Anything worth doing, is worth doing well.
This is a saying that I try to live by in my work, in my relationships and in my sports. I can’t understand how people do things half-way; why put in the time, money, and emotional investment if you are not going to give it your all?
I work as a construction project manager and have had the opportunity to work on some very cool projects with some very cool people, but, as with any career, my job has its highs and lows. A few years ago, I was working on a challenging project; long hours, a tight schedule, difficult job conditions… I was stressed, and as I sometimes do, questioning why I choose this career. At that time, I was also spending my “free time” as a mentor working with high school students interested in pursuing careers in Architecture, Construction and Engineering. One of our activities was a field trip at one of my projects where I explained how the different entities work together on the project and what it is I do as the Project Manager. I will never forget what one of the students said to me, “Jennifer, you really like your job don’t you? I’ve never heard anyone talk so passionately about construction.” Ha ha!
Passion - Yes! That’s it! - A compelling, intense feeling or emotion; love, ardent affection; amorous desire; lust; violent agitation of the mind; violent anger; zeal; ardor; an avid desire; as, a passion for fame; a display of deep feeling; as, a passion of tears; a pursuit to which one is devoted; the subject of an engrowing pursuit.
Passion, it is the force that drives people to do their best.
AFM Round 6 fell on the same weekend as the 6th anniversary of being married to my wonderful husband Jason. I had posted a Facebook status prior to the weekend commenting on the fact that it was our anniversary and we were choosing to spend it at the races, together doing what we love. Several people, having seen my FB status, were kind enough to stop by our pits and congratulate us. Thank you all for that! Jason has told me that a few guys have commented to him that he is lucky to have a wife (yeah, me) that not only understands racing and supports his pursuit of speed, but also enjoys racing herself. What is the secret to our marital bliss? Let’s get real for a minute… it takes work, and we have our spats. In fact, we had one that weekend as Jason told me where to go when I tried to tell him how unload the trailer better. LOL! But we kiss and we make up, and we move on without grudges, we are best friends who enjoy each others company more than we enjoy racing. If we had to quit, or if we decide to quit, we will just move on to the next thing together, I know this because we have done it. In the last 12 years we have pursued rock climbing, snowboarding, motocross, kite-boarding (well, we sucked at that), kayaking and now we are adding cycling to the mix. You see, the bond that holds us together is our shared thought on how life is meant to be lived…with passion.
Oh… were you here for a race report? Well, let’s get started. 3 board, 2 board, 1 board, Siiiiiidewaaays… green flag!!! And the ladies are off… charging into Turn 1 like a pack of cougars hunting a 21 year old boy, we sprint up the hill and sweep through turn 2.
I am third exiting T2 and again find myself trying to hold onto Joy and Christie just a little bit longer in hopes of learning something new. The Formula Afemme grid boasts 13 participants this round; filled with some, but not all, of the AFM regulars, along with Jenny Besaw from the Northwest and Krystyna Kubran (KK), Nadine Lajoie, and Marisol Lacour up from SoCal pursuing bragging rights in the CA State Championship. As we crest the hill leading into the Carousel Zoe comes in fast and sweeps around me on the outside relegating me to 4th place. I follow her up to and through T7 and then she pulls away from me in the Esses. Heading down into T9, I hear the roar of the Yamaha R1 piloted by Miss KK, closing in on me. I hold a tight line and remind myself to run my own race.
KK stays tight to my rear wheel and I pull onto the front straight to see my husband there giving me signals… his hands closed together tell me I have no room for error. In lap 3, I blow the apex of T7 after coming in too late on the brakes, KK takes advantage of my lapse of focus and makes a pass on me into T9, taking 4th from me. I fight back, thinking of a little something Ken Hill taught me about T5 and T6, I am able to pass her on the gas between Turn 5 and the entrance to the Carousel. The next 5 laps seem to last forever, each time I pass Jason on the front straight his hands are closed together and I giggle in my helmet knowing Krystyna is as determined to get by me as I am not to give up this spot. I cross the checkers two tenths in front of Miss KK, finishing fourth with a best lap of 1:53.740, improving my personal best lap time for this track, by a full second. This was a fun race taking the battle to the end!
To make the day even more special, Christie Cooley arranged a group photo for the lady racers in winners circle at the end of the day. We all celebrated our little victories by popping bottles of champagne and spraying each other in celebration of the growth and success of the Formula Afemme class. I must admit I was a little bummed my new Spidi leathers now had champagne all over them.
I wake up Sunday ready to continue my flow of continuous improvement accomplished since I started racing the R6, however, I am signed up for Race 5 - 750 Production and Race 10 - 600 Production, which means no racing for me until after lunch. I watch the morning races and wait impatiently for my turn.
750 Production is up right after the lunch break. I am gridded near the back in position 29. I get off the line with a decent start and at the end of the first lap shuffle I end up 25th as we cross the start/finish line, I am in the middle of a pretty decent pack of guys battling for positions 23-28. I hold my position for another full lap, but over the next few laps things are mixing up in our group, Sam Richards picked his way through from a 28th place start and eventually made his way up past me in the Carousel on Lap 3.
On lap 4, Bobby McCourt found his way past me pushing me back another position to 27th. Both Sam and Bobby then found there way up past Gustavo Arriaza, leaving me in a Gustavo sandwich with Arriaza in front of me and Gustavo Gama coming up behind. I had Arriaza in my sights, using him as a carrot to pick up my pace, but a yellow flag was out on Lap 5 as Brian Stone crashed out of 4th place… another yellow flag on Lap 6 as Kevin Nekimken crashed out of 3rd place. On Lap 7, I was alone heading up the back straight to Turn 7 when out came the red flag, I was the first one there and came to a stop. The guys behind me rolled in one by one and soon Lenny Hale, our race leader pulled up, followed by Neil and Jamie and several of the other front runners, but where was Jason? Usually he is in the top 5, with still no sight of him as they released us to head back to the pits I was still hoping he had just stopped for the Red Flag on the front straight. As I made my way off the track, I glance to the right to see a bike against the concrete wall at the entrance to the front straight, it was under the air fence and I couldn’t tell if it was Jason’s. The downed rider was surrounded by the medics so I couldn’t see who it was. I made my way back to our pit nervous that the crew was going to tell me it was Jason down, but then I see his bike in the garage and it looked fine from the side I approached from… relief started to wave over me, then was crushed as Kyle took my bike from me and told me they were working on getting Jason into the Ambulance.
I made my way down to the wall and was happy to find that Jason was a little bruised and possibly had a broken ankle but mostly he was just disappointed in having crashed out of 2nd place. Must been something in the air that day as 4th to 2nd place all crashed out in reverse order. Silly boys! Jason was very fortunate that his injuries weren’t worse considering he high-sided out of turn 11 and propelled into the air fence and concrete barrier behind it. Despite his passion and determination, he decided he was done racing for the day and getting an X-Ray of his ankle was added to his to-do list for Monday.
I, however, still had one more race to go…. 600 Production! I gridded up again near the back, still working on accumulating points from having switched bikes at Round 3. Christie Cooley was two rows and directly in front of me. I get a good jump off the line and follow Christie through traffic through the start shuffle. At the end of the first lap I end up with one guy, Armando, between Cooley and I. As we head up the hill between 3 and 3A, I alter my line slightly to set up for a narrow exit in an attempt to make a pass on Armando at the entry to T4, but I am blindsided as another rider comes in on the inside of me into 3A and forces me to stand the bike up losing my drive down the hill. I settle in behind the rider thru T4, not recognizing the leathers, nor the bike I decide to be patient to determine where my best opportunity will be to make a pass stick. As we head into T7, I recognize the riding style and figure out this is Shelina in front of me on a borrowed bike and wearing borrowed leathers. I decide I will need to set up the pass so that I can maximize the drive out… In the distance I see Christie pulling away and I start to grow impatient. I feel that I can go faster but can’t seem to find the right place or time to make the pass. I show Shelina a wheel into 7, but don’t commit and back out, the same into T9 and T11, lap after lap, until finally, at the end of Lap 4, I make the pass into Turn 11, hold my line and pin it onto the front straight.
Yes! Now don’t let her take it back. I keep my head down and execute every corner, every drive, according to my plan. As I come by the front straight again, Jason is there with a signal, the gap between his hands tells me I have some breathing room. I stick to my plan for the next three laps and finish the race in 22nd. At the end of the race, I was a little bit frustrated with myself for not finding a way to make the pass sooner, but after checking the results I found that again I had improved my personal best lap time by another second from yesterday. I now had dropped to 1:52.215, but the best part was this lap time was achieved with consistency, I ran the last 5 laps of the race with low 1:52’s. A solid end to my weekend and a positive way to go into the AFM two month season break......
I have had a hundred lessons in life, most apply to racing. "Never quit trying, no matter what". Yeah that is one of my favorites and the hardest one for me to live up to. How do you force yourself to go on when the pain is so bad you can’t imagine it any more, or when you are sure this is as much as you are capable of? In your mind you are maxed out, done, ready to give in. Sometimes it is not a physical issue, more of a mental one. This is the one I faced this weekend. Sitting in second place with a safe lead, I had to make the choice. Continue doing what I have done in the past or keep trying harder. These are some of the most difficult decisions you can make, play it safe or make the effort to be better. So with one lap to go and safe in the 2nd place, I made the choice not to quit and try to be better.
Don’t you always want your reports to have a story book ending? Well this is real life and sometimes it's messy. So laying there on the ground surrounded by corner workers, I remembered my weekend. As part of a growing trend there was no Friday practice and it doesn’t seem to bother me much at all. The weeks leading up to the race were mired with challenges and left me in a tough spot for the weekend, so no Friday was kind of a blessing. Friday was loading and finishing final details for round 6.
<<Test ride on the flower power bike.>>
Thanks to Greg McCullough for loaning me an engine, Saturday practice and race day was possible. Like I said the weeks leading up to the race were not so good to me. A cold Saturday was a setback for many riders. For me it was time to learn how to settle the back of the bike into the corners. Backing it into a corner has its place, but I like the wheels in line. All day I worked on a new technique that would allow me to enter the corner in more control. It proved difficult and my lap times were slow at best. I can’t remember seeing my name that far down the lap times list. IN ORDER TO GO FASTER, FIRST YOU MUST GO SLOWER. That is what they say... isn’t it? Well then check that one off as job done, because I was slower!
So with practice done an time in hand, I watched my wife race, and wow did she ever race. Her time working on basic skills is really starting to show results. Maybe I should let her coach me, she is getting faster every time she goes out. Hanging out after the races the girls got group photos, and had a crowd around that rivaled a FP podium. 16 women showed up to race and made a for an impressive group. With photos done it was time for some food. Making dinner for a large group is hard, but we seem to have that pretty dialed in. I have kind of taken over food duty, since Jenn is racing. If your guys are working as hard as mine, take good care of them and feed them well. With everyone fed, bikes done with tech, and a little bench racing completed most of us sacked out for the night.
My focus has come down to just two classes. 600 Superbike and 750 Production were my main classes for the day and my first two races of four. Making some small changes to the bike and finding a brake issue (thanks to Tom), I was ready for a nice cold practice. Once on track I chased a few fast guys on liter bikes and seemed only to loose time on the straight sections. Yeah that will do just fine, as I came in impressed with my speed. Faster Sunday morning in the cold, than I was at anytime Saturday was just what was needed. I headed to the riders meeting while the team mounted new CT Racing Pirelli tires. Hey I said I felt good, but why not feel great with some crazy sticky tires.
Pulling up to the grid I slotted into my 3rd place starting position. With the green flag about to fly Lenny Hale let the clutch go and jumped the start. I waited to see the flag fly and off I went. My start was very good, but coming out of T5, smoke billowed from the bottom of the Hale bike. O’Hara was just in front of me and we both shut off the gas. Sure I was about to get collected in oil a line change was in order. Down to T6 and more of the same smoke. The smoke got less and less as the lap went on. They were starting to gap me out and I decided that keeping up needed to be my priority. Sadly they inched away every lap and I was left to try and protect my place from a charging Berto #115 and #74 Prince. Prince was able to make good use of lapped traffic and passed a lapper at the yellow flag, which left me and Berto watching him ride into the sunset as we waited to pass the crash. Finally we got by and pushing hard I was able to close the gap that Prince was managing well. Just after the race I did something I have not before. Went and saw Barb without being called down to grid. I was sure Prince had passed under a yellow. No corner workers called it in and Prince stated he made the pass just before he reached the flag. Good enough for me, as long as he saw the flag and was sure he passed legally I agreed that he beat me. Another rider protested Lenny and he was docked one lap for rolling the start. 3rd place overall was not a bad start to a promising day.
750 Production and I was ready after 600 SB. 2nd on the grid turned into a follow the guy in front of you session. First through fifth in the points, rode just in that order. Hale checked out and left 4 of us to battle it out for 2nd place. I ran a fast pace, with a little left in the tank in case it was needed. Four laps in and 4th crashed out. Five laps in and 3rd touched tires with me and crashed out. Not knowing that we touched tires, I later found out he was coming into T3 faster than me and was trying to get around the outside. 6 laps in and a brief look over my shoulder told me I had a safe 2nd place position. Trying to get a first place requires talent and effort. Like I said at the beginning never quit and I didn’t. A 100 yards from a white flag, I exited T11 with a desire to turn my fastest lap and get in the 1:41:00 range. An over eager throttle hand and brief lack of concentration sent my ass skyward over the bike. Eventually a spectacular high side left me laying on the track with riders coming. Over the wall and flopping to the ground, my weekend shot through my eyes. Slow, slow, faster, faster, oops! Ok, so that is the condensed version.
My hopes of racing the rest of the day were evaporating as the swelling was growing. Sitting in the pits icing my body one of the team owners came over to talk, I tried to explain my actions. Stumbling for just the right words he stopped me and proudly said, “you were still racing”. He seemed not to be upset that the I had crashed, more of an acknowledgement that I crashed while trying to be better . I am sure he wanted me to finish the race and get a 2nd versus the DNF, who wouldn’t? That said I am most proud that this is the team I race for, because everyone on the team understood. They choose to believe in me and I continue not to quit trying every time it gets difficult, painful, or as some say just too damn hard.
So I am in one piece bruised and battered, but I would race today if I could.
<<Team building exercises. :)
Loving the new suspension, thanks David Behrend.
Please remember to support the people who support racers.
Z2 Trackdays Staff, Z2 Race Team, Yamaha, David at Fastbikes Ind., Pirelli /CT Racing, Yamalube Products, Motion Pro, Race Image Graphics, Leo Vince, Helimot, Suomy, Factory Body Works , Igartua, 4 The Riders, Sidi, Tech Spec, Ink Monkey, GP Frame & Wheel, CRG Levers, Graves Motorsports, Mach 1, and Ken Hill Coaching.
On a non racing related note, Saturday was our anniversary. I am married to a woman who chose to go to the track, instead of a fancy party or anything crazy like that. She did this not because I asked her to, but because we both love to race. She is my best friend and we spent our anniversary with great people and could not imagine doing anything else.
Thanks to Craig Sanders for the portrait.
600 Superbike started 3rd finished 3rd
750 Production started 2nd DNF
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.