Tanked Up

Hi Pat!

Well first of all, I totally missed your Blackberrying during Le Mans! What the hell kind of sorry-ass fan am I, I ask you?? I even have a nice link to the PCA site where you updated over the weekend. I mean, really. Wow. I’ve caught up now, you’ll be glad to know. Hee!

Not much time to write, but I wanted to check in. Friday, we finally closed on the purchase of our new home. We’ve been living here since last Wednesday, but haven’t really been able to make the place ours. We are up to our ears in boxes, and will be for a while yet, as we have some closet interior and other shelving and storage-type solutions we need to put in place before it makes any sense at all to unpack most of our clothes, books, and the kitchen. Which is in a mountain of boxes in my dining room. The living room is full of unpacked art and other large things. Enough of that – suffice it to say: chaos.

Then this past Monday night, I found myself fending off an intruder. My husband was upstairs asleep, I was moving things into the house from the car, and an unsavory punk from the neighborhood thought he’d help himself into my house, I guess. I was right at the door, pushed him out, threw the lock, woke my husband, called the police. They kind of blew us off. Thought just my cell phone was stolen. We found out the next morning that my car was also taken – the guy had gotten my keys. My Honda, not my 911! (everybody asks me that first thing). He left the car down the street, unharmed, but stole a bunch of crap out of the back that I’d not yet gotten into the house. Except! He didn’t take any of my Porsche spares I was hauling around back there. Nor my Porsche window glass. Thank you, robber! I guess. I had to get my ignition rekeyed, but rekeying the doors is so costly I think I’m going to put in a car alarm instead. For now all the cars are locked in back of the house.

Anyway!

None of that is any fun at all (except the closing on the house part, YAY!). Perhaps against my better judgment, on the first weekend I could really start to get unpacked and moved in, I was up early this morning and off to Barber Motorsports Park for a DE weekend with PCA. I had managed to take a few minutes each day of the past week and watch some track videos, kind of put a little effort into getting my head in a good space, remind myself about where I left off and think about what I want to accomplish this weekend – plus just basic refamiliarization with the turns, flag stations, basics. It was time well-spent.

Today was the most awesome day on the track for me! I am not blaming any of my instructors for any previous lack of progress or real mastery. But I am going to give some serious credit to my instructor today for helping me really make some incredible progress. It helped a lot that the novice run-group is really a novice group. First session was a mother-duck run, 1 mother to 3 ducks. Plus we had our instructors in the car. No helmets required, which was awesome, because my instructor had no chatterbox. Discovery Parts, one of my favorite vendors, was trackside for the weekend, and Ron set me up with charged chatterbox and headsets after that first session. I was ready to go for the rest of the day. The mother-duck deal was a good little confidence builder for me. I liked feeling like I was keeping up. It was a nice way to ease into the day.

I don’t know what to say except this intructor loved my car, took a shine to me, and was just an incredibly positive, encouraging guy. He asked me about my experience so far, and I think I set his expectations pretty low. At the suggestion of my last instructor (the NASA weekend), I told this guy first thing about my spatial processing issues. After the first three turns on the first run, though, he said, “Girl, you know this track.” “I tend to forget parts at times, though, maybe I’ve got it all at the same time, but maybe I will just forget where I am for a second. It’s hard to describe. If it happens, you’ll know.” He said later he was glad I explained this to him, because it happened, and he knew. I confused the second set of kinks for the first and got waaay off my line. All I had to say was, “Oops, wrong kinks!” and he knew what I was talking about.

But most of the time, I really did have the basic line down. He made several big tweaks. His approach to the back turns leading into the front straight was way different from any way I’d done that before. And the line he had me take into the hairpin was downright scary to me. But as I got more and more comfortable, I was able to hold off braking until he wanted me to. The things I have to do to get my car around that thing require some pretty intense input, smooth, but superfirm in my old car, and the end result of doing it “right” per this guy’s line made me feel like I was kind of throwing the car around.

Which is kind of the point! I mean, when I ride with others at speed, that’s what it is. It’s very intense, physically. It’s not a ride in the park. It’s some intense work. Maybe it will all feel like a walk in the park someday, but as I learn it and get used to the sensations of it all at greater speeds, it really challenges me on every level.

AND I LOVE IT SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO MUCH! I have never had so much fun in my life as I had today, really getting to the point that I could work on some isolated elements and get them spot-on by day’s end. And amazingly, the section that troubled me so much back in March, the two sets of kinks in the back? That one brain-fart aside, I really had all of that down. Staying in the throttle, even! The more comfortable I got with increased speed, the more fun I had zipping through there. I think I may like it so well now because it’s hard-won, and because the inputs required are extreeeemely subtle – very close margin through there, especially with speed. It’s not particularly dangerous, not much to run into most of the time, but the right line through there feels great, and the wrong line through there is treacherous. I love getting it right.

The best part of today was that I was able to find a car that was close to my speed, and stick with it for all of my last session. I didn’t pass anybody, but by the end of the day, my instructor was all, “floor it! if you get up on him coming out of here and put on some speed out of that turn, you’ll get around him!” It never happened – I was overpowered in the straights. But for the first time, today I found myself having to really slow up for other cars in the turns. If we were competing, this is where my light, tight little rear-engined flat-six would catch them, sneaking around them in the turns. But we were not competing, and no passing was allowed in the turns, so pretty often today, I had to slow up behind other cars whom I was actually faster than in the turns. And because I really wanted to work on my game in those turns, with my instructor’s OK, I laid back and let us get some track between us so I could work on my later braking and later apexing without running up on my classmates.

I only had three sessions total today, one early morning, one late morning, one mid-afternoon. I spent every off-track minute focusing on keeping my physical self well taken care-of. It was a damned brutal scorcher of a day and my gastric bypass surgery has left me struggling to stay well-hydrated on a good day. Extreme heat is a major challenge for me. I have to be so, so careful on a day like today in such extreme conditions. Actually, the title of this entry describes what I spent the entire previous week doing – staying tanked up on fluids. I think I doubled my fluid intake overall in the three days prior to the weekend. And today, I did OK, but I was pretty wrecked by the end of my last session. I had been in the AC from 11:30 until 2:30, and was out on the track 2:40 to 3:00, and that twenty minutes erased every bit of recovery I thought I had made in the cool. I had to go back and cool down another entire hour before I felt solid enough to drive myself home. So I have already made the decision that I will only drive the two morning sessions tomorrow, bagging the afternoon. I learned today that it just takes way too much out of me. I will be doing well to recover enough from today to be in good shape for the morning.

Speaking of which, I better get going!

Oops OK one more thing. No 2 things. First, I was by myself, and couldn’t find anybody I knew when I got there this morning. I hate it when that happens. I set up on one place, and then I had to move and by that time, I did see a familiar face, and it was one of the guys from the “secret team” I was inducted into at the last PCA DE. He and his buddies had three big tents, a generator, and a huge fan. Somebody had a gasoline-powered blender they kept full of virgin frozen margarita mix all day. This rag-tag bunch actually included my instructor from my last PCA DE, and I enjoyed getting to visit socially with him and his girlfriend. Being part of a bigger group really helped me take care of myself and to feel taken care of and looked after. Driving really is a team sport. Or at least, I prefer the team approach.

The other thing – just as I was getting set up with my buddies, a truck pulled up and out hopped My Real Driving Coach, JB! I had not talked to him in over a month. And not for lack of my trying to be in touch with him, I will add! But I did get busy the last two weeks and I hadn’t called or emailed him at all. And there he was! He was in a great place and told me briefly what he’s been up to at work. You actually know this guy from PSDS. I had joked with him that I was going to drop his name at the gate and crash the June Legends class – but as we know, that has been moved to October. He’s got a book by Vic Elford that I found online that he’s going to have autographed for me. And I haven’t seen the roster, but I have a feeling you’ll be among the Legends in October, right?

OK. Must go. Bedtime, then I want to be on and ready for the morning. I can’t wait to get back out!

Working at living up to my nickname,
VroomGrrl

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