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
Round 4 of the Rocky Trail Shimano MTB GP was my return to riding and racing.
I had a plan, and that plan was to ride my bike and finish the damn race. I was under no illusions that I was going to be competitive nor was I going to be setting any new Strava PR’s out at Mt Stromlo (for the record I set two). This was my return to mountain biking after what has been a pretty tough three months for me physically and mentally.
I’ll address the big issue first, my rapid decline into poor health over the past three months. I was hit by a bout of influenza, a chest infection, enlarged kidney, kidney stones, feeling constantly fatigued and generally dealing with a huge case of the #CBF’s! Forget about riding, just getting out of bed and going to work was an effort that more often than not ended with me calling in sick and spending the day in bed or laying on the couch playing my XBOX. There were even entire days where I would sleep, experience raging fevers, chills and have no energy to even sit up in bed.
Finally after much prodding, prompting and nagging I saw a Doctor, had an abnormally large amount of blood taken, pee’d into a heap of containers and BAM!; Seemingly out of nowhere, I’d gone from a very fit, (usually) healthy 33 year old to a diabetic, high cholesterol having, unfit, unhealthy 33 year old.
Oh and those days where I would sleep and it was sort of like my body was shutting down, yeah well, they were hypoglycemic episodes; the sort of thing that can kill people.
<Language Warning!> Well shit! That’s fucked! <Language Warning!>
My next step was to grip this up… I wasn’t Type 1, so no insulin injections which is good, but I was going to have to look at my diet, so a dietician was consulted. As with the various Doctors I’d spoken with, it came as a fairly big surprise to her that I was in fact healthy, fit and a vegetarian. So time to look at exactly what I was eating and unsurprisingly it was time to cut out a heap of the unhealthier things I was eating such as cakes, slices, soft drinks and other high sugar foods.
What would this mean for me for day to day living? Put simply, I have to eat healthier, eat more, eat more often and monitor my blood sugar levels
What does this mean for me for riding and racing my bike? Put simply, I have to eat healthier, eat a hell of a lot more, a hell of a lot more often and bloody well make sure my blood sugar levels don’t drop.
But this raised more questions than it answered. As most cyclists know, energy gels and bars are the go to for nutrition when riding. Now I can’t just go and smash a heap of high sugar/high glucose syrup into my body when I feel like it now; but I can still use them. In fact they are very important if my blood sugar level drops too much. The key is moderation and eating proper food while riding/racing. Everyone’s favourite fruit banana is out of the question thanks to an allergy to the yellow bastards so I stuck with my old friends’; Vegemite sandwiches and liquid food drink.
So with a somewhat redefined nutrition plan in mind I started riding what was my first race since deciding to get on with life now I finally knew what was making me sick and holding me back.
So back to my plan, which was to ride and finish the 4 hour race. Fitness was going to be an issue, a lingering injury was going to be an issue and the ever present Black Dog biting at my heels was going to be an issue. One lap at a time I said to myself; 4 hours give or take on the bike should get me 5 laps, but I’d be happy with 4 as I didn’t know how my body would handle the riding and how much time I’d be spending in transition during laps.
The start of the first lap was the always grinding fireroad of pain leading up the start of Bobby Pin Climb. It was during this grinding, heavy breathing prologue that I realised I should have warmed up before the start of the race. With my heart-rate monitor feeling like a boa constrictor across my chest I could see my heart rate rapidly climbing on my GPS… 181, 182, 183BPM… 2 more BPM’s and my GPS would start beeping at me. But suprisingly it dropped, it steadied and I was climbing Bobby Pin quite easily, albeit, slower than usual. Only another a few more kilometres of climbing before the descent back into transition. Wash, rinse, repeat!
Lap 1 turned into Lap 2 and my thoughts changed from “I wish I warmed up” to “I wish I wasn’t wearing a long sleeve jersey!” My body was feeling good, my bike was feeling good and the tracks were immaculate. I was in a rhythm and more importantly I was enjoying myself. Surely my Flow would be around the next corner or on the next descent. Of all places I found it on Rollercoaster; a track that in its previous lifetime was a rocky, rutted, churned up track of death and despair. But Rollercoaster MKII was a fast flowing, tight cornered track that kept the line between fast, fun and faaark! a very fine line indeed. It was on one of the tight corners that I keep my fingers off the brakes and let my bike do what it was designed to do. I let it decide how to best take the corner with a little extra speed behind it. Sweet!!!
After a change into the short sleeve jersey; Laps 3 and 4 followed without fuss. More of the same with some cramping starting to set it thanks to my recent time off the bike.
Lap 5 culminated with an extended break to say hello to my Wife, Mother and Daughter who had arrived to see the end of the race. And of course the little incident of Jamie I falling off his bike and onto mine during his rapid fire transition. A quick straighten of the bars and it was time to head off again.
The final climb took a little longer than the previous laps as more cramping set in but with no more time left on the clock it was just a matter of finishing my final lap. As I crested the final section of Echidna Gap I stopped and enjoyed a brief moment looking out to the surrounding Brindabella Mountains. With a great view and a big day almost over it was time to say my goodbye to a mate who had recently lost his battle with PTSD.
After a quick descent including a little race to the finish line against Adam ‘Rocket’ Rolls my race was over.
I made the decision to not race to my Garmin GPS at around the 25km mark. Prior to the 2014 Capital Punishment I had been carefully monitoring my heart rate, average speed and split times during training rides and races. Every time I got on a bicycle and started riding I would keep my eyes glued to that little LCD display that was telling me all the information I thought I needed to know while riding. Sure, there is some data that is useful while riding, but the majority of what a GPS/cycling computer can offer is done in post ride analysis.
My preparation for this year’s 100km event was somewhat ideal; some long road rides leading up; but probably not enough mountain bike endurance riding in my legs at the same time. Between December and February I had been training quite intensively for the Easter 24 Hour Solos. Alas, the race was cancelled for a variety of reasons and my motivation to train came to an abrupt halt. My 400km weeks dropped to 200-250km weeks; while not exactly a tiny amount of riding, it was a struggle to get the bike out of the garage some days.
Couple this with one of my more impressive (read painful) crashes at the AMB 100 and I had effectively misplaced my Flow. I needed something to look forward to and that came in the form of a 100km marathon race taking in the best of Canberra’s single-track and a few killer climbs. Plus this was my first race in the new Soldier On cycling kit so I was excited about that. Last year’s Capital Punishment was my first 100km mountain bike race and I loved it. I rode my own race and only felt fatigued in the last 10km when I had to stop for some explosive vomiting action before the final descent to the finish line.
This year I set a few goals:
1) Finish the race – In the past 4 months I had finished only three out of seven races due to crashes or mechanical issues 2) Race my own race – It sounds strange, but to race and ignore all the other riders is a sure fire way to understand what your body and bike are capable of on the track 3) Beat last year’s time – What is the point of racing the same event again if you don’t want to improve?
So in the days leading up to the race I formulated my nutrition/hydration plan, prepped Kate the XTC and finally registered for the race the day before. Alas my excitement was replaced by a sense of WTF?! This year’s Capital Punishment was a little different to last years and indeed almost all other marathon races. Usually you choose which starting wave you want to begin in, turn up and start riding. The Cap organisers implemented a new seeding system that would allow you to nominate which starting wave you wanted to be in; but also required proof of a similar distance and time.
Not an unreasonable request by any means and to be honest a real step forward in trying to combat over seeding. Last year I started in Wave 5 out of 9. I finished in just over six hours and caught the tail end of Wave 3. Not bad for my first ever 100km race, but during that race I had also stopped to help an injured rider for approximately 30 minutes. In most timed races there is a “Good Samaritan Clause” in which time spent helping an injured rider is taken off your overall time. No worries I thought, I sent an email off to the organisers and received a reply that this would be sorted in the coming weeks.
Fast forward to 2014’s online registration and I self seeded in Wave 4 based on last year’s time and some of the enduros I had done in between. Eventually I was seeded in Wave 6, with 300+ other riders… WTF?! Indeed!
So I lined up in the first few rows of the grid within the stupidly large wave and rolled across the start line. After a few kilometres of fast fire road the Speedy Gonzales’s of the group were huffing and puffing and dropping back; and then we entered the Kowen Forest single-track. As always the Kowalski Brothers trails were in immaculate condition and daring every rider to push their limits. Kowen quickly transitioned into Sparrow Hill and I was riding my favourite trails in reverse; an amazing experience.
.:Start of the 2014 Capital Punishment 100km:.
I had been riding for just under an hour by the time we went under the Kings Highway and back into Kowen Forest. By this stage my wave had well and truly spread out and it was obvious that the majority of us in the front group had been under seeded as we were already passing Wave 5 riders. As I rounded a corner just before Quadrophenia I misjudged my entry into a short bridge and watched as my XTC tumbled past me as I hit the dirt with my shoulder then my knee and finally my shoulder again. From crash to back on track I doubt I spent more than 30 seconds off the bike, but it was enough to wake me up and raise the heart rate.
So with a sore shoulder, grazed forearm, grazed knee and a bruised ego; I set about reeling in the 5 or so riders that passed me after I crashed. It was at this point I could clearly hear my heavy breathing and heart rate blasting in my ears. My GPS was beeping at me as my heart rate had exceeded my ‘maximum’ of 180bpm and it was not dropping anytime soon. As I approached the 25km marker sign I looked down at my sweat covered and dust encrusted GPS and pressed the ‘PAGE’ button. Now all I could see was my elevation statistics, calories burned and the time. I looked ahead and attacked the group that passed me just as a fire road climb appeared.
The next 20km’s was a blur of single-track, pine trees, fire road and climbs. It was on the climbs that I found I was passing riders with different coloured race plates to mine; riders that had started one or two waves in front of me, some of who had started 20 minutes before me. Clearly the seeding system was working fantastically! My annoyance was soon replaced with surprise as I saw the 40km feed station appear after a hill and I realised I was well and truly ahead of my planned time at this point. With the Sutton Forest section coming up with a few pinch climbs thrown in I knew I would be best served slowing to a comfortable pace and enjoying the race for the next several kilometres until I reached open fire road again.
And this is exactly what I did until I reached the Majura Military Training Area. In hindsight I know I took it a little too easy on the Sutton Forest stretch but the fact I was able to walk without pain after the race tells me I made the right decision. I pushed out a little on the fire roads and soon found myself crossing Majura Road and running a gauntlet of heavy construction vehicles to get over Mt Majura and into the untimed section for a refuel and slight rest.
By this stage last year I had walked two of the steeper pinch climbs in the Training Area and Mt Majura, this year I got out the saddle and pedalled my way up. As I crossed the timing mat into the untimed section I was feeling pretty good but in dire need of a bottle change. I rode briskly through the suburbs into Dickson and stopped at the second feed station. Bermers Di, Ben and Maree were there with words of encouragement and after 15 minutes I turned around to see Bermer Alyssa pulling into the station behind me; wow, she was not mucking about! I headed off to the start of the Black Mountain section and stopped to take advantage of some of what remained of the 55 minutes of un-timed section to have a bite to eat, nature stop and psych myself up for the next 30km that would be comprised of a lot more climbing. Luckily I like climbing, I may not be the fastest climber but I have endurance and on long climbs I find I pass a lot of others that try to lead out early.
Black Mountain was fun; tough climbs up and loose sketchy descents down. There was plenty of braking and skidding but by the time I was weaving through the cork plantation leading into the Arboretum I was still smiling. Immediately after the cork trees disappeared the climb that almost made me swear last year came into view. A long, loose and sometimes pinchy fire road that lead to a few shorter climbs. I decided to attack this climb; I don’t know why, but something in my legs told me to do it. I picked a gear and got out of the saddle and climbed. Last year I walked most of this hill and this year I wanted to own it; albeit in my own slow and steady way.
The Arboretum was comprised of hot and dusty sections that lead into the Cotter Road tarmac section that took us into Mt Stromlo. Last year this small stretch was difficult for me, I was running on near empty and it was a huge struggle to get my dual suspension Anthem, Zooey, to maintain any momentum. The slow grinding climb this year was made slightly worse with a drive train that sounded like half of my bike was grinding against the bitumen. As I entered Mt Stromlo’s first section of single track signalling I was nearing the last 12km of the race, my bottom bracket decided to start making life extremely difficult for me by partially seizing up.
.:The National Arboretum:.
The free flowing tracks of Holden’s Creek and Fenceline were quick despite the horrible grinding noise coming from my bike; but it made the next 7km ascending the mountain terrible. I had a choice of three gears in which my cranks would actually spin and allow me to continue moving forward. I was out of the saddle most of the climb and by the time I reached the start of the Western Wedgetail and the welcome descent down the mountain my quads were burning. I started the run home to the finish with a little tail whip (not my style but I figured why not) and hoped I wasn’t about to slow down any riders behind me.
Skyline lead into Luge then Old Duffy’s Decent and finally the final stretch onto the crit track. I had been passed by one rider on Luge and decided I wasn’t going to let this Wave 4’er beat me (despite the fact he started the race a good 15min before me) and pedalled as fast as my body would let me. I bunny hopped the finish line and pulled up with a mean cramp in my left hamstring from the final sprint. I was met by my wife and the few Bermers that had started and finished before me. I was spent, but I was extremely happy; even more so when I found out I had finished under 5 hours.
A huge thank you to my wife, the volunteers, fellow Bermers and the other riders for an amazing event.
Another Blog series about training! Gah! Why!? Well its all part of the training that’s why! Motivation is one of the key components to sticking with a training program; especially one in its infancy.
I find it easier to continue with a training program if I can share the highs and lows with others. But this time around I won’t be subjecting the masses to weekly updates (to be honest I struggled writing a new piece each week last time) instead I’ll be doing semi regular updates detailing key milestones, mishaps and interesting things.
So welcome to my new series on my lead up training to my next big event…
The OnyaBike 2014 Australian Solo 24 Hour MTB Championships held over the Easter weekend.
Don’t let the Championship part fool you, there will be no riding for a fairytale podium finish; focus more on the Solo 24 Hour part!
Yes that’s right, I am aiming to ride in my first 24 hour solo race, so naturally I have to do some serious training for this upcoming pain train.
Training – Week 1 – The Long Journey Begins After a fairly relaxed Christmas break in Brisbane riding in the stifling heat (by Canberra standards anyway) and climbing up the never ending series of steep hills I was in pretty good shape fitness wise to tackle my first week of training for the Easter solos.
With a few days left before I had to go back to work for 2014, I decided I wanted to put some extra kilometres under the tyres and set a big total for the week. What I didn’t expect to do was ride more in the first week of my training than I have ever before.
Monday saw 87.3km on Kate the XTC during a ride to and from Mt Stromlo. It was a hot day and I didn’t drink enough fluids. .:Kate posing at Mt Stromlo:.
Wednesday was a New Years Day ride at Mt Stromlo with some of the more dedicated The Berm crew (well those that didn’t race at the Wicked Wombat in Jindabyne the day before). I rode 27.2km of sweet Stromlo singletrack to ring in the 2014! .:A fine looking bunch of sober cyclists:.
Thursday and Friday saw the return to work for the new year and joining the Canberra cycling commuting community once again. In two days I added another 97.2km to the weeks total, just 2.8km short of what I was aiming for. .:Somewhat hot on Friday afternoon:.
Saturday saw a new bike join the stable and some short rides around Mulligans Flat dialling it in and trying to set some new Strava PR’s! .:Introducing Emma!:.
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
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.
The 2013 Camelback Highland Fling was the race that just seemed to creep up on me. I signed up for the 112km Full Fling in September when I was travelling around Vietnam for my Honeymoon; and then promptly put it in the back of my mind. I still had to race in the Scott 25 Hour and the Battle of the Beasts weekend before I could even think about tackling the hills and winding single track of the southern highlands. It wasn’t until the day before the race that I actually started looking at what I needed to pack and which bike I was going to ride.
The 2012 Highland Fling was my second ever race and I suffered some serious cramps as I neared the end of the 56km Half Fling. It wasn’t a race I particularly enjoyed for two reasons.
1. The elite riders went after the main pack and caught ALL of the Half Fling riders at the most technical part of the course. Cue getting off the bike and letting everyone else pass and a multitude of stacks as the less confident riders started to panic when the elites were bearing down on them;
2. The event planning seemed a little haphazard. At around the 10km mark I witnessed and stopped for a very heavy crash. Myself and a couple of other riders helped another rider that had broken his collarbone and received numerous scratches and cuts. We did the best we could to help him with very limited supplies and then waited for 45 minutes for an extremely incompetent first aid official to turn up. It was only after I expressed the urgent need for an ambulance and a medical professional did one arrive and take him to the hospital. This ended up taking over an hour which I would never make up for when back on the course.
Because of last years experience and a distinct lack of motivation I never really got into the mental groove to tackle this years race. When I finally got around to preparing and packing, I only did it the morning I was to drive to the event centre to set up our campsite.
I drove up with fellow Bermer Argo and followed him into Bundanoon. At the town hall we caught up with Roger and Alyssa and registered for the next days race. A quick drive through town to the Bundanoon Pony Club and we started setting up our camp and The Berm HQ for the weekend.
.:The Berm HQ:.
We spent the rest of the daylight hours getting our bikes ready, eating dinner, drinking some beers before heading to bed for an early night before the inevitable rain settled in. We spent the rest of the daylight hours getting our bikes ready, eating dinner, drinking some beers before heading to bed for an early night before the inevitable rain settled in.
.:The F is not for female:.
.:The bikes ready to roll:.
I awoke to the sounds of the other riders getting out of their tents and going about their pre-race routine. I slowly ventured out into the cold and drizzling morning and headed straight for the coffee van. I had organised my riding gear, water and food the day before so all I had to do was strap my dodgy left knee and get changed. I sat in my chair for a while procrastinating about taking my warm clothes off and putting on my non-warming lycra.
.:How the Fling organisers wake the slow risers:.
.:Berm HQ before the race:.
.:My pre-race photo:.
The start of the race was a very slow unclipped roll until we reached the road a few hundred metres from the start line. Once on the road many riders started speeding off down the road. I chuckled to myself as I had made this mistake last year. Unless you are racing for the podium there is no real reason to head for the front of the pack in the first 5km as at numerous points it will bottle neck and slow you down.
As I expected the bottle necking was I full effect on the first fire road climb and soon I was passing the very riders that sped past me not 10 minutes before. I’m not the most technical or fast rider but I damn well make sure I can out climb most riders.
As the race progressed the rain settled in and the temperature dropped. I was not enjoying the race and when I caught up to Roger with a torn sidewall on his tyre I realised I wasn’t the only one. As the race went on the field started to spread out.
Soon we entered the first parts of the single track and was met with a dramatic decrease in speed. It was apparent a lot of the riders were able to smash out a fast pace on the fire roads but once on the single track came to a near halt. I was passing riders on the winding climbs and not being passed at all; a strange occurrence for me.
Riders that had flown past me 15 minutes before on a fire road decent were now walking their bikes along some of the not so technical trails. This for me was a massive boost in confidence and I pushed on into the Wingello National Forest section of the race.
This part of the course was more tricky and definitely required me to pay more attention. As the rain was now quite set in, this part of the course had become quite muddy and very slippery. As we wound down into the small gully it became obvious that some climbing would be coming up and soon I was seeing signs declaring that “The Wall” was fast approaching.
I sped into the start of the short but very steep climb, selected a gear and pushed up the hill trying to keep the front tyre on the ground. I made it three quarters of the way up before a walking rider decided he wanted to walk on the line I was riding without looking behind him. I came to a halt and almost fell onto the ground; he gave me half-hearted apology and I gave him a hot-tip about how not to be a dickhead to other riders.
After the wall came some more winding single track with some very tight corners. There were a few drop offs and tight squeezes through trees. I was enjoying myself and thankful I run very narrow 600mm bars so I could slip through the tight areas with no issues.
After pushing myself a little into the red zone I started to wonder when the next feed station was as I was running low on water. I was doing the math in my head trying to work out how far the next feed station was and then how far the second transition point was.
I was busy looking at my GPS and watch when I felt my front tyre starting to slip out from under me. I gave the back brakes a little tap to bring the bike level and careened into a tree trunk with my left leg. I kept the bike up right and continued on for a few metres before my leg started to cramp.
I pulled over when I reached the next area of fire road to try and stretch out my leg. Instantly I felt every muscle from my hip down to my calf tense and cramp up simultaneously. After a few minutes of light stretching I decided to keep riding and soon saw a sign indicating I was approaching the much needed feed station.
I paused at the station for around 10 minutes before I finally made the choice to withdrawal from the race. I had made it to the 55km point and knew I wouldn’t be able to finish the next 60(ish)km of the race.
A disappointing end to a race I hadn’t really found my flow in but I was glad I had given it a go. I rolled back to the transition point and was driven back to the event centre. At The Berm HQ Argo and Alyssa had just finished their Half Fling race and Roger was already clean and changed after retiring with his busted tyre.
I probably won’t ride in next years Highland Fling but won’t rule it out in future years.
.:My post race photo:.
.:A good reason not to wear a predominantly white jersey:.