Like him or don't like him, the above picture of Lance is a fitting one for my topic-suffering. Few bike racers in the last twenty years have suffered as well or as much as he has in the pursuit of athletic immortality. His grimace of absolute determination is something that to some extent all of us who ever clipped into a set of pedals and raced our bikes share. The fact that your pain face comes out 400 or 2000 watts beneath his is immaterial because inside your mind and body the pain feels the same.
Our individual expressions of pain are different. For my part I've been told that I my expression is rather expressionless. One of my teammates has gone so far as to say that my body and face don't betray the true extent of the pain that I am feeling. In his words my expression stays the same despite an ever increasing level of effort. To me it doesn't feel like it but I'll rely on his representation.
There is something inherently pure about athletic suffering. It has its own therapeutic properties. As the pain grows and your muscles scream out there is a cleansing. Maybe this is something unique to me but as my effort increases my perception grows tighter. My world pulls inward and my focus reaches a laser focus. What matters becomes more finite and easier to distinguish. The remainder of the world fades into the background and eventually all that remains is my will to push harder.
Tonight I found this highlighted even more. There is something distinctive about training in cold weather that heightens this experience. The juxtaposition of the cold world against warm skin makes me feel the moment...more. More distinctively, more strongly, more completely. As a parting note if you ever have any doubt whether Washington, D.C., is a beautiful city. Just take a quick ride around the Mall at night. It is beautiful and looks just the way a capital city should.