Today went pretty well, especially when considering yesterday’s somewhat disappointing run. The weather stayed clear for the most part, with only occasional showers. None of the legs were washed out, and we managed to avoid a lot of traffic. That being said, today was pretty warm, but otherwise, not a bad day. And the day got better when we got our results. Thanks to some time spent by Nik and Brian getting the speedometer calibrated, as well as good driving and navigating, we managed a solid score of 43 seconds off for six legs. We’re hoping to get even better tomorrow, and maybe even pick up an “ace.”
I did want to spend a little time talking about what it’s like in the car and on the road. In a race like this, where a leg can be lost with a single missed word, or being just a couple of miles per hour off, things can get tense. I can imagine that it could get particularly intense for frontrunners that have a good chance at the $50,000 grand prize. And many people have asked us how we’re doing and if we’re still getting along.
Well, we’re getting along quite well. I’d say “swimmingly” but there’s nothing aquatic about it. “Drivingly” would probably be a much more apt, if made up, descriptor. And I think that there are a number of reasons for that. For instance, we’re not actually eligible for the big cash prize. We’re also rookies without too much in the way of expectations, so some of the biggest pressures that veterans and non-X-Cup entrants have to deal with, we don’t worry about. I think we also have a big advantage in how we’ve been running this race: with four people in the car.
We do also have a disadvantage with having four people in the car as well. We receive a five second penalty each day when there are more than two people in the car. The reason for this is that having a couple other people to look for signs and to do some other calculations gives an unfair advantage to cars with more people. And while this occasionally helps us, it’s not our primary benefit by any means. Having more than two people helps relieve tension. For instance, it means that not all the pressure for driving or navigating falls to only two people. So if something goes wrong, there are more suggestions to get us back on pace without putting more stress on the driver or navigator. Perhaps even more important than that, is the fact that the backseat passengers can move the conversation from negative to positive when things get stressful. And with four people, we don’t get as worn out either. We can take our tasks in shifts, so that no one has to bear all the burden of the driving. Plus, getting a little more sleep in the back of the car can work miracles, as all of us have found at some point or another.
It’s also great from a student experience perspective. On the Great Race, support vehicles are not allowed on the course for competitors. They must take a separate route to the main destinations, so people in support vehicles never get to see people on the route until the finish points. So if we had our two extra participants in a secondary car, we wouldn’t really see them for most of the trip. As far as a student experience, I feel that that would be rather unfortunate.
So we get to spend time with each other, keep everyone well rested, and keep the mood fun. We take a penalty, but I think we would all agree that it’s worth it. Or at the very least, until we start getting good enough to compete with the best of the bunch. But don’t worry, we’re going to do our best to keep each other in good spirits through the end of the trip.