Racing Insights- Comfortable being uncomfortable

Recently, I reminded myself of a key experience: ‘The human mind is a strange place. What it’s looking for, isn’t always what it needs.’
******


This weekend, I decided to head out to race with my local autocross club. Since I’ve picked up my Miata, I haven’t autocrossed much as my attention had been sorted with indoor go-karting. Packing up on Sunday, I got into the car and started off on what I thought to just be a relaxing afternoon.

Boy I had no idea how wrong I was.

  1.  I arrived late for morning registration, although I left my home at the same time that I always have.
  2. When it was time for the afternoon group, I found myself a bit short-handed at my workstation, so I was running around.
  3. Then when it was time for my time to drive, all of my runs felt awkward and clumsy. It was so frustrating! The whole day, I couldn’t get myself hooked up.

“Fine, I’ll just go home…”

Slightly angry, I decided to just head home to writing off the day as a loss. However, the adventures weren’t finished yet. During one of my runs, the car spit out its alternator belt.

On the Miata, this causes water pump to stop working, the battery to go flat and killing the engine. This left me stranded on the side on the road with the sun going down.

As I went to call for help, my cell-phone battery died…

“Perfect…”

***

So, the sun was setting behind me. It was getting cold, and I was getting hungry. However through all that, I found myself thinking about how my runs went in the car. I was stuck on the side of the road, and the first thing on my mind was how I had driven, rather than calling AAA. (Well, I couldn’t call them, even if I wanted to.)

Thinking back on my time on course, it was so frustrating! In slow speed corners, the car just felt heavy. In high-speed corners, the car felt uncomfortably twitchy. I felt clumsy on the brakes and on the throttle, and just slow in looking up course. Compared to the people I had race with that day, it was almost fitting that my car was broken on the side on the road.

***

Why was that? Why had that happened? I’ve driven well before. I’ve taught other people how to drive well. I know how to drive.  All of my problems had nothing to do with the event, the people around me, or the location. It was just me! I was just…terrible!

Yet today, I had felt like I had gone back to square one. I was fighting myself all day! I couldn’t do anything right in the car, when it counted. This was more than just an off day. I felt overwhelmed. I couldn’t get comfortable and pull out my driving ability, no matter how much I tried.

I was so frustrated with myself, that I didn’t know what I was going to do.

***

Then it hit me, like a lightbulb. I thought back to races I’ve driven well in, and how I’ve felt when driving hard. The car/kart has NEVER felt comfortable then.

On the limit, the machine is always slightly twitchy on the brakes, or giving a bit of a wiggle on the exit.

In those races, I never fought the nervousness. I embraced it. I let the car do what it was going to do and drove with it, rather than trying to reign it back in. I soaked in the pressure, rather than resisting it. I’d let myself just over-drive and went with it, instead of trying to under-drive just to not lose control. It allowed me to focus. It allowed me to drive fast.

It was fast, but it was never comfortable.

***

As the sun set slowly behind me, I came to a realization. They were things that I always knew, but I guess I had forgotten. In order for me to race well, I had to accept three things.

  1. The surface I was racing on was never going to be perfect, So stop trying to pretend like the grip will always be there.
  2. People were always going to try to put pressure on me to perform better than me.- Otherwise, I would have no one to race against.
  3. The car was never going to feel 100% perfect- At least when I was driving at the limit.

The reason that I got into racing, was that I enjoy the pressure. I enjoy the challenges. I enjoy improving myself, and overcoming what’s in front of me.

In order for me to harness the best of my driving ability, I would have to stop trying so hard to mold reality into something unrealistic and simply be ‘comfortable-being uncomfortable.

****

I had re-discovered a way to improve my driving the next time I was racing.

My frustration subsided. In that moment that realization brought me a sense of calm. My car was still broken. I was still cold. However in the darkness, I knew that everything was going to be alright…

I told you that the mind was a strange place…

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