Monday, November 21, 2011

In The Shadow of The Rio

It's over... today is the saddest day of the year as today marks the point in time I have to wait until the next one.

This year's SKUSA SuperNationals race had some difficult times and Friday was long. During the day the on track activity went well, but as soon as the sun started to go down the winds picked up and odd things just started happening.

Saturday too was a long day (15 hours on track!) but I enjoy every second of it. Even when things go awry and it becomes a challenge I relish those moments as I must hold back emotion and frustration to continue doing the best job that I can. As the photo to the right proves, I usually have an unemotional expression as I am always in a state of concentration. As physical as it is, to stand all day as the chief starter, I have to keep track of all the karts on track. After a while, paying attention that long becomes expensive. (sorry, I couldn't have that line!)

Super Sunday came and the aspect of the competition became secondary because there was a tribute to Dan Wheldon. This hit me hard because I was there last month. Ekartingnews' Rob Howden spoke about him over the PA and quoted Dan's line that, "Karting is the purest form of motorsport." Dan had raced in the Supernats every year that I have done it and he was entered for this event.

The tribute was more than just words though as 11 rows of three karts took to the track for a two lap memorial. The front row of karts had two karts Dan raced in previous years and the kart he was supposed to race this year. All the corner workers waived their flags, as did I, and in this video you can see me as the karts come by the finish line:

I tried to keep stoic but as the field came around a second time and I waived my two checkereds, well, I'm just glad I had my sunglasses on because it was powerful. Other people on track admitted that they too got misty eyed so I'm glad I wasn't the only one. Of all the things I've flagged that final double checkered of the tribute was the hardest thing I have done. Even though there was a song playing (I couldn't make out what it was because of  my headset, but I'm sure it was a song in honor of Dan) and even though the backside of the track was lined with drivers, crews, and spectators, and even though the sound of 33 engines were in the air, there certainly was a deafening silence. Call it remembrance, call it the effects of a beautiful tribute, but it was a sensation I have never experienced before.

After the tribute I felt... better. For a month I have struggled with intense feelings about that race last month, but that tribute, and being part of it, well, it did a lot. Last month I said I started writing my fifth book, and I am starting with moving into my new place and the road trip I did, but I quit writing it when I got to the day of the race last month. I tried to put it aside and ignore the emotions, but yesterday I finally felt emotion again and I think I can write again.

Emotional revelations aside, once the tribute was over it was time to go racing. I've said it many times, but it is such an honor to be allowed to do what I love. The first race up was a standing start and the way that works is the field grids up, the race director points to me and the lights, and for that zero to five seconds I become the most powerful man in the world, ahem, the track. When the director points at me I turn the red lights on and then in that 0-5 second window, when I decide, I turn the lights out and the race is on:

Contrary to that paragraph, the power doesn't go to my head, but it is just so awesome to be the one who pulls the trigger and starts the race.

Super Sunday, as it is called, was from my end a smooth day. As I said earlier, I try to remain unemotional when I flag, but on Super Sunday I do give a smile as the leader comes off the final corner and takes my checkered flag.

With each race that passed I was inching closer to the end. This event is my ultimate Kansas and if there is a point in time when I am "normal," it is out there on that track. I am on equal footing and part of a team. As I sit here in McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas I must admit that I do have tears in my eye writing this. To experience such bliss, such normality, and to have it end is rough. The person across from me just asked me, "are you okay?" and I simply nodded.

I find it odd that I have Asperger Syndrome and one of the symptoms is, "impaired communication skills" and yet what makes me such a good starter/flagman is the way I communicate through the flags. I do communicate to the drivers by my eye contact and the manner I display the flags. I think the drivers appreciate it as over half the drivers on Sunday, in the morning warmup, waived to me as that would be the last session they would be on track that wasn't in the heat of battle. And here in lies the small tragedy for me; on track for those five days which totaled 64 hours, I am the best communicator, and once it is over I go back to my reserved, socially unaware self.

Well, I'm getting hungry and also getting kind of tired of people asking me if I'm okay so I will end this here. It was an amazing five days on track and it's a long day for me as I get home late, and it will be a longer day tomorrow as my dad and I head to Washington D.C. for Thanksgiving. This year will also see my sister and nephew, Kimberly and Caden, coming with us so that should be interesting.

1 comment:

  1. Wow... I've already commented on Facebook, but again, wow...
    It's clear you had an amazing time and I'm glad you did. Now it's time for what we in the convention-world call: after-convention-depression.
    A lot of us experience the same pain you're experiencing when such an event is over. (also: a lot of people in the anime/manga convention world are autistic) Having had an amazing time with all your friends beside you and all the confidence in the world... to then going back to 'normal' life. It's such a major difference, it's depressing.
    What we usually do? Indulge ourselves in our hobby online and chat with friends even more than usually right after an event. It helps.

    By the way, funfact: It's funny you guys have Super Sunday, seeing we have Zombie Sunday (which makes more sense in Dutch: Zombie Zondag). It references to the biggest conventions in The Netherlands being 3 days long (Friday, Saturday, Sunday). Sunday is always the day everyone is exhausted, but still trying to go on, so we all look like zombies. So if anyone looks really tired that day, we say "Happy Zombie Day!" :P