Embrace the Pain!

By: Coach Garrick

This blog is about puking, drugging unsuspecting citizens, and getting faster on the bike. We hope you enjoy!

There’s a lot of pain involved in trying to win a bike race. Of course that’s nothing new, but I want to spend a little bit of time going into that further.

As some of you may know, I’ve recently returned to training after about a five-week injury, and my first race back was last weekend. I told Kent before the race that I didn’t have much of an expectation for myself, other than I should try and get to the point of almost puking and call that a victory. Well, I almost puked. And to my surprise, I finished 3rd.

My moment of almost puking came after the final intermediate sprint. Kent and I were in a break with John Borstelmann and John Frey from Harvest Racing. It was a drag to line that felt like a Lord of the Rings movie it went on so long. I managed to win it. A few seconds after, I took a glance back to see John B. and I had a gap from Kent and John F. It is important to note at this point that that John B. is a freak, and I’m pretty certain he could have put in a small effort and cracked me like his own little fortune cookie that would read, “you will win solo today”. So as I was feeling nauseous and paranoid that John would sense my imminent demise, I just faked it. I relaxed my body, I took slow breaths, and I tried to simply seem pleased with the weather. And NOT look like I was about to hurl my pre-race pancakes on the pavement.

So what I’ve been thinking on my rides this week is what would happen if we could put that feeling of race-pain in a pill and give it to an unsuspecting, average citizen. I think they would probably call 911 and order an ambulance to come right away. I think it would be terrifying for them even if you warned them beforehand of what was to come. Extreme, involuntary pain is not something anyone is naturally used to. It takes a certain mental fortitude to keep one’s cool in the face of agonizing bodily sensations.

So what’s my point with all this? As a coach and athlete, I think about the mental side of cycling a lot. Cycling is different from other non-endurance sports. We don’t practice a jump shot; we practice how to suffer! We can’t afford to react to pain like the unsuspecting citizen would. And the best way, the most surefire way to make sure we react to pain appropriately is to practice how we react to it in training. So ask yourself: Do you loathe it? Do you curse at it? Fear it? If you have a habit of any of those, you can be damn sure that’s probably how you’ll react on race day.

So here’s my advice: Take that pain pill each week – many times a week – and practice embracing it. Make friends with it. Relax into it! Welcome it! Sound crazy? It is. That’s called being a freak! Get your freak on ladies and gentlemen!