Friday, September 18, 2009

What Can We Learn from Geese?

A good friend of mine, John Kahrs, and I went to the Indianapolis Speedway day to watch the cars practice before the 500. Being at the race track, I told him my favorite race story, leading him to tell me a story with a similar message at the end that I want to share with you today.

At the speedway in Clermont, IN, they have a 1/8 mile oval. I had a chance to go to one of those NASCAR driving schools there. If you have never done this, I recommend it highly. They started us out in a class teaching us about the cars, their handling, and the dynamics of racing them. We then had to sign releases, that if something happened we, or our heirs, would be responsible for the 2,000.00 deduction on their insurance on their cars, and that we or our heirs wouldn’t hold them liable for any damage done to us. They then brought in a couple ambulances that sat and waited in the infield that was somewhat disturbing. You realized quickly that this wasn't a ride at Disney World.

Our group was the last one of three groups to get into the cars, so we watched the others all day. The group before us was five people from some company outing. There were four men and a woman, she smoked these dudes. In a five lap race she actually lapped every one of the guys! That really amazed me, and I made a decision, I wanted to drive at least as fast as she did. Her lap time was 34 seconds.

So, now it was our turn. We got into the cars, and they had us follow the pace car around for 8 laps. They then brought us in and critiqued our driving. Then back out on the track for 8 more laps behind the pace car but now over 100 mph. When we came back in, once again we were mentored. We then got to go out one at a time to drive three laps as fast as we could, the best time would be our qualifying speed. Mine was 31 seconds, 3 seconds faster than that woman who smoked the guys! I figured out why they were so slow, the cars were set up to “push,” meaning that the front ends would slide as you went through corners. This created a creepy feeling as you felt the front end sliding toward the concrete wall, yet we had been told in the training meeting that you need to floor it at the vortex of the curve to maximize your laps. It felt wrong flooring it when you were sliding toward concrete. So, I just decided not to look at the concrete wall, I didn’t want to hit it so why focus on it. I would start looking at my braking point on the other end of the upcoming straight away as I was starting the turn, focusing on where I wanted to be, instead of where I didn’t want to be.

Now out of four in our race, there was me, my buddy Harvey, and two guys there for their 10th time. Even though I beat that gal by three seconds, I was 4th out of our four in qualifying speed. So off we go on our five lap race. No one could pass; I would get up along the door of the one in front, but couldn’t get in front before the turns. Once when the two cars fighting for 2nd place nearly touched and both bobbled I thought I would get around but they saved it and held on. This was an amazing time. Just writing this brings back the adrenaline rush.

When we came in at the end of the race, the guys who had been our teachers came running up to our cars and were very excited about our race. It turns out that each lap was faster than the one before, and all of them were faster than any of our qualifying speeds. The last lap we all were under 29 seconds!

What I think happened is two fold, we kept pushing each other by trying to pass on each lap. But also, I know I was emboldened when I was following through the corners, and the guys in front didn’t wreck going that hard, so I figured I could push it at least that hard as well.

Another story, John Kahrs told me. He and another college swimmer buddy were swimming in the ocean. They started swimming in a race to see who could go the farthest, fastest, whatever. As they just started John had something large brush against him, and really freaked him out. However, he looked up and Greg was swimming away. John thought, if he can do it so can I. So each time some sea creature would bump into him, he would look at Greg and keep going. They swam longer and farther than either had ever swum before, actually it was several miles when they stopped got out and called John’s mom to come pick them up.

Years later John was telling this story when Greg was in the conversation. John talked about how he had bumped into creepy things and wanted to get out of the water, but since Greg kept going, so did he. How when he got too tired to think he could keep going, he saw Greg swimming away and kept going.

Greg was amazed, he told John, I had weird things bumping into me and it freaked me out, all I wanted to do was get out of the water, but I looked up and saw you swimming and kept going. When I was too tired to hardly lift my arms I saw you swimming and thought I can go a little longer.

Have you ever watched the wild geese fly over in their v formations? Have you wondered why they fly in v’s?
The geese draft off of each other, they can fly many times faster and longer in this pattern. The lead goose, leads for a while, and then rotates back toward the back and a new lead goose takes over, until each has their turn. The lead goose has the most resistance to their flying and will tire, that is why they rotate.

The geese honk encouragement from behind, cheering on the leaders to keep flying. If a goose gets injured or sick, another goose flies down and stays with them until they are dead or healthy enough to continue, then the two will join another flock and fly with them.

So, if we have the sense that God gave a goose, we will work together, to push each other, to cheer each other on, to believe in ourselves and each other, what can’t we do?

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