The Continual Beginner


PIKES PEAK INTERNATIONAL HILL CLIMB – I was a frog in a pot of slowly warming water before, and now someone just turned up the heat on the pot to max. This woman who had seen maybe 2 track days her entire life, and just a handful of rally events, no motorsports background in her family, had entered into the PPIHC on the recommendation of other adrenaline-junkie friends who had done it. Once I arrived, a new, crushing feeling set in. This was the first time in my motorsports life I truly FELT under-prepared. I was underprepared before but my ignorance was bliss in a way. Now I had enough knowledge to know I was a fish out of water. The one thing keeping me going was representing my gender. Yet, at the same time, I didn't want to be noticed, and especially not for my gender because it was counterproductive to the message I wanted to send.


Top of the W’s (middle section) during practice. An amateur among legends.

I didn't have enough experience to be among such amazing drivers, competitors, people! But my co-driver Adam convinced me I would be ok. He had done this event several times before with another driver, also young and grassroots, and he was with me 100%. The car may fail, but “damn it, let's do this, and have fun with it”. Once I was in the car the butterflies settled and I could drive. [I know, I know.. As a driver it’s taboo to say you feel like you don’t belong in a race. I guess I’m all about breaking the natural order of things.] Adam trusted me and my ability, so why couldn’t I trust myself?


Adam Kneipp and I pause for a moment during practice at the PPIHC.

During practice, my confidence started to build. Other drivers were taking our pace-notes for the mountain and using them because they were thorough and well-written. We did what we could with what we had. I blew my motor at mile 10 just after Devil’s Playground, but I was so high on life I hiked with my co-driver in our racing suits to the top of the mountain (2 miles at 12,000 to 14,000 ft) to congratulate everyone on their runs. I was welcomed by all the drivers there, even Monster Tajima recognized me when I saw him 2 years later at SEMA and gave me a giant hug. But the harsh lesson to this is I missed my opportunity to make a mark in the sport. I was under-prepared, overwhelmed, and most unfortunately, poor in relation to those in the sport. I did not have the foundation I needed to truly make a lasting mark, but being high on the prospects that I did it with so little, why not try it again? Ahh.. the 'red mist'.


Photo by Eric Gearhart / mylife@speed.

So I went back the next year, this time with support from Garrett Turbochargers, COBB, EBC and others providing parts to help defer some of the costs. Garrett played a huge part in getting the setup I needed to be competitive, and for that they have a special place in my heart as a company. Revolutions Performance helped put the finishing touches on the tune by COBB Plano and showed me for the first time what shops will do for competitors when those shops care about motorsports. They went out of their way to help me and several other grassroots competitors and I was humbled by it all. I also had the support I needed with a dedicated rally crew and a crew-chief that worked feverishly on my vehicle with me (and without me). These people freed me up to focus on driving rather than car repair/setup. My heart was also free to pursue my dream of motorsports without the negativity I had endured those years prior.


Calvin tunes the PPIHC build 2.0 to set the initial tune, COBB Plano Texas.

So many lessons learned during those years about the strain professional level motorsports can put on relationships, work, and overall life. All I can say is that leaving with a suitcase of clothes, a 2006 Subaru STI and a 2002 WRX rally car and walking away from a relationship, all happened during this time. We built a Pikes Peak car in a tiny apartment garage, with very little funding but endured with all the ambition in the world.

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