Mile 250 of our 625-mile ride. Fatigue courses through my body. My skin has that beat-up feeling from multi-day endurance riding. The sun is shrouded in fog and the road keeps going up.
Mile 372. Crawling through Douthat State Park. It’s peaceful and wooded, but night is falling. And the road keeps going up. And did I mention? We’re crawling.
I’m sick of it all. Sick of pedaling. Sick of riding so many miles and feeling as though I’m making no progress. Sure, the hills make it pretty, but I’m pretty sure they’re killing me. Why am I out here?
I am swallowed by the pain point. Every endurance event has at least one– that segment in the ride where the mind rejects the physical endeavor, and pesters with distracting questions and frustrations.
Why am I doing this? I’ve come a long way, but still so much is left. This is not fun. In fact, I don’t even like it. What would happen if I stopped? The pain point’s questions consume.
I shout down the negative self-talk. Every second I pedal will take me further through the pain point. Every pedal stroke matters. Endure. Endure. I repeat the word over and over, in between the mind’s insistent whispers to stop.
I convince myself the pain point will pass. I tell myself the only way to reach the sublime is through the discomfort that has enveloped me. I must endure it.
The pain point may be relatively short, or it may last hours. But in my experience, it always passes. As long as I keep fighting the mental battle with an unrelenting determination to move forward, I will endure the pain point and I will reach a new place.
Eventually, I claw away from the pain point. I escape its nagging questions and vexations, and a weight is lifted. My cluttered and conflicted mind empties. The present moment and the turns ahead are what matter now.
My head comes up and I appreciate the beauty of the ride experience again. Hello, ride, it’s me. I’m back. I’m free from the pain point. Let’s go.
Pushing past the pain; it is only transitory…
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I wonder whether it is helpful to be part of a tandem team. I suppose the two of you could form a pain pity party! The thought of being utterly fatigued, alone, out in the boonies, in the dark, maybe with some rain and wind for good measure is daunting. Pedal, pedal.
In ultras, we have a couple of fitting sayings that apply here: If you’re going through hell, keep going!” and “It never always gets worse.”
Perfect! I especially love the second one.
In Douthat, I thought I might be having a heart attack — what had been a dull pain in my left pectoral muscle turned into intense pain on the left-hand-side that made it so I had to ride holding the bars with just my right hand. Stopped George W and we discussed heart-attack symptoms and decided maybe it’s just muscle spasms. Ate 4 Ibuprofen and some electrolyte pills and a caffeine pill and did some self-massage; everything settled back down and i was able to keep going. Pretty sure all that was brought on by the intense braking coming down the mountain to Paint Bank. That was the low point of the ride for me!