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.
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
2014 was the year that I learnt that no matter how much time and effort you put into training and racing; life always has other plans.
The year started off with a single goal in mind. I was going to race in the Easter National Mountain Bike 24 Hour Solo Championships. I trained hard for this event and all looked good until the event was cancelled. I kept up my training, albeit, with less intensity; and continued to ride more each week than in 2013.
2014 was the year I travelled to France with Soldier On to race in the Trois Etapes Pro-Am and was the year my beautiful daughter Celeste was born.
My riding year was littered with a number of injuries, incredible highs, depressing lows and amazing opportunities.
.:1:. One major crash during the year During my first race of the year, the AMB 100, I crashed out thanks to a little shit who decided that cutting the course and getting in the way of other riders was a good idea.
.:3:. Number of notable injuries in 2014 Injuries: Snake bite, stitches to my left elbow and strained glute!
.:6:. The number of major events that I raced in during 2014 Every race was a challenge but I’ll never forget the 2014 Trois Etapes in France with Team Solider On!
.:98:. The amount of vertical kilometres I climbed in 2014
.:132:. In kilometres, my longest single ride of 2014
.:287:. How many times I rode my bike(s) in 2014
.:349:. The amount of hours I spent riding in 2014 .:8,395:. In kilometres, the total distance I rode in 2014
After the aborted Mont 24 Hour from April this year, it was good to finally head out to Kowen Forest knowing the race was going to happen this time.
That being said, I’m not a huge fan of team racing. Sure it is fun and you get to race against other teams as well as try to out-ride your team mates; but there’s just something about it that irks me. I’m a solo person and enjoy riding by and for myself. Yes I race, and yes I ride with groups often, but racing with a team is just not my cup of tea.
However, for the Mont 24 Hour 2014, I put aside my prejudices and put a team together that would ride and fund-raise for Soldier On. Our MK 1 team had a rider change when our ethnic rider Gian was swapped out for Man Mountain and fan of hair removal products, Colin. So after many months of waiting, our team of vagabond riders assembled at Kowen Forest for some mountain biking and flag waving for Soldier On.
Like all good plans, this one had a few hiccups. Firstly, logistics meant John and I had to set up on the Friday while Chris and Colin travelled from Melbourne. Secondly, Chris was struck by a severe bout of diarrhoea that would cause problems for him throughout the weekend.
So the time came when our first rider had to line up with the other several hundred riders for the rolling start. As it was John’s first race/event he got the honour to start the race for out team.
In a rush of bikes, people and dust, John took off into Kowen Forest and started the race for our team. I had typed up a lap/timing spreadsheet and the next rider up was supposed to be Chris. With his dodgy stomach I geared up and head up to transition to wait for John to return. It was hot, stupidly hot and after John tagged me, I pedaled off for my first lap of the race.
After me was big Col, followed by Chris who was on a one way trip to struggle town. I mentioned before that it was hot. Well it was really hot and then it rained and it got hotter. This was during Chris’ lap in which he had to stop a few times for a cheeky spew track-side. After he tagged John out for his second lap it was very obvious Chris was not going to be riding again until at least tomorrow morning.
My second lap started after 18:00 which was the mandatory time for lights to be fitted on the bikes. I rolled out with my bar light and battery attached but they weren’t needed. I made it back in time to watch the sunset over Kowen Forest; which meant Col got the first night lap of the team in.
I like riding at night, but my two day laps took a lot out of me. I came into this race with maybe three or four short rides under my belt since the Scott 24 Hour 3 weeks earlier, and I was quick to fatigue. My first lap saw my heart rate average 190bpm, which is not awesome even when I usually have a high heart rate as it is (80 resting/185 max).
We were all hurting, and with Chris out for the night we made the decision to take a break after Col’s night lap and start fresh in the morning.
When morning broke I was woken up by John’s incessant coughing which signalled he’d be back on the track very soon. By the time I got dressed and exited my tent, John was heading down to the transition to start us up again.
A little over an hour later I got back on track for my forth (and final) lap, and it was hot once again. My mind wanted to ride fast, but my legs said “no” and my gooch said “get out of the bloody saddle!”.
After a fun ride in which we all started to feel the aches and pains of not enough training, we cut the race short by a lap and started the arduous task of packing up and heading home
Even with a few spanners thrown into the works, it was an enjoyable weekend on and off the bike.
A huge thank you to Soldier On for providing the entry for the team, Col, Chris and John for riding and everyone that donated to the team’s fundraiser.
What more can I say? My debut 24 hour solo ended with me laying in a defeated, exhausted, dehydrated and distraught mess. To say I am disappointed with the result is an understatement.
As I don’t have much riding to report on for this Race Wrap Up, I’m going to quote some numbers before I get into the nuts and bolts of the time I spent on the bike.
Kilometres ridden in the two months before the Scott: 1167.8km
Metres climbed in the two months before the Scott: 23’851m Time spent on the bike in the two months before the Scott: 56 hours 31 min Average body weight while riding during the Trois Etapes: 72.5kg Body weight 5 days prior to the Scott: 78.2kg
Body weight the morning of the Scott: 76.4kg
Body weight after retiring from the Scott: 71.2kg
Body weight 2 days after the Scott: 72.3kg
The Prep My preparation in the weeks leading up to this event was ideal. I was in the best shape of my cycling life, I was mentally prepared and my race plan was ready to go.
And then all my prep went down the drain. Three days before the race I started feeling sick. A feeling that rapidly evolved into a serious bout of diarrhoea and vomiting. I effectively stopped eating solids and concentrated on trying to stay hydrated.
On the Friday before the race I headed out to Mt Stromlo with my Father, and set up my marquee and tent for the weekend. I was lucky in that the twenty-four hours before the race start I was able to eat a proper meal without fear of having to find a toilet immediately.
On the morning of the race I woke up with my stomach churning, I felt hot and dizzy. After I tried to eat something for breakfast I found myself alternating between sitting on and kneeling in front of the toilet. Not a great start to my debut 24 hour solo racing career.
The Race The hours and minutes preceding a race are quite strange. I can range from jittery to anxious and calm before I even cross the start line. On this day I was somewhat anxious. I knew I was in a bad way physically before I even started pedalling, but I had invested too much time preparing not to start the race.
In the hour before the start I had vomited twice more and hadn’t eaten anything in the four hours since breakfast; which didn’t stay down. I’ll be honest, I didn’t stay around for much of the rider’s brief; by the time it reached the ten minute mark and the sponsors were well and truly lubricated with an excess of accolades, I headed back to my marquee to get changed and ready to ride.
This skipping of the rider’s brief meant I missed the announcement that the solo riders were starting first. After working this out I had about four minutes to get to the start line and begin what would become an excruciating experience in the saddle.
I started the race feeling relatively good to begin with. I kept my cadence high and my heart rate down for the first lap. I was being passed constantly, which for a 24 hour rider is apparently the norm. I was running a 32T chain ring and 11-34 cassette on the rear. I’ve never had any issues with this combo on steep climbs to date and was confident it would serve me well over this race.
The first lap was a brisk 43 minutes, a little bit faster than I intended by I still felt relatively all right considering the day’s leading up. I rode through transition and headed out onto my second lap. By the time I reached Bobby Pin Climb some 3km into the lap I was sweating profusely and feeling the urge to vomit. I kept grinding along and by the time I reached the start of Tall Trees I had pulled over and purged my stomach contents all over the ground next to me. This sudden and violent vomit fest enabled me to continue riding and reach transition for my third lap.
As I rolled into transition I stopped for a few minutes to swap out some bottles and check in with my support crew. I put on my long sleeve shirt and knee warmers and headed out again for what was to become another lap with another spew stop.
Laps four and five were similar with water being the only thing I was able to stomach without instantly retching and vomiting. As I descended down Breakout towards Old Duffy’s Descent, I knew my race was going to end very soon. Not five minutes later as I headed into the Crit Track I felt my stomach begin to cramp and I started to shiver uncontrollably.
I pulled into transition and got off my bike. I found a comfortable spot in my tent and laid down for the next 45 minutes and contemplated what was going to happen next. I had in my head that I could rest for a few hours and do a night lap or two, rest until morning and finish off with a few more laps before the 12pm cut off time.
My overly ambitious plan was also deeply flawed. There was to be no more riding. I was medically retired from the race just after the sun went down. I was exhausted physically and mentally. I was disappointed and I felt ashamed.
I had trained hard and had planned for this race. I had carried the reputation of Soldier On and it’s supporters on my back and had failed.
This won’t be the last time I attempt a 24 hour solo and it won’t be the last time I ride for Soldier On; but for now it’s time for me to get back on the bike and enjoy riding again for what it is for me. Recovery.
A huge thank you to everyone that sponsored me by donating to Soldier On.
An even bigger thank you to my Wife and Parents, friends, family and the Soldier On crew.
After a few days of being quite sick with a stomach bug and something resembling a head cold, things are starting to look up for me. I haven’t explosively purged my stomach contents in a little over 24 hours.
At this point there is no turning back for me. Too much time, money and effort has been invested into this race and a DNS is a lot worse than a DNF at this stage. So tomorrow at midday I’ll line up and start what will be a gruelling 24 hours on my bike that will threaten to break me physically and mentally.
I don’t expect to stand on the podium and I don’t expect to ride for the entire 24 hours. I’m not racing against the rest of the field, I’m not racing against the clock – I’m racing against myself and I’m racing for those that served this Nation and lost their battle with PTSD and depression to suicide.
The time has come for me to start my race day preparation for this weekend’s Scott 24 Hour. There isn’t anything more I can do for fitness wise for this ride so it’s safe to say my tapering has begun; no more high intensity rides up Mt Stromlo resulting in mid decent spews.
I’m in probably the best shape I’ve been physically in a number of years with most little niggling pre-existing injuries behaving themselves. I’ve managed to put on close to 5kg since returning from the Trois Etapes in France and can confidently say my roadie arms are strong enough to keep my face from smashing against my stem.
The next few days are going to be a battle to keep focused on the upcoming ride while not letting my highly intrusive work derail my mental preparation. I’ll spend the next couple of days ensuring my lights are ready and charged, my nutrition plan is sorted and of course my bike, Kate, is in tip-top form. I plan to set up my race HQ/camping area Friday afternoon with a not-so-early arrival at Mt Stromlo for the race on Saturday.
I have had a lot of support flow in from friends, family and far away supporters recently. I’m very grateful for everyone that has taken the time to send well-wishes and donate to Soldier On via my fundraising page.