Wednesday, 13 December 2017

I'm not a morning runner but...

... I've run two mornings in a row at 06h00.

Earlier this year I enjoyed a number of weekly evening runs with my neighbour, Andrew. Then I got busy, he got busy with a lot of work travel and then both of us went through bouts of coughing and chest infections. We got out of the groove.

The other day, one of our parkrun friends suggests that we get together during the holidays to all run together - Gerhard, Andrew and me. We set up a whatsapp group. I add Sarel, who lives up the road and runs lots too. Gerhard adds Rob, who moved to town a few months ago and started coming to parkrun. Rob is a wily old runner.

Yesterday morning the five of us hit the road at 06h00 for a 12km run to the airfield and back.

This morning four of us ran through the golf estate (Sarel is out of town).

We're running again tomorrow morning (but not Friday, I think).

Early mornings have never been my strong point and they are less desirable because I am a night owl, favouring the quiet and still hours after 21h00 to work, especially if I have writing to do. I rarely go to bed before midnight and more often, these past months, I go to bed after 01h30. This makes it very hard to get up before my usual 07h00 / 07h30 alarm.

I made an effort to go to bed early (21h30 is early for me!) the past two nights and waking up wasn't a problem. Our meeting point is a quick jog from home and then off we go.

What I have especially enjoyed these past two mornings is getting home to a quiet, fast-asleep house, and sitting with Rusty outside in the garden. She still has a sore paw so she can't come with me. I felt awful leaving her at home yesterday morning but better today as she didn't even get out of her bed to see me off (but she was waiting and watching at the glass door for my return). Rusty is limited to walks still until her sore toe has properly healed - the vet thinks it is an injured tendon or ligament - no broken bones).

I'm definitely going to make a determined effort to join the guys for these morning runs over the next three weeks. Work isn't quite winding down yet but pressure is easing so getting to bed earlier is feasible now and over the holidays.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Friday nights are burger nights (8 veggie burgers)

I love these birds-eye view, two-minute videos that show you how to prepare some kind of meal/s whether savoury of sweet, baked goods. They're neat, tidy and efficient videos and usually offer quick and tasty cooking ideas.

My mom shared a video with me yesterday (she sends me lots of great content) that promised eight veggie burger recipes. I was hooked from the first and immediately decided to work my way through most of the recipes over the next few days.

In my home, Friday nights are burger nights. These are usually just patties (no buns) but sometimes we have a full deal complete with sliced tomato, fried onions, grated cheese and sauces - all in a bun.
For the patties - I experiment. I've done chicken breasts, home-made mince patties (many variations thereof, including with ground sunflower seeds, mashed butter beans or chickpeas), baby marrow versions, lentil patties, black bean patties and other combinations.

I've been in the mood for tasty veggie patties so getting these recipes was well timed.

Tonight I made the black bean burger. While the recipe calls for roasted red peppers, I just pan-fried chopped green pepper with an onion. I loved the combination of garlic, cumin and cayenne pepper and also the use of cornmeal (mielie meal) too. I served the patties with a dollop of plain yoghurt. I also tried mine with a bit of cream cheese - delicious! And served with a salad.


close up of the patties
Tomorrow night I'm going to try the sweet potato chickpea burger.

Here is the link to the video from Tasy Vegetarian (on Facebook) and this is a link to the recipes for the eight burger patties on Buzzfeed.

Let me know how your burgers come out.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Divine one-group-only campsite just outside of Parys

Friends who live just outside of Parys have set up a special campsite (Klipdas Boskamp) and trail on their property.

Karen, my mom and I went along on Friday evening - with our dogs - to walk the trail.

Rocksy and Rusty on the track

Karen and Jeanne-Marie disappearing ahead
It's about 3km in distance, runnable and mountain bikeable, and with lovely views of the Vaal River from the top of the hill.

The campsite (for a single group only) is too divine: waterless toilet and a donkey shower. Enjoy the scenery while you shower.

Campsite. A lovely fire area is to the right (out of photo)

'Donkey' for the shower. They salvaged an old geyser that washed up from the river, got a guy to weld it and used it to make this donkey.

Campsite kitchen

Waterless loo. Cunning!

Bush shower - with a view
If you appreciate nature, bird-watching, river and tranquility, this is a spot you'll love. And it is dog-friendly.

Rusty looking at the Vaal River
Kayakers, you can see Gatsien from the river's edge and it is a quick-and-easy paddle upstream to get to the rapid.

15 mins from Parys. Day visitors welcome too (on appointment only). Contact Jeanne-Marie directly 072 877 6153

If you'd like something more substantial over your head than the canvas of a tent, then Otters Haunt is the place for you. Also dog friendly  Rusty loves it here. On the river, lovely property and island to walk around and a number of accommodation options. Good old-fashioned fun to be had here in the form of being outdoors and enjoying nature.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Canine cookie marketing that worked on me

My Rusty girl is on a weight loss nutrition programme because she has a few kilos to lose (she came to me a bit heavy and gained another kilo on the first food we got). She isn't a big fat dog but as my running companion, it really isn't good for her joints to be heavier than she should be (just as carrying extra isn't good for humans either).

Of course, I love to give my special girl treats. She gets a tablespoon of leftover sauce/gravy with her special diet crunchies, if I have any on hand. She loves Beanos, even the Lite ones. She gets one or two a day. She especially loves the chicken liver dog biscuits that I bake for her, which I haven't done for about three months because of her diet. Any snack she has means a few grams less of her next meal.

She has been doing really well on her weight-loss programme. After being on a plateau for weeks, she is losing and is down 1.6kg. She has another 4kg to go to get to her goal weight of 17kg.

Today I went to the shops and a new box of Beano Lite was on my list. Next to the Beanos I saw this...


So, Beano Lite that tastes and smells bland but has a good crunch to it. Or this? Who can resist 'Superfood Biscuits'? Not me!

They look rough, they smell decent, they're crunchy and Rusty likes them (then again, Rusty likes pretty much anything). And they are similarly priced to a box of Beano.

What caught me was the whole superfood thing as well as the packaging. The styling is much like that of human sports nutritional supplements and products. It works for a sporty person like me who has a sporty dog.

Well done Canine Cuisine.

Rusty will be limited to one of these gems each day so they should last her a while. 

Lovely Ezemvelo Trail Run

This past Saturday I took part in the 21km distance at the Ezemvelo Trail Run. Located around 25km from Bronkhorstspruit, this is a superb property with lots of grassy, open space, small rolling hills with rocky tops. There are also some great cliffs and crags along the Grootspruit, a sweet river that flows into the nearby Wilge River.

This was a Wild Trails event and while I've heard the name of the reserve a number of times, I'd never been there before.

This entry was a sweet gift from Celliers. He entered me a few months back and it really was a treat to go there to run. He entered himself for the 10km, the longest run that he had done in at least 15 years (various knee injuries and surgeries).

At the start.
We were planning to camp there but a small chalet booking opened up two days before. It was nice to have the simplicity of staying within four walls. We did go take a look at the campsite, which is a really great space with lots of trees.

The 21km kicked off at 07h00 on the Saturday morning. This terrain is really runnable so I knew I was in for lots of running and not lots of hiking, which I had at Golden Gate Challenge.


The first 10km ticked over really quickly to the second waterpoint, where we then went into the rocky crags above Grootspruit.

Leaving WP2 behind and down below.
There was a lady behind me and a lady in front of me - so we got chatting as we walked. It wasn't running terrain for any of us.


The lady in front is an architect; the one behind a mining geologist with three children. With her oldest at five and her youngest at one, she has been out of running and training for five years. She started training again four months ago, has lost 15kg and is again participating in events. She is very thankful for her husband, who has taken on more child-care duties. What a great story!

The next 10 kays ticked over nicely and I enjoyed the scenery and sightings of antelope. Except for the rocky hilltops, the terrain is very non-technical and it makes for easy running.

At the finish, we chilled in the shade amidst other runners before retreating to our peaceful chalet for a shower, snacks, bird watching and a nap.

My dad is a very good bird spotter; I am not. But I'm trying. Here in Parys we have good birdlife, especially with fish eagles, Goliath herons, grey herons and long-crested eagles being my favourites - and the sweet crested barbets and brown-hooded kingfishers.

Sitting on the lawn at Ezemvelo with my binoculars and bird book (a pressie from my dad), I had the time to just watch the birds swirling around the tree. My top identification was that of a Diderick's Cuckoo. What a lovely bird! We also saw a delightful pin-tailed whydah and out in the field I'd seen a red-collared widowbird and a long-tailed widowbird (I saw these two the next day too). So now I have four birds that I have seen, identified and that I so far remember. Progress!

On Sunday morning we drove around the reserve and were treated to the sight of what we counted at around 280 eland! We have never seen that many eland in a herd - males, females and lots of young ones.

It was only a 2.5hr trip home.

Ezemvelo will definitely see us back again - it is a great spot for mountain biking too.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Looking at my rogaining route

This past Saturday was the annual rogaining event presented by Rand Orienteering Club. As I know the area, and had put out a couple of controls the day before, I opted again to run on my own as a non-competitive entrant.

The race rules this year were as follows:
The checkpoints (controls) were numbered and offered a selection of odd and even numbered locations. Participants had to start with either odds or evens.

You could swap from one to the other at any point within the limited event duration (3 hours or 6 hours) BUT one you swapped you could not swap again.

The idea would be to spend half - or more - of your time collecting say evens and then to swap halfway and begin collecting odds.

I added my own rules too.

  1. I had to aim to go to places on the property where I'd never been before (which was many of the control locations)
  2. Far controls that I would normally exclude, I had to get. If I looked at a control and thought, "I really don't feel like going there", I had to.
I had a really, really good day.

At prize giving, when I heard Nicholas Mulder and Kelvin Trautman's point score, I felt wholly inadequate. Nonetheless, I had a good day.

Let's take a look at my route:

To make it easier to see, I have highlighted the even-numbered controls in green and the odds in yellow. I started out on evens (green) in an anticlockwise direction from Thabela (bottom of map).

I made two mistakes - for the rest I was very, very happy with both my navigation, route choice and order of collecting the controls.

Mistake #1
Following my route from the start, I hit the first two controls beautifully. Going to #3, my mind wandered. Leaving #2, I had a visual fix on where I needed to go for #3. I came off the hill from #2 on target, crawling like a little animal through thorny trees (the theme for the day!). In a hop-skip-and-jump I was across the valley and onto the next hill, exactly as I'd planned.

Going up the side of the hill, diagonally, my mind was in its own world. I remember thinking things like:

"I miss not having my dog with me; but it is a good thing because she would hate this terrain and being out here so long."

"I love rogaining. This is so much fun."

"I really need to get around to adding proper orienteering colours to this map."

"Thank goodness for the recent Golden Gate Challenge. I'm climbing these hills like a champ."

I got to what I think was probably the right spot to head straight uphill to the control but instead I continued a bit longer, moving through gaps in the vegetation. I went a bit further still and thought, "It really feels like I've gone too far". I decided to just head upwards more as I couldn't see a thing through the vegetation. Again I thought, "I am sure I'm too far right" and "I'm sure I've gone too far". Well, yes, I had gone too far. I got to the top of the far-right rise and had to contour and then drop down into the saddle to get the control, which was exactly where I'd initially expected it to be and the saddle there was the size and shape I'd expected it to be. I estimate that I may have lost a good 20 minutes with this one. I didn't have a watch on so it really is a guestimate.

It was good to make a mistake then and there because it kept me more focused for the rest of the day. 

Terrain
The terrain our here is brutal. Rocky, steep, grassy, thorny, steep, rocky... I climbed and climbed and descended... I am thankful for the recent Golden Gate Challenge where I did the same. Only this time I didn't have my trusty trekking poles. As my thighs were acclimatised to the rigours of steep ascents and descents, I actually felt really good.

The terrain being what it was, I didn't run much, especially on this early part of the route. I even did a good number of stints ascending rocky slopes - sometimes going up bare rock - on all fours!  Running along the valley road was a treat.

Not a mistake
To the left, middle of the map you'll see my green track dipping in and out (near control 146), like I've backtracked. I went to get water at a water drop before continuing. I was down 1.5 litres and very thirsty. I filled up with another 1.5 litres and drank a good 800ml there, headed back out on the road and continued. 

Mistake #2
I swapped to odds (yellow route) once I was satisfied that I'd done ok with the evens and that getting any more evens was no longer advantageous.

From 137 to 151, I ran on the trail. I could have taken a short cut to 151 in distance but in time it would have taken me longer being off road and bashing through vegetation. 

I hit 151 spot-on. I took a great route from 151 to 153 - initially. I have a feeling that I dropped down very nearly spot-on, adjacent to the mine tunnel. Except, I hadn't yet looked at the control description so I didn't realise that the flag was at the mine tunnel, I thought it was in the re-entrant. I wasn't even looking for it at this point.

On the map I struggled to see the track for the path loop, that I knew was there. I thought that it went up higher than it did. I was also a little mixed up because earlier, going past 163 I'd seen the control in the re-entrant. With my map quite torn and folded, I didn't realise that what I'd seen before was not the one that I was now looking for. So, I took the path less travelled up the re-entrant. It was great exploring but after a few minutes I realised that something was wrong as the flag wasn't where I expected it to be. I unfolded my tattered map, read the control description and turned around. Of course I knew where the mine tunnels are and I knew that I'd overshot. I nailed the control a few minutes later.

I still had more than an hour at this point. I took a neat run to 147 and met up with two guys there. We went through to 159 together. Leaving 159 we took the same route down but I went for 141 while they went elsewhere.

Breaking my rule at the end
My initial plan was to get 141 and then return to the road, head past the green control to 143 and then to 145 on top of the hill before heading home (dotted purple track). It was a more gentle route to get to 145 via 143 and I still had 40 minutes...

Leaving 141 I took one look at the hill on which 145 was located and decided that I could live in peace for the rest of my days if I didn't get it - the descent would have been steep and thickly vegetated. So, I didn't. 

I bagged one last low-scoring control on the road home, chatted to people and made it to the finish with at least 22 minutes to spare. 

The cold pool at Thabela was very welcoming and soothing. Have I mentioned what an absolutely sweltering day it had been? Definitely in the mid-30s the whole time out there - absolutely roasting!

I finished with 610 points, which looks dismal compared to Nic and Kelvin's 990 points.  Nonetheless, it was a good enough score to place me fourth overall. Second and third scored 770 and 690 respectively. As I was a non-competitive participant running on my own (rogaining is always in pairs), it is just a score on paper. Still, I'm chuffed.

I was happy with my strategy, I felt at no time under pressure and I took the climbs like a champ - feeling good and strong all the way. I look forward to see Nicholas' route. He has a cunning mind for rogaining and sees options for sweeping through the course to collect maximum points that I just don't see.

All in all, a very good day and one of the most strategically cunning rogaining routes that we've had in many years. Congratulations to Ian on his superb planning and to Glen for being Ian's right-hand aide.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

I do love rogaining

What a divine day I have had! First I was Run Director at our Parys parkrun this morning and a celebration of our 3rd birthday. Then six hours of rogaining in the Vredefort Dome area, starting from Thabela Thabeng. I had a very good day out - I'm happy with my route and nav. It was brutal out there today - tough terrain and incredibly hot. But I loved it! Most of the controls I went to were locations I have never been to on the property. Thank you to Ian Bratt and Glen Terry for a cunning course.

After Forest Run, I decided to leave my sign up for visitors to the area (I enjoy seeing altitude markers). I saw it pop up in some photos from the recent Kinetic Full Moon event held out here and now it was my turn for a photo with the trig and sign during the rogaining event today.
What a great view! This is what it looks like 'inside' a section of Vredefort Dome area. It really is magical. You don't get to see this unless you're on foot.
I'll post my route and comments in the next few days.

Putting out rogaining control flags

Rusty came with me on Friday morning to help Ian, Glen and Sheila by putting out a bunch of flags for Saturday's annual rogaining event presented by Rand Orienteering Club. The area is looking green and lovely although rains are so needed to get the small streams flowing.

I took some photos.

Checkpoint with a view - Vaal River in the distance.

Hot dog.

It felt great to be navigating. I went on sections of the area that I've never covered before.
About 2cm of crystal clear running water... with 10cm of fine muddy silt. Oh dear!

When a muddy dog shakes herself off...

Her tummy and legs are usually white...

Pretty little flowers on this tree

Friday, 3 November 2017

Returnable box project for YOLO

We received our new double-walled boxes for our large YOLO Compost Tumblers last week. They're very strong and, well, large! Packaging is expensive and so wasteful. When I picked up our large boxes last week, a quick chat with our box supplier gave me an idea...

The box for our large YOLO Compost Tumbler is returnable. We want the boxes back so that we can reuse each one a number of times before it is retired to compost. Every time that we send out a large YOLO Compost Tumbler, we'll include three reusable velcro straps inside the box, which will be used to secure the box and flaps. We'll arrange for our courier to collect the box from the customer to bring it back to us.

I must have looked pretty comical yesterday. In these photos you can't quite gauge how big the box is. It is 1210mm long, 800mm wide and 820mm high. It weighs 4.5kg.


For now, we're just doing the large box as returnable. My next box order for the medium tumblers will be for the double-walled version and we'll probably make these returnable too.

 As we order small quantities i.e. 20 or 30 units as opposed to minimum order quantities of 250 or more (new business cash flow challenges!), the price that we pay per box is really high. It saves us money to courier the box back to reuse. The benefits really are aligned here with saving money and being able to reuse the boxes so that we generate less waste. We also take the problem of disposing of such a large box off our customers' hands.

We are fortunate that our customers are environmentally-minded; they have embraced our returnable box project with enthusiasm and appreciation.

The first return comes back to us next week.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Measuring our YOLO Compost Tumbler's social impact

Last week I submitted an application for Chivas Regal's 'The Venture' business awards. "We're looking for innovative start-ups that use business to solve global social or environmental challenges," their website stated.
"The Chivas Venture is a global search to find and support the most promising start-ups with the potential to succeed financially and make a positive impact on the lives of others. One social entrepreneur from each participating country will make it to the global final and have a chance to win a share of $1 million in funding."
It took me four hours to complete the application and in the process I wrote almost 3,000 words. One of the questions asked about the social impact of our product and asked for figures, if possible. As I had no idea how to measure the social impact of our compost tumblers, I turned to Google. A response in one of the dozen pieces I looked through suggested looking at my customers and assessing where they were before the intervention and what changed afterwards.

 Our YOLO Compost Tumbler solves a problem for our customers: what to do with their organic waste. Many people in apartments, townhouses, estates and retirement complexes cannot have compost heaps (due to space or rule restrictions). Those on properties with sufficient space deal with other issues like pests (rodents, snakes, monkeys, dogs), complexity of heap management and lack of interest that prevents them from composting their organic waste.

Before my customers bought their YOLO Compost Tumblers, their organic waste (kitchen and garden) went out on the street for collection by their municipality on trash day. These bags of organic waste would then end up at landfill sites where they rot anaerobically, under tons of garbage, to give off methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

 After my customers receive their YOLO Compost Tumbler, their organic waste goes into the tumbler - instead of the trash. The contents get regularly mixed and aerated, and around three months after emptying their first tub of kitchen cuttings into  the first shell, my customers are able to dig a shell of nutrient-rich compost into their gardens, gift to a friend or donate to a community gardening project. That they get nutrient-rich compost out is very much a positive byproduct of YOLO's problem-solving function.

As the YOLO Compost Tumbler has two shells, one will be active and the other maturing so after the first shell has been filled, the customer enters a cycle where every six to eight weeks they're emptying a shell of matured compost.

 How can we allocate numbers to this process?

 Consider 100 YOLO Compost Tumblers. Assuming that between our users of small, medium and large units, they may average one black bag of organic waste (kitchen & garden) per week during the year (more waste in summer, less in winter). For each customer, that equates to 52 black bags a year that would have been put on the street for municipal collection.

For 100 customers, this is 5,200 bags in a one-year period. Accounting for only 100 units, we can already see the social impact and potential for incredible growth with every YOLO Compost Tumbler that finds a happy home.

 This is also about more than the actual organic waste materials. This is about the 5,200 less garbage bags that have to be picked up by municipal workers. This is about the 5,200 less bags of waste that are dumped at landfill sites. This is also about the 5,200 black plastic bags will no longer be used once-off and discarded.

 In addition, every other form of waste recycling has a long chain of interactions that have to happen. Plastics, for example, can be separated at home and put out for informal recycling collectors to pick up or these can be dropped at a recycling bin or centre. At the recycling centre, plastics are further separated. They're compacted and transported to a facility that can turn the waste plastic into plastic pellets - or the like - that another company can purchase to manufacture products from the recycled material.

With a YOLO and your own organic waste, no further intervention is necessary. Neither collectors, transporters, nor manufacturers. Kitchen cuttings and garden material decompose inside the YOLO shell and a product results - mature compost. This can be dug directly into the garden to put valuable nutrients back into the soil for our vegetables, flowers and other plants to absorb.

This is the measurable social impact of our YOLO Compost Tumblers. And we're only just beginning.


Sunday, 22 October 2017

Golden Gate Challenge Day 3

The third and final stage of the Golden Gate Challenge got underway before birds had a chance to start cheeping. At 04h30 the first batch was off with the other three batches leaving only minutes apart. With only 17 kilometres for this stage - the first six on road - most runners would be in by 08h30 - in time for the buffet breakfast and prize giving.

Saturday night's pre-race briefing was a festive affair with another slideshow of photographs from the day and a stunning short video. Uplifting and fun, these screenings send you off to bed with a bounce in your step and an eagerness for the next day - stiff quads aside.

It was early to bed for the early start. As we were on road headlamps were present but actually not necessary. It wasn't long before the sky began to lighten and runners ahead of me were silhouetted against the early morning sky with the Drakensberg mountains clearly visible in the layered distance.


I was thankful for the ascent to the mountain retreat (the only waterpoint for the stage) to loosen up my legs. I do next to no downhill running and the steep descents over Day 1 and Day 2 had done their work on my quads. With every kilometre I felt my legs easing into the trekking and running.

Photographer Kirsten Oliver
Much of the stage felt like we were moving upwards with one climb after another - the reward being an open vista. I didn't take as many photos because of the long cloud and mountain shadows over the landscape. Striking and interesting to the eye but diminished in impact on my camera.





From the high ridge we could hear sounds from the camp where faster runners were already at the finish line - remarkable and inspiring.



'The stairs' were in today's lineup - in the last three kilometres - but they were significantly easier going as a result of not only prior experience (from Day 1) but also ascended on legs with less distance in them for the stage.


Once up the stairs and over the ridge, the camp was visible. Like a horse bolting for home, I enjoyed running the final section and the warm welcome there.

By 08h30 I was showered, packed and loaded and present at the buffet breakfast. I'll comment below on catering but suffice to say that they didn't hold back on the breakfast offering.

I thoroughly enjoyed the prize giving and the opportunity to cheer for the Honourary Rangers who manned the waterpoints, the Golden Gate National Park rangers who were scattered throughout the route at remote points, the sponsors, the team of people involved in the organisation of this event and, especially, the podium runners - what exceptional athletes they are!

(Read this release from the event that highlights the wining results. Consider that Eric Ngubane's accumulated time for the three days - 6:23:23 - is only an hour over my Day 1 time!!! Women's winner Marie-Zanne De Kock clocked the three days in a total of 08:33:22)

With hugs to friends old and new, I was on the road and headed back to my home in Parys - fortunately missing the storms that travelled ahead of me.

SUMMARY
What an event! This is the first WildSeries event that I have done and I can only highly commend the presentation of this event. I have no doubt that their other events are as well conducted. I'll highlight below a number of features that stood out for me.

Route markings
Pink fabric strips were used to mark the route and I can say without hesitation that you could not get lost. There were so many markers out there - including dozens of 'verification' markers on trails where there was no where else to go. At any turning points, park rangers were positioned - in addition to candy tape blocking off no-go paths and pink tags marking the route.

Reusable plastic cups
Triple cheer for Old Mutual for sponsoring each runner with a Hydrapak Speedcup, a soft, squishable re-usable cup that can be tucked into a backpack or clipped onto a strap for a quick drink any time. These cups retail for over R100 each (probably more like R160) so this is a prized gift indeed. Items like this pave the way for the abolishment of sachets and disposable cups at ALL sporting events. Thank you Old Mutual.

DJ - wake up and music vibe
DJ Shaun (I think this is his name) seemed to head up the audio aspect of the event. From our wake up call, an hour before the start of each stage to a wonderful sound vibe throughout the day, he kept the music fresh and interesting. I was especially charmed by the wake up call (you can discover this for yourself when you do the race) and his morning mix of tunes. It was clear that he had especially chosen each piece. Day 3's selection was my favourite.

He was also positioned at the finish line and he kept the energy and vibe there. What most appealed to me is that he played 'real' music and not doof-doof music. Thank you for this.

Route
Any trail in Golden Gate National Park will be good; the place is spectacular. The route for each stage was challenging with a lot of ascent and descent and we experienced a variety in terrain and views. The routes left me feeling that I have experienced the area but also showed me how much more there is to be experienced there as a visitor to the park on other occasions.

Catering
The catering was exceptional. Other runners told me that Wild Series uses the same caterers for all of their events. I did not take full advantage of the catering provided, which was really quite overwhelming. With cereal, yoghurt, fruit, different porridge each morning, boiled eggs, toast, jams... I think tea, coffee, juices, muffins, rusks were also laid out - probably throughout the day.

For lunch we had rolls with beef or chicken patties, salads and desserts. I think there were other goodies around too.

Dinners came with beef or chicken with rice or pap or rolls or baby potatoes and veg and salads and desserts. Vegetarian dishes were also provided.

As for this morning's buffet breakfast - I'll leave you to discover this delight for yourself. I pretty much stuck with the eggy main but there were lots of other treats and eats to be had. What I can add is that my egg was done to absolute perfection - something you don't often get at a restaurant, much less bulk catering for athletes.

Tented camp
I stayed in the athletes camp where each person had their own tent in the campsite. Each tent had a mattress too. I had plenty of space and was very comfortable. I chose to go down the far end, away from the main event area and was very happy down there. Ablutions were kept clean by the park staff and were well stocked with toilet paper. By the time I came in I was in for a cold shower, which in the warmth of the day was refreshing and cooling.

There were also massage therapists, sponsored by TimeFreight, as well as physios on site. I'm in the habit of rubbing down my legs myself so I didn't take advantage of this - but this was there and available.

Value for money
I've organised a lot of events over the years and I am quite certain that entry fees do not half cover the costs of the event, especially as 50% of the event fee goes towards Wildlands' conservation projects. This is a special setup that involves a lot of people and equipment and logistics. This is where sponsors like Old Mutual come in - their involvement creates the opportunity for runners to have a really exceptional experience.

This event truly is value for money. The event fleece jacket sponsored by event sponsor Jonsson Workwear, waterbottle and hand towel from TimeFreight and the incredible conservation initiatives supported by this event sweeten the deal.

Visit the Golden Gate Challenge website. The 8th edition of the event takes place on 18-21 October 2018. Entries open on 11 April 2018. R3,800 gets you all of this. Diarise now.

My thanks to RunRideDive for allowing me the opportunity to run and write for them and to Golden Gate Challenge for a very special experience.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Golden Gate Challenge Day 2

When Day 2 is even better than Day 1, you're onto a good thing. At 29km in distance, this second day route is only two kilometres further than that of the first day. It still packs an accumulative elevation punch with two big climbs. What made this day so magical for me was the in between section through valleys.

At last night's race briefing we were treated to a presentation on the endangered bearded vulture. The conservation of these birds is a Wildlands project. There are currently only 350 to 400 individuals and they live only in the Lesotho and Drakensberg area - their distribution has been significantly reduced in the past 100 years - primarily affected by human activities. Half of the entry fee from this event goes to Wildlands and it is put into projects like this.

We were also shown a magnificent short video from the first day (spectacular drone footage) as well as photographs from the event photographers which so beautifully capture the spirit of the participants and the beauty of this National Park.

And then the route. After such good climbing on Day 1, I was unfazed by the prospect of the two climbs. It is the descents that nail my quads...

We had seven or eight starting batches - decided according to your Day 1 performance. I was slap-bang in the middle in Batch D. Comfortable.

The route fortunately began with a one kay downhill tar run which was just was I needed to warm up. The first trail section climbed steadily upwards and contoured into the hills. Then, ahead, we could see the coloured dots of runners on 'the climb'. I found myself in a friendly bunch moving at a good pace. Over the top and a valley view.

This gave us the first 'runnable' stretch through to the first water point.

The aid stations here are manned by honourary rangers who dedicate their time to the park and to being present at this event. They are friendly and helpful and encouraging. The stations are all well stocked and leaving there I need to walk for a bit to let the drinks and munchies work their way down.

I usually suck my hydration reservoir dry but with these regular aid stations I've been drinking less than usual from my pack and enjoying drinks at the aid station - dispensed into my fabulous reusable plastic cup (it is probably a silicone more than straight 'plastic').

I have especially enjoyed today's scenery through valleys. The rock features and bare rock slabs of surrounding hills, fresh green grass cropped by grazing antelope and the openess of the terrain. A lot of this was pleasantly runnable so I trotted merrily along.

A strong, cool wind blew for most of the day - quite pleasant when you're running. Eric Ngubane was again today's winner in 2:30. He was a minute off the stage record that he set. He felt that he would have been able to beat his time were it not for the wind. At my pace, the wind has little effect...

From the second waterpoint we had a pleasant stretch to the base of climb #2 which we'd been told at briefing was one with a second summit. So when you've slogged to the top you are not at the top - another ascent awaits.

Again I really did well on the climbs today and even though the first part of this climb was steep and wicked, I got up feeling really good. Up again and a photo at the top.

Heading to waterpoint 3 we passed the most lovely chalets overlooking a deep and spectacular valley. The chalets have grassed roofs! More drinks and a few snacks and it was time to get my stiff quads to run down the cement road.

Here I met Chris, a paediatric rheumatologist from Cape Town. We had the same comfortable pace so we ran together to the finish - chatting where the terrain allowed. The last couple of kilometres were runnable and mostly easy and friendly terrain where total concentration on every step was not required. I finished feeling almost 'refreshed' as the run to the end loosened up my legs.

My time is very similar to yesterday at around 5:20. I hope to have improved my age category ranking.

The photos that I took today show a bit of what we saw but really don't do justice to the terrain - you'll just have to come here to see for yourself.

There is a lovely vibe in our runner camp and every meal is an opportunity to meet and chat to other runners.

We have our last race briefing tonight ahead of tomorrow's final 17km stage. I look forward to seeing more of this magnificent area.

Until tomorrow.

How to blow your nose while you run

Today I picked up six used tissues and two wrappers (yesterday was four tissues and a wrapper). While I'm fairly certain that runners do not intentionally drop them, what concerns me is that the runner just behind the person is not saying, "Excuse me, you dropped a tissue" (if they see the drop happening) and also that there could be five, 15 or 50 runners going passed dropped tissues without picking them up. Tissues are revolting to pick up and they are so unnecessary. Out on trails, you do not need a tissue to blow your nose.

This is how to blow your nose without a tissue:

I find that I need a critical mass of snot to build up for a successful blow. When you're ready, block one nostril using the pointing finger of your dominant hand. Taking note of the wind direction (never blow into the wind), turn your head to the side of the open nostril and give it a good hard and sharp blow. You need to be assertive here. A too-soft blow will make a mess. Repeat with the other nostril - sometimes only one side is necessary.

Here and there you may hit your shoulder or thigh but this is usually due to inattention of wind direction or a mediocre blow.

This event has a superb waste - litter - environmental ethos; the runners need to come to the party too.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Golden Gate Challenge Day 1

Day 1's 27-kilometre distance involved a lot of ups, downs and a little of the inbetween. I'd heard that the first six to seven kilometres were all uphill and I was secretly delighted because it meant that I could walk and ease into the day. Early mornings have never been my forte.

At last night's welcome and race briefing we were shown the altitude profile for Day 1 and it echoed the snatches of conversations that I'd overheard. The first seven kays and later 'the stairs' came as warnings from those that had done this run before. There are many repeat participants and being out here I can see why. This is one of those events to come back to.

We were assigned starting batches to allieviate a bottleneck on the early part of the trail. Batch A went off at 6am, Batch B at 06h10 and my Batch C about five minutes later. I was happy to be in the last batch as much to settle in as to enjoy catching runners ahead of me.

The morning was cool and I must have kept my thermal top on for at least the first hour as defence against the cold wind. There's nothing like a long uphill to warm up. The patches of mist on the ridge and surrounding mountains did little to obscure our views - we were fortunate to have blue skies, decorative clouds and clear air as far as the eye could see.

The first well-stocked waterpoint came and went - I left with just a salted baby potato. Up, up, up we climbed. With a trekking pole in each hand I was comfortable and moving well. The chain of runners made such a colourful ribbon up the mountain side.

And then we were up and treated to a view of the northern Drakensberg in the distance with the shapely peaks of the Mont-aux-Sources area visible above a band of cloud.

True to physics, 'what goes up, must come down'. Downhills are a thigh-eating dragon and this is when I was thankful for my trusty trekking poles. They not only prevent slipping and sliding on loose ground, they also cushion impact and take some weight off knees and thighs on the descents. I played it easy and enjoyed greeting other runners along the way.

Almost completing the big loop of the route, we hit the next waterpoint. I pulled out my fabulous new Ultimate Direction reusable plastic cup and enjoyed some sugary Energade and water plus a triangle of a marmite and a peanut butter sandwich. And a salted baby potato. There were a bunch of other munchies like banana pieces, orange slices and crisps.

From here was the first 'flat' and open section on the route - actually a gentle down on a jeep track and an opportunity to stretch my legs out.

Across the tar road I'd heard we were in for two climbs on this section. The first one kicked in soon and led to another waterpoint (another good gulp of water) and then a goodly steep climb.

I have a simple hill strategy: don't work too hard, keep my steps small and my pace consistent. It works well and saw me comfortably to the top and over the other side.

It was around here that I settled into my own people-free bubble with no runners ahead and an widening distance behind. I really enjoyed the scenery on this side, especially the water-carved sandstone channel where a stream would run - barely a trickle with stagnant pools at the moment.

On the home stretch I caught up to another runner and bumped into Chris who was assisting an ill lady. Chris has run just about every Forest Run and I have had the pleasure of getting to know him and his wife Sunette over the years.

The clouds on this section were striking - you'll see a photo below.

My strategy with the infamous stairs was to imagine the worst setup and steepness possible so that when I got there it wouldn't seem so bad. And it wasn't. The stairs are made from large cement 'breeze blocks'. I was so focused on them that i forgot to take a photo but as we'll be back up there on Day 3 I'll have another opportunity. They weren't really that bad and my steady strategy saw me up to the top. I will add that the last section of stairs is the sting.

Up the hill and around the corner the end was in view. The sandstone overhang made for a visual delight before the descent to the finish.

The finish line is a big setup with flags and music and an announcer - great vibe. I downed more water and headed off to get my kit for a shower.

My time for this first stage was in the region of 5:20 (overall winning time was around 2:30!!!).

Lunch was a chicken or beef burger with coleslaw and potato salad. The burger was more than enough for me.

Stage events are a really good break - morning of running, afternoon of chilling and a long night of sleep.

I'm up for a nap once I have posted this and then I'll join Su-Yen's yoga and stretch at 4pm. We'll be treated to photos from the day and Day 2 briefing later this evening.

Until tomorrow.