Friday 28 April 2017

9 Freedom Runs for Freedom Day 2017

Last year I participated in the 9 Freedom Runs for Freedom Day and yesterday I had the pleasure of doing it again. This is a concept created by my friends Staci and Francis. When they first held the event in 2015, there were only 9 parkruns in Johannesburg. There are now many more. Each year they choose 9 parkruns and on Freedom Day (27 April), a public holiday in South Africa, we run each one, driving from venue to venue.

Last year I only ran 8 of the 9 as I drove through in the morning from Parys and started with the second one. This year I drove through the afternoon before, slept over and was in Benoni for the first one at 6am.

This event also gave me a wonderful opportunity to hang out with friends throughout the day. I travelled with Sarah for the first five, then with Tania for the next four and then Allison gave me a lift to my uncle's house. I had the pleasure of running with Allison, Sarah, Tania and Cindy (she came to the first two and then did some in Pretoria) and seeing other running (and orienteering) friends throughout the day.

There were a bunch of parkrunners in for all 9 and many others there to enjoy only a couple, plus parkrunners joining us at their home parkrun. We had a good crowd at each venue.

This was the line up for this year's 9 Freedom Runs for Freedom Day (Facebook page):

The schedule is tight! A new concept was introduced this year: leapfrog. You do only every second one, which allows for more time for participating and travel between events.

We were running consistently between 28-32 minutes, heading back to our car, drinking something, driving and getting to each venue with about 15 minutes before each start. Tight.

#1 Ebotse parkrun - 31:25

Ebotse parkrun is in Benoni and it was our first parkrun of the day. We got there in the dark and started to run as the sun was coming up. This one was filled with as much talking as running as I caught up with Sarah, Tania, Cindy and Allison along the way. It is a pretty route and a very pleasant parkrun.

#2 Springs parkrun - 29:10

More catching up and chatting for us girls at Springs parkrun. It was colder here than in Benoni and we were quite chilled until later in the run. This is a lovely park with a snaking route through large trees. It is a fast and flat route and very pleasant.

Tania and me with Sarah and Cindy just behind.

Tania and me.
Sarah, Cindy and me. 
We also had a nice hello here with orienteer Ian Bratt.

Orienteers at Freedom Runs - Tania, Sarah, Cindy, me and Ian.
#3 Boksburg parkrun - 28:16

The day had started to warm up by the time we got to the Boksburg stadium for the Boksburg parkrun. Another good route and a good time, despite Tania and I talking the hind leg off a donkey. Not too much climb here and some sweet sections. Good use of the area.

#4  Victoria Lake parkrun - 28:28

My first visit to this side of of the lake in many, many years - like since I was a child. Victoria Lake parkrun in Germiston is a two-lap route and is very pleasant, flat and fast. I ran this one with Tania and again we chatted from start to finish. Nice and warm now but fortunately with a cool breeze too.

#5 Rietvlei parkrun - 29:55 (28:20 last year, but it was only #3 for me then)

Sarah, Tania and I started out together at Rietvlei parkrun in Alberton. I ran here last year and I've been here for orienteering - it is a super venue. What was different this year is that they changed the direction of the route and this way is much better, especially as you have a mostly downhill finish. After halfway our trio started splitting up. Tania blazed up the hills - I took a little walkie to catch my breath and stretch out my legs.

This was Sarah's last parkrun as she has four days of orienteering over this long weekend. With a nice 25km in the bag, I transferred my kit to Tania's car, we all said bye and Tania and I headed off to Albert's Farm.

#6  Alberts Farm parkrun - 30:26 (31:26 last year and #5 then)

I actually had a good run at the Alberts Farm parkun, which is on the southern slope of Northcliff hill. I also know this venue very well from orienteering.

My time was a minute faster than last year - very surprising. Of course I had a walkie up a few hill sections plus even on the flat at the bottom of the park. My legs were needing the stretching but overall not feeling too bad. Definitely no chatting from me at this point. Allison and Tania are really good on the hills, which they ran. Another one in the bag.

Almost at the finish...
#7 - Golden Harvest parkrun - 31:58 (33:49 last year, also my 7th)

This is such a great venue for parkrunning and orienteering and I've been here many times over the year. Golden Harvest parkrun is one of the best parkrun routes - it really is a beautiful park and the route has so much diversity in scenery and terain. Again a better time than last year, which is great. And I had a few walkies too.

#8 - Midstream parkrun - 30:37

Held in the huge Midstream estate, this is a relatively new parkrun. The inaugural event held a few weeks ago has 1,200-odd participants! This is the most dull parkrun route that I've run. I can totally see the need for start and finish locations with sufficient parking space, which this has, but the actual route itself is uninspiring. There are so many pedestrian paths in the estate but I can definitely see the limitation of route options around parking requirements and the course being able to support so many runners. When you're a parkrun with over 1,000 participants, this is a big issue.

Tania, Allison and I ran this one together. Not much chatting. The route is mostly flat with a very slight uphill for the last two kilometres.

This one was very tight for time with parkrunners leaving Golden Harvest to get here and to run and then head to Bryanston.

#9 Bryanston parkrun - 29:10  (30:27 last year, also the last parkrun)

The group of parkrunners who did all 9 Freedom Runs
And finally, the 9th parkrun - Bryanston parkrun. Tania and I ran most of the way together and it felt good to hit the final one.

This is an out-and-back along the Braamfontein Spruit and is a pleasant run. I have no idea how the route supports >1,000 parkrunners each Saturday! I'll stick to enjoying it on Freedom Day when the numbers are low and the route is enjoyable.

9th parkrun done.
Orienteering friends Richard and Alison joining me and Tania at Bryanson (Jess there too but we only saw her afterwards).
After the run, we said goodbyes and Allison gave me a lift back to my uncle's house. After a hot shower and a cup of tea I headed back to Parys. After waking up at 04h40, 45km of running, 200km of driving between parkruns and then 140km back to Parys, it was little wonder that my eyes didn't stay open for very long once my head hit the pillow.

Girlfriends, it was awesome to hang and run with you for the whole day. My warm thanks to Staci and Francis for organising and to all of the Event Directors and volunteers for hosting these Freedom Day parkruns. See you all again next year.

Tuesday 25 April 2017

K2 paddle time trial improvements

For the past few weeks I've been doing our Tuesday paddle time trial at our Likkewaan Canoe Club in a K2 with my friend Sylvi. She's a very good paddler and we'll be doing a canoe triathlon together on Sunday 7 May at Rietvlei in Centurion. 8km paddle, 20km mtb and 5km run.

My first two time trials in the K2 felt quite unstable - not terribly bad but not comfortable either. I hadn't been in a K2 for a long time and not one this fast before either. By our third session, last week, I was a lot more settled and tonight even more so. It is a good thing because we're probably in for a lot of turbulence at the race.

Last week we bettered our time by a few seconds and tonight we took 20 seconds off our first lap and finished 30-odd seconds faster than last week - even with a bit of chatting on the second lap. Last week and this week we didn't have anyone in front of us to chase so we're still chuffed to have maintained pace. Paddling with Sylvi has definitely made me focus more and she's working me over nicely with a fast cadence.

I'm really enjoying our sessions and improving each week in speed and synchronicity is satisfying.

Photo taken after tonight's time trial.
Sylvi and I did a 35km mtb ride together on Sunday afternoon and we had a good ride. We'll be nice and warm for the 5km run on race day.

Celliers will be doing the paddle tri with Ruben, who is turning 9 in August. They rode the 35km route on Sunday too - taking 30 minutes off their time from the week before. The smaller wheels of Ruben's bike on the rough road make it a far harder ride for him than for us - and he was still trying to bounce over bumps near the finish. He should cruise the 20km distance of the race. Ruben is paddling really well too and he loves being in the K2 with his dad. He has also been coming more often to parkrun too. He was only a few minutes behind Celliers this past Saturday. The boys will have a good one.

Hiking with dogs

On Sunday afternoon I hit the Forest Run trails again, but this time with Rusty, my mom Liz and her dog Tansy.

My mom got Tansy almost a year ago when this little dog was abandoned down the road from her house. Tansy was well groomed and had probably only been out there for a while when my neighbour picked her up and went walking around looking for her owner. That's when my mom saw Tansy and it was love at first site. My neighbour took Tansy to the SPCA and my mom phoned first thing the next day to see whether anyone had claimed her. Nothing. Two weeks later, still nothing. My mom then adopted this one-eyed maltese.

Shortly after getting Rusty Celliers says to me:
"I'm not sure whether it is real or whether I imagined it... or if it was a rumour... but I thought that you and your mom were cat people?"
He's right. We've always been cat people. I definitely inherited the cat thing from my mom as I've had a cat in my life almost non-stop since I was born. She always had a cat from when she was a child. Bracken's passing, this time last year, broke our hearts.

There have been dogs that we've liked - like my husky friends Angel and Toscana and, more recently, my dear husky neighbour Kiska (who is no longer with us). But, for the rest, we've been through and through cat people.

Now, nevermind dog or cat, I'm a Rusty person. A total convert. I even kiss her and I don't wash my hands every time after I've touched her. Same goes for my mom. She's a Tansy person now.

I was so impressed with Tansy on Sunday afternoon. This was Tansy's first hike and this little one-eyed white dog with her little short legs proved to be a hiking enthusiast. She walked the entire route (about 5km), scrambled over rocks and under branches and even crossed little streams. Mom carried her across the first stream and after that Tansy did the rest on her own - even hopping across the rocks on her return route. It is a delight to watch the enthusiasm of this little dog with her big heart.

Rusty loves the trails and is an excellent path finder. She doesn't like the sound of the baboons shouting from the hills but she'll get used to it.

Rusty will come out with me next week for four days of trail cutting and clearing in preparation for Forest Run on 20 May. Not long now!

Sunday 16 April 2017

Rusty on the Forest Run route

Yesterday Rusty came out with me, Celliers and our friend Marinus for a lovely hike on a section of the Forest Run route. We start cutting the trails for Forest Run in two weeks so it is nice to keep an eye on how the area is looking before I have to jump in.

Rusty is only two-and-a-half weeks after her sterilisation op so I am very cautious of doing too much with her. We kept a leisurely pace and she loved it. I took her off lead and she was such a star. She stayed with us - never going too far ahead so that she could look back and see us. She is an excellent trail dog.

The first part of the route that we did isn't on the event route. We took an old track that has recently been opened up to the top of the hill. Great view!

We then headed off the hill and onto the Forest Run route. This is a section that only the 30km and 46km routes go on.

What was so amazing for me was to see the streams running. I knew there was water here before the drought but this was the first time that I've seen the streams with water - it was magnificent and I fell in love with the area all over again. Rusty enjoyed a drink and a splash in the first stream we came to.

We then went on to the Red Donga Trail, which I always enjoy. It was even better than usual as it looks even more like a place you'd find fairies and elves. Lots of green undergrowth through the donga.

We stopped for a quick break and snack.

I couldn't believe the amount of water flowing across the road at 'Butterfly Alley'.

We then popped into the Venterskroon Inn, my start/finish venue for Forest Run, for a colddrink and snack (they make divine chips!). Rusty had a snooze under the table.

I look forward to taking her out here more ;)

Forest Run comes up on 20 May 2017. Entries are open until 6 May. Come run -

Tuesday 4 April 2017

A fine Sunday

Weekends whizz by too fast and all too often they slip away with too few adventures. Despite living a block from the Vaal River and 25-minutes from the Vredefort Dome, I get out too infrequently to play.

I had a good Sunday this past weekend. After nailing some work in the morning, I met my mom and her dog Tansy to talk Rusty for her first post-sterilisation operation walk along the river. She loved being out and although she is not allowed to run or jump yet, she was energised by just being there.

My mom and me.

with my Rusty girl

This route is part of our Parys parkrun route. When she is all recovered Rusty will be coming to parkrun.

My mom's dog Tansy.
In the last afternoon, Celliers and I climbed on our bikes to ride a super 35km loop on the Vaal Eden side. It felt good to get out, which I haven't done much of lately. The cosmos flowers are all over the place. I didn't see any game - of which there is a good deal in the area - as I was too busy watching the road!

I need more weekends like this.