Lush Cosmetics - human cosmetic testing

Lush Cosmetics together with the Humane Society pushed a campaign over Christmas raising awareness of testing cosmetics on animals. They took over a shop front on Regent Street and force fed cosmetics to a girl. In shocking scenes, she also had her hair shaved and irritants squirted in her eyes.

Shocking stuff but fantastic awareness.

http://creestalbreeze.tumblr.com/post/29586702897/a-young-woman-was-restrained-force-fed-and

Get the Label Friends Idents

The boys in creative at the agency have been busy producing these new idents for online fashion retailer Get The Label. The idents will bookend episodes of Friends on Comedy Central, with a fun play on the Friends sofa and episode titles.

The idents were produced by Lion Eyes and directed by Martin Riley.


Media Sciences UK website

I've just launched a new website for Media Sciences at work. Media Sciences produce OEM compatible replacement print cartridges. We were appointed to launch a website which promoted their range of cartridges and a facility to find nearest stockists.

The website also has a dealer area which allows stockists to register to access product photography and more detailed product information.

Content was supplied by Media Sciences and we are currently finishing the French version of the site with a German version planned in future too.

Media Sciences invest a huge amount into research, the quality of their cartridges is excellent and they also offer UK support should there be any problems!

If you're looking for some new printer cartridges Media Sciences are well worth the look.

Best times to Tweet

Sarah at the agency based on this nice little infographic on the best times to tweet. Early afternoon Monday to Thursday being the best for click-through.

After 8pm (after 3pm on Friday) is a no go.

As with everything, make sure you test this out with other days and times. For every piece of research there is another to cancel it out. For example, I know from previous campaigns of some better times to target, but again that could be because of a certain sector we were targeting

Google Colour Algorithm

Interesting post over at Point and Fire which highlights an interview between Google's Matt Cutts and TechCrunch. In it he states that Google is now taking into account colours used on a website in it's algorithm.

“while we continue to advise webmasters to focus on promoting compelling content and site usability, there are certain ways to represent quality and render a site more search engine friendly”...“We use a range of signals to ascertain the value of a site. For the first time, we are now also factoring in aesthetics such as colour, shading and contrasts”.

Social Customer Service

Came across this top infographic below which focuses in on customer experience through Social.

9% of all social users engage with brands daily and half of us will engage several times a month with brands.

71% of us expect a response within 5 minutes and if we receive good customer service, 70% of us would return as a customer in future being 21% more likely to spend! Not only that, 71% would then recommend the brand to a friend.

If you're not engaging with your followers then do, the results are significant.


While we're on Social, Facebook announced that it now has 24 million users in the UK, 83% of which are using a smartphone to check Facebook daily.



Nice infographic on Social consumption

Taken from one of the Google Squared lessons. I really like this infographic on Social consumption. It's crazy how much happens in 60 seconds!

Most Effective B2B Lead Generation

Some nice research from InsideSales has shown the most effective ways of generating B2B leads. Tradeshows, conferences, email and website are key considerations.

Interesting to see Google+ being abandoned and Facebook and LinkedIn being overused for little return. Social proving to be tricky in B2B environments.

With many of us spending 72% of our day in front of Outlook it is no wonder that email proves effective.

The report does highlight some opportunities with executive events (trackdays etc) and telemarketing (which I am a big believer in) being underused but very effective. At One we've had fantastic results through telemarketing.



We Are Squared - task 1 - come up with a new online business idea

Great task this week. I've come up with what I think is a really nice idea. Global, social, perfect for the demographic that uses social media and a bit of a gap in the market too. Good opportunities to make money through advertising and a nice exit strategy too.

We'll put all our ideas into our work groups next week and the best one gets picked! Should be interesting to see how this develops. Will keep you posted with mine next week.

Big Data Video from OgilvyOne



Aaron at the agency sent over this vid this morning. It's smiley, happy, cheesy people all the way but some of the ideas are nice. I've always said that stores need to embrace digital in-store and this video covers it off nicely. Taking a photo in the mirror and having it sent to Twitter or Bookface in-store is a nice touch and I like the in-store NFC download of appropriate clothing based on body size and previous preferences.

We Are Squared - Lesson 2 - we love brands for than family

According to the Class of 2015, teenagers are 3 times as likely to follow a brand rather than a family member. 66% would also visit a place based on seeing a check-in from a friend. They love social media with 29% finding love on Facebook, 59% updating their status during a lesson and 55% also taking on Twitter too.

They're not the only ones. We spend 4.6 hours a week on Social Media but this isn't as much time spent on email. We spend a massive 7.2 hours a week reading email.

What all this leads to is the amount of data we're consuming, and also giving away to brands. In a survey it was interesting to see 80% of the group concerned about this. I voted that was I ok with it all. At the end of the day I'm using Social Media platforms which I've not paid a penny to use. I chose to use these platforms and I chose to upload my data and photos to these platforms. If you're not happy with it then don't use the platforms simple. I wrote a blog about this a while ago on Facebook Graph Search which has been released this week.

At the end of the day the data being used by the brands can only be used to create better targeting and better products and services. 

Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children Ad

Just doing some research for a client and across this ad. Stunning.


Creating links - it's all about relationships

As the Google Algorithm continues to change, the emphasis on creating high quality links from bloggers is ever more important. Unfortunately some agencies, and also clients, just don't get the process.

Larry over at Velo UK, who has helped me out on the Cheshire Classic and is a great advocate for cycling here in the UK, has just posted up on his Facebook an approach from someone.

"I am a freelance writer based in the UK and i have been writing about cycling for a client of mine and i came across your website. I really like your content especially as i think you have one of the best sites ive seen in a while and i would love to be able to write a guest post for with you.

I have a few topics in mind, with the main focus on "Essential summer cycling gear" 

If this interests you please let me know so i can send over a post for you to look at

Hope to hear from you soon :)

Adrianna xx"

The kisses at the end do it for me. It's just a naff approach and quite obviously no thought or research has gone into the email. If you know VeloUK, you won't ever see an "essential summer cycling gear".

It's not about sending an email to a blog owner, saying you think their blog is the bestestest you've ever seen and then ask if you can do a guest blog. They weren't born yesterday. It's like knocking on someone's front door, letting yourself in, helping yourself to a beer and take over their television. You've got to build a relationship first and that takes time.

Pre-Season Training Tips - How To Avoid Injuries

My brother over at Your Sports Therapist has been putting some blogs together for those of you who are starting pre-season training. So far the blogs cover tight calves and back cramping. After a nice summer break the body does tend to lose flexibility and injuries can occur so well worth checking out.

It's mad how quickly you can lose fitness, even taking just a couple of weeks off can see a dip in performance. I normally find it is my heart rate, going up that hill I do every week after a bit of a break can see the heart rate go up a couple of beats more than usual.

It's good to see Chris is busy and life as self employed is going well. He has got lots of people coming in for sports massages at his clinic in Cheshire and it's been encouraging to see more people head in from the cycling club. I'm still surprised at the amount of people, who participate at high standards in amateur sport, who are reluctant. They would most definitely see performance gains from a regular sports massage.

We Are Squared Begins: 10% us love taking selfies

So We Are Squared begins. Today's first lesson was more about setting the scene, getting to know each other and setting out why we were doing it.

We had a couple of polls. One on visual self, which seemed to look at being able to create your own celebrity online, saw that out of the group around 50% of us had taken less than 5 "selfies" (photos of yourself) while 5% had 50-99 selfies and 6% had too many to count! I fitted into the less than 5 bracket, I would spend too much money on replacing broken cameras!

I think the point was that visual references are really important online, you only need to look at Mashable's new website which is heavily image focussed, the rise of infographics, sites like Pinterest and Facebook's stat of 300 million photos being uploaded every day.

The ball is just getting rolling, there was a lot of setting up today although there was good debate being had. We were asked to describe what we thought the definition of "digital marketing" was. It was really interesting to see the amount of descriptions which concentrated more on brand visibility rather than financial gain.

For me, marketing is all about generating profit. Digital marketing is generating profit through means of digital media. How you generate that profit could be through increased brand visibility, market share, noise etc. One square who didn't agree asked me "well what about charity marketing?". Well charities are slightly different as they are not-for-profit organisations but the use of marketing remains the same, to generate money. In their case, monies made are invested directly back into the charity.

I'm really looking forward to module 3 which has a strong concentration on search and it looks like we're going to be in competition to run our own PPC campaigns to see how much money we can make.

QR codes are still shit..

That's right folks according to a recent survey only 25% of smartphone users have scanned a code in-store with 9% still unaware of the technology. Can we please stop using them?!

In more interesting news I read this week that 85% of board meetings are now discussing website performance, but less than a quarter are making changes based on sophisticated data. I cannot stress how important analysis is, we discuss this with our clients on a week on week basis with a full review monthly, quarterly and annually. It has lead to significant changes in strategy both for us as an agency and for clients with fantastic results being seen, especially in the case of one client Moduleo.

It was also interesting to read how keyword rich domains were having less impact on ranking with a 0.08 reduction in correlation to ranking. Social Media, in particular Google+ is starting to see small increased in correlation to rank. I think this is a major area, feeding back to Google AuthorRank, I'm still surprised how little effect Social Media has on ranking, I think it could change with the emergence of Google+.

10 tips on the Tour de France

One of the lads at work asked me for some info on the Tour de France which starts on Saturday (I'm going for a Cadel Evans win). For a relatively newbie to cycling, watching the Tour for the first time does take a bit of working out, the best bet is to watch, listen and learn; you'll soon figure it out.

If you're wanting a head start I've put together some of the 10 tips on the Tour de France.



1. Basically it’s a 3 week race, the person who gets to the penultimate stage in the fastest time overall wins (the last stage is usually reserved for celebrating en-route and the ultimate sprint stage for the likes of Mark Cavendish). 

2. It's all about winning the yellow jersey; the person who finished the race in the fastest time. To win the yellow jersey, it's not about winning stages. Mark Cavendish could win 5 stages as a sprinter but still finish 3 hours behind the winner due to being slow in the mountains.

3. Each team will have a “leader”, who will be supported by a team of “domestiques”. The aim being to shelter him in the group, get him bottles and food so he is ready for the final 10k. Not all teams will have a super strong contender for the yellow jersey and may have a different strategy.

4. Some teams have different strategies, some go for the overall yellow jersey, some will go for the polka-dot jersey for the best climber (normally Spanish teams who are good at climbing) or just for the green jersey (like Mark Cavendish’s team). Some may be there to get into the daily breakaway and get exposure for sponsors.

5. You’ve got to finish every stage to start again the next day. If you get off your bike and into the car, you’re out. Riders also need to finish within a time frame of the leader too.

6. The group (known as a peloton) rides together for much of the time, normally the leading team will commit to most of the work on the front. On the days in the mountains, a group will form called the “grupetto”, this is a slow moving group normally full of sprinters like Mark Cavendish who aren’t the best going up hill.

7. The jerseys may change hands throughout the race depending on time or points gained/lost. You could be 5 minutes ahead in the yellow jersey, but then lose 7 minutes being caught up in a crash.

Yellow
– the ultimate jersey. This is the person who finishes the race with the fastest time overall. The idea for the main contenders will be to get through the first week and finish together. I could have a 2 second advantage (perhaps I was 2 seconds faster in a Time Trial or manage a little breakaway near the finish) as long as I finish alongside my rivals, I could let them win the stage by a bike length and not lose my yellow jersey.

Green
– this is the points jersey. More known as the sprinters jersey. Stages which are flat tend to be designed for the sprinters (ie: Mark Cavendish). Throughout the day there will be “intermediate sprints” where they can pick up points and then the finish where there are big points to be won.

Polka Dot – this is the King of the Mountains jersey. Every climb has a category and points can be gained for getting to the top first. Some riders can spend all day out on their own or all in a small group picking up points before being swept up on the last climb of the day by the team leaders.

White Jersey
– this is the best young rider jersey.

8. Everyday there is a breakaway; these are mainly the younger riders or smaller teams looking for exposure. Even the big teams may put a rider in the break for exposure. If you’re not going to be affecting the final standings then you’ll be allowed to get away. Then it’s the art of the chase. Normally they are reeled in about 10-5k from the finish, although some days they stay away encouraged by an eccentric ex-pro French directeur sportif!

9. Time trials are important. Here are two individual Time Trials (one being a mountain time trial which will be interesting) and also a Team Time Trial. These are designed to mix things up a little as the leader is exposed on his own. A team leader could lose seconds if not minutes here and may have to attack in the mountains to gain time. The Team Time Trial is interesting; out of all the team 4 must finish for the counting time. It also comes early on in the race, so the team leader is depending on the legs of all his team mates. Not all the team will be as strong or as experienced so they have to work together. A main contender could be 5 minutes behind after only a few stages due to his team not performing so it’s a big one.

10. Yes the crazy guys running alongside the riders are crazy. It all adds to the tour, you don't pay a penny to watch the Tour. Part of being a rider is coping with the added stress of a guy in a mankini while you're climbing one of the toughest mountain roads in the World!

Vive le Tour!

Life World War 2 Colour Photos

I'm a big WW2 junkie and these new, never been seen before, World War 2 colour photos published by Life are incredible. Breathtaking in fact. Although they have been restored the colour is still very pure, the images captured beautifully.

I've watched a lot of footage and poured over loads of photography from the war but I don't think I've seen images like this.

The photos were captured by LIFE magazine's Frank Scherschel before and after D-Day.

I'm really happy that time is still being invested to find and restore material like this. As more and more survivors, civilian, soldier or victim, are passing away; it is important that we must never forget the tragic events of 1939 to 1945, or those that fought for our peace.

http://life.time.com/history/wwii-before-and-after-d-day-color-photos-from-england-and-france-1944/#ixzz2X8bwnKFb





First Time Buyers Tips & Advice

Buying a house is the best thing you'll ever do.
I've recently moved into my first house with Becky and I've put together some tips and advice for you first time buyers out there.

It's quite a lengthy process and there is a lot to take on board but despite the press coverage there are deals out there to take advantage of. We were able to purchase a property with just a 5% deposit.

I've put together 11 tips to help you out if you are a first time buyer, from getting a mortgage to fees for surveys to budgeting and choosing utilities. It all differs based on personal circumstance and location of course but I hope the advice helps!

1.  We got a 95% LTV mortgage from Nationwide.
Rising fuel bills and maintaining an active lifestyle is tough going on the wallet. You could live like a hobbit to save up a 10-25% deposit, and many do, but like us if you want to have a life then checking out Nationwide's Save to Buy scheme is a must.

Basically you save into the scheme for 6 months, paying a minimum of £50 a month (we paid a lot more). After 6 months you will be eligible for the Save to Buy mortgage which you can take out with just a 5% deposit.

AND not only that, when you take out the mortgage you will receive a cashback reward depending on the amount of deposit you had (this can be up to £1000, paid to you one month from completion - we used ours on home furnishings).

AND that's not it either, Nationwide as part of the deal will also cover any legal survey fees which is a massive bonus.

It's a great deal and the service we had from Nationwide from start to finish has been great. We also bank with them and would recommend them to anyone.

It's worth noting however that the APR isn't as competitive compared to taking out a mortgage with a bigger deposit. Mortgages work on what is called LTV or Loan to Value, this looks at the amount of credit secured against the value of your property. If you have a small deposit of 5% you have a greater LTV, as such you are classed as a greater risk by the lender and a higher APR is put on the product. The better the Loan To Value, the better the deal you'll get so it's worth considering if you're lucky to have the funds, rather than going for the most expensive property you can afford.
 

2. Work out your budgets.
Before visiting your lender, and even before viewing properties, it is worth working out your budgets. There are many loan calculators out there where you can get a rough calculation. Nationwide have a handy "how much can I borrow calculator" and also a mortgage repayment calculator.

If you're using a basic mortgage calculator I would work with an APR of 4% and over 25 and 30 years. That will give you a good rough indication of a monthly repayment.

You will then need to budget your monthly outgoings, I really struggled to find all this information online so here is what I would budget monthly just for the house, we pay a bit less but it's a good starting point:

Mortgage repayment
Life & building and contents insurance: £40
Council tax: £150
(will vary greatly on area - see your local council website for rates)
Water: £35
Electricity & gas: £100 (really worth shopping around on this - I'll explain more later on).
TV license: £32
Phone & Broadband: £40 (you could get this a bit cheaper but our deal includes Sky TV as well)
Groceries: £400 (again dependent on your lifestyle but don't forget toiletries and cleaning products)

After that you'll have your personal outgoings such as loans, running your car, magazine subscriptions, mobile phone etc.

Don't forget you may need to budget for a bed, furniture, washing machine, tumble dryer, microwave, kettle, toaster...make a list and start building it all up early bit by bit. We stored plates, glasses, mugs..you name it. Take advantage of sales too, we bought our bed in January from Bensons For Beds for an amazing price while making it clear we wouldn't be moving for a couple of months. They simply kept it in storage.

3. If you have outstanding credit get it sorted.
Lenders take your existing credit into consideration. This is a calculation known as DTI or Debt to Income. Lenders will use a percentage of your income to cover all your credit, so if you are fully loaded with credit cards and loans, the chances of you being able to take out a mortgage may be restricted as the calculation will show you won't be able to afford it.

Even if you don't have any outstanding credit on your credit cards, lenders will still take the potential amount you could spend into consideration so it is worth considering the credit limits and cancelling any old unused cards that may be knocking around.

We were fine as I only had a car loan and at the time we both had really small balances outstanding on credit cards from Christmas which were due to be paid off anyway. Our mortgage was based on these cards being paid off before the mortgage completion and we had to provide proof of that.

Don't lie, be open and honest about it with your lender. When I worked in finance the amount of lies people told was incredible. It will all show up on your credit file. It is well worth investing in a credit report as early as possible so you can sort any problems before seeing your lender. Experian offer this, just make sure you email to cancel within a month or they automatically set up a monthly direct debit service - bit underhand if you ask me but there you go.

4. Make a big list of properties, drive-by before you view.
Do your research. Investigate about the area and understand where you are buying. We bought locally and still spent days driving around. You'll be surprised how much of an impression a drive-by does no matter how nice the inside of a house may be. When you find the one you like, visit at night and during the day.

5. Watch out for the £125,000 limit on stamp tax duty.
This is an interesting one. If you purchase a property over £125,000 you pay stamp tax duty, this is on top of the price of the property and survey fees. This can add thousands to your budget on top of paying for the house. As such it can be a really good bargaining tool to get the sale under the £125,000 limit.

6. Costs of buying a house are expensive.
It's not just about the deposit. You will need to budget at least £5000 on top of your deposit to pay for conveyancing costs. We were lucky that Nationwide covered the majority of our legal fees as part of the Save to Buy scheme however we still had to pay for a number of surveys to be done. Some surveys are dependent on location while some surveys may not be known until the initial survey has been completed. By the way you don't pay anything to the estate agent, only the seller pays the commission.

7. Be prepared for your mortgage meeting with the bank.
It will normally take 3 1 hour sessions however you can put it into 2 sessions like we did, the second being a meaty 2 hour session. The first meeting is where everything is agreed in principle. This is where the amount and term is discussed, a potential product is decided and then a lot of time is spent running through existing finances and future budget etc.

The second session confirms on the previous session in more detail. The plan is explained in full, reams of documents are signed and insurances are discussed and agreed. After 3 hours you are done.

We had a great mortgage adviser, Amanda Jones, she helped us through everything but make sure you do your research before the meeting. As part of taking out a mortgage you will need to take out life insurance and your mortgage adviser will also sell buildings and contents. We ended up taking both through Nationwide (underwritten by Legal & General) but not before a bit of negotiation as we had found slightly cheaper online.

Keep in touch with your mortgage adviser throughout the process, advise of any delays and ask questions it really does help.

8. Shop around for deals.
When you move in, the first month will be with the existing provider of the previous owners but don't be complacent, you'll be put on a temporary tariff which can be expensive. Hardly any utilities companies provide easy facilities for first time buyers, it is all setup for existing users. Use the comparison websites and enter in what you know. Once you have the best utility companies on the comparison websites try going direct and see if you can get it cheaper. Also look out for deals such as Nectar points with British Gas.

I found that buying gas and electricity together on a set monthly direct debit was cheapest. We went with Ovo Energy, they were one of the cheapest based on our property and potential usage. Importantly for me they offered 3% interest on accounts in credit so you're making money during the quieter summer months. They have a great welcome pack and it was so easy to get everything set up. Would highly recommend them.

Definitely shop around for white goods. For white goods we used Boots Kitchen Appliances - it is run by the same people at Appliances Online but we found the prices to be cheaper than them! You also collect Boots points which can be used to buy toiletries and medicines. The service from them was fantastic, on time and fully fitted. Also watch out for deals, our washing machine came with 6 months worth of washing liquid! Huge money saver! Also check out efficiency ratings, try and get the best you can and use Which for reviews.

For TVs, again I would shop around. Personally I found Currys to be useless, they wouldn't price match. If anything they actually told me to go to Richer Sounds, the sales guy told me that not only was the price less at Richer Sounds but they had better models! Currys were useful in reminding me of an independent in town called Spatial Sound & Vision. The guy in there was brilliant and ended up being cheaper than both Currys and Richer Sounds. Don't forget independent stores!


9. It's a long process - don't get your hopes up.
"It's a short chain, you should be moved in within a couple of months". You won't. If you do you'll be lucky. Something always crops up which is nothing to do with you. As a first time buyer you'll be a sellers dream but you are at the top of the chain waiting on other people. The chain will get longer and people will delay. Be patient and importantly phone your conveyancer regularly.

Conveyancers (the legal people who will sort out surveys and be your go-between between estate agent and seller) can be slow working but when it is in your ballpark they want it doing yesterday. They all work on paper and fax which can be annoying especially in 2013. Keep phoning, ask questions and put some pressure on. I always followed up with an email to keep a paper trail and for important matters sent a letter too.

10. Be prepared for the move.
Use the time waiting for exchange day to sort out your utilities. Once a move date is confirmed get in touch with the water, gas & electric and phone and broadband companies. Let them know the date and they'll get everything prepared in advance. It takes a month to setup gas & electric and the broadband line. Phone (and TV connection if you're getting Sky) takes a week.

If you're buying a bed and kitchen appliances get in touch with them and let them know the exchange date. If you give them enough notice they can arrange delivery on the same weekend as you are moving in. We timed it perfectly so the bed was delivered two hours after we moved in, white goods were delivered Saturday morning and Sky was setup on Sunday morning. We were fully up and running, together with furniture bought and built from Ikea by Monday morning.

11. Moving in day.
You will be given a potential exchange date. This date has to be agreed by all parties in the chain which is a challenge but don't worry your conveyancer will help you with this. A date is fully confirmed when contracts are exchanged. The move isn't legally binding until contracts are exchanged. Be careful as the deal could still fall through even after months of surveys, get the contracts exchanged as soon as possible.

You'll normally have between 1-2 weeks once contracts are exchanged. At this point the conveyancer should have been paid in full. On the day you will be given a time when the exchanged should be completed. This is when everything has been signed off by the conveyancers and the money from the bank has been exchanged. If you are prepared, and have kept in touch with your mortgage adviser it will all be ok.

Normally you would expect to pick up the keys at midday. This is strange process. After the months and years of build up, you walk to the estate agent, they take your name, take the keys out of the drawer and say "thanks, all the best". It takes one minute. It is bizarre but an amazing feeling!

Make sure you take a electricity and gas reading. You'll need to let your new (or existing if you are staying put) know. Don't worry you don't have to do it straight away. Over the period of the next couple of weeks get in touch with the council and TV licensing.

I hope all this helps, it sounds like a lot but it's just about planning, being ahead of the game and doing the maths. A lot of people say how stressful and hard it is moving house, to be honest I found it to be pretty straightforward. The frustrating part for me was predicting budget so I hope you find my sums useful.

Relax, plan well and enjoy. It's the best thing you'll ever do.

Time Trialling - Halfway In

It looks like I have tits but I'm happy with my position

So here we are, mid-June and about halfway into the "season". I'm making good progress, I'm behind where I'd like to be but I'm improving at around 20 seconds a week for a 10 so at least I'm not going backwards. I'm posting short 26s on our club 10 which is about 10-15 seconds off my fastest last year.

Weight Loss

I had a good winter followed by a good Llanberis but lost momentum with the house move. I also wanted to purchase a Time Trial bike but that too has fallen by the wayside until next year. As you can hopefully see in the photo above I've lost weight, I'm currently 77kg which is 10kg lighter than this time last year and 8kg lighter than earlier in the year.

I've been careful to not lose power while losing the weight. I'm definitely missing the miles though, I've not been able to get out on my usual weekend miles and mid-week rides as often as I've wanted. I have kept up with the club runs and when I have been out I've made sure it is quality. Hopefully looking forward I'll get some more miles in from July onwards.

25s

2013 has been a first. I entered my first open solo 25. I posted a time of 1.08 which I was really happy with as I was aiming for a 1.10. It would have been slightly faster had I not been held up by a coach at a junction. I enjoyed the 25, it was a tough day on the course, very windy but I managed to get into a rhythm and I felt good. Importantly I knew I could have done better at the end. There were times about halfway round that I lost concentration, my heart-rate dropped and I should have been pushing on. It was a good experience though.

Following that I competed in the 4up 25 with the club. We had 4 teams. My team posted a 1.01 which if you notice the 7 minutes difference that is a huge leap. I would like to say I contributed to that but I probably did about 2 minutes on the front throughout. Steve Thomas and Jim Williams were powerhouses on the front. I just held on for dear life on the back the whole way round, my legs screaming, my heart-rate through the roof. Cheers to Tommo & Jim for that, sorry I couldn't have done more.

Hopefully all this is building up in my legs and improving my fitness. I would love to post a short 25 for a 10. We'll see!


Google Squared

I best give a heads up for Google Squared which is a digital marketing course being run by the good folks over at Google and industry body IPA.

It is a 6 month course which starts in July involving 5 modules, all building up (if you complete all the assignments of course) a Squared Online Certificate in Digital Marketing, which in the words of Squared "created for the industry by the industry to meet the need for high calibre digital talent".

All sounding like top stuff and I've been given the opportunity by the agency to take part in a pilot course along with a 100 other digital marketeers around the UK. It'll involve two nights a week of online lessons together with assignments, the first of which to create a 2 minute video about myself. I've put something together, it won't win any awards but meets the brief. A lot has been said about simplicity when it comes to User Experience so I decided to go down that route.

No doubt I'll be keeping you updated on here!

Sports Therapist in Northwich

For those of you looking for a sports therapist in Northwich make sure you check out Your Sports Therapist.

Those who follow my blog will know the incredible help I've been given by my brother Chris over the years and I'm proud to say he has set up his own sports therapist clinic in Northwich.

As a sports therapist his services include:
- Sports massage (which I must highly recommend if you're playing sport on a regular basis as ongoing maintenance - it keeps the muscles relaxed allowing for better flex and transportation of blood; and with it better performance)
- Injury assessment and rehabilitation (for those suffering from aches and pains)
- Pilates (he is currently running a class on Sunday mornings which is proving to be very popular), medical acupuncture (which is really clever stuff)
- Rocktaping (that coloured tape you see athletes wearing sometimes to help muscle flex if they are having problems)
- Personal profiling and training (for those of you looking to take that next step up and improve on personal performance)

Chris qualified as a sports therapist a few years ago and his since gone on to work with footballers, rugby players, cricketers, gymnasts and of course us amateurs! He chose to be a sports therapist as a career choice having been through major rehabilitation himself following a horrific injury while on trial at Bradford City.

I know he is my brother but he has helped me tremendously and I know plenty of others who will say the same. It speaks volumes when you see the amount of referrals coming his way! If you are interested, sessions start from £20 for half an hour and he'll also do home visits. Visit www.yoursportstherapist.com for more info.


Bolesworth 2013

A short week for me this week and I'm off to support Becky & Pete at Bolesworth Classic which is near to Peckforton and Beeston Castle.

I think this is the 4th year of us going and it is such a brilliant show. I look forward to it every year. The setting is fantastic and you get all the top riders turning out for it. This year all the classes have sold out which proves just how good the show is. Becky & Pete stay over and have a mini holiday. We went to the very first show and it's been nice to see it grow over the years.

It is a great family day out, as well as 3 rings of Show Jumping there is a fair, food and drink tent and loads of attractions. It's good value for money too, kids under 12 go FREE and adults can either pay £10 on the gate or you can be clever and get advance tickets for £7.50 online.

The show runs from this Thursday (30th June) to Sunday.

Pete has been on good form recently, qualifying for loads of finals and staying injury free. Despite his advancing years he is still acting like a 3 year old! We're not sure how many years we have left in him, as long as he is enjoying jumping that is the main thing. Grass isn't his favourite surface so we're not expecting anything from him at Bolesworth but you never know! We're there to enjoy.

A video of Becky & Pete recently



Becky & Pete at Bolesworth last year

NUS Payday Lenders Infographic

The guys at One have put together a really nice infographic for NUS which focuses on raising the awareness of payday lenders.


New Brand New Heavies Single - Sunlight




I'm a massive Brand New Heavies fan and when I heard the new single with N'dea Davenport back on vocals I had to get it on here as soon as. It is stunning. It is the Heavies at their very best, beautifully produced, N'dea sounds incredible and so disco it'll make you want to turn off the lights and get the glitterball on.

Can't wait for the new album and I hope they will get out on the road. I remember them supporting Earth, Wind & Fire a few years back and they were amazing. Their Live album from London is well worth a listen.

Keep up to date with news on their website.

Another single from the album is Addicted.

Cheshire Cat 2013 Sportive

Well here is my number for 2013's edition of the Cheshire Cat sportive. It'll be my 5th attempt at the Cheshire Cat, my first attempt being when it used to start from Knutsford High School with orange squash and biscuits for refreshment!

If you've entered you are in for a treat, it's a great sportive, spot on for early season miles. The route is pretty flat with only 30 miles up in the hills. Feed stops are quality and the start and finish is really nice too.

For those not local, you'll be whizzing through stunning Cheshire villages such as Goostrey and Holmes Chapel. Beware: the roads are totally battered down here, Flanders looked better after World War 1 so it would be good advice to keep your wits about you.

Mow Cop

Much is said about Mow Cop. Believe the hype as it is a tough climb. Not many, if any, club runs venture up it. As soon as you cross the railway crossing you're climbing. The toughest bit is the final 200m which is 25%. Here are my tips to cope with the 'Cop.

1. Start nice and slow. As with any climbing, keep to your own tempo. Don't get carried away. Loads of people bomb up the first bit and get caught out. Keep your heart rate as controlled as possible.

2. It gets really steep about 1/4 the way up. You'll start climbing and the road will go right and swirl round back to the left. Here it is pretty steep. You'll be out of the saddle and wheels may slip at the back. After here you need to back off and recover.

3. Keep it easy. Leading up to the final 200m it is pretty straight but it is quite steep. Keep your tempo and keep it steady. Focus.

4. Go for it up the steep stuff. Just before it ramps up it flattens slightly, recover, take a deep breath and slam yourself up it. Get on the drops, dig deep and sprint up it. Just dig and dig and dig.

This video shows it off very nicely



You can read my reviews of previous Cheshire Cats from 2012, 2011 and 2010 here.


Llanberis 2013

Reaching the top of Llanberis Pass on Sunday
Photo: Lyndsey Astles
At the end of every February it is the Weaver Valley CC training weekend to Llanberis. Legendary in status, it sees 60 riders travel across 185 miles over two days, climbing over 11,000ft with climbs including the Sportsman on Saturday from Ruthin and Llanberis Pass on the Sunday morning to get you going from the hotel.

Last year I completed all but 20 miles of the route and this year I was determined to complete it all. And I did. It felt amazing to complete it and importantly I felt good the whole way round. I had another bike fit at the start of February which saw my stem being lowered further thanks to the core work and weight loss, and that helped a great deal. Again if you haven't, I would highly recommend visiting Richard at Pedal Precision, it is the best £150 you'll ever spend.

Snow on the Sportsman.
Photo: Elaine Mossman
Conditions were tricky, the temperature didn't head over 4 degrees all weekend . We even encountered snow for 20 miles climbing the Sportsman until we got to Betws-y-Coed and then again going back through the forest to Ruthin the following day. I'll never forget the 8 of us, lined out, descending down the Sportsman at over 40mph in the snow. It was brilliant. Proper Band of Brothers style.

I enjoyed pretty much the whole ride, the worst part was going from Betws-y-Coed back to Ruthin on Sunday. It was tough going, relentless and the legs were feeling it a bit. Strangely they came around after the cafe stop and I felt great all the way home. I mustn't have eaten enough.

Band of Brothers on the
Sportsman.
Photo: Elaine Mossman
I was climbing well (granted not as good as 80% of those completing the ride who whizzed past like I was stood still). I seemed to have more spark in the legs this year and more importantly my heart rate was both lower and faster to recover than last year. This made a huge difference when climbing. Where I was at around 180bpm on every climb last year, this year I was sat in around 160-170bpm. I'm putting that down to losing weight, more training and more experience I think.

Training

Training started back in November as always. I started with a good base from a busy summer of club runs and time trials. I had put on some weight during October but coming in at 88kg wasn't too bad considering the year before I was around 93kg.

The most important part I think was joining a gym over the Winter months. My brother Chris also devised a plan to improve my core strength which included Palov presses and the dreaded plank. I also introduced leg presses alongside glute and hamstring work which has worked really well. When climbing I really noticed how the weight work had helped. I had the same feeling in the steep parts of the climbs as I did in those last 5 presses in that final set of 4.

Stunning scenery on a snowy
Sunday morning in Llanberis.
I joined The Works in Northwich which has been a great gym for me. This turned out to be a great move because not only was I getting 2 good sessions in during the week but there were quite a few weekends where it was too bad to go out. When things were going tough on the run to Llanberis I just reminded myself of the hours spent sat on the turbo in the gym doing intervals. I remember a couple of mornings during December when it was just me in the freezing cold gym while people recovered with their hangovers!

When I could go out on the bike (which at times seemed to be a treat!) I upped the mileage. I did 50 mile non stop runs on my own on a Saturday which was good as I had the wind resistance to really test the legs. I also included a couple of hills like the Wizard in Alderley Edge. I then did the club run on the Sunday.

The toughest part was watching what I ate over Christmas. After Boxing Day I cut out the beer and after New Years Day I cut out the crap. No cheese, bread, beer, snacks or treats (so no eating out, no pizza), just stripping right back to good foods and smaller portions.

All in all I headed into Llanberis at 84kg. That still isn't light compared to many of my club colleagues but in perspective it is 4kg lighter than my weight starting Llanberis in 2012.

It took a lot of effort but it was worthwhile. I couldn't have done it without Becky. She had to suffer because of me, eating the same "boring" foods and putting up with me while I was out on the bike. I was focused and her support was fantastic.

Facebook Graph Search

You can edit Search Engine visibility settings in Facebook.
Be prepared for another round of upset as people learn more about Facebook's proposed Graph Search. It's currently in beta but is on it's way. In short it is a search engine based within Facebook where say if you typed in "Trafford Centre Cinema" into Graph Search it will drag in all your friends results who have been there, what they thought, said and did there. There is talk it will work wider away from your friends network too. So, for example, if you get tagged in a drunken stupor at your favourite local bar, those photos of you drooling in the background will be dragged into that search. In effect Facebook is going to be making much better use of your content.

Before we go any further let's get one thing clear. Nothing has changed. Facebook is using the data you have posted and approved. Facebook is free. You don't pay a penny to upload your photos, videos and share your life stories. All content is self uploaded either by you or your friends. You have control over it, you can remove any stories or tags. If you don't like what Facebook is doing then get out and close down your account.

Graph Search is designed to allow you to quickly and easily find new experiences. We share so much data today, (in fact 300 billion photos and nearly 3 billion Likes everyday) that it all can become lost. The amount of data we're sharing is increasing too (Zuckerberg's Law says the amount of data we consume and share will double every two year's, much like Moore's Law on hardware). Graph Search will become useful in that all this data will be easily searchable. And yes us marketeers will also see the benefits. The question is, would you rather have marketing pushed to you as being relevant or irrelevant? If you like bikes, do you want ads on cheap viagra and prostitutes or information on new bikes, teams and races etc?

If you're worried you can make some changes to help.

If you are worried about you're data being shared make sure you spend some time running through Facebook's privacy settings. I like my Facebook to remain informal unlike my Twitter, LinkedIn & Google+ account so I've spend some time reviewing.

Make sure you do review and read the warnings. The amount of people who get really angry about "Facebook using my data" and then "can't be bothered" to spend the time to review their privacy is amazing.

In privacy settings you can review who can see your data and what data is published to whom. I'd pay close attention to the "search engine visibility" setting (see the image at the top of this blog).

I would also have a look at the 'Limit Past Posts' option if you're really anxious that those pictures of you in Kavos in 2005 aren't shared away from your friends.

Limit Past Posts - if you're anxious about old material

Wiggins on Armstrong

Readers of this blog will know that I love both Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins. Mark because he is my age and I like the way he punched above his weight to get where he is. Some may say he is spiky like me too. And Bradley because he is just Bradley; elegant on the bike as he is charismatic off it. I always remember the two of them in the Madison when I was really getting into cycling, destroying the race. It was just incredible.

Since then I've always had this "who do I like best" going back and forth. But seeing the below from Bradley Wiggins just makes me love the guy even more. A stunning interview from Cycling Weekly, which is typically Bradley. If there was to ever be a time that I found Cav or Brad to have doped, it will be the day I stop cycling. Well done Brad for keeping it real.

"That was the thing that upset me the most about 2009 and 2010. I thought you lying bastard. I can still remember going toe-to-toe with him, watching him and his body language. The man I saw at the top of Verbier in 2009 to the man I saw on the top of Ventoux two weeks later, it wasn't the same bike rider...."

".....When he started welling up about his 13-year-old son asking him what it's all about - I never have to have that conversation with my own son. His father's won the Tour clean; there's this element of being smug about the whole thing to be honest. Then I got a 'you deserve everything you get' kind of thing. By the end, I was feeling no sympathy for him behind all the welling up and the tears."