Homeboy In Belgium: Pain Can be Fun!
Just when I was thinking of talking about how bad the weather has been Belgium spits out a great day like today. It was 28C and not a cloud in the sky. I almost forgot that only 5 days ago I was riding in rain with full tights and armwarmers. So summer has arrived, but for how long I don’t know.
Here’s my diary for the week.
I am now convinced I am partially a sadist. I think all cyclists who are highly competitive tend to enjoy the pain that racing produces. One of my favorite quotes is from Erik Dekker,
“Cycling has no secrets. There is only one way to reach the top. You’ve go to work like hell, you have got to race like hell and forget the pain in your legs.”
Cycle Sport, January 2002
This just about sums up the basic principles behind racing, it’s the ability to ignore what your brain perceives as pain and then “train” it to know the sensation as a thing of pleasure.
My friends (non-cycling) ask me is it hard to race. I respond by telling them it’s about the equivalent of banging your head against a wall for a couple hours and enjoying yourself. Though banging your head and racing are two separate activities, the end result is mostly the same, unyielding pain.
This weekend I raced a UCI road race with my ABC-AITOS team and found out just how much fun pain can be. The race started out fast and never slowed down. Each lap the two main hills just seemed to get longer and longer.
At about 50 kilometers I decide to go on the attack and try to get in into a break. I was able to go off the front with about 6 guys one time, raise my heart rate into the 190 range for over 2 minutes and just about killed myself. The break ended up going nowhere and I ended up at the back in the field.
About 120 kilometers into the race the “shit hits the fence” as Bernard would say. Our team director has a great grasp of the English language, but sometimes he gets his expressions a little mixed up, mostly to our amusement.
Back to the story: so the field is single file and about 120 people long with me at almost the back end. A split happens and about 50 people are dropped on the climb. I see the urgency of the situation and push my body to the max to get back on to the main field. I drive up the hill and hang on for dear life and just barely made it back onto the field. I look back only to see that I am the sole survivor the split!
So the next two laps are much easier as the break has gone up the road and I am in the field. The race is now turned into a training ride at high pace and I decide to test myself to see how hard I can push it. I plan to attack on the final hill and solo the last 4 kilometers.
I attack on the hill and two other guys make the break with me. They are having a much better day than I am and drop me at the top. I now spend the next 4 kilometers in no man’s land between the two guys in front of me and the field behind me. At first the pain was bearable – then 2 kilometers pass and I can’t see straight – 1 kilometer to go and the pain is beyond anything I have ever felt.
I look back to see the field looming within 10 seconds. I tell myself that I’m not going to let myself go through all that pain for nothing and push it even harder. I’ve now been in the zone of “Incredibly Intense pain” for over 4 minutes and I’m now going even harder! I see 500 meters to go sign and push it all the way to the end and solo in for about 40th place with the field right on my tail.
I received a nice, “Bravo” from a course marshal on my way back. That made the effort all worth it, just a small simple complement.
On another note, I have to say a big THANK YOU to Peter and Patty Duke of Smartwool. They are the parents of Ben Duke, one of my teammates. They visited the Cycling Center last week and decided to sponsor our team with race radios. We will be able to communicate better with the team and hear Bernard say wonderful phrases like, “Guys, the shit has hit the fence, time to go to the front!!!”
Till next week.