DAY 3 – Thursday 24 April 2014 (Collector To Canberra – The Run Home)
After the media commitments with the Prime Minister were complete, we saddled up and began the ride towards Canberra and our final destination on this huge adventure; the Australian War Memorial.
I sat at the back of the pack with Robbie and watched as the PM was swamped by the sponsor’s representatives. Slowly but surely, the Veterans had their chance to speak to him. Our roll into Canberra was slow and steady as Mr Abbott controlled the speed up front with Scott.
As we descended along the Federal Highway towards Northbourne Avenue, we were joined by Mrs Janny Poate (mother of Private Robert Poate – KIA in Afghanistan 29 August 2012) who was riding her mountain bike. She was ushered and helped to the front of the pack to speak with the PM. One of the most memorable moments of the ride was seeing Jeffro pushing Mrs Poate past us and alongside Mr Abbott.
As we neared the last few kilometres of the ride, Robbie and I moved to the front and flanked the Prime Minister. We were to escort him in the AWM and it was during this time I was able to speak with Mr Abbott. I didn’t hold back. I spoke not only of my struggles, but also that of my friends and the many others that have not been able to gain access to the appropriate support services. He was receptive of what I was saying and also very aware of the steps DVA was taking to help veterans access support services once they have discharged from the ADF.
The remainder of the ride was quite relaxed with Mr Abbott speaking quite candidly and without reservation. Our short leg up to the AWM sparked the PM’s desire to attempt a breakaway sprint which I quickly reigned back in. We rounded the final round-a-bout and entered the grounds of the Australian War Memorial to the waiting crowd of supporters and media.
At the end of the post-ride event/function I went home with my Wife and Parents and returned to the AWM a couple of hours later for a guided tour with some of the other other riders. I was still excited but very fatigued by this stage. With ANZAC Day the following day I was knew I wasn’t going to get much rest in the next 24 hours. Before heading home to get ready for the night’s function I had to swing by my work to pick up the on-call phone (yep…winning at staff retention!).
A huge thank you to my Wife, Parents, Sister, Brother-In-Law, Nieces and friends for their support leading up to and during the ride.
Thank you to Soldier On: John, Tony, Dion, Shane, Anna, Robbie, Pearl and Danielle.
Thank you to Scott Sunderland and the other members of Team Soldier On.
Thank you to Matthew Connors for the awesome photos.
Thank you to The Citadel Group, Mittagong RSL, Bushranger Hotel, Australian War Memorial, Dr Nelson, the Prime Minister and of course all the people that waved at us while we were riding!
DAY 2 – Wednesday 23 April 2014 (Mittagong To Collector)
The second day of our ride along the Remembrance Driveway would see us ride 120km along the Hume/Federal Highway into Collector.
We pushed off at 09:00 after breakfast and coffee with the Soldier On Team in front of the Citadel Group riders. Scott wanted us to start riding together and getting used to being side-by-side and wheel-to-wheel. It wasn’t long before we were finding our rhythm and we were cruising down the Hume Highway at speed.
Our first stop was at the 32km mark with a couple of the sponsor riders opting to hop into to the support vehicles and rejoin us at the end of the day (to be honest this was the smart thing to do considering the climbing and fast pace that would soon be occurring).
Our second/lunch stop was at the 74km mark with a decision being made by both Scott and Soldier On event organiser TC that the slower riders would ride in the support vehicles until the 105km mark for safety reasons. We were unable to average a safe speed, particularly on the long climbs, and it was becoming increasingly more dangerous with large trucks not being able to see us as they crested the hills. This would definitely explain the burnt rubber we were smelling shortly before this stop. While it wasn’t the most popular decision, it was the right one.
Our next 30km was an ad-hoc training session from the one and only Scott Sunderland. It was fast bunch riding; something I am not very experienced with. It certainly got the heart rate up and I was somewhat relieved when we eased up on the pace and the slower riders rejoined us for the roll into Collector.
DAY 3 – Thursday 24 April 2014 (Collector To Canberra – The First Bit)
Our final day of riding started early; before dawn. I was up, packed and ready for the ride to the Lake George lookout where we would meet Prime Minister Tony Abbott for the final leg into the Australian War Memorial.
While the others were waiting patiently to start the final day’s riding, I was on the phone to Mix 106.3’s Kristen & Rod.
Our ride to Lake George was extremely quick and I soon regretted my decision to wear my wind-stopper jacket. Scott was pushing us along the Federal Highway at over 40km/hr for the 30km leg.
We reached the top of the Weereewa Lookout and patiently waited the arrival of the Prime Minister.
DAY 1 – Tuesday 22 April 2014 (Sydney To Mittagong)
There was a lot of nervous energy amongst all the riders, in particular myself and Robbie. We had spent a lot of the morning in front of the media and both of us just wanted to get on our bikes.
At a little before 14:00 we finally rolled off onto the Hume Highway for the start of our three-day journey to Canberra. The first day’s ride was scheduled to end at Mittagong, a relatively short 70km away. The riding was slow and steady at first but we soon picked up the pace under the mentoring of Scott Sunderland.
After only an hour or so of riding, including a few small but taxing climbs, we stopped at the Frank Partridge VC Rest Area, for a quick rest stop. By now some of the sponsor riders were feeling the effects of the climbs and little to no lead up training; but still they persevered.
There was a little bit of bush mechanic work on a stubborn seat post clamp before the group headed off towards Mittagong once again.
As before the pace began to slow and our group was banding together to keep the others on pace and more importantly on their bikes.
A quick re-org of the riding order saw a few of the slower riders moved up front to set the group pace and stop the rubber-band effect that was tiring those that were at the back.
As the afternoon got a little colder and the shadows longer; concentration started to lapse among some riders. A few instances of half-wheeling began to occur when suddenly two riders hit the road at around 30km/hr. I was in the right lane and broke formation to avoid the carnage and quickly pulled over to the side of the road. Amazingly there were no serious injuries to downed rider (carbon bikes don’t like such spills!).
After some first aid work on the downed riders they were ushered into the support vehicles, the bikes strapped to the wagon’s roof and we resumed riding our final leg into Mittagong. We arrived a little after 17:00 and were greeted at the Mittagong RSL by the sub-branch representatives.
We checked into our rooms (apparently it’s funny to put two Chad’s in one room), showered and made our way over to the bar for some light refreshments and dinner at the bistro. We were joined by the Australian War Memorial’s Director, Dr Brendan Nelson, for dinner and after a quick recap of the days activities and a run down of timings for the next day, it was time for some bike prep and then bed.
The 2014 Soldier On Remembrance Ride was a feat only achievable by a great deal of hard work, volunteers and good luck. With only a couple of months to get the wheels rolling, Soldier On had their work cut out for them to get things ready in time; and being privy to the process some things came down to the wire.
I was asked to participate in the ride very early on and I jumped at the opportunity. Three days of riding from Sydney to Canberra with a group of Australian Veterans and some members from our corporate sponsor; The Citadel Group. Also along for the ride was pro-cyclist turned coach/mentor Scott Sunderland.
Before the drive up to Sydney even happened we were locked into a steady routine of media commitments and admin duties at Soldier On HQ.
The drive up to Sydney was an uneventful affair with a couple of bikes strapped to the back of the Soldier On Audi and four of us squeezed inside with our gear and luggage (the car is really spacious, we just crammed a lot into it). After unloading the car and checking into our hotel opposite Hyde Park, we quickly went through the next days timetable and retired for the night.
DAY 1 – Tuesday 22 April 2014 (The Event Launch)
The morning of the ride was a whirlwind of interviews, photos and a lot of standing around waiting. Soldier On CEO John Bale presented the team to the waiting media and soon we were being told to pose and look at this camera, move, look at that camera and of course speak to the media. Ordinarily I’m not a huge fan of interacting with the media; but sometimes anxiety and nervousness must be set aside for the greater good. I conducted three TV interviews at Hyde Park with SBS, ABC Sydney and SBS Cycling.
After our event launch it was time to pack the cars and go for the short drive to our start point (due to Sydney’s stupidly unsafe roads we couldn’t ride out of the CBD).
Training – Week 2 – Backing Up A Big Week
After riding 406.9km the week before I was keen to continue the big kilometres – but my quads had other ideas.
I needed to take it easy and was still finding my groove in the new training program. I mixed the week up with road riding on Sara and dirt commuting on Emma; this seemed to work and by mid week I was finding my rhythm and spending some much needed time in saddle.
Although I was still in a base-building phase in my training (basically just riding as much as I could handle) I decided to inject some heart-rate zone training into my program. This proved to be beneficial as I was starting to understand and put into practice the basic ideas of endurance training; something that I will need as second nature during the 24 hour solo.
By the time I washed my bikes ready for the next week of riding I had chalked up 402.6km – another 400km week.
Training – Week 3 – A Heatwave Hits Canberra
The weather forecast was not looking promising for a big week on the bike. Sure I could have just gotten on with it, but was riding in 40’C really worth it this early in my training program; no!
So I got up early and rode to work the long way before the heat kicked in. Having ridden over 800km in the previous two weeks I was finding it harder to ride for long distances. My knees were aching and my quads were sore to the touch. So I backed off a bit and finished up with 302.5km for the week.
Training – Week 4 – #Winning
The week started off with the aim of riding more on Kate the XTC. I intentionally kept within my ideal heart-rate zone in order to build endurance on the mountain bike. Surprisingly, riding at a slower pace with a consistent cadence and heart-rate you are are actually faster over longer distances. There is less recovery time needed as the higher intensity intervals are no longer there so you can just keep pedalling for as long as you want.
I kept to the bike paths early in the week to get my cadence and heart-rate dialled in before switching to dirt and putting the same principles into action. I quickly found my rhythm and was finding my new riding style a lot easier to manage and exactly what I would need in a few months time.
I took Friday off work and headed out to Mt Stromlo for a training ride with the focus on climbing and endurance. My aim of 50km was cut short at 35km after it started hailing and the trails became a mixture of mud and ball-bearing like grip.
On Saturday I returned to Mt Stromlo and set off for a high intensity ride with a focus on climbing up the mountain with a red-zone heart-rate. The ride was going extremely well and I was enjoying the heavy sweating and throwing my bike around the trails with renewed confidence.
On my second lap of the course I was riding up Blackberry Climb when I met a Red Belly Black snake on the trail.
Long story short: I was bitten but not envenomated by the little snake. It did however mean an enforced but not unwanted rest day off the bike.
At the end of my fourth week of training for the Easter 24 Hour Solo’s I rode 224.5km. While it is a smaller amount than previous weeks I achieved a lot of goals and learnt some valuable lessons on and off the bike.
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.
For the first time in a long time I was looking forward to tackling another week on the bike. After taking a few hits mentally during the past couple of weeks it felt really good to want to spend more time in the saddle. Thanks to the previous week’s 250.3km of fairly high intensity riding I started the new week quite tender and fatigued.
While I had grand plans of long commutes on the roadie, Canberra decided it was going to be a very wet week with lots of fog. It is a fact that skinny tyres and wet/icy asphalt don’t mix so I prepped Zooey the Anthem with some lights, higher pressure tyres and dragged out my waterproof jacket.
I wanted to ride at least 50km each day while commuting; a goal I achieved on both Monday and Tuesday while riding in some light rain each time. Even at this early stage of the week I was feeling a lot of muscle fatigue but was still making gains while getting very wet and muddy.
Wednesday was dry enough that I was able to ride the roadie, but the aforementioned muscle fatigue was now in the fully fledged DOMS stage and any aspirations of a massive road ride were halted before the wheels began to even turn. But I still reached my 50km/day goal with a short commute into work and a longer commute home. I even managed to wash both Zooey and Sara taking advantage of the break in rain and brief sunshine.
Thursday was another mild Canberra day so I decided to take Kate the XTC into work. After riding Zooey and the ultra stiff (in a good way) Sara, riding Kate felt amazing. By swapping out a few components I’ve managed to keep my carbon hardtail under 10kg. With the front forks locked out and a good tucked position I quite often overtake most road bikes on the commuting climbs; something I relish doing. There’s nothing worse than tackling a long and difficult climb and having someone pass you looking cool, calm and collected. I aim to be that person; especially on a 29er while my prey is on a road bike sporting aerobars.
…But anyway, I took Kate to work on a particularly foggy morning the longish way and managed to push out 31.1km prior to work. On the way home my quadriceps were incredibly sore; but I wanted some off road time. A quick spin around the more fun tracks at Bruce Ridge went down a treat and I then headed off home covered in mud.
Thursday was also the day an article about my fundraising for Soldier On was printed in the Australian Army News.
Friday was a complete wash out for commuting and to be honest I don’t think my aching legs had much more than a slow roll left in them. My bikes stayed at home and instead of riding I signed up for the JetBlack WSMTB 12 Hour at Dargle Farm on 10 August 2013. This will my first 12 hour and I’m looking forward to pushing myself over an extended period of time to test my body and mind before October’s Battle Of The Beasts.
This will also be my last race before my Wedding in September; so in some roundabout way the race will be my Buck’s Ride and I’m looking forward to spending the weekend riding with some of my good friends from The Berm.
At the end if this week I managed to push out 215.3km in four days riding.
Week 4 was going to be a larger week for the numbers from the get go. I needed to break past 150km; a weekly goal I had only achieved once in the past three weeks.
I had decided I was going to spend more time on the road bike, but also knew I didn’t have the endurance to smash out the long rides I wanted to do. My fitness has improved dramatically over the past few weeks but my quads are constantly screaming at me for a rest. The only option was for some good paced commuting to work.
Monday I took the roadie to work along the short commute racking up 18.6km in the chilly Canberra morning air. On the ride home I took in a more scenic 30.1km around a bit of LBG and exploring some of the bike paths near my suburb.
Tuesday was the day my beloved Kate was booked in for her first service at Onya Bike Civic. I had experienced a fair bit of gear skipping during the previous Sunday’s CORC XC race at Kowen Forest. As always the service, both mechanical and customer, was first rate and I soon had a singletrack eating machine firing at 100%…. Well for a about 6km of Bruce Ridge actually! I managed to clip a stray fallen branch and snapped a spoke on my Crank Brothers Cobalt 29er front wheel. After cutting my ride short at 7.1km I managed to fix the spoke with a spare included with the wheels.
Wednesday was a short commute to and from work on Zooey my Giant Anthem X 29er… Not a lot to say about this apart from riding a 29er dualie on the road is a lot harder than sub 10kg road bike running 110psi. I earned those 38.6km!
Thursday’s commute to work was on the roadie in subzero temperatures. I was relatively warm in my leg warmers and wind-stopper; but still had ice on my legs when I arrived at work. The commute home was a shit-fight of epic proportions; twin punctures, spat at by a bogan and a small stack due to a moron who didn’t have her inbred dog on a leash. <end rant>
Friday saw a ride to work in subzero temps and some incredibly thick fog! There was even plenty of ice on my legs and crotchular region!
The ride home was almost as big of a fail as the previous day. The dirty little secret of Canberra cycling community is the abundance of glass littered in cycle lanes and cycle paths. There is a stupidly large amount that never gets cleaned up because TAMS (Territory & Municipal Services) couldn’t give a rat’s arse!
After copping my fifth puncture in two days I called the girly and got picked up 2km from home.
Saturday was supposed to be a few laps of Mt Stromlo with some of the guys and girls from The Berm, but alas due to an oversight in forgetting my front wheel thru-axle that plan was aborted and I ended up riding in the afternoon.
My ride around Bruce Ridge and to home pushed me over my 200km goal for the week.
The close of the week saw a ride into Bruce Ridge and a spin around the grippy singletrack before the usual breakfast at Edgar’s and a steady ride in the pouring rain to home.
By the time my all my bikes had been cleaned and stowed away, I had amassed 250.3km for the week. All in all I didn’t push myself too had and despite a few mechanical issues with two of my bikes I was happy with the end result.