Wednesday 25 May 2016

Going to Chile

I've held off on being excited because I've just had too much on my mind with Forest Run. Now that the load is clearing, I am getting really excited about jetting off to Chile on Saturday.

Celliers surprised me with tickets to Chile. We'd been talking about South America for a while and with loads of air miles about to expire, he jumped in and booked tickets. Because these are air-mile flights, we've got an odd routing via France to Sao Paulo and then Santiago; but this does mean we have 12hrs in Paris on our return journey to run around the city.

My intention was to put in some work on my Spanish before we left... Oh dear. It just didn't happen any more than my Spanish word-a-day. I'll try to cram some vocab on the plane. I look forward to the immersion and focusing intently on speaking and improving my Spanish while there.

Being in Parys, I've been speaking a lot of Afrikaans. I first started speaking Afrikaans more than 18 months ago to Celliers' children when I first met them. They're Afrikaans-German fluent. I'm delighted that the children have proclaimed my Afrikaans to be much improved (their English is much improved too). What speaking Afrikaans has been good for is to get my language neurons firing and to improve my confidence. I even speak Afrikaans on the phone to people! Apparently my accent is better too.

We're focusing our time in Chile on the regions South of Santiago, touching on Patagonia. We've booked accommodation for the first few nights (AirBnB is fabulous!) and look forward to staying with locals.

I've been to Chile twice, but this will be Celliers' first time in South America. He has missed out on a number of kayaking expeditions; finally he's getting over there with me. My travels in Chile have only been in Patagonia with the Patagonian Expedition Race; and also to visit dear friends who were living in Puerto Varas.

I have a Chilean friend currently living in Puerto Varas and it would be wonderful to meet up if he is in town. It has been a few years since we last saw each other (in India!). Being an adventurous type in the tourism industry it is not certain whether he'll be there when we're there.

Aside from two days to check out Santiago, another two on the coast and another two on the route south, our plans are flexi. We've got a Footprint Chile guide, which we'll tuck into on the plane and each day. We'll be taking our tent and sleeping bags so that we can camp in great spots. There's an abundance of lakes and mountains and nature reserves. And that's the bulk of our plans - for now.

As always, there's the pre-departure rush and so much to be done before we go. Getting onto the plan will be a relief. I did tell Celliers that I'm a bad travel companion - I have a wonderful ability to sleep on planes.

I may get a chance to write from there... but if not, I'll be back in SA on 22 June.

Fabulous Forest Run frenzy

As you've noticed, I've had barely a moment to pen a blog. My past few weeks have been a whirlwind with preparing for Forest Run, the World Orienteering Day activities, drawing maps, trail clearing for Forest Run, presenting Forest Run, wrapping up Forest Run... I've still got the boxes from each aid station scattered around the house because I haven't had a chance to get to them. But, I will. Before Saturday... Because I'm off to Chile on Saturday!

It has been very challenging but also immensely satisfying to get Forest Run off the ground in its new venue. In the two weeks leading up to the event, there were very few nights when I didn't go to bed after 2am, getting only four to five hours sleep. I'm still recovering.

Forest Run map
Part of my preparation for the event involved drawing a map of the area with the trails, which helps with my preparation. I've created the map as a base for a rogaining-orienteering map as well as sections for hiking trail maps. I've still got work to do on this but the foundation - a good one - has been built. I look forward to planning a 'mapping party' with my orienteering friends to add more detail to the map.

The 46km route map. Each route has its own map. Some of the route is on public hiking trails; other sections are on private land.
Trail cutting and clearing
Goodness! Did we have our work cut out! I was very fortunate to have Ricky, who works for my friend Karen, doing the brush cutting. We spent a full five days out there cutting sections of single track. While Ricky was cutting, Karen and I chopped overhanging vegetation, cut away shrubs encroaching on the paths and even rolled rocks out of the paths to improve the runnability of the terrain. We were joined on the one day by Warrin, who is really good at rock rolling.

I also spent another half day clearing a trail section with help from my mom. She got into vegetation cutting while I rolled rocks.

This clearing was definitely well worth the effort, not only for the event, but also to leave the hiking trails in a better condition than what we'd found them. They are not used much, but should be - and having clear trails will go a big way towards making the trails more user friendly.

Event Day
We had perfect weather: clear skies and temperatures that were perfect for running. 97 runners took part with only 14 on the longest 46km course and a mostly half-half spread of the rest on the 30km and 16km routes.

Aside from there being a few tweaks to make, everything ran very smoothly and I was fortunate to have a superb team of marshals out on the route -  a combination of friends from Jo'burg and new friends from Parys. All of them sporty and fit and experienced and capable. They kept things on track, even with the challenge of poor to no mobile signal on many parts of the route.

Feedback from the event has been very positive - from the friendly marshals to the challenging routes and terrain. This area is very special and Forest Run should be making it into people's calendars as a must-do event that is definitely not easy.

Friends Maggi and Marcel took photographs - they have so beautifully captured the area and the spirit of the event. The photos are in albums on the Forest Run Facebook page.

From the start I was warmly welcomed by our host venue, Venterskroon Inn. I can totally recommend that you head out there for a Sunday lunch. Even when I was concerned about low numbers of runners a few weeks before, Leon was totally positive. He and Pearie made sure that everything was just right and have made me feel at home from the day I first mentioned it to them.

I have also been very warmly welcomed by the landowners. Forest Run traverses a number of farms and every single one of them agreed, without hesitation, to literally give me the run of their land. As with the hiking trail, I aimed to leave my routes on their properties in better condition than I found them and look forward to further exploring the area and developing my map (for their use too).

Wrapping up
I've still got boxes lying around the house that I need to attend to. But I have answered dozens of email, compiled the overall results (still to add all split times), written and article and spent hours tagging photos on Facebook. hahahaha

Months ago I'd decided to make a per runner donation to a school in the event area and today I went to visit Mponeng Primary Farm School. It's a small, rural school on the Venterskroon road. I'd heard about Rene and the incredible work she has done with the school - today I saw it with my own eyes.

For me, it is important that Forest Run has social and community involvement. As I've spent a decade involved with aspects of school sport - from rural development and social responsibility programmes to city school sport and coaching. Thus, my decision to select a school to support.

Their principal, Rene, is energetic, dedicated and inspiring.

Me with Rene.

Their weekly menu. One lady prepares the meal daily to feed the almost 100 children at break time. As Rene says, "She creates magical meals out of almost nothing". This is the menu issued by the Department of Education. For most of the children, this is their only meal each day. Rene told of a little boy who one Monday morning passed out in class. The meal he had the Friday before at school was the last one he'd eaten. Sadly, that's the reality for many children.
Some of the little children walking from their classroom during break time to the kitchen to receive their daily, cooked meal.
The school's wonderful vision. As you know, I've never been into any god nor religion so my only edit to this would read, "Enable learners to become contented, honest and respectful persons in their community with the certainty that they are valuable to themselves and others."
They have five teachers and around 98 children from surrounding farms. They have also opened their doors to street children, who they are educating and teaching to read and write. Children range from 3 to 19. The school has a wonderful energy and warmth and it was a treat for me to visit their children and classrooms.

I look forward to building a relationship with the school in both my personal capacity and with Forest Run.

There is an overwhelming amount of need. From animal welfare organisations to those that care for children, disabled, elderly... Mponeng... it's a small school on my doorstep that is positively influencing the lives of these little children, who didn't ask to be born. So many of them come from bad homes with neglectful and abusive parents. Being at this school means that these children have a chance. To change their own lives.

I look at my instant family and two children that don't want for anything. They have lovely bedrooms and warm clothes and three meals a day. That all children should have this.

With Forest Run almost behind me, I'm starting to get excited about my next adventure... CHILE! (more in my next post).

Wednesday 11 May 2016

World Orienteering Day fun

What a day! My morning began with orienteering activities for World Orienteering Day at Parys Primary School. A few hours and 154 children later, I was in my car and headed for the Likkewaan Canoe Club to hang flags for a Paddle-O event. We had 31 paddlers participating on three courses.

What an awesome day of orienteering!

It looks like there are 76 countries participating in World Orienteering Day and participant and location numbers are being logged on the World Orienteering Day website as I type. The numbers of locations and participants are climbing steadily as event hosts log numbers.

I've had great fun mapping the school and the river to present these events. My thanks to my helpers from today: Martie, Liz, Sylvia and Celliers plus the LO teachers at Parys Primary (Marlie, Yollie and Mr Wessels) as well as the headmaster, Mnr de Swardt for welcoming me to the school without hesitation.

It's back to trail cutting for Forest Run on Thurs and Fri.

Sunday 8 May 2016

It's that time of year - 40 Days of Running

Yes, I'm turning 40 this year. OMG - where has the time gone!

And, with my birthday approaching, my annual pre-birthday game kicks in. For this game, I have to run every day for the number of days of the age that I'm turning, with the last day falling on my birthday. The 'rule' is a 5km or 30 minute run as a minimum. Sometimes I swap a 30-minute run for a one-hour walk with my mom.

I started this game when I turned 35 and I've kept it up since.

What this games teaches re-teaches me every year is how easily I can let what is important to me (running) slide because of nonsense - rush-rush, busy days, laziness, something else taking priority...

In reality, slipping in a 30-minute session is not that difficult if it is a priority. This is something I definitely need to re-learn.

Since moving to Parys, I have been particularly bad at prioritising myself and my running. I am thankful for the days I've spent out scouting routes for Forest Run this year and our every Saturday morning parkruns. They've kept me ticking over. Sure, I paddle regularly and I ride my bike around, but as all runners know, this just isn't the same as running.

This year's game should be interesting and challenging. This week I'll be out cutting trails for Forest Run and being on my feet for 8hrs a day and covering good distances should cover my 30-minute rule (it will be walking, not running). 

21 May is Forest Run itself and I'll be lucky to get in a run... I may get a quick jaunt in once all the runners are home.

And then on 28 May Celliers and I head off to Chile for three weeks. I know! How divine! With two days of travel and time to kill in airports either side of our trip, I'll may need to do some sessions of walking around airports.

My birthday game comes at a perfect time; a time when I need to re-centre myself; re-prioritise me and running and restore a bit of balance. Oddly, I've been running very well; just not very much. Go figure.

Today was Day 1 of '40 Days of Running' and it was done after dark, squeezed in after a full day. I felt like a champion running through my little town on quiet and dark roads. 

Three cheers for the 6th year of my birthday game as we ring in '40 Days of Running'.