Thursday, December 17, 2009

Pain Face

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.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Winter Training Update

One of the greatest privileges of my life has been to serve as a prosecutor in the District of Columbia. The police officers and the people that I work with make it all worthwhile and the cause of justice is one of the most noble that I have pursued in my life.. However, the workload is staggering. There were times in October when we were understaffed and I was easily working 12 hours a day. Even now with a full staff I work over 10 hours on an easy day and when I'm in court that time goes up and up.

This has left little ability for me to get out in the middle of the day as I had been accustomed. I tried and struggled to maintain that same pattern but about a month ago I threw that idea away and went back to a workout plan that I had grown used to back in Mississippi. Back then I rode in the mornings before work in the dim light of a dixie morning. I cannot do that now because I have to be at work early and I would have to wake up around midnight in order to do so.

So I've taken to riding in the pitch black of night after work. A small island in the middle of the Potomac River with a 3 mile loop that's largely absent of cars has become my destination of choice. So the moon, the river, a couple fox and myself have become well acquianted. Finally life has started to settle back into a predictable pattern. The repetitive nature of the route and the time of the day has limited the time that I can dedicate to training but Adam and I have worked out a solid program.

Riding at night does mean that I have to equip myself appropriately and the folks at Light & Motion make a great line of lights that I have been using. There is an additional serenity to suffering through intervals at night. The world seems to close in on me as the minutes and miles click by. There is an acute awareness of the details of my muscles that have helped me focus.

Bike racing is a social enterprise; however training is often a solitary task. Amongst moonlight and under the watchful eyes of Presidents and beneath the towering heights of the Capitol I push myself. All to prove that person can succeed at more than one aspect of their life at a time. The misson is simple but the path is hard. It begins now.