top centre of this block) and headed right, to the intersection where I could get a fix on my position and easy access to the control, which it was.

Not necessarily a great route here but still one without navigational uncertainty as I found some great fixed features to use.

Control 10

The squiggle around 10 wasn't created looking for the control but rather deciding how to leave the control to go to 11. I went straight into 10 and from here it was a drop-down into lantana-infested terrain. I don't like going through lantana but as I found it actually wasn't too dense and could be bashed through relatively easily.

I was initially going to go through the more opening looking area but in reality it didn't look very open and was also vegetated. So I returned to the control and dropped down directly from the control, negotiating lantana and rocks to get to the river. I'd seen a path on the map, which I found, and I ended up with a really great route to the control.

A solid outing
I had a solid outing today and while some routes could have been a little more efficient, I'm pleased with my technical negotiation of the terrain. I ranked 10th today - not phenomenal - but a good run nonetheless. Some friends ahead of me probably ran faster and harder but they had some big blunders - what you lose on the slide you gain on the round-about...

As for my students...

My students. Photo by Mary.
Most had successful outings on the Open Short course -  a good one considering the difficulty of the terrain. There's only one young chap who hasn't got the hang of things yet. He punched his first control, then five from other courses (not his) and then he saw a snake and then ran to the start (or finish).

Our young lass did some controls and then came back - saying something about thinking she was out of time (runners has max 2h30 for today's course). 

And our star, Ephraim, on a challenging and technical course did some things really well, others very badly and ended up over time and skipping the last bunch of controls to get back. He was also out there in thick fog, which didn't help things. He's very motivated and eager to learn so I think he'll come back stronger from this tomorrow. We've been over his route - I had him running with a tracker - so we know where the errors were made. I think today will just motivate him further.

And the rest all completed their courses. For sure the stars really are Mary and Juliet. This was Juliet's first O event - last night's cone grid was her first time orientating a map. 

Student teacher Juliet. Photo by Mary.
Mary was immensely pleased with herself. As she says, before she couldn't even find the first control and today she finished the course.

A really superb event today. 

I've got more O games for them tonight - to get them in the groove for tomorrow. An O in the forest tomorrow! Gonna be fabulous - I hope ;)

Me - hangin' out

Saturday 28 December 2013

Coach AdventureLisa in the house

I'm off this afternoon for a jaunt through to Polokwane. There I'll pick up a car and on Sunday morning I'm hooking up with one of the most fabulous teachers I know, Mary. She teaches at a teeny-tiny high school about 20km outside of Polokwane and she is the most incredible influence in the lives of the teens that she teaches. We'll pick up six of her students to head through to Nelspruit for the five-day Big 5 O event. Indeed, five days of orienteering in the forests of Kaapsehoop - just fabulous.

Mary and her students are my charges for the week. I've got a bunch of orienteering games prepared to hone their skills - map orientation, familiarity of map symbols and colours... everything from memory games to spot-the-difference and cone grids.

And then I've got super cool things like my little iGot-U GPS trackers so that we can do post-run things like looking at where they think they've run vs where they really ran... that's always fun.

My objective is that after five days of orienteering - plus coaching and post-run analysis - they'll be far better by day five than on day one.

I hope that I'll be too! I haven't done many orienteering events this year so I hope for a clear head, good decisions and swift running.

I'll be posting my navigation successes (and not) right here. Event runs on 30 and 31 Dec and then again on 2, 3 and 4 Jan. I think we've got a short rogaining event on the 1st in Kaapsehoop town. Yay!

Tuesday 24 December 2013

A jam-packed year - three cheers!

If there's one good thing to be said about Facebook - and having a blog - it's that these platforms serve as a record of just what goes down during a year. For me, this has been a good year but one that has passed very much in a blur as I've lurched from one project to another, often juggling too many things at one time. I can barely remember one day to the next, never mind differentiating one month from another.

As the year winds down and I'm enjoying some quiet time, I start to look back on the year and there are a number of big happenings that stand out - most notable being running in the five-day Namib Desert ChallengeExpedition Africa (media; writing for the event), my five weeks in Argentina and progress made learning Spanish (a dream pending for seven years; first time skiing), that crazy-intensive TEFL course (11 weeks averaging 50hrs/wk), completion of my British Orienteering Federation coaching qualification (a year-long process), presentation of my first Forest Run (an idea I first had eight to 10 years ago!) and the presentation of the fifth FEAT event - and two mini-FEAT events.

This has been my second-and-a-half year of writing for Cape Union Mart - they're just the most wonderful client. And I think this is also my second-and-a-half year (or third, already!) involved with various sport development projects for the SA Orienteering Federation. Writing and projects for both are close to my heart in terms of interests and passions.

And then smaller things like discovering doodling, weekly runs with my two husky running companions (and trying bikejoring), organising a Metrogaine (I only got around to presenting one), 37 Days of Running, writing (lots of stuff for magazines, FEAT, AR, Forest Run, clients, 138 blog posts already...), my kitty turning 18, AR.co.za turning 12, making my 35th blood donation (last week), Orienteering Schools League and Camp, getting more involved with navigation coaching (super week at Sacred Heart too), learning to twirl tassles, loving circus school and crocheting a bunch of stuff (including my first tree yarn bomb).

I've read a host of great books, listened to some others, worked through Spanish podcasts, watched some good movies and tv series, baked some yummy stuff, visited my favourite little girl (and her folks - Stella turns six months in a few days), I've been fairly consistent with running training - lovely runs with friends too and I've done stimulating and rewarding work for my wonderful clients... no wonder I've barely has time for omphaloskepsis.

This is a problem in itself because I feel as if I've been more reactive than proactive and instead of planning and thinking and considering, I've just been doing. I've participated in few events, haven't been on my bike or in a kayak for... too long and have only been to one yoga class. Can't do everything eh?

Next year? I definitely need to be smarter and more efficient with what I do. I'd love to get back to Argentina over winter for a few weeks to teach English and continue to learn Spanish. Not looking good at the moment (more money than time issue) but very much on my mind and close to my heart.

And of course I'm always looking to improve and continue to build AR, FEAT, Metrogaines, Forest Run plus get some more PR writing work.

And I'm jumping into trying some online courses - starting with an English editing course and a Spanish online course. They start in mid-Jan and run for four weeks each.

With that, I wish you three hearty cheers for a year ahead that is filled with health, fitness, interesting activities and adventures.


Friday 20 December 2013

Navigation coaching - who needs trails?

Trail running is the next best thing since mountain biking and the number of events and participation has soared over the past five years.

And yet orienteering, in South Africa, remains very small. The moment the word m.a.p. is mentioned, numbers drop.

Earlier this year I restructured by AR navigation coaching sessions according to principles learned during my British Orienteering Federation Level 2 coaching qualification process. Also, things have changed in AR on the nav side where we don't need to know how to plot CPs and instead these sessions can focus on the practical aspects.

I ran a series of sessions in April-May-June and just recently had two open group sessions, assisted by other coaches. We've got a super bunch of students who I look forward to working with more in the new year.

I'm also doing some one-on-one coaching with two chaps. It is very seldom that I've had the luxury of doing one-on-one coaching. It offers me a lot more freedom to change and mix up the sessions according to the level of the students and how quickly they progress and what skills they need to work on. At the moment we're building a foundation and from here I can really stretch my coaching to prepare challenging and interesting games for them.
I'm really enjoying all the coaching that I'm doing - I find it very rewarding.
At the end of the month - from 30 Dec - 3 Jan, I'm participating in the Big 5 O event. It's a five-day international orienteering event hosted here in SA - our second one (only held every two years). I'll be writing about my navigation successes (and blunders) here throughout the event. I'll also be mentoring and coaching our your orienteers from Polokwane, which should keep me on my toes.

One of our orienteers posted a link to this super cool orienteering video on FB this morning and watching it I thought, "Who needs trails when you've got a map?". It's very much why I love being able to navigate - I just choose my own routes.

This video is of two top Swiss orienteers (brothers) racing each other through forested terrain. One is a former World Champion. And yes, they really do run this fast! Well worth a watch even if you're not an orienteer or navigator.

Thursday 19 December 2013

Spending on other things

I'm a bit of a xmas grinch. It isn't that I don't like the holiday season, more time spent seeing friends and family and the general festivities... it is that I frown upon the shopping-shopping-shopping and unnecessary purchasing of stuff just because one is expected to give gifts. I'd rather see the hard-earned pennies of my friends and family be better spent on things other than hand lotion and chocolates - which I do like, but don't need.

I do love pressies but I think they should be for better reasons than 'because it's xmas'.

But I'm not completely immune... As there are very few people for whom I buy xmas pressies (generally limited to my folks and my cat), I did have fun buying stationery for my domestic helper's children (a girl and a boy in high school) - for their school year next year.

Ever practical, I did add a slightly frivolous touch with a Jenga-type game, which should keep them occupied during the school holidays and for many years to come as this is really an all-ages family game.

And then I headed off for my festive-season blood donation. I usually go between xmas and New Year (high demand period) but as I've got the Big 5 Orienteering event from the 30th and into January I thought it a better plan to go earlier. The ladies at my local donor centre are such sweeties - so I took through some cupcakes for them to enjoy.

I've had a good donation year. You have to do at least three donations a year to maintain 'regular blood donor' status and your maximum is six times a year. With very little long-event participation this year, I've done five donations. Whoop-whoop ;)

And this past weekend I indulgently spent time doing some crochet. This time I tried my hand at some xmas ornaments.

'Rory the Reindeer' (for friends), two snowmen (for my favourite boys) and two snowflakes (the one on the red is about 25cm wide; the one on purple is about 10cm wide).

Monday 9 December 2013

Doodling (with henna), crochet, new software to master

As the holiday season approaches I'm feeling so overcooked and all communicationed out. Following the AR World Champs online (since Monday afternoon last week) hasn't done much for my productivity either... And I'm itching to do stuff, make stuff...

Doodling (with henna)
I really like henna tattoos and I've had them done on my arm in India and Abu Dhabi. So, last week I bought some henna powder and I scoured the web for recipes (so many!) and gave it a go. It's quite a concoction with henna powder, lemon juice (acid to release the dye) and essential oil (tee tree - hydrocarbon solvent; henna is hydrophobic).

I did the first test on my mom's sole and then the top of her foot. On Saturday I doodled on my neighbour's foot. I've got less nice designs on the top of my one foot and more on the top of my left hand. What I'm playing with are techniques for darkening the stain. This is affected by the quality and age of the henna, temperature, humidity, where you put the design (darkest on thicket skin like soles of feet, palms of hands as well as tops of feet and hands) and how long you leave the henna paste on your skin.

I've learned about sugar-lemon seals and cling-wrapping the designs to keep it on overnight. This works brilliantly.

These are my first designs...

I came up with an idea well over a year ago to create a landscape blanket... I started it a few weeks ago, making squares here and there. Yesterday I had a totally indulgent afternoon and night - watching tv series on DVD and working my design.

This is what I'm aiming for...

Found this clipart piccie online.
I've done a couple of rows for grass at the bottom. I've been contemplating how to handle the squares that have half-half colours. Over the weekend I completed the sun - and it came out better than I expected.

New software
I want to make a 3D kinda cityscape for a poster design. I did a search and came up with this software - SketchUp. For 3D drawings and designs and plans. I've downloaded and installed - now to give it a go. I have found a few how-tos, which I'll work through. The basic version is free.

Friday 6 December 2013

Computer fun

For the past couple of weeks I've felt a need for a new laptop. Mine has been getting slower and slower, especially with my big graphics programs. It's taking longer to boot, even my email has delay on opening new messages, replying etc. It's clearly aging and very full. Said laptop is over 4.5 years old and it works hard - often on for 16hrs a day, everyday. It would need more than just a defrag to help it along.

I've been keeping an eye on laptop specials. Last month my mom bought a Lenovo - she has needed to replace her computer for a long time. I liked the look of it but was hoping to catch a good deal on a Dell, which is what I've got. I do love my Dell.

I went into my local store on Wednesday and they still had the Lenovo available but mentioned another machine coming out yesterday/today. I checked online this morning but preferred to stick with the Lenovo. Anyway, I go this morning and they've got no more Lenovos (sent back) and the new special was in -  a Toshiba with similar specs to the Lenovo. I'd had friends with Toshibas and they seem ok, so I went for it.

Windows 8 is a stupid setup. Difficult to find things like download folders and such. I'm sure it will be better after I've customised and moved things around just-so.

I've just started the process of installing software. It's amazing how many programs I use regularly - even just the free stuff like Adobe Reader, Chrome, Google Earth, the program for my GPS logger, Inkscape... And then there are my purchased programs like Adobe Photoshop Elements (and video editor), Office... Gonna take me days to set it up and transfer files, bookmarks, email...

Nice to be starting with a clean machine anyway. Like spring cleaning.

Thursday 5 December 2013

Old, new, borrowed, blue

I'm writing a FEAT post at the moment and I was checking up on adventurers and adventures. I've just read the following on a FB page for an activity coming up soon:

 "Does anyone have a contact for battery operated camping lamps. We need to borrow about 20 units... The battery would need to keep going the whole night until daybreak (about 9 hours). We also need a sponsor for 20 head torches for the athletes to wear."

 *sigh* Really? Sponsors are so not necessary for this. Many of the athletes probably have their own headlamps (I know two people participating and both have their own headlamps - more than one in the case of the one guy). And what is so wrong with borrowing headlamps (and camp lights) from friends?

I'm not quite sure why there seems to be this constant need by people doing things - especially fundraising initiatives - to 'request' or 'expect' items to be given to them by sponsors. What happened to the age-old system of lending and borrowing from people you know and supportive people you don't? It's only one night.

If each participant bought or borrowed a headlamp from a friend and purchased a set of spare batteries for the unit then they'd be sorted. This is not a massive expense. Headlamps can also be shared by runners, especially if they're doing a relay thing. It's just sweat! (minimise sweat transfer by wearing said headlamp over a cap).

And there will be loads of spectators and friends and supporters. Surely between them all there will be dozens of camp lights available? And how about some solar fairy lights to make pretty-pretty? And I have little doubt that nearby homes wouldn't mind running a long extension cable to power sensible lighting options for nine hours?

There really are so many more options.

I think this request could have been phrased as:

"Do any of you have battery-powered camp lights we can use? We're also looking for some headlamps for the runners without their own units to use. Drop me a note. Thanks."

But that's just me.

Personally, I've got about five headlamps I'd gladly make available.

Navigation coaching sessions

I couple of weeks ago I set up a couple of navigation coaching sessions to get the momentum going for next year.

Two weeks ago we had the first session and I was ably assisted by Garry, Sarah and Stephanie. We had 11 keen and eager participants. The evening turned into a beautiful one - straight after a good 'ol highveld downpour.

The first session focuses on basics like map orientation, pacing, thumbing and map familiarity (paying attention to the colours and symbols that tell you about the terrain and surroundings).

For our second evening - last night - we ran two sessions with Garry taking the newcomers for Session #1 and me taking our returning participants for Session #2. You can't do Session #2 without having done Session #1.

This morning one of our new participants wrote to say of her experience of Session #1 - "Learnt a lot and it's amazing what a difference the simpler things that you can do can make (things I didn't know before)". Jess is quite right. Sometimes it takes just a bit of experienced guidance to get you on the right track.

Session #2 works a bit more on map orientation and I was delighted to see the participants moving much more smoothly, changing direction and keeping their maps orientated. A couple of them commented how they felt all fingers at the first session but were way more coordinated this time around. And then we began with an activity that begins with finding your way from A to B.

My top pleasure from the evening was seeing one of my participants glowing on her return from her first activity loop. This was the first time that she's been out navigating on her own and she found everything perfectly. Yes, THIS is exactly why I totally get a kick out of navigation coaching.

In the next two weeks Garry and I will be planning dates for sessions in Jan-Feb-March. I'll let you know details when we've got 'em planned. We've also got a few other treats planned to celebrate AR Club's 10th year as an orienteering club affiliated to the SA Orienteering Federation.

Monday 2 December 2013

A taste of my own Metrogaine medicine

The WITSOC bunch (Stephanie, Christie, Sarah P and Sarah) really planned a superb Festive Metrogaine on Saturday. As they did all the work and planning, it was a wonderful opportunity for me to participate.

The route linked orienteering maps of Zoo Lake (start/finish) with Emmarentia (and JHB Botanical Gardens) with a good load of controls all over the place. The map covered a really big area, which gave a lot of options. But, as Emmarentia (the park) was loaded with high scoring controls, if you wanted to really score well, it was pretty much compulsory to head over there.

I'd decided not to head over to Emmies, choosing instead to visit a bunch of controls on the Zoo Lake side of Barry Hertzog. Not a good choice in terms of being very high scoring, but a nice route to run. I guess it doesn't help kinda knowing the suburbs... I didn't feel like running up Westcliff and nor did I want to run up and over to Emmies and then up and over on the way back. Yip... lazy ass ;)

The street part of the map. Big area and lots of controls. Points work according to the control number where 10-19 would be 10 pts each, 20-29 are 20pts each etc.
Looking at the points, if I'd run more directly from Zoo Lake and into Emmies to pick up a couple of controls there and then straight back, I'd probably have collected more points. I think my total was 530 points - not bad in the overall ranking but pretty dismal compared to Timothy Chambers' 1200 (a bit more maybe) points.

My route. A few in-and-outs.
I made two errors on the route. Leaving Zoo Lake I thought that the road I exited on was one lower than where I actually was. This meant that when I got to the corner where my first control should have been on (I'd run one block up - looking at the map I'm not sure what I was thinking...), the house number in the clue didn't match. Fortunately I could see a few blocks up so I realised that I was too high up and had to drop down a block (I was actually on the correct road initially but didn't realise it because I only started looking for the house when I got to the next corner).

On the home stretch back to Zoo Lake I mis-counted the blocks. I'd counted 'two blocks up' on my map and so that's what I did. But it was actually three blocks up (need new contact lenses?)... Again, the clues didn't match what I found in reality so after another look at my map I realised what a paw-paw I was and corrected.

Zoo Lake controls.

And this is what I missed out on in Emmies. Look at all those 50 and 60 point controls!
I ran about 13km in total. Nice 'n easy.

Metrogaine is a super event format and I enjoyed running around, map in hand. Well done to Stephanie, Christie, Sarah P and Sarah for planning this excellent event.