13.1 x 2 = Awesome
If you just want to read about the actual race, scroll down to “The Starting Line” to begin.
Seven days before race day
Week 7 of my marathon training has me running 12 miles on Saturday. In order for that to happen without risking personal humiliation I needed a change of scenery and I needed to arrive there feeling like Wonder Woman, so I opted to take the bike and check out a paved trail along the Savannah river, running along the fall line of the Piedmont and the Coastal Plain. What can I say? I get bored rather easily and I need distraction. This time I actually had the opportunity to steal the Sponsor’s truck which was parked in the driveway while its owner was sleeping off the nightshift.
I jumped into my running gear, and “half-squidded” it across the river to the North Augusta Greeneway. Yes, I basically rode half naked. Top half in leathers, bottom half? In a world of pain if I end up on my side for one reason or another. Some of my motorcycling friends are going to give me hell for this one, since I am a rather loud-voiced advocate of ATGATT (All The Gear All The Time) and that such gear should also fit properly and have the minimal features required to actually be considered safety apparel. But that is a different story for a different post.
I get there, secure my gear on my bike, check the park’s map to figure how to run the trails without the least amount of repetition, refill my water bottle and make one last pit stop before hitting play on my Nike+ app and get moving. It is already in the high seventies, if not the lower eighties and it’s humid. But I have new food for my senses to soak up. For some reason I feel alive today. Happy, even. I am enjoying the new sounds, sights and smells and am actually happy to be running.
Wait a minute here! Happy to be running? Who the heck are you and when did the pods take over the body? Yes. I can’t deny it, but I am actually happy to be running. It’s only been about a mile, I’m sure I’ll snap out of it here shortly. Two hours and thirty-eight minutes later I complete my scheduled 12-miler with having set a new personal best for the half-marathon distance by nine minutes.
I ride home happy and secure in the knowledge that even though I might not make my arbitrary goal time of 2:26 (it’s twice my bike’s competition number, in case you were wondering what hat I pulled that out of), I can give my adrenal gland a rest knowing I will not embarrass myself in public by dropping dead halfway up the first steep hill I come to. Mission accomplished, even though that trail seemed uphill both ways. I swear it.
During Week 8 of Hal Higdon’s Novice 1 Marathon Training, coach is telling me to run 3 miles on Tuesday. I miss out on that mileage due to unforeseen events during an unscheduled motorcycle joy ride that culminated in carbo-loading and beer drinking at the Carolina Ale House with the Slower Half. I said screw it and skipped the run. After all, it’s only three miles. And my calf muscles are still screaming bloody murder, and the right one is extremely unhappy where it attaches to the whatnots behind my knee. I don’t feel too bad, Hal himself said to take an extra rest day if we needed it. I needed it. I hadn’t been out with my baby in over four weeks. All work and no play saps the life force away.
Wednesday I’m supposed to crush six miles for the sorta-long run. As good as I felt Tuesday, I couldn’t understand why I felt so drained, unmotivated and sluggish today. I felt downright depressed. I was hoping that my mood would clear in time to maybe still get the procrastinated morning run in before it turned Dark:30. It didn’t. I ended up moping around until it was too late, succumbing to the misery and watching TV all day, not doing a damned thing other than wallowing in thoughts of self-sabotage.
Thursday. I don’t even remember Thursday. I didn’t run Thursday. I remember that much.
Friday is a rest day in the program. I rested. Surprisingly, when Mr. Slow woke me up with coffee and a few kind words, I’m not even sure what he said that served as the catharsis, but my mood returned to its normal levels. Now I was free to get excited and a little anxious about the race. I decided to hop on the bike, run a few errants and then book it the almost 100 miles to Columbia, SC to pick up my race packet and do a little pre-race recon to ease the nerves and scope out the traffic situation.
Oh yeah, that did it. Nothing like playing in rush-hour traffic at speeds 30 miles over the posted speed limit to make you feel alive. It trains the senses, sharpens the reflexes and hones the skill. Playing a game of Frogger with the commuting crowd and getting your lean angle kicks on cloverleaf ramps is prescribed skill training for the redneck road racer. To my defense? I’m a goodie two-shoes in all other areas of my life. I have no other vices, I don’t even drink enough to be considered problematic and I’m a really cheap date, I don’t eat a lot and I’m buzzed halfway through my second beer.
When I returned home, after 196 miles, I was nicely tired out, I barely managed to eat a few more carbs, laid out my gear and set the alarm for 4:00 am and went to sleep.
Six Hours Later: Racing to Race Day
I get a call from hubby at 4:00 am. He will be back in time to come with me. This day is off to a good start already. I smile as I get ready. Logistics have just gotten a heck of a lot easier. Since I am now meeting my husband at his work, I don’t have to worry about what to do with my gear and how to pack it for the bag drop at the start. That saves time, too. I end up leaving the house 20 minutes late anyway, because I can’t concentrate. I’m excited, a little nervous, and my brain is mush.
I am freezing my tush off on the 40-mile ride to meet up with the husband. I’m glad I’m wearing my winter gloves, but I didn’t think it was cold enough for a neck warmer. Holy hell, the cold air is rushing straight down the neck hole into my jacket, I’m shivering by the time I get to the state line with 25 more miles to go. I’m in a full-on race tuck, my elbows dropped below my knees, hugging the bike tightly with not so much as a toe sticking out in the offending breeze, trying to stay in the bubble to keep warm.
I arrive with a massive neck and shoulder ache and the chills. I unceremoniously park the bike with a dive of the Beemer’s nose, kill the ignition and yank the key before the kickstand is even fully extended, jump off the bike and straight into the waiting pickup truck. “Damn, it’s freaking cold out there” serves as a good morning to my smiling husband and off we go towards half-marathon destiny in a more civilized fashion.
The Starting LineWe arrive with about 45 minutes to spare. There are people everywhere. Running to and fro, warming up, stretching, and standing around in small groups chatting. There is music playing over the PA system and the mood is cheerful. I am shivering in the cool morning air and since I am too restless to stand around we start walking away from the starting line so I can jog in place and get my heart rate up and maybe quit being so cold. 15 minutes before the race Joe hands me my gel so I can eat it. Espresso flavored, in lieu of my morning coffee. Yum! I head for one of the women only port-a-potties and relieve myself one more time, just as the newbie tips I’ve read online instructed me to do, even though I didn’t feel the urge to go. I immediately regretted that decision. I tried to hold my breath, not touch anything without falling over or peeing on myself, without much success. At least I didn’t have an accident and there was paper still on the roll. That’s something.
Note to self (and other first time racers): Bring a packet or two of single-use disposable antibacterial wipes to clean your hands with after the fact. Heck, bring a smallish stash of TP (or a single-use wet-wipe), just in case.
By the time I emerge from the plastic outhouse, the race is about to start. Everyone is instructed to line up in order of their pace, faster runners in the front, slower runners and walkers towards the back. Since we were already milling about towards the back of the crowd I didn’t have too far to go. I find a spot in the very rear where the 5K runners and walkers are hanging out. They are easily spotted due to their yellow bibs. I actually ended up standing next to my “bib mate” #782, and I wanted to say something profoundly geeky to the girl, but I bit my tongue and kept the mathletics to myself. When I’m nervous, I talk way too much and I also break the verbal speed limit of pre-coffee cadence and coherence and I blabber, sometimes about more than one subject at a time. No. I’m keeping my trap shut and smile and nod and radiate a friendly aura, but I’m keeping it zipped. I’m enforcing the five-word sentence limit.
Joe tells me to keep to the left when I’m crossing over the starting line, so he can take pot shots at me with his Canon and with these last instructions he disappears into the spectator crowd lining the left and right sides of the road. I suddenly feel very alone in a sea of brightly colored, happy people. I feel lost and out of my league. The organizers have a prayer before the race and then someone sings the National Anthem over the PA system.
Shortly thereafter we begin moving forward, slowly at first, but by the time I am crossing the finish line we are at a run. As promised, I am keeping to the left of the road but I can’t spot Joe anywhere. I scan the crowd, but he is nowhere to be seen. Now I really feel alone, I don’t know why, but I wanted to catch a glimpse of him one more time before I embarked on this experience.
The RaceIt feels strange running with so many people. I train alone. The last time I ran with people was in the military, and we ran in formation for the most part, singing cadence and keeping in step. The pace was forced and falling out meant pain later, so you didn’t. They would round your ass up and make fun of you or make you run circles around the entire running formation as punishment. It wasn’t pretty and it meant more work, so unless you were croaking of an embolism you kept up, no matter what. Failure was not an option.
I’m starting to pass people because my legs want to go faster, the pace doesn’t feel right. It feels too slow. I fight the urge, reminding myself that coming out too slow is better than coming out too fast. I have two and a half hours of this and I haven’t run in a week! I can’t help myself and keep passing. I’m trying to be as courteous as I can and dance through the crowd without making contact and giving people their space. I find other people are doing the same thing. Everybody is being nice. Where are the elbows? They must not come out until Mile 13, I’m assuming. I smile to myself at the thought. There is a word for what seems to be happening here: Esprit de corps.
I am shocked to hear the first pace announcement from my GPS app: 9:38 I think it was. I have the application set to tell me my average pace every 0.25 miles, so I can adjust my pace accordingly. I know that if I fall below 11:14, I won’t meet my time goal of 2:26. A week ago, my average pace was 12:02. I keep reprimanding myself to slow down, but my body doesn’t listen. I keep right on going. I tell myself that I will “deal with it later” my right leg isn’t bothering me too much and my body feels strong and my breathing and heart rate are normal. I’m surprised. Maybe it’s because it is cool and not as humid and I am used to working out in 80-90 degree heat with humidity, since I can’t seem to manage to get up early enough on my own to run in the cooler part of the day. My allergies also don’t seem to bother me as much. My sinuses and lungs feel clear and my nose isn’t running. In other words, the God of Speed is with me. The weather is perfect.
As we begin our decent down the Clemson Road cloverleaf ramp, I am happy I’ve been incorporating hill work into my shorter runs. I have read tons of articles on how to run hills and practiced a few things, and wore myself out on hills. Threw myself at their mercy, to be ground up and spit out feeling weak and like a failure. The torture seems to have paid off and I’m smoking the ramp, gaining speed as I let gravity do its thing, lengthening my stride and controlling my movement. I’m passing people left and right. It felt great to see all that work pay off in a quantifiable sense. If I had been on my bike, I would have been sliding sideways around the corner onto Two Notch Road. I can finally say I passed a motorcycle cop and didn’t rate a ticket. 🙂
[BTW, riding that slow on a motorcycle without dangling your feet or power walking the bike, takes tremendous skill. This cop had his machine under control. Dude knew how to freaking ride.]
As I rounded the corner onto Two Notch Road, I wanted to scream praises out loud and maybe do a little happy dance as the race continued up the next hill towards the first water station… with energy to burn and feeling fine.
I was waiting on my sub-10 pace to keep biting me on the bum and reducing me to walking the rest of the way, but the expected exhaustion never came.
Around Mile 9 or so I had to pop the two Advil I had stashed away in case the pain in my right leg became bad enough to slow me down. On a training run I would have slowed down, but this is a race. I’m eating the pills. These are desperate times, and I can’t come home with a DNF, especially not after I’ve managed to keep my average pace below the 10-minute mark for 8 miles. This is also when I switched to Gatorade from water because I could feel my electrolytes going whacky, or at least I think that’s what was happening because I started to have goosebumps and experienced chills. Another cup of Gatorade and an orange later, the chills were gone.
Around Mile 10 I knew I could have the time goal of 2:26 in the bag with lots to spare. But I kept waiting on the hammer to fall. Running this fast for this long on a body that isn’t trained but to run at a 12-minute pace AFTER taking an entire training week off must have consequences. Not to mention the abuse I’m putting my shredded right calf muscle through. And why the heck am I not out of breath yet?
Fight to the FinishAround Mile 12 I have to start fighting. My hip flexors are sore and are beginning to be painful; this is a sure sign that my legs aren’t going to want to go much further at their current pace. Now I am really glad I’ve taken those two Advils earlier. In my training this marked the time of a definite decrease in speed and stride length because my legs were starting to feel extremely heavy. It almost feels like I am running in water.
Getting back up that dreaded Clemson Road ramp is a feat of pure willpower. I see a girl two runners ahead of me simply walking up. I want to stop and walk, but I am afraid that if I start walking I would not be able to start running again; that my hip flexors and calf muscles would just tell me to piss off in a refusal to cooperate. I could have made better time walking up the ramp, but I just put my head down and baby step it up that puppy, concentrating on just keeping those legs moving at roughly the same speed they were moving before. Do not stop. Do NOT stop! After what seems like an eternity at a snail’s pace, getting passed by a few people, I finally reach the top of that awful ramp and things start feeling a little bit more manageable again. Once I was over the bridge and back to a slight decline of the road, I was back in business.
I never could catch the girl who walked up the ramp. I tried, because her strategy was sound. I wanted to employ it, but I didn’t dare. I regained my lead on a few people who passed me on the ramp. And I held off a few attempted passes by others.
When I finally round the last corner and saw the finish line up ahead I just want to die. I keep running but for some reason it doesn’t seem to get any closer. What the freaking hell!?! My running app’s voice-over announces something along the lines of being almost there and making it count and to please tap to hear my “power song.” My power song is “King of the Mountain” by Redline, the Isle of Man TT “theme song”. I would like to tap, but I don’t think I’m coordinated enough at this point.
The last few hundred feet to the finish line is like running the gauntlet. I feel claustrophobic and exposed all at the same time. All these people are cheering us on as we come in, but I can’t hear them. Yes, I have my music on, but I could hear people talk at the water stations, I could hear traffic. I can’t hear shit now. Eyes on the prize. Almost there. Why the hell am I hauling ass? I don’t know, but I’m now in “just want this to be over quickly” mode.
I see movement and a flash of color in my peripheral vision. Someone’s trying to pass me to my right. I turn my head slightly to check the situation.
My racer mentality kicks in. Oh, hell no!!!
I increase my pace, she keeps up and gains. I redline it, give it all I have; so does she. The crowd is cheering. I still can’t really hear them nor see them. I have tunnel vision at approximately 8-9 mph! Last time I had tunnel vision I was going a little faster than that… maybe 130 or so, more importantly I was pulling some Gs. This would be funny if it wasn’t so damn painful.
I’m thinking to myself that we are giving the crowd what they want to see. The glory of victory and the cruelty of defeat. We are crowd pleasers, true racers. I think I beat her to the finish line, but I’m not sure.
There are three pads lined up and I’m not sure which one is the actual timing pad. I would assume the first one, but I’m uncertain so I cross all three, but I’m already slowing down. I think I have her on the first pad, but she was passing me and had me on the second and definitely was ahead of me on the third.
We had them going! A podium worthy finish fighting over 642nd place. 0.85 seconds separated us in real time. Our chip times weren’t as spectacularly close.
I wanted to high five her and tell her that she has made the finish of my first race a thing to remember. Something that makes that side of me that is slightly crazy and overly competitive sing praises to the God of Speed. But by the time I’d gathered my senses and my finisher’s medal Miss 325 had already disappeared into the crowd.
Finish Time: 2:14:05.60 (new PB and official first PR)
Finish Position: 643 (out of 933)
Finish Position [Females]: 291 (out of 511)
I also set a new (unofficial) PB for the 10K distance: 1:01:02
I try to run with a steady pace, rather than negative splits, since I don’t have the patience for starting out slow, it’s not in my nature. I’ve tried.
2. 9’38″/mi [Fastest]
8. 10’42″/mi [Slowest]
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.
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*
As promised, I tweaked the training schedule, mashed it up with my road racing schedule and registered for a half-marathon that fit. It took me less than it takes me to brew a cup of java to find a convenient 13.1 foot race not too far from here.
Yes, I will be riding the S1000RR there. I might as well slide in on the fastest race horse just to come strolling in last. Why should my running be any different from my racing? On second thought, I herewith solemnly promise to make “tech” on time for this one. 😉
Since talk is cheap and pics are worth at least 30 minutes of small-town gossip, I post the collaborating evidence up for review. 30 minutes of gossip? WTH? That is not how the saying goes! Pictures haven’t been worth 1,000 words since Adobe Photoshop 4.0. 😉
I’m putting the husbandry on notice. Mr. Slow doesn’t have a choice. He will be there. The Busa wills it. He can take photos of me and post pics of my half-dead corpse somewhere around the finish line on Google+ or Facebook or Twitter, and wherever else he hangs out.
April 14, 2012
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!
Race Report (Part 1 of 3)
Miss Busa’s Inaugural WERA Race:
The Day Before
I was running terribly late as usual. There are two factors that I always seem to forget about when “planning” these sort of time-sensitive undertakings:
1. I am a Master Procrastinator, and
2. Everything always takes me way longer than I think.
Correction. Make that three factors:
3. Murphy is my co-pilot. He rides pillion wherever I go, and he backseat drives, too. That bum!
As luck… Murphy would have it, my husband finally gets the OK from his boss to take the weekend off to come with me to Nashville, it seems that some managers do not believe that us mere mortals have a life outside of slaving for the Man, hence ample notice seems of no import to them. But who cares, Mr. Slow is coming along, although I would not have been going alone anyway.
Margie, whom I met at the Ed Bargy Racing School in February, read on my blog that I was planning on going to my first race alone and she wouldn’t have it. She emailed me with the offer to pit for me. Of course, I was elated. Hell yeah, woman! I’ll take you up on that. We hit it off at JenningsGP, the fastest (pun entirely intended) friend I’ve ever made outside of the military, and this would be an awesome opportunity to get to know her better and I knew we would have a blast hanging out together between races.
Hubby has to take a power nap since he’s been up all night, so I busy myself with packing and loading the truck. The Pirate is pretty much race prepped and ready to go. Since I was running behind schedule (nothing new there), I decided that slapping the sponsor stickers and my competition numbers on her newly painted (and hopefully sufficiently cured) race bodywork could wait until we were at the track; ditto for the safety wiring.
What happens next I duly blame on the eight or so hours of sleep I had in the past three days. I ride the bike from her “pit” in my backyard through the gate in our privacy fence into the driveway. I’m getting pretty good at this, since I have to open and close the gate while I’m on the bike or holding onto it, or else I risk the cats making their well-timed fatty-catty escape. They are getting used to the sound of the Beemer and this strategy may not work for very much longer.
I slowly ease the Pirate over the curb and ride into the street, fully intent on making a u-turn to park her behind the Sponsor’s truck on our side of the street. Suddenly, I feel myself going left. What the f…? I try to correct, but quickly find that I can’t. The handlebars are not moving, stuck in place; as if the steering lock has engaged. A hundred errant thoughts run through my mind, not comprehending why this is happening. I know what is happening, it just doesn’t make any sense. While I am preoccupied with the “why”, I completely forget about the “what”. Stuck in a terminal left turn, I bounce over the far-side curb, onto the neighbor’s front lawn and notice that I am on an intercept course with one of the (as of yet) skinny trees they’ve planted in all of our yards. “Shit!” Still not comprehending what is happening, I throw the bike down and execute an awesome-feeling backwards tuck ‘n roll over my left shoulder. I land on my feet and find myself half-crouched in a classic defensive stance with my hands up at the ready. And whose ass am I going to kick?!? Good to know that some things still come naturally, even though I haven’t been to Karate class in over six years. Feeling like a total douche, I right myself, then slap the engine switch to the OFF position and turn the ignition off.
[And why in the hell didn’t I just drag rear brake and come to a nicely executed, ladylike stop???]
This is great! Just great! I guess I’m not going to Nashville after all. What in the hell?!? I’m trying to figure out what in the world I screwed up now. But I didn’t do any front end work. I didn’t touch the triple tree or the fork legs. I just throw my hands up in dismay. Murphy, you fucking bastard! You ever-loving asshole. I hate you!
I squat down to pick up the bike; I see Water Wetter enhanced distilled water trickling out from somewhere. Never mind that now. I’m still in a daze and I need to know what in the devil’s name happened here. I crawl all over the bike, checking it out. I can see absolutely nothing wrong. Am I embarrassed? No. I realize that I don’t even give a crap anymore what people think. So what? My race bike has buried itself up to its frame sliders in the neighbor’s yard. Yup, you got it. Looks like girl can’t ride… whatever. Don’t care. For some odd reason that thought is quite refreshing; It seems that I am starting to lose that annoying fear of public embarrassment one little mishap at a time. Good.
I decide to try the technique I’ve learned from the Ride Like A Pro V DVD. It doesn’t work for me. I cannot budge the thing. I toss my arms up in the air in defeat one last time, then calmly saunter off to get hubby out of bed to come help me get my crotch rocket off the neighbor’s lawn before anybody is the wiser or the Harley dudes look out their windows (whichever comes first).
Instead of finding him asleep, he’s on the phone with his boss. He seems agitated. More confusion. As I walk back out the door, I hear him say something along the lines of “I haven’t left yet, I can come in if you need me to.” Great, looks like it’s back to just Margie and I. I shake my head. I give up. I walk across the street and pick the bike up in my usual fashion. One hand on the clip-on, one hand on the subframe, squat and pull. I have massive thighs, might as well use them. I right the Pirate and walk her back to my side of the street and park her behind the truck ready for loading. As I check her over once more, Mr. Slow is coming outside carrying two parts of the ramp. I tell him what had happened to me, he tells me that he might not have a job come Monday; apparently his weekend vacation was not approved after all. I ask him if he needs to go to work, but his response is negative. I am baffled. My only response to his obvious distress is: “Fuck that asshole, you did nothing wrong. Let’s go to Nashville and have some fun, you’re raining on my parade, dude.” We load up the bike and while we’re tossing all the various other junk into the truck, I notice that he’s distracted; if you can call it that. I’ve never seen him this way. The man never gets down or runs out of options. He takes life as it comes at him. He’s always knows a way out. At least that’s how he’s always handled himself. He is the strong one in this relationship. This is unusual.
We talk. Well, he does. I do the listening. Then he says: “Tell me that I haven’t done anything wrong.” I tell him as much. Several times.
Then I add, “Besides, if you do get canned, you have officially run out of excuses not to take your photography to any serious level. You finally have the time to do what you’ve always wanted to do and even make some money at it.”
He’s not convinced. “What about your racing?”
“What about it?”
“It will seriously change our life style.”
“Will it? Really? It’s just stuff, besides you have always found a job. We have never had to go without. So what if we lose the house… I wanted one with a garage for a long time anyway. We’ll recover, we always have. So what if I have to quit for a while. We’ve been through worse.”
Still not convinced, and not wanting to “regress the Status Quo” he asks me one more time: “Tell me that I’ve done nothing wrong.”
“You didn’t do anything wrong! Now shut your trap, we have a great weekend ahead of us! We deal with whatever may come on Monday; but right now Team PLD has some racing to do.”
We finish packing and loading the truck and head east. It takes him a few miles on the Interstate, but before too long he is back to his usual silly, annoying self. Good. We pick up Margie at her exit and have a road-trippin’ good time all the way to Nashville. I get a nasty leg cramp on the way, and she takes care of me, makes me eat bananas and we consume our fair share of “various other electrolytes” commonly found in junk food. Life is good!
When we get to Nashville, it is cold, dark, rainy, and the wind is blowing at gusty speeds. I’m miserable when I’m cold. Add “wet” to that equation and I just want to crawl under a warm blanket and forget the world around me. Of course, against my better judgment and in the name of “packing light THIS time”, I didn’t bring any warm clothes nor a windbreaker. Margie and I start safety wiring the bike. I only have the thick 0.041″ wire, which is hard to work with but twists up nice and evenly. Fortunately Don, who is pitted next to us, tosses his spool at Margie and makes her use his, while he explains to her how to do it. Don’s wire is thinner and therefore is much more pliable then the stuff Margie was trying to wrangle. Margie pretty much did most of the wiring herself. She had never done it, so she was happy to learn something new. Meanwhile, I amuse myself by taking the kickstand off, checking the tightening torque on various nuts and bolts and tying up some other “loose ends.”
Speaking of loose ends, I eventually figured out why I had the “unfortunate incident” earlier that day; and figuring out is what the situation called for, since I was not going to trust my bike until I did. How was I supposed to race on hardware I didn’t trust? I wasn’t going to do it… well, I probably would have done it, I am a stubborn German, after all; but it would have been a stupid thing to do. With that said, the cause for the Pirate’s dirt nap on the neighbor’s lawn was quite silly, really. When I took the OEM bodywork off, I had to unplug the headlamp connectors. I crossed the cables over each other and placed them on top of the steering head, on the little section of frame between the dash and the triple tree assembly, with the intent to secure them later with zip ties. This was overlooked. When I rode the bike down the curb, the bump must have knocked one of the cables off its perch and it dangled there until it got stuck between the lower triple clamp and the steering damper, causing the front end to lock in position. Later, I found my assumption to be true by seeing the slightly mangled connector on the end of the right-side cable when I zip-tied the cables to the fairing stay.
Tired, cold, and slightly damp we finally checked into our hotel at around midnight, after getting provisions at a nearby grocery store. It took my brain a while to wind down, but I still didn’t get any restful sleep. I kept waking up freezing. The alarm crashed my PJ party way too soon. It was looking to be a caffeine fueled day. Caffeine fueled with a few shots of adrenaline thrown in. I hope the four energy drinks and the coffee we bought would get us through.
It seems I never get much sleep before track weekends. This must be the norm, why else would Red Bull and Monster sponsor our crazy asses?
Lesson learned: Do it as you go, and if you don’t, you better write down all the stuff you’ve skipped for one reason or another. Don’t expect to remember it all, even if you think you will. Better yet, take a page out of a pilot’s book. Make a pre-race checklist. Check all necessary items off after you complete them. Only then, do you know for certain you did not forget anything.
Another lesson learned: Be meticulously organized. If you spend any time hunting for tools and parts, you’ll take twice as long (if not longer) to complete your work. With that said, setting up your pit completely before you start wrenching on the bike helps a lot, too. Not that it matters at my level, but this is a habit which will be indispensable when you have to change the setup of your bike between races to stay competitive, like making gearing changes, tweaking your suspension, or changing your rubber. If you can’t find your shit, you’re gonna be late.
Nashville Superspeedway (NSS)
4847-F McCrary Rd
Lebanon, TN 37090
- Gate closes at 10:oo PM Eastern Time
- Gate entry is $20 per person for the weekend
- From the gate, follow the road around the grand stands to the left. Turn right, go through the tunnel (sing the Navy song, honk your horn), the garages will be a little ways down on your right. Drive all the way around the fence and turn right by the Press/Media Building and slip in through the side gate… or you might end up doing the “rat in a maze” thing. 😉
- Covered pit area (the garages)
- Power outlets are available in the garages, come Friday night to get a spot
- WERA sets up Tech at the south end of the garages (signage outside reads “Inspection Station” if I remember correctly.
- Restrooms are also at the south end of the garages, but you’ll have to walk around the outside of the building to access them.
- WERA sets up Registration in the Press Building, which is the building next door, also to the south.
- Pit Road (entry/exit to the track) is also to the south of the garages, between the Press/Media Building and the restrooms.
- Vending machines are available in the Press/Media Building, but selection seems to be iffy
- They have a “roach coach” set up during lunch hours (late morning to early afternoon), but the food is grossly overpriced and what I had sucked. If you are a vegetarian you’re out of luck save for the Nachos, but I wouldn’t recommend them: the chips were barely warm, the cheese looked and tasted like imitation cheese, however, the salsa was pretty decent. I can’t speak for their coffee (we brought our own, nor their hot dogs and burgers, none of us tried those)
- Motorized pit bikes/ATVs and bicycles are allowed
- Pets are allowed
Plenty of hotels/motels are also close by. We stayed at the Comfort Inn Southeast for $69.99/night and they had what we were after: Clean rooms, clean showers, and decent mattresses. It ain’t no Ritz, but it is affordable and clean. 🙂 They also have wireless Internet access and LAN cables in their rooms; a TV, microwave, fridge and coffee pot, hair dryer and ironing board are also provided. They serve a continental breakfast in the mornings and the staff is helpful and friendly. Don’t forget to get your login information at the front desk when you get your key card, so you can use their Internet. I think their password changes monthly. We booked them through hotels dot com on the way on an iPad and had no issues whatsoever.
- Oh, I almost forgot: The infield road course sucks. Watch out for potholes and loose gravel in some of the corners. The seams are slippery when wet and they have better roads in Glascock County. But you’ll get used to it.
- Make sure you shift your weight to the rear and let the front end float over the transition at the end of the front straight, coming down from the banked NASCAR track onto the paved infield portion of the track, it will jolt you, but you’ll be fine.
- Turn 1 is a peach when you come in hauling Mach 3 from the front straight and are looking at making a u-turn.
- Don’t fight your bike (this mother is one rough riding track in places) and stay off the damn wall. =D