…And The Beast Was Done

After 7 long months of fundraising and raising awareness for Soldier On, my fundraising page has closed and it’s time to just enjoy riding and enjoy some time with my Wife, family and friends during the Holiday season.

Just because I don’t have an active fundraising campaign running anymore doesn’t mean I won’t be raising awareness for Soldier On.  I still have a 3 hour cross-country race in 2013 and have already committed to several big races in early 2014 including the 100km Capital Punishment and The Mont 24 Hour.

At the end of the day, after the countless hours riding, training, fundraising, and banging the proverbial drum I am confident that I have helped raise the profile for Soldier On and the battle that young veterans like myself fight on a daily basis.

It is no secret that I ride to deal with PTSD and depression; but by being an ambassador for Soldier On, I have also developed more confidence in myself and found a voice that will speak on behalf of Australia’s young Veterans. Hopefully by putting myself out there I am encouraging other young Veterans to speak up and ask for help

SG020

Although Riding For Soldier On was a mostly solo effort on the bike there were a lot of people who helped me throughout the year

Thank you to the following:
SOLDIER ON for their support throughout this year especially John, Anna, Meredith, Dion and Tony for their amazing support & patience.

Luke & Dan from BEAST-WORX for running such amazing events and allowing me to be a big part of it.

My amazingly supportive mountain biking group THE BERM.  Special thanks to Nathaniel, Jason, Nigel & Chris, Ben, Roger, Steve K, Alyssa, Melissa C, Brett, Matt & Sam, Kris, Tony H, Sonja, Andy & Adam.

My family & friends especially my Wife for putting up with my many hours away from home & allowing me to spend obscene amounts of money on bikes!

And last but not least… The people who supported me & donated money to SOLDIER ON so that wounded veterans can get the support they so desperately need & deserve.

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Call Of The Beast 2013 Wrap Up

The Call of the Beast was my final Soldier On fundraising event for the year.  After 7 months of intense fundraising and raising awareness for Soldier On it was a relief to just be able to go into an event without any pressure.

Each time I got on a bike wearing my Soldier On jersey it was an opportunity for me to help raise the profile of Soldier On in the ACT, NSW, QLD and VIC.  As of 1 December 2013 I have ridden 5’169km while wearing my jersey and look forward to many more kilometres training in racing in it and the new design jersey and knicks combo that will be available very soon.

I was “asked” if I wanted to enter the Call of the Beast just prior to my Wedding in September.  Dan and Luke from Beast-Worx were keen to get me out for their new obstacle course race and I was extremely happy to take up their offer.

I will be quite upfront and state that apart from my normal riding routine I did absolutely no training for this event.  It’s no secret that due to long-term injuries I don’t run.  It’s not that I don’t like running it’s just that a combination of torn muscles, torn tendons and ligaments, dislocations, fractures and osteoarthritis means my dream (not entirely accurate) of running a marathon will never be realised.

So I kept riding and figured I would just cuff it on the day.  My preparation was quite similar to that of a mountain bike race.  Clothes for the event, hydration and nutrition organised, GPS and heart-rate monitor ready and clean clothes for after the race.  Once this was all packed in the back of the car I headed out to Caloola Farm to look at the course that had been set up for the 1200-odd participants.

When I arrived at the event centre I registered, donned my participant wrist band and headed off to watch the Last Beast Standing racers attacking the course.  Round 1 of the elite race was drawing to a close and these athletes had 4 more rounds ahead of them.  Watching these men and women smash down food and water before heading back out again was awe inspiring and made me quite content with the knowledge that I was doing the Fun Beast.

I set up my little spot near the Soldier On stand and chatted with Tony, Anna and Dion for most of the morning.  Volunteer Andy K seemed to be very excited about carrying a loudspeaker and I was dreading having to run up to his checkpoint later in my race.

As the start time for the first wave of the Fun Beast was getting closer, I got changed into my running gear: shorts, Skins shirt, Soldier On shirt, 2XU calf compression socks, water-suitable hiking shoes and my Garmin Forerunner.  I looked the part and headed down to the start line.  I watched as Beast-Worx Dan let the first wave go and then headed down to say hello before lining up with the the second wave.

Adam ‘Rocket’ Rolls, my Scott 25 Hour team-mate, was running in a team and as usual he was focused and ready to run.  The wave started and I slowly jogged off towards the first few obstacles.  I wasn’t taking this event seriously but can honestly say, even with my injury-induced limitations I was making pretty good time through the first part of the course.

The obstacles weren’t very difficult and I was able to scale, crawl through, jump over, roll under, climb up, balance on and run over everything without any assistance.  It was however extremely simple to spot the people with military experience.  Firstly there was the obvious technique in getting through the obstacles and secondly we were the few that stayed on top off walls lifting people up, pulled cargo nets tight, gave boosts, steadied people’s balance and more often than not gave advice on how to do things safely.

BOTB 13 114.:Waiting to scale the first wall (Photo by Canberra Times):.

The obstacles were spread out with a fair bit of running in between.  This was always advertised as an adventure race and not designed as a Tough Mudder knock-off like many of the new obstacle races.  Like the Battle of the Beasts this event’s main aim was to raise money for Soldier On; and with only two permanent staff and an army of volunteers it is commendable that a first time event was so amazing, challenging and fun.

By the time the 11km Fun Beast was over I had run 12.9km in 2hours 22mins.  Not the fastest time but a very fun event that I would definitely do again.

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BOTB 13 115.:Strava!:.

BOTB 13 112.:Just a tad dirty:.

BOTB 13 113.:As usual I kept my race plate (a sly reference to my Army days with the number):.

At the end of two big events I had raised $5’790 for Soldier On.  Thank you to everyone that donated and supported me through-out these past several months.

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The Week After The Beast

The week after riding The Beast has been a quiet one.  As with last year I didn’t actually start feeling any muscle soreness until 2 days after the race and to be honest I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit to get back in the saddle.

I spent Monday at home cleaning up after a big weekend of riding.  My bike was filthy and sounded extremely second hand and needed a thorough clean and mini-service.  The bike wasn’t the only thing in need of a going over; I finally trimmed my hobo beard right down and had my first haircut in almost 3 months.

BOTB 13 099.:The dirty bike post Beast:.

My Crank Brothers wheel-set has taken a beating these past few months and the rubber on them barely survived the Namadgi trails.  So the tyres came off and went in the bin, while I scoured Canberra’s bike stores for a set of tubeless rubber.  Alas the four shops I visited didn’t have the tyres I wanted so I resorted to buying a set on-line and placed my spare wheels and tubed tyres back on Kate the XTC for the interim.

My first ride for the week was a short pedal up and down Mt Stromlo that ended with me riding straight into a tree on the second half of Luge.  While there was no real damage to person or bike it highlighted how in tune I had become with my XTC with tubeless setup that when I put on the stock wheels I was inches off my normal lines.

Not to be deterred I headed back out on Saturday afternoon on Zooey the Anthem.  She is a great bike especially going downhill where her dual suspension absorbs much of rough riding Western Wedgetail, Skyline, Luge and Duffy’s Descent throws at you.

BIKES 104.:Zooey On top of Mt Stromlo:.

At the end of the week I only rode twice for a measly 23.9km in total.

The time off the bike wasn’t for naught with a lot of time spent emailing the Beast-Worx and Soldier On crews about the previous weekend’s riding, fundraising, upcoming Call of the Beast and of course more Riding For Soldier On.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA.:Nearing the end of The Beast:.

BOTB 13 101.:Congratulating Adam “Rocket” Rolls on his hard-earned 7th place:.

BOTB 13 111.:My right up in the Battle of the Beasts post race report:.

Battle Of The Beasts 2013 Wrap Up

The lead up to this years Battle of the Beasts was an enormous challenge for me.  My primary aim was about raising awareness and fundraising for Soldier On; of which I increased my efforts ten-fold from last year.  I spent a good 6 months fundraising and helping to raise the profile of Soldier On before I even thought about how I was going to tackle a huge weekend of riding.

The Fundraising
I’ve written at length about why I ride for Soldier On, so I’ll skip that part.  In early April this year I approached Soldier On about producing a cycling jersey that I could wear while commuting, training and racing.

BOTB 13 035.:Soldier On at the Battle of the Beasts 2013:.

While Soldier On had a fairly comprehensive list of merchandise the one thing they didn’t have was a cycling jersey; and I figured the running shirt I wore last year wasn’t going to cut it for comfort and practicality.  So with the help of Meredith and John from Soldier On we came up with a design and had a set of jerseys made by On The Go Sports.

SG020.:Soldier On Jersey at the Scott 25hr:.

In just a few weeks of wearing the jersey in Canberra I had drummed up enough interest about my riding and Soldier On that it was time to start a Facebook page to get the word out to a wider audience.  So suddenly I was a mediocre mountain biker representing a charity whose mission it is to better the lives of wounded servicemen, servicewomen and their families.

It took me quite a while to realise that I was in fact one of these Soldiers that Soldier On aims to help.  And each and every-time I put on the jersey I was showing the public and other veterans that you can empower yourself with something as simple as riding a bike.

When it came time to register for the Battle of the Beasts, I signed up for both days of riding; the 42km Flowing Beast and the 72km The Beast.  The decision to ride both races was an easy one; I rode one race last year, so this year it was only natural that I would ride two races.  With the ongoing support from Luke and Dan from Beast-Worx, and John, Meredith and Anna from Soldier On; I started my 2013 fundraising campaign.

Regular updates on this Blog, Facebook, my fundraising page and Twitter became the norm.  Soon I was attracting “likes” and “followers” from as far away as the USA and slowly the donations started to trickle in.

I wanted to branch out more this year so I contacted a number of Defence-aligned companies and local Canberra businesses.  Out of the 27 companies/businesses I contacted only stepped up and helped out.  Pushys Bike Warehouse at Fyshwick supported me by providing awesome deals on products in store that kept my bike rolling.

Of the other companies/businesses only 6 replied; with 2 of the replies bordering on offensive to not only my request for support but to all Veterans of Australia.

The Lead Up Training
From the moment I decided to ride The Beast again I knew I would have to actually train for this years race.  Last year I lost almost 7kg through sweating, vomiting and post race bleeding from the kidneys (clearly my hydration/nutrition plan was a failure).

BOTB 048.:Post Beast 2012:.

Despite riding to work and racing quite regularly I knew I would have to put more kilometres of dirt under the tyres with more emphasis on climbing.  So I started a 4 month training regime; and posted my weekly training updates on this blog.  As the weeks turned to days and then to hours before the first race of the Battle of the Beasts weekend; I knew I was fitter and more mentally prepared for this years event.

The Preparation
My prep was simple; working bike, working body and enough fuel to keep that body going.  I had spent a lot of time working out what was the best way for me to keep hydrated and fuelled through a lot of trial and error.  I sat down the day before the Flowing Beast and mapped out a plan for both days of riding; and I’m very happy to say I stuck to the plan for The Beast.

The Flowing Beast on the other hand…well I’ll get to that soon.

The Flowing Beast – Saturday 19 October 2013
First of all I didn’t intend to actually race the 42km course.  With the Beast the next day and being fairly warm and sunny; I thought it best if I just pedalled around the course for two laps and saved my legs for the next day.

BOTB 13 047.:Drumming on the bars waiting for the race start:.

BOTB 13 052.:And we’re off for the Flowing Beast:.

Well the original plan went out the window as soon as I found myself passing the majority of the field on the first fire-road climb.  Somehow I was in the lead pack just behind the Dynamic Motivation crew.   As we entered the first lot of singletrack I back off a bit and let a few riders pass; but I soon chased them back down as we entered the second half of the 21km course.

BOTB 13 057.:Brettski was out taking photos on the course… Pushing up the hill lap 1:.

As I headed through transition and swapped out bottles I found myself alone as I started the climbs of the first half of the course.  I kept looking behind me and anticipated the inevitable call of “track” signalling a faster rider was bearing down on me.  For the first time in a race ever, this didn’t happen.  In fact I started passing more and more riders as the end of the race drew closer.

BOTB 13 065.:Brettski was out taking photos on the course… A little more pain this time on lap 2:.

I knew I wasn’t going to catch the elite riders but I also knew I was going to post a good time so I pushed on and ended up catching the race sweep before changing to the big ring and powering up the final climb and towards the finish line.

BOTB 13 060 BOTB 13 062.Crossing the finish line:.

By the end of the race I had ridden 44.2km in 2hr39min.  An effort I was very happy with; but something I would undoubtedly regret the next day when my legs would start screaming at me.

Something I’ve been doing lately is taking before and after race photos.  Below is my before and afters of the Flowing Beast; I lost 2.7kg during the days riding.

BOTB 13 045.:Before the race:.

BOTB 13 063.:After the race:.

The Beast – Sunday 20 October 2013
Fizz from The Berm said of last years race: “there are those that have done the Beast event, and those that have not“.  To be honest he is right.

Many riders complained before last years race that 72km on a fire-road was too easy.  Well considering the number of DNF’s for the race was in double figures I wasn’t surprised to hear the same people complain that it was too hard by the end of race day.

I wasn’t physically or mentally prepared for last years race but I finished and that was something I was incredibly proud of.  Along with finishing the race I raised $5’702 for Soldier On; which made the blood, sweat and tears worth it.  As I detailed in my 2012 wrap up it was the hardest thing I had done physically outside of the Army.

The day started with the long drive out to Caloola Farm and re-registration.  I had left my race plate on my bike from the previous day and considering it was attached to the roof of my car; it didn’t survive the drive home.

I attached the new race plate to Kate and set out to mingle with some of the other riders and the Soldier On crew.

With the bike ready, knicks and jersey on it was time for the pre-race brief from Beast-Worx Luke.  Along with the obligatory course info and safety brief; Luke called me out in front of the other riders and explained about Soldier On and introduced me and spoke briefly about my fundraising efforts.

BOTB 13 072.:Out the front with Luke:.

Minutes later we were lined up near the start point.  Last years Beast’s Jeremy Ross and Anne Broadbent soon headed off with the elite pack chasing a few minutes later.

BOTB 13 077.:The start line:.

After the elites had crossed the first creek the rest of the pack headed off.  I had a plan committed to memory; I had broken the course down to 15km sections with an average speed and time-frame to achieve.

BOTB 13 084 BOTB 13 085.:I started with Adam “Rocket” Rolls before he powered off into the distance:.

Even after riding the Flowing Beast the day before I felt somewhat fresh and watched as the kilometres started increasing on my GPS.  With a different bike, sans Camelback and with a lower temperature and cloud cover this year; I was soon reaching checkpoint after checkpoint and riding up climbs I walked the year before.  On the steep climbs I did walk; I only dismounted when my speed dropped lower than I could walk pushing the bike.

With just two bottles on board I monitored my fluid intake carefully.  Despite the lower temperatures I kept to my plan and consumed food and water to plan and stopped at each checkpoint to refill my water.  While riding with last years riding-buddy Argo; I was making good time and resisted the temptation to push out.

Last year Argo took the lead and I followed him; without his encouragement I doubt I would have finished.  But this year I had to tackle this course on my own; I needed to tame The Beast solo and soon I found myself climbing the steep inclines and braving the steep declines by myself.

I was methodical in sticking with my riding plan and didn’t alter from it until the final 8km of the course.  After getting up Mt Soldier On by jogging to each water bar, resting for a count of ten and then repeating.  I was soon on the way to the finish line.  I had a moment of pure elation when I rode on the track named after me, “Dobbsie’s Run”, and screamed out a “F**k yeah!” for all the valley to hear.

I sped down the hill to the final checkpoint and refilled both of my bottles with the intention of throwing my riding plan to the wayside.  I had a time-frame I wanted to finish in and I was nearing the start of that bracket.  So I zipped up my jersey, changed into the big ring and started pushing to the end.

For the next 7km I didn’t see or hear another rider.  I ignored my GPS and pushed past my intended speed and soon I could see the main fire-road that would take me back to the event centre and the finish line.  Soon the last few kilometres disappeared, I hit the grass and rode under the finish line banner to end The Battle Of The Beasts for 2013.

BOTB 13 088 BOTB 13 089 BOTB 13 090.:And just like that, it was over:.

It was a good feeling to finish and an even better feeling to know I wasn’t completely spent and had shaved off over an hour off of my time from the previous year.

image.:Before the Beast:.

image.:After the Beast:.

image.:After the first bit of real feed post race:.

The Wrap Up
I’ve read a few race reviews and wrap ups from other riders since the race finished. While most riders get the point of the race some others don’t seem to. It is not designed to be a test of endurance to rival the harsh conditions that servicemen and servicewomen face on deployment. If that was the case there would be the ever present risk of improvised explosive devices, indirect fire, small arms fire and multitude of other dangers that are thrown at our men and women in uniform. And believe me; no one that has ever experienced this would like to see others subjected to it.

The is a race designed to test you both physically and mentally by giving you an opportunity to tackle an incredibly difficult ride and raise much needed funds for Solider On. By completing The Beast you achieve what many others won’t attempt; you tame Your Beast. This race is designed to try and break you mentally, this race wants you to fail, and this race puts climbs in front of you that many people wouldn’t even consider riding. But by crossing that finish line you achieve what the Beast-Worx team wanted you to experience; you found that little something deep within that you rarely let out; you pushed through the pain and emotion and achieved your goal.

This is why we choose to ride The Beast; not because it is easy; but because it is difficult and because we need to test ourselves to be better.

Battle Of The Beasts – Update #8

The time for the Battle Of The Beasts is almost here!
In just a few days I’ll be donning the lycra and Soldier On jersey and heading out to Caloola Farm for the 45km Flowing Beast on Saturday and the 72km Beast on the Sunday.

It’s been a hectic few weeks since my last update with a flurry of activity on the fundraising and raising awareness front with a couple of races thrown into the mix.  As the weekend draws closer I find myself getting a little nervous and anxious about what the two rides will have in store for me.  Last year’s Beast was an incredibly difficult ride for me both physically and mentally; and even though I’ve been training a hell of a lot more to be fit enough for this year I still wonder if I’ll have what it takes to cross the finish line.

I’ve learnt a lot since last year and have ridden over 5000km since then as well.  I had only been riding a mountain bike off-road for about 3 months when I rode last years Beast and it was by far the hardest thing I had done physically that didn’t involve me in an Army uniform patrolling in the Middle East with 50kg of gear strapped to me.

So what has changed this year?  Well, I’m fitter (by a lot), I know what this course has waiting for me (more mentally prepared) and I have a new lighter (better climbing) bike for this years race(s).  I have nil intention to flat out race during the Flowing Beast on Saturday; this is more of a meet and greet with the organisers/Soldier On crew and others that are like minded about improving Veterans support services.  The big test is the Beast on Sunday. I have been looking at last year’s times including my own fairly ordinary effort.
It took me a total of 7 hours and 14 minutes to cross the finish line with only 4 hours and 43 minutes of that spent on the bike. I spent 2 and a half hours not riding my bike last year; that was time spent catching my breath, resting at checkpoints and pushing my bike up hills so slowly my GPS stopped recording my movement.

I have a goal I want to attain this year; both for time and overall placing; but that is for me and me alone.  Ultimately what this comes down to is me pushing myself to my limits knowing that many, many people have supported me in my endeavour to raise money and awareness for Soldier On.

With $4’500 raised so far and $5’702 raised from last year it is incredibly humbling to know that so many people share the same mindset about veterans support as I do. To know that I have raised over $10’000 in just under 12 months for Soldier On is what will get me over the line when my leg muscles cramp and my body starts to ache.

PLEASE SUPPORT THOSE THAT SUPPORT YOU

.:MY DONATION PAGE:.

 

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Battle Of The Beasts – Update #7

Last weekend the Canberra Times ran a story about my fundraising and motivation for riding cycling. I was somewhat apprehensive about sharing my story to a targeted audience. Blogging is a platform that I regard as a broadcasting medium…I type and post things and push it out to the internet for interested parties to stumble upon and look at. To have a quite personal story printed in the Canberra Times was a decision I made based solely on the positives I hoped would come of it.

Many returned veterans don’t speak out about their issues; especially those living with PTSD, depression and anxiety. Everyone has different reasons for wanting or not wanting to speak out. The fact of the matter is that I was not looked after by the Australian Army when I asked for help. That help eventually came from the Army; but only after a Navy doctor stepped in.  This lead to me closing up and not talking about the underlining issues for my depressive episodes.

I was embarrassed about my behaviour and the stress it placed upon my family and friends; and only after a couple of years did I realise I wasn’t alone in my experiences.

Hopefully by me speaking out about my experiences living with (I hate the terms suffering and battling) PTSD and depression it will empower others to put their hands up and ask for help and hopefully one day share their experiences with the wider world and inspire others to do the same.

Thank you very much to Canberra Times Sunday Editor Scott Hannaford and Photographer Mellissa Adams for spending a quiet Sunday afternoon at my house and listening to my story.

…Link to the original story…

CanberraTimes Article

…Click on the image to enlarge and read the article…

Battle Of The Beasts – Update #6

With three weeks until the Battle of the Beasts I’ve ramped up my fundraising and awareness-raising campaign a little more.  Currently $2’630 has been raised for Soldier On and with the Beast and Call of the Beast still to come in November there is plenty of time left to raise more money.

Upon returning back to work this week, I discovered that my group, CIOG (Chief Information Officer Group), had published an article I submitted a few months prior in the CIOBis Magazine.

CIOBis 47 Article

It’s been a slow uphill slog to get to where we are so far and I’m hoping that with a couple of weeks of training and fundraising left before the big ride I can add some more money to the total.

PLEASE SUPPORT THOSE THAT SUPPORT YOU

.:MY DONATION PAGE:.

Battle Of The Beasts – Update #5

After almost a month off the bike due to getting married and travelling to Asia for my Honeymoon it’s time again to start the training and fundraising.

A huge $450 was gifted to Soldier On by the guests at my Wedding and so far we are at a very impressive $2’630 which is a little under half of last year’s amount.

There is still 25 days before the big Battle of the Beasts weekend and 66 days before the Call of the Beasts so there is plenty of time to raise my goal of $6’000.

It’s been fairly tough trying to get any sort of business or corporate sponsorship for my fundraising; I’m currently 0 from 26 requests!  So I’m hoping that my supporters will spread the word and share my Facebook page so that I can keep raising awareness and much need money for Soldier On.

PLEASE SUPPORT THOSE THAT SUPPORT YOU
.:MY DONATION PAGE:.

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.

PLEASE SUPPORT THOSE THAT SUPPORT YOU
.:MY DONATION PAGE:.