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.
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.