Race Pace

I like numbers. I have a semi-pathological obsession with numbers. Numbers, unlike words, never lie. You may be able to misrepresent them, which takes words, but in and of themselves they are true to the nature of their representation. Numbers prove words true. Applied mathematics makes sense out of life, for the most part. Theoretical mathematics are just plain fun. “What is” versus “what could be”. Hence, my obsession with lap times, mostly my own, rather than anyone else’s.

I’m a very competitive individual. When I’m lacking decent competition I will compete with my own self. Decent competition here is defined as competing with racers who are at similar skill levels to my own, preferably on the faster (or better) side of things. An easy win isn’t anything for me to aspire to. I do like easy wins, don’t get me wrong; but “cherry-picking” my way around the competition just doesn’t feel nearly as good as that win you’ve earned. The win you’ve fought so hard for, you weren’t sure if you’re going to make it, and in doing so scared yourself on several occasions because you were giving 110%, pushing the envelope way past your personal comfort zone. I like those. Those are awesome! That’s the stuff a great story is made of. A story worth telling. A story worth reading. An inspiration; the fuel that keeps the flame alive and burning brightly. Coincidentally, those are also the races that will be remembered: the nail-biting, edge of your seat, heart-pounding close ones. Good times! Good times!

It would be utter nonsense to compare my “PR” of the best lap I ever turned at Barber Motorsports Park with that of Mat Mladin, who currently holds the track record of 1:23.664, with an AVERAGE speed of 115.474 miles per hour. I barely haul that on the front straight, never mind averaging it. Not even close. If I could get into the upper 1:40s consistently I’d be holding a press conference. My PR for Barber is 1:52. And that is NOT my consistent average.

Here’s a word problem for you:

“If Mat and Em left pit road and entered the track at the same time and there was no other traffic, where on the track would the lapping pass happen and at what time in the race?”

I give you a hint: When Kevin Schwantz crosses the finish line on a Saturday afternoon sighting lap with no brakes, Em is still trying to figure out whether or not to shift on top of the curb or before it, even though it really doesn’t matter either way at her current speed or the gearing she’s running, not that she would have to shift at all if she didn’t want to.

Another hint: She wouldn’t see Mat again, short of catching a quick glimpse of him heading out of Turn 6, once he disappeared from view in the middle of Turn 3, until she was unceremoniously lapped a shortish while later.

Go!

I try not to make it a habit to keep tabs on my competition. An activity, a friend of mine calls “lap time stalking”. She says it helps her confidence to know what she’s up against beforehand. I rather not know how I stack up against others. It becomes self-evident once you’re on the track with them. You either know wether or not you have a chance to keep up and possibly even have a chance at beating them. If they pull away from you like the newbie equivalent of Mat Mladin in my silly example, you might as well pick on somebody your own size… I mean, speed.

The same also holds true if the roles were reversed. It wouldn’t be any fun for me to pass another rider who runs in the 2:20s at the aforementioned racetrack. It’s boring and uninspiring, just like Mat would feel about my hanging out in the raceline with him. Non-consequential at best, a liability at worst, and an inconvenience every third lap or so. Like a sprint runner passing the fitness walker at the gym’s indoor track.

The stalking of lap times has the opposite effect on my psyche. If I had known what kind of times the boys were handing in during my first race weekend, I would have stayed home; not that I left the house thinking that there was even a remote possibility of me winning anything. I just wanted to do it and be part of something fairly unique. I headed to the racetrack with only one goal in mind: I didn’t want to come home with a DNF (Did Not Finish) or, worse, a DNS (Did Not Start). The former meaning I probably crashed out, and the latter meaning I didn’t have the courage to grid up for the race in the first place.

That’s also my attitude about running in my first half marathon. I’m not entertaining any notion that I’ll be winning anything. I just want to say that I did it and crossed the finish line under my own power.

Last place is always preferable to being a no-show or a quitter; and who knows, there might even be a few people I could pass and finish ahead of. That was true for my first road race on two wheels, it will also be true to my first road race on two feet.

However, this didn’t stop me from trying to figure out where (and how fast) I would finish and where I could finish in my ultimate goal, which is completing an official marathon. On my quest to comparing the “what is” with the “what could be” I came across this nifty little tool. The runner’s (free) equivalent of the motorcycle racer’s (expensive) data acquisition: Greg McMillan’s pace calculator.

I plug in my PR of 30:00 for the 5K, which just so happens to give me the best projected outcome and furnishes me with all sorts of digits I can use in my marathon training. You can try it for yourself here.

Caught in the act by my daughter (I think she was trying to report on a heinous fashion crime though): At Barber Motorsports Park looking at posted lap times and race results.

Who said theoretical mathematics couldn’t be fun? Probably the same person who also insists that playing around with applied physics wasn’t a pleasurable activity. Talk to me once you’ve put your knee down for the very first time cornering your motorcycle or have set a new personal best for the mile in your run. We will then revisit the subject of “speed is relative” and can be enjoyed on any level, as long  as you have a grasp on what the accomplishment means to you personally.

I will never complete a lap in the 1:23s at BMP, nor will I ever complete a marathon in the 2:15s. What I will do, however, is be inspired to reach for my own personal best, by working hard and not giving up when things seem to get too tough; and enjoy my triumphs and be proud in my accomplishments, no matter how they may compare on a broader scale.

There is always somebody faster.

Just do it and be your best. Discouragement is highly discouraged. And discouragement happens when you compare yourself to others, especially to those (way) out of your (current) league. Don’t compare, but compete. And competition happens when you find someone who’s at your own level… and then the real race begins. The one you have a possibility of winning. The one that happens with the person directly in front of you. Let them inspire you to give it your all and then give a little more; and as you pass them, you’ll inadvertently do the same for them.

And that is where it’s at.

Chances are you’ll end up pulling each other along to the finish, crossing the line together in an impromptu team effort towards a common goal.

Chances are that the motorcycle you’ve been chasing and trying to hopefully pass for the better of five laps, inspired you to go faster than you ever have and you’ll still end up doing the happy dance in front of the posted race results, looking like a complete dork, even though you’ve finished the race in the back of the pack.

*overuse of the word “inspiration” in its various forms was completely intentional*


WERA You Off To Now?

Bored at work (and feeling guilty about not using my time more wisely), I click my way through my usual haunts on the Internet. You know, the daily menu: Twitter, motorcycle forums, motorcycle sites, looking at engineering porn and so forth. I am supposed to be researching gearing changes for my inaugural LSR race at the Laurinburg-Maxton airfield better known as the Maxton Mile. I’m not in a “theoretical top speed attainable by a known mass within a certain distance figuring varying friction and drag coefficients” kind of mood. I also need to write today’s blog entry, I’m not in a writing kind of mood either.

Then something happens via link shared with me by my girl Marianne (@MsXXFastRR). I watch the awesome drifting video she wanted me to watch and after it is over I click through the “related videos” chain and happen upon a video of a WERA C Superstock Novice race at Barber Motorsports Park, which I would consider my home track! Yeah, yeah, yeah… Road Atlanta should be… who cares! I’ll move to Alabama if that’s what it takes to make it official. Seriously, though: Barber, although technically challenging with all its elevation changes and off-camber goodness and downhill decreasing radius fun and straights so short it doesn’t really pay to upshift or move back center on the bike, if you’re a lazy bum like me out on a Sunday ride, has got to be the most beautiful creation ever to come along in the way of mankind’s effort to pave the planet. And the thing has a rhythm that just speaks to me. Riding Barber’s 2.38-mile track is like moving your body to the music of a sensual Latin ballroom dance number, the Samba perhaps. You know your program, but you get to interpret it as the music moves you. Unless, you’re competition dancing… Yes, I used to dabble in the dance sport in my teenage years, that is why I am so flabbergasted that I can’t get my hips positioned right to stick my knee out farther. It’s a personal insult. Now, where was I?

The Museum Corner (T7-T8)

Barber Motorsports Park: The Museum Corner (T7-T8) ~ Visible in the photo: T7A through T9

At any rate, I watched this video and timed their lap and I couldn’t believe it. I watched it a few more times, checked my math, checked the class, then jumped out of my office chair, heart racing and hands sweaty. No freaking way! My nerves went into maximum overdrive, my electrical circuits overloading and my fingertips starting to tingle. I snatched my iPad off my desk, and jumped down the stairs in two hops, busted through the magnetically sealed door, while slapping the green release button mounted on the wall to my right. Leaped across the outbound lane, through the gate in the chain link fence, sprinted across yet another access road, took another set of stairs in two bounds and fell into the security trailer’s door with my knock. My partner was on the phone and I practically yelled at him: “T, put the damn phone down and look at this!” and I started to explain in the gasping staccato of disbelief. I don’t even want to know what I will do if I ever found out I had won the lottery. My heart would probably explode and I’d drop dead right there on the spot. Have fun spending my hard-won cash… Anyway, he listens and tries to follow, I barely notice in my excitement that he tells the person on the other end of his phone conversation that he’s gonna have to call right back. After he confirms that I am not completely off my rocker I simply tell him in an overly excited voice: “Dude, Imma gonna go racin’!!!” and with that I disappear back through his door. I try to call Mr. Slow. No answer! Shit! That’s right. He’s sleeping… damn! All excited, with the pressure built up and no place to vent. Crap! For the rest of the evening I can’t concentrate, I can’t focus, and I’m good for nothing but to try and seek distraction.

T comes over later and tells me (yet again) that he doesn’t want me to race. That he’s “gonna have to buy me a car to stop all that nonsense”. He’s such a sweety. What is he thinking? Buy me a car? I’d race that mofo, too. Once you get a taste of speed, bogging it down in the granny lane just isn’t an option anymore. I’m a junkie and I’m all for stepping up my tolerance to my chosen drug of choice. =D

I check the WERA schedule, although I had promised myself I wouldn’t look at it until after my LSR meet, so I wouldn’t bum myself out. I am able to run in five of the 13 races scheduled without having to take vacation. I can’t afford to take vacation to entertain my silly notions, since there is time to be spent on being with family. That is more important, since I don’t have a whole lot of family left that I actually care a great deal about and those few people are very dear to my heart and will always take precedence in my life.

What exactly did I find out? I’m not one to kiss and tell…

Barber Motorsports Park (T14A)

Turn 14A at Barber Motorsports Park: Yes, that's Miss Busa in the front. 🙂

Just kidding. I can’t keep my cakehole shut to save my ass on re-cross, I would be a criminal defense attorney’s nightmare. I did it. I’m proud of it, too. Was an excellent execution of the almost perfect crime! Yeah. Suffice it to say: I have a decent enough chance to not come in DFL (you figure it out ;)), there is but a trace of a chance to be lapped (which would just make me so embarrassed that I would consider cutting across the grass and taking the back gate out rather than using pit road like a normal person), and I might just have a shot of hanging and scoring myself some double-digit brownie points. 🙂 However, the chance of a DNS (Did Not Start) are still astronomical, because of life and (bad) luck and (annoying) bills.

I must forget that I found out about this. It doesn’t do my nerves any good. I don’t follow racing (watching sports is boring), I don’t try and look into too much detail, because I have to combat my tendency to become scared and tuck tail and run because I always am my worst critic, judge myself way too harshly, am never good enough, can barely ever reach my own set of standards and am deathly afraid of looking like an ass in public. It also doesn’t do my ego any good, I’m way too competitive. I have to concentrate on what I am doing, not what others are doing or are capable of. That is why keeping myself oblivious is part of my strategy. And I haven’t learned the lesson yet. Every time I try something new I freak myself out with details of minor importance and concentrate on my silly overblown fears and I stress myself out, just to find out (after the fact) that it wasn’t but a thing and I did quite better than I had expected. Yet, here I am.

I am going to race this season. Even if it is just that one race weekend to get rid of my provisional status. My WERA membership application is filled out, the paperwork is done. All I need to do is pay my $110 and get my competition number for the Pirate. But since the racing license is only good for one year, this has to wait until I have a definite date figured out for my first official race. I would love for it to be at Barber, but that would mean waiting until September. We shall see.

2011 WERA Southeast Region Schedule

  1. 2/5-6 Talladega Gran Prix Raceway, Talladega, AL (run counter-clockwise, WERA Riders School available)
  2. 3/18-20 Roebling Road Raceway, Faulkville, GA (combined with National)
  3. 4/16-17 Nashville Superspeedway, Nashville, TN (WERA Riders School available)
  4. 5/7-8 Barber Motorsports Park, Leeds, AL (WERA Riders School available)
  5. 5/21-22 Jennings GP, Jennings, FL (WERA Riders School available)
  6. 6/4-5 Roebling Road Raceway, Faulkville, GA (WERA Riders School available)
  7. 6/11-12 Talladega Gran Prix Raceway, Talladega, AL (run counter-clockwise, WERA Riders School available)
  8. 6/24-26 Road Atlanta, Braselton, GA (WERA Riders School available)
  9. 7/23-24 Roebling Road Raceway, Faulkville, GA (WERA Riders School available)
  10. 8/4-7 WERA Cycle Jam at VIR, Alton, VA
  11. 8/20-21 Talladega Gran Prix Raceway, Talladega, AL (run counter-clockwise, WERA Riders School available)
  12. 9/9-11 Barber Motorsports Park, Leeds, AL (combined with National)
  13. 9/24-25 Nashville Superspeedway, Nashville, TN (WERA Riders School available)