Noone ever won a race that mattered without suffering (except that one time when Mathieu Van Der Poel sandbagged that D race in Zwift j/k).
Suffering is part of racing, only I also think it is more helpful to frame it as “working hard”. I believe that is the state of mind Coach Chad tries to put us in when he says something along the line of “Lordy, this sure feels like work now” in the Ramp test. I am sure he weighed his words very carefully since this has to be one of the most attempted workouts on TR. To me the connotation is: “yes, this hurts but this is how hard work is supposed to feel. Don’t hide from it, embrace it. You have been here before, and you can do this again.”
Suffering is also part of training, because “working hard” is a skill we have to acquire. We all have to “go to the well” every now and then, to learn that we can push right up to that limit, and then push some more. More often than not we realize that that limit was no limit at all, and that brick wall is just an illusion, just a story we tell ourselves.
The point raised about the voluntary nature of the suffering resonates with me a lot. I can deal with the pain better when I watch old stage races where a super domestique is bossing the peloton up a climb. It helps me visualise a key point: we both chose to be where we are. He is hurting more than I can imagine, but stays composed because he choses to hurt. He sets his tempo (or rather threshold ) and rides it. Same for me: I chose my pace and I am riding it.
When I get in the “I can’t do this anymore, this is too hard” state of mind I know I am mirroring the guys going off the back. I may be able to hold 2% below target, but when I have broken mentally I can’t even put out sweet spot watts. It’s all in the brain.
I view this as a conversation/negotiation with my autonomous nervous system. As long as I can convince it that the pain is of my chosing, it knows I am not in mortal danger and lets me push on. As soon as I am overwhelmed my ANS system stops me. “Executive decision”, as Coach Chad calls it in the Ramp Test text. You are done!
Every time you face your ANS, you push that limit a little bit further and it lets you go a little bit harder. But there is no denying the suffering when it really matters, if you are not feeling it you are either wired differently than those who do, or you are not pushing hard enough.
You can’t get past the 40% while being in mild discomfort (or so I believe). We are all capable of much, much more than we allow ourself to do. But it is not easy to push our limits by any stretch of the imagination, that’s why we think they are limits!