Blog Search

Friday, 18 January 2013

Sometimes, the tough days are the best!

You may not believe it, but I've been crapping myself about today!

Just before Christmas, I was due to sit my Institute of Advanced Motorcyclists Observer (Mentor/Instructor) test and managed to stuff up my back at home 2 days beforehand.  Chief Examiner Philip rang up a few days ago to re-schedule and today was the day!

Having just concentrated on having a good time lazing about (i.e. eating and drinking too much) over Christmas, getting the back fully recovered and avoiding Coromandel Peninsula roads full of stupid visitors with only a few brain cells between them; it wasn't really good preparation for sitting one of the most exacting advanced roadcraft tests anywhere on the planet!  You might think with all the training so far, I'd be quite relaxed about it but the truth of the matter was a bit of confidence had ebbed away with the layoff .  As the appointed day got closer, so anxiety levels increased and sleep was pretty broken for the last 2 nights, waking up thinking about it.

Hopped on the bike early this morning and rode 180 km to Auckland to meet with Philip.  There was sufficient time for a serious think and to get some measure of composure.  An earlier comment by U.S blogger and bike instructor Dan Bateman (Irondad) kept floating through the brain, "Amateurs practice until they get it right; professionals practice until they can't get it wrong".  I'm a long way from being a professional but that comment was sufficient to remind me of all the intensive training that all IAM members go through and to have faith in "the system".  Amazingly, I was relatively relaxed on arrival, albeit a bit apprehensive .

First step was the written exam in 2 parts covering the NZ Road Code (road rules) and Advanced Roadcraft principles.  Yep, all pretty straightforward and passed them!

Next stage was for Philip to take me out for a personal ride evaluation to ensure that standards had been maintained, covering urban, motorway and country road work.  Not too stressful and at the half-way point, Philip was complimentary, with just a couple of refinement comments.  Next, he asked me to give a running commentary about the environment, my situational awareness and actions over the helmet comms.  Having given trainees a running commentary to help them previously, I didn't think it would be too bad but it turned out to be quite difficult giving it to the best of the best.  Philip, sorry to be gabbling like a gibbering idiot but you obviously thought I did ok thanks!  Phew...... another pass.

The final test was to follow a trainee and observe their performance.  Unfortunately, it was in the middle of a working day and unlike me, most trainees were either earning a crust or otherwise occupied, which meant that I had Philip as the trainee, deliberately throwing in subtle faults - oh nooooooo.... not good for stress levels.  When we pulled in at the end of the ride, I honestly didn't know whether I'd picked up enough to merit a pass until Philip shook my hand and said "Congratulations, you are now an Observer, you have a very high standard to uphold".  To be completely candid, I didn't know whether to cry or grin.  The stinging eyes must have been dust kicked up by the wind.

Philip McDaid, Chief Examiner and a very relieved pupil!

Less than 2 hours after getting home, the main feeling is one of profound relief at not having let myself and others down after 20 months of darned hard work.  The other feeling is of pride in achieving something incredibly demanding and worthwhile in an age where striving for excellence seems to be regarded as something slightly distasteful and elitist.

I started the journey after motorcycle author David Hough asked when I was going to get off my butt and do something about "future-proofing" my riding as I aged.  I owe David big-time for kick-starting it all.

To senior IAM members Philip McDaid, Wayne Holden, Simon Pamplin, Morne de Lange and Duncan Seed - put simply guys, you've transformed my riding and your generosity in making yourselves available on a voluntary basis in the cause of raising riding standards is truly humbling.  The only way that time and effort can be repaid is by doing the same for others.  Words aren't sufficient.

To my special mate,fellow blogger and Observer Rogey , we've travelled the same path together, shared doubts, taken the piss out of each other and most importantly, laughed our heads off !  Cheers, buddy!

It doesn't stop here of course, it's really only just starting.  Now we have to pass on what we've learned to others, raising our game every time we do it.  And that's the beauty of an organisation like IAM!





46 comments:

  1. Well done Geoff, you can always do the ROSPA route now!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Nikos! No ROSPA option in NZ. I'll have my work cut out trying to live up to the expectations of IAM trainees, let alone new ventures!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Congratulations! You've been working at it for quite a while but as they say, now the real work begins.

    You could do a summary post of the whole process.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Many thanks Richard.

    Yep, it hasn't been easy but where would have been the value if it was? I did a summary here: http://geoffjames.blogspot.co.nz/2011/11/raising-my-riding-skills-some.html after passing my full membership test. The principles still apply, even moving up to the start of another level.

    ReplyDelete
  5. CONGRATULATIONS!!! This is simply outstanding!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks so much Dar! I know that this is silly for an old, relatively unemotional fella but now it's sunk in, I've just shed a tear *blush*

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Geoff - nothing silly at all, this is a huge accomplishment! You should be proud and thrilled, you worked very hard and it is a very daunting process you went through and not many can do it.

      Delete
    2. Dar,
      Thanks for your concern! You're absolutely right of course. It's just a release of emotions over something which I couldn't dare to dream of when first embarking on the journey.

      Delete
  7. Good stuff Geoff. Now about some lessons...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Andrew. You need to own a Triumph first ;-)

      Delete
  8. Bloody well done mate! All your hard work has paid off. I didn't realise that it has almost been 2 years to complete the course. Thats a massive amount of time and effort put in and now you are reaping the rewards.

    Excellent work mate, have a beer on me!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cheers Steve!

      It comes in stages. To get from Associate to full membership, it can take 8 months to a couple of years as a rough guide and perhaps up to a further year to make it as an Observer, although you can stay as a Member if you prefer. After Observer comes Examiner if you want to keep progressing.

      Thanks pal - I think you guys need the beer more than me with those terrible Sydney temperatures! Guess that riding is a no-no on those days!

      Delete
  9. Hi Geoff

    Awesome stuff. I have been reading up on the IAM myself and hope to follow in your footsteps . I guess you have another chapter of learning now as you pass your knowledge on to others. I sure you will be having a small celebration tonight :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Phil,
      We're conscious of the need to get the Wellington area up and running quickly with more support for Andrew Templeton. It's an incredibly worthwhile path to follow, it feels like you've earned it.

      Delete
  10. Woohoo!!! Congratulations!!! That is a spectacular achievement and we all knew you would do it. I still love Irondad's phrase. It is so true. You will be a great addition to the team, and do a wonderful job helping new participants improve their riding.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much Lori!

      Yep, Irondad is one wise dude eh? Looking forward so much to working closely with Rog (and REALLY looking forward to catching up with him in person in next weekend to hear about his U.S trip gossip)!!!!

      Delete
  11. Bloody marvellous Geoff!

    You started off this post by suggesting we might not believe your state of mind (and body). Yes, we do believe it, because your readers know how much this meant to you.

    Your telling of the day is, as usual, easy reading and it makes it simple for us to picture in our minds what you were going through. But, I personally liked the bit when you talked about dust being blown up by the wind – you big softy!

    However, the bit I enjoyed reading the most is about your obvious and well-earned pride. Striving for excellence still means a great deal to a lot of people and I am chuffed that you worked your way through this. Brilliant job!

    It is a real shame we won’t get to meet when I am in NZ, because it would have been great to shake you by the hand, slap you on the back, and say well done.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Gary,

      Yes, it does mean a lot because membership has done so much for me personally and I can start repaying it. I'm really gutted that we can't meet up this time round but who knows, I wouldn't be surprised that when you travel over those south island passes in the car that you don't come back and do it by bike! In that event, I'll most certainly be riding with you!

      Delete
  12. Congratulations Geoff, rather Mr. IAMes!!! I'm so happy for you, this is fantastic news and such a wonderful accomplishment!

    Good for you, way to go!



    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. MAte, I am going to shout him some Sake.

      Delete
    2. So let's get this right mate - you try and kill Brad by wrecking his liver and now you're going to try and pull the same stunt with me?????

      Thank goodness for the Internet early warning ;-)

      Delete
    3. Thanks Brad - oh ha ha! I'm pretty pleased too, a good endorsement for sheer hard work rather than natural ability.

      Delete
  13. Geoff:

    Congratulations ! You've earned it and I can't imagine you being nervous. What ! no sleep for two days worrying ? Can't believe it.

    Guess we don't have to call you a pupil anymore

    bob
    Riding the Wet Coast

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Bob,

      You'd better believe it! Funny how the mind games start when it's something so important to you. Everyone is always a pupil and besides, there's a long way to go to even get somewhere near to approaching the current skills of the senior IAM guys who invested so much time in Rog and me.

      Delete
  14. Congratulations! The value of this is unbelievable in my opinion. Learning and teaching to ride properly are both skills seldom found and grossly underrated. I had a great teacher when getting my license, but I'm very likely not even close to his standards. Need to improve - day to day to day. It's great that you will pass on your experience!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Guido and thanks! It's impossible to lose with such fantastic training. People like David Hough and Dan Bateman always say that the trainer gets even more out of it than the pupil and I'm just beginning to understand why!

      Delete
  15. What an accomplishment! You can be proud of it and rightly so, as you worked so hard to get that far!

    I bet the ladies will stand in line to get observed by you ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Sonja!

      Oh haha! If that does happen, it will be because they're perfectly safe with an old fart like me!

      Delete
  16. Mate, from the bottom of my heart , well done. Very proud of you. It has been a great journey we have taken together and has proved alot of fun. I have enjoyed the ups and down, the talks, the laughs ...and in my case a few tears!

    What a great adventure is has been. You will be a brilliant Observer, and anybody that is lucky enouh to get you, will benefit from a lot of wisdom and knowledge.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rog me ol'mate!!!!

      Thanks so much for the kind words - it means the world coming from you and yes, it has been a great journey together and will continue to be. Philip said yesterday that he was so pleased that we were going through it together. It was quite a day one way or another and will call and give you all the detail when I've got a few jobs out of the way.

      Had to laugh when I was observing Philip. He didn't get it all his own way. A Falcon pickup reversed straight out of a driveway into his path! He dealt with it just fine of course but when we stopped for the debrief, I couldn't help complimenting him on his evasive action, what with him being a raw trainee an' all!

      Delete
  17. Congratulations.

    {I must remember to bow lower next Sunday...]


    ReplyDelete
  18. A heartfelt congratulations to you Geoff. Such an amazing journey and I knew you would pass it with flying colors. Now it is time to spread that wisdom.

    You should let Roger take you for sushi to celebrate, just make sure Jennie is there to get you home.

    ReplyDelete
  19. That's very kind of you Brandy - thank you! Rog and I had a long chat by phone this afternoon and it seems that both of us had prior doubts about passing but had faith in what we'd been taught to pull us through.

    Do you really mean Jennie being there to take me home, or to take me to the hospital to have my stomach pumped? ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  20. Congratulations Geoff!!
    What a wonderful post, I have to admit I felt the prickle of a tear in my eye at the end :) but I always knew you would do it !

    ReplyDelete
  21. Brenda,
    Thanks for the kind words. I still feel slightly disconnected from the whole event. Relief is the biggest emotion, followed by a bit of quiet pride. Simply can't feel any elation of the air-punching type. I think the nature of IAM training stops that sort of display, knowing that not only do you have to maintain the standard, you have to build on on it as the learning never stops. That's just how it should be!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Geoff, sorry that I'm so late to comment. CONGRATULATIONS!

    It only seems like yesterday that you were proposing commence the IAM training - easy for me to say eh?

    Seeing your reply to Brenda reminded me of an interview I heard recently with an elite athlete who won an Olympic gold medal and when asked "When did it (success) hit you", replied along the lines that it was more like a warm blanket that slowly wrapped around her over time, rather than a bolt from the blue.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Thanks Jules!

    Yeah, it seems the same to me. Guess that the brain tends to forget the long grind and horror of the tough bits eh?

    Interesting comment and thanks for posting that! I guess that when you work at something for so long, it's hard to get feelings of instant gratification. No idea why really!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Replies
    1. Many thanks indeed - now the hard work starts all over again!

      Delete
  25. Fabulous Geoff - even better is that you decided to never stop learning, never stop improving (a trait we could all think of). Congratulations - one is never to old, well done! We are all proud - you have a right to a tear (and a big, fat, freaking smile, so wide it won't ever wipe off your face!)

    ReplyDelete
  26. Karen,
    Thanks so much - it's really appreciated! Last Sunday, I took 2 advanced riding trainees out in my new role and we had an absolute ball. Both David Hough and Dan Bateman have said that the trainer gets even more from it than the trainee and I can now appreciate what they mean! Lots of room to improve on my delivery, which is a good thing, not a bad one. As you say, it never stops.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Geoff, Nice to know one of the old sprinters finally got to learn how to hang on to the dam thing properly out on the road. I have just aquired a '62 Triumph 5TA to enjoy in my recent retirement so I have some learning to do. Guernsey sometimes has two alternatives if you overcook things:- granite rash from all the granite walls or a steep plummet for a swim. Wish I'd been trained by IAM. The first thing I must do is get used to the gear/brake levers being transposed - like on your old short stroke. Quite interesting trying to steer with your crutch decelerated onto the speedo! Sorry to put anonymous when I'm not, can't figure urls - old, you see!

    Well done
    Nick MacPhail
    Nitro@sea.gg

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nick!!!

      Great to hear from you! Hahaha - which is why we took up drag racing in the first place :-). How fantastic that you have a 5TA - I had the 3TA. At least you have just 4 gears to sort out before you plunge over a cliff - I have 6 to fumble about with!

      Don't know whether you have a manual or not but I have a pristine one covering the 3TA and 5TA if you ever want any scanning done.

      It's been a great week for "blasts from the past". My old mate John Hancock, ex-R&D Director of Cosworths got in touch with me yesterday - we'd been out of touch for years. We grew up together and he helped with my drag bike as well as buying my last road bike off me in the UK!

      Take care on those island roads.....

      Delete