Sunday, 30 March 2014

East-West House-to-House Night Run adventure

I cooked up an idea a few weeks ago about running between my house and my friend's house - at night... We live on opposite sides of Jo'burg.

Last night we did it!

My running buddy, Rob.
We set out at around 19h30 and expected the 24-kilometre route to take us around three hours, which it did (just slightly less).

The route starts off with a hill - from Bedford Gardens and up over Linksfield Ridge. Through Houghton, Killarney, Zoo area, Parktown, Greenside and Emmarentia - easy, lovely running. It was fun running past the buzzing restaurants in Greenside. Then through to the southern slope of Northcliff - up the side of Albert's Farm. Over the top past the water tower and down into Bergbron.

Bam-bam... that's East-to-West across JHB pretty much from Gilloolies to Gordon Rd. Route measured 24.3km in total.

There's something so much more fun about running an A-to-B route instead of a loop - and at night. Totally invigorating! 

Our thanks to Rob's brother-in-law for dropping us off and extra special thanks to my run buddy for being game.

Now I'm cooking up a North-South route for April...

Thursday, 27 March 2014

What you don't see

We had a superb Adventure Racing Club evening last night with adventure racer Graham Bird - such a wealth of experience and keep-it-simple racing common sense.

The wonderful thing about these evenings is the opportunity to catch up with friends - those I see fairly regularly and those I see rarely.

Late in the evening I got to chat to a dear friend who I don't see half as much as we'd like. We asked after each other's work and training and families and as much in between in the limited time available. We got on to Facebook and accomplishments and she mentioned a bunch of her women friends who are her friends and who she admires for their successes, accomplishments and achievements and just also because they're people that she likes. She doesn't see herself in quite the same way. But I do.

My friend is smart and the boss of her company. She has sweet, young children who she is doing the most wonderful job of nurturing and raising. She's sporty and adventurous and incredibly capable. Her husband is a really good guy too. And she's just a lovely human being too.

But she doesn't feel as if she measures up to 'the mark'.

There's no way one can measure up when you compare yourself to what other people are doing as presented on social media. Facebook shows friends on holiday after holiday, completing races, projects and tasks, the training session after training session... As she quite rightly says, her one friend posts almost daily about her 6am gym sessions; my friend is at gym at 5am because you've got to do what you've got to do... what's the big deal?

Everyone seems to do so much more than me and you. How can one ever compete?

Well, you don't.

Facebook is so not a true reflection of what really goes on.

For every project I get off the ground - FEAT, Forest Run, Metrogaine, nav coaching - I've got a bunch of others that I've done little more with than write on a list. There's the document I need to write, the proposal to write and submit, the crochet projects I've been working on for months, the run I skipped because of other things that needed doing (or because I was being lazy), the (many) mornings when I sleep past my alarm because I just can't get up, the items that stay on my lists for months, the person I should phone but haven't got around to, the favour I should ask for but I don't, the ideas I have but I don't get around to, the friends I rarely see, the online course I'm getting behind on (catch-up day today), the language learning (should be daily!) that I struggle to keep up with....

Media - whether social or 'professional' - is just media. There's still a real world out here.

(Nice blog on the Huffington Post about the Facebook 'perfect life' syndrome).

Monday, 24 March 2014

FEAT 2014 - date and venue confirmed

I don't think of myself as a procrastinator but just as some people need event goals towards which to train, so I sometimes need fixtures to work towards. Deadlines.

Over the past few weeks I've been assessing venues for FEAT this year. I need something bigger and ideally I need a venue where it will be possible for me to get a date next year and the next and the next. A place where FEAT can settle down and where the event has room for growth.

Linder has long been on my list of viable options and last month I began discussions with them to look at dates and rates. I visited the venue to assess the stage and screen and sound and lighting - to see what else I need to bring in to make the venue work.

I'm delighted to have scored a gap in their calendar and FEAT will be on Thursday, 2 October 2014 at the Linder Auditorium in Parktown, Jo'burg.

It's a big venue so diarise now and remember to bring your friends along too!

Now that the date and venue are anchored, the real work starts with sponsors, marketing, speakers, artwork and aiming to pull together a bunch of ideas I have that will really improve the event.

Are you a 'true' trail runner?

I got into a conversation over the weekend about the cost of events, no-frill events vs those with 'bells-and-whistles' and marked vs unmarked routes (very different topics all mish-mashed into the same discussion!). Something stood out in a comment by one of the discussion participants.

He wrote:
As a sponsor I ask very little in terms of "bells and whistles"... who are these people who want are confused between wannabe road off-road runners and true trail runners. 
Here's the thing... just what makes a person a 'true' trail runner?

I've jotted down a couple of questions that could be asked of a person to gauge their 'trueness':
  • Do you run on your own, or with other people? 
  • Do you run 5km or 30km routes? How about ultras? 
  • Do you participate regularly in events?
  • How many times a week do you run on trails?  
  • Have you done any 'prestigious' trail events? 
  • Do you only enter low-key events with small participant numbers?
  • Are you in the top 10% of finishers, or do you aim to finish and enjoy the event? 
  • Do you skimp on mandatory gear at races (and training) - running with just a hipbelt and bottle - because you know you can nail the route in four hours? 
  • Do you run with a pack and all the mandatory gear plus a few extras should conditions turn?
  • Do you wear sleeveless tops, lathering your shoulders in sunblock? 
  • Do you no longer train on tar? Road races? Totally out of the question! 
  • Do your trail shoes match your tees? 
  • Cushioned vs minimalist trail shoes? How about Vibrams or sandals or 100% barefoot! 
  • Can you take care of yourself in the great outdoors? 
  • When you go on holiday do you just head off for a couple of hours on your own? 
  • How long have you been running on trails for? Weeks? Months? Years? Born on trail, baby. 
In the realm of events there is place for comfy beds, music, vibe, MCs as well as tents, the sounds of nature and a voiced, "Ready, steady, go!". We have such variety available that you can go for a bit of this and a bit of that as the mood suits.

Reading the comment I was incensed.

When people ask me how fit they have to be for adventure racing / orienteering / running I always reply that there are people who run Comrades in 5h30 and there are people who only just finish in the official 12hr time. While the runners upfront are faster, people at the back are not lesser runners because they are slower. And it is the bulk of the field that makes events feasible. If Comrades was only hosted for the Top 200 runners, it wouldn't be a viable event AND all those slower people, who are passionate about running and who put in months and months of hard work would be excluded.

This made me think about Ed February's talk at FEAT in October 2012 where he asks (and answers) whether it is still mountaineering if one pays R500,000 to a guide to get you up Mt Everest. Ed's talk is really superb and well worth watching.

Road, trail and a bit of both - to me it matters not how fast you are, how far you run, how often you run and with whom you run. Nor what events you prefer. What matters is that you're doing what gives you pleasure. There's no need for titles or boxes.

Is a "wanna-be road off-road runner" not just a less experienced trail runner?

First Aid - certification update (long overdue!)

Yes! I'm booked to do a first aid course in early April. Sure, I've done a bunch of them over the years - Level 1s and a Level 3. But, certificates expire and courses have to be taken again. I've been out-of-date for too long.

I found a number of decent looking establishments and have settled on one up the road from me.

The exciting thing is... while looking at course options, I found a bunch that offers a  "Basic suturing course" and an "IV therapy course" - stitching people up and putting up drips. Oh yeah! I'm signed up for the suturing course and may later this year the IV course.

I've always thought that people should be trained in specifics.

Why go to a hospital for a gash in your leg when you can go to a 'kiosk' that specialises in suturing. Not everything needs a doctor or plastic surgery. Suture specialists can be trained to differentiate and designate and to do what is needed. 

How often do people pass up getting stitches because of the cost? And they end up with a nasty, chunky scar? A kiosk that charges not-hospital-rates for a few stitches - I'd go there.

Once I've completed the course at the end of April, you know where to go...

BTW - I have actually sutured before - rats. Back in the day. I took great pride in work well done. I've taken plenty of stitches out too - from myself, friends and animals.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Night O fun

The RACOrienteers club organised a Night O, which was held on the Houghton Golf Estate last night. I've been eagerly looking forward to this event and on the night I was giddy with excitement.

I pulled out my Petzl Ultra headlamp, which I've had little opportunity to use in recent years. The battery (I have the small one) doesn't last very long. It should be something like 16hrs on low; but it isn't. This light is impressively bright. You do get bigger batteries, which last longer. This headlamp really is something else. I used it for a short period at the 24hr Rogaine in Estonia. It was pitch black out there; not so on the golf course which had lights along the paths and plenty of ambient light. So, it ended up that I didn't really need this super power headlamp; but it was fun to play with it anyway. Think flood lights on a sports field.

The golf course, being what it is, is not a technical environment so navigation is pretty straight-forward. Also, the terrain of the golf course is tailor-made for night running. With the exception of some low, rope barriers on the sides of paths, there's little to trip you up. So you can blaze across the lawns quite confident of a good footing.

Running around at night really is a completely different feeling. Uplifting, liberating... there's something more 'free' about it. I think that this is why I got hooked on night running so many years ago. Quiet, slumbering surroundings, and you... king/queen of the night.

The only challenge I found was looking at my map. Because of the brightness of my headlamp I tried to look at it  in the 'shade' of the light because the paper totally blinded me. We were also restricted from running across greens or through sand bunkers (marked in pink out-of-bounds) on the map. What I did find tricky is that I wasn't specifically looking for the greens on the map. Sand bunkers are a no-brainer and clearly visible in the dark. In many places the golf course grass goes from regular lawn to close-clipped stretches - fairways and tees? They feel like smooth greens underfoot and so I did skirt a few trying to avoid trampling the fine grass. This certainly cost me a few seconds here and there.

Despite the golf course being easy underfoot and easy navigationally, I still made a bloops getting to control 14. *sigh*

As you'll see on my map below, my attack was spot on (the curve in my route initially was to skirt what was maybe the smooth lawn of a tee). I didn't realise that the rough 'service' road that I dropped on to was the track that I was looking for. And because I was trying not to look at my map too often (glare of the paper = night blind), I didn't check properly.

I actually went straight past my control; and I saw it too - but I didn't think it was mine. It seemed too close to the building, which I'd passed moments before. Distance judgement in the dark can be screwy. I felt a bit confused when it wasn't where I thought it should be (just off the paved road) and also that the vegetation was wrong (too dense) - there was another short, rough road (not on the map) where I left the paved path to skirt around the vegetation (and there was also dark green vegetation near the building too). Nothing quite measured up and because of the glare from the map I really wasn't reading it properly. I went back to near the building, realised my error and punched in at the control I'd passed two minutes earlier. I wasted way too much time here.

After my run I shadowed one of my two favourite boys, Connor. I shadowed his brother Cameron a few weeks ago. I do enjoy shadowing because watching these young ones navigating is quite incredible. Connor is only 8 and his map orientation and quick decisions are superb. He went slightly wrong a few times - it's educational to watch him problem solving, figuring it out and then heading off in the right direction.

Turnout last night was superb. I heard whispers that there were 120 entrants! That's big for orienteering.

Seems I'm not the only one that enjoys running around at night.

[On this, I'm almost confirmed with a start venue for the next Metrogaine. More during the week.]

Friday, 21 March 2014

Contortion class

Instead of swinging from the rafters at last night's pole class we had what was termed a 'contortion class'. Two young lasses - both dancers - took the class and they worked through a number of progressive stretches that left me feeling totally pathetic. I've never been able to do the splits, so I'm at peace with this, but some other moves...

While there were many that I couldn't do properly because I just don't have the flexibility, there were other balance moves that I thoroughly enjoyed. I did a shoulder balance for the first time, they guided me from a headstand into a handstand (now that I know the technique I should be able to work on it by myself - in theory), they aided a handstand walkover and I even succeeded in doing a dance/gymnastic thing called something like 'dolphin roll'.

A serious chest balance. I didn't look quite this elegant....
But I couldn't even get close with a whole bunch of other moves. Some of the moves felt half ok and then a glance in the mirror showed that there wasn't a hope in hell of my foot / hand / head / leg ever reaching its intended destination.

I definitely have an aptitude for the acrobatic and gymnastic - and not anything related to ballet nor putting one's foot on one's head...

I was quite delighted when the lasses' mom commented, "You must have a gymnastic background". I don't. But that comment made my night.

Circus school definitely improved my flexibility and strength but I've been out of it for a while so I've lost some of this. I left class feeling rigid and pathetic. The class initiated an itch and so I'm hitting a yoga class in the morning. That should scratch it for a while.

Use your body to master your environment

I watched this TED talk a few nights ago and a comment that Caroline Heldman made stood out for me.
We raise our little boys to view their bodies as tools to master their environments; we raise our little girls to view their bodies as projects to constantly be improved.
What if women started to view their bodies as tools to master their environment? As tools to get you from one place to the next? As these amazing vehicles for moving through the World in a new way?
Caroline Heldman, Chair of the Politics department at Occidental College

About Caroline Heldman
A leading advocate for spotlighting how the mainstream media contributes to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America, Caroline Heldman offers straight talk and an often-startling look at the objectification of women in our society. She illustrates how it has escalated, how we have become inured to its damaging effects and what we can do individually and collectively to demolish the paradigms that keep us from a better world.

 Chair of the politics department of Occidential College in Los Angeles, Dr. Heldman appeared in the acclaimed documentary, Miss Representation and is co-editor of "Madame President: Are We Ready for a Woman in the White House?" She is a frequent commentator on radio and television and a regular contributor to Ms. Magazine.

Here's a 'fun' piece on The Guardian - posted today. It may make you smile or giggle; but it isn't funny. True, but not funny.

It's not worth it

I like marketing guru Seth Godin and I've been receiving his daily blog posts for a few years now (I get them on email daily). Sometimes I just cast my eyes over them; other times they hit the nail on the head.

There has been recent discussion around a trail race that has bumped up its entry fees - somewhere in the region of around R3,000. That makes my R480 for Forest Run look positively puny - yet I don't have many of the bells-and-whistles that this event has in place. A few people have commented in the past to say that my entry fees are expensive. Funny haha - set up a spreadsheet and put in some costs and it tells a different story. And then add in time spent planning, travelling, over-nighting, days marking the route... Let's just say that entry fees should be well over R3,000...

Seth's post from yesterday really positions "It's too expensive" in an accurate light. People pay all kinds of fees for all kinds of things. When they deem something to be expensive it is either because they really do not have the money for it OR they do not think the fee charged is worth what they're getting for it.

We have options and we can choose between any number of events. If you do not think an event is worth it, don't enter it.

In my opinion organisers don't pull entry fee numbers out of a hat. They've done their research, they know their expenses and they know their market. The price is pitched accordingly.

There are many events that I think are pricey; but they're evidently too pricey for ME because I do not see the value in paying that amount of money for that event. Yet, plenty of other people see a different value in doing the event and they happily pay the asked price to do it.

I've pasted Seth's post below. You can read the original post (20 March 2014) - and many, many others - on his blog - "What does,'it's too expensive,' mean?".

Sometimes it means, "there isn't enough money to pay for that." Certainly, among the undeserving poor, this happens all the time. And for things like health care and education, tragically, it happens too often.
But most of the time (in the commercialized, wealthier part of the world that many of us live in), the things that are within the realm of possibility could be paid for (even the edge cases could, if we found friends and neighbors and went deep into debt). One person might say a stereo or a sizable charitable donation or a golf club membership is "too expensive" while someone else with the same income might happily pay for it. "It's too expensive," almost never means, "there isn't enough money if I think it's worth it."
Social entrepreneurs are often chagrined to discover that low-income communities around the world that said their innovation was, "too expensive" figured out how to find the money to buy a cell phone instead. Even at the bottom of the pyramid, many people find a way to pay for the things they value.
The same is true for real estate, ad buys and productivity improvements in the b2b sector. If an investment is going to pay for itself, "it's too expensive," rarely means, "we can't afford it."
Often, it actually means, "it's not worth it." This is a totally different analysis, of course. Lots of things aren't worth it, at least to you, right now. I think it's safe to assume that when you hear a potential customer say, "it's too expensive," what you're really hearing is something quite specific. A $400 bottle of water is too expensive to just about everyone, even to people with more than $500 in the bank. They have the cash, but they sure don't want to spend it, not on something they think is worth less than it costs.
Not everyone will value your offering the same, so if you wait for no one to say, "it's too expensive" before you go to market, you will never go to market. The challenge isn't in pleasing everyone, it's in finding the few who see the value (and thus the bargain) in what's on offer.
Culturally, we create boundaries for what something is worth. A pomegranate juice on the streets of Istanbul costs a dollar, and it's delicious. The same juice in New York would be seen as a bargain for five times as much money. Clearly, we're not discussing the ability to pay nor are we considering the absolute value of a glass of juice. No, it's about our expectation of what people like us pay for something like that.
Start with a tribe or community that in fact does value what you do. And then do an ever better job of explaining and storytelling, increasing the perceived value instead of lowering the price. (Even better, actually increase the value delivered). When you don't need everyone to buy what you sell, "it's too expensive" from some is actually a useful reminder that you've priced this appropriately for the rest of your audience.
Over time, as influencers within a tribe embrace the higher value (and higher price) then the culture starts to change. When people like us start to pay more for something like that, it becomes natural (and even urgent) for us to pay for it too.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Navigation coaching: Dates and times

Navigation Coaching

For adventure racing, orienteering and trail running

Finally... I know... After four weeks of AR Club's Summer Series at Delta Park, five weeks of the Orienteering Schools League and Forest Run at the beginning of March... now I'm ready to look at nav coaching again.

Below I've included a table of dates and times and sessions.

Morning 14h45-15h45 16h00-17h00 Evening Venue
Sat, 22 March O EVENT Houghton Golf Estate
Sat, 29 March Session 1 Session 2 Delta Park
Sat, 5 April Session 2 Session 3 Delta Park
Sun, 6 April O EVENT Nirox Sculpture Park
Sat, 12 April Session 3 Session 4 Delta Park
Sat, 26 April Session 4
Session 5 (ALL)
Delta Park
Sat, 3 May
Session 6
Sun, 4 May O EVENT TBC (probably TUKS)
Wed, 7 May Session 7 Rivonia
Sat, 10 May
Session 8
Venue TBC
  • Session 1: Map orientation; map familiarity (colours and symbols)
  • Session 2: Map orientation; scale and proportion; Lisa's 'purple circles' (intro)
  • Session 3: Map orientation; thumbing and folding; 'purple circles' (self)
  • Session 4: Route choice; compass use
  • Session 5: Course running (all invited) (incl. route tracking feedback)
  • Session 6: Understanding contour lines
  • Session 7: (indoor, theory session) Understanding topographical maps (true vs magnetic, colours and symbols, prepping maps) - for adventure racers
  • Session 8: The great outdoors - putting it all together
Sessions are R100pp. Payment in advance of session by EFT. No refunds. All materials (take-home maps, compasses (to borrow), activity sheets) provided unless specified. Each session is followed up with an email to remind you of what you have learned. Other experienced coaches may be pulled in to assist - depending on numbers of participants per session.
  • Sessions are progressive.
  • Date options are provided and participants my attend double sessions (i.e. Session 1 and 2 on the same day).
  • Sessions 5 is to give you some 'real' quick-thinking experience. If you run with a GPS tracking unit (GPS, cell phone etc), I'll gladly give you route-choice feedback by email after looking at your track.
  • Sessions 6 and 8 are again progressive.
  • Session 7 is in place to get participants in tune with 1:50,000 topographical maps. I'll guide you in apply skills learned on orienteering maps and in a small area to topo maps (relevant for adventure racers, not relevant for orienteers).
  • Session 8 is specifically for adventure racers and a good challenge for everyone else. It brings everything together in a setting that will challenge your newly learned skills.
  • Homework (online) will come into play from after Session 3.
The events highlighted are not compulsory but they are (very) highly recommended.
Note that the Houghton Golf Estate event on Saturday night is pre-entry ONLY (by Thursday night).

People who have done Session 1 or 2 (November or December last year) are welcome to jump in at Session 2 or 3 respectively.

 The challenge is always that not everyone will be able to make all sessions. I've aimed to provide options and I've gone with Saturday afternoons as weekends are often jam-packed with events, family commitments and such. Saturday afternoons 'should' have the least clashes... Note that the sessions on Saturday, 26 April will be in the morning as I'm on a course in the afternoon.

The idea is for you attend to the sessions from 1 to 8; they have been created to be progressive, building on what you have learned.

Note that if you skip a session, I will not be able to go back to teach you what you may not know. With limited time and other people in the session, who have attended the previous session, it is just not possible. You'll just have to pick it up as you go along. Or recruit a friend to join you so that at least one of you is at every session - you can teach each other.

If you would like to book a place on any of the sessions, please do so (with EFT) by noon on the Thursday before the session so that I have sufficient time to print materials. Bookings only confirmed with EFT. You can contact me on 082 936 2509 or I'll provide you with details.

I look forward to helping you to become an efficient and capable navigator.


 About Lisa de Speville
Lisa has been orienteering, adventure racing and trail running for almost 15 years. She has navigated in adventure racing since she started the sport (1999) and her favourite orienteering variation is the time-limited, point-score rogaining events (she has done two international 24-hour events - Estonia and Ireland). Lisa organises short, urban events based on this format - Metrogaine Jo'burg.

 Lisa has been teaching map and navigation skills to adventure racers since 2002 and in this time she has trained over 800 adults and teenagers. She heads up the South Africa Orienteering Federation's school sport development programme, writing coaching material for schools. Between October 2012 and September 2013 Lisa completed her British Orienteering Federation Level 2 coaching qualification. She doesn't go anywhere without a map.

 Feedback from participants on Lisa's most recent courses (April, May and November 2013)

A note from Jess on Session #1:
Thanks so much for yesterday! :) learnt a lot and its amazing what a difference the simpler things that you can do can make (things I didn't know before).
An email from Kim:
I have dabbled a little in orienteering, but you have made a whole lot of stuff a lot clearer for me. I especially enjoyed the compass work (after I figured out how to use a compass, thanks for this!) & I enjoyed the tasks you made us do, the 'purple circle' tasks were very beneficial too. Another task I REALLY enjoyed was when we had to memorise the maps & go off in search of our cones. This was so much fun & showed us just how much we 'assume' along the way. Funny how I 'knew exactly' where the next cone was only to be totally surprised when I got there! You explained everything very well & were super patient with all of us. The Kloofendal orienteering was the toughest for me, but I managed to find all the checkpoints on my own, except the last one where myself & Mike teamed up but still could not find it! I probably found the compass work to be the most beneficial to me, purely because this was something I have never attempted before. 
And feedback from Trudey:
I have been on another training course in the past and I must be honest did not feel I learnt much – was not really ‘user friendly’ - if I can call it that. I honestly learnt a lot on your course – what truly worked for me was the following: · Keeping your finger on your position at all times when travelling · PURPLE CIRCLES RULE!! Thanks for that. · Contour lines ie: saddle vs gully etc – now I can identify them · Advantage of going to the highest point to getter a ‘clearer picture’ · The whole compass thing – total understanding & wow, what a difference I really enjoyed every week of training with you – you not only made it informative but fun too.
From Matthew:
Just a quick note to say that I thought your course was superb. You are a born teacher. I didn’t get to chat to you on Saturday because I had to leave quite quickly. But I actually found the activity rather difficult – I think my biggest problem was I had no idea how to use the compass (that's what happens when you miss sessions!). All in all I can see the key is experience!
A note from Wim:
Thank you for a most enjoyable course. After five weeks I feel that I really have learnt a lot but still need a lot of practice to become anywhere near competent. When I started, I didn’t know how much I didn’t know and I thought I knew a lot, as I had done a bit of mapping and compass reading in my boy-scout days (about 53-years ago). As far as I’m concerned, I enjoyed every week and every activity because you have such a lovely way of sharing your enthusiasm of the sport. I really messed up where we had to memorise the map and go to the next control. It seemed so simple and so didn’t take any notice of any landmarks or surroundings. I thought I would be able to run straight to the point. Lesson learnt. I don’t think there is any other course available that can teach so much and be so enjoyable.

Bear (#3)

Deviating from the pattern given by my friend's daughter's school for their annual teddy bear collection, I found a sweet pattern online. I finished bear #3 last night.

He's a knitted bear - not crochet. Quite fun to try knitting again - but definitely slower than crochet.

Yes, his belly is a different colour. I didn't have enough yarn and couldn't get the original colour again. So I'll make him a top, which should disguise his pale belly.

Thank you Becky

I received a post office slip this past week. Actually, the first collection slip arrived a month ago but it ended up in my neighbour's postbox and he only dropped it off last week.

And the item? A very thoughtful and sweet random-act-of-kindness from Becky. She's in the US Airforce, stationed in South Korea. She's a runner too and while searching for another site she came across this blog and the post about my annual birthday running game - and from there on to other posts (like the one where I discovered the lack of stationery for handwritten letters) and from there to FEAT and the FEAT Trade page.

Becky, thank you for this really special gift. Keep an eye on your postbox. Even though you're not in South Africa I'll most definitely reciprocate the trade.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Weekend games

This weekend really was a mixed bag. I slept in until about 9am on Saturday morning and, for the first time in weeks I woke up feeling vaguely refreshed.

Taking advantage of the sun, I headed out to my veggie garden to clear the second half of the bed of weeds and old plants and to put in my new seedlings and some plants. Two hours later it was looking amazing. I've put in beetroot and spinach seedlings (and some flowers) and also some heritage beetroot seeds plus some swiss chard seeds. The eggplant plants are doing well and looking far more sturdy than they have been. To complete the session, I put down some mulch from the compost heap.

A bunch of my mom's friends had been asking her about having a Doodle afternoon, where I show them the basics of how to doodle. As you'll recall, I got into doodling late last year and seem to have settled into my own rhythm. So, we set up an afternoon and were thrilled to have a good collection of eager doodlers.

We started off with basic patterns and finished by creating our own bookmark-type things, which I laminated for everyone. We got a really super assortment of doodles. This was a wonderful afternoon of creativity, tea, cake and good company.

Bye-bye Saturday.

Sunday started off with the annual orienteering club relays. This is really the only time that clubs get to compete against each other. We had a women's team and a men's team racing in AR Club colours; we placed 2nd and 3rd respectively in our categories. I ran the first leg and then took some photos of our school team runners as well as any other orienteers passing by.

And then, an extra special treat - tea with my dear friend Pam and Lauren and my sweetness, Stella. She's 8.5 months old now and I last saw her on her 6-month birthday day. She's got more teeth, is crawling like champ and is getting far more interactive. Her development month by month is incredible.

And then I was off for a pole play date. Short story is that I met a lass in a race-entry queue a couple of weeks back. Turned out that she recently did a pole instructor course. She's a personal trainer but very new to pole. She has to do her practical exam soon and needed some help with her routine choreography. It was a really fun session because one of the other very new instructors came long too and so the cobwebs of my pole memory got a clean out as I taught them a bunch of basic moves and variations on moves - things I literally haven't done for years!

That was really fun and I'm not as stiff as I thought I would be today. Tonight I have class, which will certainly work me over.

So, a really nice weekend with a bit of this and a bit of that.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Poles Apart (book launch)

Ooohh... what a superb book launch that I attended tonight. It was the launch of Sean Disney and Vaughan de la Harpe's book, "Poles Apart".

I have never met Sean nor Vaughan face-to-face before so this was indeed a treat. I didn't expect Sean to be such a big guy! He must be a good 6' and built strong too. I've known of Sean from more than a decade ago and we've been like ships in the night, often missing each other. I've tried to get him for FEAT a few times now but he's often away on trips in October. Maybe lucky this year? I've known of Vaughan for years so also nice to meet him in person.

It’s about Sean’s second whirl of the Seven Summits – this time with Vaughan, and plus the Poles (and many other things too). But it is not just a book about expeditions and mountains and places.

The pair told tales of trips and people and happenings to journalist David Bristow, who has put their recollections and experiences together. It hasn’t been written as a blow-by-blow account of mountaineering trips. I’m looking forward to reading their story. 

The launch was definitely the SA-Mountaineering-place-to-be. In the crowd were a bunch of Everest summiteers. I recognised Mandy Ramsden (she spoke at the first FEAT in October 2010 – watch her talk) and Robby Kojetin. There were probably many more.

And then there were FOUR Last Degree Explorers Grand Slam (Seven Summits plus both poles – at least the last degree) people present: Sean and Vaughan plus Andy van der Velde and Arthur Marsden. The only person missing was Sibusiso Vilane – he lives in Nelspruit. Remarkably there are only 29 people on the Last Degree Grand Slam list and five of them are South African! (only eight people have gone from a coast to the poles; two non coastal = not a lot of people)

I don’t often hang in serious mountaineering circles so I’m not always with who-is-who but I can say with confidence that many people in the room have climbed one or more of the World’s big mountains – especially as Sean is a guide and has been leading trips for many years (= many mountaineering clients).
Quite a crowd!

 Back to the book… (I bought my copy on site and am delighted to have had it signed) The book is called “POLES APART with some pointy bits in between” by VAUGHAN DE LA HARPE AND SEAN DISNEY as told to David Bristow. It retails for R230 (eBook is R184) and should be available right now (published by Pan Macmillan). It’s 320 pages and it includes central colour plates of captioned photographs from their trips.

An entertaining and fascinating account of the authors’ formidable mountaineering and climbing accomplishments. In 2011 the pair completed the “Grand Slam”, which is summiting the world’s seven highest peaks as well as journeying to the North and South Poles. The book chronicles their achievements in an amusing and modest manner, while still sharing the drama of the various expeditions. 
Poles Apart is highly informative about some of the real nitty gritty encounters and behind-the-scenes information about what exactly it takes to summit some of the world’s highest mountains, delving into the vast and varied challenges of mountaineering and very personal experiences of how the two authors overcame them, finding an inner strength that is just as vital as an outer, physical strength. Although this book delves into the challenges but it does so with a good dose of humour, as both Sean and Vaughan bounce their experiences off each other and reminisce in sometimes hilarious ways with the kind of detail and stories that armchair adventurers (as well as genuine mountaineers) will enjoy. 
This book is not just about mountaineering. There is the required physical fitness, the mental strength, the tortuous planning, the extreme patience (waiting in a tent in sub zero temperatures, day after day, for a window in the weather) the science, the careful choice of equipment, friendships formed, the need for tolerant wives and families, the soul searching … and, of course, the need for a good sense of humour.’ – James Clarke 
VAUGHAN DE LA HARPE is the Managing Director of a company based in Johannesburg that specialises in the administration of insurance-related products. He is the first South African, along with Sean Disney, to have completed the Explorers Grand Slam. 
SEAN DISNEY is the Managing Director of Adventure Dynamics International. He lives with his family in Johannesburg. He has climbed Everest from both sides and is a two times 7 summits climber. Sean is a qualified paragliding pilot, private pilot, open water diver, and cyclist.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Eye Gym - visual training

A week ago I started on Dr Sherylle Calder's EyeGym programme. This has come about through the SA Orienteering Federation. Fellow coach, Tania, and I are doing the month-long programme to gauge our gains with orienteering map-reading skills in mind, and whether this is something that we would like our youth, junior and senior orienteers to do.

The basis behind EyeGym is to improve how much and how quickly you see - it isn't about your eyesight, but what you take in. This affects how you respond, decisions you make... "Most people are born with good eyesight but vision, the ability to identify, interpret and understand can be trained and improved," it says on the site.

Orienteering is a very visual sport. From looking at a map while moving to looking at your surrounds and back again. If you can take in more and more and more with just a quick glance at the map - and keep your eye on where you are while running... all the better.

Every day I login for a 15 minute session. There are four skills - eye skipping, track following, eye speed and hand-eye coordination - that I'm training daily. Each has a specific game and there seem to be 30 levels for each. I'm over halfway on all except eye skipping, which I'm finding to be quite challenging (but I did go up another level today). As you go up the levels, the objects move faster and there are more distractions to fox you.

I've found that mid-morning or noon are the best times to do my daily drills. At night I'm too tired to track fast-moving balls and to react fast enough to climb levels.

Tania started the month-long online programme three weeks ahead of me. She only has a few days left and is ranked 4th overall! She finally achieved her one outstanding level yesterday and, as per Sherylle's recommendations, she turned her hand to practising on lower-levels, which she found to be very slow -  a sure sign of advancement. At the moment I find gaining each level to be challenging although I'm climbing up the ranks daily.

It will be interesting to see where I end up in another 25 days.

I am stiff

Now three days after Monday night's pole class I can again wave my arms around... (mostly)

Six year ago, when I first started pole class, I remember having such stiff arms and shoulders after that first class that I was hooked. Tuesday morning reminded me of that first post-class stiffness.

It will take me a few weeks to get back into it. My spins are decent and my balance moves and handstands are better than before (from circus school); but my inverts feel a bit messy. They'll need some tidying up as my body-spatial awareness catches up again.

There are hundreds of amazing pole videos on YouTube and I watch them occasionally. My favourites are from the major pole competitions like Pole Art and World Champs and Australian Champs. Oona Kivela remains my favourite artist. She's an ex-gymnast and ballet dancer and it shows in her strength and movements.

Check out these strength drills, performed by Oona. I'd like to say that I can do a few of these with any level of competency... But I don't think I can. Definitely a level of strength and skill and grace to aspire to.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Drakensberg Grand Traverse: new record attempt

Photo: Kelvin Trautman/ Red Bull Content Pool

Drakensberg Grand Traverse is an unmarked mountain route of approximately 220 kilometres. It runs from the North to the South of the Drakensberg mountains. The route starts from the Sentinal car park and ends at the Bushman’s Nek border post. Various checkpoints/summits have to be visited along the way. These include The Chain Ladders, Mont-aux-Sources summit (3282m), Cleft Peak summit (3277m), Champagne Castle summit (3377m), Mafadi summit (3451m), Giant’s Castle summit (3314m) and Thabana Ntlenyana summit (3482m). Thomathu Pass must be used to descend to Bushman’s Nek.

Rules governing record attempts state that the attempt must be entirely self-supported (i.e. no seconds, food caches or resupplies) and entirely on foot. GPS is allowed.

At the inaugural FEAT event in October 2010 Cobus van Zyl took to the FEAT stage to talk about setting a new record, with Ryno Griesel, of 60 hours, 29 minutes, 30 seconds (men's pair; April 2010). [The solo record still stands at 61hours, 24minutes, 11seconds - it was set in December 2008 by Andrew Porter.]

In his talk, Cobus said that in the right conditions and with athletes in optimal condition taking the perfect routes, that a 40-hour time was possible.

Cobus and Ryno are both adventure racing friends and over the period of 23-27 March 2014 they'll be out there. This time Ryno pairs up with trail runner Ryan Sandes for the attempt. Cobus, together with Ryno's brother Stephan and friend Gert Forster, will handle safety and logistics down below for the pair.

This is going to be one helluva exciting attempt to follow and with Red Bull sponsorship and support it will have all the necessary bells and whistles to track the pair as they work their way across the Drakensberg day and night.

When they actually start will depend on the weather conditions at this time.

You can find all the tracking and info here, on these sites and platforms.

For live tracking and updates visit and also Twitter - @RedBullZA, @RyanSandes and @Ryno_Griesel. Alternatively, track the hashtag #DrakTraverse across all social channels.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Neglected veggie garden - giving it some TLC

I haven't said much about my veggie garden this season... because there hasn't been much to say.

It started off badly last year when I was so consumed by the TEFL course that after putting in plants and cultivating seedlings, I then sorely neglected the garden. Too little watering, too much heat, no weeding... I got into it a few weeks ago... or maybe was that a few months ago over xmas? I can't remember. Either way I've done little with the garden.

It has been more forgiving of me (than me of myself) and I've enjoyed some cherry tomatoes, a few eggplants and a dash of swiss chard. The basil is looking great too. But the weeds... and spindly tomato plants... The garden has been looking a mess!

I swore to give it some attention 'after Forest Run' but with all the rain this week I haven't been out there. Straight after orienteering this morning I swung past the nursery to get some moo poo and a few seedlings (one tray of flowers, a tray of beetroot and a tray of spinach). I dumped my stuff indoors, pulled on my wide-brimmed hat and headed out.

It took me about an hour and a half to work through half of the bed. Revolutionary! I pulled up all of the cherry tomatoes, which I hadn't staked properly this year, I dug out the weeds and trimmed here and there. The eggplants are looking strong, the sorrel continues to flourish and there are a few nice-looking swiss chard plants.

I walked away feeling very satisfied and not 10-minutes later the rain started. Perfect timing to soak in that manure.

I'm aiming to get out for an hour each day over the next week to finish tidying it up and to put in the new seedlings. I'll take some pics during the week.

Competitive crochet (and knitting)

I am again making teddy bears for my friend's daughter's school's annual charity teddy bear collection.

Last year I made an awesome bear, Blossom. The school has a competition where the 'Best' bear is awarded. As Blossom wasn't made from the school's pattern, she got notable mention, but didn't win.

This year I've made two bears from the school's simple (and awful) pattern. It is an easy knit pattern but is very shapeless and featureless.

I converted the knit pattern to crochet and made my first bear. He's made from yarn my mom selected. He's sweet, but smaller than expected.

I then got my hand on some faux fur yarn - it is especially for making fluffy animals. You can't crochet this kind of yarn because with all the fluffy bits you can't pick up the stitches to make the next row. So I pulled out my knitting needles. Goodness, it has been a while!

As one ball of Fauxy yarn, which is all I had, wouldn't have made the whole bear, I decided to do the head and limbs in double strands of black (to get the thickness). I really struggled to give the face any real character as the knit of the face wasn't very tight (could have done with three strands of yarn). I made him a bobbly nose to add a bit of something - I'm not totally satisfied but he'll do.

Anyhoo... I found an absolutely divine bear pattern online. It's another knit pattern - I'm giving it a shot. I prefer patterns where you make up body parts and stitch them together - more personality.

Even though this one won't be eligible for the competition, I'm aiming for another 'notable mention'.

You can take the woman out of the competition but you can't take the competitiveness out of the woman - even when it comes to crocheted teddy bears and a charity collection. Hahahaha.

I miss aerial and pole

I've been out of both circus/aerial and pole for way, way too long and I really miss it. And that why I'm returning to pole on Monday night. I'm incredibly excited and so looking forward to class.

In May/June last year circus classes stopped when our instructors were tied up with performances locally and abroad. By the time I returned from Argentina classes were permanently halted as they needed to set up at a new venue when the old one was no longer available. This meant months of building and rigging... Classes only started again at the beginning of this year.

But I'd made the decision anyway not to return. I just couldn't face 30-minutes of travel either way and only getting home at 21h30 two nights a week - on top of other commitments. The toll gantries on the highway don't help either.

I was thinking of starting hip-hop classes - trying a different dance discipline. But I so love the gymnastic and acrobatic and strength elements of the aerial disciplines that I've decided to go back to pole. I haven't been teaching for about 18 months (after four-and-a-half years of teaching pole classes one - sometimes two - nights a week) and so I'm glad just to be returning to pole as a student.

I've certainly lost a lot of the strength that I gained from circus school - it's even the 'little' things like hand-strength for gripping. Nonetheless, I look forward to building it back up and I certainly have better neuromuscular pathways and more strength and stability - like core and shoulders - than when I left pole for circus 18-months ago.

Ooohhh-weeeee... so excited! For class and to see my pole friends again.

Urban Series O at Golden Harvest Park

I haven't been to Golden Harvest Park (North Jo'burg, near the Dome) for so many years that running there this morning really was like running on a brand-new map.

This was the fourth event of the new orienteering Urban Series - the second that I've done. I had a good, clean run with no navigation issues. I ended up in a respectable 6th place; four seconds behind 5th place and one second ahead of 7th.

What is rather frightening is the ONE SECOND... I was barely ahead of my friend's daughter - she must be 12 years old now. Arrrggghhh! At least I can still beat her on the long, tough courses. But certainly not for long... She runs so well and navigates superbly.

Control 8 to 9 was probably the most interesting as we had to choose a way around (I'm the green route).

I decided to go clockwise to benefit from a nice downhill run on the other side. I was at 8 with another runner and she chose to go the other way around (pink route). That was pretty cool because then you get to compare the success of your route. I came out ahead of her so I was happy with my choice. Approaching 9 I saw two controls -the one was on the stream; the other for my course was on the side of the dam. I saw the stream control first - and then the stream. I didn't even bother checking the control number as I knew it couldn't be mine and had spotted the correct one within seconds. Nice placement.

The next event up is the annual club relays on 16 March. Relays are always great fun. We run in teams of three and I'm running with club mates Cindy and Zig in a women's team.

After this is the Night O event at the Houghton Golf Estate. I haven't done a Night O for years - it's helluva exciting because the micro-navigation orienteering world is a completely different place at night. I'm really looking forward to this one. If you're keen to come, you must pre-enter.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Penguin jumpers

Yesterday I read an article on The Telegraph: "Australian plea to knitters to make pullovers to aid oil-smeared penguins".

Via a link or two I read about penguin jumpers about a year or two ago - from the previous oil spill, which was a few years before. I dropped a note to the South African penguin rescue people in Cape Town, asking for dimensions of our Cape penguins (I'm sure they're bigger than the Aussie ones) so that I could create a pattern that could be circulated so that we have a stash of jumpers that can be used should disaster strike - better to be prepared in advance. Another oil spill at some stage really is inevitable.

I didn't get any response and I didn't follow up - but this recent Australian incident has reminded me to do so.

Well, now that there has been another oil spill in Australia they need more penguin jumpers.

The Telegraph article was missing links to both the Penguin Foundation and to a pattern for the jumpers. How silly is that? The article asks people to knit jumpers and then they don't provide a link to a pattern. Sure, I found it online after a bit of searching... but really!

I did send an email to The Telegraph yesterday afternoon and they've promptly responded. The article has been amended and a link to the pattern has been included.

Should you be interested in knitting (or crocheting) a penguin jumper, you can find patterns here:

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Next online course - Think101

I completed the Spanish MOOC about two/three weeks ago - that was pretty good. I miss the daily discipline of working through Spanish, listening to videos and spoken content and building my vocabulary. For this reason alone I'm thinking of signing up for the next level, which started this week. Only $29.

The English writing course wasn't as intensive and this one wrapped up last week, while I was away. With little (very little, not even a stable EDGE connection) to no internet, I just gave up on trying to connect and missed the final submission deadline. This was a seriously large MOOC with pages and pages and pages of a 'discussion forum' - they lost me on this one. I did what was needed but didn't get too involved. Some of the content of the course was really good but overall it was quite dull.

My new course is Think101x: The Science of everyday thinking. It's on EdX and offered by the University of Queensland. Also not too intensive (1-2hrs/week) and it looks to be very interesting and with super guests, including those guys from Myth Busters and other. It runs over 12 weeks and you can still sign up if you're interested.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Fabulous Forest Run

Forest Run went very well on Saturday and we were blessed with superb weather -  a light drizzle only came down after the runners were in (it did catch Sarah and Michael who were sweeping the last section of the course).

It was a small field with a total of 51 runners (eight people didn't make it on the day). You'll find my race report on the Forest Run website.

My days spent route tagging went very smoothly because of the grass cutting we did the week before. Nonetheless the days were long and I spent a good 11hrs on my feet on Wednesday and Thursday, putting in around another 6hrs on Tuesday and Friday out on the course.

I took my bike out on the Tuesday to mark the route but I definitely prefer being on foot, especially when I need to put out boards and droppers. I worked out too that I covered around 80-kilometres in marking the route. I do it in chunks and sometimes it takes me 5-6km to get back to where I've left my car after completing sections.

The photos from the run are magnificent. While I enjoy the ones of the runners, I'm besotted with the beautiful images of the forest.

I'd roped in Marcel Sigg and Margueriethe 'Maggi' van Rhyn to take photographs. And what a wonderful collection they have created.

Zelda Coetzee was a marshal last year, stepping in at the last minute to fill in for the booked photographer when he couldn't make it. This year she was determined to run but battling with ITB she had an op only a few weeks before Forest Run. As her husband, Johann, was marshalling, she too jumped in to assist - and take photographs at her spots.

 You can find all of the photos in the albums on the Forest Run Facebook page.

I've pulled off a number of images by Marcel, Maggi and Zelda to show you. Goodness, I  do indeed love this forest.

The start - from outside Lakenvlei Forest Lodge.
Runners at the start heading out from Lakenvlei. 7am.
There are horses at Lakenvlei that roam around when they're not taking people for rides.
There are a few places on the route with these beautiful forested 'avenues'. They're my favourite sections and seem to have been loved by the runners.
Photographer fairy - Maggi
Colourful flag bunting at Waterpoint #2 - the halfway feed station.
What a spread! Treats at the 24km Waterpoint #2. Eggie mayo sandwiches won hands-down again.
This is a lovely section with forest on the runners' right and Bass Dam on their left.
Bass Dam.

My plastic duck - keeping watch.

The only place on the course where you get your feet wet - at around 25km. It's a low-level bridge.
Fabulous helper Staci walking back with the chair and umbrella from the route split section. Staci assisted with catering and manned Waterpoint #2 and she swept the last few kilometres of the 35km course with Sue.
Colourful ball decorations hanging in the trees at Waterpoint #3 (only on 62km course)
Windmills for decorations at Waterpoint #4 (only 62km course)
Windmills on the approach to Waterpoint #3 (only 62km course)
No medals or dust-collecting trophies at Forest Run. Plants instead. This year, a sun-or-shade forest grass. It gets pretty little white flowers. 
Michael and Sarah at Waterpoint #1. They were also at Waterpoint #4 and they swept the route from #4 to the end. I'm very fortunate to have a wonderful team of on-the-day helpers.
With Sue (sweeper on the route from start to end of 35km route) and Liz, my mom (catering and waterpoint #2)
Dress-up is another fun part of Forest Run. I'm the green Forest Fairy; Zelda is the pink fairy ;)
At Waterpoint #2 - Johann (Zelda's husband) and Zelda. Staci is watching their antics.

Photographer Marcel (blue wig) with Sarah B. and Duncan at Waterpoint #3. 
A section named by Marcel and Maggi as 'The Enchanted Forest' - they're so right. One of the runners, Hein Koch from Middelburg, said that he'd email me with some names for the hills on the route... I think Marcel and Maggi have got a jump on the naming process with this one.
Wild, colourful dahlias, little yellow flowers... this place is beautiful.