Where Do You Hurt?

A friend emailed me that Randonneurs USA, the organizing group for cyclists who do long, nutty rides of the type I’ve been trying for the last several years, is conducting a survey of riders who went to Paris-Brest-Paris this summer. PBP is not the longest or nuttiest of the rides, but it’s long and nutty enough (750-plus miles) and it’s older than any of them, including that big French tour race thing they do every July. I realized a sort of cycling dream by finishing PBP in 2003; I went back this year — it’s a quadrennial event — and succumbed to a sore Achilles tendon (and, yes, soggy morale after a prolonged ride in the rain).

Anyway, the survey includes a question on physical problems that riders might have experienced during PBP. The list itself says more than I ever could about the nuttiness rampant in this kind of event. Without further comment, here’s the litany of possible symptoms, ailments, and physical breakdowns from the survey:

numbness or tingling in fingers

numbness or tingling in toes

hot foot

swollen feet

Carpal Tunnel wrist issues

loss of toenail(s)

saddle sores

arm or shoulder weakness

Achilles tendon issues

Shermer neck (inability to hold head up)

disorientation or dizziness

visions or hallucinations

respiration issues

inability to swallow


leg cramps

digestive issues (nausea, vomiting)

falling asleep on the bike

acid reflux


mouth sores

genital injury

blurred vision



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5 Replies to “Where Do You Hurt?”

  1. In case anyone else had to know, from Ultracycling.com – “Michael Shermer grudgingly gave his name to this malady during the 1983 RAAM on his approach to Harrier, IL, nearly 2,000 miles into the race. His head felt heavy and the back of his neck was increasingly sore. He described it as, “a quick melt down.” His head dropped, making it impossible for him to look up. Cradling his chin in the palm of one hand with his elbow on the padding of his aerobars, he supported his head well enough to finish the race. Despite excruciating pain during the event, his neck was back to normal within two days.”
    You knew there was a good story there.

  2. I think Shermer was credited with coming up with a jury-rigged device that keeps your head erect while you ride: a contraption that involves surgical tubing wrapped around your head and then connected to a belt you wear around your waist. People also wear cervical collars to keep their heads more or less up. During PBP in 2003, I passed a guy near the finish whose chin was down on his chest and who making an agonized gasping sound as he rode. I asked him whether I could help, but he said no — he had about 10 miles to go and he was just going to finish any way he could. I’ve been scared of this kind of thing happening to me, but so far it never has.

  3. The list of ailments succinctly paints a picture of the event no long drawn-out prose piece could ever hope to better! It reminds me of one of those ensemble films they routinely made in the 50’s and 60’s like Twelve Angry Men, where everyone has some secret pain or flaw that eventually is revealed.
    Oh my!

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