Saturday 30 December 2017

'Tis the season for kayaking

The Vaal River has been up and down like a jack-in-the-box. 100 cumec one day, 40 cumec the next... High water or low water, we've been on the river. Tripping with kids and other people, car shuttles... it takes time so you need a few hours at a time to go play. Celliers can't remember being on the river this much since many years ago.

For the past three months I've been paddling a sit-on-top whitewater kayak. In November two years ago, Celliers taught me to roll a sit-in whitewater kayak. I had one session on the river a week later and then we had very, very low water for the rest of the summer. Last year we didn't paddle much.

Sit-on top whitewater kayaks have a lot going for them. If you fall out, you just climb back on. Easy-peasy. They're a great way to build confidence, learn skills, practice skills like ferry gliding, attainment (paddling upriver using eddies), edging and also surfing in rapids.

The big downside to sit-in kayaks is that if you fall over and pop out, then you have to swim to the side with your kayak full of water (at this stage it floats just below the surface), drag it out to empty it, get back in etc. This whole process can be quite exhausting and it wastes a lot of time. To paddle a sit-in, I totally recommend that you spend time on a sit-on-top, learn to roll a sit-in and then start tripping. You'll just enjoy it more.

Last Saturday we went to Gatsien, a great rapid with a good wave (at the right level), numerous eddies, the chute and options. Celliers worked with me on eddy-catching, ferrying and edging.

We had a friend visiting this week and so we took him down the river on Wednesday. He has paddled a little in the past but not for a long time. We put him on my sit-on-top and we dusted off my sit-in. It was time for me to put my skills to the test. The river was up at around 150 cumec. I had an excellent runs with no swims. Not even a wobble!

Ruben and Kyla and our friend Marinus took big swims going through Theatre, a lovely long rapid with great wave trains above Gatsien. I saw both Kyla and then Marinus go over - in the same place. They were ahead of me. I figured that Marinus could take care of himself so I paddled for Kyla. Celliers had turned to see her swimming but he hadn't seen Ruben go over a bit more downstream. Celliers went to help Kyla, I went to help Ruben - collecting Kyla's new river shoes, which had popped off her feet, in the big waves on the way to Ruben. It was quite exciting. As Celliers later said, "I was so relieved to see that you were not swimming too!". The kids had a bit of a shock - their longest and biggest swim ever. But they handled it well and after a few tears were back on their sit-on tops (same as mine, just smaller sizes) and paddling towards the take out. They rarely swim. The learning experience that came out of this for them is that you can NEVER become complacent on water. NEVER.

Yesterday we were all back on the river - it was really low at maybe 30-40 cumec. I practiced some rolls at the start and later too. I nailed them 100% of the time, improving my technique with each roll. I still have more practice to do until rolling becomes second nature. This was on flat water, which is much easier than rolling in current.

I had an excellent run with good lines. And then I swam at the bottom of the chute at Gatsien. I really shouldn't have fallen over. It was silly. Whatever. I fell over and found myself upsidedown in an awkward position, only one hand on my paddle (I need both hands on it to roll). I did a half-roll but realised I was really in a wonky position. I popped my spray skirt and swam, dragging my paddle and water-laden kayak to a nearby rock.

Fortunately there is this great rock shelf in the middle of river so I huffed and heaved and hauled my kayak up there to empty it. It is such a waste of time and energy to swim! I got back on the river above the rapid to run it again. Easy-peasy.

My rolls are looking good but my rolls in current need work. I aim to be back on the river later today to play at Gatsien. My objective is to capsize myself in the rapid so that I can practice rolling in the current. Again and again and again.

I'll ask Celliers to take some photos. It really is lovely out here on the river.

Year-end running (and New Year's Day parkrun double)

I've really had a good break this past week. With family and friends visiting and people in and out of our house like a train station, it was a good time to resign myself to rest, fun and social interactions.

I had two excellent runs last week with our morning running group but this week I gave in to not getting up before 08h30. Sleeping, reading, dozing and chillin'. I always find that when the pace of life and pressure slows down, I crash.

While my running has been lower this week, I'm on fire with my paddling (more on this in another post). Rusty's injured toe seems to be mostly healed and for the past week-and-a-half or so she has shown no sign of latent stiffness or discomfort. I've kept her on lead and on walkies-only outings on flat surfaces and she has been doing well.

This morning I took her to parkrun, her first since the beginning of November. We mostly walked and she seems to be doing well. I'll keep a close eye on her to check for stiffness and discomfort. I look forward to having my running friend back up to speed.

It seems that I did well to miss Thursday morning's run with Rob, Andrew and Gerhard. I saw Rob this morning at parkrun and he said that Andrew really stretched them on Thursday morning.

"My GPS didn't work. It couldn't keep track of the satellites we were going so fast," he said. hahaha

I plan to make a few sessions next week to get my energy up to face the year ahead.

New Year's Day for me starts off with a 'parkrun Double' - first a parkrun at Potch at 07h00 and then back to Parys for our parkrun at 09h00. I'm taking photos so it will be a jog-and-click outing for me.

I've actually had a pretty decent year of running. Rusty has been a big part of my consistency - improved from last year which was probably my most erratic in the last 20 years. 2018 should be even better with both Rusty and established relationships with running friends in this town.

With other parkrun volunteers on Xmas Day. 
Me and Rusty on xmas day. Photo by my cousin Jess.

Tuesday 19 December 2017

Congratulations on your fastest time this year

"Congratulations on your fastest time this year."
This is one of the best lines to receive in a parkrun results email.

I haven't run parkrun 'properly' for many months. I got Rusty in late March and started taking her to parkrun in April. Although we improved our times, we were yet to close in on my faster times.

Rusty is still recovering from her injured toe tendon and as I was home this past weekend and not in the Run Director role, I got to participate.

I had a heavier than usual week last week with my morning running group runs but nonetheless I pulled out my best parkrun time this year on Saturday (25:06). It is still a minute off my PB but to put this into context, my PB was set on our previous parkrun route which was around 250m shorter than our current route. I'll need to work hard to better my PB, which should be more achievable when cooler temperatures come around again.

I won't get to run this Saturday as I'm RD again but I am definitely aiming for a sub-25.

Wednesday 13 December 2017

I'm not a morning runner but...

... I've run two mornings in a row at 06h00.

Earlier this year I enjoyed a number of weekly evening runs with my neighbour, Andrew. Then I got busy, he got busy with a lot of work travel and then both of us went through bouts of coughing and chest infections. We got out of the groove.

The other day, one of our parkrun friends suggests that we get together during the holidays to all run together - Gerhard, Andrew and me. We set up a whatsapp group. I add Sarel, who lives up the road and runs lots too. Gerhard adds Rob, who moved to town a few months ago and started coming to parkrun. Rob is a wily old runner.

Yesterday morning the five of us hit the road at 06h00 for a 12km run to the airfield and back.

This morning four of us ran through the golf estate (Sarel is out of town).

We're running again tomorrow morning (but not Friday, I think).

Early mornings have never been my strong point and they are less desirable because I am a night owl, favouring the quiet and still hours after 21h00 to work, especially if I have writing to do. I rarely go to bed before midnight and more often, these past months, I go to bed after 01h30. This makes it very hard to get up before my usual 07h00 / 07h30 alarm.

I made an effort to go to bed early (21h30 is early for me!) the past two nights and waking up wasn't a problem. Our meeting point is a quick jog from home and then off we go.

What I have especially enjoyed these past two mornings is getting home to a quiet, fast-asleep house, and sitting with Rusty outside in the garden. She still has a sore paw so she can't come with me. I felt awful leaving her at home yesterday morning but better today as she didn't even get out of her bed to see me off (but she was waiting and watching at the glass door for my return). Rusty is limited to walks still until her sore toe has properly healed - the vet thinks it is an injured tendon or ligament - no broken bones).

I'm definitely going to make a determined effort to join the guys for these morning runs over the next three weeks. Work isn't quite winding down yet but pressure is easing so getting to bed earlier is feasible now and over the holidays.

Thursday 7 December 2017

Friday nights are burger nights (8 veggie burgers)

I love these birds-eye view, two-minute videos that show you how to prepare some kind of meal/s whether savoury of sweet, baked goods. They're neat, tidy and efficient videos and usually offer quick and tasty cooking ideas.

My mom shared a video with me yesterday (she sends me lots of great content) that promised eight veggie burger recipes. I was hooked from the first and immediately decided to work my way through most of the recipes over the next few days.

In my home, Friday nights are burger nights. These are usually just patties (no buns) but sometimes we have a full deal complete with sliced tomato, fried onions, grated cheese and sauces - all in a bun.
For the patties - I experiment. I've done chicken breasts, home-made mince patties (many variations thereof, including with ground sunflower seeds, mashed butter beans or chickpeas), baby marrow versions, lentil patties, black bean patties and other combinations.

I've been in the mood for tasty veggie patties so getting these recipes was well timed.

Tonight I made the black bean burger. While the recipe calls for roasted red peppers, I just pan-fried chopped green pepper with an onion. I loved the combination of garlic, cumin and cayenne pepper and also the use of cornmeal (mielie meal) too. I served the patties with a dollop of plain yoghurt. I also tried mine with a bit of cream cheese - delicious! And served with a salad.

close up of the patties
Tomorrow night I'm going to try the sweet potato chickpea burger.

Here is the link to the video from Tasy Vegetarian (on Facebook) and this is a link to the recipes for the eight burger patties on Buzzfeed.

Let me know how your burgers come out.