Friday 24 April 2015

My Qhubeka Buffalo bike

Inspired by Colin, the thrifty cyclist, and his daughter Bianca, I bought a Qhubeka Buffalo bike. Colin and Bianca are currently doing the 9 Peaks Challenge (cycling to and then hiking the highest peak in each of South Africa's 9 Provinces) - they have a super blog at Heavy Metal Bikes. They're on their way to their 9th peak.

In its favour the Buffalo has the following stats:

  • one size fits all
  • rear carrier can support 100kg
  • single speed
  • low maintenance
  • puncture-resistant, long-wearing tyres
  • heavy gauge steel tubing for the frame
  • back-pedal braking 'system'
  • comes with a pump, helmet, multi-tool and metal tyre levers
  • bike weighs about 25kg
  • lovely bright yellow
It is very unlikely that I'll be hijacked for this bike! 

This bike is made for Africa. It is made for children to ride to school - or for a parent to lift a child. Adults can use it to transport goods to market. It is made to be near indestructible. Qhubeka is an amazing project where bikes are donated and spread into rural communities; and people in the communities are trained to be mechanics - to maintain the bikes. 

I think that this is the perfect commuta-bike. My mom has been riding the Qhukeba a bit on our run-ride outings (I run, she rides). She has a seven-speed cruiser and without hesitation I can say that she rides the Qhubeka better than her bike, especially on the hills. I know! She says that the single gear of the Qhubeka is "just perfect". She has been rocking it. 

Last weekend we did a ride together with me on the Qhubeka and mom on her cruiser. It was such fun.

It is also fun lifting people on the Qhubeka. Mom and I have taken turns lifting each other on our run-ride outings. It's a hoot!

Celliers lifting Ruben and Kyla - two children fit perfectly
On the bike with Ruben.
My neighbour Judy joining in
I bought the Qhubeka to get into commuting by bicycle in my local neighbourhood. The challenge is not as much biking as having places to chain the bike up (and feeling ok walking away from it!). Bicycle racks are very few and far between. It is quite something to make the transition from using a bike for recreation to using it for transport. I'm not quite there yet but I aim to be.

I also bought it (Celliers bought one too) to ride at Afrikaburn, which happens next week. I've made ribbon streamers for the handlebars and he has made metal boxes to go on the rear carriers, which I'll cover in bright fabric.

Colin and Bianca have pimped their bikes slightly. They removed the heavy-duty bicycle stand, the chain protector and mud guards to reduce weight. And they added straight mountain bike handlebars and grips for long-distance comfort. I'll probably change the handlebars too; for local commuting I'm fine with the weight.

I love my 29er for real mountain biking but I'm getting a real kick out of this beast for urban biking. Next week my Qhubeka is going to sink its wheels into the Karoo as a fun-play-commuting bike.

39 Days of Running begins

My annual pre-birthday running game starts tomorrow and as I'm turning 39 in June, I'm in for 39 consecutive days of running. I started this a few years ago when I turned 35.

As before, minimum distance is 5km or a 30-minute run.

I'm starting my game a bit early this year as I leave for Expedition Africa on 3 June so I've timed this one to finish on 2 June.

I haven't been running a lot over the past two months but I've been running really well and feeling really good.

At the Parys parkrun two weeks ago I ran my best 5km time - probably for the past 10 years. I took ONE WHOLE MINUTE (plus a few seconds) off my previous PB set a few weeks earlier. As I hadn't run any parkruns inbetween so this came as a surprise. I actually thought I was running slower but apparently I was rocking it. I'd hope to take a few more seconds off... but a minute! And I was first woman overall. Yee-haa.

I'm going to throw in some speed work too (as I haven't done any!) and I hope that over the coming months (probably more than just a few months) I can get my time down to the 21/22 minutes that I used to run when I was about 22 - in the days before adventure racing and ultra running. A number of older friends have shown me that it can be done; that is is possible to hit PBs on distances even two decades later. They're definitely my inspiration.

My Parys parkrun PB (and overall parkrun PB) - set 11 April 2015.
My birthday game... I need this. The focus on time. The focus on my running.

Sub-24 mins, here I come.

Wednesday 22 April 2015

Blood donation #39

I've been deferred for a couple of months and yesterday my donation date clicked on. I received an sms and a phone call from SANBS to please come through. When you're O Negative, you're in demand! I was in Rustenburg yesterday so I went today to make my 39th donation.

I got lucky - receiving a Geldhof Easter Bunny. Yum!

I also found my favourite cinnamon cookies in the cookie bowl and I had a delicious hot chocolate from the fancy machine, which my donor centre got last year.

I learned a couple of things today:

Bags must be filled within 15 minutes. For whole blood to be used, the bag must be filled within 12 minutes (used to be 15, this is a new thing). It's all about the platelets, apparently. Most donors fill a bag in 8 to 15 minutes. I'm on around 6 mins for a bag.

They get a lot of people who come and donate for their 67 Minutes for Mandela thing. They come once a year only.


I've said it before and I'll say it again (please spread the word)...

You've got to become a regular donor (three to six times a year) for your blood to be used.

If you come once-a-year then your donation gets thrown away.

Yes, in the trash! (well, medical incinerated trash!)

Why? When you come once, your blood is tested for nasties and, if clear, it sits in the freezer waiting for you to come in again. When you come in again, within a year, they test again. And they wait for you to come in again within the year. If all three samples are clear, you are then classified as a 'regular donor' with blood that is safe to give to a recipient.

BUT... you've got to maintain this regular donor status or you'll have to start from scratch again.

If you were the recipient I'm sure you'd appreciate the safety standards and checks implemented by SANBS.

If you just make a feel-good donation once a year without intending to become a regular donor, don't.

You're wasting the time and resources of SANBS - staff, equipment, blood tests, freezer space.

If you really want to contribute, save a life and all that stuff, then commit to donating three to six times a year. Simple, really.

Tuesday 14 April 2015

I caught a litter bug

As I run around my neighbouring suburbs, I see litter everywhere. And yet there are many, many bins along sidewalks.

There's a park that I run through often either on my way out or my way home. It used to be a mine dump that they re-mined a good 20 years ago. As a kid I just thought it was a hill and I used to fly down its slopes in a cardboard box. Now it is a lovely open piece of grassy ground with a bit of a reed-encircled pond at the one end - evidently a section just below the water table. Birds and frogs are abundant.

Yesterday evening I was out on a run. My mom was with me, riding her bike. Reaching the exit of the park, I stopped to wait for her. Two attractive women approached. I heard the taller of the two opening a wrapper of something and as she put the cookie into her mouth she dropped the wrapper on the ground.

If there's one way to make my blood boil in an instant, it is to see someone littering. I rarely have the pleasure of catching offenders in action but when I do...

I pointed to the wrapper and said, "You've just dropped your litter on the ground. I think you should pick it up and put it in the bin. This park looks like it does because of people like you."

She did pick it up, looked daggers at me and proceeded out of the park and across the road. I shouted after her, "There's a bin on your left, you can put it in there".

She didn't and I'm quite certain that she would have dropped it again a little further on.

Here's the kicker. The two women work at a school up the road. They were wearing jerseys embroidered with the school's logo. Whether teachers or other staff, I don't know, but it did mean that I headed home with a bounce in my step, an email already writing itself in my mind.

This is a public park and it is used as a thoroughfare, cutting out a lot of distance that would have to be walked around big blocks without it, and for recreation. There are a bunch of friendly soccer players who use the part a few evenings a week, there's a guy who practices his golf and I've seen people walking their dogs. And I run through the park, delighting in the open space and changes with the seasons.

Green - the route taken by the women; red 'x' - site of offence; blue - the park
Of course, littering is rife. People passing through drop bags of trash, random wrappers and even old furniture occasionally. Every time I run through the park (most days) I fantasise about spending the day sitting on the nearby rise with a paintball gun, shooting offenders that I catch red handed.

Despite the municipality cleaning up regularly, the park is in need of a really good cleanse and I cannot think of anything better than mobilising the school (staff and students), which is located less than one kilometre away, to do a clean up in the park.

I can't believe that an expensive private school with Herbert Baker architecture, beautiful grounds and extensive sport and cultural activities condones littering and the disrespect of the environment and public places that comes with it. They surely teach environmental awareness and provide bins on their property for trash.

That this woman dropped her wrapper without hesitation... That she is a regular litter bug, I have no doubt. If she has children, she has probably taught this behaviour to them. And her family are certainly litter bugs too - she had to learn this from somewhere. Catching one litter bug in action is so much more than just one person dropping one piece of paper.

I've written to the school, described the women (the friend is, for me, just as guilty because she didn't say anything to the litter bug and is probably one herself!), and suggested a clean-up (which I'll assist in coordinating), with the offenders participating too.

I am awaiting a response.

Litter is a HUGE problem. It is unsightly, dirty and totally unnecessary. What I saw yesterday is unacceptable and what a blessing (for me!) that these women can be identified and be reminded of right from wrong. She knew. That she didn't care is the greater problem. It is the problem not just in this park and with this incident. It is a problem in this country where too many people do not care.

Fortunately, some of us do.

Thursday 9 April 2015

You've got to donate blood more than once to make a difference

We're in the Easter season, a time when blood donations are desperately needed. I've heard the SANBS (National Blood Service) people on the radio and calls for donations are in the news.

Some stupid ass on the news yesterday proclaimed that the increase in already excessive number of road deaths over this Easter period was because Easter falls at month-end. No, idiot, it is because there are so many on the road who speed, drive drunk, overtake on corners, solid-white lines and blind rises, reverse on the highway... That's why. 

Right now, they especially need regular donors to donate as all components from first-time donors ARE NOT USED until the person has donated twice more.

The reason for this is safety; SANBS makes sure that your blood is good and healthy to give to someone. If you're on the receiving end, you can be assured that SANBS has one of the highest testing and donating standards in the World.

SANBS has fixed donor centres around the country and they also run mobile clinics at schools, business and companies. You can find these on their website -

I've written about blood donating many times. As a regular donor, it is something close to my heart.

Even more important to me is to tell you that ONCE-OFF DONATIONS ARE NOT USED until you go back and donate again!

The focus is safe blood and that means that you need to donate more than once so that SANBS can run their various tests on your blood and are able to confirm that your blood is safe to give to someone.

This is what happens when you first donate.

SANBS collects your donation and runs your blood through tests for things like HIV, Hepatitis and Syphilis. They spin your blood to separate the components. They throw away your red blood cells and put the plasma on ice to wait for your second donation.

The next time you come in - after at least 56 days - they do the same again. When the tests from this second donation also come back negative, they will use the quarantined plasma from your first donation.

When you come in again for your third donation (after at least another 56 days), they test again (every donation is tested every time!). And after this third donation (within a one-year period), you have achieved "regular donor status" and all of your components are used.

You do need to maintain your regular donor status by donating three or more times a year.

When these calls for blood come out, heading off to a centre to make a once-off donation is a noble feel-good gesture and all that... but as you can see, if is a waste of SANBS' time and resources and money unless you return to donate again.

People often gripe about SANBS' exclusions - but they are set for good reason for your health and that of the recipients of your blood (here's a list of deferral reasons).

Like you can't donate if you've got flu or a cold. Come back when you're better.

You can't donate if you've just returned from a holiday to a malaria area. Come back four weeks after your holiday.

You can't donate for six months if you have a new sexual partner.

You can't donate while you're pregnant or breast feeding. Doh! Your baby needs you!

You can't donate if you're under 16yrs, over 65yrs or weigh less than 50kg.

You can't donate if you have a critical condition like diabetes, heart/blood pressure issues.

You can't donate if you're taking certain medications. These could seriously affect the recipient, who is probably not in such a good state if they're needing your blood.

SANBS DOES ALLOW donations from same-sex relationship donors - FINALLY!

A friend emailed me last night asking about the location of my local clinic. She's heard the calls for donations in the media and as a past recipient of a life-saving transfusion, she wants to give something back. I told her about the ineffectiveness of once-off donations and how to become a regular donor. She had no idea.

Your first donation over this critical holiday period won't help to replenish the blood stocks now. But, it is the starting point to become a regular donor and by Christmas your blood will indeed be saving lives.

The SANBS website is neat, tidy and informative.