The Perfect Race

“For me it was the perfect race…. I was happy before this medal, but to be able to come here and finish it like this is pretty spectacular… Emotion, so much emotion and passion, everything was running through my body. It was crazy.”

-Apollo Anton Ohno, reflecting on his gold medal 500m race.

I love this quote, Apollo talked in several interviews about “skating the perfect race” the internal focus it requires, and how hard he trained to make this happen. This guy could live however he wants, and supposedly lives a Spartan lifestyle at the US Olympic training center in Colorado Springs.

I came as close as I ever have so far to my own “perfect race” this past Saturday. All season long I have had the goal to skate a sub 37 second 500m, to see a 36 next to my name on the scoreboard, and I am almost out of time to do it. Busting the 37 barrier is a “line in the sand” that I need to cross. Warming up for this past Saturday’s races, I felt tremendous possibility in my legs, I could tell, technically and physically, that this could be the day.

I was paired with “start-line-rocket” Parker Vance, and he inspired me to blast off the line like a freak, to my fastest start ever (10.30), I hit the first turn well, made a tiny mistake exiting the turn, and then skated the finest last 250 meters I have ever done, every step was as perfect as I am capable of. I even include evidence here of both knees coming together as I drive that last 100. Bringing the knees together properly has always has been an element of technique that has always crippled my top end speed.

Every synapse was screaming, I could feel the pressure I was getting into the ice, I KNEW that this was the moment, that it could be right now!!!

Maybe I think too much, but today it was good fuel in the fire. I jabbed my blade at the finish line as I crossed, reaching for every possible hundreth, on fire!!

I pulled up out of my skating position, looked at the clock, and see

37.00

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The howl that escaped my body was full of the joy of a personal best, joy of almost a perfect race, blended with frustration, with feeling every millimeter of distance from 36.99 to 37.00

I always believed that athletes need to focus & try as hard as they can every rep, every step in training, because that is where you earn tiny amounts of speed like this. Where did I fail? What is this supposed to teach me?

How far is .01? at my lap time of 26.70 (that is 33.5 mph/53.9kph average speed for 400m) using the socal speed calculator, that is 14.9 meters a second, so I missed that 36 by 14.9 centimeters.

Such a tiny distance to have so much of my self-esteem poured into.

14.9 centimeters… .01 of a second… How far is that? 1/3 of a blade length, half the width of the ibook I write this on. My hand, wrist to fingertip is even 19 cm.

John Loquai said to me afterwards, that after seeing my race, now he understands exactly how much .01 of a second can mean. I am swirling about in a mix of happy and sad, almost the perfect race, the best I can do, but it’s not enough.


p.s. John himself skated an amazing race worth mentioning, a 1500m paired with Ron “glidemaster” Macky. (life experience on speedskates? Macky=17 years, Loquai=1.5). There was lots of friendly betting & trash talking going on, lots of speculation on who would win. Ron & John train together all the time, and knew it would be very close. Boris & I got into the fun too, Boris picked Ron, I picked John. The actual event was fun to watch, with John’s opening 300m a bit faster, and he then increased his lead a tiny bit every lap, skating a 1:50.99 (with a last lap of 29.87!) to Ron’s 1:52.25 -these guys are true artists of pain!).

4 Responses to “The Perfect Race”

  1. still another pb! congrats again, andrew. of course, the sub-37 is ‘abstract’ to the reality of your very best..of course, roger bannister didn’t want to hear that type of rationale when he was going after the 4-minute-mile……:)

  2. Hey Andrew! You are so almost there! Saturday Eleanor broke her elusive 50 second mark in the short track 500 with a 49.1. at the American Cup III in Saratoga. I know training with you a couple weekends ago was really inspiring to her.

    Keep it up,

    Marcia

  3. Congrats on the PB Andrew!! I feel your pain on the .00 factor - at trials four years ago I skated a 44.01 - about 20cm less painful than yours, but it sucked nonetheless. But, you can’t complain about a PB. Good job!

  4. […] his makes me happy. Sure, a 36.99 is only .01 faster than a 37, but I’m happy anyway, as I have been burned by .01 before. Leave a C […]

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