We’ve all had those days when we feel good. Those days when you may not be the fastest, but you feel like you pedal with ease and you can suffer all day. I’m not talking about those days here, I’m going to talk about those dark days on a bike, when you feel like you’re done. Like what you’re doing to yourself is not good for you.
Understanding why we suffer during a race or training is difficult, but only because of the many factors that influence it. Things like, starting to fast, or poor sleep, nutrition, illness and even lack of form. Look, any of us are open to the dangers of the above at any time, but limiting those factors that you can control can greatly reduce your possibility of suffering during a race, with a negative outcome. What do I mean here? I mean that not all suffering ends with a negative outcome. Think about suffering to a point of wanting to give up but you eventually win your race? Suffering ended up with a positive. In this vein of thought, suffering during training is the point here. If your suffer in training, you should race more positively. The idea I try keep convincing myself during intervals! I try associate the bad with being good for me.
Getting back to the suffering during an event now, I have often wondered to myself what exactly got me through that. I have done a few 24Hour races solo, I’ve done them on a singlespeed and stood on the podium amongst riders with gears. I suffered like hell during that event. I’ve done them in better condition and a more equipped bike and I’ve had to give up. What made the one suffering more overwhelming than the other? Who knows, but with each instance I like to think I learned a few things about myself, and the situation. With careful reflection, I was able to see my own mistakes, and how I can avoid them for next time. Basically making me better at my race craft. It’s an ever changing goal post though as I get better at racing. My last 24Hour I struggled to eat or drink for 6 hours, which required me to keep going on an empty tank. My motivation and pride is what I used to get me to keep going. I was slumped in a chair at 07h00 that morning, struggling to hold myself up, when I suddenly just got up and flopped back into the saddle and carried on. I know that last year I would have thrown in the towel. Learning about my character is what let me overcome my suffering. It was a mental state of mind, an attitude.
Every person has their own suffering and motivation. They are somehow inter-twined. What I call suffering may be normal and easy for another. Or visa versa. Suffering is personal. You learn a lot about yourself in those moments of suffering. One thing I’ve learned is to never give up. Not that I’ve used to, but my bench mark of where the point of throwing the towel in is has moved substantially. We all have that battle to fight. This is what makes sport so wholesome and amazing. Sport is the closest thing to war we can get. It’s special for me to watch my heroes race their bikes, because I can relate to the training and suffering they’ve gone through to race as that level, and I can relate to good and bad days, but most of all I marvel at the beauty of an athlete suffering and fighting back. Even if he comes stone last or first. Overcoming ones own suffering is honourable.
Next time you are suffering, be it in training or racing, remember that this to shall pass and you will be better for it.
Keep it rubber side down.