The Tank was Empty

Myself and the wife have been fairly good at keeping up the Couch to 5K, although for the sake of honesty I’ll say that the good lady has been a lot better at it than I. But hey, it’s not a race, thankfully.

This morning was odd, I just wasn’t feeling it at all. The Tank was Empty. I had no get up and go and I most definitely had that familiar anxious feeling in the pit of my stomach and it was not nice. I have gotten this in the past and I’ve just kept going and it usually went away. However, this morning was different and difficult. The anxious feeling I had affected my legs and I literally had no energy. Into my third lap I just had to stop. There was nothing there and I just had to stop.

Today is also my counselling day. The day when I head up to Navan and talk through the issues which have been taking their toll on me and indeed on the people around me. Today I felt bad, last Monday I didn’t, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

Today I could talk about what was going on and see what bubbled to the service. Christmas 2012 was when I lost an important person in my life, my father died. It’s half the reason I’m going to counselling now, so I can be around for my daughter for as long as possible. Not long after going in did I start to talk about that and I did something I haven’t done in a long time.

I cried.

I cried about missing him, about what’s gone on since he died and about what he’s missing in my beautiful daughter. It hurt to bring it out, but it felt a lot better. It was like a weight was lifted from me and I felt energised. It’s amazing how what was primarily a mental block had manifested itself in such a strong physical way. I wasn’t feeling what was going on up top so my body decided to make me listen.

That’s ok though, I should listen to my body, to what it tells me. Some days you just need to stop and take it easy or you’ll be made to.

It was nice to have that revelation and to not feel crazy for still going through the grieving process even this far down the road. But then that doesn’t hold much water either. Grief doesn’t care for my time schedule. It could be twenty years later and I’d still miss him.

It’s all about watching out for the little things and giving yourself a break every now and then.

Trying to Tri

I’ll set this in context before I go on. It’s January 2017, New Year’s resolutions are already falling by the wayside and I’m looking for ways to keep myself motivated and focus on something other than work. I had already completed a Triathlon and had vowed to never do one again. Nevertheless, I droned on about it and suddenly myself and 2 friends are discussing doing one.

OK, so we’re not super fit and we’d struggle to walk up the stairs, but suddenly this potential event was becoming a lot more real. We talked about bikes, transition, the best clothes to wear on the day, how to fuel up (sure we’re basically athletes, we can say that now) and what sort of times we’d be looking at. We talked ourselves into doing one, the Try-a-tri in TriAthy in Athy. It’s a 250m swim, 20km cycle and 4km run. An entry level triathlon aimed at beginners.  Between us we had a competent swimmer, a decent cyclist and a runner, so now it was just a matter of combining the 3 disciplines over the coming months.

We hit the ground, I’d love to say running, but sure we hit the ground anyway. First up was the swim training. Our competent swimmer was fine. The other 2 had a way to go yet before the open water swimming would be achievable. Next up was the bike. We all had mountain bikes at the start, but we soon realised that would be a mistake and upgraded to road bikes. Some of us borrowed bikes and some of us bought second hand ones. Then there was the running. The running was OK, tough to get out after work, but we managed as best as we could.

So we knew this wasn’t an Olympic sized event, but for the background we had this was our Everest and we were determined to climb it. We swam every week, we cycled every weekend and we tried to get out running/jogging 2 or 3 times during the week. We bought the gear, we squeezed into the wetsuits and we practiced the transition. All we had to do now was train, focus and wait.

The big day came. It was the June bank holiday weekend and we were nervous. The weather was fine, thankfully. Unfortunately the same couldn’t be said for our nerves. We racked our bikes in transition and set the area up for our change out of our wetsuits. Runners down, socks out, towel down, t-shirt down, snacks out, water ready, helmet ready and then check it again. Finally, the transition area was being closed; we had to face our commitment.

Standing there on the bank of the River Barrow in our wetsuits, trying to close them up over the clothes we had on underneath, reconciling ourselves with the fact that there is nothing more we can do now. Trying to turn the nerves from the enormity of what you are about to start into a focused energy. Then suddenly it’s go time. In the water, go, no waiting. Maintain your form; focus on the bridge, breath, and repeat. Keep the head and focus on getting out. People around us struggled but we supported each other before hand and we were ready. We kept our own time and focused on our task. Then it was over, we were out. Now a jog in the wetsuit to transition. Hat off, goggles off, arm out, other arm out, follow the route, find the bike, hit the floor, suit off, t-shirt on, helmet on, go.

Once you’re on the bike there’s a massive amount of comfort in having the swim done. You relax; take a gel, have a bar and hydrate. The route was 10k out and 10k back. It was a good pull at the start but then you relax and ease into it. You get your rhythm and get on with it. Before you know it you’re done and in transition. Bike up, helmet off, water taken and you’re away.

The run is tough. Your legs are like jelly and your body is sending quit signals the whole way. You think of what you’ve done and the small bit left to go. You distract yourself however you can. Count down time and look around. Stay focused on the end goal. Then you start to hear the distant sound of a loud speaker and you begin to feel the excitement of nearly finishing this mammoth undertaking. It gets closer and closer and your moral starts to lift. You start to engage with people around you and it’s almost over.

Then you get there and make a dash for the finish. Your name is called out and you pick up your medal and a wave of emotions wash over you. You’re tired, but delighted that you didn’t drown and could finish. It’s a very welcoming atmosphere and you welcome home the people who come in after you.

Would I recommend this to people? Yes. If you’re looking for a challenge or to push yourself then this is the thing for you. Can’t swim? Learn. It’s never too late. I started swimming lessons in February of 2016 and did my first triathlon in July 2016. Can’t cycle well enough? Practice. Getting out there is the only way to improve and it’s a great way to clear your lungs and head. Can’t run? Buy runners and use them. Aim for 15 minutes one day, 20 the next, 25 the next week and so on. Know nothing about triathlons? Read up about them. You’re not the first one to consider it and you won’t be the last.

Are we Ironmen yet? Not quite, but we’re stronger than when we started.

Don’t Read This, you haven’t got the Time.

You’re just a rebel, aren’t you? Reading this, despite being directed not to. Oh well, your fault if this turns out to be a waste of your time.

Time. Time is the only thing worth worrying about. Time is the only currency you should be concerned about spending. You get no refunds and there is no time owed to you. Your account balance is in a constant decline, there are no top-ups. There is no way to earn more time. Yet time is often the one key thing ignored by people and constantly wasted.

Time is constantly moving, sadly in the one direction. We often spend too much of our precious time wishing we could go backwards or forwards. Time spent wondering about tomorrow or annoyed about yesterday and no time spent on what you’re doing right now.

I see it all the time, you know. People living in different times. Chasing that feeling they had yesterday. Recording a moment to relive it tomorrow. Stop! For f**k sake, stop. Put the phone down. Pull your chin up. Look at what you are doing right now and be there.

It’s easy to say we’re in the present. It’s real easy to say we’re connected. It’s hard to stop, unplug and appreciate the little moments. Next time you’re at a gig or if your child/partner/spouse/dog/cat/stalkee is doing something wonderful, think about where you are. If you’re thinking about living that precious little moment through a 5 inch screen, stop. For f**k sake, stop! It won’t happen again. Take the feeling from that moment and embrace it. Put the poxy phone down and be there. Put your worry aside and be there.

There will come a day when your balance hits zero. What are you going to think then? Are you going to worry about yesterday? Perhaps you’ll have some regrets, we all have them. Are you going to worry about tomorrow? What’s the point, tomorrow has never come, every day in history has been today, the rest is just record keeping and guesswork.

I hope my final thoughts will be made up of snapshots in my head of all the beautiful little moments I have had. Pay attention to feeding the positive memories in your head. Be here, right here, right now. Need some inspiration? See below:

Eating Outdoors

I’m an outdoors kinda guy so it will come as no big surprise that I like to eat outside, have a coffee outside or have a pint outside. However, I find that leads to a problem for me, I hate smoking. I don’t try to shove that opinion in peoples faces but there it is, I hate smoking.

Smoking is peoples own business, if they wanna smoke, do it, it’s fine. It’s insane to me, I don’t understand how anyone sees any sense in it but fair enough. What I am seeing now though is a cultural shift against smoking.

It’s no longer all that acceptable in daily life. Even Leo the lion is getting smokers off government property. One employer even said he does not hire smokers and neither would I in his position. I even think we’re finally getting to the stage where one of the most addictive substances humankind willingly ingests is coming to an end.

My questions; are restaurants, pubs, cafes etcetera going to follow suit? Are the outdoors areas forever going to be refuges of smokers? Who is going to introduce non smoking outdoors areas?

Some people complain that all the new rules regarding smoking and the social stigma attached make it harder for them to enjoy their habit. Good! It’s not a habit, it’s not a treat, it’s not a pleasure, it’s an addiction. It’s a filthy, dirty and expensive addiction. Plain and simple. I feel sorry for smokers, sorry that they’re caught in the grasp of one of the most addictive legal drugs available.

I’ve never smoked, I will never fully understand it, that’s true. All I’ve ever seen of it is the damage it does to people I care about. When people tell me they had the power to quit I genuinely congratulate them, that must be extremely tough.

Maybe it’s time that smoking is pushed to the fringes of society. Not the smokers but smoking. Make it a chore to smoke. The chore may push people over the edge of quitting. It might make them sick of going out of their way to bring their chemical balance back up towards normal. That’s all it does by the way, it doesn’t give you a high it just levels you out so you’re on the same level as a non smoker, for a little while anyway.

So, people who sell booze, food and coffee, please have a non smoking area outside, that would be great.

Hiking Tips

I like the auld bit of hiking. The whole thing of getting outdoors and pushing yourself. It’s a great mix of nature and exercise. When you’re doing it you’ll often see other hill-walkers and climbers and you’ll exchange a pleasant hello and maybe a bit of banter. Then you encounter the people who don’t do it as much and you’d almost have to pay them to talk to you.

The first group are grand. They’re friendly and welcoming and usually share the same interests. Mainly being the love of getting out. They’ll also have a common look about them. They’ve got the gear and they genuinely look happy about being out. If you’re planning on getting into hill-walking or climbing the bigger mountains there are a couple of things you should put on a checklist;

  • Clothing: Wear appropriate clothing for the conditions. Head to any of the many outdoors shops around Ireland and you’re sure to pick up proper pants, t-shirts, jumpers, jackets and socks. They’ll make a big difference to your morale and indeed your safety. In winter time and in cooler weather warm and appropriate clothing could be the difference between a successful climb and an accident. Hats, gloves, scarves should all be in your bag. Bring spares as well. Spare socks and tops are the big ones, but try fit some spare pants in there too.
  • Footwear: Invest in decent boots. Decent boots will pay dividends in protecting your feet and keeping you steady on the rocks. Don’t just buy the cheapest or indeed the most expensive pair. Try them on, see if they support your ankle and the sole of your foot. These two things will be most likely to bother you on a hike. Also, try and make sure they’re waterproof. Mountains and hills tend to have rivers, bogs, large ponds. Soggy socks will ruin your day. Gators are handy too.
  • Equipment: Walking poles are extremely handy. Especially on windy days and on longer hikes. They are very effective in helping you climb and keep your balance. Know how to use them. When you should keep them shorter and when they should be longer. They’ll also make for handy splints if you or one of your party hurts something in a fall or slip. Bring a compass and map and do your best to keep orientated on your hike. Electronic GPS devices are cool and all but can be absolutely useless. Try and do a bit of research on your route as well. Do not rely on your phone for anything but calling for help.
  • First Aid: Bring a basic first aid kit. Plasters, scissors, bandages, that kind of thing. You may not need them but somebody else who is injured may need them. They weigh very little so why not bring them.
  • Supplies: Food and water are the big ones, especially the liquids part. For the longer hikes you will sweat and need hydration so try bring between 1.5 and 3 litres of water. Some lucozade can also be a good pick me up. Soft drinks though are mostly useless and work against your energy levels and hydration. Brings snacks and a main snack for when you reach your peak. Fruit, sandwiches, tins of tuna are all good choices. A hot drink in a flask can also boost you on the trip. Toilet paper. Bring toilet paper. You never know when you’ll need it, but surely it’s one of those things you’d rather not miss having.
  • Talk: Tell people where you’re going and roughly how long you’ll be. That way if you get injured or stranded you shouldn’t be missing for too long. If you’re driving try not to hide your car when you park it, that way people will have a good indication as to where you started.
  • Bag: why bring all that nice dry stuff and then bring a bag that will soak up the water like a sponge. A good waterproof bag will cost you between €30-€50 and will come with a cover for when (WHEN) it rains. Try go for a 33/35 litre bag, they’re the perfect size. Lots of places to put all your stuff.
  • The Weather: The weather rules, you will not beat it. Look at the forecast. If it’s not too bad you’re good to go. If it’s to be particularly poor then maybe choose a different hike or less challenging route.
  • Plan: Have a plan (at least a rough one). Know where you’re going, what to expect, when the sun goes down, the basics really. Plan to bring what you need. Don’t go crazy though, there’s no point lugging a massive pack around if you’re only out for a relaxing hike.

The last time I went hiking with a small group there was a wind warning in effect and on a mountain or a hill you really feel that. I was fine. I was snug in my ski pants, jacket and 2 layers underneath with my hat, gloves and scarf. I was astounded and shocked by the people I saw coming up as I headed back down, the second group of people you encounter on days out. There was one group of ladies with no jacket between them all wearing a t-shirt and yoga pants with flat runners. It was a recipe for disaster and on the way down I could hear it in them.

One lady complained that she couldn’t feel her hands and nearly started crying. I don’t blame her. As she was saying that her friends where leaving her there. Which was in particularly poor form as the one lady with a small bottle of water had passed me already. They were clearly not prepared for the day that was in it and the climb ahead. I also once encountered two hikers who had relied on their GPS, which failed them. They went a long way in the wrong direction. Luckily for them it wasn’t too late to correct their mistake.

In not preparing in even the slightest way they were putting themselves at risk. In doing that they were putting others in harms way. If we’ve seen anything over the past few months it is that there is a network of brave volunteers out there who are prepared and ready to go rescue and help people who get stuck or injured. Yes, sometimes the shit just hits the fan and you need to get help. However, I can’t help but get the feeling that they wouldn’t have to go out so much if people just got the basics right.

So…KISS. Keep it simple stupid. Plan ahead and try avoid the hassle of making the news. Try not to go beyond your abilities. Over time you will be able to do more, but take it easy. Most importantly, get out there and enjoy yourself. Take in the fresh air, the sights and the relaxing feeling that comes with putting your boots on the ground.

Please do share your own tips in the comments below. What would you add in?

Modern Marketing

Marketing, it has really changed beyond recognition and beyond what it used to be. The theory was that you developed the campaigns, you initiated the roll out of the campaign, you managed it and you accepted the kudos when you compiled the metrics to prove your campaign worked. However, it doesn’t really work like that anymore, does it?

The fact is that your marketing department doesn’t even show up for work, will probably never sit behind a desk in your offices and you probably won’t even pay them a cent. But they are absolutely invaluable to you. Thanks to the ever increasing use of smartphones and tablets in the Irish market they are now more empowered than they have ever been. The truth is that your most influential marketing people are sitting behind their screens and contemplating what value your brand brings to their lives. They are posting on Instagram, twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr and every manner of sharing site. It is now easier than it ever has been for your market to shout about you for all the world to hear. Be careful though, they’re shouting good and bad things!

Marketing used to be the thing which led the customers purchasing decisions, now the customers are taking charge of that experience. It may be time to accept that marketing is no longer in the hands of the companies, but is now in the hands of the consumer. So what is marketing now? It’s getting people talking and getting them to recommend the experience. Surely modern marketing is about getting all your potential and existing consumers to become your brand ambassadors.

The marketing world is going to have to accept that consumers are now leading the experience and are no longer being led by it or even to it. They are listening, but have become numb to the messages from the brands, they are listening to each other. That is empowering and they are realising how empowering. Instead of trusting your word for how delicious your food is they’re checking with their friends or they’re checking what people online are saying.

Modern marketing is now more of a customer care experience than a sales pitch. Unfortunately it’s no longer good enough to simply keep shouting about how good you are. You have got to treat your customer like they are worth their weight in gold, brand gold. They are your message, they are your billboard, they are your radio ad, your TV spot and your social media marketing. Give them a reason to talk and they will talk. Make your brand worth discussing and make it approachable. Most importantly, make it for the people who are going to be involved with it. If your brand can give people a total customer experience then you are already marketing yourself. A simple hello and smile at the door, or however you greet your consumer, will pay more dividends then 1,000 leaflets dropped through letterboxes.

Modern marketing must take in the traditional ethos of the Customer being King, while remembering that they have a mass communication device no more than 30 seconds away from their fingertips. Never before has the ordinary person in the street had such a powerful voice and ability to make or break a brand. Treat the people well, get them talking, make them the brand ambassadors and they’ll even pay you for the pleasure. The power is with the people.

With all that in mind, you need to shake up your brand, your marketing department is talking!

5 Good Things

All too often I concentrate on the negative things. The negative things about myself and the negative things going on around me. I’m going to try something new. I’m going to try and concentrate on some good things about me and good things going on around me.

So here ya go, just what you’ve been waiting for, 5 good things about me:

  1. I am well educated: I get hung up on the education thing. I did not do well in school. However, since then, I did educate myself and I did find the motivation to pull my thumb out of my ass. I have many letters after my name. Among them are MBS. I completed my Masters in Marketing from DCU Business School in 2010. That was an important personal and educational milestone to reach. Especially so considering I had a teacher in school who convinced me I could do no better than a C in ordinary level English in the Leaving Cert, that was a knock to the confidence and a pretty horrible thing for her to say. I got an A1 in the end.
  2. I have jumped (fallen) out of a plane: I did this mostly to see what it was like. I did this four times and loved it each time. It made me believe that I’m either very brave or very stupid, I’m still not sure. I’m glad I had the balls to get into the plane, leave solo, plummet towards the Earth and keep the head. Again, a big milestone.
  3. I have climbed two of the highest peaks: In Ireland, nowhere else, just yet. I know I still have two to go. However, it’s nice to know I can set my sights on something and do it. It’s important to know that you can keep going even when your body is screaming at you to stop.
  4. I have a wife and child now: It’s nice. It’s a lot of pressure. Sometimes you don’t know what the hell is going on (with the child mostly (just kidding dearest wife)). It’s nice to have people in your life who you know are a massive part of yours and that you are a massive part of theirs. I make my wife smile and laugh and my 3 month old daughter is starting to laugh at with me too. I can make people happy just by being there and that is a very good thing.
  5. I am strong: OK, this is a very simple one but it’s always nice to be strong. It’s comforting to know that you can be the heavy lifter in the house.

So there’s 5 things which are good about me. When you’re getting bogged down by all the negative thoughts running through your head then maybe it’s time to take a step back grab a piece of paper and just write down 5 good things about yourself. If you can’t do it then maybe ask someone else to.

No matter how much of a bad guy you believe yourself to be there will always be redeeming features. It may seem a little self indulgent, but sometimes you really do need to concentrate on yourself before you lose yourself.

Husband & Father. Green hat with a hint of Black, White, Yellow, Red & Blue.

%d bloggers like this: