Pass Time

When you climb Teton Pass, you come up one side of the mountain that starts out sorta shallow, but you know you’re climbing because you can see the road rise up above the ground beneath you–which ground is at the same elevation where you started. After perhaps a half mile, the road starts turning and steepening. Before you know it, you’ve dropped off into your granny (one year I did it without touching my granny–incidentally also the year I puked at the top–and it didn’t even raise my speed) and you’re crawling along in the single-digit speeds.

Then you wind around the road a little more and see this–this towering mountain rising above you. Granted, the link is to a snowy tilted photo of Mount Glory, but that’s the monolith waiting for you along the road on the opposite side of the valley. You get a brief relax moment as you round the corner at the end of the valley, and then it’s back to the quad-burning climb.

Lately, I’ve had this place on my mind (actually, it’s on my mind just about anytime I have spare time), and I’ve been thinking about my goals for this upcoming season. There’s something special to be said about spending all that you have and then going a little extra, and for me, that has happened most dramatically on the Pass. Nonetheless, I got a little obsessed with my time there for a while. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting a new PR on a particular course, but it’s occurred to me that it’s a little silly to expect race day to be the day when you set that PR. It’s also occurred to me that I tend to perform better when I don’t feel any race pressure on my back.

So what’s to be done about that sort of thing? I have a funny new perspective going on in my head this year, and it goes something like this: Race times, they don’t matter. Races exist for pure enjoyment, so enjoy ’em and don’t worry about your time. Training times, that’s where I’ll achieve my goals. Think about it–if you don’t meet your training goal one day, you can always shoot for it another day. Perhaps you’ll even find more favorable weather conditions or something the next time you try. But if you have a rotten day during a race, you’ll end up thinking you ‘messed up’ or that it’s somehow your fault that your body just happened to pick that day to completely shut down. Why add the stress?

I have two performance goals this year: first, I want to complete a 10-mile flat time trial in less than 25 minutes, where my previous PR was about 26 and a half minutes. Next, I want to climb the Pass in less than 40 minutes where my previous record was 41:20. Last year’s record came without any sort of warm up. I just spent a little time riding the Pass and the air didn’t seem so thin anymore. If I don’t get a new PR one Saturday, I’ll probably just use some of the 200 vacation hours I have saved up to go up another time when I feel up to it and try again. Barring some catastrophe, the Pass will still be there before and after race day, as you can see from the photo, so why get all stirred up about setting a record on one day of the year? I can’t think of a good reason either.

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