Racing Therapy Sessions – Just taking the time off

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Well, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything really. It’s been a while since I’ve written anything for the blog. Honestly, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything really. It’s because I haven’t wanted to, but I have a good reason.

Almost two months ago, my grandmother passed away. She was one of the closest family members that I have. I still don’t have words for what her loss means to me.  Coping with the lack of person that’s always been around creates some strong personal changes inside of you. You really can’t anticipate or plan for what they are. You just have to manage them as they come. So for a little while, I needed to take a break from |StartingGrid|.

So after a few weeks of personal time, I decided it was time to get back on the horse and go racing again. I chose take on a new racing project by switching karting classes from a four-stroke World Formula to a two stroke TAG Sr. I’ve had a few reasons for wanting to do this. – First, in order to challenge myself more as a driver to be faster. But second and most honestly, I wanted be able to provide myself the coping distraction that racing gives me to clear my head about the loss of my grandmother.

In such a chaotic world, with so many expectations and things I can’t control, being able to race and focus all of my attention on a single thing has always relaxed me. Being in the seat, has been an opportunity to allow myself to get one step closer the lifestyle that I’ve always wanted to have.  Ever since I started, racing has always been a form of therapy for me. That’s why it’s so rewarding. Racing makes me feel like I’m actually accomplishing something for myself.

So after my grandmother passed away, I needed some of that positive reinforcement.  For weeks, the only thing that was going through my head was to get on the track, pound around laps, just so I could think.

***

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I had this great plan. At the time, there were few weeks before the first regional race of the year, which were the first rounds of the Gold Cup at Sumas International Motorsport Academy. It’s basically my home track, as being one of the closest to my house that I can practice on. Honestly, since last year, the first round of the Gold Cup was the race that I was looking forward to for the entire season as I know the track the best.

At the time, I had five or six weeks before the race. Plenty of time to get my new motor, get some practice time in and really be ready for the race. I figured that with enough seat-time, I could start clearing my head and really be ready to go racing.

However, nothing got started the way that I had planned at all. I purchased a TAG engine package via a recommendation, but it just gave me a horrible experience. It never ran well, just sputtered and I wasted weekends at the track, watching other people having fun while I was just sitting around. (I know this is going to sound like a ‘first world problem’, but it was personally agonizing. This motor wasn’t allowing me to do the one thing that I needed it more than anything, at a time where I needed the peace of mind the most.)

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There is nothing worse than watching other people what you love to do, and you can’t. Fortunately, I’ve had some good friends supporting me, and getting me back on track.

So for a while, it wasn’t able to find any sort of real peace of mind. It was even more frustrating depending on who I talked to. Some people didn’t really understand why it was so important for me to just be able to get back on the track, and it was just compounding with everything going on. Either that or they weren’t really being all of that helpful in solving my problem. When racing around the track is your form of therapy, it’s so disruptive to be sitting with an engine that’s cutting out, or dying every few laps. Mentally, it just gets disruptive and is so unbelievably discouraging.

When you have something that’s you’re so passionate about, that you’re unable to do through things outside of your control, it creates a feeling of general helplessness which can spiral. It was even more frustrating watching other people just doing laps, because that’s all I really wanted to do.

So to be honest, I was just angry all of the time. Angry at the loss of my grandmother, angry that I couldn’t seem to be able to fix the problems with my kart, and combined with growing stresses at work it was just too much. I didn’t have any where to release any stress. So all I had was just being generally angry. That’s also why I haven’t posted much on the blog over the last few weeks either. Emotionally, I was just too upset and caught up with life to really focus on anything.

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Before I knew it, I had wasted all of my practice time leading up to the Gold Cup, just sitting at the side of the track watching other people drive. I had almost decided to not race. That’s when one of my friends recommended that I make an engine change to the X125. It’s a TAG motor that’s supported by the business that’s next to my current home track, Italian Motors. I had nothing really to lose at this point, and I really needed to get back on the track.

Honestly, that’s been one of the best moves I’ve made all year. Italian Motors has been really great, because they can just answer any questions that I’ve had about my engine, and get me on the track quickly.

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Ironically due to the timing, the first time that I was ever going to get a chance to drive the TAG, was going to be the practice day of the Gold Cup weekend. I figured that I couldn’t just sit out the Gold Cup, now that I had a running kart that was asking me to race it. Normally, I’d be griping about not getting any practice time. However, really I was so unbelievably grateful to just be able to do some laps in a kart that wasn’t braking down every other lap that I nearly cried during my first full session in the kart.

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So, what’s driving a TAG like? – On average, sessions in the TAG are about six seconds a lap faster than what they were when I was running my World Formula.  I’ve gone from 15hp at 7,100 rpm to having 30hp at 15,000 rpm, so you do have to make changes to your driving style to get used to the extra power. It’s a big jump, but it’s really not that overwhelming. It’s funny, because after all of the conversations that I’ve had with people, I feel that driving my TAG is very similar to driving my old four-stroke. It’s just that the pace is just a bit quicker.

Mostly, I think that it’s the time that I spend in my four stroke that’s been the greatest benefit to get adjusted to the TAG. All of the basic skills are still so important when you have more power, and moving at a faster speed.

There’s also just a bunch of ‘two-stroke stuff’ understanding how it runs, that I just have to learn to get my mind around. It costs more to to fuel it, and I’m going through tires a lot faster than my old kart, because of the softer compounds that I run now. But oh my god, it is so much fun that when I go out, I don’t even care about any of that!

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Fortunately, my friend Chris Novotney, who is a student at Western Washington University has been engineering on my kart and we’ve both been learning more about the process together. (I’ll get more to that in another post, because it really is an exciting project we’ve taken on.)

Having Chris at the track with me the last few weeks has been so unbelievably valuable, because it really just let me clear my mind and just drive. We can tackle the weekend, in a more organized way and really start checking off objectives on where the kart and myself need to be to get faster. During the Gold Cup weekend, I was only a second a lap off the regular TAG drivers who race there. With his help, I came fifth in my first race, which I felt was pretty good having only started the motor the first time a day before!

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Things are getting much better, especially now that I have a kart to race again. There is also so many tuning changes that need to be done to my chassis, in order for it to really be accommodating for the amount of horsepower that I have now.

However, now I finally have what I’ve wanted from the start. A true racing project that I can dive my full attention into. It’s also helpful working with someone who also passionate about the little details that make a huge benefit on the track. I’ll be doing more posts soon of the work that Chris and I are doing, more on board footage of races, more data, etc. 

Stay tuned for that. New posts are coming soon!

So, sorry for the long post, but it’s my blog and I get to do what I want. So I figured I’d catch everyone up to speed where the last few weeks have gone. That’s what been going on.

Really, it’s going to be ok. In short, it’s been tough, but it’s going to be great.

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