Rise and Ride
I do not mind admitting that finding itself on a roadbike first thing in the morning is not a circumstance which my body finds natural, or agreeable. That is not to say I am not a morning person. I wake up early and am often at my most industrious in those hours. But that industriousness is mostly mental. When it comes to physical activity my body is slow to wake up. There is a long warm-up process, accompanied by copious coffee-drinking and low-level shuffling before I am ready for anything intense. The earliest I would feel naturally inclined to set off on a spirited bicycle ride is probably 11am or so. But better still would be to wait till the afternoon, when I feel most energetic of all.
Unfortunately, that kind of timing breaks up the day into pieces and isn't great for productivity. It's also difficult to find cycling buddies who can ride at such random hours. So even though I work freelance and in theory have a flexible schedule, more often than not practical concerns over-ride bio-rhythmic preferences. I have been known to set off at 6am with friends who could only ride before going to work - feeling sluggish, stiff and half-awake through the whole thing despite my best pedaling efforts and attempts at good cheer. And I have joined 6pm club rides, growing unbearably hungry for dinner by the second half of the hilly 30 mile route, to the point of visualising roasted chicken rumps in the place of the pace-lining girls in front of me.
Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining. Cycling at a time of day that isn't my favourite time of day is of course far better than not cycling at all. It's just interesting to observe that the body does have its preferences. We may think of ourselves as a morning/ night person and that could generally be true. But what we are on the bicycle might not correspond.
One case in point is a cyclist I know who's a well known night owl. Because he was so used to staying up all night, he assumed he'd be great at overnight brevets but was surprised to discover he could not do them. He may be able to sit at his laptop and go out drinking till the wee hours, put pedaling from dusk to dawn proved somehow different and his body could not cope. A sense of utter exhaustion set in, he explained, when the clock approached midnight and it sunk in he was heading further and further from home with no prospect of rest. Funny, because in me that same realisation instills a sense of calm and relaxation. Pedaling in the pitch black dark I often feel as if my legs are lighter and the tiredness drains out of me. There is an overall sensation of weightlessness that helps me along on the journey as night transitions to morning.
Alas there was no sensation of weightlessness this morning, as I heaved my groggy body onto the bike and pushed off. "You have a busy day ahead, so it is now or not at all," I told myself. And then I pedaled, pedaled, pedaled as if to shake the cobwebs off.
I find it interesting that around here roadies describe their rides in hours rather than miles. "I went out on the bike for an hour and a half this morning," one might say - whereas in the US it would be "I did 30 miles this morning." Oddly, this is the exact opposite from the way people describe driving distances - whereby in the US it would be common to say that a place is "20 minutes away" by car, whereas here they will give the actual distance in miles (or "k"s!).
Because I need to be back at specific times these days, I too have begun to measure my morning rides in hours. As a result, I have noticed I've grown more economical - stopping almost not at all, and pedaling quicker than I feel inclined to, as if attempting to squeeze out milage value. "How much will an hour and a half buy me this time?" I wondered, as the sun warmed me weakly and the pedals began to feel less leaden. It may not be my thing, to rise and ride. But there are worse ways to start the morning!