Saturday, 27 September 2008

Want and need; just ask

Working for a publically marketed social responsibility initiative, my days are filled with requests from schools and organisations for us to "get involved" with them. I inevitably reply to say, "Tell me what you want and I'll be able to let you know if and how we're able to assist".

"Get involved" is so intangible. On my side I know what my company can and can't do. We don't run events for them and we don't provide funding or sponsorships; but we do hand out balls and I also frequently have my hands on second-hand sports equipment, which I'm eager to pass on. To date I have been able to fulfill all of the requests I've received for balls - and there have been a lot of them.

Yesterday I spoke to a lovely lady, who had contacted me a few weeks ago. I'll be sending some balls through to her next week. She is now retired and putting her efforts into community projects, particularly rural schools in the area. During our conversation she brought up how difficult she finds it, being quite shy, to approach companies, organisations and people to ask for things. I gave her a couple of pointers and suggested she just jump in, making sure to address specific requests (what, how many, when). Companies do like to assist where they can (saying yes is a feel-good experience and it is harder to say no as most people have an inherent desire to please); and if you give them something definite to say yes or no to, you'll speed up the process and have a better success rate.

Another example of this "just ask" phenomenon is internet dating. A few years ago I spent a few weeks hanging out on an internet dating site. The experience was... eye opening. This is one forum where people literally ask for what they want; and there's certainly going to be someone out there into birding, stamp collecting and thigh-high boots. But if they don't ask for what they want, they won't find curvaceous ladies into gardening naked and archery.

We've been brought up in a tentative environment where asking outright often appears rude, opportunistic and greedy. Regress friends, to those childhood days before your social-self dominated. Back then you worked on mommy with plaintive demands of "I want..." and "I need...".

Within relationships you also have to ask for what you want and need. We get busy with work, sport, friends and family, distracted from our needs until it is too late. If necessary, you may have to ask for appreciation, respect, affection and time. If you don't get it, get out.

There's a great website I follow - (Technology, Entertainment and Design: Ideas worth sharing). The annual TED conference brings together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes). This site makes the best talks and performances from TED available (videos) to the public, for free, on the website.

I've just watched one of the newly posted talks (3-minutes) by Laura Trice (counsellor and life coach) on the importance of appreciation and thank you. In her talk she says, "Be honest about what you need". If you know what you need (5 balls, 4 cricket bats and 2 tennis racquets), others can help you get it.

Relating this thoughful posting to adventure racing... when you approach sponsors, tell them exactly what you want from them and what you can do for them - list in point form for simplicity. And don't be shy to approach companies. What's the worst that can happen? They say no? That's far from being a crisis because you didn't have them onboard in the first place. But if they say yes to a specific request, then you're one step ahead.

ESP is a 6th sense most of us do not possess: if you don't ask, you won't get.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

When I'm away, I wish the World was too

I've had an email address since 1994, when I was at University. Sure, my inbox was slow in the beginning, but it picked up rapidly with my sporting involvements, increasing social network and website developments. And where I craved the ping of an incoming email, I now cringe.

Don't get me wrong, I don't hate email. Far from it... I love email and the internet. Both are mediums around which I've built much of my work. Email runs my life. And it also dominates it.

Fourteen years after getting my first email account through the Wits Computer Centre, I'm still as obssessive about replying to each and every one. And I don't think I've had more than a week out of every year or so where I haven't accessed my emails - ja, I need counselling!

It isn't necessarily that I want to read emails while I'm away; I'm more motivated by not having a huge pile to wade through when I return home.

Take this recent trip for example... I have three email accounts; my regular account and two for work. While away I checked them every few days, deleting spam, newsletters and irrelevant postings. I also cast an eye down the list looking for fun chatter from friends, which I didn't necessarily respond to; I took advantage of my autoresponder, which stated that I was away and out of email contact. The upside to this was that I downloaded only a fraction of what I would have on my return.

This is the thing... when you're away and sunning yourself on a beach, the rest of the World is still at work. The World doesn't stop because you're on holiday - but I wish it would. That's the one nice thing about December - most people go on holiday and those that are still around slow down because so many people are away. I'm looking forward to the slow-email year-end season.

Email is a one of the finest inventions (in my opinion as an addict) but although we can turn off computers and phones when away they just keep coming in. And sooner or later they need attention, so there isn't really much escape is there?

Even if I became a raspberry farmer, email would still be important for dealing with suppliers and buyers... So, the issue is really not the presence or absence of email, just the volume.


Anyone know of farms for sale?

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Running the rogaine: race analysis

First things first; this join-the-dots, as-the-crow-flies map of our collected controls bears little reflection on the routes we took. Phew... we covered distance. The split summary says that we covered around 45km straight-line distance. We're guessing that this could be doubled with ease.

The race started at 12h00, which gave us little under 8-hours of daylight. This was actually why we decided to take some headlamps and to return to the hash house around midnight to pick up the next lot. I was carrying the new Petzl Ultra, which has a great beam but low battery life (around 3.5hrs using a combination of low, medium and high beams according to need). Heather had my Black Diamond. We also had a strong handheld bike light, which is great for spotting controls. Back at the hash house we had the all-powerful Silva orienteering headlamp with two batteries and another "normal" Princeton Tec LED headlamp. Our backpacks were already full with food (enough for over 12hrs), rain gear, heavy-duty emergency bags and such, so space was limited for packing in the bulky Silva and more food.

Back to our route... We made excellent progress during the day, ending up on the top westerly side of the course just over an hour before dark. This was pretty much on our predicted time (perhaps an hour later), so we were quite pleased. It's really hard to gauge pre-race just how long it will take to move over the terrain and/or how difficult the controls would be to find.

We had skirted the outer portion of the course, missing some central controls, which were in nastier terrain. This meant that we would be covering a bit more distance getting around. We're both runners so we weren't phased by this.

So, darkness falls just as we're approaching control 74. The control was located at the top of a marsh. We found the beaver dams spot-on, but stuck in thickets we looked around for the control and just couldn't spot it. Speaking to a photographer at a nearby waterpoint, it seems we were 10m from the control. They do have small reflective squares on each side, but we just didn't see it and didn't want to stick around hunting for it. We turned around, leaving it to head for the much needed water point and control 41.

We'd run out of water an hour earlier and had been very conservative with our consumption throughout the day as there were no nearby waterpoints on our route. I usually drink a lot but we hadn't had more than 2l to drink since the start; I had a cracking headache, which was relieved with a shot of Rehidrate, lots of fluid and two Panado.

I was a bit agitated at leaving the control, especially as I knew that we'd been so close to it. And, it was a 7 point control (heighest being 9, lowest being 2). Nonetheless, we couldn't waste too much time searching so getting out of there was a good idea.

Control 41 was a no-brainer, next to a tower that was visible from the waterpoint. In the few minutes that we'd stopped to refill our hydration packs, gulp down Rehidrates and grab munchies, we got very cold. Heather gets colder than me so in next to no time her teeth were chattering.

From 41, a footpath was indicated en route to our next target, control 60. We'd found these footpaths during the day to be a mix of clear or indistinct; so we took an easier, but longer road route around where we could run to warm up. Turns out that this footpath was actually quite clear, with hiking trail arrows on most parts.

Control 60 was a bad one for us because the paths had changed, with a clear jeep track not being represented on the map. After about 400m I smelled a rat, knowing we were a few hundred meters too South of the control. The hillocks are difficult to gauge at night - one blessing was the beautiful full moon, which was up most of the night. We turned around, hit another path and found competitor tracks.

On this... loads of participants were on the course and by nightfall all of the controls had highways leading up to the control. In some areas there were loads of tracks coming from different directions, others showed people searching around and some were single footpath "highways" - clear giveaways which were nice.

The competitor tracks in the area of 60 were all over the place. We were one hillock before the pond. When we didn't find the control as expected, I knew something was up. Two other guys came along and I asked them what they thought. They were worse off, scouring the landscape. I suggested we try one hillock over, which proved correct (Phew!). My Petzl died just then, so we followed them through the vegetation to the control.

Our plan was to head from 60 on the western perimeter of the map towards the southern controls. 51 was our next target, about 4.5km away. It must have been around 23h00 by the time we got near the path turn-off for 51 and I was very worried about our light situation. It would take us another good few hours to nail 51, 61, 50, 42 and 52 on the way back to the hash house, which was a long way off.

It was crunch time. We turned around, headed back to the road and started for the hash house, which we estimated to be about 10km away. That's a lot of distance to cover with no controls. Arrrrrggggghhhhh! Lesson learned that hard way (isn't it always!).

Took an age to get back - we'd met up with two foreign guys on the way. Back at camp we guzzled pasta and hot soup, climbing into sleeping bags around 04h15. We slept until 06h15, getting up just as the sky was lightening.

We chose an easy few controls that were close-ish to the event centre. With only 5-hours of race time left, there just were not enough hours to cover big distance. We swept through the controls and finished around 11am, an hour before the cut-off.

The only bad thing about this event is that - would you believe - there were no showers at the event centre! Correction - there were two cold showers, which you wouldn't have gotten me under even with a substantial bribe. Seems the organiser's idea was that people would go into the sauna and then into the cold shower. Funny.

We had baby-wipe showers and settled in for an afternoon nap. Most of the competitors left during the afternoon and the camp area got very quiet; we were only booked on the event bus to Tallin the next morning.

We did lots of sleeping, left in the morning for Tallin and spent Monday afternoon walking around the old city, which dates back to the 1100s. It is a fabulous place to visit. Tuesday noon we flew to London and so ended our first 24hr Rogaining World Championships and visit to Estonia.

Lessons learned
  1. Consider more zig-zagging options and don't be too put off by swampy areas
  2. Avoiding blue, watery sections eliminated some controls that could have been useful
  3. Although we wanted to head back to the event centre, we shouldn't have done so. It really was difficult to access. I'd asked the race organiser post-race whether many people came back; he replied that very few - far less than anticipated - has returned. We should have just carried everything from start to finish. This was our initial gut reaction when we saw the map, but
  4. We thought we'd lost about 6hrs with traveling back to the hash house, eating, sleeping (2hrs) and transition time during which we collected only 3 points. Turns out, looking at the race splits, that we lost around 8 hours. That's 1/3 of the total race time! This shows in our points score.
  5. 24hr rogaining is really not as "long" as I expected. Yes, you're on your feet for a long time, but the hours do pass quickly because you're so focused (especially when you're making bloopses!)
  6. Heather and I each got one blister, about 3/4 the size of a 10c coin. Our feet were in perfect condition, even after all the miles - we were thrilled. We suffered no other injuries or niggles.
  7. It is worth checking out the start of trails where we've assumed they may not be great. The amount of foot traffic could make it more distinct, even at night, and the trail could turn out to be good quality. Not good to make assumptions without a little bit of investigations. If you get to the trailhead and it isn't great, then take an easier option.
  8. Trust your navigation! This is one that gets navigators at some time or other. When things go weird, you think you're the one making the mistake. Sometimes you are not. This happened to me twice - it is unsettling. We went back to last point of certainty to correct and got it sorted out. I'm 200% certain that the one control was on an adjacent spur, only about 20m away, but still wrong (I tracked the features from two sides to confirm); a clear road was not indicated on the map at all near another control. In both cases I knew where I was.

This is the first time that Heather and I have run together. She kept me on the straight and narrow, timing distances, spotting trails and junctions, calling features and even turning me around when I completely forgot from which direction we'd approached a control!

All in all this was an excellent event and I've come out of it with my mind buzzing and feet itching for another rogaine... soon. I like to think that next time my planning with be that much more cunning (less conservative), more smart and more efficient.

My thanks go firstly to Heather for so eagerly saying yes to join me at this event. It was great to run with you. Michael handled loads of admin for us, like arranging my visa in London, booking our accommodation in Tartu and Tallin and being supportive all the way through. Suunto's Steve recommended and supplied global compasses, to keep us in the right direction (these will go to Abu Dhabi too). This saved us the hassle of buying compasses here. John's Petzl Ultra is a neat toy - it brightens the dark forests. We wore pretty pink CapeStorm tops; but they hardly saw the light of day, being hidden under layers and shells. The Motion Tights were excellent protection against stinging nettles, which zapped us a few times but left no lasting stings - thank you Ian. And thanks too to all our friends for your words of support.

I'll post the race map with our route once I'm back in SA next week. For now, I'm off to visit Tracey, my first rogaine partner, for a few days in London. Cream tea and scones is on my priority list.

Running the rogaine: pre-race

We're back in London after a cold few days in Estonia; and an excellent rogaining experience.

The bus through to the event venue at the Karula National Park was quick (1h30) and uneventful, but gave us a look at the country side, which evolved from mostly flat farmlands to rolling hillocks and forests - very pretty. Although it was toasty inside the bus, it was freezing outside, with the temperature sitting around 8C.

The venue itself was festive, dotted with tents, cars and rogainers - lots of all three. Many of the local Estonian rogainers would only arrive in the morning. With no check-in until the next morning, we setup out tent, scoped the facilities (few that there were) and chatted to a few other participants.

We bought dins from a make-shift tent-kitchen; Heather has a potato and sausage thing (sausages of all kinds are popular in Estonia) while I had a tasty mashed potato and pearl barley mush with some or other sauce. Half-way through the meal I shot off to the International Rogaining Federation meeting, getting a bit of an insight into the global rogaining scene, which is really still quite restricted to a handful of countries, but with participation numbers growing in each.

We'd packed our race packs in Tartu, so the only thing left to do was to sleep for as long as possible. We were prepared for the unseasonable cold with inflatable camp mattresses, two lightweight down sleeping bags each and warm clothing. Perfectly snug.

At 09h00 we registered, receiving indemnity forms that warned of injury by stepping into ditches, hypothermia, stinging nettles and electric fence shocks - amongst others. We duly signed on the dotted line, returning our forms at 10h00 in exchange for 1:40000 maps, which seems to have a lot of blue colouring - the expected marshes. Every team had to hand in their proposed route before the start, so we got cracking on looking at the distribution of the 63 controls, points allocations and possible routes.

The area was clearly divided North and South, linked by options to the East and West of the lake. The hash house (event centre) lay on the lake's eastern bank, about midway along the coast. This would make it difficult to access.

Heather and I just before the start; cold obliterates all fashion sense.

We'd decided pre-race to head back to the hash house during the night to collect more food and also the Silva headlamp plus its two heavy batteries and another regular headlamp. We knew that accessing the hash house would be difficult to work in and that we'd be in for distance; but we hoped it would work out better than carrying everything from start to finish and would give us the opportunity to get hot food during the long, cold night. This would be our undoing and our major error of the race.

Our plan would be to head North, sweeping from East to West and skipping the controls located in terrain that looked decidedly marshy. We wanted to avoid the cold and wet as much as possible on Saturday to save splashing through swamps on Sunday morning when we'd only have a few hours to go. The other unknown was how fast we would be able to move over the terrain, which affect when and where we would be when we'd need to head back to the hash house, and also how difficult it may be to navigate in the forests, across marsh and between hillocks.

We knew we'd complete our Northern route and would just play the rest by ear. This would be something new for both of us, so we were prepared to just get out there and learn as we went along.

Down at the start the participants were grouped, ready to set off. We, like them, were bundled up against the cold with light shells, beanies and gloves. A horn blast signalled the start - and we all shot off in different directions.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Karula, here we come!

We've spent the afternoon strolling around Tartu, checking out the o0ld university buildings and some ruins. Pretty neat. Found the Mulders (Nicholas and Liz) by chance. Heather and I stopped at a cafe for a snack and hot choc, as it had been drizzling for a bit. We were just about done when Liz and Nic walked in.

In a town with a population of 100,000 and countless cafes, they picked the same one as us.

They came across on a ferry from Helsinki this morning. Nearly missed their ferry as it was on the Estonian side, delayed by high winds and bad weather. According to Nicholas, this cold weather we've got at the moment is unseasonable. It is currently 13C and a bit windy. Should be a good few degrees warmer.

I asked Liz whether she had a harness to tie Nic into. She laughed and said that she was hoping that having "Bull" in his legs would slow him down. And it seems she's right because she took him for a hill walk yesterday (or the day before) in Switzerland, where she is now living, and he wasn't full throttle up the hills. My money is on Liz - she really is remarkable and is always an inspiration. How many people can make a team with their mom for a competitive 24hr rogaining event?

Heather and I are catching the event bus shortly. Liz and Nic are driving through to the event in the morning.

There's an International Rogaining Federation (IRF) meeting tonight. South Africa isn't a full member; we have observer status. So I'll be attending this as the SA IRF representative. They have their eye on SA for a World Champs in the next six years or so. MMmmmmmmm... I think after the race I'll have a better idea for what we would need to host an event. Just think about it... take the maps for our annual 8hr event and times that by three. That's a lot of mapping.

We're outta here.

We're in Estonia - land of lakes

We're here. Heather and I flew into Tallin, the main city, yesterday (Thursday) morning. We are an hour ahead of SA in time.

We were up at 3am on Thursday morning to catch our flight from London to Tallin; it is a 2h30 flight. We flew over Estonia's two large islands (west of the continent) on our approach to Tallin. Uneven coastline with thin beaches on some of the bays. For the most part the land just appears to gently slope into the Baltic sea.

According to a tourist pamphlet, this North-western part of Estonia is still rising (post- ice age continental lift) at an average of 2-3mm per year. This territory was under water. So my assessment of the land just sloping into the sea was spot on; looks more like a lake shore than a coast.

On the plane we saw a dude with a compass clipped on to the front of his backpack's shoulder strap. At customs I asked whether he was here for the Rogaine. Affirmative. Turns out his name is Liam and he raced with the Aus/Kiwi team 4TC at Bull last month. There were a number of other Rogaine people on the flight.

From the airport we caught a bus to the nearby bus station and were on the Tallin-Tartu bus 15-minutes later. It is 190km between the two cities and the trip was pleasant. The straight road is bordered by forest, farmland and meadows. Little in the way of houses of structures or towns. Although towns are marked on the map, they must be a bit off the main road.

As for the land... flat as a pancake. The heighest point in Estonia is a small "mountain" at 318m above sealevel. It is also the heighest point in all the Baltic countries. There's very little to see in the way of vertical topography - just trees. Something like the FreeState, only flatter. I now understand how the greatest vertical difference between the heighest and lowest places in the race is only 80m.

As precipitation exceeds evaporations, lakes, marshes and mires dominate the landscape. We have no doubt that we'll have wet feet from start to finish.

We spent the late afternoon walking around Tartu, which is a university town. Our hotel, Hotel Pallas, is perfectly located. It's 300m from the bus station, right next to a rather plush mall and everything is within walking distance.

The pesky UK airport people confiscated my tent pegs so that was our first mission. We found a pack and then hit a grocery store for race munchies.

I love shopping in foreign places where I can't read food labels. We did pretty well, stocking up with snacks and ingredients to make wholesome roll fillings. We also found a few odd things to try, like the sweetie-looking 'bar' we found in the dairy refrigerator. It is a bit like a chocolate coated cream cheese something.

Yesterday evening we went walking. Sunset is only just before 8pm, so it is light till late (sunrise is around 06h30). We headed for St Peter's, an old church across the river where there are terracotta statues. Place was closed, we may try again today as we've got time to kill. Our walk was a long one so we only got back at 20h30. Dinner was Italian - risotto for me and pizza for Heather. After such a long day and all the travelling, we crashed big time last night.

We've just had breakfast and will go play in town today before we catch the event bus at 5pm for the event venue, which is about 100km from here.

As for the weather... very overcast and friggin' cold. Forecast is for clear skies over the weekend. Pre-race I'd read the event info which said temperatures are mild at this time of year at between 15-20 during the day. What I always forget is that 15 is a nippy Joburg winter's day. So for these people it is mild. For us it is winter. Hahahahaha. We walked around with fleeces and rain jackets yesterday afternoon. We've decided on beanies, Buff, gloves, fleeces and jackets for today.

The building are, of course, warm; so people wear normal clothes and t-shirts. Then they're commuting between buildings even they look cold.

Heather and I are camping at the event tonight and Sunday night (post-race). We've both got two sleeping bags and thermarest matresses and thermal clothing. We're hoping that it won't be too cold out there. The chilly conditions should be fine for running as we've got the right kind of gear for it. Rain is something we definitely do not want.

Time to go walkies. Have a good day folks.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Rogaining in South Africa

Pieter Mulder brought rogaining to South Africa in 2003, with an event in the Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve, South of Joburg. It was an 8hr event and the day was hot. I ran with my friend Tracey Sanders, as a women's pair; shortly after the event Tracey immigrated to the UK. This event got me hooked on rogaining.

The next year the event moved into the beautiful forests around Belfast, starting from Lakenvlei Lodge. It's a super orienteering venue that has been used for SA Orienteering Champs and training camps. I ran with Deon in a mixed pair and we reached the finish with seconds to spare after trying to get just one more control. I think this is the year that the Day 2 Mountain Bike Rogaine was introduced; this completes a super weekend of rogaining.

The following year (2005) we were again at Lakenvlei, and this time I teamed up with friend, and orienteering rival, Tania Wimberley, for the 8hr event. We both run with maps, combining our skills to select the best routes. We had a great run together to stake a claim on "our" women's trophy.

Kaapsehoop in 2006 was a fabulous venue and again Tania and I ran together. BIG ascents, some tricky terrain and decisions to be made. This is the first time that the front teams were not able to collect all of the controls and the main decision was whether to go North or South. Tania and I got in some bouldering - by mistake - when we missed a trail and chose to go into a kloof. We ran a lot of the distance, made some good decisions and reached the finish a few minutes before the cut-off; reclaiming "our" trophy in the process.

I did the 5hr MTB rogaine the following day with Tim Deane. We were on track for a clean sweep until I make a risky choice and we got cliffed out, stuck at the base. We lost time blundering over fallen trees, carrying out bikes, sped home in the pouring rain and lost hard-earned points with our late arrival.

I missed last year's rogaine, also at Kaapsehoop, as I was running in India; Tania went hiking in the Drakensberg. This 2007 event was extended to 12-hours, the longest rogaine here to date. Nicholas Mulder says he didn't feel much difference between 8hr and 12hr events (besides it just being longer); but they did cover more distance to log 78km (with 2300m elevation gain) in the 12 hours.

This year the rogaine is back, even though Pieter Mulder is now living in Switzerland. He will return to SA in October to complete the planning and running of the event, assisted by ROC (Rand Orienteering Club). The event is to be held over 1-2 November 2008.

We'll be back in the Belfast forests and this year the foot rogaine is "only" 6 hours, with a shorter 2.5hr option. The mountain bike rogaine on the Sunday is time-limited to 5 hours, with a 2.5hr shorter version. The event information and entry forms are now available - visit the event calendar on

Tania and I want our trophy back after missing the event last year, so we'll probably be running together. Team's members will all be there for the foot and mtb rogaines, in preparation for Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge.

What you waiting for? Grab the event info and put in your entry. I look forward to seeing you there.

Rogaining World Champs, Estonia

The event terrain of the 8th Rogaining World Championships in Estonia includes the Karula National Park (start location at 57°42.75'N and 26°30.3'E), which is in the southern part of the country. The map covers an area 250km2 and the map is 1:40 000 scale.

Although the difference between the highest point and lowest point is only 80 metres, the area is not flat. There are no big mountains but the area is known for its rolling landscape of hillocks, moraines and eskers, which are glacial in origin. It seems to be like Valley of a Thousand Hills on a lower scale. There are many lakes, marshes and bogs, which immediately means that we can count on wet feet for much of the race. Some of the marshes and ditches are wide and difficult to cross or impassable.

Some of the areas are open grassland, nice for as-the-crow-flies routes; and other are forested. Forested terrain ranges from open and runnable to thick, impassable undergrowth. Accurate map reading and terrain interpretation will be very important, so that we don't get trapped.

Apparently there is a network of tracks and also rides within the forests, which make for faster travel.

Rolling hillocks, typical of the area

There is not much in the way of hazards with the exception of the normal things you can trip over (roots, logs, ditches). We can expect to be bothered by deer flies and stinging nettles will need to be avoided at all costs. They "grow in marshy forest and by some ditches". We've been advised to wear long leg protection.

The weather at this time of year is mild, with daytime temperatures of 12-20°C dropping to 5-15°C at night. Night frost is not unlikely and conditions could be clear and dry, low clouds with intermittant showers or rain with strong wind. We're obviously hoping for the former rather than the latter.

What kind of distance could we cover? At the rogaines here at home we've covered 45-55km in 8 hours. We could easily log +100km in the 24hr period.

We do run through the night; and I'm very, very lucky to have my hands on the new Petzl Ultra, which beams brighter than a Care Bear Stare. The maximum beam (highest of the three settings; distance of 120m) will be great for spotting the reflective strips on the controls at night. Duration on max is only about 1h30, so this beam will be saved for when we're in the vicinity of the control.

We get maps at 10h00 and the start is at 12h00. We will carry most of our food with us (there are 5 water stations out there) and there is the option to pass through the event centre (hash house) during the race to get a bigger meal. We'll probably stash food at the has house anyway, build it in as an option when we look at the maps and then make the call when we're out there, depending on where we are and how long it is taking us to move through our intended route plan, which we have to submit to the race organisers before the start.

Heather and I will not be the only South African entrants. Nicholas Mulder and Liz Mulder will compete as a mixed pair. Liz and Pieter have immigrated to Switzerland, so it will be super to see Liz again. I fly out on Saturday night. Nic departs on Monday night.

More news on the Rogaine, next week, from Estonia. WwwwwoooooHooooo!

Rogaine, the most cunning running

Rogaining, the sport of long distance cross-country navigation, is one of my favourite, favourite disciplines. It combines ultra distance running with time-limited, point-score orienteering to create a strategic sport. The 24hr World Rogaining Championships takes place in a week-and-a-half, over the weekend of 13/14 September. It will be my first bash at a 24hr rogaine.

Unlike orienteering, rogaining is a team sport where the format is usually pairs. I'm running with friend Heather Graz, who has exceptional road and off-road ultradistance running credentials (from 800m track for Western Province to 100-milers locally and abroad) longer than this blog posting; in addition to a health dose of expedition adventure races, including the freezing cold Quest in 2002 and Patagonia Expedition Race in 2005.

My saving grace is that I have more orienteering and rogaine experience, so I'll be holding on to the map with a vice-like grip so that Heather doesn't run away from me. Truthfully, we should be well matched in terms of temperament, competitiveness and experience; and a mutual love for ultra distance cross-country foot races.

Heather has lived in Cape Town the last few years and more recently is over in the UK. We'll hook up in London on Sunday, flying to Estonia later in the week.

Aside from the use of orienteering-like maps, rogaining differs from orienteering in that it is vastly more strategic.

In normal orienteering you have to locate controls in number order, one-two-three-four, as fast as possible, chosing optimal routes. In rogaining you're presented with a map covered in controls and you have a limited period of time to locate as many as possible. In this case we'll have 24 hours, starting from noon on the Saturday and finishing by noon on the Sunday.

Furthermore, your objective is not necessarily to visit as many controls as possible; to spice things up a bit the controls are assigned points values reflecting their distance from other checkpoints (and the event centre) and the technical difficulty (terrain, navigation) of visiting them. So, the objective is actually to get as many points as possible within the defined time period. It is impossible to visit all of the controls so routes have to be planned to most efficiently gather points without wasting time zig-zagging between controls.

I first heard about World Rogaining Champs in 2004, when adventure racers Michael Tobin and Mike Kloser (Team Nike) dominated. This event was hosted in the US. Two years later (Rogaining Champs are held every second year) the event was held in Australia and some ex-South African AR-ers living now in Oz took part. I decided then and there that I'd be going to the next one, no matter where it would be held.

Estonia is the host for this, the 8th World Rogaining Championships.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Rest is training

Bull of Africa -a 6-day race for most teams - ended on 16 August. We're only two weeks post-race; why do you think you already need to start hammering the road again?

Comrades runners are advised to take 6-weeks rest (stretching, slow recovery runs, short distance) post-Comrades - and this is just a 89km, 11-hour road run. Marathon runners are advised to take 4-weeks off post-race; the rule being 1-day of rest for every mile raced.

Sure, the intensity is lower in a multiday adventure race than a high-intensity marathon, but if you consider that you've been through 6-days on rugged off-road terrain across multiple disciplines, where you've been on the go for 24-hour days with nutrition deficits and sleep deprivation.

An AR friend emailed me this morning: "Do you reckon its OK to get back into some training this week? I tried last week.....very unsuccessfully. Went for a run and it ended up a shuffle with my feet hardly lifting 2cm off the road. I struggled."

Friends, I have three words for you: REST IS TRAINING. Rest gives you a chance to recover, physically and psychologically, from the strain of the effort.

In his book "Everyone's guide to distance running" coach Norrie Williamson says, "The better the recovery, the better will be the quality on the other side. In many ways, recovery is the most important part of your training schedule and your training is only as good as your recovery."

This applies as much to rest days within your training week and larger chunks post-race. That's the whole deal with being a professional athlete... being a full-time athlete isn't about spending so many more hours training, it's about spending loads more hours sleeping and resting.

A few years ago, only a few days after a 250km, I decided to get into the gym for a treadmill run and workout. I got on the tread, powered up the machine and after a warmup walk I started running. Two minutes later I turned it off and went home. Although I felt fine walking around and doing normal every day functions, my body was still tired. I did no training for another two weeks and then worked on getting back up to speed. Now I look forward to the indulgent week I take off completely after any distance event. And then I start slow with walking and non-impact, low intensity activities.

Consider too that it isn't just the race in your legs. You've spent weeks and months in training for this race. Training and racing stresses your body. Rest allows healing and recovery so that you can come back stronger. Avoid rest and you'll suffer exhaustion, illness and injuries.

My general rule with a long race like Bull is to take 2-weeks post-race where you do absolutely nothing. A yoga or stretch class would go down well during this time. THEN, start by walking around the 'hood or spending 20-minutes on a spin bike (active rest). Other low intensity activities count too. Just let your body ease into it.

And check your resting heart rate and HR recovery rates. Just like whe you have flu, if your body is t.i.r.e.d your HR will be 10 or more beats above what it usually is. Go home and watch more DVDs for a few days.

A few days after starting to walk, add in a bit of run/walking. Up the stakes daily until you're comfortable running 4km at a nice, slow pace. And just keep advancing in little chunks over a few weeks until you're back into your normal routine.

Don't be lured into getting back into training early because of other events on the horizon. Remember that you're not losing anything by resting; you're gaining strength and healing your body, which will make you better able to handle future and continued training and racing.

Short changing rest time in favour of training sessions could worsen your performance, not improve it.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Blog update problems

I'm having problems updating from my computer (as of last week). Something to do with scripting... Can't create new posts nor save posts. I'm trying to get it fixed (this update typed on the computers at gym).

I'm away from 6-22 September at the 24hr World Rogaine Champs, running with my friend Heather Graz. Will try to do updates from the event, which takes place over the weekend of 13/14 September.

Till then, happy training and racing.