Noah, I couldn't agree with Tim more. Get to a contest and see what it is all about. Q folk in general are the friendliest, most helpful people you'll ever meat. You'll get a good feel for what an event is like, then you can do a contest cook or two in the driveway. Write down everything you have to go to the kitchen for so you'll have it when you pack, and adjust your start times at home when it doesn't count.
When you enter your first event, remember its nice to place but its a real waste of money and time to go and not enjoy the comraderie of other Q afflicted folks. There's my nickle, between Tim and I ya got a dime!!