Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Purposeful Performance

You read about or see someone having a breakout performance every now and then. The kid on the basketball team who was always good, but suddenly gets a chance and is truly great. The singer Paul Potts on the Brit talent show. Question is, have you ever had something like that happen, or has it happened multiple times?

When I was in the Army I thought I was an average soldier. Except for being a Green Beret. But still an average one of them. Until on one of my first deployments when things went really wrong. I was able to pick up the slack and never look back. My commander told me he knew it was in me, it just had to be brought out. But I had another time, too, under much more pleasant circumstances.

I like being the underdog, the fly in the ointment. When I raced cars I was regarded as pretty good, but not the best. A friend of mine wrote about a particular race I was in when I went from a name that was known to a name on everyone's lips.

I was driving a D-Type Jaguar, and had qualified well. 3rd row, actually. On the warmup lap the guy in front of me spun off the track since it was cold and so were his tires. As the green flag dropped, I let out the clutch and shot into the vacant spot ahead of me. This is all legal, but the officials didn't see it like I did.

They contended I jumped the start. With me having gone from 6th to now 3rd, and battling it out with the lead two cars, I was in a really good spot. Yet 13 laps into the race I was brought in for a black flag, with a 30 second stop and go penalty. My team owner was furious, and they let me race until his appeals were heard. As I came in I stopped where I was directed, and asked the official what was going on.

When told, I began screaming and pounding the steering wheel. When my 30 seconds were up, the official stepped aside and I tore off, now in last place by a long way. Actually, I was in 38th place. I began passing the slower cars, and got to where it was only the fast guys ahead.

In 9 laps I went from 38th to 17th. But the big news was the fact I was knocking on the lap record for my most recent laps. As my car got lighter with less gas, I began really throwing it around, and the lap record fell. My friend said it best: "Suddenly, the crowd and everyone else began looking at their watches. Two fastest laps in a row, both under the lap record! The next lap, and still faster! An excited hush fell over the crowd, and even the pits seemed quiet. Could driver and car maintain the pace, or would one of them break?"

Now amongst my true competition, it was harder to pass, but I was still on a tear. At the midway point I had moved to 11th, and I pulled in for refueling. I was sensing something from the crowd, but unsure what it was. I took off, and vowed to drive the wheels off the car. Tom's commentary is best:
"Mike continued his assault, driving each corner as if on a qualifying lap. It was now apparent that we were seeing something special. The pit board only said one word 'DRIVE', and drive he did. The scoreboard now had all three fast lap positions filled by Mike's #61, yet that was only part of the story. The lap record was now nearly a full second lower, and Mike had broken the old record 9 times. 7 laps to go and Mike was in 3rd place, closing the gap on 2nd quickly.

He made short work of the pass, and was soon on the bumper of the lead Aston Martin. With all his effort, Mike was unable to pass for the lead, but the crowd roared it's approval when he crossed the line. Even the other team crews were on the pit wall cheering him on by race's end."

So I got 2nd. But I proved I could drive, and that particular race opened up many doors for me. Too bad none of them lead to me making a living at racing, but I'm happy I was able to try. How about you? Anything like this happen?

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