Long Term Progress Or Short Term Speed?

Written by Stephen Miller

As many of you know, in late October of this year, I took a somewhat well-deserved vacation to California.  I started in Los Angeles, and eventually made my way up to twenty miles south of the Oregon border. I went surfing (successfully) for the first time, saw friends from the Marine Corps for the first time in several years, went camping, and even white water rafting.  For two of those days in southern California, I ventured into the desert outside of L.A. Remember that obviously fake mountain range at the end of the first terminator movie? That’s where I was headed.

I had booked training with a motorcycle track school and was incredibly excited.  Before I knew it, I was piloting a 1000cc BMW race bike for the first time, and clad in a leather suit.  Preceding every on track session, each group of riders would receive classroom instruction, and be assigned a specific drill to be practiced.  The drills themselves were intricate, but the general guidelines were pretty simple: start slow, no head to head racing between students, and ride within your skill level.  I noticed, however, a pattern that would repeat itself numerous times on both days.

The way the track is constructed, riders enter one at a time, with about a fifteen second gap between them.  Each round I would enter, focus on my drill as I hit the first few turns, be amazed how effective they were, and then all of a sudden “BRAAAAAP”….someone would pass me.  In that split second, as I was being overtaken by a more skilled/faster rider, I would somehow convince myself that I had to go keep up with them.  I would ignore most of what I was told and insist on catching him/her.  Much to my chagrin, this proved more often than not an impossibility.  I was on the throttle harder but I couldn’t seem to make up the ground I had lost.  I was missing corner apex’s, running wide on turns, and misjudging entry speeds. Why? Because instead of focusing on what I needed to improve in order make myself faster, I was busy focusing on someone else.  After a lap or so of this on each session, I would realize what I was doing, ease off a little on my speed, focus on my drill, and all of a sudden, my lap times were actually getting faster.  I was able to hit my marks, and started screaming out of turns instead of running as wide as a tractor trailer.

I came to realize that not only does sound technique trump mindless speed every time, but also that constantly comparing your own performance to others, will not get you the results you want.  If you’re at the back of the pack and trying to move forward, you should remember two things:

1. There is no way to shortchange the process.

2. If you want to move faster tomorrow, that might mean you have to swallow your pride, and slow down today.

Mechanics > Consistency > Intensity–sound familiar?

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