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*


I’m Sliding In The Rain

What in the devil is wrong this morning? Traffic is pretty heavy, but moving along at almost the pace of a Georgia Super Speeder, which is highly unusual for a Wednesday on both counts. It’s raining, has been pretty much all night from the looks of things. I’m running late, so I’m pretty much in a hurry. Business as usual on I-20. I’m passing most everybody, a few get to pass me. Yeah, you’ve read right. It’s a privilege, one which can be revoked at any second. 😉

Once I merge onto I-520E it’s a different story, as is evident at the merge point of the two opposing I-20 ramps feeding into I-520E. It takes some seriously creative riding to get in between all the slowasses, the hesitant mergers, the leadfoots, the space holders, the distractedly engaged, and the mobile jabber junkies. Yes, I have categorized the crowd by their default behaviors when driving becomes more complicated and the brain starts running the risk of overloading. Inconveniences such as intersections, on/off ramps, cloverleaf ramps, and merge points are all prime spots to observe the Common Cager (incola communis rotae cavea) in their natural habitat.

I make my way towards another day filled with opportunity of earning Pirate Coin (read: I’m going to work to make the bike payment) through the succession of merge points that is Augusta’s own scaled-down version of Atlanta’s infamous Spaghetti Junction or Columbia’s suicidal Malfunction Junction. After slicing and dicing and duking it out with a cager crowd that is denser, faster, and more aggressive than usual, which makes the situation also more unpredictable than is the norm; I finally find myself some empty-enough asphalt I can settle into and go with the flow of traffic.

My bliss, however, doesn’t last long, and as the wild bunch behind me catches up, I find myself surrounded again. Damn! I hate this. I can’t stand being around this much metal. That goes against my rule of riding as if invisible. I don’t like being caged in (pun intended), it gives me few to no outs and not enough time to react to set an escape in motion if it became necessary. I like to control the situation. And I do that with the throttle.

I have planned my escape and am working my way towards the freedom that is a much airier stretch of asphalt not too far ahead. As I see an opening to escape the imminent clutches of a semi-truck spraying me with grimy rainwater its tires sling off the road surface and a tailgater in an SUV, and risking getting stuck there, I take it and quickly change lanes, squeeze in between two cars, ride the left side of the white line, then gas it a little too enthusiastically to take advantage of the next opening. I slide the rear wheel, it starts stepping out to the right. I don’t even have to think about it; nor is it an event that registers even the slightest twinges of panic in me, nor does it upset the Pirate, as is evident by the DTC light remaining dark. A simple acknowledgement, followed by trained action.

I pin the throttle, then dive left with a quick nudge on the left grip, aiming for the left wheel track of the left lane; as I do, the rear wheel hooks back up. I straighten myself out, pass the semi truck, and after one more set of rolling road blocks (two cars pacing each other slightly offset, taking up both lanes and backing up impatient caffeine-deprived, half-asleep morning commuters for miles) I am finally free. I feel like putting on blue face paint and showing my arse while yelling “Freedom!”.

I was kind of proud of myself. I smiled. It wasn’t too long ago where I would have had to pull over and dig out the emergency pair of replacement panties. And here I was complaining not too long ago that I can’t improve my skills on public roads anymore. That street riding has become mostly mundane, boring and uninspiring. I guess I underestimated the power of constant and conscious repetition of isolated skill practice. I definitely have increased my crap weather riding skills and my confidence must be solidified.

I noticed another thing, I have reached a milestone of sorts in my riding: I haven’t been singing in the rain. That means I am not nervous or anxious anymore and the need for intense concentration has passed. I still sing on occasion when I drag knee though, I’m pretty sure of it. 😉

As a side note: I’m rolling Dunlop Sportmax Q2s, the rear in Hayabusa size (a leftover from some long-ago tire sale): 190/50 as opposed to 190/55. I can reach the ground better in my race boots, but I think I lost 6 mph off the top end… *giggles* and my speedo reads about 5-7 miles slow now. Oh well… it won’t be on there forever. I really do love those tires. I think I might even like them better than the Metzeler Racetec Interact K3 (K3s are medium-hard) that came on the bike; and they are cheaper, too.


10K in 197 days: I need to ride more!

On my way home from Blue Moon Cycle in Norcross, GA I am compelled to pull over, put the bike in neutral and dig around various pockets to find my BlackBerry so I can take an awesomely important picture of my S1000RR’s cockpit. I haven’t bothered with odometer milestone photos in a long time… Miles come way too easy now. Obviously there is still the slight problem with there never being enough miles rolled, but I rarely look anymore, unless I’m due for service. I am more interested now in calculating lean angle from still shots grabbed off of various riding videos of mine. But this one is, for some odd reason, important to me. So here it is:

10K Odometer (S1000RR)

On October 30, 2010 at 17:08 Eastern Time I have to pull over and take a picture.

In 197 days of owning my BMW S1000RR I have put 10K miles on the clock (plus a few, since I wasn’t quite home yet. =D) My daily average mileage, therefore, is 50.76. However, this is an inaccurate calculation. The 11 miles they put on the bike’s clock to ensure they put her together right; the miles the mechanics insist on putting on every stinking time I take the bike in for service (this tradition needs to come to a stop!), and the 33 days the blasted (aforementioned) dealer held her hostage.

Verdict: I need to ride more!


Gravitational Pull: The Germans have yet to defy ‘The Law’.

The Kiss of Concrete (Right Side Frame Slider)

Mile 6162: Enuff said.

Of course I had an audience. THREE people watched me fall on my ass in the middle of the street, kicking my feet and shaking my fists and muttering obscenities in a strained voice. Here sits the girl next to her Beemer, which is still running (the drop sensor is on backorder), looking like a damn idiot. She gets up hits the kill switch, grabs the subframe with the left, the clip-on with the right and tells a Good Samaritan neighbor when asked if she needed help: “Nah. I got it!” Then puts her back into it and rights 455 pounds of obvious ‘went-wrong’. Shit happens when you leave the kickstand down and try to roll down the driveway over a curb. Arr! Arr! Not a scratch on her, save for a smallish battle scar on the exhaust pipe, which can be buffed out with a little effort. LSL Crash Pad frame sliders and a little luck saved the Pirate’s gorgeous plastics.

Recap: Dropped my ‘Busa around Mile 6000something after having her for about three months. Crashed the ‘Busa four months and 11K miles later. Dropped the Beemer around Mile 6000something, after having her for about three months. In November, I think I’m getting the next one in Acid Green and calling her ‘Envy’.

Lesson Learned: Do your pre-flight check!!!

Note To Self: Maybe I should start wearing my knee pucks on my ass instead.


Playing Hi-Lo with the S1000RR

A few pics are worth at least a couple of runon sentences:

Joe and I play a little game most every day, called Hi-Lo. At the end of the day, he simply asks: “High? Low?” Then it is your turn to think about the day you’ve just had and answer with the best moment, the ‘high’ and the worst moment, the ‘low’. Then you ask the question in return.

After 1K, I think it’s time for some Hi-Lo with a twist. I’m going to ask it of the S1000RR. The High: It’s wicked quick and pulls like the ‘Busa. The Low: It ain’t the ‘Busa. Let’s break this down a little. It’s got some quirks, as do all bikes, no matter what you park your ass on, there’ll be problems of one sort or another to varying degrees of nuisance. How does the saying go? “If it has wheels or testicles, it’s going to give you problems.”

Me and the Gear Shift Assist do NOT get along. I can’t pin the throttle and snick it in. No-can-do. Especially under hard acceleration. Especially going from first to second. I’ve figured what part of the problem is, the lever is not at the right angle for my foot. We shall have to fix that, since I can’t get enough leverage to nicely preload the thing. As the ‘Busa did, this one, too, likes its lever preloaded for a nice, smooth little clutchless upshift. And it has to be a decisive little snick, too. Shift like an old lady and the brain of the operation just tells you to shove off and ignores your foot completely. So, I’m still doing it old school, with the little blip (for the most part). I think I’d be better off just plopping down the 100some Euros and getting the conversion kit and just reverse the whole mess. I wanted to do that on the ‘Busa anyway, since the Gilles setup just screamed for it. That way I’ll also have an extra excuse not to let anyone ride my baby without feeling too badly about it. “You know how to GP shift? No? Oh, I’m sorry, this one’s setup like weird and stuff…” Note to self: Adjust the angle of the dangle. No, really.

I have a feeling this bike’s going to just take over when IT decides that YOU are being a jackass and can’t handle your business anymore. I don’t know how to feel about all that tech. Don’t get me wrong. I love me some tech. I’m a geek, after all. But I also love me some control. I still ride it like I used to (caveat inserted here for Joe’s benefit: Noooo, I don’t do THAT stuff anymore, just as I promised.) I’m neither more careful nor more aggressive. It’s more a matter of adapting to the new bike’s handling characteristics. I’m not being stupid but I’m also not wearing my granny panties when I’m rollin’ it. I haven’t made neither the Race ABS nor the Dynamic Traction Control intervene on my behalf. I’m riding in ‘Sport’ mode, as that is the setting optimized for street rac… riding. Street RIDING. Guess the S1000RR has so far not deemed me a jackass unworthy of the controls. *snorts* I don’t know how I’m to feel about this. I’m halfway tempted to turn the crap off and ride by the seat of my pants. However, I have promised Joe I would not turn it off, unless warranted (like riding through gravel, where the DTC would really be a kick in the rear… literally); but on the other hand I’m afraid that it might screw up my skill development. After getting used to having a bike that folds space and time in fourth gear, then takes over when you’re about to wrap yourself around the next available stationary object because you done early apexed another one, freaked the hell out, went wide, got on the damn brakes way too hard, way too late, kept staring where you shouldn’t and the famous words that should’ve been the last are you verbalizing a convinced ‘holy shit’ into your helmet. It takes over at that precise moment because the bike has deemed you a jackass, works its magic with its sensors and gyros, valves and pumps, does a little digital finger counting and saves your bacon yet again and then also wipes your ass for you as you make your panicked way out of that train wreck of a turn (“hope nobody saw that”). How are you going to manage when you’re used to that for a few thousand miles, a few seasons, or whatnot and then decide to ride a friend’s bike without all the bells and whistles you’ve become so accustomed to that you’ve taken them for granted and have forgotten that you’re still riding like a n00b on a bike that just makes you LOOK like you know what you’re doing. It’s a conundrum. I want to turn it off. I have to leave it on. Best to just ride it as always. When the stuff comes on, I know I screwed something up.

Those skinny hand grips have got to go. But, as with any ergo mods, I’m going to see if I can’t retrain my muscles to cope with the stockers first. The Hayabusa’s grips were fatties compared to these tooth picks; they’re only one step above wrapping grip tape around the bars and calling it good. And, boy, do they buzz. The Beemer does NOT like to go slow… hell no! Seems like the most vibrating is experienced scooting around town. It doesn’t seem happy unless it’s over 5K. Proper gear selection also helps, although the bike doesn’t lug, it lets you know it doesn’t like being in too high a gear.

The ride-by-wire throttle system is awesome. BMW calls it E-Gas. I call it freaking SWEET! No more on/off light switch action in first or second gear, like it was on the ‘Busa. That was annoying and a complete nuisance on roads with a speed limit of either 35 or 25. What a jerky mess that usually ended up being and who wants to ride the clutch for freakin’ three miles. meh. You twist the throttle on the S1000RR, you get power delivered proportionally to your twist, ramped. Just flowing on. Not: BAM! There you are, now deal with it. LOL

Here’s something I’ve noticed that made me giggle: It has no horn. Not that I ever used the wimpy things that come on motorcycles anyway. I’m going to just have to continue using hand signals, just like on the ‘Busa or the Harley. ;P

EDIT: About five weeks later I found it: The switch for the horn is right where it should be, below the turn signal switch on the left clip-on. But it’s recessed and way down there. I can’t see it when sitting on the bike. Neither could I ever feel it with my thumb. How did I find it? I was checking something out on the front end, don’t recall what, and I looked up and there it was, right in front of my eyes, the horn. Go imagine that. Now the owner’s manual also refers to a power outlet… I wonder where that is, because I’m still looking. Found the IR lap timer transmitter plug in the wiring harness though.


The Progression Of Progress

How does one rate progress? How do you know that you are where you should be in your development of a skill. I am not good with physical skills, I have always been more of an academic. The theoretical comes fairly easy to me. I’m a quick study. Try to teach me a manual skill that involves motor skill and coordination, and I’ll be arriving on site in the short bus. Martial arts, ballroom dancing, Jazzercise, Tai-Chi, DDR, you name it, I’ll have a time of it. I will eventually learn it with persistence and repetition, but it takes me longer than it should on average… way longer; but once I’ve torturously climbed my steep learning curve, I’ll be fairly good at it, comparatively speaking, of course: on the top end of mediocre for the most part. There’s one surprising exception to this personal status quo: motorcycling. After overcoming my initial fear, I was playing in traffic by myself within a few short training sessions under the tutelage of my hubby. I eventually took the MSF and finished that at the top of my class overall, while nearing a panic attack during the range portion; but I surprised myself. I always do. The nerves during a practical test are legendary and well known to me. But yet, I remain focused and calm under pressure, it’s not a fun feeling though. One of the reasons I haven’t made it to the drag strip or a track day yet… I’m just too damn nervous when people are watching me. I get a serious case of stage freight with a healthy dose of performance anxiety thrown in. But I digress, after initially learning and reaching the first big milestones of riding, how do you measure your progress. At first you could tell, even with limited knowledge of the subject matter, it was blatantly obvious: not going wide in right turns anymore, no more stalling at lights, no more wobbling through corners, no more dumping the bike in the parking lot while trying to make a u-turn, etc. All the newbie firsts conquered. Now, milestones are hard to come by and the progress indicators seem infinitely more minute. I keep asking my husband, if I’m where I should be in my progress. He used to tell me I’m way ahead of the curve, but now he can’t even answer the question anymore, he doesn’t know. I’m the kind of person who NEEDS to know. So where should one be after almost 16 months of riding and a little over 18K on the clock? Am I working too hard at it? Not hard enough? I don’t even know why this really is so important… I know the important bits at the moment: I need to work on my shifting, it’s crap lately (used to be smooth as butter, too), especially between first and second. WTF? Embarrassing as hell when you’re showing off to some dude parked in the lane next to you on some chromed out ‘Busa and you’re leaving him at the line, and miss the upshift in the corner… UGH! Yeah…. One only can hope he didn’t hear that. LOL Still spanked his ass, though. ;P I need to work on my throttle control, it’s been a little more jerky lately, too. But I think I might just be able to fix that with a little chain adjustment, the slack’s at 30mm but I like it around 25mm way better. That could be a contributing factor. My cornering has gone to pot, too. Well, in comparison to what it was… my lines aren’t as decisive as they once were… way too many midcorner corrections going on! But I blame all this stuff mainly on it being so damn cold… no real opportunity to go out there and joy ride for honing one’s skills, when you’re preoccupied with shivering and numb fingers. I shall see in the springtime, whether or not that’s what it is. My riding now is mostly perfunctory, gets me to Point B, but I’m not really ‘working at it’ or ‘listening in on it’. They say these are all soft skills. It stands to reason, then, that over the winter we get rusty, since we’re not putting nearly as many miles on the clock. But all this makes me feel like I’m going backwards. And I don’t like it. Maybe that’s where the preoccupation with the learning curve is coming from. I need to know that I’m not slipping. I want to improve not regress.

I have a definite tendency to over-think stuff, which is a blessing and a curse. On one side, I think it’s a contributing factor why I haven’t wrecked myself and why I have taken to motorcycling so readily (it is, after all, a skill which is 90% mental); on the other hand I think it holds me back a lot of the time. I don’t know, really. I think and think and think… and I get so tired of thinking I end up ‘winging’ it a lot of the time, because I’m sick of thinking about it… but I can’t help myself. I’m over-analytical, too. I have to find meaning in everything. Cause and effect… And I will dissect something I screwed up in my riding until I’m sick of that, too. Maybe I need to loosen up a little and chill. Maybe I’m taking this all too serious. Nah. I do take it serious, and it has kept me rubber side down so far. Shouldn’t fix what isn’t broke. I suppose I shouldn’t try to fit myself into some perceived norm; some progress chart to follow. I’m who I am: a quasi-perfectionist, a thinker, a geek, a dork, compulsive, spontaneous, aversed to meticulous planning, an adrenaline junkie, and a bit on the squidly side. I should really ride my own ride in this aspect, too. I just have to find another way to measure my curve.


This Fat Lady gets around!

I don’t know why I’m tickled pink with myself again. Racking up 1K in miles hasn’t been a milestone, well, since around the 5K mark. It just comes way too easy now. But 14K? For some reason it made me pull over, brave the rumble strip at 40mph and take a pic of the odo on the side of I-20W in SC. I remember when I first got her. I think I was still in my first month, maybe 6 weeks at the most. Hubby had forgotten his cell phone at work, so we rode up there on his day off to go get it. While he was in his truck rummaging around for his phone, I sedately sat on my brand-spanking new Hayabusa, all in love, patiently waiting. Three dudes, whom I’ve never met before, didn’t waste any time to make their way across the parking lot to chat me up. One of them was all proud of himself and had to share that he, too, owned a ‘Busa. A 2002 with 2900some miles on it. I smile, then turn the key and crank her up. I point at my odometer, it displayed a four-digit number starting with “29”; I then sweetly state: “I’ve had her for 45 days!” He takes a step back and replies: “Damn!”, pause, then: “I need to ride more!!!” while his friends are laughing at him. Yeah! You’ve just got pwned by a girl. They don’t call me by my license tag for nothing. I have a reputation around these parts. ;o)

14K in 'Busa Miles

The Fat Lady & I finally roll 14K after 248 days together.