Hohenhort 15km

I recognised the anxiety straight away

The nervousness. The slight hurry in everybody’s step. The frantic darting looks for the loo. The anticipation. I was surprised to find them so strong, so overwhelming and I had not missed them in two years.

hohenhort-mapSunday morning I stood at the start of the Hohenhort 15km road race. In fact this was probably the last race I did many moons ago. How would it feel this time around?

The loop through the leafy suburb is a funny one, lots of hills and twists and turns. I started way back in the field. I was not here to race just to do a long run and see how things went.

At the end we had come full circle, back to where we came from under two hours ago and back to where I was years previously. What changed?

Certainly the streets were the same. Many fellow runners seemed the same (though I enjoyed running with three folks I don’t often have a chance to run with) it was I who had changed, I had come full circle.

shellI realised that this was more true than a linear progression we like to believe in. I was back where I had been before, well almost. But yet I felt different.

I had grown. I wondered about how many New Years resolutions had been swept under the bed already. How many dreams had been given up? Unreachable.

How it all seemed so impossible. Impossibly hard.

If these cycles were true then maybe our approach to achieving goals should be different from our linear approach. If the finish line is back at the start then what is the point.

Well that is the point exactly.

Maybe we can look rather at the next micro cycle and see “What I can I do today?”

“What can I achieve today, that maybe I could not do yesterday?” or

“Can I do something slightly better today than I did it yesterday?”

Because I know I will be back at the start tomorrow and the next day and the next. I can start again.

But start I must.

I am reading Chris Froome’s book right now. The hours and days he spends by himself turning the wheels. Again and again. Each one building. Unraveling the carpet until it gets easier. Until it builds momentum.

But starting the momentum going is not easy.

Our brain wants short term gain for long time sacrifice. We need the equation to go the other way around. This is true in all areas in our lives. Diet, exercise, career, self discipline.

Sunday I ducked under the tape in the finish chute before we got to the coke. I felt no need to replenish what I had not lost.

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

Theodore Roosevelt 

I actually don’t need that much when I know I am coming back to the start. Day after day, week after week, 23 day cycle after 23 day cycle.

(A couple of nights before I did not sleep very well. It was full moon. Lunatic.)

The transition to the New Year has had its bumps. Too much compromise, too much eating other people’s snacks.

“It is not what we eat between Christmas and New Year that makes us, it is what we eat between New Year and Christmas that makes the difference.” said my wife. 

And so I set myself a challenge of 33 days to eat clean. 100% clean. No deviation. I falter, I start again. Simple. I am keeping a log. It is not the only thing I am keeping a log of.

A record, a record of honesty. Of where I am. When I know where I am I can build. Slowly.

Slowly build momentum.

Join me.



Where is scene 2 in the rooi koppies?

I switched off my GPS.

It would not lead me to where I wanted to go.

Speed bumps and traffic, high double fences mark the privileged.

I drive on. I will know it when I get there.

The road deteriorates to a dust track. The privileged do not travel here.

I skirt Wonderkop and there it is. smaller than I thought. nothing to indicate that 34 died here. There seems to be no time to contemplate that here. dwarfed by the towering. Lonmin.

On the outskirts of everything there are the Rooikoppies. The white crosses have been removed. ground burnt. soil hard. I drive on and as suddenly I cross the Hartebeespoort dam wall to another world.

Swanlake, Aloes, Diepsloot, Sandton, Veranda Panda swirl in my head. What reality am I returning to?

(Originally written a year ago, now is as good a time as any to post it.)

My parents did not name me Leo. I chose it.

Well actually that is not quite true. It is short for my Christian name which none of my friends could pronounce. A good friend once introduced me to people in California and turned to me “do you mind if we call you Leo?”

I just nodded.

And so my life was changed. For the first time in my life I managed to avoid that awkward moment just after introductions when you have to say your name three times so that strangers can make sense. In the end everybody nods in embarrassment and the conversation moves swiftly along. Or worse it dies right there.

This got me thinking about names and the stories they could tell.

Table Mountain at last light

In rock climbing the first person to climb a particular route gives the route a name and proposes a grade. The second climbing route I did was Right Face named so after the obvious way up the right hand side of Table Mountain. Obviously there is a Left Face too. Our aim was to one day progress to climbing on Africa Ledge. Named after the shape of Africa in the ravine.

There is obviously Africa Face, Africa Cracks, Africa Nose, Africa Crag etc  As we progressed through the grades so we progressed through these names.

El Capitan – The Nose is the shadow line up the centre

Overseas I climbed in Yosemite. What a more imposing name than El Capitan? The first route up the captain: The Nose. The obvious line up the prow in the middle of the imposing wall. Every party climbing the route finds their own adventure, finds themselves in a way and finds their story. Stories to be told around the campfire later.

I travelled to Utah to hang out with cowboys and climb this tower called the North Sixshooter. Utah desert is famous for crack climbing. The sandstone walls are completely void of features so you have to stuff your hands, finger, arms, anything that goes into the crack and hope that it sticks. It is absolute war. A single rope length can take every bit of energy that you have. There is a route there called The Jane Fonda Full Body Workout. Go figure.

As I progressed I wanted to open routes too.

I went back to Africa Ledge and made Africa Lunch. You see it was on Africa Ledge and my friend Tinie made Out to Lunch the same day.

Mary on the not so scary first pitch of Quake

On Fountain ledge there is Magnetic wall and this little wavy route called Quiver. We did a very very scary route called Quake. The nasty jumble of sharp rocks at the base will chop you in half if you fall off in the wrong place. There is also a video game where you kill lots of bloody monsters by the same name. Hence I thought it was appropriate.

I had just been dumped by a long time girlfriend. We were climbing on the Lower Arrow Buttresses. You have Robin Hood, etc… I made Shot to the Heart. Not a route of great beauty but necessity.

We once again progressed and moved to the bigger cliffs.

Yellowwood Amphitheatre in Du Toits Kloof had Armageddon Time which was the bench mark route and the 1977 classic Time Warp meandering up the centre of the wall. We put up Prime Time up the middle of the wall.

Somehow I think a name gives a route a certain destiny. It gives it a certain place in history and that is where the story starts. Same with people. If we don’t like a name then we should be able to change it. Change it so that we can tell the story we want the world to hear. Tell our story.

Automatic for the People

We developed this cliff in the heart some enchanted mountains. The first route to be put up here is called Automatic for the People. You can fall off the very first move and off the very last. In between are 250m of overhanging climbing that are hard and world class. So not automatic at all and certainly not for the people. But the theme was set to REM songs. What followed was The Great Beyond and finally we brought some Lou Reed into the mix. After 11 weekends of preparing the route we put up Magic and Loss. For every bit of magic there is an equal bit of loss. Andrew prepared a route but broke his leg before he could climb it. He called it “Bury my heart at wounded knee”. We got permission to open the route as Andrew would be off climbing for the whole season and I suggested “White men can’t jump”.

So if your story is not to the way you want the world to hear you then maybe start again.

My name is Leo.

Thank you.

But actually life demands more!

I came across this quote by Regina Brett over the weekend “No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.”

The tendency with holidays (or weekends for that matter) is that we veg. We drink just enough coffee to make it to the couch and then surf – channels. We are a victim to our OWN free time. Why is this?

Maybe we are actually a victim to our non-free time. Those five days between weekends. We feel powerless to affect the outcome of our day. We tend to float along for 9h on a stream of our master’s tide. Not caring to change much, watching minutes tick by until we are free. But strangely the cycle continues. We drown our sorrows in craft beverage and then deal with the hang over the next day with a cup of the black stuff. (Please can you add enough sugar and milk to make this lifestyle palatable?) How can we call this living?

The truth is that in the 9X5 cycle we are training ourselves to be victims. Victims to the man (whoever that is in your life, whoever you make him to be)

What if I did more than just show up?

How is that even possible?

Every morning I have a choice. I have a choice to wake up or call in sick. Yes both have consequences. Maybe I can choose my consequence? I have a choice in what breakfast I eat. I have a choice to make between instant gratification and future health. Either which way I have a choice. I choose to wear an ironed shirt. This is not expected or even suggested in an industry which revers “lifestyle” but I make that choice. I choose to dress up. Every single day. I choose how I want to shape my day. I am making a habit. I don’t get it right all the time but at least I try.

Having made that choice I show up. The choice to get up and create my day. Sometimes it is as small as being positive, other days I have grander plans. At least I have a plan.

Where in your life are you a victim?

Where in your life do you choose?

Merry Merry

Carols and various other hymns are well on their way to getting us in the mood. Christmas is only a few weeks away and we are all in dread.

So why is that?

Why is this time of cheer so stressful for most of us?

Most office parties are a time of too much booze, getting too cozy with the secretary and laughing at the bosses bad jokes. But that is just the overture for the main course come end December.

Well the aunt with the hairy chin is waiting for her kiss (it seems like she has been waiting 11 months already). We have to spend money on silly Secret Santa for people we don’t see for another year. We hang out with long lost family who we don’t actually like all that much. I wonder if the feeling is mutual.

We eat and drink way over our limit.

And on top of it all we should be joyful throughout this whole ordeal.

No wonder this all takes its toll on us and we suffer this hangover in Jan. Financially, physically and emotionally.

So what is happening that this time of joy is often a time of great stress?

We fall prey to group pressure to act outside of what is true to us. This pressure is huge, supported by family, religion, friends and the Jones’s. Then if we have kids we they are targeted by big business through advertising which has been building for months.

So what to do?

Christmas is not all bad and some traditions can be good fun (as they should be). My point is we can’t blame anybody but ourselves if we feel out of sorts during this time.

We need a really good understanding of what works for us. What our boundaries are. Sure some of our boundaries can be flexible during this time but unless we have a good idea of what they are we then don’t know which ones we can be flexible with and which ones not.

For example if drink does not make me feel so good I have the choice. Drinking ‘just one beer’ often leads to consuming more. Knowing this and knowing what works allows us to choose for ourselves what we want. We can then either drink that one beer and run the risk of sliding into more or to bring our own bottle of sparkly juice to that family braai. That is your choice. Each choice has a consequence but at least by making a choice you can choose the outcome. This does require active engagement though. And that is what most of us lack. We think we can just float along and be happy. Sorry to burst your bubble. Happiness requires active engagement with our lives and that takes work.

The other problem is that so many things are unspoken and left unspoken around this time of year.

“Last year we had Christmas with his parents, this year it has to be with mine” is just one example.

Rather than leave these traditions unspoken and for everybody to make their assumptions around them: put them out in the open.

If we say how it is for us we allow others to hear us. Maybe just maybe they have the same opinion around some silly traditions.

So where do I start?

Feelings and emotions are a good start. If something gives you a funny feeling in your stomach then that is a good indicator. Just like an indicator in the car, it gives you some good ideas as to something going on. It maybe should give you an indication as to a recommended change of direction. Maybe, just maybe we should pay attention to those indicators and actively engage in our lives.

And here’s to a merry festive season!

“John has such good values – he is such a good boy”

Well what does that actually mean?

What standard are we judging John against?

Does it not beg the question “What are your values?” Or better still “What do you value?” “Where do you place value?”

Maybe it is worth thinking about.

What you might just find is that you value things differently to your peers or even closest friends. You might even value different things. So what does this tell us?

It might just reveal our individuality, our uniqueness to some degree.

By asking somebody what they value you are really asking them what makes them unique. How it really is for them.

Maybe, just maybe we see some overlaps and that is where we see commonality, community, humanity…

But let’s not forget within our community we are all individuals with slightly different values and that is the way it should be. Both can be celebrated. Maybe they should be celebrated in ourselves and others.

Values can change and that is OK.


“What do you value today?”

Ten Top Table Mountain Trail Runs #5 Contour Path

table-mountain-trailIf you require a quick trail fix of under 1h and are CBD bound then this little gem is a good way to start (or end the day). A warm up walk up to the Contour Path, Flat runnable trail below the sedimentary sandstone cliffs of Table Mountain and undulating trails back home make for a great 6 km outing.

Start from the second bend on Tafelberg Road when driving from Kloof Nek. There is usually enough parking here. Steep stairs lead off the tar and onto switchbacks onto the bottom of the ridge of Kloof Corner Ridge. This ridge has been getting some press recently on certain trail hero’s media pages but more of that some other time. The trail steepens for the last few meters up the white beacon and a stunning view from the corner of the Contour Path.

Turn left and find your stride along the mostly flat but somewhat technical trail. The terrain underfoot can be rough so watch your step. Also there are a couple of sections which are exposed. This really is no issue if you slow down and take care in these sections. You can carry on as long as you want at this altitude and eventually you will end up at Constantia Nek but that is a little too far for us today. After the waterfall take the first turn left (this is a few hundred meters before you enter Platteklip Gorge). The descent is pleasant and spits you out on Tafelberg Road, Turn left briefly and turn off the road at the first parking lot. Super steep descent on a gravel road. Where it levels out turn left and follow the undulations back to the start.

The views are great on this one – a must for any tourist visiting the city!

Spring time is here.

This is the season for insurance. Somehow it always happens. Somehow despite previous experience I always get caught out. No other season is like it. Summer is summer, it is hot and sunny and we know to put on lots of sunscreen when we go out. Winter is wet and cold and we accept this and layer up. Autumn is different too.

The weekend forecast looked good so I took out insurance. I put on sunscreen for our early morning ride. I hesitated with the windbreaker but put it on more as an afterthought as I stepped through the front door. I should have known. Cruising along the Red Road to Blouberg the double rainbow was a sure sign but I did not pay attention. It was pretty while it lasted. My partner has been pounding the power so I was happy to sit in and enjoy the cruise.

Minutes later the skies opened and not in the way I wanted. “Oh this won’t last” I thought.

My riding buddy kept pushing the pedals. It was time to put our heads down and pretend to be Dutch hardmen. Luckily he was wearing a bright coloured top and so I could see him. I could vaguely make out his back wheel too. My glasses were the only things keeping my eyes open from the spray from his back wheel. Stinging with sunscreen by this point. It was a fine balance of sitting outside the wind and getting soaked you see. I knew which one was worse so I sucked it up.

There was always the advantage that I did not need to drink at all. Just open my mouth.

At moments like this my shoulders ride up and I want to withdraw my head like a tortoise.  Luckily this did not last too long. He called the turn around saving me from begging.

As we entered the café filled  with warmduschers – all dry, having the big breakfast on the small ride we could hold our heads high in the knowledge.

Today is indeed another TUEsday*

This piece has been brewing in my head a while.

I hoped it would go away during the Olympics. I watched only one race (can’t remember which one) on the interweb the next day.

Why bother you ask?

I just don’t see sport as sport anymore. It is entertainment. In the same class as watching the Kardashians or whatever is on trend at the moment. I have no problem with that. I even like it. But it holds little interest beyond. I used to follow it more intensely. I even tried to emulate the actors in the sport.

So what has happened? I am disillusioned.

Disillusioned by the top sprinters, yes that one who wins every time, the guys and girls running the 10 000m, the TDF. I just can’t bring myself to believe that they are clean, that this is sport. More importantly that this has anything in common with my runs or cycles with my mates on any given weekend.

So what is the solution?

Treat the shows we watch on TV as shows. Exactly as that: choreographed, scripted, well executed but no less entertaining or intriguing than when we believed. The only difference is that I can no longer see it as real.

I don’t believe that all pro’s are dirty. Far from it. I pity the clean ones for I believe the rules have changed and they were asleep at the time. The clean guys have had the rug pulled out from underneath them. I fear there is no turning back. For the tide is far too great.

There can be no doubt about that. It is no longer an approach of who wins by being clean. It is who wins by not getting caught. Whether it is pushing up to the line as Sky would like to call it. Or cutting a corner on a switchback and thinking it is ok. Or worse thinking you won’t get caught. And maybe that is the tragedy.

  • Thanks to the Secret Pro for this piece.


I started doing breathing exercises a few months ago. Every morning.

First thing in the morning. To get my day started the right way. While everybody is still asleep.

The basics are pretty easy. It is called Square Breathing.

Breathe in for the count of seven. Hold your breath for the count of seven. Exhale for the count of seven. And finally hold for the count of seven. Repeat. Seven cycles.

I was keen and wanted to prove that I could do it. However reality was quick and humbling. I started with a count of four. I got distracted often. More often than not actually. Almost always I lost my track somewhere along the line. Thoughts took over my mind while I counted in the dark.

I persist. Not because I have got it right but because precisely I have not. I persist. That is the point. I am slowly getting better. More consistent. Less distracted. More focused.

It has taken months and will continue as do I. For actually I have no choice. I must get better.

I take breathing pretty much for granted, maybe you do too. Why not spend a little time every day doing it consciously?