31 May, 2016

Together and Alone (2016 National Pole Vault Summit, part 3)

Pole Vault is kind of a team sport, but it's kind of not. At the end of the day, it takes an individual effort to clear the bar. Regardless of the size or strength of a vaulter's support network, the support network can't grab the pole and step on the runway.

(Vaulter: Hiroki Ogita)
But at the same time, the support network helps to inform, guide, and motivate that individual effort. A good coach will learn the strengths, weaknesses, and idiosyncrasies of a vaulter, and will strive to provide feedback that helps that particular individual perform at their best.

(Coach: Tim Mack; Vaulter: Mark Hollis)
But then it's again up to that single vaulter to figure out whether and how to incorporate that guidance into the next attempt. There are no substitutions. No pinch hitters. It's just you, the pole, and the crossbar, every single time.

(Vaulter: Mary Saxer)
And then when the attempt is over, regardless of whether things went well or poorly, it's just you on that mat. At least for a moment.

(Vaulter: Kylie Hutson)
When the moment is up, though, the "I" often turns back to "us." Vault friends are often close because they can commiserate. They can understand the feelings that might seem irrational to someone who only watches from the sidelines.

(Vaulters: Tori Peña (left), Kylie Hutson)
And sometimes their congratulations are a little more meaningful as well. Here, Seito Yamamoto (left) and Daichi Sawano join hands after Yamamoto eclipsed Sawano's Japanese National Indoor Record, with a 5.77m clearance.

(Vaulters: Seito Yamamoto (left), Daichi Sawano)
At the end of the day, it takes an individual effort to clear the bar. But it feels so much better when you're with family.
The full 2016 National Pole Vault Summit series:

26 May, 2016

Proud (Stories from the 25, part 3)

Around 22:30 Saturday night, Rob Rodriguez climbed into the #10 Catfish Miata (supported by CRE / Jackson Racing / AIM), got settled, and adjusted his mirrors. Then he drove out into the darkness and what would soon become a deluge of rain. I caught up with him 13 hours later, with a scant 30 minutes left on the race clock, and asked about a time in motorsports when he felt proud.

His team had just clinched the second-place position in the open-cockpit ESR class at that point, proving more reliable than cars that were faster by 15 seconds per 2-minute lap. But the story he focused on had happened two months prior.

"My proudest moment in motorsports was when my son beat me in a Spec Miata… We started side-by-side. We had never raced against each other, and I saw him for the first three corners and then he just left me."

"Y'know, there's nothing like father-son out there," Rodriguez reminisced. And I think that sentiment is shared. It reminded me of how many families I see at the races. How many times I see people sharing their love of the sport with people that they care about, regardless of whether those family-members are related or not.
Every year, families and friends congregate to watch (and sometimes help) as the cars lazily form up on grid.
Street photographer Jamel Shabazz pointed out that families often like to be photographed together. That's true here as well.

I've been fortunate to spend hours upon hours with the folks at Edge Motorworks. And even though they've spent months and years in each other's company, they still take photos to capture their times together at the racetrack. There's something about a family in the midst of a unifying pastime that is worth remembering.
And you see it again when suppertime rolls around. You've gotta eat something during a 25-hour race, but seeing people come together at the same table reminds me that these teams are more than just individuals striving for the same goal.
The mid-race reunions remind me that some families are created by choice, and that many race teams are families in disguise. They share food and shelter; they help each other out when they can; and they band together when times are tough.
And the post-race reunions remind me that different kinds of families can overlap. Here, Monica (center) and Ken, wife and husband, safety crewmember and race driver, share a hug during the safety crew's post-race parade laps. There's nothing like family.
The full Stories from the 25 series: