"You must like pain". That was said to me in a recent email after I announced a 'Six Hours Of' ride in the local trails. Simple idea. We all begin at a set time, ride a one hour, ten mile loop as many times as we can, coming by our trucks every lap for re-supply, and we cannot begin another lap once the clock hits the beginning of the sixth hour. Fun loop, too. Hard, but not too hard and good payoffs. Really, just a fun way to train a bit and see what that kind of experience is like for those who have never done anything like that. At about 3 hours, then 4 hours, then 5 hours, it does begin to hurt a bit.
I had plenty of time to think about the 'loving pain' comment as I was chin deep in a multi hour hill climb this past Saturday. This 5 hour loop begins with a 6 mile paved road section, pretty much all uphill to one degree or another, then hits it hard into the dirt and just goes up....and up...and up. It was maybe 40 degrees at the top and cloudy and we were all pretty cold as we traversed the ridge line toward our 5.5 mile singletrack descent. It was a very painful climb and suffering abounded.
I am planning a ride next year of the White Rim in Moab. The WRIAD covers 102 miles of dirt road in remote territory in a day. Pedal, little mtn biker. Pedal. It will hurt, I suspect. I can't wait!
So now I am considering the comment made by the person, himself an experienced rider, and wondering if it is true. Mountain biking is hard. Yet I do not go out of my way to do hard things by nature. No Everest ascents or runs across Africa. You won't see me on Shark Week. However I have to admit that I embrace the more difficult aspects of riding a bike over longer distances and such, although I am certainly on the moderate end of such endeavors by many people's standards. So what is the deal?
I think is it more complex and yet simple than just a pain fetish. I am a mountain biker. I love being all that that encompasses. And folded up in that knobby tired wrapper is a healthy dose of pain and suffering. It just goes with the territory. And the territory is exceptional. The big climb into the clouds we just did looked down on hundreds of folks who were scurrying around the valley floor doing their busy things, looking up into the clouds we were in and thinking, "sure glad I am not up there in all that weather". Honestly there were times I wanted to be warmer, but I would not have traded places with them. There were times I wanted to have the climb over with, but I would not have skipped it to stay where it was easy, down in that valley with the coffee shops and heated cars.
I guess what it comes down to is that I like the view from the saddle more than any other view I know of. And that view is a fine one indeed. From slow, plodding efforts that lead to vistas and high places to blurry ones where gravity is pulled and stretched as we slingshot along with the laws of physics firmly in our jersey pockets.
And, I guess that is that. Mountain biking is hard but rewarding and it is that balance of sweet and salty that has captured my heart for over 25 years. The pain is not something I seek, but just comes with the territory. I do admit that I enjoy the looks of non-riders who, when hearing about a recent ride will look at you like you are crazy. "You rode up there? On a bike? Pedaled up there? You are nuts!"
Maybe I am, a bit. But I think I am smart. God's grace has allowed me to participate in a great sport for many years now and has kept me fit, younger feeling, and happy. It gives me goals and rewards me with great friends and great experiences.
And the pain part? Well, OK...I like it just a little.