Tag Archives: UAE

The Hairdryer Tri

We all knew it was going to be a more challenging event to years gone by as the drive down to Abu Dhabi from Dubai saw those of us taking part in Tri Yas tackle the poor visibility and buffeting gusts that accompany a sandstorm. There were sections of the drive that were akin to driving through treacherously thick fog and I must confess that I felt a wave of relief as I pulled into the F1 track unscathed from what can, on a clear day, still be a hairy drive. Still, I had left Dubai very early with the intention of making a full day of it, and my car, packed to the rafters, was testament to that fact.
Tri Yas 2015, MarinaI marshalled at last year’s Tri Yas triathlon and so got to see first hand how well organised and fun an event it was, for both competitors and supporters alike. Given that Challenge Dubai is in a week’s time, and is the primary focus of this season for me, the advice from Trace was to sign up for the sprint distance event and to focus on speed, nutrition and rapid transitions, the latter being something that I have had issues with. The benefit of arriving early was that I had the pick of the parking, collected my race pack at leisure and was first to arrive at our waterside team villa, provided courtesy of fellow SuperTri athlete, JP. Having a base – I did have the option of using the TriDubai one as well, and actually rocked up on the day proudly sporting my TriDubai shirt – made a big difference, as it was somewhere to, first of all, escape the winds and dust, secondly, relax, get changed, check gear, eat before the race and generally prepare well in. Views of the swim course were perfect from our site, with a chance to really analyse the best lines on the swim and observe the pros and Olympic race starts.
Bike transition, Tri YasIn the interests of speed in transition, as was my focus for the race, I stripped my needs for each leg down significantly from the longer distance races. This meant no socks for the bike, saving a huge amount of time otherwise spent drying my feet and fumbling to put said garments on as I wobble all over the place after the swim. I also cut the nutrition down to one gel on the bike and a single bottle of electrolytes, and relied solely on the aid stations for water (primarily for cooling) on the run. I felt a difference and can certainly say that I was faster in both transitions, although T1 still needs some work and I did run past my bike initially – a rookie error that had more to do with faffing with my Suunto than having not rehearsed the transition, which I had done several times.
Swim
The sprint race, and especially our age group (30 – 40 year old males), was very popular, with the organisers actually opting to split our wave into two in order to avoid the swim being too much of a brawl. I leapt in at the earliest opportunity, determined to get a good spot at the front on the right hand side so as to take the best line round to the right and onto the first turn buoy. It seems that this was the preferred spot of most of the other guys as well and so the swim start was a little frenetic, but nothing that some determined head-down sprinting and sticking to my line couldn’t overcome. I was very glad that I’d opted not to wear a wetsuit, donning my Sailfish speed-suit instead, and felt so much more liberated in the water, which was a refreshingly cool temperature and certainly not cold. Choppy, on the other hand, is what it was, and as we turned right into the wider marina, the full force of the winds were evident, with some decent chop providing at least two swallowed salt water moments – never a pleasant experience! Coupled with a very brief stop to clear my fogged goggles, those were the only challenges faced in the swim, which felt pretty fast, and as I exited the water I was pleased to see 14 minutes displayed on my watch.
Cycle
The run from the swim to transition was a relatively long one, which thankfully provided sufficient time to rectify my error in stopping my watch by pressing the wrong button. A speedy on-the-run reset and it was time to lose the swim suit et al, don the race number, sunglasses, helmet and shoes and leg it to the cycle start line with the trusty steed in tow. An initial steep downhill and sharp turn into the tunnel, followed by a reasonable up hill, meant that the gears quickly got tested, before merging with the masses on the track and the first of what was to be four laps for me, totalling 20km of cycling.
Tri Yas, transitionThe bike leg of the race was very much one of very fast sections, with the wind sitting at our backs, and slower, tough sections when the very strong wind and accompanying dust, was blowing directly at us or, on sections, serving up a tricky cross wind that gave those cyclists sporting deep set rims and discs something to contend with. I was pleased with the cycle, feeling that my choice of lines was efficient, especially given that the “Stay Left” rule was clearly not being adhered to by the vast majority of the field. There was one fast section where I was forced to shout out to a slow cyclist who was veering to the right to get over, but otherwise there were no issues with near misses and it seemed that everyone was able to race well. Nutrition-wise things seemed to go well, with a Hi-5 gel on lap 3 being the only additional energy taken. This seemed to position me well for the run as I glided into T2 in a time of a little over 40mins, made a swift transition to the run and felt swift from the get go.
Run
I can run. It seems to be the one part of this triathlon lark that I can do consistently well. And so it was again at Yas. The fact that it was a single lap of the track (5km for us sprinters) did make it feel easier to head off out of transition confident to push the pace from the beginning, knowing that each section of the course passed was the only time I would have to do so. Psychologically that makes a significant difference. I consciously kept my heart rate at between 183 and 186 bpm for most of the race, only pushing it to 190 in the final few hundred metres. I don’t think I could have reliably gone faster on the day, and was pleased with the pace and good technique that I sustained. The aid stations were, as at other races this season, well placed, and in spite of the overcast and windy nature of the day, it was hot, meaning the cooling effects of dousing oneself with cold water was welcome and contributed to the good pace. It was great to see some fellow triathlon friends out on the run course and as I crossed the line, accepting my medal from the stunningly beautiful Etihad flight attendant, I enjoyed instantly getting to relive the race with friends and coach alike. The other perk of having a team villa was getting to shower, with the swim being one of the saltiest I think I have yet experienced, with salt crystals present on practically every part of me that had gotten wet. A post-race swing by Yas Mall for a cheeky but well earned burger and milkshake followed by a Gold Class cinema experience was the perfect way to round off a cracking day and a generally amazing weekend.
Tri Yas is consistently reviewed as one of the most fun and inclusive triathlons here in the UAE, with first time triathletes in high number. The chance to cycle on a world-class F1 race track and take in the stunning view of the Yas Viceroy as the sun sets and the hotel comes alive with colour are both major draws. The marshaling is also first class and, yet again, they did a sterling job on the day. It was disappointing then to hear that some athletes had apparently seen fit to be rude to the marshals, all of whom are volunteers, but on the whole the majority of triathletes are decent, polite people who appreciate the fact that without such volunteers there would be no race or that the entry fees would be prohibitively high. Thank you to everyone that made Tri Yas such a success and more generally to those who make all races possible.
Final Race Time: (unofficial as the official timers on the day seem to have recorded me as a DNS – Did Not Start – which is clearly incorrect. The times here are based on what I pieced together from my Suunto)
Swim (750m) = 14’40.6
Cycle incl T1 (20km) = 42’02.7
Run incl T2 (5km) = 22’51.7
TOTAL = 79’58.3
UPDATE: They found my chip 🙂 So….. official results….
Swim (750m) = 14’23.0
T1 = 2″59.0
Cycle (20km) = 38″50.0
T2 = 1″50.0
Run (5km) = 22’04.0
TOTAL = 1:20″05
Sprint 31-40
Category Rank: 9 of 230
Your Gender: 8 of 154
Your Age: 3 of 32
Your Nationality: 5 of 93

Wadi Bih – Run with a View

The Wadi Bih race is officially the longest running expat sporting event held in the UAE, started as it was in 1992, and sees runners take on the trails through Wadi Bih, nestled in the top right corner of the peninsula and requiring a crossover into Oman.
I had heard much of the beauty of the views afforded competitors during this race and in spite of also hearing tales of caution relating to extremely lengthy waits at the border crossing, I felt compelled to get involved myself this year. This was the first year that the event was to be staged over two days, with the addition of a few new races, including the solo 50 and 30 kilometre events. Given that the team 72 kilometre relay – the main event of the weekend – was due to be held on Saturday, I was not in a position to put a team together or join another, although finding a last minute fill-in spot would not have been difficult, and so signed up for the solo 30 race. Why did I not go longer? I have the big race of the current season coming up at the end of February – Challenge Dubai – and so as much as I wanted to take part this weekend I certainly didn’t wish to sacrifice good quality training over the next crucial few weeks on account of having broken myself at the longer distances. Plus, to be honest, I have never run further than 36km and am not very experienced at trail running. As such, I know that although I’m sure I could have completed the longer races it would not have been the experience that I would have liked. Ultimately sport has to be fun – after all, I am not a professional and do this for leisure not a living. The price paid for signing on to the shorter distance was that I did not get to fully experience and appreciate the epic views that I know longer competitors did. Oh well…. theres always next year or a separate trip altogether.
tent, Wadi Bih, Oman
Perfect abode for the weekend

With a tent kindly loaned to me by friend and colleague Adri and her husband Emile, and a relatively lightly (by my usual ‘hopeless packer’ standards) packed car, I made the most of having Thursday off and set off for the east coast early, determined to miss the queues at the border. A pleasant journey via Masafi – one of my favourite drives so far in the UAE – with a quick stop off at Lulu for some last minute food items and a spur of the moment camp chair purchase (I soon discovered at the beach that I had in fact purchased a child-size chair!) I pressed on to collect my border papers, only spotting the direction sign by fluke and at the very last minute, before waiting no more than ten minutes whilst my papers were verified and the car searched for alcohol – none was found incidentally.

The Golden Tulip hotel, nestled at the northern end of the large Dibba bay, was our base for the weekend and I set about swiftly commandeering a prime pitch for my little tent and even smaller chair, sheltered by the beach wall, looking back at the hotel and race finish chute, and situated picturesquely beneath a classic palm tree, making the whole scene look like one straight out of Robinson Crusoe. The first significant difference between beach camping and traditional UK camping that I had formerly experienced as a Boy Scout was the fact that pegs are pretty much useless in sand! A solution, thankfully, was on hand as I spotted several large rocks close to my pitch and with the two larger ones placed inside the tent itself at opposite ends, and then the guy ropes secured with the help of two more sizeable slabs, my tent was up and the scene set.
Saloman, Wadi Bih, race finish
Finish line of Wadi Bih race

The evening before my race was a fairly relaxed affair, as it should have been, and after a brief exploration of the hotel – it didn’t take long on account of actually being pretty small – I made friends with a group of team 50 relay runners from Doha, Qatar (the ‘Not so dashing expats’) and joined them for a couple of beers. One of them, it was soon pointed out, bore an uncannily striking resemblance to a certain President of Russia, which provided some mirth. Fellow Dubai athlete, Chops Potter, and friend Marcus Smith, who is currently preparing for the epic Marathon des Sables in April, arrived later in the evening and I joined them at their camp for a quiet nightcap before everyone retired for an early start in the morning. The solo 72’ers were all due to set off at the early hour of 0430 and I did poke my head out of the tent to see them off before catching another hour of much needed sleep. My race wasn’t due to start until 0900, although I would have much preferred to start earlier in order to miss the real heat of the day. Still, at least I wasn’t having to run 72km!

Dubai, triathletes, Wadi Bih
Fellow Dubai triathletes, Taka and Tyrone, and I at the start of the 30km race

Even more members of the Dubai scene arrived, with Doris taking part in the 50km solo and Taka and Tyrone joining me on the 30km race. When they both suggested that I should be aiming for a podium place I dismissed their vociferations as fanciful niceties, especially given that I am not a seasoned trail runner and was sure that the field for our race was playing host to many very fast runners. With that in mind, and a plan to just enjoy myself, I set off finding myself leading the charge and quickly remembering to focus on keeping my heart rate at a sensible and sustainable level, especially with the fact that it was to be a long race. Within about 2km the eventual race winner, Doha-based athlete Stephen Gurr, passed and was soon very much in the distance, with a couple of other runners catching me and so it was that we stayed together for about the first 5km. The funny thing about races is that regardless of what your intentions or objectives for the event, a race is still a race and we are all naturally competitive people. As such, it wasn’t long before you could feel the pace quickening and the temptation to match the renewed speed, knowing full well that to do so may well result in problems later down the line. I therefore made a decision to stick to my plan, keeping my heart rate below 180bpm and essentially allowing the two guys with me to charge ahead. My thoughts were that they were either significantly fitter than me, in which case bravo and good race, or they were making a strategic error and I would be passing them later in the race. It seems I chose wisely as it wasn’t long before I duly passed both runners. Who’d have thunk it – plans do usually work!

There were a few hilly sections on the 30km race, which did really test the lungs, legs and technique. I personally find it much easier to go up hills by pretending that I am holding poles and using my arms in such a fashion as if I am using said fictional poles. The turnaround at 15km coincided with the second aid station and following a swift downing of some electrolytes and a dousing with cold water, I set off towards the hotel and finish, in hot pursuit of the two runners between me and a second place slot. As seems to be the story of my racing career to date, the turn towards home saw me suddenly tap into an additional energy reserve and I felt great as I locked onto my targets, quickly closing the gap and moving into third. The runner now in second had put a reasonable distance between us and the next 3km saw that gap gradually close as I quickened my pace and he slowed his. Eventually I caught him and found myself in the position of having to defend my hard fought second position – my first podium slot – which is basically where the race really started for me.
Not wishing to upset the rhythm that I had established, I chose not to look behind me until the last large hill, when I found a need to walk briefly, expecting my closest rival to pass me. He didn’t and so I glanced back to see that I had actually put a decent gap between us. That gave me the encouragement to dig in, push up the hill and focus on keeping my lead for the closing kilometres of the race, knowing full well that a race is not won until the line is crossed. This is where mental reserves were called on as by this stage the temperature had peaked and I was feeling the heat. I don’t believe I broke any records over those final kilometres, slow as they were, although the pace acutely increased as I turned onto the main road near the hotel, and the 2km left mark, to glance back and see the runner who would eventually take third rapidly catching me up. “Nooooo!” was all I could think. “I have NOT battled this far to let it slip now!” As such, I dug in and was determined to push it as hard as I could right until the end. The first problem I hit upon was the fact that the signposting back to the race start was awful, or rather non-existent, which was an issue given that I could not for the life of me recall which side-street we had emerged from. A pitiful look back to Mr Third Place with a shrugged question of “Which way?” was met, very sportingly I might add, with instructions to keep going and then directions on where to actually turn. If he was set on taking second over me at any cost then he could have stitched me right up and sent me the wrong way easily. But he didn’t. Cos he is a sportsman, and I genuinely applaud and respect him for that fact. So, the final straight entered, the hotel in sight, tantalisingly close yet still far enough to hurt. I was absolutely convinced that it would be in these final hundreds of metres that I would be passed and so I gritted my teeth and just locked on to the finish. Still in second as I reached the sand. Still in second at the start of the finish chute. “Yes!” Second place as I crossed the line and brought this race to a close. I’d done it! I had secured my first UAE podium. It felt great. Well, it actually felt like my legs were about to seize up but the feeling of achievement was wonderful.
View from tent, Wadi Bih
View of finish line at Wadi Bih race from my siesta point

Heeding the advice of coach, Trace, I duly hopped – or rather collapsed into – the cool waters of the hotel pool, determined to loosen the legs up, before donning the trusty compression tights and gobbling down some protein and cool drinks. The short siesta I took in my tent – complete with prime views out of the open door to the finish – was serene, and as I dozed I allowed my thoughts to wander back over the race. I’d intended to listen to music, even wearing my ear buds the whole way round. However, as it turned out I actually ran without any music, and so was able to really listen to my body, and focus on my race strategy, which I suspect helped a great deal.

new shoes, race prize, Wadi BihMy initial plan has been to pack up and head back to Dubai after the race. However, given the fact that a) I knew the traffic was going to be hellish on a Friday afternoon, and b) it was a great chance to kick back with some friends and enjoy the post-race hospitality, I opted to hang around for the rest of the day, joining in with a few well-deserved beers and making a decent dent in the race buffet on offer. After a demonstration of several Omani songs and dances from a local group we got on to the presentation and I soon found myself shaking hands with the local dignitaries and race organiser, John Young, before accepting my prize for second: a new pair of Saloman running shoes, which were exactly in my size as well. A great result from a really great day’s event. I would certainly recommend it to anyone looking for a fun trail running race and I would definitely like to return to take part in the full distance, albeit as part of a relay, perhaps even taking up the option of doing it in fancy dress!
FINAL RACE TIME = 2 hrs 33 mins

Let Me Rescue You. Cos I Can.

Dibba Rock as seen from the dive centre
Dibba Rock as seen from the dive centre

It was a year ago that I decided to sign up online to do my PADI Rescue Diver course, the natural progression after Advanced Open Water and a qualification that I had heard was well worth doing. A year whizzed by, with the occasional dive thrown in but nothing much done about the course owing in large part to the sudden draw on the majority of my spare time that has come with training for my Ironvet race in September.

With the online course about to time out it was time to knuckle down, do some studying and get the course finished, which I duly did, and then booked my practical training with Freestyle Divers in Dibba. The course covers everything from how to recognise potential risks whilst diving, to managing situations involving tired, panicked and unconscious divers, including those who have gone missing. With the theory firmly established in my brain I was looking forward to getting stuck into the water-based practicals.

Emergency First ResponseThe first thing we had to do before starting the Rescue Diver practical training was complete the Emergency First Response course, a one day training programme that equipped both myself and my buddy for the course, Sabah, with the skills to manage an emergency as a first responder, focusing on essential CPR and first aid. I now have the right to be able to utter the words “My name is Chris. I am an emergency first responder. May I help you?” if ever I find myself in a situation during which to actually say them.

Sabah & I celebrate becoming Emergency First Responders
Sabah & I celebrate becoming Emergency First Responders

With day 1 spent getting our EFR training out of the way, day 2 was all about starting the Rescue Diver practical training, with 10 distinct sections to get through, including how to respond to a tired diver in the water, approaching and, if necessary, controlling a panicked diver, and rescues from the boat. We also ran through how to surface an unconscious diver from underwater, and how to get said victim to safety, including the various techniques for getting them out of the water and either into a boat or the beach. One thing that became very evident is just how tough it is to lift and otherwise move around someone who is unconscious – no where near as effortless as they seem to make it out to be on films!

Freestyle DiversWe didn’t quite manage to get through everything on day 2 so Sabah and I arranged to return to Dibba on our next mutual day off to complete the course and claim our titles of Rescue Divers. Day 3 was more involved, with the most important exercise being learning how to manage an unconscious, non-breathing diver in the water, including towing them to safety whilst providing rescue breaths and removing their diving gear – again, not an easy task and well worth practicing! The final part of the course, apart from the written exam at the end of the day, was a scenario whereby our instructors staged a real rescue situation in which one of them had gone missing, with their buddy reaching out to us for help. As such, we had to gather essential information from the missing diver’s buddy, formulate a search plan and pattern, locate the missing diver and surface them after confirming unconsciousness, and then tow them back to the safety of the beach before removing them from the water and instituting essential first aid, including CPR.

It is true what they say about the PADI Rescue course being the most fun of the PADI courses, and the skills developed are defintely ones that will help expand my enjoyment of diving, in addition to feeling as though I can now be useful if an emergency situation ever does present itself.

With my new temporary licence :)
With my new temporary licence 🙂

Many thanks to the team down at Freestyle Divers in Dibba, and especially our instructor for the course Amir El-kader, who did a sterling job of taking two enthusiastic open water divers and morphing us into bona fida Rescue Divers. Also thanks to both Rhys and Andy, both of whom played diving victims amiably, putting up with our efforts to ‘save’ them, including dragging them from the water somewhat unceremoniously, in the true good-natured spirit of the course.

Climb. Jump. Repeat.

Last month I had the pleasure of yet again donning my swim shorts, climbing shoes and chalk and hot footing it over to Oman with a bunch of fellow adrenaline junkies, where we piled into a boat and spent the day scaling sea cliffs along the Musandam coast.

Deep water soloing, for those who are not familiar with the activity, involves climbing without the use of ropes, over deep water, with this acting as a ‘safety’ in the event of falling or, eventually, jumping from a chosen finish point. It is insanely fun and one of the best ways to spend a glorious day with like-minded friends, exploring one of the most stunning coastlines on the planet. There is simply no way to access the sites that we had the pleasure of climbing other than by boat, and the combination of puzzle, physical exercise and sheer natural beauty makes the endeavour all consuming. One cliff we found ourselves climbing saw divers surface close-by, a surreal experience in and of itself.

Check out this video I edited, which incorporates footage from both last year’s trip and this year’s. Enjoy!

 

Started From The Bottom from Chris Queen on Vimeo.

IronVet – Into the furnace

May 2014

It’s getting hot. I mean really hot! My car thermometer registered 41 degrees Celsius over the weekend, officially marking, in my mind at least, the start of summer and the need to move ever more towards more nocturnal training. The fact of the matter is that in spite of having the privilege of living in a locale that sees almost year round sunshine, perfect for fair weather athletes such as myself, once April creeps into May that warming sun rapidly becomes a toasting sun, sending training athletes scurrying for cover as it reaches it’s thermal crescendo, which is normally by about 10am! As such, the desire to train effectively as opposed to die effectively means early mornings and late nights: a great combination for a normal, balanced life. Not particularly.

Hill training is a big part of training.
Hill training is a big part of training.

Yesterday saw the start of May’s training programme and the fact that the volume/ time/ distances to be completed have shot up in conjunction with our move into summer means that training is set to get a lot tougher. Take last night for example. I had a 105 minute turbo training interval session on the bike followed by a 50 minute run, all in all that saw me roll back in at just after 11pm. Evenings, it seems, are going to get very single-streamed. It’s perhaps a good thing then that my very recent dabble back on the dating scene appears to have fizzled to nothing, as it appears that the only ladies I am going to have any time to devote to are both “Miss Pain” and “Miss Constantly Tired & Hungry.” And something tells me they’re going to be around a lot.

Pool sessions, in addition to distance work, is also key preparation.
Pool sessions, in addition to distance work, is also key preparation.

For those of you following the IronVet challenge I thought it might be interesting to actually offer some level of insight into what training is actually being done up to this point. Following Abu Dhabi’s triathlon, the emphasis has been back on base training to gradually build up my stamina level and prepare me for the challenges of endurance work. Given the relatively long hours and variable shift pattern of my job as a vet, Trace gives me my sessions for the month, split into weeks, and allows me to then organise when to get them done. At the moment that generally ends up meaning a swim early in the week, with a run, a bike-fit (interval) session midweek, and the main, long cycle being reserved for Friday, when many other Lycra-clad loonies tend to descend on the hills of Hatta or the bike track out at Al Qudra. The May sessions are generally seeing me do two swims a week – one pool session and a long 2-2.5km swim – followed by two bike sessions – an interval session and a long ride, always with a run off the bike – and two runs, with a mix between long, base efforts and shorter sessions, such as hill training or intervals. It is tough to get them done and I am appreciating more and more the sacrifice that training seriously for an Ironman entails, including the real compromises that invariably have to be made in terms of private and social life. Still, I am certain that the pain and sacrifice will all be worth it as I cross that line high up in the beautiful mountains of Lake Tahoe.

Vetting in Dubai – How did I get here?

I have been asked a number of times how to go about seeking employment as a vet in Dubai. I have endeavoured to set out the basic process as I understand it, but it is worth bearing in mind that the processes and requirements are very much subject to change, and may indeed change very suddenly. Any good potential employer will be able to assist you in getting registered properly, and you should perhaps be cautious if they suggest that you have to do it all yourself.

So, how did I go about getting a job out here? Well……

1. I found the job advertised on a UK veterinary job agency – the job sounded interesting, Dubai sounded fun and I wanted to do some more skydiving. So I enquired. Simples. Another option could have been to send an email with my CV to the vets in Dubai, enquiring about any potential vacancies, although unless they’re actively advertising

2. Interview via Skype – once my CV was reviewed by the clinic, a Skype interview was arranged so that we could have a bit of a general chat initially. The registration process was explained to me in addition to learning about the clinic and, probably most importantly of all, just a chance to get to chat to the clinic owners.

3. Offer – I obviously did something right during the Skype interview as I was offered the position (pending successful submission of the relevant registration documents) and so the whole process of moving to Dubai began.

4. Registration – in order to work legally as a fully registered vet in the UAE, I had to complete various steps, which took a few months to complete. The first criteria, however, was that I had to have a minimum of 5 year’s experience as a veterinary surgeon. The process was:

Notarise copies of my education certificates (from GCSE right through to degree), official university transcripts and letters from my previous employers over the past 5 years. This was done by my local solicitor.

– The documents above were then sent to the UK Embassy in London to be legalised by my home Government before being submitted to the UAE Embassy to do the same.

– Once legalised, the documents were sent to Dubai and I then traveled out to submit my education documents in person in Abu Dhabi. Once that was done, it was a case of waiting to hear that I was being granted my labour visa before flying out to start.

– After landing in Dubai, one of the first things I had to do was have a medical, which involved a blood test and chest X-ray. This is standard and was all ok.

– The final step in getting fully registered was to sit the ministry exam, a short hour long test sat in person at the ministry. Once this was passed then I was fully registered and good to go 🙂

As I have already said, the process that I went through took several months and the rules are subject to change, so I would thoroughly recommend you check things with any clinic that you are looking to be employed by. Also, I was not expected to do any of the registration myself here in Dubai, which was good as it is quite a confusing process and can involve a lot of back and forth between various ministries, something that as a new arrival in Dubai would have been very very stressful. Thankfully, my employers handled everything on my behalf and were really supportive, and guided me whenever there was anything that I had to do in person. I would therefore be a little cautious of any potential employer who advises you to head over to Dubai before a lot of the pre-registration work has been done or who tells you that you need to go over and do it all yourself, as at least one person I know had to do. It took her months and a lot of headaches to finally get registered.

Anyway, hope this is of help and interest. Good luck and maybe see you in Dubai 🙂

An Ode to a Snappy Pair

DWS, climbing in OmanAlas, I am in mourning. Not one to usually subscribe to fashion trends or fork out for ‘designer labels’ I must confess that I joined the crowd last year when I purchased a beautiful pair of ‘designer’ sunglasses whilst skydiving in the US. Adorning my head at any opportunity when the sun is present, which means most of the time now that I live out in the UAE, we sadly parted company yesterday but in a pretty awesome way 🙂

A group of fellow adrenaline junkies and I here in Dubai all headed over to Oman yesterday for a day of Deep Water Soloing, or climbing up sea cliffs with only water to break our falls. I must confess that I have tombstoned before – an experience that I engaged in as a foolish youth (well, as a newly qualified vet anyway) and which resulted in my friend and I jumping from a cliff that was, in hindsight, stupidly high – but had never climbed in this fashion before. The experience was amazing and I am convinced that there is no better way to spend a hot, sunny day than with a group of like-minded friends bobbing round a stunning coastline looking for daredevil acts to engage in, whether it be climbing or diving.

So, what happened to cause the loss of your beloved then? Well, good question. I am glad you asked. The second cliff we climbed up led to the jump being significantly higher than our first stop and in hindsight choosing to wear my Gatorz sunglasses, a cap and hang on to my GoPro Hero3 was folly. Anyway, I jumped, landed and very quickly realised that the only items I still had on me were my board shorts and climbing shoes – who’d have thunk it but landing in water from a height actually involves a fair amount of force so it should have been no surprise that my oh-so-cool headwear and I were separated.

Gatorz, magnumCaps float so that was ok, the least expensive and most easily replaced item being easily retrieved from the ocean. Metal sunglasses – expensive ones at that – and considerably more expensive GoPro cameras, however, do not float. Which sucked! Thankfully, with the swift deployment of my snorkel and mask, which I was so glad I took along even just for the fact that there was some amazing sealife to observe during the day, I spied the GoPro (phew!) and was able to dive down to retrieve it. If it were another metre down, however, then I think I may have had issues as it was just about on my free-diving limit. Still, camera and footage saved it was then time to hunt for the illusive Gatorz. In hindsight, gunmetal blue may not have been the best colour to take along as everything looks sort of blue at depth and it soon became apparent that I was not going to find my sunnies. Boo! So, a gift to the ocean they were to remain and who knows, maybe some diver will come across them and be the new owner of what are an awesome pair of quality sunglasses. As for me, I had best get ordering a new pair – maybe red would be a good idea for next time, although the lesson I took away from the experience was NOT to wear sunglasses when climbing and then jumping down – they rarely stay with you!

Time to Catch Up

Okay, I admit it…. part of the reason that I have been “off the grid”, in a blog writing capacity at least, is that I have been having fun. Lots of fun. In fact so much fun that you’ll probably want to hate me for it. But I’m cool with that. Seriously though, I just realised that it’s been over a month since my last post and I honestly had no idea such is the pace with which my time here in the UAE is hurtling past.

Much has happened since my last installment, from some interesting clinical cases and happenings at work through to some awesome social, sporting and, well, just fun endeavours.

In terms of the clinical, the main changes since my last post appear to be (in no particular order):

Down a Vet

The loss of one of our vets meaning that there have been some changes to the weekends that I now get to enjoy. Unfortunately one of our more recent vets just wasn’t getting on well and was, as far as I could tell, also quite unhappy. It was pretty darn clear even from the moment I started that there was a major mismatch between her style of consulting and flexibility to new ideas and ability to cope with the challenges of this particularly busy clinic with exceptionally high standards. It was telling that she seemed to spend rather a lot of time being corrected or otherwise having meetings with the bosses in the office, on a number of occasions preventing me from getting my stuff and getting home! In the end it was no surprise to discover that she was asked to part way with the clinic, a decision which was clearly inevitable. As I mentioned, it did mean that instead of my usual Friday to Saturday weekends, I was switched to working Saturdays and so generally get my weekends on Thursday and Friday, or occasionally Wednesday and Friday.

As mentioned above, I am now working regularly on Saturdays with the change in staffing, meaning that my working week technically starts on a weekend. This was initially at the main hospital all day, which tends to be crazily busy all day, although since we opened our branch in Mirdif, a part of town out near the airport, on Saturday mornings, I start there and then head back over to the hospital in the afternoon. Most Saturdays I arrive to find the clinic as busy as it often is on weekends, with people waiting to be seen and my colleagues all dealing with additional in-patients. There seems to be this annoying feature of veterinary life that dictates that there is never just a happy medium to anyones’ day. It’s either full on, crazy mental, oh-my-God-I-haven’t-even-got-time-to-think-let-alone-eat-or-go-to-the-toilet, with consults booked solid, walk-ins galore and extras just pitching up expecting to be seen (and doing so because we’re just nice like that), or nothing at all with plenty of time to thumb-twiddle, although there is obviously always plenty that can be done to fill the time. Busy is good: I would rather have stuff to do, especially as the day does progress much more smoothly and at pace than if you’re simply thumb twiddling. What I don’t like, however, is the frantic nature of those insane days, when everyone is just rushing around not quite sure if it’s all going to go to shit at any moment. What I have found some weeks is that by the end of the working week there is the danger that people start to get a little snippy with one another, meaning that there is sometimes some definite tension in the air, something that I find very uncomfortable. I like the people I work with – they’re great and I think we have a great team. I don’t like to see them stressed to the point where peoples’ tempers or nerves are getting stretched, which is what I have felt happening some weeks. The notion that it’s “just part of the job” is also something I don’t subscribe to, in much the same way as I view the concepts of “lunch is a luxury in veterinary” and “animal bites are part of being a vet or nurse” as the big crocks of shite that these viewpoints clearly are. It should always be possible to organise things in such a manner that people are busy and able, if necessary to work at 100% capacity when called upon to do so, but not to expect that level of intensity all of the time. The irony, of course, is that we will then get days where there are virtually no appointments – one of the twisted facts of life in veterinary!

Passed With Flying Colours

After a month of waiting, and a few days of hasty revision using my geekily created “Dubai Exam PDF”, I was once again back at the municipality to sit my exam for real this time. It was just little old me this time and I was led up to an office where I sat as if working for the ministry and completed my exam, with “colleagues” around me at their desks discussing various matters in Arabic. The exam itself was a fairly straightforward affair, following the formula that seemed to be firmly established by past papers: three questions on matters related to ministry rules and regulations, such as the duties and responsibilities of a vet and what is supposed to happen in the event a sole vet is absent from the clinic for more than 60 days; then some short clinical questions, including being asked for TPR ranges (temperature, pulse and respiration) for cows and camels – yes, there was a camel question! Most of the clinical questions are geared towards notifiable diseases and public health, so there were ones on everything from leptospirosis to rabies. The last part of the exam was three longer “essay” style questions on, if my memory serves me well, tuberculosis, distemper, and strangles (I think). I didn’t come out of that exam feeling like I’d nailed it and was actually rather apprehensive about what the pass mark might have been. However, this apprehension was misplaced as I discovered a couple of weeks later that I had in fact passed and so am now fully registered.

So, what does being “registered” actually mean? Well, it simply means that I am legally permitted to work in a solo capacity as a vet, such as I now do at our Mirdif branch, and not a great deal more. I have been led to believe that there are many vets operating in Dubai that are not fully registered and it seems they are still able to go about their business. Monique and Malcolm, however, choose to do things properly, which as grating as I am sure it must be to know others are blatantly flouting the rules, is the correct approach to take and one for which I applaud them.

Clinical cases…

Its been busy so that must mean some interesting cases, right? Exactly. There have been some great cases to deal with, as well as some just comical or downright bizarre experiences within the clinic, such as the situation I found myself in last week when a rather attractive client came in with her dog, very professionally and elegantly dressed, and then promptly farted in front of me. Not once, however, but twice! My initial reaction was to think it was the dog but it was quite clearly not and so I did the gentlemanly thing by simply ignoring what had just happened, even when it occurred twice! The bizarre thing was that she didn’t even seem fazed by it and I suspect just considered it a perfectly normal and reasonable thing to do in front of the vet. Bizarre indeed.

We see a lot of skin cases in Dubai, with ringworm top of the list when it comes to dermatological issues. Having never seen a case of ringworm in practice in the UK, with my only experience of it being getting it myself as a young vet student working on a dairy farm (I thought it was just a really nasty rash from rolling out the straw each day – it wasn’t), I now provisionally diagnose and start treatment for it on an almost daily basis. In fact I use the UV Wood’s Lamp so frequently that it occasionally feels like I’m running a tanning salon 🙂

Ear mites are another dermatological scourge oft seen and it seems the ones here tend to be bruisers compared to their whimpy European cousins, as you can easily see the little rascals scampering around down the lugholes of lots of the pets we get in.

When it comes to parasites, ticks are the big problem here whereas we see very few, if any, fleas. In fact I think I may have seen a single flea here since arriving, which is in complete contrast to my experience of working as a vet in the UK for the past five years. As I say, ticks are the big issue here, and unfortunately it’s a fact that they carry some pretty nasty diseases, especially ehrlichia, which I have diagnosed several times. I had a dog presented to me at the end of last week which had been missing from home for several days. When it returned it was found to be absolutely infested with ticks. Our nurses alone removed over 30 from the poor dog! Although the dog wasn’t displaying any overt clinical signs of ehrlichia, we routinely test where appropriate and so a blood test was run, rather unsurprisingly proving positive. Ideally in such cases a full blood count (CBC) would be run to assess the nature and extent of any haematological abnormalities but the owners were not keen to spend the money and so after checking a PCV (normal, thankfully), the dog was started on a 30 day course of doxycycline at 10mg/kg once daily and started on Frontline, to kill any remaining ticks and provide protection against potential further bites. Instructions were given to the owners to a) bring their other dog in for a check and testing – he also proved positive and so treatment was started – and to thoroughly spray the house against ticks, as ehrlichia is a known zoonosis, and a potentially very nasty one at that. Definitely not something that any person wants to end up contracting.

On the theme of ticks, we see a large number of “yellow” cats here, with Bartonella felis, from ticks bites, being the usual culprit. There was one case in particular that came in one day with a history of just being very quiet, flat and “just not right.” Upon examination it was clear that the cat would probably have glowed in the dark, such was the vividness and intensity of the yellow discolouration that it was showing. As with ehrlichia cases, a full blood count is performed, in addition to biochemistry, and the cat was found to have a severe anaemia, as a result of immune-mediated haemolytic anaemia, and so aggressive treatment was started, with doxycycline and steroids at immunosuppressive doses so as to halt the ongoing destruction red cells that the cat’s own immune system was undertaking. After several days in hospital the cat did make a good recovery and the last time I saw it for a check-up, it was a much more normal colour and a tad more feisty – always an encouraging sign!

Fun and Socials…

I always thought I had a lot going on in my life when in the UK but since moving over here it seems that the options for ways in which to spend any spare time you get are numerous, and at times it is difficult to know which options to choose and which to pass by. Since my last post I have been up to the following shenanigans:

Kitesurfing. After taking a few lessons, more as a refresher following the course I undertook in Wales last August, I took the plunge and invested in my own kite, and other gear, so that I am able to get out and put my new skills to use whenever it is windy and I am free. The past few weeks have been somewhat devoid of wind – good for a skydiver – and so I have only really been able to make it out onto the water properly twice. The first outing was fun but rather expectedly frustrating at times, as I spent the time getting used to the kite and board, never really getting up properly or in control, and crashing the kite on more than one occasion, at one point rather alarmingly near a group of sun bathers – quite why they choose to sit on a beach where there are loads of very large kites flying around is beyond me, but there you go, they exist and so it is generally regarded as polite to avoid thwacking them on the head with a large kite if at all possible. Friday, however, was completely different and in spite of the beach being packed, I had a blast, getting straight up on the board and actually kitesurfing for real for the very first time! The feeling of being in the water and then with a simple movement of the kite and a powerful pull from the wind, finding yourself skipping across the waves is indescribably awesome and it is instantly easy to see why people get hooked on the sport. You feel as though you’re actually flying across the surface of the water, which is an amazing feeling indeed. Although I had to ‘bail’ from the board a few times, I found it very simple to control my kite and steer back to my board, and didn’t crash the kite once during my session, which constitutes a major achievement in my opinion. I actually cannot wait until the next windy day when I am off and already find myself doing the kitesurfer thing of constantly assessing whether the wind is strong enough, even whilst walking across the street to get lunch and back. I am addicted it seems but as far as vices go, playing with kites seems a harmless one.

Skydiving. My other passion which, rather ironically, also relies heavily upon the wind, or preferably on very little wind being present, is jumping from perfectly good aeroplanes in the name of sport. Since arriving here in Dubai I have taken advantage of the fact that one of the best dropzones in the world is on my doorstep by jumping at Skydive Dubai several times. Unfortunately I have not yet reached 500 jumps and so am unable to jump at the jewel in the skydiving crown, The Palm, which is really the ultimate aim owing to it’s absolutely stunning location and views. I have, instead, been doing my jumps out at SD2, the desert dropzone, located on the main road between Dubai and Al Ain, and past both the Sevens rugby stadium and the main camel racing track. Getting out there is so easy given how good the roads are here, meaning I can, in theory, leave my villa in the Springs and be in a plane within the hour. As it’s generally hot and sunny all of the time, it is very rare that we get weather delays, although it does get really hot by about mid-morning, meaning that being packed into a small plane for the climb up to jump altitude can be a bit uncomfortable. Its so worth it though as that door opens and you get to leap out into the vast UAE sky.

I am currently working towards my USPA B-license, having logged over 50 jumps. Part of the requirements is to complete a canopy course, which basically teaches you how to fly (and land) your parachute better (in other words, more safely). The first day was sadly too windy and was cancelled but day two was on and so I spent the day learning the theory of more effective canopy flight, including such principles as stalling (not for the faint-hearted, as it basically involves pushing your parachute to the point where it collapses) and finding the flare “sweet spot,” before going up and out to put into practice what we were learning. As it is just the part of the skydive under canopy that we were concerned with there was no need to go to full altitude, meaning that those of us on the course were the first out of the plane at 5000 feet and literally pulled our chutes a few seconds after exiting the plane – Hop & Pop. Although jumping at 12,000 feet is exhilarating enough, the fact is that 5,000 feels so much closer to terra firma (because it is) meaning that the thought of impacting it seems to be much more prominent in the mind. My first exit wasn’t the most stable and it would be easy to just get into a panic and deploy before being in a stable freefall position, all of which increases the chances of there being a deployment issue and ultimately having to cut away. As such, it is vitally important to remain calm, remember the training, breathe and relax – the key to skydiving. After correcting my body position on exit, the next four jumps went very well and I finished the day with a series of pretty good landings, meaning that I have been able to ‘graduate’, as it were, onto a slightly smaller canopy. In practice, what that means is that I fly under canopy much faster, all increasing the importance of having good control so as to lead to a safe and stable landing, which is the number one priority with this sport.

My parents came over to visit. I have had my first set of visitors as my parents headed over for a week in April, arriving on the day of the World Cup horse races, which we attended. Although I had to leave them to entertain themselves for most of the week, owing to the need to work, the three days we did manage to spend together were action packed and a great deal of fun. There is something about having guests that ensures you remember to do all the touristy stuff that as a resident you’d probably not actually ever get round to doing normally. For example, we headed up the Burj Khalifa – a Dubai must – and had breakfast at the Burj al Arab – again, another must see and do in my opinion. One of the highlights of their trip was a desert ride, although it was not without it’s helping of initial drama, more of which I shall delve into.

So, all in all its been a busy few weeks since I last posted and although I have only actually been here for about nine weeks I do feel as if its been significantly longer, which can never be a bad sign. The next significant challenge, however, is going to be the summer, which I have been led to believe by many, many people is brutal. I guess I shall be catching up on a lot more DVDs then 🙂