It takes a lot of courage to compete in motorcycle racing, and while one may build up the courage to do so, I guarantee you will not come across a more determined, motivated, and intelligent person such as Melissa Paris. Starting at the age of 20, Melissa Paris fell in love with motorcycle racing and hasn’t looked back since. In 2006, Melissa secured her first 125Gp win at Roebling Road and from there, she has continued to compete in all types of races and events. Melissa has big plans for her future, and with her competitive drive— anything is possible for this beautiful, talented racer.
Justin Marroquin: When did you become interested in motorcycle racing?
Melissa Paris: Ever since I was little, I was keen on eyeballing sport bikes. The thing is, no one in my family rode motorcycles at all, though. I grew up playing baseball, and trying to keep up with my older brothers on BMX bikes. When I went away to college though, my first boyfriend rode—he taught me to ride and within a year, I was doing track days. I think from the first time I turned a wheel on a racetrack, I knew that I wanted to race.
Justin Marroquin: Did you have any specific goals in mind that you wanted to accomplish when you first started racing?
Melissa Paris: I think because I got into racing so late in life (most people start when they’re little kids, I didn’t race until I was 21) I really didn’t know what to expect. When I was first starting out, I was a lot different from what I am now; I had big dreams, but I think at that point in my life, I didn’t believe I could reach them. So I sort of approached those first few years with just going crazy trying to do the best I possibly could. It’s really hard to judge your success when you never had a goal to start with, though!
By 2008 though, I think I had picked up some steam and really started settling my eyes on winning a National Championship on my 250, and transitioning into pro racing on a 600. We fell short of the 250 GP National Championship by just a few points after I broke my leg partway through the year, but I think that was when I learned the value of chasing a specific goal. I learned so much and progressed a lot that year trying to win races.
These days, my main goal is just to get faster and move up the finishing order every weekend.
Justin Marroquin: What was your first race experience like?
Melissa Paris: I’ll never forget my first race—I was really freaking out. No one knew it, but we had pretty much forged a race school certificate, because I couldn’t afford the class. I was thinking “what the hell I am I doing?! I don’t belong here!” but then I looked around and realized I knew half the people I was racing against from track days. When I realized it was just other humans on the bikes around me, it kind of made me calm down.
Justin Marroquin: Do you get nervous at all before a race?
Melissa Paris: Oh, God yes—like so nervous, it’s actually comedy.
Justin Marroquin: How do you train mentally and physically for a race?
Melissa Paris: First off, I hate the gym—so I avoid it like the plague. I pedal a lot of miles on a road bike. For road racing, you need to be strong, but not like, crazy strong. It’s important to be as small as possible and have good cardio stamina. Pedaling is good, because the risk of injury is relatively low, and it gives you a lot of time to think about racing. I sometimes joke the cycling doesn’t keep me thin because it burns calories, but because it keeps me away from my refrigerator.
I have also been doing a little bit of Jiu Jitsu too. It really helps on explosive strength, but more importantly on the mental side, with having a plan and being able to execute it. Aside from that, lately I try to ride motor cross as much as I can. It’s super fun and I feel like it actually translates to road racing quite a bit. Plus, it makes you really strong—and also it beats the hell out of going to the gym. Did I mention I hate the gym? I hate the gym.
Justin Marroquin: What kind of setbacks have you gone through, and how did you overcome them?
Melissa Paris: I think just like most athletes, most of my setbacks have been with injuries. I broke my leg in 2009, and it turned into a saga that didn’t really end until the end of 2012. I ended up breaking it a second time, and then actually having it re-broken by my doctor when it still didn’t heal right. It was like constant pain for several years; I don’t think I was really honest with myself on how it was holding me back until it finally got better (big shout out to the Steadman Clinic in Vail, CO for fixing that!).
Justin Marroquin: Do you think it’s crucial to experience failure before you attain success?
Melissa Paris: I think there are a few different answers to that one. I see a lot of kids come up and it seems like things just all click into place for them: win, win, and win. All the right things happening at the right time. But my path hasn’t ever been like that. It seems like I’ve made every mistake possible (but I’m sure I’ll find some more to make). My Dad always taught me that every time someone tells you no, you should be happy because that means you’re one person closer to the one that will say yes. I think failures are like that too. Each time I do it wrong, I eliminate one wrong path, and when you finally do get it right—it’s so much sweeter!
Justin Marroquin: How do you deal with criticism and negativity?
Melissa Paris: A lot better than I used to! Seriously, I used to take it pretty hard when people were sucky to me. I think a big part of that was because I didn’t believe in myself a lot. I think I was always a little worried that one day someone was going to find me out and be like, “Hey! That’s just Melissa, she shouldn’t be out there doing that—she’s not good enough.” but I feel like in the past year or so, I’ve finally realized that there are only a handful of people whose opinions mean anything to me: my husband, my Dad, my Mom, my Step mom, and my brothers. If you’re not on that list and you don’t like me, I’m OK with that. As long as my family has my back, I’m good.
Justin Marroquin: What’s next for you in 2014?
Melissa Paris: Such big things! Big news coming in just a few days!
Justin Marroquin: What is the best advice that you have ever received in your life?
Melissa Paris: “Do whatever it takes to win”-Chris Carr (after he punted me off a mini-TT track riding mini-bikes).
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