Showing Up to Win

Hi Pat,

I am winding down before hitting the sack. Tomorrow I’m up early and out to the autocross course. I am so excited!

The topic of my last note has stayed with me. What does it take for me to believe I’m prepared? I confess, in thinking about this, I realize I have not taken the whole endeavor all that seriously. For all my talk, I just…have not. Not like the people who show up to win. Mind you, I’m defining winning in relative terms. If I actually took FTD tomorrow, nobody would be more shocked than I would! But preparing to do my very, very, absolute better-than-ever-before-best, I have not really approached it mindful of that goal. With my increased comfort level with the whole scene, I think I’ve gotten a little complacent.

So preparing like I’m showing up to win looks more like what I did today. I spent a good damned long time devoted exclusively to getting ready. I don’t have a crew or any support people. That’s fine. I just have to plan my time so that I can get it all covered. Easily done, really. So I went out to gas up the car, and got my car’s engine and tires properly warmed up. Teched the car. Checked tire pressures. I had a plan for this, and I got my pressures set. Cleaned all the glass inside and out.

Then I took a couple of hours getting all my schtuff together, paring down to what I really need, and getting all that packed. I went ahead and loaded everything into the car. After a four-hour intermission during which we watched the Alabama Crimson Tide spank Mississippi State, I got my race day clothes together, set my alarm clock, and started the wind-down. No staying up late tonight. Bedtime’s in 15. I have my quick, nutritious breakfast ready to go. I do need to make one stop on the way to get some cash (charity runs after lunch). Then I’m off. And I’m taking the hilly back-road route. I want to get there around seven, so I’ll leave here around 6:30 and take the long way, warm up enough to run through my rev-range and my gears and get them going.

I’m planning to get there just after the gates open. I may help in course set-up, the A-1 best way to get a heads-up on the course layout. Totally legal and ethical! Why not take advantage of that? I’m going to make sure I have time for a minimum of two course walks after that. This is when I will make my final plan for driving the course. Then depending how the schedule is set up, I will be taking my car around the loop road if she has had to sit awhile, and I will make sure she is 100% warmed up, not just the temperature gauge which indicates engine temp at the sensor, but my actual transmission and my tires.

At some point before the first runs, my husband is supposed to show up. He’s never come to an autocross, and I hope he’ll enjoy it. It should be a beautiful day. It’ll be nice to have another pair of hands, and I hope he’ll want to hop a ride with me or somebody else.

Having him there will make me want to be all social and introduce him around. But I’ll have to watch the time. Before I go to the grid, I’m going to run through my plan in my head. I’m going to launch like blazes and remember that the point of this thing is to get from point a to b to c to d to e as damned quickly as possible. This is going to sound like the stupidest thing I have ever said, and I fear what I am revealing about myself by admitting it, but I find that in the moment, on the track, I really do need to keep my mind focused on the “get there as fast as you can” part of this thing. It’s not that I drive like I’m out to look at the leaves or anything. I think I get caught up on the trees and forget the forest. I get caught up in this cone to that cone and whoooooa that was close and you know, there’s no room for that.

I mean, literally, there is no time for that. The whole thing goes by in ONE MINUTE. To do the gajillion complex things that have to be done in that one minute in order to be competitive requires a mastery of the basics so that the mind is free to make the many minute adjustments called for, and to remember the places here and there where adjustments or approaches can be tweaked to shave off a few more hundredths or thousandths of seconds on the next run. That very last part is how winners are made in an autocross competition, I think.

This all seems so boringly elementary. Figures I’d figure this out on the last event of the season, huh? Well that’s OK. Whatever it takes. My novice season ends tomorrow, and next season I’ll be running with the big boys and girls. Speaking of tomorrow, my fifteen minutes is up! Oh one last thing, when I had my car out today, I noticed that it was running better than it has ever ever run. It’s going to be a great day!

Ready to Vroooom!


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