3 years ago I made the decision to leave all I knew behind in Australia, put my veterinary career on the back burner and pursue my dream of becoming a professional athlete. I quit my job and took the leap of faith travelling with my mountain bike to Europe to race the 2013 Xterra European Series and a few MTB Marathon’s as an elite athlete. When I look back now, I was never really happy with any of my achievements. Always looking ahead putting huge amount of pressure on myself instead of looking back and be happy with how far I had come in a small amount of time. I wanted to be better, stronger, faster and the concept of being proud of finishing a race was a foreign concept to me. Since I only discovered the sport in my thirties I had no time left, it was now or never, all or nothing. There were no excuses. I did not allow it.
I made life long friends racing the European series in 2013
Whilst racing in the Summer of 2013 money became scarce and I was looking for a low profile job where I could be a veterinarian to support my dreams but also having enough free weekends and holiday’s to train and race hard. I was not looking for anything else, I was not looking to make friends, or gain a social life and I was definitely not looking to settle anywhere. I had one vision and one vision only, to become a successful elite athlete, wether I had to work full time or not. I accepted a job at Thrums Vet Group in Kirriemuir, Scotland, thinking it was in an ideal location to train in the beautiful Glens with good working hours in a friendly environment. (I managed to overlook one minor detail being the extreme Scottish weather conditions!!) Within the first two weeks I found myself a great swim club with DCA Masters in Dundee, a great bike shop in Nicholson Cycles willing to give me support for my bikes and a running club in Dundee Hawks Harriets proven to produce champions. Sorted. All I needed to do was train and the results would follow. And so I did, day in day out, 2-3 times a day whilst working full day’s, early 5am swim starts, lunch time run's, late evening long rides, in the dark, in the rain, in the snow and freezing conditions, every week I ticked off the sets presented to me on my program, nobody could stop me. 2014 was going to be my season.
I have always been able to count on Colin and the team of Nicholson Cycles in the last three years
People who read my blogs know that it did not pan out this way. One of the things I was confronted with was that this low profile job I chose did not really work the way I had intended it! Turned out I was not the person who could just see a job for a job and leave it at the door came 5pm. I loved the challenge to improve the level of horse care offered by the practice and raising the level of expertise by helping my colleagues and clients. Although the working hours at Thrums were much more controlled than in my previous jobs, being a vet was as much part of being me as it had always been and I realised it did not mean any less to me as the desire to be an athlete.
Standing on the start line with sporting hero's like multiple MTB World Champion Annika Langvad almost felt surreal at times!!
Slowly but surely I started to feel torn between my professional world as a vet and me wanting to break into the professional world as an athlete, and unfortunately there was not much if not to say no overlap between the two worlds. At work I was seen as crazy spending 5 hours on the bike in temperatures below zero, and to my fellow athletes it was hard to explain that I had to work weekend duty and on call shifts, which sometimes meant I had no days off for two consecutive weeks, that I had no choice in missing important races due to work commitments or that I was replying to work emails about sick horses just before the start of a race. I tried my hardest to combine the two worlds, it was my dream, it was my existence, it was what I came out to do moving back to Europe but I learned that it was simply unrealistic.
As my sporting plan started to unravel and the strength in my body started to fade dealing with disappointment after disappointment I realised that my life in Scotland was not anonymous like I planned it to be, I realised that my colleagues were not just work mates but they had become close friends and my training buddies were not just people I trained with but people who cared and supported me and reached out when things got tough. Somehow in this roller coaster life of mine I found a home and the people surrounding me had become my family.
I began to wonder if I had the right personality to become a full time athlete when given the perfect circumstances, and if the diversity in my personality would have been able to handle the 100% focus required to reach the top. I read about athletes suffering from mental health issues after retiring from elite level racing as the one thing they had always lived for and focussed on was no longer there. I realised that with my disappointing athletic career I was lucky to be able to fall back on a profession I was equally as passionate about.
From a young age horses have been a huge part of my life
And as most things in my life seem to have a way of working out for the best, an opportunity to work for the equine department of the Edinburgh Veterinary University presented itself at a moment I needed it the most. When one door closes another one opens.
I am looking forward to going back into specialised equine practice and focussing on my veterinary career again, that is not to say I have closed the door completely on my athletic dreams. I still need to work on overcoming the feeling of failure as an athlete and be proud of the results I have achieved. Giving my mind and body time to recover from the pressures I put it under over the last three years. As the feeling of speed and strength have occasionally returned during my training runs, rides and even swims in the last couple of months so has the desire to keep on improving as an athlete, in what way, shape or form I really am not sure, but I will never stop dreaming of the impossible.
Scotland stole my heart
3 years ago I came to this little place called Kirriemuir owning not much more than a few bikes, a bag of clothes and my loyal 4 footed friend Fynn. I asked for nothing and in return I got given a world filled with adventure, laughter, friendships and love, a place I could call home. Scotland truly stole my heart. Catching me when I fell, dusting me off in Sottish manner and putting me back on my feet again. Many thanks to all, not just in Scotland but all over the world for the support over the last crazy 3 years, here is to the next exciting chapter!!
“Only as high as I reach can I grow, only as far as I seek can I go, only as deep as I look can I see, only as much as I dream can I be”