Sunday 31 December 2023

Big 5 O Week: Day 3 (Middle)

 Day 3 of Big 5 O Week, in the Harkerville area, was wet. The gentle rain and mild temperature were quite fine for running. It was really squelchy for the day's organisers for hanging controls and setting up the start and finish. Those of us wearing glasses struggled with fogging up and not being able to see anything.

This was so far my worst day of the three, especially as I messed up the first control, which was not at all difficult. I came into the control 5-10m below it and just didn't see it. I wasn't sure how I'd messed up and it cost me time to figure it out. Actually, I messed up almost right from the start when I decided to run on the road, then chastised myself for not taking a straightline and I then cut across the forest, which was good terrain but slower for me than running on the road. I hit all the other features until I dropped into the ditch.

Drawing in my route.

Something that I have realised across the three events is that despite not having done any orienteering events for 8 years, with the exception of two or three rogaines (last one in about 2018?) my navigation and compass work are pretty decent.

Where I am compromised is in my speed of weighing up route choices and relocating if I mess up. I haven't had to do much fixing of mistakes, but my indecision and sometimes less optimal choices have cost time. After messing up Control 1, I spent more time checking and rechecking myself, my confidence shaken. Just out of practice.

I ended up second in my age category - three minutes off - and far down on the overall course results. Arrrggghhh!!! Win some, lose some.

Route comparison overlay of the route that I drew in that I think I took (pink) and the Strava track (red).

I need to pull up my AR Gaiters for Tuesday's Day 4 Long O. This will be my last event as I am controller for the 5th and final event in George on Wednesday, so I want to make it a good one.

Saturday 30 December 2023

Big 5 O Week: Day 2 (Long)

An excellent Day 2 at the Big 5 O orienteering. Today was the long course, which offers more difficult terrain, more climb and more distance than yesterday's Middle. There is less path and track running and more straight-line moving on no paths. This can be through open forest with scattered logs and slippery pine needles, through forest with light undergrowth and/or brashings, and through more difficult vegetation like at stream crossings.

I had a number of sections of hesitation and indecisiveness, unsure of routes to take. I lost time weighing up running a longer way around vs a straight-line through questionable terrain. I had internal dialogue telling myself not to be a softie and to go straight-line but common sense prevailed and I ran around. But, I lost time debating with myself. I hit most controls pretty well and had a few where I was just off and a few times I questioned my decisions. Overall, I was happy with the day.

I get a kick out of trying to remember where I ran and drawing my route on my map. Course straight-line distance was 5.9km with 315m elevation and 19 controls. I ran 9km with 372m elevation in a time of 2:02. Looks like I was first in my age category and 10th overall on Course 4.

Controls 1 (hadn't gone far enough), 2 (got caught in nasty vegetation on the way), 4 (overshot), 8 (I was within 5m and didn't see it) and 9 (was just to the right of the control initially) were my worst. I lost focus from 6 to 7, moving towards 7 but looking on my map at the circle for 6 (which I already had!). I was initially indecisive on my route from 7 to 8 and again from 13 to 14. 

Today I remembered to run Strava so I have the GPS track. This is a comparison of the Strava track with how I remembered my run.

Friday 29 December 2023

Lots of December activities

 After two weeks of hill climbing and a lot of activity in the Seychelles in November, I hit a wall in early December with a sinus / allergy / cough kind of thing. Initially I wasn't sure whether it was viral or an allergic reaction to something around at the moment. It seems like it is the latter and after two weeks of doing not much more than dog walking, I jumped into activities and making up for lost time.

During late November / December, we have a bunch of local activities on the go. The weather is summery, the evenings are long and there is so much to get out to do. 

November ended with a Social Paddle, one of the monthly activities that I organise for the Kingfisher Social Paddle Group. The Social Paddle group has been going for almost two years now and it really is something quite special. There are a number of regulars and some that come through occasionally plus newcomers. Once we hit winter this year, I lost the plot with the group and didn't organise paddle outings for a while. Then we had some weird weather patterns with lovely week days and awful weekends. I'm back in the saddle errr... kayak seat now.

End of November Social Paddle at the Garden Route Dam

On 9 December I enjoyed a lovely garden party with friends. Although the weather was cool and drizzly, the afternoon was warm and festive with friends, good picnic-style foods and also fun games.

With my mom Liz

Girls in florals with Talita, Tanja, Zelda, Jolene, me and Liz.

Johann, Otto and Jacques rocking the florals.

A bunch of us headed out on bicycles, on a Wednesday night, to see the xmas lights. Oewer Road in George has a xmas lights thing going with houses in that road and a number in surrounding roads putting on a wonderful display.

Next up was an introduction by friends Otto and Talita to Laser Run, which I wrote about. I'll definitely give a try in the new year.

The laser gun. You have to shoot single handed.

In George we have an awesome trail running community that centres around the George Trail Running (GTR) group, the MountCo trail running store and Trail Kiosk at GroundZero . The efforts of Mountco's Jacques and Clare Mouton with GTR really pull the community together. This year they have coordinated a fabulous holiday programme with a variety of local activities and events. 

I'd missed a few activities with my sinus / cough thing but I wasn't going to miss out on the Sox Xmas Lights Pyjama Night Run - a social run from the Botanical Gardens to see the Xmas lights on Oewer Street on the 20th. It was a treat to do this with my friend Tania who visiting George for the holidays as well as Talita and her daughter Nicky. My Rosy-dog joined the fun.

With Tania and Rosy dog.

Rosy really enjoyed the lights and festivities.

Then, an 'Xmas around the World' concert at the small Market Theatre, a community theatre venue in George on the 21st. It is in an old building, built in 1855, that was previously a church. The guy singing was fantastic, the guy on keyboard was fantastic and the lady on violin was fantastic. The programme was diverse and charming and efficient. A lovely evening of music. I took mom and the dogs to see the xmas lights after the concert.

As luck would have it, the timing on the 22nd was perfect for me to do a kloofing/canyoning trip with
Marthinus Esmeyer from Paradise Adventures on Friday, 23 December. Marthinus knows pretty much every waterway from source to sea in the region. While many rivers around here are no good for paddling, they are superb for canyoning. Marthinus offers a number of canyoning tours within 15 mins of George / Wilderness.

The trip this afternoon was spectacular. I knew the canyon would be pretty, but it was so much more. Swimming through pools, stepping from rock to rock, a few jumps into pools and two belay descents. From my interactions with Marthinus over the last three years, I had no doubt that he was a competent and experienced guide. He is even better than this. He knows these canyons like the back of his hand at all kinds of water levels. His setting up of the belays was smooth and efficient, moving us safely down the bigger drops without fuss or delays. His knowledge of the area and nature is extensive. This trip stands out as a highlight experience of my time living here.

Bombs away!

The water started off mild but got cooler deeper into the canyon. The 4mm wetsuit provided by Marthinus makes the experience all the more enjoyable because you do not get cold.

Friends Tanja and Jacque were on this trip plus two South Africans who live in the UK and are back to visit family for Xmas.

This canyon is spectacular!

The two belay sections were spectacularly run by Marthinus.

I joined the Wimberleys for parkrun in Mossel Bay on the 23rd and we also walked a section of the hiking trail from the lighthouse.

At the new Mossel Bay parkrun with Sarah, Tania and Paul.

It was really hot out on the hiking trail. With Tania, Sarah and Paul.

I love my AR Gaiters

Striking scenery from the hiking trail.

The 23rd was a wonderful triple-whammy as I had been sufficiently organised to coordinate a year-end Kingfisher Social Paddle Group outing on Sat, 23 Dec and made this one in the afternoon. We paddled on the Goukamma River from Blackwaters River Lodge and it was fantastic! A highlight for me, aside from sharing the paddle with my friend Tania, was seeing numerous Giant Kingfishers and having a close-up experience with a Malachite Kingfisher.

Paddling with Tania. She had photo duty.

All types of kayaks - and canoes, SUPs and surfskis - are welcome.

A Malachite kingfisher. 

On the afternoon of the 24th, I ran the December GTR FKT Challenge route. The route this month combines a bunch of trails that I really enjoy. I run some regularly and others less often and I had been wanting to get out there. But coughing and spluttering, I had stuck to dog walks and light jogs. This was actually my greatest cause of feeling that I was missing out. I had also wanted to do something special with Rosy. Off we went. I had such an enjoyable run and cruised in a better time than I expected. Strava says 1h10 moving time but real time was around 1h15 to 1h20. I did stop a few times as Miss Rosy had to swim in every swimmable body of water. It was fabulous. I followed this with two rounds of short dog walks with the others before going out to friends for Xmas Eve celebrations.

After a lovely Xmas Eve dinner with friends, Xmas Day brought its own adventure with an outing to an old forestry area behind Hoekwil with our friend Nics and her dogs. Liz and I took our hoard and we all had a blast with the dogs running all over the place and all of us taking a dip in the stream.

Dogs dogs dogs - Snow and Canada at the back, Nics' Nunzi front centre and Rosy front right.

My sweet Rusty girl.

Riding a dragon... and my mom Liz with her Bella dog.

Dec 26th was another GTR outing with a run at Glentana. I've actually never been down to the Glentana beach so I didn't want to miss this even though it meant being out the door just after 6am on Family Day... The weather was overcast with soft drizzle, but not too cold or windy and well worth doing. The route headed east but as the tide was still up, it meant a lot of scrambling over rocks. We gave up on this, turned around and ran the other way down the beach, which was lovely.

Running east toward the rocks.

With my friend Cliff. He has done exceptionally well this past year with his running. Steady progress.

With Zelda, Udo, Johan, Cliffy, Etienne and two guys in the back (don't know who they are but they were part of the greater group).

Rocks, rocks, rocks.

And this brings us to the present and the Big 5 O Week of orienteering. Where I felt like I was missing out in the early part of December not being in top-top health, I've certainly made up for lost time. 

I am thankful to be living where I am and that there are so many opportunities to get out to do activities and most do not cost a cent.
I am thankful that I have friends who like to do activities.
I am thankful that I have dogs that love activities and ensure I am always out and about.
I am thankful that when I do activities without dogs that I have my mom Liz who gives the dogs love and care.
I am thankful that I am in good health and fitness so that I can do any activity I choose.

Big 5 O Week: Day 1 (middle)

 The first event of the Big 5 O Week was held today; a middle distance event in the same area - the other side of the highway - as yesterday's training map. It was fantastic! 

For this event, I decided to run in the W35 category. You can run below your age, but not above. For seniors older than 21, M21 (men 21) and W21 (women 21) is the main competitive category. The next age group is M/W35 and thereafter in five-year intervals. For my age, I should be running W45. But, as you go up the age groups, the distance gets shorter. The control locations are not a much easier as the actual course length is less and there will be fewer controls to locate.

Having been out of O for so many years, I figured that I was outside of the competitive W21 arena but that I still wanted distance and lots of controls to find - so I opted for W35. There are only five of us in this age group (only six in W45). Yes, I'm in the age-grouper realm, which opens opportunities to get results.

There are multiple courses of varying distances and multiple age groups share courses. I was on Course 4, which is shared by my W35 group and also by M20, M21L and M50 giving a total of 25 participants on this course. I'm 1st in my age group and 12th on the course, which is pretty cool and unexpected.

The course was great, offering a mix of mowed footpath navigation (first few controls) and forest orienteering with sections that called for compass work (13 to 14. I didn't have to search for any controls, hitting them all pretty much spot-on or popping out within 5-10m of the control - so I could see it. 

There are definitely sections I should have moved faster on and other areas where I need to trust myself more - being out of orienteering for so many years has left me somewhat unsure of my skills.

As the crow flies course distance today was 4.1km. Real distance maybe 5.5km (a friend on Course 5 at 3.9km ran 5.2km, as an indication).

In marking up my map, I remembered what fun remembering and drawing in your route and comparing split times can be. I forgot to start Strava so I didn't have this recording to compare. 

It has been toooooo looong. I really have missed orienteering. Just these two days with the training map and now Day 1 have had me feeling like I had no food for too long and now I've had a hit of sugar. It is good.

Tomorrow is Day 2 and this is a Long course - my old favourite. 

Adventure racing friend Jose Pires from Portugal is in South Africa for this event. I also saw ARers Jeannette Walder and Ugene Nel today.

Thursday 28 December 2023

Big 5 O Week 2023: Training map

 Big 5 O, a five-day orienteering event that is held every second year, has come to town. This year it is in my almost-backyard with events in the Plett and Harkerville areas and George. Today was a training event, an opportunity to get a feel for the map, features and terrain of the area.

I had a very smooth session, my first proper orienteering outing in at least 6 years. I'm not going for gold this week, but rather to have clean and clear runs.

I had such fun on this training outing and was pleased not to be as rusty as I felt I would be.

Training area map. Only in drawing out my route did I realise that I skipped three controls. Hahaha

Nice to compare how I remembered my run vs how Strava recorded my run.

That's control 56 ahead in a forest clearing - a sunny clearing.

Locating the first control - my first in many years.

Finding some foreign orienteers out there.
Of the approximately 230 pre-entered participants (this number excludes on-the-day walk-ins), only 97 are from South Africa.
15 foreign countries are represented. Most numbers come from Sweden with 31 orienteers, and Switzerland and Great Britain
with 23 each and USA with 17 participants.

Monday 18 December 2023

Introduction to Laser Run

Yesterday, a local friend here in George gave a bunch of us an introduction to the sport of Laser Run. Otto has wanted to share his sport with our group of friends for months. His son recently competed in the Biathle World Champs in Bali so we've got some pedigree here. 

Laser Run is a sport of running and shooting (laser gun) and it falls under Modern Pentathlon.

In events, you start with shooting. The target is a 17cm square with a circle in the middle (approx 60mm diameter) that you must hit. At the top of the target are 5 LED lights. They start off red and each time you hit the target a light goes green. In each shooting series, you must have five successful hits within 50 seconds. You stand 10m from the target and must shoot single handed. 

Otto in the blue tee

Then you run (600m) - on trail. Then shoot, then run over and over. You do rounds so that you end up with 5 x runs and 4 x shooting series. The first person across the line wins. Shooting gets harder as you progress because you get more tired and out of breath so it takes more effort to get your breath under control to shoot accurately.

It turns out that I have a pretty steady hand. There is a club in George and I look forward to giving some events a shot next year.