Painful riding as the reward

A cycling experience that unlocked a new level of endurance.

Photo by Weyne Yew on Unsplash

My first Great Ocean Otway classic ride in 2015 was a memorable experience from the pain I had to endure. I started too well in the beginning, holding a fast pace that wasn’t my average speed from training. With my cousin riding with me on the day, a well experienced cyclist, he set a fast pace to tag with the faster groups. It was so exciting to pass all those riders, flying past them, lunging in and out of the saddle, feeling like a beast! That feeling lasted short as we found a group that we could stick with, a little too quick for me… Nonetheless my cousin insisted it will save us energy and time as he tipped an inexperienced first year rider.

What happened next is a cyclist most terrible pain… cramps in the legs… The tightening and sharp stings in the muscles with each motion of pedaling. The push and exertion from the start overwhelmed my inefficient legs, erupted a thigh into cramps. Not a good feeling when you’re only 40km into the 145km ride and approaching a 10km uphill section at 70km mark. As hopeful as I was that I could pedal the cramps off, it didn’t get better. Even the assistance of my cousin holding one of my water bottles and drafting me, I continued to struggle. By 65km, cramps flourished on both of my thighs!! The bad got worse! A long way was still to go and I had all intention to continue and complete the event; to not stop, to not give up.

A rest stop before the 10km hill climb gave me relief. I had jelly-like legs, badly sore and running low in energy. Another tip from my cousin was to eat! Eat to refuel and reduce the cramps. It worked for only the first 1km of the hill… Pain and suffering followed very quickly after the first few km of climbing. I couldn’t get off my saddle. A striking pain injected into my muscles if I tried any pedalling out of the saddle. There was only one way to do this. I had to endure a very slow climb for the whole hill. Each pedal maintained a consistent level of unpleasant muscle stabs. Riding uphill is usually painful, yet enticing. However, this wasn’t that feeling I anticipated nor enjoyed.

Stopping to walk was not an option. No. My legs were dying but my spirit kept my riding alive. I just had to believe and hope I can do it. The hill was not going to defeat me. One pedal at a time. My training for the event did not prepare me enough. I was inefficient and my perform below standards. I failed to prepare and now the reward is punishment. I was not riding the best I can. I may have avoided the cramps by not being so eager at the startline. Still, I clearly underestimated the ride. The unnecessary thoughts weighed my mind and struck my confidence. However, giving up was not an option! Giving into the pain and stopping was not an option! Getting off saddle was not an option as well! I wanted to prove myself I can make it. I came here to ride and I will ride to the finish!

Burning and aching with muscle soreness and fatigue from climbing, the worse was not over. Such pain in riding I’ve never experienced before. I had clearly reached another capacity of endurance. Another 65km to go, I told my legs to get me to the finish line. No excuses. I accepted the pain, embraced the journey ahead and pedalled with one purpose, finish the ride.

I FINISHED! With legs far beyond any active movement anymore. Sore, tired and disappreciation,I celebrated the event but not my riding. Unhappy with my performance and restlessness to prove myself I can do better. The level I expected for the ride was nowhere how I rode. I was incapable of riding with confidence. Beaten up by the event, I challenged myself to do it again next year for redemption, to show how strong I really am. I acknowledged at that moment I don’t want to just finish, I want to finish great and strong, feeling awesome! The impression of the finishing the ride was unsatisfying and redemption was needed. The ride destroyed my legs but not my spirit. I’ll show up next year and destroy the ride.

Adding onto the punishment, I couldn’t even change into pants. Pain and cramp instantly hit as I moved my legs. The result of lack of training and preparation filled my determination to do the ride again, better and stronger for the next time. Pain will drive me into a higher level of riding. Pain is the reminder that I was not prepared.

Photo by Matt Duncan on Unsplash

It was that pain represented my preparations. I did not commit to the ride fully and did not suffer enough beforehand to make the event less painful. I did not suffer enough in hills, in high pace, in long distance. My limit did not surpass the limit of what the event required. My time and energy was not hardworking to access the expectation I wanted. I needed to work harder and be suffering in my training so when I ride, any pain I would’ve encountered will be less than the pain I felt in my training.

The simple statement that resonated throughout the whole year of training was, “train hard, ride easy” and “If you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail”. Pain was the result of my ride. Not the positive feeling of joy and awesomeness when accomplishing or achieving the challenging ride. Pain was my reward. I got what I deserved. I wasn’t glad or happy or to finish. I didn’t feel I completed the ride, I didn’t feel I won or felt like a champion for finishing. The ride conquered me. The ride is finished but I’m unfinished.


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