Training Week In Review – Week 2

Week 2 was never going to be a big week for the numbers.  The weather was very ordinary early in the week, work was fairly busy and I was interstate over the weekend.  I set a goal of 150km and achieved 121.4km for the week.

My first day on the bike was Wednesday afternoon.  I rode from work to Mt Stromlo and relished in the chance to push my Giant XTC up the switchback climbs.  I’m not the fastest rider downhill due to my aversion of death by bike; but I do enjoy being able to climb quickly with confidence and endurance.  As sunset approached I headed home and covered 65.1km with a vertical gain of 656m.

Lake G Sunset

Lake Ginninderra at sunset

Thursday afternoon I took the roadie home and was feeling a little bit of pain in my quads (more training needed).

Friday I took the XTC to work and managed to chase down a few roadies en route.  By lunch time I had packed Kate into the back of the car and was driving down to Melbourne for some wedding prep over the weekend.

Saturday I had the chance to ride Lysterfield Park with a good friend and although he suffered a flat and we had to walk back to the carpark it was a good ride.

Week 2 of my planned training regime didn’t go to plan, but with a few quality rides and a good catch up it wasn’t a total loss.

Training Week In Review – Week 1

Almost two and half months ago I crashed during Round 10 of the 2012/2013 CORC XC Series at Mt Stromlo.  Leading up to that race I was probably the most cycle fit and confident I had ever been.  This (over) confidence lead me to attempt a tail whip ride at the end of the race; a decision that ultimately ended in face full of gravel, blood and a grade-2 tear in my left pectoralis major (a torn muscle in my chest along with some ligaments).


Over the past two and a bit months I have been riding with recovery in mind and doing my best not to aggravate a very touchy injury.  There were days I could barely get out of bed let alone ride a bicycle.  A poor sleeping position would mean I couldn’t move my neck and shoulder.  I still I have pain after waking up but surprisingly I’m very comfortable on a bike when wearing my chest brace.

The hardest part for me being off the bike was the disappointment at being injured and the boredom I was experiencing.  I was at a point in my riding where I was ready to step it up a notch; thus the CORC XC Races.

So after six weeks of recovery rides, including a couple of XC races, I decided to formulate and implement a gradual Training Program.  And this week was the first of many to come.

I aimed for 150km of good solid medium intensity riding for Week One.  I completed 120.6km with 58km of that being some quick singletrack at Kowen Forest/Sparrow Hill and Mt Stromlo.  Although I didn’t reach my target goal for the week I was very happy with the average speeds over the distances I rode and the Mt Stromlo climbs I completed with relative ease.

Plus the one and only David Blucher got a photo of me riding Kate in my Soldier On jersey on Duffy’s Decent on Mt Stromlo on Saturday afternoon.


Battle Of The Beasts – Update #1

Well I’ve been a little slack in keeping everyone up to date with my fundraising and training for the Battle Of The Beasts in October.

However, I haven’t been slack in my fundraising and other efforts in raising awareness for Veteran’s Support Services.  I have contacted numerous local businesses requesting support and sponsorship for my fundraising and have had a few promising leads and some disappointing rejections.

Being an ex-Soldier and current Defence employee I contacted a few of the larger companies that are contracted to provide services to the Department of Defence.  My thinking was that these companies would be willing to spare a few dollars from the hundreds of millions Defence pays them to support an ex-serviceman raise some money for wounded Veterans and their families.

Well, shit! How wrong was I!  I won’t name and shame them (yet!) but I received a couple of abrupt rejections and one very sarcastic and disrespectful reply to my very reasonable request for support.  I took it with a grain of salt and contacted the respondent’s supervisor; but I was extremely disappointed with the attitude shown considering their supposed support of Defence members.

Anyway… Thanks to a small number of family and friends donating at this early stage we have reached $605 raised for Soldier On.  I’m extremely happy about this and very thankful; and with a few months to go I’m confident we will surpass last years total.

I’ve been riding a fair bit lately and gaining fitness quite quickly.  I’ve competed in two rounds of the 2013 CORC XC Series and have been riding my road bike around Canberra and to and from work.  As usual I’ve been riding with The Berm crew on a regular basis and that keeps my spirits high and head level.  There’s nothing quite like being encouraged, bagged out and enjoying a coffee and breakfast with people that love bikes as much as I do.

The Girly has been very supportive as always and understands that I will randomly go for a 3 hour ride when it’s freezing cold outside. She understands I ride because I enjoy it and it’s my rehabilitation for PTSD and depression.

Round 2 XC SO Jersey

Soldier On Jersey – CORC XC Round 2 At Sparrow Hill

Soldier On Jerseys

I got to wear a Soldier On jersey at the CORC XC Round 2 Race at Sparrow Hill on Sunday 9 June 2013.
A nice and chilly Canberra morning meant for some fast XC Racing in my new kit and on my new bike Kate.

Round 2 XC SO Jersey CORC Rd 2 - Soldier On Jersey

Recovery Week In Review – Week 6

It has been two months and two days since I crashed at Mt Stromlo during Round 10 of the 2012/2013 CORC XC Series.  During that time I’ve been trying to get back to my pre-injury fitness by slowly building my strength and endurance levels.  Between 1 January 2013 and 14 April 2013, when I crashed, I was averaging 250km per week on the bike.  I had ridden in the Mont 24 Hour, 100km Capital Punishment, some short course XC races and plenty of 70km+ rides on both the roadie and MTB.  In total I had ridden 2’242.4km in just over four months.

It’s no secret that I ride bikes as a form of therapy and rehabilitation.  Exercise is an amazing tool to soften the edge of anxiety and depression.  Mountain biking is something I can fully immerse myself in; the riding, the technology, the competitiveness and the social scene.  Canberra has an amazingly inclusive and tight-knit mountain biking community.  One of the reasons why I have enjoyed riding so much these past nine months (the first time I ever road singletrack was on 9 September 2012 at Bruce Ridge) is because of the people I have met and ridden with from The Berm.  It doesn’t matter if you are a novice or an elite rider, if you enjoy riding you are welcomed with open arms.

So this week was supposed to be the start of my new training regime.  The plan was to restart my daily commuting on the roadie and get as much singletrack in between as the girly would tolerate.  I have a lot of ground to make up and the weather in Canberra is not very accommodating; we have had a lot of rain and sub-zero temperatures.  This past week I have woken up, checked the weather on my iPhone and walked onto the balcony to gauge my tolerance of the early morning temperature.  Only once did I brave the cold and ride to work.

I did however use every opportunity before and after the heavy midweek rain to ride my new Giant XTC 29er 1 – Kate.  I managed to get a couple of rides in at Mt Stromlo, two at Bruce Ridge and two at Sparrow Hill/Kowen Forest.  For my sixth week of recovery riding I ended up having my second biggest week in the saddle since my crash.  After today’s 66.6km road ride around Lake Burley Griffin I amassed 209.1km.

So after six weeks of Recovery Riding I am now transitioning  in Training Riding.

Rec Week 6 03

The Way Forward – Education & Improvement

When serving in the Australian Defence Force, in particular the Australian Army, it is well known that speaking up and asking for help with any form of mental illness; be it depression, PTSD or anxiety is frowned upon.  While the ADF will openly claim in the media it is supportive of all struggling servicemen and servicewomen the truth is: asking for help is a guaranteed way to stall or even end your career in uniform.  There are exceptions to this and that involves extremely supportive units that have a long history with dealing with members that have been wounded or are living with a mental illness.

I’ve written about my depression and anxiety previously on my blog.  For years I hid the truth from all but my family and closest friends; and even then I wasn’t completely forthcoming.  One of the reasons I chose to be so open about my experiences, difficulties and struggles was so that others would know that they are not alone.

On two occasions in two different units I approached the senior Soldier and asked for help.  Both times I was rebutted and told to “harden the fuck up” and “get out if you can’t handle it” respectively.  The main role of this position is Soldier’s welfare.  These two members failed me and numerous others that approached them for assistance in their time of need.  I still harbour a great deal of resentment to these people and while my career stalled for a period of time; theirs flourished and my protests over their inaction fell on deaf ears.

The ADF was going through a period of transition with it’s mental health initiatives and sadly I and others from this time fell through the cracks and decided that separation from the ADF was the best way to escape the increasing bureaucracy and feeling of helplessness.  My experience with this issue is not uncommon, but the system and processes in place are getting better.

It is for this reason I am so passionate about the welfare of this new generation of veterans that have served in Afghanistan and Iraq.  This week the Department of Veterans Affairs contacted me after my my post regarding my experiences with them started trending on Twitter.  They admit things need to improve and they are working on it and need people who are willing to speak up about the problems in order to identify the shortfalls and improve the current processes.

If things don’t rapidly improve Australia will start experiencing what the USA is currently dealing with; the increase of returned veterans committing suicide.  In just over six months, seventeen returned Australian veterans have killed themselves.  I served with three of these young soldiers and that saddens and angers me greatly.  I ponder over what drove them to such despair and helplessness that to them the only solution was the most final.

Blame for these deaths cannot be placed on any one person, Unit, Service or Government Department.  I would like nothing more than to point the finger at someone and scream that they have blood on their hands.  But this will not happen.  There is however a solution; and it is a very simple one.  Education and Improvement.

Education of not only the support services available to returned veterans but also education for the wider public that these people need their support and that there is no shame attached to mental illness.

Improvement is needed in both the attitude of the people of Australia and Government Departments and improvement in the services available to returned veterans.

Time is needed for these changes to occur but with the Afghanistan campaign drawing to a close and more than a decade passing since Australians in uniform first stepped foot in the Middle East; time is running out.  Action is needed sooner rather than later to stem the leak before the dam wall breaks and the already struggling system cannot cope with the flood of demand.

Recovery Week In Review – Week 5

Recovery Week 5 started off with a 20.2km ride on Monday afternoon at Kowen Forest after a particularly ordinary day at work.  The ride itself was cut short after I got chased by a sheep and then had a low speed collision with a small kangaroo.  But I did have a lot of fun just riding on the Kowalski’s immaculate single track.

Aunty Flo GIF

Wednesday saw the arrival of my long awaited Soldier On jerseys and a quick 22.6km ride home on the roadie.

BOTB 13 004 BOTB 13 003

Thursday was the day I picked up my new Giant Composite 29er 1 Kate, which I spent the next two days drooling over and swapping out components before her maiden ride at Mt Stromlo on Saturday morning.

Kate 04

Round 2 of the CORC XC Series was held on Sunday and after a sluggish start I was very happy with my finish and even managed to have an off on Kate without letting the new carbon frame bike hit the ground.  How did I manage that you ask?  Well I just made sure my body hit the ground first and I lifted the bike into the air and made sure she didn’t make contact with the ground.

After a big week in cycling, mostly off the bike, I was happy with my 74.1km in the saddle and left with a huge smile about a new bike and my Soldier On jerseys.

CORC Rd 2 - Soldier On Jersey