Life on the Farm

I thought I would give you a little insight into what I do other than swim, bike, run and stress out about stuff. I am also a dairy farmer.

While dairy farming may not be very popular at the moment, I am not here to argue about the ethics of farming, but give you an insight into how I manage a physically and emotionally challenging job with my triathlon training and life in general.

You can’t beat the creamy taste of fresh Jersey milk.

Right now it is calving season and its all hands on deck to milk the cows, stop them getting sick and make sure the calves are fed and warm. Its hard work and some days are pretty long, but to me it doesn’t feel like ‘work’ its just what needs to be done and is part of life. I help milk the cows twice a day and after each milking I feed the calves. We have our heifer calves who will become part of the herd, and the bobby calves that go on the truck after a few days. Rearing calves requires a lot of patience, but it is so rewarding to watch them grow into big strong cows. The first year of calves I reared are now in the herd and I am a very proud mum!

These little rascals are now in the herd. [Photo: Cliff Shearer]

Building Resilience:
I feel farming has really helped my mindset on those tough training days or races. Right now I am getting lots of practise at digging deep to keep going when you already feel exhausted and done.
A cow might need help or a new calf needs feeding or a fence needs fixing. Knowing how to give your everything each day and practise good recovery strategies, ready to do it all again the next day, is a great parallel to adapting to the volume of triathlon training. Being able to override that quitting feeling has helped massively to push through racing, when everything hurts and all you want to do is have a lie down but you just got to keep going. The other week things at work were super busy and I needed to cut back on training to adequately recover for work. There is a lot of walking/running involved as well as lifting and carrying buckets of milk and calves, so its important that I eat good food and enough of it, as well as getting enough rest. There were definitely some afternoon naps involved.

Being able to deal with it when things turn to custard has been a massive help in coping with my anxiety. You don’t have time to flap around and get worked up over what is happening, you need to act and sometimes pretty quickly as consequences can be severe; fatal or financial. You have the rest of the day to get upset over a favourite cow collapsing, or the herd heading out down the road! Getting upset or frustrated over things just takes your energy away from the task at hand, leaving you even more exhausted. Leave the melt down for your shower.

The Office.

Much of the work is quite repetitive, but no day is the same (milking twice a day and feeding the calves afterward and setting up fences), much like a consistent cycle of triathlon training; swim run Monday, bike Tuesday, run Wednesday etc… but no session feels the same. Consistency is key and I have been able to develop a good routine with work and training, but also be adaptable when I need to. Recently I have also added a much improved eating routine into this to ensure that I can perform my best when I need to and am not getting under fuelled and over trained.

The Cows:
The calves and cows them selves are quite inspiring. The tenacious survival attitude of some of the little calves we drag out of the mud is awesome to see. One I’d almost given up on one, after I rescued her out of the creek, half drowned. I dried her off and wrapped her in hay, and tried to feed her, but she was so cold and weak. I left her for a few hours as other jobs needed to be done. When I returned, to my surprise, she was trying to stand up. I quickly heated up milk for her, which she gulped down enthusiastically. Sometimes the outlook might look bleak, but if you want something enough, you will come out a winner.
The cows are awesome too, each with their own special personality and quirks. They each play a role within the dynamic of the herd and most of them are super friendly and love a good scratch behind the ears before being milked. I find the cows quite calming and meditative when they drift of into their own zone while chewing on cud and chaos could be all around them, but they are at peace. Having such a large creature be so gentle and affectionate towards you definitely makes me feel pretty special and they are the best motivator to get out of bed on a cold wet morning.
Being able to develop a bond with the cows and dogs on farm feels like such an achievement and is a massive confidence boost. Defiantly makes my job feel worth while.

I love having such an active and outdoorsy job, but sometimes it means that I don’t really want to go outside and ride in the mud and rain, having spent all morning being cold, wet and muddy. Other times I love it and find I can cope with bad weather better on race day as getting wet and muddy really doesn’t bother me. Running in the rain is always good, but cleaning your bike after a wet ride is not so fun.

Enough about work and training what about home life and my partner? Well it helps that he is super supportive and knows that work can be frustrating and exhausting. I’m glad that he can read me well enough to know what I need; if thats some sweaty time on the trainer, or a run, chocolate and cuddles or time alone with a book. He is super supportive in my training as well, in his own special way. If I’m not performing as good as he thinks I should be then he lets me know and we discuss ways I can improve. This happens a LOT, as he has pretty high standards for me that I hope one day to meet, but I like how he keeps pushing me.

Gorse bustin’.

I love working with the cows and although it has its tough days, I find farming really rewarding. Being outside is great and I just feel like a big kid at times. It was never a job I’d thought about doing and now I don’t know what else I’d want to do. The lifestyle is great, being outdoors and having some free time during the day to train. The only down side is that its not the most social, as when others are meeting up for Sunday morning rides, or after work activities, I always seem to be milking. But that is where having a great online community in MX Endurance comes in (got to shoehorn a plug in there somewhere!) as you never really feel alone with triathlon.

How do you manage work and training? What do you think the ‘ideal’ job for a triathlete would be?

2 thoughts on “Life on the Farm”

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