Eight weeks have passed since I crossed the finish line at the Paralympic Games in Rio and yet it feels a lot longer. People talk about post Olympic/Paralympic Blues; the big down after such a big high after the accumulation of years of hard work and focus. For me life has been fantastic since I returned from Rio – a lot of fun celebrating Rio but also lots of exciting opportunities for the future. The one question that I keep getting asked is “what are you actually doing now?”. It’s a good question and actually probably easier to answer in terms of what I am not doing first!
My sabbatical from Deloitte ended on 3 October 2016 and I am not returning to work as a Forensic Accountant. I have had a lot of time to think about what I really WANT to do with my life since I started the sabbatical and being an accountant is not it. I had a great career working in London for 14 years and was fortunate to work alongside some truly talented people from whom I learnt a lot, which I will use in the future. The sabbatical presented an opportunity to make a career change and I know I would regret not seizing this.
For seven years I have been privileged to compete at the highest level in paratriathlon and witness firsthand the growth and development of the sport on the world stage. Having the chance to race in the inaugural Paralympic Games was the perfect finale to my paratriathlon career. I was lucky to be able to race there but at the same time I think I did earn the right to be on the start line. However, the younger athletes are starting to come through and will take paratriathlon to the next level; exactly how it should be. It is now time for me to step away from elite paratriathlon and so at the end of the year I will step down from the UKSport National Lottery funded paratriathlon World Class Performance Programme, of which I have been a part since its inception in 2013. It has been a truly life-changing experience, made all the more special by all the fantastic people I have met through paratriathlon. There have been many highs and lows but I have no regrets 🙂
Since 2000 I have either been an accountant, an elite athlete or both simultaneously and so it is not surprising people may be questioning what I am doing now. Whilst I had a clear idea of what I may want to do, I also want to ensure I explore all possibilities and not rush straight into something new. I am fortunate to be in a position that I can take some ‘time out’ to do this.
Last year I started an MSc Psychology (conversion) course online part-time with Manchester Metropolitan University. Primarily I wanted something to do alongside training and needed something to occupy my brain so it did not over-think and dwell on triathlon. I have loved the course, thoroughly enjoyed the process of studying again and it has gone extremely well. I will be completing that course this year and I am then applying to do an MSc in Sport and Exercise Psychology starting next year.
However, this is not the end of my involvement in triathlon. I have been re-elected as a paratriathlete representative on the ITU Athletes’ Committee and am still a Board member of the British Triathlon Federation. I take both of these roles very seriously and hope to have more time to contribute to them in the next couple of years, ensuring the athletes’ voices are heard and the sport continues to develop and grow as we now focus on Tokyo 2020. In addition I am exploring several other roles with British Triathlon, including some work with the Talent programme, which I am very excited about. Watch this space 😉
Whilst I am no longer an elite athlete, I still love the sport and want to continue competing. Having focused on sprint distance triathlon for so long, I am looking forward to changing direction and will compete in some longer distance races in 2017 over the Olympic and 70.3 distances. Having raced surprisingly well in an Olympic distance race in June this year, I am intrigued to see what I can do over these new distances and my motivation has been re-invigorated. I am very fortunate to have the continued support from my sponsors Skechers Performance, Zone3 wetsuits and Dassi bikes as well as securing a couple of new sponsors. As I will now be training and racing for longer, nutrition and comfort of kit will be important, new considerations. Therefore, I am very excited to start working with HIGH5 nutrition and Raceskin kit in 2017. They are both British companies with a focus on excellence. They are also both sponsors of my first middle distance triathlon; the Outlaw Half Nottingham in May next year. It will be a new learning curve racing over the longer distances but with fantastic support I am confident and excited by the prospect.
And so, whilst I have no idea what I will be doing in five years time (a popular question in appraisals during my career as an accountant), I know there are plenty of opportunities out there and I will explore them all but ultimately I will ensure I am happy and have fun in the process.