Sunday, October 23, 2016

Altra Olympus 1.5 - My First Zero Drop Trail Running Shoe

I've had my Altra Olympus 1.5 running shoes for about a month now, and have put in about 100kms on the trails around the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island, so I think I'm ready to give them a valid review. First off, I have to say, these are the most stable maximal trail running shoes I've ever owned.
The Altra Olympus shoes were constructed as a "Zero Drop" trail running shoe. This means that there is no change in the stack height difference between the heal and toe. It takes a few weeks to adjust your running style in order to fully appreciate what the Altra Olympus has to offer. I would suggest you use your old shoes on every other run for about the first month unitl you get used to them. The toe box in these is also wider than other shoes I've run in. It's shaped like a foot, which is good, because my toes aren't pinched after running for hours. I find, too, that the wider toe box helps to increase stability. The rainy season has begun on the island but I have never felt unstable as I cross the roots, rocks, and narrow wooden bridges, following the forest trail systems around here. I crossed these obstacles with ease.

I would highly recommend these shoes to ultra-marathoners, and to anyone doing training runs that are ninety minutes or more. They save the feet a lot of pounding, and are easy on the joints once you're able to adjust your running style.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Elk Beaver 50 Mile Ultra 2016

The sky was overcast at 6 a.m. as we gathered behind the starting line at Hamsterley Park on the edge of Elk Lake in Victoria. I had set up my aid station with the help of two friends, Michael Burton, and Randy Hughes. They had committed to man it for the duration of the eight loop, 80km (50 mile), ultra. As usual, with most early morning ultras, I wasn't able to get much sleep the night before. I was up at 4 a.m. to get a boost of carbs, eating a couple of re-heated protein powder pancakes, a cup of coffee, and several cups of water. After running three or four kilometers I shook off my tiredness, and started to feel the Victoria vibe, taking in the pleasant scents of Spring on the forest trail.
The first 10km loop was right on pace, finished in just under one hour. I wanted to get the first four loops done in around four hours, before the heat of the day hit. Heading out on the second loop I thought of the weeks of training I had put in for this event, how my wife had driven our van as a support vehicle while I was on two long training runs in March and April. I had also been training with the 19 Wing Njimegen marching team, for over almost two months completing many 10-25km marches, with a 25lb backpack. This had all helped to contribute to my preparation. I also had the support of many friends and family behind me. I thought of the verse from the Bible, in Hebrews 12:1 "Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, an sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us," (English Standard Version).
The volunteers at my aid station were great. They even prepared thick cut bacon for me to munch on, that I could take along with me on the fourth loop. It went down so well. I began to eat a mix of sweet potato and honey after loop three, as the power gels I was taking every 1/2 hour weren't settling so well. The sweet potato and bacon helped to give me a boost as I was over the half-way point feeling a lot of energy, on the fifth loop.
At around the 60km mark I felt a pebble in my shoe. As I took a quick seat in my aid station, I asked Randy to check my shoe, but he couldn't find anything. Turns out, it was the start of a blister. It wasn't unbearable, so I pushed through the remaining 20kms trying to ignore the discomfort. The wind picked up, and the skies grew darker during the last loop. A couple of groups I passed on the trail, cheered me on, breaking into applause, when they heard it was my final loop. I had estimated that I would finish in 10 hours, and I came through the finish line at 10:21, close to my goal, and ended up placing 3rd in men's masters. I was elated.
In the evening, after a relaxing soak in the whirlpool, and a dip in the pool back at Howard Johnson's, Randy took us to John's Place, an eatery in Victoria. The restaurant has a lot of character, and a great menu, but since my stomach had almost shut down during the ultra I only could handle the soup of the day - black beans and bacon. It came with fresh baked bread too, all I could eat, which wasn't much. A great way to end the day though.

2016 Ultra Training Videos

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.