Monday, 28 April 2014

Got a gash? Call me.

Earlier this month I did my First Aid Level 1 certification to get in-date again (it has been a while!). While surfing the web for courses, I came across an offering of a suturing course from Pulse Point. I signed up and on Saturday afternoon I attended the two-hour course.

With this run of public holidays and long weekends, it ended up being just me on the course, with my instructor Stephan -  a former paramedic and, as it turns out, a keen cyclist and obstacle-course competitor. Stephan left working on the road two-years ago after their emergency response vehicle was T-boned by a vehicle that went through a red robot. He was seriously injured and his partner was very nearly killed. He is now a very capable trainer; one with clear instructions and techniques.

We went through techniques and steps for suturing three different types of wounds. There's a plain ol' slice, like from a knife. No flesh missing, no jagged edges - just a clean cut. Then there's a wound where a chunk has been taken out - like we'd see from mountain biking falls. And then there's the jagged / serated, uneven wound - also something we'd see from mountain biking injuries.

Stephan first went over how to inject local anaesthetic, which I did to my subject, an orange.

And then I got to work suturing its wounds. My sutures definitely got neater with practice.

I did this course because I figure that suturing is a useful skill to have - for adventure racing and just because. Back at varsity I learned to suture (animals, not people - same thing really) but it has been many years; so nice to feel clued-in again.

The thing about suturing is that there's no rush. You've got plenty of time to get to a doctor to have the wound attended to. Of course the on-site issue would be to stop the bleeding. Sutures come later. But in adventure racing... It could be many many hours before the medics can get to you or you can get to a clinic.

An emergency room visit and a bill for a few thousand Rand... Puh! I've got enough scars from wounds that should have had sutures but didn't. That's where I see this little skill being useful. A gash on the knee or elbow really is not a biggie and I'm definitely not precious about scars. It's a different story if the wound is really serious and involves more than skin (nerves, tendons, muscle) or is on your face - it's not ideal to have a big gash across your forehead sutured by a hobbyist.

So for 'normal' kinda wounds, I'm game.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Discovering new roads - in my 'hood

For my weekly long run with Rob, I thought I'd take him on roads that I haven't run for ages. I had in mind a route through Bruma and into Observatory to find a big open park that I've run past before and which we saw from the Scottish War Memorial in Kensington last week.

So, we headed through to Bruma and then got meandering on wickedly steep roads on the side of Linksfield Ridge - the suburb is probably Cyrildene. I haven't run some of those roads for years and some of them I've never run. It's an old suburb with huge, established oak trees. Autumn is here and winter is coming.

A highlight was discovering a single-lane, winding road leading down the ridge on the other side. Lovely evening light, great view... photo op!

When we took the winding road down we were kinda committed to a route home from the other side of the ridge.

Rob says, "Should we just run around?".

I reply, "Yes".

It's actually quite a distance to run around; always further than you think. But we were coming at it from a more favourable direction - one that, I think, has a bit more downhill gradient, which I was very grateful for after the nasty steep hills on the other side.

Into the groove with seeking out new roads, we found a beautiful, quiet road that I've never run before. Nice properties to gawk at and a decent look at the crazy-big, North-facing houses on the Ridge. And then we found this striking succulent growing outside a house. An abundance of it. In the evening light it looked magnificent!

17-kilometres after setting out we returned, in the dark, to my door.

A bit of adventure, some new terrain... this was one of those really great runs.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Ryno and Cobus at AR Club (Tues, 6 May 2014)

Back in 2010, adventure racers Ryno Griesel and Cobus van Zyl set a Drakensberg Grand Traverse record of 60 hours 29 minutes. Later that year, in his talk at FEAT, Cobus predicted the theoretical fastest possible time at around 40 hours. Four years later, Ryno - with trail runner Ryan Sandes - covered the 209-kilometre distance in an incredible, record-setting 41 hours 49 minutes.

 At this special Adventure Racing Club evening, Ryno and Cobus speak about how their years of experience in adventure racing and trail running came together to make this new record possible. Cobus was integrally involved with the scouting, planning and logistics behind this record-setting run. He put in weeks of work to help Ryno and Ryan break a record that he set. They'll tie their experiences at DGT with what adventure racers can take away from this extraordinary adventure.

Join us for an evening of insights and experiences together with visuals of their custom maps, photos from the mountains and video clips.

 Date: Tuesday, 6 May 2014
Time: 18h30 for 19h00
Venue: Kinetic Gear at the Exercise and Nutrition Centre, cnr North and Rivonia Roads, Rivonia.
Enquiries: Lisa -

National Orienteering Training Camp (and Night O adventure)

I spent this long, Easter weekend in the beautiful forests of Kaapsehoop as one of the coaching team for our National Orienteering Training Camp. Here we had 20 orienteers from our Senior, Junior and Youth squads and we took them through a variety of skills activities to prepare them for selection for the World and Junior Orienteering Champs. I was assigned to 'Warm-up activities and Games' and I gave assistance where needed with the various groups.

Pics from Day 1 (Friday)
For the warm-up games I created a couple of new ones, related to the skill being coached in the session. Others were just for silly fun - like Bing-O and the pre-warmup warm-up silly songs. Wearing a different wig/hat each day to set the silliness, we boogied to 'Hokey Pokey', 'The Chicken Song' and 'Head, shoulders, knees and toes'.

I had an extra fun day on Saturday when I filled in as a runner in the forest relay and then ran at night in the Night O.

Pics mostly from Sunday.
For the relay we were put into pairs and I was teamed up with the very fast and capable Junior runner, Timothy. It feels weird calling a young man that I have to look up at a 'Junior'. He's 17 and is in matric this year. Tim shot off first - he ran the first and third legs; I took the second and fourth. I think we ended up in second. Every time I found myself walking uphill I'd think, "Tim is waiting for me!".

My navigation was spot on; I had great direct lines, even though the 'green' sections of map where you can't even see 10-metres ahead.

The Night O stands out as one of the highlights of my 15 years of orienteering. I love navigation. I love running and I love running at night. Can't go wrong really.

From the coaching side of things, Night O isn't just a fun night activity. It forces you to concentrate for extended periods (I was out for about 1h20) - serious concentration. It also eliminates information from your surroundings because it is pitch black out there and you can't see that far ahead. Also, you see little peripherally - only what is illuminated by your headlamp beam. You have to focus on compass work and direct line of travel, on defining what features are important and what are not and you have to be accurate.

On one control I was on the 'wrong' side of a fallen-over tree trunk. I didn't see the control flag. I walked about 10m further and knew I was too far. Turning around I saw another runner who had, by then, come up behind me and he'd hit the right side of the trunk to find the flag. Seeing him definitely helped.

The rest of my controls... I totally rocked it. The kick! The euphoria! The sense of satisfaction! More than once I'd stumble (stumble being the totally correct word) through bushy baby pine trees (double my height) growing below their parents on the forest floor, over rocky, pine-needle covered terrain and straight on to my control. I did whoop a few times.

What made this activity even more rewarding is that this was the first time that I've done technical orienteering navigation in the dark. Night park events, Metrogaine... these are child's play. A forest in the pitch dark... now that really is the ultimate night orienteering fun. An even more challenging forest in Europe... oh my goodness - sign me up!

Another highlight of the weekend for me was the silly warm-up before the Night O. I had the original 'Hokey Pokey' song saved on my mobile and I hooked up my little speaker. So there we were standing in a circle, on a forest road, in the pitch dark, headlamps on. The song started up and we followed the instructions putting arms in, hips out, bums in, legs out... What made this extra fun was that under cover of dark, inhibitions were abandoned, especially by the teens, and everyone totally got into this silly party-classic song.

Photos from Monday morning - mostly from the fun Star Relay.
Our orienteering youngsters are a really good bunch and I thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with my friends and fellow coaches, Nic, Zig and Tania too as well as the other helpers Stephanie, Ant, Paul and Glynn. We were spoiled with superb catering by Cally throughout the weekend and you just can't go wrong staying in the sweet town of Kaapsehoop and blessed with four days of perfect weather.

I hope to crack the nod for next year's camp too ;)

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Street running at Metrogaine Jo'burg

I get such a kick out of organising the Metrogaine Jo'burg events because there are so many great aspects to it.

Looking for interesting control sites can be a challenge in some neighbourhoods. Luckily the Parktown / Rosebank area and surrounds have houses with interesting gates, walls and sidewalk gardens.

I also enjoy turning these features into clues with funny (ha ha) answers (or funny clues with funny answers). I probably start with about 80-90 control locations and then I cull them as I see the checkpoint distribution taking shape and where I want to guide (or lure!) the runners to. I only have space on the clue sheet for 55 clues and I'm limited in points allocation - only 10 controls per points allocations (20s, 30s etc). I think this was one of my better points distributions. While planning I saved my working file to show you the points distributions with colour.

And then there's the map-drawing part. It really is good (time-consuming) fun to create maps. I think that this was my finest map, with its doodle illustration - thanks to a great suggestion from Robyn to include a doodle.

A new addition to Metrogaine are crowns for the winners of the 90-minute and 60-minute courses. It looks like these are going to be much-coveted items. I'm not big on prize givings so the crowns also serve to differentiate the course winners from the rest of the participants.

Lucky Miya and Michael Crone (90-min winners) and Sarah Pope (60-min winner; Sarah’s teammate Magi Lingnau had already left when this photo was taken!). Metrogaine, where a bit of silliness is very welcome. *grin*
The weather was a bit wonky in the late afternoon with an odd drizzle. Thank goodness it cleared up beautifully but still some pairs didn't show. Nonetheless 76 very enthusiastic and eager pairs did participate. They looked fabulously bright in their colourful clothing, reflective bibs and headlamps.

I had help from a wonderful bunch of friends - they really made the evening smooth and efficient. And they're great company too.

There's a write-up with links to results on the AR Club website about the event.

Next one looks to be 18 June - on my birthday. Will confirm details as soon as I know.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Hi-Tec Shade, road shoe (review)

I've been running the Hi-Tec Shade road shoe for about a month now and I've put 150 kilometres on to them - a good distance to have developed a good feel for them and an opinion.

The Hi-Tec V-Lite Infinity was the first Hi-Tec trail shoe that I wore. Light as a feather, it took a while to grow on me, which it did. I've been wearing the Hi-Tec Shadow trail shoe for a few months and while it is comfortable and has been good on all kinds of terrain, I prefer the Infinity for its snug fit and tactile sole.

On road I ran regular cushioned shoes for decades and for the past 18-months or so I've been in the Inov-8 Road-X 255 (men's). Its a broad shoe with a 4mm lift (the heel sits 4mm higher than the forefoot). I've been happy in it across distances from a quick 5km to 30km road races. I sometimes run my well-worn Asics Gel Fuji Racers (trail, men's) on road too - these are the shoes that saw me cross over from cushioned to minimalist.

This shoe model is the Hi-Tec Shade. It's a road shoe. I'm running the men's model in a very lovely blue and silver colourway.

Women often think that they can't / shouldn't wear men's shoes and I don't think that men even contemplate wearing women's models. For the most part, colours are different and the lasts are shaped differently. Women's shoes tend to be more narrow in the mid-foot and they often have a more narrow heel cup. I've very rarely had a women's shoe model in trail or road. I try them all and go for the one that fits best, and it is often the men's one.

Fit is far more important than the label on the box.

Apparently this shoe takes its heritage / inspiration from the Hi-Tec Silver Shadow, but as I don't know this shoe at all it means little to me.

If you wore the Infinity happily, you'll feel totally at home in the Shade. The two are definitely closely related.

When I opened up the box to pull out the shoe it was almost like what happens when you lift an empty milk carton that you expect to be almost full. Whoops!

My shoe is a size UK 8 (US 9) and it weighs... 185g per shoe.

Compare to the following (per shoe weights):
Asics Gel Fuji Racer - 269g (US 9.5)
Inov-8 Road-X 255 - 267g (UK 8)
Flip flops (Gisele Bundchen) - 174g

Feet are generally more narrow in the middle with a wider spread at the forefoot and across the toes. Both the Hi-Tec Infinity (trail) and this Hi-Tec Shade have a weird shape. They're very uniform - like a dugout canoe. Instinct says that this just isn't right but reality and experience have shown that it isn't an issue (for me) - neither on trail nor road.

Putting your foot into the shoe it feels like you're pulling on a slipper. The upper is smooth and uniform. There's no stitching other than around the lace 'cage' to secure the loops that the laces are threaded through. You can very comfortably wear these shoes without socks. The silver-coloured, heat-welded strips maintain the shape, form and support of the upper.

I think it is because the upper is soft and conforming that it doesn't matter much that the upper looks so uniform in shape - the upper allows your foot to spread. The last (what your foot sits on with the sole beneath it) has more shape. You can't judge this book by its cover.

How much lift?
This shoe has a 10mm lift - the height differential between the forefoot and heel is 10mm. Can't say that I've particularly felt anything different in my running to my Inov-8s with their 4mm lift. But I'm a forefoot striker anyway.

The longest distance that I've run in these in one chunk is 25km. I'd definitely wear them for longer distances too.

The slipper-like upper moves with your foot and the toe area bends with your toes (it doesn't bunch, which is what happens when the volume above the toes is too high). This shoe is streamlined with no excess nonsense.

The sole is light and thin-ish, yet it still cushions. This isn't a racing flat. I like this sole because it is thin enough that I can feel what is under my foot and my foot can spread and bend and move unrestricted. The shoe protects my foot from the tar and stones but it doesn't try to limit movement.

My feet are generally always blister-free, especially on road, so I can't comment much here. The smooth inner means that you're incredibly unlikely (impossible even!) to get hot spots caused by the shoe. If you do, look at your socks and any trail debris that has been kicked up into the shoe. They will be the culprits for sure.

I looked up the price online. Get this... R499! Considering the price of running shoes these days, I didn't expect less than R1000. How cool. Get two pairs.

Here's the thing... If I'd pulled these shoes on in the shop I don't know if I would have been convinced to buy them.

Sure, there are no lumps and bumps and the foot-in feel is good. It's that canoe shape that just doesn't seem right and my first concern would be that the forefoot is too narrow and that my toes won't have enough space to spread. But, in practice it has no effect (on me) and within minutes of heading out I don't even notice it. The challenge is that when you're spending money on shoes, you'll rule out shoes for reasons like this - I would.

The lightness, which is the shoe's most significant feature, is quite alarming. We (me) tend to distrust something that doesn't feel solid because we think it will fall apart. I've put 150km on the shoes and, aside from being a bit dirty, they look like the day I took them out of the box.

I have only worn these shoes for the past month or so. They've superseded my Inov-8s (road).

They're my full-time, first-choice shoe to wear at the moment. I'm doing a 30-odd kilometre run in them later this month and I'll certainly put a good couple of hundred kilometres into them over the next couple of months.

As I always say with shoes, you can't just go on what people say or what the shoe looks like. You do have to go to the stores (many of them), put on many shoes (remember to take your socks with you) and walk around in them (run on the in-store treadmill if they have one). And if the shoe fits your foot, buy it.

These shoes were kindly sent to me by Hi-Tec to try out. I'm not paid by them and I have the freedom to say what I want to.

Trails in Motion Film Festival (Night 2)

Tonight I was back at The Bioscope for the second night of the Trails in Motion Film Festival. I'm so glad that I decided to do both nights because I'd have had FOMO either way. Where night one had three shorts and a main feature, tonight we had eight shorts to medium-length films (four films at 3 to 8 minutes and four at >25 mins).

The movies on both nights have had the most lovely profiles on runners - within the story of the film. The films show where these people live, where they run and train regularly, preparing for events, races... By the end you feel like you've made a friend; that you've had the opportunity to get to know them. You're cheering for them through rough, rough patches in races and you get choked up when they cross the finish line - or withdraw.

The scenery of places and races has been just fabulous and the videography in many of the films is spectacular. 

What the runners featured have in common is dedication, commitment, endurance, good planning, a lot of thought and consideration and just a deep passion for running - their way. 

TIMFF, like Banff - and FEAT - is a celebration of the body. Of its ability to tolerate heat, cold and mega distances. Of its ability to get up near-vertical ascents, to descend like a dassie and to move jauntily over mountains, through valleys and across plateaus. For hours. And hours. And hours.

Watching movies like these is inspiring. Whether you have any interest in running 100 miles or not, watching other people doing so puts a spring in your step.

Again the films triggered memories - of running the TransRockies Run staged race in Colorado with another journo, also named Lisa (Go Team Lisa!). The film about the run in Sabah, Borneo reminded me of the week and a bit I spent there for the Mildseven Outdoor Quest back in 2004. I got to summit Mt Kinabalu! There's another event in Sabah, other than the one in the film, where runners ascend and descend Mt Kinabalu in one shot. Lung busting! And this event got me thinking too of the dear friends I made there. And from here my mind goes to other races and places and special people.

The only bad thing about these wonderful events and places that I've had the fortune of visiting is that I've met really wonderful people who live in other countries (the 'bad' aspect being that they live in other countries and not down the road from me). And of the many wonderful people there are the very special few who become fast friends from the moment we set eyes on each other. I've seen some at other events or when I've been travelling and, if possible, I try to pass through their cities en route to visit. Seeing each other can be many years apart but when we see each other it's like we were swinging in our jungle hammocks next to each other only two days ago and not 10 years ago. 

First prize would be having them here to shoot the breeze and to play on weekends. Thank goodness for second prize, regular 'contact' through Facebook! Friends, you're so in my thoughts and heart tonight. I do miss you. 

The TIMFF screenings in Jo'burg tomorrow and Friday nights are fully booked. And that's it for South Africa this year.

If you're reading this from elsewhere, TIMFF may be coming to you. There are screenings in the US (San Fran and New York), Canada (Squamish), Finland (Helsinki) and Spain (Barcelona). You can read more here -

James, thank you for presenting TIMFF. I look forward to seeing what you have in store for 2015!

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Blood donation #36

Donors can donate blood every 52 days and following my donation a few days before xmas, I was due in mid-Feb. I tend not to donate within a few weeks of big races and with the Pelinduna 70km on the cards for early March, I decided to wait. The race was cancelled and I've just been a slacker.

This morning my donor buddy, Darrell, Whatsapp'd a photo of his visit to his local SANBS donor clinic in PE. We're on the same 'schedule' - he has also been a slacker.

His pic was perfect motivation for me to go along this afternoon to my clinic. 

It is always a pleasure to visit. The staff are friendly, our new fancy coffee machine thing makes delicious hot chocolate and the cookies are a winner (cinnamon are my favourite). It's a quick process too. A few mins to do the forms (yes, my blood is safe to donate), check BP and iron. Took seven mins to fill a pint. Then another few mins to chat to the sisters and the girl next to me, finish my juice and cookies. Ba-ba-ba-boom.

I'll only make it to #40 next year... but at least by then end of this year I'll be able to equal and then exceed my age - a pint for each year.

One of the sisters said that the National blood stocks are 0.9 days... they like to have a five-day supply on hand. This is b.a.d! On the positive, I saw two other donors there. I don't always see other people.

As I've said before, don't go to donate unless you intend to become a regular donor - at least three times a year. Once-off donations are a waste of resources, blood and good intentions. You can check the SANBS website for clinics (fixed and mobile). 

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

First Aid in date. Check.

Over the past two days I've been on a first aid course. Just a Level 1. I've done about three of them in years gone by and also a Level 3, which must have been back in about 2003. I've been out-of-date for a long time. Too long.

While I remembered the basics of CPR and dealing with bleeding, I really appreciated the refresher. We all had our own head-and-torsos to practice on and I found doing multiple cycles, as you'd do in a real situation, to be really beneficial for practicing technique.

Something I've never done before is to use an A.E.D. These are the portable, anyone-can-use defibrillators that are in malls, airplanes and other public venues. They're all over the US. You pretty much turn it on and it tells you what to do. This was a good thing to see and use.

This afternoon I volunteered to be the victim in a scenario. I had a play-play wound on my right leg that showed a bad fracture with a protruding piece of tibia. With some dribbling blood. And also a gash on my right arm.

Then there was the full-body CPR mannequin, which was lying a few metres from me, flat on his back. Unconscious and not breathing.

They were told that there was a wounded female and she'd heard a scream. The scene was set in such a way that I'd heard a scream (from the dude) and as I'd turned to look I'd fallen off the table that I was standing on to wash the windows and had broken my leg. The dude had been bitten by a snake, which is why he'd screamed. There was a plastic snake under a piece of paper lying under the one side of his body.

My classmates were sent through in groups of four. This was actually a superb learning situation for me because I got to see how everyone else reacted.

The four generally split into two pairs with one to help me and one to help the guy. Of the four pairs attending to me, only one actually spoke to me to say hello and ask what happened. The others immediately started wrapping bandages around my arm and leg. There was a sweet lass in the last group - she sat next to me in class, who was the only one to reassure me that I'd be ok. Very sweet.

Not all groups removed the hazard (fallen over table) and none called for help; although one pair called for an ambulance for the guy, but didn't notify them of me and my protruding bone.

The pairs with the guy were funny about the snake. Most didn't see it, kneeling on top of it to do CPR. Two pairs picked it up to fling into the bushes. I couldn't help but laugh, interrupting my Oscar Award-winning performance. None removed the 'live' electrical wire and other hazards.

The first three first aid steps are Hazards (make the area safe for you and patient), Hello (say hello to the victim, tap them to gauge consciousness and responsiveness and ask what happened) and Help (phone for assistance).

It's amazing how in this timed training situation all three went out the window. I may have done the same thing.

But even though my rescuers didn't say hello to me, one thing I do know for sure is that they all wanted to help me and even though all but one spoke to me, they were so sweet every time I groaned and squiggled in response to them putting pressure on my wound or trying to lift my leg. Very sympathetic and caring.

I like to think that I don't panic and would have a cool head in an emergency. Fortunately little grosses me out. I've only been in a serious emergency situation once... maybe it was 16 years ago (heart attack, outside, at a post-tournament dinner). I assisted my team mate - he must have been a 5th or 6th year medical student at the time, with CPR. Once others brought the big first aid kit to us, I turned to ventilation using a squeezy ventilation bottle thing while he did the chest compressions.

I don't remember how long it took the ambulance to arrive but they were then there for an hour or more, continuing resus in the vehicle. Before the ambulance arrived I do remember vaguely people standing around, including the man's wife, as we were trying to help him. I don't remember much else. My full attention was on the patient. He didn't make it.

I'm really glad to have taken these two days to get my First Aid certificate in-date again. The refresher was well worth it.

Trails in Motion Film Festival (Night 1)

This year's Trails in Motion Film Festival (TIMFF) runs over two nights with different movies on each night. I never look at line-ups, knowing I'll enjoy what ever is on offer anyway... and as I couldn't decide between night 1 or night 2 and suffering from FOMO, I decided to just go to both. I'm glad that I did.

Tonight's line-up included three sweet, shot movies - a few minutes each. The main feature was a full-length film on the 2010 running of the Western States 100, a gruelling and gnarly 100-miler (160km) run in California. The movie is named "Unbreakable". Without saying too much, it was a really good and captivating film, even if you've never heard of the main runners. For me it was also an excellent opportunity to see the terrain of the Western States.

I first heard of the race more than 10 years ago and it caught my interest back then. It's a race I'd definitely like to do; and I'm even more keen having seen what I'd be in for. This is when nasty is nice, very nice.

This evening I squeezed in a quick run between getting home from Day 2 of first aid course and heading out to the film festival. It was one of those runs where five kays felt like two kays. I was ripping up the tar tonight and loving it. Far better than those evenings when two kays feels like 10 kays. I also had a really good run at the orienteering on Sunday... I've been doing a lot more longer runs recently and rocking PBs on Gilloolies, so perhaps these shorter, fast runs have been just what I needed.

So sitting watching "Unbreakable" tonight... My feet were itching terribly for an ultra. I'm having flashbacks of ultras from years past. Before I started writing this blog.

In the movie were a few people that I've met. David Horton was interviewed. He's an American trail legend... One of the few finishers of the Barkley Marathon, previous record holder of the Appalachian Thru-Trail and creator and organiser of an awesome ultra in Lynchburg, Virginia - the Mountain Masochist 50-miler. Well, it's "50-miles if you believe in fairy tales" as the race's song goes... The route is closer to about 90 kilometres rather than 80. I ran it back in October 2004 (I have a dear friend who lives in Virginia on the race's doorstep).

I had such a good run at Mountain Masochist. I rocked the first 30 kays and then felt quite awful until about 40 kays. From 40, it was like I was running on air. My friend came to find me at an aid station around 60km and he said I looked as fresh as if I'd just started running (he may have been lying but I certainly felt great). Over the last 20 kays I was eating up the people in front of me. What a great day that was! I'm sure I have a belt buckle somewhere from MM. I particularly remember a section after 40 kays, up in the mountains. It was the beginning of fall and high up the trees had turned. I was running on a red-gold avenue of leaves.

Two weeks before MM my friend and I ran as a relay pair in the Mountainback race in Pennsylvania. This race was quite an adventure as I missed my flight to Pennsylvania from Washington and ended up driving through the night with some other guys from the same flight. I couldn't drive in the US and needed them to help get me through to the race - there were no more flights. We got to my hotel, where my friend had left the key to my room in the door for me, around 4am. I got about two hours sleep and then had to get to the race.

It was a relay ultra and so my friend and I alternated running and driving between the designated relay points, changing over every 3-6km. We had a super day and even ended up catching teams with many more people. I ran the last leg in the rain - it was lovely. My friend drove some of it next to me cheering me to the finish for our team. Great feeling. We were the first-placed 'Supra Pair'. I think about 8h40 for the 80km forested route. We both had very stiff legs the next day from the stopping and starting throughout the day.

Another face I recognised in the movie was Beverly Anderson-Abbs, who I met at the H.U.R.T. 100 in Hawaii in January 2006. I hooked up with my friend from Virginia plus his friend for this race. I was initially aiming for the 100-miler but during my third 32km lap I knew that I wasn't going to make the 36-hour cut-off. This is a wickedly evil race where each lap has three big ascents and three big descents. It was the downs that seriously hammered my quads. I had to walks down stairs backwards for two days after the race.

Not many runners make the 36hr cut-off. Over the first two laps I was running near a previous women's race winner from a year or two before. She ended up continuing on to the 4th lap but didn't make the cut-off. I'd made the right call on taking the 100-kilometre course option. About 20-hours and 6th place. I should have made the decision to run the 100km earlier... I could have run less conservatively (thinking I was in for 160km) and aimed for a higher placing...

All things considered, I had a good race there. I didn't have a good build up to the race in the weeks before as I came down with chickenpox (probably caught on the flight to New Zealand where I was writing for Southern Traverse) about six weeks before the race (at the age of 29!). Being a viral infection, and an adult case of chickenpox, I was banned from running for four weeks. Still, it was a really good experience.

Beverly won the women's 100-miler race. She was also in an incredible overall placing. I can't remember what it was now... Top 5? I'd suspect something that good. She was dead tired afterwards and with few helping hands around in the early and dark hours before dawn I 'looked after' her for some time. Amazing runner,

And then in the video I spotted Adam Chase pacing the then 22 year old Kilian Jornet. Lemme see... Where did I first meet Adam? Maybe at the TransRockies Run staged race in Colorado in August 2009? He's also an adventure racer so maybe at an international AR before this? Adam was also at the last Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge in Dec 2010 - racing in a media team. He's also a journo and the author of a really good book on trail running (it's called, "The Ultimate Guide to Trail Running"). I see there's a newer 2010 2nd edition (for Kindle too).

And then I met the amazing Kilian Jornet briefly at a Salomon thing in Pretoria in 2011. Always nice to see these runners in person.

All in all watching this movie set in motion a load of memories that are playing in my head... of people and places and races and wonderfully fabulous times and runs and memories.

And I'm itching to run. Right now! Far. Long. All night.

I'm looking forward to my North-South Adventure Night Run later this month with Rob. We've got a 30km planned to my friend's house. I know these itchy feet are not going to stop itching so I think I need to make a few calls, open Google Earth and take another look at a delicious route I planned a few years ago, but never ran. It should make for a good ultra to scratch this itch goodly and thoroughly.

I'm back for Night 2 of trail movies tomorrow. Who knows what I'm going to cook up after those films!

Monday, 7 April 2014

Metrogaine Jo'burg at Zoo Lake (Mon, 14 April)

Metrogaine Jo'burg time again! This one is in celebration of's 13th birthday!

Full info on how Metrogaine works on

I hope to see you there

[Early bird entries at R110/pair close at 18h00 on Tuesday - 8 April. DEADEST DEADLINE for late entries at R140/pair is Sunday (13 April) evening at 18h00. I've got goodies to order so early entries really help me to gauge numbers.]

Thursday, 3 April 2014

First quarter - bye-bye

First quarter of 2014 is gone. Oh goodness. Bye-bye.

The joy of aiming for PBs

In November last year I started trekking (too steep to run!) up Gilloolies once a week. I started with two repeats and progressed to four (although I sometimes just do three). I was consistent for a few weeks and then got distracted and skipped a few weeks. I'm kinda back to it.

My previous personal best (PB) was 6:30 for an ascent - from rock to rock. Two weeks ago three of my four repeats beat or equalled this (6:17, 6:20, 6:30, 6:45). Yesterday I got my first sub-6 with 5:54. Hip-hip-hooray!

So, now to see whether a 5:30 is possible... it may take a few weeks yet but should, in theory, be doable.

The trail (not the one in the pic below) is very overgrown and the trail is gnarly with chunky and loose rocks. Loads of blackjacks too. It's helluva steep but is proving to be really good training.

Thanks to running buddies who join me there - initially Michael and more recently, Jason and Rob.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Happy 19th birthday, my kitty

In May, 19 years ago, a little, scraggly tabby kitten snuggled into my arms and came home with me from the SPCA. We designated 1 April as her birthday as she would have been born in early April, being only a few weeks old when we got her.

I named her "Bracken" after a mole from Duncton Wood, a lovely book written by William Horwood (first in a series of 3 - I think Bracken actually makes an appearance in the second book, Dunction Quest).

This kitty stole my heart from the moment I saw her climbing up her cage at the shelter and she hasn't released it since.

My kitty celebrates her 19th birthday today.

She's in superb health and aside from regular old age afflictions of being a good deal deaf (she can see like an eagle and pick up scents like a bloodhound) and not being able to jump up on things, she's in fine fettle.

As she has aged, she has become more sweet, communicative and affectionate. A far cry from the teenager who wouldn't let herself be picked up and cuddled - not a chance!

I know that I won't have another 19 years with my precious... so every day is treasured and I can only hope to have her with me in good health for as long as possible.