It’s Only Pain

Posted by on Nov 12, 2012 in Bike | One Comment

Cowbells clanged incessantly. People were cheering, heckling, and haranguing the passing riders.

My legs were burning. My lungs seared with pain. I could hardly see. Around me, a blur of noise and color whipped by as I tried to close the gap. A gap that was not big, but not getting any smaller.

Somebody called me out. “Come on Grizz, get on that wheel!”

I wanted to be on that wheel. I wanted it more than anything else in the world. But I couldn’t do it.

Thoughts cascaded through my head: “Why are you doing this?” “Slow down. Sit up. Stop!”

I tried to push those defeatist notions aside. I pedaled harder, and yet, the gap persisted. The pain increased. The clock stood still.

More cowbells rang. More hecklers yelled. Another lap down. More to go. How many more? More.

I was at the edge. I was ready to pull over. To lie down in the grass. Never get up. And then…

“It’s only pain. It’s only pain. It’s only pain.”

I chanted those words over and over.

“It’s only pain.”

The gap shrunk.

“It’s only pain.”

The gap… what gap?

I was on the wheel. And then, I rode away, only to discover another wheel, another gap.

“It’s only pain.”

Pain always ends. Its most endearing qualities are its fleeting limitations. Pain can’t last. Pain cannot win.

Another gap closed. Another rider passed.

The doubt and the fear turned to a burning, confident euphoria. The sand and the grass and the clock vanished into a mirage of speed.


The hurt never dulled. But the sharp focus it prompted kept it at bay, and channeled it into a driving, powerful motivator.

“It’s only pain!”

Pain is understandably avoided. We shun it. Fear it. Drug it. But why? Why not embrace it? Why not plow through, and defeat it? Is it possible? Bike racing is enveloped in pain. And bike racers, from the novice to the pro, must learn to love that pain. Suffering is glory. Suffering is knowledge. Suffering is human.

The clock ticked slowly. How many more laps?

Cowbells still rang. People still yelled.

“One lap to go. One to go!”


One more.

One more lap.

I gritted my teeth, and set to the chase once again.

“It’s only pain.”

Eyes on the Prize


1 Comment

  1. Albert I Next Small Step
    November 14, 2012

    Fantastic post, thanks Adam. Experience also taught me that giving in to pain and giving up is always worse than battling on. Deep down we know that the trenches (and the single track) is where we become our best selves!

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