Tuesday, April 22, 2014

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



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

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

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

 Date: Tuesday, 6 May 2014
Time: 18h30 for 19h00
Venue: Kinetic Gear at the Exercise and Nutrition Centre, cnr North and Rivonia Roads, Rivonia.
More: www.arclub.wordpress.com
Enquiries: Lisa - lisa@ar.co.za

National Orienteering Training Camp (and Night O adventure)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Street running at Metrogaine Jo'burg

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

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

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


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



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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Hi-Tec Shade, road shoe (review)

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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