Thursday 29 January 2015

Ultra Trail Mount Moodie

OMG! I'm almost beside myself with excitement. I haven't done a race like this for way, way too long. It's an 80km trail ultra - the new Ultra Trail Mount Moodie - in the Sabie area, starting from Misty Mountain on the Long Tom Pass.

This is just a quick post because I'm packed and ready to walk out the door - and I'm leaving my laptop at home.

I decided to go through early and to break my trip by staying at a place near my Forest Run venue. I've had too many late nights so I'm looking forward to no laptop and no connectivity to just get some sleep so that I'm race-ready for Saturday.

Sooo... 80km of forests and Mpumalanga wonderfulness is what I'm into on Saturday. How long it will take?  Dunno and it doesn't matter really because I'm mostly there for the journey... and of course to see how well I can do.

I've got my camera and so I hope to show you some of the splendour of the area next week.

Until then... byyyeeeee.

Monday 26 January 2015

A need for speed

I haven't focused on speed work for running for well over a decade. Sure, a few intervals here and there but nothing consistent.

parkruns have definitely changed this because each time I do a parkrun I want to better my time set at that venue previously and, if possible, to set a new overall 5km PB.

PBs (Personal Bests) are funny things and I think they should established on an annual basis. It can kill your confidence to consider and compare yourself to overall PBs, which you may have set yonks ago.

I'm 14 years older - and far better at distance running - than I was when I set my Best Ever times on 5km, 10km, 15km, 21km and my one-and-only marathon - all very respectable times. Back in those days I mostly ran short and fast distances with a lot of short, high-intensity training and then mostly half marathons on weekends.

On Saturday morning I did parkrun at Woodlands again. Two weeks ago I took almost two minutes off my previous time set in August last year. Yesterday I took another 13 seconds off despite having to work through queues of walkers on the second lap.

589 parkrunners were logged at Woodlands yesterday - their biggest number I think! And these are the people who are timed. There's a good dose who are just starting out and as they only do one of the two laps in the reserve they do not get timed.

The other fun aspect of parkrun are the overall results. Yesterday I was 31st overall, 3rd woman and 1st in my age group. Whoop-whoop! My time is nothing special though (26-mins) and I'm yet to crack sub-25 on any of the parkrun courses.

I'll be back in Parys in two weeks where I hope to improve yet again on this course, which is currently a minute faster for me than Woodlands.

This morning (Sunday) I did the first of the Urban Series orienteering events. It was held at Golden Harvest Park. I ran nicely - could have done better / ran faster in some places (as always). I took second place - yay! I haven't been this high up the rankings for a while. OK, so Sarah, Tania, Michele, Jess weren't there... It's still cool.

parkrun and the Urban Series events are certainly proving to be motivation and incentive to pay more attention to speed and to put in some sessions over the coming months.

Will it be possible to claw my way to the times (like a 21-minute 5km) that I was running 14 years ago? I draw inspiration from some older running friends who are clocking faster times now than they did 10 or 20 years ago... so there's definitely hope for me too.

Tuesday 20 January 2015

Oh golly - events and activities in abundance

I've so had my head stuck in an orienteering flag these past two weeks!

Some events I'm involved in whole-heartedly, like my new Checkpoint Challenge Schools League, which I hope will become a super-fabulous schools league template for us and other countries. This has been a big learning curve already and it hasn't even started. I'm still a little involved with the long-running Orienteering Schools League.
Other events I am involved somewhat, like our AR Club Summer Series events (three Wednesday evenings starting next week).

And yet others I have peripheral involvement (PR, design, media, public liaison), like the orienteering Urban Series, which kicks off on Sunday with the first of the 10 events.

With two websites (that's five separate pages that need updating and maintaining), various Mailchimp lists for comms, four-plus FB pages, twitter account and a host of media (website, magz, event listing sites)... I totally see why I feel a bit all over the place!

There are so many really good events happening and the best thing about orienteering events, especially, is that they're family friendly. In this community there's no such thing as too young or too old.

Monday 12 January 2015

More Summer Series events

My club, Adventure Racing Club, has three weekly Summer Series events coming up; the first on Wednesday 28 January 2015.

I organise these events with friend and club-mate Garry.

These are really fun one-hour events that take in the beauty of Delta Park, a wonderful open parkland expanse in the middle of Johannesburg.

Although we often vary the format of each of the weekly events, the general idea is that you get a map at the start and on the map a bunch of checkpoints are marked. You either have to locate all of them or a defined number of checkpoints (in any order) within the one-hour time.

What this means is that people run like crazy chickens all over the part, each person choosing their own route and which checkpoints they want to visit in any order. Navigation is pretty easy so no special skills are needed.

This is a family-friendly event and I look forward to seeing more children (they get free entry!) and newcomer adults at the events.

Saturday 10 January 2015

Not training to be skinny

With the Ultra Trail Mount Moodie 80km event coming up at the end of January my training has been pretty reasonable. Not phenomenal... but then I've never been into mega distance in training. I've had a good and steady and consistent November and December and I'm feeling good and running comfortably.

Two weeks ago, just before New Year, it was cooking hot one afternoon when I went out running with my regular weekly running buddy Jason. I've got two regular running buddies - Jason and Rob (different days). Rob has been out for a few weeks with a broken big toe (ow!). Jason and I ended up doing more of a run-walk (perhaps more walk than run) in the heat, which he doesn't favour much.

With an early dinner invitation from my uncle that evening and with a need for more, more, more running, I decided to run to my uncle's house, which is pretty much bang on 11 kilometres from me.

At 15h30, about half an hour after getting back from my outing with Jason, it was still cooking but I figured that I could do with some training in the heat, which I don't mind at all. The ultra, which starts on Long Tom Pass and cruises around the Sabie area, is sure to be hot and humid.

I donned my hydration pack and set off for my uncle's house at a comfortable pace despite the heat. n A cool shower, tasty dinner and warm company made the run even more memorable.

This was one of those occasions where a 'runner's high' was inevitable. For me, there's something appealing about running from one place to another - not just a loop route, which is what I most often run from home.

I'm out in Parys again and tomorrow (Sunday) I've got my eye on a big loop (this one is all tar), which I've wanted to run for weeks. Now is a good time for it. I'm hoping that it will be close to 20km. It should be hard work (rolling terrain, hot conditions and some of the day spent kayaking - if the weather holds) but I'm looking forward to it.


This parkrun thing

If you haven't heard of parkrun, you've probably been under a rock. In short, these are free, five-kilometre runs every Saturday morning at venues (usually parks or park-like properties) around the World. There are 46 parkrun locations in South Africa and new venues open regularly.

I ran my first parkrun at Delta Park in February 2013 - this was before the participant numbers were crazy high like they are now. I'm under correction but I think that Delta was the first parkrun in South Africa, opened by Bruce Fordyce who brought the parkrun concept (started in the UK) to SA.

It took me just over a year until I did my next one, at the Woodlands Office Park. It wasn't that I didn't enjoy the experience, but without a parkrun down the road from home, I wasn't keen to get up early and drive 20-30 minutes to a venue - just for five kilometres...

As I recall my mom was keen to walk a parkrun and we're good friends with the Woodlands course director, Staci. That was in April last year. And then the Modderfontein one had opened, which is closer to home and I did it with a friend in May last year. And then another Woodlands one in August.

I've been hanging out in Parys quite a bit on weekends and so I was delighted when a parkrun started in Parys at the beginning of November.

Compared to Jo'burg parkruns, Parys is small - but very friendly. There are usually around 65 runners including a good number of children.
I wasn't there for that inaugural running but I was there later that month. I bagged two Parys parkruns in November and one in December, along with an inaugural parkrun at the Pretoria Botanical Gardens, where I walked with my running buddy who did it on crutches.

I've been consistently bettering my times at the Parys parkrun. At the end of December I took almost a minute off my time from a month before; last weekend I bettered my time by a few seconds again.

Charging into the finish at the Parys parkrun on 3 January 2015. It was hot already for the 08h00 start.
 This morning at Woodlands I ran almost two minutes faster than I did in August.

And this, for me, is the appeal of parkrun. Short and punchy, I'm using them as a time trial for a high intensity weekly run. In Parys, I run to the start, which is a few minutes away - very, very convenient. I have friends that I enjoy seeing at Woodlands and I'm making friends in Parys with other regular parkrunners and seeing a few people I know at the runs too.

I also get a total kick out of receiving my results on email later the same day. This morning, for example, I was 33rd out of 416 runners, 6th lady and 1st in my age category. Having a dash of a competitive streak, I just want to keep bettering my times and positions. They're all listed on the parkrun website so I can keep an eye on how I'm doing. It's addictive!

This morning was my 10th parkrun... six of them run only since late November. And that's another thing too. I can totally see the appeal of collecting parkruns. Venues, inaugural runs, number of runs...

At FEAT in October Tracy Rankin spoke about what parkrun means to her. She's South Africa's most parkrun runner. Lovely talk. I've included it below.

Check out the parkrun website for event venues and join one close to you (remember to register on the website first to get you barcode). If there isn't one, consider starting one (contact Bruce through the website). All you need is a nice area and a five-kilometre route. parkruns are volunteer run and while the original director will have their hands full for a few weeks, with time you'll recruit other volunteers to share the load.

Wednesday 7 January 2015

Ringing... er... running in the New Year

I've had a good two weeks or so with very little time spent online. Instead I've been in-and-out of Jo'burg and spending lots of time in Parys where I've had a good dose of running (including some parkrun PB times), some casual mountain biking, some river rafting and a little chillin' too.

This past weekend I was up in the Naboomspruit area of the Waterberg where I enjoyed two runs in a little nature reserve. My first was an 8km on Sunday evening where I had the pleasure of spotting the reserve's three giraffe as well as impala, kudu, nyala and zebra.

As my friend Rob quite rightly says of my running game viewing fortune: "That is so awesome seeing all that wildlife. I entered several trail runs where they said I would see lots of game and I did not see half of what you saw".

For run #1 (Sunday evening) I did the 6.2km and 2.6km routes. It was on the 2.6km route that I saw the giraffe. For run #2 on Monday morning, I did the 6.2km route twice - the second loop in the reverse direction.

Giraffe spoor. Fresh.
Definitely not alone out here...
Hello! The third fellow was a little more to the right (out of frame). 

It was cooking hot, even in the evening, so I decided to get up early (early for me!) to get in a longer run. I ran into the reserve just before 7am and it was already pretty hot.

About 500m from the start there was a muddy section of the dirt road so I squeezed off to the road side to avoid it, turning my back into the road-side bushes.


A sharp, hot burning jab on my right butt cheek. I swiped my hand behind me.


Eina! Burning like mad!

I got zapped, most likely by a wasp! Ow! Fortunately I'm not allergic and so it was nothing more than a white-hot sting for about 10 minutes on my butt and hand. Fine after that.

Just before about 2km I took a wrong path - I wasn't paying attention to the signs. And a good thing too because right in front of me...

Mr G. Raffe got more of a fright than me. He's running away down the road. He was less than 50m from me.
I watched the three giraffe for a bit and then resumed running. Having run the route the evening before I had a feeling I was on the wrong path - it was going downhill and should have been working its way up. After a bit I turned around, ran back up the hill and watched the giraffe again.

Zebbies and impala (and what looked like two albino bontebok) running away from me at start of second loop.
Second loop was really hot - good preparation, I hope, for the 80km ultra I'm running in Sabie area at the end of the month. I clocked around 16km.

Two lovely, lovely runs to kick off the year.

Hip-hip-hooray for many more in 2015 - and best wishes to you too for a year that yields all you set your heart towards achieving.