It’s Tool Time!

I’m patiently waiting on the Man in Brown to show up on my doorstep to drop off a load of (highly specialized) tools, so I can get this front suspension pain in my arse taken care of once and for all.

What did I actually put on the track at Road A? Let’s just say that I was way too trusting of a bike that my hubby had acquired for me from a dude who is a mechanic by trade and the bike in question had also been set up and raced by a local racing team.

I’m not complaining, mind you. As far as I am concerned hubby got a great deal on the R1. The added up cost of the performance upgrades alone would have set us back as much as we paid for the bike itself. I’m speaking retail cost here. When you’re sponsored you could find yourself getting these things for free. I’m sure both parties came out of this deal smiling. I know I did, and Skinny Dude with Similar Spring Rate even cut me a break and knocked another five bills off of it. But it goes to show that even though I had checked the bike over to the best of my ability, with the mechanical knowledge that I had gained thus far, some things do not become obvious until you put the beast on the track and give it as much hell as you dare. I did. At the last race of the season. Yes, the finals. I went testing at the Grand Nationals and then still entered the actual race (there are some freakishly fast dudes in A Superstock); knowing it was a really bad idea, but when did that sort of thing ever stop me? But that is a different story for a different time. Maybe I’m going to tell it someday… when I’m completely over the public humiliation I received that weekend, and deservedly so.

Candy's Fork(ed) Leg

But I digress.

Finding a rolled up piece of shop towel shoved in between the outer dust seal, the inner oil seal and the ring clip that holds the seal assembly in place was the last straw. (Somebody sneaking some leaky fork seals through Tech?) The last straw in a long line of other straws that made me say WTF!?! out loud. Every one of these straws presented me with the awesome opportunity to research and add yet another tiny increase to my MotoMech Skill. I need to develop an eye for these things, I’m starting to, but I’ve got a long way to go. Vic Fasola took one quick glance at my bike and muttered something along the lines of my suspension setup being totally fooked and my grips being a few degrees off from each other! Holy hell, I measured those clip-ons as best I could with my digital calipers, which isn’t the right tool for that job anyway. They looked even to me, hell they felt even when I was riding the bike.

Later disassembly of the front forks revealed that the preload between the two legs was differing by several millimeters between right and left, the compression damping differed by 25 clicks. Absolutely nothing was right about the front suspension setup. Not geometry, damping, preload, relative positioning, or fastening torques. Nothing. Those tubes were slid so far up the triple tree that they were in danger of giving you a nose bleed when in the race tuck. A twitchy proposition to say the least. And to facilitate this extreme lack of straight line stability it was necessary to have the upper triple tree clamp half on the skinny part and half on the fat part of the fork tube. I snapped off both pinch bolts on the right side in an attempt to loosen them. I wonder how close they were to snapping when the bike was on the race track? I don’t even want to think about that. I managed to release the left-side bolts without a snap, by backing them out alternatively a few turns at a time. The bolts showed signs of fatigue. They were bent and the threads were unevenly stretched.

No wonder the bike felt weird in the front and kind of strange in the back. No wonder I was as slow as a blob of molasses hanging out in a fridge. The bike was talking to me. I didn’t understand all this feedback I was getting through the chassis. I am slowly learning, but my lackadaisical attitude, a conditioned response to balance perfectionistic tendencies with and adventuresome spontaneity into a more sensible approach, sometimes gets in the way and slow natural progression.

I get in my own way. There. I’ve said it. I’m a brainiac klutz. Leave me to my own devices with too much time to think and too much room for self-doubt, and I’ll stumble over my own two feet and land on the mental equivalent of my JLo ass. But I own my solutions and failures. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have to own something to trust in it. I have to test a theory and be able to reproduce the promised results on my own to fully believe it. I don’t follow blindly, unless the source has repeatedly proven itself, and even then I can’t help but feel the gnaw of insecurity. I like my variables to be assigned beforehand. I like the equation’s result to be known. But this is the real world… and constants aren’t much fun anyway.

In the end I have nobody to blame but myself; which is the preferable scenario to me. When the blame falls squarely on my shoulders I can spare myself the annoyance of being upset with someone else.

I should have done the research beforehand, educated myself on the things I was unclear on or was ignorant of and check all fasteners. Set the suspension up for myself instead of trusting “it must be right, because the guy is my height and approximately my weight and he raced it.”

However, too much theoretical knowledge without any real world experience makes my head hurt, it gets me frustrated by information overload and I end up winging it half of the time for lack of patience, time constraints, not having the proper tools, or simply by saying: “Ah, screw this, it’ll be alright.” After all, I don’t want to wrench. I want to ride!

I own it or am owned by it.

Sometimes I do find myself getting a little jealous of some of my friends who can call upon the experience of trusted others to help them along their way. I do most everything myself, and I fall down a lot. Occasionally, this gets a little old and I feel like quitting. Fortunately, I have Mr. Slow to kick me square in the leather pants when I start uttering such nonsense as wanting to quit racing because it’s such a pain in the ass in between. Hubby is EXTREMELY supportive of my racing endeavors. He is my rock. His is the hand that reaches out to help me up. He is the one who puts up with all my girly insecurities and the shit I dish out when I’m stressing, smiles and says: “I don’t care how slow you think you are, baby. I still am damned proud of you for getting out there. You are doing it. You just need to do it more. That’s all.”

He’s right. I know that on an intellectual level. Sometimes it is just hard to hold on to that emotionally when you’re down, but not out. I wish he could also be a master mechanic and a pro racer instead of just playing the role of my psychologist. 😉

My stuff is here, I’ve got to go!

17 days until race day.


Send it down below…

Nothing like feeling like a complete failure to motivate oneself to prove otherwise. I needed to get rid of all this negative energy I’ve had stored up for whatever reason. I hadn’t worked out in two days and that didn’t help my general state of mind. Everywhere I turn, I see obstacles in my way. It’s almost as if I’m swimming upstream, in the wrong direction, against all odds, expending my energy and resources on a lost cause. meh. I hate feeling like this.

I have developed some sort of mental block that keeps me from getting faster on the track. I have an idea about the causality but no real fix on how to go about overcoming the problem. I over-think to the point of distraction. I don’t even know how to explain this… I just know it’s making me slower, and my skill progression has tanked. I hate that, too!

Every time I look at the bike, I find “something else”. Some other mechanical issue that needs to be worked out. I have not a clue. I never wanted to become a mechanic, I just wanted to race the damned thing, but yet here I am. I suffer through it, and make my brain hurt, so I can have a relatively short time by comparison doing the thing I really love to do.

Then there is the financial aspect that bugs me. Racing is financially, uh… irresponsible, a budgetary money pit, a high-risk-no-return proposition especially considering the ongoing game of economic crapshoot. But yet here I am, cutting corners in every other aspect of my life, just so I can “go racin’.” But what a ride! You know you’re in for a good time when they make you sign a waiver before they let you through the gate. Uh-huh. Yup. Nothing like it. I would sell my mother-in-law for a stack of DOT slicks. Yes, it’s that bad. But I can’t help but feel a little guilty.

Winter gets me down, the skies are gray, it’s cold, the world around us dead. People are grumpier than usual. It’s depressing. I find it hard to keep my spirits up when the weather seems so gloomy and foreboding all the time.

The Underpants TreeLots of other personal and family junk that occasionally just wants to show up and take a dump on my happiness. Ick! Screw you. You make me angry because I am helpless and not in control of the situation. Keep your chin up. Ignore it. They’re just jealous. Love the Haters, because it means you’re doing something right. All the kind and supportive comments in the world sometimes aren’t enough… you still end up almost drowning in the cesspool of other people’s bullshit. Blech.

With the attitude of hating my life and feeling like a complete failure, I stomp up the hill to the walking trail behind my house. A 1/3-mile sandy kidney-bean shaped track around a playground and a picnic area. I’m not in the mood, but I have some anger management to do. Exercising should exorcise my (perceived) demons… at least for a little while. If you’re exhausted you have not the energy to be anything but calm. I hit play on the Nike+ GPS app and with the push of that button, decide that today I am going to run until I can run no more. How far can I possibly get? A mile? Maybe… The workout is done with the first walking stride I take. Deal. Off I go.

Last time I was here, maybe a week ago, I couldn’t run a complete lap. It’s torture. After about half a lap, I want to stop. I can’t breathe, my side is starting to hurt. Concentrate. Concentrate. Pay attention to your stride, control your movements. Control your breathing. In through the nose… out through the mouth. Steady. Paced. You can do this.

GPS calculated paceI keep fighting lazy thoughts of quitting with angry thoughts of not wanting to be a failure in today’s run. Failure is not an option. I start crying at one point… or I think I am starting to. I don’t know. One foot in front of the other. I hate running. I want to quit. I don’t see the point. Why bother? I keep pushing on. I am on my last lap to finish the first mile. I tell myself that I at least have to complete one mile. I notice a pair of men’s boxers hanging in a nearby tree. WTF?!? Somebody went home commando.

After that I tell myself one more lap. I have to make it back around to the underpants. I have to take a picture of them. I do. I don’t take a picture of them though. Ok, well I’m almost to two miles. That’s what we ran in the military physical fitness test. I can do this. I see a woman walking about a half a lap ahead of me. Ok. I can lap her… if I lap her before my two miles are up, I’ll allow myself to stop. I end up lapping her twice before she gets in her car and leaves.

Eventually my brain focuses on something racing related and I’m not even really aware anymore that I am running. Well, I am aware of it, but it’s not in the foreground and with that the negative self-talk subsides. I keep pushing. Another idea surfaces: I will set all new PBs today. EVERY SINGLE STAT that Nike+ keeps track of will be improved. Then I’ll let myself be a quitter.

I accomplish my goal at 4.10 miles (farthest run) in 44:16 minutes (longest run) with an overall average pace of 10:47 per mile, which is an improvement by 1:02 minutes. I set my fastest 1K at 6:09; my fastest 1M at 10:08 and my fastest 5K at 33:19.

Do I feel better? A little. Do I still feel like a failure? A little. But at least I have part of my sunshine back. The rest will follow.