Thursday 24 December 2020

Move more often to clear stuff out

 Yeah, I devoured Marie Kondo's 'Tidying Up' series on Netflix. I haven't really got a lot of stuff, but I do have stuff. I'd like to have less stuff. And the stuff that I have should spark joy.

When I moved last year into a small cottage, I got rid of a lot of stuff, especially event-organising stuff. I gave waterpoint decorations to the Parys SPCA shop to sell and passed on usable items to eventing friends. I cleared out kitchen items that I didn't need anymore and passed on clothing that I no longer wore. 

In October, I packed up my cottage for the move to George. Again, I passed on more items that I had not used during the year.

I have lived out of a bag for the past six weeks (with a week-long move for the 6th week), where I lived out of a bag - and I didn't even wear everything in the bag. Work attire here is the same as casual attire - shorts and tees for the most part.

I've had a double-dose of moving with both home and factory. I am stuff fatigued.

I have just moved into the house that I'm renting and after so much moving of boxes, I just want to get rid of everything to live in a clear, open space. Moving is good for clearing. Each time you aim for less boxes. One should move more often - haha.

But, a person needs stuff. I've got minimal crockery and cutlery but I do have enough items and appliances (I love kitchen stuff) to bake and cook and create kitchen magic. I have sports gear. I also have office stuff, which will move to my new office at the factory in Feb/March. I've also got product stock for my Camp and Kayak online store, which will also move to the factory shop in the new year (these things are currently in boxes in my garage).

I have old, boring clothing. 

I need to work on this area. I'm a bit shopping-phobic and I also think spending money on lots of clothing is a waste of money. My wardrobe doesn't have much structure or plan. I need to toss out old and replacing with fun and new. I am keen to jump into the Project 333 (33 items, including shoes, for three months - seasonally) challenge as part of developing a capsule wardrobe that sparks joy. Sports clothing, undies and sleepwear are excluded from this tally. Based on what I usually wear and what I have, I'm going to come in at under 33 items (I don't think I own more than 33 items of regular clothing!).

As I've been going through personal clothing and bits-and-bobs ('komono' - miscellaneous items), I've been assessing items based on whether, as Marie Kondo asks, they spark joy (this is a great, nicely presented YouTube video of a extreme tidying in a day). Over time, some things become just things. Other things are items that are needed and are used regularly because they fulfil a function. I have allowed myself one small box for random sentimental items that I may be happy to throw out in a year or two. 

"We all have problems tidying our homes, but it is not just that. We all have clutter in our hearts, and that is what needs tidying." Marie Kondo.

When my mom and I went to Spain to walk the second half of the classic Camino route, we had only our backpacks. While one can't live in a home with only a backpack, it does show us that all you really need daily - in terms of clothing and toiletries - should be able to fit into a backpack.

I'm not too fussed about wearing the same things - I do it anyway. It would be nice to do it more cleverly and more stylishly (thank you internet for images and guidance).

This house I've just moved into, it doesn't have a single hook for pictures at all. While the rental contract says that nails can be put in with permission but must be removed and the wall fixed when you leave, I really couldn't be bothered. I've walked through the house with the agent and owner as they have pointed out things that must "come off" the previous tenant's deposit. I don't need that in my life.

What I do need is less. I need simple. I need efficient. I need effective. I have no extra time for stuff.

I have hobbies. I have sports and activities. I have work. I have my dog. I have people in my life.

That's enough to keep me busy and to fill my days and soul. 

Tuesday 8 December 2020

Would you go for fully furnished?

For the past five weeks we've been staying in a beautiful holiday home. The family still lives in the area - and they manage the property - but the house is out for rent by weekenders, holiday makers and longer-term guests like us. It is fully furnished with a very well equipped kitchen. In terms of household items, there are very few items in my household boxes in the storage garage that I have missed not having on hand.

Moving, and the packing, transporting, storage and unpacking of stuff, gets one thinking about stuff - all these things that we lug around to make our lives comfortable and functional. Furniture, linen, sports equipment, hobby materials, appliances, clothing... just so much stuff. 

Most furnished rentals tend to be of the holiday-home sort or minimally furnished one-bedroom places. 

But how cool would it be for furnished to become a thing (or is it already in some places?)? That there could be a property website that specialises in representing furnished apartments, townhouses and houses for long-term rental (a year or more). Furniture should be current and of a good standard (scored by assessors) - no saggy couches or soft mattresses. Properties can be categorised according to what they provide from the basics to extras - like a star grading. A one star may suit all my requirements while someone else may need 4-star furnishings and extras.

Colours could be fairly neutral, allowing to add your own colour accents with cushions, mats, throws and pictures.

For me, basics would include:

Kitchen: fridge, stove, toaster, kettle, selection of quality pots and pans, cutlery, crockery, mugs and glasses, cooking utensils, mixing bowls and some bakeware. Here we are lucky to have other appliances that I regularly use like an egg boiler, steamer and hand blender - so I don't miss mine. But these are easier to pack and move.

Living/Dining: table (4-6 seater - depends too on size of place), couch/es, coffee table, tv table, bookcase. Another table to work at would be useful - either in the living area or in a 'study' room.

Bedrooms: beds, mattresses, lamps, side tables, cupboards (if not built-in). (Linen could be for higher category establishments). 

Other appliances: washing machine (dishwasher perhaps in a higher categorised property and vacuum cleaner). Dryers are nice but non-essential. 

Bathrooms: Linen baskets.

Outside: lawnmover / weedeater and some garden tools - as necessary. Patio table and chairs.

Other: Curtains. A few mirrors and pictures even may go down well (or have the option to be stored by the owners). And then even things like buckets, brooms, floor cleaners would go down well. They're a pain to move.

Of course, the problem with this concept is... people. Contracts would need to be tighter and deposits perhaps higher to cover damage to property. If one has seen what tenants do to even unfurnished properties... There would definitely be unsavoury people taking advantage of these setups to use and abuse nice stuff and then move on to the next one. 

So this kind of concept may work better within networks of people rather than the full-blown public? And once you're in and have proven your worth as a tenant, you get more free range to move around within the network of properties?

Moving would be far more simple if you could leave behind the big, heavy stuff, and take only your more personal items. 

I quite like this concept! 

Friday 4 December 2020

Time shift, time warp

Since we moved to George, I've felt like my head has been encased in candy floss. I get stuff done, but - being based at the factory - I do not feel anywhere nearly as productive as normal with so many disruptions throughout the day. Considering that I've been working from home, on my own, for the better part of 20 years, going into the office everyday where there are people around, is an adjustment.

What has probably hit me harder has been the time shift. I'm at the factory from just after 7am until 5pm.

My normal (pre-move) schedule worked as follows:

Get up around 07h30. At my computer by 08h00 or a bit after.

Work until 16h00 - 17h00. Sometimes I had errands to do in the day, sometimes I got blissful uninterrupted days. In general, let's say a 6hr - 9hr day at my desk.

After work, take Rusty for an outing - run, walk, paddle. This could be 1hr to 90 mins. 

Get home, make dinner while listening to an audio book, shower, eat. 

By 20h00 I'm either watching an episode of something on Netflix or working again.

Some nights I'd work two or three hours and then watch a Netflix before bed or I'd watch one Netflix episode and then work for a few hours, or I'd just work, putting in another 3-6hrs. 

Bedtime was most often after midnight - usually 01h00 and sometimes as late as 03h00. Read for a bit and then sleep.

Weekends usually had some play and some work - depending on what was happening. At one stage, for almost two years, I'd probably load in another 15hrs of work over weekends, but I'm chilling a bit more now.

Now, I'm at work for 10hrs (under artificial lighting) with lots and lots and lots of disruptions so I'm struggling to focus on anything. And, when I have stuff to write, I usually need a good few quiet, uninterrupted hours to write and get done.

After work, I take Rusty out, get home around 19h00, feed Rusts, eat (dinner is currently made for me every night -  a treat!), shower, maybe do some work for an hour (not often), watch an episode on Netflix, read for a bit and then sleep to wake up at 6am. I haven't been working much on weekends - the past months have been catching up with me.

On the current schedule, I'm losing not only uninterrupted hours, but also actual productive work hours. I cannot stay up-to-date (and/or make any headway) if I'm not working almost every night. 

Of course, the aim of being at the factory is to be here for some stuff (which has been a juggle in the past not being at the factory) and to achieve home-work separation (something I've never had). The reality is that I'm not going to be able to not work afterhours for at least another year. That's the price you pay for having two start-up companies to run and not enough hours in the day.

So, all-in-all, I'm feeling like I'm just getting further and further behind every day. And I already felt like that even with putting in the hours that I did before.

I'll definitely need some days at home next week just to gain some ground.

I've been a night owl for a good 25 years. I switch on in the afternoons when many people hit a slump. It's just the way I'm wired. 6am - it is painful!

Once we're properly settled at the factory and also when I'm settled in my new home (moving in 16 Dec), I'll find my feet and a balance that works better for me.

Thursday 12 November 2020

THE Move - from Parys to George

10 days ago we moved factory and work and, as a result, homes from Parys to George. In this first wave there has been me (and Rusty), Celliers, Magda (our right-hand person) plus her two dogs, and 10 workers. My mom, Celliers' ex-wife (her job is actually based down here) and their two children and Magda's husband follow in the next two months.

Although much of the last three years is a blur, most of the last six weeks is distinctly fuzzy. Let's just say that I saw more 2am, 3am and 4am mornings than I care to. But, it was also exciting.

This move came about because of the awful power supply issues that plague Parys. About three months ago, after a particularly bad bout, Celliers just cracked. Where I am on the Vagabond Kayaks side of things, Celliers deals with the factory. That's manufacturing, getting orders out, machinery and workers. No power or 4-7 hours of no power a day, which really is equivalent to no power, is a bugger for business. He not only makes our Vagabond kayaks, but also my YOLO Compost Tumblers and kayaks for three other brands. He carries the weight of responsibility of supplying product for their businesses. That's a load.

We've worked crazy hours for the last few years to build these businesses. It has been tough going but we are fortunate to have business in these trying times and also many new projects already lined up for early next year.

We all moved, but Celliers made it possible.

It costs a huge amount to move a factory. It is one thing to want to move and another to actually make it happen. After many weeks of discussions, an investor in the factory was found and three weeks after receiving the funds, we were on the road to George. 

For me, the craziness was in trying to clear our factory of kayaks in stock prior to our departure from Parys. Fortunately, we have a good number of sporty and outdoor friends who are always keen on a good deal and dealers used the opportunity to get some stock and offer discounts to clients. The volume of communications and logistics and arrangements nearly flattened me! The rush was on to get everything done ahead of a fixed deadline. It was madness! 

Breaking down of the factory happened only days before three superlink trucks were booked for loading. We'd planned to use the last days to mould Vagabond stock but with many power outages we lost days. The ovens had to be broken down. There were also two containers of kayaks to ship and a fourth superlink truck was booked in a morning and loaded that afternoon with all the remaining kayaks - shells and completed - to be trucked down.

We loaded the kayak truck on the Wednesday, loaded our houses into a moving truck on the Friday and loaded the factory on the Saturday. Of course, it started raining in the evening and the power went out. Loading continued on the Sunday morning. Magda supervised while Celliers and I began the drive down to meet the loaded trucks early Monday morning at the factory. Magda started the journey on the Sunday afternoon, the workers caught an overnight bus and by mid-morning on Monday we were all together again. While I was running errands and offloading the moving truck into a storage garage, the trucks carrying moulds, machinery and factory goods were offloaded -  a huge task in itself. The fourth truck with all the kayaks arrived a few days later.

The units of a new building that the factory will be in is still under construction. Their schedule was disrupted by multiple times of many days of rain and the nationwide unavailability of roofing. Our metalwork started in the space on Monday (reassembling the gantries and building one new one). The section does not yet have a roof (or all the walls). The walls get higher every day and roofing starts this week. Apparently roofing is a quick process. The floor is currently being laid in the second unit.

For now, we've been accommodated in an adjacent building and can do assembly of kayaks there in the interim. Celliers, Magda and myself share a small office - the first time that we're all together. Rusty and Magda's dogs have beds in the office. 

I always talk and think of the factory as 'our' and 'we'. It is a bit of a 'Royal We' because I really have no direct involvement with it. The factory is Celliers' and Magda's baby. Nonetheless, I feel so much a part of it, it has been an integral part of my life for six years (with varying levels of involvement), and I never tire of seeing a fresh kayak being demoulded. 

Our first week (last week) felt like total chaos with the factory in pieces, our homes in boxes in a storage garage and our office stuff in boxes. On top of this we have to learn where to find things in our new town. What we have found is that the people are very friendly and the businesses that we're dealing with really try their best to help, service is excellent and our interactions have been very positive.

10 workers have come down with us. A number of them have worked with Celliers for a long time and they know their stuff. We have rented hostel space at a training centre for them for this interim period from now to xmas. It gives them a chance to focus on work and to see whether they like living down here. Last week I spent a lot of time running around to get kitchen stuff, bus cards and other odds sorted for them (the kitchen items will move across to the factory in January for our factory canteen). I turned on my computer for the first time on Thursday. I have so much catching up to do still!

On the home front, Magda moved straight into a townhouse that she has rented for three months. Her husband comes here this weekend and together they'll look at areas and options for long-term renting. He works on a contract so he is back-and-forth -  a few months away, a few weeks back. Celliers and I are sharing a furnished holiday home until 20 Dec - it gives us time to find long term homes. The house is a real treat as it is big and open and beautiful and it has a spectacular view.

We eat breakfast and dinner on the patio and are soaking up every minute of being able to enjoy this location while we can. It really is a treat.

Celliers' parents arrived yesterday to spend just over two weeks with us. Celliers' dad is the brains behind the control panels for our rotomoulding ovens. They will look at moving down next year after selling their place. We really need to have Celliers' dad close.

I saw a place on Tuesday, which I hope will be confirmed in the next day or two. My mom and her doggy Rosy come down in mid-January and they'll live with me and Rusty. It isn't a big place, but it is new and neat. It has an awesome shower, a gas hob, a garden and secure fencing to keep our dogs safe. What more could a person need? It is in an area that I had my eye on and I will have good access to the mountainside and lovely trails. The neighbourhood is pretty and interesting and will be lovely to walk and run around.

Celliers saw a place on Tuesday evening and it looks like he will get it; and he has also found a perfect place for his ex-wife, which we hope will come through for her.

We have not yet been on the water to paddle. There are so many options here with rivers, lakes and the sea. We're aiming for a sea kayaking session this weekend it conditions are mild. I look forward to taking my sea touring kayak into its 'home' environment. I'm also looking forward to padding the Serpentine River and the George Dam, which looks like a pretty and interesting spot. Both are flat, but they offer good distance.

I've been walking the winding road from the place we are staying with Rusty in the evenings and we have been to walk on the beach twice. Rusty really enjoyed her second outing and I think she'll learn to love running in the sand, especially when Rosy arrives. I think Rosy will turn herself inside-out with joy to play on the beach and in the water.

This move has been massive and is not the type of thing a person wants to do more than once in their life. It will probably take us a few months to really settle in - moving into our factory space, getting production back online, moving into our proper office space, moving into our own homes and unpacking. It is going to take some time but we are on the upward trajectory.

Tuesday 13 October 2020

When your children can be your teammates

 When my whatsapp pinged with this image, my heart soared with joy. This is now one of my favourite photographs of all time.

I first met Garry 20-years ago through adventure racing and we also raced together in a team. From adventure racing and with a knack for navigation, Garry got into orienteering and made his mark in the sport as a competitor, mapper, event planner, coach and head of our orienteering federation for many years. More than this, he has been a very dear friend. As a bonus, he has an awesome wife who I am fortunate to have as my friend too.

When I lived in Jo'burg, we lived on opposite sides of Johannesburg but our weekend orienteering activities had us together regularly.

Living in Parys these past five years, I don't see them often, but we do keep in touch.

The years have passed and Connor and Cameron are no longer little boys; at 15 and 14 respectively, they are into their teen years. This past weekend, Garry did a 25km event with both of his sons. (last year he did events with each one, not together)

For me, this photograph is so much about joy; their joy at being there and participating together but joy for me too at seeing my friend racing with his sons. It somehow feels like a circle has been completed. As a joyous aside, they placed 12th out of 92 teams - a hearty cheer and congratulations to them.

Sunday 11 October 2020

A fit and healthy lifestyle (reminiscing and lessons learned)

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of children, teens and some adults from the Parys Multisport Club, which is run by Pierre Fourie. Pierre coaches children from primary and high schools for athletics and cross-country and he also has a number of adults who he coaches. Pierre started the club only a few years ago and he hosts a weekly time trial here in town. He has also been involved with organising and hosting school cross-country league events. 

Photograph with Pierre (in the middle) and Wilfred, an experienced athletics coach who I actually first encountered in the late 2000s when I was working for SuperSport's Let's Play programme (Wilfred is also a karate instructor).

Pierre invited me to speak on 'A fit and healthy lifestyle' as I have been active throughout my life and for me sport is very much about health and wellness. Too many teens stop doing all sports when they leave school. 

In thinking about content for this talk, I considered my very diverse sport participation and the lessons I've learned along the way from this. It really is too good not to share, and so I'm writing it down here - for me to remember and reflect on too.

All kinds of sports

At primary school (perhaps from Grade 4 on?), I played netball and did swimming. Netball is the only activity I can really recall for which there was any coaching / practice. Swimming was mostly during phys ed lessons but perhaps in Grades 6 and 7 I recall some swimming practice and also races against other schools.

Athletics was a minor event in primary school with only the annual sports day (little to no preparation for this - just a trial to determine who runs what. 

Outside of school I was always swimming and rollerskating, climbing trees, riding bikes and spending lots of time outside.

For my first two years of high school I went to Potch Girls. I played netball briefly (decided it was no longer for me), swam briefly (the 6am morning training sessions were not for me) and stuck with athletics early in the year. Athletics at the school was pretty good and I jumped into the sprints (100m and 200m and relay) as well as long jump, high jump, hurdles and javelin. After school I remember hours spent rope skipping - solo and group (remember those neon ripper skipper ropes?).

Back at school in JHB, athletics moved from summer to winter and I had a great coach and loved our training sessions. We had 'matches' once a week in season too. At this stage I never thought that I would run further than 200m!

A friend on the athletics team (and classmate) invited me to join him and his dad at a 10km road race. They came to fetch me and off we went. Henry ran with me. I remember taking a few walks too. It must have been on our third or fourth event - a 10km Nite Race in Alberton - that I ran the whole way without walking and clocked a sub-60. After this, they would come to fetch me and we'd all run our own races (Henry was faster than me). This continued through to the end of my schooling and I am so thankful to Henry for that first invitation (and please with my young self that accepted it!).

I must have been 15 when I first joined a gym - Vic's Gym at the top of Sovereign Street in Kensington / Bedford Gardens. There I got into super circuit and aerobics (high impact and step). I would walk up the hill to the gym, do circuit before aerobics, nail one or two aerobics classes, and then run home downhill.

At university, I was enticed by the Underwater Club and within my first two weeks began playing underwater hockey. For the first year I played once a week and loved it. I dabbled with climbing but as I was at the gym daily and playing underwater hockey, it never stuck.

By first year I'd moved to the Health & Racquet Club in Bedfordview. It would later become a Virgin Active. There I discovered treadmills, which I loved. Also the StairMaster, still super circuit and also aerobics classes - still high impact and step but also powerpump and yoga. Later they brought in spinning classes too. I was at the gym seven-days-a-week.

Within a year or two I was playing underwater hockey one or two nights a week and then on Sunday mornings too. I made the Provincial B side and then the Provincial A side, by which time I was playing five times a week. And then the National side. 

I was still doing road races on weekends.

In 1998 I went to the US for a few weeks and there I had no underwater hockey or gym. I started running every day on the road. Returning home it was a juggle with gym, road running and underwater hockey - but I loved it.

In mid 1999 I discovered adventure racing. Where underwater hockey had been my obsession and I couldn't imagine my life without it, adventure racing took over every inch of my brain. I was obsessed from the start. Adventure racing changed the direction of my life.

I got a mountain bike after the first race but had not yet done much with paddling. I was still mostly running and in the gym.

Adventure racing led to ultra trail running and staged racing. I had the fortune of running in the US (Pennsylvania, Virginia, Colorado and Hawaii), Brazil, Costa Rica, India, Namibia and SA, trading writing for running in most cases. (Much of these before I started this blog in Jan 2006).

In the mid-2000s I was doing a lot of media work in adventure racing - travelling abroad to write for races and teams, but also local work in writing and tv. From this I got experienced that I would never have been able to afford but I found it challenging to keep up my own training with the long hours that I was working. 30-minute runs kept me sane and somewhat fit.

When I started adventure racing, I also got into orienteering to improve my navigation skills and, from about 2000, I was regularly at orienteering events for the next 15 years. I also loved orienteering coaching for schools and for our junior team. Orienteering led to rogaining and I have had the fortune of doing doing two 24hr events abroad - in Estonia and Ireland - and many (all but one, I think) of the local annual rogaining events, which have always been a highlight every year since about 2003. We hosted two rogaining events out here in the hills surrounding Parys.

Adventure racing also led me indirectly to staged ultras. My first being the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon - must have been 2001. I found out about it a week before the event because of a product review (bivvy bag) that a magazine asked me to write. Running through the night on the ultra stage was very definitely one of those epiphany moments that I'll never forget.

In 2001 I got pulled into the ladies team for Camel Whitewater and this is where I got a good water base in rafting and understanding water. By the mid-2000s I was paddling occasionally (K1 and K2) but it was only in 2008, in preparation for my first (of three) trips to participate in the Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge, that I properly began to paddle properly. Paddle coach Russell Willis sorted out kinks in my technique and built me a solid paddle style. For three years I would paddle for four to six months of the year. 

Around this time I also gave up my gym membership, something I would never imagined that I would ever do. I was out on the road, trails, water and in studios - not enough in the gym to warrant a membership that I wasn't using.

By mid-2008, I had started pole dancing. I'd heard talk of it and found a class in Edenvale. I loved it from the first because it was hard! After six months I did an instructor course and then taught one or two pole classes a week for the next 4.5 years. 

I started going once or twice a week to Ashtanga yoga classes in 2011 (for a few years) after an introduction to acroyoga at the 2010 Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge.

In 2012 I heard about aerial circus classes and would head off there once or twice a week. Trapeze, silks, ropes, lyra, chinese pole and a lot of strength and flexibility drills. It was brilliant and rewarding. The school closed after a year or so. I went back to some pole but mostly was into running, yoga, paddling and a dash of biking.

I've been out of adventure racing for a long time, mostly because I don't have the disposable income for it. It is still in my blood though.

My running has been diverse from road to trail, parkrun to ultras and also multi-day staged events, ultra relays and circuit races. 

10 years ago, when I turned 35, I began my annual birthday running challenge where I run the consecutive number of days of the age that I am turning in the lead up to my birthday. I needed this to restore balance when I found that I wasn't prioritising myself or my training  - too much work and event organising. I still do this birthday challenge now although I'm more on track so it is not as impactful as it has been in some years.

In 2015, I was juggling life between Parys and Jo'burg so I was mostly running and orienteering with a little paddling and probably some yoga.

Since I've lived in Parys (Dec 2015), my proportion of paddling has increased - mostly flatwater and some whitewater in the last three years. I've done some yoga classes, some self-practice (never enough!). Running is still my base - mostly on trails. I used to ride my bike around town a lot but I haven't done so since I got Rusty (my dog) as she is often with me (I need a bicycle sidecar!). I'm always short on time and for the most part I do activities where I can also get Rusty out for exercise (or just an outing) - so running and paddling dominate and I haven't been on my bike for too long.

I've been the Event Director of our Parys parkrun for five years and so I've been very involved as a volunteer and a regular participant. I enjoy the myRun too on Sunday mornings. We also have a Friday-evening Ultimate Frisbee game, which I thoroughly enjoy. Tough game!

In the past five years, the activities that I have really missed have been orienteering (especially for my orienteering family) and pole.

I enjoy competition and have had some really good results over the years (ultra running), but sport for me has been very much about having a fit and healthy lifestyle and trying all kinds of activities.


Don't ever stop!

It is easier to just keep ticking over than to start from scratch. When you're unfit and heavy, any training is hard, hard work. Rather just keep doing something, all the time. 

Having a base fitness also means that you are ready to jump at opportunities that come up, like running a seven-day staged ultra with a week's notice or running 70km through the night with a friend that you are crewing for.

Give everything a try

Don't dismiss anything until you have tried it. I used to think circuit races made no sense. I decided to do one and loved it. I've done four and I'd do more in a heart beat.


Specialist or master of none? 

Back in the late 90s and early 2000s, I was running up a storm. I focused on short, hard and fast in training and had not yet gotten into ultras. I'd run 5km in 20-22 mins without too much strain, my 21km PB is 1:36 and my only marathon is a 3:29 (3rd lady!). And this was on treadmill running (8km a day) and aerobics classes. I was pretty much always in the Top 10 women's placing at 21km events in JHB (8-10 usually).

I've also had some great results at ultras (overall, not just women's category), but again with really not much focused training put in.

Sure, the environment now is different to what it was 20 years ago, but could I have been a trail running star? I don't think I have the temperament. 

Instead of being a specialist, I'm a master of none. I'm good at lots, but not expert or champion because I've never focused on any one discipline, even running. I usually juggle a bunch of sports because they all give me so much joy and satisfaction.

That said, if I had focused on one discipline, I could have maybe been a champion but I would have missed out on so many other experiences that have contributed to making me who I am.


A number of years ago, my mom's friend asked me why I was never injured. She had runner friends who were regularly out of action and at the physio. 

I had two answers to this. 

1. While I've been running distances of 10km or more, and running almost daily for 30 years, I've always gone with quality vs quantity. I think the only 100km weeks that I've ever put in have been because of an ultra race that week!

 2. I am all for cross-training instead of a single-discipline focus which is sure to result in an over-use injury. Mixing it up strong legs, strong upper body, strong core. Good genetics helps too.

I can count my injuries on one hand:

2000 - stress fracture in left shin as a result of worn shoes 

2002 - foot injury at a race when I took a bad step on a round rock. Doctor suspected a fracture in a bone on top of my foot, strapped me in a cast for two weeks. I then began months of proprioception and stability exercises.

2003 - weird pain in my groin directly as a result of a fault in a pair of new shoes. It took me a bunch of unhelpful physio sessions to nail down the cause myself. I never had another problem once I stopped wearing the shoes.

2020 - currently dealing with a toe and knee issue (more on this in another post). Physio and orthopod and x-rays have ruled out any knee issues. I slammed my big toe into a rock about three months ago. But, I actually suspect that my 'injury' and discomfort is from my new trail shoes! I'm in the process-of-elimination phase.

I've had other niggles not lasting longer than a few days and stupid stuff like a cut foot, sliced knee, near-decapitation rope burn and the like that have seen me off for a few days here and there.

Keep a log

In my early days of road running I received an A5 running logbook at a race. I began using it. When it was finished, I made my own version, printed copies and used this format for many, many years. I would log running distance, time spent at aerobics and yoga classes, distances cycled or paddled, races, runs, people, illness, injury... I swopped to a digital log on an Excel spreadsheet but it was never quite the same as that paper booklet.

I haven't kept a log for at least the past seven or eight years. And right now I can kick myself because in trying to establish a timeline to pinpoint when my knee niggle started and the possible causes and influences, I haven't got a log to refer to.

A log is not just about time and distance spent keeping fit, it can also record when you get new shoes, a change in diet, your weight, friends who have joined you on training runs and adventures and races, and events and places that you've been to.

If you need a goal, set one.

I don't need a goal to train but they are handy. If you need the commitment to a race date to get you out of bed, find a race (real or virtual) and enter it.

Find a friend

In my last years in Jo'burg, I had three running fixtures that kept me on track. On Wednesday evenings I ran with Rob. On Friday evenings I ran with Jason and once a week I would take my friend's huskies out for a run. Regardless of whatever else was going on, these fixtures kept me going. And I loved them for the exercise, more distance than I would have run alone and their companionship. I had always run on my own and starting to run with people was daunting initially. I found this to be a blessing.

Nothing lasts forever. 

Underwater hockey was my life. Going to the gym was my life. Then adventure racing was my life. At each stage I couldn't imagine my life without any of these. I have been deeply passionate and involved in all of my activities - orienteering, pole, circus, yoga - but nothing lasts forever and the time that they occupied in my life was significant, rewarding and memorable. But there are other things out there too.

It may be that you have to give up a sport. You may move away from it, have to give it up because of financial reasons or a change in life and availability. Or you may have an injury or illness.

Let go. There is always something else.

There is always time.

(not necessarily a lot, but there is always time)

My annual birthday game reminds me of this again and again. There is 20-30 minutes to do something each day.

I'm always pushed for time but taking Rusty out is a non-negotiable. Where I may not prioritise myself, I prioritise her.

To go paddling I must drive to the paddle club, get out my kayak, get on the water, put in a session (30-45 mins), get out, store my kayak, drive home... all of which ends up taking 90 minutes.

But, I can run or walk from my doorstep. A 20-minute, 4km session is the best exercise value in terms of time, effort and gains.

If you're writing exams, still do 30 minutes a day. It clears your mind and exercises your body. Not having time around exam time is a poor excuse.

If you leave school and are not longer playing team hockey or athletics or another sport that has been presented to you on a silver platter, find something new that you can do on your own or join a club. Leaving school is not a valid excuse to stop doing sport.

Working? We all work. I work crazy hours but I go crazy if I don't do anything. I take off an hour or two in the evening  and I work at night, often till very late.

I'd say the big juggle is working and caring for children, especially if you have no spouse or the spouse doesn't assist. Put the kids to bed and follow a fitness video on YouTube, push your baby in a pram or baby jogger. While you won't necessarily make it everyday, a few days a week should be doable. 

Sport is about people and communities

My underwater hockey family. My adventure racing family. My orienteering family. My parkrun family. My running family.

Through these communities and various events, I have made friends.

I was Parys parkrun Run Director on my first weekend in Parys and I quickly learned names and recognised familiar faces at the shops and about town, especially of the volunteers and regular participants. I also started going to the paddling time trials and meeting people at the club. It was the best integration to a new town that I could have had.

Meeting people and making friends is mostly about just showing up, being there and being involved.

The physicality of activities is its own reward but the people that I have met along the way, around the world, have truly enriched my life.

If you ever move to a new town or even a new part of a city, join a club, show up at time trials, volunteer at a parkrun or take up classes in something new. Say hello, be friendly and extend a helping hand. 

Surround yourself with people that are like you and have common interests and you'll find it easy to enjoy a fit and healthy lifestyle throughout your life.

First fire fighting experience

 While fires on the highveld are a norm in winter and early summer, I have not yet been involved with any fire fighting on the farms just outside of Parys. Being in town, I usually hear about fires after they have happened (or not at all).

On Saturday I went to the Koedoeslaagte Trail Park & Venue to do a talk for the Parys Multisport Club's young cross-country and athletics athletes on 'A fit & healthy lifestyle'. Just before I left, smoke was spotted and it looked like a fire in the area. It looked closer than what it was. As I drove, I kept an eye on the growing cloud of smoke. 10-minutes later, I was near the blaze, although I could not yet tell where it was coming from - somewhere down near the river. I stopped outside Klipdas Boskamp and called Jeanne-Marie to ask if they needed help "Yes please, follow the smoke" she instructed.

And so began my first experience of fire fighting. My first task was to get the sheep to safety. I've always been rather fond of sheep, especially lambs. But after this interaction, I now know for sure that sheep are really, really not the smartest domesticated animal in the barnyard.

The next six hours were all about beating flames, checking burn edges for fare ups and being absolutely astounded at how quickly embers flared up in the gusty wind, the immense heat, floods of heat and smoke and massive raging flare ups - just when you thought it was all under control.

Those are not flames behind me - sunlight on smoking grasses. Two hours after this I no longer had any skin visible under the soot. Totally inappropriately dressed and wearing Vibrams! My first time wearing Vibrams in ages and I ended up spending the day tramping through the bush and fighting fires!

While Graeme Addison - who has lived out here for around two decades - considers this, and the many other fires today in the area (some part of this and others independent of this one), to be the biggest burn in the area in his time, this one would be small by the standards of the Australia, California, Knysna and Cape Town fires.

By the time I left Klipdas around 19h30, it looked like everything was safe. Driving home, I saw the telltale glow of other fires in the tinder-rich hills on other farms. There is a 90% chance of rain between 12h00 and 14h00 today (lesser percentages on either side). We really need this forecasted rain to properly put these fires out fast.

A number of people from the surrounding farms pulled into Klipdas with water tanks and pumps on the back of their bakkies to help fight the fires. They have a lot of experience and work quickly and efficiently to cover ground. Others brought drinking water for fire beaters, keeping an eye on the many people spread around the farm. I have so much to learn about fire fighting. 

On the farms in this area, I'm quite sure that the people slept in shifts to keep an eye on the wind and smoldering logs and grasses. Here in town we are protected; out there on the farms the dry vegetation waits for any excuse to ignite. 

Fortunately, my other home-from-home spots, Otters Haunt Parys and Kopjeskraal Country lodge were unaffected by this fire. 

Monday 5 October 2020

Kayaking confidence

Whitewater kayaking is one of those things, like SCUBA diving, that you shouldn't do alone. When you're dealing with water, even in knee-deep flowing water, tragedies can happen. 

I've been paddling on-and-off for 20 years; more on in the last five years since I've been living in Parys. My paddling has been primarily flatwater or low-grade flowing water with some time spent on the commercial rafting section with its Class 2-3 rapids.

About four years ago, I learned to eskimo roll. With low water, we didn't paddle much that season. The next summer I took to a whitewater sit-on top as my roll wasn't 100% and I also didn't get in much practice. On the sit-on-top I did pretty well and started to practice the essentials of eddy catching and ferrying - but again I don't recall us paddling downriver very often - probably because we'd started Vagabond Kayaks and spent every waking hour working.

By the end of 2018 I was paddling our own whitewater sit-on-top and also taking my long Marimba down the river - Vaal and Orange. Late last year, I started paddling our whitewater creek boat, the Pungwe, working more regularly on rolls and paddle strokes. Celliers has been a good coach, guiding me through progressive skills.

We got in a number of good trips last summer, another in winter and I've had two trips in recent weeks.

Right now I'm still practicing eddy catching and ferrying - to get sharper and more accurate - as well as surfing in waves - a good way to hone skills.

I'm finally at the point where my confidence has developed to the point where I know that I can roll if I capsize and that I can handle water of varying levels without worry. This also makes me less of a liability for those with whom I paddle. And, of course, I know the rapids in our section of river pretty well now too.

With the river up for the first time in ages (up from maybe 15 cumec to 45 cumec), I was keen for a paddle and on Saturday afternoon I headed out with my friend Karen.

Karen below a sweet rapid.

We made it a smooth, quick paddle, getting on around 15h30 and home by 18h00 (with thanks to Graeme who picked us up).

Beautiful afternoon light on the river.

I enjoy teaching people how to paddle, and taking friends and clients out on flatwater and even Class 1 rapids (low risk, good fun), but I certainly don't have the whitewater experience yet to take other people down this section of river without another guide. I am pleased to be making progress off a solid skill foundation.

Monday 21 September 2020

I'd like a Golden Week

 Every year, China (and Japan - maybe others too) have a Golden Week. In China, this is a 7-8 day public holiday that was created in 2000. It turns out that there were three of them during the year: one before the Chinese New Year in Jan/Feb, one at the beginning of May and another at the beginning of October. It seems like the May one has been dropped and it just a one-day public holiday.

Three or four days of paid holiday are given, and the surrounding weekends are re-arranged so that workers in Chinese companies always have seven or eight continuous days of holiday. These national holidays were first started by the government for the PRC's National Day in 1999 and are primarily intended to help expand the domestic tourism market and improve the national standard of living, as well as allowing people to make long-distance family visits. The Golden Weeks are consequently periods of greatly heightened travel activity.
What a great idea!

Instead of itsy-bitsy public holidays and long weekends, how good would it be if everyone took a week off.

Of course, we have the experience now from the five weeks of Level 5 lockdown where email and phones went quiet.

For work, we interact with China and we know to make our plans to fit in with Chinese New Year, when the country almost closes down for a month, and then again like with this Golden Week.

What I most enjoyed about the lockdown was that I could take a break and not be in an anxious sweat during this time about answering emails and getting back to people. This is what I absolutely hate about being away even for a day - I just can't keep up and then I'm behind. Being away for a few days has nme feverish on return. But, if everyone is on holiday and everyone else knows that the business is closed for a week, well, no emails, and no during and post-holiday stress.

The only downside to the Golden Week, which has created some controversy, is potential for overcrowding at much-visited locations. The other downside is that you get two main holiday periods for everyone instead of shorter breaks throughout the year.

Personally, I'd like a balance with one Golden Week and then a smattering of public holidays to achieve a fine balance.

Monday 14 September 2020

Medical Magic

For the past two-and-a-half weeks, I have been staying with my mom as she begins her post-hip replacement recovery. Rusty and I are now back at our home but we'll be with my mom daily to assist with household stuff, cooking and taking Rosy out for runs.

This past Tuesday we went to see her doc for her 'week 2' check up and he is delighted with her healing and progress. The wound is healing beautifully with not a sign of any inflammation. She was allowed to remove the bandage and he promoted her to using one crutch, from two. 

On Thursday she went for her first physio session and has homework to do regularly each day for the next few weeks. A lot of her focus when walking, using the one crutch, is to walk evenly, without the penguin waddle that goes hand-in-hand with pre-operative hip issues. She is doing good.

My mom had her left hip resurfaced (similar to replacement but not the same) 15 years ago. Her recovery and progress after this op is far faster even though she was 15 years younger then. The technology has advanced in how they execute the operation, like by using robotic 'extensions' - manipulated by the surgeon - instead of hands, to do the operation. It really is quite magical.

Her doggy Rosy has been going with me to adult dog classes for the past two weeks. She is a good girl, and a clever girl, but she can be a hooligan on a lead when out for walks. She enjoys the stimulation of learning and has been a star. We're working on lead walking and also stay. This excitable doggy is doing so very well. Now that mom is up and about more, she'll join us at tomorrow morning's class.

On Friday we babysat my mom's neighbour's dog Bella, a white, fluffy maltese poodle.

Bella loves my mom and Rosy and is often over to play. I took Bella out with 'the big dogs' to Kopjeskraal Country lodge for an evening outing. This tiny doggy just loves running and chasing after Rosy. 

All too often, little dogs like Bella are not treated as dogs - more like lap warmers - and thought is not given to taking them walking or out on trails. And yet they are dogs and as fluffy and white as they may be, they love running off-road on trails and through the bush. Bella loves coming to play here and going out with the big dogs to the farm is her favourite thing. 

Three amigos. Rosy (black), Rusty (brown-and-white) and Bella (white)

Sunday 30 August 2020

Hospitals should not allow visitors

My mom has just been in hospital for two full days, two nights and a morning for a hip replacement operation. As a result of covid, visitors were not permitted. And I'm glad!

Post-op, my mom spent most of her time in hospital sleeping off the anaesthetic, resting, seeing the physio and being monitored by the nursing staff - the usual regular blood pressure checks, drip maintenance, catheter check and removal, meds at set intervals, meals. It can be a busy time being a patient.

I was quite happy to let her rest and then have whatsapp contact with her when she was awake and I was there to pick her up on release.

My mom, Liz. Back from the hospital after two days and two nights there for a hip replacement.

From her side, she appreciated not having visitors too. She could drift in and out of sleep, not worry about how she looked and she didn't have to smile at other people's visitors either. Less noise too.

She spoke to some of her attending nursing staff about how they felt about the ban on visitors and they all appreciated that there were no visitors so that they could get on with their jobs of caring for patients and not attending to visitor whims and enquiries, which really disrupts their work.

It seems that wards at the hospital have been better arranged to group similar patients together. My mom was in a ward dedicated solely to orthopaedic patients. They're in-and-out in a few days and aside from needing some kind of bodywork, they are not ill and they are fully conscious and functional.

Of course, not all patients are as 'straight forward' as orthopaedic. There are patients with major illnesses, strokes, accident victims, terminal patients, unconscious patients and the like who spend not just two days in hospital. Adults and children can be in hospital for weeks (or months!).

So this is where I will add a disclaimer to the title of this post that says 'hospitals should not allow visitors'. Patients that have routine, elective surgery, and any other kinds of patients that are in-and-out in a few days and nights, do not need visitors. For their own healing and recovery, and for distraction-free, improved effectiveness of the nursing staff. And diminished spread of illness (from the visitors!). Mobile phones and wifi are a blessing and the patient can choose when to communicate - between sleeps.

We selfishly want to visit loved ones to satisfy our own need to see them, when what they really need is a whole lot of rest with no demand on their focus or conversational skills. They have enough disruptions with the nursing activities around them.

For critically ill patients, those rushed to hospital in an emergency and long-term patients, limited visitors would be beneficial (for the patient and the worried family). I'm not sure how many visitors maternity patients would welcome during their first days with their baby? I'm sure most would be happy for just the company of their partner and brief, limited visits from parents / sibling / in-laws (if any - they could just wait for her to go home)?

The flip side of not permitting visitors, is that there are always stories (true stories!) of patients left unattended for hours, drips that run dry, incorrect medication dosages that are given, meds that are not administered... And these errors are picked up by visitors. Do visitors keep nursing staff more accountable when the patient is unable to check themselves?

Optimistically, I reckon that with no visitors and minimised distractions in regular wards, nursing staff will be better able to do their jobs (less errors and neglect) and that patients can recover, rest and return home faster.

Sunday 23 August 2020

Do you know about Covid Toe?

 A couple of weeks ago my mom read an article in the New York Times about COVID Toe, one of many other Covid-19 symptoms. She sent it to me because I had chilblains for the very first time ever in my life in June. A chilblain is a painful, red inflammation on one or more toes that is usually associated with exposure to cold.

I've always been one of those people that rarely gets cold feet and I'll happily walk around inside in winter in just a pair of socks or crocs.

At first, I thought the red irritation on the second toe of my left foot was due to one of those pricky grass seeds that can penetrate your skin. We get them out here, I'm always on trails and they do try to burrow in through the front of my running shoes. I've had this before but it goes away in a day or three. This time, the inflammation persisted and got worse and more red over the next few days. I checked for seeds and splinters but couldn't find a cause for the irritation. My toe was sore - not agony or even very painful - but kind of a pricky itch that I could feel all the time. What was weird too is that it 'progressed' to the side and underside of the next-door toe too.

My mom first mentioned the possibility of a chilblain - something completely outside my scope of reference. I looked it up, checked some pictures and sure enough, this looked like exactly what I had. 

I became more conscientious, wearing thicker socks - or even two layers of socks - while working at my desk as well as slippers and making sure that my feet didn't get cold. It took a few weeks to clear. The skin on the worse toe was discoloured for a while and it is still shows signs from the swelling but is totally healed otherwise.

And then she read the article by chance and sent it with a note saying, "Maybe this is what you had?".

The one dermatologist mentioned in the article used to see four or five cases a year. Now they're seeing dozens of cases of people, like me, who have never had chilblains before. And in summer too!

Apparently most cases have been in children, teens and young adults and it is thought that chilblains 'may reflect a healthy immune response to the virus'.

I searched for more articles on Covid toes and enjoyed this one, also in the New York Times, on 'The Many Symptoms of Covid-19'. 

Did I have chilblains caused by letting my feet get too cold in my very, very cold home office or did I have Covid Toes that developed as a result of a healthy immune response to the virus in the absence of any other symptoms?

In the second article, a whole bunch of seemingly random symptoms are mentioned - things that can be passed off as a bad day on a training run or tiredness for some unknown reason. 

These past months I've had the following at intervals: tight hip flexors while running - first time in my life (for a few days), slight rash (tiny bumps only, not itchy or red - went away in a day or two) above my knees, sore knee, a run of mild headaches, and slightly upset stomach. No fever, no coughing, no sore throat.

These can be easily explained (respectively) by: sitting too long and too cold at my deck, constant wearing of tights / pants in winter, as a result of some misstep on a run, spending too long on my computer, not drinking enough and stress, and something I ate / from the awful water in our town. These are all highly likely.

Rapid antibody tests are still to become readily available here and they are not necessarily conclusive but I'm keen to take one.

This is one test that I hope would be positive because it is more pleasant to pin these anomalies on Covid rather than stress, working too much and getting older.

Monday 10 August 2020

Handbag handout

With Women's Day celebrated on 9 August, there are often women-focused initiatives. One of our parkrun ladies passed a flyer on to me that asked for donations of handbags that are no longer used and also toiletry products to go into the bags.

I passed the flyer on to my bookclub friends and so the wheels began turning. One of the women has a side business in handbags and she tries a lot of them. She gave me six of her used, but in great condition, bags. I hit Clicks and took advantage of 3-for-2 specials on basics like bath soap, body lotion, face cloths, tooth brushes, tooth paste, deodorant and the like. I also had some crochet headbands and flowers on hand to add. 

My mom and I provided contents for four bags and we also handed in the other two bags to be filled with content provided by others.

While walking around Clicks, I was thinking about women (same applies to men and children) in absolute dire straits. Shampoo or food on the table. Of course, food. But there is something to be said for being able to brush your teeth and scrub your skin to feel fresh and clean.

A bottle of store-brand shampoo is at least R40/bottle. Toothbrushes are at least R10 to R15 each - but purchased in a pack of two so that's R30. Toothpaste is R12 at least. Same for a bar of soap. 

And then there are 'feminine hygiene products'. Sanitary pads are not cheap! I've had a mooncup and washable, reusable products for years but these are not cheap purchases (even though they last for years and years) and they also rely on you having access to clean water - which is not a given if you have no home. What if you can't afford the R22 for a pack of pads? 

I have very few toiletries. I don't need any more than what I have. Shampoo, conditioner, soap, a big tub of rich aqueous cream that I use for body and face (this dry highveld sucks every inch of moisture from your skin), toothbrush and toothpaste (also mouthwash and dental floss), sunblock, lip balm, deo, razor, face cloths, nail brush. That's about it for what I use daily.

I do have a stash of a few other items collected over time - bought by me (like a bottle of tissue oil, nail polish etc) or received as gifts (other body lotions or shower gels). I enjoy these and work my way through them.

And I do have toilet paper. 

And so when I wash my face in the morning - using my face cloth and water - and then brush my teeth; or when I take a shower after a run, wash my hair, scrub off the dirt from running trails, I am thankful for this special privilege of having a hot shower, dry towel and a tub of cream. 

This handbag initiative is such a 'simple' one but what a lovely and thoughtful initiative it actually is. In the big picture, food, warmth and shelter are key. Everything else is an extra. 

The parkrun lady who coordinated things on this side, delivered a boot-load (full car trunk) of filled bags today to the lady who started this initiative in our area. 

A few dozen women will receive a bag filled with the next layer of essentials. These hygiene products may allow a few women to feel that bit more fresh and clean. I'd say 'pampered'. Yes. But for me the basics are about hygiene and just feeling fresh enough to make it through the day ahead.

Monday 27 July 2020

Long nights and no FOMO

On Monday and Friday nights, my area of town has load rotation from 19h00 to 22h00. Sometimes the power may only come on a while after 22h00. This makes for a long, quiet, dark night.

I don't always remember to think about dinner and then next minute it is 7pm. But, I do have gas so I can cook. My laptop battery only lasts for about 90 minutes, so I can do some work. I do have a rechargeable light (thank you for SANBS - it was a regular-donor gift last year) that I use for illumination - and the odd candle. My wifi router has a battery that lasts for a few hours - so I'm connected.

While inconvenient, this three-hour period of no electricity slows things down a bit. I do odds and ends, catch up on messages, do random tasks that just need to be done, crochet while watching Netflix on my phone...

While I was not exactly out every night these recent years, I have definitely been a hermit this winter. Even without the covid restrictions, lockdown and curfew, I'm quite happy being at home at night - and on weekends.

I haven't participated in many events for the last five years and I have done little visiting in Jo'burg.

Parys is well located being not too far from Jo'burg (just over an hour's drive - 130km) but it is not quite down-the-road either. I've also been buried in my start-ups for the last 3.5 years so my free time has been limited. Spending three-plus hours just driving to get to something... well, it hasn't been possible.

Being just this bit away from Jo'burg and all that was familiar is a bit like living in a parallel universe. You're living one life but you watch your 'other life' going on through activities that your friends are doing that were so much a part of your life before. Of course one is not better than the other. They're different. There are benefits to both life versions. I had the one; now I have the other.

(In my old life, Rusty would not have come across my path!)

Late afternoon out with Rusty, Rocksy (black-and-white next to Rusty) and Skally (in the background). Karen was standing off to the side.

What has been great is that I love living in Parys for the small-town lifestyle and access to activities on my doorstep. So, while I may have had twinges of FOMO and I've also missed seeing friends, for the most part I've been content with what I get up to (time is lacking more than activities!) and I have made lovely friends here.

With covid... There is no chance for FOMO because there is nothing to miss out on and I count my blessings that my activities picked up where they left off after lockdown and that I've had enjoyed more contact with friends in South Africa and other countries these past weeks.

Wednesday 22 July 2020

Interesting online courses

During the 5 weeks of strict lockdown, I did not complete a dozen self-enriching and horizon-expanding online courses. I did sign up for Science and Cooking (chemistry) on EdX that I had been wanting to do for many years. I worked through the archived course and finished it recently.

My dad is bored and unmotivated. He is in Jo'burg with not much to do. I suggested doing an online course. He says that he doesn't want to spend "all day looking at a screen". *sigh* 

Online courses need 3-4 hours of your time A WEEK. 

He also listed a bunch of topics that he had considered. All of them were hard work, hard focus topics (and a bit dull if you ask me) - especially if you've been out hard learning for decades. 

I told him that I would find him some fun and rewarding courses.

I took a quick look through EdX - like 10 minutes - and found these gems that I sent to him and I am copying here for you to enjoy too.

Archived courses you can do in your own time. All the content is there. Some aspects - like assignments and results - may be deactivated. It seems like some courses are active all the time. Courses that run real time will release content each week and have things like discussion forums and request assignment submissions. Even with these, you can do as much or as little as you wish.

Jazz: the Music, the Stories, The players (archived course)


Star Trek: Inspiring Culture and Technology (enroll at any time - three series to this course)

Explore the impact and influence of Star Trek on today's society and technology.


Tangible Things: Discovering History Through Artworks, Artifacts, Scientific Specimens, and the Stuff Around You (enroll at any time)

Gain an understanding of history, museum studies, and curation by looking at, organizing, and interpreting art, artifacts, scientific curiosities, and the stuff of everyday life.


Drawing Nature, Science and Culture: Natural History Illustration 101 (starts Wed, 29 July 2020)

Learn how to see and draw nature like an illustrator. Build observational and visual interpretation skills in an interactive and enjoyable way.


Sharks! (started 19 July 2020 - you can catch up)

Learn about the most fascinating animals on Earth, their sophisticated senses and how sharks and their relatives have impacted human history and culture.

I'm going to give the Drawing Nature course a go as it has been an interest for many years. My mom and also my friend Karen are in too. I've twisted my dad's arm and it looks like he is in. If you'd like to try this one, let me know. It can be fun to have a group of people enjoying a course like this together.

Consider patella tracking

The kneecap (patella) is a wondrous design that protects the knee joint from damage. An array of tendons and ligaments surround the knee cap. The tendons attach muscles, like the quadriceps, to bone while the ligaments attach bone to bone and serve to hold structures together and keep them stable.

The kneecap sits in a groove in the femur (thigh bone). When you bend your knee, the patella should stay centered, in the femoral groove. If the patella instead moves to the left or to the right - misaligned to the femoral groove - then this is known as patella tracking disorder. Common causes are weak thigh muscles and imbalances in lateral and medial muscles. Also tendons, ligaments, or muscles in the leg that are too tight or too loose. Of course, activities that stress the knee again and again, especially those with twisting motion (think quick direction-change sports like soccer and ultimate frisbee), can cause patella tracking disorder.

The pain / discomfort is felt around the kneecap.

This is relatively easy to correct long-term through a variety of stability and strengthening exercises like squats and leg raises. Taping and knee braces are bandaids that provide structural support to keep the knee cap aligned. 

I have another 'cause' to add to the list: restrictive clothing. Clothing that covers your knee can mess with how your knee cap tracks.

I have three examples.

I had a pair of tights that ended just below my knees. Every time I wore them, I developed a sore left knee. The pain and discomfort would sometimes disappear over night, or it would last for a few days. It took me a while to identify the tights as the cause. Stop wearing the tights = stop getting a sore knee. This was the first of two pairs of tights where I had this problem. With the second pair I cut I fabric to loosen the tension over my knee and the problem was solved.

In 2012, I had the pleasure of participating in a 24-hour rogaining event in Ireland. Before the race I bought a pair of really good waterproof pants. Berghaus. They have those pouches for your knee to bend. As it turns out, I found the crotch-to-waist length a bit too long for me and so I had to roll the top to get them to sit right and to ensure that the knee-bending pouch was correctly placed. After hours and hours of my knee hitting the seam, I developed a sore knee that I totally put down to patella tracking - where the lie of the fabric prevented my patella from tracking in its normal alignment and as a result caused increasing pain and discomfort. After the race I took the pants off and never had another problem. I've only worn them for short periods subsequently and have made sure to tuck them so that the pouch is properly over my knee.

Last week I developed a sore right knee - from doing not very much. And I put it down to the tight 'skinny' jeans that I was wearing most days. I spent most of my time sitting at my desk working. tight jeans, pulling over my knee, squishing my kneecap out of alignment... sore knee. I did a few nights of anti-inflams, stopped wearing those jeans and my knee is right as rain again.

I wa discussing this with a running friend this evening. His daughter wears knee-high compression socks that come just under her knees. If they are too high (like just under), she gets a sore knee. My 'diagnosis' is that the tightness of the top of the socks compresses the tendons and ligaments below the kneecap which alters how they pull on the kneecap to cause pain and discomfort. To remedy this, she makes sure that the top of the socks sits lower below her knee.

So, if you develop a spot of knee pain for no particular reason, consider what you are wearing. The type of fabric will have an effect - even stretchy fabrics - as illustrated above - can influence knee movement.  And, remember that weight gain and weight loss can change how clothing interacts with your knee movement. Clothing doesn't have to be tight; incorrect positioning of loose clothing (like my rain pants) can have as much of an effect.

A bit of Rescue

I first heard of Rescue Remedy years ago. It is a potion (for want of a better word) made up of flower essences that are recommended to promote health sleep, lessen anxiety and soothe pain.

My mom swears by Rescue Remedy and she used to use it to calm her dog Tansy who would shake and shiver at even the hint of an approaching storm. Her current doggy Rosy can be quite highly strung and wired and so mom gives Rosy a Rescue tablet to two at night when she has been particularly hyper. Rosy sleeps better and is more calm the next day. Mom pops a Rescue here and there too to improve her sleep.

I have a friend who struggles to sleep, often spending hours awake at night. Stress and anxiety are the norm for him. I suggested Rescue. And then I figured that I may as well give it a shot too.

I am blessed that regardless of my stress levels or any other issues, I sleep. Dead-to-the-world sleep. I drop off within minutes (or probably seconds) and I don't wake unless I need to pee - and then I go back to sleep immediately on returning to bed. I can sleep through storms too.

What I do struggle with is waking up. It has been an especially tough battle the past weeks. I can hit the snooze number multiple times (errr... more than five, or six, or seven!) and I am completely lights out for the five minutes between alarms. It doesn't matter whether I sleep five hours or nine, waking up is tough.

I started taking one Rescue tablet before bed about five nights ago. In terms of sleep, it may improve the quality of my sleep but what I have noticed is that I am waking easier than I have for at least the past 3-4 months. All other conditions are the same - time I go to bed, duration of sleep, alarm time and that it is damn cold in the mornings (not nice to get up). So, I put this down to an effect of the Rescue tablets.

I'm going to stick with it for a couple of weeks, maybe even try two tablets, and see how it goes.

Tuesday 14 July 2020

Successive blood donations give you a proven track record

 Blood donation day today. The mobile clinic visits Parys on the second Tuesday of every month and it is always a pleasure to see them. 

Donors can donate every second month with a max of six donations a year. To be a regular donor, you need to donate at least three times a year. Having a regular donor status ensures that all your blood components are used.

Once-off donations may leave you feeling like you've made a contribution to the blood stores - but you haven't. Your blood will not be used unless you go back twice more within a year. Go back and donate again and again.

Successive donations give you a proven track record of safe blood. I'm quite sure that if you were on the receiving end, you appreciate that you receive safe blood from donors who prove their health and safety multiple times a year. As a donor, this is your responsibility.

Sunday 12 July 2020

Seven day personal running challenge

Last Saturday, I ran the Kopjeskraal road. I enjoyed the distance and being out. Just running. It is a simple one-direction route. I hadn't done that for ages. I wrote at the end of my post that I was thinking of making it into a personal challenge... Well, I did.

Starting on Monday, I ran this 10.5km route every day - alternating the direction each day. I have my mom to thank for either dropping me or fetching me - and taking Rusty for walks while I was out running. On Tuesday I got a lift home with Celliers after joining him for a walk up the hill. The run downhill shook my legs out perfectly.

I had a good week of running. I actually cannot remember the last time I had a 70km week. Or a 60km week. Or even a 50km week. And, I ended the week feeling better than when I started out.

I ran pretty evenly all week - my best and worst time varying by five minutes. Conditions ranged from warm to cool to cold and from a light breeze to very, very windy. Some days I may have had one brief walk; on others I enjoyed two or three brief walkies.

My friend Karen joined me for a section on most of the runs. Her house is 20 minutes from mine on the out route and 40 minutes on the return. Today she cycled a stretch with me.

My friend and old neighbour Andrew ran with me on Thursday. Andrew and his daughter Tara are training for next year's Comrades Marathon. It will be Andrew's 60th birthday. He is a very good runner with past Comrades finishes under his belt. This will be a special one for him to run with his daughter. Tara got trapped in an online meeting on Thursday so she made it through for Friday afternoon. They decided to make it their long run for the week as the cold front was expected the next day. Andrew and Tara ran from home to my start point, met me there, and then turned around to head back to town. A good 22km in the bag for them.

Yesterday I had the pleasing experience of doing a good deed. 15 minutes from home I noticed a white horse in a field. It looked like the horse was holding its leg out. Reeds obscured my view and then I saw its tail blowing in the wind and figured that was what I'd seen. I then got a better line of sight and saw that the horse was holding its leg in an odd way - out to the side and then lifting or lowering it. I stopped and decided to crawl under a fence to take a better look.

I'm glad that I did because the horse's lower leg was caught in a twisted piece of fencing wire (not barbed, fortunately!).

I crawled under another fence just next to the horse. She didn't even flinch and allowed me to work on getting the wire loose. She did not even try to struggle at all. I suspect that she had not been caught for every long and thankfully there was no damage to her skin or leg at all. There is no way she would have been able to get out of it on her own as it had tightened above her ankle and took a lot of manipulation by my hands, with their useful fingers, to work it loose.

After I got the wire off, she stood for a moment looking at me - and let me give her a pat on her shoulder. Like a thank you. That felt really good. I slithered under the fences again and resumed my run.

There is a property that usually has wildebeest, springbok and zebra milling around within sight. I saw them most days.

I needed this challenge to tie me down. To focus on. To get myself to commit. I needed to be reminded how I enjoy longer distances than the 5-8km that I hit most days. I needed a kick. I needed it to channel my motivation, which has been low overall.

I'm chuffed to have finished these seven days with 73.5km in the bag.

This week ahead I'll be doing shorter sessions. It is time to focus on some speed sessions to get myself back to where I was pre-lockdown.