bookmark_borderToday is now

I’m a sucker for a plan.

I consider myself a goal driven guy. The type of person that’ll find the motivation they need by setting a goal, then doubling down by adding a healthy dose of guilt when I publicly state my intentions.

I’ve always got half a mind on finding new challenges which inevitably means I end up signing up to do a ‘thing’ and that’s when the real fun can start!! The planning to do the thing!!

I won’t lie, it’s perhaps my favourite time with any new project as that means I can research different techniques, maybe look for some new kit or a gadget or two and, most importantly, crack out a new spreadsheet to track it all! Ohh yes my inner geek revels in such things.

The upside is, when it all works and everything goes to plan, I end up doing things I didn’t think I could and the sense of achievement is wonderful.

When it doesn’t then, obviously, I’m a failure (but that’s a whole other post).

Yes dear reader I am, once again, talking about my lifelong quest to become fit(ter) and healthy(er) (and more productive?).

Let’s wind the clock back a couple of years; I’d rediscovered my love of cycling and was training for Etape Caledonia – 40 miles and a fair few hills – and as part of my training managed to tackle a fairly epic ride on the way, including part of the (locally) notorious Crow Road climb; they used part of the route I did in the recent World Championship race so it’s definitely a ‘thing’ and it remains my longest cycle to date.

I had a plan for all of this, what exercise I’d do and when, and on the whole I managed to stick with it week by week. That helped me to find the motivation to get up at 5am to get out on the bike on a Sunday morning, helped me push myself to get up that first big hill and, the more I followed the plan and could start to feel the effects, so the long term goal of not just completing the Etape but doing myself proud was in sight. And on the day itself, if I do say so, I smashed it! My estimated finish time for the 40 miles, based on all the data that Strava had for all the cycling I’d done before, was 2hrs and 47mins. Actual time on the day was 2hrs 16 mins!

As you’ve probably guessed, I’ve gone and signed up to Etape Caledonia again and, on May 12th next year, I’ll tackle the 55 mile route (even more hills!) and why yes, I do already have a plan in place.

Sort of, but not really.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a rough idea of what exercise I’m hoping to do in the weeks and months ahead to get my fitness levels back to where they’ll need to be but instead of planning out each week in detail, I’m only really going to look at specific training in the weeks before the ride itself, until then I’ll be mixing it up a bit and fitting in what I can, when I can.

I’d love to say that I’d done a lot of research about this, that my decision was based on scientific principles, instead I’ll happily admit that this approach is entirely circumstantial and, looking back, it’s taken a while for me to get to a place that such a plan is acceptable (to my planning focused, perfectionist brain).

A few years ago, going out on my bike during the COVID lockdown with the car-free, empty roads was glorious and, as I was working at home and Jack hadn’t arrived yet, I had more freedom and control over my own time so my days were largely mine to plan as I pleased. I made copious plans and by the time I was able to tackle Etape Caledonia for the first time I hit virtually all of my training goals. Hey, it’s easy to stick to a schedule with few other obligations to work around.

Since then the last couple of years have, obviously and rightly, revolved around Jack to make sure he had all the support he (and Becca) needed to be healthy in mind, body, and soul, as he grows. With that as my focus I deliberately chose not to head out on my bike as often, or for as long, as I had been.

However, the goal driven guy that I mentioned early had signed up for a few cycling sportives this year, and of course I had a plan on how I was going to tackle them as, with each event, the mileage was building and building, with the ultimate aim to complete my first 100km before I turned 50.

I didn’t take part in any of the sportives and in hindsight I have no idea how I was going to follow the plans I had laid out. How I thought I’d be able to carve out 4-5 hours for one cycle (and the hours of training it would’ve taken to get to that) when I’d much rather invest my energy spending time with my son and those previously laid plans now seem a bit laughable!

Or maybe I was using life as an excuse to be lazy? Maybe, but I have gotten to spend a lot of time with my amazing, fast growing, cheeky boy and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. He’s doing so well these days and as a family we settled into a pretty steady routine ~ including reliable sleeping patterns for him ~ and I do not regret a single time I decided NOT to go out on my bike, or NOT to go for a run.

In a sense I guess the past couple of years have been an investment in my son, and we are definitely seeing the payoff. If for no other reason than he’s regularly sleeping through the night these days (I know, I know, I’ve just jinxed it), which means I feel considerably more rested which, in turn, means I have more motivation to commit to things that I’ve made plans to do. Tired Gordon does NOT want to go for a cycle or a run, Tired Gordon wants to sit on the sofa all day long, thanks.

Sidebar: In my head there are two versions of me. The one who achieves and plans and does things and commits 100% (often to the cost of other things) and the one who is the laziest lazy person of all time.

This has given me a sense that I can start to set some goals again, that I’ll be able to manage the training required. So, as soon as I saw the early bird signups for Etape Caledonia were open, I jumped at the chance. It’s something I’ve done before so isn’t a leap into the unknown and it was an event I enjoyed the last time. However, this time around, as soon as I was finished completing the signup form, I didn’t find myself immediately reaching for Excel, my brain wasn’t rushing to break down the coming months into training schedules and rest days.

It appears that my mindset has changed.

I am planning to exercise when I can but, rather than structuring each week carefully, I’m going with the notion of “every little helps” and I know I’ll find times to get some exercise done when I can. Since we moved we now have a garage with an area cleared for workouts and soon I’ll get my turbo set up so, rain or shine, I can crack out 30 mins or so on the bike. That should do for the winter months, especially if you add in a goal for 2023 to complete the local ParkRun course and that’s plenty! (I don’t mind running in rain, or even snow, but cycling? No thanks).

Some of this new mindset is based on circumstance, but I have to acknowledge that there is also an element of personal growth at play, some things I’ve learned the hard way but which have, over the past couple of years, brought me a new sense of self. It’s nothing radical, but something I’d been trying to embrace for a few years and which has, almost by stealth, become a much more prevalent part of my outlook.

Living in the now.

This is not entirely down to having the aforementioned wonderfully bright and engaging boy to spend time with, nor is it entirely due to having to deal with both the upheaval of moving house twice within the last year and suddenly losing my job, but rather it seems that the accumulation of all of these life events have actually helped me learn the simplest of lessons, the ability to be present in the moment, the mindset to live in the now and not worry (too much) about the future or the past.

It’s most evident when I have dedicated time with my son. Viewing the world through his eyes, watching him grow, and develop, becoming this cheeky, inquisitive, gentle soul makes most other things diminish into the background completely. What is more important at those moments in time than just being present for my son? It’s perhaps telling that he is now able to say ‘Daddy, pone dow’, suggesting (rightly) that I spend too much time on my phone, and that I should put it down and focus on spending time with him.

For me I think the most notable, recent, example of this shift was when my last work contract was cancelled out of the blue, on the very evening we were about to set off on holiday. In the past that would’ve consumed me for weeks, my mind churning over what I could’ve done differently to change it (nothing), and what the impact was going to be in the immediate future (a new job) but after chatting it through with Becca it quickly became just something to deal with. Sure it took me a couple of days but in the past it would’ve consumed me for weeks.

And it is increasingly becoming the way of things. I may still get annoyed by things, but they don’t consume as they used to. What’s the point in letting all that negative energy build up?

I can’t take all the credit of course, Becca is calmness personified, measured in her thoughts and with a wonderfully balanced view of the now and the future, and a pretty good take on leaving her past in the past. I’ve learned so much from her and without doubt her consistency and support have been a large part of helping me get to where I am now. What a lucky guy I am.

I know that I will always set myself goals and I’ll always be a sucker for a plan, those aspects of me I don’t want to change as they can be useful at times. It’s just that the these days the plans are a little more vague and a little more open to adapting to whatever life throws at me next and the goals, if achieved, will be accepted a bit more graciously with the knowledge that they were achieved without throwing the rest of my life out of balance.

I recently decided to get back on track with my Couch-to-5K efforts, something I completed a couple of years ago but which I didn’t sustain, and lo and behold I broke my little toe and haven’t been able to run now for the past 3 weeks, with another 2 or 3 weeks recovery ahead of me. It was annoying (hell, it was bloody agony at the time) but all it is is a minor setback. I know I’ll get back to it, my toe will heal and all that’s happened is my plans, my goals, moved out a little.

Tomorrow I will assess how I feel and make a decision. Because by then, it will be now.

bookmark_borderReasons to work

I’ve been made been made redundant three times in my career, so far, and the first two were from my first two jobs. Not a great start, you’d think.

The first time was from a small Scottish company called Crossaig (I built their website back in 1999, christ I’m old…) they were, in hindsight, just trying to survive as a business and my role wasn’t crucial so it made sense that I was let go. Yes I know, it’s the role that is redundant, not the person, blah blah blah.

The second time was about a year and a half later and was prompted by Dr.Solomons being bought by McAfee who promptly made the entire workforce redundant. A couple of months later they started re-hiring but I’d already moved on by then.

My third (Sage Tetra) and fourth (McLaren) jobs I left of my own volition.

And my fifth job at Verint made me redundant due to restructuring and was, at the time, the hardest one to take. I’d spent many years working my way up and buliding a career and it was a bit of a gut punch at the time. I enjoyed the people, the work, and I was in the middle of transitioning to a new role that I was very excited about. Just before I was due to start the new role I took a holiday, went to Glastonbury Festival, and the day I got back in the office I was told my new position (that was supposed to be starting that day) was being made redundant. Ugh.

My sixth job ended outwith my control as well, but not through redundancy. It was my first (and likely only) time as a Contractor. I started on a one year contract which then rolled on every 6 months and, after 7 years of that, they finally pulled the plug. C’est la vie. The fact it happened the day before I went on holiday to France for almost three weeks was just bad timing.

Looking back I think Dr.Solomons, and Verint are the two that hurt the most. But life goes on, as does the need to pay the bills!

I’m on my seventh job now, almost three months in, and currently reflecting why I chose this company over others.

When my contract was cancelled I decided to go back to the ‘security’ of a salaried position and after a couple of weeks of interviews I had four promising leads, no mean feat considering I’d done all the research and initial interviews whilst on holiday in France. One of the roles I kinda knew I’d turn down as it was working for an agency, a way of work I was keen to step away from, and whilst the other two were both interesting (and slightly higher paid) the company I ended up being lucky enough to join held a little more personal investment from the get go.

That company is Allied Vehicles, and their core business is “Allied Mobility™ ~ Europe’s leading manufacturer of wheelchair accessible cars, people carriers and minibuses. We’re also the number one supplier of wheelchair accessible vehicles to the highly successful UK Motability Scheme”.

So why did I chose Allied Vehicles? Well simply because of the massive difference I’ve seen in my Mum since she got Vera.

Ohhh I should point out that Vera is her power assisted wheelchair.

My Mum had a stroke several years ago and, before he passed, my Dad was her main carer. They still managed to get away on cruises, daily outings were common, and they had a wonderful retirement ahead of them. But after Dad suddenly passed my Mum not only lost her husband, but her independence. Dad died during the early lockdown days, so it wasn’t until the world emerged from that, a couple of years later, and we could start taking Mum out for coffees and little trips that I started to realise she just wasn’t getting out much on her own.

Stubbornly she was still walking to the supermarket to buy a paper, but that was the most she could manage, a chore that would take an able bodied person 15 minutes to do, could take my Mum almost an hour.

But it turns out that she had had the same realisation, so when she mentioned she’d been looking into getting a powered wheelchair I was more than happy to help out, did some research and ordered one. It arrived promptly and after a couple of test runs she managed to the local supermarket for a few things and back, all on her own and without the constant fear of failing over (my Mum doesn’t have the use of the right side of her body, she can walk with a stick but it’s always a bit fraught).

Vera arrived not long before I went to France so you can imagine my delight when, upon phoning Mum to see how she was, she happily informed me that she’d gone to the dentist on her own. 40 mins there, 40 mins back in her new wheelchair. AWESOME.

And that’s why I chose Allied Vehicles, because I’ve seen first-hand the difference mobility can make to my Mum’s quality of life.

I’ve never really thought of myself as altruistic, and of course I am getting paid to work, but it’s still refreshing to have these thoughts in my mind as I start work everyday, to have a meaningful reason to turn up and do my best.

When I’m in the office, from where I sit at my desk, I look up I see a large caption stencilled up near the ceiling. It reads WE MOVE PEOPLE AND MAKE A DIFFERENCE TO THEIR LIVES. It’s a core part of what Allied Vehicles do, and one that is a life changing as it is simple.

I’ve worked for a companies that provided indexing software for scientific journals that sold anti-virus software, that provided ERP/Accounting solutions, for a CAD Document Management company, for a Call Centre solution company and, most recently, for a large high street bank, and I can safely say that I have never sat in a meeting room in any of these places and discussed, in detail, WHY we do what we do; Just the other day I heard a story about one of our customers, who had just been moved into critical life care. We were about to provide a vehicle that was taking them on holiday but it didn’t get there in time. These things happen a lot, life inserts itself into our business processes and, invariably it means a customer has declined in their health, or passed away.

It’s sad, but just like my Mum and Vera, it gives real meaning to what we do. It gives me something to focus on when I’m in my 3rd straight meeting of the day, when I’m getting frustrated about something that is ultimately pretty trivial, and it especially helps when we are discussing improvements to our business processes; the customers we serve really do go through life-altering experiences, so the more we can do to help them the better.

Giving the disabled a form of mobility back give them much more than a vehicle. It gives the independence, it gives them a sense of control over that aspect of their life again, and just being able to leave your own house under your own steam, and go for a drive somewhere is something that so many of us take for granted that it’s easy to forget just how liberating it can feel if you’ve felt trapped inside your own home.

Yup, almost three months in and it’s safe to say this is already more than just a job.

bookmark_borderAlmost 50

Apparently old age hits when you are 68, or so I read. I’m not sure why that is, and I’m sure smarter people than me have outlined the reasons in great detail but, on the whole, it sounds about right given that I’m soon to turn 50 and I do not think I’m all that old.

Some days I feel old but I’m not really 50, I’m somewhere in my late twenties I think, it’s hard to pin down an exact number but that’s where my head usually lands when someone asks me how old I am. Isn’t that weird.

The truth of the matter is that I am very aware that I’m about to turn 50 but that’s entirely down to the fact I have an almost 2 year old son. He is at once a constant source of delight and wonder, and a reminder of my advancing mortality.

When Becca and I first got together, she shared her desires to have a baby. It was something I’d consider in the past (and obviously decided against) but with Becca it felt right, it felt like where our lives would head naturally and I quickly found myself delightedly agreeing.

With that thought in my head I found myself starting to think what would be required to bring a healthy baby, safely into the world. From conception, through the pregnancy, and the birth itself I admit there were many worries on my mind. As soon as we knew we were pregnant, despite all the checkups going well, it was hard for me not to worry about the baby being healthy, and when it was time to head to the delivery suite my head was full of conflicting thoughts should the worse happen. Thankfully it didn’t, with Jack arriving safe and sound, and Becca handling all of it (and the post-partum issues) with the strength and compassion I knew to expect from her.

There was also one recurring thought that still pings around my brain. It started soon after we agreed that we would be having a baby and continues to this day.

How much of my son’s life will I see?

How old will I be when Jack starts school, how old when he learns to drive, when he turns 21… 30?

Early on I hoped these thoughts would drive me to get healthier and fitter, the longer to live to see him grow up, and whilst that hasn’t really panned out, it’s still a big factor of my thinking.

I know a lot of this train of thought was driven by the (still recent) passing of my Dad. He was only 73 and though my Mum is still going strong in my head I’m always hoping I can at least make it to the same age my Dad was, that’ll make Jack 25 years old and hopefully I’ll grow old with some comfort that he’s turned out ok (I mean, I know he will, but I’m a parent, we worry about these things).

It is a strange thing to have your mortality so clearly outlined. It’s certainly not something I’ve previously considered in great depth largely because I was only really concerned about myself. Turning 40 was seen as a celebration and a chance to mark ‘half a life’ lived, but with the constantly running commentary in my head centred around how many more years of life with Jack I’ll manage, turning 50 seems much more daunting, not to mention so much closer to, well, death.

Wow.

I should pause at this point and remind you, dear reader, that I tend to write these posts with only a rough idea of what I’m going to say in my mind, barely an outline, and usually only a starting point. So forgive this rather morbid turn!

OK, so I’ll be 50 soon but I don’t really FEEL that age… that said can someone tell me how am I supposed to feel? From what I can tell, if my closest friends are anything to go by I don’t really see much difference, and whilst I know these days I’m mostly just a bit tired I think that’s more about living with a toddler than anything to do with how many years I’ve lived on this planet.

I am almost 50. I have zero complaints. I have a great life, have had many great life experiences, and find myself settled, content, and happy, with a beautiful family. I feel loved by many people, and none of that has anything to do with my age.

I’ll admit I do harbour a deep-seated desire to make sure that when I do pop my clogs I’ll leave my beautiful wife and beautiful boy financially sorted but that’s still a work in progress. For now we have a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, and we laugh more often than we cry… actually we laugh more often than most things, we are a happy little pack of weirdos!

A few years ago, with this number starting to loom, I started a little plan I called Fit for Fifty, and it was going pretty well. I got back into running and completed a few 5KM runs. I got heavily into cycling, and last year I had about 5 different organised ‘sportives’ booked. I was driven. I was focused! Annnnnnd I hadn’t really taken into account the time it takes to train for these things versus the time it takes to nurture a baby…

I didn’t make ANY of those sportives and it’s only really now, since I’ve recently managed to get back out on my bike a couple of times, that I realise just how much of a back seat my plans had taken.

Yes, for the best of reasons (there is literally NOTHING I wouldn’t do for that boy) but it still has an impact on my physical and mental health. I’m slowing getting back into it, but still struggling to find time, and when I do have time I’m exhausted and struggle with motivation, it’s a horrible cycle (no pun intended) to be stuck in!

Perhaps this post is my way of giving myself a kick. Or perhaps that was when I signed up for the 2024 Etape Caledonia cycle sportive (55 miles up some big hills), either way there is a vague sense of being able to get my fitness goals back on track. Like I said I have a much bigger incentive than ever before, and I’m doing my best to use the happiest moments with my wife and son to coax my exercise mojo out from its hiding place.

So I’m turning 50, so what! It’s just a number and as I’ve mentioned here before, with life starting to open up again I can look ahead to the future with hope and love. It’s just a number, and if nothing else matters then I can take a look at how all of my closest friends are ageing and take solace that I’m still not quite as old as them, even if it is only a matter of months…