Friday, 30 July 2010

GU Chomps now in SA

I'm delighted that GU Chomps are now in SA (I bought a packet yesterday at Dishem). I first discovered these chewy gems at TransRockies Run (Colorado, USA) last year. They're great and so much nicer to get down than GU Gel.

GU Chomps are like those soft Super Cs; but four GU Chomps are equivalent to one GU Gel. There are eight Chomps in each packet - so that's two gels in each GU Chomps packet.

GU Chomps cost R32.95 at Dischem; so that's R16.50 for one dose, which is pretty much equivalent to the cost of a GU Gel (I think) - only the GU Chomps are nicer. Vooma gels are still cheaper at R8.75 a hit; GU Chomps add chewy variety to your munchie bags.

FEAT on SAFM, Sat 31 July 2010

Tune in to SAFM (104-107FM) tomorrow (Saturday, 31 July) at 15h30. I’ll be chatting to Nick, on SAFM’s Saturday Sports Show, about FEAT.

If you’re not in South Africa, you can get SAFM through online streaming at Our time zone is GMT+2.

Monday, 26 July 2010

"I'm not fast enough"

I had an interesting conversation with a young, strong and talented female racer recently. She's racing in a team with some strong guys for Swazi Xtreme, her first multiday event, and she is concerned about not being fast enough (keep in mind she is faster than 90% of female participants). I - and most other girls out there - know exactly how she feels.

Girls, firstly, if you are racing in a team where you are as fast and strong or faster and stronger than your male teammates then you are racing with guys who are too weak for you (unless you're in it for the social scene). Move on and find yourself a stronger team. Your male teammates should be faster than stronger than you in a majority of the disciplines. Sure, if you're a specialist mountain biker, runner or paddler you could have an edge on the guys; but, even so, if you're stronger than most of your teammates, find another team.

Genetics - being what they are - dictate that the guys you race with should be stronger physically (mentally is another issue entirely, and not for this post) than you. Full stop.

As such, you will have to work damn hard - harder than the guys - most of the time. But, that said, when it comes to distance and endurance events, women are able to hold their own, especially as the race progresses.

This is the second thing: Women are good at endurance; remember this. Indeed, women have won tough ultradistance running events OVERALL (most notably, ultrarunners Pam Reed and Ann Trason).

I hate the first day of any race in a team because I suffer, especially on the bike, which is my weakest discipline, especially compared to guys who most frequently favour mountain biking over running as their primary disciplines. I can't wait to get on to the trekking legs. But then, by the time Day 2 draws to a close and Day 3 begins, I really start settling in; and by this stage they've slowed down a lot.

The third thing is that tow ropes are a reality of competitive racing; not only for women but also for slower male team members. Yes, those women in international teams, who we so greatly admire - Robyn Benincasa included - are towed on foot and on bike because the guys in their teams are such superb athletes. And, indeed, navigator extraordinaire (awesome on foot too) Ian Adamson admits that Mike Kloser has towed his butt across multiple continents. Lots of guys get towed too; we see this at Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge too.

Towing is not about the towee being 'weak'. Towing serves to up the team's average speed. By using the tower's superior speed and strength, the towee gains additional speed without having to work any harder. That is an important point: towing is NOT meant to burn out the towee by making them work harder or to make them as fast as the tower. It's a transfer of energy and power from the tower to the towee to even things out.

Girls, let them tow you. It is no reflection on your abilities. Even the best female athletes in the world get towed.

And for the guys: You need to realise how scary it is for a woman going into your team where you are determined to go balls-to-the-wall. How would you feel joining a team where everyone else is faster than stronger than you? My bet is that you wouldn't... Guys, be considerate. Reassure your girl that although you're going to race hard, you'll be there to give her a hand.

Girls, your obligation (and that of every team member) is to race to the best of your ability and to accept assistance (or ask for it) for the benefit of the team. So, work hard but don't let the guys intimidate you or put you down. If they're pushing you around, tell them so. Racing should be a rewarding and satisfying experience; not something you dread.

W-w-wonderful women

Yesterday's Kinetic Adventure was testament to the rising interest (and participation) of women in outdoor pursuits. There were around 80 teams and pairs in total, across all categories (including school). My Triumph AR all-girls team was one of TEN teams (of three in each team); in addition to a handful of all-girls pairs. And then you add in the women participating in the mixed teams and pairs...

This is a trend that is evident in all kinds of sports - from 5km fun runs, the 5-12km trail series runs, to diving and mountain biking. Women are getting out and about.

Racing with Lauren in our Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge team in Dec 2008 was my first time racing with another woman, outside of rogaining; and it was such fun. In 2009 our all-girls Triumph AR team was started, which has continued into this year. Lizelle Smit raced with us yesterday and commented how fun it was to race with other girls - her first time. And this year I'll have two girls (and one guy) accompanying me to Abu Dhabi.

I've had a mission for some time in adventure racing; to encourage women to take part and not to be scared of distance events. And, more than this, I wish women would realise that they don't have to be just the 'mandatory' 25% component of a team. There is no reason why more women shouldn't be building their own mixed-gender teams (instead of waiting to be invited by the guys) and navigating for their teams.

The first step is accomplished - increased participation of women. More now need to step up to longer distances and then to begin building their own teams.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Pricey perspective

Shelling out cold, hard-earned cash to participate in events is a fact of event participation. It is also a factor that limits participation because the entry fee is only part of the equation - there's travel, food and accommodation to add on top of this.

When it comes to longer distance adventure races, there are lots of comments flying around about 'expensive' and 'pricey'. Sure, a grand in disposable income for playing is a grand no matter which way you look at it but I think the words expensive and pricey should not be applied to adventure racing, where there are few frills and race organisers try their best to keep prices down to make their events more affordable for you.

So, let's compare (have you ever noticed how many events do not display their entry prices clearly?). I'm comparing non-stop events; multiday staged events with catering and such don't count (these cost a bundle more than AR, like R6,000 - R15,000 per person).
  • Swazi Xtreme is R1950 per person for the PRO event this year. And, let's say that you're looking at around 50hrs of racing. That's R39/hr.
  • Kinetic Full Moon was R600 per person for around 13-24hrs of racing. Let's average it at 16-odd hours to get around R37/hr.
  • Kinetic Adventure is R600/3-person team - that's R200 per person for around 2-3hrs to get R65-R100/hr.
  • Thule 4Peaks run is R550 per person for a winning time of 3.5hrs. Let's say it takes most around 5hrs - that's R110/hr. I think Mont-aux-Sources is a similar rate.
  • Ironman SA is R3750; and let's say you're out there for 11hrs. That's R340/hr.
  • A mountain bike race (60-70km) is around R150. How long? 4hrs? That's R37/hr.
  • A road cycling event is around R155 for a 100km-130km route. 4-5hrs? That's R34/hr at about 4.5hrs.
  • A 10km Trail Series entry costs R80. Run takes around 1.5 to 2hrs. So that's R40-R50/hr.
  • A 21km road run is R46 (online entry); that's for a 1.5-2hr run. That's R23/hr.
  • Momentum Duathlon (27.5km total, bike and run) is R155. How long? 2-3hrs? R50-odd per hour at 3hrs.
Consider too that entry numbers at adventure races are a fraction of mainstream mtb, road cycling and running events. Sponsors - those that contribute cash - are so few and far between as to be almost non-existant. And, where most single discipline events are one day, multiday non-stop adventure races run 24hrs over many days, which means that medical support, ropes crews and other are paid accordingly to be there and on stand-by for an extended duration.

Considering all of this, adventure racing isn't really pricey. It is well priced. BUT, a grand or two is still a grand or two, no matter which way you look at it.

Women's sports clothing *sigh*

Women's sports clothing has frustrated me for some time. Ladies will agree that the offering of tops and shorts at sports stores is very slim; and not that flattering either. Although colours are limited but ok, it's the designs and lack of detail that I find depressing.

Women's tops are often a scaled-down and slightly-tailored version of mens apparel. Necklines are generally rounded - often too high (like a nun!) - and I've yet to see a woman look attractive in a high, rounded neckline. And one top design - across brands - is not dissimilar to another. What about flattering necklines that follow current fashion trends? And girly detail decorating plain fabrics? And bright, beautiful colours?

My theory with sports apparel (mens and womens) is that you should look forward to putting on your clothing to go for a run or ride. And when you put it on you should feel comfortable, powerful, sporty, fast and, dare I say, sexy. Yes, clothing can do this for you. I want to put on a top and feel that I look fabulous - not dowdy.

My cupboard is full of functional garments that are 'classic' sports apparel in design and fabric; but they almost border on frumpy compared to what they could be. They do their job but they don't make me feel especially fabulous; I want funky and sexy and delicious.

Girls, if you've got anything in your cupboard that you love putting on, please send me a photo. Mmm... I don't anticipate getting many photos. But, prove me wrong. I'm interested to see what you like. These may make for good ammo to send to local manufacturers to inspire them. Or, let me know what you would like, and I'll pass this on too.

The AR calendar

This posting is in response to a number of questions people have asked me about my thoughts on the fullness of the AR calendar.

Over the past decade AR has gone through various waves. These waves have really been shaped by the number of sprint and short events on the calendar. When sprints started there were a few a year that were very well attended. Then things got crazy with an abundance of sprints. Numbers at longer races plummeted and numbers at each sprint event dropped as they were spread between many events.

Overall, when the number of events increases, numbers drop overall - and they stay down for a few years. Like donor fatigue, there's participation fatigue.

Adventure racing was in a slump for some time. People would try to present longer events and they'd get too few entries to actually host the events, so they'd be cancelled.

Last year - speaking here of Gauteng - Cyanosis/Uge Events cancelled all of their events due to other committments; Heidi and Stephan began presenting the Kinetic Urban/Adventure events. Numbers increased steadily. At the moment, participation is very positive in Gauteng, with many newcomers at each event.

June/July has been very, very busy for events - and this is actually to the detriment of each event and the sport as a whole. Yes, less is more; and more is too much.

People attend events like Kinetic Adventure sprints and the inaugural Full Moon, they see lots of people participating and they think, "This is so much fun; we'll also present an event/series". My response: "Please don't - well, not a series anyway". The problem is the piggy-backing on the current high tide, which has a detrimental effect on everyone. There are just too many events, especially when you add mtb, trail running and such to the AR events. Yes, overload.

Two weeks after Full Moon there was Ystervark and a week later, Diamond Dash. Racers are VERY unlikely to do all three; they'll do one or maybe two. Time and money are limiting factors, big time. Each event's participation numbers is compromised by the other. And, some people who had 'bad' races at these, now will not be taking part in Swazi in August.

The other thing is that sprint and short course (6-8hr) events compromise longer, overnight events. They're accessible, cheaper, closer and easier. Most participants will enter these easier and shorter races, thinking to 'build-up'; and if they don't have a great race there they don't progress. Also, history has shown that a minority of sprint and short course participants advance to longer distance events; to real adventure racing.

Man, 10 years ago - when no-one knew what adventure racing was - we had more people taking part in 250km and 500km events than we do now!

So, I'm not crazy about the flood of events on the calendar. It spreads participation numbers too thinly and, despite good intentions, it compromises longer distance events, which are true adventure racing (sprints are not adventure racing; they're fun). But, neither I nor any of the organisers will tell people not to put on events; they'll do it regardless because they have the point of view of encouraging participation by providing a step-up to longer races etc. But, it just doesn't work like this. And so, although participation is rocking now, the slump will follow. Again.

Racing again

Although my AR involvements have been pretty much non-stop for many years, it isn't that often that I actually do longer races - even though they're my favourite.

Looking back at the past few years... Swazi - I've been more involved on the sidelines, assisting with planning and for 2008 and 2009 the latter six months of each year had focused on my teams and preparation for Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge. Sure, inbetween I've done 24hr Rogaine World Champs, staged running events, ultradistance overnight runs... but not adventure races.

I have thoroughly enjoyed taking part in the recent overnight Kinetic Full Moon and Ystervark races, which took us 22hrs and 19hrs respectively to complete.

An AR friend sent me a really sweet email a week ago saying, "Exciting to see you into adventure racing again! I know you have always been super involved, but I also know you haven't been doing much real adventure races, as such, lately". He's quite right. I hadn't really thought about it nor realised it because of the constant flood of orienteering, trail and sprint events that fill the year.

I'm racing my first Swazi since the 2006 Vlok & Fordyce year next month and I'm already getting excited especially as we can expect two full nights out. Delicious!


After too many weeks with late nights and early mornings, non-stop organising of things and races and teams and people, admin up to my eyeballs, overnight races and non-stop weekend activities, I crashed.

I was up at 6am on Saturday morning to get to Pretoria to put out controls at 7h30; I was guiding a navigation-themed teambuild at nine. It went well and I enjoyed the event (a super bunch of university students) but only got back to Jo'burg a bit before five - after a couple of errands out that way. By the time night rolled around, I just couldn't face getting up early again for orienteering on Sunday morning and driving over an hour each way to get there. As much as I love orienteering and the area where the event was held, I had reached saturation point.

So, I spent the day in bed - literally. Woke up at eight and then went back to sleep till ten. Made some tea and got into bed. I'm reading a super novel - nice story - so, I read my book. Made more tea and a sandwich after 12-ish and got back into bed. Got up at 14h30 to get ready to go paddling at Germiston Lake.

I needed this day of absolutely nothingness so I can continue to face the world. Last week was just one thing after another - following from weeks and weekends of the same. Next weekend will be no different.

I put out a lot of energy all the time - very draining, especially when there isn't always much coming back. I crash every couple of months and today was my day to do it.

My batteries recharged, I'm feeling much more friendly towards the world and people.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

My new project - FEAT

The cat is now officially out of the bag. My new project I hinted at a few weeks ago is happening! It is called FEAT and aside from its apt dictionary meaning of 'a noteworthy or extraordinary act or achievement, usually displaying boldness or skill', it is also an acronym for Fascinating Expedition and Adventure Talks.

FEAT is an evening of time-limited presentations by South African adventurers. Each speaker develops their talk according to strict guidelines that they've been given by me. As a result, each presentation will take exactly seven minutes. Although the people invited to speak have accomplished amazing feats, they have very specific topics to talk on. It's not about, "I climbed Everest" or "I rowed across the Atlantic"; their topics are focused on an element of their adventure.

The other joy of this format is that the audience is exposed to a variety of topics, adventurers, expeditions and information during the evening; not just one talk on one topic for an hour. And, even if the speaker is not the most dynamic presenter (some people are naturals, some people are not), they're only on the stage for seven minutes and they're speaking according to a structure. This keeps the talks on track, pacy and interesting.

There are 12 speakers at this first event, which is scheduled for Thursday, 7 October 2010. FEAT will be held at Wits Theatre, a lovely cosy venue. Being a conservative type, I went for a venue with a theatre feel and a reasonable amount of seats (only 367; other venues had less than 200 seats, which is too small). I'd rather have tickets sold out and people braying for more, than having a massive venue with empty seats. And, in terms of presenting this event and getting it off the ground, costs are a factor and they go up exponentially for hire of bigger venues. That will come later when FEAT is established.

Although the live speaker format will be phenomenal, I also have a big picture in mind around to include adventure films and books coming out of SA. It's about time that SA's adventurers get mainstream recognition.

Tickets will be available from Monday, 2 August 2010 on Computicket. Friends, please book then and there so you don't miss out. This will really be a situation of snooze, you lose.

Today, Thursday, publicity around this event starts.

But first, I have some special thanks to make.

Deon, from Go Multi, was out running with me the day before I started putting this together. I told him the idea, he jumped for joy and immediately gave me Go Multi magazine's support to promote the event.

The four sponsors involved with the event all jumped at being involved:
  • Biophys - my dear friend Michael Graz, who is an adventure racer and crazy ultra runner too, always finds time to read - and support - my ideas between flying from one country to the next (his company Biophys is a consultancy focusing on operations and technical processes and systems within biotech and food technology industries - including environmental management). 
  • Buff - Eric (and Nicholas and Christo) was positive from the start, seeing the potential of this event without hesitation. Buff is a great brand to partner with FEAT because no event or expedition can possibily be completed without Buff headwear. I think that I am 'the person with the most Buffs in SA' - I've been collecting for 10 years.
  • Capestorm - Ian was the second person I told about FEAT, the night I started putting my plans together, and he immediately agreed to CAPESTORM getting involved.
  • Hi-Tec - Although Shayne is Hi-Tec's brand manager, he is also an adventurer, having biked up Africa a few years ago. He gets FEAT.
Adri, AR friend and ADAC squad member, is a graphic designer. I asked her if she could come up with a design for the logo. She got it spot-on from the start - I love the colours, clarity, fun-feel of it. She is also assisting with the design work for the promotional posters and other graphic elements.

William, another AR friend, is helping with visual elements for the evening. He came with me with Wits a few weeks ago to test projection and to make sure that the images can be seen from every seat in the house. On the night William will literally be running the show.

Matt, AR Club member, runner and producer of the Volk & Fordyce series, is just as excited about FEAT as me. We're looking into various film elements from YouTube to others.

I'd also like to compliment Wits Theatre and Computicket; I've had wonderful support from them and efficient service from the start. The Theatre is delighted to have FEAT there and as Wits is my alma mater, I'm delighted to have FEAT there.

And then there are dozens of friends that I've mentioned FEAT to and I'm overwhelmed by their support and encouragement, suggestions of speakers, offers to MC, direct parking etc. In fact, even strangers - like the guy at the signage company - are unbelievably supportive; they just love the concept of FEAT.

And, most importantly, the speakers for this first FEAT evening - Alex Harris, Andrew Kellet, Cobus van Zyl, Darron Raw, Kyle Meenehan, Mandy Ramsden, Marianne Schwankhart, Mike Blyth, Peter van Kets, Pierre Carter, Ray Chaplin and Riaan Manser - all said yes immediately. Some I know, others I've not yet met in person. Regardless, they said yes enthusiastically and I'm delighted to have them at FEAT.

They are FEAT.

So, today is kinda officially the day it all starts, especially in terms of media and publicity. Very, very exciting.

FEAT website is

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Woolies, Woolies, nice, nice

I discovered these little devils on Friday when I stopped at a garage, with a Woolies store, to get some munchies for the race.


Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Embrace the unknown

Aside from wilderness navigation, the other element that makes this sport of adventure racing what it is is the unknown, where successful teams and participants are those able to adapt to situations and conditions as they arise.

Pre-race, entrants are provided with lists of compulsory gear and a list of disciplines included in the event. As far as gear goes, you pack compulsory stuff and then add 'logical' items to this, like socks, cycle shorts, running shorts, gloves, tees, warm clothing, extra batteries, drybags. So far, so good.

The race location may only be disclosed a week before the race; but upfront you'll know it is a two to three hour drive from a major centre.

As for distance of legs, order of disciplines and types of maps, you'll find this out at race briefing when you receive your race instructions. There's no need to fret about it before you get there because it is out of your control. When you receive the race instructions, then you start planning.

Due to the number of navigation courses I've taught recently, I've come into contact with more enthusiastic - but hesitant - novices than usual.

A few weeks ago I was caught in a discussion around why he has to take part in a team, and not on his own (he has never done a long race; only sprints). My answer, "Because this is adventure racing, not multisport or triathlon. Adventure racing is a team sport and that's just how it is". The extended answer refers to safety, but essentially, adventure racing is a team sport. Full stop.

Tonight, at AR Club, I met a new team and they had some good questions - things I take for granted. But, what I found interesting was the one guy's questions on knowing everything; the disciplines, the distances, the maps, the location, the equipment to take on each leg...

His enquiry was well founded as he assumed that I'd know the answers because of previous events. But, here again, every race is different even if organised by the same person in the same country. There's different areas, seasons, distances, disciplines, terrain and topography and number of checkpoints.

I told him not to worry about all of these things, to pack the stuff he is told to in the race instructions and to come prepared for the disciplines included in the race. More than this you just don't know pre-race so it isn't worth thinking about it. All is revealed at the race in the briefing and instructions, which will tell him exactly what to do when and what to take - in addition to mandatory gear - on each leg.

The other side to this is not only the pre-race unknown, but also the variable elements within a race that participants have to cope with. Less desirable weather conditions that develop a day into the event, an ill or injured teammate, nasty vegetation, extended hike-a-bike sections, navigational mistakes, tiredness and fatigue, team personalities, spending double the time on a leg than expected, swimming on a paddle leg and losing a paddle, mechanical problems with a bicycle... Teams that cope the best and adapt well to these variables will finish.

The most difficult part of adventure racing is getting to the race: packing, gear, food, support crew, organising people and related admin on top of family, responsibilities and work. Once you're there, all you have to do is race and eat. It's nice, very nice, to just have to deal with what is in front of you.

So, make like a river, go with the flow, moving around and over rocks and obstructions. Don't overthink something outside of your control and embrace the unknown for rewarding (and successful) racing.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Ons is ysters!

This weekends Ystervark event way out past Bronkhorstspruit was a winner. I was invited by Larry Harmer from Team Lava, a few months ago, to join them at Clinton's Ystervark en Hoona Tand race. Yes, another through-the-night winter race.

It was a treat racing with regular Team Lava members Larry and Ari. We were also joined by Nadine, who was also co-opted into the team.

Distinctive elements of the race included:

Paddling on the Wilge river - upstream and at night (no moon!) - surrounded by mist. After the upstream paddle we were on foot for a navigation section and then back in the boats, heading downstream.

The river claimed a couple of swimmers, which must have been n.a.s.t.y. in the sub-sero conditions (the race started at 11pm!). We, fortunately, didn't swim, although we were almost like Dr Foster (up to our middles) when we got caught in a channel that ended in reeds. We had to haul our kayak over some flattened reeds and into the right channel. At this stage there was carnage in the channel with a few people out of their boats and fast moving water pushing all over. Moving a lengthy K2 around in a tight space is no picnic. We had to climb out and then very gently get back in on the other side of the reeds. Crazy stuff.

The river was covered in mist and so we really were paddling blind, unable to see much, especially with headlamps on. Nadine and I turned off our headlamps, paddling by the reflection of starlight on the water - this worked pretty well. But, as everyone else had their headlamps on, we remained blinded most of the time. It's quite scary when you can hear water bubbling in a rapid ahead and you can't see a thing - not even which lines to take!

I heard that next day that it was -8C during the night!

Next notable was the night hike section. We headed from the bike-drop, up the river and then up a dry kloof. This was really incredible - lots of climbing up rocks and side stepping what must have been a huge tree, which had fallen down the kloof. It was a steep climb with sheer cliff closing us in on both sides.

Nadine and Ari coming up the steep kloof

Although Ari did most of the navigation, I had the map at this stage. We decided to contour around to get to CP9, instead of straightlining it. This would have meant dropping into a steep valley and then climbing up again. There 'should' have been flat and open ground, but there wasn't. The contour lines on the map indicated a type of plateau.

Well, we met up with some other teams - with decent navigators. We all knew exactly where we were, and were in agreement on our location, but we couldn't find a way out that didn't drop off drastically on all sides. It felt like we were on an island. We decided to give it a shot heading South and within no time we were looking down cliffs. We phoned Clinton, who suggested we straight line to the control.

We headed back to the kloof top and did as instructed. Fortunately this was just as daylight was turning the terrain a cold gray hue. In the light we managed to avoid the cliffs, working our way down like little ants.

By my reasoning... the drop-offs at night looked significant; and they were high. But they weren't into a deep abyss, which it appeared at night. Contour lines - at a 20m interval, which is standard on a topographical map - are not completely representative, like an orienteering map would be. There can be big drops (even a 10m vertical drop is big) as either side of a contour line is 20m - so you could have a 30-40m drop that isn't indicated. I think this is what happened with our 'plateau'.

The rest was straightforward and the teams from the mountain top stayed close to each other through to the bike-drop. We took a photo at the checkpoint, illuminated by Mr Sun, who had just peeked over the mountains.

Good morning Mr Sun. Ari, Nadine, Lisa and Larry

Next hightlight was the last paddle...

Nadine and I were in a K2; Larry and Ari were paddling a plastic Fluid sit-on-top, much like Kinetic's boats. The plastic is hard work and obviously slower. Going into the first rapid, the plastic was ahead. I tried to slow my approach to give them time to go through; but I got my timing out as the water was pushing us. I had to move it, turning us into the rapid at a bad angle. I seemt to recall that our nose hit the plastic too, but which stage Nadine and I were going over.

Ari, Nadine and Larry on the road - starting the last hike in the afternoon's warmth

Oh my goodness! It was freezing in the water. I could barely speak. The kayak filled with water - good thing I've got so much buoyancy in the boat! Swimming the boat out with the fast moving water was difficult. And within moments we were at the next rapid, guiding the boat down as we swam alongside it. Larry and Ari were waiting on the side downstream; they helped us to get the boat out and emptied while we squeezed the water from our clothes.

We didn't swim for the rest of the paddle, but Larry and Ari did, taking three or four swims in a row! The one problem with the plastic in rapids is that if it hits a rock and doesn't cruise over it immediately, it will pivot and flip. The plastic also doesn't have a rudder, which makes steering tough. Larry and Ari did brilliantly!

The paddle took us quite some time, but I think we all did really well.

We breezed the last hike, stopping to take a photo at the trig beacon (I have a thing for them) and the final CP (#20) and we even jogged to the finish. We placed second overall with a total race time of around 18 hours.

Clinton and Thursia welcomed us to the the finish, presenting delicious Caramelo Bearsas a post-race treat. Yum!

At the last checkpoint. Team LAVA is homeward bound.

Team LAVA, that was fun! Thank you.

Clinton, Thursia and your team of happy helpers - well done. There were many dedicated people, like Mandy, Oom Gerrit, Casper and others, who braved the cold to wait for us to arrive at transitions. I really enjoyed that the distances were kept short and that the disciplines were mixed up with frequent changes. Well done too with your planning and logistics with transporting boats etc. Worked out perfectly. We were lucky to win cool Tshwane Adventure Racing Club Buffs too! A great weekend.

Bye to my old & faithful Giant

This weekend was my 11-year old bike's last race. Yes, my faithful Giant Yukon, bought from Linden Cycles in September 1999, has now officially retired from adventure racing. Aside from occasionally wonky gears, I've had not one problem with this bike in all these years. No broken chains, only two or three punctures in races and no other mechanical issues.

My Giant has been replaced by a speedy red, full-suspension Schwinn. So what's going to happen to my trusty Giant? No, he's not going on display in Giant's antique collection... He's going to the child of a gardner at my mom's complex; his bike was stolen a few months ago. Although my Giant's adventure racing days are over (he's probably saying "Thank goodness!"), I'm sure the young boy will have many years of fun riding this solid bike.

My Giant Yukon's last race... a photo taken this weekend by Erik Vermeulen.
See other cool photos from Ystervark in Erik's Facebook gallery.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Navigation poetry

In cleaning out some email folders, I found some short 'teaser' poems I wrote for a series of navigation-based teambuilding events I ran some years ago. They're quite fun.

The teambuild was run on a rogaine-style format with participants in teams named after polar explorers.

The participants received these weekly teasers - two verses per teaser - in the weeks leading up to the event.

With a map and compass in your hand,
you will learn to traverse the land.
Bashing through valleys and head high grass,
watch your footing or you'll see your ...

Ask any questions, don't be shy,
this navigation gig you gotta try.
Collecting points will be your aim,
when you set out to play my game.

Open spaces where wildlife play,
"Beautiful! Spectacular!" you're sure to say.
Don't be hesitant, this is a treat,
to challenge your brain, whilst on your feet.

Scott and Nansen, explorers of old,
pursued their dreams out in the cold.
"Which one was greater?", history can't say,
so we'll judge the outcome on the day.

Moving in the right direction,
is a skill of motion.
If you plan your strategy from A to B,
a bright control you're sure to see.

White Rabbit was late,
for every important date.
For you time will be ticking,
so take care or your points will go missing.

The day is drawing closer,
the day is almost here.
Leaping around the bush you'll be,
with grass way past your knee.

Lookout for graves and ruins and boulders,
these distinct features you will see.
You and your partner will be on your own,
scoring points for your team to bring back home.
I haven't run nav teambuilds for ages; but I'll be running one in two weeks as a component of a Quantum Adventures teambuilding event. I'm really looking forward to challenging a new bunch of navigation novices.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Polishing rope skills

Yesterday I attended a fabulous rope skills workshop put together and presented by Ryno Griesel (Team Cyanosis; and from Gravity Training) for my Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge squad.

My very cool alpine butterfly knot; Lizelle in the background.

It was brilliant to practise knots, consider applications, learn some new tricks, refine my jumar setup and generally just get to work on things I don't often use or practise. With Ryno and four other Gravity Training instructors (Susan, Christelle, Jaco and Louis) we were not short of personal attention.

I've put cool photos and content on our Team blog.

This was certainly a special treat. Ryno, thank you.

Friday, 2 July 2010

When did you last see a stiffy?

I couldn't resist this gem at my local CNA today.

Yes, stiffy disk covers/pouches. Considering that I probably last saw a stiffy disk eight to ten years ago, I'm not surprised these items are on sale; down from R80 to R9.95. The only person likely to buy this is probably a... computer historian!

I was wondering whether to tell the store manager that many people using computers these days have probably never encountered stiffy disks so he's going to have a hard time selling this stock. Then I reasoned that he has probably never encountered a stiffy disk so maybe he thinks this is the next big thing to replace DVDs?

Drink up horsie

I've been on my own again, freelancing, for a year. It's a cobbled and rough road to travel. But, where there are cons there are pros - certainly more lifestyle than financial - the latter unfortunately affecting the former. Nonetheless, I'm glad I went on my own, despite the stresses.

Over the past two to three months, an aspect of my inherent nature has come to light. I've never been a nagger - not to partners nor to family. I leave people to do what they want most of the time, even if they should be doing otherwise. I think I've chilled more in recent years.

And I've realised that I'm the same in work - I don't nag and I don't chase. I present my clients (or prospective clients) with A, B and C, giving them the choice. All they have to do is say yes or no. If it is yes, they'll have the finished product delivered on a silver platter; if it is no, then I leave it at that. And if they don't respond? I'll probably remind them once and then I leave it.

As I'm sure you realise, this is not great for business because many people need to be niggled, reminded, harrassed and chased to get something done. Instead, I move on to other things. The thing is, while I know I should do more chasing and following up, it's not... me.

I'm more about leading a horse to water and wiping his chin with a napkin once he's had something to drink, rather than shoving his head in the trough.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Funny fashion (men's)

Tonight on Top Billing they visited the Milan Fashion week and focused on Roberto Cavalli's men's fashions for the spring/summer season.

I'm not much into watching fashion shows, but this was a hoot. As I said to my mom (I caught the show at her house while visiting), if any one of these guys came knocking on my door to take me to dinner, I'm not sure whether I'd hand them a bowl of food, make them pull up their badly fitting pants or close the door on them.

I'm also hardly surprised that they're all looking so miserable. I'd look miserable too if I'd been starved, dressed in this get-up and made to walk up and down a ramp in public.

Then again, they probably think lycra tights and tops that don't coordinate with accessories (backpacks, Buffs etc) are pretty funny too.