Review: Snood

Me in a snood, looking excitedIt’s reached that point in the year where its getting horribly cold. Pretty enough on a Christmas card, much less appetising when its 1 degree outside, and you are heading off to work on the bike at 7am.

This year, I treated myself to a snood. I would recommend it.

It feels like still having the duvet wrapped around you, even as you brave the icy streets. The one I have even has airholes for your mouth, so you can breath through it without feeling like you are suffocating.

I do whole-heartedly advise you to splash out on one, if you do any winter cycling. However, I have a long history of complaining about cycling, so it would be remiss of me not to complain just a little bit…

Problems with a snood:

Reduced peripheral vision

It hardly seems much, but the snood overlaps the edge of my face by around 1cm. It’s amazing how much this affects my view of cars, especially when peering over my shoulder for overtakers.

If possible, try to peel back the edges just parallel with your eyes, since the feeling of being cosy is definitely diminished a bit by being run over by a lorry.

The terrors of snood condensationCondensation

As soon as you stop moving, the warmth of your body and the steam from your breathing rapidly cloud your vision.

Once you set off again, the flow of cold air sorts it out, but I have gone almost completely blind at traffic lights a few times!

Looking like a serial killer.

I have not problem with looking like an idiot – see lycra trousers – but there’s something a little bit bank-robber-esque about covering ones mouth and nose. More than a few people have commented on my sinister appearance.

 

Problems aside, I love my snood, and I wish you all well in your snooding over the rest of this winter!
Have an emotional snood story? Why not share it below…

 

Board Gaming in December!

I love spending time with people, and I love crushing them in games of skill, humour and imagination. Hence why I’m a proud member of…

boardgamesgroupfacebookBoston Board Games group

Meeting on sporadic nights in and around Boston, we get to try out various exciting new games. All games are fully explained by nerds experienced board gamers, and beginners are welcome.

Go on… join the group on Facebook!

We’ve play games like Lords of War, 6nimmt!, Carcassone, Coup, 7 Wonders, Dead of Winter, Android: Netrunner, Between Two Cities, and Discworld: Ankh Morpork. In other words: no Monopoly, just fun new table based explosions of co-operation and competition.

Last night…

My wife was away, so I sneaked in a cheeky board game session. Given that if something is worth doing, it’s worth blogging about…

Betrayal at House on the Hill

BetrayalHouseHillBetrayal at House on the Hill is a tile based game where you explore the three floors of a house with your companions. The tiles are random, and only appear as you walk through a doorway from a previous tile, so there’s a nearly limitless range of possibilities for the layout of the house.

The premise of the game? You explore the house together until, at some unpredictable point, something horrible happens.

At that point, one of you is sent out of the room with a page of new rules to read, and the remaining explorers have some other rules to absorb.

12465364_10154293656351111_814896827_oSuddenly, the game gains a combative game, with one player trying to bring an evil ghost to life, or summon a monster, or releasing a swarm of vampire bats (no spoilers)… and everyone else trying to stop them. The re-playability is great, since every mansion will be totally different, and there are 50 unique scenarios, decided by where and how the horror is triggered.

Our game was a lot of fun; I became the traitor, and rather enjoyed hunting down James & Jamie, then hacking them up with an axe. They managed to gain control of the horror, but didn’t have time to finish their final objective before I caught up with them…

boxLevel 7: [Escape]

Level 7: [Escape] is one of my favourite games, and I’m always keen to sneak it out of the cupboard. Again, there’s no board, just a steadily expanding map as you panic your way around the level, picking up new room tiles.

Cursed with a slightly complex rulebook, its strength lies in its theme – you are attempting to escape a crazy Government laboratory, hiding from the guards and aliens, occasionally attempting to use them against one another to held you escape.

12465688_10154293656651111_348408277_oYour abilities are shaped by your Adrenaline level. Feeling calm and collected? Your intelligence increases. Heart racing and agitated? Your strength jumps up. The only downside… you run out of adrenaline card, you die. Too much adrenaline? The aliens get super attracted to you and start spawning all over the place.

Each mission steadily unfolds, but there comes a crunch point: Lockdown kicks in, leaving you a set number of turns to escape before the doors are sealed… forever!

Our mission involved setting the aliens on the guards, opening a route for us to reach the elevator. Our plan was beset by problems immediately, when a clone attacked James on his first turn, and knocked me out on mine. Eventually, the aliens did kill all the guards… but then James and myself found ourselves trapped and pulverised by a huge Hybrid.

This gave Jamie just enough time to boost his adrenaline into overdrive, shove the Hybrid out the way and sprint to the elevator, moments before it sealed shut… leaving two of us alone with the aliens. His innate untrustworthiness put him in good stead for our next game…

Coup

Despite it being a stalwart of the gaming scene for several years, I’ve never managed to find myself at a table with Coup, so I was happy that James brought it.

A microgame, lasting just a few minutes per round, your aim is to knock out the other players. Each player gets two cards representing characters in the royal court, such as Duke, or Ambassador. Each had different skill, but the key? You don’t know what cards someone has.

So a player with the Captain can say “I’m going to take your money now”, and you have three options. Lose the money, say “I don’t think you have the Captain”, or pretend to have a cards that lets you block the theft.

It instantly develops into a game of bluffs and challenges: the reward, victory; the stakes, failure. We played 5 or 6 rounds, and whilst Jamie continued to, frankly, be really evil, it was a great end to the evening…

That’s all! Feel free to drop a comment below, or check out the post from November

New phone? Try my favourite Android apps…

Found a new Android smartphone under the tree this year? Why not try a few of my favourites…

I apologise: I don’t usually write stuff that’s so click-baity. However, I was struck by how useful one of my apps was yesterday, so I thought I’d recommend 6 of my faves for anyone unwrapping a new Android phone this year.

By the way, I don’t get any money for sharing this stuff, so you don’t need to worry about me being biased: I just love efficient things!

mightytextMightyText

Site: https://mightytext.net
Price: Free, premium options (which I don’t use)

Manage your texts from any browser on any computer.

This fantastic app is something I genuinely don’t understand how people cope without. So much easier than tapping out texts on a little touch screen, you can access all your text messages, respond to replies and generally manage that whole world of communication way more efficiently.

It even notifies you on your desktop PC when you get new texts. My phone spends all day in my coat pocket, whilst I’m in continuous contact on my computer throughout the work day.

smsbackupSMS Backup+

Site: SMS Backup + on Google Play
Price: Free, donate option for 93p, which you should do!

Keeps a permanent backup of call logs and texts in Gmail.

This bad boy has saved me hours of hunting down tit tats of information. Every single text I’ve recieved since 2013 is store in a folder in my gmail account, linked to the name of the Google contact in my address book.

You install it, you forget about it, and then when you are visiting that friend you saw two years ago and need his postcode again… you already have it! Well worth making a donation for.

4.-MyFitnessPal-Android-iOS-Windows-Phone-FreeMyFitnessPal

Site: MyFitnessPal.com
Price: Free.

The most efficient way to track calories and lose weight.

I suspect I would still be fat if MFP did not exist. As any of my blog readers will know, I’ve managed to get on top of health and fitness pretty heavily over the last year. A cornerstone of that has been the simple truth: you need to eat less calories than you use in order to lose weight.

Calorie tracking is a bit tedious, but MFP manages to minimise that. Using it, I estimate that I can keep track of 98% of my daily calorific intake with around 4 minutes work a day. This seems to have a reasonable benefit-to-effort ratio.

I recommend it purely because its got the largest database of any of the calorie tracker apps. The larger the database, the more likely you don’t have to try any work out calorific value from raw ingredients, which is possible but time costly.

Week 5 weight graphLibra

Site: Libra on Google Play
Price: Free, donate option for £2.50 which I recommend!

A nice graph with some simple stats for your daily weights

I weigh myself every day, and recommend it for my patients trying to lose weight. It keeps you motivated (and guilty), and gives you a more accurate picture of your weight over a week than a single measurement. If you’ve ever read The Hacker’s Diet, this app is for you…

Libra is dead easy to use, gives you nice graphs, with a great weighted average so you get a useful measure of your overall direction of travel. It also works about a few neat stats, such as estimated calorie deficit based on your weight loss: I’ve previously found this to exactly correlate with my diet and weights.

Google KeepGoogle Keep

Site: Keep.Google.com
Price: Free

Simple post-it note app with effortless sync to all your devices.

You know when you need to remember to buy milk? Or you have a list of dates someone told you to keep free? Or a not very important password that you occasionally need? Google Keep is there for that data.

Its instant to use, works great on Android and on the web, and gets the job done. Does it do everything you could ever possibly need? No. Does it do a reliable, well designed job for you with no questions asked? Yup.

Pocket Casts

pocketcastsSite: Shiftyjelly.com/pocketcasts
Price: £2.49

The best podcast app out there, makes listening and hunting for new ones a breeze.

My phone died the other day, so I picked up my wife’s phone, logged into Pocket Casts, and was listening at the point I’d been interupted about 3 minutes later. That alone explains how great this app is.

For discovering new podcasts, listening to old favourites, and for doing all the hard work for you, with automatic downloads, and auto-deletion, I’ve not tried anything else that comes close.

Try it out, and find those boring runs, drives and cycle rides way more interesting. Eventually realise you’ve listened to 30 hours of Dungeons and Dragons role play in the course of a month, and wonder if there’s something wrong with your life…

That’s all for now… Got any apps you’d recommend? I’m all ears… leave a comment below!

Board Gaming in November!

A month or so ago, I finally got involved in something I’ve dreamt of for years: a local board gaming group! Introducing:

boardgamesgroupfacebookBoston Board Games group

Meeting on sporadic Monday nights, we get to try out various exciting new games. All games are fully explained by nerds experienced board gamers, and beginners are welcome.

Go on… join the group on Facebook!

In the last month we’ve played Lords of War, 6nimmt!, Vineta, 7 Wonders, Dead of Winter, Android: Netrunner, Between Two Cities, and Discworld: Ankh Morpork. In other words: no Monopoly, just fun new table based explosions of co-operation and competition.

Last night…

I enjoy waffling, so I may occasionally do little write ups. Last night, as I mentioned above, we played three games…

Android: Netrunner

androidnetrunnerAndroid: Netrunner is a collectible card game, with an assymetric design. Most games in the world are those that you play against people as equals: everyone has the same number of pieces, amount of starting money, etc.

In Netrunner that equality is gone: one of you plays as a massive corporation, the other as a hacker. As a result, the corp player has tons of resources and money, and is building an empire, whilst the hacker runs a much leaner setup, with just a few cards for his computer hardware and software.

The game revolves around “agenda” points. The corporation is trying to complete projects which score them, whilst the hacker is making runs against those servers to steal the agenda cards, and thus the points.

Most games in the world are those that you play against people as equals: in Netrunner, that equality is gone.

Its a game I bought a year ago, but struggled to find anyone to play it with. Reading the rules made it seem a little complex, but it actually fit together rather nicely. Two of us played, and the core challenge of being a hacker became clear pretty fast.

Jon bluffed me into a trap by installing a server, and putting some weak protection on it. I assumed it hid an agenda card, ran against the server, and accessed it… to discover he’d put a malicious program in there that trashed my best Icebreaker. Painful.

Despite the initial setback, I won the game, and I’m raring for more. May even enter one of the London day competitions for a laugh…

betweentwocitiesBetween Two Cities

Craig turned up halfway through the Netrunner game, and gleefully unveiled his shiny new kickstarter: Between Two Cities.

On the theme of balance as a mechanic, BTC manages to be unique by going in totally the opposite direction – everything you do is shared. You build a city with each of your neighbours, aiming to score the most points with them that you can. The catch? Your final score is defined by the points of your least good city.

BetweenTwoCitiesWinnerIts a confusing concept, best explained with a little diagram…

You want the two most valuable cities in the game next to you. And they should be as close to each other as possible in points. The bottom player has helped build an awesome 50 point city, but that doesn’t matter, because his other city isn’t good enough.

We played two games. It was ridiculously close each time, with the six cities all scoring between 50-55, but its worth noting that I won both games. Only by one point, but that’s a victory nonetheless.

I really enjoyed BTC: there’s something very satisfying about building a perfect little city, playingBTCoptimising for maximum points, but also keeping one eye cautiously out to try to make sure you aren’t helping to make one city too good at the expense of your other. The whole time you know everyone else is being just as co-operative, whilst also just being a tiny bit nasty at the back of their mind…

Discworld: Ankh Morpork

If you are reading this, you will have realised two things:

  • I’m writing on my personal, hand coded blog.
  • I’m nearly 30, yet talking about board games.

Obviously, I’m a terrific nerd, and as a result, a huge fan of Terry Pratchett books. As such, any game based on the world they’re set in is halfway to capturing my heart.

Discworld Ankh MorporkDiscworld: Ankh Morpork is an area control game where you all have hidden objectives. The hidden objectives mean that you don’t know if somebody needs to collect all the money to win, control a certain number of territories, have pieces in multiple territories, or simply wait out the end of the game to win.

We all persuaded ourselves that Craig was playing as Chrysoprase the troll, and thus needed loads of cash. He wasn’t.

This rolls out as a game where you are constantly on the lookout for anybody doing anything that might win. Appropriately, the role of Commander Vimes (head of the police in the Discworld books) is the one that wins if no body else manages to achieve their objective. It reminded me of monitoring field ownership in Carcassonne, coupled with the role uncertainty in Dead of Winter.

Our game of DW:AM (terrible acronym, sorry) didn’t last very long. We all persuaded ourselves that Craig was playing as Chrysoprase the troll, and thus needed loads of cash. He wasn’t, and so we totally missed him controlling 5 territories for a whole turn and winning.

I’m definitely keen to play it again, although I’m not completely sure how much fun it would be. I worry that there would be a lot of intently watching people’s turns, whilst your own moments of action are not hugely interesting. That said, all the cards are dripping with theme, covered in official artwork, and crammed with Discworld trivia, so I’d be pretty happy anyway…

Bunny Bunny Moose Moose

Bunny bunny moose moose boxBunny Bunny Moose Moose is a party game from the team at Czech Games Edition. It involves the basic premise of sitting round a table putting your hands to your head, pretending to be a moose or a rabbit. By doing this you achieve two things: scoring points, and looking ridiculous.

Theme

It’s fairly light on storyline, like most party games. You and your friends are animals in the woods, trying to escape from the hunter. There’s a silly poem that the narrator reads out over and over again as they place cards on the table. That’s pretty much it, storyline wise.

Gameplay

The mechanics are a) simple and b) ridiculous. You use your hands on the side (or back) of your head to pretend to be a Moose, or a Bunny. Cards in front of the players steadily change, and you need to get the optimum arrangement of ears/antlers in order to get the most points at the moment the Hunter appears.

There are a range of cards, each with different values. In the picture below, you can see examples of these.Bunny Bunny Moose Moose cards

 

  • Top left – you get an extra point if you are a moose with left antler open and up.
  • Top right – you lose two points if you have any type of upwards antler on the right.
  • Bottom right – you get two points for a left bent ear at the back of your head.
  • Bottom middle – lose a point for each bent ear on the side of your head.
  • Bottom left – everything above is reversed – so you gain points for the negative things, and lose them for the positive things.
  • Top middle – the Hunter! When this appears, the round ends.

Sound complex? Its not too tricky, but the problem is that the cards change every few seconds, and its very easy to get confused: the rabbit ears especially look very similar, and, with the cards above, the difference between a Bunny ear on the side and back is worth either -1 or +2 points: a big change!

This is what people look like during a game.

Bunny bunny moose moose gameplay

I think its immediately obvious why this game is a great way to spend half an hour. There are even some additional optional rules to make things even harder/funnier – for example one involves sticking your tongue out alongside everything else: added stupid-looking complexity coupled with an already riotous dynamic is a recipe for success..

Sometimes, in a game, there are specific mechanics that jump out at you and say “Look at me, I’m a creative solution to a well known problem!” BBMM was designed by Vlaada Chvátil, creator of legendary games Space Alert and Galaxy Trucker: both great games, with totally unique mechanics, so I hoped for similar creative flourishes here.

I was not disappointed. In BBMM, the scoring track has a real splash of genius to it. Each player has two pieces – a Bunny and a Moose – and their piece is only advanced when you score points as the respective animal. The winner, at the end of the game, is the player who has both animals least behind.

For example, if I’ve won loads of points as the Bunny, but none as the Moose, even though I’m very far ahead with one animal, I’ll still lose to anyone who has played a more evenly spread game. This means that throughout the game, alongside frantically making stupid hand signals, you are also worrying about which animal you need points with, and how much everyone else is scoring with each type of beast themselves. It makes for a fun, tangled game, in which it is very difficult for any one player to jump unassailably into the lead.

Ease of Learning

BBMM is easy to learn. Maybe 3 minutes of explanation, and a new player can jump into their first round, picking up the rest as they go along.

The game is rated for ages 9+, which seems about right. That said, its possible to simplify the rules for the younger players, and have them compete happily with adults playing the full rules: with my four year old, we let him pretend to be whichever animal has the most cards on the table – he generally manages to beat me.

The rule book itself is not the simplest read. Given that I am able to explain the whole game to a newbie in a few minutes, we definitely struggled to pick the game up so rapidly in our first play. I can’t point to usual problems – a game this simple needs no index, for example – but the rules could definitely manage to explain the gameplay in a more intuitive way.

Conclusion

Bunny bunny moose moose gameplayFrankly, even saying the name “Bunny Bunny Moose Moose” gets everyone in the mood for an enjoyable, silly game. Its a party game: quick to pick up, quick to play, and it doesn’t matter too much who wins.

If you are super competitive person, you might initially get frustrated about what seems like a large random element – but this actually remains a game where skill can play more of a role than luck – if you wanted to put that much time into it.

That said, most people will not play this game in order to hone their animal impersonation skills, or to prove their mastery of strategic hand eye co-ordination – and rightly so. This is a fun, quick game to pull out at a party, or maybe to break the ice at the beginning of an evening before starting something a little more intense. And its great at that.

Lords Of War Review

I love Kickstarter. I can spend hours a day browsing through the various ideas, dreams and practical suggestions on there. There’s something incredible about the range of possibility, the idea that a great idea will exist or not based on my decision to support it…

The KS section I find myself continually coming back to is UK Tabletop Games. UK, because then the postage isn’t the same cost as the game itself, and board games, because board games are awesome.

Not always a great success

I’ve kickstarted a few games now, and, for the most part, they’ve been a mild disappointment. Cheap printing, uninspiring artwork, or, worst of all, uninspiring gameplay. That said, there’s a lot to be said for the thrill of the anticipation.

Never-the-less, last November, I decided to jump on the Lords of War: Templars versus Undead project. Its an extension to the first two award winning games, and it looked fun. The question was, would I be disappointed again?

Not what I ordered

Before I tell you how satisfied I’ve been with this game, let me tell you a little story of generosity. You see, I paid for the £25 Hell is Full pledge level. That includes the new add on, and a pack of the cards from the original game, Lords of War: Orcs versus Dwarves.

That should give me the stuff in the picture below:

What I ordered from Blackbox games

However, instead, when I received my parcel in the mail, it contained everything below:

What I recieved from Blackbox games

The reason? Insanely generous game developers.

Last week, when the game was posted, mine seemed to go missing. I dropped them an email, and Nick apologised for the delay, and kindly offered to send out an extra pack for free – all three for the price of two.

I was having a very bad day, and this was about the nicest thing that had happened to me all week, so I send an effusive email back. Nick’s response blew my mind:

Shit me Chris – sounds like you’re “livin’ the dream”!!!!

If that makes you smile – I’m going to send you on the house – the battlemat, 6 limited addition metallic cards and the Terrain & Weather deck.  Hell – and a card Tin and Teeshirt – what size are you?  Medium, Large or XL – being a junior Doctor you don’t have enough time to eat (or sleep) enough to be XXL!!!!!!!!

I have a natural human urge to give you advice or quote some shitty saying of wisdom – but no.  You know what you’re doing – I will just post the stuff out tomorrow.

All the best
Nick

Suffice to say, I’m still grinning ear to ear. Anyway, my review…

Concept

A 2 player collectible card game where you play as one of (currently) 6 races, playing cards onto a playing mat on the table. The mat is 7 cards wide and 6 cards high, and allows for a strategic placement element to the game, not found in standard card games.

Its available in boxes containing two decks: Orcs vs Dwarves, Elves vs Lizardmen, Templars vs Undead (plus the recently released Orcs vs Dwarves 2: Magic and Monsters, but I’ll review that when I get my greasy hands on it). Each box is completely standalone: it even comes with a paper game mat, so you are ready to rock and roll. Extra packs just allow you to play with more variations of armies, you don’t have to buy anything more than one set.

Crocodilian_BraveTheme

Lords of War treads a perfect middle line for theme. If you want setting, there’s tons of it: the cards are showered with fantastic artwork (the Lizardmen look especially great – see right), and there’s a whole section of their website dedicated to “The Lore of Lords of War” – with stories, maps, videos, audiobooks. On the other hand, if context is not your cup of tea, you can jump straight into the game and ignore it all: the mechanics hold up on their own.

The Weather and Terrain add on is a perfect example of this: for one camp they present a vision of an epic battle steeped in mist, as hail soaked archers struggle to visualise their targets… or to the more pragmatic players, your tactics need to adjust this round since ranged troops are ineffectual.

Gameplay

There’s nothing revolutionary about the basics: you take it in turns to plonk a card down on the table. You then work out if any card has been overwhelmed by attacks, and take them off the table. Your turn completes by bringing your hand back up to 6, either by taking a new card from your deck, or pulling a card off the table, if its not involved in the action.

playinglordsofwarIts a simple system, and it lets you focus on the important stuff, namely taking as many of your opponents cards as possible (you need 20 to win) or just trying to destroy their leadership (take 4 “command” cards to win).

Some cards can do ranged attacks (think catapults, archers), some are very strong in attack, but very weak in defence (beserkers, or “suicide cards”). Everyone gets an identical range of ranks in their deck, from Recruits (weak, rubbish, cannon fodder) to your General (think John McClane).

Again, I feel Lords of War manages to hit the difficult middle ground here: tactics and strategy matter, but luck evens out the playing field too. There are real chess-like moments, when you put a card down, check the table closely, and move your hand away… seeing, just a moment too late, the Trebuchet you forgot about, with you directly in its line of fire.

Ease of learning

This game is quick to teach, and allows new players to start getting tactical within the first game. I regularly “go easy” on new players, only to get halfway through the first game and find myself fighting for my life.

There are actually Core, Intermediate and Advanced rules, which allows you to slowly build on the complexity of the game with the more experienced gamers (read “Nerds”). That said, you can have a ton of fun keeping it simple – and that’s great for teaching it to people.

All the rules are on a single, double-sided A4 sheet. I have a few little criticisms: I find the rule sheet a little difficult for instantly grabbing rules from, and I’m not sure we play with the “extra” rules very often, but overall, this game is simple to learn, and great for introducing people to the hobby.

Overall

Whilst I enjoy reading rule books, visiting game shops and listening to hour long podcasts on topics like “Games with interesting mechanics”; my wife is much harder to tempt into playing board games than me. Yet, as we packed for our move to South Africa, it was she that insisted we bring absolutely everything with us, all 6 decks, the optional shiny cards, the full size felt backed gaming mat.

More than anything else, that shows how this game is a winner. I love it, my wife loves it, and everyone I’ve introduced it to has had a great time. Go buy it!

Triathlon Chris

Over the past year and a half, I have become steadily more excited about being healthy. Lots of people seems to think that being vegetarian means that you are automatically more healthy: they forget that vegetarians are allowed to consume their body weight in cheese every day.

Since August 2013, I have lost around 18% of my body weight (about 16kg) and have become steadily more enamoured with cycling.

I’ve even started running: not exactly frequently, but somewhere in the middle ground between regularly and occasionally.

As part of this exciting new me, I signed up to do my first ever Sprint Triathlon, the XTERRA Buffelspoort LITE

Training

I decided firmly to do the triathlon in around mid December, giving me 6 weeks to train. And I kinda did, vaguely racking up some time in each of the three disciplines:

Swimming

Ultimately, doing 80 lengths of a 5 metre long pool feels a bit ridiculous.

My swimming training was pretty rubbish – I only managed around 4 swims in my 6 weeks. I did a few practice swims at Sodwana Beach, but the current there is insanely strong, and the waves are pretty ferocious, so it wasn’t the best preparation for a flat lake swim of 400m.

I also tried to do some practices in local lodge swimming pools – but these ranged from 5m to 10m wide, making them not very practical for working on my front crawl. Ultimately, doing 80 lengths of a 5m pool feels a bit ridiculous, and I got more tired from constantly turning round than from swimming.

Cycling

wpid-1421077162864_fact_1.jpgThis is definitely my strength – as you know, I love cycling. In the tri, I need to do 19.6km on tricky off-road hills. I bought a second hand Rocky Mountain Element 50 in Paarl, and it flew with us back to KZN.

I’ve had some lovely little rides on it, up Paarl Rock, Table Mountain, Signal Hill and a few decent ~20km trips around Mseleni. I also went after work on day to False Bay Park and spent a few hours rocketing around, as you can see in the picture on right.

Running

I’m steadily starting to appreciate running more in my life, and I went on around 1-2 runs a week. The triathlon involves a hilly, off-road 6km trail run: a good fit for the undulating off road territory around Mseleni hospital.

I generally aimed to do runs around 6-8km, although I think doing a few longer ones would have been a good idea. My favourite run was probably the one up Paarl Rock, where I was able to sprint back down the hill at a ridiculously fast pace.

The Big Day

We are staying with our lovely friends, Paul & Debbie, in the exciting township of Soshanguve. Buffelspoort is around an hour’s drive from Sosh, so we ended up leaving horribly early – 4:40am. Whilst my friends took part in the trail run, I had several hours in which to fix a rather annoying puncture of my back wheel. After a rather exhausting hour scrounging tools (and experience) from some helpful strangers, I finally had a fully inflated back wheel.

By 8:30am, we were at the starting point, and by 8:50, I was in the water surrounded by nearly 400 other men in leotards. Soon the ten second countdown began, and off we went!

Swimming

It turns out that swimming in a tight triathlon suit for the first time, whilst surrounded in every direction by hundreds of other swimmers, is quite stressful. I struggled to get my breathing rhythm sorted, and then, when I tried to stop, had people trying to clamber over me.

I actually began to panic a little, but after a minute or so, I switched to breast stroke, and made my way forwards. After the initial crush, the field thinned out, and I was able to get some space, calm down, and switch back to front crawl again, overtaking some of the people who had shot past me.

Getting out, I nearly tripped over a few times, but soon got my balance and jogged into the first transition.

Time: 400m in 10:21

Transition 1

Putting on tight cycling socks with wet, sandy feet is always a challenge. I was still a little disorientated after the near drowning, so somehow I wasted nearly half the time I spent swimming just getting changed over.

The guy who won the event did both his changeovers in around 40 seconds! Anyway, soon enough I had my bike, and was off past the start line.

Time: 4:37

Cycle

Buffelspoort-XTERRA-LITE-MTB-ROUTEIt felt good to be in the saddle. The first half a kilometre was on a sandy road (see route on right), and I began to relax.

Just as I was starting to focus on my cadence, we moved onto some tricky singletrack, and there was a traffic jam. Everyone had to stop and shuffle along for a bit until the crowd had dispersed a bit. During this time, the leading girls (who set off ten minutes after us) overtook, which was a little depressing.

After a few minutes, things had thinned out again, and off we went. Generally I found the terrain quite tricky, but only had to dismount briefly maybe 20 times over the 19.4km, pretty similar to many of the guys around me.

When we went onto the smoother tracks, especially uphill I was pleased to find I was much more bike fit than the group around me, and was able to power past people, overtaking a lot. Sadly, on the technical downhills I was much too much of a wimp, and a fair number of people overtook me each time (but less than I was passing on the uphills).

I suspect this is probably a result of lots of guys enjoying a little Saturday afternoon MTB, where they drive to a tricky trail and whizz around for an hour, but they don’t do very much long distance: the complete opposite of me.

Cycle Triathlon

Anyway, after a nerve wracking technical descent, I completed the bike course, and went into transition 2.

Time: 19.4km in 1:13:52

Transition 2

Second TransitionThe automated chip on my ankle didn’t record my entrance time into the transition, and combined it with my cycling time, so I guessed that I made better time than the first one, given that I wasn’t wet, and didn’t have to change my shoes.

I did apply lots of sun tan lotion, but managed to forget to put it on my back, leading to a nice burn that has left my race number, “1505” in white skin surrounded by tan on my shoulder. I was a little disorientated, and initially tried to apply the sun lotion as a deoderant, since it was in a spray can. Needless to say, my armpit did not get sunburnt.

Time: 3:00 (probably)

Run

Run RouteShortly after leaving the starting line, I started to get a pain in the left side of my chest, with a very rapid heart rate, around 180. I decided it made more sense to walk for a bit than to die, so it took me a few minutes to get going again. Most of the runners around me were in a worse state than me, and after my myocardial infarction had settled down, I began to pick up the pace.

To my surprise, I had a lot more energy left than the people around me, and I was able to steadily overtake for the rest of the run.

There was a very steep gradient on one uphill, which I walked part of, but aside from this, I didn’t need to stop for the rest of the race (except a brief moment to eat some fruit gums and grab a glass of water from a refreshment stand).

The last kilometre was very enjoyable, and my pace picked up more, the closer the finishing line came.

Running home

And then I was done, the race complete!

Time: 5.8km in 37:28

Results

Winners MedalMy overall time was 2 hours, 9 minutes, 19 seconds. I came 173rd, out of 585 racers (29% centile), or 144th out of 389 men (37% centile). Given that I was aiming for 60% centile, I’m pretty happy.

Given that running is really not my forte, I was very happy with that side of things: compared to the Puma trail run results from earlier in the day (which did the same route), if I had entered that and run the same time, I’d have come 20th out of 234 runners (9% centile) – and I’d already done the first two parts of a triathlon!

All in all, I had a fantastic time, and definitely plan to do lots more of them. I think I need to get a fair bit more training in, but just on the swimming, cycling and running parts.