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:

Saturday, May 16, 2015

DNF'ing the 2015 Elk Beaver 50 Mile Ultra

There were a couple of factors that led to me DNF'ing the Elk Beaver 50 Mile Ultra last weekend - shoes and heat. Though I had put in nearly 900km of training over a 16 week period leading up to the race, I found out close to the event that my Hoka Bondi 3 running shoes were deformed. I had run with Hokas in the past and had had no problems, so when I bought a pair online at a month before the race I figured they would be fine, but while training I developed some strain on the inner side of my knee, and a slight lower heal pain. I went to the local Extreme Runners shoe store to get some guidance. They took a look at my Hokas and quickly pointed out, by sitting them side by side on the counter, they were a deformed pair. I had to make some quick decisions, so I purchased a pair of new insoles for an older pair of trail Hokas (Mafate Speeds) and hoped for the best.
This year I was blessed to have my wife, Olivia, along to help out with the aid station. She took some video of the start too, as we all departed at 6:00 a.m. from Elk Lake Park. In the cooler hours of the morning I made good time and completed 30km in just over 3 hours. While the heat of the day hit us, I developed a blister on my left foot. I switched out my shoes at 40km for another pair of old Hokas to see if that would ease the blister pain. It did, but then my knee started to get inflamed while pushing to the 50km mark. I stopped longer at my aid station, drinking more, icing my knee, and I even took a swim in Elk Lake to cool off, since we were right beside the beach. With my core body temperature cooled down I was able to complete another 10km. But my knee was too inflamed by 60km to continue in the heat, so after this stage I DNF'd.

Lessons learned: Check running shoes for deformities, no matter how trusted the brand. Be prepared for all types of weather.

My wife and I shared the same motel as Arielle Fitzgerald (the eventual winner of the women's 100km race) and we drove her to the start with us in the morning so she didn't have to get a taxi. We helped her out as well during the ultra, sharing an aid station, giving her gels and S-Caps to help her when she looked like she was dragging. I was able to get video clips of the top 100km finishers including Adam Kahtava, and some shots taken after the race. You can find it below:

With this being my third time participating in the Elk Beaver Ultra I was pleased to see some people had returned. Armond LeBlanc, president of the Canadian Ultramarathoners Association, and manager of the Canadian ultra running team, was there. I had run some hills with him before in the Cumberland, last year, so it was good to see him again. Two of the Wounded Warriors I ran with last year were there as well. Allan Kobayashi competed in the Elk Beaver 50Km event and finished strong with a time of 4:30, placing first in the Men's Open category.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Running from one year to the next

New Years Eve, 2014, a friend, Louis Nadeau, and I, set out around 11 p.m. to trail run from one year to the next. It was a clear night, just below freezing when we headed out to what we call, the Pipe Line Trail. This starts at the Puntledge River power station in Courtenay, B.C., and runs up to the head of the Riverside Trail. Most of it is a gravel pathway, until it enters the forest after 6-7 kms. We had run this route several times before in the dark, early morning, so we had some idea of the risks we were taking. With only the moon, and head lamps, for illumination, I figured it was good ultra training, for those long runs that go through the night, or begin early mornings.
We both wore hydration packs, with a mix of gels, and other nutrients, tucked into the pockets. We weren't running for long when we noticed the cold temperatures caused the water in the hydration pack lines to freeze-up, so we had to be careful to take frequent sips to keep things from clogging up with ice. We were midway through the winding forest trail when the New Year rolled over. I stopped at that moment, and let out a few hoops, and hollers, yelling, "Happy New Year!".
We took turns leading on the trail, as it wound its way through a fir tree forest to the Comox Lake dam. While passing through this we noticed a temperature difference, that it was several degrees warmer in the thick woods, even though we were at a higher elevation.
Unfortunately I tripped over a root on the return trip from Comox Lake, totally flipping onto my back. The hydration pack cushioned the blow, but spilt most of its contents. My headlamp went flying off into the undergrowth. I'm sure Louis thought my trip was amusing, though I didn't hear him laughing. He found my headlamp and helped me to reseal the hydration pack, which was now soaked. There was still some drink left for the remains of the run, but not much. The biggest problem was the wetness on my running tights. That caused my legs to freeze up, and my running pace slowed to a crawl.
The 25 km run ended up taking around 3 hours to complete, due to the tripping accident over the root. Over all it was well worth it though. What a great way to ring in the year 2015.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Live from Bethlehem - in Parksville

While taking a well needed break for my body to recover from all the ultra running I did this year I've been able to do some Christmas holiday activities. Yesterday my wife, Olivia, my son, Andre, his girlfriend, Fiona, and I, attended Bethlehem Live, at the Parksville Baptist Church. We arrived about 45 minutes before the doors opened and there was already a line up, but we didn't have to wait long. Soon we were ushered inside by Roman centurions, who said we had to go the Bethlehem to pay our taxes. See the video below documenting the experience.

It was encouraging to see all the local volunteers in costume, acting the roles of various village residents. The fish, and meat products the venders had on display were all real, so you could get a sense of what the village would have smelled like. Ewwwh! I'm glad they were baking fresh bread to balance out the scents.