Sunday, 31 October 2010

Wonderful day of rogaining

This year's Capestorm Rogaine, the foot one, on Saturday was fabulous. Held in the forested Kaapschehoop area, it was a pine-scented and hilly run with perfect weather.

For reference, Kaapschehoop is off the N4, past Waterfal Boven but before Nelspruit. Steven and I were running together and we stayed in a comfy little house with Tony and Kate. With the rogaine only starting at 08h30, it was not a crack-of-dawn alarm wake up, thank goodness! The start was a quick drive from the town and through the forests.

When we got our maps at the start, Steven and I took a while to decide to run North or South; and then clockwise or anti-clockwise. North had the same number of max point score controls but less of the middle ones. I didn't have much recollection of the area from when I ran here in 2006 with Tania. We ran South and I'd mountain biked the following day in the North. That was as much as I could remember.

Anyway, Steven and I decided to run South as there were a couple of low scoring options North and close to 'home' that we'd be able to grab if we had time. Our route went clockwise from the event centre towards Kaapschehoop, then very far South and then coming back North-west. We chose to run clockwise because of the gradient - it looked like we'd have some nice long downhills to run.

In terms of navigation - not a helluva lot of choice. As mentioned the options were North, South, clockwise or anti-clockwise. And whatever your choice, most ran the same routes. Navigational difficulty was easy - perhaps too easy, especially with the higher scoring controls. Sure, they're far from the event centre, but I think that the decision to get them should be based not just on how fast you can run to them, but also how difficult (how much time) the control would be to locate. The only thing with this is that on a 1:35,000 map, it is hard to make the controls to a comparable orienteering difficulty because you don't have the detail on the map.

The full map.
Without much in the way of route choice and easy navigation, winners will be those that run like hell. Very, very few opportunities to go cross-country through the forests (nasty quality forest floors - faster to run the roads). And when we did cut through, it was very short sections. Results showed groups of pairs with the same point-score (there were only 30 controls) - many pairs got the same controls.
Map trimmed to show only the southern section that we ran. Our route superimposed. Logged on an igot-U unit and then imported into QuickRoute. The shading on our route indicates speed; green being fastest and red being slowest (where we would have been walking).
Steven and I had a great day and we ran well together. Temperatures climbed in the morning until about 11h30. We were really hoping for rain - we got a few drops and enjoyed the drop in temperature, which continued for the rest of the race.

A favourite part of the route was the fabulous long running from #29 (far South) to #28, through #16, #30, #20 and to #19. It was mostly down with few ups so we ran a lot here and enjoyed the cool shade of the forest, lovely scents and fabulous running. We especially loved the section running down to #14 and then down towards the river. Here the forest quality allowed us to go cross-country through the forest - bounding through a thick layer of pine needles. Older forest and just absolutely beautiful.

On reaching the finish, we discovered that those who ran North first cleaned up there and still had time to pick up some of the closer southern controls. Running in the North was more exposed with less shade but it was faster than the South.

We ran almost the same southern route that Nicholas Mulder and Ryno Griesel (race winners) ran, but in reverse. The main difference would have been to run #16, #14, #21, #30, #20, #19 and then #8, on the way to the finish. We did #16, #30, #20, #19, #21, #14, #1 and finish. Truthfully, it would have been more uphill for us and we wouldn't have had the lovely run that we did. We also doubt that we would have made it in time... we got to the finish with about 13 minutes to spare and we had a delicious downhill from #1 to the end. It would have been a longer uphill from #8 to the finish and taking into account being slower on more uphill... I think what we did worked well for us. Nic and Ryno cleaned up in the South and then cleaned up most of the controls in the North too!

Nic's route (as the crow flies) in blue. Nic ran this North to South (#8 to #16). This could have been an option for us to run in order to get #8, which was out of reach with our route.
I haven't seen the final results but I can commend Nic and Ryno for collecting a very impressive 700 points! There was another pair a bit below with around 600 points and then a bunch of us with 530 or 510. We got 510 (I seem to recall there were about four pairs with 510) and were ranked 7th overall. This would have been provisional, not final results. Steven and I covered 46km.

A big thank you to Ian, Craig, George and the other ROC members involved in putting on this event. My year wouldn't be quite the same without rogaining every October - it's a favourite-favourite event ;)

Ian Bratt doing race briefing

Steven and I before the start
A nice bit of through-forest traversing from #17. Here we were with a pair from Stanford Lake College - these guys did really well. The most the one guy had ever run was 10km! I unfortunately didn't get to chat to them at the finish.
A little stone house on the way to #22
Wild horses between #22 and #29. Kaapschehoop is known for their approx. 200 wild horses. We lost the 'youngsters'  a little after this when Steven and I stopped at a 'pond' to fill up with water. We saw them twice after this and lost them for good at #16.
Little froggie on the water reservoir at #28. Lots of froggies here.
Steven was taken with this tree on the out-and-back road to #20
Sign in the town of Kaapschehoop ;) Aside from the incorrect use of apostrophes, it's cute (should be kids, cats, dogs, frogs, no apostrophe). Pic taken Sunday morning during a walk around town.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Whip out those knitting needles

My suburb has a pro-active community headed by the I Love Kensington Association. They do many community projects and the most recent one that they're getting on board with is an initiative to provide something like 7200 knitted blankets to organisations working with abused women and children.

I don't always get very involved with all of ILKA's activities but when things like neighbourhood clean ups or flower planting come up and I'm around, then I lend a hand. And I can certainly knit a square or four over the next month.

The whole gig with this blanket thing (it's a Knit-a-thon and family-a-thon) is that all the donated squares will be sewn into blankets (1mx1.5m); completed blankets are number one prize. On 4 December, the blankets will be spread out on a rugby field and joined together to make a record-sized blanket (they'll then be separated again for donation to organisations involved with women and child abuse).

So... I'm roping in friends to help me make up a couple of blankets to contribute.

To give you some guidance...
  • I'm using 3.5mm needles and inexpensive single-colour, 4-ply (double knit) wool (Elle Family Knit - available at any fabric/knitting store).
  • Please use YELLOW, BLACK and WHITE wool only - colours.
  • 25cm squares
  • It takes around 68 stitches to get 25cm in width. And then you knit until you get 25cm in length. Remember to fold your square into a triangle to check that sides are even.
  • I'm knitting patterns into the single-colour squares, for fun. I found a whole lot of easy patterns for squares using only knit and purl - like basket weave, checks and diamonds - on the Halfknits website. Patterns will make each square more interesting and also offers tactile variety for children.
Please email me directly if you're keen to participate and to knit a pair of squares, or more (the lady at the wool shop seems to think we'll get two of three squares from one ball of wool). Knitting is for boys too - don't be lazy gents.

Finally, as I've never gotten the hang of crochet, I'll need some assistance joining the squares together. I'll make a cake ;)

Some images below for inspiration.

Here they're using more than one colour per square. Pretty.

I especially love the patterns knitted into the single-colour squares

Again, pattern knitted into the square. Nice.

It's rogaine time!

This weekend bring with it one of my favourite-favourite annual events, the 8hr Foot Capestorm Rogaine. Yes, 8hrs of running in, through and around forests in search of controls - as many as you can nab in 8hrs. The key is getting back 'home' within the 8hr period, or risk losing points with every minute that you're late.

I always describe rogaining to people as a version of orienteering where you receive a map with controls scattered all over the area and you have a limited time period to 'collect' as many controls as you can. But, it's a bit more than this because it isn't about getting as many controls as possible; it's about getting as many points as possible.

The controls are points ranked; those that are further away from the event centre and more challenging have a higher point allocation than those that are easier to get and closer. Ideally participants should not be able to get all the controls on the course so this brings in a strategic element because the team with the most number of points wins.

This means that you need to plan your route really well to sweep efficiently through the course.

In past years I've run with a mix of people - most often with my orienteering buddy, Tania. The women's trophy is ours ;) This year Tania is away so I'm running mixed pair with my Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge teammate, Steven. He's keen on developing his navigation skills so rogaine will be great for him, even though the controls are not as technical as regular orienteering.

This year we're in the Kaapschehoop forests; recent years have been at Lakenvlei. I haven't been to Kaapschehoop since... mmm... maybe 2005? The rogaine was held there again in 2007, but I was overseas so I missed the event. It will be fun to be back in this area - almost like running in virgin terrain.


Ah... World Rogaine Champs (WRC) in NZ (South Island, just North of Christchurch) are coming up in late November and Nicholas and Ryno will be taking part! I ran in the previous WRC in Estonia in 2008 with my friend Heather Graz. It was quite an experience (and freezing cold!). These are 24hr rogaining events and I think they stand out as my most favourite duration. World Champs are only held every second year and I hope to make it to the next one in 2012.

Friday, 22 October 2010


My silkworm cocoons.

I have no recollection from childhood of this massive variation in the colour of the cocoons. I seem to remember them all being dark yellow? I thought that the way to change their silk colour was to feed them other leaves, like beetroot for red and cabbage to white.

Hymenoptera (bees, wasps).
Silkies are Lepidoptera
(butterfly, moth family)
My silkies all ate the same leaves and they lived in the same box under the same conditions. They started spinning way before their siblings, who a guy from work kept. There were hundreds of them! I think that mine got so big and started to spin first was because I had a small number in a big box - 'goldfish' effect perhaps?

There was no correlation between first spinners and later spinners and the colour of the cocoon. It's quite remarkable. Also, the worms were all big and yet some (lazy buggers) spun small cocoons. 

My little friend and I were reading up on the web this week on what was happening inside the cocoon. Yes, that big word... metamorphosis! Silkworms undergo a complete metamorphosis, which is called holometabolism. We learned the difference between a pupa and a chrysalis too.

And, we learned what happens to all those silkworm pupa that are 'left over' when the cocoons are used for silk. Yes, they're eaten - steamed, boiled, fried, canned... Known as beondegi, they're a popular snack food (for entertainment, try a Google Images search on beondegi).

Now we wait for the moths to emerge. The first should be out this week. Amazing what happens in two weeks! An incredible transformation and re-engineering. It's got me thinking of the 80's movie, The Fly.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Get a... what?

On Saturday I attended a sporty lunch where one of the ladies, who follows my blog, was asking after my silkworms and their progression from fat worms to cocoons. She asked whether I had made them spin shapes (attempt one-and-only ended after an hour when worm escaped and got attacked by ants - I rescued him, killed the attackers and he survived to spin a cocoon) and other questions around these silly worms.

I return to my table as the conversation is ending and it picks up again with other people. After a few minutes the one guy says, "You really need a boyfriend". I'll comment on this in a moment...

A bit later, I'm walking past the table where the above mentioned lady was sitting and I stopped to say hi to some of the other people. The silkworm thing comes up again and another mindless guy comments, "You need to get a life".

First of all, taking an interest in something other than oneself - even if this something is a box of silkworms - does not constitute the need to either get a boyfriend or to get a life and both comments are insulting.

Silkworms are interesting, amusing and transient pets. They're a lovely diversion from non-stop work, emails and organising. Although my original plan was to keep 10 for me and 10 for the little girl who visits me daily, I kept all of them - my little friend has never had silkworms and she was not keen on them at first. She subsequently went with me to pick leaves, she got bold enough to touch them and she has monitored their spinning progress. We've also looked on the web to learn about their lifecycle and she now knows what a pupa is. This week we'll spin some thread on to her school pencils and our first moths should appear in another week. I've been fascinated too and I plan to have more silkworms next year.

Society has not progressed much in the last 60 years because people evidently still have issues with a smart, intelligent, multi-talented and sporty woman in her 30's who is not tied into a long-term relationship or a marriage with 1.7 children? Growing up, my ambition was a Nobel prize and to revolutionise the world, not to have a family. Now, I don't care for the Nobel prize but I do hope to change the lives of many people for the better; and I still don't want a family. [I can recommend the 70's classic, The Women's Room by Marilyn French]

As for getting a life... this has to be one of the most ignorant comments directed my way in some time. It's also a bland and empty cliche. What is 'a life'? I breathe, eat and sleep; thus, I have a life. So does lichen and fungi.

I've mulled over this posting for a few days and I've written it because these guy just happened to articulate what others think; perhaps of me and certainly of people around them.

I take interest in many things - books, people, activities, flowers, spotting satellites, little creatures, cooking - and I enjoy sharing things that delight me with other people. Both of those comments were totally inappropriate.

Since I have no issues with my marital status nor my [too] full and active life (I'm rather proud of both), I'd guess that the issues are theirs.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Special Suikerbos

In recent months I've run the day hiking trail at Suikerbosrand many times. It is well maintained and a pleasant 10km loop. The two-day hiking trail is the one that I like more, but after two runs early this year through grass up to my eyeballs and overgrown trail, I'd avoided that side for months.

I suggested to my Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge teammies that a run out there could be fun and good for time on our feet. We were up for giving the two day side a try. This 24km route only takes around 3h30 to complete.

Lizelle, Adri, Lisa and Steven

Well! What an absolutely magnificent morning and the trail in perfect condition as the area burned this season. I don't think that this eastern side of the reserve has burned for a few years, which would account for the overgrown and impossible-to-follow-if-you-don't-know-where-you-are-going situation I'd encountered before.

I absolutely love the bright green of fresh grass shoots; the colour is amplified by the black background of burned ground. This new green carpeted most of the route. Some flowers are out, following the recent rains - they will be spectacular in a week or three. And, the highlight was seeing dozens of eland, some zebra and a jackal!

I've seen eland there before - in the distance. This time, emerging from the 'fairy forest' we saw one eland standing across from us. I thought this was pretty cool. Steven spotted the jackal running on the hill above the eland.

Adri and Lizelle in the 'fairy forest'
We emerged from the valley onto the higher plain and Steven and I were looking towards Adri and Lizelle, who'd stopped at a sign posted low wall - I wanted to take a photo.

Nearby, on my left were six eland, just watching us. What was really sweet is that when we started running single-file along the trail, the eland started running, following us for a good while until they reached the place where they met the road.

Running 'with' us
And then, up on our right were another three eland. After passing through the overnight camp, we headed out another valley and frightened a few eland into running across, from right to left. We turned to see where they were running to, only to discover a huge herd of eland! There must have been 40 odd animals there. I've never seen some many of these elusive and shy antelope before. That was really special.

More downhill, to the left
I've had an interest in this antelope for some years. In my first year at varsity I did Archaeology I and my favourite component of this was San rock art. Eland are highly regarded by the San as potent animals and they were often painted. There are many paintings often in reference to therianthropy, where shamans take on 'eland traits' during trance dances.

This is a nice little piece from a Wiki entry on South African rock art.
Rock art shares the same San religion, consisting of San trance or San power. If San religious beliefs are understood then the rock art can be explained. The San believed in a tiered cosmos with realms above and below the material world. Once an eland had been killed, a link between the realms was created. The eland (often depicted with shamans) was a main symbol of trance due to its fat, the prime container and essence of trance. Rites of passage are initiated with eland fat. These include: marriage, boys and girls initiation (with the boys first successful eland hunt), and trancing. Once an eland was killed, a shaman would ‘dance eland potency’ and enter the spirit world, often depicted in rock art. The shaman would go through a trance, seemingly gaining animal senses, and enter the spirit world. Once in the spirit world, they could make contact with God and important spirits. The shaman would be given supernatural power in these meetings. There is a key aspect of the San belief that needs consideration: everything that is taken from nature must meet the needs and must not be more than what is required. Anything that is taken has to have a purpose and must meet the needs of the community.
The rest of the run back to the start was pleasant. A super morning out. I have never seen Suikerbosrand looking as stunning and fresh as it was yesterday.

Re-drawing of an eland from San rock art

A quick break for a snack

Night Relay running

This weekend was loaded with activities; and they got off to a start with ex-ARer Max Cluer's Energizer Night Relay. This event has been around for years, but this was its first visit to Jo'burg. The race was held out at Teak Place, which I'd never been to before, despite having heard of its recent revamp and wonderful mtb trails.

My teammates for the night were Steven, Adri and Lizelle, my Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge teammates. Max kindly gave us an entry in support of our preparation for ADAC - thank you Max (and Bex) - and we were looking forward to this fun relay event. We're also doing Max's Triple Challenge event in early November too.

I stopped at Asia City in Bruma on my way to pick up some goodies for the fancy dress component of the event. We were really only one of two teams who dressed up. I thought that we looked better, but the other guys, who cycled in chef outfits - pants and jacket (sans chef's hats, which would have looked good) won the prize. Our wigs, specs and glo-sticks rocked - coordinated outfits would have made us sure winners ;)

The relay format is a 5km loop that each person runs, relay-style, as they pass the glo-stick batton to their next person.

Lovely course, easy smooth trails and great vibe in the transition/finish area. There was music, a big screen and much festivity and shouting as runners came in and out. The bikers were on different trails to the runners and we didn't really pay them much attention. The biking winners - Team Garmin, I think (Mannie and Philip I think it was) - flew around the course to really whip everyone else.

On the run course, the Nedbank mixed team won (yes, they beat the Nedbank mens team... ja, weird...) and an adventure racing team (Piers and company, I think Jane and Nathan and can't think of the other?) came second. Woooohooo!

A super evening out and a late night getting home... We all needed to be up early in the morning to run at Suikerbosrand.
* Upper photo by Jacques Marais.

Some pics from the evening...



Steven making good time on his 5km lap

Steven & Adri


Lisa & Steven

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Silkie update

My silkworms are HUGE! Yes, in one week they have quadrupled in size. They're eating machines and going through vast quantities of mulberry leaves.

Last week Sunday (or Monday) night we had a near crisis. My silkies were attacked by ants. Fortunately, the ants hadn't been in the box for more than 30 minutes so my worms survived. But it was a horrible experience for them - and me! The silkies were writhing in pain - the ants were crawling all over them... biting. It was really traumatic. I took the silkies out one by one and removed their attackers. Once the silkies were safe from harm, a big flood came and destroyed the ants, washing them down the drain. Lovely. Ant-traps are now installed too. The silkies now live in a houseboat -  a tub floating in a bigger tray, like a castle with a moat.

The silkies went through a moult last week too and they've come out of it well and healthy and way, way bigger. They just keep growing! Here's an updated photo taken a few minutes ago - compare to the one from seven days ago.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Fabulous FEAT

Wow! I knew it would be great and it was even better than that! The audience went home completely inspired, encouraged to follow their hearts and to answer that calling for adventure - even those people who are not sporty and adventurous. Yay! - FEAT did what it was meant to.

The speakers were all incredible and because of the mix of topics, there really was something for everyone - and more.

As for the surprises... we had some super prizes from the event sponsors (envelopes were randomly hidden under chairs in the theatre), a top trials bike rider, Dylan Victor, who did some bouncing around on (and onto) the stage (and over people!) and a seven minute clip from Riaan Manser's new doccie about his kayak circumnavigation of Madagascar ('Madagascar Maverick').

And, as if 12 speakers and these treats were not enough, our MC for the night was none other than ultra running legend and 'King of Comrades Marathon', Bruce Fordyce. He's a great supporter of adventurous pursuits and he was blown away by the speakers.

A super-special photograph
I'm still buzzing, my inbox is going mad and I'm just so absolutely delighted by the success of the event. I could hardly get to sleep when I got to bed at 2am this morning because my mind was racing with tweaks to make and so many ideas for fun elements to include.

The next FEAT will be in Cape Town in early 2011 and it will be an annual event in October.
Thank you to the speakers: Alex, Andrew, Cobus, Darron, Kyle, Julian, Mandy, Marianne, Mike, Pete, Pierre and Ray - Wwwoooohoooo! You are all so inspirational.
Also to the audience for your support of FEAT and the adventurers.
FEAT's sponsors: Biophys (Michael), Buff (Christo, Eric and Nicholas), CapeStorm (Tony) and Hi-Tec (Shayne and Ian)
Media: Go Multi magazine (Deon)
FEAT Theme Tune: Roland Albertson
FEAT logo: Adri
MC: Bruce
Projection: William
Music: Alistair
Videography: Willem and Gustav (and extra special thanks to Paul)
Photography: Dino
And a bunch of merry helpers who complete my team: Dane, Liz, Judy, Lauren, Pam, Paul (with Willem and Gustav).

THANK YOU everyone for being part of making one of my dreams come true last night.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Around the mulberry bush

Yes, it's right. I'm 34 and I have silkworms as temporary pets, a pasttime usually associated with school children. I haven't had silkies for almost two decades!

I got them from friends, who have children, and it is fun raising these silly worms. I've got only 20 of them as I like giving them personal attention. I remember reading something in an article in a National Geographic magazine from the late '80s about tickling silkworms with a feather to encourage them to grow nice and big; and this is what I did as a child. My silkies were always healthy and sizeable. I'm going to give it a try again - and I'll make them spin shapes.

My regular run routes pass loads of mulberry trees, so I have no shortage of leaves.

I'll post an update in a few weeks (I can't remember how long these guys take to get to cocoon spinnin stage?) to show you how big I can get them. Mmm... need a negative control to see whether my techniques work better than just shoving them in a box with food...