Tuesday 20 May 2014

Annual foot/bike navigation challenge (rogaining event), 26/27 July 2014

Oooohhhhh! Can't wait! I love, love, love rogaine events and I'm so glad that we've got our annual South African one back on the calendar (event was cancelled last year). I still haven't orienteered in the Mokubalaan forests (Lydenburg) so the rogaine will be my first outing there and a treat to run on a map new to me.

Find a friend and enter. This is totally not to be missed.

Monday 19 May 2014

38 Days of Running: Week 1

My first week of '38 Days of Running' has been very smooth and enjoyable with some nice mileage runs and even a spot of run commuting. A nice, comfortable 57km week.

I'm off to Expedition Africa on Thursday afternoon - I'll get through to Port Edward on Friday morning. I'm looking forward to a good chunk of scenic runs while down there.

Thursday 15 May 2014

Run commuting to dinner

This evening I had a bit of fun with my daily run - this '38 Days of Running' definitely makes me more creative than I ordinarily would be.

This evening I was due to have dinner with my aunt and uncle. As they don't live that far from me I decided to run there and grab a lift home with my mom. I checked out a route on Google Maps and off I went. I know 90% of the areas very well. That last 10%... I've never been through the suburb there (driving only on the main surrounding roads) but I knew there were many road closures; I just didn't know where they were. I had a few options in mind when I set off and decided to just go with it and see what materialised when I got to the final section.

It was an awesome run and my Option 1 route panned out perfectly - no road closures (just a guarded boom gate on either side of the section). I left home at about 17h45 and in next to no time it was dark. I wore a reflective vest, reflective bands on my arms and has front and rear flashing lights - and a headlamp in case of really dark sections. A real light festival! Cars really are not much of a concern as I stuck mostly to pavements; the main hazards are really only uneven pavements and missing drain covers.

My uncle isn't totally thrilled with me running on my own, in the dark. I'm used to it and quite comfortable, although I do keep my eyes open for people. But for the most part I rarely see anyone out on the streets.

The run took 1h10 door-to-door and on arrival at my uncle's place I had a lovely hot shower, delicious dinner and nice time spent with family. A wonderful way to finish a run.

The Campus Night O

Last night we had a fun point-score orienteering event at The Campus. The event was put on by Karen Chambers, in an attempt to keep our Orienteering Schools League children participating. We don't get many to weekend events so this one was well timed (week night) to catch them. We did have some schools league children; but a bigger attendance from the general orienteering community who are often game for anything O.

As a point score event, we had 45 minutes to locate as many controls as possible. A really nice twist, included by junior orienteer Timothy Chambers (my speedy relay partner at our training camp over Easter) were the bonus controls. Attached to five of the marked controls were pieces of map that indicated the location of a bonus control. You have to match the location on the piece of map with your map, remember the location and plan to get it along the way. Although I visited all of the controls, I missed seeing the tags for two of the five bonuses. Doh!

The one bonus tag was on about my third control - but it was located much later on my planned route. I remembered the area of its location but had forgotten the exact placement, thinking it was next to a tree on the 'island'. I had to run back, check the tag again (fortunately I remembered on which control the map was attached!) and then go for the bonus. It turned out that this detour wasn't really such a bad thing because I'd missed seeing a control on the map down that way, which I had to go back to get anyway.

I completed all controls - minus the two bonuses - in 36 minutes. The challenge of the bonuses is that I had no way of knowing to which controls the 'indicator' maps were attached. So I headed to the finish after I'd cleaned up all the controls marked.

Green circles show locations of the bonuses. B shows the control on which the indicator map was attached and which bonus it indicated. I found out where the other two were afterwards. The back and forths are mostly to get bonuses. I ran mostly clockwise. From the start I headed North first, getting away from the crowds who mostly ran immediately for the very close controls. My total distance was around 4.5km.
This was superb fun! There's likely to be another next term.

Wednesday 14 May 2014

Yoga happiness

Since the beginning of the month I've been pretty good about my daily yoga practice. Most nights I just do the 10 sun salutations (five of A version and five of B version), which is the standard warm-up sequence in Ashtanga yoga. Once a week or so I do more where I include standing postures and the finishing sequence. As I haven't done much yoga for too long, I figured it would be well worth it to take it easy and to allow my body to slowly adapt to the stretches and postures.

Last night I went to class and I returned home totally chuffed with myself. We haven't gone through a full Primary Series for ages and there are some postures near the end of the Series that I literally haven't attempted for at least two years.

There's this fairly evil posture called kurmasana. I haven't managed to get more than one shoulder/arm under a knee and pointing backwards. Last night, I got both and with not too much difficulty (not much elegance either!)

Here are two views of what this posture should look like:

And this is more what I look like:

And then the posture changes into supta kurmasana, which should look like this:

I did manage to get my arms back (hands can't touch) and my feet together (soles touching) but my head ain't this close to the ground.

Marichyasana A
Earlier in the Series there are these seated twist-and-bind move (marichyasana). When I first started Ashtanga yoga a few years ago I couldn't get my fingers to touch in either the four variations (A to D). I'm now only not connecting in the D (slightly easier variation as I'm not close to being there for the proper D form; I'm not totally comfortable in C - but it is improving!).

Marichyasana C: I can't breathe very comfortably in this posture (I can't yet get as much twist either).
The odd thing about yoga is that some people (novices included) can get something like marichyasana without thinking. I certainly can't - they've always been a challenge. But then there will be other moves, like headstands with straight-leg lift and L-shaped headstand that I got immediately, but other students don't.

It really was a kick last night to actually get into some moves and I've very much felt the benefit of daily practice - even just the sun salutations - daily. It's awesome motivation to keep it up. Just when I'd thought that there were postures that would be out of my reach for the rest of my life, hope flickers.

Poached eggs for me. You?

I eat eggs often; almost daily. I'm quite particular about my eggs too. That's the thing about eggs - people develop strong eggy preferences and stories abound about how you like your eggs reflects on your personality. I don't know that I go with this but I do know how I like my eggs.

I'm sure I went through the fried-egg stage; but a long, long time ago. I dabbled with omlettes, had soft boiled for breakfast in primary school (with 'soldiers' - toast fingers) and then scrambled eggs were my thing. But I've been into poached eggs for the past few years and I've perfected my poaching technique.

In a certain pot, using my silicone poached egg cup things, it takes exactly six minutes to achieve eggy perfection. My main criteria is that there must be no gooey white. I don't mind if the yolk has a bit of firmness to it but there must be no un-solid white.

Since banishing bread from my diet I had to make another plan. Two poached eggs slithering across a plate is particulary demoralising; eggs need to sit on something. If I've got baby spinach (uncooked, as it), that's Prize #1. Alternatively I put my eggies on a bed of regular spinach that has been zapped in the microwave for about 20 seconds (flattened, not cooked). And if I have neither, then the eggies go on top of frilly lettuce. Sometimes I add a sprinkle of cheese and a dash of freshly ground black pepper.

A particularly lovely breakfast about two weeks ago.
Poached eggy perfection.
I have the most wonderful egg-cooking gadget: an egg boiler. What an awesome gift this has proved to be. No need to take 15 mins to boil eggs from cold water. It takes about 7 minutes for medium-soft boiled and about 10 mins for hard and only uses about 40ml of water. And it buzzes when your eggs are ready. It can do up to seven eggs at a time.

Out of convenience I now do medium boiled regularly and hard boiled sometimes. But if I had to choose one style of egg for all eternity, it would be poached.

I found these two frivolous articles on how you like your eggs says something about your personality (Telegraph and the kitchn).

According to these, my preference for poached says:

Telegraph: "It was discovered that the average poached egg-eater is likely to have two children and no more than one sibling and is more likely to be a woman than a man."

the kitchn: "You have a mysterious, elusive soul. You're a hard worker, an entrepreneur, and the person everyone wants to be seen with. Don't let stardom or partying interfere with your goals. Tends to be kinda lonely."

Like a horoscope, there's a bit of something here for almost everyone ;)

Monday 12 May 2014

Metrogaine Jo'burg: mid-winter edition (Wed, 18 June)

We're on!

All event info on www.AR.co.za/metrogaine-joburg/ and online entries through www.entrytickets.co.za.

Hot chocolate afterwards ;)

38 Days of Running: Day 1

My first day of this annual pre-birthday game was a winner - my weekly run with the huskies. I ran to and from home, which added some distance.

They ran like champs today, enjoying the cool breeze. As the weather gets colder they're going to run even better. Also, husky sledding started this weekend - I think; their dad takes them through on Sunday mornings when the temps are single digits.

I tried the cool-down-in-the-shade scratches and hugs session again. I think I enjoy it more than they do! That's when I took the photos. Both tried to give me kisses today - even Angel. Angel can be quite aloof but she sometimes allows herself to be subjected to hugs.

Onward and upward. 37 days to go (see my next Metrogaine post - it's on my birthday!).

Angel (getting huggies) and Toscana

Snap! Kisses from Toscana. A charmer he is!

Sunday 11 May 2014

Spending Mother's Day, with my mom, on Mother's Day

It has been many years since I've spent Mother's Day with my mom. We usually move the day around according to events! But, today, I've spent Mother's Day with my mom. She chose to go to the Nirox Sculpture Park - a place we both love.

There was a whole food and wine festival on as well as new sculpture installations. I'm glad we got there early because it was packed when we left. The food all looked ok, but not spectacular and little to nothing on the vegetarian side and very few nice treats. If you're into wine, then it was great because there were loads of wines available.

The venue, for me, is the real delight and we love going out to Nirox. We had an orienteering event out there about five weeks ago, which my club hosted. The place is absolutely beautiful with its lawns, dams, streams, trees and, of course, some delightful sculptures (and others that are just too odd to even be called 'nice'). The main thing missing was music. A harp here and a violin trio there would have really rounded off the event.

All in all, a lovely visit but I think I'll stick to going there on quieter, non-event/occasion days.

My. Mom.

Friday 9 May 2014

'38 Days of Running' starts on Monday

On Monday my annual pre-birthday game begins. I started this a few years ago and it works as follows.

In the lead up to my birthday, I have to run every day for the number of days of the age that I'm turning. The challenge finished on my birthday. And this year, I'm turning 38 - so that means 38 Days of Running, which starts on Monday.

In the first year '35 Days of Running', I averaged 6.4km/day. My minimum daily distance was 4km.

Then, in 2012, I spent half of my '36 Days of Running' in Ireland and this included many beautifully scenic long runs and a 24hr Rogaine. I didn't keep a strict log so I don't know totals and tallys. But I did spend a lovely day with my mom and I did exceed 36 consecutive days.

Last year I found myself in Argentina for my birthday and was totally charmed to have snow on my birthday - a day after arriving in Bariloche. I ran on snow and ice for the first time ever. That was fun. Again I exceeded my 37 days because it was just so awesome there that I was out running (or walking when the weather was nasty and windy and wet) every day.

My challenge this year will be getting in my daily runs during Expedition Africa. The race reporting environment is a non-stop, go-go-go and little-sleep one so I'll need to be extra disciplined. When I'm really ragged some of those days may be long walks. I leave here on 22 May and return on 1 June.

I'm looking at minimum 30-minute runs this year. This allows double-booking space for my other activities like pole and yoga. On Wednesdays I usually run with Rob and we usually do 13-15km (sometimes more) and on Fridays I run with Jason and we do 8-13km most of the time. So overall my distances should be a bit higher than usual.

If you're looking for a bit of motivation, you're most welcome to join me over the 38 days. If running isn't your thing, make it a '38 Days of Activity' - swimming, cycling, walking, yoga... everything counts.

Monday... here I come!

Tuesday 6 May 2014

They were almost off my favourites list

I ran with my husky friends, Angel and Toscana, yesterday and it was a lovely outing. They nearly crossed themselves totally off my favourites list last Monday when we had an encounter with a c.a.t.

Angel (left) and Toscana. Waiting for their home-baked peanut butter doggy treats
Last Monday, a public holiday, their dad (Dino) accompanied me. It makes a big difference to have one dog each, especially in the first kilometre walking down to the park. One husk is easy to hold back. Two... they're incredibly strong when pulling together.

Dino has been letting Angel off the lead and she's being quite good about coming back; but only if Toscana is on lead. Two off lead is not an option. Husks can learn to recall (there are many well-behaved husks in the Husky Club) but they're not the best breed for this and all websites unequivocally state that huskies should never be let off the lead because they'll literally just run away. They totally run without thinking. There are many lost-and-found husky notices posted on the Husky Rescue FB page. The area where we walk is a pretty good space for experimenting and, in theory, the husks can't go too far if they bolt (depending which direction they go!).

So, we're on the far side of the walk area and Angel is off-lead and she's being... well, an angel. And then from out of nowhere a c.a.t. darts across the lawn. It must have been in the low bushes, soaking up the warm sun.

Websites also unequivocally state that husks will take out animals like cats and bunnies and birds and, sometimes, even small dogs. These two are very sweet with small dogs, even those that bark and bite and go for them. But c.a.t.s... oh lordy! They'll totally pull me off my feet if they see a c.a.t. crossing the road or behind a fence.

So, Angel gives chase and as it turns out, she's faster than c.a.t. Dino gives chase and manages to free said c.a.t. Angel gets free again and goes after c.a.t. I try to intercept her but she catches the c.a.t. and Toscana, connected to my harness, gets involved. Dino and I climb on top of the dogs. I force my hands into husky mouths to pull them open and off little c.a.t. body. Fortunately they didn't bite me! C.a.t. gets free and darts into the closest house. Husks have blood on their mouths. Relief! It's their own blood from scratches in their mouths and snouts and there's a good one on Angel's ear. I'm unsympathetic.

I go to the house and the owner opens the door. I tell her to look for c.a.t and to check that it is ok.

I'm fretting about the cat. Oh my heart! The next morning I drag my mom with me and we head for the house to check that the c.a.t. is ok. The lady says that c.a.t. didn't come home until much later and while it seems stiff and sore, it is otherwise unharmed. No bites, punctures or other injuries. Relief! Poor terrified kitty!

Yesterday it was just me taking the husks out. Our usual. It was a bit warm for them so we kept to the shade and after a good section of running, we kept the pace to a walk or light trot. It feels like their coats are already thickening for winter and they overheat so easily.

I tried something new with them yesterday. These husks never just chill and sit or lie down when I make them stop in the shade to cool down. They stand or walk around, wanting to go again - even as they pant and their sides heave. So, for the first time, I sat down on the ground. I was curious to see what they would do.

After a short while they took turns to come close. Angel, the less affectionate of the two, was a surprise. She made as if to give me kisses and looked at me straight in the eyes - her face level with mine. I gave her face rubs and head scratches - and even a big ol' hug. She took it all in. Just lovely. I usually give them rubs and hugs at some stage during our walks - but with me standing. I'm going to do this seated version more often.

Of course these husks are still on my favourites list. If I was in their fur, I'd probably also chase c.a.t.s. Being a crazy-cat-lady myself, I don't approve but at least this can be avoided by keeping them clipped to my harness.

Friday 2 May 2014

Gettin' on my mat

One day. Maybe.
Back in February 2011 I discovered Ashtanga yoga. I'd dabbled in yoga for many years before, enjoying the stretch but not wholly committed. Ashtanga did it for me. It's a vigorous, strong and challenging dynamic practice where movements flow into each other - totally perfect for motivated and driven personalities. I stuck with classes one or twice a week for over a year - until the studio closed. It reopened a long time later but by then I was on to circus school.

I've had an itch - one that only Ashtanga can scratch. I went to class a few weeks ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was back there on Tuesday night. The studio is a good 30 minute drive from home so it isn't exactly down the road and so it doesn't fit in very well with my aim to simplify my activities (more doing, less commuting).

Here's the thing. Ashtanga has various 'series'; primary, secondary/ intermediate and advanced. I don't know if I'll ever get on to a full secondary series in my lifetime... or even proper execution of the more challenging asanas of Primary Series... But because every class follows the same series of movements, you can learn them and self-practice, which is very much encouraged.

Well... for the most part I know the Series - and have for a few years. But I very, very rarely self-practice. Even though I like the idea of it.

It's almost like going to the studio sets the mood. It's quiet. I like the soft incense scent. It's a blank, open space. I enjoy the led class, where the teacher calls the postures and breaths. I enjoy the company of other people in the class and the synchronised movements.

Home. Well. I work from home and I have a bunch of hobbies so there is never a shortage of work, planning or tasks to be done. Never a shortage. It's challenging to create that blank space; to totally tune out.

A Facebook buddy, Lisa (yes, same name as mine) posted recently about a 30-day yoga challenge that she was doing, starting 1 May. I think she's doing a studio-based, hot yoga (heated room) challenge.

And so I got to thinking that maybe I needed to make a commitment to yoga for a set period. To get me on my mat. So I'm joining Lisa on her yoga challenge by self-practicing daily (and attending the odd class here and there) for the next month.

Being as physically demanding as it is, I'm starting off with just the warm-up sequence, standing postures and finishing sequence while my body adapts. I'll work up to doing the full sequence much later.

My big challenge this month is going to be to keep up with regular practice while I'm at Expedition Africa this month - keeping in mind too that my annual pre-birthday running game starts on 12 May. It will be enough of a challenge to get in daily runs AND a self-practice on 2-4hrs sleep a night. I may need to cut my loses on the yoga just to get in the runs for the duration of the event. Go with the flow, for sure.