My college coach always taught her athletes to focus on the positive qualities of each racing experience. In her eyes, a bad race was, if nothing else, a valuable learning opportunity. Over the years, this approach to race evaluation has yielded many important lessons: Fudging your entry time is not always a good idea. Pop-Tarts are not an appropriate pre-race meal. Official lap-counters cannot always be trusted.
A couple of weeks ago, I raced a 5K in Arizona and learned that there is, in fact, such thing as a “perfect” race—one that does not require any sort of post-race effort to identify the “positives,” because the entire affair is, from start to finish, one big, sweaty bundle of positivity.
Last weekend, exactly seven days after my perfect 5K, I decided to push my luck by entering another race. Considering that the second race occurred in Montana and was double the distance of the first one, I’m not really sure what I was thinking; I can only surmise that the thin mountain air compromised my brain function, severely impairing my ability to think logically. I mean, honestly, what are the chances of hitting the jackpot two weekends in a row?
“Slim to none,” you might say.
Somewhere between the freezing temperatures, icy wind, high altitude and aggressively long hills, “slim” got thrown out the frost-covered window. Before I even finished my warm-up, I knew there was exactly “none” chance of repeating the flawless race experience I had achieved just one week prior.
And…I was right. I know, I know, this story would be so much cooler if I told you that through the power of positive thinking and sheer determination, I was able to overcome the odds and pull out another perfect race in spite of decidedly imperfect conditions—or, at the very least, that I found five dollars. But alas, unlike Mary Cain—who can expect a perfect race pretty much every time she toes a starting line—I am human. (And in this economy, people are much more careful with their five-dollar bills.)
The problem, I have realized, is that once you find perfection, it is very difficult to replicate. Now that I know what perfect is, no other race will ever measure up. This is at once immensely satisfying and immensely depressing—like getting a surprise upgrade to business class only to have every subsequent flight for the rest of your life ruined by the memory of fully reclining seats, excess legroom and complimentary cocktails.
Similarly, even though I ended up winning the 10K outright by nearly six minutes, I did not feel entirely fulfilled. There was that lingering feeling that it could have been better—if it had been warmer, if the wind had been calmer, if the course had been flatter, if I’d had more competition, blah, blah, blah…
Not to mention that my prize as the overall female winner was a pair of size 9.5-11 athletic socks. But hey, let’s focus on the positive: I’m sure they’ll come in handy somewhere down the road—if I unexpectedly turn into an exceptionally large man, for example.
And now, because I just couldn’t resist, here is a crude artistic rendering of myself as an exceptionally large man:
The real Brooke Hogan