January 18, 2007: Blood in the water


True story.

I got the Blade ready today, got suited up, and even rode about a block before something became painfully clear -- I couldn't do my planned ride today. Unlike my spate of abandons over the holidays, today's DNF wasn't because of cold weather or lack of motivation.

I was physically unable to perform.

I know what you're thinking, "get to the freakin' point, Cannonball, what was your problem?"

Stay with me here.

Pain is a fact of life in cycling, especially if you are training for competition or like to push yourself. And like diet, conditioning, and technical skill, pain management is an important part of the cyclist's medicine bundle.

So as part of my cycling training and conditioning, I work in some things specifically designed to improve my pain tolerance and pain management skills.

One of my techniques is something I call the Pain Converter. It's a simple exercise. I find a nice long stretch of relatively flat terrain and work myself up to a nice rolling sprint -- about 80 percent of full tilt, maybe 39 to 40 km/hr (24 mph). I keep that going until my legs feel like they're about to spontaneously combust, then I kick in the Pain Converter.

It's all mental. I just imagine that my spinning legs are generating energy in the form of pain (actually, I don't have to imagine this part). Then I envision the pain moving its way up my legs into my the rest of my body, where it is absorbed into my system, reconstituted as positive energy, and returned to my legs. A self-sustaining system. Even better, if I have the proper mental focus, I can really push myself through extraordinary pain by "tricking" myself into believing that pain is actually energy. More pain equals more energy equals faster tempo, repeat.

Another technique I use for pain management training is urethral dilation via self-catheterization. Usually, I do this about once every three or four months to keep my head straight.

Personally, I prefer a 16-inch (41 cm) latex-free catheter, but if you're feeling frisky, you can fire up a 20-inch bad boy (word of advice: start with the 16-inch). Kendall/Dover/Rob-Nel makes some good pipe cleaners; Bard is also a reputable manufacturer.

Mr. Nasty
"The Snake"

You're also going to need some water-soluble lubricating jelly, a plastic urine receptacle, and various pharmaceuticals. Take a stiff shot of scotch, and you're ready to proceed.

  1. Start out with a nice cocktail of one 100mg tablet of Phenazopyridine (for burning urination) and one 500mg tablet of Ciprofloxacin -- yes, that Cipro (to prevent infection). Take with plenty of water. The Phena will turn your piss a wild rust color for about eight hours. If you're pain tolerance is low, you might consider getting a tube of Lidocaine and squirting some into your urethra.
  2. Next, wash the crap out of anything that's going anywhere near your penis.
  3. Holding the sterile catheter in one hand, smear the lube all over the catheter.
  4. Position the urine receptacle.
  5. Take a deep breath. Think about whatever it is you think about to get you through those long uphill pulls.
  6. Insert the small end of the catheter (you can try the big end, but . . . ) into your urethra and firmly push the catheter in. After about five to six inches, you will feel some resistance as the catheter makes contact with the urethral sphincter. Push firmly through the resistance. Most often, you will know when you have entered the bladder because a small trickle of urine will come out of the exposed end of the catheter, hence the urine receptacle.
  7. Pull the catheter slowly out and then wash the crap out of your penis. Limp out to favorite chair for a humble night of mild whimpering.

And that's pretty much it. The first time, it's really a mind fuck. It is uncomfortable, painful even, but not as bad as your mind expects it to be. And that is the whole point -- mind over matter.

Now, you can ramp up the intensity of this exercise by forgoing the Lidocaine or Phenazopyridine; pushing the catheter all the way in, then pulling it quickly and roughly out; or by pushing it all the way until you can actually feel the tip scraping your bladder wall.

Once you pull the thing out, the pain is just beginning. You just reamed your pee chute man, that shit is going to sting for days. It's just like back in college, when your, uh, roommate picked up the Clap in Palm Springs on spring break -- those first few pees are going to be excruciating. Think kidney stones. As well, your whole taint is going to feel swollen and tender for about three to four days.

And that brings us back to today's ride. I did my self-cath Tuesday night after work, thinking that would give me a full 48 hours before my next scheduled ride. I knew I might be cutting it close, but it needed to be done.

I won't ruin that greasy pork sandwich served in a dirty ashtray your wolfing down right now with the gory details, but it didn't go well. There was a lot of resistance, much pain, and a surprising amount of blood (blood not good).

On with the show though. The pee pain was mostly gone by today and I felt like I was good to go. Two blocks in the saddle though was enough to prove me wrong on that front. I probably could have toughed it out, but then I would have been on the shelf for at least a week, and I didn't want to jeopardize my ride with Romulus on Saturday or my training schedule.

Things took an interesting turn a couple of hours ago when I noticed that I was pissing blood. OK. That's not really part of the plan, but whatever doesn't cause a nasty urinary tract infection makes us stronger, right?

I'll try to remind myself of that the next time things start to get painful out there on the bike, which hopefully will be Saturday.

Enjoy these helpful techniques for pain managment fellow riders, but remember, always in moderation.


Dist: 0 km Time: Avg:  Max: Wgt: 165.0

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