Throttle Therapy; Summer 2021
(Camp Hero, Montauk NY)
That first track session of the day is the worst for our novices.
As they circulate the course trains of multiple cars form because no one knows where they are going or how to manage track traffic yet.
Back in middle school beginning the day with gym class was my favorite way to get the day going. Writing this piece in the middle of a late June 2021 heatwave makes me fondly recall the cooler September days of summer fading into fall. It was bittersweet coming back to school – great to see friends again, but missing the lazier days without books or team practices… The grass would be wet with dew and a cozy sweatshirt was just right for running around with friends first thing in the morning.
Waking up all of my senses told me that I was ready for what would follow.
Second period’s subject didn’t really matter. I had plenty of energy now and wanted to go.
And so it goes at the track. The second classroom session and first debriefing is hugely important for their learning process. First, we pick the discussion of communication on track and with their instructors up and I ask for anything that anyone would write down on their track map about the track and their first interactions with each other out there. My goal here is to prime the pump and force the students to try and see the track in their minds. It is my hope that the exercise speeds up the imprint of the track they are creating. Next up is debriefing with the track map to refine the imprint. I ask individual students at random to share with the group where each turn goes. After observing turn 1 from a distance at the end of our first class session, what can someone tell me about turn 1 from the perspective of being behind the wheel? What can someone tell me? Is it flat? Does it go right or left? Is it banked, or blind? What did your instructor tell you about it?
We go around the room and around the track. As we drive the track in this way various turns present the opportunity to introduce car control items through a discussion of balance, momentum, and friction.
What feedback are the students getting from their car? Where is the energy they feel coming from? Are they fighting the energy, or do they feel they are using it? (In the abstract and to make a point a good literary reference is NK Jemisin’s novel, The Fifth Season. (www.nkjemisin.com) in which some characters can feel the earth’s movements and learn how to use that power – it’s a great summer read!) We talk about when friction is good as a way to introduce the varieties of braking techniques they can play with – threshold (right at the point before lock up or ABS engagement, trail braking into a corner to bleed off speed and helping the car turn, and now that they are visualizing the track we can talk about where the end of braking happens in each corner. Continuing with what balance means and how our sense of balance affects our inputs and ability to drive better we do another vision exercise. This time students stand in place on one foot and then close their eyes. (Try it and see how closing your eyes affects your ability to balance on one foot.)
It doesn’t sound like it should make much of a difference, but the point of the exercise is to demonstrate how much of our balance is connected to our vision. As described in this article written by Sheelah Woodhouse, PT, BScPT, Vestibular Physiotherapist, “The inner ear and the muscles that move your eyes are intimately connected through a reflex called the vestibulo-ocular reflex or VOR.” (For more on VOR see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vestibulo%E2%80%93ocular_reflex)
To wrap up the session I ask the students to do two things. The first is to try and visualize a lap of the track as best they can when they get back into their cars. The second is to make a plan for the next session with their instructor.
See you with the fall edition of Throttle Therapy. Enjoy your summer – try something new so you have something to say when you get back to school/work, etc.