It is that time of the year again where the Christmas spirit takes over and even the most serious of individuals become cynically interested in the festive season. Houses, trees and streets are covered with decorations and pretty Christmas lights whilst the songs “Fairytail of New York” by The Pogues and “All I want for Xmas is you” by Mariah Carey are taking over the radio stations.
This year, for me, instead of cooling down in the ocean after a long hot bike ride under the Australian sun, I am spending time with light torches balancing on my head wearing triple layers of clothing trying to beat day light in chilling temperatures I haven’t had to endure for a long time.
Most people think I am absolutely insane to have left behind the beauty of Sydney beaches for the foggy cold Scottish glens. Being extremely bad at goodbyes some of my friends still think I will return to Australia at some point in the near future and are wondering what the hell I am still doing in the UK.
I was however left with not much choice after reaching my due by date on so many levels in Australia. Although I left Sydney with a bleeding heart, it was something I needed to do to chase my dream and try become more competitive on the Xterra European/World Tour.
After a great summer racing Xterra’s I had to get back to reality and face my unemployment issue. I am not someone who wastes much time and the thought of being without an income turned me into a very efficient job hunter and before I knew it I had sent my CV all over the UK and booked in more job interviews over a period of 3 weeks then I have ever done in my entire veterinary career over the past 10 years.
Being a competitive person I was mostly attracted to the high profile jobs, the fancy new clinics with the fancy state of the art equipment. But in the back of my mind I knew that I had been there and done that with not a whole lot of satisfaction or happiness to show for it. I also knew that the stress levels that would come hand in hand with these career jobs would interfere with my training and race goals. And after a full week of interviews I was left feeling deflated. I started to doubt whether it was possible to combine a veterinary career with my desire of being an elite athlete. Missing friends and the familiarity of the life I left behind in Sydney, I had to remind myself a couple of times of the reasons why I returned to Europe.
Running coach Alister Russel was the one who pointed me towards Scotland, he found a job advertisement looking for an equine veterinarian in Kirriemuir, about 90min North from Edinburgh with an on call rota which would give me enough free time to pursue my sports. At first I was a bit reluctant for the obvious reasons, the weather reputation of Scotland for one and it felt very far away. Alister however had already decided it was the job for me and had done some research in the area finding a 50m swimming pool close by, a good running track and a local gym. Sorted. When I drove up for the interview, Scottish athlete Rory Downie took me for a MTB ride and it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the beauty of Scotland. In true off road style we ended up lost somewhere in the hills, having to hike a bike up some crazy steep narrow muddy climbs which were rewarded with awesome gnarly fast descents all set in breath taking scenery. This was truly a training paradise!!
I got taken to the local pub for lunch at the job interview, what a great way to assess your future employee! Out of the 4 directors I learned that there was one ultra-marathon trail runner, one motor bike trials champion and one mountaineering enthusiast. They were very interested in my sporting achievements which ended up the topic of almost 80% of the interview. After spending the afternoon at their surgery in Kirriemuir I found out that most of the staff was into outdoor activities, needless to say it I felt I had found the right place and was super excited when I got offered the position.
I have been asked a lot why did I chose the UK as my new destination and not some warm tropic location in the South of France? My veterinary degree from Massey University in NZ is recognised by the British Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the ease of me working and communicating in the English language is something to which I have become very accustomed to after 10 years in practice, which made it the most obvious choice. The job in Scotland offered me everything I needed in order to combine my sports with my career including the support from my bosses which was important to me.Major airports close by like Edinburg, Aberdeen and Glasgow make it very easy to fly to any Europe destination for a weekend of racing without having to take a lot of time off work. All of this combined, Kirriemuir offered the perfect location for me to start fresh with new goals and aspirations after a roller coaster of a year trying to find the right balance between my job, my sports, and my personal life.
When I think back about the last 12 months and how I got where I am now, I have to thank my involvement with the MarathonMTB team this year. Their support helped me get in touch with so many different people passionate about anything to do with a bike, which opened so many doors for me on an athletic level. I will highly miss being part of the Australia Subaru-MarathonMTB team, and owe big boss Mike Blewitt a huge thank you for all his help this passed season.
Over the next few cold, dark and wet winter months I will be nicely warm training in the indoor pool working on my swimming. I have already noticed some improvement from my Nemo impersonation swim action after joining the Dundee City Aquatics Masters swim squad in the past month. I have also signed up with retired World Champion Nico Lebrun for coaching where I will be part of his Organicoach Xterra team. I am looking forward to learning from all Nico’s experiences and I have no doubt he will help me prepare in the best way possible for the 2014 season.
The Mountain bike still being my favourite leg in any off road triathlon and with no shortage of MTB events in Scotland I am hoping to improve my skills at the local races with the odd international MTB race across the ditch. My main target for 2014 will be the Xterra European Series whilst hoping to represent the Netherlands at the ITU Cross Tri World Championships in Germany, the ETU Cross Tri European Championships and of course the Xterra World Championships in Maui in October. Plenty to look forward to.
A new country, a new job, new people and new goals, I have done this many times before in many different places. I am extremely grateful for the way I have been so easily accepted and made feel welcome at Thrums Veterinary group and its clients, the Dundee City Aquatics and its members and the friendly inhabitants of bonny Scotland who have crossed my path so far. It has made this move a lot easier for me.
To all my friends all over the world, I wish you a very merry Christmas and a New Year filled with countless adventures, joy and good health. Bring on 2014.
Photo credit goes to Kath Bicknell and Daniel Loots