I strapped the helmet onto my head, checked the lights for the third time, zipped my jacket up to my chin and wondered exactly why it was that I was doing this. Putting one foot onto the pedal, I pushed off and swung myself onto the saddle. As I gained the top of the hill, I left the lights from the town behind and turned onto the cycle track.
Where it was dark.
The beam of light from my front light illuminated a small oval of the cycle track in front of me. To each side, bushes. A blustery, gusting wind swirled around me and it began to rain gently.
Again, why was I doing this?
Quite simply, it was day 8 of the 5×50 challenge and, arriving home late, cycling was the only sensible option. The challenge asks participants to run, walk, cycle or jog 5km every day for 50 days and, whilst in my previous blog post I may have made the somewhat unwise comment that ” the first week has proven that it really isn’t as hard as I had expected to get 5km’s worth of exercise every day”, the reality was that late on a Sunday, after a long drive and with the wind and the rain building up outside, the last thing I really wanted to do was to go outside again. Let alone to cycle 5km.
But that’s the beauty of a challenge. Without any external motivation, I’m pretty confident that my Sunday would have ended with me curled up in an armchair watching telly. With the 5×50 challenge hanging over me, I had the perfect motivation to get on my bike and to head off into the night. And did it take up that much of my time? Not really. I was a bit spooked by cycling in the pitch black and I had a few problems identifying where the turning point was on my out-and-back route (the darkness depriving me of all useful landmarks), but I was also back home again pretty quickly and slumping down into that armchair before I knew it.
Perhaps week two wouldn’t be quite as bad as I had feared.
So how did the rest of week two pan out?
Day 10 was a running day and I set out in the dusky half-light, feeling pretty good. A mere five minutes along the track, having dodged several large swarms of midges already, a rogue fly swooped down and pinballed between my eyeball and my glasses, finally lodging itself in my eye. I ran on, blinking rapidly but this made me feel like I was running under strobe lighting (most disconcerting), so I took a moment to stop and wipe my eye furiously with my t-shirt. That didn’t seem to work either, so I resigned myself to running the rest of the way with an interloper doing laps of my right eye. It very nearly got its own entry on Daily Mile for 25 minutes worth of swimming!
Day 12 started at quarter to five, as the alarm summoned me from my bed. I had to travel up to London for the day for work, which meant another day of returning home late. Driving back into Okehampton, I turned to Mrs RB:
“I really don’t fancy this tonight”
“Are you not going to do your 5k?”
“Not sure. It’s late and I’m knackered. I could really do with some toast and a sit down”
“I think you should go”
“Really? But I walked up all of the steps at the tube station; I didn’t take a single elevator”
“Okay. Don’t go then”
“You think I shouldn’t go?”
“If you don’t want to, don’t go. Have a night off”
“But that’s not allowed. It’s 5k every day”
“But if you’re tired…”
“That’s no excuse. I have to go. I will go. I’m going!”
A wry smile formed on her lips. She’s wily is Mrs RB.
And Day 13. Well, day 13 was a Friday. That wasn’t very well planned. What unforeseen horror would befall me at the swimming pool on Friday, the 13th day of the challenge? I changed, showered and stepped warily onto the poolside…
…before having a perfectly ordinary 30 minute swim and then going to work. Phew.
So in the spirit of the difficult second album, the sophomore slump, the second season syndrome, I had a much more challenging second week of the 5×50 challenge.
But it wouldn’t be a challenge if it wasn’t challenging now, would it?