Going for a bike ride with Mark Webber
Fancy riding a mountain bike through a field of nettles?
No, me neither, so how did I end up with itchy red legs and in search of a dock leaf or two on Tuesday?
Well, because the question I was actually asked by my boss was "fancy going mountain biking with Mark Webber?" a question that necessitated an immediate 'you bet' from me, simply put, it was an offer I couldn't turn down - I'm sure you'll agree.
Since starting in F1 this season I have been quite intrigued by Mark Webber, the man I was about to share a 'gentle' ride through the forest with (hmmm, more on that later!).
You see, I think there is an air of mystery around most of the top drivers on the grid. Some you can't really get near as they wrestle a pack of TV and stills cameras to get from their garage to their motor home before disappearing from view.
A couple sometimes walk past you with a thousand-yard stare that unnerves you so much you daren't say a word, others are willing to chat, albeit whilst hidden behind sunglasses more suited to Naomi Campbell... and then there's Mark.
Open, engaging, straight-talking Mark Webber. Dare I say it, seemingly 100% normal and not in the slightest bit affected or phased by the strange, always travelling, global goldfish bowl that is an F1 drivers' life.
These guys have to marry an overwhelming workload with media pressure, corporate demands and the expectations of fans - to do all that and stay normal takes some doing.
One story that really stands out to me was when were boarding the Heathrow-Istanbul flight and I remember chatting to Mark as we walked down the gangway. Together with his trainer Roger and partner Anne we were laughing at the absurdity of the Monaco race weekend and Mark joked that he'd buy a dinghy and moor it up in the harbour next season - 'just to make a point, mate!'
I'm not sure any other guy on the grid could detach themselves from the F1 circus that is their world for long enough to take notice of some of the madness that surrounds the sport - however, it seems Mark can.
So, 8am on Tuesday, I met the AP Tom (Genty as we call him) at Television Centre and we fly like the wind to Buckinghamshire, well as fast as you can fly in a Ford Mondeo hire car whilst listening to Radio 2!
Mark had invited us to his home for a chat, and when we arrive there he is, welcoming us all to his (very lovely) house in shorts and t-shirt with the offer of a cup of tea and a handshake. Not a hanger-on or a press person in sight. Well, apart from a mate of his who was over visiting from Oz and got a close up meeting with one of Mark's dogs.
Apparently he was on the phone and without thinking he wandered outside without Mark. Whoops! Moments later the Weimaraner was giving his forearm a friendly nibble...thankfully the dogs were inside when the BBC rabble turned up. I'd have gladly sacrificed a light stand for my right arm...just for the record!
We then sat down in Mark's playroom, festooned with sporting memorabilia, various helmets and signed photos, and even a little golden Bernie Ecclestone trophy that Mark won in 2003 for being the best newcomer to the sport.
We then had a great chat about the season so far, Mark's November leg break that has left him with a pretty big lump on his right shin, and how he believes the next two races are the most crucial of the season so far.
One thing that really hit home to me is how disciplined and driven Mark is. His house is littered with sports autobiographies by high-achievers, sports psychology magazines with headlines like 'Burnout, what it is and how to stop it' and reminders of his achievements so far.
He might be a relaxed, approachable guy but his will to win and inner steel is abundantly clear as he explains the origins of the Australian cricket team logo. He told us it means you keen on attacking, keep on going forward. "Sport and war mate, gotta keep goin' forward," he says.
I guess you need that kind of genetic makeup to recover from a leg-break as severe as his was and eight months later be in the hunt for both the drivers and constructors world championships.
It is also that approach to life that meant we ended up on a couple of mountain bikes cycling through a field where he peddled through a forest of nettles as if they weren't their, just another hurdle to beat.
The locals out walking their dogs can't have seen anything like it as a Red Bull resplendent Webber flew off into the distance saying things like "the body is a quick learner mate" and I followed behind doing a poor impression of Paul Newman in 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid' as I tried in vain to avoid the stingers below.
Mark spent the time on the bikes showing me just how fit you need to be to race an F1 car. It had been a wet morning but he hardly broke sweat as I did my best impression of Mark Cavendish just to keep up with him. He didn't break sweat, I was a broken man.
If the cycling reminded us he's a true athlete, when we returned to his place he reminded us that he's just a normal guy as he hosed off both the bikes whilst I allowed my muddy, stinging legs to recover and just pointed out the bits he'd missed.
They say nice guys never win. Well, having spent a day with Mark Webber, I'm not so sure.
PS - You can see the finished package, edited to make me look superhuman too hopefully! during our race build up on Sunday afternoon!