In the summer of 2000, my cross country coach at Oklahoma State University chose "Bring the Pain" as our theme for the season. We even had t-shirts with the slogan, which no one wore because our equipment manager insisted on ordering size large for the entire team "to make things easier". It was always strange that we got really huge clothes in a sport where you get in trouble for being any heavier than medically underweight.
My mom hated the slogan, mostly because she was the one paying medical bills. While the coach may have been referring to lactic acid tolerance, for me it was more like "train until you IT band tears".
I thought of this when I woke up this morning with sore arms and hip flexors. There are so many kinds of pain involved in bike racing. Some are good, some are bad, some depend on the situation. For example, sore arms can be interpretted as: 1) Good because I'm buildng muscle 2) Bad because I thought they were strong enough by now that yesterday's ride shouldn't have bothered them 3) Bad if they are sore enough to interfere with the next day's training.
Bruises and injuries are mostly bad, but they usually come with some valuable lessons learned.
Lactic acid feels bad, but you need it to win races. In training it is a good thing since it makes it that much easier when it pops up in a race. In a race, it's nice to delay it as much as possible, but it's very hard to do well without it making an appearance. The same with the hollow ache of breaking down muscles that I get from endurance training. Not good at all, but better in training than in a race.
Very few successful race efforts are pain-free. For example, after I did a half-ironman a couple of years ago and afterward said it wasn't that bad. My husband responded that if a person does a half-ironman in 7+ hours and thinks it wasn't that bad, they weren't going hard enough. True enough. It wasn't fit enough going into the race, so I just kind of waddled through in survival mode. I could have made it hurt worse, but it wasn't really worth it just to take my time from abysmal to just regular old bad.
So when I state that my goal for the Ouachita Challenge is to finish comfortably, there should be an asterisk. I'm pretty sure that I could slog through it like I the half-ironman and force myself to finish right now if I needed to. However, I rather do it faster than slower. By comfortably, I want to set a steady pace, be fit enough to ward off muscle aches as long as possible, and keep from getting overly anaerobic to early on. Funny how that will involve plently of sore arms, hollow muscle aches, burning glutes, and lactic acid tolerance in the next nine weeks. Hopefully, there will be no torn IT bands involved.