I'll never know what it feels like to climb Alpe d'Huez or Tourmalet like Lance Armstrong. But I damn sure know *exactly* what it feels like to hurt like him after a crash. I'll never be able to ride even a fraction as good as Julian Absolon, or even local hero (& 24 hour Worlds threat) Chris Eatough. But I now know what it's like to wad it up into a tree and damn near self-lobotomize using a maple - I share their arcane knowledge.
Road rash, sprained wrists, broken collarbones, being awakened at 3:32 AM when a big hunk of scab on your elbow gets stuck to the sheet and ripped off when you roll over - it's something all racers and hard riders are going to suffer from sooner or later.
I was thinking about this lying on the sofa this afternoon. There was no comfortable way to lie on the damn thing, and when I got up to go to the kitchen to get some water, the blood rushed back into my swollen knee making it ache; the scabs on my leg got torn off by my jeans despite the bandages, it was hell.
Water in hand, lying back down, it didn't feel completely unsatisfying. I don't like the hurting itself. I'd never put up with somebody coming to my house and kicking my ass, and taking a rasp to my leg and peeling off a layer of skin. But the fact that I am hurting makes me know I'm alive right now, and the peculiar kind of suffering I'm going through makes me know that I'm suffering for the sport I love. I accept it and I don't mind it, the suffering is part of paying the dues of being a for-real cyclist, pushing myself past my technical and fitness limits. Like sore muscles after a hard workout, I'll deal with it and I'll be okay. After all, I'm far from alone in my suffering.
Interestingly, Pope John Paul II discussed suffering not long before he died. He spoke frequently against euthenasia, and noted also that he did not mind suffering because suffering is a part of life, and bearing suffering with faith and dignity is one of our great challenges as humans. Copping out from suffering, as he saw it, was a little less than fully human, and I tend to agree. While we may find dignity escapes us in day to day life, and nobility is something having to do with European royalty, we cyclists work through suffering on a regular basis the way a mule buckles down to do work - it's his nature and he's better at what he does, for having made the effort. I think Johannes Paulus was right, suffering is ennobling if we bear it properly.
Of course he never had to ride a damn trainer in the basement of the Vatican, though his holy vestments may have stuck to his knees pretty regularly, albeit for different reasons than my jeans stick to mine.
Super double added bonus feature - a great, short, easy-to-read book on political economy that everybody should read, but especially Burt Freakin' Hoovis. I think he'd like this one, Hayek's Road to Serfdom, a book about why people generally manage better if mostly left to their own devices. Even if it is a seminal work on political economy and not a Thong of the Day feature.