2017 was the year of little motivation, a lack of fitness and a shift towards not wanting to get on a bike… There was no game to have my head in.
My goal for 2017 was to ride my bike at least four times a week and complete a Gran Fondo once a month… neither thing eventuated.
As with last year, here is 2017 by the numbers.
2017 – BY THE NUMBERS
Number of events I raced in during 2017
The amount of vertical kilometres I climbed in 2017
In kilometres, my longest single ride of 2017
The number of days I rode in 2017
The amount of hours I spent riding in 2017
How many times I rode my bike(s) in 2017 – This includes multi-rides in one day such as my daily commute which is 3 individual rides
In kilometres, the total distance I rode in 2017
Wishing everyone a safe 2018!
2016 was the gap year I didn’t want, but needed to, in order to see the bigger picture.
My goal for 2016 was to find my mojo in a new city… I found it, it just took 11 months.
As with last year, here is 2016 by the numbers.
2016 – BY THE NUMBERS
Number of events I raced in during 2016.
The amount of vertical kilometres I climbed in 2016
In kilometres, my longest single ride of 2016
The number of days I rode in 2016
The amount of hours I spent riding in 2016
How many times I rode my bike(s) in 2016 – This includes multi-rides in one day such as my daily commute which is 4 individual rides
In kilometres, the total distance I rode in 2016
Wishing everyone a safe 2017!
2015 was the year that I learnt no matter how much time, effort and care you put into training, racing and social cycling; injuries, illness and life will always derail the best laid plans.
My goal for 2015 was to enjoy cycling. I lost a little bit of my love for the bike towards the end of 2014. My failure to finish the Scott 24 Hour Solo in October was a huge hit to my confidence and the toll it took on my body would follow me late into 2015.
As with last year, here is 2015 by the numbers.
2015 – BY THE NUMBERS
One major crash during the year
During a relaxed ride on the XTC during wet weather I lost traction and hit the ground hard. A hairline fracture in my collarbone followed and a few weeks off the bike was required.
Number of notable injuries in 2015
Injuries: Collarbone, torn glute
Number of new bikes in 2015
Number of events I raced in during 2015
The amount of vertical kilometres I climbed in 2015
In kilometres, my longest single ride of 2015
How many times I rode my bike(s) in 2015
The amount of hours I spent riding in 2015
In kilometres, the total distance I rode in 2015
Wishing everyone a safe 2016!
It has been over two years since I wrote two of my more reflective pieces about leaving the Australian Army. Taking Off The Uniform was a brief post written on the eve of ANZAC Day 2013 and Standing In The Shadow Of The Green Giant followed a few months later in early July 2013.
The central themes of both posts were my pre-discharge months of being treated like a number and not a Soldier and the subsequent months post-discharge when I struggled to deal with no longer being a Soldier and adapting to life out of the uniform. Since I wrote both pieces, a lot has changed in my life and I recognise that I have also changed. I am now married to a beautiful Wife, I have a gorgeous Daughter who brightens up the darkest of days and our family will include another member in May next year.
I often think about whether or not this scenario would have been possible if I was still a serving member, and quite honestly I don’t think it would have been. I grew up in a Military household; my Father was a career Soldier, who would often be away for many months at a time. I am acutely aware of what it is like having a Father who was incredibly supportive and loving; but would also be away for Birthdays and other milestones in his children’s lives. I see this realisation in my Father’s eyes today, when he spends time with his Grandchildren, he is living some of the events he missed out on with his own children; and this is something I never want to do.
In this regard, I know I made the right decision to leave the Australian Defence Force. But this doesn’t stem the feelings of being out of place a lot of the time. I struggled to put my finger on it for quite some time before I came to the conclusion that not only did I stop being a Soldier by hanging up my uniform; I also lost my identity. It’s a throw-away line by most ADF members that life is a balancing act; you take the uniform off at the end of each day and you are instantly a different person. The reality of this assumption is that you aren’t a different person out of uniform and the expectations placed upon you are very different from the vast majority of society. There are months away from home on courses and exercises and months away from home, often in harms way, spent on foreign soil. There is no other job that is like this and put simply, this is why most people are not suited to the ADF.
My transition back to being a civilian was not an easy one. To this day, almost four years later, I still feel like had more to achieve and more to prove to myself and others. The identity that I had forged as a Soldier is no longer mine and I have struggled to establish a new identity; to establish who I now am. I have attempted to fill the huge void in my life by interacting with and assisting a Veterans’ support organisation; trying hard to keep the link to my previous identity. But like many attempts at self-reinvention this was akin to trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. My attempts to help others by speaking out for PTSD affected Veterans came at a huge personal cost. Multiple relapses into depression that were harder to climb out of each time. The very feelings of isolation and obsolescence I felt in the final months of my time in the Army were once again occurring. Ironically, by trying to help others I was slowly but surely breaking myself apart.
Somewhere along this journey, my identity had changed to that of a quasi-Veterans’ advocate and I was not able to see that some activities were detrimental to my own mental health. Due to opportunities afforded to me for my own recovery I felt I couldn’t say no and when asked if things were okay, I would lie and say they were. History was once again repeating as I didn’t want to put my hand up for support in fear of seeming weak and letting others down. Because of this willingness to keep putting myself out there I kept digging further and further into the darkness.
When the time came for me to try and get myself out of the hole, I was too far down and to be brutally honest the support often advertised, that I thought I had worked for and earned, just wasn’t tangible or there. Once again anger and resentment joined forces with my depression and I was forced to withdrawal from something that was effectively keeping grip on the last thread to my identity as a Soldier. I had to let go and I had to do it not only for myself, but for my Family.
In order to move forward I once again had to look backwards. My journey up to this point had been difficult and if I stayed on the current course it wasn’t going to get any better. It was time to let go of that final thread. I had to accept that I was no longer and never would be an Australian Soldier again. I wasn’t a voice for service affected contemporary Veterans. I wasn’t a person that could inspire others with their recovery. I will never forget the road I have travelled to get to here; and my past will always cast a shadow on my future but it isn’t who I am today, it is not my identity.
I am Chad; Husband, Father, Son, Brother, Uncle; a man who once wore a uniform and served his Nation.
Even during the darkest moments in life, lightness can and will shine through. This is not an epiphany, nor is it an instant fix to all of your woes. The most appropriate word to use when describing this evolution is lucidity.
When living with with a depressive illness; it is easy to dismiss the positives and dwell on the negatives. Climbing out of the deepest, darkest holes in your mind is half the battle each day. The other half is standing up and learning how to hold your head high. Each and every day is a fight to keep the balance in your life. Tipping one way brings the risk of depressive relapse, tipping the other brings momentary highs; but an inevitable slide back into the darkness.
I always use the term living with instead of suffering from, when describing life with depression and PTSD. This is not an attempt to be politically correct, this is intentional on my part as a way to personalise and own a very dominating aspect of my life. A person suffering from a mental illness rarely sees a reprieve in their life. I shy away from this term as I see it as way to justify using depression as a crutch in your life. Why try to live with and overcome when you can just settle with the issues and obstacles that litter your journey through life?
While many of us affected by our military service choose to hide and be deceptive about our illness and troubles, others choose to speak openly about what life was and is now like. I have swayed between both; and both have had positive and negative effects on my life and my overall well-being. My period of lucidity came mid-year when prolonged illness took hold and I was eventually diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. For the first time in a very long time, I was able to regain control of a seemingly uncertain part of my life. A change in diet, health and lifestyle was cathartic. It also removed a deep rooted sense of doubt and negativity that had been plaguing me during days when fatigue was dominating my every waking minute. I was relieved when I found out my symptoms weren’t psychosomatic and an unforeseen progression of my mental health illness.
A great weight had been lifted from my shoulders and I took that uncertain first step in deciding other areas in my life now needed to be addressed. Changes to circumstances in life are quite often triggers for depressive relapses that can manifest into erratic and dangerous behaviour. It is force fed during counselling and wellness sessions that routine and structure in life is key to living with and overcoming mental health illnesses. I have also found this advice to be a roadblock in a number of key events in my life post my military career. It’s akin to walking around your house in the dark and not knowing where your next step will take you despite the fact the you have trod this very ground a thousand times before. It is true that this tentativeness in life can protect you, but it can also hinder. Sometimes that next step into the darkness may actually be a step out into the light.
I have used this system of routine and structure for a number of years, but I have also deliberately allowed for the routine aspects of my life to be fluid; and myself accessible and open to change. This doesn’t work all the time and I find myself becoming either defensive or aggressive in response to unplanned change. This is quite evident when interacting with my family. Not all things go to plan despite my and other people’s best efforts; but understanding my negative reaction to such disruptions does in fact inflame and often overshadow the actual issue is important to keep in mind. Learning from one’s mistakes and (over)reactions may not help the next time life doesn’t go to plan, nor the time after, but eventually big issues don’t seem that big all and you can better control how you react to them. There will of course be relapses, but knowing you can and have reacted more positively is very reassuring when the dust settles.
I am often guilty of living life through a negative and obstructionist point of view. Surprisingly, in mid July this year, I came to the conclusion that my routine, my structure in life had in fact become askew and this negative way of seeing the world and living my life had become the norm. My first step out of the darkness and into the light it would seem. But what about my next step? It was time for me to start owning my ongoing recovery and stop using other people and avenues of supposed support as aids to navigate through life.
It was time to take stock of where I had been, my journey to now and where I wanted to be in the future. For probably the first time it was overtly apparent that my actions in life had a direct effect on my Wife and Daughter. I was no longer a singularity, responsible for only myself. I was and had been for quite sometime, responsible and accountable for other people. This new moment of lucidity brought with it not uncertainty; but certainty. It also came at an entirely unexpected and surprising moment; during a Death Cab For Cutie show at Canberra’s ANU Uni Bar. I dare say I can credit Ben Gibbard performing Passenger Seat to an enthralled audience for being a catalyst for jump starting my recovery.
Over the next few weeks I felt as if I was sharing those days when the literal and metaphorical skies where blue and the sun was shining with the two people I love and cherish the most. I wanted more days like this for not just myself; but for them. I wanted my Daughter to grow up with a Father who would look after her and not the other way around. It was time to drop some of the excess baggage in my life. This is the next evolution in my recovery and something I can honestly saw I am looking forward to.
The inaugural Kowalski Classic, held in September 2012, was my first ever mountain bike race. Barely a month before, I had bought a Giant Anthem X 29er and the furthest I had ridden on a mountain bike was 36km of half fire-road/half singletrack.
I remember my poor pre-race prep, not enough of some things and too much of other things. I remember riding the Kowalski Brothers’ Kowen Forest trails for the first time and being in awe, I also remember the incredibly painful cramping; followed by the days of DOMS after the race.
This was my first taste of mountain bike racing, and I liked it. Fast forward three years and it was time to once again line up for another 50km Kowalski Classic.
Like my first ever race, my prep was lacking in a lot of areas. Not enough kilometres in the legs and months of illness wasn’t going to help me get through the race. A quasi-course-recce the week before helped and didn’t help. My time off the bike had dented my confidence on the bike and the more technical aspects of the course were a concern for me on race day.
But I had to get on with it and with riding buddy Andy, it was soon time to get those legs spinning and those wheels turning.
The start was fairly relaxed with both of us finding our pace and warming up slowly. A few climbs in and some flowing singletrack later, we were weaving our way to the front of our wave. The banter between the riders was friendly and even some of the pseudo-hitters racing up from the back waves were polite prior to their inevitable blowing up.
The journey to the 36km feed zone took in some of my favourite Kowen Forest tracks and the always painful Elevator switchback climb.
The last 14km of the course would take us through the contentious Romper Room and Stairway To Heaven; two of the more technical tracks on the course. As expected there was a fair bit of walking and rider dodging on Stairway, but certainly not as bad as I expected.
After a little bit of a drop in my blood sugar level, a small pause was needed at the top of Stairway to have a little snack before heading towards the finish line.
The last few kilometres was fast, flowing and fun; a great way to end a great day on the bike!