Recovery of the Soul
re·cov·ery (ri kuv′ər ē)
The act or power of regaining; restoration from sickness, faintness, or misfortune.
An entity which is regarded as being the immortal or spiritual part of the person and, though having no physical or material reality, is credited with the functions of thinking and willing, and hence determining all behavior.
The Sunday morning air is warm, the sweet smell of race fuel as the motorcycles roll into pre-grid ready to take to the track for Race 1. I stand on the pit wall, as close to the action as I will get this weekend, and watch my peers in the 650 Twins class head out for their warm up lap. My disappointment in not being able to make the race causes my eyes to well up with tears. Racers Race… and so I wonder, shouldn’t I be racing.
The weekend started off so fantastic… Friday morning we pulled into the pits from our overnight spot outside the gates and set up quickly. I was determined to make first practice and set a good pace. I headed out on track following David BenJamin and we went right to work, a couple laps of warming up the tires then we were off. He would gain distance on me in a couple sections on the Yamaha FZ1, and I would reel him back in on other sections. The session felt smooth, controlled and I was focused. I constantly reminded myself to look up and through the corners, which helps to slow everything down in your head. According to Michelle’s timer we were clipping off 2:06’s, which was a really good sign since my best time at Thill is 2:04, and I was hoping to improve on that by a couple seconds this weekend. The next session was better than the first, I felt like I was going a bit faster as I was able to pull away from David and started making some passes on other riders in the group. I had confidence in my CT Racing, Pirelli Tires (which were still clean from the last round) and my bike was handling like a champ.
The next session I made was after lunch, I had taken a nice break during lunch and wandered through the pits saying hello to several of my racing friends. Then I went over to see Ken Hill, we had decided to video a couple of my sessions, so I grabbed his camera and mount and went back and secured them to Nikka’s fairing stay to get a view through the front windscreen. David and I headed out for the practice session and I took the lead onto the track. I didn’t mess around and got right up to a pretty good clip. On the second lap or third lap, I started to gain pretty quickly on a group of riders, probably 7 or 8 bikes. I passed them carefully, but tried not to spend too much time following and losing my pace. Coming over turn 9 I could see one of the USGPRU Kids in the front holding up a couple of other, larger bikes and knew they would be looking to make the pass. I got around one of the followers, 515(?), heading down the hill into turn 10. Going into turn 11, I decided to slow more, back off the Kid and Craig Grantham, who was the rider right behind him, and set up for a run coming out of Turn 13 onto the straight-away. As I came through Turn 12, I noticed I had gained much quicker on them than I had timed, as I transitioned to the left of Turn 13 I could see the Kid was having a mechanical of some sort and he had checked up and was barely moving. Craig moved left to try to go inside him but then the Kid shook his bike left and Craig was forced to take evasive action and moved right, which is where I had just decided to go. The kid shook his bike back right, forcing Craig even further into my path. I was going to hit them both, splitting them like bowling pins, this is going to hurt. I grabbed a handful of front brake skipping the front tire, as I was still well into the left lean of turn 13, there was really no hope of saving it. The front went away and Nikka spun clockwise, her rear tire coming up the inside and pushing me off the track. My body took a straight line off the track and I hit the dirt hard on my face and stomach. The front of my helmet and my body skipping off the ground like a flat stone thrown low and fast over smooth water. I could not get my arms tight to my body and I was certain I would have injuries from this crash. My bike hit the straw bales (put at the exit of 13 as a soft barrier before the concrete wall) broadside, exploding 1, then 2, then 3 bales… a cloud of straw billowed into the air. I stood up, and gave a quick wave to the turn-worker before I realized that my right shoulder was dislocated, I needed a medic. I sat back down, looked over the wall and saw a group forming at the fence line, a familiar face, Joy, peered over at me… I gave her a shout, “request they get me a medic.”
This is now my third dislocation of my right shoulder, compounded by my AC (acromioclavicular) joint separation, and the duration that it had been out (4 ½ hours) made it extremely difficult to get the shoulder back in socket. It took three try’s and finally with the local emergency clinic getting a new protocol to use a muscle relaxing drug they were able to put me back together again… partially. : ) I cannot thank Shawn Reilly enough for taking me to the clinic and waiting sooo patiently for my repair and release.
I continue to ponder the accident and wonder what I could have done differently to avoid the crash. Was it ‘casus fortuitus’ - a matter of chance – or could I have stood the bike up straight and run off, would that have caused me to hit the air fence or the concrete wall… what might have been? Unfortunately, it seems Ken’s camera did not survive the crash and the video data was lost, but from all accounts by Craig, the Kid (who, by the way, had run out of gas and was trying to shake the bike to get it to re-start), and 515 who was behind me when I went down, it seems I made the right choice or the only choice.
And so begins the painful part of my journey, the recovery.
The bike recovery will hopefully be accomplished over the next couple of weeks. Gerry of GP Frame and Wheel took some measurements on Nikka and surprisingly the frame and swing arm are straight. The front end is a bit twisted, the forks will be pulled and sent over to Phil at Aftershocks to see if they are able to be fixed along with the rear shock which broke off, but can likely be rebuilt. The front fairing stay broke into 3 pieces so a replacement will be ordered. My beautiful bodywork ripped in half…. *cries* so new skins will be ordered and handed off to Sam painting. StuckonMaui will be getting an order from me for another set of chrome flower stickers, which I had just put on and was so proud of. Unfortunately. I don’t think I got any pictures of Nikka before the crash with the new stickers on. And the engine top end will be checked out to make sure she didn’t suck in dirt and straw through the open flat slides carbs.
My physical recovery will most likely require shoulder surgery, after seeing the follow up x-rays on Monday I am sure of it. I was hopeful that I would be able to, ha ha ha, patch it together enough to race the last two rounds this year and then get surgery over the winter, but that is looking less feasible. I hope to get in to see my orthopedic surgeon this week and get on a path to recovery soon. The surgery and pain and rehab are all manageable. This process I have been through before.
And last the recovery of my soul; racing fills a void in my life that I, strangely, did not know existed until I started racing. Or maybe I had filled it with my other activities and adventures before. So for me, the most the most difficult part of becoming injured is taking the time off racing, essentially quitting before the season is over. Losing ground on accomplishing the goals I have set for this year and waiting for my arm to be better… It is difficult to watch my friends and competitors making gains in their racing and lap times and being forced to sit out and watch. I would rather be riding, its heart-breaking. And so, just like I planned out every aspect of this season (well… except for the crash part, LOL) I will begin planning for next year. Watch out 650 racers, I am determined to come back stronger and faster. : )
The 650’s come sweeping out of Turn 15 onto the front straight, there is a battle at the front with Wil, David, and Dan. Ricky and Scott are fighting it out for 6th . Christie is in a pack a little further back battling out the slots between 14th and 17th she was leading the charge and riding great. In the end she let them by but turned an awesome lap time of 2:01.5 (her times for the whole race being 2:03’s and faster, except for the first lap) Christie Cooley has made huge gains since the last month at THill, congrats to her for the new consistently low lap times! Wil won the race and (unconfirmed) set a new 650 THill record at 1:56.254, Congrats to Wil Fox! David Raff was right there with Wil, pushing a 1:56.558.
In my pit… the results for the other racers were also great; Kathy Reilly came out and raced the AFemme Class on a bike unknown to her (Zoran’s SV650), it was great to see her out racing again. Shawn Reilly took Greg’s 2007 R6 out to a top 10 finish in F40, then finished strong in F1 turning a 1:56.1 lap time, coming from the back of the grid to a 16th place finish. David BenJamin rode his FZ1 in F40 and finished 18th, we believe he set a new personal best lap time, but his times were not recorded. Vik Anderson led the 500Twins race for the first half, eventually losing the top spot to Allen Erkman, with Jon Foreman coming in 3rd after coming back from a wrist injury. It was fun watching them at the podium celebration. Greg McCullough came in 6th in 600 Production turning consistent 1:54’s through the race. In 600 Superbike, he got a great start and ran the first 3 laps in 2nd position, giving chase to Lenny Hale while holding off Liko Miles, eventually losing a few positions and finishing 6th, but in the process dropping his personal best to a 1:53.7. Congrats Greg on a fantastic weekend! Jason rode strong, finishing top 10 in 750 Superbike after making a mistake and dropping back from the 5th position that he held for the first 3 laps. Also, finishing 9th in 600 Production with a best lap time of 1:55.5. While it was unfortunate that I could not be racing, it REALLY was a lot of fun to watch all my friends and pit mates racing so well and having such a great weekend. Congrats to you all! And HUGE thanks to Sam, Kyle and Michelle for the race support this weekend. You guys/girl are the best!
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
William Ernest Henley
The comeback always sounds so good when you hear people talk about it. Like when Mick Doohan had a terrible crash and doctors said he may never walk again. He not only walked again, but won world championships after his injury. Most people know about that, but could not recall the time from the wreck to his first win, my self included. I am hoping that I am on my comeback. It may not be covered by national television, just the same, is this race the start to my comeback?
Well my race weekend started off ok, because I was able to ride all three days. Friday was a good testing day, until I heard there was a red flag. One of the team owners made a comment about several riders blowing the red flag. Riders need to stop at designated spots on the track, so a down rider may get medical assistance. The next thing I heard was my other team owner pulling in on his Yamaha FZ1 and saying that the rider was Jenn.
If you have never had the displeasure of hearing that your wife has been hurt, imagine hearing she is laying on the back straight and you know riders blew a red flag. It took about a millisecond to hijack a bicycle so I could get to her. All said and done she was reasonably ok, that is if you count a dislocated shoulder ok. For the record I do. My team owner took Jenn to the hospital so I could continue to ride. Test time is at a premium and to have a wife who knows this is, well more than any racer could ask for. So this is when you realize you have a team. People said my pit vacated like they were giving away free R6’s on the back straight. Everyone was asking how they could help, oh yeah one of your team owners sits at the hospital for 5 ½ hours, so you can ride.
Despite Jenn being injured, I was still able to make use out of Friday. Most of the day was spent with Jason from Aftershocks, just making adjustments and trying them out. The bike was better by the end of the day. Saturday was more of the same, but my lap times were just not fast enough. In steps the rest of the team. Tire changes and pressure adjustments were made so I could go fast more comfortably. Still I was not fast enough. Then Greg McCullough, my teammate stepped up and took me out for some laps and got me going. He had no problem finding pace after he installed a set of forks I had in the trailer. Big thanks to the whole team.
Sunday came and I felt good. I only entered two races so I could focus my attention. 600 production was race seven of the day and my first. I took my grid spot #10 and was ready for a race. Starts are usually good for me, but as of late I have struggled. I decent start got me up in the mix, but the second corner was a little crazy. I lost a few spots and saw a line of 10 riders or so in front of me. My focus was only on lines and making a good rhythm, rather than the finish. I rode a solid race, made some passes, and got passed. I was trying some new lines that Dave Stanton, fellow Mach 1 rider had discussed Saturday night with me. My lack of experience with the lines, meant I could not go as fast as the line would allow. It is not often I feel like my line leaves me with room, so thank you Dave.
Race ten 750 superbike was my second race of the day. Grid spot #8 didn’t hurt and a good start was under my control. After the second corner I was in 6th and on my way to fifth. That did not last long as the race was red flagged at the end of lap 2. A full restart was ordered and off we went again. This time I got a 5th place start and managed to stay there a while. Eventually the pace of faster riders and exhaustion landed me a 10th place finish. Being tired meant I was not relaxing when I rode, so there is one more thing to work on.
All said and done it was a weekend on two wheels. That is important to me! I took more from the weekend than that though. Apparently I don’t know everything, despite what I thought before this weekend. After trying some new lines and seeing the potential for improvement, I have requested some help this weekend. Shawn Reilly and Rob Cambell have both committed to helping me with some things. So I look forward to this next weekend with Z2 Trackdays. Put on some old tires and get ready to learn.
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