In my experience pain comes in three forms - injury, fatigue and wear. Clearly riding when injured makes no sense so you’ll need to take a view as to whether something is a show-stopper as you can suffer long term effects if not addressed. The other two issues I believe are about prevention, pain management and adequate recovery.
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, having done this a few times, as much as physical wellbeing, I believe mental strength is key - knowing that you are going to have to face long periods of pain and push through it anyway. On previous trips we did not discuss pain unless it was information that could impact the rest of the trip. At times it hurts – get over it.
Sources of pain
Your weight is distributed across three points throughout the journey – your ass, feet and hands. Not taking good care of these during the ride is going to lead to a lot of discomfort.
Wear and tear on the body. Obviously over the course of hundreds and possibly thousands of kilometres, your legs are going to rotate millions of times. Any prior injuries may flare up or you may find that knee, ankle and foot problems could surface before or after. Personally, I stretch before and after and also take ibuprofen before starting out each day – an old ice hockey trick. Before going to sleep I also have a prescription of muscle relaxants that would take a rhino down.
Saddle soreness is potentially your biggest problem as the seat takes the bulk of your body weight for dozens or hundreds of upcoming hours. I’m not going to write about it here but if you are researching it properly, go online for an article by Dr. Patrick Kortebein called them Saddle Sores – the what and why, as well as the tips on prevention.
I personally would, however, offer the following advice: Buy chamois cream or bike butter. This is for application before and during the ride and like any cream has obvious benefits. Sudocream at night also helps the daily healing routine along with a good night’s sleep. Again, Google for more info and inspiration when submitting pun based comments please.
Clean dry kit and body are essential. Wash your kit every day without fail and do the world a favour and take a shower. If you don’t, bacteria will quickly infect any delicate or sore skin and you’ll also soon find yourself unable to get into places.
When riding, move around on the seat, stand up in the pedals when going downhill and lean forwards regularly and move your feet into different positions on the pedals. You’d be surprised how you can find new places to sit on such a small thing. Also get a gel seat and padded cycling shorts and avoid any other surfaces as, despite the ensuing Borat based hilarity, its far less funny cycling eight hours with friction burns from overshorts.
Numb hands. Hours of resting on the handlebars gets to you after a few days and lasts a few days. I use fingerless gloves with deep gel pads in the palm and also new tape on the bars themselves. Sit upright when you can as well as you’d be surprised that you don’t notice you’re pressing down hard on your hands.
Fatigue. This is a given and you’d be surprised that your body adjusts very quickly and you can just push through. There are times when you’re running out of energy and a quick stop or sugar boost and you’re fully replenished. For the first 30 minutes after every major stop (morning/afternoon) my muscles are in recovery mode.
Pain management. This is really something personal, mental and a test of character. Sam and I have an agreement that unless pain is information and will impact what we’re doing then we don’t bother to speak about it.
Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever - Lance Armstrong