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_borderWhen plans change

I’ve been goal driven most of my adult life, it’s part of who I am and over the last few years I’ve been slowly changing my approach to it so I’m confident that these days it’s a healthy thing, not a potentially self-sabotaging mechanism.

Which is just as well as, somewhat predictably, my goals for this year are slowly shifting. This is mostly due to injury, a little to do with bring up a 7 month old boy, and a lot to do with being sensible and not letting myself getting too downhearted when things don’t go to plan.

For example, this weekend we are supposed to be heading up to Pitlochry so I can take part in a cycle sportive, one I completed last year, but I’ve decided not to go. I’ve not been able to get much training done due to issues with both feet; I had podiatrist visit on Thursday to cut out some of whatever is stuck in my left foot (and has been for over a year) and have another podiatrist appointment next month to see if I do have Morton’s Neuroma in my right foot.

On top of that, we are working Jack into a sleep schedule, Becca is back to work so we are adjusting things around that too, and truth be told I’ve just not had the energy or mojo to get out on my bike enough. And when I have gone out recently I’ve hit the 1hr mark and started to flag. Amazing how quickly your fitness disappears!

So the sensible thing is to drop out of the sportive this weekend. And I’m happy to do so, which is a nice change from where my head may have gone in the past where I would’ve looked at the reasons I’m not doing it as excuses or some sort of weakness, whereas it’s more just down to circumstance.

I set out this year with the vague notion of getting my fitness up to the 100km cycle mark but given it’s May already then that’s unlikely to happen, never say never of course, but instead of beating myself up for failing to meet a goal I’m simply adjusting and focussing on enjoy life. Enjoying taking long walks with my son in his pram, enjoying exploring Bothwell with our dogs, and enjoying when I can get out on my bike.

I do have more sportives booked, but the more I think about them, the more I realise that if I don’t do these there’s no harm to me. I can always try them another time.

5th June – Tour of Mull – 43 miles/70km
17th July – Helensburgh – 50 miles/ 80km – provisional (still to book)
21st Aug – Round Strathaven – 50 miles/80km
4th September – Tour o the Borders – 55 miles/88km

Perhaps it’s a good thing that I’ve not done these sportives before, perhaps that’s why when I decided not to take on Etape Caledonia this weekend I was more relieved than I realised. I’ve done it before, I set a good time for it and I know myself well enough to realise I’d have done it and felt disappointed if I didn’t beat that time. After all, we are always supposed to improve, right?!

I feel good about this decision, having mulled it over for most of the day and, as Becca has pointed out, we’ve already had a helluva few months. So, I might participate in the ones to come, or I might not, but I’m feeling good about making it a ‘wait and see’ decision, removing the pressure on myself to hit training goals, removing the fear of failure, and letting me get back to enjoying just going out on my bike.

bookmark_borderMy A to Z of cycling

Over the past couple of years it’s fair to say that cycling has become my main hobby.

Like most hobbies it started out innocuously enough but quickly became a focus that consumed more and more of my time and thoughts. Safe to say I’ve been on a learning curve (and still am) and I often find myself reading an article and having to pause to look up what some of the terminology means. I now know what LBS* stands for, and have learned which group set each of my bikes has (yes I have three bikes now, with a four under discussion).

Looking back I can see I’ve learned a lot but I’m more than happy to admit that I’m still a very amateur amateur and I’m happy to remain at this level where the enjoyment of cycling remains being out on the bike, not learning what each and every doohickeys and thingamajigs is called. As I’ve gotten more involved with various cycling groups online I realise I am not alone in this too, and with many people turning to cycling through lockdown, or just turning over a new (greener) leaf this year I thought I’d pull together my own learnings and thoughts about cycling.

So over the coming weeks I’ll be publishing my own A to Z of cycling covering a variety of topics that are cycling related and including my own thoughts on this wonderful hobby, good and bad! It will touch on some of the items I’ve bought, challenges (physical and mental) that I’ve faced, and if nothing else will maybe help me understand more about why this hobby has landed so deeply with me.

I’m not going to be sticking to a schedule for these posts as, like cycling, blogging is a hobby that sits alongside the rest of my life and right now the main focus is neither blogging nor cycling but my 3 month old son.

I hope these posts will be of some use and, as always, I welcome comments and suggestions as we go. Look out for the first proper instalment soon.

Chapeau!


* Local Bike Shop

bookmark_borderNOT more to life than this

At present, I really only have three topics of conversation.

1. The dogs.
2. The baby.
3. Cycling.

And no, they aren’t in a specific order.

Of course, there is more to life than those three things (apparently?) – those on my Instagram can attest that I’m still treating myself well with delicious foodstuffs if nothing else – and yes I read the news, and yes I watch football and F1, and yes I read books (and yes some of those books are ones about bringing up a child).

I even watched a movie the other day! Tenet if you are interested, an interestingly baffling almost good movie.

Outside of that, with the baby due in 4 weeks, I’m trying to do the rounds of seeing my friends and making sure our home is as ready as it can be for when our child arrives. We’ve sensibly ‘retained’ our dog sitter and the dogs will stay with her for a few days so we can have that time, just me and Becca and the wee smush, to adjust to being home before team chaos return to investigate this small smelly noisy thing that will be turning their lives upside down.

We aren’t worried about the dogs and how they will react. Actually, that’s not entirely true, we do worry that Sasha will use her usual sign of affection and sit ON the baby which, I’m sure you will agree, is less than ideal. Dave we think will either be in protector mode and never leave the baby’s side or will be completely disinterested.

We’ve just finished our wonderful NCT course too and, between that and the amazing hypnobirthing classes, we feel as well prepared as we can be, with the full realisation that we will still be learning a lot as we go.

And there I go again, talking about the baby.

On the other hand, I haven’t mentioned my bikes, one of which has two new tyres and a new chain needing to be sorted, and the other is going to be out and about on Sunday for another FLAB Social Ride. I missed not being out on my bike this last week or so – I managed to hurt my back and was laid up for most of last week – so it’ll be good to be out in the fresh air.

I’m also harbouring ideas, now that the weather is turning, to get back out running with a long-standing ‘do a ParkRun’ goal possibly being realised before the year is out. All part of my secret ‘Fit for Fifty’ plan that is slowly (very slowly at times!) having a positive effect on my physical fitness and my mental health. Hopefully, that means I can take Dave out with me on a run now and then too, which will be good for him as well!

So there you have it, try as I might – I did mention I watched a movie, and I’ve been reading some books too, right? – the topics remain the same.

This makes sense, this is my life, after all, I am the one who made the decisions that brought me here. And I have no complaints, just the realisation that my life is beautifully focused and simple now, there is very little in the way of negativity that can creep in, and I spend the vast. majority of my time on things I love.

I guess my life can be seen to be simple and viewed through the lens of this blog and my other social media channels it certainly appears that way, but that is no bad thing. There are many things you don’t see, things I don’t mention, passions that I retain for myself, and my life feels all the richer for it.

I’ve blogged before about ‘minimalism’ and the like, but perhaps that’s not, or should not, best viewed through the lens of commerce and possessions, perhaps the simpler more minimal life is one where your passions and desires align and bring you riches of happiness every day. Perhaps this is what I’ve been striving for all along and the slow reduction of physical clutter (which needs to happen again soon) has maybe let me pause and breathe and relax into who I am, and what my life has become.

The fact I can boil it down to mostly three things, three things that make me happy every single day, is probably the most telling of all. This simple life.


I’d be remiss if I didn’t conclude this without mentioning the glaring omission, the one constant support these past few years, the one who encourages me, listens to me and is going to be the most amazing mother to our child. Without her, my life would be empty. I am very lucky to be part of her life and so so very grateful we found each other.

bookmark_borderCongratulations to me

I’ve never been very good at praising myself. Achievements don’t land, or sit, for very long. It’s something I’ve learned the hard way, and whilst my tendency to just brush things off once I’ve done them is my default so in an effort combat that I’m just going to say this.

Well done me!

Just finished the ‘big hill’ and very pleased with myself!

Yesterday I rode in my first ‘sportive’ event – a timed, closed road cycling event, not a race but not a ‘family fun’ ride either as there is a minimum time/speed – and whilst I wasn’t worried about being able to complete it, I did a lot better than I thought!

I rode the route on 1st August on a dry cool early morning, a few weeks later and the roads were slick with overnight rain and it was several degrees cooler, but thankfully it wasn’t pouring from the heavens so I didn’t need full waterproofs to survive. The start was a little chaotic, mostly because it wasn’t clear how to get to the start line.

Because there are a few thousand riders, the organisers used a field to funnel people at the start, with riders allocated to a specific ‘wave’ of start times. This was based on your estimated completion time (I’ll come back to that in bit) and is a perfectly good and oft used way to organise the start at an event like this. Alas not everyone, myself included, got information about how to get to that area and so a couple of hundred of us just headed down the road to where we knew the start line was thinking that there might be directions once we got there.

There wasn’t, so we had to wait around until the organisers sussed it out. It meant that instead of my starting time being around 7:45am, it was a full 30 minutes later. 30 minutes of standing around which wasn’t a great way to start the ride. We all eventually got going though, and with the start line a little way along the road from where we’d been waiting it’s not like we lost any time…

My starting wave, based on my predicted time, was the last one, wave E. However given that this ride was actually the one postponed from 2020, when I hadn’t really been cycling all that much, it’s safe to say that my predicted time when I submitted my entry – 4hrs – was a little off…

That said, it’s hard to compare times between when I cycled the route previously, and how it went yesterday – I started and finished in different places each time – but it was the official timing chips handed out and stuck on your bike that told the true story; for the 40 mile route I finished in a time of 2hrs 16mins and 18 seconds, and came in 97th place out of 589 riders.

I’m still not really sure how to process that as I didn’t think I’d even be in the top half of finishers let alone in the top 100. It’s not like I was pushing myself, we had wet and slippery roads to contend with, and I really was just out to enjoy the morning, gaining some experience of riding in a sportive, and just enjoying being out on my bike.

I’m already wondering what the next challenge is of course but, for a change, I’m going to let this sit a while, and be proud of myself because I should be.

The official results!

As a sidenote, I was also gathering donations for Muscular Dystrophy and set an initial target of £400 (cos 40 miles). Currently I’ve raised £709 which is mind boggling and wonderful. So grateful to everyone that donated.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/gordon-mclean2

bookmark_borderI iz a cyclister

It’s fair to say that I’m enjoy cycling way more than I expected and as someone who has the habit of jumping into new hobbies quickly (and deeply) I’m even happier that the simple joy of exploring the local countryside has yet to abate.

I’m also happy to find myself capable of much more than I thought too, both physically and mentally, and oddly I’ve found it’s the latter that is the larger part of what I’ve had to overcome when it was the former that has played on my mind far more in the past.

Having gotten a new bike last year, and having made the most of the COVID lockdown quieted roads, I started cycling more regularly but then I seemed to stall. I got to about the hour mark on my rides, mostly on the same roads, and it was starting to get a little boring.

It took me some time to figure out what the issue was… why couldn’t I ride further?

In the past, I’ve done longer organised rides like Pedal for Scotland – cycling from Glasgow to Edinburgh (bus back) – and whilst they are 40+ miles, they are a day out with a few stops for cake and food along the way, tackled by all abilities, and was more about the day itself than the cycling; it was a great event that unfortunately ended a couple of years ago.

What I realised last year was that the few times I did Pedal for Scotland, it became a goal, a reason to get out on my bike before it to make sure I could actually do it and, whilst I know I enjoy being out on my bike once I’m out, I still occasionally need that push, still need that goal, a reason to sling on my cycling gear, don a waterproof, and start spinning the pedals.

So, in the spirit of challenging myself and setting a goal, I signed up to ride Etape Caledonia last year but thanks to COVID, it’s been moved (twice!) and is now finally running this coming September. It’s a 40 mile route and, while it does include rest stops, it is a bit more serious than Pedal for Scotland with a suggested ‘minimum average speed’ of 13mph, which at the time seemed like a good thing for me to target, and so the training began.

My beautiful fiancee and her family are big cyclists – her brother was a professional cyclist for a few years – so I’ve had no end of encouragement and helpful pointers when needed, and this includes picking routes which can, in my limited experience, make or break things, that and the weather obviously.

Becca is a mobile dog groomer so has spent a lot more time driving around the West of Scotland than I have and she has been wonderful at suggesting routes for me to try, including which direction to go to avoid (or tackle) the steeper hills. Strava is my weapon of choice when it comes to planning routes; it’s maybe not the best but as it syncs easily with my Wahoo Roam bike computer it’ll have to do for now.

Becca’s local knowledge has been a huge boon. With the confidence of her directions, a GPS map in front of me, and even taking the time to drive the route in advance, I’ve pushed past my ‘limit’ of 1hr, blasted through 2hrs, and can now comfortably ride for 3hrs.

At this point the challenges change. Etape Caledonia is 40 miles, and by current average pace estimate, Strava thinks I’ll complete that (non-stop) in about 2hrs 47 mins. To put that in some context, when I first started training for it, the estimated time was 3hrs so I’m pretty happy with that progress with still a couple of months to go.

I’m even going to ride the Etape route in advance just to get my confidence a little higher because, as it turns out, that’s all I was really missing, confidence and self-belief. My legs have hauled me up some long horrible hills and I have to admit I’ve surprised myself at my ability to just keep going; the most recent horror was ‘Tak Ma Doon’ up and over the Campsies which took me 30 minutes of solid (slow) riding uphill (rated 9th hardest hill in the UK I think!)

All of this means that while I know I won’t be the fastest person at the Etape in September, I’m pretty sure I won’t be the slowest, but that’s really not what it is about. All of this, I now understand, is just giving me the confidence to go and ride the event without fear, to go and have fun out on my bike amongst our beautiful Scottish countryside.

Beyond the Etape there are other goals to look towards, 100km, 100 miles, and at that point I’ll likely stop because whilst I enjoy being out on my bike, the current estimated time for me to complete a 100km ride is 4hrs 20mins (100 miles comes in at 6hrs 45mins, so an entire day on the bike!), and that’s before the not inconsiderable event of the arrival of our new born sometime late October. By then who knows what free time I’ll have, maybe that 1hr loop will seem like a luxury!

Yes, it’s fair to say that I’ve got the cycling bug and whilst I’m mostly a fair weather cyclist, the desire to get out for a spin is starting to override the usual Glasgow showers. I’m not questioning all this, not overthinking it, just going with the flow and removing all the pressure from myself. It’s just what I do now, another thing to add to the growing list of what I am.

I talked about this before, but whilst my adoption of meditation into my life was a deliberate choice, cycling seems to have snuck up on me a little. The more times I go out, exchange acknowledging nods with fellow MAPILs*, the more I feel at home. No matter how high the hill I feel confident I will get there eventually, no matter how far from home I venture I feel more and more secure in my abilities on the bike, and in my head.

I won’t ever be fast, but I’ll always be happy!


Image (not of me!) courtesy of Fat Lad at the Back – a wonderful company with great products and a super supportive community of riders too!

* Middle Aged Person In Lycra