On Rule #10: The Mandlebrot Set of Pain

My training hasn’t gone as I’d like it to be going. My days keep getting loaded up with things that pay the bills more than they add to the account at the V-Bank. It’s part of not being a Pro, I suppose, as if to spite my obvious talent which is a sort of talent sleeper cell where only I recognize my potential while the rest of the world perceives it as mundane mediocrity. I’ll show them, when I get around to it.

[rule number=10/]

To be an athlete is to mimic the animal world; this is the luxury of our age, stimulating the survival instinct through games rather than an actual need to survive which is itself a staggering accomplishment. It is our nature as animals that drives us to find the next level of achievement as athletes; as athletes, our success is rooted in our ability to process the act of suffering into a productive output, to push beyond the plane of perceived capability. What is left to the adventurer who walks along the path – the Velominatus – is to discover the complexity of suffering.

And, as Rule #10 implies, what lies hidden within the complexity of suffering is deceptively simple: more suffering, like some diabolical Mandelbrot Set set of pain where every point on its continuum contains an infinite set just like it.

The strange thing about suffering is that as you gain fitness, your lens shifts. When our fitness has the most opportunity for improvement, we alternate between pushing through a blockage either in the legs or the lungs – never both. The human mind is, after all, equipped to process only one pain at a time. But as our fitness develops, the mind learns to delegate the pain to the lesser organs and allows them to self-manage: the strength of one learns to support the weakness in the other. Over time, the suffering body becomes a holistic organism that can compensate for the most acutely weak unit with those which still yield some reserves. This is how we go faster; we transform how our body manages its resources.

When we speak of suffering, our minds shift to the climbs. Climbing is the easiest place to find suffering, a sinister gift of our old friend, Gravity. But suffering is to be found anywhere just as easily, provided you can motivate yourself to push as hard as gravity can pull. The Hour Record doesn’t have a climb in sight, but it scores a 100% on the Cycling version of Rotten Tomatoes (which, I am not too modest to suggest, finds its logical home right here at Velominati.)

As I suffer my way towards some level of condition, I am grateful for the opportunity to rediscover the pain behind the pain, to find some hint of control over the suffering, the ability to compensate one suffering unit for another. The ability to, despite every signal emitting from the body, push a little harder and resist the temptation to yield is perhaps the most noble gift our generous sport imparts upon us.

 

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111 Replies to “On Rule #10: The Mandlebrot Set of Pain”

  1. Selecting Led Zeppelin as a theme for this Saturday (rain or shine) — No Quarter should register a fairly decent Coefficient of Difficulty. “The pain, the pain without quarter.”

  2. @tessar

    Rode a ‘trial’ 10 miler this morning at the velodrome, knocked 30-odd seconds off my previous best time, and felt in control all the way around. Probably had a bit left in the tank at the end but not much. I didn’t make many concessions to aero apart from trying to stay low. Belgian-style did feel a bit lower than in the drops, but it also restricted my breathing somewhat. I tried to ride a negative split and that worked well, starting steady and ramping up the speed. I can see how it’d be very easy to get obsessed about time trialling, trying to shave time off everywhere you can. Hmm.

    Only problem is when I train hard my food requirements go mental. I reckon I’m eating between 3000 and 3500 calories daily at the moment and still losing weight. Not really a problem, I suppose…

  3. @tessar

    @ChrisO

    Both, I know this post goes back a bit but I thought you might be interested to know I didn’t do 26 or 27 minutes in my first 10 mile TT…

    I did 25.23. I’m pleased as punch. The V was with me. Can’t wait to do another one.

  4. Excellent, well done. From the numbers you were talking about I didn’t think you’d have a problem hitting your target but that’s even better. How did you feel?

    And you know you’re a proper tester if you’ve been thinking “How can I lose those 23 seconds?”

  5. @ChrisO

    Excellent, well done. From the numbers you were talking about I didn’t think you’d have a problem hitting your target but that’s even better. How did you feel?

    And you know you’re a proper tester if you’ve been thinking “How can I lose those 23 seconds?”

    I wasn’t sure because the trial runs I’d done were all on an outdoor track and I’d assumed that I wouldn’t match that speed on the road. But I went much faster. Anyone got any clever theories why? I’m stumped.

    Felt fine – to be honest on the way home in the car I wasn’t thinking of shaving 20 seconds off, I was thinking I could have taken a minute off or more. And that’s without any real concessions to aero

    . I paced myself so as not to blow up and to be honest had a bit in the tank.

    Most importantly though – I fucking loved it. it felt brilliant and I want to do it again! Soon!

  6. @RobSandy

    @ChrisO

    Excellent, well done. From the numbers you were talking about I didn’t think you’d have a problem hitting your target but that’s even better. How did you feel?

    And you know you’re a proper tester if you’ve been thinking “How can I lose those 23 seconds?”

    I wasn’t sure because the trial runs I’d done were all on an outdoor track and I’d assumed that I wouldn’t match that speed on the road. But I went much faster. Anyone got any clever theories why? I’m stumped.

    Felt fine – to be honest on the way home in the car I wasn’t thinking of shaving 20 seconds off, I was thinking I could have taken a minute off or more. And that’s without any real concessions to aero

    I paced myself so as not to blow up and to be honest had a bit in the tank.Most importantly though – I fucking loved it. it felt brilliant and I want to do it again! Soon!

    Ah-ha, FELT fine! Love that bike.

    Well done though. First concession to aero (and comfort, too) is a size down on the jersey. That thing’s a balloon! The warmers seem flappy too. Even for regular club rides I wouldn’t want it this loose. First rule of sports clothing: Movement == Irritation. If it’s snug it won’t move and won’t bother.

    There’s a lot of discussion about velodromes and speed, now that The Hour is trendy again. There’s something about the curves on the track that seems to sap energy from the riders in a way the road doesn’t, and the occasional change in tempo dictated by the road conditions is apparently not a bad thing compared to the track’s 5-second intervals.

  7. @tessar

    Cheers! I was surprised about the jersey. It’s a brand new club jersey size Medium. Now, I’m quite a big chap and I’ve never been medium in anything, so I was quite surprised to find it flapping around my middle mid-ride. Don’t know if it’d hang down better with stuff in the pockets (for road riding)? I can’t imagine trying to fit in a small – not sure my arms would fit through the holes!

    And the arm warmers aren’t arm warmers – it’s a long sleeved base layer. I knew that wasn’t snug but I thought I didn’t want to get cold.

    The fact that you speed up and slow down on the road doesn’t seem to fit with VI, but I have always felt like a shallow downhill gives you more of a rest and more of a boost to speed than a shallow uphill takes out of you.

    The next TT in the series is the same course, mid May, so we’ll see if I can strip that extra time off.

  8. @RobSandy

    @tessar

    Cheers! I was surprised about the jersey. It’s a brand new club jersey size Medium. Now, I’m quite a big chap and I’ve never been medium in anything, so I was quite surprised to find it flapping around my middle mid-ride. Don’t know if it’d hang down better with stuff in the pockets (for road riding)? I can’t imagine trying to fit in a small – not sure my arms would fit through the holes!

    And the arm warmers aren’t arm warmers – it’s a long sleeved base layer. I knew that wasn’t snug but I thought I didn’t want to get cold.

    The fact that you speed up and slow down on the road doesn’t seem to fit with VI, but I have always felt like a shallow downhill gives you more of a rest and more of a boost to speed than a shallow uphill takes out of you.

    The next TT in the series is the same course, mid May, so we’ll see if I can strip that extra time off.

    It’s not the length, it’s the width of the thing that slows you down. Often, a Race Cut jersey will have similar opening sizes (just because we’re skinny doesn’t mean we don’t need to breathe through our neck) but a narrower waist and shoulders, which is what you need. Typically, men overjudge their sizes – I still have some XL shirts from back when I thought height == size. Also, tighter baselayers function better. Underarmour and Adidas make some nice ones that are affortable.

    For reference, this is what I look like standing in a team-issue skinsuit:

    Fuck wrinkles.

    Back to VI and the road vs track thing: You’d think a track means everything is constant, but the bankings actually mean it’s anything but. It’s basically a series of sprints out of the corners. VI on the track is higher than a typical flat TT, and if the TT has occasional freewheeling opportunities, or a chance to change cadence, it can be easier to deal with mentally.

  9. @RobSandy

    Plus, modern (non-race) cycling trends dictate generous sizes. I used to ride a Castelli sized Large and it still fits me perfect, on the new 2015 stuff I’m a Small. Club kits are often even more generous.

  10. @tessar

    Cool. Maybe I’ll think about investing in a club skinsuit – they are not too expensive. I’ll just get the smallest size I can fit my arms through the sleeves without cutting off circulation. For now I think I’ve got still plenty of power to add to my legs. Borrowing some aero bars to try is also on my list.

    I do wonder if a lot of cycling clothes are cut for people with no appreciable shoulders but big guts. I’m fortunately the other way around!

    The track I ride on is a 460m tarmac oval – so the turns aren’t tight. However, it is completely relentless, there is nowhere to change cadence and there is often a headwind down one straight. If you ease off or even soft pedal you can feel your speed drop immediately, and you’ve then got to give it the beans to get it back up again.

    Probably a pretty good place to train!

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