Joyce’s Great Adventure: I Placed In The Top Ten.

by Editor 27. June 2012 13:50
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"As in the shooting sports, especially among the female pilots, there is great camaraderie. It’s kind of like ‘girls camp with airplanes’, much like our National Championship is my party for 400 of my closest friend." -- Joyce Wilson

And so the great adventure has come to an end.

We got to I69 (the airport identifier for Clermont County, OH) on Friday afternoon. It had been a difficult race with the mountains, the high density altitude and the weather. But now it’s over. As I mentioned, it’s a very bittersweet feeling. We push so hard to get to the end that when it arrives, we kind of look around and go ‘WOW’ that was cool. And then realize that it’s all over.

Friday evening, we got a call that we’d received penalties in the race. Janet and I racked our brains about what could have happened and realized that we didn’t believe that anything had gone wrong. It was actually an enlightening moment for me as I realized that the Safety Officer training in IDPA is much like the timer training for the race – extremely important for consistency. When we talked with the Judges the next morning ( along with the 45 of 50 teams that had gotten penalties) they realized that it was a judging issue not a competitor issue. We actually use the same criterion in IDPA. If there are too many penalties, then maybe the problem does not lie with the competitor!

The next phase is to sign the official score sheet. My partner, Janet, had tracked our time from the start. Our score was less than 3 minutes different than the official time keeper’s – over the 15+ hours of the race! I’m not sure what the statistical difference of that is, but in my book, that’s phenomenal!!!

We ended up with a +8.something. I thought it was pretty good, but I knew there were at least a couple of +11’s. Again, it was a tough race. We knew of at least 15 teams that had had to land at an offsite airport because of weather – some for as long as 2 hours! That would kill their score. If you don’t fly straight from point A to point B, the time keeps ticking…..

It’s tough on the competitors and on the judges. They have to get information from their time keepers from all over the country. The race this year covered almost 2700 miles – from Arizona to Ohio! They use atomic clocks. It can’t get much better, but it’s still difficult to get all that information gathered. Most of the planes were given GPS (global positioning system) trackers to use during the race. That helps keep everything in check.

And then they called and told us we were being inspected. That’s a great feeling – at least after you know what it means. I remember my first race, two years ago, when they called to tell me I was going to be inspected at the finish. I was crushed. I knew that it must mean that something was wrong and they were going to disqualify me. All that work just blown down the drain… and then some one told me that it was because I finished in the top 12. Hmmmm, who would have known. So this year, I took that as a good omen (since I’d had the same thing happen last year – my second race)

Now we’re at the awards banquet. It’s a fairly formal type affair. Heck, I even wore a dress! It’s really kind of neat to see everyone dressed for the occasion. They call out ‘leg’ prizes first. As we do in IDPA, they try to spread the prizes out among the masses. If you get a ‘leg’ prize, then you’re not in the top ten. “Leg’ prizes are given to those outside of the top ten that are the fastest on each individual leg of the race. We made it through without a leg prize, whew…

As they start from 10th place, we just wait to see if we’re called. We knew that our +8 would probably be top ten. We were called for 7th place. We were thrilled. 5th through 7th were separated by less than .5 knot ( a knot is a little faster than a mile per hour). There are a whole lot of variables in the race and it could have gone any other way. So again, I placed in the top ten. This year, there were 50 planes in the race. To my knowledge this is the most that they have had compete. It’s exhilarating and incredibly dangerous at the same time. We’re doing high speed passes at low altitudes over the timing lines.

As in the shooting sports, especially among the female pilots, there is great camaraderie. It’s kind of like ‘girls camp with airplanes’, much like our National Championship is my party for 400 of my closest friend.

I thank all of you for following my attempt at this blog. I hope that I could share a little of what it’s like to compete in a totally different kind of sport.

I’ll hopefully see you all soon at the Nationals!

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