The Pain that Makes you Faster — makes you Weird
Any racer — or racer wannabe who has spent any serious time with cycling can quote 3-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond’s famous injunction about suffering and fortitude:
“It never gets any easier; you just go faster.”
Cyclists love to talk about the hurt. Seemingly everything physical surrounding cycling is couched in extremes:
Lactic acid burn. Digging deep. Epic climb. Sufferfest. Suitcase of pain. The terms go on and on, becoming ever more colorful. Cycling is apparently a band of brothers and sisters held fast by a strange, joyful, self-imposed circular flagellation, complete with it’s own vocabulary, not only about training pain, racing pain, topographic pain, but also, it’s equally curious recovery rituals and spells. You’ve got to do something to cope, right?
Cyclists measure pain in terms of length of time endured, intensity experienced, and for some, the number of beers consumed to quell the ache.
We regale our families and office mates with stories of endless rides against harsh elements and at speeds that beg the death wish question. We obsess over our diets one minute, then gorge ourselves post-event the next.
And I wonder why none of my sons have even the faintest interest in watching the spring classics with me, after I show them online news photos of a grimacing Boonen, Rodriquez, Cavendish, or Wiggins.
It’s not that they think I’ve “lost it,” or gone over some kind of edge. They’ve never known me any other way.
What I wonder is, do they think every cyclist they pass, while sitting in the back seat of their Mom’s car is equally daft, equally masochistic? Do they even bother to crane their necks to make a visual comparison of that rider, in his or her racing kit, to their Dad?
Consider this recent conversations with my erudite and witty middle son; a whip-smart Saggitarian who is vying to replace the legacy of Paul Lynde as the center square:
“So, father, what did you do this morning?”
“I rode 45 miles over the hilliest route in town.”
“But — it’s below freezing outside. And you call this”fun?””
“Well, yes. It is fun. But even more, it’s that I feel — accomplished.”
Taking up a Playstation controller, he says, “Father,” (Yes, he almost always calls me “father” in that Mid-Atlantic English way of actors from the 1930’s) I’m about to level up, both in Medal of Honor and Little Big Planet. I will do so without the danger of frostbite, being hit by a car or run off the road, or waking up the next morning with soreness.
This, I call “accomplishment.””