All aboard the Daley Express
Scientists say the human brain is incapable of accurately remembering the sensation of intense pain. It's something to do with protecting ourselves, with allowing us to move on from traumatic situations.
I have great respect for scientists. Yet none of them, clearly, has ever done a three-hour training session with Daley Thompson.
There is no forgetting. There never will be. I am more likely to forget my own name than I am to lose the memory of what went on at the Millennium Stadium in Battersea Park last Saturday.
In retrospect, the clues were obvious - the glint in Daley's eye, the twitching of the trademark 'tache, the fact that, even aged 51, he looks like he could smash straight through a building's walls if he ever got fed up of using doors.
You can win at Bingo without training. You can fluke a victory in a pub quiz. But two Olympic golds, the world title, the European Championships, three Commonwealth golds and four world records, in the hardest sport of all?
There are no shortcuts. There is no luck. There is only brute effort, suffering and sweat.
In the world of Daley even the warm-ups hurt. My usual loosener is a five-minute jog, perhaps with a little light stretching thrown in at the end. It doesn't normally involve death by rowing-machine - four lots of 1000 metres, resistance cranked up to maximum, the stroke-rate increasing from uncomfortable to flat-out frantic with dreadful rapidity.
"Thanks for coming, Tom," says one of the training group ominously as I look down at my wobbling legs. "He's going to beast us all now."
At first, the weights session seems relatively low-key. We start with 20 one-armed bench presses, lying flat on our backs, moving straight onto an incline bench to do the same, standing for 20 more one-armed shoulder presses and finishing with 20 press-ups. Except we're not finishing. We're barely starting. No matter that the dumbbells are only 8kg each.
On the next round we do 26 of everything. The one after that it's 30.
It might not sound like much. How hard can 8kg per hand be? Try it. With every push, the burning in your chest, shoulders and arms grows more intense. Rest? You can't rest, not when the greatest all-round sportsman Britain has ever produced is chasing you round the circuit with a happy grin on his face.
"Come on Tom! Stop cheating!" he shouts, as I remain on my back for a fraction of a second between sets.
A woman who is four months pregnant is also training with us. "How many reps are you going to do - 26?" asks Daley hopefully.
She fights for breath and touches her bump gingerly. "I think I'll stick with 20, thanks," she says.
Daley thinks for a second. "Why not do a couple for your kid?" he suggests.
There are no excuses, no bottling out. Daley's eyes are everywhere, even when he's casually bashing out reps of 30 when everyone else is still on 20. A touch of grey might be visible at the Thompson temples, but the legendary competitive fire still burns strong.
"Steve!" he barks at one of the lads who has momentarily let his knees brush the ground during a press-up. "Come on - you're more of a man than that!"
It's the same on the pull-up bar. Like an idiot I make the error of going for a showy wide-arm grip and banging out the first few a little too quickly. "Too easy!" yells Daley delightedly. "Forget about doing eight - you can do 10 now!"
Ten pull-ups, 10 dips, 10 press-ups, again and again on a seemingly endless loop. Muscles are screaming, seizing up, fatiguing to the point of failure. The last few in each set become monstrously difficult. Daley doesn't care. No excuses, no shortcuts.
I flop down by the water-cooler. It takes a supreme effort to hold the cup steady under the tap. Oh, for the sweet kiss of the glucose-based elixir Daley advertised in the 1980s...
One of the brave coterie of Daleyites is lying on his back next to me. "At least that's the arms done," I gasp. He shakes his head. "Oh no," he says. "We've still got the other circuits to come."
One of my favourite comments on last week's blog was a stern Daley mail from kjh777. "Listen, learn, show him respect, and the minor matter of 100% commitment. He won't accept anything less and maybe you'll come out of the session a few percent better. Fearless or stupid, either way it's going to hurt."
Oh, it will. And it is. Bounding through a sandpit sounds like something a five-year-old might do for fun. It shouldn't hurt like it does - it's only repeated double-footed leaps down the long jump pit, through shin-deep clogging sand with the consistency of wet concrete, one length after another, again and again, until your ankles are manacled with exhaustion and your thighs burning with lactic acid.
Eight lengths, a brief pause to dry-retch into a dustbin, eight lengths and another heave-ho. No resting, no bottling out. Another eight lengths. Then 10. Then 12.
That 100% commitment sounded simple when first I read it. To give anything less seemed outrageous. To complete a one-hour decathlon, you know you'll have to work hard. The thought of doing anything less when Daley was watching had seemed laughable.
As the rain diagonals into my eyes and my guts swirl horribly, it is all so different. The desire to give it up is dreadfully tempting. My limbs feel so weak I doubt if I could even play Daley Thompson Decathlon on the Spectrum, let alone in the flesh. To hammer that space-bar quickly enough to get Avatar Daley to run would require strength that has already been spent.
A shout of greeting from Daley echoes across the track. It signals the arrival of Snowy Brooks, a decathlon legend who represented Barbados at the 1972 Olympics and someone who, even at the age of 65, still has a six-pack like Bruce Lee's.
Snowy looks like a Greek statue carved from polished walnut. I have never seen a man his age look so fit. If Jurgen Hingsen and Siggi Wentz were to turn up now, Snowy and Daley could spank them back to Germany without breaking sweat.
The pair park themselves under brollies and get busy with stopwatches and whistles. We do 20 lots of 100 metres, run hard, with the recovery times between each one descending from 30 seconds to 10.
Everything hurts. Everything is weak. Nothing seems to end.
In the final half-hour of circuits, humiliation is total. Snowy destroys me on a monstrous six-minute non-stop sit-up drill. So does Pete, another sexugenarian with all the body fat of a champion thoroughbred.
"Tell the truth in your blog!" yells Daley happily. "You're being beaten by a man twice your age! Go on Pete!"
I must have done something right. When the group calls it quits, an invite is extended to join them for lunch in a greasy spoon up the road. As steam clogs up the windows, the talk is of decathlons past and training sessions future. With a nod towards the cuisine of Daley's competition heyday, I order poached eggs and a glass of cold milk. Snowy has grilled tomatoes on toast (no butter).
Later that day, after a lost two hours in a coma on my sofa, I dig out some old internet clips of Daley in action at the 1984 Olympics. Ron Pickering's commentary from the discus rings out around my kitchen. "It's a better one, it's a better one, it's a better one, it's a better one! And the man is dancing in the circle!"
There is a bit of dancing going on in my own head. Just before we left the track, Daley had called me over. "You can come down next week if you fancy it," he'd said.
Of course I fancy it. I've got to go back. I've got to soak it up.
That Daley Special in full
4x1000m on rowing machine: 1st 1000m with split of 1'50. 2nd 1000m: 500m at 1'55, 500m at 1'45. 3rd 1000m: 500m at 2'02, 500m at 1'38. 4th 1000m: 500m at 2'07, 500m at 1'33
20 x: single arm bench press, incline single arm chest press, standing single arm shoulder press, press-ups. I use 8kg dumbbells, Daley recommends more.
Minute rest, then 26 x all the above.
Minute rest, then 30 x all the above
10 x wide-arm pull-ups, 10 x dips, 10 x press-ups
Minute rest, then whole thing a total of four times.
Double-feet jumps down the length of pit. Do it eight times, rest and repeat twice more. Two minutes walking, then jump 10 lengths. Two minutes walking, then jump 12 lengths.
5 x 100m with 30 seconds rest.
Two minutes rest, then 6 x 100m with 30 seconds rest
Two minutes rest, then 9 x 100m with 30 secs rest between each, then 20 secs, then 10 secs.
30 x chinners sit-ups, 30 x mountain climbers (like single leg squat-thrusts)
Repeat three times.
30 x press-ups, 30 x good mornings
Repeat three times
Six minutes non-stop alternating 30 secs Plank, 30 seconds good mornings