Thursday, July 20, 2006

What's The Point Of Pain?

I spent 3 hours in my dentist’s office this morning, not my idea of fun, or probably anyone else’s. At least he gave me several novocaine shots to numb the pain of his drilling, as he fashioned two new crowns for me.

I started wondering: Is there anything that can numb the pain of racing hard? Like when you’re at the 2-mile mark in an all-out 5000 meters, and you really wonder if you can keep it going. It would be nice to have some distraction, or something to cover up the pain.

Caffeine is supposed to work a little. It reduces the “relative perceived effort” of your race, meaning that you feel somewhat better than you would without the caffeine. I’ll take that. And I know many running psychologists who claim we can do much with various “visualizations.” I’ve never been able to get these to work, unfortunately. I’d like to pretend that I’m dangling my feet in a cool mountain lake, but I just can’t tear my thoughts away from that last mile.

Maybe the pain serves a purpose. At the very least, it helps us guide our pacing effort. If we pushed too hard, too soon, things could get really ugly. And pain helps us detect an incipient injury. That’s a good thing. Especially if we listen to the pain and stop running before the injury worsens.

The pain of racing isn’t a sharp, physical pain anyway. It’s more like a gnawing discomfort, and I wouldn’t want it to go away entirely. If it did, a race wouldn’t be the special, unique experience that it is.


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