No matter which way you slice it, the first hard effort in the spring hurts, burns, stings and carries with it a full range of emotion. Add to that the fact that I've really only been on my mountain bike maybe 20 times since last October and that I lined up at the New Belgium Short Track last night against guys who have all been riding hard for months and pain and suffering are inevitable. Burning lungs, unresponsive legs, lactic acid up the eyeballs, and a vague memory of how to corner at high speed add up to some severe tunnel vision. However, tunnel vision inevitably leads to tunnel thoughts. All that exists is finding a way to get through the 45 minutes of dust and agony. Everything else falls away. Clarity.