Breaking this into two replies because this next part is a bit theoretical but I’m interested in other’s opinions.
Let me start by saying that I’m not someone who can ride until they puke but I am someone who can ride until they can’t see. A fine line, but I can push myself reasonably far, but not nearly as far as others.
As one of the stronger riders in my social riding group I often get asked questions about training and how to proceed (basically extremely informal coaching) and one of my observations is that people that struggle with fitness gains (but not training consistency or volume) is that they often give up when things get hard.
This is frustrating to see - they are otherwise highly motivated and regimented on training, eating, etc. They do everything right and then as soon as a race gets hard or an interval session approaches 0.9 IF they end up bailing out of the intervals (no matter the type).
Now…is this because of an inability to face the pain, to suffer? Stated differently, is it something they can train? Certainly books and some studies suggest this is so - performance can improve based on mindset. In which case the message to them is gentle reminding of these tips and tricks and pointing them to the experts and the readings about this
However, I don’t know what things feel like for them. Perhaps one aspect of being able to train to a certain FTP or even do a certain % FTP interval is the body’s response to these things. Maybe I’m just a bit genetically lucky in that my DNA has a reduced ‘pain’ response during an effort so what I’m pushing through is not nearly as mentally hard as others
I think this gap in understanding is why lots of cyclists go with the HTFU message and brag about that time they rode so hard they couldn’t unclip and fell over and laid there for two minutes before they could even get out of their pedals.
If this is something truly trainable then we should all be able to mentally train and focus such that under the right circumstances we can bury ourselves this way - so it becomes a point of pride to have done so. “Look how good I am that I was able to throw up at the top of this hill”
I think this is a mistake - I have never been able to push myself as deep as many riders I know, even those with less overall fitness and believe me, I’ve tried.
But…it’s all a bit nebulous - it is very hard to study pain and thus RPE. Just look up some pain scales online and read how they work. So maybe something we’ll never have an answer for, but I definitely suspect the answer lies somewhere in the middle - we need to harden up, but also that everyone has a different ceiling of what they are capable of pushing out of the way mentally based on a variety of factors, many of which are outside of their control