How I Think After Finke…
6 Lessons for Business & Life
Gasping for breath in a plume of dust when no oxygen would go into my lungs will stay with me forever. It seemed like my helmet exacerbated the problem and although it single handily saved me from acquiring a head injury, I immediately felt like it was specifically designed to suffocate me.
With my bike no where to be seen I found myself staggering away from the track trying to suck air with no success. Holding my chest and back I knew I had a problem, a pretty damn big problem.
Most “Offs” in life come to a head very quickly, although often the tell tail signs seemingly add up a long time before peaking.
I had come off my enduro dirt bike at high speed (80Km’s per hour) at the 100Km mark on Day 1 in the famous Finke Desert Race in the Simpson Desert, Northern Territory Australia.
The Question Is: “What Do You Do Then?”
Over the next 24 hours the answer to this question provided me with 6 x Key Lessons that will stay with me forever…
Luckily for me I’d crashed in front of 20 people on a desolate white rocky rise section of the track just like a photo from Mars. People flooded around me to offer first aid while another group recovered my bike off the track now some 30 meters away.
I can’t remember what they really said, all I can remember is they were caring. After a few minutes re-grouping I figured out I had 2 options:
1) Get medivaced (I’d heard helicopters fly over about 20 Km’s back)
2) Carry On
I decided #2. With still 130 Km’s still to travel I decided to get back on the bike and finish Day 1. All I could think about (apart from pain of every bump in my rib cage) was my “Support Crew” – my beautiful wife Georgie and 3 daughters back at the start line in Alice Springs.
Although I couldn’t verbally communicate with Georgie and the girls for 2 days, we were communicating big time. Georgie and the girls knew something was wrong; there was a disruption in energy. Post the event we shared our feelings that we were communicating whilst the event was in progress – Georgie could feel pain, frustration & concern whilst I could feel love, encouragement & a sense of pride.
Some 3 hours later and as the sun was starting to go down I limped into the isolated Aboriginal Community of Aputula commonly referred to as ‘Finke’ (because it sits on the Finke River) in the middle of the Simpson Desert where a mini-city is built to host the Finke Desert Race on this day, every Queens Birthday weekend for the last 40 years.
God bless the Royal Flying Doctors, as after assessing me we/I came to the opinion (without any X-Ray/CT equipment) that although I had some serious “structural” damage in my rib cage and back, I ‘felt’ I didn’t have any internal organ bleeding and would see how the night would play out. And play out it did.
That night’s sleep was the toughest sleep I’ve ever had. I woke (even though I didn’t really sleep) with some serious demons at play telling me everything from “Just Quit Now” to “You’re a Reckless Husband/Father”.
At the brink of deciding to quit and amongst a flood of tears I said to my mechanic Lewie who I’d only met 3 days earlier “Will my bike get me home?” and Lewie confidently answered “The bike’s fine, it was made for this”.
What came out of my mouth then will also remain with me forever, “Well, all the ‘Do-Gooders’ will frown on me for what I’m about to do, but I’m going to finish what I started and ride this bike home to my family and Lewie, you tell Georgie to wait at the finish line even if it’s into the night, as I’m going to finish this!”.
Long story short, after 8hrs and 58 minutes (and 2 mins to spare before the cut off) I rode that bike up the home strait in Alice Springs standing tall on the pegs with a fist pump to the cheer of my family, Lewie and the crowd.
I was the last to finish under the time limit, that’s right, ‘LUCKY LAST’. But in my mind I finished 1st. I survived Finke!!!
6 Lessons for Business & Life:
1. Health Goal
I must always have a health goal in front of me. Simply going to the gym or for a run just doesn’t cut it and I know I’ll slip backwards in my health. Hence forth, I will always have an annual fitness event in front of me, however Georgie and I have made an agreement that future events won’t involve the possibility of death. Additionally, I trained 6 months to get into shape for Finke and since have forever given up some of life’s so called pleasures, as they just don’t serve me e.g. beer. Finally, if I had not been so fit I am convinced my injuries would have been life threatening.
2. Being Present
I’m convinced my accident happened because I wasn’t present. “When I’m not present, I get hurt” is now my new motto. After the accident and all of day 2 I was literally screaming the next checkpoint out in my helmet to get me present and when I slipped back to thinking about something else, I’d started screaming out the next checkpoint. The power is in the present!
3. Taking Support for Granted
The importance of an amazing support crew is profound. In life I’d sometimes taken the quality of the support crew for granted and therefore not been truly being grateful. Never take your support crew for granted and moreover, be truly grateful, for without them, we are seriously less.
The mission was organised with military precision (and needed to be). It taught me when I truly prepare there’s not much I can’t achieve.
5. Assessing Risk
Assessing risk was key and I saw a new level I’ve never seen in myself before. 2 majors for assessing risk A) Without “Ego” (i.e. she’ll be right mate or just toughen up) and B) Not from a place of “Fear” (i.e. what will everyone think about me or what if I fall off again). Assessing risk with pure logic is omnipotent!
6. Breaking a Goal Down
The race (specifically day 2) taught me the power of chunking a goal down. The mere fact of facing that terrain and 230km’s of Whoops (30cm to 2 meter deep corrugation bumps) with my injuries was overwhelming therefore I broke it down to 10km’s chunks that were signposted. That’s the only way I could get my head around the journey and goal. You can’t eat an elephant in one seating, therefore you have to chunk it down to swallow it.
2015 Finke Desert Race Survivor
Bruce’s crash resulted in breaking 5 x ribs (3 in 2 places) plus a vertebrae in the thoracic region of his back.
Over half the field failed to complete the race. The unofficial comment spoken around the event when a competitor “Did Not Finish” (DNF) is “Was it Bike or Body?”.
Bruce was riding to raise funding and awareness for the Sunshine Coast Children’s Therapy Centre where his daughter Abigail Campbell had attended.
2 weeks after Finke, Bruce & his family, and with the help of 150 abundant people donated a cheque to the Sunshine Coast Children’s Therapy Centre for $15,000.