Friday, October 24, 2014

Ready, steady...

We are as ready and prepared for this race as we will ever be. After spending the afternoon packing and repacking our race backpacks we found that we had to leave some stuff behind that won't fit in the backpack since, well, uhm, we never actually tested the pack after we filled the 3 litre hydration bladder. Three litres of water takes up a whole lot of space. (Oh, are you assuming that we never actually ran carying a hydratuon pack? Really, why?)

Packing our gear for the Eden Duo multisport race.

Tomorrow morning we'll be up and off before the crack of dawn since the race starts six and we still need to fit two coffees and a 20 min drive to the starting line before that.

Ouma and Oupa are geared and briefed and already in bed to get a good head start for their adventures with the boys while we sweat it out in the bush.
Moto-moto lined up and ready for take off runway zero-six, report next after job complete.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Eden Duo here we come!

The entire house is on its head with gear and bags and hyper children. This is how we prep and pack!

Zee insisted on wearing his race apparel yesterday, despite my pleas to keep it clean for race (support) day.

Race teams will consist of two members. This is a 40km race that will start in Wilderness with a leg of rowing on the Touws River, followed by a trail running/kloofing leg and then cycling the final portion back to the start at the Ebb and Flow campsite in Wilderness.

Our team name is Moto-Moto, which translates to 'hot-hot' (or fire) in Swahili. A tongue-in-cheek reference to Zee's favourite Madagascar movie, which also prompted the 'team emblem' of Marty and Melman.

The children's race support shirts with Marty and Melman. 

Needless to say, the entire family is up and ready to tackle this race. Ouma and Oupa is geared and ready in SA to keep the youngens occupied while the Hubs and I race.

Ps. At the airport now. Ready to go!
Pps. Where are the days of slinging your backpack on your back and hopping on a plane/bus for a two week outing? I packed for 48 hours straight, ONLY the bare necessities. I must admit. One bag contains my favourite coffee, chocolate, morning rusks and rice cakes. I can't bear waste time grocery shopping when we travel and risk not finding my favourite brands. At least this way we can settle in comfortably first and then in our own, leisurely time locate a shop that works. I'm just anal like that.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

On bumps with aeries and bumps in aeries...

The first entry into my Pilot's logbook was on 16 August 2012. I was exactly 1 month pregnant. And yet to find out...

First entries in my Pilot's logbook, 2012.

By that time I have been on a waiting list at the Flying School for some time and was really psyched up and ready to learn to fly. My deposit was payed a few weeks before and the ground school books were sitting on the dining room table. 

Needless to say when we found out about our second pregnancy we were over the moon! Zee had just turned one so the new baby would be 21 months younger than his older brother. We couldn't be happier! And then started the planning and the logistics. We realised that, if I wanted to obtain my PPL (Private Pilot's Licence) any time within the next decade or so, it probably would be easiest to do it while there is still only one baby, which still takes naps during the day. So after our doctor confirmed our pregnancy he also confirmed that there was no medical reason why I couldn't continue with flying lessons. So I planned on completing the PPL during Zee's daily naps and in the remaining eight months before the new baby was due. Oh if I only knew how interesting it would still get...

Then of course I did what any responsible pregnant student pilot would do: I didn't inform my instructors. Instead I waited a few weeks. I completed the radio course and a good number of flight exercises.

From the very first lesson the instructors allows the student to take off. If at first you still had your doubts, the thrill of getting a plane in the air should really sort that for you. It was absolutely fantastic! Of course later you realise that anyone that can follow three simple instructions can do it: full power, keep her in the middle of the runway and wait for 60 mph to lift the nose wheel (with a whole lot of right rudder input from the instructor, of course). But still. After the first flight I was totally hooked. 

Then came flying exercise 10 and 11: Stalling and spinning. Stalling is when one or both of the wings of the aircraft stops flying. The aircraft runs out of airspeed and the nose drops for a dive. When the aircraft stalls in a nose-high position, to recover you merely push the nose down a little below the horizon to regain airspeed and she will fly again (this is not a lesson in flight, just a very rudementary explanation of what is referred to when talking about the stall).

Now stalling the aircraft it no real biggie. Not while you are doing it intentionally during training or for what ever intentional other reasons you may have. If you happen to stall the plane during flying for some or other reason and you recognise the stall early you can easily recover from it and continue flying. The reason why stalls are taught is for students to be able to recocnise it early and to recover normal flying. And this is also why spins are taught. 

Spins happen if you don't recover from the stall quick enough. One wing keeps on flying, the other is deeply stalled and you spin in a corkscrew fashion as is illustrated below.

Spinning around the stalled, dropped wing in a corkscrew fashion. (Source).

Cute picture, hey? I have to add here that spinning an aircraft is no longer required for the completion of the PPL excercises. The fact is that too many accidents happened during training of the spin, since many of the instructors were just not able to properly execute spins. Also, the airframes of many of the light and ultra light aircraft are not certified for spinning and other maneuvers which automatically precludes them from spinning training.

But then I trained in the Cessna 172. The Toyota Hilux of the sky. And my instructor is an aerobatics pilot that remembers his first flying lesson at the age of six, sitting in the co-pilot's seat next to his father. Nuff said. He lets his students spin, and he makes sure they can recover from it. (Just for clarity I feel I need to add that a Cessna 172 is as stable as an Isuzu KB on gravel, not as loose-tailed and jumpy as the Hilux. So I assume it is referred to the never-say-die aspects of the Hilux, not the stability...)

The Cessna 172 in which I trained for my PPL.

Now look. I am brave and I am all for fun and games, but you know the saying of opening an umbrella in somebody's whatever? That is how I feel about spinning. And I can promise you on the grave of my inhibitions that I lost on that first day of spinning, that I will recover from a stall sooner than you can reach for your cellphone to call your mother. But spin I will never again. Not for me. Thank you.

And then only did I tell them. I knew that stalling and spinning were coming at some point, so I waited it out until then. My t-shirts just got bigger and I always made sure I went to the bathroom before our hour long flying lesson, but the bump stayed tucked away for the first almost four months. 

I want to be a good pilot, and for that I needed the best training, including the complete spinning exercise (I was never really nauseous during my pregnancies so that was a plus). I figured it would be safe to spill the beans after the worst was done and I proved that I wouldn't barf all over the cockpit. Apparently that worked, since neither of the instructors batted an eyelid during the big reveal and we just kept on flying.   

So after the spinning it was mostly touch-and-go's in the circuit ("bumps") - where you take off, go around in the circuit pattern, land and immediately apply full power again for the take off. Bumps are mainly to practice landing and takeoff procedures. The 'bump' was doing bumps and thoroughly enjoying it! I remember noting how I could feel baby Vee moving and turning while I was flying. I think his little system is wired for adrenaline after all those touch-and-go's and stalls and spins. But nothing, really nothing, gets close to the adrenaline rush of a first time solo flight...

But more on that later.

Sunday, October 12, 2014


Training for Eden Duo in Wildernis South Africa - running in the Ivorian Jungle - breathtakingly humid, hot and beautiful.

The French way is probably not the best way to get energy levels up for a race - the boutique wine bought in a nearby village (yes a village) says all you need to know about the Ivorian (aka French) way in West Africa...

Race Report: The Lucky Star Half-Marathon

I love early mornings. I used to love getting up way before the crack of dawn and start my workday with a mug of coffee or two before the sun was even out. Then came babies and the consequent lack of sleep, so nowadays I try to make the most of whatever shuteye I can get...

But on race days I don't mind getting up in the wee hours of the morning. If we are not on location I summons an entire support team to fill in for me at home me so I can slip out early to line up. The recent Lucky Star Half-marathon kicked off at 7 am, so I got to get up at 5 am since I need my two hours head start for preparations and caffeinations. And then I was almost late for the start because I had to drive all the way home again for socks! I forgot my socks?! I arived with 2 minutes to spare.

Early morning race day preparations.

The Lucky Star Marathon has been taking place at the coast since 1985. This year marked it's 29th anniversary, which is quite remarkable. More that 800 athletes lined up in total for the full marathon, the 21.1 km, the 10 km and the relay races. It was also the Southern Region Half-Marathon Championships, so a number of international teams also participated. The route of the Marathon is from Walvis Bay to Swakopmund, while the 21.1 km and 10 km races started in Swakopmund and followed a route alongside the coast direction Walvis Bay and back.

This is a route that I have traveled on regularly in the past seven years, but I don't think I have really taken in the breathtaking scenery before as I did during this race. It really is beautiful, with the ocean on one side and the coastal dunes on the other. 

Yes, there is a road race that takes place in THIS beautiful setting. It is called the Lucky Star Marathon. (Thanking my Lucky Stars it is on the tarmac BELOW these Mother dunes).(Source)

For the half-marathon the route itself is relatively flat, with a few long but low hills. I found the terrain surprisingly comfortable, with level tarmac most of the way or an option of level gravel on the shoulders where the road slants in a bend. I often opted for the gravel, even on the level stretches since I find it easier on my knees.

The race was extremely well organised. Water tables were situated every 3 km and traffic officials did what they could to keep us safe on this busy road. I did however feel that heavy trucks could have been directed to the alternative route behind the dune belt for the duration of the race. It wasn't pleasant to breath heavy exhaust fumes and to fight the wind gusts and flying sand from passing trucks. But in all honesty it was perhaps 3 or 4 trucks in total. So not really that bad.

The water tables were manned by Etosha Fishing personnel, and they apparently had a competition on for best team spirit. This was easily the most supportive, fun race I have attended in Namibia. People in costume were cheering and friendly and ready to hand out a drink or a word of encouragement wherever they could. Cheers to them! 

The Etosha Fishing 'Cowboy' water table won a prize for their good spirit and costume. (Source).

Although breaking my PB (pubic bone. Or Personal Best time) wasn't really my main goal for this race, I seem to derive from a long line of overly competitive boere people and once we get that itch, it rarely goes away. My previous PB over the half-marathon was 1:59:30, which I ran earlier this year after a longish baby-and-second-pregnancy running break. My goal for this race was to bring that time down with a few minutes. But when an English lady cornered me at the third km and asked me my goal time, I had to commit to a number - after I got over the initial shock of being challenged so boldly by a rival. Aren't the English supposed to be more proper? Who asks your goal time?! You make small talk while quietly pinpointing your opponents' week spots to plan the sudden overtake and the triumphant, pretend-reserved, wave at the turnaround or finish line! But the game was on. I aimed for 1:55. 

While I was pondering this newly set goal, I suddenly had an epiphany (not an alcoholic beverage in this case) and  a game plan was born. I decided to run the way I run my long runs, essentially without a watch to check my pace, just by feel and feedback from my body and the course. The previous night I read a race report of a fabulous mama-runner who also happens to be my beautiful and inspiring cousin. She reported to have tackled the 21.1 km in 5 km increments, with a uniform goal pace over the 4 sections. Suddenly it hit me that I have always tried to tackle the entire race as a whole, instead of breaking it down in smaller, manageable (rewardable) sections. Tackling the race as a whole usually resulted in extreme math problems once you hit the 13th or 15th km, when you try to work out an adjusted goal pace and whether there is time for a quick sip of water or if you will be able to fit that darn 1.1 km at the end and still make a PB. Way, WAY too complicated!

So I set a goal pace for each 5 km sections, ran by feel and just glanced at the watch to keep track of the distance, never the pace. And low and behold, running a few five kays is way easier than running a 21.1 km! When I crossed the bridge into Swakop with 3 km to go I glanced at my watch and thought it was wrong, that it had stopped at some point. I finished the race in 1:52:05, an improvement of more than 7 minutes on my PB, and felt quite chuffed.

New PB by more than 7 minutes.

My beautiful hubs came out with Vee to support me as always, driving past me a few times and standing next to the road at the 15 km mark. They charmed the last chocolate out the poor friendly support table, because when I arrived I was offered only water and a Chomp already out of its wrapper(?) I just smiled and waved. Seeing my smiling, cheering hubs and babies next to the road while racing makes me immensely happy, and those images always carry me when it gets tough. Those and images of my mother in costume.  She lives far, but we have a tradition that she always 'dresses up' to come support me in spirit. And her description of her 'costumes' has had me giggling many times during a race.

The Hubs and Vee waited at the finish line. No better way to finish a race!

Overall this race was one of the running highlights of this year for me. I love huge, well organised races with a lot of team spirit and happy runners. Times for the marathon athletes weren't apparently all that good and they complained of a strong head wind. Here at the coast you never know what the weather, especially the wind, will do come race day. You just have to take it as it comes and it honestly can change from one minute to the next. I certainly enjoyed the Lucky Star and will be back.

Ps. I passed the English lady in the last km. Not competitive at all. Really.

Saturday, October 11, 2014


Dear fellow lifers,

Welcome to this blog and thank you for stopping by.

I am Riana and my family and I live in the beautiful, small but cosmopolitan town of Swakopmund, Namibia. I am the wife of a hunky explorer husband and the mother of two toddler boys. Zee is 3 and Vee is almost 1.5 years old. I am fortunate to be a stay-at-home-mom and wouldn't trade it for the world. I used to be an environmental scientist before we started with a family. The Hubs travels a lot for work, all over the world, but we often schedule time to travel together and go on wild adventures. Which is easy. Since everything you do is wild when you have two toddlers!

The four of us in Moshi, Tanzania, in November 2013. Mt Kilimanjaro is in the back. 

We are an active family that love the outdoors and keeping fit. I run long distances and one of my bucket list items is to run a marathon on each of the seven continents. The Hubs is an athlete and avid mountaineer. He has scaled mountains such as Kilimanjaro, Mt Kenia, Devil's tooth in the Dragensberg just to name a few. This year he climbed the Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda, which was an absolute highlight for him. We are currently training for our first adventure race together at the end of October. The two of us will team up to tackle a 50 km course of rowing, kloofing, trail running and cycling in Wilderness, South Africa,  More to follow on that.

I am also a keen part-time aviator. I obtained my PPL (private pilot's licence) on a Cessna 172 last year and have since upgraded to fly a Cessna 182. I absolutely adore flying and do it as much and often as possible when the Hubster is home. I would like to do some bush flying courses later on to be able to ferry the Hubs to remote locations for his work. But my big dream is to fly a helicopter... A huge, shiny, noisy thing that can fly and land anywhere!

So you ask what is in the name of the blog... And I would say, as you can see, it is a pretty straight forward play on several words ;) ... But it mostly pertains to the large life that we endeavour to create for our children, as well as to being 'at large' on this planet and in life itself. That's worth pondering for a while!

With this blog I would like to connect with friends and family that live far away and abroad, but also with like-minded individuals who may find value from reading of our experiences who can also add value by commenting and sharing of their own experiences. We will provide race reports on the athletic events we participate in. I will also share some of my experiences of my short aviation career, and force/blackmail invite the Hubs to share some of his exciting mountaineering and other travelling experiences.

I would love to hear from you, whether it be a comment or just a 'like' or perhaps even a discussion. Thank you for reading.


Ja ja oukei - I have been threatened enough lately...

Sitting in the Ivorian jungle, fan full speed frontal - hot as hell with a pinch of french flaire - tall trees reminiscent of the Amazon - plenty small life (bats too - ugh) and pretty spectacular.

Miss home though