Sunrise Cycling – Preparation
Apparently if you want to succeed in life then the key is to wake up at a god-forsaken time, preferably before the sun breaks, and get to work. It is what all the top CEO’s and young up-starts swear by as a way to be more productive. Whilst the rest of the world sleeps, these titans of industry are plotting their next successful move.
As you know, with two kids and a busy job, evening cycling is not an option for me. The evening are filled instead with cooking dinner, bathing children, playing with kids, putting kids to bed and then perhaps I will iron a shirt for the next working day before slumping into bed. Nowhere within this is there space for a cycle.
Increasingly the weekends also follow a similar pattern and so I thought I would take a lesson from these successful people and adopt their routine to see if it is a viable way to squeeze in some good quality cycling miles.
My plan is to get up at 4am and be out the door within fifteen minutes for an undulating 36-mile cycle. I am not a morning person although have been forced to see more early mornings than I had ever experienced due to sleepless kids. To overcome my natural reluctance to wake up I knew that I had to be prepared, to make it extremely easy to get from bleary-eyed to full gas.
I thought I would remove a step altogether and set-up the bike, ready to go in the living room rather than the garage. Things got off to a bad start when I realised my bike had a rear flat tyre and broke a tyre-lever when repairing. Inner tube replaced, the bike was now sitting in the living room getting bemused glances from my partner as she tried to watch some TV.
The water bottles were filled, the lights attached and the Garmin primed and ready.
The last thing that I wanted to do at 4am was to try to find my various pieces of cycling attire in the dark room as I failed miserably at keeping the noise low. So I prepared the entire kit and laid it on the chair ready to slip into the next day. I even packed my jersey pockets with food and spares.
To make up for my natural morning reticence I tend to stay up quite late into the evening but this would have to change if I was to commit to cycling as the sun rose. I went to bed at a reasonable time and tried to sleep. I really tried. Did I mention that it was possibly the warmest night of the year also so sleep did not come easy.
I was awoken at 0330 as my son wanted a glass of water. When I was in the kitchen I had a brain wave. I could fill and boil the kettle now and it will still be warm when I wake up in half an hour. It is this sort of thinking that can make the difference between cycling and not. Or at the very least save like three minutes. It struck me, standing in the kitchen, that it was still pitch black outside and that despite my best research (one Google search) it might not be light at 4am as I first thought.
The alarm rang at 4am and just about pulled me from a deep sleep. For some reason I hit the snooze button and this is the familiar tale of accidentally sleeping for an extra half an hour.
Within five minutes I looked like a cyclist. Within ten minutes I had downed an espresso of sorts and within fifteen minutes I was heading out the door with no idea how my legs would handle this onslaught.
I will update this as I progress through my experiment but I am expecting feeling of joy at being on the bike to be brutally balanced by feelings of absolute tiredness. Can I sustain this with work and family?
Sunrise Cycling – Day One
I had chosen a beautiful morning on which to conduct this experiment that would no doubt throw me into the depths of exhaustion. It was sunny but also quite humid and those first few pedal strokes felt good just to back on the bike.
There is something carnal about being awake when the rest of the land sleeps and you feel like you have the freedom of the roads. The sun had just popped –up over the horizon and all in all I was feeling pretty good in the saddle. Despite the lack of saddle time I felt like my recent running has at least shifted some weight I had put-on over the winter and this can have a massive effect on cycling, especially on such an undulating course.
I was sharing the countryside with just farm animals and rabbits that have an unerring ability to jump out of hedges as I passed. Two cars passed me the entire time before I got back to town just as commuting time was starting. My big fear was that drivers would never expect a cyclist on the road at this time of the morning so I was hyper vigilante to any traffic.
I had forgotten how good cycling is. Flying round corners is like a time machine to those fearless days of childhood. Getting into a rhythm and tapping out a pace, just on the border of painful and manageable is the best place to live.
After a quick shower it was time to change into my work clothes and attack the day with the air of someone who has already achieved more with their day before everyone else had even woken up. That feeling was quick to dissipate when I sat in my chair at work and the reality of skipping three hours of sleep began to hit home. My only thought now was; “how on God’s green earth am I going to get through today?”
By 0830 I had eaten the entire contents of my lunch, therefore undoing any and all of the good work on the bike this morning. By 1000 I had downed two string coffees. The thought of lunch and something substantial to eat from the canteen was getting me through the morning.
By 1157 I had eaten lunch and now had the prospect of a long afternoon ahead of me. Also seem to be suffering from intermittent hot spells. Don’t get me wrong I am still glad that I went out on my bike but certainly questioning the long term feasibility of this regime.
This is turning out to be a terribly unproductive day at work but the emails keep flying in and I have to put in some sort of effort despite only wanting to find a bed. Why can’t I work from one of those fancy start-ups that provide nap spaces? I bet their founder is a proponent of the 4am starts!
1226 – Just returned from a very short nap in the bathroom. It has not helped.
I have almost made it through the day thanks mostly to caffeine and regular breaks outside breathing in some fresh air. I would compare the feeling to those I had in my younger days when trying to get through university with a hangover.
Having pretty much survived work (and today I use that term loosely) I now have to survive the usual high energy evening routine. I can say for sure that I will not be repeating this experiment tomorrow and instead will have a rest day before attempting again the following day.
My internal clock has been shocked and now needs some time to recover.
Sunrise Cycle – Day Two
Despite my tiredness after my first sunrise cycle, the impulse is still there to go out again tomorrow morning. The weather looks good and hopefully the legs are equally up for the task.
I was well prepared the other day in terms of having my bike and kit ready; tonight I need to charge my lights and fill the water bottles ready to get out the door. I have also given a bit more thought to my fuelling strategy on the ride; I am going to make toast and put it in a bag in my jersey pocket. Yes it will be cold by the time I come eat it but I am hoping that will be outweighed by the mental benefits of having actual real food in the morning instead of extremely sweet cereal bars. I also plan to take advantage of the early morning light and take some more photos (time permitting).
I will update this blog after the cycle and share any lessons learned from gaining a few extra miles on the bike.
…Wow I feel amazing today. Unfortunately it has nothing to do with managing to get out on the bike this morning and much more because I got a few hours extra sleep. My intentions were pure and I managed to get out of bed at the required time but as I did so my youngest son woke up and needed some parenting. I had to take my cycling hat off (otherwise known as a helmet) and put on my father hat (otherwise known as thinning hair) to deal with a child who thinks that 4am is play time.
Once I was ready for work I ruefully put the bike back in the garage and got on with my day with a heavy heart but even more determined to get out on the bike tomorrow morning.
Sunrise Cycle – Day Two (Finally)
After my parenting priorities yesterday I managed to get out on the bike this morning again just as the sun had peeked above the horizon. It was touch and go though as I managed to turn off my alarm and sleep in for an extra half an hour. Today was a late start at work so I could afford the extra time in bed before kitting-up and getting out.
The weather was once again stunning as it has been for the best part of a month. This is an unusual state of affairs for the UK.
I think it is more a consequence of not being twenty-one anymore but the legs always feel awful on the first ten or so miles on the bike. They work but the effort weighs on my mind and tempts me to just turn back and call it a bad day. This feeling is even more acute on these early morning bike rides when the legs seem to go into a state of shock; they think they should be relaxing in bed but are being forced to spin at a ridiculous speed. The only saving grace is that I know it take some time for them to warm up and so I just have to push through the first ten miles until the feeling starts to lift and I am not even aware that I am pedalling.
It is obvious why the pro’s warm up these days before lunching straight up the impossible side of a mountain in the Tour de France.
Once the legs found their rhythm I felt good. Good to be on the bike and good to be outside in the beautiful countryside. I don’t know what it is like where you live but I feel blessed to be able to plot a route that takes me along quite country lanes that criss-cross the land, a happy consequence of hundreds of years of farming and progress. I counted four cars in total this morning and being able to use the whole road and take corners properly does wonders for your average speed.
Towards the end of the loop is a leg stinging climb that is tough at the best of times but made tougher after having ridden hard for thirty miles with no breakfast in my belly. It is one of those climbs that linger in the back of your mind as you edge closer and closer towards it. It is not long but it is just unrelenting. As I got closer to it I was beginning to doubt if my fragile legs could even get me over the summit. On this occasion they did and by the time I got down the other side I was mixing with commuter traffic at the start of the working day. As cars passed me I wondered what they must think of me. I mean obviously as a cyclist on the road they are naturally disposed to hate me but I wondered if they could tell that whilst they were waking from their slumber I was out pounding the pedals.
Maybe my body is adjusting slightly to waking up early to cycling or maybe I feel ok because I squeeze in an extra half an hour in bed but I am hoping to continue this sunrise cycling and get some more time in the saddle before the inevitable end of summer and with it the dark, cold, depressing mornings. I can already hear the turbo trainer calling my name.