The Pain that Makes you Faster — makes you Weird

View from the living room cockpit, a.k.a, "The Pain Closet."

View from the living room cockpit, a.k.a, “The Pain Closet.”

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:

"Waitaminnit. When you said "cycling hurts," you never mentioned needles..."

“Waitaminnit. When you said “cycling hurts,” you never mentioned needles…”

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.

Antioxidants, check. Chelated minerals, check. Enough protein and whey to drown Little Miss Muffet 14 times, check.

Antioxidants, check. Chelated minerals, check. Enough protein and whey to drown Little Miss Muffet 14 times, check.

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? 

Pick one: A: The synthesis of engineering and art, or B: Angry, dangerous, gnashing teeth. Your response reveals if you're a cyclist.

Pick one: A: The synthesis of engineering and art, or B: Angry, dangerous, gnashing teeth. Your response reveals if you’re a cyclist.

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.””

"Good morning! Now, start down there, on the far end, and work your way over here."

“Good morning! Now, start down there, on the far end, and work your way over here.”

Handmade, Italian leather shackles, complete with socks embroidered with famous paintings.

Handmade, Italian leather shackles, complete with socks embroidered with famous paintings.

Having the sensation of my spleen erupting like Gieger's "Alien" is less embarrassing than coming in last in the sprint.

Having the sensation of my spleen erupting like Gieger’s “Alien” is less embarrassing than coming in last in the sprint.

Every racer has an apothecary. Most of us stock it with tasty bits that are completely street-legal. Mmmm. Glutamine.

Every racer has an apothecary. Most of us stock it with tasty bits that are completely street-legal. Mmmm. Glutamine.

"No, that's not your "workout machine." That's just for warming up."

“No, that’s not your “workout machine.” That’s just for warming up.”

"No, those are NOT carbohydrates. They're leg sludge. Step. Away. From. The. Bakery."

“No, those are NOT carbohydrates. They’re leg sludge. Step. Away. From. The. Bakery.”

"Why can't Dad by obsessed with golf. At least then he wouldn't shave his legs." "What? Your dad shaves legs???"

“Why can’t Dad be obsessed with golf? At least then he wouldn’t shave his legs.” “What? Your dad shaves his legs???”

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