Archive for the Me Category

After the Crash

Posted in Autocross, Lessons, Me, Track Days on December 4, 2011 by vroomgrrl

The following was originally written on December 4, 2011, but not posted until today, August 11, 2012.

Dear Pat,

Once again I’m apologizing for taking so long to post you a note! You’ll understand, I’m sure. My last note was written on the eve of Petit le Mans, which I had to miss for the first time EVER this year. I did keep up by whatever coverage I could attain (TV, ESPN3) and wow, once again you guys drove like demons possessed to your 2nd place finish.

In the bigger picture, that was one of your team’s three podiums for the year, if memory serves. Fourth in points for the championship. I followed your various updates over the season, and while it was rough for everybody’s exemplary efforts not to be rewarded with more podium finishes and points standings, your resilience was inspiring. Because while your ALMS season was rough, you were doing so many other things. In many cases, your exemplary efforts yielded the pinnacle of results, such as your World Challenge Championship. This is what I was thinking about in my last post, “How You Look at It.”

My driving year was very up and down as well. My one accomplishment, and for me, it’s huge, was to be signed off to drive solo at Barber. Due to various intervening factors, like car problems, and health issues, my novice season stretched from late 2008 until Spring 2011! To be quite honest, taking up competitive driving for the first time at the age of 50, I really needed all of that novice time to get good habits truly engrained. I didn’t grow up throwing karts around, or piloting a scooter. Yeah, I had a bike, and a car when I was 16, but soccer and swimming were my sports. I followed motorsports from early on with my dad, and loved attending races. But it wasn’t until my 30s that I started to get the bug to take up driving as sport.

So I’ve really relished this extended novice period. As I’ve been able, I’ve focused on getting as much seat time as possible, both driving, and riding shotgun with some fantastic drivers (something I would love to do with you…my car and yours!). The competitive driving principles my dad taught me as I sat in his lap behind the wheel starting around age 5 (“The car will go where your eyes go…the way to drive curves is to straighten them out…”) came in handy. Many brave, patient souls rode shotgun with me as I got my head around the whole thing. At the end of my three-year novice season, I may not be fast, but I am smooth. Smooth hands, smooth feet, smooth moves. Heh! I have much yet to learn, and I am looking forward to what’s to come.

Autocross is something I really enjoy, but the year was fraught with conflicts, and I made it out for ONE event all season long. Several Porsche Club folks ganged up and went to the October SCCA Solo event together and we ran in a club class. That was a huge bag of fun! I wasn’t very competitive. I was so happy to be out with my buddies, and hanging with the cars and the noise and the vroom and the squeal and the whoooooa-slides…but I had a hard time getting my head in it. In fact, my being there that day turned into an unintentional middle finger at the gods of fate.

The day before, I had found out that I had colon cancer, and the autocross event I was so looking forward to was on the Sunday before my hastily scheduled Tuesday surgery. There was no reason not to go. My cancer was discovered via routine colonoscopy – I never had any symptoms and was not “sick” or anything. But once you find out you have cancer, there is this time of abject terror and fear between the initial diagnosis, and the point at which they have enough info (from surgery, radiology, pathology, etc.) to say how advanced it is, and what your survival odds are. And whether you will need chemo and/or radiation that can make you wish you were dead.

Anyway, all of a sudden, in my mind, this one little autocross event took on HUGE proportions, and it became massively important to me to just be there, JUST DO IT. The fear and terror lurking with my cancer diagnosis kept trying to remind me that this might be my last. Autocross. Ever. So I went, and it was a cool, beautiful Fall day, and my friends were there, and I told a few of them, and got my introduction to The Cancer Eyes. The Cancer Eyes are the eyes that look back at you from a person who’s just gotten tragic news that their dear friend has cancer.

To me, the hardest thing about having cancer is having to tell your loved ones that you have cancer.

So the fact that I’m writing this is all you need to know about how I’ve survived so far. And I’m lucky in that they caught mine pretty early, and I have pretty good survival odds: 88% chance of living five years, 84% I’ll make it ten years. The jury is still out on whether chemo would help or hurt me; I’ll know in another week or so. But even if I need chemo, the kind they use for my cancer is not known for awful side effects, other than “thinning” hair.

I went to my first post-surgery social event on Friday, the Porsche Club holiday party. I finally figured out how to describe my experience. Other than a few rough days recovering from the abdominal surgery, I have not been “sick” at all. My insides have been seriously re-plumbed, and there are challenges related to that. But I snapped back from surgery like a rubber band, was released with no restrictions on activity at three weeks, and other than getting a little lazy from lying around in my fuzzy slippers and robe, I’m good!

So when talking to people at this party, they would grasp my arm and give me The Cancer Eyes, and I’d say, “Really, I’m good now! Other than having a lump of cancer cut out of me, I have not been sick a day.” Then they’d give me the You Are Joking Eyes, and I’d have to reassure them, “Seriously, I know cancer has the potential to really wreck a person, but they got mine early, and other than recovering from surgery, I have not had any symptoms or illness or anything.”

That really is the truth. I’ve got cancer, but I haven’t been sick. So, what a year, huh? This wasn’t the end I expected to my year, I’ll tell you that much. Travel is tough, being in the car any length of time, certain things about how I go about the day have changed, probably permanently, but I can live with the changes.

Crazy damn year. Catch you on the flip side!



The Year of Me

Posted in Me on April 4, 2011 by vroomgrrl

Hi Pat,

It’s crazy time around here! I don’t even have time to be writing this note. We are going on a big adventure, my husband and I, to celebrate my upcoming 50th birthday. Fifty freakin years. And Pat, I don’t feel a day older than you look! Hahah! But really, I don’t. When you are 50, you will know exactly what I mean. Strange, that.

Anyway. so I dubbed this, milemarker 50th birthday year, as The Year of Me, and I’ve been doing all sorts of stuff I want to do. Starting The Year of Me off with a trip to Daytona – and getting my hair done the day before I left. JUST BECAUSE. Following through with getting my 911 ready for the track. Getting signed off to drive solo at Barber! And all along, the feature event began to take shape. A great big trip to an exciting, very very far away place. The original plan began as a trip to experience a big week or so of Le Mans love this summer. I have relatives all over the world, and was sketching out this awesome itinerary all around Le Mans, with stops to see family along the way. I could rent a Porsche….

But then! Then an opportunity to do something even special-er came along. And you know if it beat out going to Le Mans for the first time, and taking a great trip around Europe visiting familly, it had to be really special. I’ll tell you all about it when we get back! In the meantime, I have a list about ten miles long of things that I have to get done in about a quarter-mile’s worth of time! So off I go. Wish us luck.

And drive real purty while we’re gone!

Photographic Evidence

Posted in Me, Track Days on March 14, 2011 by vroomgrrl

Hi Pat,

I still don’t have the CD of photos from last weekend, but I have a couple of shots to share. Nothing flashy, just me and my little 911 at Barber.

Here we are braving the rain down the front straight:

And here, coming over the tunnel turn on my first solo run:

It’s a big day here in Birmingham. Indy cars have been arriving all weekend for today’s testing at Barber, and I just got a Tweet about one of the cars having just arrived at the airport, waiting for a lift to the track. It’s threatening to rain but so far it’s holding off.

You have either been at Sebring testing in Florida, or at Le Mans testing in France. Bad, bad fan, I’m not sure where you are! I’m really curious to see what kind of NASCAR fun you may be having this year after your brilliant showing at Miller in the Camping World series last year. What DO you have in store for us??

Back to the grindstone…

And the Angels Sang!

Posted in Me, Track Days on March 7, 2011 by vroomgrrl

Hi Pat,

For such a big event in my motorsports endeavors, the moment passed without much fanfare – no flashbulbs, no video – just me, my 911, and Barber Motorsports Park. Well, and about 20 other cars! But that just made it more fun! I guess I really have come along. I used to say that I loved driving on the track…except for all the other cars! My head is now in a totally different place about that, to say the least. So finally it’s behind me, my first solo outing at Barber.

I was super extremely nervous sitting in grid. I thought about how relaxed I was about all the things that used to practically keep me up the night before a driver’s ed weekend – everything from what shoes to wear, to how the seatbelt fit over my boobs. You would not believe how much I worried about the damned seat belt and my boobs. As I yanked the thing into place today, I had to smile. Over the 3 years I’ve been doing this stuff, all the goofy crap has fallen away, and my focus was on the driving.

The funny thing is, leading up to this event, I joked with my club guys about who would be my instructor. I think more than anything, they were just flat tired of pairing me up after three years! I think I did my first DE back in 2008 just after I first got my car. 2009 was a busy year, but as you know if you’ve followed my notes here, I was sidelined for most of 2010. So this weekend, they were all, “What? You don’t need an instructor!” and I was all, “OK then, hook me up for a check ride, please!”

In the end, I sort of rounded up my own instructor, an awesome friend I know from NASA-SE, who is now starting up the new NASA-Midsouth. Matt bravely rode with me in the rain yesterday (and may I just add again here…OH. MY. GAWD. THE RAIN!). And this morning, my first session was my check ride, and I was pushed out of the nest!

vroomgrrlblueballsOf course, me being me, it couldn’t just be a normal thing. Normally one would be “checked out” of the novice group, and advance to the next group. But today, the next group was sooooo full, and I was still the slowest thing in my own group, still. So I ended up in my own little category, a group 1.5 or 1.75, Solo Novice? They just called the grid and told them I was going out alone. And then some of the guys put this on my glass to mark the occasion. Yes, that’s right, a pair of blue balls. Gotta love it!

So..all this yackity yack and nothing about the driving. Well it’s hard to know where to even start! My weakest point right now is still braking. Street braking and track braking are so totally opposite, and I really had to get a feel for that again on the racetrack. And I don’t think I really got where I want to be either, not consistently. Yet. I did improve, and got much MORE consistent, but I have a ways to go. I did not lift in the Esses/Kinks, and I did not brake around the back of the track AT ALL until I got to the turn-in at the last turn that leads onto the front straight. Someday when I am going faster I will need some brakes around those turns, but at my speed, I just did not. And NOT braking where I was so accustomed to at least a tap? Woo I earned those balls!

But then once I got used to it, it was awesome! I really got into feeling the momentum of my car, the weight transfers, the changing sensations from different levels of tire adhesion. So much to think about. Traffic management was not nearly as distracting to me today as it had been in the past. One time, I found myself following a car that had passed me – bad idea! There are some people driving some strange lines out there. MY line is where I need to be. I can change it any time I want or need to, but where I am on the track has to be by MY intention, not the result of mindless following.

I only nailed the hairpin maybe twice the way I really wanted to. Early with the braking. I just have such a hard time staying in the gas going down that little hill into the bowl! I worked so hard on this on a previous weekend, and I reaped the benefits of late brakes and late turn-in there, just never quite got back into that groove completely. Where I did feel much better was the Museum turn. Wow that thing is fun! Hard brakes, then hard turn-in, then back on the gas down the blind hill, then a quick hard jab, hard turn and when done right, you basically get kind of flung out of that thing by momentum. LOVE!

Ok well once again it is late, and I am tired. Back to the grindstone tomorrow, must grab a few winks. I’ll be back with some photos soon.

And I am going to go look at your schedule right now and see what you are up to!

Be well, drive purrrrrty!

A River Runs Through It

Posted in Me, Track Days on March 5, 2011 by vroomgrrl

Dear Pat,

Fw: pca march 2011 deLife has been happening so fast since I came back from the 24 Hours at Daytona! But at long last, today I got my 911 out on the track. PCA Driver’s Ed weekend at Barber Motorsports Park. A stuck passenger side window sidelined me for my first run session, but I was ready for the 2nd, and oh my heavens, THE RAIN. It got heavy as session 2 ended. By my 3rd session, there was standing water everywhere, and it just kept coming. I have done driver’s ed in my 911 in the rain before, but not at a track like Barber. WOW! WOWOWOWOWOW! Simultaneously the scariest and most rewarding thing I think I have ever done.

Fw: pca march 2011 deAnd speaking of happening fast, you know what? I am too damned tired to finish this note I’ve started. I may come back later with some photos. We are hoping for better weather tomorrow, and my instructor from today says I am going solo for the first time tomorrow. I’m soooo…so…so…WOOOOO! Haha! Must hydrate, get a good meal, and then to bed.

More later. Promise!

Can’t Always Get What You Want

Posted in Me, Pat's Races on January 30, 2011 by vroomgrrl

Hi Pat,

vroomgrrl and FLM45 DP car 2011 daytona garageWell I know this weekend had its ups and downs! From Joerg putting the car in pole position in qualifying to Seth’s rotten luck on his first stint Saturday. The team got the car back on track, and you all did an admirable job climbing back through the pack, but it just wasn’t to be this time. Just goes to show – you can have every statistical advantage going in, but it’s a 24 hour race. The good news is – anything can happen. The bad news is: ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN. I was so sad to see the car retired in the 23rd hour! All your fans were. And I’m sure nobody was more disappointed than you drivers & the team. I sincerely hope that Flying Lizard campaigns the DP car as many Daytona 24s as it takes to win one. Next year!

All that said, it was a spectacular weekend of racing! The days were bright and clear, just warm enough, with a light breeze. Last night was mostly clear and cool, and the early morning brought a shroud of fog so thick the caution lasted over two hours. The finish was pretty amazing, too! A real dogfight for 2nd place.

skeenMy friend Mike Skeen had his disappointments this weekend as well. The #56 Bennett Racing Ferrari F430 Challenge car was out when I checked around 3am. It had been in and out of the pits for several hours, and at some point it retired. I’ll have to go dig around for the details. Anyway, it was so fantastic to see Mike and his band of buddies who put this effort together. Just taking that driver introduction walk at the beginning and getting to drive a few stints – I know for sure he is a very, very happy man.

So next year is the 50th birthday of the 24 Hours of Daytona! That’ll be a perfect endcap on what I have decided is THE YEAR OF ME, my own 50th year. I’m “jus doing it” all year long, and this weekend was my first step in that direction. It would have been great to have had my husband along with me. But racing is not his thing, and the weekend is the busiest time for his job (taxi driver) so he took a pass on this one. He and I will have to head to the beach together soon.

IMAG0160In the end, I decided to keep my hotel room for the night. I didn’ get much sleep last night. In fact, my worker friend picked me up in the van and took me to the coolest spots behind the scenes on the track, just like last year. The inside of the bus stop! It was so cool with the cars flying by so close. Once all that fun was done, I moved my car over to the nearly deserted Porsche corral and parked. I fired up my computer for a little while to see Liz Moses doing her live trackside 24 hour marathon coverage, which was a scream. She is awesome. During that two-hour caution for fog, I wrapped up in a jacket & blanket, grabbed my pillow, and went to sleep for a bit.

And woke up a 10:00 surrounded by hundreds of cars, with people milling all around me. Ha! Nice 4-hour nap! I quickly got my shit together, went to the restroom, got some breakfast, and enjoyed the rest of the race. Bittersweet in a way, but I have good friends involved with TRG, so it was great to see them get on the podium. IMAG0170

I took my time getting back here, and actually moved to a much nicer room where I should be able to get some sleep tonight. Then I made use of the last of the beatiful daylight to get my car ready for the long trek home. I took her out and ran a few errands to get her up to temp and checked the oil. Perfect. Tire pressures are all good. I torqued my lug nuts, gave the glass and mirrors a real good clean-up, got the trash out, and got everything sorted to leave by five in the morning. Now a bite of something for dinner, then early to bed. I’m whooped!

me and my 1988 Porsche 911So I’ll have to start digging around the web to see what my favorite driver is up to. I know you’ll be doing the full ALMS season with FLM but you are into so many other things, and you don’t exacty publish your full schedule on your website! (not saying you should either). I’m sure you’ll be going in a thousand directions and I look forward to following you for what promises to be another incredible year.

Wishing you safe travels home,

Twice Around

Posted in Me, Pat's Races on January 17, 2011 by vroomgrrl

Hi Pat,

winterfahrtWell things are picking up here in VroomGrrl land! I had a great 911-centric weekend! Saturday was our annual multi-car-club winter drive. As usual, there was snow and ice the week before the drive. In front of the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, we assembled a great collection of about 40 cars from the British, Mercedes and Porsche clubs. While we had a Plan B, we took off on the planned route to the summit of Alabama’s highest peak, Mt. Cheaha, assured the roads were clear.

Of course, we found out soon enough that there was some treacherous ice to be navigated. We had about 40 cars and miraculously, we all managed to stay together until about a mile short of the mountain summit, where a good bunch of us bailed out in the face of a passage that looked like an uphill glacier, and we headed down the “clear” way. It turned out to be not so clear when we set out, but once we got off the mountain, the roads were fine.

Whew! We were ravenous at lunch, and passed the time waiting for our meals by reliving our most grueling “pucker moments” from the drive. Everybody made it to the designated lunch spot except the Brits, all of whom tried to make it to the summit, but had to be pulled out by the rangers (four of them, I believe). No cars or people were injured, and everybody who participated had a good time. The organizer had some stickers made up, and as we picked them up, we joked about how we’d just earned our merit badge in ice driving. Another great Winter Fahrt is in the books!

On the way home, I stopped by Barber to see my buddy at Porsche Sport Driving School. I’d given him my copy of Vic Elford’s 911 High Performance Driving Handbook which he thought he might be able to get autographed by the author for me. It’s been about a year, and I have seen Vic Elford twice since I left the book with my friend! I thought the upcoming Daytona might present another chance so I stopped by to get the book back. He was there on Saturday because PSDS was having a weekend school session.

IMAG0022I had never seen the 2011 Porsche 911 GT2RS in person, and really enjoyed ogling this one, along with all the other awesome cars out there. After the day’s driving, I was exhausted, and headed back home after a quick visit. Sunday I got a call from my friend – when I picked up the book, I dropped my gloves! Dammit. Did I want to come pick them up? I was still in my pajamas and since I had to be back out there next weekend anyway, I said I’d just come get them next weekend. Did I want to come pick them up at 3:40 and take a hot lap ride? Oh hell yeah!


Sometimes I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. I quickly got my shit together, hopped into my 1988 911, and zipped over to Barber. My buddy lined me up for a 911 Turbo ride with John Lewis at the wheel. As I got into the car, my friend said to John, “OK, she’s done this before, she’s ready for the advanced ride if you know what I mean!” and they both laughed. I was in for a good one! And a good one it was! It took me a minute to get comfortable, but holy hell the launch on that car just about peeled my face off! It was awesome!!

John said he’d been dying to cut loose and I was his last ride of the day. We were going twice around, and I was sooo tickled about that because it meant that I got to experience how he’d tackle Turn 15 into the front straight. This is a famous spot for folks to do a little hot-dogging, aka drifting, if they are of a mind to do a thing like that. John did not disappoint! Then he took a rather…playful line down the front straight to amuse the guys standing at the track wall, and ended up on a rather…interesting approach to turn 1! WHEW!!

This was a great reminder for me as the year begins. Once again, I am reminded of what the world is like at speed. What Barber is like at speed. Man, that is a fun little track. My favorite turn is the corkscrew, the roller coaster, Turn 8, the “Museum” turn. LOVE that thing! Obviously, it’s very different from my 1988 911 to the 2011 911 Turbo. Man the speed we carried into that thing, the drama of the weight transfer with some rotation at the bottom, the thrill of shooting out of there…fun, fun, and fun! More fun to drive, of course, but I absolutely enjoyed it as a passenger with John. I would never see it quite like that in my car!

Things are getting very busy with my local PCA, and as the Secretary this year, I have some work cut out for me. These guys are fantastic, and there is some great energy to try new things. The leadership that’s transitioning out are all racers, and they were not much on recordkeeping. It’s a nasty job, but somebody’s gotta do it! I hope to institute some document retention policies and put some simple systems and templates in place to cover our recordkeeping bases. Having more and more people coming out to new events is, hokey as this will sound, all the reward I could want for the time spent on the back-stage paper-shuffling that comes with a big national organization. It’s not just the cars, it’s the people!

Wow that was boring. Moving right along, things are falling into place for Daytona. I’m bringing my SCCA-worker whites and buddying up with the same friend I did last year to sign up in with SCCA as Worker Support Workers. Last year, the work was about the most fun I have ever had, riding around on a golf cart from midnight to 7am delivering water and hot coffee to corner workers, and ferrying corner workers to and from their corners, while the race was ongoing. I loved it, and hope to do that again. Finances are not as tight as last year, and while I have not plans to spend a wad of money, it’s just going to be nice to take this trip without the stress of pinching pennies like I had to in order to make the trip last year. More boring! The best part is I’m driving the 911. I got fresh wiper blades today, and everything else is good to go.

The really really best part is the 24 Hour Race, of course, twice around the clock! And your team in a DP car flying the #45 Flying Lizard colors! I wasn’t sure if and how involved Thomas Blam would be, but I shot him an email after Roar and sure enough, he’s all up in the middle of the Daytona effort. I’ll definitely take him up on his invite to come by and say hello in the pit!

And to add to the excitement, a friend I’ve talked about here, my buddy Mike Skeen, will be in the GT class in the #56 Bennett Racing Ferrari F430 Challenge along with Jonathan Allen, Michael Davidson, Jean-Francois Dumoulin, and Glynn Geddie. When I ran across him in the GRM corral last year, he was so excited about a plan he was hatching with his buddies to do this race. The guys who ended up on the team are not the guys he started the plan with, and I will have to ask him what happened to the Grassroots Motorsports Magazine plan to document their truly grassroots effort. But by God, he’s going to be out there racing in the 24 Hours of Daytona! I’m over-the-moon thrilled for him, and so excited I’ll be there to see him race and cheer him on. Oh my and let’s not forget my buddy Spencer Pumpelly in the #67 TRG Porsche! I believe they posted fastest time in GT for the night practice.

And last but not least, Hurley is back! And a PCA-bred racer and local hero by the name of Leh Keen will be teamed up with him in the #59 Brumos Porsche GT3 along with Marc Lieb. They looked great in testing, posting the fastest time in GT in the 3rd session on Saturday.

Heaven only knows what you are up to between now and the race. I should be scouring the NASCAR schedules, shouldn’t I? Ha!

OK well that is quite enough for now, don’t you think???

Be well, drive purty!