Wednesday 30 September 2015

Oh woe for my neglected veggie garden

My vegetable gardening exploits over the past year have been dismal.

Last summer I had an abundance of cherry tomatoes and a reasonable crop of swiss chard. My herbs did really well with excellent basil, thyme, fennel and mint. That was probably the bulk of it. I didn't do anything over winter.

My poor vegetable bed has been lying fallow and with everything bursting into leaf and bloom everywhere, I've had a gremlin on my shoulder niggling me for not planting a single thing this season.

Last night I was chatting to my buddy Deon and he was talking about his garden and resulting produce.

My fingers began craving the feeling of earth - even more than usual!

This evening I spent about an hour pulling old plants out, tidying up, putting in a few seeds and watering. I'll put in another hour in the morning to get more in, add mulch, water more and probably add some compost to sections of the bed I'd like to use.

My friend gave me some Reel Gardening seed strips so I've put in peas, onion, beetroot, tomatoes and lettuce. Tomorrow, some swiss chard, cherry tomatoes and some seeds for pretty flowers.

I'm a relative newcomer to gardening and I definitely feel at peace to be working the ground and caring for my plants. I enjoy the time on my own, but it is sometimes also an opportunity to connect with neighbours. Living in a complex it can be weeks or months between seeing some neighbours. But when I'm gardening they stop past to see what is going in, how the plants are doing and so say hello. This does bring out the best in people,

My biggest challenge now is regular watering - in these first few weeks it makes the biggest difference to the success of the plants. Now just to keep the focus.

Are you growing anything this summer?

One week to 7th FEAT adventure talks

There's one week to go until the 7th edition of my FEAT adventure talks event. Oh goodness!

Thursday, 8 October 2015 | Linder Auditorium

I've got another awesome speaker lineup and I'm looking forward to meeting those that I've followed but have never met in person.

This year is my first FEAT Kids event - the young speakers are superb. The adventures that they've done already!

And FEAT, as usual, promises to be magical.

There really is little that is more wonderful than listening to tales of adventure. And at FEAT you have a host of sporting disciplines represented by these seven-minute talks. Incredible!

There are still tickets available for both events - up to the start of each. There are no tickets available at the door; but you can book online.

I hope to see you there.


Open Metrogaine in the Sandton CBD for October

Months ago I attended the launch of the EcoMobility World Festival and even though I rarely travel into Sandton, I was captivated by the initiative. Unless you've been living under a rock, you'll know that streets in the Sandton CBD will be closed to vehicles for the month of October - with a ring road that is open to buses and taxis.
Before even walking out of the launch function I knew I'd be creating an open Metrogaine.
It's time to play in the streets again. Streets that are for people, not vehicles.
The area is smaller (800m2) than usual and there is no points allocation (checkpoints are equal). There are 23 checkpoints and you can locate them in any order.
There are two course options:
  1. How many checkpoints can you get in 30 minutes?
  2. How long does it take you to get all checkpoints?
Try it on foot, bicycle, electric bike, segway, skateboard... anything counts.
And post your time, route and mode of transport on the Metrogaine Facebook page. How about a selfie too? 

Download the map and cluesheet, print 'em and enjoy. 

I'd appreciate if you can share this Metrogaine with friends, especially those working in Sandton or living nearby. This makes for a delightful lunch-hour activity. 


My thanks to Liz for walking the streets of Sandton with me to look for fun locations.

Friday 25 September 2015

Mud and fun at IMPI Challenge

Yesterday I did my first Obstacle Course Race (OCR) at Pieter du Plessis' IMPI Challenge. I opted for the longest course with the most obstacles (approx 18km with 26 obstacles - Elite course) to get the full experience.

The event was held out at Van Gaalens, near Hartebeespoort, and even though there are loads of runs and bike rides and even mountain bike orienteering - mapped and hosted by my Adventure Racing Club! - I've never been there for an event.

I've been out of pole and circus school for almost two years so while my upper body strength is probably better than average, I'm definitely not as strong as I was. Two years ago I would have popped the wall like a dog on a trampoline. Yesterday it was substantially harder!

We only had about 25 women on the Elite course. I chatted to some of the others they also think that women are put off from entering not because of the distance, but because they don't think they're strong enough to get over the obstacles. Much of this impression comes from the Warrior events, which are more upper-body concentrated.

IMPI Challenge, on the other hand, is more running and natural-obstacle focused and while there are some obstacles that are really taxing, most are very, very doable.

AND, here's the thing... unless you're going for the prizes (not allowed any assistance at all, even from other competitors), you can get a leg-up from friends and participants and, if you are absolutely exhausted, you can walk around the obstacle. The first event will clearly show you where you need to put in more training.

Let's look at the course...

The route
The route made good use of the area and gave us a variety of terrain and scenery - interspersed with obstacles. The early part of the course had us in and out of muddy streams and pools sheltered by reeds and trees, then out into the open on trails - with a swim across a clean farm dam - and then back down to the streams and river.

The obstacles
Many of the obstacles use natural features - crawling through a reed tunnel, under something-or-other in a steam and through another tunnel. This is when I was really glad to be not-the-tallest-person. We also splashed through streams and muddy pools and climbed up slippery and muddy embankments. And jogged through dry gulleys. We swam in the river and a dam too.

That's me in the pink tee waiting to climb a muddy embankment - not far from the start.
A participant jumping into a muddy pool.
A river section
The IMPI crew also construct a host of obstacles. Too many to remember!

While I found the tyre pull easy, I did find 'Marble Peaty', where we had to carry a cement block, to be one of the hardest. It was too heavy for me to be able to lift up on to my shoulders and the metal-stake handles were hell on the hands, even with cycle gloves.

I found this one to be really tough on my hands, even with cycle gloves. Same size block for girls and guys.
I successfully climbed the rope (thank you circus school) without too much hassle and also scaled the vertical wall with the rope. There was a large angled yellow wall, which I also got first shot but I struggled with the shorter vertical wall, which followed. Arrrggghhh! I gave it a few attempts and then made it over with a good tug from a guy already on top (thank you!).

I didn't make the full length of the monkey bars - losing grip just before half way; but the monkey chains, with big tyres, was fun and smooth. I enjoyed the two rope swings to get over pits.

I think this was called Monkey Chains.
Sidewinder was really tough. We were required to go over and then under and then over successive poles. For the under you're hanging upside down clinging on like a sloth and your feet aren't allowed to touch the ground. Like the other girls on there with me I used the side bar for assistance. There must be a technique for this one?

Best technique for the five-metre jump is just to... run and jump! Easy to forget how high five metres is!

The bucket lift took my full body weight and hard pulling to get the cement block to the top.

Near the finish were a bunch of obstacles for the spectators to enjoy. One of these were the lilypads across a small dam. We had one set earlier across the river, which I enjoyed running over - my first time. This one at the end was a little more challenging but I made it across. At the earlier one I asked the marshal if there was a technique to this. She said, "Lift your knees", which I did. It worked for me.

Me, running the lilypad.
All in all, a lot of variety. Most of the hardest obstacles are reserved for the Elite course.

Although the Elite competitors received medals, an alternative memento was a post-race photo, which was taken at the finish and printed in less than a minute. Amazing!

The start timings seemed to work really well. The Elite women started five minutes after the men. Near the end I caught up with some competitors on the Challenge course. Being on the Elite course we got to go ahead on the obstacles. I really appreciated that there were not many people in my category so there was little congestion and as the field spread out I was often on my own, only seeing other competitors at the obstacles.

Total number of participants for the day was around 1,500 and with people set off in batches, I didn't feel the volume even near the end.

The event area was very colourful and festive with lots of gazebos and tables and benches. Sean Falconer, an old colleague from Runner's World (now editor of Modern Athlete), was doing commentary and keeping the vibe happening. There was a block of loos and also showers for post-race clean-off. And a bunch of catering and refreshment options.

Everything from registration to the start, the course, the obstacles, the post-race photo memento was smooth and efficient.

We've got so many strong and fit women who run distance trail races and ultras all the time. The run distance will be no issue. As for the obstacles, they're really no issue either. Some you'll find easy, other will test you and a few you may bomb out on. That's fine.

Women, don't be scared to enter these events! 

An excellent experience of my first OCR and I'll definitely do another. I'm partially tempted to do a Warrior if I can get up the courage to brave the crowds (and I really need to do some shoulder and grip training!) and I'd definitely do another IMPI Challenge Elite without hesitation.

A day after the event my legs are fine but my shoulders and upper arms are indeed speaking to me.

My thanks to Pieter and Nikki for inviting me to your event. I'm appreciative of the nudge to get my butt out there.

Photos of me and other competitors from the Impi Challenge Facebook page.

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Finally, my first OCR at IMPI Challenge tomorrow

I have never done an OCR (obstacle course race). I know! It seems like something I'd immediately migrate to because I love obstacle courses and the clambering involved.

I've been quite interested in OCRs but hearing that there are 2500-3500 people participating put me off.

IMPI Challenge has been around for years - started before the whole OCR craze took off. It is organised by Pieter du Plessis, an old-old-old adventure racing teammate. Pieter started these events in the Cape and after a few years brought them up to Gauteng. He has so much event experience as a former Camel Trophy competitor (I think around 1995/6 in Borneo), Camel Trophy support driver and activity setter-upper (for other years), adventure racer and many years of event organising and obstacle creating.

His focus is on natural and some man-made obstacles with a good chunk of running in his events. IMPI isn't as hyped as the Warrior races and there are not quite as many participants (although still excellent participation and well supported - certainly over 1500 participants expected tomorrow).

Coincidentally, I've often been out of town when his events have been up here.

Nikki, who works with Pieter, dropped me a note a few weeks ago inviting me to come and give their next event a try. I figure that there's no time like now to jump in and, of course, to jump into the deep end with the IMPI Elite course - the longest one.

I'm attracted to the Elite course because of the distance (18-20km) and also because I'll get to do all of the obstacles. I'd hate to do a shorter course and miss out on something! FOMO indeed!

AND, the field is much smaller than in the Mini and Challenge categories at around 150 participants. The Elite group is separated into two batches: men (around 120 participants) and women (around 30 participants).

Nikki invited me to bring along a friend and I specifically wanted another woman to join me because it seems that so few women enter the long courses. It could be for worry that upper body strength is not sufficient? Personally, after watching the video of the Cape Town event I was only concerned that even with a jump I wouldn't be able to reach some elements. I'm not the tallest lass around and I figured that having a friend along to give and receive a leg-up was a good plan.

Cindy will be joining me and I think we're in for a super morning at IMPI Challenge.

My thanks to Nikki and Pieter for their kind invitation. It was the nudge I needed to actually think about giving this event a really good shot. I'm really excited and looking forward to doing my first OCR tomorrow.

IMPI Challenge is also on Facebook and you can watch a video from the Cape Town event on their website (scroll down the landing page and you'll see it).

Wednesday 9 September 2015

Event calendar clash in perspective

There is barely a day in the year where there is not an event on. If you're just a road runner then things are simple. But if you participate regularly in events from more than one discipline like trail running and adventure racing, then there will be clashes.

My photographer friend Bruce Viaene has created a new adventure race in the former Transkei, which is scheduled for late February next year. It's a 150km event for pairs and fours.

I added it to the adventure racing calendar (which is not overloaded with events) and shared on the AR Facebook page.

Photo by Bruce Viaene of scenery from his race location
Within minutes a racer posts, "would love to do it... clashes with addo :-(" (Addo refers to an ultra trail run event - 100 mile, 76km and 44km routes).

I cannot begin to describe how comments like this grate. It was certainly posted casually and not with malice (clearly interested in participating in both events), but it grates nonetheless because it was made without thought for a myriad of factors involved in selecting a date and presenting an event as an organiser.

(This is not the first time I've seen a comment like this - on other events too over the past few years; this time I'm writing about it.)

In fact, if you were planning to run the 100 miler at Addo, any event scheduled a few weeks before or few weeks after would 'clash'.

Would a 60km in Mpumalanga on the same day as a 60km in the Eastern Cape equally be considered a clash?

The clashor vs the clashee also depends on your perspective. Does the adventure race clash with Addo only because the date for Addo was published earlier? If your primary sport is AR then Addo clashes with Bruce's event and not the other way around...

It all comes down to what you really want to do with your weekend: a 150km multidiscipline adventure race or a 100-mile run? Entries for both events are not even open so the choice is really wide open.

If Bruce had to consider every single other event across adventure racing disciplines - run, bike, paddle - and sufficient space between them, he'd never find an 'open' date.

Organisers have to select a date for their event based on optimal conditions, venue availability and their own availability to present the event.

'Clash' is such a negative word... as if Bruce purposefully scheduled his event to coincide with Addo. Considering that less that a handful of Addo participants would even vaguely be interested in entering Bruce's event, I hardly see a clash from Addo's perspective. But, as adventure racers are multisporters, there would be a few who are/were looking at doing Addo. Then again, adventure racers are probably interested in entering most events - depending on time and money.

Even if Bruce's event was a week or two before or later, chances are small that even a fraction of people would or could do both anyway.

Looking at my Forest Run next year, there are a bunch of events in Feb/March/April. My date is determined by:

  • My availability
  • Venue availability
  • Fire season restrictions
  • Consideration of likelihood of rain / best weather (not too hot or cold)
I'm always considerate of events with similar dates in the same participant 'catchment'; I certainly can't consider every sporting discipline and every event in other Provinces either. I'd never find a date.

Participants have options and on any given day they can choose what to enter according to the sporting discipline, distance of the course, location of the event and cost of entry.

It's a nice position to be in as a participant; it can be scary for an organiser because your participant base is split not just for a given day but also across events in the weeks and months before and after your event.

Tuesday 8 September 2015

Stem cell donation. I'm registered.

Ultra runner David Barnard is off to run the Atacama staged race with The Sunflower Fund as his beneficiary. David has just sent me an email about his initiative to assist in mobilising people to consider becoming donor and to register as donors.

As a regular blood donor and registered organ donor, this is up my alley. And I'd like to pass it on to you too.

Stem cell transplants are a life-saving treatment option for thousands of South Africans diagnosed with leukaemia every year. Stem cell transplants can only be done if a perfect donor is found. It goes without saying that having an expansive database increases the chances that a match will be found.

Here's the winner - the donation process is much the same as donating blood or platelets. Being a stem cell donor requires no knives nor operations nor anaesthetics. It does require more time than a blood donation (four to six hours) and pre-donation growth hormone injections to stimulate the production of stem cells by bone marrow and their release into the blood stream.

Unlike blood or platelet donation, you are only required to donate stem cells
 if you are found to be a perfect match.

And here's the thing... In his email David says that "the odds of being a match are about 1:100,000 which is why The Sunflower Fund needs our help to mobilise as many donors as possible".

But you've still got to be prepared to donate if you are a match - so don't go into this lightly.

Before calling The Sunflower Fund to register on the SA Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR), I read their neatly presented, two-page info document.

This PDF is available on The Sunflower Fund website (read it before you phone them).

I've just gone through the registration process (friendly Sunflower Fund lady) and made an EFT donation (not compulsory) towards the cost of testing my blood for matching. I have received a reference number from the Sunflower Fund and a registration form, which I can take to my local SANBS blood donor clinic where they'll take two tubes of blood to send off for match testing.

Although you can register at any time of year, David is mobilising friends and relations to register
before he leaves for Chile.

"All you need to do is follow two simple steps," he says.
  1. Phone The Sunflower Fund Toll Free Number, 0800 12 10 82 (weekdays, 08h30 – 16h30), by Friday, 11 September 2015, to complete the pre-registration process. Someone will check if you meet the criteria (e.g. you have to be younger than 45 years of age) to become a donor, and process your Sunflower / SABMR Registration Form. Use “Atacama Project” as your reference when you call.
  2. Have a normal blood test (two test tubes) on Wednesday, 16 September 2016 (09h00-15h00), at The Sunflower Fund’s office in the Brightwater Commons in Randburg.
Both processes will only take a few minutes to complete.
But you have to complete the pre-registration process by Friday, 11 September 2015, in order for The Sunflower Fund to cover the full cost of your blood test on the 16th.
The Sunflower Fund will cover the cost of the blood typing test at any time - in return for having you on the National registry - but if you have the means, it is well worth donating towards the test - from R350.00 or more.

David has a blog and also a Facebook page.

Thank you for the nudge David.

[UPDATE] - done!

Blood samples take at my local SANBS clinic, which will go off to SABMR for testing and matching

Promoting FEAT Kids and giving tickets

My annual FEAT adventure talks evening comes up in four weeks. Bit-by-bit I've been releasing speaker names (more tonight) and ticking admin bits off my list. This morning the banner fabric for the Photo Wall arrived - I think you'll enjoy the theme.

My real challenge this year is in promoting FEAT Kids to schools, parents and teenagers.

Schools with three terms are in the school term when FEAT Kids is on. This is good and bad.

Good because some supportive schools can arrange to bring students through in a group as a school activity/outing.

Bad because teachers and parents pass up the benefits (exposure of children to the world, activities, adventures, inspirational peers, travel) of this once-a-year FEAT Kids event in favour of same-same hockey or swimming practices at school. FEAT Kids is scheduled for 15h00, which is after school ends.

Public and private schools with four terms (the majority) are on holiday over this period. Again, good and bad.

Good in that FEAT Kids is a wonderful holiday activity.

Bad in that it requires a parent, grandparent or such to take them to the event.

Of course, it should be a no brainer that the adults who love FEAT bring their children to FEAT Kids...

The Linder is a big venue and going into this first FEAT Kids event I know that it is unlikely to be full. This does give me a lot of freedom to give tickets to youth development programmes and children's homes. I've made contact with a few and I look forward to seeing them there.

If you have any personal connection with an organisation that cares for children, I'd be happy to provide them with some tickets. Teenagers are the most suitable age group to attend FEAT Kids. Please drop me a note (lisa @

Monday 7 September 2015

Rogaining in some rain

On Saturday I ran in the annual foot rogaining event with my friend Sarah. We ran together a few years ago at the Kaapschehoop rogaining event and teamed up again for this one at one of my favourite places, Lakenvlei - the same place where I host Forest Run.

We drove through from Jo'burg on the morning of the event, especially as it was only starting at 10am and was set at six-hour duration. Other years the events have usually been eight hours (there is also a half-duration course on offer too).

We started in the rain and choosing what to wear before the start was difficult. It wasn't freezing cold and when you run you get hot - quickly. Wearing waterproof jackets keeps you dry (from the rain, but not from sweat) but you get hotter quicker. Wearing a shell, the wind is kept off and you stay warm; but you're likely to get wet because shells really are just wind and splash proof.

We went with our long-sleeve thermal tops and shells. And the balance was spot-on.

Fortunately the rain stopped at about 90-minutes in and although there were moments in this time when we were chilled in the wind, we had the benefit of protection from the trees when running inside the forest.

I didn't take much in the way of photos this year - the rain and damp being a factor as well as not having my happy-snappy race camera on hand (the battery charger is AWOL - and the battery is flat!).

Me and Sarah at control #70
The objective of rogaining is that you've got a limited time (six hours) to collect as many POINTS as possible. This doesn't meant that you need to visit as many checkpoints as possible but rather that you must assess the allocation of points to each checkpoint (20 to 50) and then choose an appropriate route that gets you the most points in the available time. Of course this also depends on how fast you can run and how well you can navigate.

When we got our maps and looked at the checkpoint locations, there was no doubt that we needed to hit the North of the property. The controls in the South were further spread and the points there were not anything magical to lure us that side.

We started out from Lakenvlei Forest Lodge and around the dam to our first control #85. If you look at the map you'll see two numbers at each control location. The first is the control number; the second is the points value for that control.

To guide you as to the direction/route we took... #85, #94, #51 etc and finishing with  #112, #113, #33, #63 and home.

In rogaining, we know that we're not going to get all of the controls. So, selecting a route is as much about which controls we're going to get as which ones we're going to leave out. We decided to leave out #43 and #79 as they were 'awkward' to get.

Michele and Cindy were our female pair competitors and they went in the opposite direction to us. Some of the order in which they got some of the controls differed - and they got the two that we left out.

Michele and Cindy's route. They clocked 35.2km
By the time we reached #112, we still had an hour left. So we ate some munchies and hit the last three controls - totally not in a rush. We didn't have too many other options available for the homeward sweep as more weighted controls were too far away. We finished with 15 mins to spare - and just as the drizle began again.

We were happy with our route and run but most certainly bow to Michele and Cindy's superior route.

We skipped the mountain bike rogaine the next day as we both had commitments - this is also excellent fun.

This rogaine event only comes up once a year and is always one of my most-looked-forward-to.

My thanks to Ian Bratt, Glen Terry and their team of people from Rand Orienteering Club who put out and collected the control flags. They put in a lot of work for a very [too] small crowd of enthusiastic participants.

And extra special thanks to Sarah for a really super day out there with her.

Tuesday 1 September 2015

Oh the joy of Spring

With Dawn2Dusk in my legs, I'm enjoying lovely evening walks with my mom. Our neighbourhood is bursting with Spring fever and every day there are more flowers and more green.

We took a camera along on our walk today. Here are some of the flowers and trees that decorate our route. And the goose family! Oriel Park is still in the process of being re-sculpted and it is looking great. A goose family has taken up residence and they've got two goslings (they has three last week and yesterday we saw one was missing). We take them food when we go down there.