An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Time dulls the pain

This past weekend, my wife and I spent the weekend in Benton City, WA, for the Yakima Valley Wine Barrel Festival, along with four other couples. And the place we stayed just happened to be a mile from two routes from races I rode in long ago: The Horse Heaven Hills Road Race, and the Jacob's Loop Road Race. As you can imagine, I brought my bike.

I guess in some ways it's amazing I could remember the routes (though they're not all that complex). But it HAS been some 15 years since I last raced those courses, even if I raced them almost 10 times each.

Eric brought his bike as well, and we rode both Saturday and Sunday mornings, one course each day.

I was surprised at a couple things, and I think they both have their root in the same phenomenon.

One, the climb up Clodfelter Road on the Horse Heaven Hills course wasn't as harsh as I remember. Even though the road was closed before the summit (which has a steep downhill just before a last, cruelly steep uphill grade), and we had a fairly steady headwind on the way up, the hill itself wasn't draining me as I expected it would. I remember feeling like the hill was just long and steep when I raced on it many moons ago. Maybe the difference is that when in a pack and every one is wanting to shed as many people as possible before the final selection at the summit, the pace stays high, making it feel worse than it is.

I remember the first time I raced this course, just barely missing the lead pack up that final steep grade, and watching it disappear into the distance. And also the wind whipping up the dust from the bare fields lining the road, making it disappear as well at times.

Two, the hills on Jacob's Loop were harder than I remember. The mental pictures I have of this route from when I raced it made it seem pretty flat. Compared to the route from the previous day, it is -- there really are no sustained climbs. But there are a few hills, and they're not just little sprinters grades. Thankfully the ever-present wind of Tri-Cities (I've never been here when the wind isn't blowing hard) was less today. Or it just hadn't woken up yet.

I related to Eric a time on this course when racing years ago, how I'd just drifted off the front of the pack, and later had a team mate join me (which was amazing -- rarely will a pack ever let two team mates get a gap on the field). We started a two-man rotation and gained a good cushion, but with 40 miles still to go, we looked at each other and thought at the same moment, "Do we REALLY want to do this for another 3 laps?"

Interesting, though, those two contrasting surprises -- one course seemed easier, the other harder, than what I remember.

Time does dull the pain. Or maybe it makes it sharper. And memories are not static things. Perceptions change over time. Not the "the older I get the better I was" kind of perceptions, but situations are colored by many factors at the moment they're stored away.

I'm glad I got a chance to ride these courses again. Brought back a lot of old memories. And brushed them up a bit.

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