…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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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 #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:.

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

PLEASE SUPPORT THOSE THAT SUPPORT YOU

.:MY DONATION PAGE:.

Battle Of The Beasts 2012 – In Review

As I crossed the finished line next to my riding buddy Argonut, it felt like a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I was a shell of the person who started the gruelling ride a little over 7 hours before. I was exhausted, physically, emotionally and mentally. Like many of the 119 riders that began that morning, I too had under-estimated the Namadgi National Park course.

In mid September I ran into an old friend at work and took some time out for a quick catch up over a coffee. I mentioned in a few weeks I was riding the Kowalski Classic and he told me about a charity called Soldier On that was teamed up with an upcoming mountain bike race… The seed had been planted in my head.

I had left the full-time Army earlier in the year and had begun actively supporting and advocating the rights of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in conjunction with my late Grandfather’s RSL and Legacy. In front of me were two things I had a vested interest in; mountain biking and veteran’s affairs.

I looked up Soldier On and the Beast-Worx Battle Of The Beasts and signed up not only to ride in the event but to raise money for Soldier On. It’s a sad fact that the Australian Government and Australian Defence Force does not do nearly enough for wounded returned servicemen, servicewomen and their families. The ADF has an appalling record for dealing with mental health issues and it’s often left to outside support agencies to seek and provide the help that they so desperately need. And this is exactly what Soldier On aims and succeeds at doing.

So I set out with two things in mind, raise a heap of money for Soldier On and train for this Beast of a ride on Saturday 24 November 2012.

I drove out to Caloola Farm at Namadgi National Park early in morning. I registered for the race, affixed the race plate to my trusty steed and prepared for the race. The event centre was well set up and the riders were getting excited. A comprehensive race brief was delivered and we rolled down to the start line. The inaugural Beast, Jeremy Ross, rolled off the ‘black carpet’ and the race was on. Five minutes later the chasing pack followed and a few minutes after, the remainder of the solo riders started. Argonut and I stayed together pacing ourselves early, after a few kilometres and a few creek crossings the pack started to spread out and groups of evenly matched riders started forming across the track. Everyone on the track was in a good mood; everyone was friendly and even though the morning was rapidly heating up the atmosphere of the event was very fun.

And then came the start of the climbs. I won’t lie; I seriously did not think this course would be as hard as it was. Yes it was almost completely comprised of fire trail, but some of them were so steep and deeply rutted I would have avoided them in a 4X4. We were only approximately 16km in with very wet feet when the sporadic hills were actually faster to walk and push the bike than it was to ride them. “Energy conservation” I kept telling myself as I would un-clip my shoes from my pedals get off the bike and begin the shuffle up another hill.

Argonut and I kept a good rhythm and pace but the climbs, the creek crossings and the increasing heat were beginning to take their toll on most riders. A hill that would normally be tackled with bit of extra effort and some heavy breathing was replaced by a single file of riders walking. My cramps began around the 25km mark, my calves as always, and they were quickly followed by cramps in my quads and triceps. I was hurting but with just under 50km to go I knew I had to push on.

We saw riders starting to fall back and slow right down, we pushed on as best we could but more and more hills stopped being ridden and started being walked. Solo riders and teams were helping each other, although we were all hurting the aim was the same; to finish this race.

At the 33km checkpoint we stopped for some food and refill the water. My other half was there and passed on some words of encouragement. Other volunteers muttered words about the course being “all downhill” from here. Now let’s get one thing straight; it was not downhill, yes there were some downhill sections but after spending the last couple of hours steadily climbing almost 900m I was in no mood to climb anymore.

We pushed on and some things were said about life, mountain bikes and the race. There was a little bit of swearing as we weaved through the next half of the course, relishing the tiny downhill sections and hating the ever present short but steep climbs. I kept telling myself I had been through worse than this, and yes it was very true, but I was younger, a hell of lot more fitter and too be honest in that moment I would rather have been back patrolling in Afghanistan in 40degrees than riding that track. I was starting to make “woo” sounds whenever something annoyed me… There’s another hill “woo”, kangaroos “woo”, I just fell over “woo”. Maybe it was the heat, but to be honest, I was starting to realise like most other riders, we did in fact underestimate the challenge of this race.

But we pushed on and it strangely became easier, I was tired, hurting, but I felt strangely okay. I wasn’t going to let this course beat me. We passed the checkpoint of 58km and met the asphalt. As soon as I saw the hill my legs cramped in response. I rode a little bit of it, but like everyone else around, I too succumbed to the ‘easier’ option of walking my bike. It didn’t seem to end, but eventually it did and there was another checkpoint. Argonut was waiting for me, chatting to the volunteers; if he was hurting he was really good at hiding it. We pushed on and were met with a very tricky and fast downhill section of loose rocks and potential death. And then it appeared. I’m not sure if the Beast-Worx guys named that particular hill, but I sure came up with a few that aren’t fit for publication. For a family friendly named I’ve settled on is “Death Legs”.

I didn’t even attempt to ride any of it. It was heartbreaking, it was demoralising and it was right in front of me taunting me to get to the top. I started walking, and then I would stop and catch my breath and walk some more. I cramped in every muscle in my legs and lower back. Surely this hill would end soon; but step after step I couldn’t see the end. Argonut was in front pushing on, saying words of encouragement to me, they were helping, but my stints of walking became shorter and my stints of rest became longer. Finally we got to the top and we rested for a few minutes, I felt nauseous and was exhausted but I knew we still had 10km to go, and thinking back to the course profile I knew it was in fact almost all downhill from here.

We began the last section of the track to the finish line. Argonut pushed forward in front of me, the steep downhills burned the arms and I’m sure the brakes were glowing red. There were a few short climbs but most of it I was able to roll up with my momentum from the downhills; 29ers just keep rolling I said to myself in my head.

I cramped up around 3km from the end and stopped to stretch. Then we pushed on to the finish. We came down a screaming downhill, across a little creek and could see the farmhouse. Argonut called me up so we could cross the finish line together and suddenly I felt no pain, the legs were fresh and we sprinted to the finish. And after a little over 7 hours the inaugural Battle Of The Beasts was over for me.

I was exhausted and found a nice spot in the shade and lay down. I was spent, I was happy, but there was not a lot left in the tank, so trying my hardest not to throw up seemed like a good idea. Other riders finished and I went and had a cheeky spew and instantly felt a lot better. Around 16:30 the presentations began. Jeremy Ross won the race in an incredible 3 hours and 12 minutes. Awards were given, but most of the recipients had long departed for various and some incredibly more important reasons. I was called out to the front and given a gift voucher for raising $5’637 for Soldier On. Goodbyes were said and we were on our way home for pizza and a goodnights rest. It was a very well run event, made possible by volunteers and the incredible Beast-Worx team.

This morning I woke up feeling a little sore, but surprisingly able to walk with ease, unlike after the Kowalski Classic when I was unable to negotiate stairs for almost a week. I have cleaned the bike, washed the clothes and sorted the photos.

And that ladies and gentlemen was the 2012 Battle Of The Beasts for this rider.