Sandpanther (sandpanther) wrote,

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Adventures in Autocross - Seeing Double

Hmm, the DSL has been out for quite a while. I didn't type up the last autocross because of that, and here the next one has come and gone already.

For the course description, read rhylar's notes on it. His description of the cars vanishing in the back area, then rising up again, shark-like, is particularly apt. (Not to mention amusing.) The main point is that this particular site has enough of an elevation change for it to be a factor. (Because of this, we don't get the heavily mod'ed cars. If they get lowered much at all, they just bottom out on the course.)

My runs were relatively sad. It was a very fast course, and it took two runs to get up to speed (so to speak) on it. My third run was adequate. I still have a major problem with hitting cones.

I did get in some nice left-foot braking practice. On one particular corner, it worked like a charm. It was really satisfying to head into the turn, tap the brake, and *scooch* the car slide around the corner, then lunged forward when the brake came off. Lots of fun.

I should get up and check out my times, but I'm just too tired. Maybe later I'll add them in here. At any rate, the actual runs weren't the best. Happily, we got fun runs.

I stuck around this time for the fun runs, since even as early as the fourth run group it was pretty obvious that we were going to be able to get fun runs. But since this site was located so close to home, I decided I was going to pop home to grab lunch. Before I left, though, I ran into my friend Turbo. She twigged me about not bringing her back anything from Wales. Not true, I did bring her stuff. I just haven't seen her since.

Hmm, speaking of not seeing her since... This autoX happened to be the first one since getting back from Wales where it wasn't threatening to rain. Which means that this is the first even where I could risk wearing one of my "gloat" hats -- one of the hats I got autographed in Wales. I hadn't brought any of them for this event. But hey, I was going to be running home anyway. And there would be at least one person there who would care. Right...

I ran home, grabbed lunch, and after much internal debate, decided that Turbo would be more interested (read: jealous! ^_^) of the Tommi hat. I jammed back to the autoX, and hung out watching and praticing taking photos.

I also practiced sprinting -- which I had been doing a lot of already anyway! This particular course had a rather interesting placement of the end timing beam. Like most autoX courses, it has the finish right after a corner. Unfortunately, the final corner happened to be downhill, off-camber. This caused many people to unintentionally slide into the outside cones. I ended up spending a fair amount of time zooming out to set up the cones again -- only to have the next car through knock them all over again! (It actually took me quite a while before I figured out that the reason so many good, experienced drivers were creaming the final cones was because of the topography.) All this sprinting is convincing me that I need to go out jogging or something, since all this running makes my shins hurt.

The fun runs were, well, fun. I did pretty well, thus confirming my suspicion that one of my problems is that I am overly cautious starting out, and that I don't come up to speed until about the third run (or, usually, beyond.)

There were two interesting encounters toward the end of the day. The first was that someone (who I didn't recognize, but thought that I did -- don't ask) pulled up and told me that he's noticed that I'm usually there early helping set up the course, and that he's noticed and appreciated it. (Oddly, I don't remember helping setup this course... Working 2 and running 4 means that I don't have to get there terribly early, so I'm not there before the trailer arrives.) It was kind of cool.

The other encounter was as I was packing up the car. This event was run by a husband and wife team. As I was cleaning things up, the wife came over to talk to me. She asked if I was here by mysefl, and was impressed that I was. In a way, it was kind of cool. OTOH, it kind of annoys me that people tend to assume that women who are driving are usually doing it because of their boyfriend/husband/significant other, or whatever. I know that in most cases that's true. But still, it kind of gives the rest of us a bad name. Or something to be really admired for. I'm not sure which. Probably both.

Annoyingly, Turbo didn't even notice my autographed hat. My friend Leo did, though. He asked where I got it, but didn't ask just whose autographs they were. Oh, well. He did mention that he was the person at the last event who had nearly been in a nasty accident when someone messed up and stopped on the crossover just as Leo was about to come through. I had seen the near-miss, but hadn't realized that it had been Leo's car.

I've moved into the afternoon groups for the next four events. This means that in general, I get to sleep in a little more. So it came as a little surprise when my roommate (who is not usually an early riser) left at about 6:30. I pondered whether that was a bad sign that I didn't correctly remember which group I was in, but eventually decided that it made a lot more sense to just roll over and go back to sleep. I did manage to get back to sleep, but had a weird dream where I was stuck in Sakura (one of the Japanese TV programs I regularly watch), and someone had stolen my wallet. I decided this was as good a reason as any to wake up.

I spent a leisurely morning clearing programs off the TiVo, then wandered over to Oakland. This particular site is noteworthy in that it is about the only one of the sites that we use that doesn't have any particularly noteworthy individual characteristic. It's just an ordinary parking lot.

This event was a little unique in that there was a course map published for it! I think that's the first time I've ever seen a course map before going to the event, and the only time that I've ever had a map when I didn't help out setting up the course. It was cool. But, oddly, I'm so used to not having a map, so I found that I didn't refer to it that often. What I did do (based off of experiences from last time) was spend a lot of time just running through the course in my mind, imagining that I was driving it and reminding myself where the key points through the course are.

I'm starting to feel more experienced at autocrossing. It's getting easier and easier to remember the course layout, and easier to spot where important details like gravel or elevation changes are. I'm not entirely where I want to be, but it's still satisfying realizing that no, really, I am getting better.

This event was also a little unusual, in that I didn't help out setting things up, and wasn't planning on staying until the end to help take things down. I kind of felt like I was slacking, just showing up to run and do my normal work assignment. (Working setup can count as one's work assignment, though I usually also do my regular work assignment.) Apparently I was missed at setup. There is a guy whose name I can never remember who runs a Civic Si in my class (and totally kicks my butt, but is really cool and encouraging) who usually does setup who commented that he had noticed I wasn't there early. And the guy from last week who had commented about my always helping out who commented several times that he noticed I hadn't been there for setup and had missed me. *beams* It's always nice to be missed. I promised him that I would help at the next event, since it's close to home for me.

As usual, I got there a lot earlier than I needed, particularly since things were (as usual) running slightly late. I hung and watched cars and did very little of importance and just generally enjoyed being able to just sit and not be responsible for anything for a while. It was a nice change.

The run group finished out with little of note happening, and the afternoon people mobbed the start of the course, waiting for the last few cars to take their runs. The last guy took a running start -- probably not the best thing to do when there's a horde of people all standing _right_ _there_, waiting to walk the course. Fortunately, their time wasn't particularly good. Otherwise, the horde would probably have stormed the trailer to demand a DNF on the guy. Running starts aren't very sporting, even if they are trying to let folks get to walking course faster.

I think I need to take up jogging. It would help with course walking in so many ways. It would get me through the coursewalks faster so I could walk it more times. And I would be going through it at a higher rate of speed, so that would help simulate better what it will be like going through the course at speed. Or maybe I should just try rollerblades. Though I hear that the safety steward might have problems with that...

My first run I set around the time I had targeted for the first run -- if I hadn't hit two cones. D'oh. Still, I got a respectable time, if not a stunning one. (I'll post it in later, but it was a 55 something. Plus two. Yuck.) The second run had a few more problems, but one less cone. Unfortunately, I ran over one of the *same* cones that I had the first time. I pulled up to the guy who was writing down my time and complained "I creamed the same cone!" He was nice and sympathetic about it.

For the third run I had one main goal: don't cream that cone. I swung a little further out, then floored it for the straightaway. I don't know what happened, but somehow everything just kind of clicked. The straight ended with a very sharp, narrow 90 degree turn, and I just floated smoothly through it, carrying speed but not threatening any of the cones. It all just felt right somehow. I felt like that was going to be my best run.

It kind of was, and it kind of wasn't. Time-wise, it was a couple of tenths down on my first run. But it was clean, so it ended up being my TTOD. I pulled up to get my time, and listened to the announcer read off the numbers. I waited for a beat, then realized that he wasn't going to add any "... plus (whatever)". I threw my hands up in the air, and cried "Clean!" The guy handing me the timeslip smiled tolerantly, and congratulated me. Hey, I may have acted like a dork, but at least I entertained someone.

I parked the car, then ran over to sign in for my work group. Speaking of dorks... the way things work, I normally wouldn't work the group right after the one I ran. (It's an efficiency thing. It's impossible to do an on-the-fly change-over when the cars coming off course have to park and then run out to their stations.) I, uh, knew that. Really. Fortunately the guy signing people in did not mock me too much for being a dork. I'm just going to claim that I've got this "blonde" thing down, and just wanted to publicly prove it. Yeah.

I hung out for a while. The guy who commented about my usually helping out with setup razzed me about not coming to help set up this time. I promised him that I'd come and help the next event. It's nice to be wanted. ^_^

I was walking over to hang out and wait for my work group to start when someone greeted me by name. They looked familiar. I hate it that I've got a terrible memory for names and faces. He complimented me on my last run, and said that I had put in a good time. Er, I'm not so sure about that... I watch as a Porsche comes in with a 47.something and try to figure out what is so cool about a 55.upper-something. But this guy (whose name I STILL can't remember -- though at least I remember who he is once he mentioned that he's the driver of the Starion in G Stock) insisted that it was a good time, and that I looked really smooth on my last run.

I wandered off to sign up for my work group feeling pretty good about myself. I mean, hey, someone thought I put in a pretty good run. Nifty.

I tried to sign in for my work group, but the guy organizing it asked if I would be willing to work the next group, since my group was a pretty big one, and the next one wouldn't be. By this point it was looking possible that we would have fun runs and I was feeling guilty for "slacking", so I said "sure". Setup Guy was pleased, since it meant that I would be around for take down. Er... I really don't do that much. Really. I'm just compulsive about making sure that I pull my fair share. (Usually with interest...)

I sat and watched the group run, and enjoyed not having to do anything. For my work assignment I ended up working the sign-in table. This can be quite hectic in the mornings, when people are coming in, since this position's job is to make everyone coming in sign a release waiver. But for the last run group of the day, there was pretty much no one coming in -- and the ones who were had come through previously, and so already had signed the waiver. There wasn't a lot for me to do other than wave to folks as they left. It was intriguing noticing who waved and who didn't. Both of the Hachiroku drivers did, as did the driver of an Evo, and one of the Scoobie drivers. (The latter might have been because I was staring at his car. I'm almost certain that his was the piggie-laden car that I spotted coming back from lunch several Tuesdays ago.) All my usual friends stopped to chat. I was particularly pleased chatting with Leo. He had worked my run group (since they split DS out from GS and HS), and commented that my last run looked really nice and smooth. *beams* Hey, I might be getting it! I waved to Matt on his way out (and eyed his Azenis with great envy), and chatted with Civic Guy (whose name I REALLY need to remember!!) about the chances of getting fun runs. (He thought no; I thought maybe yes, though it would be really close.)

I figured that the group was over when the course workers headed in. It looked like people were griding up for fun runs, so I grabbed my car, and slid onto grid. I ended up on the side that worked first, so I trotted out to a work station. After I got there I realized that I had picked the station that took care of the second slalom. Well, I had been feeling a little overly lazy; a bit of running would probably do me some good.

I thought I would be working it by myself, but after a few minutes a guy (who, darn it! introduced himself and I promptly forgot his name) came up, followed by a lady who I recognized as having worked the sign-in table before me. We chatted about stuff for a while (primarily left foot braking, since both of them were interested and it's currently my big bugaboo.) I ran for many cones. I failed to freeze. Then folks finished their three runs, and I headed in to warm up my car.

While I was waiting at the start for my first run, I chatted a bit with the started. He asked me if I was signed up for the novice school (which is coming up in a couple of weeks.) I said yes, and was very surprised when he looked pleased, and commented that he was glad that I was going to be attending, and that he was glad that I had stuck around this long so I could get the extra seat time that the fun runs afforded. I was surprised that he even recognized me, much less that he was interested in my progress! It's not like we've ever really chatted much. He's been around, I've been around -- y'know, that kind of thing. But, cool. I was very pleased to know that at least for this guy, I've ceased to blend in with the random hordes.

My first run was my best time-wise, though I unfortunately nailed a cone. The first half was pretty smooth, but I lost focus after I ran over the cone. It felt like it was a very slow run. Time-wise, it was a 53.something. Fifty -- Wow! Breaking 53 had been my goal starting into the event. (I obviously had to scale back my expectations after the first couple of runs.) I think where I picked up the extra time was in the slaloms. After watching other cars go through them, I felt like I had a better idea of how hard to push through them, and went a LOT faster in them. I know that I have a problem with slaloms, and so I will usually slow down and eat the time loss, rather than risk hitting a cone and taking an even higher time penalty. But after watching this time, I think I'm starting to get how to deal with slaloms down. Heh, heh. Look out folks, I think it's all starting to come together! If I get new tires, I'll totally be in the hunt. *GRIN*

The last two fun runs were clean, and 54.somethings. Maybe not my most brilliant, but nice and solid. Overall, I was pleased.

After finishing up my fun runs, I parked the car, and then went on a quest to find the guy who owned the Scooby I spotted earlier with a licence plate frame reading "Driven by WHO's inside". I wanted to tell him that I thought it was really cool, since I think Subaru's "Driven by what's inside" ad campaign is silly. By the time I had tracked down the owner (or, as it turns out, a person who knows the owner) and headed back to the course, it had all been picked up. So much for my much-vaunted helping out skills. (To be fair, picking up all the cones doesn't take very long and usually the people who are already out on course usually can get them picked up before anyone else can run out to help.) My only real contribution to helping out was to suggest that the organizers send all the folks standing around waiting for their driver's licences to be returned out to where all the cone piles were. That way no one needed to run around behind the trailer, tossing cones in. By the time the trailer came by, folks could have the cones all set to be tossed in. Maybe that would save my reputation as being an over-achiving worker?

There are advantages to being well-known. Handing back everyone's licences can take a while sometimes. I decided to go pack up the car, figuring that it would be easier to get my licence once everyone else had theirs handed back. After all, I'm one of the few women who hangs around at the end, so I kind of stand out. I was a little surprised when I headed back to pick it up that the event chair himself met me half way and handed it to me. Notoriety has its advantages.

Somehow, I ended up being one of the last people out. I was the last non-organizer leaving. In fact, I had Setup Guy leaving ahead of me, with the event chair leaving right behind me.

On a completely unrelated note, why is it that teams that are associated with David Richards all seem to have stars on their butts? I'd never noticed that about BAR/Honda before. (Probably because they usually do so horribly that no one wants to focus on them, stary butts or no.)

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