Cycling: “The pain cave.”

“The pain cave” is Brian M.’s term, and for him it has a very specific meaning. I’m adopting it into my vocabulary and my training because it’s a perfect metaphor for an emotional and physical place. It’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

As of today I have resolved to ignore my two smaller front gears. They do not exist. They are dead to me. I will commit to living in the Pain Cave and do HIIT in my big ring until I feel like puking. Then I’ll puke. And keep going. Because I will get stronger and faster and meaner and like it. I will learn to love hills. I will climb with power and ass authority. I will become a first year art student and learn to make a perfect circle, only with my feet. Power through the entire revolution, not just from 12 to 6 when gravity is there to help. I will build a fire in my pain cave and scrawl primitive drawings of bike routes and farklet times in my blood.

My pain cave is the place of discomfort that is my own. It is my cave, my creation, my space. No one can put me in there but me, and no one can let me out but me. There is strange comfort in having a place of pain that is under my control. So much of my daily life is pain or stress caused by others that it’s good to have a place of pain and stress that is my creation, my own little horror show.

Take yesterday for example. I had a morning appointment with a client out in Malibu that has a level of wealth few on earth can fathom. Really. Not an exaggeration. I am lucky to have technology clients that are very successful and with that success comes insane levels of wealth. My role is very simple – keep their tech toys working, give them basic office solutions. But because they are very well connected and gadget freaks, they bring in bleeding edge technology which then destroys everything I’ve set up. Yesterday was spent isolated in Malibu, having left most of my food supplies at home because it was only supposed to be a quick visit. I was there until 4, and in a stretch of Malibu devoid of food options. The technology is failing and frustrating, finally someone at Apple confirms that with iPhone 2.0 they’ve gutted and abandoned the specific part of the market that encompasses my entire client base, and I’m now stuck in Malibu waaaaaay off my food plan with an unhappy client. I finally manage to get things back they way they were and come up with a new strategy that will take a few days to sort out. At one point my client asked why I was working on a three year old computer. I answered that three thousand dollars was a lot of money to me and I was caught between a new computer for work or a new triathlon bike for fun. I don’t mention that I don’t even know how I’m going to afford to keep driving my car because it cost $70 to fill my tank that morning. I’m the computer guy whose own machine is held together with duct tape, spit, and hope. The truth is that I earn money off my computer, but joy from my bike. Yes, I envy my client’s wealth. I’m not ashamed to admit that sitting in a private compound with the Pacific ocean crashing just outside the window is a lifestyle I covet. I wish I didn’t have to choose between going in to debt for every major purchase, where “major” equals >$500. But those are my life choices. I chose this life, just as I chose to leave what little food I brought outside in the car trunk. My client’s lives and their troubles are just like hills – their unyielding topography is something for me to change around; either by getting physically or emotionally stronger. I can resent having to work for every dollar, or I can love having a flexible schedule that lets me train as much as I do. I can hate hills or learn to love them as challenges the earth (and CalTrans) offers.

At 4pm I am relieved to find I’ve squirreled away a snack bar in my car’s glove box, which I greedily chomp down along with some lunch meat in a cold sack from the trunk. I race home to walk the dogs, and then have to head over to my afternoon appointment for which I am way late. I commit to the lateness and swing by the Brazilian BBQ joint for a fast to-go meal, which I eat one-handed in the car en route to my client. I mentally note that I ate erratically Sunday, had a significant workout that day, and then followed it up with a food gap from 10am to 4pm. The problem with self sabotage is you can’t bill anyone punitively. At my evening client my own computer finally, coincidentally dies on me. It works but it won’t get online by wireless or ethernet. By 8pm I am ready to be done with computers forever. I head home to a wife that has ordered Chinese food in a lovely effort to make my day a little better. (I am a sucker for Chinese food.) I spend the rest of the night trying to revive a computer that is clearly dead, watching Dante’s Peak on the boob tube. Dante’s Peak is one of the first movies I tangentially worked on while an IT manager at Digital Domain. I left visual effects because 1) I wasn’t really working on a movie when I managed a team of people who serviced the computers of the producers for the visual effects of movies and 2) the CEO was one of the biggest fucktards on planet earth who vowed to claim ownership over any creative output by anyone who worked for him, regardless of their position. (The founding CEO of the company crushed the creative aspirations of his employees. He eventually sold the company to Michael Bay, cashing out with a million bucks and leaving a videotaped “fuck you, I’m rich, bitches!” to the company announcing his bail-out. You know you’re an asshole when Michael Bay is seen as a savior in comparison.)

There’s two kinds of pain caves – the one we make and the one that others put us in, whether on purpose or inadvertently. Bob Flanagan made a career in performance art torturing himself in public and private S&M shows as a way of empowering himself against an illness that was destroying his body. Sick documents the last part of Flanagan’s life showing how his acts of self abuse were actually beautiful moments for him because they were entirely under his control. His cystic fibrosis would ultimately kill him in a horrendously painful manner, but Bob had his own pain cave. No time share or vacation home, Bob lived in his pain cave and it made him a stronger man.

Thus I commit to spending time in intentional discomfort. If I can master my pain and push my limits, there will be no pain or indignity inflicted by others (be they hills or client requests) I cannot conquer. One day I will look behind me and see my former self struggling up a hill and remember what it was like to suffer. I will help them, motivate them, tell them about the pain cave, and then turn towards the hill and devour it with a grin.

Today: 40 minutes of 1 minute sprints followed by 1 minute rest in the front big gear. Oorah!

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2 responses to “Cycling: “The pain cave.”

  1. Love the use of the Pain Cave off the bike. That is the place you go where find out how deep you really are, how you will react when pushed that far (when you push yourself that far). Doesn’t have to have anything to do with running, swimming or biking, just life.

  2. Pingback: Pages tagged "a perfect circle"

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