Thursday, 31 December 2015

Blood donation #41 at my new donor centre

I've been a bit off kilter with my blood donations but yesterday got in my 3rd for the year at the donor centre in Potchefstroom. My last was in early August (my 40th donation), I did stem cell registration in September and I usually do October so that I'm good for the week between xmas and new year. This year I missed October.

There is a mobile clinic that comes to Parys every few months - I'll get the schedule in January.

The Potch clinic is located near the university, which means it is busy and well attended in term time. The SANBS nurses there (I met two of them) were friendly and welcoming. The cookies that they have are different to the ones in Jo'burg. They're individually packaged (you get two in a pack in Jo'burg) and the cookie is smaller. On the plus side, the ginger one is tasty.

At this time of year, blood stocks are low because of all the car accidents over the holiday season so the blood bank is always in desperate need of donors. When you consider that a trauma patient may need 30 to 60 units to save their life... yeah, they need a lot of people to donate regularly.

Looking at the SANBS 2015 Annual Report (for the first time), around the country SANBS operates 84 blood banks in hospitals in eight Provinces (not Western Cape - they have their own Transfusion Service), they have 82 permanent donor centres and every day there are mobile clinics (around 3000 a year!) that visit schools, businesses and communities.

SANBS has been focusing on increasing their base of black donors, which is now at 38% of all donors.

They have an 87% return rate! One of the highest in the World. And they got 13% new donors. I hope that they only count donors as new once they've got their regular donor status with at least three donations in their first year. As you know, once-off donations do not count.

Here's a short video from The Citizen newspaper featuring the SANBS communications manager.

Interestingly, once they've separated whole blood donations into the three components - platelets, red blood cells and plasma they can only keep the platelets for five days, red blood cells for 42 days and plasma they can freeze for up to three years.

Remember, once-off donations DO NOT COUNT. They test your first donation and hang on to it until your next donation. They use the plasma from the first if your second test is clear and they wait for your third donation to come in (within a year from the first). Once all three donation are clear of infectious agents (HIV, Hepatitis, Syphilis) only then will they use your whole donation. That's why it is important to become a regular donor, making three (minimum) to six (maximum) donations every year.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

parkrun RD fun

This past Saturday I had the pleasure of being the Run Director for the Parys parkrun for the first time. I fortunately had great support from friends, family and regulars who volunteered: my mom, Liz, and our friend Marianne doing timekeeping, Celliers taking photos, Ferdi (regular participant) handing out finish tokens, Isaac (regular volunteer) on barcode scanning and Vincent (regular volunteer) marshalling at the turn-around point.



Liz & Marianne

Our turnout was a bit smaller than usual with only 44 participants, probably due to the rain the night before. What the rain did do was to bring down the temperature making it one of the most pleasant mornings in a long time.

Everything went smoothly and I even got the results out without any glitches.

We've got baby joggers, a good number of children running on their own, old folks and lots of walkers who head out to enjoy the route and morning with us.
You can see more photos - showing how pretty our parkrun is - on the Parys parkrun Facebook page.

This Saturday I'll be running and then I'm RD again on 26 Dec.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Flat-water fun

The Likkewaan Canoe Club is our local paddling club in Parys. It lies just outside of town (Jo'burg side) on the left bank of Vaal. Thing shades lawns, big trees and weeping willows. It is a beautiful location.

On Thursday last week we took our plastic Epic V7 surfskis to the club. I've only once been on a surfski - a double, many years ago off the Kloof coast in Durban with an adventure racing friend. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience although I felt a bit queasy on our return route coming back with the runs.

Our Epics are one of a kind. Celliers moulds them and ours are ones that he used to test two different plastic colours. Mine is green, his is orange.

They're smooth. Never again will a fibreglass kayak (K1, single or K2, double) be the same again. Plastic moulded, the Epics are heavier than a racing kayak and they're sit-on-top instead of sit-in.

The body of the V7 is silky smooth and it cuts through water. Made for surf, it is quite a dream boat on flat water too. The element that stood out for me the most is the foot pedals for steering. It has a shark-fin, carbon-fibre rudder at the back of the boat, under the hull. Smooth carbon-fibre foot pedals control the direction and what ever they're doing with the cables works beautifully. Very, very smooth to use and the surfski responds beautifully.

I'm paddling with my regular wing paddle.

There's also a shorter plastic surfski model, the Epic V5. It is a bit shorter and a bit wider and thus, a bit slower than the Epic V7. The Epic V5 was recently launched with this fabulous video that shows off the boat's capabilities. I'm loving my V7 and I'm itching to try the V5 too - I think it will fit perfectly on my roof racks.

Being a watery activity, I haven't taken any photos of the club nor the magnificent stretch of Vaal River that we're paddling.

There's a weir just below the clubhouse (and across the main channel on the other side of the island) and from the put-in we paddle upstream for about two kilometres with houses on one side and island on the other. Paddling anti-clockwise, we round one of the many islands and paddle downstream in the main channel, skipping again between islands further down to get back into the side channel where the club is located.

We just did one loop last week and one loop yesterday (time trial is two loops at around four kilometres each). My paddle arms are coming back slowly.

My mom came along for her first paddle. We put her on a Fluid Chumani single sit-on-top and she did beautifully.

Every Tuesday is time-trial at 17h00 and mom will be joining us regularly. As she says, a few more sessions to learn and then it is competition time. Fiesty, that one is.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Biking about town

My plan with living in Parys is to totally soak up the small-town benefits - like having everything so close. 

After a few weight-bearing errands in my car - dropping kids, collecting my mom, picking-up cement pavers - I dropped my car and headed off on my bike to complete errands that could fit in my backpack.

It is so much cooler (temperature and appeal) and more fun to charge around town on my bicycle. My town riding bike is my Qhubeka -  a solid, steel-frame, single-speed, back-pedal-brake bicycle. I feel totally ok chaining it to a pole outside stores too. 

My mom lives two minutes from me - by bike. It is lovely to race along the river back and forth to her place. There is still lots to do there (unpacking and handyman stuff) so I'm between houses regularly.

I've got a nice basket that I can cable-tie to the rear carrier to make it easier for shopping and carting things around that don't fit in my backpack.

When I've been in town in the past I haven't done much bike commuting. It really is such a pity because this is a great place for it. I certainly feel guilty about hopping into my car to head to the shops when it is a short walk and bike away. 

Mom hasn't been out on her bike yet. We're planning to ride together later this week to check out the location of important stores and facilities so that she gets to know her way around. Bike is so much better for this than car. I've spotted many potential Metrogaine locations already.

Yes, definitely more biking for all of us. 

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Dealing with stuff

My move to Parys has happened and I'm delighted to no longer be commuting between JHB and Parys. Even though my former home and current home were only 124km apart (1h15 drive), it was taxing. I can now barely get into a car and a delight in riding my bike between my home and my mom's new home (yes, she's also in Parys).

Temperatures have been roasting and today is another scorcher. We're all indoors, in our respective homes, dealing with stuff.

For my mom, she still faces boxes to unpack. When I arrived this morning she was looking glum indeed. As she says, she has boxes still to unpack and just doesn't know what to do with all the stuff. She's planning on a garage sale.

For the kids, they have to sort out their rooms.

Ruben's room wasn't too bad to begin  - he doesn't have a load of stuff. But things didn't have rightful places and little goodies needed to be grouped and placed into tubs so that he can easily find them to play. Also a sorting through of books that he no longer needs, fluffy toys that can be given a new home and such.

Ruben's drawer - AFTER
Kyla's room is chaotic. Draws and shelves of randomly distributed and tangled things. She doesn't know what she has. We don't know what she has. She can never find anything. The issue is not as much that there is tons of stuff, but that it is never put back in any order and nothing has a place. She's not too keen on dealing with stuff so this will take a while.

Kyla's drawer - BEFORE
For me... I've been in the process of moving to Parys for a few weeks. Each time I drove through I'd bring stuff. Some would be packed away; other items would be dumped to be dealt with later. Today I'm dealing with 'later'.

We're busy building a bigger 'toy room' for Celliers' toys and my toys. We're both active and outdoorsy with many sports - biking, running, paddling, orienteering, adventure racing, camping... that means stuff that needs to be accommodated for frequent and intermittant use.

I work from home so my home-office is a functional centre where almost anything can be made, laminated, coloured in, glued, cut...

And then I've got my crochet hobby... I've got separate containers for different types of yarn and also for on-the-go projects.

Yeah, stuff to be dealt with.

As much as I may wish to be free of stuff, I need a functional office. I'd love to have a 37-item capsule wardrobe, when you've got running gear for all seasons, it blows your item count (my regular-wear clothes are probably in the 37-item range).

Celliers is mostly sorted - inside the house. Once the toy room is done we'll have to get in there to organise and arrange stuff. And then we'll need to get into the garage to organise tools and making-stuff-things.

Yeah, a day to deal with stuff. Much need by all of us.

UPDATE: Ruben is sorted. Kyla mostly so. She wasn't so keen on us throwing out / giving away stuff (she is far more sentimental than me and Celliers) but she dealt with it well and her cupboards are looking great.

Monday, 23 November 2015

parkrun Run Director training

I thought I could stay below the radar for a bit... but it is not to be.

I attended parkrun Run Director training on Saturday morning. The Run Director is responsible for organising the volunteer team for the morning (marshals and people to scan barcodes, hand out tokens, open gates) as well as the run briefing and results.

We're trying to get five RDs so that we only take turns every few weeks.

Our Parys parkrun is quite small with 50-65 runners each week. No congestion, no bottlenecks and quick results. We do get some out-of-town parkrunners coming through and expect more in December when visitors come to Parys for the holidays.

It's a pretty route that starts from town and runs along the river. The route has a double loop, which makes it child friendly. We've got a good number of children taking part regularly. Kyla and Ruben have done about five parkruns now and they've both been out on their own. With the loops, we can keep an eye on them and the other parkrunners always shout words of encouragement to the young runners.

I especially enjoyed the results logging process. It really is a nifty system. What I didn't realise is that the volunteers also get logged on the system - receiving points for volunteering - and, where participants receive their results on email, volunteers receive a thank you email. Very sweet.

What? You don't know what parkrun is? Oh dear. Read this and remember to register on the parkrun website to get your personal barcode. It's all FREE. Print it before you rock up at a parkrun (don't arrive without your barcode!)

My RD first RD role comes up on Sat 12th or 19th Dec. The children have already volunteered to hand out tokens and both Celliers and my mom are sure to be roped in too. An instant volunteer team. Perfect!

See Lisa roll. Roll Lisa, roll.

I'm chuffed. On Saturday afternoon we headed to the Gatsien rapid on the Vaal River for my first river session in my Bazooka white water kayak. We had the kids with us on sit-on-tops plus two visiting German kayakers (Jan and Stephanie). We weren't the only ones out there. With water levels up, there was a fair party happening on the water.

Not where we were paddling... just a view of part of the river on my way out of town on Sunday afternoon.

Celliers started off showing me some paddle strokes and then we went across to an eddy so I could practice my rolls - especially as I only learned last weekend in a swimming pool.

BOOM - up I came. Yee-haa! I did it again. Yay!

Then we messed with some ferrying into the current. We started with a strong one and I had two swims - I came out at a funny angle and didn't even try to roll.

And then Celliers told me something really useful. He said that if I capsize in a rapid I'll be in a lot of turbulence.

"Just wait," he said. "It will get calmer and then roll. Don't even try in the current and turbulence."

A little while later I was playing in the main stream, crossing from one side to the other. I haven't quite got the hang of 'edging' the kayak - tilting the downstream side down (lifting the upstream side up). I flipped over.

I could feel the turbulence and I just waited, paddle in my hand.

Within seconds it was calm and I got my paddle into position but just as I started to roll I hit more turbulence. I waited - upside down in the water and folded over close to the boat.

It calmed again and in one stroke - BOOM - I was up. And there was cheering from the bank behind me.

Super, super cool.

It seems that in messing around at rapids there's a lot of bobbing and sitting on the water that happens. Really not good for my constitution. I felt a bit green. I've only ever raced down rivers so I've never been river-sick. Bobbing on the water isn't my thing. I'll need to take some anti-nausea meds for this - but maybe I'll adapt?

I'm not in town this weekend, unfortunately, but my full-time move happens in a week today. I'm itching to hit the water again.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

I'm rollin'

There's a significant advantage to having the founder of Fluid Kayaks and designer of all Fluid's boats in your life. Your boat ownership ranking goes up and you have access to a fleet of his boats too. Although he's no longer involved in the running of the company, all of the kayaks produced by Fluid are his designs.

For xmas last year I asked Celliers to teach me how to roll. This is a white water kayaking skill where you're able to right yourself (in your kayak) should you capsize. The idea is not to end up upsidedown, but it happens. And if you can roll right-way-up again instead of swimming - all the better.

Finally, on Saturday, we went to a friend's house to use his pool and Celliers taught me how to roll. I've got a lovely, green Fluid Bazooka.

We started with basics, like capsizing and staying underwater to get the feel of being upside down in the kayak. And then popping the spraydeck to swim out. And then lots of hip-rolling drills holding on to the side of the pool. Then capsizing with the paddle in your hand and popping the spraydeck to swim and then starting to learn the paddle motion to provide resistance to use your hips to roll the kayak right-way-up.

There's only one problem.

I get really queasy! I don't have a strong sea constitution and while my tolerance lasted for a considerable time, all the rolling and bobbing on the water started to turn me green!

I had to get out a few times (fast!) to sit on the side of the pool. I couldn't even look at the kayak bobbing on the water!

Fortunately I don't get seasick paddling down a river, but if I am just sitting in the boat and bobbing... and especially if I'm bobbing and have to focus on something - like getting the spraydeck on... goodness. My tummy turns.

By the end of the session I'd done a number of rolls on my own but I wasn't up to getting on the river. So we had a picnic on the bank instead.

I'm keen for another - shorter session - on the pool. My constitution should be good enough to head down to the river to play there a bit. And then I'm in for a session on the river. The water is very low, but there are decent sections.

I'm really excited about improving my river skills and especially to learn a new paddle discipline - white water kayaking. Parys is such a wonderful lifestyle location for river fun.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Old friends

When I last moved home, a few years ago, I left my books in boxes. Three years ago I sorted through them. I got rid of a few, kept some and sectioned off others with the aim of creating an adventure-book library, which I planned to have at a friend's sporty store. The books sat there for a year - in boxes. I collected them and they've been in boxes in a cupboard since.

Last week I moved my books to my new home in Parys and put them on their own bookcase in our new home office. I am so delighted to have all my books together. Handling each one to place it on the shelf brought back memories of the stories and adventures, the people and when I read it.

Of course, I have colour coded my bookcase again.

In addition to books, my bookcase also has some friends collected on travels.
The challenge is always to remember what colour books are - to find them again. But the pleasure too is in searching for a book and finding other gems instead.

A close up of red-orange-yellow
A close-up of green-blue. I could do with more green... Indigo and violet also low. I've got lots of white and black.
Celliers is definitely a lot more sharing than me. He thought our books would mingle. Funny.

When it comes to books, my books are my books; his books are his books. He's welcome to take and read any book at any time; but mine have their own bookcase. I have a very possessive book 'thing'.

Where Celliers organises his book by categories (kayaking, travel - by country, mountaineering, biographies and such), mine are arranged by colour. Now that he has seen this, he's quite pleased that my books are not mingling. And he won't let me colour-code his bookcase.

"I won't be able to find anything!" he says.

Between the two of us, we have the most incredible collection of paddling, mountaineering, climbing and adventure books. It will take us many, many years to read the other's books.

My mission now is to paint the bookcase white to better show off the colours of the books. hahahaha

Saturday, 7 November 2015

The value of attending Trail Magazine's trail running clinic

This afternoon I had the pleasure of attending TRAIL Magazine's trail running clinic as a presenter.

I had the most superb topic 'Small things that make the biggest difference'. Oh, I know! Soooo many things! It was a challenge putting together the content and distilling 16 years of experiences and learnings into the most critical 'small things'. For days, and even still now, more and more keep popping into my head. It's those little things that you don't know starting out but that you learn with time and experiences and mistakes.

Big small things, for me, include (from the head down:

  • navigation skills (useful even on marked trails - observation, 'feeling' where you have to go)
  • a well-fitting backpack
  • emergency items (space blanket, personal first aid kit)
  • how you pack your stuff (I'm a creature of habit in what and how I pack - I know what I have and I can find my stuff in the dark; ziploc bags rule)
  • supportive sports bras (important for the less endowed; well endowed ladies should consider wearing two! Girls, look after the girls)
  • not trying anything new on race day - not even a tee (sounds so simple but yet soooo many people go against this fundamental 'rule')
  • trekking poles (all conditions! and also useful in emergencies to create a shelter or splint a broken limb)
  • Ahhh... most, most, most important - good foot care (preparation and prevention is the goal; thereafter it is knowing what you're prone to, how your blisters are caused and how to deal with them before they become a big, big problem)
I really think I need to do a whole foot care session at a clinic. I touched on a bunch of elements and yet this just so critical to running pleasure and success. There are fundamentals - like cutting and filing your toenails - that runners err on. Again and again and again.

I got to participate in Peri Zourides' strength session. It was an excellent reminder of all the things I neglect to do! 

While I missed Ryno Griesel's session earlier in the day, it was great to catch up with him and to find out what he covered in his hill-busting session. I missed out on his presentation where he spoke about how he juggles his commitments (work, family) and high-level training. This is something I've been really struggling with and will continue to do so as I move away from Jo'burg and have to let go of many things. 

One thing that Ryno said that really resonated was that there will always be things you don't get to or can't give your full attention. You just have to make peace with these. He's so right.  

Lovely to meet Heloise in person after a year of email comms (she works at TRAIL mag) and to see Chris Crewdson, Craig Gornall, Derek Smythe, Elsali Gehm and a lovely group of enthusiastic participants. Tomorrow Anca Wessels (biokineticist) and Neville Beeton (coaching and training) are presenting. 

Chris and I were chatting afterwards and we both agreed that there is so much value in attending clinics like this when you're starting out. The presenters have all learned from their experiences and they pass this on to the participants - some with little experience and others with more. We all develop our own ways of doing things - from what gear we rely on most to how we care for our feet. These are learned from experience and trial and error. Many errors. At clinics you learn from the mistakes that others have made and get guidance on how to get the basics right from the beginning. This will pave the way for a lifetime of wonderful running and participation - without the same mistakes that I made, for example, 16 years ago. As Chris says, "Why reinvent the wheel?".

This is the second clinic that Deon (publisher and editor of Trail Magazine) has organised (the first was in Durban).

Keep an eye on for others. There's a mailing list you can sign up to for direct notification of planned clinics. 

I've been on orienteering clinics and all have been so beneficial.  It is well worth trading participation in a race to attend clinics on offer. You come out of it far richer for learning from and sharing in the experiences of others.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

10km night road run in Potch

A few weeks ago I took a look at the road running calendars for events in Vanderbijl, Sasolburg and Potch. A good way to make new friends in a new place is to mingle with runners. There is a club in Parys so I'll probably hook up with them for weekend runs.

I found a few events and one of these was the SupaQuick 10km Night Race in Potchefstroom, which I ran tonight.

Compared to Jo'burg races, this one was quiet... like going to lesser known road races in the early 90s. Very, very pleasant indeed. Maybe 250 people on the 10km? And as many on the 5km? 

With the recent cold spell, the temperature this evening was cool enough to be chilly when standing around, which made it absolutely perfect for running.

The race started promptly at 19h00 from the Rugby Stadium and it didn't really stray too far. A 3km loop brought us back to the stadium and then past the Snowflake flour mill and past the front of my old high school (Stds 6 & 7) - Potch Girls High. We ran straight down for a couple of long blocks, turned the corner and then ran back along the top of the blocks to the stadium.

Although the route lacked creativity, it was certainly an easy to manage at night. There was also a 5km fun run and they were on part of the route too.

The marshals were great and well placed and traffic control was excellent - and the cars that were stopped at intersections, waiting for the runners to pass, didn't hoot, shout or abuse the marshals either. Small towns have their merits.

There were four water points and all were well manned and friendly. The chilled water sachets even had bits of ice in them. If tonight's temperatures were as hot as last week's these would have been greatly appreciated. As they were, the cold water was lovely.

I ran a very easy and comfortable 53:22 - probably too easy, but very pleasant nonetheless.

So that was my first road race this side of the Vaal. I'll have to check again for more. 

I'm sure I'll head to the Sasol 21km in Feb... it was the second-ever 21km that I ran in about 1999 and my one-and-only marathon in 2000. I returned to run the Sasol half in 2012 with friends Fred and Michael. Time to go back again.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Leicester Road School Class of 88

You know those things that end up in a box at the bottom of your cupboard and they live there until you move? I've got a few of these and while I know they're there, I haven't been inclined to do anything about them. Moving is a great way to get rid of stuff and while I'm not overly sentimental, there are a few things that I've hung on to for many, many years.

I went to Leicester Road School, a primary school in Jo'burg's Kensington suburb. The school turned 50 in my last year there and is still going strong. I had interactions with the school earlier this year for our orienteering schools league.

Our school uniform was quite ghastly and I still don't wear orange, brown or beige! The school uniform has changed so these are relics.

Our summer uniform, which I didn't keep, was a beige dress with buttons up the front and with orange cuffs on the sleeves and collar. We wore this with white socks and brown shoes.

In winter, joy of joys, we swapped to a long-sleeve white shirt, a chocolate-brown pinafore, the school tie and long chocolate-brown socks (or brown stockings) with brown shoes. Yeah, super attractive.

Last week I hauled out a shoe box containing a few primary school mementos. This is what I found...

My phys ed clothing, purchased before I started Grade 1 in 1982. I wore these all the way until Standard 4 (1987) when they really, really were too small for me. My mom bought me a new tee shirt and shorts for my Standard 5 year - I remember them being really big (see pic below for comparison).
Old tee and new tee. The new tee was too big but better than the too-small original tee bought six years earlier.
One of many name tags that my mom had to sew into my clothes.
School tie. Yuck! Girls had to wear ties in winter.
School badge from the front of our chocolate-brown winter pinafores.
Class of '88 tee shirt - signatures from all Standard 5s

A tea spoon, produced in 1988 to celebrate the school's 50th birthday
Is this the run that started it all? All I remember from this event is that Wally Hayward was there. He was already 80 years old at the time (born 1908; died 2006) and I remember being super impressed that such an old man had beaten me.
I phoned the school to ask if they have an archive - and they do. I dropped these off with the school. They'll have their 80th birthday in 2018 so these may come in handy, especially as the uniform has changed.

Now, that I've passed on the physical items, I have just photos. Easier to move them anywhere.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Moving across the river to Parys

I've had a very unsettled and disjointed year commuting between Johannesburg, where I grew up and have lived since I was five-years old, and Parys, where Celliers lives. We started seeing each other late last year and while I was initially there on weekends, I've spent many a long weekend and snatches there during the week for much of this year.

I've found it really challenging to focus on work, planning events, participating in activities and keeping up with friends and family while living out of a bag (often on both sides, not just in Parys), getting used to a new town and adapting to children.

A move was in the pipeline for months and it has taken a while to get a good gap with few commitments Jo'burg-side to make the transition.

I'm mostly moved and find myself now packing clothes from my cupboard in Parys into a bag to stay in Jo'burg.

My mom is also moving to Parys! Yes! I know, it's great news. We found her a lovely house two blocks from us and one block from the river (we're also a block from the river - around a bend from mom's house) and so she moves, with Bracken - our 19.5yr old cat! - at the end of this month. I'll be fully moved by then too - when my kitty arrives in Parys.

It's a big move for both of us but as we both work predominantly online with little necessity to be in any specific place, it works.

We're looking forward to small town living too. Potchefstroom, where I spent Standards 6 and 7 at school, is only 45km away in one direction and with Sasolburg and Vanderbijl 45km away in the other direction if we need specific shops or a mall. Everything else we need is in town.

Of course there's the Vaal River for paddling activities and plenty of dirt roads and trails for running and mountain biking. We have the Parys parkrun every Saturday morning and it takes me less than five minutes to jog easy to the start venue from home.

I finally got my instant family to come to the Parys parkrun about two months ago.
Ruben and Kyla have done three; Celliers has done four (and he set a new PB this past Saturday on his own - without the kids)
And, it only takes 1h15 to drive to Jo'burg. 125 kilometres. It can take this long (or longer!) to drive from Sandton to Fourways.

The only problem with this proximity is that Parys is close enough to drive through relatively easily... Which will make it tough to pass up activities unless it really is worth making a 250km round-trip. Parys is close enough to Jo'burg for it to take a while for me to learn to let go.

Of course I'll have no shortage of activities to keep me busy in Parys. I have, of course, got a number of locations on the cards to map for orienteering, including an Extreme O event... I still have my regular work for clients, organising of Forest Run and FEAT (and probably a Metrogaine - in JHB and Parys) and a project that Celliers and I will be working on together in the new year.

Then there's the garden that I've just started on (we pulled out everything that was there and I have a totally clean slate to work on), the children every second week (for the whole week and weekend) and a bunch of paddling, playing and exploring to be done. Life will certainly not be dull nor short of activities in this Free State town.

I'm back in Parys on Wednesday and aiming to do a 10km night race in Potch. A good opportunity to mingle with other runners from around the place.

Although I've always lived in the city I've always felt like a country lass at heart. I'm looking forward to a quiet December to find my feet and to settle into my new home.

Telling stories

Last week I went to a story telling evening - invited to attend by a neighbour. None of us knew what to expect.

My neighbour thought that the storyteller, a woman she knows, would be telling stories of African folklore.

My mom thought it may be something along the theme of 'Whose line is it anyway?' where we, the audience, throw out words and the storyteller uses these to create stories.

Me... I was just keen to go along.

It turned out to be none of these.

The woman told us three stories. All three were from her personal experiences. No exaggeration. She has a wide vocabulary and good use of words to paint pictures.

The first one was quite funny and entertaining. The second one was fairly concerning, alarming and disturbing - about an experience she had in hospital at the Johannesburg General Hospital - now Charlotte Maxeke Hospital - back in the day when it was still called the Jo'burg Gen.

And the third story... We were all ready to get out of there during the story and by its conclusion we were just about digging under the tables for our bags to beat a hasty retreat.

Truth really is stranger than fiction and what some people (granted, the woman is more on the eccentric side of things than not) think is OK is not ok for everyone - that is a given.

There are definitely themes that are not appropriate for a wider audience, especially one that doesn't care for religious/ceremonial/cultural animal sacrifice. Also, what a person believes (gods, ancestors, Santa) is their thing.  Sangoma or not, I don't believe that spilling blood is necessary for speaking to ancestors. But, that's what I believe (and the other five women at the table with me) - but millions are OK with this.

For me, this is just not content for an evening out with friends, pizza and storytelling.

The only thing I did agree with the storyteller about is that storytelling is a very fine art. An evening spent listening to stories is a wonderful evening indeed. For me, that's what FEAT is about - a night of stories of adventures.

A while back I finished 'reading' Roald Dahl's 'The BFG' to Ruben (7) and Kyla (10) in installments - on nights when I was with them. English is their third language and it is not yet quite strong enough for me to read English books to them straight. So I use the book as a guide and tell them the story in Afrikaans. They loved it and towards the end proclaimed my Afrikaans "much improved". I recently started 'reading' Enid Blyton's The Magic Faraway Tree to them in a similar fashion. I remember very little from it - do you remember Moonface too? - so telling this story is as much a treat for me as it is for them.

Yes, storytelling - whether reading, making them up or relating an experience.

But, not all experiences make for suitable stories - depending on your audience.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Navigation fun on mountain bikes

Two Sundays ago we had the 5th mountain bike orienteering (MTBO) event of the season. There's one more to go - on Sunday, 22 November at Groenkloof Nature Reserve in Pretoria.

In a nutshell, this is what MTBO is all about...

You start individually in a staggered start - an interval of one or two minutes between participants.

 There are three courses: short (8km), medium (15km) and long (20-22km).

At the start you get a map on which the checkpoint locations are marked.

Also all the tracks and paths are marked and the thickness of the lines indicate how big or distinct the track is. Vegetation indicated (green, beige, dotted) is useful, but reading just the black paths will get your around the course. This is not rocket science! (children can do it).

And then you start and ride from checkpoint to checkpoint (in number order) until you get to the end.

There will be junctions where you have route choices but for the rest you can do what you want. It's like treasure hunting on your mountain bike - excellent fun.

And then it is good entertainment to shoot the breeze with other bikers afterwards to compare routes.

Attendance at MTB O is low - sadly. It's helluva fun and gives a great twist to mountain biking. It's like mountain biking with an objective - to gobble up checkpoints as you race around the course. Of course, you don't have to race... you can ride as you wish and enjoy your time out there and the scenery.

I hope to see you at Groenkloof on Sun, 22 November 2015.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

7th fabulous FEAT

The 7th annual FEAT event came and went last week Thursday and it always takes me a few days to digest the wonderfulness of the event resulting from the sharing of stories by a wonderful group of adventurous people.

I wrote about FEAT Kids the other day - the first one here. FEAT Kids has been immensely successful in Canada - but less so here. Not for the quality of the talks nor adventures, but for attendance. Nonetheless, I do hope that this will improve next year. Every one of the 'kids' would have been just as divine on the FEAT stage. I'm hoping that FEAT Kids will grow in stature to parallel FEAT.

FEAT was great - a smooth event with great talks. I really hoped to fill the Linder Auditorium - we were 100-odd short last year. We were a bit less this year so perhaps next year will be the one where we line the rafters too.

As for the talks and the speakers...

I am indeed charmed to have the fortune and pleasure to interact with a superb group of people. Throughout the year I communicate with a bunch of adventurers around their expeditions and it can be challenge whittling them down to select only 10 for the FEAT stage. I look not just at extremeness of adventure, but for variety in type of adventure, accessibility and sporting discipline. I could easily put another 10 wonderful people on the stage every year.

Let's see who stood on stage...

Beautiful Linder Auditorium. The venue seats just over 1,000!
Everyone - Colin, Bianca, Pete, Andrew, Tim, Duncan, Hazel, Bernie, me, Keegan, Jean and Nic.
Andrew Porter has spent a lot of time on his own - and with friends - in wild places, like the top of the Drakensberg. 
Bernie Theron trekked across Iceland, on his own, over 27 days.
Father-and-daughter pair Colin and Bianca Cooper go on back-to-basics, low cost cycling adventures all over SA on their steel frame, back-pedal, single-speed, indestructible Qhubeka bikes.
duncan Paul was a late bloomer, coming to adventure only 15 years ago. And has he caught up! He has done a variety of adventures but spoke to us about the Yukon 1000, an unsupported race down the Yukon river.
Hazel Moller puts Forrest to shame. She is an incredible ultra long-distance runner. She spoke to us at FEAT about running 10 x Comrades distances (from JHB to Durban) over 10 days (the 10th being Comrades)
Jean Craven has done the six inter-continental swims and it all started when he was on honeymoon 15 years ago. He stood on the Rock of Gibraltar, looked across at Morrocco and thought something like, "It can't be so hard to swim that".
Keegan Longueira started off his adventures by using his December varsity holiday to cycle from Witbank to Cape Town. After three of these he went BIG by cycling from Cairo to Cape Town - and in World Record time.
FEAT Canada brings back past speakers to MC the event and so I adopted their approach this year by inviting Peter van Kets to join me on stage. We had good fun together up there.
Nic Good is an adventure film-maker extrordinaire. He shared a bunch of elements from his 20 years of travels and film making.
Peter van Kets not only had his arm twisted to be our MC, he also was enticed into speaking about his recent expedition to Svalbard.
Tim Biggs totally charmed the audience with his stories of kayaking expeditions on the three main tributaries of the Amazon. First to last expedition took place over a period of 23 years. Inbetween these - and still going strong - Tim has done dozens of other kayaking expeditions.
We go into edit the beginning of next week. Videos of these talks will go up on the FEAT website and also FEAT South Africa Facebook page for you to enjoy too.

Friday, 9 October 2015

First FEAT Kids yesterday

FEAT Day has come and gone and what adventures we had yesterday.

FEAT Kids was the first event of the day with a focus on younger speakers and a younger audience. Although public uptake and response from schools was dismal, through various channels we invited a bunch of teens who thoroughly enjoyed the talks and were quite blown away, especially as this was their first exposure to anything of this nature.

My friend, a past speaker and dad of one of our FEAT Kids posted this on Facebook this morning:

(L-R): Robyn Zimmerman, Keegan Longueira, Paige Raw, JeanJacques Wallis, Kai Fitchen, Sam Stainton, Bernie Theron and me. Photo by Darron Raw.
Dangerous company! I am not sure whether I should be a proud dad or worried about the influences of Paige standing between such a vagabond bunch of adventurers: Peter Van Kets a professional adventurer of oceanic proportions; Robyn Zimmerman, a Springbok Scout who challenges stereotypes; Keegan Longueira Guinness WR holder of the fastest cycle trip across Africa, Jean-Jacques Wallis, arguably one of the best parachute, wingsuit, base jump and speed flyers in the world; Kai Fitchen, youthful mountaineer and environmental conservationist; Sam Stainton, top-top sport climber and Bernie Theron, who hiked across Iceland self-supported... and personifies the spirit of adventure itself - don't plan too much - just do it! And of course Lisa De Speville - the queen of adventure in SA. #FEATSA

Darron's daughter, Paige, is the youngest speaker to grace the FEAT stage at only 13. And she charmed everyone with her well-presented talk. Her video is going to be a must-see.

I couldn't sum up FEAT Kids any better. My reply to Darron...
Darron Raw, father of FEAT Kids speaker Paige Raw, understandably concerned... But, considering that Darron is also a past FEAT speaker (October 2010) and is far more a vagabond adventurer than most, I think he can sleep easy about his daughter being in our company xxx
These FEAT Kids are hardly 'kids'. They're responsible and adventurous teens and young adults and everyone of them would be absolutely divine on the FEAT stage too. Having two events allows me to weight the FEAT Kids with youth and leave the more mature folk to FEAT - with a bit of youth for balance.

Bernie Theron

JeanJacques Wallis

Kai Fitchen

Keegan Longueira

Robyn Zimmerman

Samantha Stainton

Paige Raw