“Always pain before a child is born”, Yahweh by U2.
I do hate pain as much as the next guy but that I don’t get overly stressed out anymore about the thought of an upcoming painful workout or very hard group ride. In fact, I have come to accept that pain is an integral part of cycling. I have also come to differentiate between different types of pain: mental pain, physical pain, the pain of a 30 seconds full out sprint, the pain of a 30 minute climb, the pain of a six hour ride, the pain of a three week training block and the pain of riding 12,000 kilometer in a single year.
I have also learned that, as Lance so smartly noted, “pain is temporary.” When you are battling it out on the bike during a race or working through a though interval on a training ride and your mind is telling you to quit it is (somewhat) comforting to know that the pain will go away in a few seconds if you stop the effort. It is also important to remember that the guys you are racing against or the friends you are training with are hurting just as much as you.
I must admit though that whenever I open my training schedule as prepared by my CTS coach Jason Tullous in three weeks block to see what he has on the program for me, I do feel a certain amount of anxiety. I know that as I get closer to a certain event the workouts will become more specific (and more painful) to the event I am training for (we call this the very important “specificity” approach to training). If I am training for a road race we will train my VO2max and speed to be prepared for the expected group accelerations. If I train for a hill climb, time trial event we will train my ability to climb at lactate threshold.
No matter what, the training will require that I endure the pain of racing without the rush, motivation and competitiveness that comes with a race. You can’t replicate the thrill of competition when you train by yourself. All the pain, none of the reward.
As everyone knows, the training program of the last four months was designed to get me ready for the Tour of California CTS Race Experience – the amateur version of the real pro level Tour of California – where I will get the “pleasure” of riding all eight stages three hours before the pros and covering all of the 1,181 kilometers it takes to go from the start line of stage one to the finish line of stage eight. I don’t even want to think about how many thousand feet we will get to climb.
My training for Tour of California 2012 has actually gone better than in 2011. Less stress at work, better weather in March and the knowledge of what to expect when I get to California have all been factors that have contributed to me “staying on schedule” and grinding through some particularly painful workouts.
Although I do hate pain as much as the next guy, I am pretty relaxed about what’s in store for me next week. I know that there will be painful sprints, painful high speed rotating pace lines, painful climbs, painful six hour rides, the week will be physically painful and mentally draining. Every day the thought of quitting will cross my mind. I know I won’t quit. My body will beg me to quit while my ego will not allow me to stop. So why bother? Because there is something magical about thriving to do better in life and succeeding. This is true in all aspects of my life. I can’t describe the happiness I get from knowing that my relationship with my wife keeps getting better as we age together. The same applies to my relationship with my children. Why wouldn’t you want your life to keep getting better as you age? Why wouldn’t you want to be happier as you get older? Why would you want to get faster on the bike? It’s all about commitment, knowing what you want and going for it.
I am a better skier now than I was when I was 30 years old. In the last few years I was also trained myself as a cyclist, now being able to complete a multi day pro-like stage race when in 2008 my coach had determined that I was not ready to do even one such stage.
When you sign up for an event like Tour of California you never know how well you will perform compared to other riders, no matter how much or how well you have trained. This time around I will be riding only with people I have never ridden with. What I do know is that I will be stronger than some and weaker than others. The first couple days will be particularly interesting. Everyone will feel each other out: “Who can climb fast, who can descent the best, who’s not afraid to put their nose in the wind and take a big pull, who’s the best sprinter”. People will bluff, pretending they are having an off day but will really be waiting for the last climb to put the hammer down. Others will go out of the gate too fast and pay later. No matter how ready everyone is for Tour of California one thing is sure: “We all have had to suffer to get to where we are and next week will be particularly challenging.” I am also sure that everyone will do better than expected as we will all look after each other and encourage those who have doubts or are just having a bad day. But one thing is sure, at some point the gloves will come off and it will hurt. I hate pain as much as the next guy but bring it on, I am ready.