Goals and Plans

Hi Pat,

First, I want to tell you how much I enjoyed your most recent column for Panorama (link to Pat’s Panorama Raceblog on the right). As I figured you would, you stayed out of the fray on the Joerg vs. Jan business, but still managed to express some of your thoughts about it, which I really enjoyed reading. I always wonder what must be going through your minds as these things are happening. It’s neat to find out after the fact. Kudos on a really great and well-written column, and again, on a great year in the car!

I guess I could have asked in my last post if you ever named your cars. I was never much into naming them, but at some point, I selected the name Cruella for my “race” car. That’s Cruella de Porsche to you! Ha! So it’s late Saturday night, and I’ve just come in from packing up the car for autocross tomorrow. It’s a big day for the club, the annual North vs. South battle, where our folks go to their club for an event Saturday, and they come to ours on Sunday. I had to forego the Saturday, just couldn’t spend my whole weekend in the car.

Instead, today I spent some time checking the car over, warming it up well to check oil and tire pressure, and all that fun. Then I took a break to go with my husband to a sports bar to watch the Alabama Crimson Tide game. It was pretty boring until literally the last minute when Tennessee scored a touchdown bringing them within two points of the Tide, then regained possession on the next play when Alabama fumbled, and worked their way downfield to within field goal range. Fourth down, four (FOUR) seconds to go, and it came down to this field goal. If they get it, they win. If they miss, Alabama wins. Amazingly, Alabama blocked the kick and won the game. By the skin of their teeth! Other than that, it was actually painfully slow.

Then it was back home to do chores, get my duds ready for tomorrow, and get the car packed back up track-style. I actually did it kind of backward, but for a reason. I got the car stuff done during the last of daylight, got my snacks and clothes and other things ready to go and packed into the car just at dark, then finished the night with some exciting bathroom scrubbing. Hey, it had to be done, and I’d rather be up late tonight doing it than having it still ahead of me when I get home from the track tomorrow.

ANYWAY. Good lord. So tomorrow. I hope to show some improvement. Drive like I’ve found some cojones. It’s weird, I have definitely improved generally over the year, but I feel constantly like I should be doing better. I realize part of this is the expectations of those around me. People are not shy about sharing them with me, all “OK well what’s the problem? JUST DRIVE FASTER!” I will be at the starting line, and the starter will come over and say, “OK now get it! GRRRRR!” trying to pump me up. I have been hearing this stuff all year long. And before everything I do, I find myself thinking, “OK, maybe THIS will be the day….” and I don’t know how I feel about that. Maybe it will be the day what, that I drive faster than lots of other people? That I surprise everybody by all of a sudden driving like a rock star? That’s a bit much on the expectations!

What am I not doing that I should be doing? What is the big secret? What is the big trick I’m missing?

Well there you go then. I’m glad I wrote about this because…there is no secret, no big trick. I really think it’s a matter of seat time and comfort level with pushing limits. Logic and reason (and several people who ought to know) tell me that when I am ready, it’ll come. I have had people in the car with me, the best help I could hope to have at autocross, and I love getting real-time tips and realizing immediate benefit in seconds shaved off my times with each tweak. And their feedback is always the same, and it’s the same at the tracks, too: just keep at it – seat time, seat time, seat time.

That said, it would be so awesome to kick a little ass and take a few names!

But I’m not going to focus on that. I’ve already got my focus honed on a goal, and I have my morning planned out. I am going to approach the course walk with much closer attention, and I am going to work on that part of this whole thing which challenges me most: the part where you get your head around the track and you make your plan and you execute it. THAT right there is something I could do that would definitely improve my times. And it’s not that I haven’t been doing it, but I haven’t been as intense about it as I know I could be in terms of making a plan and holding it in my head. I have said before that I have some cognitive issues with space and my place in space and directions and all that – and boy howdy does high performance require good spatial thinking!

So, I am going to use some aides. I am going to take notes. I am going to draw the course down on a note pad, and I am going to PLAN my attack. Again, this is nothing new. I have done several course walks at each event, and stopped along the way to plan approaches, braking points, directions on options and things like that. But I have never really committed to a plan for the whole. This time I want to see if I can get a plan for the whole course and hold it in my head and execute it. Making the decisions ahead of time and simply executing them should theoretically be much faster than making these decisions on the fly. Seconds, tenths, hundredths of seconds count here. Having decisions made ahead of time will also allow me to make thoughtful tweaks to things instead of feeling like I am going by the seat of my pants. I will have a plan, and I can adjust it if I want or need to. But at least I will have a plan!

No matter what anybody else does, or where I end up in the results, if I manage to get my head around the track as I know I need to, as I know the best drivers do, if I get a plan in place and execute it, then I will have met my goal and I will be a happy girl.

On that note, I bid you good evening. I’ll be back tomorrow night to report on the day!

Ready to Vroooom!


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