Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Five weeks to FEAT

Just as a cobbler's children have no shoes and a plumber's taps drip, so I've been negligent of FEAT here on my blog.

Today I announced the first speakers in a newsletter to subscribers and publically. It's a double-whammy with Ryno Griesel and Cobus van Zyl. They'll be speaking about what went into setting the Drakensberg Grand Traverse record earlier this year.

I'm fortunate to have wonderful support from FEAT sponsors and friends in helping to promote the event.

This weekend Powertraveller are at the Getaway Show in JHB with Cape Union Mart and Trappers. They're offering a cool deal where anyone buying a Powermonkey Extreme solar charger will receive a FEAT ticket.

Outdoor Freedom is an outdoor store in Centurion. Leon has been a long-time supporter of FEAT. He has two tickets to giveaway - by lucky draw - to a customer who makes a purchase of R500 or more until 30 September.

What has really struck me with this FEAT are how FEAT regulars are really spreading the word and bringing along their friends - sporty and non-sporty alike. The block bookings are rocking!

I was at the Linder about two weeks ago to sort out the projection and lighting setup. Standing on the stage looking up and standing right at the top looking down gave me such butterflies! It's an impressive venue!

That's the AV guy on the balcony. FYI - the stage is 16m across and 9m deep
Next picture taken from near the open stage exit door (bottom left of stage).

Ja. It's a good thing that I love a crowd ;)
As always, there are many hundreds of bits and pieces that go into the event - September is usually the month for details as all the big things - like venue, MC, speakers, flights, sound, AV and lighting are booked anything from nine to three months before the event.

I hope to see you there too.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Three remarkable young men

Last week I travelled to Polokwane for orienteering / navigation coaching activities. First was an orienteering teacher workshop in the settlement of Lebowakgomo, which is about 40km South of Polokwane.
I've mentioned Ephraim a number of times - he's our star and an accomplished orienteering mapmaker. A natural from the get-go. He recently wrote his final exams for his electrical engineering studies. His focus is on heavy current.

 Tebatso was with me for the Big 5 O earlier this year. He is also an engineering student. He came through to GOC Champs in June and he assists Ephraim with the Polokwane Orienteering Club.

 And then there's Lefa. I first met him at the GOC Champs in June when he came through with Ephraim and the other school and college students. He's another Ephraim-recruit from college - also engineering. Like Ephraim, Lefa's 'hobby' is doing architectural drawings - floor plans, external views from all angles. You can't believe how good they are!

 These three young men have just written their final theory exams. There are problems with Eskom and thus their practical (apprenticeship) opportunities, which are meant to start now that they've completed their exams. But, Eskom are having issues and can't accommodate the students.

 Instead of wasting their time lazing under trees, these guys are back at their old schools as teaching assistants, helping with maths classes - and bringing orienteering activities to their schools.

 At the teacher workshop, all three were on hand to assist with the orienteering activities, explaining the games to the teachers with one-on-one attention. They also helped me with putting out and collecting cones. 

I'm just so impressed with them as there are so many unemployed (and retired) people who waste their days when at the very least they could be sharing their skills and abilities with communities and organisations who need volunteer assistance.

 These guys are making their own opportunities but I can't help feeling that they may appreciate an open door, especially in the engineering realm, which is what they have studied. They currently reside just South of Polokwane.  If anyone reading this blog has the scope to employ / provide apprenticeships for these bright, self-motivated young men, please drop me a note and I'd be delighted to put you in contact with them.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Let's talk about hips, baby

There's something to be said for good posture.

A few weeks ago I developed a sore right knee. As I've never had knee problems this was very strange and unwelcome. Shortly after this I whacked my knee badly - on a rock - while playing at Suikerbosrand. A week of rest healed everything - mostly.

I've put the initial pre-bash niggle down to new road shoes.

The reason I put it down to shoes is:
  • I ran about 70km at Washie in my old shoes. No problems.
  • I run 6km in the new shoes and I'm left with a sore knee
  • Footfalls shouldn't be noisy - light, think light. The new shoes seem to make me land differently and my footfalls are noisier. 
  • I ran in old shoes for a week; no problem. I run once in the new shoes; sore knee.

I've given the shoes to a same-foot-size friend and he's rocking them. During this process of elimination I started thinking about posture because I felt that the shoes had affected my posture.

A fundamental principle of ChiRunning is "practice good posture". PoseMethod also promotes good body position. It's easy to get lazy.

My foundation in running for more than a decade was done on a treadmill. Kilometres and kilometres of treadmill running. Long distance, speed intervals - all of the above. What the treadmill has in its favour is that it eliminates variables like uneven surfaces, slacking off, barking dogs, pavements and cars. You can focus entirely on running and posture and good form. If you can catch a reflection - even better. With a reflection you can self correct - shoulders, arms, back, hips, legs and feet. It really is an underrated training tool.

For me, if something niggles, it is 99.9% likely that my posture is off. Too many hours spent on my computer is mostly to blame. Sitting is a posture where you're always bent at the hips and we usually spend more time sitting than running so it is hardly a surprise that this filters into our running. When we run, we want to be straight and tall, with a slight forward lean from the torso. We shouldn't run like we sit.

And so, for the past few weeks I've been focusing on my posture, tweaking my head and shoulders and back and neck and hips. And I chatted to my Wednesday running buddy about this too. He'd been thinking exactly the same thing that week. We ran our run, self-correcting along the way.

Around the same time (about two weeks ago) I chatted to another run friend who was experiencing knee niggles. "Hips," I said. She agreed. It was something on her mind too. Must be hip season. 

And hip mobility. This is something I first cottoned on to through yoga and also pole and circus school. Most foundation postures are hip openers. Open hips makes so many postures possible. Poor hip mobility will result in bad posture and niggles/injuries. Yoga is great for improving hip mobility.

I think that the biggest running posture errors stem from the hips (tilted too far forwards). Everything is connected and if one part is out of alignment, it will push the others out and that's when niggles (and later injuries) occur. This makes me think of the Bones Song...
The toe bone's connected to the foot bone,The foot bone's connected to the ankle bone,The ankle bone's connected to the leg bone,Now shake dem skeleton bones!
The leg bone's connected to the knee bone,The knee bone's connected to the thigh bone,The thigh bone's connected to the hip bone,Now shake dem skeleton bones!
And it isn't only knee niggles that occur as a result of bad posture and hip positing. Glute issues and ITB can probably be throw into the mix too. 

Good hip positioning results from solid core stability and a conscious effort to run with good posture. When you're out running this week, every few minutes think "Hips!" and self-correct as you run. That's what I'm doing on my runs. See whether it makes a difference to your footfalls, landing impact, posture and feeling of lightness. Works for me.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Rocky, O so rocky

This weekend was quite a rocker on the local orienteering front. I didn't do the Kloofendal event on Saturday but I was most definitely there for the Mountain Marathon event today. This was a new map for me as I haven't been to this venue before.

Rocky Valley is exactly that - rocky. It has some open veld (where we didn't go!) and a number of rocky ridges. The more open sections had small rocks underfoot (runnable). The sides of the ridges tended to have bigger rocks - grassy in some places. Most of the area has burned at some stage this winter and it is actually a blessing because you can see the rocks. And lots of cliffs too. The map looks boulder-cliff-contour feature crazy.

A Mountain Marathon has at least 600m of climb (I think that's the value) on the longest (Brown) course. We were in for lots of climbing today. Notable was the first climb up to Control 1, also to Control 6 and the climb from Control 12 to Control 13. Lung-busting stuff! The most runnable section (for me) was from Control 4 to Control 5.

Here's my route.

Route in yellow. Red circles? Blood! I took a circle of skin off the side of my left hand -  a graze from a rock. Fortunately it was only a thin layer of skin taken off - not a cut. But now that all the dirt is out it feels like exposed nerves. It ain't a good event if there isn't blood... 
I don't move very well over this very rocky terrain. Leaving Control 9 my clubmate Brian was with me. He blitzed down the hill and I kept expecting to see him fall on his face - but he just ran beautifully and didn't trip at all. I'm far more skittish and cautious.

My nav today was spot-on; I just lose time from not running hell-for-leather on this terrain.

So, let's see where I made errors today.

Control 15 to Control 16



Looking at options... First option was to run across the top of the ridge towards Control 10, where I'd been earlier. I knew the terrain here and it would have been reasonable to go from Control 10 and down the path, below the cliffs (continuous line/row of cliffs marked by thick black lines) and to Control 16.

Second option was to head down, below the ridge and the rocks - to the more open contours and land (solid black squares / rectangles / circles are buildings). Here it was probably very runnable. And then climb up from the building below Control 16.

I thought option 2 would be better... except I didn't end up doing it. I started descending and the the going was ok over the rocks so I decided to contour instead of losing height. I passed control 11, where I'd been earlier. Nice point of certainty as to my elevation.

I actually thought that I was pretty on track and hit the marked cliffs clearly. But Control 16 was actually far lower down than expected. I would have done better to come up from the building marked below it. I ended up bum sliding down steep rocky sections. It was a steep drop down to the control... but not as bad as what I'd encounter later...

Control 23 to Control 24
It is really easy to make mistakes on the last few controls leading to 'home' because concentration wanes. I'd been out there for almost 2.5hrs by then.


I hit Control 23 beautifully (coming from 22). The ridge looked steep straight ahead (steeper than indicated by the contours) so I dropped down and then contoured. Where I really screwed up is that I wasn't totally paying attention and hadn't quite realised that Control 24 was sitting in the same valley that I'd ascended going to Control 1 early on.

What added to me making an error here is that as I was heading for my first control from the start I'd seen my friend (on a different course) heading up before I did. So I kinda had that in my head that I wanted to take an earlier re-entrant ('valley').

*sigh* As far as I can recall I mostly went where I've drawn the yellow line. In short, I took an earlier re-entrant and almost got cliffed out. I bum-slid down a tight gap that wasn't ideal (definitely not ideal by orienteering standards - fine for adventure racing...) and then had to contour below the cliffs to get to where I wanted to go. It's nonsense to be playing silly buggers on the second-last control.

As for the last control - 25... I ran the path on the way back - towards the start. I reached the grass and realised that I hadn't seen Control 25. *sigh again* There were two controls flags (individual locations) that I'd seen along the path and although I hadn't looked at them I knew they weren't mine. But then I thought... what if they are? For the last control there are always two timing devices - and the ones I'd seen were singles.

I backtracked, reached the other controls, hadn't seen Control 25, turned around again, noticed the pool of water and from there nailed the crossing bridge, the final control and the finish. I just hadn't been concentrating.

The as-the-crow-flies course distance was marked at 8.6km. I an 9.86km. I was expecting around 12km so I evidently travelled pretty directly.

Officially the women's course was the Blue one; but I love the longer distance of Brown. I was the only woman on Brown today.

My thanks to RACO for presenting this event - it was a good one!