Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Kinetic Urban on a chilly highveld morning

Our all-girls team, Triumph AR (me, Lauren and Debbie), took part in the third of the Kinetic Urban events on Sunday morning. We met at the Benmore Shopping Centre at 06h30 - early and cold! Race numbers were up - just over 50 teams - even with the cold conditions; this can only be great news for the next events which happen later this year in warmer temperatures.

As before, the event had four legs (two bike, two run) and an obstacle course, which we've got waxed. There were also more all-girls teams at this race - our category is seeing some competition.

Lauren sent a short note, about the race, through to the AR email group. I have included it below.

Huge thanks to Heidi and Stephan for another fantastic urban race around the Benmore / Sandton area yesterday. Our team (Triumph AR) had good fun and it was nice to be racing around in a new area despite many strange stares from early morning shoppers in Sandton City :-)

Thanks to your loyal helpers, marshals and sponsors, the transition area looked great with all your branding and once again we were all treated to lekker spot prizes (yip, everyone got one again) and also super category prizes up for grabs.

The start was very Chilli :-) but all worth it in the end, we got to feel like a kid again, going through a kiddies playground on one of legs and a definite highlight was flying down the pole at the Sandton Fire Station. wooohoooo

We eagerly look forward to the next one in the series.

Lauren and Debbie in the Benrose Shopping Centre

After claiming our place on the top of the podium (we like it up there!), we settle down in a sun spot

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Welcome to my World

On Wednesday I attended an Urban Soul Poetry Session in Sandton. It's not poetry like that staid stuff read out calmly to people sitting on chairs in deathly silence. Nope, it is performance poetry - also known as Def Poetry or Slam Poetry or Spoken Word. I've been wanting to get involved in this for some time - I often watch spoken word artists on YouTube (I have doted on Rives for years!). It took me about 6-months to track down people involved in the Joburg scene and what a thoroughly enjoyable evening it was.

After the performances I was speaking to Lindile, one of the performers. Great on-stage charm and personality. He's a graphic designer and so we got chatting about the relationship between agencies and their clients. I told him about my Apples and Oranges theory and how people should have appreciation for the work that someone does for them and that because one party trades money for the skills and time of another, it doesn't make the one with the money the 'owner' or 'boss'. Money is just the commodity they trade for a service - of equal value -that they are unable to do themselves (through lack of skill, expertise or time). In my relationship with Pick 'n Pay I trade my money for the products they supply.

Sure, I realise that cold, hard cash is valued above all else; but in reality it is just one product that is traded for another. We all need money to trade others for their services - landlords for a place to stay, Eskom for electricity, grocery stores for food... Your employer trades this versatile product, money, for your time and skills.

One thing I have recently learned is how badly people at agencies are treated by the agency's clients, who wield power over the agency because the agency allows them to have this power - just as a child in a supermarket throwing a tantrum wields power over the parent who gives in to its demands.

Lindile understands this dynamic. He leans back as I talk and says, laughing, "What kind of World you living in?".

I am living in MY WORLD. It is a World where people are considerate of one another. It is a World where time, a valuable commodity, is respected. It is a World where money is but fair trade for a service. It is a World where people appreciate the skills shared by another in order to accomplish a task for their benefit.

And I have chosen to live in this World, which I have the ability to guide and mold through my actions and in the relationships that I build with my clients.

Am I delusional? Perhaps, but it is little concern to me because I'd rather be delusional with an over-inflated optimism in people than to be in that other World where people are devalued and the skills they have gained with time and hard-work are placed below paper product printed with colours and numbers.

Running in the Rockies

One month ago I left my day job to work for myself again after three years of full-time employment. This day, a Thursday, was also my 33rd birthday. On the Monday, the first email I opened was from a PR friend in the US. I'd written for Gordon in late-2004 at Primal Quest and I've maintained contact over the years. His email read, "Now that you're solo, why don't you come up to Colorado in August and cover (or compete in?) the Gore-Tex TransRockies Run?". This was the first sign, of many, that I'd made the right decision to go on my own again because I would never have been able to jump at this opportunity working full-time for an employer.

And so it is that I leave SA on 19 August to fly to the Gore-Tex TransRockies Run, which starts on Sunday, 23 August and ends on Friday, 28 August. Just as Cape Odyssey is to Cape Epic, so is the Gore-Tex TransRockies Run to the well-known TransRockies staged mountain bike race. This will be the third edition of the run.

Like the mountain bike race, the run is full-service with catering and tented camps provided. It is also a paired race; I don't yet know who my teammate will be - I'll be assigned a partner, which is quite exciting. This is a bit like jetting off to the US for a 6-day long high-altitude blind-date.

As for the race itself...

Elevation: most of the race is run at 8,000' - 11,000', that's 2,440m - 3,350m above sea level. It's a good thing then that I live at high altitude - at home in Joburg I'm at about 1700m (airport runway is 1710m - of interest). In India we went from 1,800m to 3,600m on the first stage and stayed high for two days. I felt no ill effects of the altitude (some people had cracking headaches, nausea and zero appetite) so I'm sure I'll be A-ok in Colorado.

Terrain: There's a mix of trail and other surface. The breakdown as as follows:

  • Dirt and Gravel Roads - 37%
  • Non-Motorized Single and Double Trails - 33%
  • 4-Wheel Drive and Motorized Trails - 18%
  • Paved Roads and Pathways - 12%

Stages: There are 6 stages; the first two finish at venues that are different to the next day's start, so we will be shuttled to the camp after we complete the stage. The first stage is a new addition to the race, which was a 5-day race in its previous two years.

Distance: Total distance is 113 miles; that's 180km.
  • Stage 1: 32km with 830m accumulative ascent and 730m of descent. Low point, 2,415m; high point, 2,845m.

  • Stage 2: 16km with 945m ascent and 1,090m descent. Low point, 2,805m; high point, 3,820m.
  • Stage 3: 38.4km with 895m ascent and 1,170m descent. Low point, 2,805m; high point, 3,335m.
  • Stage 4: 22.4km with 920m ascent and 1,090m descent. Low point, 2,635m; high point, 3,555m.
  • Stage 5: 36.8km with 1,345m ascent and 1,485m descent. Low point, 2,495m; high point, 3,590m.
  • Stage 6: 33.6km with 1,410m ascent and 1,440m descent. Low point, 2,260m; high point, 3,205m.

I love writing. I love reporting. I love travelling. I love running. For me, TransRockies is all of these.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Takin' Asics for a run

Two weeks ago I bought a pair of Asics Gel Trabuco 11 trail shoes. Our ladies team won our category at the Kinetic Urban Adventure last month - we won vouchers for Kinetic's store, so I thought I'd put mine to use to get a new pair of trail shoes.

I've been running primarily in Adidas for many years - about nine years now. Sure, I've played with Salomon and Hi-Tec and various Adidas models but I usually stick with the softer ride of the Adidas Response. The downside to this shoe, which fits my feet well, is that the sole is soft so this model doesn't have great longevity.

One of the benefits of being Gear Editor for Runner's World magazine for 18 months was that I wrote many shoe review guides. My home turned into a running shoe store for a few weeks while I wrote the reviews. Although I didn't run in the shoes, I did try them all on to compare to width, fit, toe box, mid-foot fit, lacing styles and last. Fortunately the sample sizes are usually my foot size.

Shoes really are a personal thing because we all have such different feet - there is no one style fits all; and even within brands, not all styles will suit you.

I like a snug fit, especially around my heel and mid-foot. And I'm quite particular about how the last is sculpted, especially under the arch. The shoes that I've really liked in terms of fit (road and trail) include Brooks, Asics, Montrail and, of course, Adidas. Not all styles, but in general I liked these.

I took my new Asics Gel Trabuco 11 (yes, mens version; my shoe size is just outside of the women's sizing curve, so I have always run in men's shoes) for their first outing a day after I got them. To get the feel I walked around in them for a bit at home. The event was an orienteering colour-coded race, held the weekend before last. The course took me two hours to complete and the terrain was a combination of rocky (very) and grassy.

The Asics feels higher than the Adidas Response, which is a low profile shoe. But the fit is good so my feet did not slide within the shoe and I had not one hotspot nor blister. Just the way I like it. This shoe is also a little less flexible than the Adidas Response, but this could also be because the shoe is brand-spanking new and my Response shoes have done a few hundred kilometres; but I seem to recall even a new Response being quite flexible, moving easily as your forefoot flexes - but remember too that the Response sole is quite a bit softer.

Overall I'm very happy - the outside fabric held up to the abrasion of the terrain, the sole lugs are still intact and my laces stayed tied (I hate laces that loosen!). I'll be running in them tomorrow morning, at the Springbok Vasbyt, which is a trail / dirt road run from the Voortrekker Monument. This kind of run has a more reular cadence than an orienteering event so I look forward to feeling the cushioning over regular terrain.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Wanna be on TV?

There's a new Gladiators-like television programme on the way; and they're currently recruiting entrants from sporting communities around SA. The exciting part about this show is that teams of three compete against each other - whether all male, all female or mixed. And the activities are not just physical; there are also Survivor-style thinking challenges. And then there are the bad guys/gals, like the Gladiators, who will try to prevent the teams from reaching their goals.

As a confession... I took part in the very first season of SA Gladiators as a Contender - "Contenders, aaaarrreee yyyyooouuuu rrreeeeaaadddyyy?" And that's why I encourage you to enter a team for this show. These television programmes are good FUN and a lot of excitement. There's the games themselves, the other teams, the bad guys, the spectators and the lights, camera, action!

To enter this show, send your team entry to me - ja, lisa [at] ar.co.za

I need the following from you:

  1. Your team name, the names of your 3 team members, the age of each member, your telephone and email contact details and photographs of each team member with the person clearly visible – photos are ESSENTIAL!
  2. Teams can be all male, all female or mixed gender.
  3. Team members should be between 18 and 40.
  4. Also please state the town and province where your team is located.
  5. Your team will need to be available for a short audition at a venue in these cities, as per the following dates:

    Cape Town: Sunday 2nd August + Monday 3rd August 2009
    Port Elizabeth: Tuesday 4th August + Wednesday 5th August 2009
    Durban: Thursday 6th August + Friday 7th August 2009
    Bloemfontein: Sunday 9th August + Monday 10th August 2009
    Johannesburg: Tuesday 11th August + Wednesday 12th August 2009

    NOTE: Applications close Friday, 24 July 2009 at 12h00.
We're also looking for Muscle Characters (only Gauteng-based applicants; over 21). These are the bad guys/girls who have to stop the teams from getting through. Obviously these people need to be buff. These entries can also be sent to me.

Come on - phone two friends and enter your team. Note the entry cut-off date above.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Le Tour time!

July is probably my most favourite of the year's months because it is Tour de France time. I asolutely love watching the riders cover kilometres day after day for the 3 weeks of the Tour. Yes, I like Lance and he is certainly in with a very good chance of an 8th win. Lance does not strike me as the type of guy to put all the work and effort in preparing for this event just to be an 'uber domestique. I don't be thinkin' so.

Today is the individual time trial and as I type the riders are out on the 15.5km around Monaco. Aside from Lance there are a number of riders that I really like - the Schlek brothers, Cavendish, Leipheimer, Hushovd, Boonen, Cadel, Menchov, Popov, Hincapie... Must say, Lance is looking in fine form - check out the big guns when the camera is right infront of him. I swear you can see each quad muscle in unbelievable definition - check his arms too. Oh wow.

I'm now just hoping that all the druggy stuff doesn't cloud the Tour. It often seems like a witch hunt of the riders because they always seem to be caught during TdF, for samples taken months or years ago... I don't get why the testing authorities are not getting these guys in January or any time other than during TdF. My take is that they want the publicity and to do the most damage.

During the week my spot on the treadmill at gym is r.e.s.e.r.v.e.d. I plug in my earphones and run happily for up to 90-minutes, vibing to the tune of TdF commentary. Over the weekends my butt can be found on the couch of anyone with SuperSport. Hahaha.

Here's to a fabulous 2009 Tour. Yeeehaaa!

Paddling puddles in Joburg

Joburg's most popular paddling venue is probably Emmarentia Dam - affectionately known as Emmies. Germiston and Florida (West Rand) are also home to paddling clubs and as these dams are bigger than Emmies, they make for good training. My favourite spot is Homestead Dam in Benoni - big, pretty and not as affected by the wind as Germiston.

The only problem with these dams is that they're a 20-50 minute drive from my home. And if the traffic is bad... And yet I live close to Bruma and Gilloolies. These are small dams - like Emmies - but they're not paddling venues. I don't know whether boats are not allowed or whether people just don't paddle there because the water is too shallow (silted up) and too revolting?

I went flying around Google Earth to look for water spots near home. I drew tracks to get an approximation of lap distance. And I found two locations I didn't know existed. I think my new mission may be to give them a try - illegal or not.

All views are taken from 1.45km above.

Emmarentia DamEmmarentia Dam (1.1km)
Joburg's main paddling spot. Dabulamanzi Canoe Club is located to the east of the dam wall. Time trials are on Thursdays. It you paddle from buoy to buoy each lap is meant to be 1km. If you use more of the dam to get max distance you can get in about 1.1km (as per my track).

Germiston LakeGermiston Lake (2.6km)
Germiston Lake is home to canoe, rowing and sailing clubs; and it is also used for open water swimming events. The amount of weed in the water varies - they use one of those machines to pull out the weed. Wind often blows West to East to you get waves on the end near the wall. I haven't paddled here for years because I have psychological issues with this dam - I've swum here too many times. This track is 2.6km.

Homestead Lake, BenoniHomestead Dam, Benoni (3.3km)
This is the one I like - big, pretty and great paddling water. We used this dam a few times last year for long sessions in preparation for Abu Dhabi. I think a canoe club may be on the southern side... there is definitely a sailing club. This lap is 3.3km

Rolfe's Pan Nature Reserve, Jet ParkRolfe's Pan Private Nature Reserve, Jet Park (2.5km)
Now look at this gem! I've never been here. Size is good (2.5km lap)- the water may be quite shallow. If you know anything about this place, let me know. Boats may not be allowed because it is a Private Nature Reserve? It's right in the middle of the Jet Park industrial area - I doubt boats are more of an environmental impact than the airport and surrounding industrial activities...

Bruma LakeBruma Lake (0.8km)
This one is so conveniently close to me - but it is a cess pool. I remember when the lake was built in the early 90's - something to do with controlling flood water from the Jukskei, which flows into the dam from Bez Valley and then through to Gilloolies and then past Alexandra. As varsity students we used to go to student nights at clubs in the shopping centre on the lake's northern shore. Kids would get drunk and jump off the bridge. Now the dam is so badly silted up - looks like the ducks walk on water. A few years ago a number of bodies were pulled from the lake... they drained the dam and cops were wading up to their armpits in silt. Yuck! A pity because this would have been a superb and convenient paddling venue. A lap, as I've drawn it, is 0.8km (lots of stilt where the river comes in on the left). I've never seen a canoe on this dam. I think they had a Dragon Boat race here once? But that must have been 10 years ago perhaps. Now boats probably dissolve in this putrid water.

Gilloolies (0.9km)
This spot of water is downstream of Bruma. I run through the park to access Linksfield Ridge for trail running. Lots of ducks and geese around the lake. Parking lot is about 250m from the water's edge. Again, I've never seen any kayaks here. This lap is 0.9km - that is assuming you can get a boat all around the island, which I think you can. Like Bruma, this water is quite gross.

Primrose Primrose Residential development (1.2km)
I received a flyer at the lights a few weeks ago for a development in Primrose - some kind of 'nature' residential estate with a lake. I didn't know there was a lake in Primrose... I don't think there was one - until the development started. It could be beneficial to me - not far from the cemetry. Lap is 1.2km. Worth checking out...

Meadowdale quarry Meadowdale Quarry (0.85km)
This quarry has been around for decades. It is near the Hyperama. I remember going down to check it out some years ago and I seem to recall the area being fenced in. May need another visit. Water should be decent - maybe.

ModderfonteinModderfontein Nature Reserve (1.4km)
We have this nature reserve mapped for orienteering - I don't think we've run here in about 3 or 4 years. Nice sized dam - bigger than Emmies. Good spot for bird watching. The northern side of this reserve is suffering under Gautrain construction - I don't know how the lake has been affected?

So that's it for the significant water spots on my side of Joburg. Some interesting locations. I'm definitely quite interested in the new Primrose development and also that Pan in Jet Park. Mmmm... I do enjoy paddling and it would be more enjoyable if I didn't have to spend so long in my car to get to water. And this is what makes some of these puddles quite attractive. If you know anything about these lesser-known ponds, let me know.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Befriend thy neighbour

Last night my house people (they're in the house; I'm in the cottage) were hijacked and kidnapped in our driveway. I was in my cottage, with their dog, and neither of us heard a thing. I thought I'd seen Louise's headlights but then didn't hear her; and when there was a knock on my door a few minutes later I assumed it would be her or Stephan checking to see if the dog was with me. Instead it was a tall policeman who asked if I knew anything about 'the blonde lady who was dragged into the bakkie'.

This story fortunately ended happily. The hijacking happened just after 19h00. Louise and Stephan had come home separately; she drives into the garage first, he parks his Toyota Fortuna behind her Beetle. He drove in, switched off the ignition and was jumped by 3 armed men. One of them grabbed Louise and threw her into the vehicle and then they drove off.

A boy crossing the road on his way to visit his friend saw Louise being thrown into the car, the armed assailant's hand across her mouth as she disappeared feet last. He ran for his friend's house - 200m from us. The parents called the police who were here within minutes. And that's when I got the knock on my door.

Louise and Stephan were thrown into the back with sacks drawn over their heads and they were driven around for ages. They were dropped at a mine dump in the South of Joburg. They walked to the Cleveland Police Station and we were then contacted. They returned home near midnight shaken but unharmed.

Back home we learned some valuable lessons...

When the policeman arrived I immediately phoned a neighbour up the road. He is a good friend of Stephan and Louise. The police needed to know the car make and registration so they could put out an alert. Alternatively they needed an ID number so they could get the registration etc. None of us knew anything other than that it was a metallic gold/bronze Toyota Fortuna (took a while to get to this point!). The neighbour had a number for a relative - we were trying to get any kind of documentation on the vehicle. Neighbours came out to offer their support.

While these calls were being made we started phoning the tracking companies to see whether they had Louise or Stephan on their lists. They were all very helpful but no luck with the names we could think of.

To cut a long story short, a parental visit during the day led to us being able to get hold of house keys - we got in and started raiding files for paperwork on the vehicle. Louise is very organised and this worked in our favour. We found vehicle registration papers and tracking company contract. By now at least 90 minutes had passed.

The vehicle's last position was tracked to Kenilworth - the tracking company went out there and found nothing. Stephan said the guys had searched the vehicle and pulled out the device. The bad guys also took their credit cards and others and asked them for PIN numbers etc. The bank confirmed today that no cash had been withdrawn and the cards hadn't been used - lucky.

If something like this happens to you, you're screwed if your neighbours have no information on you. You could live on your own or your partner may be hijacked with you. They may know what car you drive (or maybe not) but they're unlikely to know the registration number. And unless they're a friend who knows your family (and has a number for a family member) and/or your other friends, there is no way they can get information on you without breaking into your house - that is assuming that you've got some kind of filing system for your important papers.

Last night we met a number of our neighbours and we all realise the value in building our relationships with each other. Family and close friends are often a drive away; neighbours live next to and around us and they are first on the scene to assist.

Take some cake to your neighbours and start building those relationships this weekend. Befriend those you like and can trust and provide them with a piece of paper giving your vehicle make, model, colour and tracking company emergency number; telephone numbers for 3 family members or friends (that don't live with you); your ID number; and the numbers for other neighbours on your street or in your complex - a local network. Give a nearby friend or relative or neighbour a set of your house keys. The police's hands are tied without being able to put an alert out for the vehicle.

The car is gone and fortunately Louise and Stephan are not.

My thanks to Inspector Tenant (Cleveland) and his team for getting here so quickly and being on hand; Murphy '007'; our network of neighbours - Brendan, Neville, Deville, Elizabeth, Roja, Charm and the others who offered their support; and Louise & Stephan's friends and family who came through to the house.