12 December 2011


Being a great fan of the bunny, I have been meaning to give Goundens a try since it is supposed to be the best spot in Durban. I set out to meet Charles there early on Friday evening. It is not in the best part of town (39 Eaton Road, Umbilo, Durban), but we felt pretty safe leaving our cars outside.

I am a big fan of a vegetable bunny. My first option was thus a 1/4 mixed vegetable. No good, all finished. Okay, well, guess it will be the beans with mutton gravy then. Also finished. Hmmmm. This is what happens when you arrive late on a Friday afternoon. In the end we both settled on a 1/4 beef bunny.

After a short wait in the interesting little restaurant (stretching the point a bit to give it that label), the bunnies arrived. They looked like they do all over the city: large chunk of white bread oozing gravy. But the difference became apparent when we attacked the poor defenseless things: they were damn delicious. The meat very tender and the spices just right.

On leaving we decided that this could easily be a regular Friday afternoon activity.

For other good spots to kill a bunny, check out http://quarterbunny.co.za/.

Cycle-Powered Tree

Running along the Durban beachfront on Sunday morning I spotted this enormous tree made out of planks. Lights in the tree are hooked up to stationary bicycles. Pedal power gets the lights to go on. So I went back around sunset to take some photos. This one was taken with ND2 and ND4 filters and then processed with Qtpfsgui.

05 December 2011

Running Play List

I own an iPod but I don't run with it. The idea of cables flapping around does not appeal to me. However, I have been thinking: if I did run to music, what would be on the playlist? I know that a few of the folk that I ran the NDC with had an iPod with them "in case times got tough". Not a bad plan. So this is the starts of my running play list:

Dr. Dre, Skylar Grey & Eminem - I Need a Doctor
Journey - Don't Stop Believin'
Def Leppard - Have You Ever Needed Anyone
Band of Horses - The Funeral


24 November 2011

Ultra-Trail Du Mont-Blanc

Don't know when it's going to happen, but this is definitely on my long term agenda.

28 October 2011

Our Contribution to WWLLN

I have often wondered just what the contribution of our lightning detectors at SANAE IV (Antarctica) and Marion Island are to the global distribution of lightning detected by WWLLN. Now, with the images below I have a pretty good idea.

Mostly Africa and South America, but also some locations at much greater distances. Cool.

20 October 2011

The Piranha Club

I came across this old clipping while clearing out a box of things in my office.

What a classic!

18 October 2011

Tree Hotel

Okay, the next time I am in Sweden I am definitely going to be staying in one of these amazing tree houses.

14 October 2011

Killer Whales and Hula Hoops

Check out this amazing video filmed by Anton Feun, my expedition member on Marion Island.

29 September 2011

Optimising Percentage Risk

I have been reading Vince, R. (1992), The Mathematics of Money Management: Risk Analysis Techniques for Traders, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Interesting book. A little confusing, but interesting. The central theme of the book is determining what the author terms "optimal f". Now just what this quantity is remains somewhat mysterious, but I have gathered that it is what is normally thought of as percentage risk. That is, what percentage of your trading capital you risk on any one trade. I am going to denote this as r (and assume that it is equivalent f, but expressed as a percentage).

Now the conventional wisdom is that you never have r > 1. A string of losses with larger r can leave your trading account severely depleted. At the same time, using r < 1 means that you are risking very little per trade, and consequently stand to gain commensurately little.

I have always just assumed that your winnings would scale linearly with r. For example, if you make $100 in a month using r = 1, then in the same month you would have made $200 with r = 2. Seems reasonable, right? Apparently not. The author of the book illustrates this point very nicely with an example of a simple coing tossing game in which you stand to win $2 (heads) or lose $1 (tails). In this case, it turns out that the optimal f is 0.25 (equivalent to r = 25). In other words, each time you play you should risk 25% of your capital.

So I wondered whether something similar applied with one of my trading strategies. So I chose a reasonably good set of parameters and then varied the percentage risk.

Wow, isn't that interesting? As r increases the payoff (average nett winnings per trade) increases until it reaches a peak (at r = 2.75) then declines. For r > 5.75 the payoff becomes negative and then gets progressively worse. The percentage drawdown also increases with r. Well, that stands to reason: the more you risk, the more you are likely to lose at any given time!

So, why is the simple linear assumption wrong? Well, evidently trading is a little non-linear. Consider the following two plots which show the evolution in account balance with (top) r = 2.75 and (bottom) r = 8.00.

Initially the curves look rather similar. However, whereas r = 2.75 incurs a relatively deep depression during the losing streak and is able to recover, r = 8.00 is almost completely depleted and really doesn't bounce back.

I am not suggesting that we should trade with r > 1, but it is interesting to know that there is an optimal percentage risk. Perhaps this might in some instances be at r < 1? More research required.

17 September 2011

Quiz Night

Quiz night at Northlands Girls' High School. We have been on a team for the last few years, faring reasonably well: not at the bottom and not at the top, just somewhere in the middle. But this time we ripped the thing apart. Largely due to a few very clued up folk on our team!

Based on the last few years, things that are good to know for this quiz:
  • flags of the world,
  • all sorts of obscure quotes, and
  • what's going on in the news (obviously!).

16 September 2011

Crackpot Friday

I have to confess: I do a lot of reading on the toilet. This morning I dug a little bit deeper into my pile of literature and found something that looked really interesting:

Predicting the stock market. Hell yeah, been trying to do that for a couple of years. Maybe this guy knows the secret? But, hold on, what's this? His prediction technique has something to do with "planetary cycles". Hmmm. That's a little bit troubling. I do know that the solar cycle really does have an influence on the price of wheat, but the planets... surely not?

In the Foreword things immediately start to go wrong:
It is not the intention to promote stockmarket activity, but rather to show and to prove the correspondence between planetary operations and market responses.
So he is back pedalling immediately. Apparently the book is not about predicting the stock market after all... But then it all becomes clear:
Those who are already conversant with astrological principles...
Oh, it's astrology is it? Well then, since I was born on 16 June then surely GKX is right for me. No need to read any more: BUY, BUY, BUY!

PS. You can actually buy this drivel online for the princely sum of around $56.
PPS. But I might just be able to give you my pdf copy. Whoops, no, looks like I deleted it.

08 September 2011

PIC Dispersion Relation

My Phd student, Etienne Koen, is using Particle in Cell (PIC) techniques to simulate beam-plasma instabilities. This shows his most recent result. The black curves are the theoretical result.

Isn't that beautiful?

23 August 2011

How People in Science See Each Other

Found this little gem here. Thanks Steve.

19 August 2011

Lightning and TGF Statistics

My favourite slide from my URSI 2011 presentation in Istanbul. The idea was to contrast the frequency of TGFs and lightning as well as reflect the degree of correlation between TGFs detected on RHESSI and lightning data from the World Wide Lightning Location Network (WWLLN). Basically WWLLN sees around 10% of global lightning and we have managed to link around 10% of the RHESSI TGFs to WWLLN lightning locations. Anyway, I like the simplicity of the graphic.

06 August 2011

Wedding Speech

On the morning of his wedding Charles pointed out to me that “a wedding is not like going to the dentist”. I am still not quite sure what he meant, but I do know that he is entirely correct.

My wife and I (… I have been waiting some time to say that!) have a number of people we would like to thank.
  1. We would like to thank Malcolm and Veronica for their generosity with this wedding. Thank you for allowing me to marry Claire. If I had never met her, I would be a poorer man. Thank you for bringing up such a fine young lady and supporting her in everything that she has chosen to do.
  2. Mom and Dad, thank you for the beautiful flowers and magnificent wedding cake as well as for sewing the tablecloths. Thank you for being such good friends to Claire and always being ready to have her over for dinner and a good chat. Thank you also for the example you have set: I aspire to have a marriage like yours.
  3. We are also very grateful to Dave, Troy and Fiona, Struan and Jolene, and Christine and Zak who have travelled a long way to share this day with us.
  4. Jody thank you for being a fabulous best friend to Claire and the most organised matron of honour in the world. You have made this wedding so exciting for her and helped her plan it the whole way from the dress to the decorating.
  5. Talitha thanks for cleaning Claire up today. Charlie, you have been a source of advice on everything from robotics to relationships. See what I did there? Bit of alliteration? There’s more of that later. Thanks also for not hesitating to tell me when I am wrong.
  6. Troy, dude, we go back a long way. Thanks for always being around. Troy is the most creative person I know. In fact, he makes things up for a living. I am sure that there will be some fanciful stories in his speech. I thank you for humouring him.
I would like to mention a few people who could not be with us today and whose presence we miss:
  • Claire, Gavin and Dylan Joubert
  • Sandy, Angelique and Bernice Dewar
  • Heather Fox (Dave, we are very glad that you could still be with us!).
I believe that concludes the formalities.

Where is my cousin James...? James I am about to impart some relationship advice distilled and refined over many years. Take note, because this is gold. When you meet a girl, the most important thing is to ensure that she remembers you the next day. You need to stand out above the competition. And this is why on the evening that I met Claire I skillfully contrived to spill an entire glass of red wine into her lap. I could be 100% certain that the next morning, when she was soaking her clothes, there was no doubt in her mind about who was responsible. The fact that Claire is now Mrs Collier is testimony to the success of this technique.
In Latin the name Claire means “bright shining girl”. And I think that you will agree with me that this could not be a more apt description. I do not know anyone more animated or vivacious. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.
  • She is independent, funny, positive, thoughtful and devoted.
  • Claire is caring yet carefree. She has a particular soft spot for the downtrodden and dispossessed. This was vividly brought home to me when she donated my entire stock of tinned bully beef and vintage running t-shirts to the homeless.
  • Claire is devastatingly smart. A brief conversation with her will make this apparent. However, I will illustrate with a story. A week or so ago we were driving back from the bluff and, in the course of conversation, I happened to alliterate a series of three words. I forget exactly what they were, but I was quite pleased with myself. I pointed out that alliterating four words would be pretty challenging. After a moment's consideration Claire responded with "Bikers bring their bitches to braais on the bluff" and a moment later went further with "Butch bikers bring their big bitches to boozy braais at brighton beach on the bluff". At that point I changed the subject.
  • Claire is unfailingly supportive. Ladies and gentlemen, I present Exhibit A. This sight is to be seen at various locations between Durban and Pietermaritzburg around the end of May each year. What starts out as a cute distraction on the side of the road gets transformed into something positively angelic as the day progresses. I know that I have Claire's full support in everything I do, regardless of how foolish they might be.
  • Claire enjoys cleaning. To an extent that borders on an obsession. She has a very close relationship with her washing machine. Were it not strictly platonic, I believe I might be quite jealous. She also believes that there are very few problems which cannot be solved by Mr Muscle. And, no, I am not “Mr Muscle”. Claire is also rather fond of vacuuming with her IPOD attached, belting out tunes at the top of her voice. Tunelessly. Not only tunelessly, but sometimes she gets the words wrong. I am sure that you are all familiar with GnTs. Perhaps you have heard of GnCs? I certainly never had. Apparently you dig for them. But you'll have to ask Claire for the details.
  • Now I am not quite as gregarious as Claire. In fact, my failure to dance causes Claire acute embarrassment. Perhaps we can elevate this embarrassment to a whole new level. <These Arms of Mine>.
Will you please join me in a toast. It has been said that the consumption of alcohol may create the illusion that you are tougher, smarter, faster and better looking than most people. Every minute I spend with Claire makes me feel that way. To Claire!

I suspect that after Claire's kitchen tea, some of the ladies here might be wondering whether I have deviated from my conventional mode of underwear for this momentous occasion. Well, I am happy to tell you... that you can just keep on wondering.

03 August 2011

Dental Panorama

I am a big fan of panoramic photography, and this just makes a visit to the dentist so cool.

02 August 2011

Signal Induced by Lightning in Loop Antenna

It seems to be a pretty straightforward question: what is the signal induced in a magnetic loop antenna by the radiation from a lightning stroke?

Obviously the answer will pop out of Faraday's Law, but to apply that we need to know:
  • the area of the loops,
  • the size of the (wave) magnetic field and
  • the rate of change of the magnetic field.
The first of these is the easiest: 58 m2.

The amplitude of the wave's magnetic field component is a little more tricky. There are some signals, like those from transmitters, which are pretty much stable in amplitude. But the majority of the noise in the Very Low Frequency (VLF) band comes from the impulsive bursts of radiation generated by lightning, known as sferics. These can also vary in amplitude depending on the intensity of the lightning and the distance from the antenna. Reference to R. K. Said, “Accurate and Efficient Long-Range Lightning Geo-Location Using a VLF Radio Atmospheric Waveform Bank,” PhD Thesis, Stanford University, 2009 gives an amplitude of around 500 pT for a sferic at night.

Finally the rate of change is related to the frequency of the wave and we can just assume that this is around 5 kHz.

So, putting that all together gives

V ~ ω A B = 2 * π * 5 kHz x 58 m2 x 500 pT ≈ 1 mV.

Which seems pretty small and is why you need a rather good preamplifier.

Wedding Table Seating

Been getting in touch with my artistic side.

28 July 2011

Raster Graphics in R

As reported in P. Murrell, “Raster Images in R Graphics,” The R Journal, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 48-54, Jun. 2011 (available online), the facilities for producing raster plots in R have improved dramatically.

I tried this out with a correlation matrix for one of my research projects. Here is the resulting image:

Quite nice and colourful. I originally plotted this using something like
> palette = rainbow(256) > image(x, col = palette)
But the new functions do not have a facility to directly specify a colour palette. You can feed them an matrix of colours though... So the solution is to transform the raw matrix into a colour matrix. So, assuming that the raw data consists of values between 0 and 1, you could do the following:
> y = matrix((rainbow(256))[c(x) * 255 + 1], ncol = ncol(x), nrow = nrow(x), byrow = TRUE) > grid.raster(y)
You need to do a little extra work to get the axes.

26 July 2011

Long Working Hours

A recent medical article (M. Kivimäki, G.D. Batty, M. Hamer, J.E. Ferrie, J. Vahtera, M. Virtanen, M.G. Marmot, A. Singh-Manoux, and M.J. Shipley, “Using additional information on working hours to predict coronary heart disease: a cohort study.,” Annals of Internal Medicine, vol. 154, Apr. 2011, pp. 457-63.) concludes that
Long working hours are associated with increased risk for coronary heart disease.
Not terribly surprising. Long working hours → more stress → heart disease. But limiting your work hours is sometimes easier in principle than practice. Sure there are some jobs where at the end of the day you can shut down your computer (or lay down your broom/stethoscope/AK47), turn off the lights and head home. Then there are others where you just cannot avoid hanging around until the late hours (computer jocks tend to specialise in these). Then there are the more insidious jobs, where you are nominally not working but at some level there is always some work related activity going on. I regularly wake up to take a leak in the middle of the night and find myself standing there thinking about one problem or another. Don't misunderstand me: I engage in this midnight piddle pondering because I enjoy what I do. But these are hours which are pretty hard to log on a timesheet. And I hate to think that they are hurting my health.

So, if you are working too long and too hard, what signs should you look out for? Here are some I found in an article in Discovery Magazine:
  1. dizziness, aches and pains, racing heart, tinnitus, unexplained weight gain/loss, difficulty sleeping;
  2. constant worry, difficulty making decisions, forgetfulness, poor concentration, lack of creativity, no sense of humour;
  3. anger, anxiety, depression, mood swings, irritability, loneliness, negative thoughts;
  4. compulsive eating, critical attitude, explosive actions, social withdrawal, alchohol or drug abuse.
Disturbingly, I can tick off a whole whack of those. Should I be worried? Or can running offset the damage?

Table Markers

Got these together for the table settings at the wedding reception. All selected from our epic trip to Norway. Good times.

21 July 2011

Einstein/Monroe Hybrid

This is pretty cool. Up close it is Einstein, but from a distance it morphs into Marilyn Monroe.

12 July 2011

Space Physics Overview

Today was my turn to lecture at the Antarctic Science Winter School. Now everyone else has been presenting flashy PowerPoint talks. I thought I would do something a little different. So I started off by seeing if I could sumarise a whole lot of the interesting material on just a single A4 page. This is what I came up with:

It doesn't cover everything, but it does cover a lot. The next challenge was how to present all of this material, filling in all of the facts that were not on the above outline... in just 45 minutes. And without using a computer or projector. This is where things got challenging. From the Sun to the Solar Wind to the Magnetosphere is a pretty simple linear progression, so that went well. But once you get inside the Magnetosphere there is no clear ordering. What to talk about first? And so many of the topics are deeply interlinked. So I stumbled along, just trying to inject as many interesting facts as possible. I think that it went okay. At least the students all stayed awake. And considering that only 2 of the 15 students were actually physicists (the rest were biologists or geomorphs), that was no small thing!

20 June 2011

They Killed the Chivalry

Have they completely lost the plot? These are not covert assertions of superiority or suppression. They are simply expressions of respect. And they are as fundamental to being a real man as underarm hair and an inclination to loud farting. Either you were brought up like this, in which case you understand what it is all about and, hopefully put it into action, or you weren't. If you were a guy you should have seen your father doing these things for your mother. And if you were a girl your father should have exercised these courtesies to you too.

I will be damned if I am going to stop opening doors and pulling out chairs.

10 June 2011

A Podiatrist's Dream

Some footage (you see what I did there?) from NDC-2011.

08 June 2011

Shrek the Sheep

Shrek the sheep is something of a New Zealand icon. Born in around 1994 he managed to elude shearers for many years by hiding out in caves. Eventually they did get hold of him and he was shorn, yielding 27 kg of wool. He was later shorn again on an iceberg. Sadly old age finally caught up with him and he died on 6 June 2011 at the age of 17. Farewell Shrek.

07 June 2011

Installing Moodle on Ubuntu

The installation of most software on Ubuntu is pretty straightforward. For some reason I had a pretty hard time with Moodle. With the help of Brett we figured it out. Here are some notes.
  1. Install apache2 (version 2.2.17)
  2. Install php5 (version 5.3.5)
  3. Install mysql-server (version 5.1.54)
  4. Install moodle (version 1.9.9)
Unless you have a compelling reason to do otherwise, select the default URL for the moodle site. Also take the easy way out and configure the database using dbconfig-common during the installation process. The moodle site will probably have been installed under /usr/share/moodle, so you will want to link this into the directory for the web server:

# cd /var/www/ # ln -s /usr/share/moodle

Now visit http://localhost/moodle/ with your browser. Follow the instructions...

ChocNut Clusters

These are the way.

02 June 2011

Replicating an Ubuntu System

You might want to set up a new Ubuntu system with all the same packages that are installed on an old system. To do this, first go to the old system and execute:

# dpkg --get-selections >package-list.txt

Transfer the package-list.txt file across to the new machine. On the new machine start up Synaptic Package Manager and click File → Read Markings. Select package-list.txt and press Open. Then hit the Apply button. It is possible that it might grumble about some broken packages. This is easily remedied with Edit → Fix Broken Packages.

30 May 2011

Comrades 2011

Early morning preparations went well: two cups of coffee, boiled egg on toast, trips to the toilet, taped nipples, kit on, shoes on, watch on, belt on... ready to go!

Things did not get off to a very auspicious start. Claire dropped me off right near the start. I flashed my number at security and entered the starting area. After irrigating a nearby building I walked briskly along to find my pen. But just as I got there, there was an enormous surge of the runners already on the road. I am guessing that they pulled down the barriers between the batches and everyone was pushing forward to the front. I pushed my way into the entrance to E batch and then made my way forward a little bit along the side until the density of bodies just made it impossible to move. Then I stood around with all the other excited runners, waiting for the national anthem, then the cock's crow and finally "Chariots of Fire" (which never fails to produce an enormous lump in my throat) before the gun went off. And when it did... nothing happened. For a good 3 or 4 minutes. We just stood still. It literally took that long for the wave of motion to get back as far as where I was standing. Then we started to inch forward. Slowly. Very slowly. Then gradually, instead of shuffling, we were walking and then trotting. And sometime about 100 m after we actually crossed the start line (more than 5 minutes after the start), I was actually able to run.

Heading out of town across the bridge over Warwick Triangle the street lights went out and the throng of runners were plunged into complete darkness. The range of detritus dropped off by the runners up ahead suddenly became a minefield as people we tripping over discarded clothing and water bottles.

It was a pretty cool  morning, so I only discarded my black bag going up the hill towards 45th Cutting. Took a pee at the top of the hill. At this stage I was well behind schedule, but feeling good so not concerned at all. The long ascent up to Westville went by without event. Ran most of the way up Cowies Hill with a short walk break about half way up. Started down the other side, making sure to take short strides to conserve the quads. By this stage I had fallen into my normal fluids routine: one water sachet and a cup of Pepsi at each table. The flat bit through Pinetown is a little dull and boring, but Field's Hill on the far side totally makes up for this. Did a pretty systematic run-walk up the hill and got to the top feeling good. Enjoyed the coolth of the shade running through Kloof. Then onto the freeway briefly before getting back onto a side road. Just as I came off the freeway I met up with Robin (from the NDC) and we caught up a bit. I ran with him into Hillcrest where we both stopped to water the bushes. Trotted down the long hill to the bottom of Botha's Hill knowing that this was where my first bit of support was located.

Was pretty difficult to pick them out among the enormous gathering of people, but Claire's little pink fuzzy alice band made her stand out above the rest. Great to see Claire, Charles, Veronica and Jamie. Grabbed a hot dog, bottle of energade, gel and HYDRAssist sachets. Then took off up the hill. Run-walk again. You really do not lose any time by doing this. The folk who pass you running consistently generally lose steam after a bit and you reel them in again. I mixed my first sachet of HYDRAssist at this stage, making it pretty strong and washing it down with lots of water.

Normally the top of Botha's Hill is a swarm of school boys from Kearsney but they were completely absent this year. At this stage I was still feeling fine and half way was within a few km. And they were mostly downhill km! Claire has previously provided me with a flower for Arthur's Seat but this time she was going to be on the wrong side of Inchanga. Luckily GAME had a table about 1 km out and they were handing over pink roses. I was astonished to see that a load of people had deposited their roses on the Wall of Honour. I am not sure that they got the right end of the stick. I tossed mine onto the right spot, which by now was absolutely swamped with pink roses.

Drummond was loud and busy and the road was slippery with the water, Pepsi, squashed potates and orange peels. I forgot to check my time, which is an indication that I wasn't really worried. Started walking at the base of Inchanga and, with the exception of a few brief running bursts, maintained that all the way to the top. Probably lost about 10 minutes that was but at least I was still feeling good when I got to the summit. Again took it easy going down the other side. By this stage my legs were starting to feel a little sore. But I had the incentive of Claire waiting at the bottom of the hill. Again she was easy to spot and I got my hot dog and fluid fix.

Around this time I noticed that most of the people that I was running with were walking even the gentle inclines. This made a lot of sense so I fell into this routine. Passed by the Ethembeni School and approached the hill which had been my mental nemesis during the last few weeks. As it turns out the hill was actually a lot steeper than in my head. So perhaps some of that stress was warranted. But I got up it at a brisk walk and felt good trotting away on the level again. Harrison Flats was predictably dull. Long, straight flat and boring. Along this stretch I dipped into my portable pharmacy for the first time, being sure to swig down three sachets of water and swallow a potatoe immediately afterwards.

Cato Ridge was incredibly busy. I am always a little surprised when the tar road reverts to a dusty track for a bit. Found Claire on the way out of Cato Ridge. Then onwards to Camperdown. Saw Chantal and family on the far side of Camperdown. Looked like they were having a pretty fun day! At this stage, with around 30 km to go, I really started to enjoy myself (okay, maybe the little pharmaceutical marvels might also have played a role). Got up to Umlaas Road and for the first time was able to see Pietermaritzburg down in the hollow, about 20 km away. It must have been a rather cool day because the chicken farms were not too smelly. Or maybe I just didn't notice? Picked up Claire again on the far side of Lions' Park. No hot dog this time but a delcious peanut cluster. Mixed my fourth HYDRAssist on the way down to the bottom of Little Polly Shortts and washed it down with a bottle of Energade. Caught up with and passed Fanie at the bottom of the valley. Walked all the way to the top of the "little" hill and then trotted down the far side.

When I started up Polly Shortts proper a group of runners behind me loudly proclaimed "No running allowed!". I was quite happy to fall in with their commands so I stretched out my stride and attacked it at a vigorous walk. A few people came past doing the walk-run thing but it just wasn't working: I was keeping up with them by just walking and they were tiring themselves out.

At the top I was happy that there were only 8 km to go. For the last little bit I had been trying to do some mental calculations to figure out what my likely finishing time was going to be. Based on my average speed I knew that I would finish in less than 10:00. For a while I thought I might be able to do 09:30 but then I figured out that my calculations were wrong. So the target became 09:45 and even that was going to be tight. Luckily I was feeling pretty good and I managed to run most of the remaining distance to the stadium. In fact I was feeling so good (and my new goal was applying so much pressure!) that I went under 05:00 per km for the last two km!

My splits were:

Cowies Hill: 02:00:34
Drummond: 04:50:55
Camperdown: 06:50:51
Polly Shortts: 09:00:03

I crossed the line in 09:43:33, being my best time for the up run.

yeardirectionfinish timeposition

It's hard to say how this compared to previous runs. I do know that it was a lot better than my last up run in 2008. I also know that I felt really good over those last few km. I think that this had a lot to do with getting my hydration right (and HYDRAssist helped with that!). But it also resulted from the amazing support that I got on the day from Claire. Knowing that she was always waiting for me a little further along the road with a hug and a smile and some goodies was extremely motivating.

Finally, to answer the question that I have been asked a few times over the last few weeks: why do we do this crazy race? Well, the quick and easy answer is "because I can!". But that is a little trite. So, really, why do we do it? I am sure that everybody's reasons are different. For me
  • it gives a focus for my running year;
  • it is a brilliant (and economical) day's entertainment;
and, finally, but perhaps most importantly,
  • it reinforces the fact that I can do whatever I set my mind to. That there is no obstacle so large that I cannot overcome it. You walk away from the race with the most enormous swell of empowerment. Sure this glow of invincibility might not be entirely accurate, but when you are bogged down in something onerous you can always think back to Comrades and tell yourself that you got through that and now you can get through this too!

28 May 2011

The Day Before Comrades

The weather has improved. It is sunny outside right now but with a rather blistering little breeze. Will have to wrap up warmly for the start. Otherwise I am feeling pretty good: the aches and pains that I had a couple of days ago seem to have disappeared and, apart from a bit of a sniffle (which I am prepared to assume is psychosomatic), I am 100% good.

This is what my last week looked like:

SundayChelsea Bun Run
Tuesday10 km (am)
Wednesday4 km (pm); 2 Senokot (pm)
Thursday---; 2 Senokot (pm)
Friday---; register; cut nails; shave nipples; 2 Senokot (pm)
Saturday---; assemble kit
SundayComrades Marathon 2011

This morning I pinned my numbers on my vest and sorted out all of my kit. I think that I have everything.

Kit list:
  • shoes and socks (going with nice think trail socks this year)
  • spare socks
  • vest, shorts and compression shorts
  • Two Oceans t-shirt for the start (didn't run the race, so this is a throw away)
  • "black bag" for the start
  • belt pouch
  • lip ice
  • nipple plasters
  • toilet paper in bank bag
  • mini pharmacy (Imodium, salt tablets and Myprodol)
  • sun glasses
  • GPS watch
  • 3 bottles Energade naartjie
  • 5 Hammer gels (chocolate and espresso)
  • 4 sachets HYDRAssist
  • Championchip tag
Claire will be providing me with hotdogs at various points along the route. She did this last year too and it was a hit: the All Golds tomatoe sauce completely made them.

26 May 2011

Weather still crap...

... but this morning we were treated to a beautiful double rainbow on the way to work. Which should be a promise of better things to come.

25 May 2011

Five Days to Go...

... and it's raining. Not even a (very athletic) duck would find the idea of a pedestrian trip from Durban to Pietermaritzburg in the rain an appealing concept. So let's try and figure out where this is going.

The midday METEOSAT image for yesterday shows a whole lot of cloud to the south and a front moving into the Cape. The picture for this morning shows that the cloud over Natal is a lot thicker (which ties up with the rain nicely!) but it seems to be improving in the Eastern Cape.

The Weather Underground paints a fairly rosy picture: rubbish weather today but a great day on Sunday.

Finally, the South African Weather Service has this to say, which is perhaps not quite as optimistic. I am not sure that I am more inclined to believe it though. These guys do not have a history of reliable forecasts. Their weather predictions for tomorrow are generally doubtful and a "long range" forecast, like five days, is approaching science fiction.

Wed 25thThu 26thFri 27thSat 28thSun 29th

So the only thing to do is wait for Sunday morning and hope that it dawns cool and sunny.