A Tale of the Dragon

“How do you do that?”

“Do what?”

“Get through the curves so fast? You make it look so easy. I’m scared half to death most of the time.”

“Me, too.”

“What? No way. But you ride with such confidence…”

Conversations such as the one above happen to me quite often now. The interchanges differ slightly, some are broad and generic, some more specific and focused, and yet others are just to say hello and to tell me that the way I ride is inspiring. I’m not really sure why. I am mostly just flabbergasted, because I don’t consider myself fast, or inspiring, am nowhere as smooth and proficient as I want to be, and I’m definitely a little scared a lot more than I’d like to admit. Heck, I’m still a newbie myself. I’m in my fourth year of riding, with roughly 44,500 miles logged, and have yet a long way to go before I could even consider myself an experienced rider. So why have I become the go-to girl?

Maybe I am asking the wrong question. Maybe it’s not what I do or to what level of proficiency I do it. After all, the degree of a skill is relative to the comparisons made. Maybe it is how I do it.

So how do I do it?

Upon reflection, I find that the answer is of quite a simple nature:

  • I refuse to accept “good enough” as a standard and continue to learn and practice those lessons whenever and wherever I can
  • I keep reaching outside of my comfort zone little by little, gently pushing my skill envelope and working through my fear(s)

And no matter where I am in my skill progression, or how advanced of a rider I may become, these two concepts hold true. Mastery does not equate perfection. There is always room for improvement and always an opportunity, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, to learn more. “The day I quit learning is the day that I die.” I don’t know who said it, or where I picked up these words of wisdom, but I wholeheartedly embrace the sentiment. Words to live by, indeed.

It does make a girl feel good (and a little bit proud), even if she feels a tad awkward and shy, when others show their appreciation for the way she rides. Especially when the kudos come from riders whom she considers to be so far above and beyond her own skills, that she is amazed they even gave her the time of day. It keeps her going, it makes her work even harder and cements the refusal to give up and not let temporary setbacks beat her into the trap that is “oh well, good enough.” It really isn’t good enough. “Good enough” is dangerous as it leads to routine and routine eventually results in rashed paint, dinged frames and broken off bits. Or worse.

Well…?

I’m in the mood for a little story telling rather than my usual not-quite-scientific analytical nerdiness. I’ll be as long-winded as the Dragon is curvy. That’s my specialty, and if you are one of my a regular readers, you’re used to this already. I am an editor’s worst nightmare. Well, I would be, if I had one. I’m gonna be, one day.

Here you go. Sit down, put your feet on the pegs, and hold on tight:

A Tale of the Dragon

A week ago, my husband and I returned from a five-day motorcycle vacation. Two of those days were spent at Deal’s Gap, riding a stretch of US-129 between North Carolina and Tennessee that is known to motorcyclists all over the country as the “Tail of the Dragon”. The road is notorious for its advertised “318 curves in 11 miles” and it is quite the gem from both a biker’s point of view and that of an engineer’s. It has a curve for every taste. Banked or off-camber, blind or the kind you can see all the way around, constant and decreasing radii, compound and multi-apex curves, fast sweepers, esses, elevation changes, dips, cracks, rough and smooth asphalt… you name it, you can find it, in various more or less gratifying combinations. Want to see if your street game is up to snuff, this road is a good place to evaluate. The Dragon comes complete with photographers ready to snap your picture as you negotiate a few choice corners (please smile, wave, and get your lean on to get that knee or floorboard down) and the obligatory contingent of county and state officials with clipboards at the ready and fat ticket pads to grade your excellence in high performance. It even has a Tree of Shame to hang your various broken bike parts on, should you flunk the skills test. Just don’t go there in the middle of the day on the weekends, or you’ll just get stuck in a traffic jam in the middle of seemingly nowhere, and then you will be lucky if you even get to average the speed limit, which is a posted 30 miles per hour.

The sky looked ominous. It desperately wanted to rain, but the weather had held so far and I was determined to get a few good runs in before it let loose, if it was even going to in the first place. If it did rain, so what? In my husband’s words:

“I’m going to do the Dragon. I don’t care if it rains. I don’t care if I’m the only man to ever do it wearing a trash bag, that Dragon is going down!”

Mr. Slow is a self-admitted fair-weather biker, so this was important enough for him to risk getting caught in a rainstorm. It was important enough for me, too; albeit for a completely different set of reasons. His reasons included shutter speed, mine corner speed. I really didn’t see my husband a whole lot after I followed him on his virgin run with the video camera attached to my bike. We never broke the (averaged) speed limit and I was one-handing it most of the trip, waving fanatically at the photographers hoping to get my silly self into hubby’s frame to ruin the shot. Didn’t quite work out as planned. I risked his life for nothing. Bummer.

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I almost didn’t go, because the sort of shenanigans that I had in mind were for dry roads and warm tires, but I made myself gear up anyway. I quietly admonished myself that I was supposed to keep it at 60% and keep the racer mentality off the public roads. So far I had done pretty well in that regard. Yes, things got a little spirited on occasion, but I would like to think that I never exceeded 75% of my skill at any given time. Did I not just spend a weekend riding with a friend resetting my brain to “street mode” and adjusting my “Speed Racer” mentality in an effort to ditch the frustration with the limitations of street riding that has plagued me for the better part of the past two years? To recapture the enjoyment of the ride at slower, more sane speeds without letting too much hang out on that slippery slope that is risk acceptance. “No speeding in the straights!” is the toughest rule to adhere to, especially if the road isn’t entirely straight, but sweeps invitingly from side to side.

As it turns out, the road is cold and wet in places, and it seems to be getting worse. I realize that it is starting to rain and that we are catching up with the worst of it. As we continue northward the road gets wetter and there are leaves in a lot of the corners. I slow my already temperate speed even more. I have only one word to describe my feelings about wet leaves in wet corners: treacherous. My tires are sticking and my lines are true. However, this situation makes me feel timid and uncertain. To the close observer, this anxiety makes itself evident in my body position. As the battle between fear and intellect rages in my mind, my sternum becomes rigidly glued to the tank. I have to make a conscious effort to correct this tendency, hang off properly by dropping the upper body into alignment and in doing so also right the bike from its excessive lean. When your chest is stuck to the gas cap, your ass might as well be sitting in the seat, with your knee gripping the tank. You can’t just hang your cheeks out and expect to conserve lean angle by lowering your combined center of gravity. It doesn’t work that way. Either hang off or don’t… that half-assed crap isn’t really doing anything but make you look like an assclown. I’m getting a little flustered with myself, not that I would have to hang off at all. But hanging off is one of those things I still need to practice and perfect for myself, so I always at least go through the motions, even at speeds where it is not needed. At minimum I like to “pop” the inside hip into place and weigh the outside peg. Besides, sitting sedately center, hauling through a curve is much scarier than doing the same while getting low and to the inside of the bike, for the centrifugal forces involved are less apparent. It just feels slower and more manageable. This is also the secret to getting your kicks without having to push the speeds too far into “jail-able offense” territory. And if you also take the “car line” through to avoid flattening out the curve you can get even more thrills for your speeding ticket buck. But that’s an entirely different story altogether.

I’m not liking this kind of riding. This is more like commuting or roadtripping than joy riding. But as the ride continues, my fear is gradually replaced by annoyance. I want to be irresponsible (in a responsible kind of way), but am somewhat inhibited by the probable presence of more cops (one had parked himself in the first longish straight to set the mood) and the less-than-fun traction conditions. But it is good practice. Since I’ve lost my job, I haven’t had much occasion to use my crap weather skills, so this is really a blessing in disguise. With the newfound attitude I begin to settle into a rhythm and am starting to enjoy myself again, even if such joy is served with a dash of apprehension.

We turn around at Tabcat Bridge, at the northern end of the Tail, and make our way the eleven miles back south. It isn’t too long before the skies open up and let us have it in full force. Visibility becomes more and more limited as the rainshower cranks its intensity up to torrential downpour. My visor keeps fogging up and my gloves are getting soaked. Our average speed doesn’t drop all that much and we are still dancing smoothly and effortlessly through the curves. Now this is something I can cope with. The leaves have washed off the road and the asphalt is finally clean. This is the kind of riding I refer to when I say: “Rain is nature’s way of giving us clean roads and 80% traction.” I don’t like “sort of wet”, but “really, really, really wet” I can definitely deal with. The hanging off bit stops as soon as I realize — to my chagrin — that my crotch is absolutely soaked and my feet are sopping wet. I make myself as small as possible, trying to keep the water out. To no avail. I can feel a cool trickle making its way down my spine between my back protector and the moisture-wicking compression shirt. Oh, goodie! We all know where that’s going next: Asscrack Falls. And then I’ll be sitting in it until I stand up. I smirk at the thought. I’m not entirely sure why this is even funny, but I’m getting a kick out of it. Hell, yeah! I made that damn Dragon cry. I suffer another mental burst of girly giggles.

David and I are the fastest crew to come down the mountain that morning. The Pirelli Angel ST tires are again proving their crap weather worthiness. I don’t trust them quite yet on their sides, because they have massive grooves for water evacuation running almost all the way to their outer edges. That’s just too much air and not enough rubber in the chicken strip regions for my comfort level. When it was dry I wished I had a stickier, softer tire; but now I am definitely glad I’m rolling these sport-touring hoops. My confidence in the tires is evident in our pace. I have no problem keeping up with David who is leading the return trip.

We’re safely passing several vehicles and catch up with some sportbike riders who do not seem to appreciate getting caught in this shit storm at all. One is making a concentrated effort not to lean around a corner; and another is hugging the center lines, crossing over repeatedly, almost as if he was using them as a visual guide to help him stay on the road. We pass him in a hurry, before he could make it to the next curve. It appears that David and I had the same idea, neither one of us wanting to see “what happens next”. [Both of these guys made it back down the mountain alright.]

Several riders gave up and parked it at a pull-off. The Harley boys just kept on cruising, a little slower than usual, but those dudes don’t wimp out for some rain. Especially if there isn’t an overpass to park under for miles and they’re already wet. The cigarette smoking while riding, however, has ceased, for obvious reasons.

We finally make it to the chain-link fence that marks the southern side “Beginner’s End” at the North-Carolina/Tennessee state line. Almost there. Almost. As we round the right-hander a flash of hi-viz yellow catches my attention. I smile as I realize it’s Mr. Slow creeping down the mountain on his Samsonite Missile. He also has no real pressing urge to lean. That’s my man! I smile again, since I’m happy to have caught up with him; because I assure you, I would have freaked out approximately 22 minutes after not seeing his Connie parked in front of our room.

This is a good time to have lunch at the Dragon’s Den Grill and the place is packed as people settle in to wait out the storm. The satellite TV has quit, we have no cell reception, and it’s anybody’s guess as to how long this’ll go on. A typical spring afternoon shower? Couldn’t be more than an hour or two.

As soon as the rain subsides, I’m geared back up and on my way to my bike to head out. Everybody else also wants to go, but they want to wait about 20 minutes for the road (and their gear) to start drying out. With my renewed confidence I’m not even interested in wet roads or wet gear. I sit down on the bench in front of our room and impatiently wait on time to tick off the minutes as I watch the steam as it rises from the pavement; the road slowly begins to dry.

My overly inflated ego is promptly corrected not too far into the next run. Let some of that air out, hot stuff, shall we? Traction feels iffy and after sliding around in two consecutive turns, I am absolutely crestfallen. WTF?!? My riding again becomes timid as my anxiety level rises. I hate sliding the rear wheel. I dislike it on the track, but I’ve learned to cope with it there; however, I still don’t like it when it happens and I find myself avoiding to ride that close to the edge of my traction limit. When it happens on the street my anxiety is multiplied. I already hate the outside edge of the pavement and sliding around like I am isn’t helping that situation any. This is the reason I have a tendency to take the “race line” through a corner, hugging the center-line at the apex with my body hanging all over into the oncoming lane. Never mind that my tires are still in the correct lane space. On the track this tendency is displayed in a distinct cutting of corners to the apex. It’s almost a little like dog-legging it, rather than a more gradual approach. It’s point-and-shoot from entry to apex, but on exit it is a gradual drifting out to the outside edge, as it should be when accelerating out of a turn. This is also why I prefer right-hand turns on the street, even though it would make sense to be more fearful in a right-hander. After all, if the rear breaks loose, I would be sliding into oncoming traffic rather than off the road. All these worries and various discomforts come flooding into my conscious thoughts. Slap! Take you down a notch, missy. A pass and review of your more annoying (and tenacious) riding flaws. Arrrrrrgh!

On the return trip I can barely keep up with the guys, my group or otherwise. Correction: I can’t keep up with the guys. They only reason I keep catching them is that they get held up by other motorists. I feel tired and unfocused. I’ve let myself down. I am really disappointed. I know I can do better, so what is this? It’s almost schizophrenic. I feel slightly nauseated as I fight my way through every curve.

By the time I’m back down at the Gap, I’ve worked myself up into a real pisser of a self-deprecating attitude. I park the bike, and start stripping off my gear. I’m not going back up! This shit sucks, I’m really not in the mood anymore. Apparently, you can’t teach some old dogs anything… I notice none of my friends’ bikes are there. Not even Mr. Slow’s is anywhere to be found. Oh, hell with this! I’m going back up and I am showing this damned Dragon who’s wearing the bitchin’ pants in this freaking crowd. The guys pull in as I am adjusting my tire pressures. Great, those jokers stopped off somewhere and here I was trying to catch up. But the decision has been made. I’m getting back on this damned motorcycle and I am going to own what should have already been mine. I’m letting two more pounds of air out of both tires. I will find me some traction (or loss thereof) and collect my confidence while I’m at it. I am a girl on a mission. A girl who is intent on making the DTC work it for her. The guys also decide they didn’t have enough yet, swap bikes between themselves, and we head back out. This time I end up in the middle.

I spend the next 11 miles trying to push the front, slide the rear, or make either the RaceABS or DTC intervene; whichever one of those three comes first. I don’t care. I find I’m a little angry. I work my way into racing up to a corner, slamming on the brakes, throwing the bike in, and grabbing a judicious twist of throttle on the way out. Rinse, repeat. Nothing. The tires hold solid. The subtle pulsing of the ABS system or the faint “clicking” of the traction control both remain elusive. Maybe the shit doesn’t work anymore, after all? Well, I do know the RaceABS is in working order. I have finally mustered up the courage to put that one to the test by a few hamfisted, idiotic grabs of the front brake. There was never any doubt that the rear brake was working, that thing goes live when I’m just thinking about maybe using it. A little excessive for my taste, but whatever.

I wave the thought of maybe not having a functional traction control system to save my bacon aside and am wondering if Rick, who is behind me on David’s Ducati, is bothered by me riding like a jackass. He seems to cope fine with my change of riding strategy, but I make a mental note to ask him, and apologize if necessary, at the turn-around spot. I am not worried about hurting David’s feelings, who is undoubtedly playing around with the ZX10R’s ABS/DTC systems as well. He’s a racer and we’ve been doing “skill runs” pretty much all weekend. I’m sure he doesn’t mind my nose up his tail and in his business every corner we come to.

We actually looked quite well together, the three of us. Later inspection of over 200 uploaded low-res digital proofs by the various Dragon photographers confirms my suspicion. Mr. Slow also hands in photographic evidence. 🙂 I hope I meet these guys again. It was a blast riding with them. And next time Rick better bring his wife, who didn’t want to go until he had “checked it out”. I told him to tell her I am mad at her for not showing up.

Miss Busa in the Middle

As I was gradually working my way up to braking later and harder, and accelerating sooner and more aggressively, I felt something I haven’t experienced in a long time. A glimmer of my former bravado and aggressiveness. That something in my personality that I thought had finally been tamed. The little streak of crazy is alive and well and its clawing its way back to the surface. I do believe that to be a good thing. And I have the Dragon to thank for it. Why? Because it rained a little bit.

I had lost a lot of my spunk after crashing last year by tucking the front end into Turn One at Barber Motorsports Park at 120+ mph. A crash that prematurely ended the 2011 racing season for me, because I got to spend my money on fixing my bike rather than actually racing it. A crash that also trashed my confidence without me even realizing the significance of its impact until months later, when I finally got to do another track day and realized I was slower, less confident and more nervous. It took me another few months to pinpoint all the kinks that had developed in my riding as a result. And it was extremely hard to admit that to myself. I blamed it on not getting enough seat time. Yeah, that’s part of it, but that hadn’t slowed me down significantly before I had lost my balls in the kitty litter.

And that is how I do it. This is how I roll.

Check out some of the photos Mr. Slow took. He’s stashed them at FramedByJoe.com (link opens in new window).

I submit to you our first round of Monday morning dragon slaying. There wasn’t much slaying going on quite yet, since the Dragon himself was still pre-coffee and in no mood. 😉

Sunday Pics by Killboy & Co.

Monday Pics by Killboy & Co.


How-To: Teach a Woman…

You have asked and I shall answer, to the best of my ability.

This one goes out to all the men out there who are lucky enough to have a lady in their lives who is either riding her own motorcycle, is learning to ride her own, or is thinking about learning to ride. Maybe she’s your wife, your girlfriend, a family member, or just a woman who is in your social circle and for some reason or another has “adopted” you to be her mentor for her two-wheeled adventures.

These are the “rules of engagement” as I have come to understand them in my journey as a biker chick to become the best skilled rider I can possibly be. Look at these “rules” as a general guideline, as an inside peek at how us girls roll.

Biker Babes

If the woman in question is already riding her own motorcycle, there are only two points you need to be clear on:

  1. More likely, a woman will ask for advice when she wants it and ask it of whom she trusts. Do not offer uninvited advice, unless you see her doing something repeatedly that could endanger her and others. In this case, be tactful, respectful and don’t get personal. And please don’t dress her down in front of the entire crowd. Think of how you would want this to be handled. This is not the time to trash talk, poke fun or be condescending. The message will only be heard if it is delivered appropriately. Any other time, keep it to yourself. Men are protectors, they want to fix things that they deem to be broken in some form or another. You’re wired that way, but please rise above your biology and resist the urge to “fix it” or “save her from herself”. Uninvited critique on technique or style will come across as patronizing, sexist, sometimes belittling, and even disrespectful. Again, a girl will ask if she wants to know.
  2. When you overhear a woman, usually in quite an animated fashion, critiquing her own screw-ups, please don’t take this to be an open invitation for a riding lesson. We’re not exasperated or unsure of ourselves. It isn’t a sign of being helpless. When a girl goes on about how she totally blew a corner, or how she was a complete idiot for doing this, or not doing something else, she is processing. She knew she’s messed up; and that should be the key to understanding that she isn’t asking for help or trying to elicit your advice on the sly, but rather is engaging in an “after-action review”, to relive an event so she can do better next time. She is aware of her boundaries and where her skill development needs further attention. She’s got it under control and is handling her affairs.

Biker Babes in Training

If the woman is a beginning rider or is thinking about learning to ride a motorcycle, here is a list of things to keep in mind to understand how our learning experiences differ from that of the men, and how best to deal with gender-specific issues that may not even cross your mind as it is a non-issue for most guys.

  1. If she has asked you to teach her how to ride and you have agreed, you should sit down first and talk about the expectations you have of each other. Make your own ground rules to ensure a pleasant and fun experience, for both student and teacher.
  2. Implore her to take a basic riding course either before or after you begin teaching her. I cannot overemphasize the importance of formal practical training. She can learn the fundamentals of motorcycle operation in a safe and controlled environment with a relaxed and non-threatening atmosphere. A foundation which I personally found to be of huge benefit to my further education and skill training. Two of the most common courses are the Basic RiderCourse offered by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, and the Rider’s Edge Course offered by a lot of Harley Davidson dealers. Taking a riding course will also help those women who are unsure, to figure out if riding a motorcycle is something they would enjoy, before they take the plunge and buy a motorcycle, which is a sort-of big deal for a lot of us financially.
  3. If at all possible, hook her up with an experienced female rider who rides the same type of motorcycle that she does. Women riders understand the obstacles a girl faces when first starting out and are for the most part very supportive of each other and a lot of women will feel more comfortable asking certain questions of another female rider.
  4. Be patient and let her take each lesson at her own pace. A woman’s learning curve differs from that of a man’s. Generally speaking, a woman will learn at a slower pace, but will peak their skill set above that of the average man. I’m not saying this to be sexist, it has to do with how most of us girls approach new experiences and how we work through problems and our anxieties. We place more emphasis on education and prevention to keep us out of potential trouble. Men are more apt to wing it and learn as they go. “One down, five up? Ok, see ya.” That’s how my husband learned to ride; that was the question-statement he posed to the dude he bought his first bike from, gave him the cash and rode off into the sunset.
  5. Do not pressure her about her speed. If you constantly nag her about “being slow” you may inadvertently destroy the confidence she is building in herself and her bike’s capabilities and turn it into frustration. In other words, don’t push her too far too fast. Girls don’t have the need to keep up with their buddies for worry of embarrassing themselves or being called slow; for the most part. Her speed will pick up on its own as her skills mature and her confidence increases.
  6. Don’t try and talk her into something or out of something. Ride your own ride, let her do the same.
  7. Let her buy her own ride. Period. She is the one who has to ride it, not you. Give her pointers, if she asks for your opinion, but give them objectively and without putting a spin on things. Also implore her to do her own research. The more she knows about motorcycle basics, the better the position she’ll be in to make an informed decision.
  8. Don’t let her wimp out. This is a toughie, though. When we have a bad experience and we aren’t reliant on our motorcycle for daily transportation, we have the option to take the Chicken Exit rather than working through it and conquering our fear. This can manifest itself in several ways, and not necessarily where you would think. That is what makes this one so difficult to pinpoint, even to ourselves. Be supportive, listen, and gently encourage her to keep on trying. How do you do this? That is something I cannot answer. It’s probably easier for another female rider to accomplish, because girls are more apt to say “if she can do it, so can I” when she can’t find the motivation on her own. Left to her own devices, a woman usually will either work through her discomfort and keep pushing herself in an effort to overcome the obstacle in her path or she will eventually quit. It all depends on how much importance she places on conquering the perceived setback. Not all women will become avid motorcyclists, some will find that it’s not for them after all and some will turn it into a lifestyle and sell their cars. Some will be content with riding pillion and others won’t stop until they have their racing license and have proven to themselves that they can do it. Again, whatever she decides, it is not a failure on her part or yours as her mentor.
  9. Realize that women riders face a slightly different set of difficulties when learning to ride a motorcycle. Things most men find a non-issue and have never really given it much thought. Things such as: seat height, rider position, weight of the motorcycle, upper body strength, physical endurance, inseam, body shape, etc. These all have an impact to one degree or another of how we approach riding and the kind of bikes we find “agreeable” to us when we first start out. Even finding properly fitting motorcycle gear can be a real chore for girls.
  10. And last, but not least, don’t ever append “…for a girl” at the end of a statement; unless you want to carry your balls home in a jar.

Pre-Race Jitters with a Side of DOMS

Here’s an article I came across while researching my current affliction courtesy of forgoing two weeks of training plan in favor of laying around the house depressed and then picking up where I left off, just to up the ante by a few more miles. Yes, I’m a dumbass. :/

ultraRUNNING Online – Dealing with DOMS

When I first started my marathon training my left knee eventually decided to tell me to knock off the silliness and get back on the couch. After all, my body parts are accustomed to the luxuries the sedentary lifestyle of a geek has to offer, only momentarily interrupted by the physical exertion required to throw a motorcycle around a few curves. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you want to look at this) I was endowed with a pretty fast metabolism and the genetic predisposition of being muscular, which allowed me to indulge in junk food and hours-long sessions in front of the computer without too much damage to the physique. But at 24% body fat, I wasn’t what you would consider healthy or in shape, even if I only weighed 115 pounds and wore a Size 2.

I solved the emerging knee problem by online research and then doing what was suggested as the first steps: making sure I was using the right footwear and paying attention to my stride and keeping things aligned properly. The first made the second so much easier. I’m not sure if my stride is what they would call efficient, but it seems easier on the legs, so it must be better than it used to be.

Since googling and self-diagnosis worked the first time I encountered a problem during my training, I am not shy about using the same strategy again. Is it medically advised? Probably not. Is it smart? The stupidity of the whole endeavor depends largely on how the research was preformed and on the accuracy of the self-diagnosis. But since I don’t really have a choice in the matter, it will have to do.

As with my motorcycle racing skill training, I have to learn most of it on my own and occasionally I might even get to spend some money on professional skill training to make sure I’m on the right track. I’d rather spend money on a racing school then pay for a personal trainer or a running coach and a sports doctor. Thank you, but if I had that kind of money, I’d rather see a world champion racer about a slide around a corner than a dude clad from head to toe in UnderArmour with a clipboard and a stopwatch about some pace-enhancing speed work. Since I have money for neither, at this particular point in my life, the option isn’t available anyway.

Now that I am trying to enhance my body’s performance and not just look the part, I realize that there is more to it than just going out there and doing it. Apparently, DOMS isn’t my only problem. I’m supposed to be fueling my body appropriately, too. However, I’m running on regular 87-octane pump gas, rather than the VP-110 racing fuel I’m supposed to be on. I severely lack in protein and am completely over on the fat. As a vegetarian this is probably the normal state of affairs for my body anyway. I never was one to pay much attention to how much of what and the overall quality of the foods I was eating. I ate what I wanted when I wanted it and how much I wanted.

Partial analysis, however, reveals that my diet is lacking and that I am probably malnourished. No wonder I am always tired, feel sluggish, can’t seem to get enough oxygen into my system and am irritable and moody. Not saying that all these problems stem from my diet and correcting my eating will not solve all of these problems, but it definitely won’t hurt.

I’m really getting nervous about the upcoming race. Just having the suspicion that something is wrong is one thing, but now finding out that there is a definite correlation between my habits and my lack of progress performance wise are two different animals for me. The latter is a hell of a lot harder to overcome mentally. I’m starting to be afraid to fail, even though I have shown that I can cover 13.1 miles without dying, I’m beginning to think that I won’t be able to make it, especially now that my body is showing the damage that I have done by proving that I can cover the distance in the first place, after being ill-prepared. My husband keeps telling me I’m overdoing it. I keep telling him that I have no choice. And I keep telling myself that racers do play hurt.

The anxiety builds. Yesterday I was fretting over the 6-miler, but against all I deemed possible, I made it. I was in pain the entire time, but I made it. Today I don’t want to run the prescribed 3 miles, because I’m still feeling the effects of the six-mile pounding from yesterday. And I don’t even want to think about the 12 miles I am supposed to run on Saturday. I feel like I’m going to a funeral this weekend. My own. I get nauseated just thinking about it.

Yes, I am definitely getting the pre-race jitters. Except this time, they arrive a week early for the wrong sport. And my response to this type of fear is always trying harder, going faster, taking more risks. And something tells me that this might not be the appropriate course of action in the sport of (sorta) long distance running. But I really am at a loss as what to do, and failure is not an option, since I already paid the entrance fee and a DNS is not preferable over a DNF at this point or any other. *sigh*


Mario Andretti Saves the Day

The past several weeks I have asked of myself repeatedly where I could possibly find motivation when the reason for said motivation has gone; unceremoniously packed its bag, and left in the middle of the night to disappear without so much as saying goodbye.

"Dear Miss Busa,
it's been fun. But I have to go. Our relationship is just not working for me anymore.
Regretfully,
Your Motivation
P.S. Please don't try and find me."

Motivation, you are just like all the others! You swine! I will never be motivated again. Ever! I haven’t been able to figure it out. My motivation didn’t even leave a forwarding address. Or did it?

Today, during some research for an essay I am writing, I stumble across a quote by Mario Andretti. Words I’ve been needing to hear for a long time. Words that make me feel a little less lonely. Words that give affirmation to the knowledge that dreams are not easy to achieve, because if they were, everybody would be a rock star, wealthy and living the life.

Unlike the rock stars, I really don’t want much out of my life. I have most everything already. I just want to be damn fricken fast and have a two-car garage. I’d take the former with a healthy dose of the relativity theory and the latter I would also live in, if I had to.

“Circumstances may cause interruptions and delays, but never lose sight of your goal. Prepare yourself in every way you can by increasing your knowledge and adding to your experience, so that you can make the most of opportunity when it occurs.”

I’m going to run today. After almost two weeks of skipping out on most of my scheduled marathon training, because I just really didn’t see the point anymore, I am putting myself and my white flag-waving attitude on notice. The worries of a crashed economy, the rising cost of living, and an uncertain future were suffocating my will to live well.

My life as I have known it for the past fifteen years is quickly falling apart around me; and the stress of continued unemployment and pending financial hardship were enough to throw my happy-go-lucky disposition into the crapper. My brain chemistry went into crash-override and switched itself into depression mode and left me with smudged and streaky eye liner.

This is only an interruption of your dream. If this had been the actual end of your dream, this interruption would have been followed by the rolling of the closing credits and a fade to a wakeful state.

…because all I want to do is ride.

Fast.

Hard.

And scare myself on occasion. Because if you aren’t scaring yourself you aren’t going fast enough. I think Mario said that, too.


One-track Mind of Hell

Today the God of Speed spoke to me through a fortune cookie. Yes, this can’t be anything but racing related. My bike number is even in there, albeit in reverse. Yes. I would say I am horribly preoccupied. I wonder if this is a good or a bad thing. It was just like this last year. The brain stuck in gear weeks before the actual race; much ado about nothing. *sigh*

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Did I mention I also ran my fastest mile today? 9:56. And my fastest 1K at 5:56. Not too bad, considering I had a gut ache, was severely dehydrated, and felt the torturous beginnings of a migraine. I would think that getting to lap Mr. Slow three times in three miles would be a motivating factor, but my overall average pace dropped back by 25 seconds. I need to find a different backmarker, the man is distracting. 😉

Observation of the Strange Kind: It’s a little after 1 o’clock in the morning, I’ve had but four hours of sleep and my headache is threatening to make a reappearance; oddly enough, I feel like going for a little run.

I need to get my head checked.


Whatever Dreams May Come

I am getting the butterflies again. The more I think about the upcoming weekend, the more I feel like I am not ready. The more flaws I find in my technique, the more doubt creeps up in my head. I have exactly nine days to sort myself and get ready for JenningsGP and I feel slightly overwhelmed. This feeling is nothing new, and intellectually I know it’s all my nerves; emotionally it’s quite a different story. I have a tendency to hype myself up and freak myself out internally, where I’ll be a quivering blob by the time I need to perform, have to fight the urge to vomit, and try desperately hard not to act visibly like the proverbial deer caught in the proverbial headlights and play it all cool, calm, and collected. That’s right, because to Miss Busa this ain’t nothing but a thang! Keep on thinking that…

Mr. Slow has told me over and over again that people cannot tell that I’m a nervous wreck and that I’ll do just fine and I end up having a blast. He’s right on both counts. I have a long track record that proves him to be right; however, that does not change the fact that I have to go through this nerve-wracking process every time. Performance anxiety goes away moments before the green light comes on, so to speak. Anxiety, self-doubt, the nausea and the OMG-I’m-Gonna-Die obligatory internal cry for help are replaced by focused concentration. I am calm. I am entering “the zone”. I am but alone in my task. Everything and everyone around me is forgotten. Just the girl and her goal. And I can do exceptionally well under pressure if I don’t over-think it.

I am now in pre-mission over-thinking mode. I want to go over everything yet again. Or I just don’t. One way stresses me out for two weeks, the other only stresses me out on the last day. I do either, sometimes both.

I woke with a start last night, muscles tensing, synapses misfiring and the last thought on my brain while regaining wakeful cognition was “Oh shit!” I even woke hubby. He asked me what was wrong. I mumbled something along the lines of: “Nothing, just a bad dream.” I remembered what woke me, but didn’t want to voice it. Because saying something out loud gives it power.

I have never dreamed about motorcycling. The only times there were ever motorcycles in my dreams, they were parked somewhere in the background and none of them were mine. Which is curious in itself, since I am known to process in my dreams. Heck, I used to dream solutions to scripting problems in a language based on C++. I don’t code in C++, never have. The solution to the problem was also new to me. I tried it out as soon as I woke up and it worked, just like my dream predicted it would. A problem that had been bugging me for several days was solved in a strange three-second dream. Go figure. I have dreamed in HTML before. Don’t ask me to explain that one. A friend of mine and I talked about this, she’s done it, too. And here I thought I was the Lone Rangerette in Weird World. 🙂

The first time I dream about riding, it’s not a solution or a Eureka! moment to deepen my understanding, it’s a damn crash; a low-side in some turn on some racetrack somewhere I have never been. Maybe it was JenningsGP, I have stared at that track map long enough…

I’m so not ready.

But I’m going anyway.

Why? Because I can and I must.


The Man Refused To Watch

I just finished watching @MsXXFastRR’s videos from her first WERA West race weekend. Her friend has them posted on her YouTube channel. And as I watched them take off and start racing around the track, I started feeling a little sick to my stomach. Good grief! Is this how fast we are going? Seriously? It doesn’t look that fast when you’re on the bike. Neither does POV footage look all that fast. But watching it over the pit lane wall? Holy shite! No wonder Mr. Slow disappeared into thin air and blamed the heat for not sticking around when he met me at Barber in June. I probably would have run away screaming had I been the one watching him doing laps. Well, with his skill, I have reason to be worried.

I can see it now: Mr. Slow on his Concours 14 turning laps, hanging his cheeks into the breeze, hoping that the zipper on his four-cow one-piece race leathers won’t bust or that he’ll slam that Connie right into the ground with his huge weight shift… People watch him go by and are astonished: “He didn’t even take the bags off!”

Yup, that’s my man! Or would be, if he had any interest in track riding. He went to the 1/4-mile strip once. He did 75 at the trap. He said he was going faster, but slowed down because he didn’t know where the thing ended. Puhleeeze!

Seriously though, I just can’t get over this. Makes me wonder if I’m off my rocker, insane in the membrane, three mils short of proper preload.

Seriously, I want to do WHAT?!?

Let’s just say, I don’t blame the man. I understand now. I understand.