How bad can it actually hurt?

Cycling enthusiast believes human body has capacity for suffering beyond limits we understand

Many of us have been through major suffer-fests during some sort of ride.

Whether you got lost on an adventure and had to keep riding to find your way out, or got in over your head on a group road ride and tried to hang onto the pack the entire way, despite the agony in your legs, or maybe it was just that long race you forgot to train for, but had to finish because your friends were watching.

I often think that the limit of suffering we can endure is far beyond what we think, and the human body doesn’t realize how hard it can actually push or how long it can suffer until you completely collapse.

For me personally, I have never hit the limit where I couldn’t physically go on. I have suffered far more than I ever thought I could a few times and I am not exactly sure why I bothered to continue on when my body was screaming to stop, but I did, and in the end I was stronger for it. It may have something to do with my level of stubbornness or my lack of intelligence.

Last weekend Swicked’s newest staff member, John, raced the Ironman Canada race in Whistler. He has been training for a long time and training hard. He has transformed his life around his training schedule in the hopes of qualifying for Ironman Worlds in Kona, Hawaii. The few test runs he has done had him doing personal bests in all disciplines and feeling good throughout. All signs of a well prepared athlete ready to peak at the perfect time.

He woke up on race day to pouring rain and very cold temperatures which were not expected by anyone. His swim went perfectly and he achieved his first goal, transitioned quickly and jumped on the bike, normally his strongest discipline. The rain had picked up, the temperature had dropped and the wind was now an issue as well. Needless to say, that uncontrollable shivering and cold headwinds over the next six hours took a toll on John.

Sadly, his ride time was slower than he expected and it became apparent midway through that he would not qualify for the Ironman Worlds.

At this point many athletes just pulled out and went to find warm clothes, food and comfort. I have to admit that watching this from the comfort of my couch at home, I thought John would finish the ride and call it a day. But after the ride, despite there being no hopes of completing his time goal, John started off on his final leg of the race. A full marathon in the rain and wind, and yes he finished.

John suffered that day more than any other time in his life. With no chance of hitting his goal why not quit? Well maybe John is just stubborn, didn’t want to waste all that training, or knew his friends were watching. It doesn’t really matter why, but he endured the rain, the cold and the suffering, and finished what he started.

When I talked to him a few days later, he was clearly not happy with the result. But I’d argue that he achieved a better result: he found out how badly he can actually suffer, because quitting is just not an option!

I’m James Durand and I’m Goin’ Ridin’