Guest Article: Rule VI – Racing to Recover

End of Lap 1 at Camp Pendleton. Photo by Soldier On

It is my great pleasure to bring @Dan_R’s article to the Velominati. Frank has recently written about cycling as an addiction. It’s a “good” addiction but it is more than that. We worry about our Strava numbers, debate sock height, but forget that the simple act of cycling with others can offer more than just an endorphin buzz. Cycling can help heal body and soul. Viva La Vie Velominatus.

Yours in Cycling, Gianni

Application of Rule V is certain and clear. Victory, however, can be defined many ways. My most recent addition to my palmares may be a case in point. Here is the story.

In writing this article for my fellow Velominati, you will all learn more about me than many of my family, friends, and past acquaintances know about me. Not only am I retiring from the Canadian Army this spring, but I am retiring for medical reasons. It seems that the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that I have been living with since my 2008 Rotation in Kandahar, Afghanistan effects me enough to no longer be advantageously employed by the Canadian Forces. After 20 years and making my way through the ranks from Private to Captain, this has been a tough pill to swallow. Due to the recuperative powers of Rule VI, I have managed my PTSD and inevitable retirement with some panache.

In early January, after returning to work after my Christmas Leave, I was selected to represent the Canadian Army at the United States Marine Corps Trials in Camp Pendleton, California. The USMC Trials is a multisport Paralympics training and competition event that the Marines use to reintroduce sports and athletics to wounded warriors and to select the Marine Corp team for the 2012 Warrior Games. At the Warrior Games, as defending champions, the Marines will compete against the other US military arms for bragging rights and the Warrior Cup. The US Paralympics Committee attends both events in order to scout potential new elite talent. Athletic categories are structured under the rules of the International Paralympics guidelines with an additional “Open” category for those warriors that suffer from PTSD, TBIs, cancers, and other illnesses that effect military service. While the Warrior Games does not invite allied nations to participate and compete, the Marines, looking for additional competition, do invite allies from Canada, the UK, Australia, the Netherlands, Germany, France, and Columbia. In order to further generate some fierce competition, the Marines establish teams of Marines East, Marines West, Veterans, and Allies. While I was representing Canada in rifle shooting as well as cycling, my heart and effort was clearly on the bike race. We received six days of intensive training and coaching before we pined on numbers on the morning of 19 February.

Every one of us rides for something. The cycling world if full of hyperbole and reverent prose. Hell, we are a large part of it. After Afghanistan, I continued to ride my bike as I tried to continue my life with my family and in the military. But much was wrong. My whole world was different and I could not explain it. I had lost all motivation at work, I was blocking out my family, and most of the time I was in a deep bad place. While I hadn’t noticed yet, I had little reprieve from my dance with the darkness, but two sources were very important. First my family – a wife that is beyond supportive, and two daughters that could melt any troubled thoughts away. The second was my bike. I found relief from depression, anger, hate, misery, and anxiety from turning the pedals. In my early fight with PTSD, this was not obvious to me. I would avoid riding, but I could not understand why. I could not bring myself to get back into racing, hell, even club rides were avoided.

Fortunately, I did ride on occasion, and a neighbor (@trustnoone) asked about riding in our small town. This led to more cycling as I had committed to riding with others, a sacred act of the Velominati. This rekindled my love of the sport and I found myself forced into longer group rides and even racing again. It was not easy. The mind games one plays with oneself before racing exponentially rise with PTSD. The physical manifestations can be literally debilitating. But I found that once on the road, these troubles would all fade away. So when an opportunity came to represent the Canadian Forces in Camp Pendleton, I jumped at it.

I found at Camp Pendleton an extended brotherhood that was all supportive of each other. Yet, wanted to hammer you in competition. Very much like the Velominati! The experience was life altering in a positive way. I have made inroads on living with PTSD (although there are still bad days), I am easier to live with and better with my family and I have found a stronger new passion for cycling. So much so that I will be building my post-military life around cycling including working with the Paralympic movement, establishing a full time bicycle business, and moving to a cycling friendly community. As the USMC Wounded Warrior Regiment motto says, “Still in the Fight.”

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51 Replies to “Guest Article: Rule VI – Racing to Recover”

  1. Wow Dan, thank you very much for sharing something that has clearly had a big impact on your life. Glad to hear you’ve found a way forward and will continue to recover! Keep us updated on the bike stuff you get involved with after your retirement.

  2. The best contributions to this site””the articles and the comments””are invariably the ones that are drawn from very specific personal experiences. This is a powerful and deeply moving example of such. Best of luck going forward!

  3. Pretty sure @Steampunk said it best. Wow. What a great article.

    There are many times recently that I am finding stress (although not as serious as PTSD) becoming my excuse NOT to ride. That is truly the time that I should.

    Need more Keepers in my area. Time to bang the drum…

  4. Well done indeed!!!

    In a related note, a few weeks ago at a local Century, I got to chat with the Captain (Mike Matney) of 4MIL’s Wounded Warrior RAAM team. To come back from being wounded in combat to taking on one of the toughest sporting events in the world: the members of that team redefine the term hard men!

  5. Dan – Thank you for sharing & congratulations for working through your problems in a very positive way. We all ride for different reasons but for many of us it helps us in ways far beyond just physical fitness. Incredible that the simple act of getting back on the bike has been so important and helpful to you. Glad to read this!

  6. Wow. That one hits deep. Well written. Brother, never forget that you are not alone, someone will always be there if you need them.

    I look forward to buying you a drink when we meet up in the future somewhere.

  7. I’ve got a lump in my throat after reading this. What an incredible story, @Dan_R, and thanks for sharing. I’m humbled that you chose our platform to express these feelings.

    I’m also no even more excited to receive the wheels your are sending me and you can be I’ll do anything I can to help you along the way as you build out your business.

    Cheers, and good luck in your personal and professional endeavors.

    I also didn’t realize Canada had an army.*

    *Sorry, couldn’t resist.

  8. Pretty sure any comments about recumbents get checked at the door here. Nothing but Rule V in those things. Wonderful article, and I hope writing it was as great an experience as reading it. Truly an inspiration. Cheers to you and thanks for all you’ve done for all of us.

  9. Great stuff. Thanks for sharing your story. Best wishes for the new business and new life. I second all of the comments above. (Except Frank’s joke about the Canadian army – it’s the type of low blow we Kiwis expect from @Marcus, so I empathize with your outrage.))

  10. great article @Dan_R i wish you all the best for your future projects, please keep us updated.

  11. Chapeau – if I can find an excuse to visit Canada again I’ll make sure I visit your shop Dan. Look forward to seeing a cool website showing your wares soon.

  12. Very cool. The very dictionary definition of Champions right there. Best of luck with your PTSD and your new life, Dan.

  13. @Dan_R
    Thank you. For many things.

    There is little doubt that those who sign up for a life in the armed forces are a special breed. Thoughts of honour, and service I would imagine are to the forefront of your minds when you began. Of course the thought of sacrifice must always be there as well as I’m certain that such things are ingrained in your training.

    I’m not a military man. I don’t believe in war. I’m one who had always secretly hoped that world events would never again result in forced enlistment. To date that has been the case. I have lived my life like many others, focussing only on the lives of my friends and family.

    That is not to say however that we should not acknowledege and celebrate men and women, like yourself who have served, and have sacrificed.
    I cannot know what your experiences were in Afganistan, and really don’t want to. Your pain is something no doubt deeply personal.

    What I can offer is gratitude. For the service you’ve given and the sacrifices that you’ve made. And not least, that you are beginning to find a way out of your pain through cycling. It gives joy, and from that you are making plans for the future.

    Thank you for what you’ve done and what you’re doing Dan_R. Being part of this great cycling community is a wonderful thing and one that I hope for your sake will bring to bear all of its restorative powers to you.

  14. First, thank you for your service and best of luck in the future.
    Second, I can’t remember where I first saw this but maybe it will help or at least amuse.

    A Zen teacher saw five of his students returning from the market, riding their bicycles. When they arrived at the monastery and had dismounted, the teacher asked the students, “Why are you riding your bicycles?”

    The first student replied, “The bicycle is carrying the sack of potatoes. I am glad that I do not have to carry them on my back!” The teacher praised the first student, “You are a smart boy! When you grow old, you will not walk hunched over like I do.”

    The second student replied, “I love to watch the trees and fields pass by as I roll down the path!” The teacher commended the second student, “Your eyes are open, and you see the world.”

    The third student replied, “When I ride my bicycle, I am content to chant nam myoho renge kyo.” The teacher gave praise to the third student, “Your mind will roll with the ease of a newly trued wheel.”

    The fourth student replied, “Riding my bicycle, I live in harmony with all sentient beings.” The teacher was pleased, and said to the fourth student, “You are riding on the golden path of non-harming.”

    The fifth student replied, “I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle.” The teacher sat at the feet of the fifth student and said, “Ahh…. I am your student!”

  15. @frank

    I also didn’t realize Canada had an army.*

    *Sorry, couldn’t resist.

    I know this was tongue-in-cheek, but the Canadian Army has been put in a lot more dust-ups than our American Army. Their pols put them in all sorts of shitty garden spots, not just Iraq or AFG. I was drinking a near beer with a Canadian peer in Bosnia (I think), and he was talking about it. I’ve watched ever since how far afoot those boys go.

    Chapeau Dan.

  16. Thanks Dan. This is a great story. It’s good there is a cycling angle or we would never know about it. And it’s given you a new career too. Outstanding.

    I love this photo. Brothers in arms, a bike as the weapon and a prosthetic leg on a warrior.

    All- I think Dan is in transit to some cycling madness weekend and may be out of touch for a bit.

  17. @Gianni

    I love this photo. Brothers in arms, a bike as the weapon and a prosthetic leg on a warrior.

    Crap. I had such a witty remark about Marines and something about jackassery, and now it’s gone to the ether. Oh well, I do love the Marines. They provided me countless hours of entertainment over the years.

  18. Gents, thanks to V-mobile, I was able to see this article posted. First, thank you for the kind words and well wishes. I was unsure how I was going to react to a bit of public exposure, but it does really help. A renewed passion also acts as therapy – both physical and mental.


    Nicely put.

    Frank, the wheelbuilding is not only an economic endevour, but also helps me focus and feel good about building something that has a practical use. And yes, for everyone, once I get established, I will invite the V to shop the goods.

    Gianni, thanks for the encouragement to finish the article. As a team, all our open category guys finished, and Blaise, the below the knee amputee, finished just shy of the podium in 4th – he had never ridden a road bike before that week; and Mike on the handbike, also finished 4th in his category.

  19. @Nate

    Yeah, that’s a hand cycle, not a recumbent.

    The one monster on the handbike was my roommate, Joe Townsend from the Royal Marines. He was just 18 when he lost his legs in Helmond in 2008. He gold medaled in 7 different sports. His maturity and drive are inspirational. Too much wisdom at such ayoung age. Oh, and he rode with us in the advanced training rides all though the week.

  20. @Gianni

    Thanks Dan. This is a great story. It’s good there is a cycling angle or we would never know about it. And it’s given you a new career too. Outstanding.

    I love this photo. Brothers in arms, a bike as the weapon and a prosthetic leg on a warrior.

    All- I think Dan is in transit to some cycling madness weekend and may be out of touch for a bit.

    Yes, a much better weapon.

    And yeah, I am getting some kms in this weekend. We drove 13 hours to find some warm weather and elevation! Of course we rode a bit before eating, or sleeping.

  21. @Dan_R
    That is amazing and at the same time I am not in the least surprised he can keep up in a group.

    And do keep us updated on you wheelbuilding endeavours. I am a big believer in handbuilts.

  22. @Dan. Great article, inspiring and great to read. Goodluck in whatever you do, you may find that life outside the forces brings new challenges without your “band of brothers” but know always that you fight your daily battles with the hearts and minds of the Velominati four square with you…

  23. Thank you for the article Dan. It is too easy to sit here an not remember those who have come home both whole and diminished as well as those who do not come home. Also you put cycling into perspective – its not war or even a battle but a great way to find and stay in the straight and narrow when it comes to life.

  24. @Dan_R
    1. It is always a shame when Velomarticles are so meritorious that we cannot hang shit on the writer.
    2. Thank you for your massive contribution to our way of life.
    3. A mate of mine has been involved in the Paralympics as the pilot for a sight-impaired duo. Maybe Veloms could help their local communities in similar activities ?

  25. Fantastic article Dan_R. I was “lucky” enough to serve during the “happy years” of the late 80’s-early 90’s. While not a Marine, I did work a lot with Recon. On the outside I’d shake my head at the bravado of those guys, especially when witnessing a few Gold Wing Ceremonies, but I always respected them. Great luck going forward Sir. scaler911, Seabee- EO3, USN, NMCB 18.

  26. Dan_R, you are amazing. Thank you for your contribution and sacrifice. And bless your family for supporting you.

    I admit, I share Marcus’s desire to hang some shit, but I don’t feel immature and childish enough right now. Instead, I’m feeling very grateful to you and the many other warriors who keep the rest of us in a safe and comfortable place (I’m lookin’ at you, too, Buck Rogers).

    I’d be honored (spelled that correctly) to buy a set of wheels from you. When you’re ready, post info about how to contact you when your new business is up and running.

  27. Well guys, again thanks for the good words! I keep the family my focus, and active with the cycling. All is much better these days. Stress, both good and bad – especially “change” effects me in odd ways, but at least I recongize what hell is going on. Above ground in good.

    We were able to knock off 155km today. Some nice 8-10 degree rollers and 28C, with 20km headwinds for most of it. Worthy of some warm cokes. And a pinot afterwards.

    Angain, thanks!

  28. @Nate
    Everybody capable of riding an regular upright bike departed together and Blaise held my wheel for nearly 2/3s of the race in a 30 breakaway, bofore rolling in with the peloton. He didn’t realize how close he was, otherwise he probably would have attempted to attack out of the peloton.

    He was leading a countre-IED team when he was injured. They found and exploited three unexploded IEDs before he tripped another one on a single call out. While he is now working at our combat engineer school, he recently aced his battle fitnees test and is looking to go back to a regiment.

  29. @Dan_R
    Excellent. Then I feel very comfortable to unload on that fucking hideous helmet of yours. WTF were u thinking?

  30. @Dan_R

    Thank you for your amazing contributions, in vivo and on paper. Sharing such tales with an unknown audience takes a bravery that few recognize. I have had the privilege of working with Veterans at the VA here in Boston as a psychologist-in-training, and have certainly learned as much from them as I have offered.

    I’m so glad that you’ve found some aid in cycling, and as an avid racer myself I understand the role it can play in our lives. Thankfully research is starting to recognize the importance of exercise in mental as well as physical health, and is recommending it along with other proven treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy and prolonged exposure. I had to smile when you said “I didn’t know how I would react to public exposure.” Facing our fears like you have marvelously here is so hard, but so important. Thank you for leading the way in recovery as well as in arms.

  31. Great article, thanks for sharing. And nice reference to Rule VI… classy. I have an addiction to new sets of hand-built wheels… if you are going to ship internationally, let me know.

  32. Riding can do so much more than fitness. And the brotherhood you all share is tremendous. Great piece. Thanks for everything.

  33. Earlier today…

    Captain Dan Richter enrolled in to the Canadian Forces in 1987 as a private with The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada. After his Reserve Basic Training, he served as a rifleman until he decided to transfer to the Regular Forces in 1988. After completing recruit training at CFB Cornwallis and Basic Infantry training at the PPCLI Battle School in Wainwright, Dan was posted to 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, Work Point Barracks, in Esquimalt, BC. While serving with 3 PPCLI, he was employed in Charlie Company, Reconnaissance Platoon, and Mortar Platoon. In addition to the typical CF and NATO Cold War operations and exercises he participated in as a member of 3 PPCLI, in 1989 Dan served at Naval Air Station Bermuda in a support role to NATO anti-sub-marine operations. Yes, he drank a lot of rum and got sunburn on the beach too. In 1992, Dan left the Canadian Forces to pursue an entrepreneurial opportunity and eventually attend university.

    While attending the University of Winnipeg, Dan re-enrolled into the Canadian Forces as an Infantry Officer in 1997, again as a Cameron. While serving with the Camerons, he was employed in various regimental duties including Recruiting Officer, Platoon Commander, and Company 2IC. Also during this time of his career, Dan participated in Op MANDALLIN (CF support to the 1999 Pan-Am Games), trained soldiers at LFWA TC, was seconded to 73 Communications Regiment as the Regimental Operations Officer, and most importantly, he met and married his wife Rita, a Communications Officer, in 2000. After graduation from university and in light of the events of 9/11, looking for full time service he transferred into the Regular Forces as an Army Logistics Officer.

    In 2003, after barely completing second language training at CFB St. Jean, QC, and finishing logistics phase training at CFB Borden, Dan was posted to LFWA TC as the Base Transportation Officer. As the Transportation Officer, he oversaw a ten-fold increase of A & B vehicles to the local vehicle fleet in preparation for the stand-up of the Canadian Manoeuvre Training Centre. Also while at LFWA TC, Dan served as the Quarter Master and as an Observer Controller Trainer with the Training Support Company. In his role as an OCT, Dan was able to influence the training of Reserve Service Battalions across LFWA. Let’s all hope they can all recover. In April 2006, Rita and Dan welcomed their first daughter Danica to the family.

    In the spring of 2006, Dan was posted to 1 Service Battalion at CFB Edmonton as the 2IC of Administration Company. He did not get to stay in that role very long, as he was soon off to CFB Kingston to attend the Army Operations Course. Soon after his successful return from Staff College, Dan was assigned to the National Support Element of Task Force 1-08 to begin work-up training for Op ATHENA Roto 4. In 2008, Dan deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan as the 2IC of Force Protection & Camp Services Company. While Dan was overseas, his wife Rita gave birth to Leah, their second daughter in August 2008. After a hard but successful tour, he returned to his newly expanded family and to CFB Edmonton to become the Base Adjutant.

    After a short period as the Base Adjutant, Dan was posted to CMTC in Wainwright as the Operations Officer of the OCT Group in 2009. As Operations Officer, He successfully navigated the planning and conduct of the OCT Group’s support to Task Force 1-10 training at the United States Army’s Manoeuvre Training Center in Fort Irwin, California. In 2010, Dan was posted across the base to the Integrate Personnel Support Centre and employed as the Projects Officer at CFB Wainwright Headquarters.

    In May 2012, Dan will be retiring from the CF with over 20 years service. Dan and his family will be relocating to the Greater Calgary area, where Rita will be continuing her career with 41 CBG HQ. In retirement, Dan will be expanding his small business venture, Richter Bicycles, into a full-time operation, occasionally getting out for a bike ride or golf game, supporting Rita’s career and raising his daughters, and eventually frightening any of Danica’s and Leah’s potential suitors with grossly exaggerated stories of his days in the army.

    Thanks to all the V, I have a clear and exciting future!

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