5:15. The time it took me to cover almost 6 miles of Pikes Peak. 5 minutes 15 seconds in the wet.
It took 2 people, working in an apartment garage, 2 months to prepare for this event. 2 months of dedicated days, thousands of dollars in parts, and blood, sweat and tears. This was more than a race to me. After having a lumpectomy on my right breast in late April, and not making it to the top last year because of engine failure, it became an obsession and a chance to prove that with a capable vehicle I can make it to the top. And making it to the top was more than just about a vehicle, or times.. it was about showing the world that nothing can stop a woman who pulls herself above the pain of her past.
It would have been easier to have this car built at a shop. But shops cost money. Money that a recently divorced woman who is preparing for a move across the country doesn’t have. A woman who gave up everything to be able to race as a free person. A friend who was willing to give up all of his free time to see her make it there. We became a superhuman, highly motivated, infallible force working against all odds. As the temperatures raised above 100 degrees for more than 21 days in July, we worked smarter and harder to make this happen.
–The fastest of the group, man or woman, that was only given half of the mountain. –
“Promoters Option”. Those words will haunt me. They haunted everyone at that event. My heart sank when my axle snapped during qualifying. I was sitting 9th fastest in Time Attack, but still outside the cut of 115% when it went. Only a couple would have gotten in with Millen’s time.. the record breaking time. So when I heard they kept the top 16 I was optimistic, but then I discovered they would did not consider my split times, and had taken those slower than me as their ‘promoters option’. Typically, the promoters option is used so that racers who break during qualifying, but can prove their times and fix their cars are allowed back in so the fastest are allowed to compete. This is not what had happened.
I wanted to scream. All that hard work so that I could watch those slower compete. I was not alone in my story. I wanted to break down. I felt as if I had let down every woman that had ever been raped, abused, stalked and sexually assaulted. I was racing for all of them. And that’s when the racing family stepped in. They cried out and told organizers what was fair. Fans stepped up and stated who they wanted to see and why. Every competitor cut was trying to find solace and dignity within. We found it through our racing family. Most of us were already planning for next year, and trying to figure out how to keep up with the money that was coming to the mountain. Because keeping up with fully sponsored, shop-built teams with a 20k grassroots build seems impossible. Grassroots teams make it possible. For me it was with the help of product sponsors Garrett Turbo, a GTX3076R Turbo, a Perrin Rotated Turbo kit, A great tune by the folks at Revolutions Performance and COBB Tuning Plano, and EBC Orange Stuff brakes to stop me and a grassroots rally crew, that I made it. I had the times. I am fortunate to have this support.
As a racer, when you work so hard for so long on your own vehicle, events become so much more than just “oh well, next time.” There might not be a next time. This may be it. You spend all of your savings to race. Pikes Peak was more than just a race. It was my symbol of freedom. With this race I had to prove to myself that no one, no man, no thing can stop me from living my life to the fullest. If I could reach the top of that mountain, and touch the sky there.. then perhaps the pressure of my past could be lifted and I would be.. free.
I feel freedom in the car, in the drivers seat. I can escape from everything and focus on the moment at hand. Each moment is beautiful. Racing is more than just qualifying, or getting that time.. its about being free. Fans feel this and touch it.. but racers live it. We can’t be on the sidelines. Once you experience it you have to have it for the rest of your life. The best words I can find to describe it are ‘beautiful addiction’.
So with the Promoters Option, competitors fought for each other to get back into the race. I heard some folks were offered back into the event, and declined to run stating “if faster people are denied back in, I refuse to run”. In the end, we all won. The racers and fans all won. The promotors decided to let everyone back into the race. But the Mountain had other ideas. Friends discovered the meaning of gravity, others were slowed by rain and hail. I sat anxiously in line, given a second chance just like everyone else to prove what I could do.
My excitement grew as I discovered it was raining and hailing at the top of the mountain. Of all the people waiting in line with experience driving through storms.. it was me. I was given a second chance to drive to the top, through a storm. I was so happy I wanted to cry. While everyone else was frantic, panicked, and scared by the elements.. I finally felt at home. I was so happy I was laughing like a mad woman. People looked at me like I was completely insane. Maybe I was. But I knew I was happiest knowing that this moment was mine and I was ready for it. Then the call came.
“We are only doing half of the mountain. You won’t even race to George’s Corner. When you see the checkered flag.. be prepared to stop and turn around past the brake check station.”
My mountain. I didn’t make it to the top the year before. And now.. I wasn’t going to make it to the top.
But.. I made it to the race. I practiced. I touched the top during practice. I raced. I saw the checkered flag. I lived. I laughed at the irony. I brought home a wonderful trophy known as a working car. And I’m here to tell my story of how I’ll do it all again event after event after event. Because no one, no man, no ‘thing’ can stop me from getting to where I’m going.
I am coming out. I am a survivor of rape. And this is the start of the rest of my life.
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