About 1/2 a mile from my place of work, there is a hill. Please understand the significance of this statement; I live in central Kansas. This might be the only hill within a 5 mile radius (not including highway on-ramps and the sledding hill in Sedgwick County Park). It's not a particularly big hill or a particularly long hill. But this morning it was enough to set me off. I was driving up this tiny hill after lunch when my mind shot out of my body and onto the race course at Shawnee Mission.
The Shawnee Mission Triathlon bike course is somewhat notorious in these parts, a gruesomely hilly 4.5 mile loop which competitors (on the long course) must repeat four times--a quartet of cardiac-arresting climbs, followed by a brief 1/2 mile of flat terrain before repeating the whole thing. Okay, really it's not that bad. The total elevation gain is like 400-450 feet per loop (1800 total feet climbed), and I've definitely raced more difficult courses than that (Pumpkinman, for one, and soon Wildflower). But it feels like a lot of climbing, especially when you already know what's waiting for you on the next three loops.
All of which is beside the point. Because when I was driving up that teeny tiny baby hill this afternoon, I wasn't thinking about how difficult all that climbing will be, or how much it's going to hurt, or how lame I am for thinking 400 feet of elevation gain is even that much. In that moment, I got that sinking, bubbly feeling in my stomach that's sort of like being slightly too buzzed.
It's the feeling of simultaneously thinking "I can't believe I get to do this again!" and "Why the hell am I doing this again?" It's the same feeling that you have the night/week/month before a race when you know you need to sleep but you can't seem to. It's the feeling that makes you pace and posture and get to transition two and a half hours before the race starts.
It's the feeling that fills port-a-johns.
And it's here, already, more than three months away from Shawnee Mission, still two weeks out from my first race of the season.
I really want this one, guys; it's what it's all about, this year.