Monday 20 February 2017

Marshalling and sweeping

On Saturday, my friend Karen was the route planner for the Vaal trail run at The Dell, a lovely location on the Parys side of the Vaal River. They have a 7km and a 14km course. I went out there with her a few weeks ago to check the route and we were out there again on Thursday to tag the route. Celliers came with me on Saturday to be a marshal and sweeper on the route. In addition to this, I got to play photo-photo and enjoyed taking photographs of the runners before I headed out to collect the route markings.

There is so much game to be seen out here - blue wildebeest, black wildebeest, blesbok, nyala, kudu, zebra, springbok and two giraffe. We've only ever seen the male giraffe - he hangs out with the cattle.

My photos should go up online soon. Here's a fun collage of a few of them.

A weekend away, 30 minutes from home

Celliers wanted to go away for this past weekend. I didn't. We're going away with friends in March and I had a lot to get done so I didn't want to miss out on Thursday and Friday and then be stuck in a car for five-plus hours to get somewhere.

Instead, I booked us one night away, at a most fabulous spot in the Vredefort Dome - less than one kilometre from the Forest Run start venue.

The week before I'd been out in the Dome, meeting with my start venue - the Venterskroon Inn - so go over details and also to get suggestions from Leon for other accommodation venues in the area to add to my list. He passed on a few names and the next day I phoned them, checked out their websites and added them to my map and Accommodation page on the Forest Run website.

Most of the places are self catering but the one, Desiderius per Flumen, offered dinner, bed and breakfast. I dropped Rassie a note to see whether I could book one of their four double rooms for Saturday night. "Yes," came his reply.

We went through in the afternoon after helping at our friend's trail run in the morning as marshals and route sweepers. Rassie warmly welcomed us before we headed through his most beautiful garden to gaze at the Vaal River. The house and garden overlooks the river. We then spent a few hours lying on wonderfully comfortable garden chairs, under the shade of a large tree, while we read, dozed and listened to birds chirping.

Rassie cooked us a delicious dinner - he is a whizz in the kitchen. If you ever stay here, ask that he makes you his potato wedges! We enjoyed a solid 10-hour sleep in the absolute stillness of the location and were treated to rusks and tea (for me, coffee for Celliers) and double-cream yoghurts before a delicious home-cooked breakfast. He sent us home with the rest of his early-morning, home-cooked pot bread.

After just one night away, we felt like we'd been away for days - and only a 30-minute drive from home. Celliers had no idea about what I'd planned so it was a nice surprise for him.

We then spent the rest of the day on the Forest Run 16km route. I had not taken Celliers up there before and wanted to show him the protea forest and the trig beacon. Even though I know the area like the back of my hand, there were parts that I totally did not recognise because of all of the vegetation growth - so different to this time last year when it was sweltering and dry. We will have loads of grass cutting to do come early May, to get these trails run-ready.

A couple of photos from the route.


Celliers at the trig beacon.


The Vredefort Dome is a meteorite impact site so the geology out here is amazing. We found this interesting rock. This section is not on the Forest Run route - we were exploring some other tracks.


Last year, there was a track straight through here. We'll have loads of grass cutting to do ahead of this year's Forest Run on 20 May 2017.


What a win! We saw a number of open protea flowers in the 'protea forest'. Online it says they flower October to January but it looked like there were still loads of flowers just waiting to open over the next week or two. That would be really wonderful to see.


Green and lush out on the Forest Run route. This is one of three steep downhills on the 16km route. Walk, take care and enjoy the view. Fortunately, it is short.


My new 'watermelon' AR Mini Gaiters. Visit AR Gaiters website for the available prints and colours. We encourage you to go wild with cool prints. Once you've worn AR Mini Gaiters, your life will never be the same. Transform your runs, sock longevity, reduce blister risk and foot comfort on trails and dirt roads.

Friday 17 February 2017

Rating the difficulty of a trail race

This is the theme that I built an article around for the website of the new trail running magazine  "TrailBlazing" that trail runner Linda Doke will be editing. The website goes live 1 March.
Linda describes the magazine as, "The first issue will be out in the first week of March. It’ll be an A3-size quarterly newspaper, nothing fancy at all, just 16 pages to start with, and hopefully with good growth prospects. It’ll be free, and will reach trail runners by being available at certain running stores around the country, and via race organisers at specific races."
The contents will also be available online. "So all those who don’t get their hands on a copy at a race or from a running shop will always be able to read it online. Easy peasy," she explains.
I have handed in my article to celebrate the website launch, which I hope the readers will enjoy. I'll post a link once the website is up.

Wednesday 15 February 2017

Best Dressed at Valentine's Day Run

This Valentine's Day evening was spent doing the Epilepsy-Rotary 5km fun run on the golf estate next to our Parys town. 

Celliers and I got dressed up for the occasion and were rewarded for our efforts by winning 'Best Dressed' and going home with a voucher to have a photo taken at Kiki's Vintage Studio, which is down the road from home (in Parys it feels like everything is down the road from home!). At Kiki's you dress up in vintage clothing for a period portrait. This will be good fun to do.

The walk itself was lovely, especially in the light rain. The first part along the river was very pleasant, especially as it overlooks the Vaal River where we usually paddle - nice to see what is on the bank. From the water we can't see much. 

A great vibe with many familiar faces from our local parkrun. A lovely way to spend Valentine's Day evening. 


Women's rafting team timewarp

On Saturday morning at Parys parkrun we had three of our old women's rafting team present. Linda lives in Parys too and Nicola was visiting town. We got a photo and I paired it with a photo taken in August 2001 during one of our pre-Camel White Water training sessions on the Zambezi river. Rory is our 7th teammate; she wasn't with us on this two-week trip.

Celliers was actually the coach for the team in 2002 - we missed meeting then by a year. When I first found the old photo a few months ago he exclaimed, "I knew everyone here except you".

From the Zambezi River to the Vaal River

Monday 6 February 2017

An easy Sasol 21

I was last at the Sasol half marathon in Sasolburg back in 2012. It's a mostly flat route with two climbs that are neither steep nor long. The last four kilometres is actually the sting in the tail -  a subtle uphill gradient that keeps your legs working - without respite - to the end.

My neighbour Andrew was again keen to join me.


An alarm going off at 04h20 is a nasty thing.

We got to Sasolburg quickly - it's only 40km from Parys. And there were already hundreds of cars parked. There were so many more runners here than I remembered from a few years ago.

We took a selfie at the start and then off we went. Andrew is faster than me so he shot off. We'd arranged to meet at the finish or at the car.

After a really easy Bert's Bricks, I planned to have an easy Sasol but with a little more pace. I didn't run with a watch but at 10km I saw a guy looking at his watch and got a 1:01 split from him. A steady 6min/km. My breathing easy all the way. If I'd had someone to talk to we would have been chattering the whole way.

Just after 13km is one of two climbs on the course. It really isn't a big climb but after 13km of working the flat, it feels a lot harder than it really is. I had a quick 20 metres of walkies to get me to the top. Just after 16km is another hill - another quick walkies saw me over with my breathing still calm and easy.

It's a good thing that I'd taken the first 17km so easy because the remaining four kilometres are actually quite hard work. The road is pretty much flat but with a very, very gentle incline so you have to work for every gain. With less than a parkrun distance to go, I had it good along here and charged to the finish.

A lady at the finish, Almerie, took a photo of me coming across the line - my head was turned to look at the race clock. An even 2:07. I would have liked a sub-2 but for my effort level, this time was just right. (a friend tagged me on FB so I got to see the unexpected photo)

I am enjoying packing in more regular distance and my weekly runs with my neighbour - sometimes we're joined by other neighbouring runners - are definitely a highlight. Long runs are definitely more fun with company.

I haven't got any other 21s planned. I did pick up some race flyers at the finish so I'll see what else there is in the area. I can't handle too many 04h30 mornings so a 21 every couple of weeks is just fine.