Go slow to go fast
Way back when Kurt and I were newly-hooked Porsche people, we tried every competitive event that the Porsche Club offered — gimmick rallies, time/speed/distance rallies, quiz tours, gymkhanas, autocrosses, time trials, concours, and technical quizzes. Tonight I want to talk about the qualifying period that you have to go through before you’re allowed to go out solo on a high-speed road course and do an actual time trial. This period is called “driver training,” and it’s a humbling experience, especially for the guys who’ve been driving fast ever since they got their license and think they know all about cars. But I found it educational as well.
First, I never dreamed that a car could start or stop so fast when you really stomp on the appropriate pedal. I’d simply never driven that way before, and I found the full start-stop action of a Porsche exhilarating but a bit scary. Second, I had no idea that the cars could go through corners so fast, seemingly defying all the laws of physics and making terrible tire-squealing sounds while doing so. I’d been taught that cars weren’t supposed to make sounds like that.
But all of those things were about learning how to go fast, something I’d never tried to do before. I had to learn those things just to catch up with what the guys already knew. The real learning, for me as well as Kurt, was that actually going “fast” isn’t the fastest way around a road course. We learned to “go slow to go fast.”
If you’re always going hard on the accelerator, then you have to go hard on the brakes to get through those corners. Going hard on the brakes means that it takes a little longer for the car to settle down and go smoothly through the turn. Going too fast means the driver is less likely to stay on the “line,” the imaginary series of as-straight-as-possible lines that are actually the shortest way around a winding road course. So you have to learn to slow down just a bit and focus on being smooth, precise, and consistent. That’s how you get faster — by practicing going slow, steady, and smooth. In fact the tortoise did know something that the hare didn’t.
I never got to be very good at time trialing, as I never really stopped seeing imminent death at every corner — I never learned to stop thinking and just let the car do what it was capable of doing so very well. But I did remember the lesson of “go slow to go fast.”
When I started running I had no illusions that I’d ever be fast. I had weird feet, a few too many pounds, and I hadn’t done any exercise except yoga (the ultimate “go slow” exercise) in way too many years. But it did feel great to go out there, and just be slow and enjoy the trees, water, sky, and wildlife along the trail.
Being the highly rational and learningful person that I am, I soon discovered there is a lot of science and philosophy around this whole running thing. I’ve learned about Yasso 800s and fartleks (don’t ask), both of which involve going fast for short periods. I don’t really enjoy those things. A single 10-minute mile is still a dream for me. I might be able to do one but then I’d be done for the day. I’m simply not built to go fast. But after long, slow, steady practice I can now run 4+ miles before my first walk break. I can run 5 miles in less than an hour, I can run each of those 5 miles at a fairly steady pace, and I usually finish feeling like I could do more. That’s slow happy running, and it’s steady progress.
It also leaves me time to enjoy the wildlife. Today I saw a female red-breasted merganser in the water just offshore, keeping a close eye on four very cute half-grown baby mergansers that were huddled on a rock just above the high tide level. I stopped to try to take their photo so I could show you how cute they were, but all four dived simultanously off the rock and skedaddled to mom’s side. I guess I didn’t approach them slowly enough…