For the past four years, I’ve been an avid Kartsport racer, competing at the local race track nearly every weekend with my Mum as my pit crew, mechanic, and coach. However, in the summer of 2021, a significant accident during practice shook my confidence.
I was speeding down the back straight at over 44mph, about to turn into a hairpin corner, when my brakes failed. I braced for impact as I left the track, and my kart hurtled into the crash bags. Survival mode kicked in; I needed to get out. Within seconds, I stood by my kart, hands on hips, bewildered at the sudden brake failure. My Mum and others ran over to ensure I was okay.
Despite the crash, I was fortunate. Kartsport is a safe motorsport for teenagers. I had the correct safety gear and walked away unharmed. Eager to return, I was back on the track a few weeks later after repairs and trial runs, practicing almost 100 laps every weekend.
However, my crash had left an imprint on my racing style. During practice, Mum pulled me into the pit lane and asked why I was braking so early before the corner where I’d crashed. I was subconsciously braking early, a new habit stemming from my distrust in my brakes post-crash. Mum pointed out that I was braking meters behind other drivers, putting me at a disadvantage and allowing others to overtake me easily.
“For most, the comfort zone is commonly perceived as a neutral space, but for some who have experienced traumas, the comfort zone may become a protective and isolating place to retreat to.” ~ Lainie Liberti – Seen, Heard & Understood.
This early braking had become a comfort zone for me, one I had unintentionally created following the crash. It was filled with trust issues, fear, and anxiety. I had experienced crashes before, but this one was different. I had no control; I was just a passenger waiting for the impact. My brain had switched from analyzing and reacting to survival mode.
My journey to regain trust and break these habits was a struggle. Mum and I made a rule: if I didn’t have anything positive to say about a practice run, I’d keep my helmet on until I did. I promptly learnt that it’s tough to drink from a water bottle with a helmet on! This rule quickly encouraged me to find positives and areas to improve. Slowly, I rebuilt trust in my kart and my driving ability, even braking at the crash spot when trying to overtake competitors.
“Instead of recognizing discomfort as an indicator that we are growing, expanding, and learning, many adults respond to the discomfort by looking for ways to alleviate the uncomfortable sensations.” ~ Lainie Liberti – Seen, Heard & Understood.”
The rebuilding process had its challenges, but I was no longer in the panic zone. Although the adrenaline still surged and I fought my internal alarms, I wasn’t overthinking every possible outcome. With support from Mum, my coaches, and some strong self-talk, I overcame the fear that once seemed so real.
I still find myself in the stretch zone every time I practice, especially after another heavy crash in May. The stretch zone is where true growth and learning occur. It can be uncomfortable and different, but it’s essential to stop any panic and get comfortable in this zone. With persistence and support, I know I can navigate this stretch zone and continue to develop as a racer, as I repair my kart and get back on the track.
When you find yourself in the stretch zone, know that it is meant to feel uncomfortable, and different. But be aware when that uncomfortable feeling begins leading to panic, and put a stop to that as soon as possible. If you can do that, you will quickly find yourself becoming more at ease with being in the stretch zone, a place where a lot of what people dream of doing is set in.