Wednesday, 14 March 2012

I'm packed! Away for two weeks.

I think I'm packed. Packing for Thailand is real easy - as a friend eloquently put it, "Sarong, check. Done.".

I'm just taking a 35l backpack for my two week holi-holiday.

It's easy to pack clothes - as few of them as possible. I hear the shopping in Bangkok is fabulous and totally inexpensive. I haven't got much more on the clothing side than what I'm wearing on the plane. Weather is hot so there's no need for bulky cold-weather kit.

It's the toys that's the hard part.

I'm not taking a laptop but I am taking my camera. I'm just not sure how to pack it (on top is what I figure). I've got it wrapped in a travel towel. My extra lens is in a sock (trick learned from Tony D and Alex D) and it is protected by clothing. I'm hoping to pick up a few camera things in Bangkok; I've got a filter on my list, another battery and maybe, just maybe, another lens. We'll see.

To go with it I need the battery charger and I've packed an external HDD so I can dump photos.

And there's my running stuff. Three tops, three shorts and three pairs of socks (in the humidity stuff may take a while to dry after washing). Luckily running gear doesn't take much space. And then I've packed my small hydration pack, which has enough space for my camera and munchies. Gonna need to carry water on my outings.

I've been debating for days about whether to take a rain jacket... March is a low rainfall month at 50mm and  it picks up in April as they move into the rainy season from May. Weather shows rain next week and I figure that if anything it will keep my camera dry. Me, I'm not too concerned about a little water when I running. Not like it's gonna be cold...

BIG decision is what running shoes to take - road or trail. I'm still a bit undecided. From reading online and looking at maps it seems there a good dose of tar but probably more trail and for the spots that I'm looking at hitting it is probably more dirt and trail than tar... so, I'm kinda swayed to trail shoes. My Adidas shoes are a little older and softer so they should do the trick. My Hi-Tecs probably won't like the tar too much. These will also be my walk around shoes; I've also packed a pair of sandals.

I've also packed my little iGot-U GPS tracking device to log my adventures - just for fun. Will only see my tracks criss-crossing the island when I get back.

And then I've got my Yogitoes, a 'towel' type thing that goes over my yoga mat. This is afterall a running AND yoga holiday. I'd like to take my mat but haven't yet tried to attach it to my main backpack, which is small enough at 35-litres to be carry-on luggage. Pack has straps so this should work out A-ok.

And then there are lotions and potions. Although I pack light on these things there's still moisturiser, toothpaste and brush, sunblock, showergel... it adds up.

As it stands, my pack is not full and I've still got good enough space for some clothing from Bangkok, where I'll be on Friday and Saturday. If I didn't have the toy thing happening my pack would be positively empty!

I've made myself some maps of Bangkok with places I want to go see. I've put them on my phone - the joy - and I'm sure I'll pick up more at the airport and around. I cannot resist maps.

This is just so absolutely exciting. A proper, proper holi-holiday ;)

Although I've got toys, I'm abandoning almost everything else. No email, no articles, no reports, no blogs, no FB... Yes, this is AdventureLisa going offline! Hip-hip-hooray!

I'll be seeing y'all in just over two weeks. Happy days.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Adventures and charities

I'm sure I've had a rant about this before...

Here's the example that set off this post.

My friend knows some people who are planning a Mt Kilimanjaro in aid of some or other charity. This is very common. So, it costs the people participating around R20,000 to do the climb and they're tasked with raising at least R3,000 through donations. This raised money will go to the charity.

My unfiltered suggestion was that the six-odd people (or more?) should cancel the trip and instead donate their R20,000 to the charity, if they're really serious about doing something for charity. It's far more effective and the charity scores a far bigger donation.

Another thing... the charities that you choose to support are quite a personal thing. While your friends and relations support you in your adventures, why should they donate towards the charity of your choice when they could send their donation to the charity of their choice?

There are hundreds of ways to do something 'for charity' that takes less time, money and resources than that needed for you to undertake an expedition.

As for doing an adventure or sporting event to 'raise awareness'. Just by interacting with me you're raising my awareness. You don't need to run a million kilometres. Hey, even a street pole ad costs as little as R400/month - cheaper than funding an expedition.

Consider this...

A friend organised a Bingo evening and raised R13,000 on this fun-filled night for a charity that her team supported. The reality is that you could spend four months away and only raise R10,000 (if that!) in donations.

Greater Good South Africa's website ( has requests from organisations for assistance. The Projects section presents volunteering opportunities. Requests/project range from requiring donations of your time as a hands-on volunteer to money, paint, toys, appliances or any other variety of things. You may have some of them in your garage. GGSA can also connect you with causes - if you're looking for one. Even the Botanical Society of South Africa has a project post on GGSA - they're looking for volunteers to assist "in monitoring, searching for and ultimately conserving endangered wildflowers across the country".

Looking at the project list each post has a 'Target' and a 'So far' tally. Most of the 'So far' entries read 0 (zero) both in terms of financial and volunteer requirements. Also on the Requests page... most have '0 responses'. And yet people will fly down to Cape Town and do a sporting event 'for charity'?

This is a theme that goes around and around in my mind, frequently, because I read numerous emails from people doing this and that 'for charity'. My stomach turns. I'm not unsympathetic to causes but I am all for adventures being about you. There's nothing wrong with doing something for yourself just because you want to. 

Thursday, 8 March 2012

All in good time

I make lists of things I have to do: work, tasks and errands. I want to zap them all in one go, on one day. It doesn't happen. Not enough time.

With only six days (yes, six!) until I leave for Thailand, I've got a mountain to get through and wrap up before I'm outta here. Articles, releases, O schools camp, pieces to run and write for Jacques' new book, finish metrogaine map...

I get so impatient wanting to do everything now to get it out of the way - these lists I have are sooooo long. Ultimately, they do get done, in their own time. I've just got to chill and not get all worked up.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

When one of our own passes...

Our adventure racing community is close to my heart. It is one that I've been immersed in since 1999 and through this sport I've travelled, raced, written and discovered. Although I thrive on the physical challenge it is very much the people - both friends and acquaintances - that are most special. They're kindred spirits with similar interests, activities, passions and strengths; physical and mental. I have had the most incredible team mates over the years; I most enjoy the many hi-bye encounters with other participants and I've made very special friends.

As it is with any community, I've had to say good bye to dear friends who have died tragically and too soon. Paul, a treasured friend, passed away in October 2004 while I was in the US; and Philip died in July 2007. I think of them both fondly and regularly.

I was with great sadness that I received news this morning that George Forder, one of the original 'generation' of adventure racers in South Africa, was killed in a car accident. He and his wife, Penny, were hit in a head-on collision by a car that was overtaking another. George died on the scene and Penny was taken to hospital. I'm not sure how she is but I do know she is conscious because she sent a quick reply to a message I sent her saying that it was ok for me to notify the AR community of George's passing.

The most publically presentable of George's photos ;)
When someone dies memories flood your mind. George lived in 'Maritzburg and while I can't remember not knowing George since I started AR, I haven't seen him in person since I went down for Triple Challenge in 2010. I used his K2 for the race. Nonetheless, we've been avid online buddies so he's always been around in my life and communications.

On Thursday he gave me a call, by mistake actually. His voice recognition thing on his phone dialled me instead of someone else. The call ended before I could pick it up and then he phoned again moments later. He'd decided to redial to tell me a funny tale; we had a nice chin-wag with much laughter.

Without writing more here (I've put a post on I want to put a thank you out there that I had the benefit of crossing trails with George for a decent period of time and for the colour and smiles that were part of our interactions and friendship, even if over the distance of two Provinces.

Sunrise Monster 32km (road race)

This morning I was up (too) early to head off to Pretoria with Fred for the Sunrise Monster 32. The race has been around for years but this is the first time that I've run it so I only knew it would be a hilly race (how hilly could it be, eh?) passing through 12 suburbs.

The run starts at sunrise, which is 06h03 at the moment, and they have the 32km and a 'Mini Monster' 10km (a 5km run run too, I think). The field is huge with runners coming from far and wide to take it on. The course is probably the best road route I've ever run. It winds and meanders through pretty Pretoria suburbs, includes a trail section (around one kilometre) and has the most fantastic views from the top of that fort road.

It isn't called a 'Monster' for nothing. At around the first kay you hit a big climb - steep, very steep - and then another. And there were another couple; and another couple. And then some down. And then a few kays along the R21 towards Fountains Circle. And then more ups and flats and up and flats. And then steep, steep down the two hills from the beginning. Then a sting in the tail hill with two kilometres to go. And then the finish.

I ran with Fred and Tommy - and they walked the hills with me too. We had a very chilled and chatty run, logging our absolute worst every finishing times. Tommy is a bit of a speedster and he ran the race in his Vibrams. After 21km the run was a bit of a record breaker for us: my first 32km road race in about four years; Fred's first 32km road race in two years and Tommy's longest road run in his Vibrams.

With Tommy (left), Fred (middle), Matthew (right)

We saw Matthew, also from our club, not long after the start and we met up with him here and here along the way. It's always really cool to see our fellow club members out there - part of the fan-damily.

Although the registration area was chaotic, the race and waterpoints with friendly helpers and organised marshalls is highly commended. We're adding this to our club calendar next year for a must-do event. It really is worth getting up before 04h30 for this one. But remember to keep your afternoon free for a nap.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Raw oat cookies - power race food

I've been making raw oat cookies for a few weeks and I favour them over traditional baked butter-eggs-sugar cookies. Aside from being a nice pre-morning-race snack, I think they're fabulous for during-the-day snacks and are a winner for race munchies.

There's only one catch... you need a food dehydrator to 'cook' them (xmas present to self). They're easy and quick to prepare and are made by mixing up a bunch of ingredients, shaping into cookies and then dehydrating overnight to remove the moisture. They're not dry and crumbly, but not totally moist either.

My first batch was good; my second batch was better (two variarions) and this one is just as nice. I'm not following any recipe as I throw in whatever is at hand. This batch, in the photo, contains: rolled oats, oat bran, cranberries, some currants, macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds, dates (softened in hot water and then zapped into a 'jam/paste' in the food processor), one small banana and two pears (banana and pears went in with the dates). And the zest of one lemon. I've used orange before, which was lovely, but I didn't have any oranges last night. I also threw in some hemp seed powder for a dash of protein. Pretty much everything, except the cranberries and currants, goes through the food processor to make the bits more fine.

It gets all mixed together, shaped into cookies and left overnight in the dehydrator. I ate them as a pre-run snack before the half marathons last month and they're going to be great at tomorrow morning before the 32km run. If I don't eat anything my stomach is growling by 10km.

Colours of running (shoes)

I had to shoot down to the shops today and as I walked past TotalSports the colours of the running shoes totally caught my eye. Bright, fresh and colourful. The sole colours are just as delicious as the uppers, across the brands.

This is a far cry from everyday clothing in the stores... I was horrified to see that winter clothing is on the shelves - and it is only the beginning of March! [it's the Easter thing again]

It is >28C here at the moment with beaming sun and blue skies and the shops are in winter mode. Huh? Are you people stupid or what? It only really starts to get chilly here at the end of April anyway... An attentive shop assistant offered me a thick, long sleeved top of sorts; I declined and pointing to the pile of sweaters on the table I asked, "How many of these are you selling at the moment?". Ja, none.

I certainly won't buy winter clothing now to store for three months time; retailers are missing out on two months of selling summer weather-appropriate clothing.

Minimalism - inbox and stuff

I am a slave to email. It is my communication medium of choice for both receiving and sending. Unlike a phone call, email less unintrusive because I can read it when I'm not busy with something else (yes, I can ignore my phone, but I don't during the day). It is also a format I can keep as a reference or to mull over. And, unlike a phone call, it is there in black and white, not in-one-side-and-out-the-other like phone calls.

I'm compulsive about email and so I read 'em all and I answer 'em all. I especially like to answer all of the day's emails before I go to bed because if I don't, they disappear under the new day's messages.

Last week or so, on The Minimalists blog, I read a post about inbox minimalism, which appeals because I'm constantly battling to keep my inbox under control. I've got filters and an extensive filing structure (this is the problem with being freelance - many different projects) and I aim to delete as I go but before I know it my general inbox leaps from 300 messages to, recently, over 900!

I also like to hang on to Sent Items for a while because I often refer to these. For the past couple of months my approach at the beginning of each month is to delete a month of old sent emails - from four to six months back. Boom - that's 1000 emails cleaned just like that every month.

On Wednesday night I did a BIG email clean out. I trashed dozens of folders from old projects and clients; this was probably good 4000 emails. It is like clearing cupboards - very, very satisfying and cleansing. I've also added a few more filters and I've been unsubscribing from mailers for weeks. How come I don't subscribe to anything and yet I unsubscribe from two to five lists a day!?

I'm not sure what to do about my email while I'm away in Thailand. Sure, I use an autoreply but already on the flight home I begin having palpitations about having to catch up when I get back. Marketing guru Seth Godin addressed this some time ago in this post '8 things I wish everyone knew about email' where he mentions a chap who uses an autoreply that says, "I'm on vacation until x/x/2010. When I get back, I'm going to delete all the email that arrived while I was gone, so if this note is important, please send it to me again after that date". Perhaps it is time for me to try it and this does make sense because most emails are time-relevant so most that come in when I'm away will not longer be valid by the time I get back...

I like the whole minimalist concept because I don't like being surrounded by stuff, especially items that I don't use often (or not at all). But I keep collecting things around me. I've got banners lying in the front door entrance (they arrived last week for the orienteering schools league - luckily they go on Monday) and a pile of cones (also for the league; these go to schools) and magazines (I'm just not getting to them so they're piling up) and all kinds of other things for various projects. I'm in a big-time trashing phase, which is great for my karma. This weekend is going to be a fun one.

These 'The Minimalists' blog guys, I like their concepts and they have a lot of good tips to achieving this state of 'nothingness' nirvana. But, these guys are not adventure racers with gear for multiple disciplines. I'd like to see them dealing with headlamps, mandatory equipment, backpacks, paddles, PFD, bike stuff...

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Getting a grip on running

This theme goes around and around because I too often have too little focus on any one discipline. Sure, running is my favourite and my most regular but I really feel like I've been off the rails the past few weeks; as always, I haven't been doing anything near to what I'd like. This year sure has been a whirlwind!

I feel like my running training has been limping along with other activities taking running slots. That said, I've run two half marathons this year (both in Feb) and I'll doing a 32km on Sunday. That's one more road race than I did during the whole of last year.

Occupying my during-the-week evenings and nights has been the six-week photographic course, teaching dance class once a week, attending another dance class once a week, and then other activities and commitments on the one 'open' night, Wednesdays. I feel as if I've barely been at home at night in weeks! From this week much of this is alleviated, which makes a big difference to my timing for evening runs. I feel tense and jumpy - need to run, run, run!

I think I also tend to get frustrated when I allow other things to sneak in because having done my '35 days of running' last year, I know how doable it can be to get in even a 20-minute run every day. I get slack because some days I just feel so overwhelmed that I close down; it's really the wrong response. This year I'm in for '36 days of running' in the lead up to my 36th birthday. According to my calculations I start this on 14 May.

I have a running friend in the US, Rebekah Trittipoe. We met running Jungle Marathon in Brazil in late 2003. She is bravely doing 366 days of running; I think today is Day 61. Go girl!

This time next week I'll be just about landing in Bangkok for the start of my two week non-event HOLIDAY. A real holiday where yoga and running are my main focuses. As the days now count down I can barely think of anything else. Tick-tock. Yeeehhhaaa!

An animal thing?

My dad recently did a clear out and he gave me a pile of photos of when I was a child. I noticed a very clear trend in the snap shot: animals. Even now, I can't keep my hands away from anything with fur (or feathers or scales, a shell or a hide).

Do our childhood interests - however innocent - indicate career paths? For sure.

Interestingly, my major at university was zoology, but more of the cell, developmental biology and neurology subjects than anything really to do with animals. During my MSc years I went looking for jobs in the animal agriculture environment (reproductive technology), not in the human environment. And, I've gone for having FEAT support instead of other human causes. Telling eh?

From left to right:
Row 1: With my pet bunny, Snuffles; this tee had something to do with supporting some or other wildlife organisation - I also did the JHB Zoo's polar bear club and another to do with vultures; at Mitchell's Park in Durban - I'd happily spend hours outside the crocodile cage waiting for them to move and I really loved the giant tortoises.
Row 2: At one time my dad stayed on a small holding and on one visit I heard mewing and discovered a mommy cat and kittens. My dad adopted the little grey one and found homes for the others; with a bunny from one of my favourite places, the Bunny Park in Benoni; holding one of the stray kittens; sitting in a park with birds on my head (they seem have been some guy's tame birds).
Row 3: With a sheep; my dad says that I got hold of someone's puppy; I've always loved flowers.