The muffled phone alarm wails. A submarine from the deep. An orb flickering in the mist. Tugging the darkness from the eyes.
I ignore the pleading that I return to bed. My automaton mode activates. I switch off the house alarm. Tip toe past the sleeping feet peaking out from duvets. Down the stairs. Switch on the kettle. Get a cup. Fill it with a spoonful of coffee, a dash of milk. Some honey for marginal gains. The water rumbles as my PJs drop to the floor and I step into my cycling shorts.
The lights of the basement switch on and I carry up the turbo trainer. My bare feet recoil at the coolness of the tiles. Another trip to bring up the bicycle and placeholder for my front wheel. I unravel a towel across the handle bars, plug in the turbo trainer and place the small yellow screen onto my bars. I click buttons so I can see wattage and speed.
The kettle switches itself off.
I pour and stir. After removing all evidence of the ritual (milk back into the fridge, honey and coffee onto the shelf, teaspoon into the sink), I walk behind my coffee mug to the lounge and switch on the TV.
We are thousands. Early risers. Treading silently to the task at hand. Stealing a few pre-dawn hours to prepare for whatever may come. Choosing rituals over sleep. It makes me think that authors of vampire novels had their inspiration from such people. Night walkers.
My cup of coffee allows a few minutes of respite as the brain cogs settle into position. I look at the piece of A4 paper with notes of the bike session. 80 minutes of cycling at race pace. Followed by 10 minutes of race pace running. My emotions fail to react. The session is the session. No need to overthink it. I select a movie and mount the bike.
The cranks begin to turn.
The escape from the vainglorious platitudes begins.
And soon pools of sweat begin to fill.
In between, there is a moment in the movie: Hell or High Water. It seems important. I don't want to miss this. I stop pedaling and wait for the noise of the wheels to stop. Sweat drips onto my top tube.
Two cowboys are in a coffee shop. Bank robbers. Brothers.
Tanner: I never meant nobody get away with anything, ever.
There's a pause.
Toby: Then why in the hell did you agree to do it?
Tanner: Because you asked, little brother.
The quote buries itself inside me. That there is pure power. I think of my brothers and what I would do for them. What I wouldn't do for them. The crimes that we would commit. And the cranks begin to turnover once more. Like the words in my mind.
Because you asked little brother. Because you asked.
Soon the sun makes its presence known. Light streams its way through the leaves and against the back wall bearing family pictures. I hear noises upstairs. The others are stirring. Not much time left until the day begins.
I jump off the bike, take off my top and open the sliding doors. The dogs come in, happy to be inside and scurry upstairs. I tie a pool noodle around my waist and jump into the pool. It was raining earlier so the grass is greener. The water is surprisingly warm and steam rises off the water. The water is warmer than the air. It feels as though I am pool running with ghosts. I pump my legs and arms and mimic the road. Anything to save the Achilles, my fickle old friend.
The 10 minutes are soon done and I head to the shallow end. A puddle forms underfoot as I towel off the water. The sun is now around me. I can hear mumbles upstairs.
As the blades of sunshine whittle away at the dark, and I start on breakfast, it occurs to me that we - despite much evidence to the contrary - are not alone. There are a pantheon of others out there. Friends, competitors, family, strangers. Rising in the dark ahead of the sun. Fighting the night. Building universes out of air and toil.
And with the pitter-patter of feet on the stairs, I inhale deeply and smile.
The miracle that is the day has begun.
Because you asked little brother.