Friday 25 November 2016

Two weeks of awesome writing

These past two weeks have probably been my best of the whole year. I love writing and copyediting and I find it very rewarding. But, work has been slow. I've loved this loaded period and the mixed bag of writing assignments.

I wrote two blog posts for client A - one on activities for children over the festive season and another on choosing gifts for women. These were fun to write.

I wrote two informative articles for a new project that I'm working on with Celliers (more on this in a few weeks).

I wrote two product-focused media releases, also for client A, where I paired product content with activity content. I also wrote a lifestyle-themed release, also with a product focus. One of the most fun was re-working content written by someone else - I've done a few of these for them this year. I haven't dealt with this client contact for very long (she started there in June-ish) so when I got back the following from her, I was chuffed.
"How are you this amazing? Your writing abilities are incredible!"
I copy edited and re-wrote website content for a friend, pulling off the old content, which was informative and interesting but too wordy, and making it nice-nice. This was a super project to work on.

I had a blast writing a profile article on a farmer for an industry magazine. He won an award and the mag asked him for an article on himself. It is really difficult to write about yourself - I even find it challenging to write my own releases about my events; and so he gave me a call. I shot off a bunch of questions to him, he replied with bullet point notes and I turned it into an article. He sent a copy to an industry-involved friend to get feedback and the response was, "Kan nie beter nie". Nice.

On Wednesday afternoon client A sent me a note asking for "an emergency media release". Two hours later they had the first draft - I was waiting for comments from one other person, which needed to be included. Submitting the finished piece in the morning I received the following response, "Thank you. Such a lovey, touching piece. Felt like I was 100% part of the team".

I also wrote a couple of news stories for FEAT, certainly a blog or two and some quick copyediting of website content for a friend's new business venture.

Writing is a bit like being an artist. Here, on this blog, I write for myself. I write to record events and memories and to have a place to write. I'm not too fussy about the writing and I rarely copyedit - I just write and post. Writing for other people, for me, is very satisfying. I enjoy creating something that fulfills a need. It also requires greater concentration too. I can blank out for hours.

Writing is one of those things that people too often think they can do themselves. To type an email to a friend, that's fine. But for public content, having someone with better skills to look over it, really makes a big difference - not only to the quality of the content but to how the content makes you come across.

When work is slow, it is so easy to doubt your ability. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting my head around these diverse writing projects. I'm feeling a lot more positive and upbeat and stimulated, enriched by the reward that comes from creating, completing challenging projects and gaining happy clients, who have had a weight lifted from their shoulders.

Thursday 24 November 2016

Memories in the fabric of race bibs

Last year, before I moved to Parys, I cleaned out a bunch of old and sentimental adventure racing odds, including a pile of race maps, tee shirts and bibs. There were a bunch of goodies that I didn't let go of and I found them on Saturday.

After photographing them, I'm ready to save them here and to toss them all out. With some going back 16 years, here are my old race bibs (and a few other odds) that I've held on to for very many years.

I have three like this. Probably from my first AR, a 250km in the Drakensberg in mid-1999, the 500km in the Cederberg a few months later and a 180km in the Knysna area in about May 2000.
My teammates and race passport from the Cederberg 500km - late 1999
We had these printed to bin on to our backpacks.
An old road running license. These were printed on thicker fabric. I had this license number for many years, when I ran for Bedfordview Athletics. When I started AR Club and its road running section, I got another number.
55 guys, 5 women and a couple of days doing activities, tasks, problem solving, obstacle courses and puzzles. Many adventure racers made the cut and went on to the top 10 and then the final pair of Xavier Scheepers and Wim van Herzeele. This was the last Camel Trophy and would be replaced by the LandRover G4 Challenge.
15 years ago... my first staged ultra. I heard about the race a week before it started and was roped in all because of writing a product review. A direction-changing running experience.
What an experience! Through our months of training and preparation, I learned to raft and read rivers, a skill that has served me well throughout the years. I think this was 2001.

This may have been from the >500km in Northern KZN in 2001
From one of the Drifter series events... I have no idea which one. 2002 / 2003 perhaps.
Another Drifter event... this would have been one that Bradley Weinand organised - 2003 maybe.
Remember the first adventure racing sprint events? This was probably from Zirk Botha's Dirty Weekend Sprint event at Roodeplaat Dam. 2002/2003.
A bib from one of three years at the wonderful Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge (2008, 2009 or 2010)
My first staged ultra overseas where I ran and also wrote for the event. I won the women's category and placed 10th overall. I have no doubt that, with many more years of experience, I would run this race even better now - but probably not as good a placing with so much more competition out there now.
Zirk Botha's race flyer. Yes, this is ALL of the events that there were in 2000. Also, at this time, there wasn't a mountain bike series nor trail runs every weekend. Most of the adventure racing participants where at the three big events - 250km, 500km plus there had been a 180km in the Eshowe area in Jan/Feb too - with fewer (but still the same people) at Zirk's Desert Challenge. Note: no email... fax instead. hahahaha

Great memories.

Monday 21 November 2016

Mulberry foraging and treats

My annual mulberry foraging exploits are usually done on runs where I munch handfuls as I pass mulberry trees. I'm always on the lookout for the sweetest and juiciest mulberries in the area.

After my recent travels to Spain, with my mom, where I foraged a great deal, it was a treat to return home to the start of the mulberry season. I had a mission "To use them for something". I think the most I've ever done before was a bit of a sweet sauce.

Well, I outdid myself this weekend with TWO mulberry cobblers AND a dazzling mulberry compote.

The first mulberry cobbler was eaten for dinner (yes, dinner - I was out of other ideas) on Friday night (with icecream and custard - Ruben and Kyla and Celliers were in 7th heaven). Ruben, Kyla and my mom were part of the mulberry picking.

I baked the second, a bigger one, on Sunday morning to take to a lunch. I got out early in the morning on my bicycle to check out the trees in the area. The one, which I remember from last year as being very sweet, is not yet loaded with ripe berries. I scored more from the tree that we picked from on Friday. The third is near home and I was able to reach a good number.

I made the compote on Friday night. It is a sweet sauce, much like a runny jam. The idea is that this is a drizzle for icecream or anything else.

Feast your eyes.

Mulberry cobbler

Friday night dinner...

Bigger and better for Sunday lunch

Thursday 17 November 2016

Can two weeks of walking make you fitter?

I had my first run last night since I got back from Spain - it was a gentle jaunt with my furry husky friend, Kiska. When I got back from Spain I came down with a sore throat and snotty nose with clogged sinuses for a good 10 days. So I did little much of nothing - except blowing my nose and gargling and one good bike ride. I've also been parkrun Run Director at the two Saturday parkruns (for the two Saturdays that I've been back), plus our special Tuesday evening parkrun for our second birthday on 8 Nov.

Yesterday evening, my furry friend was in a frenzy. We haven't been out together from before I left and it was good to enjoy the road and park with him. My legs felt good (a bash and graze still on my left shin from one of my three swims from kayaking the Vaal on Sunday), lungs felt good and body felt good.

We ran part of the parkrun route and I wondered whether my two weeks of walking in Spain would have made a difference to my fitness and, more importantly, whether it will make a difference to my parkrun time, especially as I'm now more than adequately rested and recovered.

Walking is a funny thing. The hours spent each day on my feet have made them even stronger than usual. We did have some good hill climbing but as I was always walking slower than my pace, I was never stretched physically or in cardiovascular effort. But still, spending seven to nine hours a day walking, versus the same time sitting at a computer - it is bound to have made a difference. Perhaps not to speed, but to overall fitness.

I'm running parkrun this Saturday - my first in months (I was RD a number of times before I left and on other Saturday I volunteered so I ran early, missing the parkrun vibe). I'm looking forward to stretching my legs and pushing myself to see what time I can achieve.

Monday 14 November 2016

Parys Flower Festival and Vaal paddling

After the big rains in Jo'burg last week, the Vaal River is up. And, when the water is here, it is time to... paddle!

I've been back from Spain for two weeks today (yes, I still plan to do a wrap-up email to fill you in on costs and logistics) and life has been a bit hectic. Returning to normal life is very much like a space shuttle re-entering earth's atmosphere -  a bit of a bumpy ride.

It has been a treat to return home to lush green and, of course, these most magnificent rains. I've logged over 120mm on my rain gauge at home in the past two weeks.

The first of this weekend's treats included a magnificent street parade at the first Parys Flower Festival. The dancers and five flower-festooned floats were stunning. The rain held back until the parade was done. With the main road closed to cars, it was brilliant to be able to cruise the street and the shops. We saw so many places we'd never seen before because they are usually blocked from view by vehicles.

We also got more rain - last week and Friday and Saturday.

Rains in the Parys area doesn't mean that the level of the Vaal increases, just as rain in Jo'burg doesn't mean an increase in the Vaal Dam (catchment is Ermelo direction, not Jo'burg). But, rain in Jo'burg does feed the Klip River, which goes into the Vaal River and through Barrage (at Vanderbijlpark - Barrage is like a cross between a dam wall and a reservoir).

Barrage has gates. And they opened them!

That meant that we got water - lots of it. We think it probably went up to about 450 cumec late on Saturday. Athough it dropped during Sunday, we've still got loads - certainly over 300 cumec. Compare this to the flow we had most of last summer and through winter at 15-25 cumec.

On Sunday 'town rapid' was working beautifully and kayakers from far and wide were there to play in the wave. A block from home, we took a walk down to check out the action and to hang out. We were planning to trip the river anyway and within an hour we had recruits keen to join us.

After dropping vehicles at the end of the car shuttle, we got in at town rapid. 12 paddlers in their brightly coloured boats decorated the water.

I was paddling a sit-on-top white water boat. I've paddled it twice before - once on the Vaal and once on the Orange. As I haven't been in my white water kayak since November last year, I didn't want to try big water. I need way more practice rolling before I go there. The sit-on-top is perfect.

I took three swims - at Big Daddy, Stepping Stones and Look Sharp. I was almost through Big Daddy when a big wave at the bottom got me. Stepping Stones... I think I hit a stone and Look Sharp - I took a line following other kayaks and it really wasn't a great line to take. Fortunately I kept my paddle each time and for the second two swims I caught my boat too. Celliers and Gideon were great support and I was able to climb on quickly again. I was glad not to take a swim through Theatre or Gatsien.

I really need to spend more time on the water. Practice is really the only thing that will improve my skills. This evening I'll be back on my surfski for paddling at the club - if the weather holds.


Hanging in the eddy at Gatsien, watching paddlers coming through


Johan, Jonathan (I think) and Dewet

Celliers watching the action at Gatsien