On Rule #5: Not Minding That It Hurts

On Rule #5: Not Minding That It Hurts

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In my favorite scene from Lawrence of Arabia, T.E. Lawrence, after lighting a colleague’s cigarette, allows the match to burn down to his fingertips before snuffing it out. Having witnessed the stunt, the dim-witted associate attempts it himself, only to blow out the match before it gets anywhere close to burning down. “That damn well hurts!”, he states, barely concealing his amazement. “Certainly it hurts,” replies Lawrence with the cool calm of a man who is at ease with The V. “Well, what’s the trick then?”

“The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts.”

The trick to becoming a better Cyclist depends, they say, on one’s capacity to suffer. Riding faster is easy, after all; all you have to do is push harder on those flat things attached to your feet. But that, as many of us have discovered, is the complicated bit.

Our ability to suffer is driven by our willingness to push ourselves, to resist the signals our bodies are sending – whether those signals tell us to stop an effort, to stay inside when the mercury drops, when the rain falls, or dipping into the cellar for a session on the trainer rather than for a bottle of wine. To walk the difficult path of becoming a better cyclist requires, in a word, willpower.

Many of the obstacles along that path require us to eschew the wisdom taught to us by our elders and society. Listen to your body, they tell us, when in fact our bodies are chatty things that have only a few sensible contributions to make. Stay inside when it’s wet, or you’ll catch cold, the folk knowledge claims, while in reality those who stay indoors are more likely to catch cold and if we were to heed that advice, we would rarely throw a leg over a top tube during non-summer months. What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger… well, I suppose they had to get one right.

In practice, weakness breeds weakness and strength breeds strength. We may not allow ourselves to take the easy path, for nothing worth travelling to lies at the end of it. If we relent to the pain during an effort, it only makes it easier to do so again next time. Allowing ourselves to stay off the bike for today’s bad weather makes it easier to do so again tomorrow. On the other hand, enduring today’s cold steels us for tomorrow’s chill.

To claim we enjoy suffering, that we enjoy the pain of an effort, or that we enjoy riding in the wet and cold is a bit misleading. While I believe there might be those who possess a perversion that does indeed allow them to enjoy pain, for most of us, we have merely discovered that the burning of our muscles today strengthens them for tomorrow. We have learned that submitting to the deluge or climbing aboard the trainer in winter helps build towards a result that won’t  be realized until our planet reaches the next equinox. Rather than enjoying suffering, we enjoy what suffering does for us and have learned through practice to associate current pains with future gains.

Personally, I enjoy riding in the rain more than most, certainly when it comes as a refreshing change from riding on dry roads. I enjoy the rain splashing up from the road, or the cold air in my face. But to say I cherish riding throughout the cold and wet Winter months is certainly an overstatement. During this time of year, I have to push myself to go for a ride every single time. When I am warm inside, there is no part of me that wants to pull on cold-weather gear knowing I will be cold and uncomfortable for the duration of the ride. Instead of thinking about whether I want to ride, I simply do it; focusing on desire or comfort does little to improve the condition. Quite the opposite, in fact – a frozen toe is better left not contemplated when one lacks the means to warm it up.

The trick to becoming a better cyclist doesn’t have so much to do with our capacity to suffer. Certainly we suffer; the trick is not minding that we suffer.

// Defining Moments // La Vie Velominatus

  1. @mblume

    As I get on in the years, I am increasingly amazed how still seemingly insignificant events/thoughts can be motivating. The following are a few things that make me look much more forward to a regular training ride:
    1)Any thing new on the bike even if it is trivial (e.g. a new a new tubular glued on, or a new chain)
    2)Riding after watching a great one day classic or Grand Tour stage
    3)Reading something motivating (e.g. the article at the beginning of this thread)
    4)The thought of an upcoming race
    5)Entering the ride with a goal of setting a new PR on a climb or a route
    6)Trying to go faster than friends, or knowing new competition is joining a group ride
    7)Having a perfectly clean bike (I am usually in compliance with said Rule)
    8)Having a new piece of kit
    I am wondering if this will ever change.

    Spectacular! I love it, I share many of these items with you. Fresh white bar wrap factors heavily on the list as well. Having vanquished the last squeak or creak from the machine and rolling out in silence…The list goes on, I suppose.

    Cheers.

    @minion


    In the face of overwhelming force, commas don’t really matter.

    What always amazes me is how different those guys look than road cyclists. They’re monsters!!

    @Chris

    @minion
    Love how the visors on those helmets make the riders look faceless, especially the second one in who looks to be so possessed by The V that he has lost his individuality.

    Possessed by the V! Gold! Both GB guys are making Vunny Vaces. Awesome shot, Minion!

    And thanks for bringing this back to…wait for it…CYCLING. (You too, Buck.)

    @leadout
    The mystery deepens! You still haven’t told us what crime you committed to wind up there.

  2. @mblume

    As I get on in the years, I am increasingly amazed how still seemingly insignificant events/thoughts can be motivating. The following are a few things that make me look much more forward to a regular training ride:
    1) Any thing new on the bike even if it is trivial (e.g. a new a new tubular glued on, or a new chain)2) Riding after watching a great one day classic or Grand Tour stage3) Reading something motivating (e.g. the article at the beginning of this thread)4) The thought of an upcoming race5) Entering the ride with a goal of setting a new PR on a climb or a route6) Trying to go faster than friends, or knowing new competition is joining a group ride7) Having a perfectly clean bike (I am usually in compliance with said Rule)8) Having a new piece of kit
    I am wondering if this will ever change.

    Super post! You’ve captured something that I also feel but did not realize it until you posted this. Thanks.

  3. @Chris
    It becomes so much nicer once you can stand up and cycle for a while as it makes the whole body position so much looser and more relaxed.

    I snuck in a 1:15 ride this morning on the rollers and I am now able to stand up and pedal for two to three minutes at a time and after the ride, my backside was not sore at all.

    Still loving the rollers. Nothing like the outside rides, but I actually enjoy the rollers.

  4. Suffering and riding in the rain are two different things. Yes, riding in the rain makes you tough; but why do it if you don’t have to? It makes a mess of your equipment and caused premature failure of components. I don’t ride in the rain unless I have to. Got caught in the rain on a training ride. Get to the race and it is raining. You get the idea. I don’t mind suffering. I have suffered with the best of them. Dry and wet. Suffering is best when you get to dictate the suffering; it is much more rewarding when your suffering causes others to suffer as well. Even better when they give up.

  5. I hate you guys. After reading this post and the Robich link I decided to go out yesterday. It was like 4 degrees with 15km/h wind and some wet spots on the road. I was wearing shorts, an under-armor type long sleeved compression thing, and some polyester short sleeved shirt. Did the first 25km loop with fingerless gloves, hands were freezing, so I put on my leather driving gloves and did another loop. In the end it was definitely worth it. My legs were fine, but my feet were frozen.

  6. @frank

    Thank you for this. I knew there was a reason we keep you around. (It’s not for your good looks.)

    Dude! That’s not nice!

  7. With “not minding that it hurts” in mind, I thought this as I read the packaging of DZNuts while waiting for my post-ride espresso today: embrocation is for the weak. There. I said it.

  8. @Buck Rogers

    I’m working on it. Baby steps. Spent the recovery between the 20 minute efforts riding one handed while moving the other around randomly to get used to the effect it has on balance.

    Went one cog smaller and suffered.

    @Steampunk

    I’d disagree, crying in the shower after the ride because of the embrocation burn is weak. Ignoring the burn and drinking beer in the shower while receiving personal service would not be weak.

  9. @DerHoggz

    I hate you guys. After reading this post and the Robich link I decided to go out yesterday. It was like 4 degrees with 15km/h wind and some wet spots on the road. I was wearing shorts, an under-armor type long sleeved compression thing, and some polyester short sleeved shirt. Did the first 25km loop with fingerless gloves, hands were freezing, so I put on my leather driving gloves and did another loop. In the end it was definitely worth it. My legs were fine, but my feet were frozen.

    Like I keep saying, get a fleecy hat, that’ll keep your feet warm

  10. @DerHoggz
    check these out. they may help you in your effort to stay warmer. they also have some knee warmers for the same price. I know its rough being on a tight budget but if you look you kind find some decent kit.

  11. @DerHoggz

    You guys are awesoe. After reading this post and the Robich link I decided to go out yesterday. It was like 4 degrees with 15km/h wind and some wet spots on the road. I laid down the V and am a better person for it. Cycling Rules!

    Fixed your post.

    @cblackride

    Suffering and riding in the rain are two different things. Yes, riding in the rain makes you tough; but why do it if you don’t have to? It makes a mess of your equipment and caused premature failure of components. I don’t ride in the rain unless I have to. Got caught in the rain on a training ride. Get to the race and it is raining. You get the idea. I don’t mind suffering. I have suffered with the best of them. Dry and wet. Suffering is best when you get to dictate the suffering; it is much more rewarding when your suffering causes others to suffer as well. Even better when they give up.

    Sure, they’re different things. But both of them require discipline to do it. Both of them require that you push yourself to get around to the work of being a cyclist.

    As a matter of clarification, I’m not sure where you live, but bad weather and training in it is just part of being a cyclist. Where I live, if I only rode in bad weather by accident, at least 150 days of the year would be off the calendar just as a matter of course.

    Absolutely, though, riding in bad weather is terrible for your bike if you don’t also maintain it accordingly. Those of us who are able will devote a bike to this, with carefully chosen frame and components that are appropriate to the purpose and work within our budgets. For me, thats an old used Alu frame that matches the geometry of my main bike, and an old 9spd Shimano group. Those of us who have to ride Bike #1 in the rain, well, maintain it religiously and make sure you get each and every bit of grit out of the drive train and bearings before the next ride. Which is a beautiful process, by the way. Aided by cycling videos and beer.

    @Steampunk

    @frank

    Thank you for this. I knew there was a reason we keep you around. (It’s not for your good looks.)

    Dude! That’s not nice!

    Its also not for your use of blockquotes!

  12. @Chris

    It was such a massive coup that, even though he was in his late 30’s he texted soon after.

    Unfamiliar with that site and will now be a regular reader.

  13. @frank

    I was hating you guys during the ride, as well as secretly relishing it. The looks and questions I got were great, “You are wearing shorts right now?”.

    I was certainly breaking all sorts of rules. Baggy shorts, mountain shoes, hairy legs, and a host of other violations.

    As to Rule #33, I am planning on becoming compliant pretty soon, probably over Christmas break. I feel like I needed to improve before I shaved the guns, and I am ready to take that step IMO. Hopefully there is some kit under the tree this year, so I can look pro.

  14. @frank
    This would be less of a problem if “preview post” and “submit post” weren’t right beside each other. And if I wasn’t an idiot. I’m flattered, though, that you can see my value beyond my devilishly good looks (and just a little weirded out).

  15. @Steampunk

    @frank
    This would be less of a problem if “preview post” and “submit post” weren’t right beside each other. And if I wasn’t an idiot. I’m flattered, though, that you can see my value beyond my devilishly good looks (and just a little weirded out).

    Yeah, yeah…when the preview post happened automatically, it did little to improve the quoting ratio of not just you but anyone. The preview is there as a curtesy at this point; its useless. I have to load up a richtext editor for the posts, that’s all there is to it.

    If it makes you feel better, I was looking at a picture of you when I pre-stretched your new bibs. Talk about weirded out: the fact that you requested this service is odd…

  16. @frank
    Wow! Just wow.

  17. @frank

    @Steampunk
    If it makes you feel better, I was looking at a picture of you when I pre-stretched your new bibs. Talk about weirded out: the fact that you requested this service is odd…

    Is that a service offered for free or is it an extra charge?
    Maybe I will pick up a V branded kit…

  18. @cblackride

    Suffering and riding in the rain are two different things. Yes, riding in the rain makes you tough; but why do it if you don’t have to? It makes a mess of your equipment and caused premature failure of components. I don’t ride in the rain unless I have to. Got caught in the rain on a training ride. Get to the race and it is raining. You get the idea. I don’t mind suffering. I have suffered with the best of them. Dry and wet. Suffering is best when you get to dictate the suffering; it is much more rewarding when your suffering causes others to suffer as well. Even better when they give up.

    Train in the conditions you’ll race in. If you don’t race because of rain, well, you’ve wasted a lot of time and money.

  19. Have to say, and I’ve been thinking this for a while, I use a generic sports rub and vaseoline for embro: if you’re needing to put on stuff that burns when you take it off, you need leg warmers or long bibs. Cycling’s painful enough, the last thing you want to do is be taxing your body when you’re off the bike and trying to recover. I can see the use for embrocation in spring and autumn racing, but winter training rides? The easier you can make those the better.

    PS plus one for fluffy wooly hats.

  20. @minion
    Disagree, but it’s probably more the circumstances of my riding. As a velominatus paterfamilias alot of my riding happens early in the morning and I need everything I can to get the guns moving. Copious amounts of caffeine alone are not enough; a nice coat of embro really helps.

  21. Yeah I can see that. I’m not against embro myself, but I guess I use far less agressive stuff (beeswax based sports rub or generic sports rub rather than an embrocation product) than stuff that you have to remove before you shower. I also own 3 or 4 pairs of knee or leg warmers, (keep on losing one and buying more, then finding them) and it’s easier to pop those on and get warm before I leave the house than embro up. Just my routine and the mental tricks I play on myself to get going.

  22. @Steampunk

    @frank
    Wow! Just wow.

    Now I feel foolish, did I misinterpret your intentions when you sent me this photo?

    @Benj
    Only upon request and cajoling.

  23. Frank I am pretty late to this discussion, but well done! As a coach in sports other than cycling (I need coaching here!) I tell my athletes to go to their “happy place.” When I type that it sounds pretty creepy, but you can train your body to ignore the sensations, be it cold, wet, tired, or just plain painful. Just mentally tune it out and go somewhere else for a while. Learned that trick on those all night strolls in the Army. Personally I have found my best race results aren’t when I am perfectly fed or rested, but when I show up at a race or ride with a “Fuck it, I don’t care if it hurts cause I am not paying attention to it anyway” attitude. God, I love those days!

  24. @Dr C

    Like I keep saying, get a fleecy hat, that’ll keep your feet warm

    I had never heard this, despite having been a Nordic skier for ages in the coldest state in the Union. On that logic, I naturally assumed you were full of shit and that this was some weird Irish thing.

    On a lark, I put on my thick winter cycling cap instead of my usual cotton cap and my hands and feet were toasty warm the whole ride despite the weather being colder than on any previous ride this year. WTF?

  25. @frank
    You loose the most body heat through the head. If you put on a warm hat there is more body heat left over for the extremities.

  26. Yep, I won the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize for that one (was a quiet year)

    The first thing your body does when it’s core drops below it’s required temp, is to stop sending it’s warm blood to your hands, feet, nose, and most worrisome, your lycra clad penis

    As Nate correctly points out, most of your heat is lost through your tete, so overheat that, your body overheats and it sends that overheated blood to your hands and feet to get rid of the heat, whilst also packing you out a bit for the coffee stop

    It’s a recycling thing

    No points to the first person to tell me to stop teaching yall to suck eggs

  27. @Dr C

    Yep, I won the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize for that one (was a quiet year)
    The first thing your body does when it’s core drops below it’s required temp, is to stop sending it’s warm blood to your hands, feet, nose, and most worrisome, your lycra clad penis
    As Nate correctly points out, most of your heat is lost through your tete, so overheat that, your body overheats and it sends that overheated blood to your hands and feet to get rid of the heat, whilst also packing you out a bit for the coffee stop
    It’s a recycling thing
    No points to the first person to tell me to stop teaching yall to suck eggs

    I’m just intrigued by the “lycra clad penis.” Mine is covered, masked, hidden, shielded by lycra, but clad? Where would one get such an item of apparel? Do such items come in s, m, l, and xl or do they rely on the inherent elasticity of lycra to accommodate appendages of differing sizes?

  28. @wiscot
    it’s a Linford Christie thing……well, not in my case sadly

  29. @frank
    I can’t believe you never heard that before?

  30. @Oli
    I keep trying to tell you guys this, but you’re not listening: I’m not very bright.

  31. @frank I don’t know about that, but clearly you never listened to your Mom.

  32. I’d like to be able to say I transcend the pain when riding hard but I usually have to dig deep just to tolerate it and keep pushing on. I do however take quiet enjoyment and satisfaction in the glow of throbbing guns and aching limbs the following day. Particularly if I’m sat at my desk at work thinking about the next ride.

  33. No, no, no!

    @Nate

    @Dr C
    Actually that thing about your body losing 90% of its heat through the head is a myth. According to “a study in the Journal of Applied Physiology, published in 2005… the head loses about the same amount of heat, for its size, as the rest of the body-which is around 10%, and a far cry from being the “majority.” But that doesn’t mean your face and head don’t get colder than the rest of your body-they’re more sensitive to temperature changes than, say, the extremities, so exposure of those areas may make people feel like they’re losing more heat.” From http://blisstree.com/move/fact-or-fiction-most-body-heat-lost-through-the-head/

    And here is an article suggesting where the myth started.

    I’m trying to come up with a substitute for my skull condom, which not only keeps my head warm, it does a good job on the ears too. I guess I’ll just have to not look AS good once in a while, although until the V-kit arrives, it could be said that I don’t look that good anyway!

  34. @snoov
    ach aye, boot aht all depenz an the saz of yahr HEED!

  35. Ah, that made me laugh thinking about it – I’ll have to watch the entire movie again tonight

  36. @Dr C
    Ha, thanks fir trehin tae tak tae uz in thi mithir tongue.

    (Thank you I appreciate the attempt to communicate with me using Scots dialect or local vernacular.)

  37. @snoov
    nay batha maan

  38. @snoov

    I’m looking at this cap, not sure how rule compliant it is. I doubt it would fit under my helmet anyways.

    http://www.amazon.com/Sugoi-Unisex-Wallaroo-Cycling-Size/dp/B002MZSQ34/ref=wl_it_dp_o_npd?ie=UTF8&coliid=I1Y0XKXNI9XVTK&colid=3GQQQPHDABQV8

  39. @DerHoggz
    Um, I think I like it! I’m doubtful it would look great under a helmet but it must at least receive recognition for being a step in the right direction. I’ve posted the photo and we’ll see what the reaction is.


    I might add, as I sit here waiting for the room to heat up I have a wooly hat on as lots of my hair now grows below my neck. Rule #33 compliance will require some kind of intricate fade around the hip area and the VMH has already said “NO!” It is however definitely gonna happen!

  40. @DerHoggz
    Since your on a budget check out these links.
    Castelli arm warmers
    Matching knee warmers
    A basic cap, looks rule compliant from the angle shown

    I honestly dont think that kinda wool cap is necessary since our bodies do a good job creating heat when pumping out the V. then again I live in Arizona and the coldest its been so far is -1C

  41. @RedRanger
    I’ll just have to adapt Jens’ mantra: Shut up ears!

  42. @snoov

    @RedRanger
    I’ll just have to adapt Jens’ mantra: Shut up ears!

    Im confused.

  43. @RedRanger
    The basic cap doesn’t keep my ears warm like my skull condom thing. So far it’s been a few degrees below freezing but last year down around -20C. That was pretty unusual though and I hadn’t gotten hooked by La Vie Velominatus at that point.

  44. @RedRanger
    The correct mantra a la Jens Voight “SHUT UP LEGS”.

  45. @snoov
    I know the Mantra, I just didnt know what your version meant. I was just giving my opinion to @DerHoggz. At this moment it is colder here in Tucson, AZ than it is in@DerHoggz area and I never were a cap. Infact the only time I wear a cap is when I commute and I dont want my hair blowing all ever the place.
    Again just my opinion. I was just offering a bang for the buck option.

  46. @RedRanger
    Sorry, I was just covering my bases trying to remove the confusion. I was in no doubt you knew the mantra, thanks for the heads up on the warmers and cap.

  47. @RedRanger

    What say ye on the cap in pink. I have this weird thing for pink, maybe because of the Maglia Rosa, but I really like that pastel shade.

  48. @DerHoggz
    If you can rock pink, more power to you, I sure cant. I have no objection to a pink cap. But Im no keeper, I just offer my opinion.

  49. I bought this Decathlon abomination recently, for £14.99 – instantly thought to take it back, but then wore it, and I reckon it is so warm, I could cycle at 0C to work in the buff, wearing just this

    sorry

  50. Great article! You must have a love for the sport to keep going even when it hurts.

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