Monday, 30 March 2015

The best time to go fishing (and running)

I often think of that sentiment: "Any day you're too busy too run is a day you're too busy".

Damn right.

I'm totally guilty of getting caught in the same trap even though I know that getting out for a 30 minute run won't cause the Earth to blow up nor the sky to fall down. But I have gaps in my training log because I do get in a state when I have endless lists and never enough time. And when I run less I feel worse and then everything feels like it is going to implode.

Today I stopped in at my local nursery to get some flower seeds. They have a coffee counter there. A framed poster on the wall caught my attention. It had a fish on it (looked a bit like a mounted fish).

It read:
"The best time to go fishing is when you feel like it"
an image I found online

Same goes for running eh? (the only issue here is when your tired, lazy-ass mind tells you that you don't feel like it?)

I haven't run with my husky friends for weeks and weeks. The most convenient days to get the husks are Mondays or Fridays when the domestic worker is there - the gardener takes them on Wednesdays and their dad takes them on weekends. My Mondays have been non-starters with the orienteering schools league stuff and Fridays have been equally rushed and chaotic.

Today I left home just after 11am to collect the dogs and I thoroughly enjoyed my in-the-middle-of-the-day run with them. It felt decadent and indulgent and I loved it.

Toscana (left) and Angel (right)

Me and Toscana's nose
I'd like to confidently proclaim that I'll 'sneak' off more often... but I know the reality is different. But for my sanity - and the dogs' fitness - it would be a good thing to do indeed.

I've got my annual pre-birthday running game coming up soon. I decided to start this year's '39 Days of Running' early (on 25 April) to complete my 39-consecutive days on 2 June, the day before I depart for Expedition Africa, where I'm under no illusion that running every day isn't going to happen. My game was a mess last year because of this (and a sore knee that I bashed into a rock!) so starting early should smooth things.

This annual game always serves to remind me that 30 mins a day is very, very doable. For this period I totally prioritise this game and myself and it works. The rest of the year... I am guilty of letting other things get in the way.

Now is certain. Tomorrow is not.

At races you get to meet really lovely people; and more so during small-field staged races where you spend days together. And very often it is the people that make these races more than the race, location and scenery.

In March 2013 I had the most wonderful opportunity to run in the five-day Namib Desert Challenge for a second time, having run the inaugural event a few years before.

One of the guys that I spent a lot of time with was Dave Gunner, who was out here from the UK with his brother Paul to participate. We ran all of stages 3, 4 and 5 together and as such he is pictured in many of my photographs -  a fine model to showcase the route and scenery and terrain of the race.

It it with sadness that I heard today of his passing from a few weeks ago.

Dave fell ill just after June last year and was diagnosed with leukaemia. He had a bone marrow transplant, which went ok but in January he got a lung infection. He passed away on 7 February 2015; his heart, which was under too much stress, had had enough (information on his health from a family member via a common running friend).

Dave's company and conversation on those long, long stretches at NDC made the race all the more enjoyable and memorable. Reading my daily blog posts and looking at the included photographs is a fresh reminder of the good - but tough - days we spent traversing the Soussousvlei area. We were well-suited running companions.

With 'English Dave' at the end of Stage 4 on top of Dune 45.
The passing of a fit and healthy running friend whose route through life has been cheated out of so many hundreds of kilometres is ever a reminder that for all of us that tomorrow is never a certainty.

Now is.

Stage 5 - Dead Vlei and only a few kilometres from the end. Photo by Hannisze.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Metrogaine Jo'burg on Wed 8 April 2015

With two weeks to go, event and entry info for MetrogaineJo'burg on Wednesday, 8 April 2015 is up.
We're starting from Fred's Mindful Runner store in Emmarentia (1 Olifants Rd).

As usual…

PAIRS at R140/pair

PRE-ENTRY only (please, please, please)

60min or 90 min course options

And before another person how asks me how far it is…

You've got a limited time (60mins or 90mins).

What you do in this time doesn't matter to me. Walk, run, crawl, sit-under-a-tree, go for coffee nearby. All that I'm concerned about is that you're back before your course cut-off. You can do what you want - whether 1km or 18km - just don't be late.

As it is school holidays, bring your children. Start 'em young.

I hope to see you there.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

I still don't get Twitter

Yes, I am on Twitter. In fact, I have two accounts. One is for FEAT-related content (@AdventureFEAT) and the other is mine, which I use for adventure racing/running/event content (@AdventureLisa).

I'm not very good at using either and although I post tweets here and there, I don't 'follow' anything or anyone on Twitter with any regularity. Actually, with none at all.

It's probably because I administer a bunch of websites, Facebook pages and email group lists that Twitter is, for me, the straw that breaks this social-media camel's back.

A few years ago I followed the Red Bull X-Alps event online with live tracking, and with Twitter. There were not that many people on Twitter and the content was very constructive - like notifications by followers of the weather conditions, when competitors were taking to the air.  This meant that I didn't have to keep an eye on tracking all the time and if something what happening, we found out about it immediately on Twitter. But now, with thousands more people on Twitter now, there's just too much traffic and nonsense to make Twitter of any use (I'll stick with online tracking).

And I enjoy using and following Twitter for Expedition Africa, where all tweets relevant to this expedition adventure race are hashtagged #expafrica.

For me, Twitter is that much of too much although I do appreciate that it is the social medium of choice for many.

When you die options

I don't want to be buried in a coffin. What a waste of space and money! And while I'm all for cremation, it doesn't seem such a waste to set fire to a body that still has a biological (and ecological) contribution to make and to just scatter the ashes to the wind.

I read the book 'Sky Burial' a few months ago. It's a lovely story named after the Tibetan funeral practice "in which a human corpse is placed on a mountaintop to decompose while exposing to the elements or to be eaten by scavenging animals, especially birds of prey" (tnx to Wiki for the definition).

Although we have vulture conservation and feeding programmes here, they're not quite up with presenting human carcasses to the birds. Imagine! A stash of human skeletons on top of the Magaliesberg! My mom doesn't fancy this at all - she doesn't want to be rolled off the back of a bakkie* and left for the vultures to pick clean.

* The rolled off the bakkie part - stark naked - is more of a concern to her than being picked clean by vultures.

This News24 column by Andreas Spath presents a number of eco friendly options.

This column was written in light of the South African Eco Film Festival, which starts on Thursday with screenings in JHB, CT, Pretoria and E. Cape.

On Monday night I'm going to watch the movie "A Will for the Woods". The story includes a movement that uses burial to conserve and restore natural areas. In other words, bodies become tree food.

I F-ing Love Science posted this NatGeo video earlier this year on "What happens to our bodies when we die". Tree food makes sense to me.

With my love of forests, it is little wonder that the Italian project Capsula Mundi so appeals to me.
"It's the first Italian project created to promote the realization of green cemeteries in our country. Capsula Mundi is a container with an old perfect shape, just like an egg, made with modern material -starch plastic- in which the dead body is put in a fetal position. Capsula Mundi is planted like a seed in the soil, and a tree is planted on top of it. The tree is chosen when the person is alive, relatives and friends look after it when death occurs. A cemetery will no longer be full of tombstones and will become a sacred forest."

Unfortunately this project has not yet been realised due to legislative issues. (check them out on FB). Also here's a piece from 3 March 2015 on IFLS. Here's their 'What to do when you're dead" edition.

Something like 56-million people die around the World each year (South Africa has the highest mortality rate in the World but a quick search online only gives murder numbers and not overall death numbers).

That's a big forest.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Crochet-a-long obsession

There's this thing I discovered earlier this year - 'crochet-a-long' (CAL). The one that I'm doing - Sophie's Universe - is a blanket that is built up round-after-round. Every Sunday the next part of the pattern is published online and there are thousands of people around the world who are following this. I've just completed Part 9. There will be 12 in total. Part 11 was released yesterday... I'm little over a week behind.

I started the project as a 'stash buster'. A 'stash' is the yarn you have lying around; leftovers from past projects or yarns you've bought for projects and yet have never used. I try to be disciplined in only buying yarns for current projects but over time yarn accumulated.

At first I had some good colours to work with but at a point I was facing the doom-and-gloom of black, brown and beige. So I folded and bought a spread of colours from the yarn store to embrace the rest of this project.

I've completed 74 rounds and tonight I'll start Part 10.  

There's a page for this project on Ravelry (a sharing platform only for knitting and crochet) and also a closed group on Facebook. Although a colour scheme is published with the pattern, you can do whatever you want and I love seeing what other people are creating using the same pattern. 

I've got two friends who are also doing this CAL and sharing my progress with them and vice versa is great fun. 

I just can't get enough of this! The only problem is that work and event planning and organising gets in the way - I just haven't had enough time to do big chunks. But I do try to get in a round here and a round there as opportunity presents and bit by bit my blankie is growing. I'd like to try to get up-to-date with the pattern during this week. 

I don't know how big it will be nor what the rest of the pattern looks like. Week-by-week I roll with it as the next pattern part is released - and this makes this project even more fun!

I'll be sure to share the end result with you in a few weeks.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

EcoMobility World Festival in Jo'burg and changing my thoughts

As the administrator for my club, Adventure Racing Club, I get a bunch of emails from the Provincial sporting bodies to which we are affiliated. One of them is Central Gauteng Cycling and over the last few years I've seen comms here and there regarding the plans and implementation for making Jo'burg a cycle- and pedestrian-friendly city.

I haven't paid too much attention to it as the commuting areas are not where I live; and as I work from home, I'm not commuting to an office daily.

But, headway has been made and cycle lanes - with barriers - are being constructed like in areas like Auckland Park, which has a high density of students (Wits and UJ being there).

While the plans benefit recreational cyclists, walkers and runners, this project is primarily about commuters - people using their feet and bikes to get to and from work and also to decongest the city. It's about empowering people with regards to transport - instead of being trapped in a car or taxi, creating an environment where business areas are not just glorified parking lots for private vehicles but that have streets filled with people moving easily.

A few weeks back I saw an invitation to the launch of the EcoMobility World Festival, which will be hosted by the City of Joburg during transport month in October. I thought it would be something interesting to attend - and it was!

On Tuesday night the launch happened (here's a piece on the City of Joburg website about the launch) and I found the short presentations to be very interesting, especially the 'case study' from the first EcoMobility World Festival that was held in Suwon, Korea in September 2013. It was essentially a month-long car-free experiment and as the man behind the Festival, Konrad Otto Zimmerman, said in his presentation, this was less an exercise in transport as a social intervention. Being on the streets, not encased in cars, people communicated and interacted with each other. (read about the Results from the first EcoMobility World Festival)

And so, the Festival (the second one) comes here in October.

The short of it is that for the month of October Sandton CBD will be car free! You can move around in Sandton on foot or bicycle and also Metrobus... but you certainly won't be driving your car. And considering that 120,000 cars pass through Sandton DAILY... they couldn't have picked a better location to really make an impact. There will also be loads of activities throughout the month.

I'm sure there are a bunch of plans in place for people coming in from a distance but interestingly, as I learned, a majority of people coming into Sandton (I can't remember the stat but it was more than 70%), live within 10km of Sandton CBD. Amazing!

Oh yes, there are all kinds of logistics to consider like dropping children at school before work and a bunch of things like this that will impact people; but with park-and-ride and alternative options taking people into Sandton, it should be very workable - if people play along.

I've been very keen on commuting more by bike but, like many, I see more barriers than opportunities and I need to really get my head around this.

With a mountain bike I can ride on pavements pretty easily so cars are not a big issue to worry about.

Without bicycle racks at shopping centres (and quite rightly paranoid that someone will steal my bike even if I chain it up), going to the shops (I'm surrounded by them) is challenging. And I also don't want to be hijacked either and my bike stolen.

Yesterday I had a meeting in Norwood, which is over the hill from me and less than 10km away. It was a perfect opportunity to commute by bike. That my bike was in Parys (I've got it back now) made it not an option; but had my bike been here it would have been perfect.

And I can't think of a single person I've met with - work or social - EVER who would mind if I rocked up on my bike whether in cycle kit or cycle-friendly clothing. And I'd just love it if people rocked up on their bicycles to meet with me.

The only other thing to take into account is time. I think to myself now that I would have had to leave a half-hour earlier for my meeting... but when you consider that loadshedding, broken-down truck, accident, traffic lights out can make a car commute take longer than a bicycle commute...

I am determined not to be as much of a lazy, car-commuting, scaredy-cat as I have been. Joburg only becomes more commuter friendly when there are more people are commuting. A lot of my movements are within a cyclable distance and I don't always have to cart around more than what can fit in a backpack. There's also a difference in intensity between cycle commuting and really riding my bike, like for exercise. Of course I can use the latter for the former; but it doesn't have to be so.

Interestingly, the two ladies at my table were from Decongest. They import electric bicycles specifically for cycle commuting. They do cycle tours to show people thecurrent cycle routes on Thursday and Friday afternoons. They have a 60-minute electric bicycle tour starting from 44 Stanley in Auckland Park. You need to pre-book - great way to try out an electric bicycle too.

From my side, what I do need to do is to investigate cycle-friendly shops where my bike will be safe and to put pressure on those I regularly use to put this in place, if they haven't already.

And I need to look at time differently. I've been wanting life to slow down a bit... maybe this is a good way to do it.

This is going to take a mind change to look at walking and riding as a way to commute and not running and biking as just sports. I'm all for it; now to make the transition from thinking and believing to doing.

Sandton may be the chosen location for the festival... but I can make my suburb my own personal EcoMobility Festival too - and not just for a month but all the time.

Check it out -

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Forest Forest Run Run

Ah... another super AdventureLisa's Forest Run this past Saturday. I had a very intense and busy week pre-race with tagging the route and getting ready for the marshals and runners. That said, an intense and busy week at Lakenvlei, walking through the forest and sleeping in a log cabin, beats a cool and calm day behind a computer any day!

With assistance from a wonderful team of forest fairies and elves as my marshals and route sweepers, the day went very smoothly. Conditions began cool and misty and warmed up during the day. I couldn't have planned it better.

Photographs from the race are out on the Forest Run Facebook, taken by my friends Maggi and Marcel (Sigg Digital). They beautifully capture the spirit of the forest and the runners and the event. Definitely take a look.

This is the newsletter that I sent out yesterday with results and some fun stuff.

The date for Forest Run next year will probably be Saturday, 12 March 2016. I hope to see you there.

With Robyn

With Peter, the blue fairy. He stole the show

With winners: Maz's husband, Maz Moore ("Coffin Dodger"), Magretha Wang (women's 30km), Naas Janse van Rensburg (men's 30km), me and Lorraine Boshoff (women's 60km)

With old friends Ian and Allison (brother and sister running together - very sweet) and Tracey
With my regular running buddy, Jason. This was his second 60km at Forest Run.

With Celliers - forest fairy and elf

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

parkrun cheaters (not cheetahs)

There's something that disturbs me greatly... people who cheat at parkrun.

If you've been living under a rock and don't know what parkrun is... It's a five-kilometres, free, times run that happens concurrently at dozens of locations throughout South Africa (usually parks or park-like areas) at 08h00 on Saturday mornings. Every Saturday throughout the year. (parkrun is also in other countries - just talking about SA here)

Some parkrun venues have routes that include loops. The benefit of loops is that unfit people starting out can walk only one loop (shorter overall distance) and build up steadily to completing the full five-kilometre distance. Those who only do one loop are not meant to go through the timing finish because they have not completed the full distance and they mess up the placings for people who have.

A few weeks ago at Woodlands I came flying through to the finish and just ahead of me was a woman who was walking... and walking slowly too. The marshals asked her whether she'd completed both loops. And she said "Yes!". Liar-liar pants on fire! There was no way that she could have beaten me. She wasn't even sweating!

My mom has had the experience (walking and near the back of the field) where she's seen walkers behind her but then they finish ahead of her.

I've chastised people cutting corners at parkrun. "I'm just trying to get ahead of  them", they say - pointing to people ahead.  Then out-run them, idiot.

People even sit on the side to wait for people (strangers and/or friends) who they walked with on the first loop, to return at the end of the second loop so that they get an 'appropriate' time at the finish and yet they haven't actually done the full distance.

Do they go home and proudly proclaim to friends and family that they did parkrun in 42-minutes?

And what about those that arrive late and then just hop in with the passing crowd?

You should all be ashamed!

The sad truth is that when people see an opportunity to cheat, many will. It is disgraceful. Where's that sense of achievement? If they can't manage five-kilometres now, they will in a few weeks and then how proud will they feel when they earn that full-course time?

It really is up to us to call out the cheaters and to remind them not to go through the timing chute if they haven't done the full course. I like to think that they day they do complete the distance and receive that time that they'll feel proud and appreciate having earned it.

This may seem like a small cheat but people who cheat at something as 'insignificant' as parkrun are certainly cheating in other areas of their lives too and maybe they just need a reminder to do what is right.

One of my favourite TED speakers is Dan Ariely - he's a behavioural economist and many of his talks were featured in the Think101 online course I did last year.

Here's one of his TED talks on why we think it is ok to cheat and steal (sometimes). The first few minutes speaks about irrationality and this links on at about 4:30 to simple cheating experiments and the irrationality behind this.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Struggling with time

It isn't as much that there's never enough of it... it's that I am losing touch with it. Memory for things, how long ago things happened...

I've felt like this for a while and tonight brought it home.

This afternoon I got the ESSA post mentioning that the speaker tonight would be Bernie Theron, speaking about his adventure across Iceland. Ah, I think, I wrote about him a few weeks ago.

I go to my FEAT website to look up Bernie and lo-and-behold... I wrote about him on 9 June last year!

And then I bump into a chap who I recognise but can't place. I thought I saw him at the end of FEAT in October last year. Nope, I chatted to him a month ago at the Parys parkrun! Fortunately I remembered our conversation clearly but geez did I feel like I was in a time warp.

And then I saw another guy - also out of context - who I haven't seen since the Namib Desert Challenge in March 2013. Tony, who eloquently coined the name "Leopard Piss" for the electrolyte mix available at the waterpoints. Tasted like leopard piss and worked a treat. Of course his face was familiar - but looking all cleaned up (neither exhausted, sandy nor sweaty) and in very fine form. March 2013 feels so much further away than it really is.

I've been doing quite a lot of driving the past few months so on longer drives I listen to audiobooks. The one I've most recently completed is a glorious tale of 18 months spent in the Alaskan wilderness - One Man's Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey.

The book (first published in 1973) is written by Sam Keith from the journal entries written by Richard Proenneke, the actual guy who settled in Twin Lakes, building a log cabin for himself and making everything from furniture to bowls and door hinges with hand tools.

The publisher's summary reads:
"To live in a pristine land unchanged by man... to roam a wilderness through which few other humans have passed... to choose an idyllic site, cut trees and build a log cabin... to be a self-sufficient craftsman, making what is needed from materials available... to be not at odds with the world but content with one's own thoughts and company. Thousands have had such dreams, but Richard Proenneke lived them. 
He found a place, built a cabin, and stayed to become part of the country.One Man's Wilderness is a simple account of the day-to-day explorations and activities he carried out alone, and the constant chain of nature's events that kept him company. From Proenneke's journals, and with first-hand knowledge of his subject and the setting, Sam Keith has woven a tribute to a man who carved his masterpiece out of the beyond."
The book is written diary-entry style and I was immersed from the first, even listening to the accounts of how many logs he chopped that day, the growing thickness of the ice, the birds and animals observed or the list of groceries dropped off by plane every few weeks.

Proenneke is quite a wilderness figure, much like Christoper McCandless. Looking online for the photographs that he took I discovered that there are documentaries too, compiled from the footage that he took. He returned after his 18 months there and stayed for another 30 years. The cabin be built and lived in still stands and it is looked after by National Parks.

Although the story took place in 1968/9, if you're in the Alaskan wilds (or any other wilds) today it would be the same thing. The key - no electricity, no internet, no phones. Without these it seems that time means something and a day is day where you can chop trees, strip bark and build a cabin with your own hands.

While looking at photographs online I stumbled across a funny, but apt, blog post. The blogger, Colin Rink, writes:
"As much as I appreciate living in the city with all it’s technological advances, there’s always been a big part of me that’s wanted to fuck off into the woods, and live alone with nature."
I'm sure many of you, like me, can relate.

Of course there's more to living in nature than talking to birds and baking your own bread... And Proenneke had a very specific skill set that made him the perfect candidate for a successful like in the wilderness. He served as a carpenter in the US Navy, then became an adept diesel mechanic, then worked on a sheep ranch and then was a heavy equipment operator and repairman on the Naval Air Station before working as a salmon fisherman and then for the Fish and Wildlife Service. This guy could build, make and fix stuff with phenomenal proficiency and he was certainly one with nature.


This is a superb book to listen to - probably even more so than to read it. One review on Amazon writes, "Listening was like going on a retreat!". And it really is.

It is simple and observant and has a singular focus. Most of all, it is peaceful, despite Proenneke's industrious and exploratory activities. This story is a retreat from now and technology and to a place where time seems to have far more measure and substance than it does now.