So it's Tuesday morning and I'm meeting the team at the Manchester Institute of Health and Performance. I got there and I started to realise just how professional and serious this expedition is going to be, after all, this was a multi-million pound centre we were meeting at, not the local sports gym I'm used to.
As I walked through the door, the receptionist asked if I was one of the 'athletes'. I won't lie, I had a little smug grin on my face when I informed her I was. To be treated in that way, as an athlete, was surreal.
We started off by getting our bloods taken and having an ECG. Now having blood taken has never bothered me, I have great veins that blood just flows out off, so it was quick and easy.
Next up was strength and conditioning. To be honest I was expecting it to be harder but I think that session was not about how much of a punishment you can take, but to see how strong your different muscle groups are. At the end I think the guy came to the conclusion that my upper body is fine but my legs (especially the one with the old bullet wound in it) need to be stronger. I assumed this, as it has been said to me before, that my legs look like they should be sticking out of a bird’s nest.
Next session: 'The Psychologist'. Now when I heard these words, I thought I had to go into a room and start rattling off stories about my childhood and growing up ginger. Fortunately he was not that type of psychologist. Mostly he wanted to know what my strengths were and even more so, my weaknesses. Now to a guy like myself, asking me to find a weakness is near impossible as I am god like (or I like to think I am.) So that was an interesting conversation. I won't say what I said as my weaknesses die with me.
Then the big one came. Sat on a bicycle with a heart rate monitor on, blood pressure pad and a blue facemask that made me look like a cool Darth Vader. They told me to start pedalling and to stay between 60 and 75 RPM. Now I took this as competition time and went straight to the 75. This was easy at first but every 3 minutes they increase the resistance. Trying to stick at 75 rpm might have been a mistake. It was an effort.
Sweat pouring from my brow, trying to stay in my own mental zone and not be beaten by this bike is hard enough, but when a woman running the machine keeps coming up to you in intervals to prick your finger, to take your blood... well sir, it's just not cricket.
I can honestly say I tried as hard as I could. For one - personal reasons. It's very rare that you have a chance to see how really fit you are. The whole experience of being in that building and working with people who help real athletes, is an experience in itself. One that I feel fortunate to have had.
Well now I know how fit I am and it's a long way to how fit I need to be. The hard work and training needs to start now as I want to conquer Aconcagua, with 'ease'.