Race Report (Part 2 of 3)
Miss Busa’s Inaugural WERA Race:
Up at the crack of dawn. I drag myself into the shower and after getting ready, Mr. Slow hands me a steaming cup of hotel coffee. I love you, man! He knows what Miss Busa needs. The Zombie can finally rise. As we head out the door, I am assaulted by a blast of cold wind and the drizzle immediately adds to my already sunny (insert heavy sarcasm) disposition. Good gawd! I’m awake now! I shiver in my Under Armour HeatGear. Damn! I should have went with my original instinct and packed the ColdGear also. I’m in for an interesting day, I’m sure of it. Cold and wet! Still. It looks as if the storm had blown through, as they had predicted, but I wasn’t expecting it to remain this breezy and cold. What was I thinking when I checked the weather report?!? Guess I’m not in Georgia anymore. Brrrrrrr! It’s freaking cold out here. Not even 50 out. The sky still looks foreboding in places, the tattered remains of a storm that made for a restless night. Mr. Slow informed me that I pretty much kept him up all night by waking up shivering several times.
I keep my spirits up because I am in good company and am looking at a weekend at the track. I’m not even nervous. I’m just excited. The nausea, however, returns as we pull into our pit and I notice the hustle and bustle of people busying themselves with various tasks in order to get ready for their races. The unmistakable sound of race engines spinning near red line barreling down a front straight tells me that a practice round is already under way, and I stand by my bike feeling somewhat lost and sick to my stomach. Yes, I’m really here. This is it. The moment I have been working towards, waiting for, spending ungodly amounts of money on, is finally upon me. I feel cold and distracted. At least it quit drizzling for the time being. Margie tells me to go register and find out where they set up Tech. I groan, bitch about being cold and drudge down the middle aisle of the garage, making my way to the south end of the building. I walk slowly, hoping I would spot the object of my given quest before I have to ask some stranger for directions. Joe is behind me, reading me like a book, so he hits up the next person for the info. Tech in the front, registration in the next building over. I breathe a sigh of relief. I can’t help but wonder if Margie didn’t do this on purpose…
We find the registration desk in the Press/Media building and get in line to get our remaining paperwork done. Since I pre-registered online, all I have to do is fill out a transponder rental agreement. I trade the signed form for a transponder and a bracket to mount the thing to the Pirate’s left fork leg with a couple of cable ties. I have to get in the other line to add the Heavyweight Senior Superbike Novice race to my lineup so I can use my Kevin Schwantz graduate coupon that entitles me to a free first race entry. Just like the dealer on the corner. The first fix is on the house. After that you’re hooked and paying through the nose, bankrupting your children’s children for just one more…
Once I return to the pit, we get busy checking the bike over one more time and adding the number plates to the lowers… or at least the two of them try. It’s cold, it’s damp and the vinyl just won’t stick. They manage to peel the paint off on one side while repositioning the background of the numberplate, so now there is a huge primer-colored rectangle where there once was metallic black paint. Margie finally ends up glueing the infernal things to the sides of the bike using a glue stick. The things are wrinkled horribly, but legible. Hubby bets that they’ll be gone after the first race. We shall see.
They are announcing my practice group again. Shit! First call. Margie tells me to calm down and breathe. We haven’t even put the sponsor stickers on. I’m looking for the anti-fog/water repellent stuff for my face shield, but I can’t find it. I crawl all over the truck, digging around, but come up empty handed. I’m cold. My hands are cold. I’m shivering even with Margie’s windbreaker over my leathers and I’m on the verge of freaking out because the bike isn’t the way I want it.
Off to Tech to get my bike inspected. Of course, I had forgotten to take the lowers off. I ride back to my pit and Margie and Joe remove them for me. I ride back to Tech and get in the line that had formed in my absence. Bike checks out fine, but I need my receipt, to verify payment of my entry fees. Crap! I offer to run across the garage to my pit to quickly fetch it, as my left foot executes a familiar movement but fails to find its target. I realize with embarrassment that I don’t have a kickstand anymore. Doh! The tech dude chuckles as I tell him that I’ll be right back. Out the other side, around the corner, and back to the pit.
The receipt is tracked down in my now disheveled folder and then the whole folder is crammed down my neon-green Ed Bargy newbie shirt by Margie. Take it all. Arrrgh! How am I gonna get that out later? Off to Tech, yet again. The third time’s apparently the charm and I get slapped with two Tech Stickers, one for the bike and one on the chinbar of my helmet for the gear.
I end up missing the damn practice, and now there’s plenty of time to get everything sorted, so my inner peace is restored. But I’m cold. I can’t think straight and I’m whiney because I feel miserable and out of sorts.
I end up finding myself stuffed into the Sponsor’s truck, because I’m pretty much worthless in my current state, somebody shoves a hot cup of black coffee into my paws; courtesy of the racer from across the way. “Say thank you, Miss Busa. Good girl! ;)” My pit crew tells me to quit my incessant whining, drink my joe and stay in the truck to warm up. As my core temperature slowly rises into operating temperature I’m starting to feel better. Margie eventually joins me and we pass the time by talking shop. Practice for Group 2, Round 2 is announced and we hop out of the truck to get me ready to rock and roll. I’m feeling nauseous again. They dress me, put me on my bike and send me out to do or die. As soon as I roll out of my garage it starts raining. Motherhumper!!! You have got to be kidding me! As I make my way to pit road, I start getting cold again. My hands feel slightly cool and the wind is blowing in a way that would make a Nor’easter jealous. I realize, as I sit at the track entrance getting drizzled on and shivering, that I’m not enjoying this at all. I can handle the cold. I can handle the wet. Combine the two and you have found Miss Busa’s personal version of Kryptonite.
When we finally get the go ahead from Race Control, I crank up the bike, put it in gear and slap my visor down as I ease into hot pit lane. My former preoccupation with my bodily discomforts is replaced by a mental focus that isn’t quite as narrow as usual, but nevertheless it is there. The nausea that usually accompanies my anxiety has also disappeared. I settle in and concentrate on the task at hand: getting around this thing without wiping out.
As I come around a long lefthand sweeper, the first turn is upon me, I miss it, and almost run through the orange cones that block further access to the NASCAR oval. I grab a monster hand of front brake, come to a nose-diving halt and have to walk the bike back a few steps to enable me to make my turn (a freakin’ u-turn?) without knocking over any of the cones. Great! I hope nobody saw that. Of course they did. I smile at the corner worker who is standing behind the containment wall at the apex of the ‘V’ that passes for Turn 1. Evil. My visor is fogging up, and the rain water is not evacuating fast enough. Translation: I can’t see shit. As I enter Turn 2 I get passed by a Gixxer. Hot pink. Pony tail peeking out from under the helmet. I just got passed by a girl? Wooohooo!!! My usual enthusiasm returns with a bang. I get on the gas; then it is gone as soon as it had come. The realization of having cold tires on wet pavement at an unfamiliar track and a visibility of close to none has a tendency to reign in my enthusiasm. Damn. For a moment, I wasn’t cold anymore.
I settle back down and try to navigate the track as best I can. The racing surface is rough, has cracks, the pavement seams that run in parallel are slippery and there is stray gravel in some of the corners. This track is shit. Well, the infield road course portion is, at any rate. By lap two I’m ready to pack it in. I don’t even collect any reference points. I’m shivering, I can barely feel my hands, and it’s getting a little moist in some places under my leathers. I have to continuously fidget with my face shield to keep the fog from building up. Another couple of victims to the “packing light THIS time” strategy: my helmet’s fog-free shield and the breath guard.
I’m distracted and preoccupied. Not the way to ride by any means, and a potentially disastrous way to race. Every time I pass Pit In, I am tempted to stick my leg out and call it quits. This shit isn’t fun. I can’t believe I’m putting myself through this AND I paid handsomely for the privilege! Good gawd, woman! You are nucking futs.
Nevertheless, I keep fighting with myself and keep pushing on. I am relieved when the checkered flag finally comes out. Not soon enough, buddy, not soon enough! The last lap must have been the fastest yet, since I was suddenly in a real damn hurry to get my frozen ass the hell off this shitty track. For crying out loud, there is a huge pothole in one of the turns, right IN THE RACE LINE!
Back in the pits, I get reprimanded again for whining. This time (I think) I voluntarily retreat to the sheltered comforts the passenger seat of the pickup truck has to offer. This is crap! I hate the weather, I hate the track. If I wanted to get blown by the winds, I’d join the damn Navy! (This sounds way more appropriate coming from a scruffy looking, muscular, bald dude with swallow tattoos on his forearms.) 1.8 miles of redneck rough ridin’. Hell, they have better (free) roads in South Carolina, and that’s saying something.
But I still don’t regret coming, despite of the weather reports. I just wish my first race weekend would have started a little more glorious on a picture perfect day… at BARBER!
I am so done with rain! I show rain the finger! Rain, kiss my pipe, you don’t scare me (much)!
I have said that riding in rain has become “nothing but a thing” anymore. People who ask me if I rode into work today, when they’ve obviously seen my bike sitting in the parking lot getting the redneck bike wash treatment, think I’m completely nuts when I nod a “Yes, I did. I have to, I don’t own a car,” in response to their question. I don’t even know why they bother asking anymore. I certainly didn’t push the mother here. How else would it get here? This makes me think that all they are trying to tell me is, via small talk of the stating-the-obvious variety, that they believe me to be completely mental and I should really get a grip and trade the thing in for a car. Please! When hell freezes over; then, maybe, we’ll begin negotiations.
I have gotten the “don’t rely on that” hand-waving dismissive “you-are-soon-dead” reactions from veteran bikers in response to my standard reply of “Rain is just God’s way of giving us clean roads and 80% traction.” Yeah, I’m such a squid! Please bury me just like that dude who reaped Internet fame of epic proportions posthumously by his family posing his dead corpse on his sport bike. Yeah. Bury my ass sitting on my Beemer in a race tuck, dragging knee around a… wait. I want to be cremated and turned into a diamond for Mr. Slow to wear as a necklace… on second thought, scratch that.
It came to me the other morning, when I had an incident on the way home from work, that I have pretty much experienced all the major “Holy Hell” categories of Crap Weather Riding 101 and 201. I have lost traction both front and rear; fishtailed; slid it sideways; almost lost it by putting my foot down in an oil-water mixture at an intersection; have slipped on lane markings; slid across a patch of ice on a curved onramp; been cut off while turning right at an intersection and had to get on the brakes so hard while leaned over, I was sure that I couldn’t possibly remain on my contact patches; I have had to fly by instruments alone, it was raining so hard at night, the water couldn’t evacuate fast enough off my face shield, and the lights refracted off the road surface so badly, I was basically blind. One thing I hadn’t experienced yet.
I was on my way home from work, I was tired and it was raining pretty steadily. It had been raining all night and most of the previous day, which meant I had at least clean roads, since most of the junk had already been washed off the road surface. I was passing most everybody, as is my custom when it’s raining. Two reasons I have for this, one of which is that most seem to want to creep along below or right at the speed limit, which is something I really don’t get. Maybe those people need new wiper blades and some new tires? This is a far cry from the 15+ over they usually employ to get to work on time. No bother, this does me just fine. It’s not like I want to hang out around cars and trucks, they spray more dirty water into my path, limit my sight distance even more and make it a generally unpleasant experience. Traffic in crap weather is unpredictable to me, I rather not attempt to read them for fear I might be wrong. I take the “the more distance between us the better” approach when it’s unfavorable in the weather department. But I digress.
I was in the left lane roughly doing my usual standard speed of speed limit +9, traffic was extremely light. I see a bus up ahead and once I get close I decide to speed up, which is also a standard practice of mine. Big vehicle getting passed by small vehicle makes small vehicle go through the danger zone in a hurry. I don’t like to hang out. As I am roughly two-thirds of the way past the bus, I hit standing water in the left wheel track. Using the left wheel track is also standard practice when passing huge vehicles. I recognize the danger at about the same time I feel both of my tires “driving up onto glass.” I really have no other way to describe the feedback I got through my tires. It felt different. Not as “rough”, not as “connected”. Like being picked up? As if my contact patches felt smaller. I don’t really know how to put this in words. At that fraction of a second my heart was in my throat, beating fiercely. I had the bus spraying a fine mist of dirty water all over me, to my immediate left was the concrete barrier separating the westbound lanes from the ones going east. I lose it either way, I’m toast. I was staring down the gauntlet into the possibility of coming out the other side in the World of Pain.
I felt the rear give first. I practically had to scream at my tendons not to move and snap the throttle shut. Boy, did I want to. I’m glad the thought of hitting the brakes never raised its ugly head; kind of proud of that one, if I may take this opportunity and pat my own self on the back. This is the first time I was scared while riding in the rain in a long time. I didn’t like it. I told myself out loud, so I could hear it and believe it: “Keep calm! Easy does it!” and with that I pinned the throttle and rode it out, while looking way ahead into the distance, trying to ignore the kill zones to my left and right. The whole incident couldn’t have lasted much longer than a few seconds, if that long. Time always seems to slow down when stuff happens.
Hydroplaning is only fun on a wakeboard at the beach.