Sunday, 13 December 2015

2 years in Scotland, Christmas lights and new plans for 2016

Suddenly it was October again. I had been in Scotland 2 years and what better way to celebrate my anniversary at my good friend Will and now his brand new wife Patti’s wedding. My UK journey began with a cycling trip to France with Will and his best friend Sam before starting my job almost exactly to the date of his wedding day. I also got to meet the lovely Patty on this trip. I embarked on a holiday without knowing either Sam or Will very well at the time but it ended up one of those adventures of a life time, one which I will treasure forever in my heart. Friendships for life were formed and a blog was written;

Sam, Will and I on top of Ventoux for the 3rd time that day after which we belonged to the Cingles Du Ventoux tribe
It has become so easy to feel anonymous the way I have meandered around the world. For many years now I have had no physical place I call home or can come home to,  although not short of friends I have never belonged to a core group of people who share history, heck I don’t even really belong to a nationality! To be part of such an important day in Will and Patty’s life felt therefore very special and for me it proved that opening up a little to the right people at the right time could give a certain feeling of belonging. A lesson Scotland had taught me well in the last couple of years.
Delighted to be invited to Will's wedding together with Michael and although Will and I meet each other generally in sports gear, this time I left the lycra home and wore a dress
On one hand it was hard to believe that it had been 2 years since I left Australia to pursue my dreams.
Where had time gone? On the other hand it felt like so much had happened, so much had changed, it had been such a roller coaster ride, had it really only been two years?
Will and Patti's wedding must have been one of the high lights of my year after which way to quickly November and December rolled in. 
The day's had become colder and darker, there was snow on top of the hills, the sun had started to play hide and seek (although this is a common occurrence in Scotland) and Christmas had taken over the radio, shopping centres and our living rooms. I am one of those people who would rather skip this time of the year. Straight to January please. Whilst I am writing this blog I am looking at our Christmas tree in the living room and festive decorations on the mantle piece. There is no escaping Christmas living with an idealist like Michael. I am sure he still believes Santa will drop down the chimney on Christmas Eve to bring us presents. There are many people out there who for personal reasons struggle with Christmas and I am one of them. But Michael, and all the lovely people I have met in Scotland the last two years have made it a hell of a lot easier!
With a lack of a family home, for me, home is where the heart is
It is that time of the year again where we reflect, accept and make new plans for 2016. This year was another tough one for me; I am not going to lie about it. After a disappointing racing season in 2014, 2015 was going to be my year, but once again it fell to pieces. After spending the last 3-4 months unstructured training, "moving" would be the better word, I am really eager to start again. Unfortunately my body is still really struggling with fatigue which I have found hard to deal with. My mind and body are not on the same page. Where normally I would push through, reluctantly I have had to back off. If I want to beat this thing then the only answer is rest, and for someone like me this is extremely difficult. I look at pictures of me racing back in 2013 and I wonder, will I ever be that strong again.

Coming 5th Elite female in the Xterra European series in 2013 seems like a distanced memory now
I have found it even more frustrating and difficult to explain it to people around me who try to comfort me with comments like "you are getting older" and "may be it is time to settle down and start a family" I understand it is not maliciously intended but not all people are blessed with that option or is it something they inspire to do. It definitely makes me more stubborn to prove the non-believers wrong, I will be back, age is no barrier unless you make it one yourself.
                                                           Back to snow on the hills!
What are my plans for 2016? I am very happy to be part of  again!
Aloha is an off-road female only team , with which we try to inspire females to jump on a bike, go for a run, feel the water and give racing a go. We are bunch of off-road athletes scattered around the world connected by a passion for the outdoors.
I feel very lucky to have making me look good again for 2016, their colourful MTB clothing make a nice change from all the lycra, plus the girls on the team are plain awesome!!

                                                  The cool colours of Flare
I am looking forward to spending time in the French mountains with coach Nico at the end of January, where I will as he puts it be 'reborn'. Other than a great coach, Nico has been a great friend to me, we have made a pact that we would stick by each other until there are tears of joy after a race rather than tears of frustration. I love the philosophy of his coaching company and after two season's hopefully 2016 will be third time lucky!!

The most important thing for me next season is to feel physically normal and strong again. I will have to be careful not to push myself back in that hole of overtraining. I started the sport very late in life and I suppose I tried to cheat time, make up for the lack of experience and lack of mileage in my body by training as much as I could around the hours of being an equine veterinarian.  This did not work, I have learnt a very hard lesson and I am determined to not let it happen again. I am a racer though so off course I have goals for 2016. I would love to make it back to the start line of the UCI MTB Marathon World Championships which are held in France next year, I also have a few Xterra's on the calendar including the  Xterra World Championships on Maui, but it will all depend on how I recover. As airy fairy as it sounds, I have to  find a way to re-connect with my body again!

Dare a little
I am very lucky to have some amazing friends all over the world but especially the ones I deal with on a daily basis and stand by this chaotic roller coaster life of mine. After bad performances
they would patiently comfort me by saying things like “you should be proud of being able to reach the start line of a World Championships representing your country regardless of the results, many people can only dream of that.”  and stubborn me would immediately dismiss their kindness in my head by thinking “they don’t understand.”  But as I am getting older (although I don't like to admit this) and slightly wiser I am also starting to be a little kinder to myself and try to be proud of what I have achieved rather than always concentrating on what I haven't been able to. In the scheme of things when I look back on the last 12 months, really what do I have to complain about? A few pictures to reflect another adventure filled year.

"strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will" Ghandi

Becoming part of Team Flare and making great friends

                                                           Showing form on the MTB
                                    Spending numerous adventures with this amazing man
Being back in Europe meant a long weekend in the Alps in March!
My passion for horses and my passion for sports is equally strong

My first podium for Flare coming 2nd in the overall Bowhill Winter Duathlon series

My first UCI MTB Marathon World cup in Belgium in May, one of the most competitive cycling countries in the World where I raced my heart out and walked away with an 18th place and a ticket to the World Champs in Italy
Slowly reconnecting with long lost family, my cousin Theo supporting me in Belgium and who now has bought a serious race MTB, two Oostra's racing watch out!!
  Teaming up with the lovely Marie Meldrum in Ten Under the Ben and taking out the women's race a week before MTB Worlds
Confirmation from the Dutch MTB Federation representing the Netherlands at the World Champs in Italy was a magic feeling
What an experience racing World champs in the Dutch colours
The most brutal race I have ever ridden, I was disappointed with a bad race for 57th but when I think about it I would probably not have been capable of riding this course two years ago, I have come a long way in the marathon discipline
one of my few podiums spots in a road triathlon, Glencoe half ironman
The mighty Inferno, the memory still makes my heart bleed. You broke me but I will be back for you

Catching up with one of my favourite people in my life, Lexie. If only you lived closer
The first thing I did after cutting my racing season short thanks to great friends I could smile again
Scotland with all your wilderness, I love you

 Fynn, picture speaks a thousand words

Racing the Dutch National Marathon champs after a month off the bike, loved it

Getting to know this super star, Jantiene

what better way than trying a new sport during the winter! picked up a 2nd hand cx bike after Will's wedding

Doesn't matter I am not very fast at this cx business! Thanks to Flare, Aloha and at least I look good!!

Learning new bike skills, I did manage to ride that towards the end of the race!!

Lucky to have colleagues who are also my close friends

"as soon as I met you, I knew an adventure was going to happen" Milne

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