Monday, 7 March 2011

Endorphins vs Adrenaline

This post on Jill Homer's blog got me thinking a little about what I get from bike riding. It's the mention of being an endorphin junkie rather than an adrenaline junkie that resonated. If I consider what I really relish in a bike ride it's either the people, the playfulness or the pain.

I've mentioned the people factor before - they are often what make a ride truely memorable for me. The playfulness refers to those sections that are just damn fun: swoopy singletrack, splashing through streams, or sweeping down long twisty hills on a road bike. I could have added to that the thrill of diving down off the top of the banking in a velodrome, but my love for velodromes is slightly dulled at the moment.

Now, for clarification, there is a difference between "something fun that makes me grin" and "something terrifying that makes me pee". I just don't get attracted to "scary" things. I've never been into rollercoasters, knife fights or super-techy-rocky descents. My danger-of-death alarm kicks in waaaay before my adrenaline receptors start to get tickled. Part of it is about limits and control - if I feel I'm in control then I'm comfortable with the situation, but I don't like being pushed too far past my limits. Adrenaline doesn't do it for me.

Which brings me to the pain. Endorphins are different. I enjoy burning muscles, fatigue, the challenge of a steep road climb. I associate it with good things happening. I'm burning off last night's tub of Phish Food, or I'm making my muscles that smidgen more dense. My lungs are getting bigger, my lactate clearance is getting more efficient. Getting home after a six hour road ride and spending the afternoon on the sofa (after eating anythin within easy reach) gives me a buzz. Thorn scratches and nettle stings are to be embraced. I may hate XC racing at the time, but there is a definite high afterwards.

I guess I'll never be a top downhill rider, but if you want someone to clear a bramble patch, I'm your man.
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