I like numbers. I have a semi-pathological obsession with numbers. Numbers, unlike words, never lie. You may be able to misrepresent them, which takes words, but in and of themselves they are true to the nature of their representation. Numbers prove words true. Applied mathematics makes sense out of life, for the most part. Theoretical mathematics are just plain fun. “What is” versus “what could be”. Hence, my obsession with lap times, mostly my own, rather than anyone else’s.
I’m a very competitive individual. When I’m lacking decent competition I will compete with my own self. Decent competition here is defined as competing with racers who are at similar skill levels to my own, preferably on the faster (or better) side of things. An easy win isn’t anything for me to aspire to. I do like easy wins, don’t get me wrong; but “cherry-picking” my way around the competition just doesn’t feel nearly as good as that win you’ve earned. The win you’ve fought so hard for, you weren’t sure if you’re going to make it, and in doing so scared yourself on several occasions because you were giving 110%, pushing the envelope way past your personal comfort zone. I like those. Those are awesome! That’s the stuff a great story is made of. A story worth telling. A story worth reading. An inspiration; the fuel that keeps the flame alive and burning brightly. Coincidentally, those are also the races that will be remembered: the nail-biting, edge of your seat, heart-pounding close ones. Good times! Good times!
It would be utter nonsense to compare my “PR” of the best lap I ever turned at Barber Motorsports Park with that of Mat Mladin, who currently holds the track record of 1:23.664, with an AVERAGE speed of 115.474 miles per hour. I barely haul that on the front straight, never mind averaging it. Not even close. If I could get into the upper 1:40s consistently I’d be holding a press conference. My PR for Barber is 1:52. And that is NOT my consistent average.
Here’s a word problem for you:
“If Mat and Em left pit road and entered the track at the same time and there was no other traffic, where on the track would the lapping pass happen and at what time in the race?”
I give you a hint: When Kevin Schwantz crosses the finish line on a Saturday afternoon sighting lap with no brakes, Em is still trying to figure out whether or not to shift on top of the curb or before it, even though it really doesn’t matter either way at her current speed or the gearing she’s running, not that she would have to shift at all if she didn’t want to.
Another hint: She wouldn’t see Mat again, short of catching a quick glimpse of him heading out of Turn 6, once he disappeared from view in the middle of Turn 3, until she was unceremoniously lapped a shortish while later.
I try not to make it a habit to keep tabs on my competition. An activity, a friend of mine calls “lap time stalking”. She says it helps her confidence to know what she’s up against beforehand. I rather not know how I stack up against others. It becomes self-evident once you’re on the track with them. You either know wether or not you have a chance to keep up and possibly even have a chance at beating them. If they pull away from you like the newbie equivalent of Mat Mladin in my silly example, you might as well pick on somebody your own size… I mean, speed.
The same also holds true if the roles were reversed. It wouldn’t be any fun for me to pass another rider who runs in the 2:20s at the aforementioned racetrack. It’s boring and uninspiring, just like Mat would feel about my hanging out in the raceline with him. Non-consequential at best, a liability at worst, and an inconvenience every third lap or so. Like a sprint runner passing the fitness walker at the gym’s indoor track.
The stalking of lap times has the opposite effect on my psyche. If I had known what kind of times the boys were handing in during my first race weekend, I would have stayed home; not that I left the house thinking that there was even a remote possibility of me winning anything. I just wanted to do it and be part of something fairly unique. I headed to the racetrack with only one goal in mind: I didn’t want to come home with a DNF (Did Not Finish) or, worse, a DNS (Did Not Start). The former meaning I probably crashed out, and the latter meaning I didn’t have the courage to grid up for the race in the first place.
That’s also my attitude about running in my first half marathon. I’m not entertaining any notion that I’ll be winning anything. I just want to say that I did it and crossed the finish line under my own power.
Last place is always preferable to being a no-show or a quitter; and who knows, there might even be a few people I could pass and finish ahead of. That was true for my first road race on two wheels, it will also be true to my first road race on two feet.
However, this didn’t stop me from trying to figure out where (and how fast) I would finish and where I could finish in my ultimate goal, which is completing an official marathon. On my quest to comparing the “what is” with the “what could be” I came across this nifty little tool. The runner’s (free) equivalent of the motorcycle racer’s (expensive) data acquisition: Greg McMillan’s pace calculator.
I plug in my PR of 30:00 for the 5K, which just so happens to give me the best projected outcome and furnishes me with all sorts of digits I can use in my marathon training. You can try it for yourself here.Who said theoretical mathematics couldn’t be fun? Probably the same person who also insists that playing around with applied physics wasn’t a pleasurable activity. Talk to me once you’ve put your knee down for the very first time cornering your motorcycle or have set a new personal best for the mile in your run. We will then revisit the subject of “speed is relative” and can be enjoyed on any level, as long as you have a grasp on what the accomplishment means to you personally.
I will never complete a lap in the 1:23s at BMP, nor will I ever complete a marathon in the 2:15s. What I will do, however, is be inspired to reach for my own personal best, by working hard and not giving up when things seem to get too tough; and enjoy my triumphs and be proud in my accomplishments, no matter how they may compare on a broader scale.
There is always somebody faster.
Just do it and be your best. Discouragement is highly discouraged. And discouragement happens when you compare yourself to others, especially to those (way) out of your (current) league. Don’t compare, but compete. And competition happens when you find someone who’s at your own level… and then the real race begins. The one you have a possibility of winning. The one that happens with the person directly in front of you. Let them inspire you to give it your all and then give a little more; and as you pass them, you’ll inadvertently do the same for them.
And that is where it’s at.
Chances are you’ll end up pulling each other along to the finish, crossing the line together in an impromptu team effort towards a common goal.
Chances are that the motorcycle you’ve been chasing and trying to hopefully pass for the better of five laps, inspired you to go faster than you ever have and you’ll still end up doing the happy dance in front of the posted race results, looking like a complete dork, even though you’ve finished the race in the back of the pack.
*overuse of the word “inspiration” in its various forms was completely intentional*
Seriously. How can everything be looking so bright one moment and not nary a half a day later be so damned dark and foreboding. Ok, it’s not THAT bad. Give me a little artistic license here, will you? After I just went on and on about how you can’t take no for an answer in life. After saying that, no matter what, you need to just keep pushing at it. Have I already forgotten my own lesson? Ah! In the moment of weakness. Bleary and hopeless. It’s not even anything the world has done to me. Really. I am (again) frustrated by my own limitations, and depending on how severe I perceive such limitation to be, the harder my happy-go-lucky attitude falls on its ass. So I moan and groan, I mope around, feel sorry for myself, then I take a nap. The world looks different after a nap. Maybe I was just exhausted (I’m having a problem with fatigue lately) or maybe I just had one of those “moments of the female kind” (I’m having a problem with mood swings lately, too). When my brain is wide awake and ready to roll and the body says “Fuck You!” I get a little irritated. And when this happens to me in rapid succession with three different things, I get positively annoyed and am ready to make anyone in a 50-foot radius suffer the consequences. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned! The Wrath of Busa. I’ve been dealing with mood swings, fatigue, and irritability since last winter (just to mention a few of the things that are plaguing my general happiness). First I thought the family drama that was going down at that time, had me singing the Blues. Eventually, I went — begrudgingly, I might add — to see my doc. After explaining what I was going through, he put me on an antidepressant, which I took myself off of not too long ago. I kept telling him, I’m not depressed. I’m fucking happy! Or I should be, but I can’t enjoy my life, because I’ve no energy, that I am so fatigued that all I can do most days is work and sleep (never mind eating). He doubled my dosage, I flushed the crap down the toilet three days later. I think this to be hormonal. Yup. My doctor told me (at an earlier visit) that this is normal for a woman my age (and the treatment is the same, hence the antidepressant) WTF? Dude, you are so not helping. That right there makes me wanna go perimenopausal on your heinie! But I digress…
My Kryptonite: Three personal failures in a row. My fragile ego can’t handle that. I get my proverbial panties in a wad, and it takes me a while to de-wedgie and find my balance and inner peace again and with that the usual can-do attitude returns as well. I’m also my own worst critic, deathly afraid of public embarrassment, and way too shy. (Quit laughing in the back, I heard that!) I make myself do stuff despite my fears and paranoid premonitions, but I also beat myself up over not being perfect. I don’t go into something unprepared. I bone up. I hate surprises and the unknown. I want to know what’s coming. Be mentally and emotionally prepared for it. Be ready. So when the time comes, my educated brain can tell my wimpy heart to go stuff it and I am then free to do what needs to be done. That’s how I roll. I also avoid doing things on my own. Hubby (and some of my friends) call this ‘avoidance strategy’ of mine by its proper name: attack of the common sense. I am frustrated by that, too. That means I have to wait. I’m a “NOW” person. When I have worked something out in my head, I need to put it into action, translate it into physical application. And practice. I’m an academic rather than a hands-on person. Manual stuff takes me forever to learn and frustrates me easily. It makes me feel stupid. I don’t like that feeling. I really don’t. Luck would have it then that motorcycling is 90% mental, huh? So here we are. I took the long way around, but now you know a little about what makes me tick (or ticks me off). Some of the reason behind why I do the things I do and why most of what I do seems backwards to other people. My husband is frustrated by the way I work. He pisses me off the way he does things. We never wrench together. It’s risk management. We’d be throwing tools at each other in no time and probably end up having a knock-down drag-out brawl in the driveway. His riding style makes me have an almost equal reaction. *Ba Dam — Ching* However, it’s a blast to wash bikes with him, especially when I’m holding the hose. =D
I will put them out there now, the three failures that derailed me and made for a shit day:
- 9K race starts freak me out, so do burnouts. I can do either, kinda-sorta, in a sissified version of the real thing, but I can do neither full-on. I know how to execute, my brain knows and tells my muscles what to do. But I choke. Inhibited for some reason unbeknownst to me. This pisses me off. It’s like the wheelie thing. Not that anybody believes me, but I can’t do a wheelie on purpose. I cannot. I tried. Something inside clicks and that’s that. Muscles will not respond to synaptic input. Same with drifting around corners. Another good example. I can do these things when I’m not planning on doing them. When they happen in the matter of course, I deal to correct, enjoy, and carry on, all the while hollering and screaming inside my helmet, grinning from ear to ear, like a madwoman. I see this as a limitation. Mastery, by definition, requires execution upon demand. #FAIL
- I can’t change a tire. I’m not strong enough, don’t have enough ass. I know how to do it, but can’t. Again, I have to wait on somebody to help me. I hate that! Not that I mind help when I’m learning, I appreciate it and embrace any advice and instruction given. I prefer it one-on-one though. I don’t want to learn something new with a bunch of people standing around watching my every move. Goes back to the burnout/race start practice. Husband tells me to go to the track and learn it, people there don’t mind helping the fresh meat out, and nobody is going to make fun of you, if you screw up. You’re learning. Not just no, but hell no! No can-do. Won’t. Will not. It’s hard enough to do something I’ve practiced in front of an audience for the first time. I’ll be so nervous I’ll throw up in my mouth and won’t be able to keep my hands from shaking. But others won’t see that, because I’ve learned to cover it up. Probably another reason why people think stuff comes easy to me and that I’m such a daredevil. But, as always, I digress: Here I have this Metzeler RaceTec K3 rear tire, half off its rim, laughing at me. Taunting me. Sitting there as a testament to two of my most recent of personal failures. At least it has no chicken strips! There’s that. I’m hot. I’m sweaty. I’m getting tired and I must have missed a small, but important detail. However, the more YouTube videos I watch of dudes just getting that second bead started with one tire iron and then popping the whole damn thing off the rim with one swift one-armed jerk like there is nothing to it, the more pissed off I get. aRRgh! And I managed to put two nicks in my rim, even after being so careful and taking proper anti-scratch precautions. And here I was still feeling all good about myself because I had just taken one item of my “Unable To Do That Shit” list: Getting the bike on its stands by myself. That had always freaked me out and yeah, it meant a lot when I was finally able to pull it off on my own without any help whatsoever. So, I’ve wrestled with that piece of infernal rubber off and on all afternoon and the bike sits, dismantled with tools and parts laying about, on my back patio waiting on my husband to bail us out. Every once in a while I go look at it and give it the finger. The thought has occurred to me just to cut the blasted thing off with tin snips. meh. I need to go back to the gym AND get a tire iron with more leverage and a bigger curve at the end. Those rim protectors everybody who reviewed them said were shit will also be procured. See… now that I’ve had a nap, stuff is looking up already and I’m back to trying to solve my problem rather than getting jaded by it.
- Finances. Apparently, I suck at them. I hate paying bills, that’s why they are all set to pay themselves automatically. I don’t even want to look at my account balances. Every time I do, it depresses me. It makes me feel like I’m spinning my wheels (no pun intended, re: Fail #1), no matter how cheap we get, there’s always someone who needs to get paid who then resets the savings to zero. It hurts to see my racing fund dwindle. Because with that, I equate the possibility that my dream is not even that, but rather a definite improbability. I know it’s stupid to think that way. My intellect gets that. My heart, however, missed the memo. So, I defeat my own self by just ignoring it all, because I don’t want my mood ruined, but that makes it worse, doesn’t it? If it doesn’t make it worse, it definitely doesn’t help, that’s for sure. In this case, I need to correct a misaligned attitude, a false sense of perception to the possibility of things. But it’s hard to let this one go. Because I know — I have what it takes (not yet obviously, but I have a damned good foundation to build upon) — but look at the lack of progress in fattening up what I dubbed “The Racing Fund” as just another piece of evidence that I really am off my rocker to even entertain the notion in the first place. The old tendency to “be happy with one’s lot in life and not to aspire beyond one’s station” and with that comes the “who cares, I’ll never make it anyway attitude”. Self-defeatist bullshit, to say the least. It’s a hard one to cope with though. Probably the hardest. As with #1 and #2, I eventually will adapt and overcome. I always do. My need for instant gratification is pretty much the reason why I get down on myself when stuff like this happens. I am a perfectionist, which doesn’t help matters either, but I’m getting better.
Way too deep on way too shallow an issue. Such is the life of a woman entering “The Years of The Bitch”. I really would hate to be my husband for the next, say, two to eight years.