For some reason, getting up at 6am feels easier than getting up an hour later. I am up and out without pressing snooze (errrrrm who am I?!) and I raise the blinds but there is no point really as it is still pitch back outside. It’s been a while since I got up in the dark. It used to remind me of holidays, of early morning flights to exotic places, but now the stronger memories are of marathon training last winter.
One specific morning, sat on my sofa with my head in my hands. James snoring away in the warm, cosy bedroom. The sound of the rain hammering down on the skylight, so loud I could barely hear myself think, and 12km to run to work. It was still pitch black and still raining when I mustered up the energy to start the run, but it soon calmed down to a drizzle and I was greeted with a glorious sunrise as I approached Tower Bridge.
So – dark mornings. Not generally something I actively enjoy, but this particular morning it was a novelty and not a chore. I was setting out for a “long” ride before work. If you want to impress a bunch of sedentary lawyers, tell them you rode two and a half hours before even coming into the office! If you want some good half-ironman training, get home from your ride with just 20 minutes to shower, wash your hair, get dressed, look smart and presentable and leave the house. Follow that up with a 15 min fast-walk to work. No time to rest on the sofa, it’s practically a brick workout!
The endorphins flooding through my body meant that for the rest of the day I had planned to make this “long ride” (I put that in speech marks as I don’t really think anything under 3 hours is long…. but it is certainly not a short ride!) a weekly occurrence.
The streets of Madrid were almost empty at 6.30am, apart from a few brightly lit buses with no people inside except the driver, whizzing off to start their day. My leg was REALLY sore. It’s the left hip, the pain started last week more in the groin area but now seems to have moved around to the outside of my left hip, with a few twinges in my knee. I told myself to take it easy, keep spinning in low gears, not worry about speed. But everytime I stopped at traffic lights, it hurt to lift the pedal to the 12 o’clock position. Just that simple movement of lifting the leg hurt. Unclipping was also painful. I always unclip both feet. I don’t know, I didn’t when I first started cycling and it’s not like I was always falling off. But I feel now if I don’t unclip both feet I will definitely fall off. So I tried really hard to cycle without unclipping my left foot and coming to a stop was the most ungainly thing you can imagine!
I was soon on the cyclepath and the sky was finally lightening from pitch black to a beautiful shade of blue, streaked with pink. I plugged in my headphones (this is new to me when cycling but it is fantastic for a long, solo out-and-back on a cyclepath! I wouldn’t do it on the road) and got cycling, stopping occasionally to enjoy the lightening of the sky and the changing sunrise.
There is something quite special about sunrise, isn’t there?
It was a wonderfully peaceful cycle. I was listening to a great podcast – Marathon Talk. I like listening to exercise-based podcasts while I’m exercising, and Marathon Talk is a fantastic one. A nice mix of friends chatting together, training advice, and really interesting interviews with various professional athletes. On the bike, as said above, I only ever listen to anything when on a cycle path. I also only have one earphone in, so my other ear can hear completely fine, and I listen to podcasts rather than music. Firstly because I find them more interesting, and secondly because they are not as all-encompassing as music. Speech necessarily involves breaks and moments of silence so I think it is much easier to stay aware of your surroundings with a podcast than with music!
After an hour 15 minutes, I turned around and began the cycle home. The path was busier now, with a few commuters and a couple of other people out for beat-the-heat morning cycles in small groups. The heat was increasing and I was almost finished my second bottle of water, pushing myself a little bit faster on the way home and staying down in the drops. By this time my leg had loosened up and was less painful but I was still making sure to be careful.
I arrived home after 2 hours 20 minutes cycling time – a perfect way to start the day! I stretched out my glutes, dashed around the house getting ready, and made it to work only 5 minutes late …. so early seeing as I work in Spain!
p.s. this morning I went for another wonderful cycle – slow as I had to keep stopping to take photos as the light was so beautiful. The slightly later sunrise times are making for beautiful mornings here in Madrid. I am going to miss these morning cycles so much once I’m back in the UK.