“Everyone has a breaking point, turning point, stress point, the game is permeated with it. The fans don’t see it because we make it look so efficient. But internally, for a guy to be successful, you have to be like a clock spring, wound but loose at the same time.”
AFM Round 6
Aug 27/28 -- Thunderhill Raceway–Willows, CA
Little did I know going into this weekend that it would have such an effect on me. This was what I consider the worst weekend of my racing years. Maybe that is an exaggeration as I did not crash, I didn’t have any major scary moments. I walked away from the weekend with my body and my bike in the same condition as when I arrived, but my spirit was broken. I almost, for a tiny second, considered quitting.
Formula AFemme was taking on a consistent theme; Christie Cooley running away at the front with a large margin, leaving me in the distance, sometimes in a battle, sometimes alone, but always behind. This time, Nikki Nienow was on my wheel where she sat for the first half of the race. I got faster each lap and I increased the gap over Nikki, finishing with a solid second place. I rode consistently, with perfect lines and good technique, smooth and quick, but not Fassst. I was really happy with my 2nd place, it was another step in the right direction for me since this was my first 2nd place finish in the AFM AFemme class. After the races that afternoon, I was hanging out with Christie and Nikki celebrating our fun day on track. Several people stopped by to congratulate Christie on the race, many of them with a comment like, “You just walked away from the competition” and while I was really happy for Christie, I was really disappointed that I could not figure out how to get off this plateau and find the speed that she has found this year.
The next morning I was determined that I was going to go faster. That was probably my biggest mistake, because I was determined to do it, but deep down I don’t think I believed in myself. 600 Superbike would be my first race on Sunday, running mid- morning and 600 Production would be the very last race of the day. I had a next to last row grid position for 600SB, I got an average start and proceed to try to get in front of the bikes in front of me, I made some passes and was passed back and I managed to do 2:03-2:04 lap times which seems to be about the pace I was stuck at, but I didn’t go any slower. I sat around all day wondering how I was going to find some speed for the last race. Over-thinking, over-analyzing, over-whelming myself… again.
My results were decided before I took my spot on the line, before I put my visor down I had already doubted myself. I fell back on the start as we entered turn 1, I was at the back of a 5 bike pack that I could not push through… I knew we were going slower, much slower than I was capable of, but I lacked confidence in myself to make passes through the traffic. It is hard for me, when I see 4 bikes staggered in front of me, to figure out how to get inside and outside and between them to make the passes. It is hard for me to pick them off one-by-one like I see my competitors do. I can’t help thinking they are going to turn in on me or swing out on me when I move to execute my pass. So there I sat… behind them, going dreadfully slow and getting more and more frustrated at the position I allowed myself to be in. At the end, after I saw my times, I was wounded, maybe fatally so as a racer. I thought that I must lack what it takes to be a champion at this sport. How could I succeed if I could not make passes? Was this to be my breaking point? Or would I make it a turning point?
Formula AFemme – 2nd of 8 (Best Lap 2:04.985)
600 SuperBike - 36th of 39 (Best Lap 2:03.929)
600 Production – 32nd of 38 (Best Lap 2:11.681)
“There's nothing as exciting as a comeback - seeing someone with dreams, watching them fail, and then getting a second chance.”
AFM Round 7
Sept 10/11 -- Thunderhill Raceway–Willows, CA
This may be surprising to some of you, but it was Christie who came to my rescue from the emotional side. In text messages on my way home from Round 6, she sent me words of encouragement and in e-mails after she sent me some of the most resonating words of advice. Those are mine to keep, I shall not share them until I can pay them forward to the next racer I know on the brink of giving up.
I arrived at Thunderhill this weekend with a new kind of determination and a rekindled spirit. Jason talked me through the technical, riding issue I was struggling with… my need for perfection, and helped me come up with the mental vocabulary I needed to overcome it. Sometimes you can tell someone something over and over again, but without the right word or the right thought implanted into that person they just can’t make it happen. Ken Hill has been working with me on overcoming this challenge of mine since Round 1 and though I knew what needed to be done, I just could not force it to happen. Then in one of my evening, sitting in the hot tub, chats with my husband he said the right thing, that brought all that Ken has been telling me into focus. I found the mental image that worked for me.
As I launched a near perfect start from the front row, I jumped in front of Christie off the line. In the front heading toward turn 1, an unfamiliar position caught me off guard, and Christie passed by me to take the holeshot, but this time I stuck to her rear tire like my life depended on it. I followed her the first lap no more than a bike length or two away, based on the yo-yo effect, and Nikki followed closely behind. Going into T2 I nearly crashed into the back of Cooley when she used a different technique on the entry, but I kept it together and I kept on her tail. After the second lap, she picked up the pace, and I stayed with her. Still no more than a few bike lengths behind at any given moment. The faster she went, the faster I went. She had her strong areas where she would gain ground on me and I had my strong areas where I would reel her back in. On the last lap, we encountered lappers… after the last round, there was no way I was going to let passes be my downfall. Without hesitation, I made passes. As we approached turns 11,12,13 a tight left, quick right, fast left section, I saw the group of lappers doing battle for their class win in front of us and I planned my attack. We came out of 13, down the back straight, Cooley making her moves through the traffic and over to the outside line for the entry into right handed turn 14. I stayed all the way right, knowing all the lappers would move left and I pinned it hoping to beat her to the braking zone. Under the bridge I came up beside Cooley, but my corner was tighter and sharper since I was so tight to the inside… I had to brake harder and Cooley went through 14 and 15 in front of me, I set up for the drive out of 15 onto the front straight, I tucked, I pinned it, I saw my husband cheering me on the pit wall and I crossed the checkers a tenth of a second behind Christie Cooley. And I broke my 2:03 plateau, with a new personal best lap time of 2:01.321. This was my victory today! This was the best 2nd place I’ve ever won!
Sunday, ah, who really cares about Sunday? :) I worked on being diligent about making passes and that new technique I had for letting go of perfection. I didn’t run 2:01’s again, but I did some good work on improving my racing skills and most importantly... I had fun!
Unfortunately, Jason took a tumble in turn 9. I will refer you to his race report for that story, since it is his to tell, but it often seems when one of us is up the other is down. Yet, we always manage to pick each other up and live to race another day.
Formula AFemme – 2nd of 5 (2:01.321)
600 Production – 26th of 32 (2:06.987)
750 Superbike – 21st of 27 (2:04.393)
“The perfect run is never the fastest run.”
Lindsey Vonn - In the Moment
AFM Round 8
Oct 1/2 -- Thunderhill Raceway–Willows, CA
On our way to Thunderhill for the Season finale we were in high spirits. Jason was leading the championship in 750 Production and he was second in both 600 SuperBike and 600 Production. He has been running a solid and fast season. I had locked up 2nd in the Formula AFemme championship and headed to Thunderhill in hopes of securing a win in the class.
On Saturday afternoon, I had back to back races with AFemme (race 3) and the 600 Production make-up race (race 4). Jason would be gridding up with me in race 4, so Sam Richards graciously agreed to give me pit signals during AFemme. I was on pole position for AFemme, with Cooley deciding to head to WERA instead of AFM this weekend. Interestingly, I was more nervous about this race than I ever have been, I know that you can’t count your chickens before they hatch. Never discount your competition, you don’t know who will find that little something that they’ve been looking for all season and come passing you by. I wanted to get my first win and I tried to suppress the thoughts that I might do something careless and fall down. Texting Ken for my usual pre-race words of encouragement, his response “relax” helped me relax. Hahaha! I rocketed the start… but so did Stacy Menas beside me, "oh no" I thought. I pulled that throttle back to the stops, I tucked and I shifted, I don’t even know if I really braked for turn 1, but I got the holeshot and I stayed on it into turn 2. I rolled the first lap with the amazing vision of a clear track in front of me and I recalled the pre-race words of advice from Mike Canfield, “When you get to the lead, and there is no one in front of you… that is a good thing, don’t panic, try to stay there.” ;) I rode that first lap worried that every other bike on the grid must be right on my rear wheel. When I came down the front straight and saw Sam, with his arms spread wide telling me I had a big’ol gap, I felt relief, and fear, and I felt the racer inside me struggling to get out… LOL! “Go fast! Don’t fall down. Just ride like you know how to ride. Go fast! You have a big gap, don’t risk it. Don’t get lazy that is when mistakes happen, go fast. Don’t fall down.” On and on, I spoke to myself like this until I caught the 250 race traffic. Then I focused my attention on catching and passing them one by one, to stop the insanity inside my head, until I crossed the checkers and won AFemme! I waved to every turnworker out there on my cooldown lap, so appreciative of them being out there so that I could race and so excited to have my first win.
(I also want to take a moment to congratulate Tracy Bowen for her new personal best lap times and her 2nd place in AFemme!!! She rocked it out there and came out the winner in a heated battle with Stacy Menas.)
I rolled into the hot pits where my husband had waited, all geared up to head out for the 600P race hot lap, to give me a hug and a helmet kiss. He went out for the hot lap while Sam gave me water and a hug. Then David and Kyle came over and congratulated me and gave me hugs. I downed the water and rolled back onto the grid for the 600 Production make-up race.
Now a race winner, my confidence was booming. I was still on cloud nine when the green flag flew and I pinned the throttle off the start. I dropped the clutch too quickly in my eagerness and wheelied the start losing a few positions to the bikes inside of me. I found an opening and cut to the inside of turn 1 to 2 and picked up some positions, then a few bikes came around the outside of me around turn 2 as the pack started to single out through turns 3 and 4. We all bunched back up into 5 and I found my way past a couple more racers and into order we went through 6,7,8. I passed a few racers in front of me then found myself the leader of a pack, I focused my attention on the group ahead of me and a few laps later managed to catch up to them. Now at the back of their pack and exhausted I worked on my plan of attack, thinking back to those important words of advice after round 6 from Christie Cooley, I pushed on, determined to not give up. I finished the race in 20th but with more 2:01’s clicked off on my lap timer. I was getting the hang of this pace.
Sunday morning I was signed up for Race 1, 750 SuperBike. I had a goal to break into the 2:00’s and set a new personal best lap time. Morning practice, I followed the practice technique Ken prescribed for me at the beginning of the season, it always calms my nerves and helps me focus. I gridded up in position 24 of 25, with few points from previous rounds. Nick Haymen, two rows up, was directly in front of me and a good starter, “that’s my carrot!” I rocketed, but again wheelied out of my start, losing ground and dropping to last place. One by one, I moved forward up to 20th, making clean but aggressive and timely passes. This was huge. Then a gap to the group in front of me appeared. I could see it was Sam in front of me and he became my target. I picked up my pace as he, and the group he was battling with, dropped of their pace. The gap closed each lap, and my speeds picked up, then the checkers flew far too soon for my liking. Back at the trailer, Jason had pulled up my lap times on the MyAFM live timing & scoring app, before I had even pulled off my helmet. I did it! I broke into the 2:00’s, barely, but barely is all I wanted. A new personal best!
My friend and co-worker Greg Ignoffo ventured out to the fields of Willows to watch my husband and I race. He got there in time to see my husband take the victory, with a large margin over Lenny Hale, and the class championship in 750 Production. After that we watched the exciting battle for the Number 1 plate in the Formula Pacific race. Though hard fought Ricky Corey would take the race win, and Chris Siglin would have to settle for second that day, but I think he was consoled by the fact that he won the Championship. :)
My last race of the day, my last race of the year... was 600 Production and I really wanted to get a sub 2:00 lap time to end the season, I was on a roll so why not go for it! I gridded up in 22nd and Jason pulled up to the number 2 spot. I launched the start, no wheelies this time and made a strong move through turns 1 and 2 maintaining my position, entering turn 3 the yellow flag was waving and the dust cloud was lifting revealing my husband picking himself up off the ground, I watched him for a moment to satisfy my need to know that he was ok, then I returned my focus to my race, where I had lost a couple positions for my moment of worry. I tried to put Jason’s crash out of my head as I raced on, another rider rode straight off the track in turn 8, in front of me. I worried for his safety for a moment, he was really moving when he rode off track, thankfully no red flags came out, indicating that he was well enough to not need immediate medical attention, so on we raced. I ran behind Dan Azar for the majority of the race, I felt strong and like I could go faster. I just could not get the pass completed with my repeated attempts to out brake him into the corners failing, and my inability to set up the drive on the exits. Then in Lap 7, Paul Johnson came past me and put himself between Dan and I for a lap. I clung to PJ’s rear wheel thinking I could retake my position and make the move on Dan at the checkers. As we entered turn 14 on the last lap PJ took the inside pass on Dan and I was right behind them both as they went side by side through 14/15. PJ pulled in front on the exit of 15 and I tucked into the double draft (what an awesome feeling that is) I pulled out of the draft as we passed the start finish tower and crossed the line in front of Dan by a wheel.
With the thought of Jason out there in the in-field each time I came round turn 3, I knew I hadn’t broke a sub 2:00 lap time, in fact I felt like I had maybe done 2:03’s or 2:04’s. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I again had run 2:01’s in that last race. Jason is a little bruised and sore, mostly fine. His new PILOT suit barely shows signs of having been crashed in (I wish I could say the same for the bike.)
Congratulations to all the AFM racers on a fantastic 2011 season, I look forward to seeing you all at the banquet, where I get to go on stage (with the very best two competitors and friends I could ask for) to accept the 2nd place Championship trophy for Formula AFemme.
Formula AFemme – 1st of 4 (2:07.631)
600 Production BW Make-up Race – 20th of 25 (2:01.541)
750 Superbike – 22nd of 27 (2:00.962)
600 Production – 19th of 26 (2:01.510)
Don’t cry because it is over, smile because it happened.
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.