Thursday, 21 August 2014

On cycling

Cycling became a Haggard thing early last year when Brett bought a mountain bike. Great, I thought to my cynical self. Something else that will collect dust in the Cottage of Dustcollectors. But, to my beloved’s credit, the mountain bike was hauled out every weekend and ridden with great gusto and even a gashed nose or two. And then there was the Infamous Serviette Incident of 2013 when he agreed to ride the Momentum 94.7 for CHOC… and it all went up-and-downhill from there.

Enter the roadbike, and him disappearing to the Cradle of Humankind at least once a weekend, sometimes more, to train ahead of this epic event, leaving me at home with the boys for significant chunks of every weekend.

“Wow, you let Brett go cycling,” people said. “Don’t you feel like you’re left alone to do everything?” they said. “What about your family life?” they said.

Well, here’s the thing.

There’s nothing about me ‘letting’ Brett go cycling. Brett took up a hobby that was 100% in the interests of him losing weight, improving his health, and having a social Thing that saw him spending down-time with people outside of his work environment. This hobby saw him building new friendships with some incredible people, and having a personal goal to work towards.

And that thing about improving his health? It means that he’ll actually be around longer for our family, because he’s healthy, he’s lost a lot of weight, and he’s managing stress so much better by exercising through it.

When he not only rode the 94.7 last year, but did it pulling one of the CHOC ice cream bikes, I couldn’t have been more proud of him, or more inspired. Don’t get me wrong, there was absolutely no FOMO about the ice-cream bike part of it - none at all. But there was a lot of FOMO about the achievement of having set a huge goal, and achieving it – and then some.

So. 2014 rolled around – and I thought I’d make it the year of “eat less and move more” – so I started spinning three times a week, so that I could actually have fun on the bike that he'd bought me a month or two earlier. Somewhere around the time that Brett rode the Argus, he also signed up for the Tsogo Sun Amashova Classic, and this year’s edition of the 94.7.

And I did too. And I'll sign up for Argus when it opens for next year as well. Because I can’t remember when last I set myself a big goal, and had to put some skin on the line to achieve it, and I figured that this was the time to do it.

And, going back to the people who said “Don’t you feel like you’re left alone to do everything?”… The only time I can find in my day to go spinning is to be at the 5h15 class. Which means that three mornings a week, I’m out of the house by 5h00, and I get back at 6h30. I have a half hour to shower, get dressed, dry my hair, do my make up and eat breakfast, to be out of the door by 7h00. And here’s the thing.

Before I started spinning in the mornings, I really did feel like I did nearly everything around the house, particularly in the mornings. But Brett and I have worked this out together, and he does everything for the boys on the mornings I spin – makes school lunches, gets them up, dressed, breakfasted, and ready for school. And I don’t feel like I do nearly everything any more, because, much as cycling is a solitary sport, we are working more like a team than ever.

I do carry (additional) burdens of mother’s guilt when I’m out on the road over the weekend training, I won’t lie. I won’t go out on the road more than once over a weekend – but I also know that my boys absolutely love spending time with my mom, Brett’s mom and her partner. It’s a treat for them to sleep out, just like the opportunity to get on my bike and cycle early in the morning, is a treat for me.

The result of all of this? I am incredibly, immensely proud of my husband (even more than I was before all this), and I’m inspired by the journey he has cycled over the last year and a half. He's kept on setting himself goals, and achieving them, and in two days' time he leaves on the 700km-in-7-days Altech Autopage Jozi to Kozi "Migration of the Soul" / Madness. This writer has no words - he's just amazing.

I’m proud of myself for getting this far with  my own training goals, and the fact that I’m also raising funds for CHOC.

I am loving how our family has become more active, and much more healthy. We take great pleasure in cycling together – we occasionally do rides with the boys, or take them along on events like the recent Freedom Ride, because cycling really can be a family sport, once your children are a bit older.

And yes, we do have to juggle our diaries a little more than before all this, but I’m comfortable with that. Because we are all healthier, and Brett and I are showing our boys that big goals can be achieved if you put in the time and effort.




Sunday, 17 August 2014

Review: A night at Kievits Kroon

The last while has seen Brett and me kind of living past each other -  mostly to do with his hectic training schedule ahead of next week's Jozi to Kozi (Isn't he a legend?) so when we got the opportunity to spend a night at Kievits Kroon country estate just north of Pretoria (near Roodeplaat Dam), we grabbed it. A friend of mine got married there years ago, and after hearing about how pretty it was then, I was excited to finally go there. 

We had a half-day spa treatment at the on-site spa, which was lovely. The therapists were just the right kind of gentle, right kind of tough, leaving us both feeling like squishy objects of awesome when we were done. For the first time when going for a spa treatment, we both remembered to pack swimming costumes, which meant we could take advantage of the spa bath and swimming pool facilities. We didn't use the sauna or steam room facilities, but there's a ladies ' section of those, and a unisex one for couples. There's also a relaxation lounge, which is a nice touch. 

The spa facilities were well thought out - there were snacks in reception, and the reception staff were friendly and helpful. The change rooms were a bit small, but you don't go to a spa to spend your time in the change room, now do you. A water station at the spa baths would have been fantastic, but that really is the only point I could fault the spa on - it was one of the better ones we have visited. 

We had dinner in the estate's signature Granita restaurant, which was a six course wine pairing menu. We'd let the chef know in advance that Brett is a vegetarian who is allergic to shell fish, and we were blown away by the trouble that they went to, to cater for him. There were times when I was most envious of his plates, even though mine were so tasty. 

His highlight was the mushroom and feta won-tons on a lentil curry, although his main course of salmon was divine. My favourite was the lamb cutlets, although the entree of chicken and quail with bacon popcorn was a close contender too. The food was spectacular, the wine perfect, and the service exceptional. 
Our room, in a wing built for FIFA 2010 World Cup referees, was very comfortable, complete with a king size bed and huge shower. There was lots of cupboard space, and a nicely stocked coffee station. 

The breakfast buffet the next morning was the stuff of which hotel buffet breakfast legends are made. I haven't seen smoked salmon in a breakfast buffet since I OD'd on the stuff on honeymoon at Spier ten years ago (maybe that's why?!) but this buffet had smoked salmon in abundance... and oysters and Cap Classique! There was a wide selection of continental breakfast goodies, as well as a hot buffet and a chef to cook your eggs on order. 

The estate itself is beautiful, and just emerging from winter. The Cape Dutch theme is whimsical without being cheesy, and the swimming pool area looks like it would be a fabulous location for a summer afternoon of cocktails with a group of friends. 

Kievits Kroon welcomes children over 14, so if you've got babysitters at the ready, it makes for a perfect night out for couples who need some grown up time and to wake up after sunrise instead of before - and although we didn't pay for our night, I believe it offers great value for money. 

They regularly have special offers for overnight stays, or day/half-day spa treatments with associated meals, advertised on their website or Twitter handle. Look out for extra-specials too - for Women's Day, the estate offered a pay for one, get one free deal. 

The money stuff: We were guests of the hotel, invited by its public relations agency to experience what the estate has to offer. My opinions are my own, and this post was not scripted in any way by anyone else. 

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Riding my bike for kids with cancer

If I’ve been a little haggard (!) on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, it’s because I’m up at 4h45 on those mornings to go to spinning classes, as part of my preparations to ride the 106km Amashova Classsic on 12 October, and the Momentum 94.7 Cycle Challenge on 16 November. This is in addition to weekend rides that also involve being up long before sunrise, and long before the temperate goes over 5 degrees!

Apart from this craziness being part of a goal I set for myself for this year, I’m riding these two events for the CHOC Cows, which will, if I raise more than R7000, see me riding the races in cow-print cycling kit.

Originally a group of eight cyclists who rode the 94.7 in cow suits, the group is now more than 300 in size, and has raised more than R18 million to support CHOC, which plays a key role in providing care for children diagnosed with Cancer across South Africa. It is a country wide organization that provides the highest level of care required to treat childhood cancer in keeping with the latest developments worldwide. The funds raised by CHOC are provided directly to support the children diagnosed with cancer as well as their families. Furthermore, the Paediatric Oncology Units in major hospitals are supported by funds raised by CHOC to enable the Doctors and Nurses to provide quality treatment to children diagnosed with cancer.

Here’s the hat-in-hand part: If you would  like to pledge funds to support me in this fundraising effort, please would you go here:  The money goes straight from you to The Cows.

Then – if you are a person who manages a relationship with a corporate (or you ARE a corporate!), and think that they might interested in supporting me/The Cows/CHOC, please let me know who to contact? If they’re really gung-ho on sponsoring things, they could sponsor a branded ice-cream bicycle for the 94.7 for R30 000…

CHOC will provide any necessary Section 18A tax certifications through its PBO registration, as required. Formal proposal letters from the organisations are easily obtained.

No obligation, at all, in any way, on either count. But, if you don’t ask…