The term ‘pain cave’ is subjective, right? Who knows whether the dark place I’m in is as bad as the person riding next to me. If ‘pain’ was judged on heavy breathing alone, I’d be the winner every time. Damn you asthma. You can only judge by how people say they are feeling and there’s always a possibility of being over-dramatic or, in-fact, under-playing the pain in order to mask it. Not only that, but the pain cave is hugely determined by mindset. Some people may simply be better at handling it than others.
Last weekend I definitely visited my experience of the pain cave. It was tough and lacked severely in exit signs. Who knows whether it compares to yours, but the one consistency of all our trips to this dark place, is the shared ability to handle the fight with our mind. A battle that means we are constantly at war on the roads. Not with each other, but with our thoughts.
So keep the below ammunition in your arsenal, and hopefully we can be better prepared for the next punch up:
Spot the warning signs:
As soon as you begin to notice yourself drop in energy, feeling hungry or thirsty, you’ve ridden too close to the edge. Try and keep consistent during a long ride because peaks and troughs are for emotions, not our blood sugar levels.
DON'T KEEP IT A SECRET:
I told Kati straight away when I felt shit. Not only is honesty the best policy (on and off the bike), but it also allows your fellow rider to support you. Or take the piss. Whichever feels right. And often we need both.
Drop the ego:
We’ve all been to the pain cave and we’ll all be there again. Don't let your ego tell you otherwise.
Fake it till you make it:
Smile, laugh and tell yourself you'll get through it. It may feel pointless at first but those fake smiles, whilst you’re dying inside, will lighten the situation and reduce the physical and mental stress. I found a well-hidden second wind by doing this at the weekend.
Find another focus:
A second wind can also be discovered under distraction. Think about something else (anything else) that will keep your thoughts occupied. The mind will become more forgiving if it replaces the anxious thought of 'when is the next hill?' to 'when am I next going sale shopping?'.
Stop. Coffee time:
When all else fails, just take your foot off the 'this is serious' pedal, and pull over for coffee and food. Life won't stop if you need to whilst on a ride.
As long as we ride, we’ll be visiting this battle ground time and time again. So grab your lycra armour, your energy bar weapons and go forth knightrider. With the right mental training and army around you, together we’ll be victorious.