A novice is nothing more than a child of a craft. Sometimes we wear the novice badge with pride. A smile beams out of our face in anticipation of joining an adventure previously out of reach. At other times we sit anxious at the foot of the mountain of new skills. Like all children we wish to run before we can walk in learning. Through my motorcycling racing I learnt not to ignore the small (but great) achievement of simply starting the long walk up the mountain.
I began my racing career somewhere around the age of 10. I was nervously excited to be having a go in an adult outdoor go-kart. I was self-assured by my hours of playing Mario kart that I would easily beat my dad next to me. There I was, at the start line ready to start my glorious career of winning races and popping champagne (or the 10 year old equivalent drink of choice). Alas racing came second to homework and my dreams of becoming a F1 champion never took off. However at the end of the day, I still held onto the feeling of pushing myself to hold the throttle flatter, turn in sharper, and chase down the person in front. I had found my mountain.
It was another 15 years before I’d find the courage (and the cash) to head out to the racetrack. I’ve swapped four wheels for two and found my way into the seat of a Yamaha R6. I still find myself staring at it in the garage wondering how lucky I am to have this amazing toy. However today, as I slowly dismantle the cracked fairings and twisted forks of my R6, I am nursing a minor compression fracture in my back (Thankfully, I’m in no major pain or danger of further injury). I’m also nursing the effects of my overexcited inner child at the racetrack. The helmet that rests scratched and chipped on the bench helps me put together the broken fragments of memory that led to the crash. Out of turn four, leaning hard, faster than the lap before, grab the front brake as I straighten up to wipe off speed, not enough, brake more, not enough, bail out. I ventured onto the grass momentarily then slammed back onto the tarmac, braking harder still. At 120km/h the brakes grabbed and promptly ejected me from the seat of the bike. Unfortunately flying through the air upside down is no safer than being seated on a motorcycle. I came crashing down on my back, rolled, and slide face down to a stop.
There I was hoping to achieve greatness in my first race and instead all I have are a bunch of scratches to the bike, my leathers, and my ego. So where did it all go wrong?
I pushed myself beyond my limits. I’d found out the difference between hard work and hard concrete. Unfortunately, I was more involved in worrying about external pressures of speed and my family that had come to watch. I was nowhere near my personal best that I set while having fun with equally passionate people on a sunny Sunday a few weeks earlier.
There are two arguments to be made for avoiding the crash. The first, the rational, and therefore explainable; I was too fast, underprepared and made a mistake. The second, the emotional, is the feeling that my mistake was not a mistake at all. There is a lot for me yet to lean about this mountain and the paths I must walk up. I gave it my best shot, I made a start, and my ten-year-old self is cheering.