My experience at Dirtfish was fun… Until it got uncomfortable.

There I was in my basement apartment in Vail, CO with the bright idea to get out of nursing and into racing. After a few suggestions from friends I enrolled in Dirtfish Rallly School. Between the time I signed up and the time I attended, I entertained the idea of opening a similar operation in Colorado. I didn’t know if it was something I would want to commit to and Dirtfish was as good a place as any to try and that find out.

I went to Dirtfish, as a customer. I had no ill will towards Dirtfish or ulterior motive. I was inquisitive and I asked questions about the operation, none of which were inappropriate or compromising for a staff member to answer. I reserved financial questions for the founder himself who I sought out on LinkedIn following my three day course. The subsequent messages I received from Dirtfish founder Steve Rimmer regarding the operational questions I asked of Dirtfish staff left me with an intuitively uneasy feeling. I felt intimidated. He wanted to know specifics like, who did I talk to, and what did they say? I refused to answer.

I had done nothing wrong. No one at Dirtfish had done anything wrong, so where was the aggressive inquisiton coming from? I got curious. What if Dirtfish employees were feeling the same intimidation I felt? I wanted to rule out the possibility that I misinterpreted my interaction with Rimmer so I sought out former Dirtfish employees for answers, but no one would say a word. In fact, they all said they were uncomfortable speaking with me. They all cited the reason being that they didn’t want to ruin their relationship with Dirtfish. None of them said they had signed a non-disclosure agreement with a non-compete clause which was what I was expecting. Based on those interactions I concluded that former employees either signed something, or the leadership environment at DirtFish is so harmonious that there was no need to explain, but I if were a gambler I would put my bet on the former.

Although I don’t know much about the day to day culture, what I do know is that Dirtfish is partnered with Americas RallyCross (ARX) and ARX is one of the very few racing platforms for professional rallycross drivers on this continent. Their pockets and reach run deep.

I asked a professional driver unaffiliated with Dirtfish what their thoughts were. They said they too found it odd that Dirtfish was so guarded, and suggested that attending a school wasn’t necessary to break into the sport. In fact, the courses at DirtFish relied too heavily on the tire sidewall instead of the contact patch.

Armed with this information, was building my own school even applicable, profitable, or necessary? Especially if I’d find myself battling politically in the crosshairs of Dirtfish? As of right now, probably not. Jumping down the rabbit hole only to find the Madhatter sure was interesting though and I was happy to oblige with my inner Cheshire Cat. 755C3B6F-8854-4AD4-B2FF-FAAC6E24D8D5.jpeg

 

From Surgery to RallyCross

 

So, how did I get started on this rally/rallyx path? Probably the same way most people who have no previous experience or knowledge get into it….

By hitching a ride on the Ken Block bandwagon.9A2ADBC0-0BEB-4630-BF26-1B9EEA4423D6

I can just hear the collective groans of old timers as I write that. The same groan I probably gave Kendall Jenner when she wore a Slayer t-shirt. Seems silly if you put it into context. Who am I to judge Kendall’s level of fandom? I didn’t develop empathy for Kendall until I wore a Johnny Cash t-shirt out on a Tinder date and received that same smirk and petty judgement from across the table. This guy assumed I didn’t even listen to Johnny Cash. It was such an unattractive quality I vowed not to do that to other people and immediately issued a mental apology to Kendall Jenner.

Anyways, back to me. So, there I was in my dark basement apartment outside of Vail, Colorado. I was sitting in my recliner trying to distract myself from my current lot of inept stimulation when I stumbled across The Gymkhana Files on Prime.

Sure, I had a job that anyone who works in Sports Orthopedic Surgery would kill for. Literally. It’s ranked no. 1 in the world.

World famous surgeons means world famous patients. For more context, The Steadman Clinic is to Sports Orthopedics what Ken Block is to extreme motorsports entrepreneurship and I hesitate to call that accurate, but that analogy will do for the purposes of this article.

So, what is my role in Sports Orthopedics? I’m a surgical nurse, which means I work on a team with a surgical tech. The surgeon tells us what procedure they’re doing and we make it happen.E58C7FEE-3C29-4EF0-951B-0C9DB0DEEA8B

Me and my partner set up your entire surgery, assist during surgery, and tear it all down when you’re in recovery. You rarely even see us or know we’re there. Like motorsports, it’s all timed. The set up, the length of surgery, the tear down, and the clean up. All those times are tracked for informatics. Informatics is a branch of healthcare that attempts to quantify care into data points that administrators and managers use to assess efficiency and cost effectiveness. To make it to the top you have to be good, precise, and fast. I didn’t start here. It took me five years of hard work. The old adage, slow is smooth, and smooth is fast applies to just about everything it seems.

My point is, I may be new to the sport of rallycross, but I’m experienced in the context.

How do I even start this journey?! I thought to myself, so I booked a ticket to rally school to learn how to drive in someone else’s car. Seemed like a reasonable and intelligent decision. I flew to Dirtfish in Snoqualmie, Washington. The internet ranked it pretty highly and they are affiliated with just about everything including the governing body for rallycross competition in the US called Americas Rallycoss (ARX).

I learned very quickly however, that rally schools are mostly just businesses. It’s not like nursing school where a developmental program will open doors and opportunities that will eventually land you in the “driver’s seat” of your own career.

Rally schools are basically amusement parks for people who want to get sideways without destroying their own car. I’m not saying the latter won’t work out. They will happily train you and even build you a car, but on a nurse’s budget I don’t see that as an option for me.

Then, I started putting content on my Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook relevant to the mission and to document my experience thus far. I’m still adding, deleting, and experimenting here. I came out of the gate very loud, flashy, and cantankerous. To make a skiing analogy, my image was a bit like a young Bode Miller on a drunken binge. Just check out my header image. HOLY SMOKES! I’m not messing around trying to be the new bad girl of a sport I genuinely know very little about. Instead of going full throttle, or binary on the pedals as my rally instructor friend Jack would say in his adorable British accent. I have since simmered down to the level of an older Bode Miller, but not quite a married with kids Bode Miller. 97587166-EA05-40A7-BB1D-7DF994104559

That’s it in a nutshell. I must admit, I still feel a bit like Kendall Jenner in a Slayer t-shirt pursuing this whole deal, but I am confident I’m going to have some great experiences and connect with some people who are going to give me a high-five and compliment me on my new passion for car handling and performance annnnnnd my proverbial t-shirt.

What’s next for me on the list of learning? Attending a live ARX event! I booked a plane ticket to Austin, Texas for ARX COTA in late September. I can’t wait to see the contrast between beginners at a rally school and experienced professionals.