Posts Tagged ‘ Pain ’
When you talk about pain and pain tolerance, it just becomes second nature. Because you implement this stuff in training, it becomes part of the thing you enjoy most about this sport in a sick way. Whether you’re winning an ironman, or running a marathon or something. Speak to someone after a race, and what’s the first thing they talk to you about. They don’t tell you about how wonderful they felt at 4 miles. They go ‘Aw man, at 10 miles, I didn’t think I was gonna finish.’ So they always hold on to that moment, that painful moment. And that’s the whole reason we do it. That’s the drug. It’s that pain. So whether you believe it or not, that’s the purity of endurance racing. That’s why we’re all here. We’re all asking ourselves the question of how we react, how we deal with ourselves at that moment.
And so the season ends. The race season that seem to have dragged on indefinitely this year ended in the “A” race. I finished 4th in my age group, and the second Singaporean. But the focus this time wasn’t the win, and it wasn’t the podium. It was about pain and strength. Mechanical issues plagued me throughout the race but I can’t say that they made too big a dent on my performance. The challenge was the run, the pain of shin splints in both legs, and what now seems to be a quadricep tendon strain in my left leg. Right from the start of the run, each step painful, getting through each kilometre was a struggle. Shades on – time to hide the pain. You put on a stoic expression, you get in the “zone”, and you face your yourself head on. How strong can you be in the face of sheer pain? Do you give in or do you fight it? Perhaps I should say that I embraced it, and then found a way to deal with it; a way to shut off the noises in my head, and to live with the pain in my legs. At the finishing line, the first question that everyone asks: how was your race? It was a good race, because I dealt with that pain; it was a good race because I didn’t put the blame on the shin splints or the quad tendon, I didn’t even mention them to anyone; it was a solid race because I didn’t try to make excuses for myself; because I accepted that it was me out there, giving everything that I could.
Don’t aim at success–the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long run–in the long run, I say–success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think of it.
And today. I picked up my bike and went out for a ride despite the pain in the quads. Because deep down I have a dream of 2014 and 2015. A dream that would require patience and a lot of hard work over the next few years. It will not be easy, but I’m on my way. For today, I woke up stronger than I was yesterday.
The post painful run each week, is what I call the “fasted-state” run, where I do my run 12 hours after my last meal. It teaches my body how to deal with the pain of running on empty, and how to use fat as an alternative fuel.
Sometimes I wish there was a way to train my mind in the same way. To put it through some sort of mental hell, and teach myself how to deal with extremely upsetting situations. The fasted-state runs are painful, no doubt, but for some reason, I like the feeling of an empty stomach – it makes me feel lighter and less weighed down by worldly problems and my thoughts are clearer, for the focus is all in the mind.
As I went out for my run today on an empty stomach, I started to think through the past week. I am grateful for the comments I’ve received from some of you in my previous post, urging me not to retreat to deep into my own world. Perhaps the alternative way out is to open up and talk about things, and I know that there’s someone who’s there, always ready to listen.
But how do I tell him that the disagreements with my family mostly involve him? How do I tell him that there seems to be someone at home who’s ratting on me to my parents? How do I tell him that my mum heard me talking to him over the phone once, got angry and stomped out of the house and left for dinner without me? That I was left starving at home for the rest of the night? How do I tell him that now every weekend, my parents no longer ask me out to dinner, leaving me at home in an empty house all by my lonesome self? How do I tell him that talking on the phone with him is hard because there’s no place in the house that I can be without someone overhearing? How can I tell him that I’m so paranoid now that I don’t even use my home phone to call him anymore? How do I tell him that I hate myself for lacking the courage to take a firm stand on this – to choose between giving this relationship up or to bear with the ostracism at home and the pain of having to hide and lie everyday?
I can’t tell him all this, because it would seem like it’s his fault, when it isn’t. I can’t tell him all this, because it all stems from my own lack of courage, which makes me hate myself even more.
How do you tell someone that they are the reason you;re happy, but also the biggest source of your pain and sadness?
You don’t. Because you can’t.
It’s been a while; many times i have felt the urge to write, the right way to express the emotions in words confound and elude me. The 3-month long summer break (though I would hesitate to call it a break) is drawing to an end – it has been eventful (perhaps overly so) and sufficiently fulfilling. It has been tiring but also rewarding; challenging but at the same time enlightening.
Thus comes the time when I surface for air – to catch a breather after plunging headlong into a deep pool of commitments. I have found myself growing at times, being pushed along by the currents at times, and cruising along at times. Regardless of the way I’m progressing, I have sought to retain tight control of the direction that I move in. Even as I drown in 12-hour workdays, I doggedly insist on sticking to my double-session training routine and teaching schedule.
Perhaps at this point in time, any discerning literary student would have read the above passages and note the obvious contradictions, and then acknowledge that the truism that contradiction lies at the core of humanity. For we are all walking contradictions and the greatest mistake that we make each day os to attempt to reconcile these inconsistencies and present to the world a coherent image of ourselves.
What we do not realise though, is that it is these contradictions that make us human; they give us character and transform each of us into a three-dimensional human being. According to Jack Johnson, we’re clever but we’re clueless. And yes, many of us are condiment but shy, assertive but insecure, competent but careless, driven but afraid, committed but frivolous. We soon realise that perfection is a myth and coherence is an impossibility.
My way to live then, is not to perfect the imperfections, but to accept them. It is not to reconcile the contradictions, but to embrace them. Living this way makes one more accepting and forgiving of others, as we realise that the supposed double standards we often accuse others of imposing are but a manifestation of the inherent contradictions of the human condition.
I remember pondering and writing about the futility of fighting the currents when swimming in the open sea, preferring instead to go with the currents; flow with it and make it work for you. Perhaps now, I’ve arrived at a deeper understanding of this. Over the years of being an angry, rebellious kid,I’ve learnt that anger and denial takes you nowhere (except to the darkest depth of the human condition). Things have not been smooth sailing lately, but I’ve learnt to accept the imperfections and hurdles of life as making up the essence of life itself. I stopped questioning why I have to bear the cost of the mistakes of others (which seems to be a recurring theme in my life recently), for what’s done is done, and we should let losses lie where they fall. I have been asked why I’m not angry, why do I not pursue the matter and hold those in the wrong responsible, but I simply shrug. Someone shrieked at me the other day, saying that I was too kind-hearted and letting others take advantage; once again I shrug it off and say, I don’t believe in karma. I don’t believe that kindness begets kindness; though I try to do good for those around me, but I don’t believe that kindness actually comes back to you. Perhaps the reward lies simply in being able to give others a hand.
Neither is denial good for you – this is a lesson that I learnt from triathlon. “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”, this is what I once lived by. But now I take it further: I don’t just accept that each training session is painful and I also accept that suffering is part of it. Make your opponents play by your rules, that’s what I’ve been told over again. I’ve realised that we should play to win (rather than playing not to lose) and so the focus should be on our own strengths and not our opponents’ weaknesses (this becomes the focus only if you’re trying not to lose). So in every race, I acknowledge that everyone is suffering and going through pain, then I push the pace and invite them to suffer with me; all this while confident of beating them because I know that I am willing to suffer more than them, and willing to take more pain than anyone else.
This is in everything I do, training, racing, studying, working. For this is the way I deal with my own inherent contradictions – I am insecure but confident, insecure about my own abilities but confident about my capacity to suffer. This quiet acknowledgement of knowing how to deal with pain is how I battle the insecurities and the doubts.
And that is why everyday, I throw myself into deeper waters and take on greater challenges – I call it “training to increase capacity to suffer”. You’d be amaze at how far this ability to suffer can take you. But for now, it’s a heads-up and a breather; a time to surface for some air before plunging all the way down again.
The beginning of the end of the weekend, the last two days of the week that has now become much more precious. It always starts with training, a good session put in, and it makes you look forward to a good relaxing meal after that. But very often, you find that there’s no one there, you come home to an empty house, and everyone else is busy with their own lives. You conveniently forget to eat, for there is no joy anymore in chomping down plain slices of bread you find at home. Occasionally your team mates ask you out as a kind gesture, and you gratefully thank them in your heart for not ditching you. But after a while, you know that you need to learn how to survive on your own, for you are always going to come back to an empty house, with an empty heart; for no one’s going to be there, for no one is going to care.
Every one carries some scars, some phobias, some fears. Riding on the roads alone after the crash has been hard, harder than I thought it would be. Each time I see a car approaching from either side, the image of them not stopping in time replays continuously in my head. A car came from the right at a quicker speed than it should be traveling at, my mind immediately thinks that it’s going to hit me, I start hyperventilating, and squeeze my brakes. And this happens, over and over again. The external scars are healing, but the ones inside, they are the hardest to heal. Everyone deals with these things differently, and I just keep riding. I’m grateful when I have people riding with me, team mates who sense it, and who silently take the inside lane to relief me of some of the pressure. And I keep riding alone, I keep putting myself in the same position again and again, with the hope that one day, this panic would go away.
But yet I wonder, why I can’t do the same for other things, why I can’t deal with relationships in the same way. I wonder why is it that I’m afraid of probing; perhaps it is the fear of what I would find. Maybe I never should have probed – I remember my mum telling me once when I was younger, about the importance of trust in a relationship, and that I should never look through your better half’s phone without permission. I stay by it, I trust, or at least I try to trust. Strangely, that’s the easy part. The hard part is facing up to reality, to question the blind trust. But the fear, the fear of finding something unpleasant, the fear of seeing something you don’t want to see; it stays with you. How can it not, when out of the few times that you’ve chosen to probe you’ve found something every time?
I try, in my little way, to be more endearing, to keep my emotions less closely guarded. I try to let my guard down, to stop holding back, and to give what I’ve got. But somehow it feels like it’s the wrong thing to do, that maybe I’m just a bother. Perhaps the best thing to do is to just keep the distance like how I used to, to stay defensive, to build the walls.
I don’t know whether these fears and uncertainties would ever go away, or whether they would haunt me for a very long time to come. For they say, the scars you can’t see are the hardest to heal.
Love all, trust a few. Do wrong to none – that’s how I always try to live. I’ve outgrown any idealistic notions of karma, nor do I believe that kindness truly comes around. The joy of giving comes from the look of happiness on the recipient’s face; the genuine smile of joy. That beats any tangible return that one might be expecting.
Perhaps being too nice is also my greatest weakness, and being too obliging my greatest flaw. While making others happy is a great source of joy, many take kindness for granted. I have no qualms about being under-appreciated, for appreciation and profuse gratitude makes me uncomfortable. I help others along but dislike to be helped, for I don’t like to owe any favours. “You have to learn to say no”, a friend told me the other day – that’s probably the best advice that I never heed.
Things haven’t exactly been going my way recently, nothing major, but just the small bumps and hiccups that are part of life. I push them away, for life’s too short to worry about things that don’t matter. I escape the humdrum of everyday life through scenic long runs and cathartic long rides. The solitude is welcomed, and highly therapeutic, though sometimes riding alone in the dark of the night makes one crave for some company. I’ve been keeping too much to myself, or maybe I always have been. I thought I would have gotten used to it, but sometimes having a listening ear can be the best I can ask for.
I woke up today in pain; physical pain that is. I’m more seriously hurt than I actually let on to others, and as I think back to the crash, my obliging and too-nice self doesn’t go away even in times of pain. I remember reassuring the other apologetic cyclist that I was fine, even smiled at him and told him to run along, for what good would it do yelling and swearing at him? The road rash is superficial, and the headache almost gone, but I’ve got a huge swollen hip that I hope isn’t too obvious. My plan to do run intervals went down the drain the moment I awoke, for I have trouble even standing.
Kindness begets kindness – I still don’t believe in that, but I would really appreciate if I could run again soon.
Loving the pain that I’m subjecting my body to, however masochistic that sounds. Holding double and sometimes triple sessions a day, with the intensity ramped way up. I’m getting much faster on the swim and I need to get faster still. I put in extra sessions and laps in the pool, staying long after everyone has left. Now strength is my limiting factor, so I add 4 gym sessions per week to my training routine. Extreme, some may say, but I’m going to need that lean muscle mass. Every session is geared towards getting leaner and faster, although my penchant of forgetting to eat means that the weight is slowly falling off my body. Each week I weigh myself and I lose some, but it doesn’t matter, I just need to get faster. 2 hours of weights per session, and that sweet muscle ache is what I look forward to the next day. Pain is good, pain numbs the emotions, pain makes you stronger. Unlike in other things, where you invest time and emotions only to get hurt, pain in training pays off. It pays off real well.
Each time I feel the increasing drive to train and hurt, it seems to correspond to a decreasing level of happiness and satisfaction. But training helps, putting your body through the same amount of pain that you mind is going through – it’s almost like an alternative to self-harm and cutting.
Someone once told me that I should get a pet dog, so I could talk to it and it’ll love me more than it loves itself. No, too much commitment, I said. I have to feed it, take care of it and take it for walks. My bike, that’s different. It goes through hell with me, it’s there when I’m hurting the most, it needs minimal care, and doesn’t get upset when I neglect it for a few days.
And so I ride, hard and long. If anything is for sure, it is that I’m happy when I’m riding, truly happy. And for once, the expectations and competitiveness doesn’t kill the love for cycling. But what’s best is that training pays off, unlike many other things. I’m faster than I’ve ever been, and feel as if I can go faster. At some points, you start being uncertain and afraid of putting more hope into getting faster, but we should never be afraid of putting in the hard work, and never fear the big dreams. I’m running faster than I ever have, if I can run a 47-min 10k after a swim, I believe I can go under 45 min fresh. If I can average 35km/h on my 60km bike rides, I can do a 40km time trial in slightly over an hour. If I can swim 27:40 in the lake, I can swim a sub-27 min in the pool.
People have been telling me that I’m going over the top with my training and expecting too much of my body; that I’m too hard on myself. But as they say: if your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.
All of a sudden, it feels as if I’ve lost my anchor, the one who keeps me grounded. I have plenty of goals set for myself and truckloads of expectations to live up to, and yet the days seem directionless and empty.
I train each day, pushing myself harder and harder. I tackle my greatest weaknesses, I run hills and hit intensities higher than I’ve ever hit. I head to the pool and torture myself with 32x50m sprint sets, forcing myself to hit the wall every 48 seconds and pushing off every minute. My lungs burn and my arms ache, but nothing takes away the emotional pain. Each time I feel upset, I head out for a run. I don’t have a predetermined distance, and I end up running much more than I should. My achilles tendon is giving me trouble, but recovery run dragged out into a 12km run in the freezing downpour.
It seems that we can’t even be friends, that he doesn’t even want to talk to me anymore. For some reason it is hurting much more than it should. Like all the sadness that have passed over me came back with a vengeance and hit me harder than ever. I wanted so badly to ask to see him, but his cold replies made it seem like a bad idea. So I held myself back, and pretended that I didn’t want to get back together.
Then suddenly, it hit me that deep down I had planned to spend the rest of my life with him. But now all that I have left, is lot of hurt.
Too many people asking if I’m alright, too many asking the same questions. Repeating the same answer again too many times, “I’ll be fine”. I refuse to talk too much about it, for there is no point. The pain is my own and I deal with it alone. I’ve learnt lessons, and I try to stay strong. Nobody to talk to, neither do I want to rant. So this here, is my only space – to put the thoughts that have been filling my mind into words, where most people wouldn’t see them.
I’ve been trying not to feel to hurt, but the pain creeps up inevitably, when one least expects it. I was right all along, when I said I was never good enough. You always said all you wanted was me to be who I am, but that obviously wasn’t enough. If I was that special, why would you be constantly looking out for other female companionship online, or seeking more sexual excitement in your life? You kept harping on my past mistake, said it made it hard to trust me – I actually think that it was because you were repeating your own past mistake, and thought that everyone would be just like you. Your insecurities were a result of your past; I’m starting to think that those were all lies. You are insecure because you are always looking for more outside you relationships, and are afraid that your partner would do the same to you. I was never the one you wanted, and now I think maybe you never loved me. All I was, was a source of physical and emotional comfort. You never thought about us, or me, it was all about you. You were angry because I wasn’t willing to fight, but what am I supposed to fight for? Someone like you?
Up till the end, I didn’t want to say all this to you, because I guess I loved you too much to want to hurt you. I take the hurt alone. And I was also wrong, because now, I realised the I probably loved you more than you ever loved me.
I didn’t give up on us, you did…