Friday, 25 February 2011

First video from FEAT Cape Town is online

Two weeks ago the second edition of FEAT happened in Cape Town. We went into edit on Monday and last night I uploaded the first video - highlights and funnies from the evening. Actually, there are two videos now online, the second being a short clip of the parkour demo by Dane, Rus and Brandon. I'll add videos of the other talks every few days.

Here's the highlights and funnies clip - enjoy.

The path to enlightenment

Downward facing dog -
a posture within the
sun salutation sequence
Enlightenment is the ultimate end of the road for Buddhists. In Buddhism, schools use mantras, yoga, meditation to focus thoughts and channel them down a path towards this state of awakening and realisation.

According to Wiki, the sanscrit word bodhi (usually translated as enlightenment) refers to a unique experience which partially or wholly transforms an individual from his or her previous state within their current life. I say current life, 'cos Buddhism isn't into the whole life and death thing; you're on a roundabout - a continuous flow where you come back for more in a form that is decided by your actions on your previous life trip.

This transformation, or enlightenment, has to do with self realisation, awakening, awareness of other beings and the discarding of greed, hate and delusion.

Although I like meditation and yoga, I personally think that anyone pursuing the path to enlighenment should try some multiday adventure racing or a good hard and rugged mountain ultra run. It's a big wake up - shake up about yourself, other people, priorities and values in life...

Ja well.

At Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge last year I got a taste of acroyoga (acrobatics and yoga), which I loved. I found two workshops here in January, instructed by an American chap who was out here to teach at a Jo'burg studio. I'm totally hooked and I attend the acroyoga jams on alternate weekends.

I've dabbled in yoga over the years. About 10 years ago I got into some really intense classes, which I really enjoyed, but stopped when I moved. When I returned to Jo'burg I just went to the classes at gym, which were superb. I'd run first and then hit the yoga class. Mmm.. I guess I probably went twice a week for a few years.

Going to the acro sessions really got me thinking about yoga and how much I enjoy it and how my body benefits from the practise. In the past I've done Iyengar yoga, one of many yoga forms (I think of it like judo and karate and kung-fu). The forms all similar, but are put together and acted out differently - if that makes sense.

This yoga studio where I do the acroyoga is a traditional Ashtanga studio. From the moment I first walked in I liked the place and felt totally comfortable and at home. So, on Saturday, I went to a beginner session to learn how this form differs from what I've done before.

Without going into the 'eight limbs' and all the other mambo-jumbo, in practise Ashtanga is fast and pacey, which I really like. There are the sun salutations to start (lots of them, big time repetition - it's nice and warming and meditational), standing poses, seated poses, inversions, balances... same as I've done before. Ashtanga focuses on flow - moving from one posture to the next with fluidity. But it's really the pace that is so different and also what suits me. As Sarah, my teacher, says, "It's the right type of yoga for a person like you". She's right.

Ashtanga has a number of levels and they're all structured. Every practise sessions begins with sun salutations and then you so the next series and the next and you add as you go along and then you finish off your practise. The nice thing about this is that it is almost like memorising a routine and then flowing through it. Breathing is also a big part. You may do two breaths between each move (steps within postures) or you may do five. The pace at which you do the series makes up the duration of your practise, together with the number of postures you do. Ashtanga also encourages self practise. The more you practise, the better you get.

Tonight I went to the first of five beginner classes and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was drenched with sweat after our initial sun salutations. The standing poses we did tonight, I've done before - but not for ages. It felt really good. Even better was that I ran to the studio from home. Yes, from Bedford Gardens to Dunkeld. And it was fabulous! OK, so Linksfield Ridge is a bit of a hump to get over, but the rest of the route is friendlier. Took me 90 minutes... I could probably do it in 1h20; I had a few itsy-bitsy walks and I got trapped by a road closure and had to run a big loop to get out.

So, over the next few weeks I hope to get a good grounding in Ashtanga and it is certainly inevitable that I'll keep going - I really, really like it and it's a super compliment to the rest of my training. It's a pity that the studio isn't closer to home... My plan is to drive there on Monday mornings and to run on Thursdays. Nice balance.

Level 1: After tonight, I'm up to the 5th dude from the right on the third row. Next week, who knows ;)

Thursday, 24 February 2011

This Twitter thing

OK, so after FEAT I was pursuaded to create a FEAT Twitter account (Twitter name is AdventureFEAT) and to get more into Twitter, which I've been trying to do.

I've had an AdventureLisa Twitter account (Twitter name is AdventureLisa) for some time. It generates tweets via status updates on the Facebook page - I don't usually post directly on Twitter.

Mmm... athough I've resisted Twitter, it is very much a part of this whole multimedia sheebang and getting into it, for me, is more about keeping up with the Joneses than any desire to put out even more communications that I already do.

So, I got myself the Tweetdeck programme on my computer to keep track of all these damn tweets. I've got people who I am following and there is some useful stuff, about 15% of the time.

AdventureLisa tweets are about stuff, mostly.
AdventureFEAT posts are related to FEAT and adventures.

The downfall of Twitter is that some people just tweet too damn much. The volume of their tweets drowns out the other people - it's a bit like shouting over them. One or two tweets a day is ok; more gets to be just too much. It also means that the meaningfulness of what you post is diluted and often ignored. A bit like cry wolf; when you have something good to say I'll probably miss it because I'm getting so accustomed to hitting the DELETE button.

I've been on Twitter for a week now. I don't know if I'm convinced about it. But, I'll keep at it and see whether I change my mind in a month or two.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Livin' local

About a year or so ago I read Barbara Kingsolver's book, 'Animal, Vegetable, Miracle'. I really like the whole locavore concept, which is about eating food that is grown locally produced and in season. Local farmers' markets and home grown veggies are winners here; none of this eating grapes in winter, flown in from abroad (just think of all those non-green noxious airplane fumes expelled just to bring the food in).

There's a big hoo-haa in Jo'burg about the new road tolling system on the major highway around the greater city and also between Jo'burg and Pretoria. These highways are crucial to... everything.

The reasoning behind tolling these critical highways is to reduce congestion by discouraging people (financiallu) from using the roads and encouraging them to use [impractical and insufficient] public transport. Sure, if you live and work close to a Gautrain station, it makes sense to zip to work on the Gautrain. But if you don't? And what about reps and other people who are mobile all day. And what about the trucks transporting food and goods...

The toll fees are hefty - from 49 cents to 66 cents per kilometre for regular vehicles; much higher for trucks (like over R2/km).

I live close to a major intersection that allows me to conveniently zip North, South, East or West without blinking. But, within two or three kilometres of hitting the highway I pass under the tolling gantries that automatically bill for a set number of kilometres, as measured between gantries.

I usually take the highway to my dance class. It's probably about five kilometres on the highway; and another five on a major suburban road. But, I would be tolled for a full section of highway - say 11 or 12 kilometres. That means that my return trip to class could cost about R12. No train or bus heading that way. Sure, I can take back roads - and I've done so many times. But it is inconvenient and slow because of all the stop streets and traffic lights - and traffic at peak periods. Same goes for my local dam for paddling - 15 mins on the highway; 20-45 mins on back roads.

Visiting friends in the northern suburbs... that's anything from 25 to 50-odd kilometres of highway. Social visits start to cost. And zipping to an orienteering event on the other side of Jo'burg... Could be R50 in tolls plus the R40 entry fee...

I'm fortunate not to have a daily commute - it could set people back anything from a few hundred to over R2000 per month. That's a helluva lot of money on top of your existing fuel and maintenance costs. I was commuting almost daily for the last six months, passing two gantries. I'm guessing at about R20 to R25 per return trip. That's up to R500 extra per month; and there's no easy or quick or short back roads out there (nor buses, nor trains) from home.

Although it makes sense to live close to where you work - less time on the road means more time at home with family or more time for training - but it isn't always practical. Property prices near work may be out of your range; your current home may be a good location for your partner; and your children may be in school close to home.

These tolls, which are meant to come online mid-year, will certainly make me think twice before zooting off to a meeting, attending events, visiting people or just going somewhere to check something out. Maybe a solution is to designate one meeting day a week where I pack everything into one trip - but I try to do this anyway because time spent sitting in a car is time I'd rather spend doing other things.

I'm already giving even more attention to living local, which I've been doing for some time anyway. I've got local (local, like within a five kilometre distance) service providers like printers and plumbers. Most of my activities are based close to home. But, I still find that I drive big distances over weekends for events and visiting. Jo'burg is a big place.

Mmm... To a degree they're achieving their objective of encouraging people to use the highways less. I'm certainly going to try, as far as possible, to stay away from these road systems because I'm resentful about paying, paying, paying. I'm also uncertain how much of a dent this system will really make on our traffic because so many people have to commute by highway; and the suburban roads are going to get incredibly congested; and the price of absolutely everything will go up. Afterall, even if goods are transported by train, within the city they're transported by trucks; there is no other way.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Seed bombers... bombs away!

This afternoon I had a seed bomb party, which involved the making of seed bombs for this fast approaching winter planting season.

Seed Bombers: Bridget, Sarah, Alex and Tony. Liz in bottom left corner. Marilyn was in attendance, handing out cake to keep us going ;)

Last year I looked into seed bombing and in August I harvested a load of yellow and orange Namaqualand daisy seeds from my own flower bed and from the park across the road.

Seeds in compost-potting soil mix
In making these seed bombs I didn't stick to the 'recipes' I've found online, instead just mushing up the seed bomb balls by feel. I did mix the seeds in compost and some potting soil to give them some nourishment, as advised on websites. Also, we used regular clay and not clay powder - clay powder would be better and easier to manipulate. Next time... (I've still got more seeds).

Interesting to see how we all favoured different mixes and developed our own seedbomb-making techniques. Some took the samoosa/pie approach, making a clay 'pastry' to enclose the seed-compost mixture. Mine ended up looking rather earthy, Liz's ranged from earthy to clayey, Tony made potato-pebble looking bombs, Bridget's were well-rounded and smoothed, clay also dominated Sarah's mix, while Alex stuck to his samoosa technique.



Something could be said about personalities from the way we construct seed bombs... but I won't *grin*

So, now we leave our seed bombs to dry for a few days. In March, we'll take a couple of bombs with us on our runs (or in our cars), lobbing them into dull looking open spaces and the side of highways. Flowers should bloom in early to mid June.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Full Moon run buddies

Our little Full Moon Run group got a boost last night with the addition of some friendly local runners. When I arrived at Bedford, Tony mentioned that he'd seen some runners with reflective bibs near the entrance.

I went to check them out and asked, "Are you doing your own run or are you joining us?".

Mike replied, "Are you Lisa?". I said yes and he responded, "We're coming with you".

It was a bit of an uphill run around the back of Bedford Gardens and up into Kensington. Our first viewpoint was from Fotheringham Park, overlooking the South of Joburg. Then up and down, up and down Highland Road to the Scottish War Memorial and then a meander through the 'burb and back to Vini's for pizza and lots of liquid.

Next full moon is Sat, 19 March... so we'll have our Full Moon Run on Friday, 18 March. Meet outside Vini's at 19h00. Run start at 19h15.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Socks for all the little piggies

The theory behind weird-looking toe socks is that they eliminate blistering by encapsulating each toe individually – they give it the fancy name of EPT™ (Enhanced Proprioception Technology). Toe socks are to feet what gloves are to hands.

This knitted sock is seamless and feels very much like cotton running gloves. The fabric is a bit coarse at first but settles in within minutes. The fabric weight is more like thin run/cycle socks; thinner than the cushion-foot styles that I'm used to.

At first, you do feel the toe divisions but within a few minutes of running they feel like... nothing, which is just the way socks should be. I think that the length of your toes will definitely affect fit.

I’ve run in them a few times now for one-hour long runs, on-road and off-road, with comfort. No issues, hot spots or discomfort. The rear tab effectively prevents this low-cut anklet from sliding down.

The price of this import is the only limiting factor to widespread popularity; I don't see myself rocking up at a race with six pairs of these. Maybe you just save your pair for really long trekking sections?

Model reviewed: Runner anklet
Size/colour: Small, medium and large / black or white
Fabric: 80% CoolMax, 15% Elastane, 5% Spandex (feels like stretchy cotton)
Price: R150.00
Available from the Complete Cyclist (Bryanston, 086 111 6230) or directly from Wayde Kennedy (082 902 4501)

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

I love the desert

Ever since I first did the Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge, in Dec 2008, I have been in love with the desert. I've always really, really liked the Northern Cape, but I'm totally besotted by the Liwa Desert in Abu Dhabi. The colours, the tones, the curves of the dunes, the open expanse... yes, I even dream about being in the desert.

In this post on, Editor-in-Chief Jon Dorn, who raced in Team Yankee Scribes at ADAC2010, says:
Of course, the utter absence of orthodox natural beauty is part of the desert’s attraction. There’s no sound out there, save the wind and an occasional diesel rumble—think faraway train at low throttle—that emanates from billions of grains of sand sliding down the steep slopes of the highest dunes. There’s no color but the dun soldier khaki of the sand—except at dawn and dusk, when the austere sameness transforms from shades of tan into a terrestrial version of the aurora borealis: shape-shifting oranges and pinks and soft reds playing in waves along the crests and hollows of the dunes. At these moments, you can understand why writers have long used nautical and sexual imagery to describe the scene: There’s a languid, liquid camber to every dune—long curves bending abruptly into rippled buttresses and sinuous waves, like the sweep of a lover’s back spreading into a gracefully turned thigh or smooth, shadowed hip.
I've devoured polar, mountaineering and other such adventure/expedition books for years. I'm moving into my 'desert phase'. I recently read a sweet fiction story, based in the Sahara Desert and I have just finished 'Lost Oasis' by Robert Twigger (a journo) about his forays into the Egyptian Sahara and stories about a lost oasis. He's married to an Egyptian lass and moved from UK to Cairo. Twigger, like me, has this overwhelming attraction to the desert.
But rocky deserts were not what I had in mind. To me the desert was about sand. Flat sand or sand in dunes, I didn't really mind as long as it was sand. Actually I preferred the idea of flat sand, endless to the horizon, even less to look at. The desert was about the void, the sero point, shrinking yourself and your concerns in the immensity and emptiness of it all. The desert was about a definite psychological need for vastness in the face of human confusion, brain fatigue. Mind-bothered Western man can take drugs, alter his lifestyle, turn off the television, pierce his body or run a marathon, it all amounts to just so much therapy to keep him loping along the same track towards the inevitable finish post. I saw the desert as a huge right turn, a different path, another way out of what everyone was into, the money, goods and attention conflicts of the current century. The desert cured the malaise, not just the symptoms. Somehow the vastness of the desert signalled the infinite present, nowness, headspace, instant immortality.
I found this really cool satellite image of dunes and pans in the Empty Quarter, imaged by Terra. It's big-time high-res. This is just a little bit of it:

The flat pans look like the sky and the dunes look like lunar craters eh? The scale is deceptive 'cos these dunes and the little ripples are big.

So, I'm now into desert books to feed my desert yearnings while I'm confined to the 'attention conflicts of the current century'.

Facing this year

As January rolled around I couldn't stop thinking, "But I'm not ready for this year!". Staying in bed, under the covers seemed a more attractive option. I didn't get much of a break in December with Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge, back to work for two weeks and then moving during the last week of December; and I was fried from a really exhausting year. I really wasn't ready to face the year ahead, which I knew would hit like a bomb. And it did.

We'll we're six weeks into the year and FEAT has just happened - that was a biggie; lots of admin and communication and logistics and planning.

I haven't done any races this year - not even orienteering; but my training has been consistant and solid and I'm feeling way more chilled and comfortable than I have for a long time. I'm really enjoying my running and I generally succeed in stilling the naughty monkey mind to be in the present and not always thinking and planning ahead and making lists of things to do. This has definitely made my runs way more enjoyable.

One of my AR friends asked whether I wanted to do a two day race in March, the Kinetic Full Moon. I do, but I don't. I'm just so not feeling ready to organise and communicate, whether organising other people or organising myself. I'm happy to just run around my neighbourhood or meet friends for one-on-one runs.

The orienteering season starts soon - I'm looking forward to this. I'm also keeping my eyes on some other running races. I still don't really feel ready to face the year so instead it's back to basics for me for the next few months - recooperation - as I aim to focus my energy on a couple of projects... and me.

Monday, 14 February 2011

FEAT wows Cape Town

This past Saturday was the second edition of my big baby, FEAT. The event went very well and the speakers were just superb. Such a wonderful variety of energies, passions, disciplines and adventures.

FEAT CT was quite different to FEAT Jo'burg, which happened in October last year. And it is difficult to compare the two; more like oranges vs apples and not Royal Gala vs Granny Smith. Different speakers, sports, location, and audience. For me, both events were inspirational and magical.

That's the thing about FEAT; these evenings will always be different with new topics and speakers and activities and surprises. This is what will have you - and me - coming back for more.

My first thanks go to Black Diamond, Buff, Capestorm and Hi-Tec who have been unwavering in their support.

I had an awesome team with me on the night: Max Cluer as MC, Ray Chaplin running the slides, Alistair Cronk running the tunes and microphones; Jacques Marais capturing images throughout the evening and with Richard Killie and Zac on camera.

Also special mention to Guy Burbidge and his team - stage hands, technical manager, production manager, lighting, front-of-house, catering -  at Artscape who took amazing care of this event from the day I made the first enquiry to the night. This was their only open night of the year and they rarely have one-night events; yet they made me feel as special as their big productions. Luciano and his team from AV Team were outstanding - from enquiry to delivery - the screens looked fabulous and projection went off without a hitch.

And then, the speakers. They were really incredible. And what you have to remember is that most of the speakers do not get up to speak to an audience of almost 450 people every day of the week; some rarely speak to even small groups of people. Although they have only got seven-minutes to talk, their personalities shone, their talks were interesting and captivating and they had such super stories.

Allyson & Mark, Benita, Braam, Johnny, Hanli, Nick, Monde, Peter and Tatum - cheers! You make FEAT the adventure it is. Thank you.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Runnin' in the rain

Late this afternoon it was clear that a storm was on its way. I've got this thing where I'm not crazy about heading out for a run when it's raining, but if I get caught in the rain - bonus!

Well, within 10 minutes of hitting the road the rain started and by 12 minutes into my run I was drenched; like four-buckets-of-water-over-my-head drenched. It was amazing! I haven't run in such a downpour for ages so it really was a treat.

Water was running into the roads from everywhere - the volume was quite unbelievable. I also encountered a new hazard (in addition to holes in roads and pavements from missing drain covers and uneven paving bricks): popped man-hole covers. The volume of water makes them pop up! I found two of 'em - and they were hard to spot because of the volume of water flowing down the road.

I ran for 40-minutes; and it felt like 10 minutes. An absolutely glorious run this evening ;)

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

AR Desert Gaiters v3 (take two)

Zapped! As of this weekend, we have discovered a solution to the sticky adhesive problem we were having in sewing my AR Desert Gaiter design. Big thanks to my mom, Liz, for brainstorming this one to find something that works.

I've had a number of people email me to ask about desert gaiters for various races that are coming up. But it just wasn't possible for us to efficiently make them, without having to douse the sewing machine in turps every few minutes to get rid of adhesive from the Velcro. Our new technique solves this problem and strengthens the attachment of the Vecro to the lycra at the bottom of the gaiter. Neat.

So, they're sorted and available through We will make up any colour you want, provided we can get the fabric.


Pic above - Chatreuse-coloured AR Desert Gaiters as worn by Team Mzansi at Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge. They were also worn by teams, Cyanosis and a local Abu Dhabi team. If they can keep the sand of the Liwa Desert out, they can keep sand from anywhere out!

Toys for testing

I've got a bundle of toys to test over the next few weeks.

Five Ten (5.10) Marvel trail shoes
I've actually had these in hand for a few months but with prep for Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge, the first edition of FEAT and a diminished number (like next to none!) of trail runs between when I got them and December, I only ran in them once. And once isn't enough to give a proper verdict.
Five Ten is a well-known brand in climbing circles; their soles are superbly grippy (Stealth rubber). Five Ten are also trusted by traceurs in the sport of parkour where grip and traction is crucial. And they are bringing this sole compound into their trail shoes. Locally, Five Ten offer two trail shoes models; Marvel being one and I think Phantom is the other.

Hi-Tec V-Lite Infinity trail shoes
Although I've had them for two weeks, I haven't run in them. My pair are just a dash too big - I'll be swopping them tomorrow. The colour is delicious, the upper is slipper-like (not rigid) but with toe protection and they have potential. I've run in the Hi-Tec V-Lite Trail Eruptions with comfort, only finding the shoe a little hard and rigid and possibly better suited to a heavier runner. I don't think this will be the case with the Infinity, which - like others - is going the route of a more tactile shoe.

Salomon XR Crossmax
These have just arrived on our shores and I'm going to collect a pair tomorrow! How exciting! Over the years I've run in Salomon XA Pro 3Ds (two evolutions) and Salomon Comps - but I've never properly settled into them. No specific issues (other than being quite hard) but just not a good fit for my foot - I like a snug fit.

As for the Salomon S-Labs - love 'em! Very tactile -  a soft shoe that lets your foot work and feel the terrain. I've really hammered my pair. On gnarly highveld terrain they have taught me to focus on my foot placement because the S-Labs are unforgiving with the absence of toe protection. It's nice; I feel more at one with the terrain.

The XR Crossmax is tauted as a road-friendly trail shoe and from images, it certainly looks like it carries more of the S-Lab lineage than XA Pro or Wings.

Toe Toe Socks
These Toe Toe Socks hail from the UK and are of the same concept as Injinji toe socks, which I heard about some years ago through the AR circuit.

I've got a pair of the running anklet socks to try. I'm wearing them tonight to get used to the feel of the fabric between my toes. The selling point around using these socks is really around comfort and blister elimination. The theory is sound - fabric rubbing against fabric instead of skin against skin should prevent the formation of blisters.

The fabric feels more like those white cotton running gloves than what I'm used to (more a cushion-foot sock) - the proof will be in the running. I also think that these would be quite neat worn with Vibram Five Finger shoes; and infact Toe Toe Socks has a thin liner-type toe sock for this purpose.

Lots to play with out on the road and trails! More on goodies in posts to come.