2013 was the year I decided I wanted to become a cyclist. Sure anyone can ride a bike; but I wanted to fully immerse myself in the technology, the science and the lifestyle.
My year started off with the simple aim of riding more. Commuting to work most days of the week and slowly building my fitness was the foundation for what would become a central part of my life in 2013.
I was extremely lucky to have the support of my Wife who allowed me time away from home and to buy new bikes; and to be surrounded by the fantastic bunch of people who comprise The Berm. At least once a week I would join other Bermers on a social ride at one of Canberra’s world-class mountain biking areas. Riding with others, most of whom are a lot more confident and capable on a bike enabled me to improve gradually throughout the year.
2013 – BY THE NUMBERS
One major crash during the year
During the final round of the 2012/2013 CORC XC Series at Mt Stromlo I had a heavy crash while attempting a jump near the end of the race. End result: A torn left pectoral muscle that would haunt me throughout the year.
The amount on vertical kilometres I climbed in 2013
In kilometres, my longest single ride of 2013
How many times I rode my bike(s) in 2013
The amount of hours I spent riding in 2013
Wishing everyone a safe 2014!
A brief video of my journey through the Battle of the Beasts so far.
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.
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.
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.
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 1 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).
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.
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.
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.
.: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.
.: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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Week 17 or The Last Training Week In Review Until I Find A New Race To Train For…
After riding the Scott 25 Hour the previous weekend I found it extremely difficult to find motivation to get back on the saddle. Feeling a little tender but otherwise quite good; I hit up Berm-Master Nat for an easy spin around Bruce Ridge on Monday.
Before I start whining about how Nat flogged me and made me ride up hills including the dreaded Bruce Ridge pinch; I have to say not only is Nat an amazingly generous and nice person…He is an unbelievably skilled cyclist (note I didn’t say mountain biker… I said cyclist!). The previous day he had a little spill and ended up with some mean looking deep tissue bruising on his quads; I on the other hand had finished riding over a hundred kilometres with no sleep the day before. “Let’s take it easy”, he said, before speeding off and leaving me staring at a Nat-shaped dust cloud ala Looney Tunes!
I enjoy riding with faster and better riders, you can watch how they ride and learn. Mountain biking is always about adapting to change and getting better; and when you follow a rider of Nat’s calibre you pick new tricks and fix bad habits.
During the Scott I managed to overcome my bad habit of two-finger braking as a matter of necessity. My hands were cramping and when I started my decent of the downhill section I found I didn’t have enough hand on my grips to safely navigate around obstacles at speed.
So during my ride with Nat I watched him corner his super-light Open at speed and copied his body position and soon realised I was able to lean into the corners more and rely less on tap braking to ensure I don’t wash out and meet the ground with my face.
After the ride I started to feel a bit off colour; something that would follow me well into the week and keep me off the bike. It had nothing to do with the lap of Bruce; maybe the chest infection I picked up in Vietnam had one final trick left for my immune system. I felt flat all week and found it very difficult to get up each morning for work; and considering I usually open my eyes and literally jump out of bed, this was a strange thing for me.
So Week 17 ended up being a rest week with very little interaction with my bikes at all. So now as I prepare to tackle The Beast I’m feeling quite relaxed with no muscle soreness for the first time since I began training for this race. Maybe a week off is what I needed.
I imagine opening the door to my garage, I walk past the two parked cars, the boxes of tools and up to my bikes; two hanging on their ceiling stand and the XTC resting against the wall. I look at my three Giant bikes, clean, serviced and facing the automatic door almost as if they are waiting to roll onto the asphalt outside. But the tyres are low and a spider has built a small but intricate web from the cold brick wall to the rear derailleur on the XTC. I look to the bench where my helmet, gloves and shoes sit; they are covered in a fine layer of dust.
My name is Chad and it has been 25 days since I last rode a bike.
It has been a busy three weeks for me. I drove to Melbourne and got married to the beautiful Carly and travelled to Cambodia and Vietnam for our Honeymoon. During that time I haven’t ridden a bike or conducted any sort of training outside of hiking around the countryside.
Before this break in training I was carrying a few niggling injuries including a relapse in my torn pectoral muscle. The time off the bike has been good and has helped me relax and focus on what I want to achieve leading up to the Battle of the Beasts and for the rest of the year.
I have lost some fitness and muscle tone so I won’t be jumping into any huge rides just yet; but with a 3 hour twilight race next weekend I will aim to spend a few hours off-road and doing a recce of the proposed course.
A good training regime is broken down into many parts. It’s not just the riding and strengthening of muscles that gets you fit; there’s nutrition, hydration, rest, and mental preparedness.
I try to find a balance with all of these things and pay particular attention to my nutrition; I am usually pretty disciplined with my meals and race preparation. Anyone that has sat down and ate with me will know I eat a lot. The average person consumes around 8’000kj daily; including approximately 300g of carbohydrates. When I’m riding a lot I can consume more than double that amount; and if I’m including gym work at least 3 days a week I can sometimes triple the daily averages. This is a good and bad thing. I’m getting the fuel my body needs; but I’m also speeding up my already fast metabolism. Because of this it’s very difficult for me to gain weight so I sit anywhere between 74-77kg.
Lately I’ve been eating a lot and not riding as much hoping this would help me put on some weight. Having overcome a fairly serious muscle tear in my chest; I’ve started light weights again with the aim of building more upper body strength. So far it’s working as my left shoulder/chest/neck feels really good after ditching the chest brace I’ve been wearing for the past 4 months.
This last week was a testing week more than anything else. As I’m about to spend almost a month off the bike and out of training I didn’t want to smash myself into the ground. Instead I spent the few days I had on the bike testing out a new nutrition/hydration mix and enjoying the brilliant Canberra weather.
At the JetBlack WSMTB 12hr, fellow Bermer Adam told me about his beverage mix of choice; Perpetuem. We have similar sporting backgrounds in endurance running and cycling and have very similar body and fitness types. I often get cramps when I ride long distances and increasing electrolytes doesn’t really help me. After doing some research I discovered that while my hydration was pretty spot on, my nutrition was way out. Ordinarily over an endurance race you rely on caffeinated energy gels and sugar snacks to keep you going. Some people eat bananas, but considering I’m somewhat allergic to potassium; explosive diarrhoea and vomiting while riding makes bananas are a no-go.
I trialled Perpetuem over two different rides earlier this week. All of the CORC XC races are short-course races where I’ll ride at maximum intensity anywhere between 10-20km. This quickly saps my energy levels and I get very few opportunities to drink. So on Monday I went for a short spin of Bruce Ridge where I rode short stints at maximum effort and tried the new bidon full of Perpetuem. The drink itself is a milky, fuller mixture and is quite filling. It’s more like a meal replacement drink without the dairy feel to it, however there was no after taste and I felt hydrated. It passed the test for short-course.
On Tuesday I went for a longer endurance ride of Mt Stromlo. 52km of medium to high intensity riding on a beautiful sunny Canberra day. It was a perfect opportunity to test out my hydration/nutrition for endurance rides. While I was struggling a bit in my last few kilometres I was pretty happy with the plan I came up with and will certainly put it into effect during my next enduro; the Scott 25 Hour at Mt Stromlo.
Wednesday was a difficult day to get back on the bike after the previous day’s ride. My legs were tender and my lower back was a little tight. But I headed out for an easy loop of Kowen Forest/Sparrow Hill. Once I was weaving around the pine trees I started to push out. All was going well until I hit Rolling Thunder and decided a good old fashioned Strava run was in order. The track was surprisingly loose and I took a corner a little too fast. Cue some heavy rear braking and then some sideways action and I was looking at tree coming towards me at speed. All I could think of was “save the carbon bike” so I did my best Neo impersonation and put my hand out in defiance. I hit the tree with my hand and ended up on the ground; body and bike intact. It was at this point that I decided to end both my day and week on the bike. With only a few days until my Wedding and a heart-racing close call already I thought it best not to tempt fate with any more time in the saddle.
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.
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.
After a week spent (attempting) snowboarding I started Week 7 feeling very sore. I had many small but painful bruises all over my limbs; and an extremely tender left shoulder.
Not one to do things by halves I jumped straight into my riding by commuting to and from work on Monday on Kate the XTC. The week off the bike was quite evident with a heavy build up of lactic acid in my leg muscles and butt cheeks!
Tuesday was a slight sleep in and a shorter commute into work. Ignoring my screaming quads I rode out to Mt Stromlo via Lake Burley Griffin and had a quick spin around some of the easier trails to get 21.1 km of dirt under the tyres. The commute home was a painful 38.1km in the cold of Canberra’s night-time.
After a fairly intense 95.3km on Tuesday I took a rest day on Wednesday before taking the easy route to and from work on Thursday. Even though I felt like I hate skimped out of some quality riding by taking it easy I did reach my goal of 200km in just three days of riding.
On Friday I decided to break out Sara the roadie for some easier commuting for my early start at work. After a fairly long and tiring day at work the decision to take the short route home was an easy one… But I had to work hard for it. Canberra decided to put on some incredibly strong wind gusts that almost blew me off the road and into the gutter several times.
With Round 4 of the CORC XC Series being held at Mt Stromlo on Sunday I intended to take some time on Saturday to service and ready Kate for the next days race. Instead I took her out for a spin around Bruce Ridge with fellow Bermer Tony on his new Trek Superfly (which is sooo nice… pity it’s not a Giant!) It was a very enjoyable 50.1km of riding but I still needed to prep my bike for the CORC race.
I don’t warm up very quickly when I ride. It’s generally around the 7-9km mark when on the mountain bike before I’m actually warmed up enough to take on the singletrack with speed and confidence. Because of this I will either ride out to a race if it’s close to home or do a few laps of the course beforehand. On Sunday morning I joined fellow Bermers Andy & Tony for a ride out to Mt Stromlo.
It wasn’t long before I was tearing off layers of clothing in the crisp Canberra morning; I was warming up very quickly. We arrived with ample time to register and unfortunately enough time to get very cold in the chilly air, light rain and sweat drenched clothing.
Soon I was off riding Mt Stromlo’s western trails for some quick paced XC racing. I hadn’t ridden the first part of the course before and was in for some technical and rocky trails. I handled the course well on my first lap and made up a few places before deciding to attack the faster riders in front of me. I took a few chances and was quickly passing the juniors and slower paced riders. Fast fire-roads and different lines up the short but rocky climbs allowed me to use Kate for what she was designed to do; quick acceleration and powerful climbing.
After worrying about not riding the trails prior to the race I was really enjoying the experience on what I felt was a great course. Halfway through my second lap I pulled up to see an injured rider laid out on the trail. Young Pedal 4 Pierce rider Chris had taken a spill and was concussed from the fall. A few of us diverted race traffic and helped out until an ambulance arrived to take Chris to hospital. Thankfully he got the all clear and was sent home later in the day.
I finished my lap; came last in my grade and helped pack up the rego/event centre while enjoying a post race coffee. When all the dust had settled I packed up my gear, rode down to the main car-park and headed off to lunch in the city. After scoffing a pizza at Debacle I headed home slowly with a full stomach and 81.4km under the tyres for day.
At the end of the week I finished with 352.5km on the bike. My biggest week of riding this year. Although I’m a little sore in the legs I’m looking forward to another big week in the saddle with my first 12 Hour solo race this coming weekend at Dargle Farm.