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From couch potato to cycling across Cuba

16th May 2014

HE was a couch potato but now the amazing Darin McCloud is a wonderful inspiration to anyone who thinks their weight problem can never be beaten. In just over two years, Darin’s Slimpod has helped him turn his life around completely and achieve the most amazing things.

When I first met him it was a struggle for him to walk because he weighed over 20 stone and could hardly make it down the street without gasping for breath. Darin will admit he was the typical couch potato.

Today his list of  accomplishments is amazing – culminating in a 200-mile-plus cycle ride across the beautiful island of Cuba. Not bad for someone who used to think twice about walking half a mile! I just love this picture of Darin proudly wearing the yellow jersey (like they do in the Tour de France) with Thinking Slimmer emblazoned across his front.

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Darin, who lives in Portsmouth, has used his Slimpod to transform himself from couch potato to athlete. First he tackled the Great South Run, completing 10K accompanied by Trevor Silvester, the voice of the Slimpods.

Then he moved up to half marathons before tackling the London Marathon. Needless to say he took all 26 miles in his stride.

Recently, before setting off for Cuba, he did a triathlon and met his hero Dame Kelly Holmes.

This is Darin’s daily diary of his Cuban Challenge. Just to put what he did into perspective, on some days he was cycling in a temperature of 88 Fahrenheit, burned 1,000 calories an hour and rode 1,500ft up mountains

What I love about Darin is the way he is so modest about what he does. His Facebook post at the end of the Cuba Challenge said simply: “And that was Cuba by bike.”

Day One

Blue skies,sunny,very hot. Escambray Mountains, National Park.

Nowhere was ever flat for very long. How come it took longer to walk down than to walk back up? That, my friends, is a good question and one most of us have a brilliant answer ready for! Firstly it was very tough just walking down so we had a guide, had plenty of stops and were given loads of information about the area.

At the bottom we reached a plunging steep sided waterfall which was amazing and the pool at the bottom was even better although I did not go in (anxiety about getting wet then dried and slowing group down stopped me). No regrets my aim was to complete all challenges in a way that I was comfortable with.

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When it was time to leave I was one of the first to go knowing that I would be one of the last to get back to the top. It was very tough and slow walking back up, about a third of the way up there were locals with horses selling rides up to the top. I don’t remember riding a horse before so I was sold on this idea straight away.

The best £5 I have ever spent. Do I feel that I cheated? No way – that was an experience to die for, riding a horse up a steep mountain. I don’t know how those horses did it.

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Day Two

Blue Skies, sunny, very hot. Playa Ancon to Guajimico 56K.

One of two easier cycle days. Worth noting that I was able to get my legs massaged last night, my legs are still sore but better for the massage. I am very scared about my legs after cycle day one.

This was one of the easier flatter days, the hills were managed with no problems at all, this ride took us along the coast where the views were to die for. It was also along the road were the crabs come from the sea and cross the road to breed.

Whilst it was too early to see the road covered (a problem for the bike tyres) there were still crabs to avoid and plenty that had not made it. Having completed today’s ride I am very confident about the other cycle days

Day Three

Blue skies, sunny, very hot. Guajimico to Cienfuegos 47K.

The shortest day cycling and one of the best (for me) as I was able to push myself between stops knowing my legs could cope with the day. There were always hills, just not as long or steep as other days. There is a rest day tomorrow where I get my 2nd and last leg massage this is also the last day that my legs were sore or achy for the rest of the trip.

It’s worth remembering this is not a race but a cycle ride where you can ride at your pace most of the time. I pushed myself then other times I took it easy; I enjoyed every day and every style of riding I did. I also stopped where I wanted to so I could take in the view and take photos.

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Day Four

Blue skies, sunny, still very hot. Cienfuegos to Lake Hanabanilla 68

The toughest day by far, also my favourite day just because I did it. No aches, no pains, just the sheer joy of knowing that today I will push myself beyond anything I have ever done before this whole trip.

The water stops and regroup points between the cycling offer great breaks so that the day never gets over challenging. Because day 1 was so much longer it didn’t seem that way, today it worked so well.

Every part of the day had hills which got longer and hillier as the day went on until we reached the last 9k, the longest, steepest hill of the trip. For the first time ever I now have an understanding of the professional riders in the mountain stages of a cycle race, riding for that long up that steep a hill was the challenge of a lifetime on a bike.

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There was a part of the ride at mile 43 that I had to walk, I just could not cycle the rest. I rode even though I took some breaks for water and gels hence the 20 mins 30 seconds for that mile.

The last 500m to the hotel was the steepest but after a little downhill section I made sure I rode in victorious and very proud.

Day Five

Blue skies, sunny very hot until…. Hanabanilla to Santa Clara 55K

The last day in the saddle starts off with a 1hr boat across the man-made reservoir. The day still has some hills to test us and an amazing descent towards the end of the day. Santa Clara is most famous for Che Guevara and the finish of the cycle was to be at museum of Che. Except it rained hence the weather report at the start.

Once the dark clouds come over it’s only a matter of time before it rains. This was the only day that it looked like it might rain whilst we were cycling. I was looking forward to cycling in a little rain as it was the last day and near the end the timing was perfect, as it started to rain.

It was cool and refreshing and we were keen to keep going. However, within five minutes and less than 1/2k to the finish it rained so hard it was dangerous to carry on. We were so wet it did not matter but we still got off the road and hid behind some bushes.

This was comical as these small bushes offered no protection whatsoever from the rain. The coach pulled up and we loaded the bikes.

We may have ended a little short of the planned finish but the talking point of the rain more than made up for that.

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