some image

Having fun, writing about the stuff I like

Adventures of Re: May

Oscar Foulkes June 5, 2018 Adventures of Re- No comments
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl.

– Dr Seuss

During my conversation with Heather Parker (read about it here), she mentioned that in addition to her executive MBA, she had also trained as a life coach. On the basis that I wouldn’t dream of tackling Cape Epic without a coach, I felt that this important process similarly needed a coach.

At the end of the day, the coachee is the person doing the work and making things happen, but it helps to have the structure of a process, as well as an outside pair of eyes to help find perspective.

At Heather’s instigation, one of the first steps was to do an Enneagram test. The results generally fell within the parameters of what I thought I knew about myself, but also opened my eyes to a few things. These were overlaid with the outcomes of the ‘purpose exercise’ she shared with me. This was used to get a rough outline in place.

In the spirit of active recovery, I made contact with a friend who runs an NGO. It turns out that this organisation is about to embark on a radical reinvention process. My friend immediately included me in a bunch of meetings related to their intended changes. It remains to be seen how I can contribute (it’s looking to me as if they are pretty well resourced from a skilled humans perspective), but it’s been exciting to witness the emergence of something as revolutionary as they are planning. It’s certainly been an eye-opener to experience the openness with which I’ve been included.

One of the benefits of this interaction is that it’s giving me the opportunity of trying out the ‘wild card role’ that I’ve often been drawn by, and which seems to be indicated by the Enneagram results.

Regardless of self-indulgent reinvention processes, one needs income. One of the commercial enterprises I identified was pinhooking, essentially the purchase of yearling Thoroughbreds, with the aim of selling them as early two-year-olds on a Ready to Run sale, which is something I’ve done on a small scale before. I’m doing this as part of a partnership, so that I can get something of a portfolio in place to spread the risk. We did most of our buying in April, but during May we also bought a weanling that we’ll sell as a yearling in January. The downside, of course, is that the income is preceded by expenditure, but at least it’s a start.

A major positive is that I don’t need to take on the risk of starting a fully-fledged business. And, it flows naturally from existing skills, knowledge and experience.

Horses also feature in my interim plan, by way of Sergeant Hardy and others. The month started hopefully, with Sergeant Hardy contesting a major race in Johannesburg. Being the top-rated sprinter in the country, and having won a similar race at the end of January, I had high hopes of him finishing in the money. However, altitude seemed to get the better of him, and he ran unplaced.

The one thing I can say for certainty about the ‘business’ of owning horses is that one lives in hope. Over the seven-day period from 26 May, we had six runners. Four of them were favourites (i.e. the top selection in the betting), including Sergeant Hardy. There’s no need to go into the details of what happened in each case, but the end result was two fifths and two fourths. The positive is that each of them must be close to being winning prospects next time out. Well, that’s the hope.

It can be tempting to give in to the embrace of depression. It doesn’t take much more than some sleep deprivation, perhaps combined with a broken exercise pattern and a couple of things that haven’t turned out as expected. Before you know it, your brain has started to assemble confirmatory negative thoughts. While cycling on Sunday morning, I noticed my brain doing this. In response, I made a concerted effort to snap out of it. I don’t mean to trivialise the situation of people for whom depression is an illness. However, I’d be failing this process and accompanying journal if I didn’t report those feelings, however temporary.

One of my coffee sessions during the month was with Vanessa Raphaely, who left her position as Cosmopolitan editor, not to mention the structure/comfort of family business, to find a new direction. Her advice boiled down to two words: “Just do.”

In the course of ‘just doing’, she has written a children’s book and a novel. But perhaps her biggest achievement over the past few years is a Facebook group, The Village, which is a brilliant resource for parents of tweens and teenagers. It must rank as one of the very few parts of the Internet where comments are made in huge quantity without even the slightest bit of trolling, flaming or hate speech. In fact, it may be the online world’s most supportive space, which could explain its growth to nearly 20 000 members, a high percentage of whom engage on a regular basis.

“Just do” also happens to be a perfect antidote to the states of mind that most easily slide into depression’s dark embrace. More importantly, by ‘doing’ we take the first steps into the future.

In theory, this woolly chap is going to develop into a strapping yearling by late January.

In theory, this woolly chap is going to develop into a strapping yearling by late January, earning us a profit.

A not so Uber rating

Oscar Foulkes May 21, 2018 Uncategorized No comments
Have you ever checked your Uber rating?

I did, a few months ago, and was a little put out to discover that Uber drivers considered me no better a customer than 4.5 stars (out of 5). A variety of distributions are possible, but this suggests that half the drivers gave me 4, and the other half the maximum possible.

I’m not the most chatty person (in fact, my voice issues often inhibit me from speaking unless it’s absolutely necessary), so I’m not one to initiate a conversation with drivers. However, I’ve never been abusive, nor have I done anything as extreme as vomiting in an Uber. Basically, I’m your standard low-maintenance customer … up until the point when the service provider is falling short. For the most part, Uber drivers do what they are required to, so I’m seldom going to put myself in the cross hairs for a low rating by getting tetchy about bad driving.

My view is that I’m contracting the driver to ferry me across town, I’m pleasant about it, and I pay what I’m required to. In what way have I been so deficient as a customer to earn a less than perfect rating?

When I first aired my ire about this at home, it was pointed out to me that in a country where a matric pass requires just 40% for three subjects and 30% for three others, the driver must think I’m a rock star if he’s rating me 4 (i.e. 80%).

For several months, I’ve been making a special effort to be uber-friendly when getting into the car, and generally bringing a glow of good cheer into the driver’s life. My rating inched up from 4.50 to 4.51 and then 4.52. I got it to 4.54, after which it summarily dropped to 4.52 and then 4.50. WTF?

As a customer, I treat it as something of a binary issue. Either the driver has delivered a service, or he hasn’t. Almost every time, I give drivers a full five stars.

Uber has made taxis cheap, cheaper even than the Hong Kong taxis I used on regular trips between 2003 and 2009. This, we are told, is at the expense of drivers, who are forced to work insanely long hours to make enough money to get by. It’s another version of the sweatshop, although in this case, we are not conceptually removed from the sweatshop, in the same sense as buying clothes in a branded store. In fact, the rank body odour of some drivers – especially ones who have been on shift for an extended time – can turn an Uber ride into a fully-immersive sweatshop experience.

Especially for immigrants (and my guess is that the majority of Cape Town Ubers are driven by people from other African countries), working as an Uber driver is entry-level employment. In this respect, it’s no different to conventional taxis around the world. I’ve been driven by a Ghanaian in Dusseldorf, by a Lebanese in Montreal (click here to read about my shawarma and falafel experience, thanks to him), and by countless other nationalities elsewhere.

Given their marginalised place in the economy, perhaps it’s understandable that they would be less charitable in the giving of star ratings. Certainly, it seems to be apparent that, as a whole, drivers have higher ratings than their passengers.

There’s another side to this, which is that by definition the Uber workplace has no co-workers with whom to communicate during the course of a working day. All that the drivers have for company is an endless succession of transactions – people sitting themselves down in a back seat, barely looking up from their phones, making hardly any contact other than establishing that this is the correct vehicle.

Unless they are particularly grumpy individuals, one assumes that Uber drivers would appreciate a little human warmth, if only for a few minutes at a time.

Companies are always telling us how much they value our custom. However, it’s never occurred to me to establish from their staff how satisfied they were with having me as a customer, on the basis of personal interaction. If I’ve never given any thought to a notional star rating from other commercial interactions, why should I suddenly be bothered by an apparently low level of appreciation from Uber drivers?

If I were the most charming, warm and engaging person to ever use an Uber, perhaps my rating would remain to fall short of the perfect score. Maybe that phenomenon is hard-baked into the system.

However, the world could certainly do with more of us being ‘nice’ to each other, even when it’s not required, nor of immediate benefit to us. Perhaps we set the bar too low when are the customer.

Who would have thought that a technology company that has tried to make the hailing of taxis frictionless by removing/minimising human contact could have made me aware of how much effort I was putting into being nice to strangers?

Common sense from an Uber driver (although if he had been my driver for the majority of my rides, my rating would have been much higher).

Identifying as Vegetarian

Oscar Foulkes May 17, 2018 Adventures of Re- No comments
Our family has taken the Meatless May pledge, in terms of which we are vegetarian from Monday to Thursday. This is admittedly the entry level option offered, in that we have left foods like eggs and cheese on the menu.

To some extent, it’s not a radical change, because we were doing at least one night a week of veg anyway. Also, chicken and fish have been our predominant forms of animal protein for some time, rather than beef or lamb.

The major difference is that the commitment applies for four lunches as well as four dinners. I think it’s important to have this level of discipline in the way the eating plan is applied in order for the campaign to have any effect.

All of us – and I’m including vegetarians and vegans in this – need to be more conscious of the impact that our food choices have on the environment. Whether it’s the out-of-season vegetables that are flown in from halfway around the world, or the quinoa that is not necessarily grown in a sustainable manner, or the dairy cows expelling methane, they all have an impact.

The main thing I’ve learnt is that it takes a heap of extra effort to get sufficient nutrition if you’re on a training programme. I’ve had a few dark hours over the past couple of weeks, as a result of burning energy on the bike, and meals that haven’t done all they needed to.

But, on balance, it’s been a positive experience. We’ve had to be a lot more creative in menus and recipes, plus the little bit of animal protein we get over the weekends has turned into a major treat. For all my love of chickpeas, great roast chicken is something I look forward to!

The other little surprise of the month has been that I suddenly realised I needed to indicate a dietary requirement when RSVP-ing for functions. Identifying as vegetarian felt significant. While it’s not on the scale of an unexpected declaration of sexual preference, expressing a new kind of identity – in the context of my current ‘Life of Re_’ process – was a little bit of a jolt.

As it turned out, the communication that reached the venue was that I needed diabetic dessert. Given that I hardly ever eat dessert anyway, this was quite funny.

The meat eaters had a choice of delicious looking bobotie, or beef stew, or chicken pie (most guests piled their plates with all three). As no particular provision had been made for me, I made do with Caesar salad, Caprese, potato salad, as well roasted green beans and courgettes. After finishing these, I found some homemade hummus on the table.

Fortunately, the venue was Boschendal, where everything had been grown on-site in their organic vegetable garden. The flavours of everything – even the out-of-season tomatoes – were striking. And, the preparation had been handled by a kitchen team headed by Christiaan Campbell. It could only be delicious. In fact, it would have been a shame to divert attention from the fabulous produce by piling the plate with meat.

At the risk of being accused of contriving to find a message relevant to a period of ‘re-‘, I would highlight two aspects:

  • the experience of ‘identifying as’ something new
  • giving pride of place (i.e. undivided attention) to something that would otherwise have been a sideshow

Food is the meeting point of culture, religion, psychology/personal history, economics, creativity, science and more. It’s a pretty good starting point for exploring and evaluating identity with a view to being fully ‘conscious’ about future life choices.

Regardless of life choices, one of my meal choices for the weekend will be roast chicken (free-range, of course).

Carrots being harvested at Boschendal (pic: Boschendal)

Carrots being harvested at Boschendal (pic: Boschendal)

Nils Flaatten – Prepare for the second half

Oscar Foulkes May 11, 2018 Adventures of Re- No comments
While waiting for my coffee shop meeting with Nils Flaatten, I was eavesdropping on a financial adviser running his client through her expected financial position at age 65. It was more than a little sobering to process the numbers. It’s a good thing I don’t have any retirement aspirations!

Nils has intimate knowledge of casting around for new opportunities, having spent two years looking for his next big idea.

His advice to me was simple: “Look at your swim lane.” In other words, what are your fields or skills, and is there a way of finding an overlap between them? This would admittedly be the more conservative way of approaching this kind of situation than an outright fresh start in a completely new direction/lane. People in the tech world would describe this as a ‘pivot’. The rest of us will just say that someone has reinvented themselves.

His observation, also, is that for all its apparent economic vibrancy, the Western Cape is a difficult space in which to launch new ventures.

He went to great lengths to illustrate how shallow one’s ‘network’ can be. If one starts the process expecting little of the network there is less room for resulting disappointment (if not outright depression). Having said this, ‘the network’ is a useful route to “adjacent possibilities” as described in this interesting TED Talk.

Nils asked me some key questions, the first of which related to the kind of financial buffer I might have. In other words, how long before the money runs out? It’s not something one likes to think about, but it’s an important parameter.

His second question was as direct, although it dealt with a different aspect of this process: “What are you going to do at 10.00 on a Monday morning?” In other words, the school run is finished, you’ve possibly had a coffee with someone at 8.00, and now you’re back home.

This partially relates to active recovery, but it’s also about warding off boredom, isolation and depression.

Nils disagreed with me saying that I was hitting the reset button, making the point that this was more a recalibration for the second half of my life. In fact, with us living productive lives for much longer (not to mention the likelihood of our retirement savings not lasting) we have to keep preparing ourselves for the economies of the future.

He asked me if I listen to podcasts, and then proceeded to recommend Reid Hoffman’s Masters of Scale.

When I mentioned that I’d thought of blogging my experiences during this process, he suggested that I name it Adventures of Re- (with apologies to Ravi Naidoo for appropriating his concept).

The prefix “re-“ is attached to a bunch of neat words that fit in with the concept of making a fresh start. Given the progression of the morning, you might think that “retirement” is a negative slant on things.

However, I invite you to look at the etymology of “retire”, which has French origins:
re- (back)
tirer (draw/pull)
So, withdraw.

In French, a corkscrew is un tire-bouchon (in other words, draw/pull the cork, which relates to the Afrikaans kurktrekker).

I like the idea of looking at the years leading up to reTIREment as a pulling of the cork in order to release something beautiful. Perhaps, despite our failing bodies, parts of us can get better with age. Just like wine.

Swimming Pool Lane, a photograph by Skip Nall

Swimming Pool Lane, a photograph by Skip Nall

Heather Parker: Living with purpose

Oscar Foulkes May 8, 2018 Adventures of Re- No comments
I met Heather Parker the journalist more than 20 years ago. Having fulfilled a variety of roles in publishing, by the age of 47 she reached a point where journalism had become a dead end for her. Not because possible avenues had closed off, but to borrow from HD Thoreau, she felt she had “sucked out all the marrow of” journalism. Or perhaps it was in danger of sucking the marrow out of her.

She then started an executive MBA at an age when her friends were starting to think about taking their feet off the gas. Instead, she entered what could have been the eve of retirement in full generative mode.

If ever there was a ‘pivot’, this was it. I thought that she would be a prime candidate for offering guidance on the process of ‘taking a fresh look’.

Far from launching straight into prescriptions, she opened with a beautiful affirmation. Much of our hour together involved so much of her listening empathetically that it took me a while to pull together the bits of guidance that she dropped into the conversation (and I have no doubt that there are important bits I haven’t held onto).

This was as much about me reconnecting with my positive energy as it was about her sharing wisdom. It was a master class in how to handle someone coming to you for help.

One of her major themes was doing stuff in the final third of our lives that draws together – and honours – the first two-thirds.

Following on from this was the need to put a stake in the ground with respect to how our output is valued. ‘Not settling’ also applies to the new direction we decide to follow.

It is easy to become shrill about matters of being monetarily valued, but she was being assertive in the most gentle way possible.

She spoke about the need to share the lessons we’ve learned; to enrich the lives of those around us.

Heather introduced me to Otto Scharmer’s concept of the “emerging future”. Without having read his book, the next best way of sharing this with you is this paragraph from Patrick McNamara’s review of Leading from the Emerging Future on Kosmosjournal.com:

“At the core is a shift of the interior condition of the leader. That is a shift of perspective—connected to source, sensing the emerging future and letting go of fighting the old system. It’s about shifting the place from where we operate so there is increased awareness, a stronger sense of purpose, and an intuitive notion of what is emerging … Another critical component is the way [the] model includes all stakeholder groups and integrates across multiple sectors—engaging the whole system with an intention to serve the highest good of all.”

Heather spoke about an exercise she likes to do annually to ensure she’s on the right path, and sent me the diagram that forms the basis of it (alongside). This is a difficult process at the best of times (I can attest to that!), so it’s great to have a neat way of corralling one’s thinking on the issue.

After an hour, Heather Parker the coach excused herself for a meeting with an aspirant journalist seeking career guidance. The young woman was radiating eagerness. How interesting, I thought, for Heather to move on to that particular type of glow, having helped dust off the gleam on a patina worn by my 51 years of living.

I'd love to credit whoever's original work this is, but I've been unable to find any such reference on the interwebs (and it seems other people are similarly confounded).

I’d love to credit whoever’s original work this is, but I’ve been unable to find any such reference on the interwebs (and it seems other people are similarly confounded).

AfrikaBurn: Great for ‘Re-‘

Oscar Foulkes May 3, 2018 Adventures of Re- No comments
It seemed appropriate to be going to AfrikaBurn in the first month of my ‘fresh look’. People’s experiences and perceptions of the event vary, so I’m going to stick with my perspective (you can read my previous AfrikaBurn posts here and here).

My observation is that it’s a space in which judgement is suspended. While it may be completely divorced from so-called reality, that’s a big part of the appeal.

There are people who fly to Tankwa, but there’s something to the final 120km driven on dreadful gravel roads. I’ve described the drive as akin to a birthing process, in which one is delivered into an alternative reality.

Much of what happens at Tankwa wouldn’t happen in a regular day in the city. It’s space in which to play, to explore, and to reconnect with parts of ourselves that have been inhibited. I think it’s relevant that getting there is difficult.

This was my fifth AfrikaBurn. While there have been differences in my experiences, the one common feature is that I generally find myself experiencing stuff on an emotional level. And it’s not necessarily predictable what those emotions might be.

I had primed my brain to use this time to explore alternative scenarios for myself. I don’t know if there was much action in that regard, but it certainly was four days of decompression.

One of the highlights was dancing on the far edge of the playa as the sun was setting on a beautiful day and an almost-full moon was rising on the opposite side of the desert.

I’ve returned feeling refreshed and relaxed, with a sense of creativity I haven’t had for a long time. The first days back have also been hugely productive, in that I’ve written three different pieces, comprising nearly 4000 words.

As far as ‘Adventures of Re-‘ are concerned, AfrikaBurn would be a double thumbs-up. I’m loving this feeling of being energised.

AfrikaBurn-style cycling kit

AfrikaBurn-style cycling kit

Like a bat out of hell

Oscar Foulkes April 23, 2018 Uncategorized No comments
I recently realised that Meat Loaf gets hardly any airtime on radio. Well, not the broader range of his epic, almost operatic, balls-to-the-wall rock marathons. I suppose the issue is that they are ‘marathons’ and not neat little numbers that fit into three minutes with a couple of repeats of the chorus. In the spirit of research I did a 150-minute ride while streaming his music, and ever since then I can’t get the raise-the-dead chorus of Bat Out Of Hell out of my head.

Since Thursday last week my brain has been similarly active, getting to grips with the experience of riding the Santa Cruz Blur. When I took delivery of the Tallboy in December, I knew that a top secret, super-light marathon bike was on its way. The timing didn’t quite work out for us to ride Cape Epic on Blur, but I’m pleased I had that time to bond even more closely with the Tallboy.

I felt extremely conflicted to hand it over in anticipation of the Blur taking its place, because, well, Tallboy. That bike just takes whatever you throw at it in its stride (assuming that a bike could have a stride, of course).

While waiting for the Blur to arrive, I was back on Yeti for a couple of weeks, which gave me a gradual transition. The Yeti is a bit lighter than Tallboy, and the Blur is lighter still, weighing under 10kg.

It might be an exaggeration to say that Newton’s Second Law rules my life, but not by much. The weight carried by racehorses (i.e. jockey plus saddle and any lead added to get up to the weight the horse has been allocated to carry) has a measurable drag effect. Over 1600m this equates to 2 lbs per length (approximately 8 foot), which gets scaled in either direction. So, the drag effect over 1200m is 3 lbs per length, and 3200m is 1 lb per length. Weight also enters the equation via weight-for-age (WFA), whereby horses of different age are allocated different weights to make up for the difference in maturity (younger horses carry less weight).

Similarly, a lighter bicycle enables you to go faster while expending the same effort, or to take it a little easier and still ride at the same pace. So, my post-Epic rides on Yeti delivered a bunch of new PRs on sections that were flat or uphill. I wasn’t necessarily a slow coach on the descents, but I had to think about it a lot more than when riding Tallboy.

Then I rode the Blur. I purposely rode the same routes as I’d ridden with the Yeti. The times improved again, and not by marginal degrees. By a lot. I smashed my remaining 2015 PRs, from when I had close to 100% of my breathing capacity (and I was still in my 40s).

If this seems like vanity, please forgive me, but there is another angle to this. I could be taking advantage of the bike’s lightness to save effort. Making climbs easier is the reason why people ride ebikes. The Blur effect might be low on the scale of percentage power provided by an ebike, but up to a point it does the same job.

Riding the Blur, compared with the other bikes I’ve ridden, is like putting your car into Sport mode. It’s just so responsive to even gentle turns of the crank. And, of course, if you put the hammer down it flies. When you feel you want to take a little break on a climb, the bike’s lightness enables you to expend less energy getting to the top.

That it’s lighter and faster is measurable. The rest of what follows is my experience/opinion. I’m not a pro rider, so bear that in mind when reading my comments on the experience of riding the Blur.

If you’ve ever sat on a racehorse in full training (i.e. fit and geed up) you’d have some sense of the feeling that absolutely anything can happen at a moment’s notice. Plus, looking down on the horse’s muscular neck between the reins accords with the sleekness of the Blur’s design.

Following on the experience of bonding very closely with Tallboy, it’s not unexpected that I’d be looking at the Blur’s descending capabilities first. Coming from a stable that has downhill in its DNA, I knew it would be there.

Thus far, I haven’t ridden really sketchy trails, but on everything I’ve done thus far, it’s been quick on downhills as well. The difference is that I found myself being more conscious of using body weight to keep everything under control. It’s definitely a more cerebral experience, in the sense of me having to think more about what I’m doing.

Which brings me to the tyres. The standard kit for Blur is 2.25 inch tyres. I’m a big fan of riding 2.35, because one can ride them softer. It took me a little while to get in tune with the rhythm of riding the Blur (i.e. for my body to adapt to the point of being able to subconsciously anticipate how the bike is going to respond to the trail). Now I just want more of it.

I started off questioning Santa Cruz’s choice of 2.25 over 2.35, because I think the wider tyres ridden at lower pressure will give a better ride. However, the 2.25s give more than enough traction, and one does get used to the slight bit of extra bounce of the harder tyres on rocky sections (I think I’m still going to change the tyres, though).

I love how responsive the bike is to small shifts in body weight, especially on twisty-turny trails.

The Blur’s single lock-out for both shocks works well, leaving the bike pretty much as rigid as a hardtail, for times when one is out of the saddle.

I’ve done a bit of comparing of Tallboy and Blur, which isn’t entirely fair, because they are built for slightly different purposes. They are both great bikes, it just depends what kind of riding you want to do. Which is not to say that there isn’t crossover – we had a great Epic on Tallboys, and there will be plenty of casual trail riders picking the Blur because it’s easier to ride up hills.

The Blur experience is more racehorse than rock music, but it goes like a bat out of hell.

Blur comes in matt black, and this fetching tomato red (pic: Forrest Arakawa)

Blur comes in matt black, and this fetching tomato red (pic: Forrest Arakawa)

On a racehorse, anything can happen, or in this case a Thoroughbred stallion. This was me in my early 20s (the mountains in the background were part of the 2018 Epic route).

On a racehorse, anything can happen, or in this case a Thoroughbred stallion. This was me in my early 20s (the mountains in the background were part of the 2018 Epic route).

Ravi Naidoo: Life of Re_

Oscar Foulkes April 17, 2018 Adventures of Re- 1 comment
I shouldn’t have expected anything less than supercharged inspiration from my hour-and-a-bit with Design Indaba founder Ravi Naidoo.

In reference to my ‘fresh look’, I observed that I’ve come across many men my age taking a sabbatical with a view to starting something new. However, it seems that this isn’t always a period in which new directions flourish.

Ravi’s view is that many have left corporate life, so the absence of defined structure or direction turns into a problem. On the other hand, entrepreneurial types live the life of modern day hunter-gatherers. It’s not to say that this group doesn’t experience difficulty in the face of not being able to kick-start that fresh beginning, but it’s more ‘normal’ to be hustling for opportunities.

In chatting about the implications of this downtime, I painted the picture of the stereotypical wait for the telephone to ring.

Ravi spoke about the value of ‘active recovery’. He was referencing weight training, but there was active recovery throughout my cycling training, so the concept struck a chord with me.

In essence, recovery from intense training sessions requires some kind of appropriate activity, not complete rest.

The implication for this ‘fresh look’ period is that one should remain active, even if it’s volunteer work. For inspiration we could also be immersing ourselves in new experiences.

Finally, Ravi introduced the concept of “Life of Re_”, which has wide-ranging implications. To quote from the YPO conference he is organising with that theme:

“In the tech world, software is in perpetual beta, never fully finished, constantly updated. As newly minted digital citizens, this is a process we could emulate. To live La Vida Beta. By leaning forward optimistically into the future to re-skill, re-tool, re-boot, re-invent. Welcome to the Life of Re_. A new way of being. A life of constant upgrade and improvement.”

It’s all about words that start with “re-“.

phone

Introducing a new theme

Oscar Foulkes April 16, 2018 Adventures of Re- No comments
This blog started as a repository of writings about things that give me pleasure; alternatively subjects that are covered ‘at my pleasure’. Eating and drinking featured, for obvious reasons.

2015 was a particularly barren year, and then 2016 kicked off with a few posts about the experience of being ‘treated’ for cancer with radiotherapy (absolutely no pleasure in that!). I led straight into two years of sharing my experience of training for – and riding – Cape Epic. Reading the blog is optional, of course, but there wasn’t much for people that weren’t interested in following the journey of a person willfully putting himself through a tough time (that journey has been covered by others here and here, if you want a quick snapshot; alternatively follow this tag on my blog).

The central theme over more than 12 years, though, is me sharing personal experience. There are times that I tend to rush where angels fear to tread, which can result in some ‘interesting’ experiences. There’s always learning involved, but seeing as I’m as happy learning by experience as getting told stuff, this is not a bad thing.

Which brings me to the experiences that I’m expecting to provide the theme for blog posts for the foreseeable future. As a result of parts of the family business downsizing, I am voluntarily without structured employment.

I’m using this as an opportunity for ‘taking a fresh look’. It’s also a prime opportunity to catch up with people I’ve been meaning to see, but have just not got around to. Getting guidance on this ‘fresh look’ thing wasn’t the objective, but the first few interactions have spontaneously yielded such great insights that I have to share them.

I should add that my daughter, in her final year of undergraduate study, is on the lookout for productive internship or part-time employment, and my matric son is having to make decisions about what to do next year. So, while I’m in a different position on the ‘life curve’, all three of us are going through a similar process.

Updates to follow…

One cannot talk about making fresh starts without referencing Oh, The Places You’ll Go.

Epic 2018: Hoarse Power

Oscar Foulkes March 26, 2018 Cape Epic No comments
Every Stage of Epic, whether long or short, has its own challenges. In the case of the final one, from Wellington to Val de Vie, the pressure point was doing more than half the day’s climbing in the first 18km. Piet and I had agreed that we’d ride this at a manageable pace, expecting to suffer for anything up to two hours, and then see what we’ve got left in the tank.

I woke up on the Sunday morning noticing that my legs were considerably less painful than they’d been all week. Good start.

We were also blessed with a cool start to the day, thanks to overnight drizzle and remaining cloud cover. Also good.

Due to the obscene amount of climbing, the start operated as batches of three groups all going off together. It wasn’t long before we got into the climbing. I need to understand the phenomenon a bit better, but there is something quite different to the pain at the start of a day than at the end. To take my mind off it, in my head I replayed a video I’d been sent the day before, of Sergeant Hardy taking a roll in the sand (posted on my Instagram account).

The top of the Hawequas climb is just below Du Toitskloof Pass, which is a long way up when you look at it from the perspective of the valley floor, and the slopes are steep. There was a group of drummers at the end point of the climb, who could be heard from a long way away. That was cool.

Due to traffic on the descent, we couldn’t make as much use of the free miles as we might have wanted to, but at least we were no longer climbing. Shortly after the first water point there was another significant climb, and then we were into a route profile one could describe as rolling hills.

From the second water point to the end was a distance of about 30km. However, the final bit was all downhill or flat, so we effectively had just over 20km to the end. Once again, I was like a horse on its way back to the stable. I didn’t mind taking the pain of riding hard on hills, because they weren’t long climbs, and were followed by descents. This was not only recovery time, but also additional opportunity to pass other riders, especially when the terrain was making them think about what lines to take.

We may have passed 50 or more teams between the second water point and the top of the final climb. I was in the red, but unlike the previous stage when I had desperately been clinging to Piet’s back wheel, this time I was setting the pace (being in the driver’s seat does make a difference). I suspect I may not have been able to do it if that stretch had all been on the flat. The undulations gave me recovery time, and letting the Tallboy loose on the downhills got the adrenaline going.

Then we reached the section I’d been waiting for since the start of Epic. The Land Rover Technical Terrain for Stage 8, called Bone Rattler, is a zig-zag descent that ends at the entrance to Pearl Valley. The terrain of the final zags comprises rocks of varying sizes, up to baby head and slightly bigger. I pedalled hard at the top of the hill to get momentum, pointed the Tallboy, and released brakes. The bike is made for that stuff, and handled beautifully.

Then it was just a case of getting across the finish line.

Last year, Piet pulled me up Franschhoek Pass. Over the final 20km I was just going through the motions. It made a big difference to reach the end of Epic feeling the strongest I’d felt all week. If this isn’t proof of Erica Green’s excellent coaching then I don’t know what is.

On every stage, we moved up the GC, ending just below mid-point in the field. Considering that my participation was in doubt 10 days before the start, and that the final month of preparation was interrupted by injury, I’m delighted with the outcome. But regardless of GC position, it was a great week on the bike.

However, it’s not just about the bike. Cape Epic is a team sport, and as a partner Piet is investment grade. My top tip for people contemplating Epic is to make sure you have the right partner. I don’t know how one assesses this stuff in advance, because I got lucky.

Of course, none of this would be possible without my family completely embracing this project, and giving me the support and time to do it. Thank you!

P.S. Being a noisy breather, especially when the going gets tough, results in a wide range of comments from other riders. At the top of a particularly difficult climb this week, Piet asked me how I was. “I’m breathing”, was my answer, indicating that at that point I was capable of the bare minimum of biological activity to sustain life. The sounds of my laboured breathing suggested I was inhaling more than my fair share, because quick as a flash, a rider close by pipes up: “Leave some oxygen for us!”

Team Hoarse Power (pic: Amanda Bloch)

Team Hoarse Power (pic: Amanda Bloch)