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Taking the High Road to Nowra

Lorimer's log of the up and downs of day 2

Lorimer joins us for the second day of the Pain Revolution Ride blog.

Today the Pain Revolution Caravan made its way to the regional centre of Nowra, a town of 40,000 people straddling the beautiful Shoalhaven River about 160km south of Sydney.

Named by an awkward translation of the Aboriginal ‘Nowa Nowa’, meaning Black Cockatoo, the area is home to two First Nations - Wodi-Wodi in the south and Dharawal in the north.

Today we rolled past pristine white sandy beaches before heading inland, up the escarpment of dense rainforest, shaded by tall gums and cooled from what was a bizarrely hot April day - nudging the mercury to 33C. As we ride, I can’t help but sense the ancient stories that live in this land - stories and connections that the First Nations people still have. It is a privilege to be visiting such country. The 19th century saw the Shoalhaven quickly become a farming community, the rich fertile soil giving rise to outstanding dairy and more recently vineyards and boutique orchards. Now the retirees have discovered how good this really is and have come in droves (and perhaps in caravans).

The first two days of the Pain Revolution are a potential trap for young players - or as Revolutionary Penny’s penchant saying goes - ‘it is risky cricket’. Early on, we are all feeling pretty good, we are all excited about finally starting this thing we have been preparing so long, we have a great team around us and the temptation to push things a bit hard is almost irresistible. Some will have overdone it and the legs will let them know tomorrow, or the next day. Or the day after. It struck me that this is a great metaphor for the importance of pacing yourself, and knowing yourself, when you are on the journey of recovery from persistent pain.

We all have a protective buffer - some are bigger than others. We all have a threshold at which we are triggering positive adaptation in our body tissues, in our nervous and immune systems, in our brain. We all have a threshold at which we will trigger a protective response that will in fact set us back. It is critical to remember that many things shift that threshold - as though there is an internal Protectometer. It can be really tempting to presume that our buffer and adaptation threshold, and flareup line should be the same as someone else’s and to get frustrated or indeed get carried away with trying to keep up with them. This is one of the tough challenges of riding a multi-day ride, or of gradually retraining your pain system to be less protective. There were two big climbs today, the second of which was rated by many Revolutionaries as the toughest they have done: 100km already in the legs. How did we all get up? By picking our own pace, not by matching someone else’s.

The secrets to these challenges seem to be to know yourself as well as you possibly can. You need to understand what is happening inside you as well as you possibly can, to be confident in yourself and to be courageous in pushing things a little in the knowledge that our system will protect us. Equally, we must be patient and persistent, to not get sucked into overdoing things in the heat of the moment or just because we see someone else being able to move things forward more quickly than we can. We must remember that they have a different body, a different buffer, a different adaptation threshold, a different amount of training under the belt and a different flare-up line.

One factor that proves critical in ‘minimising the carnage’ from people getting carried away on the first couple of days is the coach - in our case the ride guides who are carefully watching over the group, seeing when people are pushing it a bit much, when their rhythm goes off, when their nose starts to run or spit starts gathering on the sides of their mouth. These are all signs that they are close to the edge.

The ride guide can have a quiet and careful word to the rider, suggesting they back off a bit, change riding groups or position in the peloton. This is just like a good coach for the persistent pain recoverer. A good coach understands buffers, adaptation thresholds and flare-up lines and can remind you that the road is long but it heads in the right direction. A good coach can help you understand your limits and your best pace, give you a nudge when you are moving a bit slow and back you off a bit when you are running too close to the flare-up line. A good coach can remind you when you do flare-up that it is protective - preventing your tissues from getting injured - not a sign you have busted something or injured something new. A good coach reminds you that tomorrow is another day…

Tomorrow is another (big) day and I will be packing all my SIMS - persistence, patience, courage, a great team and a bunch of great coaches. I can’t wait!

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