Racing…It’s about the Pain

A few years ago a good friend of mine said to me “I can’t wait until I’m in better shape so I can race and ride hard without pain.” I told him it would never happen. Not to be unkind or anything, but I told him to know that if you race… and I mean truly race, you will experience pain. No matter how fit you are… racing hurts. It always hurts.

Now pain is not always a bad thing. Pain lets you know you’re alive and pain tells you when to stop. As cyclists, we grow to love the burn of climbing or legs screaming during a sprint that does not want to end. To succeed, one must learn to live with pain, understand it and master it. You need to remind yourself that if you’re feeling pain, so is everyone else.

Which brings us to mental toughness. I truly believe that beyond being physically tough, one needs the psychological fortitude to push through the physical even when your head is telling you to stop. From personal experience I can tell you that if you do this, you will reach another level of performance.

Tenacity, and an ability to reach deep is not something everyone can do. I’ve seen very strong riders give up and loose to riders with less physical ability strength simply because they could dig deep and ride through the pain. I once lost a race by 3 seconds because I was having a bad day, had crashed twice very hard and decided I was done for the day. I gave up and let another take the lead. With less than 1k to go it suddenly occurred to me what a huge mistake I had made. With the race leader already out of site, I changed my attitude, focused on the task at hand, and push through the physical and mental pain. I didn’t win and learned a very valuable lesson.

A lot happens during a race… at times you will feel good… but more often than not, you will be feeling pain.

Champions ride through the pain.