Thursday, February 17, 2005

A brief note about physical pain

Cycling news: I did some hill climbing Sunday and, since I hadn't been doing much climbing lately, suffered from stiff muscles this week. No big problem there, except the weather turned both cold and windy, with big gusts out of the Northwest -- the direction I ride to get home. The homebound route is more up than down and headwinds make it feel like mountain climbing. In the circumstances, my muscular aches and pains took on a new dimension as they say. So Wednesday, suffering the while, I happened to notice that it took me 48 minutes to make the trip, a good thirteen minutes and something like 40% more time than my quickest time. The wind continued today leading me to think of the sufferings of cycling's greatest racers. The image shows Laurent Fignon, the last Frenchman to win the Tour de France. It was taken in 1983 on one of the high climbs of the tour, as you can see. The month is July, of course, not February, but, in my wintry misery, I still can empathize with his agony. I have other reasons to identify with Fignon: He was one of the few professionals to wear clear-lens glasses (as I do); his mates called him "The Professor" because he had been to university and was known to read the occasional book, not just comics; and he had an appealing eccentricity for a professional athlete (he hated the intrusiveness of the press). Why do I ride when conditions cause me to suffer? Well, I don't usually know whether I'm to suffer or not on any day. When I expect to suffer, at least some of the time I don't get what I expect: setting off I can feel like a wet dishrag and, as I get into stride, find that the ride turns out to be a glorious one. Also, when things get bad, I console myself with what my favoite Fluppy Dog (Stanley I think it was) used to say: "Adventure, Jamie, Adventure!" Then, there's the reason I put in another post (months ago): I don't mind thinking of myself as one of the "hard men" of the sport, even if there's precious little truth in the conceit.

No comments: