Saturday 23 January 2016

River is up

Our poor Vaal River has been low-low-low this season. It has hovered at around 15-20 cumec. We check out the water level by driving across the bridge on the Potch road and if the flat rocks are visible the water is low. If they're just covered, it's around 40 cumec.

When I drove to Potch this morning I expected the river to be up but saw the flat rocks exposed. But by the time I drove back over the bridge, returning from the Bert's Bricks 21km in Potch, the river wasn't just covering the rocks, it was fast-flowing, much deeper water with turbulence.

Later, when I headed out to the shops, I took a drive along the river to check it out.

This photo below was taken of a pretty, rocky section near my mom's place on 22 November 2015.

A reasonably level in November - maybe 60 cumecs. It has been a lot lower since with rocks jutting out everywhere.

And this is the same section today.

There has been a release from upstream at Barrage. This is about 90 cumecs coming down. There is also a lot of water hyacinth being washed down and I'm sure the Gatsien rapid is working perfectly. As this level rise is due to a release, it will drop when the release finishes. It's great to enjoy while it is here.

I enjoy watching the river and seeing how its personality changes with the water level. Another bonus of living in Parys.

Bert's Bricks Great Brick Run 21km

When I have to wake up early for road races - well, anything really - I tell myself, "You'll have so much fun when you're there".

And so it was this morning when my alarm went off at 04h50. "You'll love it," I told myself as I started pulling on my running kit.

This morning was the Great Brick Run hosted by the Bert's Bricks Athletics Club in Potchefstroom. Potch is just under 50km from Parys on a lovely road that initially crosses the Vaal River into North West Province and meanders through some hills and valleys of the Vredefort Dome and then onto an open landscape where the road is bounded on either side by farm lands.

About 30km from Potch a light rain fell and continued until I reached the beginning of town. This cool and overcast morning made for perfect running conditions.

I registered (only R80 for the 21km - cheaper than JHB) and found myself in a crowd of a few hundred runners. Maybe 500? The 21km walkers had set off before our 06h30 start and in our group were the 10km and 21km runners. There was also a 5km fun run scheduled for a 07h00 start.

The first 2.5km of the route took us past the back of my old high school (standards 6 & 7) at Potch Girls and then out the back of town.

This is an out-and-back route (for all courses) and the turn-around for the 21km is at the Bert's Bricks factory. It's a tar road all the way with small holdings and farmed land on either side. It is also flat all the way, which was a treat for me because I haven't done a lot of running - flat was good.

The quirky element to this run is that at the turn-around you have the option of picking up a brick. If you carry it all the way back to the finish, you get a six-pack of beer. Even though I don't drink beer, I was totally in for this. On the race information it did say that only the first 100 people carrying their bricks to the end would get the beer. Brick carriers are in the minority so there was certainly enough for all making it back with their bricks.

I set a very comfortable and easy-breathing pace to the Bert's Bricks factory. Looking at my splits they were beautifully in the 5:45/km pace range. We has friendly and well-supplied water points every 2,5km, plus one as we entered and exited the factory.

I'd brought along a pillowcase to put the brick into, which I just carried in my hand to the turn-around. I wasn't sure what the brick would be like and it was a regular, solid clay brick. No holes in it. I popped it into my pillowcase and headed off.

First I tried tucking it under my arm - it really didn't sit right. After a kilometre I saw a guy ahead of me running with his in a bag too, and just holding the bag in his hand with the brick below. I gave that a try and it definitely proved to be a good option. I'd swap hands every hundred metres or so. Holding it with both hands at belly height also worked for a bit of a break and later I'd hold it on my shoulder, tucking it into my neck/face to stabilise it.

The brick definitely got heavier! Nonetheless, I held onto a comfortable 6:30 pace to the finish and felt way better than I'd expected, especially as I haven't run a half marathon for ages. The cool temperature and flat terrain definitely helped.

At the finish I got this sweet medal and my six-pack of beer.

Even though I dread early mornings, it is always worth getting up to run. Every time.

Monday 18 January 2016

New Forest Run route scouting fun

My Forest Run event is moving from its three-year home in the beautiful pine plantation of Lakenvlei (near Belfast/Dullstroom), to the hills and valleys of the Vredevort Dome, within spitting distance of my new home town of Parys.

It looks like Saturday, 21 May 2016 will be the new date. Almost confirmed - very, very likely.

Despite my best intentions to get out onto the trails over the festive season, I didn't. We were topping upper 30s and into the 40s - it was just too hot! We had better temperatures last week so on Thursday I headed out to scout trails in the first of a few sections that I aim to link. Although the morning was cool, it was up to 35°C for a chunk of the day. But what a magnificent day to put in 27 kilometres of exploring! I haven't yet done half the trails I want to check out for the new route and I aim to get out there again on Wednesday to explore another section I have my eye on.

 My mom, Liz, came out with me on Thursday. We split up shortly after the start as she was planning to just walk to the waterfall and turn back (about 4km total). She climbed up the steep and rocky section to the top of the waterfall and decided going down would be too tricky. Instead of descending she decided to do a loop trail section. She missed the critical turn-off and corrected later, but it meant an extra few kilometres. I think she put in 13-14 kilometres of some friendly sections and a bunch of technical, rocky trail. She rocked it and wants more. Well done mom xxx.

After some deliberation, I will be keeping the event name as Forest Run. The same event and feel, different location. While there isn't a pine plantation out here, it is far more forested than you'd expect. Natural forest and a diversity of tree and vegetation types. You'll see some of this in the photos below.

Here are some photos from my first day playing in the Dome.

A lovely foresty section - cool and shaded.
Yeah, we have got trees here.
Lying in the shade. It was about 34C - a hammock under the trees would have been divine.
Checking out an old open mine from back in the 1800s when gold was found in the area. The find didn't turn out to be as good as hoped. Mining folded and the people left the area.
Another foresty section. It got better and better.
An open, fast-running section.
Water reservoirs are fabulous. I was surprised to find this one full. Very inviting!
A trail runs through the valley below - I'll definitely use it because I so enjoyed being down there.
This was quite a climb up in temperatures of 35C. I was roasting!
There is such an incredible mix of terrain - and I haven't even covered half of what I want to check out. This is a rocky trail section.
Howz this! A forest of protea trees on top of the one ridge.
Trig beacon bagging.
Windmills are so cool. Down in the valley.
I wet my hat in the cattle drinking trough on the other side of the reservoir.
It was a treat to come over a saddle to see lush green fields and pastures, the Vaal River and my end point.
Lots and lots and lots of sugarbush protea trees - not many proteas out.
And then I saw this one next to the trail.
Despite a full reservoir and having a good drink at a bush camp, I was thirsty when I got back.
It was a hot but fabulous day out there.

Saturday 2 January 2016

Showering to water the garden

It really took us way too long to figure this one out...

A few weeks back I shot Celliers an idea about channelling the water from the outside drain into the garden. At the back of the house the pipes for the two bathrooms (showers and basins) feed straight into a drain. While we don't have much elevation, it is adequate to let the water spill out onto the lawn.

We first rigged a PVC pipe to the one outlet and had it directing water on to a patch of nearby non-lawn, which had all but died after having a sheet of corrugated iron on top of it. Within days the improvement was visible and soon the rectangle should merge with the surrounding lawn.

We then hit the plumbing store to get angled connectors to hook up the second outlet and to feed a long pipe along the patio.

It must be almost two weeks now that we've had out shower water going onto a patch of lawn that has been dry and crunchy. With the water restrictions we haven't watered at all for weeks and we've got a number of exceptionally dry spots.

We then created a 'reducer' system from pieces from the plumbing and hardware stores to 'reduce' the 50mm diameter of the PVC pipe to a hosepipe connector. The plan is that one night I leave the hose in one part of the garden, the next night in another spot and so on, to feed water to different areas.

I connected up the hose but that didn't work very well because without gradient and pressure the water couldn't get out the narrow hosepipe fast enough and backed up the water in the shower itself.

We've been looking for a wider pipe and have only found a 25mm so far, which is better than the hosepipe but at R33/metre we'll look around more to see if there's a better option. Of course, I could play tetris with 50mm 'y' connectors and two hosepipes...

My current system of having water running down a plank (I move it to different positions to target new areas), which is angled from a brick to the lawn, is a bit rustic, but it is working well.

Last night I rigged up another length of PVC pipe to the existing setup (PVC pipe from the outlets and plank to direct the water) to target a new patch of crunchy lawn. Within a few weeks the lawn should be green throughout the back yard.

I've got a blank canvas for the garden here at my new home in Parys. Back in October I pulled out all the spiky plants that were here to start from scratch. The new plan includes checkerboard paving stones (with grasses and short plants inbetween), raised beds (Celliers built them for me) and a pergola in the corner (with swinging bench - phase 3 of the garden project).

Progress has been slow, mostly because I'm terrified of putting plants into the ground when I can't water them. So a bunch of grasses and plants are still sitting in their bags, all grouped together so that I can water them using the watering can. I've dug in an irrigation system but I'll only be able to use it when our water situation improves. Once I find a hose for the shower-water system I'll be able to feed water to the main bed - then I can put in more plants.

Most of the paving stones are in and I should be able to position the last two of the three raised beds later this afternoon. Once the bed boxes are in I can work out how many more pavers I'll need and get those dug in. I've taken before photos and also as I complete sections. I'll put them all together when I've got something to show.

I have no idea why we didn't do the shower water - drain - PVC pipe thing before; but I'm glad we finally came to our senses.

We don't have veggies yet... that will be phase 6 of the garden! We have monkey visitors here in Parys so the veggie garden needs to be monkey proof. Here are some pics of our regular visitors (taken about two days ago). There are young twins and a smaller only child. Too cute to watch! They come to our front garden at least once a week to eat the acorns from the big oak tree.

Friday 1 January 2016

Ou Jaar's 10km in Vanderbijlpark

Last night my mom and I hit the Ou Jaar's 5/10km in Vanderbijlpark for our welcoming-in-the-New-Year run. Mom did the 5km, I did the 10km.

We were last out here with a bunch of friends in 2011 and it was good to return to this quiet New Year's Eve road run.

The crowd was small and we had no other friends present, although I did bump into a lady I know from my old-old running club in Jo'burg (in the last 90s - we knew each other from gym too). We had a quick hello and then it was off to run.

People arriving at the venue. 
The route is a little different from in the past in that the route is a 2.5km loop. Mom had to do two loops; I had to do four. There's nothing difficult and it is mostly flat - a bit of a rise around the first bend. Previously I can remember running around the big open field across from the school (where the race starts) but this time we stuck to the blocks around the school. From an organisational side I can see the advantage of a course like this for marshalling, for walkers and the good number of children participating.

It's always a nice start to a New Year to kick it off with a run and lovely to be out there with my mom.

With my mom, Liz.
This December has probably been my worst ever for running. I've been totally lazy to run in this heat and while I've been commuting around town on my bike and paddling on Tuesday evenings, doing parkrun and odd runs, I need to up my game.

Welcome to January and this New Year.

Best wishes to you too for a year that is fun, entertaining, energetic and filled with adventures of all kinds.