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Signing up for a challenge to ride a set distance for every lunar month of 2019 seemed like a good idea at the time: I’d be motivated to ride more, explore new and interesting places, and get fitter et c. Images of a Svelte healthier version of me slipped through my over active imagination, zipping along cycleways in bright sunshine.

This seemed less appealing when the alarm exploded at 5am on New Years Day.

I’d even said I’d ride 100km (60miles). For goodness sake. Why didn’t I say fifty? Or perhaps fifteen.

Pulled myself out of bed and ate lots of toast. Got dressed. Put coat on.

Checked the weather: minus 3°c (26°f).

Found thicker coat, manned up and went out into the dark and stormy night.

Well dark and foggy morning anyway.

The first section of the ride went uneventfully, if we ignore missing the first turn in the valley because of the thick fog, and the “short cut” which was churned up by tractors, and flooded. Attempting to get around the large puddle in pitch darkness resulted in getting tangled up in a bush. It took so long to get back out that “Sunrise from bush interior” seemed a likely header picture.

Things improved when I reached the long distance cycle trail, as this at least was surfaced and relatively flat. The sky was lightening as well, which helped avoid any more arboreal encounters, and to my rather great surprise I managed to reach the summit I was aiming for to take the “First Sunrise of 2020” image.

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Straight after this I dropped down into the fog-filled Neckar Valley. Oh my goodness it was cold; really, really cold. Ice forming on the bike cold. Losing all sensation in my fingers cold.

Cold, cold, cold, cold, cold

You get the idea.

Sat on my hands in a bus stop. Considered going back, but I’d still have 40k by the shortest route and Tübingen was about 15k away by this time. The sun was beginning to burn through the fog: If I kept the gloves on instead of taking pictures every few minutes I’d probably be okay until it warmed up.

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Sunshine, warmth…

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Tübingen was clearly getting over a collective new year hangover. Walked up the deserted street feeling smugly superior for being awake, and trying to get the circulation in my feet to work again. I stuffed down cereal bars and Skittles in the square outside the church to the accompaniment of someone practising something beautifully complicated on the organ inside.

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Contrary to appearances I do actually plan these rides, and I had a sensible reason for cycling to Tübingen: the ride back is slightly down hill for the first 35k.

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Thankfully, it was also warmer; the sun was out and the fog was gone…

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…so I could relax a bit

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and generally pretend I was that svelte version of myself zipping along the roads, and the reason I was stopping was to take photos, not get my breath back after every hill.

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Still, I managed the ride in about seven hours including stops for photos, eating and defrosting; not too bad considering my last longish bike ride was a few months and several Christmas dinners ago.

Now I just have to do the same 12 more times before December the 31st.