I always thought I had a high pain threshold, I once tried to ski back down a mountain with a snapped tibia and fibula; which subsequently required metalwork to repair. Or the time I found out I’d fractured my pelvis a few months before, and just kept cycling.
Road racing and time trialling are hard, you push yourself to the rev limit and then have to try find some more. Time trialling is a skill, you don’t have the ease of a wheel to follow, you only go as fast as you can suffer, and I always thought I could suffer well.
Pain comes in different ways, the long slow burn, the fast sharp heart rate, the cross eyed blur, the total bonk!
For me after moving into ultra endurance cycling, and pushing beyond previous boundaries, is a new scale of pain. I might not have really got any faster, but I can push myself on a new scale of pain. What was a 9/10 is now only a 7. Once upon a time I thought a 25mile time trial was hard and that I was suffering. After punishing myself for days on end, it’s a walk in the park; the pain is easy to take, it’s so temporary.
A big part of ultra racing is pain tolerance. If you can’t tune into it and find comfort in discomfort, you’ll never reach your limit. It’s a fine line between the tolerance of pain and pushing beyond the limit of negative returns, a limit I’ve been over a few times, one that takes experience to feel out.
So, if you think you can suffer now, there is always another level to unlock. You just need to find a way to get there; it’s not pleasant.