Battle Of The Beasts – Update #4

It’s been a fairly hectic month since my last Battle Of The Beasts update.  I have spent plenty of time in the saddle training, managed a short trip to the snow at Perisher and managed to squeeze in a few cross-country races in and out of Canberra.

CORC XC Rd 4 02
.:CORC XC Round 4 at Mt Stromlo (if you look closely you can see my mullet):.

The highlight for this past month has been the opportunity to travel to Dargle Farm for the JetBlack WSMTB 12 Hour with some of The Berm riders and Pedal4Pierce co-founder Nigel Jeffreys.

Dargle Farm 2013 012.:Soldier On at the JetBlack WSMTB Dargle Farm 12 Hour:.

Even though I DNF’d during my first 12 hour mountain bike race due to illness, I had the honour of representing Soldier On at a huge mountain biking event.  There were a lot of questions from other riders, the event organisers and the Flow Magazine guys about Soldier On and why I ride for and fund-raise for them.

I’m also very excited to announce that the guys from Beast-Worx, the organisers of the Battle Of The Beasts; have invited me to compete in their next venture: The Call Of The Beast.  The Call Of The Beast is Canberra’s/ACT’s first adventure obstacle race.  I’m very excited to be a part of this and incredibly grateful that they are willing to support me in my fundraising for Soldier On.  The Beast-Worx crew are staunch supporters of all Australian Veterans and Soldier On.

My training for the Battle Of The Beasts has been going well despite a bout of illness and a week of nil motivation to train.  In the lead up to my Wedding I’ve decreased the amount of riding I have been doing but will increase the tempo dramatically in the weeks after and leading up to The Beast.



The Call Of The Beast

I’m very excited to announce that the crew from BEAST-WORX, the organisers of the Battle Of The Beasts, have invited me to compete in their next venture: THE CALL OF THE BEAST.

BEAST-WORX are unbelievable supporters of SOLDIER ON & all Australian veterans, which is why they run their adventure races.  They have partnered with SOLDIER ON to bring you the best mountain biking/obstacle course/adventure races in Australia to raise money and awareness for SOLDIER ON.

The CALL OF THE BEAST is an obstacle course like no other.  It is not for shirtless posers taking selfies covered in mud at the end of leisurely stroll with 4’000 other wannabes!  This is an event that will test you physically, mentally and make you earn crossing that finish line!!

I’m extremely proud to announce that not only am I competing in the Battle Of The Beasts mountain bike festival in October I will be competing in the Call Of The Beast on November 30; racing for and raising money for SOLDIER ON!

Dargle Farm 2013 004



Training Week In Review – Week 10

For the first time in a long time I entered a new week of riding and training without feeling any pressure.  I ended last week on a high after relaxing and just enjoying my time on the bike.

So on Monday morning when I woke up feeling a bit tight and sore in my hamstrings I opted out of commuting to work and rested.  On Tuesday I took Kate the XTC into work and rode home via a loop of Bruce Ridge to start my week of riding.  I rode a total of 43.6km in what felt like freezing temperatures but was in fact a balmy 4’C.

I took Sara the roadie into work on Wednesday morning and did a quick lap of Lake Burley Griffin with the intention of doing a bigger ride in the afternoon.  Unfortunately my beloved Giant Defy had other ideas and I ended up with a busted derailleur and had to abandon any further road rides.  I am yet to fix this bike and with more time to spend on the MTB before the Battle Of The Beasts, I doubt she’ll get another ride in the next couple of months.

Thursday and Friday were literally washouts for riding in Canberra.  I had no intention of riding in the wind and rain so opted for some time in front of the TV honing my XBox skills.  Saturday was a ride-free day due to the Girly flying out of town and my vote to ride having been vetoed.

Sunday kicked off with my regular ride at Bruce Ridge with The Berm crew followed by breakfast at Edgar’s Inn.  I haven’t ridden Zooey the Giant Anthem off-road since I bought Kate the XTC a few months ago.  I have been riding her to work quite often but this was her first time on dirt in a long time.  It took me 10km to get used to her not-so-tight cornering, non-carbon weight, dual suspension and longer wheel base.

I was heading out to Mt Stromlo mid morning for a short spin and with some time to spare I went home and swapped Zooey out for Kate.  I was glad I did as I met up with Bermers Roger and Alyssa and followed them around one of the Scott 24 Hour loops.  After finishing my ride with 14.2km under the wheels I packed up my bike and gear and went home with a total of 92.4km for the week.

BIKES 096.:Kate at Mt Stromlo:.



Training Week In Review – Week 9

Last week I rode a disappointing 86.9km after being sick all week and chalking up a DNF at the JetBlack WSMTB 12hr at Dargle Farm.

As I have written earlier, I lacked the motivation and will to get back on the bike for a big week of riding after a week of being sick and under-performing at a race I felt confident going into.  Week 9 was a week where life and procrastination got in the way of my riding.

My first ride of the week was at Bruce Ridge on Wednesday afternoon.  A short 11.1km to test out my new tubeless setup on Kate the XTC.  The new tyres felt good and looked good on my Crank Brothers wheels.

On Friday I braved a cold and foggy Mt Stromlo morning for a ride with MTB newbie John.  12.8km later I was back in my heated car on the way to work.  In the afternoon I headed back to Bruce Ridge for a short 13.1km ride for what felt like a very ordinary and non-fun ride.  I wanted to ride on Saturday but didn’t want to push it too much.

On Sunday I headed out to Bruce Ridge for my regular Sunday Morning and Social and Breakfast ride.  A sneaky pre-ride loop followed by the group ride and I had added 15.7km to the week’s total.  This coupled with a very enjoyable 24.6km at Mt Stromlo after breakfast and I had reached 77.4km for the week.

After a week of not having the motivation to ride, I ended the week on a high and the desire to spend more time in the saddle before I have a few weeks break for my Honeymoon.

Life Is Flow And Cycling Is Life

Earlier in the week I published a post focusing on my lack of motivation to ride and inability to  find my Flow.  After some words of advice from a few Bermers I decided to head out a little earlier for my regular Sunday Morning Social and Breakfast ride at Bruce Ridge.  With a half an hour before the others were due to arrive I headed out for a quick dawn lap of the winding singletrack.

Up until this ride I had ridden a total of 37km for the week; a far cry from the 253.6km I had I ridden the week leading up to Sunday a fortnight before.  My escape from the world, my outlet; the thing I use to control my anxiety and depression was no longer working for me.  Missing your Flow is like losing your mojo, your zen, your happy place.  I don’t ride for the hell of it; I ride because I enjoy it and I find it challenging.  Mountain biking is a sport you can constantly improve at; you will never reach your peak in any form of cycling as long as you adapt and change.

I had reached a plateau at the start of the year with my training and racing.  I needed new challenges.  Enter longer endurance races such as the 100km Capital Punishment and Mont 24 Hour; and short course cross country racing in the CORC XC Series.  I pushed myself further and got fitter and more confident because of it.  I ended up injuring myself during one of the CORC XC races and was suddenly off the bike for several weeks.  However I didn’t let this stop me; from the moment I was healthy enough to ride again I started a recovery training regime that got me back riding confidently again and improved my fitness.

Sensing that I was beginning to reach my fitness and riding plateau once again I took the huge step of reinventing my riding style.  As I was about to embark on a fitness training regime for preparation for this years Battle Of The Beasts I knew if I didn’t change something big I would lose fitness and motivation.  Something as simple as buying a new mountain bike was enough to help me break through the mental and physical barriers I was starting to build into my riding.

After riding over 1’700km on my trusty Giant Anthem X 29er Zooey I bought a new Giant XTC Composite 29er that I named Kate.  The simple act of paying a lot of money for a carbon hardtail was enough to motivate me to increase my riding time and as result better my race and training results.

Which brings me to my missing Flow.  After bonking massively due to illness at the JetBlack WSMTB 12hr and recording a DNF I couldn’t find the motivation to get back on the bike.  Partly due to still feeling sick, but mostly feeling like a failure; I struggled to find that balance between riding and enjoyment.

When you are off you can come off.  It’s as simple as that.  You don’t corner as cleanly, you don’t commit to obstacles with confidence and most importantly you don’t enjoy the time you spend in the saddle.

So this morning I headed off for a quick solo lap of Bruce Ridge and felt something I hadn’t felt during this week; I was enjoying riding.  I hadn’t yet clicked into that Zen mentality but I was close.  My lines were better, my cornering cleaner and I was enjoying tackling the obstacles on the singletrack.

As a group we did a short 10km loop of Bruce Ridge and I relished the opportunity to stay with the faster riders and push out a little bit more than I usually would for a Sunday morning social ride.  I even did something I very rarely do; I did a few jumps.  I’m a fan of sensible riding after, well lets be honest.. eating shit at Mt Stromlo showing off and not sticking a jump and tearing my pectoral muscle.  I had finally let go of trying to find my riding mojo.  As the very wise Argo said during the week you don’t find the flow…the flow finds you“.

The Flow hadn’t yet found me; but it was stalking me from behind on the singletrack ready to pounce onto my bike.

After our regular after ride breakfast at Edgar’s Inn, I headed out for Mt Stromlo for a quick ride.  When I was getting ready in the carpark I had a quick chat with one of my favourite Bermers, Kris.  For a downhill convert she seemed very happy to be going for a cross country ride and considering the sunny day, the smiling riders coming down the mountain and the fact Mt Stromlo is one of the best mountain biking Mecca’s in the world; I too was happy even before I got in the saddle.

I headed off for a warm up loop before tackling the climbs up the mountain.  At the beginning of my warm up I ran into good friend John and went for a relaxed spin with him as he cooled down after already conquering the switchbacks, climbs and rewarding downhill.  Soon I headed out for my main ride and quickly found I was going fast without really trying.

The switchbacks up the mountain felt easy, free flowing and I was passing some riders as I powered up the climbs.  By the time I reached the end of Echidna Gap and was about to embark down Western Wedgetail I knew my Flow had finally caught up with me.  I took off down Wedgetail, entered Skyline, Luge and finished at the bottom of Old Duffy’s Decent.  The downhill ride felt so good I even took the A-line on Duffy’s and launched my XTC off the rocky drop to finish the first part of my ride.

Still feeling good I headed off to the western side of Mt Stromlo for some more riding.  Each track felt good and I felt more confident with each pedal stroke.  By the time I reached the carpark I had ridden 24.6km and although I was fairly exhausted I wanted more!  Alas I packed the bike into my car and headed home.  After a quick refurb of my gear and bike for the start of the week I sat down and reflected on my week of riding.

What started off as a week of feeling unmotivated and disillusioned after a bad result in my first 12hr race; ended up with my Flow finding me.  All I had to do was stop trying to find it and relax.  Just as life has it’s ups and downs, so does cycling.

Life is Flow and cycling is life.

Where Is My Flow?

Firstly, let me get something out-of-the-way.  I like the Pixies… a lot.  I’ve seen the band live once and Black Francis as a solo act twice.  There is nothing quite like watching a fat, sweaty, old, white man screaming out the lyrics to Debaser in Spanish!  Surfer Rosa and Doolittle are unbelievable albums and are my go to albums when I feel like zoning out and just ignoring the outside world.

So anyway, after last week’s disappointing result at the JetBlack 12 Hour at Dargle Farm I have only ridden three times this week.  Wednesday was my first day back on the bike and was a short test ride of my new tubeless tyre set-up at Bruce Ridge.  I didn’t do anything special and didn’t push too hard.  When healthy and motivated I regularly ride between 250-350km a week including at least 100km on the dirt.  But after my DNF at Dargle Farm I’ve been feeling flat and unmotivated.

A lot of people are telling me a DNF is better than a DNS and at least I gave it a go.  I’m not the sort of person that generally gives up; although I am prone to being half-assed.  So after “giving up” last weekend I am now stuck in a rut of “half-ass”.  I didn’t go into the event over-confident; I was still sick but had been riding strong – maybe I set my expectations too high.

This morning I drove out to Mt Stromlo for some dawn riding with good friend and MTB newbie John.  We did the entire of Loop 2 in just over an hour which isn’t a bad effort for someone who can count the amount of times they have ridden on singletrack on one hand.  Although it was freezing cold, foggy and wet I enjoyed the ride and John definitely did judging by his big smile coming down Luge.

John On Luge.:John coming down Luge:.

Even though I powered up the switchback climbs and rolled down Luge and scored a new PR on Strava; I never felt that moment where I ‘clicked’ with my bike and the trails.  I was close but there was no ‘Flow’.

Kate At Stromlo.:Just a little foggy on top of Mt Stromlo:.

After lunch I headed off to Bruce Ridge for some afternoon riding.  Once again I wasn’t feeling very motivated but I geared up and got ready to ride.  I don’t usually ride with my headphones on; but knowing there wasn’t going to be too many people out riding I selected my Pixies playlist and headed off onto the trails.

While Black Francis was screaming at me and Kim Deal rocked out Gigantic I started feeling I was close to ‘clicking’ this ride.  I did some reversals of the normal trails and rode some of the more difficult segments.  But alas I wasn’t quite getting there.  I chose some ordinary lines that caused my back wheel to slip out on several occasions, over cornered some of the switchbacks and managed to head-butt a low branch on Pub Run.

Slowly I rode back to my car when Where Is My Mind? started playing.  I really like this song and can play along to it on both bass guitar and drums.  So when Black Francis sang about his encounter with a particularly bitey fish while snorkelling in the Caribbean I equated the bridge and chorus with my inability to ‘click’ while riding…
“With your feet on the air and your head on the ground
Try this trick and spin it, yeah
Your head will collapse
If there’s nothing in it
And you’ll ask yourself
Where Is My Mind Flow?

JetBlack WSMTB 12 Hour Wrap Up

As I rounded transition for my eighth lap of the Dargle Farm course I knew my first venture into 12 hour mountain bike racing was soon to be over.

Initially my lead up for the JetBlack WSMTB 12 Hour went according to plan.  The week preceding saw me ride more than 350km including some long stints on the mountain bike and some solid racing during Round 4 of the CORC XC series at Mt Stromlo.  I felt fit and confident leading into the week before my first 12 hour race.

I started feeling the signs of an oncoming head cold on Monday morning when I woke up and got ready for work.  I started taking cold and flu tablets and increasing my fluid intake to try and limit the duration of what starting to build in my sinuses.  I decided if I was going to beat this thing I would need to stay off the bike and out of the Canberra cold.  By Wednesday I was feeling the effects of a full blown head cold complete with sore throat, headaches and blocked sinuses.  I still hoped I would be able to get some, albeit short, time in the saddle.

On Thursday I picked up a Soldier On banner to set up at the event centre, I then packed my race bag, camping gear and prepared Kate the XTC for the drive up to Dargle Farm the next day.  Health-wise things got a little bit worse for me.  A case of gastro set in and I was riding the porcelain bus for the next several hours.  My ideal lead up had well and truly sailed off into the distance.

Friday morning I packed the car and headed up the Hume Highway / M7 / M5/ back-roads / random car ferry and arrived at Dargle Farm to set up my camp site.  Fellow Bermers; Ben, Adam and Nigel were already there and almost set up.  My minimalist approach saw my site up and running in a few minutes.  Without much coaxing I was lycra’d up and soon Ben, Adam and myself were off for a recce lap of the 9.9km course.

I didn’t know what to expect from this course; I had been told it had some technical singletrack, open fire-roads and a tricky climb near the end complete with a rocky pinch to overcome before the rewarding downhill back into transition.  The first part of the course was a short stretch of fire-road leading into some impressive singletrack.

The thing that immediately struck me was the construction of the trails.  More often than not; trail-fairies will manipulate the landscape to suit a more fluid track.  Dargle Farm was the opposite; the trails had been built to accommodate the natural features and embrace the various obstacles.  After overcoming a few tricky corners and drops complete with some tree hugging from Adam; we were off onto the next part of the course.  Some short fire-road linking into some fast and free flowing singletrack.

About seven kilometres into my introductory lap of Dargle Farm I rode over a small branch and tore open my rear tyre.  I had been contemplating changing my Crank Brothers wheel-set to tubeless during the week but opted out due to the valves not sealing properly last time.  As I pulled a three inch long stick out of my tyre and tube I knew even a tubeless set up wouldn’t have kept me pedalling.

I wasn’t too keen on flipping the XTC and changing my tube in the thick mud so I limped back to the staging area and did my repairs and finalised my prep for the next day’s race.

Dargle Farm 2013 002.:The Berm Banner on display:.

Dargle Farm 2013 001.:The first bonfire of the weekend:.

I woke up with a fairly stuffy head from the cold night before and tucked into a breaky roll and coffee before getting changed and ready for the rolling start at 9am.

Dargle Farm 2013 004.:The Berm / Pedal4Pierce / Soldier On Race Headquarters:.

Dargle Farm 2013 010.:Just a few thousand dollars worth of carbon and aluminium:.

Dargle Farm 2013 005.:Dargle Farm getting busy:.

Dargle Farm 2013 008.:Race HQ:.

Dargle Farm 2013 012.:Ready to tackle the Dargle Farm course:.

The race began slowly with a rolling start with a couple of hundred riders heading down the fire-road and into the singletrack.  As was expected it was slow going and plenty of walking the bike until the field spread out and passes were able to be made.  I started with a steady pace averaging 16.9km an hour over my first lap.  Already I was starting the feel the heat and was sweating profusely.  I was very happy to have shed the knee warmers and opted not to wear my usual long sleeve shirt under my jersey prior to the race start.

I was sticking to my hydration plan of one bottle per hour so after finding my flow for the second lap I rounded transition and pushed onto my third.  I had found a pocket of similar paced solo riders and followed them through the singletrack and pushed past them on the fire-roads.  I had to slow down a little to avoid blowing up too early and was soon being over taken by the team riders.

At the end of my third lap I was averaging 16km an hour when I pulled into race HQ for a bottle change and quick feed.  Already the temperature had risen to 22’C and I was feeling the vast difference between here and the relatively freezing temperatures of back home in Canberra.  I started off on Lap 4 and saw a bunch of slower riders heading into the singletrack.  Not wanting to get bogged down and lose momentum I pushed past them and powered through the first singletrack section and down the rocky drops into the first section of extended fire-road.  Coming out of the cool trees into the full sunlight was a shock.  I could feel the sun starting to burn my skin and see the sweat dripping across my glasses and onto my bike.

JetBlack12hr 009.:Digging Deep and trying to avoid hitting other riders:.

Halfway through Lap 4 I felt the familiar rumblings in my stomach.  My digestive system wanted to purge itself of the morning’s breakfast and coffee… and now!  I rolled through transition and onto Lap 5 and then made a detour towards the toilet block.  I’ll spare you the details but I wasn’t feeling the best.  I pushed onto Lap 5 and found I was starting to get a headache.  I had been sticking to my nutrition/hydration plan and felt reasonably comfortable in that regard.

Lap 6 was more of the same.  I had slipped into a routine of casually riding the first section of singletrack, pushing out on the fire-roads, dealing with the technical singletrack and then attacking into the climb.  I was enjoying myself and relishing the times I was in the trees and out of the sun.  Although the climb was tough and easier to walk most times, I pushed up as best I could and looked forward to the downhill section leading into transition.

JetBlack12hr 023.:Dargle Farm – Down the Hill:.

I took an extended 20 minute break before I pushed onto Lap 7.  Even though I was feeling quite sick already, I made the effort to have a bite to eat and swap out my bottles.  I pedalled off onto the seventh lap and instantly felt my energy levels drop and dizziness start to set in.  Lap 7 was the beginning of the end for my 12 Hour venture.  I found the final climb incredibly difficult this time around and walked the pinch with a lot of other riders.

I decided to push on with my eighth lap even though I knew I would soon be stopping.  My legs were feeling good but the rest of me had started to give up.  I had a blistering headache and was starting to feel nauseous.  Halfway through the lap I began to vomit and any attempt to take on fluids was met with immediate evacuation from my body.  I was experiencing a form of ground rush and dizziness was starting to affect my balance.

JetBlack12hr 015.:Rider 29 – The new Mayor of Struggletown!:.

As I rolled past the timing area at the end of my eighth lap I headed straight back to our Race HQ.  My race was now over and I found a nice shady spot to lay down and try to cool down and stop the world from spinning.

While my first 12 Hour had been a failure in many regards I put this aside and started focusing on helping out the Pedal4Pierce team and solo rider Rocket Rolls.  Preparing the bikes for night riding was on the agenda and so was sorting out new bottles and food.  Adam was keen for pizza and I made sure it was waiting for him in between laps.  The P4P team were smashing out the laps and amazingly Ben was riding his fastest laps in the dark even after riding throughout the day.  While the boys were tearing up the course, P4P co-founder Nigel was busy in the DJ tent busting out some phat beats.

Dargle Farm 2013 017.:DJ Nigel:.

As the night drew to a close, both Adam and Ben smashed out their final laps minutes before cut off time.  At the end of the night the course was closed and the presentations completed, there were smiling faces everywhere; and even a unicorn.

Dargle Farm 2013 022.:Unicorn:.

On the Sunday morning I packed up and headed for home feeling tired, sick and dejected.  After all my gear was cleaned and packed away I contemplated if I would ever attempt another 12 Hour race again.

It wasn’t until a few days later when some words of wisdom were imparted on me from fellow Bermer Kris:
“It’s good to have a failure race.  You need to know how it feels to DNF, to bonk, for little things to not work so when the time comes when it has to work you know how to fix it and deal with it.”

Soldier On Jersey At Dargle Farm

On Saturday 10 August 2013 I competed in the JetBlack WSMTB 12 Hour at Dargle Farm.  While a week of being sick carried on into the race and I had to pull out after 8 laps; I was able to wear the Soldier On jersey and raise some money and awareness for a great cause.

Dargle Farm 2013 012JetBlack12hr 001 JetBlack12hr 009 JetBlack12hr 016 JetBlack12hr 019 JetBlack12hr 023


For the past few weeks I’ve been contemplating changing my incredibly good looking Crank Brothers 29er wheels to tubeless tyres.  When I first bought them I made an attempt to put a set of Schwalbes (Nobby Nic front & Racing Ralph rear) on the wheels using the supplied CB tubeless valves.

I was busy Youtube’ing and trying to discover that ‘easy’ way to seat the bead on the rim and get the rubber to seal.  I’ve heard horror stories from some people and tales of ease from others.   Basically setting up a tubeless tyre depends on the person, the tools, the rubber and the moon’s gravitational pull on the Earth.  My first attempt resulted in bleeding knuckles, two snapped tyre levers and a pair of tyres that were completely flat in less than four hours.  I decided my sexy wheels needed to be shown off so I gave up and went the way of the tube.

Fast forward to last night and I finally took the plunge and converted my rims to full tubeless using a combo of new tyres and new Stans valves.  The plan was simple: old tyres and tubes off, clean rims, new tyres on, add sealant, inflate and celebrate!

I did the front first; a Maxxis Ikon for extra grip.  The tyre took a bit of work to get on the rim.  With the tyre finally on and two scoops of sealant in; after about 10 minutes on the air compressor the bead finally sealed and the tyre inflated; success!

Front Tubeless

The rear tyre was a Schwalbe Racing Ralph, my favourite rear tyre.  This tyre was a dream.  In 3 minutes I had the tyre on the rim, sealant added, bead seated and tyre inflated; great success!!

Rear Tubeless

After the tyres passed the overnight test I packed the XTC in to the car with the intention of giving them a test run around Bruce Ridge.  They worked a treat on the clean hardpack, gravel covered hardpack, rocky climbs, rocky downhills, loose switchbacks and even the muddy Pub Run.  I really like the idea of now being able to run lower pressures for extra grip in order to corner faster.

After less than an hour on the new set-up I’m now looking at converting my stock rims to tubeless.


Training Week In Review – Week 8

After a big 352.5km the week before, I was fairly pumped to get back on the bike to put some serious kilometres under the tyres for another week.

However my body had other ideas.  A head cold and later some gastro meant I didn’t get any time in the saddle before I headed up to Dargle Farm for the Jet Black 12 Hour.  Initially I was very excited to do this race as it meant some solid hours on the trails and a chance to take my fundraising for Soldier On on the road.  But as the week progressed I knew I wasn’t going to shake the head cold no matter how many cold & flu tablets and paracetamol I smashed down.

Alas my ride didn’t go too well as I only managed to ride 80km in the 5 hours I spent on the bike before I pulled out.  I spent my last lap walking most of the climbs and vomiting in between trying to catch my breath.  All in all Week 8 leading up to the Battle Of The Beasts was a big let down.