Thursday 27 November 2014

Running around in the dark - with purpose

Metrogaine Jo'burg played out really well last night and we got super lucky with the weather.

My one friend, who lives in the event area, emailed this morning to say:
"The hard rain did eventually arrive – between 23h30 and 04h00 we had 35mm of rain – our biggest this summer and this morning at 07h00 the river was still uncrossable at the Bryanston bridge; the drift would have been under water."
I'm a bit communication'd out, but you'll find my write-up in this Metrogaine newsletter - it talks about a few of the gremlins on the course (like about the people who changed the gate to their property over the weekend!).  The most up-to-date results are linked to from the Metrogaine page on

In the Metrogaine Bryanston album on the Metrogaine FB page there are some photos and also maps with the routes run by a number of the pairs.

The next Metrogaine events will only be in April and June 2015.

Between now and then...

There's AR Club's Summer Series this next Wednesday and the next... and there will be a few more in Jan/Feb next year.

And I'm really looking forward to the annual, novelty xmas O event on Sun, 7 December. Gonna be good.

There's definitely no shortage of fun and games.

Tuesday 25 November 2014

Metrogaine, novelty O, nav coaching and cultivating young orienteers

Tomorrow night is the last Metrogaine event for the year. This is by far the most difficult course planning that I've undertaken. The area is challenging with the road closures (restricts the flow of the course and makes sections unusable) and using a Scatter-ScoreO format (as opposed to the rogaining format Metrogaine is based on).

This meant a smaller area and a lot of juggling of control placements to get specified minimum distances on the courses. It's fun to have my course planning powers completely and utterly stretched and exercised. Tomorrow night the proof, of course, will be in the eating of the pudding that is Metrogaine when the participants set out to spend 90-minutes on my map.

On Sun 7 December I'm looking forward to the annual Xmas orienteering event. It's always a novelty-style event and this year it is at that paintball place off the N1. Entry fee is a gift (labelled men, women, child) to the value of R40. You hand it in at registration and during prize giving you receive one. It's good fun.

I'm also excited about doing some navigation coaching on the 6th with bunch of sporty, adventure racing women (and I think one guy). I always enjoy coaching sessions and I think this group will be a hoot.

I'm in the process of setting up a new Orienteering Schools League (OSL) for schools in eastern Jo'burg. On Monday I'm coaching a teacher's workshop. I did one in October (in our northern OSL area) and the teachers were superb and enthusiastic. The response for the workshop hasn't been great - but the timing is not ideal for everyone with year-end, exams and marking. Three geography teachers are confirmed and I look forward to exploring opportunities to align orienteering with map-related syllabus components - for practical map reading experience that will make maps 'real' and fun.

Two weekends ago I had the pleasure of putting two children through one of my orienteering cone grid games -  a six-year old boy and a nine-year old girl. I've never done cone grids with a child as young as 6. He nailed map orientation within a few minutes of being shown what to do and he got addicted, trying grid course after grid course. This weekend I'll try them on a 4x5 grid... and maybe a 7x7 grid too. Yes, they're totally being cultivated.

(Download the grid cards and instructions for Counting Coloured Cones and give it a try too.)

Maps, maps, maps... there's navigation opportunities everywhere!

The adventure racing team and the dog that followed them

If you haven't yet heard about Team Peak Performance (Sweden) and the stray dog, Arthur, that followed them for the final two stages of the AR World Champs, which has just been held in Ecuador, then you must have had your head under a rock.

The story is big news because the dog adopted the team during the race and they have subsequently adopted him. Arthur flew with the team back to Sweden after the race. This canine adventure racer now has a forever home.

It's an absolutely charming story and the sport of adventure racing has never before received so much media attention from around the World - the story even made online news in South Africa. It's all over Facebook too.

If you haven't heard about this yet, then pull up an online newspaper and take a read. Here's a piece on the Daily Mail. Very, very sweet.

Get your mojo on

Last week I went to a workshop presented by my friend, Telana Simpson. She's a communication and personal coach and a place on her 'Boost Your Mojo: Increasing your personal power' workshop was her FEAT Trade with me. It has taken a year for me to be free on the same night as the workshop!

I like to think that my mojo runs pretty well most of the time; but it can wane and so I was totally open to a receiving a boost.

From Telana's website:

Mojo means self confidence, or self assuredness.  It’s the basis for having a belief in your own self, especially in dealing with approaching someone, or when having to confront someone.
Another view of mojo is that it’s a good luck charm that bolsters confidence, and even talks to a magical power, or talent. It’s also known to be about our ability to bounce back from a tough time or negative attitude.
There were a few things from this workshop that stood out for me - also from my interactions with the other women participating in the workshop.

Without giving too much away, the first was the relationship between being responsible TO as opposed to being responsible FOR a person.

When I look at something like my Forest Run, which comes up in March 2015, or even tomorrow night's Metrogaine.

My role is to planning the routes, adequately briefing the participants, ensuring there is water, safety, medical and other relevant components.

For this I am responsible TO the participants. But, if a runner does not adhere to my instructions to carry a hydration bladder at Forest Run and to fill up with water at the aid stations and they don't drink enough and become dehydrated... I am not responsible FOR this runner's behaviour and what they do with what I tell them, although as a result of my responsibilities I'll have medical etc. in place.

It's very much "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink". I'm very cognisant of this, especially as an event organiser - although it applies all around.

This workshop tied together a couple of things that I've been thinking about / moving towards over the last couple of years. Too often these things take a while to arrive at and sometimes longer to implement.

I enjoy workshops and especially the interactions with other attendees. It was nice that we had a small group and good, open discussions where we could link and share experiences.

Wednesday 19 November 2014

The price of admission

I attended a really great workshop tonight, which I'll tell you about in a day or two when I get a chance to type. While there, I had a flash to remember to share a video with you. I'm not sure why I didn't think of it until now... anyhoo...

Little over two months ago I came across this post on the Brain Pickings website. It features a video of journo / author / media guy / LGBT activist Dan Savage speaking about "The Price of Admission".

In short, it's about compromise or deal-breakers in relationships; and it totally applies whether the relationship is with a partner, family member, friend or colleague/client/customer.

I like how he speaks (I've watched a bunch of videos subsequently). I appreciate this message.

Time and time again this theme of 'price of admission' has cropped up in the weeks since I watched this video and I've shared it with friends as they've gone through situations where 'the price of admission' applies.

This video has a way of tweaking the mind and thought process just that little bit. Sometimes you know stuff but it helps to be reminded and re-enlightened.

Monday 17 November 2014

Running under jacarandas

Spring and Summer are seasons where Johannesburg really delivers. If it isn't the fruit tree blossoms and jasmine, then it's the jacarandas, bougainvillea and mulberries that make my heart soar out on the road.

On Thursday morning I headed into Kensington and realised that I didn't have much longer to enjoy running on the purple carpet made by jacaranda flowers on the tar. As my weekly run with Rob was scheduled for that evening, I sent him a message reading, "Got a great route in mind for our run this evening. Think purple...".

He replied, "Jacarandas?"

"Maybe..." (with a smiley) was my answer. OK, so 'purple' in the clue was a dead giveaway...

Fresh from the rain, it was a super run. Kensington is a suburb that stands out for its jacaranda display. We ran along Highland Road and up to the Scottish War Memorial, which is up near Jeppe Boys. It's a super view from here down Bez Valley and across Kensington. The sky was crystal clear too - we could see for miles in every direction.

I'm glad we made it before the jacaranda flowers finished.

Panoramic from the Scottish War Memorial
Looking towards JHB city
Pretty pretty

Rob taking the hills of Kensington in style

Rob on the next climb

Enjoying this urban forest

Lovely old jacaranda trees on Highland Road

Thursday 13 November 2014

The power of persuasion

The Guardian have a quiz on their website designed to guide you as to "What job would make you the happiest?". I'm a sucker for online quizzes and so I gave it a go.

It's no surprise that I scored 20/20 for "Hands on" jobs and almost full points for organsing and creative-y work preferences.

One of the questions reads:

I get a buzz out of...

Persuading somebody to accept an idea or an argument:
  • No interest 
  • Mild interest 
  • Some interest 
  • Definite preference 
  • Strong preference
I was thinking about this quiz today as I spent the morning visiting schools in the Kensington-Bedfordview-Edenvale area - we're setting up a new Orienteering Schools League in this area for next year. I've already reached out to schools where I have contacts for teachers; today's visits were for those where I don't know anyone (and I still have more to do next week).

I had a warm reception from most schools, especially when I got to speak to the relevant sports coordinator. 

The challenge was getting past the receptionist...

At one school, the receptionist was actually quite friendly and presentable but she was also determined to get across that they have absolutely no need of orienteering - or any additional sports, for that matter. They have a well-paid and highly-qualified sports coaches for each of their sports...

I told her that we (the Orienteering Federation) were letting schools in the area know about a teacher workshop coming up, the league for next year and that orienteering, as a sport, actually existed. It's a good fit with athletics and cross-country (and geography!). I told her all we wanted was for her to pass the note on to the relevant sports coordinator. She conceded and I'm certain that had I not extracted the sports guy's name and email address from her that she would have just dumped the note in the bin as soon as I was out of the door.

I'm not always good at persuading people to do things - it depends what I persuading them to do - and generally I don't like having to be convincing. My interactions today with teachers and sports heads and receptionists got me thinking about the quiz because persuasive is exactly what I needed to be. 

In answering this quiz yesterday, my answer to this question had been "No interest". I just hope that my few minutes with them and the concise information that I put together will speak for this sport that I so enjoy.

As the adminstrator for AR Club, I get a lot of notices about cycle races and run races. Also dozens of requests from charity organisations asking for cyclists (for Argus and 94.7) to ride in their colours and raise funds. If I passed all of these on to my club members, they'd be totally irritated - so I only pass on those that are most relevant to my members. I'm the filter. And this can be where information hits a dead end. But, there just too much of it.

I can totally see why the receptionist expressed a lack of interest and intention to pass my note about this small and obscure sport - that she definitely doesn't know a thing about - on to a relevant teacher. Their school offers dozens of sports, for which they employ coaches, and their timetable is chock-a-block full... But it also means that a low-admin, low-equipment, cerebral, individual sport will never see the light of day there. Fortunately I did get the guy's email and I've reached out - primarily because the school property will be fabulous to map for school or club urban events.

I'm very excited about this new League, which will run on a totally different format to the existing League and standard events. I just hope I can be sufficiently persuading to get some new schools involved.

Sunday 9 November 2014

Crochet is... maths, brick laying, climbing

Yesterday afternoon Staci and I had our first crochet workshop. We often hear friends (and friends of friends and other people we encounter) saying, "I wish I could crochet". And so we planned an afternoon session to guide people through the basics.

We had three lovely women in attendance. The one is in her 50s and she has never crocheted in her life. The other, an accomplished mountaineer, is in her 40s and she last picked up a hook when she was a child. And the third is the same age as me; she has dabbled here and there.

Crochet, for me, is mostly maths. Geometry. Everything you construct is about repeated motifs (like fractals). Tall stitches, short stitches, increasing and decreasing to make shapes.

It is also like building a wall - whether the item your creating is constructed linearly in rows or as circles and spirals. Each row is like a layer of bricks and you just build one on top of the next.

And yesterday I realised too that climbing/ropes elements come into it as well with how you hold the yarn. This - holding the yarn in your non-hook hand - is actually the most challenging part of crochet because this is where the tension comes in. Abseil devices slow you down through friction. The more friction, the harder it is for the rope to flow through the device. The tighter or more a rope is 'woven' through the device, the more friction - like an ATC vs a Petzl Stop vs a figure-8.

Over the hand, around the pinky finger, between some others... and you've got a lot (certainly too much) of tension. Relax your grip, make one less 'weave' and the balance is better. Once you find how to hold the yarn (everyone is different and will settle into their own style) and how to get your tension even, crochet becomes a whole lot easier.

What I enjoy about teaching people to crochet (and navigate) is seeing their satisfaction in doing/creating something on their own.

In addition to making a good rectangle from a variety of stitches, the mountaineer put in her first zip - ever. She completed her zip-purse on Saturday night and whatsapped me a photo. A very good job she did.

The complete beginner really battled with holding the yarn and making chains. Chains are the foundation on which the 'bricks' are laid. She was frustrated initially and thought that she'd never get this at all. As she said, this is the first totally unfamiliar and new thing she has tried for many, many years. She left yesterday afternoon with a few rows of beautiful, even, single crochet stitches - and a big smile. Staci will work with her to complete her project. She brought along a magazine with a pattern for a really lovely top. Staci and I look forward to seeing her make it in the months to come.

And my old primary school friend got reacquainted with the basic stitches - learning some new variations too. Her zip-pouch is lovely. She has a pile of hexagons that she made for a blanket but attempts at joining them have been unsatisfactory. She'll bring them to our next crochet session and we'll find a solution so that she can finish her blankie.

Mobile phone snaps sent to me. The rectangles were the ones we worked on in the session by two of the women (and completed at home). These were made using a variety of stitches (sc, hdc, dc, htc and tc) just for practice. The heart was a second (she's now addicted) project made last night/this morning. hahahaha ;)

While meandering on the web recently, I found a pattern for a heart-shaped pouch with a zip - this is what gave me the idea for the project for this session. Making it two (or three?) weeks ago was the first time that I've made a project with a zip. I've now made five others (different shapes, but all with zips). Staci gave the heart a try too and now gets why I'm hooked on making zip-pouches. She has made three hearts - with pretty charms on the zip pull.

New crochet addiction! Zippered pouches. Some recent projects (for Martine, Staci, Kyla and Celliers).
We'll have another session again soon - probably the first weekend in December. I'll let you know when. Men welcome too.

Friday 7 November 2014

Hi-Tec Swerve sandals (review)

I got my first pair of Hi-Tec active sandals a few years ago - Waimea Falls is the name of the model. I don't wear them all the time although I recently lived in them when I went kayaking and camping on the Orange River. They were on my feet in and out of the water for a few days. I mostly use them for trips of this nature - not everyday use.

I've got the darker chocolate-y ones

I've been very happy with them. Until these arrived...

Meet the Hi-Tec Swerve women's sandals...

I've had them for three weeks and I don't think that a day has gone by that I haven't worn them. Driving, to the shops, walking around, with jeans and out to movies, to friends, with a sundress, with shorts...

Where Waimea Falls works for kayaking and bushy-outdoorsy walking with its behind-the-ankle fastening, the Swerve sandal is prettier with its charcoal/emerald colourway and sweet stitch details. It also comes in a chocolate/pink colourway. And as the Swerve doesn't have the ankle fastening, it is a comfortable and quick-to-slip-on sandal.

I wear a UK8 in these, which is equivalent to a real size 7 at Woolies. The buckle strap on top of the foot is adjustable - I'm wearing it as it came, which is perfect for me. The buckle connection is elasticated, which I like because then the strap 'stretches' across the top of the foot as you walk to improve the comfort without restraint. For me, the buckle adds to the pretty appeal of this sandal - there's something about Velcro that reduces prettiness, no matter how sweet a design.

It's a light sandal despite the thick, cushioned sole. This is no flip-flop. One sandal weighs 198g (for comparison, it's the exact same weight as the Waimea Falls sandal; the sole of the Swerve is just slightly more puffy).

I like that there are a number of criss-cross straps; it means that the sandals stay on securely and don't slop when you walk. The 't' between your toes is not intrusive because of the strap support.

As far as sporty-looking, walk-about, all-purpose sandals go, I give the Hi-Tec Swerve a BIG thumbs up. They've been on my feet daily for the better part of three weeks and I don't see them being anywhere else -at least until winter next year.

My thanks to Hi-Tec for sending me these sandals to enjoy and review.

Metrogaine planning

I enjoy the challenge of planning Metrogaine events - looking at control placement, points allocation...

In planning courses, I wonder how to really challenge my fastest and most experienced Metrogainers (they run 17-20km in 90-minutes) as well as providing options for newcomers and walkers.

There's an orienteering format that is taking Australia by storm. It's called ScatterO. Here there are a set number of controls out there - say 25 (this is what I'm using). 'Courses' specify how many controls participants MUST collect. There may or may not be a time limit and there may or may not be a points allocation to each control.

My Metrogaine will have both a time limit (90-minutes) plus a score allocation. It's a rogaining-scatter-score event style.

The fastest pair with the highest score wins.

What I like about this format is that I can create a number of different courses to cater for walkers and speedy and experienced running navigators. And every team has a decent amount of time to play.

The BIG challenge for me is in the control placements. As I'm specifying how many of the available controls the participants must get, I need to make sure that they're within an accessible distance.

For fun, I took the map from the last Metrogaine (June), which started from the Cliffview Primary school. I randomly removed controls to leave only 25. Then I tried two routes; one of them aiming for the shortest distance between controls. It came out at around 17 kilometres. Now that's way too far for a minimum distance! I'm aiming at around 12km for the shortest distance on the longest course.

Here are two courses that I drew. Note that the points allocation etc is as it was for the past Metrogaine. My points considerations will be different for this new format.

The Cliffview event was a good one in that there were many controls that the fastest competitors did not get (that's my goal in course planning). I always include a couple of carrots that I doubt the runners will get; they're in there to catch their attention.

What I learned from playing around with this map for a ScatterO format is that I need to close down my event area - not as large.

A good strategy for competitors is probably to first identify those controls that they are unlikely to be able to get... and then to reassess their options at halfway (45-mins).

I'm still in the process of drawing the map. Over the weekend I'll start planning control placements - and of course next week I need to check for road closures, which seriously affect what I can do in reality out there.

Without doubt this will be my most challenging Metrogaine course to plan.

Entries are open - on orienteeringonline (for registered orienteers) and EntryTickets (for everyone else).

All info for this Metrogaine event is on

Wednesday 5 November 2014

I am entered

It has been way, way too long since I've done a race. No, not a race like the usual orienteering events that I participate in or the rogaining events... but like an ultra-distance run race-type event.

About a week ago the announcement was made about an ultra in the Sabie area for end-January next year. My legs started to twitch in anticipation. Sabie is mountain-y and forest-y and I soooo enjoy that part of the world. That this 80-kilometre route doubles up as the SA Trail Champs is of little interest to me because while I'm steady and consistent when it comes to ultras, I'm definitely not in the league of Landie and Su and Linda and Robyn and Katya and a handful of other really superb female runners who will be running for a place on the team for the World Trail Champs.

Me, I just want to run and run and run and run.

Back in about 1999 the Sabie 32 was one of my first trail races. I had a superb run there. Easy, comfortable and my first 32km distance run.

I was entered for an 80km in March this year. It was postponed to May following the massive flooding we experienced at that time of year. And then it was cancelled outright. I don't think I've run an ultra since... since the 50-odd kilometre stage at the Namib Desert Challenge last year. That's way too long ago.

I've just done my entry for the Ultra Trail Mount Moodie 80km and I'm tapping my feet with excitement. Although my motivation usually ticks over reasonably, there's nothing like the prospect of a tantalizing race to super charge my training.