The Perfect Storm

Upon reviewing my last blog of 2011, I realized a few things.  One, I missed at least six personal experiences that I could have added for not obtaining a personal best including my shoes coming untied three times during a 10 km race in the rain and two sometimes a PB doesn’t really matter. Sometimes everything does come together for that perfect race. I’ve had a lot of races where I’ve produced new PB’s, but more often than not in those races I’ve felt that I could have run faster. However, the perfect race is one where there are no buts.

It’s like a surfer riding the perfect wave. Waiting week after week, sometimes years for that “perfect  wave”, and then when it comes having the strength and ability to ride it out. That one wave executed perfectly makes it all worth it.  Always searching for it, and when it comes you better be ready for the thrill. You relive the experience after, numerous times, remembering the rush and your whole body glows in the excitement. When is that next perfect wave coming?

I had one race like this, way back in 1983. The Khatsalano 15km Road Race in West Vancouver. It was a hilly course through the residential area of this suburban community on the north shore of Burrard Inlet, overlooking the City of Vancouver.  Large homes set back from the streets hidden by 100 year old cedars towering over the roads. This was the 3rd year in a row that I ran the race. It was a must do on most runners list just for the shirt that was given out for completing the race. A long sleeve cotton shirt with some spectacular and unique native artwork on the front.  The name and the year of the race written in a small font also appeared in the border of the artwork. I don’t remember if there were any sponsors other than the organizer who put on the race. But the artwork was the only thing on the front of the shirt, with nothing on the arms or back of the shirt. (once I find the photo from my archives, I will post it here) Compared to most shirts these days where the sponsors take over the shirt, thinking runners want to be a walking billboard for their product.

It was my 2nd time being injured after four years of running and the race was two weeks away. There was something happening to my right knee, so my training in the last two weeks before the race was minimal. However, if I wanted that shirt I had to run the race. In those days I had two pairs of the same shoe that I alternated running in giving one pair a chance to dry out while I ran in the other pair.  It wasn’t until the morning of the race that I realized that for the past few weeks that I had mixed up the pairs. The left shoe of one pair was matched up with the right shoe of the other pair. I guess I had used one pair more often as the wear patterns on the shoes were quite different. So on race day I wore the pair with the least amount of wear on them. I clearly remember sitting on the curb at the start line double knotting my shoes. A warm up run and no pain in my knee. Was this the solution to the problem?

The race started and I was off hesitantly. It was a hilly course and in the first ¼ mile I was passed by a lot of runners on the first downhill. After that I realized that I was going to be pain free and picked up the pace.  I then proceeded to pass on the next few up hills all those runners who had passed me, never to be passed again in the race.   The weather was perfect, I can still smell the cool air and fresh cedar forest that we ran through.  The common practice these days is to slow down on the uphills, rest at the crest and then pick up speed on the downhills. Then, the worry was on hurting your knees in going fast on the downhills.  My strategy then was to pass on the uphills to add to my mind games. I imagined the other runners thinking they were being passed by a superior runner if they could be passed on the uphill, which would defeat their mental game.  After about 5km the pack thinned out and I was running alone. I would then focus on the runner ahead of me and reel him in until I passed.  If I could wait to pass on an uphill, I would. This continued for the remainder of the race until suddenly it was over. I had just run a pain free race, received my shirt and found out I had came in 9th place. I don’t remember my time, but it probably was under 60 minutes.  I couldn’t compare it to the other two races as each year the Khahtsalano race was on a new course. Could I have run faster? It didn’t matter as I remember that there was no way I could have improved my placing in the race. I had no regrets. A perfect race!

What also added to the day was my training partners, Dennis, Brian, Sharon, Paul, and Lloyd all had a great race as well.  I am currently searching for the group photo of us wearing our coveted shirts after the finish line. We proceeded to the English Bay Café with family to have brunch and celebratory champagne and orange juice.

The thrill of that perfect race is still with me. This is not to say that I haven’t had great runs since. Every training run is a perfect run. Something about not having the pressure of a race to worry about. Maybe it was because I was injured before this race and had no expectations of doing so well that it was the perfect race. I’m anxiously waiting the next perfect race.