Friday, January 8, 2010

Ready, steady, GO!

I got an Outlook invitation from the president of our company to a "special event" on Wednesday night.  Just an address and an instruction to wear closed-toe shoes.  All very cloak and dagger, so I was completely in the dark about what was going down, until I googled the address and saw it was the location for SyKart Racing.  Go-karts?!  Awesome!  This is why I love working at my company and why I've got huge misgivings about what's going to happen after the takeover in February.  But that is fodder for another day.

Go-karting last night was the most fun I have had in a long time.  We started out by assigning ourselves nicknames on the waiver where we acknowledged that if you do this YOU COULD DIE, but you still can't sue the racing company.  I just lamely filled in the shortened version of my first name, and I had no idea how creative my co-workers would be in this area.  Among my competitors' riffs on their names or caricatures:
Hunan Hot
Doogie Howie
Jackie Pang
George the Devil (which the racing stats sheet wrongly and more humorously listed as "Geroge the Devil" and we pronounced ger-O-ghee)
Hairpin Hollie
The Langster

In retrospect, I would have gone with something much cooler like "Princess Vinceton" - you know the old game where you combine the name of your first pet and the street you grew up on to get your drag name?  Fortunately for me, my brother named our puppy Prince, until we found out "he" was a "she" and we changed it.  It is also fortunate that I can't remember the names of a couple ill-fated hamsters I had as a child, so Princess Vinceton it is.  But I digress.

I had never raced on a timed go-kart track before.  In fact, my only other experience was at Bullwinkle's where the main goal on the track seemed to be deliberately crashing into others - or in my case, being crashed into, which I did not enjoy.  I didn't have high hopes for my results.  First off there was the whole left-foot-braking concept that didn't come naturally to me (see my inability to coordinate the top and bottom halves of my frame and general uselessness with my left appendages).  So off we went on the first race, and I didn't use the brake at all.  Since that meant I couldn't really employ the accelerator to full effect without repeatedly skidding off the track, my progress wasn't exactly lightning quick.  I placed a dismal 5th out of 7 with a fast lap of 34.719 seconds - and one of the two people behind me had actually given up halfway through the race!

In my next race I dialed in the braking skills and started trying to remember all the coaching I got from D about racing lines and slow-in/fast out corners in Gran Tourismo 4 sessions on the playstation.  And suddenly it just clicked.  In that race, I took over three seconds off my best lap time (31.646), placed second in the heat, and achieved third best time for the evening so far!  I was now in contention for a podium finish.  Bring it!

In the next race, my skills further improved.  I broke into the 30-second range with a 30.791, still maintaining my third place standing.  In the fourth race, I managed to lap our CFO (The Langster) when he had an unfortunate incident earlier in his race, but driving his laps cleanly I wasn't able to overtake him... until I had a moment where I had just started to pull alongside and thought I could take him on the inside of a corner.  Then he dove across to the inside line, completely shutting me out and I could do nothing but careen into the side of his car, hard.  He looked almost startled, and I thought this could be a CLM (career limiting move) but I later swore - truthfully - that I hadn't done it on purpose and he is a good sport.

One of my co-workers, Blondie - the only other competitive female in the group - made it a mission to topple my third place time in her last race.  I thought I had it locked when she entered her final lap and hadn't broken the 31-second barrier.  But she drove like a demon on that last lap and beat me by about 1/10 of a second with a 30.700.  I gave her a big high five because I was actually cheering her on - a little healthy competition is good and an honest congratulations is golden.  So fourth place by a nose.

Go-karting was a real rush.  Driving flat out, hitting the apex of the corner onto the straight just right, and - even though it isn't the fastest way around, flicking the kart into a slide to clear a hairpin turn... I never thought I would enjoy it so much.  It really helped that I didn't completely suck!

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