Sunday, February 21, 2016

Koro Island, Fiji, battered by Tropical Cyclone Winston

Anyone who has read my pre-tribulation fictional novel, Raptured, will recognize Koro Island, Fiji, as the featured setting where the climatic final chapter of the book takes place. Tropical Cyclone Winston, a category five storm, hit Koro Island on February 20th. Wind gusts up to 325km/h pummeled the island, leveling villages, and stripping away trees. It was the strongest storm on record to have hit the island nation of Fiji. Forty-two people are reported to have died. Nine of those were from Koro Island.

I checked photos posted online of the aftermath, and was shocked by the devastation. Much of the beautiful tropical paradise that I observed while doing research for my book has now been stripped away. It looks like whole sections of the forests were crushed, and many buildings appear to be roofless or totally stripped away from their foundations. I imagine that the coconut trees, and crops, the locals rely on for income must be severely damaged.

Fijian Ministry of Agriculture officials, after seeing the devastation firsthand, are considering putting Koro island under quarantine to limit the spread of communicable diseases. Due to contamination, the water supply and crops there are now deemed unfit for consumption. The Public Health Department was mobilized to assist with rehabilitation efforts, with hopes that a quarantine can be avoided.

I encourage readers to donate to the International Federation of Red Cross, which already have a society in Fiji and can quickly spearhead support efforts.

Thank you,
Author Rob Sargeant

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Running with Sasquatch

Above illustrated by Andre Sargeant

I know some of you won't believe this, but for the past three years I've been trail running with a Sasquatch. When I first encountered the timid creature, it occurred early one summer morning on a narrow forest trail in the Comox Valley of Vancouver Island. I regularly ran this route on Saturdays, during four to five hour training sessions. Since few in the local community are crazy enough to join me running this far, I usually do it alone.

For weeks as I ran this route solo I had the feeling I was being watched. A couple of times I heard footsteps, and deep breathing, behind me, but in the few seconds it would take me to stop, and turn to look back, whoever or whatever was following me would disappear into the thick underbrush.
I gained my pursuer's trust one day by offering them bites of Cliff energy bars (I had them stashed in my Camel Pack). After luring him into the open, amazingly, I discovered it to be a real life Sasquatch. He was able to communicate with simple grunts and rudimentary sign language. I gave him a Power Bar gel, but he didn't seem to like the taste. After taking a few sips he made an ugly face, and tossed it to the ground, stomping on it with his big foot.

I slowly backed away, and carried on with my run. To my surprise, he followed me, keeping up with my pace. When he became thirsty, he stooped down on all fours at the river's edge to drink. We ran together for almost two hours that first day. I didn't know that Sasquatches were so fleet footed. Since then, he has joined me on numerous training runs.

He's a true barefoot runner who doesn't ever need a pair of Vibram Five Fingers when the trail gets tough. He's embraced the 'Green Revolution,' living off only what the wilderness provides.
When I qualify for the Western States 100 I'm going to bring him along as my pacer.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Training with the FITBIT HR

I've been using the FITBIT HR for close to two weeks now. This training aid is quite user friendly and so far has proved to be fairly accurate. I've taken it on runs following low lying, and mountainous trails. Most of the runs were around an hour long and fairly equal in distance according to the steps and distance logged. The heart rate monitor mode indicates how the trail terrain effected the workout, showing that an hour running in the mountain trails has more impact, bringing the heart rate up to and above the 140 pbm range. Pushing the heart rate to its peak cardio range is a great way to build up endurance.
The FITBIT HR also monitors the quality of your sleep, showing how many times you were restless and awake throughout the night. It records your resting heart rate too, which is always useful to know as an athlete. The transfer of this information all happens through a wireless connection because the FITBIT HR uses Bluetooth technology. It also comes with a 'wireless dongle' that you insert into the USB port and leave there (hopefully you have some to spare on your desktop computer) so whenever you come within 10 feet of it the data from your FITBIT can sync to the Fitbit Connect dashboard. Distance goals are adjustable through the dashboard. When you're running or walking and you reach that goal distance the FITBIT HR vibrates for several seconds to let you know that you've surpassed it.
Care and maintenance: I find I have to recharge the FITBIT HR at least once every four to five days. I have a rapid USB charger so this takes less than two hours to complete. The owners manual states that the FITBIT HR is NOT waterproof but splash proof. They don't recommend that you take it swimming or into a bathtub soak with you. I wear it around the house washing dishes, and have showered with it on my wrist, without any problems so far (might not be a good idea to take it into the shower). Wipe the underside of the FITBIT HR down (the part that makes contact with your skin) with a cloth or Kleenex after exercise. Keeping it clean will ensure more accurate readings, according to the website.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The joys of risk

It can take years to finish writing a great book, and it can take years of training to build up the endurance to finish strong as a runner in an ultramarathon. I began writing my latest book, RAPTURED in 2011, the same year I attempted my first ultramarathon - The Burning Boot Ultra. The course was a challenge with 64kms of mountainous logging roads winding from Gold River to Tahsis B.C.. At around 21kms I twisted my knee bounding down a steep incline, and was forced to walk. The walk quickly turned into a limp. I eventually had to give-up due to the inflammation.

The next year, in 2013, I was determined to complete The Burning Boot. I found a 16 week ultramarathon training plan online and followed it as closely as I could. The diligence paid off later that year. I finished with the top 15 runners with a time of 7:35. Three months after this, in September, I entered the 56km Great Lake Ultra in Cowichan, and finished 11th overall. It took discipline. I had to push my body through pain, and keep track of my fluid and calorie intake. At times I questioned, "Why am I doing this?". I tried to think of a good excuse to give up, but I didn't find one that would stop me. I pressed on and finished just outside the top ten with a time of 6:03.

Since then I have gone on to complete three, 50 mile ultras (80kms). My best time was 9:13 at the Elk Beaver Ultra in 2014. I placed 2nd in the Men's Masters age category.

You try to minimize the risk as a runner by training properly and having sufficient calories and fluids at hand on long run days. But there's always this risk on the race days, partly because of the terrain, and partly because of the distance. I could break if I push myself too hard. Call me crazy, but I enjoy this.

I finished writing RAPTURED this summer. To complete it, I required a determination and resilience like that which I use to complete an ultramarathon. Risk plays an important part in the books that I've written. In each story I have at least one character under some threat. Either their life or their livelihood is at risk.

In LOST ARK FOUND five preteen boys head out on a two-week treasure hunt with a grandfather on Vancouver Island, facing all the dangers present in the wilderness. The opening sentence of the book sets up the risk at hand: "This story begins with the opening of a book, and ancient manuscript, found centuries ago on the dead body of a frozen traveler, high on the mountain glaciers of Vancouver Island."

Brad, an ambitious surveillance expert, one of the characters in, A SILENT VIOLENCE, risks loosing a lucrative contract with the CIA when he discovers why a world famous rock star has invited over a hundred of the richest and poorest people of the world to a secret meeting in Toronto.

In DANCE WITH ME Carl Guinness is left for dead, dumped in a river. The Fallen Angels gang attempted to kill him because he wanted to close the tavern they had helped to finance (without Carl's knowledge). Luckily, the bullet hit the Bible tucked into the breast pocket of Carl's leather jacket. After escaping the submerged tarp cocoon, he is forced to live as a fugitive, his life at risk, trying to figure out a way to bring justice to this powerful biker gang. But it seems impossible, until God intervenes.

RAPTURED: Angelic Army Conquests Books 1 & 2
Book 1
Fifteen-year-old Colin Duncan could soon be dead, if his broke, drug addicted father, follows through with a diabolical plan. But Rob Milne, a newly deceased Canadian soldier, joins a platoon of angels on a rescue mission to save him. Can Colin be reached in time, or will the demonic resistance take too long to overcome?

Book 2
After the rapture, the United Nations set up a secret death camp on a tropical island near Fiji to interrogate and annihilate new Christian believers. Rob, and the angelic platoon under his charge, is tasked with the mission of securing the nuptials of a TWA tennis pro to one of the wealthiest men in the world, Russ King. Somehow, this marriage could save millions of Christians from slaughter.

I've learned that risk can be exciting. It adds joy to life in the real world, and interest for the reader in the world of fiction. Don't let the fear of failure or the 'what if's' immobilize you. Take the first steps, lace up the running shoes and jog around the block. Put the pen to paper and write the first paragraph. Create an interesting character whose life is under risk. You'll be amazed how far you can go once you get started.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Exciting journeys kayaking and writing

August 26th, a day after the e-book release of my latest book, "Raptured", I left for an overnight kayaking trip on the east coast of Vancouver Island. My goal was to kayak from Deep Bay and circumnavigate Hornby Island, a paddle that would turn out to be thirty seven kilometers. I prayed for good weather as I climbed into my sleeping bag at Deep Bay Resort, where I was camping, so I could get an early start.

Waking up at 5:00 a.m., through the tent's entrance I could see the rising sun breaking through the clouds on the horizon. I ate a quick breakfast of muesli and coffee, and then waded into the shallow surf with my kayak and some supplies, just after the tide had turned.

The water was calm. The only sounds for the first hour were made by my kayak paddle and the calls of distant seagulls. As I neared Ford Cove, a few anglers in small fishing boats puttered past. Upon reaching the island's coast, I spotted seals laid out on the sandstone, soaking in the morning sun.

By midday I had reached the north side of Hornby Island, but ran into trouble because the tide had receded too far. I had to take a much longer detour around the exposed rocky shoreline to continue. It was worth it though, because while doing this I spotted more seals. A group of over twenty of them bobbed in the water, curiously watching me as I kayaked past.

I stopped briefly to have lunch, and take drink breaks at various spots along the way. When the wind picked up, coming around the east side of Hornby Island, I had to put some heavy large rocks in the bow of the kayak to keep the keel submerged and the kayak under control. To wait out the wind and waves I sheltered in Ford Cove, having a coffee and some locally made carrot cake at the small variety store/cafe there. One of my books, "Dance With Me" had scenes that took place at the wharf, so it was extra special to sit, and sip my coffee, thinking of what my fictional character experienced at the marina.

By the time I returned to my campsite at Deep Bay the whole trip had taken just under ten hours. Tired, but excited by the accomplishment, I enjoyed a hot shower in the resort washroom. What a journey.

The next day, after I returned home, I checked my new book on Amazon, and saw that it was selling, and moving up the best-selling hot new releases for its genre, ranking as high as #4 by mid September. Over two years of writing work went into "Raptured" - another long journey. It felt good to know that people, anywhere, were now able to read it.

I took some video clips of the kayaking trip. If you're interested you can watch it below.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Hiking the North Coast Trail - Summer 2015

Hiking the North Coast Trail has been on my bucket list for some time so when I heard that 407 Squadron was doing the trek as an Adventure Training Exercise I jumped at the opportunity to be part of the team.

Hauling backpacks, we disembarked from a water taxi at the North Coast Trail head at Shushartie Bay, July 31st around 2 p.m.. Twelve members of 407 Squadron, including, Cpl Caron, MCpl Horwood, MCpl Larouche, Sgt Nadeau, MCpl Proulx, Cpl Smith, Maj Smith, Cpl St-Pierre, 2Lt Tang, Sgt Toth, Cpl Ward, and myself, started off with a great sense of excitement. It was diminished a bit when we found we immediately had a ten metre steep climb by rope into the rain forest.

The first two days of hiking crossed difficult terrain. We averaged a pace of a little over 1km/hour due to the technical challenge of climbing over tree root systems, and slippery rock faces. Though there were some wooden boardwalks and steps built along the first two sections of the “trail” we crossed, it seemed more of an obstacle course than a “trail”.

The first night we camped at Skinner Creek I accidentally burned three of my toes with boiling hot water. The next day, while crossing Cape Sutil, I was stung by four mud wasps within five seconds. Even though I cried out for those ahead of me to “Run!!” it did no good because we were hiking a difficult uphill in close ranks. Later that day I slid down a slimy cliff scraping my elbow. The North Coast Trail was becoming somewhat more of a “trial” to endure than a “trail” to trek. But we all persevered, and by day three we were hiking scenic long stretches of sandy, and pebble stone beaches. For about an hour we were followed by a humpback whale a few hundred metres off shore. The whale would rise to the ocean’s surface and release a blasting spout of mist into the air every few minutes.

While trekking the North Coast Trail you’re stripped of most amenities. With no cellular reception the smart phones become just useful tools to take photos, or for use as and e-readers and pedometers. Our minds focused on more basic things, like finding fresh drinking water, getting shelter, and making fire.

During the inland crossings when I found myself alone, after the sound of the rumbling surf faded, the mossy bogs soaked up the shuffle of my footsteps and my deep breathing as I pressed on lugging my backpack. When I did stop to listen, the silence was dramatic, almost unearthly, like I was standing on some lifeless planet.

By the fifth day we had completed the North Coast Trail section and were able to camp two nights at Nels Bight beach on the Cape Scott Trail. The following day most of the team took a 14-km roundtrip day hike to the Cape Scott lighthouse (I stayed behind to tend to my three burned toes).

Thursday morning greeted us with a rainbow in the sky and more humpback whales feeding offshore. I watched them as I ate a quick breakfast of hot oats and coffee readying myself for the final 19-km hiking leg that would take us near to the Cape Scott Trail head (where the shuttle bus would be picking us up the next day). I couldn’t think of a better way to depart, being able to witness such beauty. It was worth a few wasp stings, and burned toes.

All together throughout the trek we covered around 70-km, and those who went on to the lighthouse completed another 14-km. Overall, I figured we each burned around 21,000 calories. Our total food intake was closer to 10,000 calories each, so we were famished by the time the shuttle bus picked us up at the Cape Scott trail head the final day. A couple of hours later when we stopped at a mall in Port Hardy for lunch I was elated to have an A&W Uncle burger in my grasp. One has never tasted so good.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Tough enough for the Kusam Klimb 2015

A festive atmosphere settled upon the small coastal town of Sayward B.C. June 20th, as over 500 adventure seeking runners, and hikers, gathered there to test if they were tough enough to conquer "Bill's Trail", a 23km endurance race covering 5000 ft of elevation in the first 7kms.

The night before race day, rain fell as I crawled into my tent at the Fisherboy Campground around 10 p.m.. The patter of the drops lulled me to sleep. It stopped before I awoke around 4:15 a.m., giving me plenty of time to prepare.

To prevent blistering on the descent I lubed up my toes, and feet, with a mix of Body Glide and Chamois Cream. Since it was going to be a warm day I filled my Camel Pack to its 2 litre capacity.

The skies cleared, as we crowded behind the start just before 7 a.m.. After the countdown, for the first 11-12 minutes, we dashed up a gently slopping paved road to the trail head. I watched Nick Elson, the eventual winner, speed ahead of the chase pack, and disappear into the forest.
I decided early on not to push too hard. My left knee still had a bit of inflammation, and I didn't want to aggravate it further. I was careful on the climb, stopping to have drink breaks, and even paused to take some photos. My Hoka Mafate Speed trail running shoes worked well. I only had to stop one time to tighten the speed laces, as they came loose at one of the very steep rock climbing sections. The rain the night before was enough to get keep the dust down but not so much that things became slippery.

As we climbed to the summit, above the clouds, I saw the exposed rock of the peaks for the first time. Other years when I had reached this section in the trail it was still covered in snow. The backside of the mountain was snow-less as well. Because of this descending the "cliff's of insanity" sections with the long ropes took longer than other years, since there was no way to slide by the lines (unless you wanted to get scrapped with rocks and stones). I slipped on a slimy stone as I jumped across a creek in the swampy sections of the lower back forest. It sent a cutting pain across my right calf muscle, and for several seconds of pain I thought I was finished. I slowly moved ahead, and was able to walk it off. Thirty seconds later I was back to running again, and entered the wider, exposed trail, on the switch-backs leading down to aid station three (where Nanaimo bars and Gatorade were waiting for me).

I ran out of water with about 5km to go, so I gulped down an extra cup of Gatorade at the second last aid station. Soon after this, I heard a familiar voice call out behind me. It was my friend and co-worker Louis Nadeau, running a personal best Kusam Klimb pace. We decided to finish the course together, encouraging each other, as we continued to descend the trails. We could hear blasting rock music the last few kilometers, and raised our hands in victory as we rounded the last turn toward the finish.

Photo credit: