A Week of Sunset Swims and Runs in South Africa


This week I was down in Roodepoort, South Africa for work stuffs.  For the most part, I was basically inside a room from 8AM till dark.  On a few of the nights though, I did manage to escape just at sunset to get in some workouts.  Sometimes my escape failed me, and I was stuck at the office till 11PM.

Now while I know that some might think all my travels are to glamorous places, there are just as many to places you probably wouldn’t find as exciting.  But ultimately I think it’s sorta what you make of it.  In my case this week, my co-workers all stayed in more fancier locales around the city.  I meanwhile stayed in a lower end chain hotel next to a highway overpass that was only a 10-minute drive from a puddle of water.  While that did mean my late night food options were basically between Subway and McDonalds, it also meant I got to swim at sunset and not sit in traffic.

A few loops around the lake:


On Monday night, after having worked the day upon arriving earlier in the morning on a redeye from Europe – I figured a swim would be a perfect way to end the day.  I had asked for recommendations via Twitter and y’all delivered.  The location was a small lake adjacent to the Botanical Gardens, held up by a dam.  It’s heavily popular with kayakers and paddlers…as well as triathletes and swimmers (and a gazillion ducks and other birds I’ve never seen).


The best part was that there was a very precisely measured 1,000m triangular buoy route within the lake.  I used Google Maps to validate the exact permanent buoy spots with the line tool, and it was scary how perfect it was spot-on 1,000m.

So I set off for a loop…


Here’s the route, from the Fenix3:


I’d repeat this three times by the end of the week.  I’d hoped to get in a fourth swim very early Friday morning, but apparently my 10 minute drive turns into an hour long fiasco that time of day.  By time I got to the lake this morning, I had to turn back around again to be at work.  The other times, I was always limited by fading light, finishing up just as the sun disappeared below the horizon:


The weather was nice and warm, approaching 90°F, but not overly hot.  Just…comfy!


Of course I was testing devices, and using my little swim buoy behind me as well.  While I didn’t have to worry about powerboats here, there was a non-stop flotilla of paddlers racing the triangle.  Interestingly, one came up afterwards to ask about the buoy.  He noted that it was actually great I was using it, because at certain directions into the sun at sunset, it was really hard to see swimmers otherwise.


On the gadget front, above, the final production Fenix3.  And below, the final production IOLITE system, which I previewed last spring.


On Friday evening before my flight, I combined my swim with a short brick run around the lake.  It was only a mile, but it’s all I had time for before I had to rush off to the airport to make my flying contraption’s departure time.


I arrived a cool 65 minutes before my flight departed.  Thank you to carry-on luggage and mobile boarding cards!


A Hilly Run:

The last time I was down in this area in December, I went for a bit of an exploration run, which ended up being rather hilly.  I didn’t quite expect said hills at the time.

This time though, I was prepared for them!  In fact, I was seeking them out as part of a hill workout.  I’ve been doing said workout lately mostly on the treadmill, since I burn too much time getting to a proper hill in Paris.  So it was nice to head outdoors for this one.


Of course, as you can see above, this one wasn’t quite as scenic as my lake swim.  I started from a deserted shopping mall parking lot with a 24hr KFC, and went upwards from there.

The grade on the hill ranged a bit, but in some sections was 10-12%…which really sucked a lot.  Especially when you’re starting elevation is over 5,500ft (1675m).


I don’t really have all that many photos from the run.  It quickly shifted into twilight, and so good photos are hard to come by while running in the dark.  The activity file tells a better story anyway! Instead, I’ll give you a photo taken earlier in the day, it’s of Meat World.  Yes, seriously, that’s an awesome sounding place.


Meanwhile, in the vending machine at the office I found Simba. Or rather, his nuts.


Oh, back to the run.  For those curious on the technical side, I was using Auto Climb with the Fenix3.  I explain how it works in this video below, which was taken on this very run.

With that – that’s my week down in South Africa.  There’s a ton of things I wish I could have seen, such as a new CycleOps PowerBeam Cycling Studio (the first of its kind, with 26 units!), as well as various rides/runs/swims with folks.  Unfortunately, the unpredictability of my working hours is the biggest challenge to these sorta things.  My work this week was more of ‘it’s done when it’s done’, with ‘done’ really meaning that when I got back from swimming I was still working away till midnight.  Hence making meet-ups hard.

In any event – I’m now on the way home, with the little screen saying my hometown made Boeing 747-436 being at 32,000ft, and currently situated over Maun, Botswana (been there before!).  Just 9 hours and 6 minutes left until I land in London.

Have a great weekend all!


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  1. Andree

    Sounds like a good time to me. Just being able to swim in a lake sounds pretty nice. Longing to hear more about the Fenix 3 performance in the water. Have a nice weekend!

  2. ZePinho

    Hello Rain,
    Love your posts and reviews man! Keep up the good work! I’m looking forward to that Fenix 3 in depth review!
    I’m also an IT guy myself next month will be 2 weeks in Quito, Equador where I do expect to feel the effects of training up to 2850m of altitude!!! Cheers!

  3. panos

    i follow your blog for a couple of years now, and i have always had this questions i have never posted before:

    what is your motivation ?

    you have a family, a job with many trips around the world, your workouts, your reviews/research for an array of gadgets….
    i have tried to put myself in your position and figure out how i would handle the this kind of life.
    i came to the conclusion that i needed a 30h day to manage the whole thing.

    my first guest on motivation is money of course, because of your various partnerships

    • Mike Richie

      If you’ve been here for two years, you gotta know it’s not just about money! I sometimes wonder if he even breaks even with all the gadgets (he buys himself), bikes, subscriptions, coaching and now, office.
      I think it’s all about the cupcakes ;>)

    • Like anyone else I enjoy various things. I enjoy my job, that it takes me to interesting places – and I also enjoy sports and sports technology. Most people have a hobby of some sort, mine just happens to be a bit larger than standard ‘hobby’ status these days.

      I do tend to be reasonably efficient in time usage, which probably helps things.

      Ultimately, I’m not really sure I have a specific motivation, I just do what I enjoy doing. Simple as that.

  4. dieterdr

    Nice written Rainmaker! I’ll buy the Fenix3! Thx for your opinion of the Garmin flagship

  5. Rhett

    How many times have you eaten it (crashed/fallen) while filming a gadget and running? :)

  6. MattB

    Is there any particular reason you are on firmware 2.5 not 2.7 (assuming GC is reporting that correctly)?

    Looks like a tough week, glad you got some quality me-time in the lake with a series of gorgeous sunsets to make up for it!

  7. Ibeti

    The Autoclimb function would be awesome on the Edge series.
    Actually – it would be nice to have a choice of different triggers for screens – pace for example. That way I wouldn’t have to worry at all about data screens when doing repeats (would be awesome to have just pace and lap distance/time during the repeat for example and then back to my usual 4-screen setup in the rest interval).

  8. Glajda

    I’m curious, did you have any form of elevation calibration active on the Fenix 3?
    The difference in start and finish elevation was 6 m, so while not great, still an acceptable value, but elevation gain and loss were 31m apart, which isn’t so great, especially since the temperature didn’t change much and duration was just over an hour.

    • Mike Richie

      That has to be a calculation error, not an accuracy error unless the watch was turned off while going up or down. The difference in gain / loss has to be the same as the starting and ending difference (it’s just math) although it could magnify a rounding error – still, a calculation error.

    • I used all the defaults on the elevation pieces.

  9. Christian Deysson

    Great post… Thanks Ray. Wishing you a safe and relaxed flight. Still looking forward to your big fenix 3 review.

  10. Jorge Lacomba

    Wow, so talking about your 16thfeb session, assuming your 920xt reference track was on your swim cap while swimming, It’s great to see that there’s only a difference of about 50m between the fenix3 track on your wrist and the 920xt reference track. Indeed that’s really good gps performance for open water swimming. Thanks for sharing Ray!!

    • Jorge Lacomba

      I’ve just seen the related YouTube video, your 920xt was on your swim buoy, not inside your swim cap as I thought ;-))

  11. Maxim

    Hills repeat .fit file looks weird.
    Specifically, at 20:20 into workout. Heart rate jumped from 140 to 172 in less than 10 seconds with no change in pace or grade. Was it HRM fault?
    BTW 175 meters ascent – is it correct? That’s like my standard 10km loop and I can’t call it hilly. Your tracks (at least on video) looks considerably steeper.

    • Yeah, HR strap fault. I noticed it then and adjusted the strap slightly on my chest. Within about 2 seconds I saw it immediately rise.

      As for ascent, it’s really the steepness of these hills (being upwards of 12% or so), given the relatively short length of each one.

  12. Lisa

    Have you use the Scosche HR armband with the Fenix3? Looking at buying the Fenix,
    3, but not sure if I lose some of functions if I don’t buy the included HRM. I bought the Scosche HRM after reading your review and love it. This may end up being answered in your upcomming Fenix3 review, looking forward to that!

  13. Scott Paul Roberts

    Many DC Rainmaker followers’ hobby– reading his awesome posts! Thank you, Ray for taking us on mini vacations while we get to read about your adventures. We are glad that you enjoy writing. Thank you for taking the time. I too had the same question, what is his motivation. Your answer is good enough for me!

  14. SwimNBike


    where you stash your key of your rental car at the lake?
    and thanks for sharing



    • It goes inside the swim buoy (it has a waterproof compartment that you can stash your dry clothes, keys, phone, etc…). I can pretty much put a t-shirt, shorts, sandals, phone, keys, wallet in there without issue.