Guest Article: On Suffering
What, another guest post? Seemingly yes, but in fact we are keeping to our every-other Friday guest post schedule. We must Keep The Schedule! @Harminator’s post about pigs was the little seen “pop-up” article; a confluence of Paris-Roubaix, Orchies pigs and Jupiler beer. These things go very bad, very fast if not served quickly.
@Ccos is serving up some thoughts on suffering; coming from Rhode Island, he knows something about it. Right now his roads have a winter’s worth of sand and salt still on them. Every corner is dangerous. Every ride means a gritty bike. Every driver is already fed up with cyclists.
We cyclists are a unique lot. There are myriad reasons why, but the most striking is our habit of seeking out something that most people in their day-to-day, and even sporting lives try very hard to avoid. We seek out suffering.
We seek out suffering like no one else, not every time we ride, but certainly when we are trying to become better. Pain and suffering are not unique to the sport of cycling by any stretch of the imagination, and occur with great regularity in any number of causal and professional sports. Elsewhere though, pain or suffering is usually brief, unexpected, unplanned and many times leads to a time out or other some such break. Suffering for the cyclist, however, is a very different animal.
As cyclists, it is our approach to, embracement of, and dependence upon, suffering which makes us unique. It is the only way to become faster, stronger, thinner. Without suffering, we cannot improve and of course, without it we cannot ever win.
Talk of suffering suffuses our vernacular. Read any article of an important race or listen to any television commentator and something will be said of the suffering of the riders, of their pain, of their agony. You probably use the same words when you describe your epic rides especially if climbing is involved. Suffering is our unit of measure, our currency, and yes, our virtue. It is also the single most difficult thing to explain to the non-cyclist.
Our greatest champions have mastered suffering and only by doing so can inflict it on others. It is not unusual too to learn of the struggles of these people outside of cycling which have allowed them to endure the necessary suffering to become champions. Many toiled as farmers, laborers or miners when younger and there learned the toughness from which to endure their self-inflicted suffering later on the bike.
Well brothers and sisters that road can be paved both ways, because sometimes life can be 200 kilometers of potholes, headwinds and angry rednecks. Spending time in the pain cave, if you pay attention, can teach you many things about yourself well beyond how many watts you can generate. Suffering makes us tough beyond words. Sometimes we have to rely on this toughness to get us through events in life, which would otherwise cripple us. Rule #5 has applications off the bike too.
Of course, suffering has many benefits; it is why we seek it out. It leads to greater joy on the bike. Joy, which can come from the increased speed to win, from the gained ability to drop some jackass on a group ride or from the sheer pleasure of that moment when the suffering stops.
We are cyclists. We find the good in suffering and we are much better for it. VLVV.