The Cave

Rober Millar goes deep into the Pain Cave.
Rober Millar goes deep into the Pain Cave.

No words survive here, only echoes. Echoes of our hopes, of our plans, of our failures. What we thought we might do when we came here is little more than a shadow; it flickers on the walls for a moment and when we turn to look, it is gone. Doubts swell up and bounce off the walls until they become so loud they can no longer be heard.

Once we’ve entered, we can not return the way we came; the only way out is to descend into the darkness and through to the other side. When we emerge, we will breathe a new life, one where we are able to push a bit harder, and suffer a bit more. It is a better world, one with opportunity. One where we can make things happen because we have discovered a new limit of our will.

Pushing deeper into The Cave is learned over time. When we first enter, we will find ourselves in a small cavern with no apparent exit. As we train and explore its darkest corners, we discover a passage. We gather our courage and slip into a larger, darker cavern to explore. Beyond that, there lies another. Each holds its own unique strain of suffering, but with it comes also a degree of control; the choice to enter is ours and ours alone.

When I’m strong, my mind yearns for the cleansing qualities of The Cave. I feel almost the master of my pain, that I command its ebbs and flows. Even on days that don’t require it, I will hurt myself just to prove I can. When I’m chasing my fitness, however, I approach it with the same reluctance I had as a child when made to eat my vegetables. The suffering flows over me in waves and I am at the mercy of its current.

My training this summer has been erratic and unstructured. I’ve had some great periods, and just as I’ve neared a goal, either illness or travel unexpectedly reared up before me and interrupted my progress. A week away from the bike means another two weeks before I find myself back to where I was. Two weeks of drifting like a leaf in the current. Two weeks of knowing what lies beyond, unable to reach it.

Then the breakthrough, and into the next cavern. It is only through contemplating the darkest corners of The Cave that we discover its deepest passages and it is within the deepest passages that we may discover our purest selves.

Have courage and follow the path into The Cave. Vive la Vie Velominatus.

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150 Replies to “The Cave”

  1. Nice one frank. Found myself deep in the cave (again) last Sunday. State Masters Road Race. Not sure why/how I found my way in but I was lost? Not quite hydrated enough methinks on a very hot day. Anyway, pushed until I couldn’t push no more. Dropped and then found my way back somehow. Last in the bunch sprint but very pleased with myself for finding the way out and having something left to even give it a go at the end.

    Now it’s only about 6 weeks to the Nationals…….

  2. @Buck Rogers

    @wiscot Alright, I’ll bite. I guess that one could say with a little certainty that that is Claude Criquielion in the background. Kind of looks like his ear.

    and they would have to be one of the most impressive set of eyebrows I have ever seen

  3. @motor city

    @Velocitractor Sean Kelly could’ve made an amazing Father Ted cameo. If only they’d done a Tour de Craggy Isle episode.

    That would be a damn fine episode. Sean Kelly vs. Father Jack would be a battle royale!

  4. @Teocalli

    Ooops …………re flesh wound

    Arrgh, darned embedded paste…….I give up if this does not work as I can see it till I hit Submit……

  5. @Teocalli

     

    @Teocalli

    Ooops …………re flesh wound

    Arrgh, darned embedded paste…….I give up if this does not work as I can see it till I hit Submit……

    Rowlocks.  Or something that rhymes with that.

  6. @the Engine

    @frank

    @Nate

    @john

    what was your top speed Sean? 103, 104km/hr? Kelly casually replied “124km/hr”, then quickly moved back to the vuelta..

    Surely that is too low. It must have been 130 (as in, “one-terty”).

    Perhaps more apropos would be “One Turdie” as surely we’d shit ourselves at that speed.

    Was listening to the Eurosport commentary at the Dauphine Libre during the descent of the Joux Plane this year and Kelly was asked the same question. Again he said 124km/r and went on to explain that this was during the 1984 Tour on the descent to Morzine. Then he paused and added “I was passed by a Swiss rider (Niki Ruttimann?) and I couldn’t keep up with him”

    I did 80km/r on the northern descent of the Cairn o’Mount on the Cogal and felt that I was most definitely getting near my maker. I was going in a straight line and the pros are going round corners, eating their lunch and shaking out the old legs at that speed.

    Since we are all dick measuring our top speeds here (or what would be the feminine of that one?  clitorus measuring??) … anyways, I hit just over 90 kph (56.5 mph) on the backside descent of Mount Mansfield in VT in a USCF race there in 1990.  Sacred the LIVING shit out of me.  We were still in the bunch descending and I thought I was going to die.  Checked the max speed on the avocet at the end of the race and could not believe it.  Never have come close again.

  7. @il ciclista medio

    @Buck Rogers

    @wiscot Alright, I’ll bite. I guess that one could say with a little certainty that that is Claude Criquielion in the background. Kind of looks like his ear.

    and they would have to be one of the most impressive set of eyebrows I have ever seen

    Yeah, between Claudy C and Peter van Petegem, I think they jointly hold the title of swarthiest Belgian. Five minutes after shaving, they have black stubble.

  8. @Buck Rogers

    Scared the LIVING shit out of me

    Man I hear ya.  I managed to get a frame wobble on when I was descending the Tourmalet last year. The Garmin told me it’d been around 72kph.  My mind was multi-tasking…f*ck this is going to REALLY hurt, f*ckety f*ck my wife is not gonna enjoy the phone call from the French hospital.  Got it under control but it slowed me down for the rest of the week. I think I’ve overcome the problem this year with a lower stem and better weight distribution (thanks @Frank!).

  9. @wiscot

    @il ciclista medio

    @Buck Rogers

    @wiscot Alright, I’ll bite. I guess that one could say with a little certainty that that is Claude Criquielion in the background. Kind of looks like his ear.

    and they would have to be one of the most impressive set of eyebrows I have ever seen

    Yeah, between Claudy C and Peter van Petegem, I think they jointly hold the title of swarthiest Belgian. Five minutes after shaving, they have black stubble.

    Looks uncannily like some of the local women here in Surrey Lanka. The local groceries have laser hair removal clinics at the back.

  10. @il ciclista medio

    @Buck Rogers

    @wiscot Alright, I’ll bite. I guess that one could say with a little certainty that that is Claude Criquielion in the background. Kind of looks like his ear.

    and they would have to be one of the most impressive set of eyebrows I have ever seen

    Ha!  No shit!  That Dude is rock’in one hell of a Uni-Brow on STEROIDS!

  11. @starclimber Man!  That’s just RUDE!  We would roll up some women in Iraq occasional on hits and my medical partner or I would have to do an intake physical on them and I have to say, they were some of the hairiest women I have ever met.  And I really do not mind if women do not shave but these bomb making women were NASTY!!!

  12. @Buck Rogers

     

    @starclimber

    Man! That’s just RUDE! We would roll up some women in Iraq occasional on hits and my medical partner or I would have to do an intake physical on them and I have to say, they were some of the hairiest women I have ever met. And I really do not mind if women do not shave but these bomb making women were NASTY!!!

    Trying to pull us back to cycling……!

  13. Good luck @Mike_P!  After meeting and knowing buck for the past year, i still cant figure out what sort of meds he gets his hands on…the stuff that comes out his mouth is always from left field!

  14. @Teocalli

    Try it one more time, its sure to work eventually even though nothing on either end is changing…

    (You can’t copy-paste, as has been said many, many times…if you’re logged in, you can upload.)

  15. @dobritch

    @frank

    @meursault

    They don’t get we want to look pro, because of how the icons of the sport ride or rode.

    Case in point.

    A Merckx.

    Ok, this is driving me nuts. What jersey is Kelly wearing? It’s got PDM logos on it and it says Tour de France on the right shoulder. It it a Pro Tour leader jersey? It sure isn’t any kind of regular team jersey. Oli?

  16. @frank

    @Teocalli

    Try it one more time, its sure to work eventually even though nothing on either end is changing…

    (You can’t copy-paste, as has been said many, many times…if you’re logged in, you can upload.)

    Yeah, and besides Teocalli, we love laughing at people who try and fail multiple times but only b/c we’ve been there ourselves!

  17. @wiscot Off the cuff:  Vuelta climbing jersey??? Isn’t that one green?  That jersey in that pick could be green?
     No wait, tdf Points jeresy.  Has to be.

  18. @roger

    Good luck @Mike_P! After meeting and knowing buck for the past year, i still cant figure out what sort of meds he gets his hands on…the stuff that comes out his mouth is always from left field!

    Sorry MAN!  WAY too fuck’in much caffeine this morning!!!  Frickin bouncing off the walls here!

    But, in my defense, those chicks were HAIRY!!!  And smelly too!!! God, if I ever have PTSD it will be b/c of them!!!

  19. @Rob

    @frank

    @Nate

    @john

    what was your top speed Sean? 103, 104km/hr? Kelly casually replied “124km/hr”, then quickly moved back to the vuelta..

    Surely that is too low. It must have been 130 (as in, “one-terty”).

    Perhaps more apropos would be “One Turdie” as surely we’d shit ourselves at that speed.

    Nice one Nate and fine distinction Frank! My favorite video is of a long forgotten day in the tour of Kelly’s off the front cresting of some col in the rain and descending (on gravel), leaving the moto’s behind on every curve at heart stopping speed…

    I would pay if any of you vid/web heads can find that one!

    I’m not sure about the one you’re talking about, but here he is in the rain killin’ it on MSR. What a descent!

  20. The cave….  I thought I was familiar with this lonely place.  I thought wrong…..  Still considering myself a noobie, just 11 months on a bike (I don’t count the years I spent as a kid mashing the pedals of my Huffy).  I am two weeks post participation in my first road race.  A climber’s race by all accounts, and according to my riding mates, the sort of race I’m suited to do well in.  A 3 mile,1150′ of gain hilltop finish.  On a recon ride I was introduced to the 10% grades of which I found I was very much unprepared for.  I begin questioning the climbing abilities several riding mates bestowed upon me, especially when, prior to completing the climb, I brought my machine to a stop so that I may breathe the hot muggy air.  Finally, after cresting the hilltop and would be finish line, my two teammates ringing imaginary cowbells, I wasn’t sure I had it in me to actually race.

    Two weeks later, my two teammates having been upgraded from Cat 5 to Cat 4, I found myself in my first race, alone, hoping to catalog all the critical lessons I will apply at my next race.  For example; staging myself near the rear of the start, so that I may “feel things out”.  Instead it turned out to be the most death defying display of bike control I’ve had to employ in my still short cycling life.  After taking the first few miles to surgically maneuver myself and my machine to the front of the pack, I was finally able to put to use the advice that was passed out by more folks than I can count.  “…stay near the front, but out of the wind until the final climb, then just go do your thing…”.  Well, on my recon of this course I avoided death from lack of oxygen.  At this early point in my first race, I’ve avoided death by serious bodily harm.  “Why the fuck am I doing this?”  I quickly learned the next couple lessons; the race was easy at the front, safer, and somewhat less unfriendly.  But we’re talking about the cave….  So a couple of climbs later, racing felt rather easy, I’m still here, still feel fresh…… then an absolute screaming descent to the base of THE climb.

    The pack is immediately blasted to pieces, and I soon find myself all but alone trying to keep in sight the small pack of six riders that immediately ripped into the climb at a pace I knew I could not maintain.  I enter the cave; dark, damp and lonely.  In a desperate search for more oxygen, I eventually crest the hill, cross the finish line and find myself in 13th place among 50, about 2 minutes off of first place.  Post ride, even 2 hours later at lunch, my insides are still so stressed I can’t put even half my lunch down.  I really didn’t feel like eating at all, but I’m there, it’s what you do with your mates, and I didn’t want to let on that I was still miserably dragging myself out of that cave….  An experience I’ve only felt the first couple of times I completed a full training ride chasing the Pro/1/2 guys on the club training rides.

    Frustrated I didn’t live up to the climbing phenom that others have bestowed upon me, this week I searched out the cave in solo fashion.  68 miles, 7600′, so exhausted at the completion, my saddle felt as though it was part of my colon, my hands were shriveled like I spent 4 hours in a pool, every muscle in my body hurt, and my motor skills were so lacking, and I could barely retrieve my key fob from my jersey pocket, let alone attempt to operate it and unlock my vehicle as I deliriously stare through the window at the cooler full of ice cold hydration locked inside.  Motherfucker I love this stuff!

  21. @Buck Rogers

    @frank

    @Teocalli

    Try it one more time, its sure to work eventually even though nothing on either end is changing…

    (You can’t copy-paste, as has been said many, many times…if you’re logged in, you can upload.)

    Yeah, and besides Teocalli, we love laughing at people who try and fail multiple times but only b/c we’ve been there ourselves!

    Yeah it’s great fighting one’s own ineptitude.  The weird thing was that the video insert would play in the update window but disappear when submitted (and I was logged in).  I guess it’s possible there was some sort of restriction on the video despite me cutting in the code seemingly ok.  Oh well see what happens next time I try to post something.  If at first you don’t succeed repeat your ignorance later for everyone’s enjoyment!

  22. @unversio

    Best time in the cave is when it’s time to come out.

    Who doesn’t love a little Don Knotts?

    I actually worked in Mt. Airy for a while, which is where the Andy Rooney show was filmed. Anytime someone did something stupid, they would say they had done a “Gomer”.

  23. @Velocitractor

    “What’s a fekkin’ pain cave?”

    On the contrary; I’m sure his thinking was more along the lines of “There’s an exit? I must not be able to see it because of all the people I put in there who are blocking the way.”

  24. @frank Thanks for posting. I never get tired of watching that. It doesn’t have the really annoying commentator you usually get. The only good thing about the other version is you can hear the massive gasp of disappointment from the Italian crowd when Kelly catches Argentin and they know their man is screwed!

  25. I think you are

    @Buck Rogers

    @wiscot Got to be 1989 tdf when he was with PDM and he won the points jersey for the last time. Photo must have the colours bleached out.

    You can see him in this jersey with same logos, esp the big one on the upper left, in this 1989 Winning mag cover.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/5213244716

    I think you are correct good sir. I was so blinded by Kelly’s awesomeness that I failed to see that he was in “color” and the background in B&W. In short, it’s a horribly manipulated image that has really washed out thee green.

  26. @Buck Rogers

    @wiscot Off the cuff: Vuelta climbing jersey??? Isn’t that one green? That jersey in that pick could be green?
    No wait, tdf Points jeresy. Has to be.

    Yeah, with it saying “TOUR DE FRANCE” on the shoulder and all…

  27. Man, here’s Robert Millar rockin’ the Frog Skins, on what appears to be l’Alpe. This would have been the year Will Fotheringham brought him the Royce hubs that started my decades-long lust-fest

    Also forgot he was man enough not to ride toe clips.

  28. @frank

    @Buck Rogers

    @wiscot Off the cuff: Vuelta climbing jersey??? Isn’t that one green? That jersey in that pick could be green?
    No wait, tdf Points jeresy. Has to be.

    Yeah, with it saying “TOUR DE FRANCE” on the shoulder and all…

    HEY!  Coming from a man who used to watch the “”Andy Rooney” show???  What the fuck is the Andy Rooney show anyways? 

    I’ve heard of The Andy Griffith Show and seen Andy Ronney on “60 Minutes” but I am pretty sure that Andy Rooney was never on the Andy Griffith show! 

    Besides, I was so fuck’in deep in the caffeine haze at that point my fingers could not keep up with my mind!

  29. @frank

    This guy is in a dark place, with no flashlight. Via our mate at BigRingRiding.

    This guy makes me suspect that Angus Young used to road race.

  30. @frank

    This guy is in a dark place, with no flashlight. Via our mate at BigRingRiding.

    That picture is all kids of awesome. He looks like he’s about to bite his stem. Pure TT bike – stripped down to essentials with a sweet pair of tubs on there I’ll bet. Jersey tucked into wool shorts, all-leather shoes. No helmet, no bottle, no gloves, no small ring and probably a 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18 on the back. This is what drew me into this sport in 1981. At the end of the event, your time is your time. No drafting, no teammates, no excuses. You against the clock, the weather and your tolerance for self-inflicted pain. Beautiful.

  31. @unversio

    @frank

    This guy is in a dark place, with no flashlight. Via our mate at BigRingRiding.

    This guy makes me suspect that Angus Young used to road race.

    When was this photo taken?  I did not think that Merlin’s were that old.  This looks like an OLD pic.

  32. @VeloSix

    @il ciclista medio

    Gotta chime in on these guys’ perspectives. If you’re keen for the cave, racing is where its at.

    Sure you can push it hard by yourself and a club/group ride can make you push your limits but the true depths of the cave are best accessed in racing. (Applying Rule #70).

    The difference is determined by the amount pressure on the pedals in a given circumstance. What affects the level of motivation to maintain (increase?) the pressure and what are the reasons to abate

    I’ve always thought that solo efforts are characterized by interruptions by The Man with the Hammer. You can push hard, for a long periods of time but in the end, you’re the captain of your own destiny. You can raise the white flag any time. Group rides take away your control of the pace. Sometimes this means you ride within your limits, sometimes you can control the pace and sometimes you’re at the mercy of stronger riders. Sit in, take your turn, drive, draft – whatever. If you’re the box there’s not always a great incentive to maintain the effort. Its up to you. Its really only a training ride, right?

    Race day is different. When the pace hots up there’s not a lot that stands up in the court of Rule #5. You came to win the race, right? You have to be with the bunch at the line or you have to keep driving the break. Its what you came for. Changing up or breaking stroke is for misdirected also-rans.

    And so…there is…the cave.

  33. @Buck Rogers

    @unversio

    @frank

    This guy is in a dark place, with no flashlight. Via our mate at BigRingRiding.

    This guy makes me suspect that Angus Young used to road race.

    When was this photo taken? I did not think that Merlin’s were that old. This looks like an OLD pic.

    My guess is it’s in the UK (he’s riding on the left-hand side of the road). I’d say late 70s, early 80s. Back then, TT races made up the majority of the sport’s events. Road races were next and criteriums seldom held.

    When I was a budding cyclist reading Cycling Weekly, this man was the bomb-diggedy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alf_Engers

    Remember, those times were all set without the all mod cons of aero clothing, helmets, overshoes etc.And on open roads. Even today, his sub-50 minute 25 time is still a bit controversial because of traffic conditions. There were several courses in England that were held on four lane highways with loads of traffic. 12 1/2 miles out, 12 1/2 miles back with heavy trucks passing regularly = fast times!

    Sean Yates would have been a contemporary of Engers. In 1980 Yates won the National 25 Championship. This was, believe it or not, one of the biggest cycling events of the year.

  34. @wiscot Cool history!  Thanks!

    Interesting that he has a spare tub and a frame pump on his bike.  I would not think that he’d have those in a race.

  35. @unversio

    @frank

    This guy is in a dark place, with no flashlight. Via our mate at BigRingRiding.

    This guy makes me suspect that Angus Young used to road race.

    Gary Busey was another batshit fast tester.

  36. @Chris

    @unversio

    @frank

    This guy is in a dark place, with no flashlight. Via our mate at BigRingRiding.

    This guy makes me suspect that Angus Young used to road race.

    Gary Busey was another batshit fast tester.

    That’s Ian Cammish riding for the mighty Manchester Wheelers, probably around 1988. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ian_Cammish  Note the drilled, tape-less bars.  This is worth a read and look at the personal best stats, utterly astounding.http://www.veloveritas.co.uk/2012/12/19/ian-cammish-interview/ Gary Busey, is, his one role as Buddy Holly aside, a fucking pathetic waster.

  37. @Buck Rogers

    @wiscot Cool history! Thanks!

    Interesting that he has a spare tub and a frame pump on his bike. I would not think that he’d have those in a race.

    He could be doing a 50. If you puncture way out on course, it was a shitty ride home if you didn’t have a spare. No cell phones back then to call the VMH to come and pick you up. Also worth noting, most TTs started at 7 or 8 am!

  38. @wiscot

    Gary Busey played Buddy Holly?

    Mate. You can’t exclude Leroy the Masochist: “I like pain. Any kind of pain.”

  39. @wiscot

    @Buck Rogers

    @unversio

    @frank

    This guy is in a dark place, with no flashlight. Via our mate at BigRingRiding.

    This guy makes me suspect that Angus Young used to road race.

    When was this photo taken? I did not think that Merlin’s were that old. This looks like an OLD pic.

    My guess is it’s in the UK (he’s riding on the left-hand side of the road). I’d say late 70s, early 80s. Back then, TT races made up the majority of the sport’s events. Road races were next and criteriums seldom held.

    When I was a budding cyclist reading Cycling Weekly, this man was the bomb-diggedy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alf_Engers

    Remember, those times were all set without the all mod cons of aero clothing, helmets, overshoes etc.And on open roads. Even today, his sub-50 minute 25 time is still a bit controversial because of traffic conditions. There were several courses in England that were held on four lane highways with loads of traffic. 12 1/2 miles out, 12 1/2 miles back with heavy trucks passing regularly = fast times!

    Sean Yates would have been a contemporary of Engers. In 1980 Yates won the National 25 Championship. This was, believe it or not, one of the biggest cycling events of the year.

    Pete Wells?

    There’s a massive 200 page gallery thread on timetriallingforum.co.uk titled Legends of TT, loads of old school stem chewing. The shots of the two up testers are the best for suffering. There are also some interesting scans of articles and photos of Boarman, Obree, Yates etc.

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