Being in the Moment

Taken out of the Moment

It started as a beautiful, warm sunny day at Thruxton Circuit which became a real scorcher. The racer I was coaching was leading his race and the pit crew were anticipating him coming out of the Club Chicane onto the start finish straight to show him his pit board. But as all the bikes passed pit wall, he was, to everyone's surprise, nowhere to be seen. He'd been riding extremely well that weekend and we were quite surprised to find out he'd low sided into the gravel coming into the chicane.

Once he got back to the garage and we could sit down to have a chat, I asked him what he recalled went wrong. He really didn't know, he told me. It came totally out of the blue because he didn't feel he was at his limits yet, so it really shouldn't have happened, he explained. As we pursued the conversation and talked about where his awareness was when he lost the front, he had a realisation and simply said to me: 'I came out of the moment.' It transpired that another rider had tried to come up the inside of him and he'd begun to think about other things. Whilst it may sound like this could take some time, it was just a momentary lapse, probably only lasting a few milliseconds, or in the blink of an eye. But in this game that's enough time for things to go seriously wrong.

A rider has to be completely in the moment.

Curiously, this concept of being in the moment did not arise entirely out of my interviews and discussions with motorcycle racers. It was a concept I came across from a much broader research of athletes involved in other extreme sports. Many of them use this term quite regularly and very often it is associated with accidents - as in they realised they weren't in the moment immediately before doing something wrong. Once I introduced this concept to racers they immediately connected with it as it made complete sense to them.

The experience of Being in the Moment

What is so curious about being in the moment is that in consciousness the racer is completely present in the moment yet simultaneously has a sense of knowing where they're going, so in a way they are also slightly ahead of themselves. It is almost paradoxical. For example, as the racer tips the bike into a corner, for it to be right, he/she needs to be able to sense where they are in space and whether what they are doing is likely to get them where they want to go. There has to be some idea or intention of what they want out of the complex action they're involved in. To successfully get round the circuits as they do, it requires many micro (and macro) adjustments that as observers we will never be aware of, nor will the data logging systems. Most often the riders aren't even aware themselves of the complex mini adjustments being made to keep them on song.

The immediate presence seems to allow a unique blend of rhythm and awareness. Awareness giving in the moment feedback resulting in adjustment and action and rhythm leading the way without taking the rider out of the moment. It is similar to listening to music - you can be fully in the music but at the same time you know where it's going so it doesn't take you out of your groove.

As you may also gather from this, to be in the moment, we really need to have a clear mind and be open to how things unfold ahead of us, so we're also open to the unknown and opportunities.

This, I hope, illustrates that finding good rhythm and improving upon it is a cyclical process which every successful racer continuously cycles around and around.  Unfortunately, whilst we may wish there was one, there is no secret key to unlocking good rhythm - it is a process and experience - which is probably why it is such a glorious thing to behold when it is found and also why the journey there can be so rewarding too.

In the next article I outline process that can be use to explore the qualities of your experiences to help you in this amazing journey:

(Image credit: Casey Stoner MotoGP - Donington Park 2009 by GOGO Visual licensed under CC BY 2.0)