What is it about a motorcycle?
It’s been quite a long time since I’ve written a race report. It’s hard to believe that I took an entire year and half off from the sport, but my current race results and lap times certainly speak that truth. I won’t lie, the comeback this year has been a struggle and I am so wrapped up in my own head I can barely see through the mist. I have every excuse in the world for why I am at a slower pace now; off the bike for 1 ½ years, recovery from an injury that left me with atrophy in my core and the large muscles in my legs, a significant bike change moving from a Yamaha R6 (600cc) to a Kawasaki ZX-10 (1000cc), a change in tire brands moving to Dunlop after 10 years racing on Pirelli, but none of that matters to a racer. We want to always be improving, if we take a step back we want it to be a small step, followed by an immediate long-jump forward.
You might think that I should have stuck with the R6 or stayed on the tires I was familiar with, but in a time of re-building myself it seemed like as good of a time as any to make the switch. The biggest reason for moving from the R6 to the ZX-10, (I know you think it was to beat Joy) but honestly, it was comfort. With the injuries I sustained and the rehab I am still working through, I suffer from massive charlie-horse quad cramps when I get on a R6, it is just too compact for me right now. That is the issue that kept me from racing last year and when I got on Jason’s 2013 ZX-10 the week before Round 1 at Buttonwillow I was so much more comfortable, I decided right then that I would race his hand-me-down ZX-10 and sell my sweet 600. Now I just have to learn how to ride the beast.
So here I am, on a completely new platform, starting over at a pace I thought I had long left in my past and I barely want to talk about racing, because I am so disappointed in how I show up. This weekend, I decided something had to change, and that “thing” was my attitude. I have been so wrapped up in where I think I belong in the race pack, or what lap-times I should be doing, what I need to be working on, that I forgot the most important thing about why I race… The Fun!
I didn’t start racing because I wanted to make a career out of it. I started racing because I like the speed, the skill, the strategy, the competition, but it was never meant to be a job. And somewhere along the way it became work. Track days became a test days, the mantra being don’t burn fuel or tires if you aren’t riding with purpose and that purpose is to get faster… Don’t get me wrong, I WANT to go faster and I know that it takes work, and a plan, and execution, but right now what I need, is to have fun.
On Friday, we showed up to get in some laps during the PTT track day. I was working on this and that, following my structured program but not making any progress with my lap times, and after every session I was exhausted. Jason asked me if I thought I might be “over-riding” the bike, a term used by racers to describe a tendency to try to force the bike to go faster through use of your muscles, holding on too tight, physically pushing the bike around. He said, “Why don’t you just go out there and have some fun? Try to do some wheelies or something and relax.” Good advice that has proven to be really hard to follow. As I was turning laps on track with my only plan being - to ride for fun – I realized that I have gotten into this really bad habit of coaching myself while I’m riding. This only makes you go slower when you hyper analyze every move you make on track, which leads to frustration and more over-analyzation.
I decided to skip Saturday practice and instead sign up for all the races I am eligible for (except FP) and use the race time as practice. That meant running F40 and AFemme back to back on Saturday, then running Open GP, Open Superbike and Open Production on Sunday. My goal in the races… you guessed it – Have Fun!
F40 was up first and I had a good time in the race. We have been paddock friends with Joe Hitner for many years, but now I am racing with him, it brings a new element of fun back to racing because he is such a great guy and always so positive and full of smiles. Even better because I beat him this round – smiley face! But still in the race I would catch myself tightening up and giving myself instruction… I really think it would be hilarious to hook up a microphone to record my conversations with myself when I’m on track (maybe next time).
In AFemme, I got a killer launch on the start, my first time on the 1000 getting a good start, that was a highlight to my weekend and it was fun, only problem was, I caught myself off guard, I didn’t get my foot up to the peg fast enough for the shift and gave the holeshot to Joy. She quickly disappeared from my sight, though with that new even-more-reflective-than-before paint, she should have been impossible to lose. Once she was gone I had little motivation left, and with the exhaustion of the previous race and the 101 degree temperature I decided to just enjoy the track time and try to stay out of the way of the class behind me.
Sunday Race number 5 – Open GP was the most fun I have had racing all year. I haven’t been running this class this year, thus had no points, I started from row 7, position 25. Way back there… I got my second killer launch on the 1000 (I think I am starting to understand this bike) but a stalled bike on the start nearly caused a pile up with myself and another bike. Luckily the other bike swerved left and I found enough brake pressure to just kiss the stalled bikes tire without any of us hitting the deck.
Now I was all the way at the back, but I managed to latch onto the tail of the pack and there was only one way to go from here… I had a blast making passes and running within the herd. My times dropped a bit and I didn’t once “think” during that race, I was able to just “execute” based on my experience. Even had the rear tire in the air a couple times under braking. Giggles!
I had a fun time racing this weekend, it really is the first time I have had fun on the track this year. I’m still not close to my best lap times and it probably will take me some time to get back there, but the more fun I had this weekend the faster I went, so… new plan for 2016. Enjoy the Ride!
Thanks to Jason for the support and reminding me why I race. Thanks to Ben and An for busting butt for Jason and me on this horribly hot weekend. Thanks to the turn-workers and photogs who sat out on track in the sun to make our races possible and capture the moment for our photo book memories. And speedy recovery to those who fell this weekend (including my husband), heal up and see you on track again in 2 months.
I tested the first prototype hip protection back in February of this year and I was very excited to receive the modified hip protection (2.0) in the mail with all the changes from my feedback. I had a little time before my next day at the track where I would be able to test them out on the race bike and I could not wait. So, I changed into my leggings and placed the hip protection in them and proceed to wear them around the house, feeling a bit like a football player.
The pads molded right to my form and laid smoothly inside my leggings. I walked around the house going about my business; sitting, standing, walking, going up/down stairs, etc. with the pads in place for about an hour. They did not move around or cause my pants to slide down and they did not chafe my skin. There was no noticeable restriction with movement.
As with the first prototype, I tested the hip protection while riding my dirt bike, at a friend's mini-bike race event, and on my road race bike at Thunderhill Raceway, then again at Buttonwillow Raceway.
Dirt Attire: I tested the hip protectors while riding a dirt bike (Yamaha TTR125) in a mini GP dirt track race environment under motocross gear (Thor pants/jersey) - I typically wear tight athletic leggings under my moto gear (I wear custom knee braces and the leggings act as skin sleeves for those as well as a comfortable base layer). I was also wearing an armor jacket over my jersey which has a built in back protector, roost guard, shoulder and elbow pads. The back protector stops coverage just below waist level. I wore the hip protectors velcro’d into my riding pants (where the hip protectors that come with the pants would normally go) and over my leggings so they were not in contact with my skin.
Road Racing Attire: I tested the hip protectors while riding my Yamaha R6 at two track test days. – I typically wear a compression athletic shirt and athletic leggings under my leathers so that the leathers do not stick to my skin. The leathers I had on during testing (Women’s Spidi Pro Lizard) had a very thin, sewn in layer of padding over the hip bone. My normal racing leathers (Custom Pilot) do not have that. I wore the hip protectors inside my leggings against my skin and I also tried them velcro’d into the leathers, though this set of leathers did not have good secure manner for attaching them because the sewn in liner was loose and moved around.)
Dirt: The hip pads stayed in place very well in normal conditions. Standing/walking around it was no different than wearing the low profile hip pads that come with the riding pants. While riding on the mini bike my leg normally has about 90 degree bend at the hip, except when laid over in the corners when my inside leg is off the peg and stuck out. With the modification we made from the prototype test set there is now no interference with my leg movement.
Road: The hip protectors again stayed in place very well, once I set them in place inside my leggings they did not move when walking around or riding, the only small issue I had was when putting my leathers on/off the hip protectors would move around a bit so I had to manipulate the pads to keep them where I wanted them as I was pulling my leathers up. There was no interference with my leg movement or riding form.
Dirt: I found these hip pads to be quite comfortable which means I didn't even notice they were there. I typically wear the hip pads that come with the Thor MX Pants so I substituted these in which gave me the extra protection over my pelvis and with better impact material. I was able to wear them all day while walking around and doing my thing.
Road: Again, the pads were not even noticeable once I had my leathers on. When I wore them inside my leggings against my skin, I found that they were comfortable while riding and were unobtrusive when I was walking around with them inside my leathers. When I wore them velcro'd inside my leathers, I found they moved around a bit. This was more due to the loose sewn in liner in my leathers, so my preferred method of wearing them is inside my leggings.
In regards to coverage, I am obviously excited about the extended coverage over the pelvic area as this is where my injury occurred. The comments I provided on the prototype set hold true for the modified set.
Dirt: With the shorter back protector on the dirt gear there was no interference with the hip protectors and the back protector. If I was only getting these protectors for dirt I might want the pelvic protection to come up a little higher and cover more of the back of the pelvis since there is no tail bone protection on the back protector that would cause interfere. The hip protection for falls is significantly better quality and area of coverage than you get with the standard hip pads that come with riding pants and it is much lower profile than you get in aftermarket padded riding shorts. I did crash test these in the dirt, though it was a low impact low side, no bruising or injuries were sustained to my pelvis/hip.
Road: My hip protectors were designed to sit tight against the tailbone extension of my Impact back protector, so that I have full coverage across my entire lower back and around the hips. I prefer the hip protectors inside my leggings as it held them in place even when I was walking around in my back protector. With the modified set I was able to place the hip protectors where they were lined up with my back protector tail bone coverage, there was no interference and I had complete freedom of movement.
Unfortunately I did not get photos of the hip protection in testing, I was too busy having a blast riding and they were so unnoticeable that I kept forgetting to take pictures of them. I am ecstatic with how the hip protection pads fit and feel now. I have so much more confidence with the extended protection on my hips and pelvis. I am ready to race 2016 with my Impact Safe-T Armor!
I wore the hip protectors in two riding conditions Dirt Flat Track and Road Racing;
Dirt Attire: I tested the hip protectors while riding my dirt bikes (CR150F and YZ250F) in a flat track environment under motocross gear (Thor pants/jersey) - I typically wear tight athletic leggings under my moto gear (I wear custom knee braces and the leggings act as skin sleeves for those as well as a comfortable base layer). When flat tracking I wear an armor jacket under my jersey which has a built in back protector, roost guard, shoulder and elbow pads. The back protector stops coverage just below waist level. I wore the hip protectors velcro’d into my riding pants (where the hip protectors that come with the pants would normally go) and over my leggings so they were not in contact with my skin.
Road Racing Attire: I tested the hip protectors while riding my R6 at Sonoma Raceway. – I typically wear a compression athletic shirt and athletic leggings under my leathers so that the leathers do not stick to my skin. The leathers I had on during testing (Women’s Spidi Pro Lizard) had a very thin, sewn in layer of padding over the hip bone. My normal racing leathers (Custom Pilot) do not have that. I wore the hip protectors inside my leggings against my skin. (I did not try them velcro’d into the leathers as this set did not have good secure manner for attaching them.)
Dirt: The hip pads stayed in place very well in normal conditions. Standing/walking around it was no different than wearing the low profile hip pads that come with the riding pants. While riding on the taller bike (250) my leg normally has minimal bend at the hip, except when laid over in the corners. When I lifted my leg forward and up the front lower tab on the hip protector would interfere with my leg movement and push the hip protector back and out of place or it would pinch my leg at the hip fold. On the shorter bike (150) the hip protector is generally interfering with my movement in the same area, however it is constant interference as my hip has more bend at all times.
Road: The hip protectors again stayed in place very well, once I set them in place inside my leggings they did not move when walking around or riding. However, the same point of interference that occurred on the dirt bike was a factor on the road bike as well, primarily when tucked behind the wind screen or on the interior leg that was out for cornering.
Dirt: Aside from the pinching at the interference point I found them quite comfortable (not noticeable). I was able to wear them all day while walking around and doing my thing. (I am accustomed to wearing the hip pads that come with dirt pants and found these to be similar in feel.)
Road: The same comments apply for road testing as I have noted above. In addition though, since I wore them inside my leggings against my skin, I found that they started to feel abrasive (scratchy) when I was walking around with them inside my leathers (especially when my leathers were pulled down around my waist and moved around a bit more freely). I would prefer a softer fabric on the interior surface of the pads. I did not feel the abrasiveness was an issue while riding, probably because I was focused on other things.
In regards to coverage, I am obviously excited about the extended coverage over the pelvic area as this is where my injury occurred.
Dirt: With the shorter back protector on the dirt gear there was no interference with the hip protectors and the back protector. If I was only getting these protectors for dirt I might want the pelvic protection to come up a little higher and cover more of the back of the pelvis since there is no tail bone protection on the back protector that would cause interfere. The hip protection for falls is significantly better quality and area of coverage than you get with the standard hip pads that come with riding pants and it is much lower profile than you get in aftermarket padded riding shorts.
Road: My hip protectors were designed to sit tight against the tailbone extension of my Impact back protector, so that I have full coverage across my entire lower back and around the hips. I prefer the hip protectors inside my leggings as it held them in place even when I was walking around in my back protector. I ended up situating the hip protectors a little closer together with the back protector extending over the top of the hip protectors. I did this to minimize the interference with my leg on the front lower corner (I basically just pushed them back and rotated out of the way of my leg.) I found that even though we designed them to not overlap with the tailbone tab on the back protector, the overlap I added was really a non-issue because the hip protectors were held tight by my leggings and the back protector easily and comfortably slid over the top.
Overall I recommend removing the lower front “wing” of the hip protector to allow leg movement (see attached photo with taped out area I would remove). The down side of this, is it leaves a small area of the front of the hip unprotected, however the overall greater good of protecting the major surface area of the pelvis is still achieved. Also, as I mentioned above I would prefer a smoother, softer fabric, similar to compression clothing fabric for the interior surface of the protection so that it is more comfortable if you elect to wear it against the skin. If I decide to wear the hip proctors in my leathers, but outside of my leggings, I would likely want to add a Velcro tab that hold the hip protector’s edge tight with the tailbone tab of the back protector so they would move as one unit and not clip one another. (Although I am not certain this would really even be a problem.) I can attempt this scenario with a different set of leathers in a few weeks.
2014 AFM Round 3 – Thunderhill Raceway 2014 AFM Round 4 – Thunderhill Raceway 2014 AFM Round 5 – Thunderhill Raceway 2014 AFM Round 6 – Sonoma Raceway
Racing is a mental game as much as it is physical, this sport has been a journey for me. I am combining the last 4 race rounds in one race report, because as a journey, each weekend in on it's own does not tell the complete story. This is about the mental side of racing for me, this is not about "I passed so and so in turns X and Y." There have been good moments and there have been moments where I question why I participate in this sport. Does the reward truly outweigh the risk? And will I race again in 2015?
I want to take a step back in time, because sometimes we have to look back to take note in how far we have come. Last year, 2013, I was rising through the ranks. Dirt tracking with Brok McAllister, Gage McAllister and Garrett Willis had opened my eyes, and my feel for the bike, in ways I hadn't imagined possible. This acquired skill transferred to my road racing and my times started dropping by 2 to 3 seconds at every track, every time I got on track. I was on fire and I was bragging (I should have knocked on wood) about how my times were falling and I wasn't. I hadn't suffered a road race crash in three years and I was getting faster. I credit much of this with the skills I learned over the years from Ken Hill Coaching (check out FasterSafer.com). But alas, at 2013 Round 4 my crash free run came tumbling down, down the hill from my low-side at the top of turn 5. I was going for an inside pass which ended with a DNF in 600SB.
I came back strong at Round 5 and finished inside the Top 10 in both my 600/750 races. Then came Round 6 at Sonoma, where it all came crashing down… again! I was having a great weekend, I had dropped my lap times from a previous best of 1:49 down to 1:46.1 and I was feeling great! I decided to run F1, a class I hadn't been running that season. I saw that I had an opportunity to get on the podium in F1, but I would have to start from the back of the grid which meant the start was everything and I got a killer start! Unfortunately another rider crashed from the inside of the track, I didn't see him as I came around the outside of another rider and then there he was right in front of me. We ended up in a 4 bike crash and I found myself in a helicopter with a collapsed lung, concussion and separated shoulder. The end of my chance at a podium in F1, the end of my season, the end of my goal of finishing inside the Top 10 overall in my 600 classes, I was crushed mentally as much as I was broken physically. We find solace in saying to ourselves… "Next year, I'll do it next year."
I recovered over the winter and I was back for the 2014 season. I started the season strong, like I had never been away. I set a new personal best at the first round at Buttonwillow dropping my times, yes again, by another 3 seconds. Joy and I battled in AFemme, her getting the better of me, but I took pride in the fact that I gave her a run for her money on her liter bike with me on my 600. I hate to use that as an excuse for coming in 2nd, but at Buttonwillow and Thunderhill, no one can deny that the 1000's have an advantage with the long straights and fast sections.
Sonoma though, that track favors the 600's. Sonoma is tight and technical; there are only 3 sections on track where horsepower has the advantage, but the other 9 sections favor the light and nimble 600's. Plus, I now had a Built By Jesse Koeller motor in my 600 which I knew would give me just a bit more HP to hang in those 3 sections. AFM Round 2 at Sonoma was a breakthrough performance for me, the rise. I won AFemme in a tight battle with Joy, my lap times that weekend matched my best from last year with 1:46.1, but now I was consistent in the 46-47 range. I had great battles in my 600P, 750P and F1 races and I left that weekend feeling accomplished and proud of how far I have come. I was feeling legitimately fast!
At AFM Round 3 came the stumble, I couldn't bring myself to write a race report at the time because I struggled with my set-back. I beat Joy in AFemme, but it wasn't a satisfying win and here is why… We had a red flag from the warm up lap, and when we retook the grid Joy wasn't there. I was stupid, there is no other way to say it… I rode the first 2 laps goofing off, lacking concentration, I was practicing, not racing. I was caught by surprise when I came down the front straight and saw Ben giving me the closing gap signal, I had thought Joy wasn't out there and when she passed me in turn 6 I realized how foolish I had been wasting those first 2 laps of the race where I could have been opening a gap. Joy and I had a pretty fun battle, swapping positions, but with the insane lap traffic from the 250 grid it was pretty sketchy at moments and neither of us ran to our potential. On the last lap I came out of T15 onto the finish straight in front, I tucked and pinned for all my might, Joy passed me by an inch at the line. I thought I had lost to her, but it turned out she was a full lap down so I took the victory. I had to immediately retake the grid for my Formula 40 race. With the adrenaline from AFemme and no 250's on the track I was able to run a better pace, only a second off my personal best and I finished 5th in F40.
Saturday night I sat down to take a look at my track data, Jason and I had added XT Racing systems to our bikes, we can see when and how much we are getting on the throttle, the brakes, we can see speed at any point on the track as well as our lines, but the best part is I can overlay and compare my data with his, or any other person with the system. This is a great tool, but what I learned this weekend was that it also has the potential of breaking your mental game. Looking at the data Saturday night, we discovered a significant weakness in my use of the brakes. I went out and sat on the bike and tried to practice a technique that Jason and Greg use, but in hindsight trying to change my braking habit on Saturday night probably was not my best idea. With only one practice session Sunday morning I went on track to give it a try while moving. My data showed slight improvement in my braking, but it had also had an adverse effect on my acceleration and we all know that you make up more time under acceleration than you do on the brakes. J My times on Sunday dropped off from my personal best by 2 to 3 seconds, it seemed everything I had gained over the last 2 years was lost in a day. I was suffering, but I think you all would agree this was all in my head. I hadn't changed a thing on my bike set-up. 750P was my first race of the day and I got beat up on the start, shuffling back from 9th on the grid to the back of the field. I was desperate to get back up to where I felt I belonged and on the very first lap, I made the same mistake I had made last year, going for an inside pass which ended with me low-siding at the Top of T5.
This was Race 3, my team and my friends came together to help me get my bike fixed up and re-teched so I could make my 600P race 20 minutes later. I am so thankful for their help, but I felt like I had let them down. Again I got duffed up on the start, and then I was stuck in traffic and not wanting to make any dicey passes that would put me in the dirt I ran 3 seconds slower than my pace and finished down the order in 17th. This was not a weekend I wanted to write about, the hardest part is knowing you have the skills and the equipment to ride better, but being so wrapped up in your own head that you hold yourself back. This is the side of racing that no one likes to talk about, but even the best in the world have bad mental days, the key is finding a way to break out of it.
Round 4 was back at Thunderhill and I was just still wrapped up mentally going into the weekend. My husband was riding better and better as he started to come to terms with his ZX-10 and his success gave me some inspiration. I managed to pull my lap times down from the last round by 1 second, Joy and I had another fun battle in AFemme with her using the 250 lap traffic better and beating me to the line. I also finished top 10 in both my 600P/750P classes, but I was not up in the battle where I knew I could be, where I felt I should be and again I left the race weekend feeling pretty disappointed.
At Round 5, again at Thunderhill came the fall. THill is my favorite track, but AFM is doing their best to wear me out on it with 3 races in a row there… I felt like I needed a change in scenery to help revive my racing, but here we were again. I came into this weekend with a plan that I hoped would help me learn about my bike and also break my mental funk. Pacific Track Time (PTT) decided to run a unique and quality track day for the racers on Friday. With the new Thunderhill West Track, they were able to split the clientele and put track day riders on the West Track and racers on our East Track. Then they gave us full 30 minute sessions, which are perfect for real testing. My husband gave up the first ½ of the track day to help me build my vocabulary of feel on my bike. Jason does a pretty good job of setting up a 600 and I've always just run his set-up. Last year we started working with KFG Racing at the track, I switched from Ohlins to GP Suspension in my forks and Barry gave me a baseline set-up to start with. He has been helping me with minor adjustments based on my feedback, but I REALLY lacked confidence in the feedback I was giving him. So this day was a day of exposure, we made swinging changes to my set up so that I could definitively feel the difference it made in the bike handling. I have never done this before and it was incredibly helpful as I learned some things about my baseline set-up that I now thought I could improve on. I had intended to end Friday practice and put my bike back to my baseline, but I had discovered a change that I thought made the handling better for my riding style. It is hard to believe that it took me 7 years of racing to decide to learn this, but the faster you go the more important it is to get your set-up dialed in to your preferences for comfort and style. KFG (Barry) is the first suspension person I personally have worked with, I've always just copied what Jason or Greg had and I was able to go fast enough for the skills I had at the time, but they are no longer on 600's and I am now at a different pace and without their input. Soooo…. How did this work out for me? Let me say first that I am glad I did it, because without change you can't learn.
Saturday AFemme was a nightmare, this really had nothing to do with my set-up, but more with traffic. Joy and I both know that if you are out front you get an advantage in going through the 250 2nd wave of racers, their grid has grown to a significant presence on track and the closing speeds are insane with better than a 10 second lap time difference between them and us. I got a horrible start wheeling off the line. Kate got a rocket launch and she followed Joy through the first several turns, I wasn't able to get by Kate until turn 5 to 6 and I had to sacrifice my drive to make the pass stick. Joy pulled a gap that would be difficult to draw back in, I was hoping lap traffic would somehow work in my favor, but it was quite the opposite. We caught lap traffic on the 2nd lap and the 250 grid had multiple battles on the track. I found myself zig-zagging through 4 of them from turns 6 to 8, which if you've raced THill you know is a risky section to pass. With each corner came another risky pass and surviving the race became my primary goal to trying to catch Joy. It was a disaster. I was thankful for the open track in F40 and I was pleased with my riding, my times came back down to within 1 second of my personal best and I finished the race in 4th with a fun battle with Brett Nelson all the way to the line. I was feeling positive for what Sunday had in store for me.
But…. Now I have this new vocabulary and experience with bike set-up and I still felt there was a way to make the bike handle a little better for me. I was determined to try a change and despite Barry's best attempts to caution me we made a set-up change for Sunday. We're going to digress to talk about the mental side of racing for a minute… it is typical for a racer to want to make a set-up change when they start going backwards with their riding and I am no exception. Even though I knew that the set-up was not what had made me start going slower in the first place I was holding onto hope that a set-up change would be just the thing to springboard me out of this slump. My first race was 750P and it was a tough race, I struggled to manage holding onto a lap time slower than I had done the previous day and I felt like the front end was going to tuck on the exit of every corner. Throughout the race, I was frustrated and falling back. I came in and talked to Sage about it, we decided to make a little more of a change to try to address the tucking feeling on the exits. The next race started out good, I felt better through the first few turns and my confidence started to build. As we came over turn 9 I made a mistake and Andrew Lee came right past me. I stayed on his rear wheel as we round the back half of the track and still felt good with my bike, but Turn 14 is a different type of corner, hard braking off the straight and a tighter corner than most on the track. I came in strong on the brakes, stronger than I had all weekend, and my suspension loaded, as I let off the brakes, I felt it happening and there was nothing I could do, I had let off the lever too fast, the front end rebounded and lost traction. My elbows hit the pavement and my bike and I slid in parallel for a moment until me feet came free and I was flipped onto my back. I slid away from the corner looking back at the inside of the track and then I felt the impact in my low back/butt. I had hit something, it felt like a wall, it stopped all my sliding momentum and spun me like a break dancer on the pavement. As it turned out Max had these pics showing I had hit the pylon cone. What the heck was it even doing there?
I came to a stop, throbbing and unable to move my right leg… I rolled until I felt the dirt. I laid there completely aware of what had just happened, except I could not figure out what I had hit, T14 is wide open, people low side there all the time and walk away. And here I was red flagging the race, I tried to convince myself it was just a deep bruise but when the medic felt my hips he confirmed instability, we knew something was broken the initial thought was it was my femur at the hip joint, but it turned out I had broken my pelvis in the back near the tailbone and I had a couple compression fractures in the front. As they were cutting off my leathers I made sure Glenn (our loyal crash truck driver/corner worker) went and told Jason that I was fine and that I wanted him to stay and race. His first race of the day was right after the one I had just crashed in and I didn't want to ruin his season again, like I had last year. Jason had a quick opportunity to talk to me as they loaded me into the heli, I tried my best to convince him it was a bruise and the medics were just being precautionary, but Jason knows my looks and he knew I was broken. I demanded that he stay and race, it takes several hours to get through Truama and he wouldn't be able to see me until then anyway so he stayed. He got to the hospital just before I came out of surgery and he told me how hard it was to concentrate on his racing, but he managed to salvage decent points and by his last race he rode faster and took 2nd. I think he rode in a hurry, thinking that the faster he rode the sooner the race would be over and he could get out of there. Love.
So here I am broken and disappointed with how my season ended. I felt like I had a real chance of winning AFemme again at Sonoma which would have tied us again in the points. I was also in Overall Top 10 contention again for my 600/750 classes. I am also sitting tied in 4th overall in F40MID, but I will drop to at least 6th after the final round… Is there Next Year? Will I try again next year? I'd be lying if I said I haven't considered retiring. That first week after my surgery every time I tried to go to the bathroom with a broken pelvis, the pain was unbearable and I thought I was done.
So now I climb, racing has brought me so much, a group of friends that really are a second family, a confidence in myself that has brought me out of my shell, a sense of accomplishment, and a realization that I can "ride like a girl" and girl's can ride as fast as guys. And this is why I decided that if I couldn't race the last two rounds of AFM, I was going to help other girls get out there and help them see what they can accomplish.
AFM Round 6 I had the opportunity to sponsor and help Laura Llovet in passing her New Racer School and getting out there and racing. Laura has been a turn worker for the AFM and given so much for the club, she has a passion for racing and it was a pleasure to be able to help her achieve her dream of being on the track racing. I also had the pleasure of sponsoring a new racer from WA, Brisa White, in coming down to the AFM. Brisa had little racing experience and she learned a new track (Sonoma is tough) and gave Kate a run for her money for the win in Novice AFemme. Unfortunately she had a crash on the last lap of the race, but we learn and we move on, she fixed up her bike and raced 600P Novice the next day.
It sucks to not be out there racing, but it is a joy to be able to help others get out there and experience why we love racing so much.
I will be at Round 7 sponsoring and helping Marisa Johnson as she takes her New Racer School and grids up for her first time. And next year…there's always next year.
I know that race reports can become a bit stale. Jenn and I have looked at ways to change how we write them. For AFM round 3, I choose to write about 1 circumstance. Maybe it ends up talking about the race or maybe it is nothing more than my own meandering thoughts pasted down on a page for anyone who has 10 minutes to waste, I mean read. Hopefully, and maybe, just maybe, I help one racer progress and take away one more second from their lap time, hell just a tenth or two would work for me. I owe the sport for so many things and this is my attempt to give something back, honest answers about the weekend and what goes on in my head.
The most depressing thing about being at that top ten level is knowing you are never again going to come off the track with that look on your face; that unimaginable look of shock and awe, when you have just bettered your lap time by several seconds. At this point, i am now looking for tenths, tiny bits of time, that only the best of everything brought together at a single moment can achieve. The joy is great, simply reduce your time by a single tenth of a second, consistently, and when you do it is amazing. That group in front of you appears so close, so close you feel that you have arrived at the next level. When you don't you are mired back with a group you feel you have out grown. On those days, your feeling is that of disgust, 'How did this happen to me? Me! I am apart of that next level, I simply don't belong with these riders.' You have out grown that group and aspire to ride for the 1/10 of a second.
1/10th has a weird sound to a non-racer. Who measures anything in tenths of a second? I remember when I was learning about building motors and an instructor showed me a single millimeter on a ruler. In a machinist's eye this is like a mile, he told me. Unable to see it at the time and only being having a point of reference in feet and inches, a millimeter seemed to be the smallest measurement I could imagine. Looking back those millimeters were like minutes on a race track. I have learned not to measure in seconds on a lap, but 1/10th's and even 1/100th's of a second, just like the 1/100th of a second it took me to lose a podium on Sunday. The scale has changed and so has my perception. I cant help but look back and think how many 1/100th's that I left out on the track, at any moment, any single 1/100th could have given me that podium spot.
Now here I sit in limbo, sure I don't belong with that ever charging group behind me, yet not quite up to the next group either. The truth of the situation is that a single 1/10th of a second can change everything and bear one of two fates; win or lose. Sunday an ill timed start would unravel my world and send me into a spiral of difficult situations. I remember looking in front of me and knowing the tail section that paced before me was not the one I wished to see. All of a sudden chasing the leader became a delusion, and trying to navigate past the riders in front of me became my challenge. How do you pass racers blessed with skill that leaves them only fractions of a second slower a lap slower than you? You look long and hard for a weakness, and maybe you find it, or maybe someone else sizes you up as your eyes eagerly look to be one place higher. This is true race craft, assessing the riders around you while traveling around the circuit at or near your own maximum capabilities. The very best in the business still struggle to pass a slower rider and not be passed themselves.
In the next race with a better start and wiser lines, I was able to advance my position and follow more closely behind that group I am so eagerly trying to be among. But then, my mind becomes overwhelmingly full with thoughts of what it is going to take to run at that next level, which distracts me from my race. Two completely different races, with different problems, rattle my brain to a point I am barely able to focus on anything. Herein lies the lesson of my weekend. I need every ounce of attention I can muster to handle both situations. This leaves me with a real issue, the riding. I need to further develop my muscle memory; the ability to react, in an instant, without thought, and respond to the situation I am in. With better muscle memory, it will free my mind to find the 1/10's and 1/100's left on track.
This is where I focus my training; developing my skills to not only 'just react' when an issue arises, but to react correctly. A brutally aggressive pass attempt into T5 put me in a bad position, nearly T boning another rider. I was faster in that section, but I did not put myself in a good position to complete the pass. My hand clamped firmly on my front lever and the bike dove in response to my heavy hand. Thanks to coaching from Brok at Prairie City Dirt Track I had acquired the skills that allowed my right foot to react to our dilemma. The small, but effective, rear brake use allowed both me and my competitor to race on and not have to watch the end with the corner workers in T5. Had we crashed, the fault would have been mine, but that small addition of rear brake kept us both on 2 wheels.
Muscle memory saved my day, and as someone once said, “Any time on a bike is good time on a bike.” After such a close call and looking back, I will continue to focus my efforts on developing muscle memory and reactive instinct. If it can save me in a close call, what could it do for my lap times if I apply it proactively and correctly. More seat time on the bike is what the doctor ordered, so PTT will see more of me and so will PCDT or any other opportunity that allows me to swing a leg over a bike. I hope this helps at least one person understand some of the true challenges I face in racing. Come as prepared as you can and hopefully you will achieve your goals and ride among the next group.
How do you change your riding style from the morning to the afternoon? Do you think about changes in the track conditions as the day progresses?
Jenn - This question is specific to riding style and the effects of track conditions on it throughout the day, so I am going to stay away from comments on bike set-up and stick to riding.
Honestly, my riding style definitely changes through the day. In the morning, my blood hasn't really started pumping and I am usually stiff. I spend the first 3 laps of my first session loosening up. I focus on lines, hitting my apexes, getting my eyes up and getting my body position correct. After the first 3 laps I tend to get into my rhythm and relax. As the day warms up, my body warms up and the track temperatures typically come up. At this point, I am probably, (hopefully) riding at my best. With better traction I can push the bike more, I might modify when and how much I go to the brakes, I might be able to take a better line through a corner (like over slick spots that must be avoided when damp), I may be able to pick the bike up earlier and get to full throttle sooner. As the conditions of the day change; it cools down, fog rolls in, the sun begins to set, winds pick up, etc. I definitely think about the effects of that on the bike and my riding. These may be minor adjustments, but you have to adjust. During the F1 race at Sonoma the wind changed during the race, on the second lap I was coming down the hill into turn 4 with head wind and then on the next lap the wind was gone. I didn't adjust my braking enough and I blew the corner, I had to stand the bike up and take the off ramp. That race was pretty much a throw away for me at that point, but I got back on track and used the rest of the race to practice dealing with the changing winds.
What was your biggest mental hurdle entering this round or with this track in particular? How did you fare in overcoming this hurdle?
Jason – My biggest mental hurdle is 3 fold; 1) I knew the AMA racers would be there and add more competition for the weekend, 2) I had no test data on the ZX10 at Sonoma, and 3) 3 weeks prior to this round I had knee surgery. The knee surgery had the biggest affect on me, because of the surgery I was unable to get to the track in advance to set up my bike. This left me relying heavily on my mechanic Ben and Barry at KFG to help me get the bike dialed in quickly on Saturday morning. The thing that I felt was most within my control, was me. The promise of a healthy knee for this round kept me motivated to work out and perform intensive rehab leading up to the race weekend. Knowing that you will be competing against the best racers in the US makes you want to bring your "A" game. The extra hours in the gym, a consistent pit set-up and a lot of support help give me the confidence I need when I grid up, especially with this level of competition. I am probably my own harshest critic and had you asked me on Sunday how I felt, my response would not have been positive. After taking a few weeks to reflect on the weekend, I have realized that I took positive steps forward in all 3 areas. They may not have been the gains I was hoping for, but my program is moving in the right direction.
Do you notice the draft of your fellow racers? Do you use it? Does it make a particular sound or feel when you are in it compared to without it?
Jenn- Interesting question. I recall a situation a couple years ago where I was racing at Thunderhill, I was on the last lap, on the front straight and I put myself in "the draft" of the racer in front of me, or at least so I thought. I then tried to use the draft to sling shot out and past him at the line. Unfortunately, my well thought out plan didn't work. After the race I was ranting about this "draft crap" to my husband and Berto. Berto quickly informed me that I had no flipping idea where, what or how a draft works. When I thought I was in the draft I was actually about 6 feet behind the racer in front of me, "cautious me" wanted a way out if the rider did something unusual, but it turns out that you have to be a little closer than 6 feet to make that draft thing work. Berto, the avid NASCAR fan, explained the principle of drafting to me and since then I have become a tail-gating fool on the straights. LOL! I can't really say that I noticed a particular sound from it, and the feel comes when you pull out of the draft, more than when you are in it. Try it on a bicycle sometime; the effects of drafting are very noticeable when your legs are the engine.
Do you enjoy the mixed gender races more or less than the female only ones? Does it change how you ride or your feeling of accomplishment after the race?
Jenn – When Christie and Joy started working towards getting AFemme started I was kind of against it, I honestly believe, in this sport, that the females can be competitive with the males. However, I did see the benefit of the class for attracting new female racers, particularly drawing the attention of the young girls, the daughters and little sisters, the future of female racers. For this reason, I agreed to support the efforts and I started racing AFemme.
Once I got out there my competitive drive kicked up a notch, after all we were competing for bragging rights of fastest girl in the AFM… and who doesn't want bragging rights? Really, I don't see this as being any different than having bragging rights of being fastest in whatever your class is; 600's, 650's, liter bikes, Old Guy, whatever. The down side is I want competition, bragging rights aren't that cool if you are bragging about winning the Championship when you were the only one out there. I love the fact that I have Joy to battle with and I love that these new novice girls are getting faster every round. Competition drives progress. This personal progress has helped me move to the next level in my mixed gender (600) classes and I decided this year that they were my primary focus. My goals are to be in the Top 10 overall at the end of the year and get some top 5 finishes. There is a huge sense of satisfaction of finishing that high is such a deep field of talented racers. It is all about the level of competition and the challenge of the race. I get a lot of satisfaction racing AFemme, especially when I am challenged, I know how fast I am and I know we aren't taking it easy out there just because it's the girls' class. I feel a lot of satisfaction in the 600 classes too, I won't lie I love beating up on the guys. I love going faster than guys that were previously faster than me. It doesn't matter to me who is under the helmet, I just want to be faster than the person in front of me.
Being a teammate and a life partner are two different relationships I'm sure. Do you guys each have a toggle switch for race weekends/off days or do you try to be both when working on your race craft?
Jason – The most difficult part of the race weekend for Jenn and me, hands down, is "parking the trailer" as she finishes my sentence as I write this. Somewhere after the rig is parked and the pit is set up I manage to flip some imaginary switch. Prior to that I suppose we are like any married couple, with two individuals that have their own opinions about how things should be done. During the race weekend we are both fairly self-obsessed, always willing to help each other out if need be, but intensely focused on our own programs. The roughest part of the weekend for me is watching her race, as she battles for the lead in AFemme my heart rate is typically in the 170 to 180 range, I start to lose my voice and I am bouncing one wall so insanely that Vik usually comments on it over the PA.
Jenn – What he said. To build on that, Jason and I are best friends who enjoy doing activities together. We are partners at home and we are partners when it comes to racing. We don't assign each other domestic roles or try to fit our relationship into society expectations. Some people I know think it is wrong that my husband packs me lunch everyday, but I have a long commute for work, so he helps out. And I help mow the lawn on weekends, or do other things that some people consider gender specific roles. It is this foundation of our relationship that makes it work for us at home and at the track. Jason says we are "self-obsessed" when it comes to racing and I guess I agree we are, but that is not a bad thing. If you want to perform at your best you have to be focused on yourself. At home it is a team effort to prep bikes and get ready for racing. At the race track once the trailer is parked and the pit set up, it transitions to race time. We still help each other out on race weekends, but we know the right times to ask each other and when to leave each other alone. For this reason, we solicited help, our everything crew guy, Ben is there to help and allow us to be more self-obsessed. It really is funny that pit parking was our biggest disagreement, I think subconsciously this transition in our brains (the switch flip) was happening and that process was a little rocky. We have it figured out now and our parking arrangement and pit set up is nearly an automated program. No more parking disagreements. Yay!
How much better is the ZX10 than CBR?
Jason – Everyone always asks this question… The Honda is a good bike, for me it was a very good bike for entering into the liter bike classes. I was able to get on the Honda coming from an R6 and get up to speed fairly quickly. It has an easy to use power band with lots of torque and a "rider friendly chassis". This description is a quote from the current #1 plate holder after he rode my bike. With that being said, I LOVE my ZX10! The Kawi feels like an R6 with mucho horsepower. It has very precise handling and an adjustable traction control system that I am learning to really appreciate and love. Hands down, the ZX10 is the easiest liter bike to convert to competitive race bike on a reasonable budget. I am currently running stock brakes, slip on pipe, and a kit harness with an ECU on the stock motor. Add in GP/KFG suspension and I have a winning package. Get your own ZX-10 at Roseville Yamaha-Kawasaki. :)
I know this might be giving away race secrets but do you make any suspension changes due to the track temp at sears? Say you set up your bike on Saturday and it was sunny and 75 degrees but then on Sunday during race time, the fog (AKA Carl) has not left and the track has not seen the sun. Less grip, so you have to be easier on the brakes and might not get full travel out of the front with the set up from the day before, or does grip level not matter?
Jason – Going into the weekend we usually review weather reports and try to determine what the weather will be like. I will then talk with Chris at CT Racing and we will put together a tire plan for the weekend. Once tire selection is made tire pressures and minor suspension tweaks are considered.
After racing with AMA at Sonoma in 2011 I became more aware of this issue. The first session was in the afternoon and we were on a warm track and could easily push the pace. The next morning was the second session and "Carl" was in the house, I was disappointed to see the fog, thinking that I wouldn't be able to go as fast with colder track temperatures. The other racers came on track and immediately crushed the previous afternoon times. I quickly realized that with little to no changes I was able to go just as fast. For me, this is done by breaking your corner down to 3 sections; Corner Entry – smooth application of the brakes will allow you to load the tire more effectively than trying to make a small suspension adjustment. Mid Corner – with tires up to temperature there is a minimal percentage of edge grip difference (depending on the pavement type) my personal opinion is that I lose 2-3 % at Sonoma. Corner Exit – If your bike is working well in warmer temperatures, I think of it like F1 (Car) racing, at night they are not allowed to change suspension between qualifying and the race, the easiest and fastest adjustment that can be made is a small tire pressure adjustment. Tire pressures will allow you to fine tune your bike for temperature changes to maximize grip and can be modified throughout the day/weekend.
I only make suspension changes systematically and reactive to a specific handling issue, typically these issues would be present despite the weather conditions.
What goes on inside your helmet during the race?
Jason – There better question is what doesn't go on in my head during the race… I generally tend to analyze everything, and I mean everything. One of the key factors I am working on is learning to race utilizing muscle memory to react to situations rather than overthinking them. Great racers, when interviewed, often can't remember the details of a race or a great pass that happened in the race. I can typically recall everything about a pass including the sponsor logos on the other riders back. I need to learn to quit using valuable attention on unnecessary information.
Jenn – Bing, Bing, Bing, Bing. Smooth, Smooth Operator. Yes! Nice. Dang it. Oh no you don't!!! Ha, gotcha. Oh hi/bye. What the ____? Where did he come from? Trailer park girls go round the outside. White flag, I'm coming for you bitches. Yes! Whew…
Formula Pacific - P11 1:41.745
Open SB - P6 1:42.277
Open GP - P3 1:42.228
F40 Hvy - P1 1:42.972
AFemme - P1 1:47.626
750P - P10 1:47.700
600P - P13 1:46.193
F1 - P15 1:48.659
F40 Mid - P7 1:48.317
Thank you to our sponsors! Built By Jesse Koeller, CT Racing, KFG Racing,
PTT, Roseville Yamaha-Kawasaki, Texas Tea Lubes, Impact Safe-T Armour, PILOT, KH Coaching, California Supermoto Schools, LeoVince, Optimal Bodyworks, VanderKitten!
Coming up May 3rd & 4th at Sonoma Raceway is the Geico Superbike Shootout presented by Yamaha and hosted by the AFM. This is a Pro series being kicked off by John Ulrich to fill the calendar gap between rounds 1 and 2 of the AMA series, plus the lack of west coast rounds. The series will be teaming up with the AFM for round 2 of the 3 round series. The AMA Pro’s will be joining us the regularly scheduled AFM race at Sonoma Raceway, including our very own Roseville native and last year’s AMA DSB Champion, Cameron Beaubier. The SupermotoUSA races will also be running on the Sonoma Kart Track during the weekend with several Pro SM racers showing up.
We are really working hard to build back our sport from a grass-roots level and are hoping to get spectators out to the event. Please join us for this fun filled weekend and bring along all your friends and family to see what American Road Racing is about.
As a special treat Ritz Racing will answer your questions, anything about racing or our race weekend, in our race report following the event. Leave your questions in the comments section of this post and we'll address them following the races!
Saturday, May 3rd
7:45 Riders Meeting
8:15 Practice Groups 1-5, (ROUND 1)
9:25 Pro Sportbike practice
9:50 Practice Groups 1-5, (ROUND 2)
10:55 Pro Superbike practice
11:25 Practice Groups 1-5, (ROUND 3)
1:35 Pro Sportbike Qualifying
2:10 Practice Groups 1-5, short sessions (ROUND 4)
3:00 Mark grids, National Anthem
3:10 Formula Pacific - Jason
3:40 Afemme/Vintage/300 Prod/F-40 Light - Jenn
4:05 Pro Superbike Qualifying
4:40 600 Superbike
5:05 F-50/Clubman Heavy/Clubman Middle
5:30 F2/ 650 Twins
6:00 Clubman Light
Sunday, May 4th
7:45 Riders Meeting
8:00 Practice Groups 1-5
9:00 Pro Sportbike practice
9:15 Pro Superbike practice
9:30 Mark Grids / National Anthem
9:45 F3/450 Superbike/250 Prod
10:05 750 Production - Jenn
10:30 250 Superbike
10:50 Pro Sportbike Race
1:10 Open Twins/Open Production
1:30 600 Production - Jenn
1:50 Open Superbike - Jason
2:20 Formula I - Jenn
2:50 650 Production/500 Twins/Singles
3:15 Pro Superbike Race
4:30 750 Superbike
4:50 Open Grand Prix/SuperDino - Jason
5:15 F-40 Heavy/F-40 Middle - Jason & Jenn
AFM kicked off the 2014 Season March 22nd and 23rd at Buttonwillow Raceway.
Let's hear from Ritz Racing on how it went:
What was your general impression of the track?
Jason: It is a tough track to say the least. In the middle of the season, this place would challenge you and your equipment, at the beginning of the year it is a massive undertaking. The track has an amazing layout, but the bumps are all anyone talks about and I'm no different, the bumps are the tracks defining characteristic. With fresh pavement this place would be a rider's track for sure. As it is now, it's a setup and confidence track.
Jenn – I have historically struggled at BW, the landscape is pretty flat and barren, it's desert like. I have a difficult time finding reference points and I struggle to look far enough ahead because, for me, it tends to feel a little like being in a white-out snow storm. Like many other racers still do, I used to have a bad attitude about racing here, along with the lack of reference point and scenery, the track is bumpy and the bike set-up is different than you would use at any other track. A couple years ago, I was working with Ken Hill at a track day at BW and I finally decided it was time to let go of my bad attitude and start embracing the things I like about the track instead. I love going through Riverside - the fast, right, sweeping, banked turn is a blast to ride through, then it spits you out onto a flat, short straight into a high speed left kink, then up the hill before you go to the brakes and make a hard right, over the blind Phil's Hill. This is my favorite section of the track, go fast in the fast parts… This weekend the entry bumps into Riverside were worse than they had ever been and were the talk of the paddock. The trick was finding the cleanest line to clear the bumps and carry max speed into Riverside, but hit the bumps wrong and you would surely find yourself skipping across the track towards the outside losing your momentum, get it completely wrong and you would end up lying in the dirt on the back of Riverside.
Three goals you set and achieved this weekend?
Jenn - My first goal; Set a new personal best lap time. My previous best lap time at BW was a 1:58.9, this track has similar lap times to Thunderhill and with the improvements I had made overall with my lap times last year I was confident I could improve on my PB here. The weekend started out a little frustrating as I was in the 2:02-2:03 range during practice. I always practice a little slow, but I have been trying to change that, so I was still frustrated. As soon as I got into the races on Saturday afternoon my times dropped; I had the AFemme race followed back-to-back with Formula 40. I was still off the pace in AFemme getting a bad start, then riding the entire race in 2nd position by myself, I only managed flat 2:00's in this race.
This brings me to my second goal; Finish Top 5 in my debut in Formula 40 Middleweight. That's right, I turned the big 4-0 this year and I am super excited to be racing in the highly competitive F40 class. If you think people slow down when they get to be 40 you need to look no further than Bud Anderson for proof that is not the case. Bud runs both F40 and F50, back to back and still finishes on the podium in both. Bud is a damn fast guy and one of my inspirations in racing. Again, I didn't get a great start, but I managed to close in on the leaders thanks to a heated battle at the front between Stephen Rue, Craig Mason and Tom Montano swapping it up for the lead, followed by Scott Wilson, then me. I was motivated to stay with them for the duration and also wanted to make sure I was there to capitalize on a mistake if they kept duffing it up at the front, I rode more aggressively and focused than I had in Afemme. My best lap in F40 was a new PB dropping into the 1:58.0's. This gave me the confidence I needed going into Sunday that I could still go faster at BW.
My third goal for the weekend; Finish in the top 15 in my Sunday classes, scoring points for gridding at future rounds and DO NOT CRASH. BW is always a bit of a "survival round". We usually have lower turn-outs at BW, (it is far, the weather is typically threatening rain and many people don't like the track). Showing up and scoring points at BW will set you ahead for grid positions the rest of the season. This is important for the 600 classes with deep fields, if you want to run in the front packs you need to be there at the start. I was pleased with my first race of the weekend 750P, I managed a new PB dropping to 1:56's and I finished top 10. I fatigued later in the day, it was hot at BW this weekend and I found my body was not prepared for the long days in the heat. I didn't run a strong in the 600P and F1 classes as I had hoped, but still kept my lap times consistent in the 1:57's and finished as I had hoped, within the top 15. This was by far my best weekend at BW ever and was a solid start to my season.
Jason - I am not sure that I have achieved 3 goals that I can speak of. If I had to break it down the first is survival. The first round in a series is survival for sure, finish the weekend with you and the bike in-tact and score points in your races. Check, check, and check! Not that I didn't have a few close calls that could have changed that answer.
Being prepared was a big deal this year. No matter whom you are or at what level, preparation is key. My bike was mostly ready to go, we had logged some days with Pacific Track Time, and we had a returning mechanic (Ben Kautt) this year. I see a lot of guys show up and they are really behind the ball. Some of them make it work, but the overwhelming theme was riders who had already logged a race or two this year, performed better. I felt a bit disgruntled, because with the extra time we had before the season started, I just managed to pack more "crap" into it. Sometimes having too much prep time makes for a bit of over thinking the small things.
Last year I suffered some pretty bad days at the track on a personal level. I mismanaged my efforts on the liter bike. In the off season, I changed my approach to establish a program for managing my race weekends better. This includes a change in my diet, workout program, and riding style. As I am getting older, my body changes the way I produce energy and recover. Dehydration was a large problem for me last year. It took some time, but my diet seems to be squared away, leaving me with enough energy and fluid for the weekend. My back, leg, and shoulder strength has also really limited my performance, I ride a bit brutish and it requires a bit more stamina that some of the smaller riders. My strength still needs work, but the overall feeling is better. I have also made changes to my riding style, out of necessity, and Ken Hill Coaching theory is constantly a point of my efforts. This is a never ending change; riders have to change as the bikes change.
Three things you learned this weekend?
Jason - I learned a lot more than three things this weekend for sure. 1) Barry at KFG is helping me out with my suspension and we are finding our way with the ZX-10. 2) Don't whine to your mechanic too much, at some point he will look at you and tell you to shut up. It was much deserved and forced me to get my head straight. 3) The biggest thing I learned was race craft in general. I use the term RACE CRAFT for a lack of a better term. Michael Ernest has become a mentor to me this year and his insight has proven to be unbelievably helpful. He is back to racing on the GSX-R and still taking some of his valuable time to work with me. We talk set-up, tires, gearing, and pretty much anything I can think of to ask him. I feel incredibly lucky to have a rider like him to work with.
Did you do anything differently? What was it? How did it go?
Jenn – We did a few things differently kicking off this year. First, our pit was set up differently, as we are now a vendor for our oil sponsor, TEXAS TEA Lubes. We had several people stop by to check out our display, ask about the oil and say hello. Our new pit location was directly across from Correne @ Project Serenity which gave us perfect access for taking advantage of a couple massages between sessions, plus we were close to Pirelli making it quick and convenient for swapping tires.
Another change is we usually we get in a track day at BW a week or two before the first round. Unfortunately we didn't have the opportunity to do that this year. Barry at KFG worked with me Friday afternoon and Saturday morning to help get my bike set-up to better handle Bumpywillow, but I was off-pace in practice which made it difficult to dial in set-up. We got the bike to the point where it was "good enough" but I wasn't at the point where I was ready to make swinging changes for just this one track. I think if I had more testing time at BW prior to this weekend, it probably would have paid off.
The best change made this weekend though was in our protective gear. After my crash at Sonoma last year that collapsed one of my lungs I reached out to Mike at Impact-Safe T-Armor. Both Jason and I received new chest protectors on Thursday and were able to wear them for the race weekend. Mike worked with me through a fitting template to get the chest protector size and shape right for my curves. When I first put the chest protector in my leathers it was noticeable and a little weird feeling, not uncomfortable, just different, but as soon as I got on my bike and started riding I forgot it was even there. It warms up from your body heat and softens conforming to your shape. I would say it was incredibly comfortable, but the reality was it was not even noticeable which is better. I can't wait for my custom back protector to arrive to go with it, I can't even tell you how much Ben and Jason will appreciate me having a back protector that stays in place so that I will stop asking them to reach in the back of my leathers to push it down or pull it up. Thanks Impact Armor for helping to keep us safe on the track.
What was the best moment of your weekend?
Jason - The drive home, I just am kidding, well kind of... Spending that much time in the car I was able analyze my weekend. The worst thing for me is to perform less than my very best and to not be able to identify a solution. How many people have you seen that just crash and come back shaking their head, saying, "I don't know what happened, I just fell"? Not knowing the cause of your problem can seriously affect your confidence. I came away with a few things that need to be addressed that I believe will allow me to run at the front of the pack. Seeing the solution is a big deal. On the track, I had some fun racing F40 Heavyweight for the first time and taking the win. Yes, team Ritz is that old, both of us rocking F40. I wasn't going to race F40, but I was telling Jenn how jealous I was she would get to do a start today and she headed up to sign me up while my Ben did a quick flip on my practice tire. I managed to take the lead after about a lap and then just pounded out some race laps. Tons of fun racing with those guys, and I am glad they welcomed me.
Jenn – Every weekend I am racing is a great weekend! I am blessed to have a sport that my husband and I enjoy together and I honestly love the entire motorcycle racing community. I could pick several moments in the weekend that were productive, accomplished or just plain fun… like reading Road Racing World to Jason and Ben, using funny voices/accents to help pass the time driving to BW. However, if I had to pick the one memorable, best moment it would have been in the F1 race at the end of the day, I started on the very last grid position, P21, and worked my way through the field getting up into the top 15. I closed in on one of my best friends, Sam Richards, who was tapering off the pace, until he looked over his shoulder and saw my bike, "like an orange highlighter" (his words) coming at him. I made a couple of efforts to get by him, but he was not going to let me by. We had a fun last lap racing to the checkers, even though Sam was able to hold me off it was fun getting to race with him again… And I'll get him next time. :)
F40 Hvy - P1 1:52.593
Open SB - P5 1:51.324
Formula Pacific - P9 1:51.748
Open GP - P2 1:52.168
AFemme - P2 2:00.759
F40 Mid - P5 1:58.075
750P - P10 1:56.933
600P - P14 1:57.628
F1 - P15 1:57.424
One of the three well-known California road racing clubs; AFM offers a place where you can participate in races, watch as a spectator, or even take part as a turn-worker on the course. There are competition classes for almost all motorcycles; you can race what you own, build a bike specifically for racing, or maybe even pick up a pre-set-up bike through member want ads. Competing in expert club racing can be used to qualify for a pro racing license. Explore the website for further information.
Women race with the men?
Yes, races are structured by bike size. Women race in the same classes as men that have the same sized bike. However, there is a growing interest among women in racing , so many racing clubs have added a women’s class to encourage the ladies to give it a try.
Formed in 2001, SMUSA is now the premier Pro/Am supermoto series in the country. Many of the well known American road racers such as Bobby Fong, Joey Pascarella, Cameron Beaubier, Elena Myers, Tyler O'Hara, Garrett Willis and others all competed in Supermoto USA's Nor Cal Championship where they developed their skills.
PC Dirt Track in Sacramento, Ca holds a series of the oldest and most traditional type of motorcycle racing, flat track - sometimes referred to as “dirt track” racing. A uniquely American type of motorcycle racing. Riders finesse their machines sideways through the turns, just inches apart from each other.
Since 1924, the AMA has protected the future of motorcycling and promoted the motorcycle lifestyle. AMA members come from all walks of life, and they navigate many different routes on their journey to the same destination: freedom on two wheels. The AMA sanctions more motorsports competition and motorcycle recreational events than any other organization in the world. No one who has ever seen an AMA Pro motorcycle race ever forgets it.