Wright Out of the Gate: The harder I practice, the luckier I get.

I saw this quote from a golfer by the name of Gary Player and it made me laugh. “The harder I practice, the luckier I get.” Sure there’s some luck involved in any sport you participate in, but everyone knows that Lady Luck needs to be in the company of Mr. Skill and Mr. Hard Work if you’re going to have any success.

I’ve been in Florida a few weeks now training for the 2015 Canadian pro motocross nationals. I keep getting messages from people telling me how “lucky” I am. I couldn’t agree more. I feel very lucky to have been born with a talent for motocross. I definitely feel lucky to be a pro racer who gets to travel South during the winter to find sun, heat and mounds of dirt instead of mountains of snow and ice. I feel lucky to have parents and a school that allow me to get my high school credits through online courses. Finally, I feel very lucky to have sponsors who have recognized my potential, have chosen to support me and approve of me lining up for some races while I’m in the US.

But that’s where the luck ends. The last couple of weeks of racing in Florida have confirmed that I have more speed to find and that I’ve got to figure out how to improve my starts. And this, my friends, will not be achieved by luck. Practice is hard work. While riding my dirt bike always puts me in a happy place, I would be lying if I said that practice is always fun. If you’re enjoying it, you’re probably not working on the right things. Having said that, there’s nothing like the satisfaction you get when a plan comes together and you finally get that jump, turn, or technique you’ve been working so hard on.

It’s easy to go out and do the things you’re already good at. What sucks is spending time on the things that need improvement or must be corrected. Sadly, this may mean working on new things in order to change old things you’ve been doing forever and have become habit. It’s especially tough when those old habits are sometimes the very things that brought you success in the past.

In order for something to become habit, it must be repeated over and over and over again, until it becomes natural for you. So, here are the top 3 areas of focus for my practice right now:

  1. Better starts: Gone are the days when I could get a crappy start and work my way through the pack and still earn myself a win. I’m not saying that it can’t be done; a few select pro riders still manage to do it. What I’m saying is that when I race, I want to devote my efforts to battling with, or leading the front-runners, not working my way through the pack to catch up to them. To do that, I have to get a good jump on the gate.

As luck would have it, I got to meet up with the racer who is arguably the “hole-shot king” of our sport: Mike Alessi. He was nice enough to let me ride his practice track for a couple of days and even gave me a few pointers that I will definitely spend the next few weeks working on. (Thanks a lot Mike!)

During interviews, racers sound like broken records saying that they need a good start to win or that they were able to win the race because they had a good start. Well folks, the shorter the race, the more that’s true. That became painfully obvious during the race in Daytona a couple of weeks ago when I participated in the Carmichael Amateur Supercross Race (RCSX). It’s hard to move up to the front when the guy in front of you is just as fast, or faster than you, and he’s not interested in letting you get by.

It was also my first taste of racing on a supercross track. Although it was tamed down quite a bit from what the pros rode the day before, I still got a feel for how much tighter and narrower the track is. I’m not complaining, just stating that I can now better appreciate what people mean when they tell me that racing supercross is not the same as motocross. I think I get it now.

  1. Faster guys: As some of you may have noticed, when I do manage to make my way to the front of the pack and I’m challenging some of the top pros in the country, a switch seems to turn on in my head and I sometimes tend to push myself and/or the bike too hard. I realize I need to learn patience and race strategy and there’s nothing like actual racing to get that experience.

The RCSX was my first time racing the A class in the United States. Some of you were probably wondering why I registered in an amateur class at all. The answer is simple. In the US, the C class is equivalent to our Junior class, the B class is the same as the Intermediate class and the A class corresponds to our Canadian pro class. I was looking to line up against some fast guys and I certainly found them in Florida. I’ve been in some very fast company these past few weeks. How else can you truly simulate the conditions of a pro national race in the off-season? Those 2 or 3 seconds per lap that I was lacking in my rookie season last year turned out to be the same 2 to 3 seconds I was looking for in Daytona. The good news is that I just got back on my bike a couple of weeks ago and there are many weeks to go before I line up in Kamloops. I believe that racing against faster guys can only help me get faster.

  1. Easing up on the clutch: It’s no secret that I’ve carried over some of my 2-stroke habits to the 4-stroke and that during my first season on the YZ250F, the clutch and rear brake took a beating. This is not the way I want to “heat things up” on the track and my mechanic and I are working hard to “keep’er cool”. We’re trying a number of things to avoid having the bike overheat during a 30-minute moto. Some of it involves changes I need to make. Some of it is about trying out different bike stuff. While the “me” stuff is proving to be pretty challenging and frustrating at times, I’m making progress. Breaking or changing habits is hard … damn hard.

There are many words of wisdom out there about breaking or creating habits, but the following quote rings true for me: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence therefore is not an act but a habit.” (Aristotle) For me, this says that change doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a long time to develop a habit and it will usually take a long time to break one and replace it with a new one. It also means that things don’t necessarily change by doing only one thing and by doing that one thing only once. So you have to be ready to try something new, but it needs to be the right thing and it has to be done consistently well. That takes time, and that is what practice is for.

Practice is about doing something repeatedly until you get it right and it becomes second nature to you. When that happens, you don’t have to think about it anymore and you can focus your efforts on something else … like how you’re going to get to, and stay in, the lead.

If the quotes I’ve used in this blog are right, then I know that the practice I’m putting in right now should pay off in the end, and should lead to some podiums and perhaps even wins. When that happens, I might just get to say that: “The harder I practice. The luckier I get.”