Saturday, December 29

I want to get my fat arse back in the gym!

After a week of no exercise whatsoever, luckily without resorting to eating more food than Fatty Arbuckle could ever eat, I can't wait to get back into the gym and to my classes - I've even resorted to searching for Spinning classes on YouTube, which led me on to this gem of a video.

Think I work you hard? Check out this guy! And don't worry, I won't be so sadistic... until after Easter hehehehe

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Tuesday, December 25

Bahia - the most beautiful place in the world?

Not only is Brasil full of probably the nicest people in the world, when I was there in 2005 I saw this advert that summed up why Bahia is the best place in Brasil. I have to agree, as it has none of the grey of Sao Paulo, none of the crime of Rio de Janeiro; Belo Horizonte came close but it doesn't have the sea or the beach. If you've been there, you'll be sighing and wishing you were there right now!

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Saturday, December 22

Spinning class: Christmas Party

I make no excuses for this one, although I limited my use of cheesy Christmas songs - much to the relief of my classes! The profile is fairly simple but it can be quite hard if not using the flat road as a recovery, as it means keeping a high level of effort going for the whole ride.

There are different options for the first part of each loop: either as a rest (to recover), a seated flat (a moderate effort) or a standing flat (keep the effort level high). The second part is a fast climb, so needs added resistance, but it works more on the heart rate than the legs. Again, in or out of the saddle are options. Finally, the climb gets heavy with yet more resistance, with the same in/out of saddle option. This climb gives the heart rate a bit of a respite but the legs will take much of the workload.

After doing this loop four times, we finish off with the token Christmas tune - the first minute is a recovery, as it's nice and mellow; then Mariah kicks in and it's time to start climbing. In or out of the saddle, it's three minutes of fast climbing; the final minute is the time to muster up every tiny remnant of energy left in the body and channel through to the pedals for an all-out effort.

Warm up
Party loop x 4
Flat road
Fast climb
Heavy climb
All-out climb
Cool down

No profile for this ride, as it doesn't follow a particular road and HR will be up each individual. Another option is to gradually increase effort level with each loop, e.g., first loop at 70% MHR, second at 75% MHR, third at 80%, then 85%, with the final fast climb taking HR above threshold at 90% and maybe even as high as 98% MHR in the final minute.

Come home - Lil' Devious
Down under - Men at Work
Maniac - Michael Sembello
Moving on up - M People
That's the way I like it - KC and the Sunshine Band
Take on me - A-ha
Together in electric dreams - Philip Oakley & Giorgio Moroder
Walking on sunshine - Katrina and the Waves
Footloose - Kenny Loggins
Atomic - Blondie
Tiger feet - MUD
Can-can - Jive Bunny
Get the party started - Pink
All I want for Christmas - Mariah Carey
Antarctic echoes - Vangelis

Tuesday, December 18

What a month!

So much has happened in the past month that it's hard to know where to begin...

Well, starting with the biggest event, my Department (for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) was offering voluntary redundancies as a way of cutting its staff headcount (but not necessarily its budget!). I've been so disappointed with work and the way in which sycophants were rewarded, with those who dared to question the lack of wisdom of a certain action being told they were not "team players". More importantly, I've come to see that the Department is doomed to be taken over by those interested only in furthering their careers, fiddling while the Earth burns.... Anyway, long story short, I looked at many options for getting out and the money offered was too good not to accept. So, as of the end of this week, I'll be a free man (aka unemployed!). I'm going to give the health & fitness thing a go and, if nothing comes of it, look for a job where I feel I'm making a difference.

What else has happened... ... oh yes, I went to a 3-hour Christmas Spinning Ride, where the UK's Master Instructors took turns is taking us for a challenging and varied ride. Sounds daunting but it was done so well that it was an hour before we had our first hill climb. That's not to say that the flat road was easy... far from it! It was good to be on the "other side" for a change, especially so when led by such good instructors (we are a rare commodity! Hehehehe).

The inevitable Christmas parties have mostly come and gone but I've managed to stay relatively sober and stop myself from eating a month's rations in one sitting! Which is good for me, as I almost always put on weight over the holidays. I have a few more drinking sessions ahead and I'll need to be disciplined, especially now that I'm in the mood for celebrating my new-found freedom from work!

Thursday, November 22

Spinning class: ski-ing in Tignes

Eh? Ski-ing in a Spinning class? Nope, just another from this year's Tour, with the finishing line at the glacial ski resort of Tignes. Another jagged-tooth profile, this one, which will test the legs in the final climb.

After the usual warm-up, it's a short climb to find those climbing legs, before a nice easy descent to the bottom of the big climb of the ride. The climb isn't so steep at the beginning, so the first 4 mins are at moderate resistance but reasonably high tempo, both in and out of the saddle. This will get the heart rate fairly high. Then, as the gradient gets bigger, resistance gets heavier until we need to stand to continue climbing until the summit, where a leisurely descent awaits us. After that, there's a shorter climb but don't let that fool you - the switchbacks (short bursts at high resistance) will take a lot out of your legs; so much so that, after another recovery, the final climb will feel the hardest, despite it being a fairly steady one with gradual increases in resistance. If there is anything left for your legs to give in the final 2 mins, it's time to turn up that resistance even higher and push with all your strength to the finish line. Looks easy but it won't feel like it after those switchbacks!

Warm up - 4 mins
Seated climb - 3 mins
Recovery - 2 mins
Fast climb - 4 mins
Heavy climb - 8 mins
Recovery - 2 mins
Climb with switchbacks - 6 mins
Recovery - 2 mins
Heavy climb - 8 mins
Cool down - 6 mins


Tatouage bleu - Ben Onono
Fuego - Bond
Harlem's nocturne - Alicia Keys
I predict a riot - Keiser Chiefs
Subminimal - Sonic Cube
So com voce - Thievery Corporation
Put 'em high - Stonebridge
Barber's adagio for strings - William Orbit
Insomnia - Faithless
Easter song - A man called Adam

Sunday, November 11

Spinning class: The High Road to Briancon

I can't believe it's been two weeks since I last posted - just shows you how much effort it takes to keep partying for a week! If it wasn't Halloween, it was a birthday or a fireworks party, a bonfire.... or just any old excuse. I've been recovering this weekend - not a glass of vino in sight! Right, let's get to this week's ride - another stage from this year's Tour de France, this time from Val d-Isere to Briancon and crossing the mythical Col du Galibier.

After the usual warm-up, it's straight into a climb - starting comfortable but getting increasingly harder with a resistance change every minute. Then the staggered descent with stretches of flat road that require some effort while keeping a high cadence. Once we get to the bottom, it's straight into another climb, making it increasingly hard and finishing with two minutes out of the saddle to get to the top. After a brief descent, the road heads upwards again, getting tougher and tougher, finishing with another two minutes out of the saddle at the hardest part towards the top. Although the final stretch to Briancon is downhill, we want to keep effort levels high to cross the finish line as quickly as possible so there are three sections of all-out effort, keeping cadence high. Simple, maybe, but not as easy as it looks!

Warm up - 4.5 mins
Seated climb - 6 mins
Flat road - 7.5 mins
Climb - 6 mins
Recovery - 2 mins
Steady climb - 8 mins
Flat road - 5 mins
Cool down - 6 mins


Lebanese Blonde - Thievery Corporation
Changes - Alexander Kowalski
Clubbed to death - Rob D
Rays of the rising sun - Mozaic
Adagio for strings - William Orbit
Razorfish - Tranquility Base
Skylight - Overseer
Easter Song - A Man Called Adam

Saturday, October 27

Spinning class: Halloween!

Yep, it's that time again - whether or not you think it's just an American excuse to feed children yet more sugar with all those treats, it's a perfect excuse to have a bit of fun and dig out some silly tunes, anything related to ghosts, devils, horror or that sounds remotely spooky. No particular profile to this class but I've put it together in this order to keep some variety.

Have a goulish time... mmmmwhahahaharrr!

Warm up - 2.5 mins
Flat road - 6 mins
Seated climb - 4 mins
Jumps - 4 mins
Switchbacks - 3.5 mins
Flat road - 3 mins
Seated climb - 6 mins
Jumps - 4 mins
Sprints on a hill - 4 mins
Flat road / Running - 4 mins
Seated to standing climb - 8.5 mins
Sprints on a hill - 5.5 mins
Cool down - 5 mins

The start is a scene setter, with some very sombre music before hitting the flat road to really warm up the legs and get HR up to around 70%. The seated climbs are fairly heavy, with breaks out of the saddle. Jumps are transitions between sitting and standing positions, done under control and as seamless as possible. Switchbacks are short, hard efforts, where extra resistance is added while trying to maintain cadence out of the saddle, which will increase HR to 80-85%. Sprints on a hill are where we keep the same heavy resistance but increase cadence for short periods, again increasing HR to around 85%. Finally, running is where cadence is fairly high (in the range of 80-110rpm, same as on a flat road) but done out of the saddle with a little resistance, to ensure control of the pedals.


High priests - Michael Flatley (from Feet of Flames)
Riders on the storm - The Doors and Snoop Dogg
Somebody's watching me - Rockwell
Killer - Adamski
Vater Unser - E Nomine (reminds me of The Omen!)
Hard Wax - Manchild (from Blade: Trinity)
Thriller - Michael Jackson (the ultimate horror video!)
Ghostbusters - Ray Parker Jr
Breathe - Prodigy
Thirsty - ODB (from Blade: Trinity again)
Insomnia - Faithless (the darkest climb)
Keep hope alive - The Crystal Method (let's escape the horror!)
Moments of ambience - Odessi

Wednesday, October 17

Ironman World Championship

No, not something I've done (I wish!) but I watched it live from Hawaii on Saturday night/Sunday morning. Usually, it's not the best of spectator sports, as it takes the pros around 9 hours to complete, but this time I had a reason to stay tuned: Chrissie Wellington was racing in it and I know her from when she was working as a fellow paper-shuffler at Defra (civil service). She's gone from trying Olympic distance events to leaving her job to train full-time as a pro, winning her first Ironman event in Korea and qualifying for the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.... in only a few years! Hats off to Chrissie and provides me with inspiration to train harder, with a view to entering a few events next year. This from the race report on the Ironman website (

You'�d be forgiven if you looked at the results from the� Ironman World Championship, saw the name of the women�'s champion, and asked �"Chrissie who?".�

Chrissie Wellington is hardly a household name in the world of Ironman racing. Her first year in the sport was last year, when she claimed an ITU World Age Group title. Just seven weeks ago she competed in the Ironman Korea race, her first Ironman. She easily won that race, finishing an astonishing seventh overall in the brutally tough conditions. Despite that impressive result, Wellington arrived in Kona as absolutely no one’s race favorite, even her own.

“I was hoping for a top ten,” she understated at the press conference.

Wellington’s journey to claiming the Ironman title here in Kona has been anything but normal. While she was an “active child,” growing up and a competitive swimmer as a teenager, she was hardly what she considers a competitive athlete. While she swam while in university, that was more an exercise in drinking, she joked in an interview after the press conference. After she finished university, Wellington spent a couple of years travelling. She returned to school to get her masters, then was off traveling again. She started running in 2002 because she wanted to lose some of the weight she’d gained while on the road. That led to her first marathon, a 3:08 effort at the London Marathon in 2002.

While riding her bike a couple of years later, Wellington was hit by a car. She suddenly found herself unable to run or bike, so to keep active she started swimming. Triathlon seemed like a logical next step. Sandwiched in between all of that was a work stint in Nepal, where Wellington found herself riding over some pretty major terrain to keep active.

“Nothing seems difficult compared to trying to ride over those mountains,” she joked.

After claiming the world title last year, Wellington’s coach suggested that she go and meet with Bret Sutton at his base in Switzerland.

“I wanted to know if I’d make it as a pro,” she said. “He said ‘Go for it, girl.’”

Go for it she did. She joined with Sutton’s elite group of athletes which includes the likes of Ironman champions Belinda Granger, Rebecca Preston, Lisbeth Kristensen and Ironman’s picture of consistency, Hillary Biscay.

“I wanted to do Olympic distance, but my swimming isn’t where it needs to be to be competitive,” Wellington says. “Five weeks before Korea he asked me about racing there. I asked him, ‘Am I ready, Boss?’ He said I was, so that’s what we did.

The rest has quickly become history. Wellington dominated in Korea and made her second Ironman even more impressive by beating the best in the world. She was so strong throughout the day that when she rode by the lead group to take the lead Granger said to anyone who would listen “There goes today’s winner.”

Granger was right. Wellington’s 2:59 marathon was the second fastest ever run here in Kona – she was never really challenged once she went to the front of the race.

While she arrived in Kona relatively unknown, Wellington will leave the Big Island as one of the biggest names in the sport. That’s after only two Ironman races under her belt … one can only imagine how many more huge wins we’re likely to see.

Saturday, October 13

The boys are back in town!

COME ON!!!!!!!! Yes, we're there once again - history does repeat itself, beating the French on the way to the final. Instead of Australia, this time it looks like South Africa will be waiting for us. After the drubbing we got in the group stages, England will be looking to avenge that humiliating defeat and be the only team to retain the Webb Ellis Trophy.

If Johnny Wilkinson gets his kicking back on track, we'll wipe the floor with them - we could've had an extra 11 points had he made all his kicks, although most of them were from extreme angles. The important thing is that he got the ones that mattered - the drop goal that got us into the lead, then the penalty that meant the French couldn't win with a sneaky drop goal in the final minute. Not to mention the mistakes that denied us a couple of tries.

Well, I'm shattered, I feel like I've just completed a double Spinning class and I'm losing my voice... must make sure I recover before next weekend!

Rugby Fever

I've just come back from a much-needed break in southern France (needed to stop me from going "US Postal" at work) and the big news - obviously, as the Rugby World Cup is the third largest sporting event int he world after the Olympics and the Football World Cup - was England's and France's successes against Australia and New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup. Unexpected by most, I was laughed at when I dared to suggest the impossible... Ha! I should have put a bet on the results - smugness isn't as rewarding as you'd think! All that was needed to top off a great week was for Scotland to beat Argentina (and for Fiji to do the unthinkable and get past the south Africans) but they failed to take numerous chances to win the match.

Tonight will see England take on France in a repeat of the last World Cup, when England went through 24-7. As much as I am a Francophile, this match will bring out the partisan in me - none of this "I don't mind who wins, as long as it's a good match" nonsense!

I remember watching the match in the BA lounge on my way to an international coral reef conference and I delayed boarding until the last minute, as the scores were still very close. Of all the days for a plane to take off on time... grrrrrr! Still, I managed to get the pilot to tell us the scores in mid-flight, with some passengers (like me!) erupting in celebration at the final score. Then a week's worth of work while waiting for the final the following weekend.

Let's hope that history repeats itself - COME ON ENGLAND!!!!

Saturday, September 29

Spinning class - The road to Loudenvielle

It's been a while since I posted one of my classes, so here's another one of those stages from this year's Tour de France - this time the stage from Foix to Loudenvielle. After the usual warm up to loosen up the legs, it's time to start climbing - a comfortable climb at a steady pace, gradually increasing resistance. Then a flattish road (although that's no excuse to take it easy!) before another short but fast climb to get HR up to an uncomfortable level (around 80% HRR). A quick lull before the climb continues - not long enough to recover completely so even this steady climb feels that much harder. As we get closer to the top, we test our limits by increasing resistance. Then it's another quick recovery as we head downhill, before the big climb of the day.

So far, it's been a mix of hard steady climbs and fast but lighter climbing - now it's time to put the two together, starting again with a steady but relatively quick climb but gradually increasing resistance until it gets very uncomfortable and climb out of the saddle to maintain momentum. HR by this stage will be around 80-85% but, two minutes from the top of the climb, an increase in resistance and HR to 85-90%. Somewhere in that final minute, HR should cross the lactate threshold, the "red line", where breathing becomes difficult and legs start feeling a slight burning sensation. So the two-minute recovery as we head downhill should come as a relief, a chance to bring breathing under control.

With the final climb starting only three minutes from the finish, it's time to use up whatever energy is left in the tank. A fast climb but with quite hard resistance to start the climb with HR at 80-85%. After a minute, a slight increase in resistance to bring HR upto and slightly beyond the red line at 85-90%. Only one minute to go and it's going to be flat out - another increase in resistance to raise effort levels and HR up to 90-95%, crossing the line with a last gasp and complete relief at completing this challenging ride.

Of course, it's not necessary to push so hard - climbs can be taken more comfortably by lowering resistance and effort levels, while maintaining a steady cadence (leg speed) and with enough resistance to ensure controlled pedalling. HR will be approx 10% lower but still leaves a feeling of going from the aerobic, 70-75% zone to the slightly uncomfortable but manageable 80-85%. Self-control is sometimes necessary, e.g., when returning from injury, after a long break or if suffering from a hangover (been there, it's not nice!).

Warm up - 4 mins
Seated climb - 5 mins
Flat road - 4 mins
Fast climb - 5 mins
Recovery - 1.5 mins
Steady climb - 6mins
Recovery - 1.5 mins
The big climb - 8 mins
Recovery - 1.5 mins
Fast standing climb - 3 mins
Cool down - 5.5 mins


One wish for me - Miguel Migs
I wanna be U - Chocolate Puma
No scrubs - TLC
Rebel yell - Billy Idol
Duende del amor (night) - Ottmar Liebert & Luna Negra
Sahara - Kleopatra
Overdue goodbye (reprise) - Anastacia
Insomnia - Faithless
Harlem's nocturne - Alicia Keys
Hungarian - Bond
Touched by God - Katcha

Monday, September 24

I'd rather die than exercise!

Not me, I hasten to add, but only four in ten Britons would be motivated to do more exercise if their life depended on it, a poll has found. The British Heart Foundation (BHF) published the survey last week, as it launched a new television advert urging people to take more exercise. The charity's figures show that one person dies every 15 minutes as a result of physical inactivity. But increasing the heart rate for just 30 minutes a day can cut the risk of heart disease in half.

The survey of more than 2,000 adults found that 38% of people would be motivated do more exercise if their life depended on it. That leads me to think that 62% of the population would NOT do more exercise even if it guaranteed to save their life! This would go a long way to explain the apathy in Britain (and, presumably, the USA, as it's primarily an Anglo-Saxon problem) about obesity and the consequences on society.

I also found out last week that 80% of the NHS budget is spent on conditions directly related to food, drink or smoking. Considering the massive budget of the health service, imagine the amount of tax we'd save if people cared enough to take care of themselves. Think of that, next time you think obesity, excessive alcohol consumption and smoking don't affect you - these people cost you money!

As an additional bonus headline, the survey found that 8% of women said doing vigorous housework was their favourite form of exercise (what?), only 1% of men agreed (quelle surprise!). Mind you, who are these nutters? Housework is their FAVOURITE exercise? Sounds like some sort of fetish to me....

Sunday, September 16

Work is the thief of time

Ever feel like work gets in the way of life? Me, every day - probably why I sympathise so much with this guy:

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Monday, September 10

Warning: Facebook can be damaging to your spare time

Yep, this week I finally succumbed to the temptations of Facebook and spent more time on it than I'd like to admit. Despite my fears that it was all hype, just a glorified competition to have more friends than anyone else, a waste of time better spent actually speaking to people (how old fashioned!), I have to say that it has had its usefulness:

1 - it's great for finding old friends with whom I've lost contact
2 - it's surprising to find how many friends already know each other
3 - it makes it very easy to organise events, drinks, reunions, etc
4 - I've already "met" other people with similar interests to me
5 - for sharing those dreaded photos I'd hoped my friends had destroyed

All in all, great fun but I'm careful not to get involved with the myriad of virtual games it offers - the reason why many companies are trying to block access to Facebook by their staff.

Come find me - Robert Baldi. If you want to add me as a friend, make sure you tell me who you are - I may not recognise you by your real name!

Ciao for now,

Thursday, September 6

Requiescat in pace, Luciano

I don't know what to say but a comment from a guy interviewed on the news sums up the contribution Luciano Pavarotti has made: "I didn't even like opera until I heard Pavarotti sing at the World Cup"

Thank you Luciano for bringing some added culture to this island - you will be sorely missed.

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Friday, August 31

Running season begins again

After I ran the Rome marathon, my running dropped substantially. Apparently, it's a normal reaction after such an effort but I did find it hard to run more than twice a week without another major goal on the horizon, even though I enjoy it. I managed to get into a routine of running before or after one of my classes, especially as there is nice mile-long loop in the park near the gym in Kidbrooke, but still never anything over 10Km.

With the wet autumn evenings approaching (still no sign of a summer here in the UK) I feel like it's a natural time to start increasing my training load. I can increase the time spent running by only around 10% if I want to prevent injury, so it'll take me a while yet before I get back up to a 45-min interval session, a 1-hour tempo run and a long 2-hour run at the weekend. But it still feels great to be back out there pounding the pavement... all I need is to enter a spring marathon to help me focus (imminent hanging sharpens a man's wits!)

Talking of wet autumn runs:

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Tuesday, August 28

Spinning class - Three Peaks

I planned this ride just after coming back from those long climbs that don't seem to exist in Britain - I wanted to replicate the feeling that comes from climbing constantly for over half an hour but without working or boring the class to death. Very simple concept, then, which makes it a challenging ride to lead. I've split the ride into three segments, each one containing an 11-minute climb.

Climb 1: from a light start, this first climb has five gradual changes of resistance to build up to a fairly heavy climb, enough to want to stand for the final 3 minutes of the climb. While out of the saddle, an optional extra resistance change to push the legs beyond their comfort zone for the final 1.5 minutes. This gradual loading of resistance will allow the legs to adapt before each change - too sudden and leg muscles will refuse to co-operate and absorb that resistance.

Climb 2: now that the legs are used to climbing, the starting point should be higher, with moderate resistance. Still five gradual changes of resistance except that by the final change it should be very hard to maintain a steady rhythm in the saddle, so that standing up for the final 6 minutes of the climb should come as a relief. Out of the saddle, an optional two extra changes, again to push the legs beyond their limits.

Climb 3: this is the one for which we've been warming up! Starting from moderate resistance, there are four resistance changes to build up to a heavy climb that is sustainable for the final 7 minutes of the climb, always maintaining a steady rhythm. Then the fun begins! This climb has three switchbacks - short, sharp increases of gradient that usually happen when a mountain road "switches back" on itself - that will require bursts of intense effort.

Cadence remains constant but, just before each switchback, resistance is increased so high that it's almost impossible to maintain that cadence in the saddle and a burst of power out of the saddle is needed to keep the momentum going. Then it's back to the saddle, resistance back to that steady heavy climb (that's the hard part - to keep climbing after such a hard effort). The first switchback is 30secs long, followed by 30secs in the saddle. Not enough time to recover fully before a second, 45sec switchback. Then back to the saddle for two minutes until the final, 90sec hard effort before returning to the saddle for the final 45secs. Sounds confusing but, if you know the track, just follow the rhtyhm!

Warm up - 4 min
Climb 1 - 10 min
Recovery - 2 min
Climb 2 - 11 min
Recovery - 2 min
Climb 3 - 10.5 min
Cool down and stretching - 5.5 min


Why does my heart feel so bad - Moby
Morning star - Planet Heaven
Duende del amor (night) - Ottmar Liebert and Luna Negra
Spiritual light - Mea Culpa
The chase - Alan Reeves (from Kill Bill)
After all (Satoshi Tomiie remix) - Delerium
Touched by God - Katcha

Thursday, August 23

Back to the grindstone

Humph! I'm not happy. Don't get me wrong - France was absolutely fantastic. I even became confident enough to discuss politics and economics in French with the locals. Well, either confidence or the fact that my French became more fluent as I drank more vin rouge! Not as much cycling as I'd like to have done (more details in my next post) but it was a very productive and enjoyable fortnight, the weather mostly sunny and hot. The problem started as I crossed the English Channel and left Dover - the sky became grey, then it started raining and... well, I got back Saturday night and I haven't seen the sun since! I've had the central heating on, have been wearing a fleece-lined sailing jacket and have needed gloves when riding my Vespa. In August! Humph!

After two weeks of no TV, no news, no internet, no telephone, no contact with the outside other than what I learned from the locals, it's been downright depressing listening to the weasels that are politicians, news of children killing each other on the streets, our troops in Iraq not being supported properly, etc. On top of that, that inconvenience called work - I'd much rather be out on my bike for 7 hours a day!

Oh well, time to start planning my next holiday!

Thursday, August 2

I'm off!

It seems like eternity since my last break but my annual fortnight in France is finally here! This is where I get to take my bike down to the mountains near Carcassonne and do as much cycling as possible. I know it's not most people's idea of a holiday but I find there's no better way to relax and unwind than a 20Km-long climb with a steady 7% gradient... followed by a 80kph descent. In previous years, I built up the daily distances up to a 150Km ride and only rode on alternate days to recover. However, after a week-long training camp in the Alps in May, my legs are already strong enough to handle a long ride so I'll be riding almost every day for 100Km+.

One of my rides will follow Stage 14 of this year's Tour de France, from Mazamet to Plateau de Beille - especially handy, as the route passes the village where I stay.
It looks worse than it is, as most of is nice undulating countryside... until the Port de Pailhares, that is! And as for Plateau de Beille... well, imagine Alpe d'Huez but without the easy switchbacks!

One of two things will happen when I get back - either I will have no interest in cycling or spinning for a week or I'll be back stronger and more energetic than ever! I have a double Spinning class the day after I get back, so I'll know soon enough...

Ciao for now and enjoy the summer - presuming the UK will get one this year...

Wednesday, August 1

Spinning class - Le Grand Bornand

Another profile from the Tour, this time from Stage 7, Bourg-en-Bresse to Le Grand Bornand in the Alps. The ride starts off with the usual warm up but then it's immediately followed by a short climb in the saddle, gradually increasing resistance. Once at the top of the climb, it's an undulating road - so keeping a high cadence but with some resistance, getting out of the saddle occasionally to help keep the momentum going.

After that we take it easy while going downhill, before we hit the flat road - no taking it easy here, as it takes continual effort to keep the legs turning over at a fast tempo until we reach a short heavy climb out of the saddle. After that, another chance to recover while we coast downhill until we hit the flat road again, keeping a high cadence until the final climb. This longer climb starts comfortable, gradually increasing resistance until it's too hard to keep a steady cadence, then we keep the momentum by climbing out of the saddle.

Once we get to the top, it's no rest for the wicked as we need to keep pressing forward on the downhill - so it's fast cadence with some resistance to make sure we get to the bottom as quickly as possible. Then a quick breather to collect our thoughts before we press as hard as we can for the final 2 minutes to the finish line.

Warm up - 5 min
Seated climb - 3 min
Standing flat - 3 min
Descent (recovery) - 2 min
Seated flat - 6 min
Standing climb - 3 min
Descent (recovery) - 2 min
Seated flat - 3.5 min
Heavy climb - 6.5 min
Fast descent (not recovery) - 2.5 min
Recovery - 1 min
Seated flat - 2 min
Cool down and stretching - 5.5 min

Profile: the description above may not make sense in writing , so here's what it looks like on the road:

Lebanese blonde - Thievery Corporation
Fuego - Bond
Hey baby - No Doubt
Rolling thunder - Ride
Boomerang - Cirrus
Hungarian - Bond
Release the pressure - Leftfield
Please save me - Push vs. Sunscreem
Clubbed to death - Rob D
Smokebelch II - Sabres of Paradise

Monday, July 30

The end of the Tour

Three weeks of the Tour de France has come to an end, quite literally with a bang. This final week has been pretty eventful, to say the least! First there was Vinokourov failing a drug test, then Rasmussen's name being dragged through the mud, followed by some great duels in the Pyrenees between Rasmussen and Contador. Then the withdrawal of Rasmussen from the Tour, just as he looked to have secured victory.

I've seen many headlines over the past week, many wanting to put an end to the Tour de Farce, accusing it of being drug-ridden. So, is it as bad as they say it is? Look at the facts, rather than hot-headed opinions: only three positive drug tests (one of which is being contested - by Vinokourov) out of the countless that were performed during the three-week event and out of almost 200 riders. Hardly "drug-ridden", is it? Especially when compared to the lack of testing in other, higher profile sports - at the last (football) World Cup no tests were performed during the competition. They pick on cycling, which has the most rigorous testing of any sport but the latest round of positive tests is a sign that the testing regime is working. If only it were applied to football, rugby, baseball, American football, golf (yes, golf - apparently some take steroids!) then we would see how favourably cycling in comparison.

As for the Rasmussen saga, it has no links to positive drugs tests - he missed two tests, for which he received warnings as dictated by UCI rules. A rider will only be suspended if he misses three tests. The Tour organisers were rightly annoyed that the Danish Federation waited three weeks before leaking the news to the world (the warnings are supposed to be confidential) almost as if designed to disrupt the Tour itself. The Federation also didn't divulge the full facts, so he was allowed to ride on regardless. Then, the shocker - he was fired by his team for lying to them about his whereabouts in June. He said he was in Mexico but not according to an Italian TV commentator, who said he saw him in Italy. No, I don't buy it either - it's hardly strong enough evidence to pull a clean rider out of the Tour on the verge of outright victory. This is where the real scandal exists - the politics behind the scenes, of which we know nothing.

So, vive le Tour - only 11 months to go before it all starts again!

Monday, July 23

Spinning class - Mazamet to Plateau de Beille

Inspiration for this ride came from Stage 14 of this year's Tour de France, from Mazamet to Plateau de Beille in the Pyrenees. I know the route particularly well, as I cycle in that area every year, so I put together a compressed version. The ride starts off with the usual warm up but then it's immediately followed by a short climb - not too heavy on the resistance but something to wake up the legs before a brief descent and a long flat road. This is not an excuse to take it easy, as it takes continual effort to keep the legs turning over at a fast tempo until the start of the long steady climb to Port de Pailheres. After a welcome descent to the valley, it's then an all-out attack to the top of the Plateau de Beille, starting with two accelerations to shake off the competition and ending with an all-out effort to the finish line.

Warm up - 4 min
Moderate standing climb - 3 min
Descent (recovery) - 1 min
Seated flat - 10 min
Long steady climb - 8 min
Descent (recovery) - 3 min
Standing climb - 10 min, including 2x1min hill sprints
Cool down and stretching - 6 min

Profile: not heart rate this time, as it should be in the 75-85% HRR zone for the entire ride, higher on the final climb to Plateau de Beille. This is what it looks like on the road:

Why does my heart feel so bad - Moby
Harder to breathe - Maroon 5
Mecanix Remix - Urban Trad
Walk like an Egyptian - The Bangles
Why'd you lie to me - Anastacia
Subliminal - Sonic Cube
Past - Sub Sub
Sandstorm - Darude (the hill sprints)
The Silence - Mike Koglin
Universal Soul - Mandrake (the final push for the line)

Thursday, July 19

The meaning of determination

Have you ever wanted to give up because something's too hard, the conditions aren't right, people are against you, you're told it's impossible, that it cannot be done? Or maybe you just tell yourself that you didn't really want it anyway?

Whenever I feel like that, I remember this short clip - it gets me to keep on going until that little voice in my head starts whispering that I can do it, no matter what anyone says.

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Monday, July 16

Spinning class - Blade Breakaway SEZ

This ride started off with me listening to tracks from the Blade film trilogy while I was in the French Alps on a triathlon training camp. I found that the aggressive music was an excellent motivator to keep working and run a 10Km loop, especially when I would rather have taken a break after a hard 4-hour ride in the saddle. Almost all of the playlist is from the Blade soundtracks and I call it a breakaway, as the aim is to keep pushing forwards without rest, much like a breakaway trying to keep ahead of the main pack.

I've split the ride into three segments, each made up of a flat road, a fast climb, and a slow heavy climb. Each has a different purpose: the flat road means a high cadence (leg speed); the fast climb is moderate on resistance but relatively quick and out of saddle; the slow climb needs a lot of work from the legs to push against the heavy resistance. Once over the top of the climb, it's back to a fast flat road - no resting! If it looks too long to attack from the start, the first segment can be taken at a controllable 70-75% HRR, the second with more effort at 75-80% HRR and the final one at 80-85% HRR, with the final set of hill sprints taking heart rate up to 90-95% HRR.

A few words about those final sprints: (a) make sure you have climbing resistance - fast legs and no resistance means no work; (b) start on a normal slow climb out of the saddle; (c) for the sprints, increase cadence as much as possible (should not be more than 20-30% extra speed); (d) 30 second all out effort; and (e) recovering for a minute while climbing at normal speed. This requires, as does the rest of the ride, a bit of aggression and determination - grrrrrrrrrrr!!

Warm up - 3 min
Seated flat - 5 min
Fast standing climb - 4 min
Heavy standing climb - 3.5 min
Seated flat - 5 min
Fast standing climb - 3.5 min
Heavy standing climb - 3.5 min
Seated flat - 3 min
Fast standing climb - 4 min
Heavy standing climb - 5 min, including 3x30sec hill sprints
Cool down and stretching - 5.5 min

HR Profile: mine varied slightly but always remained 75-85% HRR for the entire ride.

High priests - Michael Flatley (Feet of Flames)
I against I - Mos Def and Massive Attack
Thirsty - Old Dirty B**tard
Bombs Away - Paris Texas
Weapons of mad distortion - The Crystal Method
Raised in the hood - Volume 10 and Roni Size
Tao of the machine - The Roots and BT
Hard Wax - Manchild
Child of the West - Cypress Hill and Roni Size
Keep hope alive - The Crystal Method
Touched by God - Katcha

Thursday, July 12

Exercise could save your life!

Advert time again, although you may not have seen this one on TV - it was banned, for some reason (that will get you watching hehehehe!)

I'm always being asked why I exercise. Instead of the usual reasons - endorphine rush, feeling of achievement, health, better able to cope with life's obstacles, etc. - maybe I should just show them this and say that I'm in training for the day when my life will be in danger.

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Sunday, July 8

Londres - Canterbury

After yesterday's great performances, today was yet another fantastic story to put Britain on the cycling map! David Millar was a man on a mission and broke away from the main pack as soon as they crossed the official start line. At the finish, he managed to gather enough breath to say that he did it as a thank you to the British public for making the last two days so special. As a bonus, he managed to pick up enough points on the two hills (renamed for the race as Cote de Southborough and Cote de Goudhurst!) to put on the King of the Mountains jersey. Each hill was no more than a few hundred meters but the crowds at each summit were reminiscent of Alpe d'Huez. He should be able to keep the polka dot jersey for a fair few days, as Belgium is even flatter than Kent, with not even a measly hillock in sight! And he also managed to pick up enough time bonuses to go up to third place on the general classification. A very good tactical ride to guarantee him and his team some good exposure for the coming week.

The big story is that a pile-up, 20Km from the finish, left the two favourites - Robbie McEwan and our very own Mark Cavendish - stranded behind, just as the race picked up speed. Cavendish was extremely frustrated at having mechanical problems and seemed to be in tears - not only was he a favourite but, as a Brit, he really wanted to win this stage. Back to McEwan for the fairytale ending - after a superb effort by his team, he managed to catch the back of the pack with 5Km to go. The only problem is that it was flying at approx 60kph, so most onlookers would give him no chance of going even faster and getting to the front to contest the sprint. WRONG! Not only did he work his way up to the front but he came out of nowhere to fight for the sprint and leave everyone standing, winning by a couple of lengths. A real triumph over adversity and an inspiration to never ever give up, no matter how hopeless it looks. Chapeau Monsieur McEwan!

Now the Tour leaves our shores, after a successful weekend (in my humble opinion!) for London and for cycling. Here's to seeing it come back again soon - a bientot, Le Tour!

Saturday, July 7

Londres - Londres

Wow, what a Prologue! I hope the rest of the Tour will match it. For those that didn't watch it live, it was a pity that Bradley Wiggins was only just outside George Hincapie's time, a split second he lost earlier when he took a bend too slowly. At that time, the outstanding performance was from Andreas Kloden, who'd set a time 10 seconds faster than the both of them. He's really shown he's on form and will be contender - along with team-mate Alexandre Vinokourov - for the maillot jaune in Paris.

But, although I thought Fabian Cancellara would be the only person able to beat Wiggins, I had no idea he would obliterate the opposition - his time was 13 seconds faster than Kloden's and a massive 23 seconds faster than Hincapie & Wiggins. Doesn't sound like much? Cancellara was 3 seconds per Km faster than Wiggins, the Olympic individual pursuit champion - by the time he got to the end of Whitehall and turned into Victoria Street, he was already 1.5 seconds ahead! Mindblowing, especially when you consider that a sinlge second is normally the winning margin for prologues... oh, and the man was going so quick, he caught the TV motorbikes! Chapeau, Mr Cancellara!

Chapeau also to Ken Livingstone. A good day for London and for cycling, which would have been better only if Wiggins had been in yellow tonight. Estimated benefit to London through tourism is to the tune of £115m from the prologue alone. The French organisers were impressed enough to hint that the Tour may come back to London sooner rather than later... which is saying a lot, considering how tight-lipped they normally are! A double-bill in 2012, perhaps? You heard it here first!

Fingers crossed now for a Mark Cavendish win at Canterbury tomorrow. Bit much to expect from a 22-year old but he is the sprinter with the best record this year. If he can follow the wheel of Robbie McEwan, Tom Boonen or Thor Hushovd, he may be able to beat them to the line at the last minute. It's definitely going to be won by a sprinter though - the course is as flat as a pancake. What with this stage, the Wimbledon men's final and the F1 Grand Prix at Silverstone, tomorrow's going to be wasted as an armchair sports fan!

Friday, July 6

The Tour has begun!

The teams have been presented to the public in Trafalgar Square. Although it looked cold (the presenters put on their coats and some of the cyclists wore leg warmers) at least it didn't rain - probably for the first time in a fortnight! Let's hope it stays dry tomorrow for the Prologue, or it could be carnage - I've cycled some of those roads before and the accumulated diesel oil from the tarmac really makes it slippery when it rains. Looks like Fabian Cancellara will win it, as he's the man on form, but fingers crossed the whole country will push Bradley Wiggins to go faster and to wear the maillot jaune on the road to Canterbury - what a sight that would be and what an advert for British cycling.

Roll on tomorrow....

Tuesday, July 3

The Great British Summer?

Managed to get home just before the sky turned black and the mayhem began!

From BBC News: Freak storm batters south London

Parts of south London were hit by flash floods following a massive storm that swept across the South East. The storm broke out at about 1700 BST on Tuesday and lasted about 20 minutes. Eyewitnesses reported seeing the sky suddenly turn dark before the torrential downpour of rain and hailstones began. The weather caused travel chaos and delays for commuters as roads in south London struggled with the heavy rain.

Olivia Young was in Battersea when she saw the storm developing. "We had lots of thunder and then the hail began," she said. "They were really large pieces of hail the size of 20 pence pieces which tore through the sky, ripping leaves from the trees and flowers from plants. I have never seen anything like it."

Spinning class - The Race

The title says it all - no drills, no breaks, just hard work for the whole ride with attacks thrown in. Not for faint-hearted and requires a good level of fitness, although you judge your own effort levels and so don't have to push yourself to your limits.

Start warming up with relatively quick leg speed and gradually add resistance over the 4 minutes while slowing your legs to match the rhythm of the music. You should feel like you're starting to warm up by the time you hit the climb and settle into a steady rhythm - from here, neither resistance, effort level or leg speed should drop (apart from temporarily slowing down your legs while taking a drink of water). The consistency of effort is vital - whatever your desired effort level, keep it there as a bare minimum.

For attacks 1 & 2 you're trying to split the pack of riders and get rid of the hangers-on. To apply this extra pressure - the equivalent of increasing your road speed - add a lot of resistance, enough to make it too hard to keep your rhythm in the saddle, so that you have to stand up to keep climbing. A heavy effort, spread over 3 minutes, but try to keep it constant to stretch the pack until it breaks, building a time gap. When the attack is over, resistance returns back down to the climb, i.e., no easy recovery - the important thing is to not relax afterwards or the riders left behind will start to catch up again. For the first minute or so, keep pedalling until your legs adapt and start to recover from the attack. Then settle into the rhythm again before taking a drink of water.

By the time we get to Attack 3, we're left with the hardened climbers. To shake off these guys, there's no point in applying more pressure as they'll just stay with us. So we need to spring a surprise attack by keeping the same resistance but jumping out of the saddle and accelerating as much as possible for the full minute. You shouldn't be able to double your leg speed as resistance is quite heavy: 10-20% is realistic and is enough to create a small time gap. Then it's back to the saddle for a minute of normal climbing - don't take it easy or that attack will have been for nothing - to regain your breath (no time for water!) before Attack 4 and anothe acceleration to shake off the remaining riders.

Finally, a sustained 3 minutes of seated climbing before we start working towards the finish line with a final 3 minutes out of the saddle. Up to you whether you keep the same resistance or decide to up the pace a little by increasing it. Then, for the final minute, it's as much resistance as you can possibly handle while still keeping the same leg speed - reach for the line with your final burst of energy and cross the line with nothing left to give. Well done, you win! Just make sure you don't do anything hard that day (or the next, if you can!), as you'll need to recover fully.

Warm up (to 70% HRR) - 4 min
Seated climb @75-85% HRR - 5 min
Attack 1: Standing climb @80-90% HRR - 3 min
Seated climb @75-85% HRR - 9 min
Attack 2: Standing climb @80-90% HRR - 3 min
Seated climb @75-85% HRR - 7 min
Attack 3: Hill sprint @85-90% HRR - 1 min
Seated climb @75-85% HRR - 1 min
Attack 4: Hill sprint @85-90% HRR - 1 min
Seated climb @75-85% HRR - 3 min
Standing climb @85-90% HRR - 2 min
Final push for the line @90-95% HRR - 1 min
Cool down and stretching - 5 min

HR Profile:

Saltwater - Chicane
Invisible - Tilt
Home - Chakra (Attack 1)
Everyday - Agnelli & Nelson
Please save me - Sunscreem vs Push (Attack 2)
Rapture - IIO
Sandstorm - Darude (Attacks 3 & 4)
The Silence - Mike Koglin
Universal Soul - Mandrake (final sprint)
The Lonely Shepherd - Zamfir

Sunday, July 1

V is for Volvic

Raaaa! Whatcha doing Mister VolcAAAAAAno?

You'll find this much funnier if you grew up with Sesame Street!

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I'm off to eat someone's parents!

Saturday, June 30

Spinning class - Pyramid SEZ

This is great for building leg strength - getting your "climbing legs". For a 45-min ride, repeat the pyramid loop three times; add another loop for an hour-long ride (add a few minutes extra for warming up and/or cooling down to bring it upto the full hour). Ideally, you should work to your limits (80-85% HRR) for the 36-min climb, without going above your lactate threshold (the "red line"). This allows you to keep going without a break, optimising your energy output (read: calories!). It's important to never lose your rhythm, keeping a steady cadence throughout, and never reduce that resistance.

If you're not sure of your limits or doubt whether you'd be able to finish the whole climb, try tackling the first loop at a comfortable level (say, 75% HRR), then add resistance for the second loop (to 80% HRR) and upping your effort level to 85% HRR for the final loop. This will give you a profile like the one below - gradually increasing in effort until you're working as hard as you can without going over your red line.

Warm up - 3 min
Pyramid loop:
Seated climb - 1 min
Standing climb - 1 min
Seated climb - 2 min
Standing climb - 2 min
Seated climb - 3 min
Standing climb - 3 min
Cool down and stretching - 6 min

HR Profile:

Harlem's nocturne - Alicia Keys
Tokyo - Steve Gibbs
One for you - James Holden
Playa Sol - Novacane vs. No One Driving
Light a rainbow - Tukan
On the move - Bartezz
Blast the speakers - Warp Brothers
Tomorrow - Dumonde
Open our eyes - Insigma
We can be like they are - JEC
Hablando - Ramirez
Easter song - A Man Called Adam

Wednesday, June 27

One for the birds!

Raaaaa! Volvic advert time again!

This time, George the volcano is making it tasty for the ladieeeees.

His birds like a twist with their wateeeerrrr....

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Spinning class - Power Intervals IEZ

This interval session will help build leg power, making it better able to handle sudden increases of effort and making them adapt to higher stress (resistance) loads. Use the first minute of each interval to build up to desired level, then maintain that intensity for the remainder of the interval. If you're feeling really strong, increase the effort level in the final minute. Important is to recover as much as possible in between efforts.

Warm up - 5 min
Interval set - repeat 6 times
Hard climb @ 80-92% HRR - 3 min
Recovery - 3 min
Stretching - 4 min

HR Profile:

Come home - Lil'Devious
I lift my cup - Gloworm
Le Maire de Venise - Tommy Hools
Don't you want me - Felix
Topo do mundo - Daniela Mercury
Insomnia - Faithless
You don't love me - Dawn Penn
Fuego - Bond
Passing through - Rafael Aragon
Greece 2000 - Three Drives
Don't know why - Norah Jones
Hungarian - Bond
B2 - Banco de Gaia

Come on world, I'll have you for breakfast!

Raaaaaaaaa! You've probably seen this, one of the funniest adverts I've seen in a long time.

It'll grab you by the conkers and make you want to shout "come on world, I'll have you for breakfast!"

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Friday, June 22

Spinning class - Pyramid IEZ

One of my hardest classes, judging by the members' reactions! Simple enough - descending intervals with equal recovery. First couple of intervals are manageable, as your body is able to take it. I find the 3-min interval is hardest as (a) your body is getting tired, (b) the interval is short enough for you to go 100% from the start, (c) it's long enough to push your limits, especially in the final minute, and (d) the music I chose for this interval just screams for a maximum effort! The final, 1-minute interval, is a 30-second climb with a final 30 second sprint (to the Mission Impossible theme tune) by picking up the cadence (leg speed) as much as possible. If you can manage more than 30 seconds, you're either Mario Cipollini, Alessandro Petacchi or... it could be you're just holding back!

Warm up - 4.5 min
Seated Flat - 5.5 min
Hard climb @ 80-92% HRR - 5 min
Recovery - 5 min
Hard climb @ 80-92% HRR - 4 min
Recovery - 4 min
Hard climb @ 80-92% HRR - 3 min
Recovery - 3 min
Hard climb @ 80-92% HRR - 2 min
Recovery - 2 min
Hard climb @ 80-92% HRR - 0.5 min
Sprint @ maximum effort - 0.5 min
Cool down and stretching - 6 min

HR profile:

Erin Shore (instrumental) - The Corrs
And voodoo - Block 16
Just let go - Petra & Co
Who's gonna stop the rain - Anastacia
Sunstroke - Chicane
A grand love theme - Kid Loco
Hungarian - Bond (this is the killer 3-min track!)
Red red wine - UB40
Galaxia - Moonman
Rolling thunder - Ride
The bait - Hans Zimmer (inc. the 30-second sprint)
B2 - Banco de Gaia

Rome Marathon, March 2007

This is my report of insanity in trying to achieve a sub-4 hour marathon at my first attempt!

I went there with my friend Darryl (Daz) Carter, an experienced marathon runner (and now Ironman), who had also been helping me train up for long distance running since September 2006.

Saturday: lovely warm day, spent mostly eating and watching the rugby. Despite the temptation to join the Irish drowning their sorrows at throwing away the 6 Nations and to help them celebrate St Patrick's Day, we had to keep our powder dry for the race.

Sunday: just for info, there were pacers with coloured balloons representing their finish time (3:45, 4:00, 4:15, etc.)

Pre-race: quite hard for me, as I couldn't wait to start my first marathon. Especially when I caught sight of some old geezer rubbing cream into his groin... and not stopping there. Gross! I felt my breakfast about to make a comeback but I managed to erase that image from my mind... urgh! My legs were really feeling good and I felt confident in my aim to go sub-4hr.

Start: Soooo many people! I haven't done London but I thought it would take me hours to get to the start line. Luckily we got under way pretty quickly, although I was stuck behind the 5:00 numpties - not good if I wanted to keep to a 28min pace for each 5Km. I absolutely refused to run behind someone wearing what looked like black Calvin Klein boxers (with the label on the outside!). In fact, I even ended up walking, as there was bottleneck after the first bend. Many of us started running off-piste to pass as many as possible in the first 2Km.

5Km - 27:43 (7689th overall)
Easy peasy, still warming up, still dodging people, managed to catch up to the 3:45 balloon and even had to ask whether I had it right, as I thought the pace was far too easy for a sub-4hr. Mind you, I'd been going quite fast just to catch up with them, so I settled into the rhythm and started to enjoy it.

10Km - 55:24 (7518th)
27:41 for the second 5Km stretch. Now I'm starting to warm up and really settle into it, especially as the field is beginning to thin out so I don't have to spend so much time and energy dodging boxer short-wearing numpites. Again, I didn't bother with the feeding station, so I could by-pass as many people as possible.

15Km - 1:23:37 (7548th)
28:13 for the third 5Km. Still on track for a sub-4hr and still feeling amazingly good. What's all this about marathons being hard? It's a walk in the park... how anyone can go over 5hrs is beyond me (this thought will come back to bite me on the arse!) Made sure I started drinking some Gatorade, although the amount they gave me wouldn't be enough to water a cactus.

21Km / half mara - 1:58:12 (7527th)
My half-mara pb! Well, that wasn't hard as I've never raced over 10Km before. 34:35 for 6Kms but I clocked my lap counter at 28:40 at the 20Km mark. A bit slower but I think that may be due to some undulating roads. Will need to check my HRM stats for altitude readings...

26Km - 2:25:04 (7474th)
26Km ??? No wonder I was gasping! I had to run an extra Km to get my oranges and drinks. Maybe that's why I ran a fast 26:52 for the 5Km from the half-mara time check! Still feeling OK but the loop took us out onto a hot and humid dual carriageway and I wasn't feeling so comfortable now.... Once I got to the feeding station, I had enough of their miserly portions, so I took a whole 500ml bottle of Gatorade and a handful of orange slices. I slowed to a walk in order to eat and drink properly, although I knew this would slow my overall time. I didn't care at this stage, as the humidity was sapping my strength and I was getting worried about the state of my legs.

30Km - 2:58:30 (8270th)
Uh-oh! Slipping down the field and I clocked a very slow 33:26 just for 4Kms! I know I was walking for much of the first Km but still.... WTF's happening to my legs? Still in touch with the sub-4hr balloons but all of a sudden I'm not feeling so good at all. I hope the muscle fatigue doesn't get any worse...

35Km - 3:42:13 (9124th) has got worse! Where are those magic ice-cold sponges? I'm grabbing half a dozen at a time now and stopping to apply the coldness to my sore muscles. Also slowing to a walk after the feeding station, which makes me lose contact with the 4-hr balloon and I get passed by the bunch on 4:15. Noooooooooooo! I try to keep up with them but my legs refuse to comply. What's the matter with you? Pain is nothing, keep moving!

40Km - 4:25:31 (9618th)
More walking, especially on one evil cobbled section. The only thing that kept me going was the support from the crowd. At one point, we ran through a narrow street into Piazza Navona (a long narrow piazza with restaurants and bars on either side) and the uproar from the crowd really made my spin tingle. I have to keep going... for them! Then the sponges... more walking.... then a group of teenagers were chanting, football style. I waved to thank them and they cheered me on, so I just had to start running again. This isn't funny any more... Daz is going to die for getting me into this. Where am I? How long to go? HOW LONG???? God, I hope I can get there... maybe I should walk the rest of the way... oh no, here come the 4:30 numpties... just can't keep up with them... stupid legs....

Did last 2Kms in 17:42 - much less walking but that's thanks to the motivation of running with a guy we'd at the airport. Also his first marathon, although he was aiming for a more sedate 4:30. Neither of us was going to get that but we wanted desperately to get a sub 4:45 now we were so close. But he started off before me, so I was actually ahead of him on time - so my turn to motivate him to keep him going. Up the final climb around the Colisseum, only to hear Daz shout out "Hahahahaha how are you feeling?". F***ing Bar Stud! I'll get you for this, Carter! (It was at this stage he took a photo of me looking particularly angry!)

Final stretch: Downhill to the finish line made my legs hurt more than the uphill section. I urged my friend to keep pushing, I had a few minutes in hand to get my sub 4:45. Go, mate, go! I just keep plodding on until I get overtaken by boxershorts man! Nooooooooooooooooo! I'll never live this down - overtaken by a numpty wearing Calvin Klein underpants!

Managed to finish in 4:43:13 and also pleased my running mate for the final 2Km also came in just under the 4:45 mark. I'm 9668th overall but I don't care - give me my medal, I've f***ing earned it!

Two days later, legs have recovered already. But I've not forgiven them for letting me down.... tomorrow, I'll remind them of what they need to do with a nice 10Km run

Next stop either Carcassonne (Oct), Florence (Nov) or Milan (Dec) and I'll do a sub-4hr or die trying - I refuse to be beaten!