competition

Artificial Ceilings

Recently, I started listening to podcasts.  My two go-tos are Freakonomics and The Tim Ferriss Show, both of which I find incredibly interesting.  Last week, there was a rebroadcast on Freakonomics – an interview with Kobayashi Takeru, the guy that revolutionized the world of competitive eating.  If you’re interested in the whole thing, here is the link.

Image from trendingsearches.net

Image from trendingsearches.net

The idea of eating even more than two (ok, three) hot dogs in one sitting sort of makes me want to yak, so when you say “as many as possible, and oh, the world record is X,” I want to crawl into the fetal position and die.  But it was this talk of the former world record, which was 25 1/8 hot dogs, that really struck me.  He destroyed that record, on his first attempt at the contest, and devoured 50 hot dogs.

Speaking through a translator, Kobayashi explained the idea of an artificial barrier, which is something I think I struggle with on a day-to-day basis:

I think the thing about human beings is that they make a limit in their mind of what their potential is. They decide I’ve been told this, or this is what society tells me, or they’ve been made to believe something.

Today, I reasoned that perhaps I’d been giving myself artificial barriers.  And I began to think about what might happen if I removed them.

I decided to start removing barriers at the gym.  I had the idea that I could only run at a 6.0 mph pace – maaaaaaybe 6.1 if I was feeling really ambitious.  But my coworker, who also has bad knees and rarely runs, told me that he sets the treadmill at 7.0 mph.  This got me thinking – yes I have short legs. No, I’ve never been particularly fast. But no, I’ve never tried going faster.  I just assumed I couldn’t do it.

Image from amazon.com

Image from amazon.com

And so, tonight, I tried something new for my warmup run.  Instead of starting out at 5.8 mph, I set the speed to 6.5, and ran for 1.5 miles.  For the next lap, I increased the speed to 6.6, and for the last two laps, I increased it to 6.7.  And what do you know.  I did it.

It was a happy moment – I felt accomplished and proud, and I realized that my dream of a consistent 8:45/mile pace is actually closer than I thought.  I am motivated, I am determined, and I now have the confidence I can do it.

Image from simpsons.wikia.com

Image from simpsons.wikia.com

And what if I applied that thought to finding a job?  Usually, it’d be, “I’d never get XYZ position, they never hire people with my kind of experience, I’ve never gotten an interview there before”…but if I bust through that wall and apply, you never know.  What if I applied this to finding a boyfriend?  “That guy would never talk to me, he’s out of my league, I can’t date that far up, I know what my limit is”…but maybe that limit isn’t actually there.

What if we all thought like this.  I realize this is a bit rose-colored (I’m probably still high on endorphins), but blindly accepting what we believe are the limits of our own abilities can hinder us – we stagnate, we don’t grow, we never achieve.  History is full of brave souls and amazingly intelligent individuals, but the only thing that makes them different from us is that they didn’t accept the limits society gave them.   What would we all achieve if we followed their example?

It’s just food for thought, but when your mind starts to wander, and you think of all the great things you might do….it’s a temping proposition to push the limits.

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Driver of Eminence, Part 2

A friend of mine that has since retired from racing sent me this screenshot of our conversation from May:

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I laughed, because I had totally forgotten about our conversation.  I had wanted to establish a new award for women, but I wanted to talk to someone in the know about nominating women for a typically male-dominated award.  I ran it by him, and started discussing women in the sport.

When he sent me the conversation, I just seen this email:Untitled

 

March of the Cornhuskers


We interrupt your regularly scheduled program to bring you breaking news from the East Coast.

I am sitting here, at my computer.  I am not sitting here, at my computer, in the Midwest.

In past years, in fact since 2009, I’ve spent two consecutive days falling between 25-30 August in some sort of vehicle, traveling 1,600 miles to Lincoln, Nebraska. The trip took anywhere between 23 and 30 hours, and I’ve been left at rest stops, left on the side of the road, or had one or any combination of the following, including but not limited to: flat tire, blown tire, no gas, fluid leak, nearly flipping over, suspension failure, GI distress, wrong directions, forgot to pack XYZ – you name it, it’s happened.

One year, I drove out in 1992 Nissan 240sx with a massive exhaust leak and no AC, and we were following a giant trailer that couldn’t go more than 55 mph.  And it was 280356203586 degrees.  We got stuck in several hours of traffic in South Bend, Indiana, when a tractor trailer flipped sideways and blocked four lanes of traffic, going both directions.  I had never driven on a median before then.

The next year, it was a slightly better ride, a 2004 Infiniti G35, but my travel companion (aka sister-in-law) had lots of knitting to do (and she hated driving anyway), so I drove most of the way.  I’m not complaining – that car is a blast and a great one for really long drives – leather seats, AC, cruise control – but I am just sliiiiiiiiiightly too short for the seat belt, so I ended up with a kink in my neck.

Last year, she and I drove out in her car – a 2008 John Cooper Works Mini Cooper S named Gilligan. It was comfy it was fine, but it was small.  And being girls, the guys in the truck ahead sooooooooort of stopped listening to us, so they “forgot” to stop in Indiana for 93 octane gas, despite us pleading over and over, and saying we weren’t going to make it the 600 miles across Iowa.  They don’t sell 93 in Iowa, and Iowa is a really,  fucking long state.  This is important, because the engine is tuned a certain way, and using a lower quality and lower grade fuel can damage it.

We finally nearly ran out of gas and stopped at a Kum & Go (aka the best gas stations in the Midwest), put in 91 octane. The guys had left us, and our phones were dead.  When we finally got back in range, we decided to play a joke.  They asked us what octane we used, and we told them that the gas station attendant said 89 octane with a chemical booster should be fine.  We weren’t able to keep the joke up for long – both of us know better, and we both started laughing hysterically when the guys started freaking out.

Last year, I also nearly won the National Championships in the old Nissan 240sx. This was a car with 8 years and $80,000 (or so) in development. It was not the prettiest, but it had the most heart and soul.  And I worked my butt off to be able to drive it well, and it only took my entire racing career.  Massive suspension failure on Day 2 meant I came in second place for the two consecutive days of racing, despite a healthy lead on Day 1.

That car is now gutted and junked, but has been replaced with one with no weaknesses.  This car is cleaner, faster, more powerful, and basically does everything the old car did, just better.  It’s really a logic and physics defying machine, and given what I know about the courses this year, I would have won, hands down.  The only competition I’d have is fast, and gorgeous, and over $300,000 worth of development – but the huge glaring weakness for that person/car is the one in which my car excels.

Unfortunately, due to both some seen, and unforeseen circumstances, I am sitting at my computer at work.  I’m not in Nebraska, I’m not racing with 1200 of my friends from all over the country.  I actually think nearly every state in the union is represented, Alaska and Hawaii included.  I’m not celebrating today, I’m not even really going to enjoy Labor Day weekend, since it’s the first time in years I’m not at big kid summer camp.  Yes it was a long drive, yes it was expensive, and yes people gave me funny looks when I was excited about going to Lincoln for two weeks.  I didn’t care.  And yes, I’ve had my fair share of issues while out there.  But no matter how bad things got, the racing part, the actual driving and skill, made it better.

I suppose there’s always next year, but this year, I’ve got a broken heart and no race car to fix it.

And The Award Goes To…..

As a woman in a man’s sport, it can be really difficult to find success – or even a guiding hand to help you along in your journey. There is a now a wonderful scholarship called the Wendi Allen Scholarship to help up-and-coming female drivers in their quest to become a future national champion.

I tend to complain about competition and sportsmanship, mostly against the men, but in a Ladies’ class, it can be even more fierce and cutthroat. They don’t call it a catfight for nothing! And so much of contributing to the racing community goes unnoticed, and is behind the scenes. No, we aren’t the fastest out there (well, some of us are!), but if we didn’t participate, the program might cease to exist. And it’s that camaraderie, that level of giving back, that really needs to be pointed out.

Upon learning about this scholarship, I immediately nominated my friend Becca, who has done nothing but show exemplary sportsmanship, gives back to every program she’s involved in, and really loves the people and the sport.

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To Howard, and the selection committee of the Wendi Allen Scholarship Fund:

I write to nominate Becca as a recipient of this scholarship.

I met Becca through the Fairfield County Sports Car Club, based in Fairfield, CT. It’s a small, local club that runs on a sandy (for lack of a better term) postage stamp, where most people never leave the safety of its grassy knolls. Becca was brand new in 2012, but immediately took a leadership role within that club. She worked tirelessly to encourage interest in racing, to generate new membership, and she participated in every event in an effort to improve her driving. She traveled to all the events in her 2008 350Z, and ran it on street tires in stock class. In 2013, she expanded her horizons and participated in regional autocrosses with the New England and Northern New Jersey Regions. She also competed in her first Pro Solo, the 2013 NJ Pro. Becca was able to demonstrate composure under pressure of adjusting to first regional, and then national competition, while still trying to maintain a competitive edge.

Later, towards the fall, she expressed an interest in attending the National Championships. With generosity from a very seasoned and competitive driver (and also a good friend), Learic, and myself as a go-between, she was able to participate in C-Stock Ladies as Learic’s co-driver. Nationals can be an overwhelming experience, but Becca took it all in stride, with enthusiasm and a can-do approach, and now can’t wait to go back. Her autocross schedule for 2014 is crazier than my own, and that’s saying something! She organized a karting league for the off-season, so we don’t get rusty, and is constantly working on improving her times and skills. As the only driver in her family, she realizes that she has to work a bit harder than those of us that have a significant other to help out with the heavy lifting, and she has embraced that wholeheartedly.

In addition to having the racing “bug,” Becca has demonstrated exemplary sportsmanship. She is a positive person, and despite anything that happens on the course (cones, flat tires, dead batteries), she looks on the bright side. She always lends a helping hand wherever it’s needed, whether it be a seat in her car, a ride to the event, or even lunch. She has no delusions of grandeur, and realizes that honing autocross skill takes lots of time and effort – which she’s already shown she is willing to dedicate. I believe that with a bit more guidance and a little bit of support, Becca will be a national-caliber driver in no time. Receiving this scholarship would help her thrive as a competitor, and encourage other women to do the same.

Respectfully,
Jenna
#386331

Unfortunately, Becca was not selected as a recipient of this scholarship, much to my disappointment. While I’m probably biased, the two girls selected do not seem to contribute nor compete as much as, or compete at a level comparable to her, but maybe with some more guidance and experience, they eventually will. The importance of this fund, and of encouraging more women to participate in motorsports, is so integral to creating a more balanced and equal-opportunity sport. For me, it’s rewarding to see girls of all ages and walks of life get involved and want to compete as much as I do. It’s my hope that with more opportunities like this, and more role models like Becca, women will finally start to feel welcomed into motorsports, and who knows? With the right people, a positive attitude, and never giving up, the sky is the limit.

It’s Here!

A month ago, I won a contest run by the Sauber F1 Team on Twitter (after many, many, many, many attempts to win anything at all). My prize was a copy of F1 2013, the game for Playstation 3. 

After weeks I began to lose hope, that perhaps it had gotten lost in the mail. I’ve been sending things overseas and having them never reach their destination, so maybe it’s the same thing….?

Luckily for me, Swiss Post seems to be better than USPS (even if it did take a month).

Behold! A real prize from a real F1 team!

I cannot WAIT to play it! Of course, I’ll have to unhook the PS4, re-set up the PS3, and kick the guys off playing COD Ghosts, but that’s a battle I’m willing to fight 🙂

Heels on Wheels

If you’ve read any part of my blog, you know I love racing, cars, and Formula 1. You also might know that I’m a girl (let’s hope you figured out the latter before the former). If you combine those two nuggets of knowledge, you should be able to figure out that I’m a woman in a man’s sport.

Circuit of the Americas had a competition to win a prize pack worth $20,000, for the upcoming US GP this weekend. Awesome seats, travel and accommodations, a super-exclusive dinner, meet-and-greet with the drivers, paddock passes, the works. To enter, all you had to do is write a 500 word essay on why going to this race is on your bucket list. Despite the fact that I already had tickets, I wanted to enter the contest – because who doesn’t want a free upgrade, and this was the ultimate upgrade.

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I spent a lot of time on the essay – more than I should have, I think. I spent more time on this 500-word contest than I did on many of my 5,000-word college papers. I tossed around ideas, which was a giant challenge, especially since I attended the inaugural race last year. Finally, I came up with a unique angle that I thought was creative, would definitely wow the judges (which was explicitly in the contest description), and make me stand out from the hundreds of entries about “I don’t have money and it’s my dream to go to Formula 1” and “I am in love with [insert driver name here].”

Halfway through the essay, something in the back of my head told me to read the contest rules. After a lot of fine print regarding what an eligible entry actually was (no plagiarism, no computer-generated stuff, words actually have to make sense), and the description of the whole prize pack, and how it’s for you and a guest, I stumbled across something that really left me surprised: The contest winner would be determined by random drawing from all eligible entries. “Random drawing?!” I thought. Here I was, sitting at my computer, putting all this effort into this essay, and it wouldn’t even matter what I was writing about. I felt a little jipped, and like maybe I was wasting my effort – that statement halted my progress for about…three minutes.

I decided to continue writing the essay, as I originally intended, because while developing the thesis, talking about my memories from childhood, and my progression as a driver, I realized that my “angle” was actually a lot closer to my heart than I had originally thought. As I put the finishing touches on my essay, it finally hit me – this wasn’t just some “angle to get me to stand out.” It is a lot more, and means a lot more than that. I saw how a trip to the 2013 Austin GP is actually on my bucket list.

My pregnant sister-in-law just found out the sex of the baby. I told her I didn’t want to know yet, but she immediately sent me a picture of a crib with a race car motif. “You just gave it away!” I exclaimed – until she reminded me that in our family, race cars are gender-neutral. And it’s true. But sadly, that’s not how it is in the real world.

Even though she and I are dedicated to racing, we’re very much an exceptions in this male-dominated sport. There are a handful of women in my region, and just a few hundred that participate nationally, out of 55,000 Sports Car Club of America members.

Driving is my passion. As a kid, I was found under the hood, playing with spark plugs, while my dad did tune-ups. I started driving at 10, and learned on a manual transmission – controlling the beast was exhilarating. Fast forward another decade, and I’m putting the finishing touches on my very first engine assembly, installing it, and turning the crank. I joined the SCCA, and it became an all-consuming hobby. I compete more than 30 times a year, mentor novices, and organize events. There are tires in my bedroom. When faced with prioritizing racing versus…well, anything, racing always wins.

On the course, I am inspired by women who vanquished stereotypes of their gender: Lyn St. James, Danica Patrick, Susie Wolff – all great drivers, period. When I started competing, I wasn’t sure that I could achieve the same parity with my male peers. At first, it was cool to be “the girl who simply tried.” I kept at it and became the “fast girl.” Now, after years of study, practice, and yes, trophies, I’m finally a “fast driver” – no “girl” qualifier required.

Yet there are still far too many female drivers who feel that no matter how hard they work, they will never be taken seriously in racing. I want to help change that.

Which brings me to my Bucket List. My big-ticket items aren’t crazy or daring; they are the ones closest to my heart. Living my greatest passion to the fullest – that’s what tops my Bucket List. And my greatest passion is being part of the motorsports world.

Driving is just one aspect of the racing experience. The heart and soul of racing is the community. It’s helping your teammates. It’s supporting other drivers, even your rivals. It’s cheering on the people you’ve never met and knowing you are a part of something huge, powerful, wonderful.

Nowhere in racing is this more apparent than at an F1 event. Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsports, and attending the 2013 USGP in Austin, standing side by side with fans and racers, pros and amateurs, old-timers and beginners – all the while representing the women of this amazing community, and showing other women that they too can be an integral part of the motorsports world– there’s no greater joy that I can imagine.

The contest rules said they would announce the winner yesterday, so I’m pretty sure I didn’t win. It’s ok though – I’m still going to the race, and I’m really happy with recognizing that this sort of thing is important to me. Even if I don’t end up being involved in professional racing, I’m happy to work to be a role model for other female drivers, and I’m happy to be this girl:

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You’re My Boy, Blue!

Photo courtesy of fondoescritorio.net

Anyone from the US, or who has seen Varsity Blues (Or Friday Night Lights, or Remember the Titans, or any other high school football movie) knows that high school football in the South is a BFD. A really, really big one. They have stadiums that are bigger than some college teams (or you know, the Oakland Raiders). They have screaming fans. School Spirit was invented here.

And thusly so, they are really effing good. Like, really good. Sure, there are some high schools that aren’t quite as good as others, and they’re put into different districts. Or in cases like this one, a really good team is put in a district where football might not be so strong…

On Friday, there was a high school football game in Texas. The score ended up being 91-0. The coach of the winning team is now being formally accused of bullying by a parent of a player on the losing team. 

91-0 is an impressive score. It’s 13 touchdowns and field goals. It’s like Sebastian Vettel winning a GP by over ten minutes, or me winning a house-cleaning contest (at all). And sure, at first glance, it looks like it might be bullying: 91. To nothing. But let’s back up a second:

  • The coach pulled out his starters in the first quarter. He also ended up using his third string players, some of which probably would have never seen action in a game otherwise. 
  • The coach let the clock run continuously after half time, to limit the scoring. 
  • There is no “mercy rule” for 11-man football, but the coach wasn’t aware of the option to end the game early.
  • They ran 32 plays and rushed for 391 yards. Northeast Pee Wee football can do that much. And we’re a lot more into soccer up here.

Additionally, I understand you’re teaching compassion, but you’re also teaching them to not always do their best. 

  • The kids practice for hours a day, and are taught to win.
  • Coaches are paid to coach the kids to win. It’s actually their job. 
  • Compassion is a virtue, but real life is cutthroat.
  • If you want to succeed, you have to always give it 100%. If you are looking at success with a 50% effort rate, you get used to that – you get spoiled. And when something suddenly requires 100%, you can’t do it. 

Sure, it could be perceived as bullying. But it’s not like they were intentionally beating up on the weaker team – in fact, they were doing everything they could to limit the damage. There haven’t been reports of excessive celebration (or any at all, for that matter). And the parent who filed the complaint said he didn’t know how to explain the actions of the coach and players on the way home, and that the kid was sad. Well….people are rarely happy when they lose. Should we institute trophies for everyone? 

Sports should be fun, and you should want to play. But losing, and even a crushing defeat, is part of a life lesson. You can’t always win. You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need. And maybe the other team needed to lose this one.