The faff of extracting the bike from the garage, checking tyres, lubing chains and filling camelbaks passes in a daze. I have done it hundreds of times before so my autopilot knows the drill even when half of me is still trying to function while actually being asleep. The it is off upstairs to struggle into lycra and fight the call of the bed once more.
The daze continues back downstairs, shoes on, gloves on, joystick clicked into its mount on the bars and it is off into the world that is still snoozing its alarm and diving back under the duvet.
The spin through the park is never the best bit of the ride. Even on summer days it is too near the start for legs to really be warm. On a dark damp morning after a nightshift it is even less fun, but I just tell myself it is always the same and just press on into the mist.
The mist starts to take on an oddly appealing aroma as the yellow glow of the mcgoldenarches appear, but willpower triumphs and breakfast is resisted - at least until after - and a right turn sends me up into the strip of woods that helps maintain the illusion of being off road until I hit the edge of town.
At the crest of the hill, under the shadow of the vast concrete oddity that is the local watertower, the slightly lightening sky shows open fields and woodlands silhouetted on the horizon. A minutes rest to stretch finally warm legs and gulp down some water before heading off into the countryside propper.
Thoughts of sleep having been left in the climb up through the woods the recently earned altitude is spent in hurried seconds and another right turn is taken with tyres scrabbling for grip - the next section is back up again and keeping as much momentum as possible through the turn is always the goal. But the local farmer only ploughed out the path a few weeks ago so I am soon in the granny ring winching myself up to the woods through the mud.
Once at the top the woods swallow me and all of the feint light of dawn and my eyes have to adjust to the gloom again - and they need to do it quickly as the woods are home to a tight twisty half mile of singletrack I know far to well to ever consider riding slowly. Brambles scratch my arms as wet roots try and deflect my course from benath their leafy camouflage of autumn but balance prevails and the far side is reached without a dab.
On the far side of the woods Dawn has arrived and her dull grey light shows the next hill with its viallage ontop - and the long steady grassy climb I have to face to get to it. But first there is more gravity coupons to be spent with an open piece of doubletrack to blast down with loose stones rather than roots to keep my eyes open and riding honest.
A big sliding stoppie brings me up at the road as I poke my head from between the laylandii and look for a gap in the traffic to cross and start the climb.
Its not the longest or steepest climb I have done - but the long grass always robbs momentum and even on the best day it is a granny ring affair. But keep turning the pedals and the top always arrives in the end.
Its a further short uphill once I am at the village, but on-road this time and no real hardship. then its a left at the top and along to the bridleway at the pub for another right turn and a short allyway before the view from the highest point of the ride is reached - its all downhill from here.
Another loose-marble-sized-stones-over-hardpack doubletrack lies in front of me that will have me well into the big ring before a suicidal right left chicane onto another, shorter grassy climb up to the next bit of woods. I stop and have another draught of my camelbak and push on. Up through the gears with the chicane coming. Every time I try and take the corner faster and this time I hit it a shade too fast - front suspension swooshes as damping oil is forced through damping circuits and the mound of earth that supports the gatepost is traversed rather than rounded. My back wheel tracks true behind the front and the kick from the mound sends me unexpectedly skyward. For a long split second I reach into my luck bag and pull out a handful - fortunately it is enough and I land straight having only lost a few mph before the climb. Inertia is maitained and I am soon up to the gate that marks the next section of downhill this time a wide muddy track overhung on both sides by a tunnel of hawthorne. Flat out in the big ring once again, bike light and floaty over the few undulations on the straight track before hard on the anchors into the deep slippy mud that awaits at the end. Out into open fields with another left right and its a short spin to the next section of scrubby woodland.
Taking the corner wide so that the always-slippy-when-wet wooden bridge can be crossed without skidding into the ditch it covers and its onto a slightly downhill section of flowy singletrack. Corners are leant into, depressions are pumped - even though they are full of thick muddy water and then finally the final village arrives.
Down the little ally, over the style, over the rotting rickety wooden bridge and its back into civilisation and uphill to the waiting train to stand and make crisp clean buisness suits wonder why anyone should be so muddy and with such a silly grin on their face at such an ungodly hour as I let the train take the strain and head back home...maybe via those golden arches for a now-well-earned breakfast