Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Lance Feeling

Among the annals of cycling, few cyclists have talked about the experience of being a professional cyclist with the level of detail and intimacy of experience as expressed by Lance Armstrong. For a guy so known for his taciturn intense nature, he seems an unlikely source for insight into what it means to devote your life to bicycle racing. His press conferences are famously brief. His interviews were timed even before he won his first Tour.

And yet, there among the pages of It’s Not About the Bike, and Every Second Counts are details fine as grains of sand. The miracle is his unembellished objectivity. Losing weight means suffering. For all the world, losing weight is this great mystery, a riddle even the Sphinx cannot answer. In the media Jane Q. Smith tells the reporter how she tried every diet, every new system, every drug and all to no effect. What you never hear the unsuccessful admit was that hunger gnaws at you like a guilty conscience.

Lance was one of us. Post-cancer, he was a bit of slacker. Beer and golf aren’t really the training regimen of a PRO cyclist. He made the choices that any of us might make on a Saturday afternoon. But then he got serious.

There is no way to sugarcoat what he did year after year. He lost weight because he ate fewer calories than he burned. He operated like our government—at a deficit. He’d come back from a training ride and skip lunch. As he said, “I was hungry all the time.”

At first, that sensation is disconcerting. Your body says, “Something’s wrong. We need calories.” You have difficulty concentrating. But after a few days, there is a familiarity; the diet is just part of the routine. And then the scale starts to drift.

Lance embraced that feeling and made it just another form of suffering no different from lactic acid. He spoke of a “sweet pain” that comes with fitness. Weight loss was just a mundane task to be ticked off like taking out the trash. Just one more “to-do” before winning the world’s greatest bike race.

It’s that time. For all those with mid-summer ambitions, this is the time for the sacrifice: small meals, no snacks, skipped desserts, refused beers. Less you is PRO. We know the secret; it’s as simple as suffering. This is the time for the feeling.

Padraig is feeling the pain as he walks the razor in preparation for some huge mid-season events. Padraig found the strength between hunger pangs to share his thoughts and compile this report.

14 comments:

Chris said...

Man, thanks a lot. Like I wasn't feeling guilty enough after walking over to Dunkin Donuts. Now I can't even enjoy what I got.

But I'm gonna eat it anyway ...

Radio Freddy said...

Chris - Dunkin Donuts is on the program. Enjoy!

Tim Jackson- Masi Guy said...

That's the beauty of being a track sprinter; my diet is SUPPOSED to contain beer and meat and all the fat I can handle! I gotta big furnace to fuel.

(OK, that's a bit of an exaggeration... but you get the idea.)

Radio Freddy said...

I remember LA celebrating every Tour win with a tub of Shiner Bock and ice cream back at the hotel. I bet they both taste so damn good following 8 months without.

sydney_b said...

What timing u have. I have just been locking into the suffering.

Bob said...

Developing diabetes has made me suffer like a PRO. Eating healthy and smaller quantities, not eating dessert when all around you are, ridng in the crappy weather to attain goals and stay away from the complications. Just a whole lifestyle change. It seems like I'm traing like the old days as a young buck. But now it's for quality of life and my family.

SnarkyFit said...

It does take a "change of head" to lock securely into that state of suffering. It also takes a square and unwavering focus on the goal, whatever it is.

You better have a damned good reason if you are going to say no to a refreshing summer beer or, um, a dunkin donut.

I love this reminder that it's not easy. Ever. Even for people who make it look that way.

Cogswell said...

Radio Freddy: I discovered BKW a month or so back. Your writing cuts to the quick of all that I love about this most beautiful of sports.

But I have a question; I have noticed a handful of posts, including this one, that have the italic postscript about Padraig. Who is Padraig? Is he you? A guest contributor?

Keep up the PROness.

Strangelife said...

At a tick over 130 lbs, I'm happy to say that weight isn't something that I have to control my diet for. I pour in the calories, even over the less active months, and see marginal changes in weight. It's a good thing too, because I really like the beer.

Negative side is that I don't have the range that bigger riders do, so I have to eat more often on the bike to stay on the level.

Radio Freddy said...

cogswell - Thank you for dropping by and for leaving a comment. Padraig is a guest contributor, a long time cyclists and a close friend. Padraig and I share the same perspective on many cycling aspects so his contributions are always a great fit for BKW.

Baughb said...

Refuse Beer?..................Mmmmmmmm No

Mike said...

Nice work, you've just strengthened my resolve..thanks man!

chris d said...

At 6'2", 185#, I suppose I could chop 10 pounds and try to look like Hincapie or Boonen. And I respect their suffering. But I don't need to live PRO because I'm too old to be one. I love to ride and race, but it also allows me to enjoy beer and dessert without much consequence.

Radio Freddy said...

chris d - There is a benefit to the riding we do. It literally switches on the furnace and allows sinful treats to vaporize among impact with the gut. I think I prefer to break even after a 2000 calorie ride. Lets see... that is two beers, a scoop of ice cream, a dozen Fig Newmans... You get the point. I am with you.