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.