Kirsten’s Cavalcade 2013

December 30, 2013

Ironman!

Ironman!

I’m not sure whether it is the constant stream of ”2013 highlights” around at the moment or whether it’s just normal at this time of year, but I too have found myself reflecting on my year just-about-gone. And I’m not short of highlights to pick from this year. Kirsten’s Cavalcade 2013 features, of course, an Ironman and New York marathon, but also up high on the list is Etape Bornholm in July. Not just because I snapped up the second place in my age group, but because it is one of the best running events I have ever participated in (I recommend it if you haven’t tried it) and this year the weather definitely contributed, as did the fact that my husband ran too. But my sporting highlights aren’t limited to “events”. This was the year where my relationship with Open Water (OW) swimming started – a truly turbulent, passionate relationship with the low of dropping out of my first OW triathlon with a panic attack, and the high of swimming 3.8 km (twice) and enjoying it! I suspect that it will continue to be a stormy, but hopefully lifelong relationship! Then there was my cycling trip to Majorca where I discovered that I love cycling up mountains in the sunshine! And I can’t leave off the list that feeling of being in peak physical condition which only happens when you manage, for a sustained period of time, to hit the right balance between pushing yourself to the limit, but not tipping over into exhaustion and injury. I hit that point in the run up to the Ironman, just a few weeks before my 50th birthday!

With my beautiful daughter

With my beautiful daughter

Not all my highlights this year have been about exercise though. It’s not that often that my family manages to get together since some of us are in Scotland, some in London and we are here. This year though we managed to all get together twice – in the spring for my daughters confirmation and in the autumn for my Mum’s 80th birthday. Special times with my most special people. And then there are friends. Great times spent with “old” friends, but also a bunch of new friends this year! And related to that, I am both proud and humble to have become Vice-Chair of PACT, a sports association for cancer survivors and a group of the most fun, lovely and inspiring people you ever could imagine. And believe it or not, I have actually done some work this year too, including one of the most interesting projects of my career to date – in Indonesia.

Yes, it’s been quite a year: but as I was running through this list of highlights it struck me that the ABSOLUTE highlight is that in 2013 I lived my life exactly the way I dreamed of living my life when I decided to leave the security of a “proper” job and take my chances as a freelancer. My ambition wasn’t just to have better “work-life balance” – an expression that never really made sense to me as it seems to kind of already assume that there is “work” on one side of the scale and “everything else lumped together” on the other side in some kind of even match. Rather I wanted to scrub out those artificial lines altogether and spend time on projects and activities that I’m passionate about, enjoy and that give me energy, ideally along with people that inspire me and give me energy. And that has been the essence of my 2013.

So with that, I wish you a very happy New Year where you have the opportunity to spend as much of your time as possible doing things that you love and that give you energy, together with people who inspire you.

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For the first time ever this week I spent more than 10 hours training, actually more than 10½! It sounds like a lot, but I guess if you consider that your average person probably spends a lot more than that watching TV each week, or that many people spend more time than that commuting to work, then I don’t think it’s that bad really.

However, one thing is what I think and another is the perception on the home front, so I did a satisfaction survey this week. Well, sort of. I asked my husband if he felt my training was encroaching too much into family life. He actually looked a little surprised that I asked him, but then said “no, not at all!”. So, so far so good on that front!

Typically in a week I’m running 4 times, swimming 3 times, spinning/cycling twice and doing strength training 4 times. However being my own boss and working from home I am able to spread this out quite nicely during the week including during what is, for most people, working hours.  So not only does my husband not feel that it encroaches into family life, I don’t feel it encroaches generally too much into my own life. Or at least not more than I think is manageable and fun.

What is even better though is that it doesn’t leave me totally exhausted. And that surprises me more! When I “only” ran I covered more or less the same weekly distance at the same intensity as I do now – that accounts for between 3 and 4 hours of the total training amount. So now I have added an additional 6 or 7 hours of other training and not only am I not MORE tired, I actually feel LESS stiff and sore than I did when only running!

There are probably experts out there who can explain why this is. My own feeling is that it is partly to do with the strength training which I think is helping make some of my vulnerable spots less susceptible to the stresses and strains of running. Mainly though, I think it is because that swimming and cycling on the days when I don’t run – or even on the days when I do, warms and loosens up all my muscles and joints so that they don’t get a chance to get all stiff and sore, but without stressing them more they way running does.

It’s going to be interesting to see whether the trend continues as the training increases!

Well, the reaction from most people who know me when I announced that my next goal is an Ironman distance triathlon was “you’re crazy but I’m not surprised”.  Apparently I’m predictable!

One comment was a little different though, “good luck to you…. and to Erik” (Erik being my husband). That stopped me up a bit, particularly since the friend who wrote it presumably knew what he was talking about since his wife trained for a half-Ironman earlier this year.

It reminded me of an article in one of the national newspapers around the time of Challenge Copenhagen this year (here for those of you who read Danish) where a wife totally slags off her husband who she feels is neglecting her and their children due to his triathlon obsession! I don’t know the couple in question, but you could wonder which the worse sin is: obsessing with triathlon or publicly criticising your husband in a national newspaper, but that’s another issue…

At any rate, I did clear my Ironman Project with my husband prior to committing and I believe gave a fairly honest picture of what was involved. And, so far at least, he is 100% on board with the project. I wouldn’t be doing it unless he was. Honest!

I also wouldn’t be doing it if I had a proper job, a commute and small children.  At the moment my lifestyle provides a great deal of flexibility so, if there was to be a good time in my life to do an Ironman, that time is now.

First of all, I’m self-employed and I work at home. So I decide myself what projects I do (providing I get offered them of course), how I schedule my time, and I have my office at home so I don’t have any commuting time. I have a very relaxed attitude to planning my weeks/days. I figure out what I have to/want to do with regards to work projects, household chores, family life, friends and training and plan my time accordingly. If I feel like running in the morning then I might work a bit later in the afternoon. Or even take a whole day off work and work more on another day.

Secondly, my kids are teenagers so I have a lot more freedom/free time than I did say, 10 years ago. Mind you, it’s not that I don’t spend any time with them. Since I work at home I see them regularly as they are in and out throughout the day (more than they probably like!).

The one thing in my life that could prove to be challenging to coordinate with the training is my travel activity. I do usually try to get some training done when I am away on business trips but it is nothing like the amount I do at home. However I will take this as it comes. The peak training period will be next summer when I usually take time off anyway. Between now and then I’ll have to weigh up opportunities as they arise and figure out whether they can fit in with my training. I’m only going to do this Ironman thing once (and I mean it!) so as long as I can earn my keep between now and then, the training gets priority. Between now and the year-end I only have a one week trip scheduled so that is fine so far.

It’s going to be interesting to follow this side of things though as the training builds up. I guess the proof of the pudding will be whether you see Erik in a newspaper article next August with the headline “Frustrated Triathlon Husband: What the heck kind of wife did I end up with!”

The Ketchup Effect

June 8, 2012

When I decided to become a freelancer a couple of years ago one of my worries was whether I would be able to keep my travel activity at manageable levels. My line of work requires that I travel, there is really no way around it. In the years prior to the BIG DECISION I had typically been travelling around 80-100 days a year, albeit typically trips of not more than 1 week at a time. The problem with that was that I was usually expected to be wherever I was going from Monday to Friday which meant that many of my weekends were taken up with travelling, which really eats into family life.

If anything I expected my travel activity to increase as a freelancer and most likely to include trips of a longer duration. But I reckoned that at least 1. I would have control over what assignments I accepted and 2. My office would now be at home which would allow me more flexibility in my working hours to better fit around family life.

So far though I’ve been very lucky and the travel has by no means been excessive. While I have had projects enough to keep my busy full-time (and more if I wanted), the majority of the work has been home-based. In 2011 I only had around 30 work travel days spread out throughout the year which was definitely manageable! So far this year I have only had a couple of week-long trips.

Until now. Do you know the ketchup effect? (Shake, oh shake the ketchup bottle. None will come and then a lot will!).

Yes, well this week I’ve been in Amman, Jordan since Sunday and I head home again this evening (Friday). Then after less than 40 hours at home I head off again on Sunday evening to Windhoek, Namibia where I’ll be for 3 weeks.

I’m definitely NOT complaining though. While I am about as big a fan of airports and planes as I am of hospitals (a necessary evil!), these are very exciting projects which I’m delighted about working on.

So here I am in Amman and next week I’ll be in Windhoek, and life is good!

Happy Anniversary!

April 3, 2011

Friday was a double anniversary for me. It was one year ago, on 1 April 2010 that I took the huge step and became self-employed. I didn’t actually stop being employed for another 2 months having made an arrangement with my employer that I would reduce to half-time for two months before leaving completely, while working from home and on the condition that I also could start working on my own projects. This is an arrangement that I would definitely recommend to others starting out on their own, though it does depend on having a good, flexible and trusting employer, which I was very lucky to have.

Less happily, it was also on 1 April 2010 that I first discovered the lump in my armpit that later showed itself to be a symptom of my Hodgkins Lymphoma. I have no idea how long the lump had been there but it was fairly large by that stage. Hodgkins lumps are usually painless, but can be sensitive to alcohol. That weekend we were visiting my in-laws for the Easter holidays (yes, I can also recommend starting with a vacation when you start your own business!) and I had probably had a bit more red wine to drink than usual. I woke up in the night with a throbbing pain under my arm which is how I discovered the lump. I lay awake much of the night convinced it was cancer, and headed to the Doctor as soon as we got home again. This is fairly remarkable because I am generally the type who expects things to just get better and usually refuse to go the Doctor until I am forced. This time my intuition worked well for me, that’s for sure. It took another couple of months to get the diagnosis, but during that time I was quite convinced that it was cancer.

A lot of people have said to me that the timing was really, really unlucky. The thing is though, that there is never a good time to get cancer. Sure, economically it was rotten timing – if I had still been employed I would have been paid my salary throughout my sick leave – but we managed. You never know when you start your own business how long it will take before you start making money, so we had budgeted for me not earning much this first year. Plus, in Denmark there is a voluntary sick pay insurance scheme that I had luckily signed up to, so I did get sick pay.

Deciding to go solo is a huge deal and when considering it there are a lot of worries and concerns about what could go wrong. What did go wrong for me was much worse than I ever had imagined! Yet, one year on, I have no regrets. Of course I wish that I hadn’t got cancer, but I have no control over that. I love being self-employed, I love working from home and I love my job!

A Room of One’s Own

April 27, 2010

One of the things that preoccupied me most before taking the jump to self-employment was whether I would work from home or find an office somewhere. Initially I was adamant that I had to find an office space since I couldn’t imagine not having contact with other human beings on a daily basis – as I have mentioned before, the social aspect of going to work has always been important to me.

I explored a couple of possibilities and the one that was most promising was a shared office space with a group of other freelancers doing similar work. It was a great office in the centre of Copenhagen, great people that I could imagine working and having fun with and I was very close to agreeing to move in with them. But when it came down to it I realised that 1. It was going to be a fairly hefty financial commitment, 2. If I made that commitment I would feel obliged to go there all day every day “to get my money’s worth”.

One of the main reasons for wanting to become self-employed was to win more flexibility with regards to how much and when I would work. I’d like to be able to take time off during school holidays or in the run up to a marathon, for example, but also to be able to do other things during the day and work during evening (or not at all) if that suited me better. I realised that by signing up for that office I would have to work to pay the rent, and I was going to end up working regular office hours to justify it. So I said no.

Instead we have reorganised at home and have created a really comfortable office in a room that doubles as our guest room.

And interestingly, so far I haven’t missed the social aspect of going to the office. Facebook and Skype keep me in contact with my network. And with regular travel, it’s not like I’m here all the time anyway. If, I do start to feel the need to get out I may join more informal office “club” like La Officina. But then again…. maybe I’ll just invest more time and energy in my non-work social life!

Hello World!

April 12, 2010

Thank you for joining me for a coffee break! I’m now in week 2 of my new life as a self-employed consultant working from home. After more than 25 years of going out to work every day, I now just head into my home office!

My home office

 So far I’m liking it, but I do miss the social aspect of going to work. I’ve always had friends at work, not just colleagues, and the daily chit chat about life in general is one of the best parts of going to work! So I’ve started this Blog to satisfy some of my chit chat needs!

I’m expecting I’ll want to chat a lot about starting up my business, and the huge lifestyle change that this is for me. But one of the reasons for taking the plunge was to give me more flexibility in my life overall, so I  wouldn’t be surprised if I feel inspired to share on some of the other aspects of my life – my travel experiences, family life and let’s face it…running……..