My life has been full of cones.
My first enounter with a cone was as a 7-year-old goalkeeper. Because when kids are too small to use a full sized soccer pitch, you make a mini-pitch and mini-goal with cones.
Despite all of the lines painted on high school gymnasium floors, basketball practices are still littered with cones that define space and dictate how to step.
Football practice? Got CONES? Football receivers drown in cones for months on end since they are about as essential to a practice as the surface of the earth [and past October they outnumber blades of living grass about 17:1].
As a motorcyle instructor, I can spend 16 hours in one weekend stacking, placing, dodging, pointing, kicking, dodging, and dragging cones.
Need to modify an open road course into an autoslalom course? Cone alert.
Don’t have a proper race venue but have acces to a medium sized parking lot? Cone city!
No pavement? All you got is chunky Alberta gravel covered in snow and negative 40 degree winds? CONE SMASH!
Got a truck/hatchback/set of feet and a shred of willingness to help set up or take down at your local autoslalom event? You get a cone! You get a CONE! EVERYbody gets a cOOOOnnnE!
Are you on a frozen lake, miles from the grind, and practicing winter car control? Ahhhh, cone paradise.
I have enountered cones in almost every season of my life for the past two decades.
And unfortunately, at Auto-X, I have encountered more than my share of penalty cones.
When I first started, I didn’t go “off course” very often, and I went off the physical track even less often [but not less memorably]. But man did I devour cones.
If the car of choice had enough clearance, the cones got trampled Pamplona style. If the front lip was lower than center-of-cone-mass, the cones got punted out of bounds. Entire swaths of cone walls were razed by the AE86 rear-end-turned-sickle in my hands [which were slapping at the wheel].
As the cookie monster is to chocolate chip, so was I to orange thermoplastic.
But that was a long time ago. And now I totally have clean runs almost all the time. Marshalls don’t cringe when I’m on the line. Timing personnel don’t shake their heads when my number populates their spreadsheet.
Or maybe they do. Because I had a podium finish at Nationals this year… in cone count. And my weekend was over on the morning of the first day of racing. And I felt like a decade of driving improvement fell out of the car as I was driving it. And the worst part was, when I straight up needed a clean run, and I told myself it was my one, my only, and my sole objective – I still couldn’t relax enough to make it so.
Q talked about looking ahead. I am just trying to dodge cones. These are the basickiest of the basics.
College football players train 300+ days of the year to prepare themselves for about 12 games.
At the average Autoslalom event, a driver will get roughly 6 minutes of full-pace seat time.
Competitions are not a good place to practice. But with Auto-X it seems like the only time to practice is during competition.
This leads some people to say that natural talent is the ultimate trump card: Since most Auto-Xers don’t have ample opportunity to significantly improve upon their natural talent, he with the greatest natural talent wins. Others focus on the long road, either recollecting that it took decades of perseverance to improve – or predicting that they will require those decades in order to improve.
I just say we need to find more chances to practice.
I mean, c’mon man, all you need is some empty space and a few cones…