It has finally arrived: the moment of truth. I had to, defeatedly I might add, admit to myself, that maybe I need to step up to the beauty counter, flash the plastic and ramp up my game in the skin deep sector. All my preparations and focus have been with my skill development and my bike’s setup. I have never wasted much thought on the “public image” side of things. Yes, it’s easier for girls in motorcycle racing to get sponsorship. There aren’t really a lot of us out there; hence we have an advantage over the boys. And apparently there is nothing that sells bike parts and performance upgrades better than a hot chick wrapped around a motorcycle. If she rides too? Oh hell! The boys won’t be able to keep it in their pants (motorcycles and the wallet, respectively).
It’s about time, I’d say. I’m used to having to prove myself thrice (yes, that is a word ;)) over just to get the same credit as a man does. In the military it was this way, at least in my unit. In corporate America it is this way, at least at my company. And it is like that on the track, too. Sorry, I have to say this, but the majority of men don’t take you seriously until you blow past them in the curves, and then some of these fellas still want to critique your technique. Find fault not with themselves but with you. “You weren’t using the proper line.” or “You’re just making up for your lack of skill with your horsepower.” Say what? Ok, whatever. I just hope that this is just another case of the “squeaky wheel”, that the perception is skewed due to the guys who know better keeping out of it, maybe snicker under their breath at the more verbose idiots of the crowd.
I’ve gotten used to it. I don’t mind it. I just do my own thing. I listen. I observe. I keep my trap shut, my ears open, and I learn. If they underestimate me, then the element of surprise is on my side later when I need it to be. I like it that way. I like it that way in business, too. Go ahead and think I’m a nobody and a little on the daft side, too; dull enough not to get it or too insecure to do something about it. It’s all good in the great scheme of things, even if it bugs the piss out of me occasionally and I want to blow a gasket and set things straight in a manner that is the only way some of these people will understand. But I digress.
Maybe it is my self-confidence that had me cruising along without thought about my apparent lack of girlyness. Maybe it is the fact that I am lazy and when it’s time to get up in the morning to do stuff, I want to roll out of bed and hit the ground running, after I had my two cups of coffee, of course. My skin has always been sensitive, and makeup makes me break out, so I gave up trying eventually. I also can’t stand stuff on my skin that makes it feel icky. Oils, lotions, sun screen, bug spray, I won’t use it. I refuse, until of course the ickiness factor is overshadowed by the benefits the application of said substance would provide. Yuck! Maybe I’m just too much of a tomboy. I’ve gotten away with it, and still do; but as I’m getting older, I realize that maybe I need to start “helping it along” a little.
I need some promo shots for my racer profile and web site and various other projects. And I have a feeling it’s best if I don’t look like I just came rolling in from a track session in 90-degree weather, and had previously changed my tires and flushed a radiator. My skin needs better care, since I spend way more time outside now and my hands are torn up from all the mechanical work I’m doing. I hate wearing mechanic’s gloves. I can’t feel enough through them, so they end up getting tossed eventually.
I stopped by the mall on my way home from work. I walked straight into Sephora, did a little window shopping, got a little sticker shock, almost walked the hell back out. When a lady approached me to ask if I needed help, in a sheer move of spontaneous desperation, I answered: “Yes, I am lost. I have a photo shoot soon, and I need to hook myself up with some skin care and makeup. I have combination skin, yellow undertones, am allergic and don’t like gunky, sticky stuff on my skin. But please take it easy on the bank.”
So she went around the store, me following behind like a lost kitten. Listening to her, trying stuff, picking colors. At one point I must have made the decision to do what I always do in life and go all out, balls to the wall.
An hour later and only $200 short of a full set of racing glass for my S1000RR, I left the store with beautification loot and a promise to let Pat, the lady who helped me, know how it goes and give her a photo for her locker.
“I thought you were going to take it easy on me.”
“I did, girl.”
I rode home and wanted to cry. I could have gotten a Power Commander V with auto-tuning or a GPS lap timer/data acquisition unit or a full set of front-rear sprocket combos for the amount of coin I just blew on “selling out to enhancing my chances of sponsorship”.
I need to incorporate Team PLD Racing. This has the smell of total loss tax deduction about it…
I’m almost too ashamed to post this. But it needs to be said. Over and over again, until it’s second nature and not questionable by ill-conceived reason. Doubt has no place in going fast. Lack of confidence hasn’t a place there either and neither has the lackadaisical attitude I often exhibit when it comes to questionable situations of the “WTF?” variety. Instead of pulling over and investigating the cause for the “something’s off” warning light that goes off in my head, I make a “that must be it” excuse and keep going.
“Good gawd, I must have forgotten how to shift! I need retraining.”
Could just be that the shift rod assembly is working loose and shifting is getting less precise and when it is about to fall off you can’t even get into third without hitting a false neutral most of the time.
“Holy hell, I can’t get a proper start down anymore! I need to practice.”
Could just be that the clutch lever pivot bolt is over-torqued and slowly demolished its threads, and now your clutch is slipping like mad. Well, DOH!
What is wrong with this picture?!?
“The front end feels funny. Sounds weird, and the feedback is strange. Must be the new brand of tires with a softer compound running a lower pressure.”
Could just be that you’ve forgotten to torque the caliper bolts on the right side.
And that is probably the main reason we have to safety wire all this junk! If the wire is undone you know you haven’t torqued the bolt. Safety wiring was not required at JenningsGP, so I was lazy and didn’t redo them when I was done. I did four laps on brake caliper bolts that were only finger tight, the upper bolt backed out and the only thing holding it in was the RaceABS sensor cable. So the BMW S1000RR’s tech saved my dumb ass again, but not the way you would have thought.
I would have to thank my friend and my new tires for negating some of the stress those bolts were under and nothing worse happening than weaker brakes. I had brand new tires and was taking it easy and half a lap into putting the screws back on, the session was red flagged due to someone trying to pass my friend Margie Lee in T2 screwing it up and taking her out with him. They are both fine, although Mr. Red Ducati was a little worse for wear. He couldn’t remember who or where he was and had a mangled shoulder, but he’s going to be OK. Margie got checked out at the hospital, got a clean bill of health and went to work the next day. Ovaries of steel. My kind of woman there. 🙂 I knew there was a reason we hit it off.
After coming in from the session, pretty much the last one to leave the track, and not seeing her nor her bike in her pit, I got worried and ended up running around trying to figure out if it was indeed her who was involved and when I was told that it was, my heart just sank. The ambulance was taking forever at the crash site and the waiting game began. After all that, I wasn’t in the mood anymore; I just wasn’t feeling it, so we packed up and went home. This girl knows when to fold ’em. I didn’t notice the caliper bolts until I was putting the Pirate back into her street clothes in my driveway the next day.
Don’t be a moron like Miss Busa. Don’t be lazy and safety wire things back up, even if it is not required at the track you are on. It’s also a good idea to mark your bolts once you’re done. If it’s not marked with your little dot, safety wired or silicone sealed, you might want to check it out, just to be sure.
Also, don’t ignore feedback. If it seems off, it most definitely is. The bike is talking to you. Do yourself a favor and LISTEN.
Mr. Slow, who is my personal PR manager (he brags about his wife behind her back) and track photographer (he takes pictures wherever he is, just so happens he found himself at a race track with a camera in his paws and bored out of his mind), has finally uploaded some pics to his site.
When he sent me the link, the first words out of my mouth were: “Just 43? You’re not done yet, I see.” His reply was: “No, baby. I am done. That’s the cream of the crop.” I beg to differ, but he has standards, whereas I do not. A serial killer puts more thought into choosing a memento than I do with track shots. As long as it isn’t blurry, I’m hanging onto it.
I paid $40 for the official track photographer’s CD, and it only had 22 photos on it. I purchased it for two reasons: I am a photo whore and I wanted to compare the quality between the track photographer’s shots and Papa Razzi’s. Papa Razzi won hands down. Where the track photographer had to divide their attention between everybody on the track, my husband only concentrated on me and later on also included a friend I had made at the school. Isn’t he sweet?
He said it basically came down to equipment rather than skill of the photographer. They used an older body but a $10K telephoto lens. Papa Razzi can’t afford pricey glass like that, because he has a high-performance woman on his bank roll, so he made up for the lack of optical zoom in resolution. He probably will tell me I have it wrong, but that’s how I understood it.
At any rate, check out Papa Razzi’s photos from the Ed Bargy Racing School and track day weekend at JenningsGP in Jennings, Florida. Tell him what you think. I think they’re awesome and competitive with some of the other photographers out there. But I’m about as biased about the quality of his photos as Mr. Slow is objective on the subject of how fine my rear end looks when it is hanging off the bike.
I spent the weekend at JenningsGP in Jennings, FL for some more instruction to hone my race craft, followed by a track day to work on stuff to set it in. I had a blast, and I showed some of those WERA experts how clean the inside of an S1000RR’s tailpipe is. 🙂
I promise I will write up the weekend as soon as possible.
I dropped 17 seconds off my game, started being more consistent in lap times and shredded one set of Dunlops.
Good times, good times.
Ed Bargy vs. Kevin Schwantz
As I walked into the classroom, Ed Bargy, after getting my name, greeted me with: “So, you are the Kevin Schwantz graduate. Forget everything he’s taught you. I will teach you some stuff you can actually use.”
Ba-dam-CHING! Sounds like I had paid two extra large to spend a weekend at the track and hang out with a World Champion. Well, crap!
Yup, he’s a racer. I like this man already. It is going to be a fun-filled day of information overload and scattered knee dragging. Ed Bargy set a fast pace, off and on the track. He had a lot of material to cover and between the classroom lectures and the six on-track sessions, I spent the entire day running like a madwoman whose ass was on fire between three locations: classroom, pit, track, pit, classroom,… in my race boots! Mr. Slow had set up our pit in the Back Forty. In the GRASS!!!
The previous night, we pulled in seven minutes before the gate closed, dead tired but kept awake by generous amounts of caffeine, paid our gate fee and started looking for a spot to make our home for the weekend. I pointed to an empty paddock pad, two over from the hot pit entrance and close to the registration building and classrooms. Right up front!!! He says: “We don’t have a trailer, I’m not going to back in there.” Arrrrrgh! I was exhausted after having stayed up all night and most of the day prepping my bike. I had never been here and was completely clueless. Hell, maybe this place was run like the military, you didn’t get a concrete slab unless you… well, earned it. I didn’t argue, we parked the truck, unloaded the bike and set up our pit, pitched the truck tent we had acquired for just this purpose, inflated the truck bed air mattress, tossed our sleeping bags inside and pretty much fell into a coma as soon as the cords got pulled on the mummy hoods.
This Is Your Wake-Up Call
The morning got off to a cold start, when we were awakened by people talking while unloading their bikes, setting up and getting ready for the day. I still had no clue when I was expected to show up and where, but luckily they announced everything over the PA system. Mr. Slow met me in the registration building with a steaming cup of joe. The man knows me. There is no approaching me pre-coffee. I was relatively calm, I felt refreshed and ready to take my riding to the next level. Of course, I didn’t need to be there until tomorrow to register for my track day. The lady told me just to go ahead and go to the classrooms, Ed was already there.
First Things First: The Track Walk
Class began with a track walk. Of course, “walking” was done under power in first gear. We stopped at key points at the track and Ed Bargy talked about its features and how to use them to our advantage. Got it! This is the first thing every serious racer or rider should do. Walk the track. There is stuff you’ll notice you won’t be able to see at speed. Subtle but important things that will help greatly in line selection. The best line around the track is the fastest line, and that is not necessarily the shortest. And in order to be fast, you have get to know the lay of the land. Literally. JenningsGP, which was designed by Ed himself and is a motorcycle-only racetrack, is relatively flat. No extreme features, no elevation changes to speak of, some turns are slightly cambered or banked, and the entire 2-mile track is mostly wide open. It is definitely divided into a fast section and a tight section. Turns 3-9 are pretty tightly grouped together, then the track opens up again entering into Turn 10 and you can pretty much stay on the gas all the way through Turn 14, onto the front straight, slow down briefly for Turn 1 and then onto the gas again until you get back around to Turn 3. Repeat.
The track has no rhythm to me. It seems too narrow and claustrophobic in its wide open sprawl. There are no blind corners or hills to obscure your visibility. I don’t like this. For some reason it messes with my focus. I see too much too soon. I knew from studying the track map that I may not end up liking the way this particular track is laid out, but it was perfect for what I came here to do: Quit entering turns like an old biddy in her Oldsmobile and get my corner entry sorted. If hauling it down from 150+ to throw it into T3 doesn’t do it then I don’t know what will.
This Girl Can’t Ride
My first few sessions were barely keeping up. I was literally riding by the seat of my pants, and they still got away from me. What in the hell? Screw it! I started doing my own thing, since I did not like the way I was riding. Unorganized, frenzied, rushed, without method. I slowed a little and started turning laps without touching my brakes. This track indeed does not sing to me, like Barber did. I can’t find its rhythm, so I can’t dance. I’m picking my lines, experimenting with various options, but I like none of it. I feel out of my element. Like a wall flower at a beauty pageant. I’m getting a little despondent, but I try to concentrate on the material covered and execute. My focus is not there. Every once in a while a control rider passes me and taps the tail section of his bike with his left hand. “Follow me!” I did and found that I was doing better copying someone else’s rhythm. But again, eventually they left me and I was on my own yet again. I was torn between heeding the call of my competitive nature and keeping up with the boys and tearing it up and doing the smart, responsible thing and moderating my speed back to about 80% of my skill envelope so I could focus on technique. Crap! I’m not liking this at all! Disconnect. Major disconnect.
Say What?!? A Racer You Are Not!
What in the world have I done now? You can’t even keep up with the second slowest group of students and you want to do what exactly?!? Go racing? They’ll pull you off the field for being a safety hazard you’re so damned slow! Good gawd, woman! After three sessions, which progressively improved, it finally dawned on me. As we were heading out to the track I asked Mr. Bargy: “So the slowest of the four groups is to the right, the fastest on the outside?” He confirmed my suspicions. The drawing on the dry erase board was flipped upside down. Doh! I remember Ed even mentioning that and I still got it reversed in my head. This explains a few things! Definitely! No wonder I was feeling off. Instead of staging with the second slowest group, I got in line running in the second fastest. Ed just laughed when I smacked my forehead and said with a giggle: “Well, that would explain why I couldn’t keep up to save my life.” This would also explain why I had to ride by the seat of my pants. I had not the time to collect proper reference points for myself. Fortunately, I have always made it a point to teach myself “Riding by Reading” rather than “Riding by Repetition”. If you don’t know what this means, don’t worry, it is a subject worthy of another blog post. But in essence, if you know how to “read” the road or track while you ride, you’ll be fast no matter where you go. If you are a “repetition rider” you’ll smoke your buddies on your home turf, but go elsewhere and you are as lost as a kitten in a litter of hungry puppies.
With renewed confidence and motivation I went outside, suited up, took possession of the Pirate at the corner of the registration building where Mr. Slow waited for me. I think he started feeling a twinge of guilt about pitting his Baby in the grass in the waaaay back! Yeah, buddy! Walk a mile in my race boots…
More My Speed…
I got in line with the peeps who would be more my speed and was ready to get down to business. I had some catching up to do in skill development and corner entries to work on at a speed more conducive to improving my game. Baby steps, yes ma’am! I was rudely interrupted in my reverie when one of the control riders pointed at me, at himself, and then behind him. I followed the arc of his left hand and saw that he had Margie Lee on her silver Ducati in tow. It was obvious he wanted me to come with him. What the hell? I didn’t like this at all. You, my man, are disrupting my plans. Apparently Mr. Control Rider is a lady’s man. His lonesome studly self gathering about him all the women in the group?!? Can you be anymore blatantly obvious? He was on his way of making me dislike him. He had already pissed me off once, and this must be due punishment for not hanging on his every word and doing as I was told, “Yessir, may I have another!” I might be shy, but I can be very verbose when it comes to calling bullshit where I see it. Go ahead and try me, I have no tolerance for it. And if you do, you’ll be the one having to pop a Xanax in the after-action review. But this one’s also for another time and another story. And I will share! Fret not.
You! Come With Me!
I had to wait until my group was starting to pull out before I could get out of line, we were pretty much bunched up tire to tire. I cranked my upper body around to make sure that the rider behind me was aware of what I was doing and then slipped out of line and waited for Mr. Lady’s Man and Margie Lee to pull out and fell in behind them. Yawn! He was going so slow, I was wondering if I should drag rear brake to give the engine something to pull against. I dismissed my misgivings and took the opportunity to collect much needed reference points and reconsider line selection. Besides, my tires were still cold, so it’s all good. After another lap of this, I had enough. I eventually passed Margie Lee and at some point I must have passed him or he had just left us at one… I can’t recall, but “frankly mah dear, I don’t give a damn” where he was. I was doing my thing, finding my groove, at my own pace designed to maximize my learning process. Previously I was getting rather disgusted with myself and wondering if I would ever manage to carry enough speed into these turns to get my knee down; but it wasn’t before too long I was dragging some serious knee and passing people by taking it up their inside; or using the Pirate’s awesome power to my advantage by letting myself drift wide and then passing them on the outside. Plenty of times where someone showed me a wheel and I showed my pretty front end to someone else. I was passing. I was getting passed. It was glorious. I started feeling my competitive edge creeping back in and I got swept up in the moment. I was starting to really enjoy myself and I felt like I finally was learning something.
Starting Procedure Practice
At the end of the school we had a mock race, but Ed preferred to call it “Starting Procedure Practice”. Mr. Lady’s Man had told us that we will be gridded by our observed skill levels. Ed told us not to worry about grid position. The field will sort itself out, no matter what position you start in. The fast riders will be in front, the slower riders end up in the back and the intermediate group will duke it out in between. I bet some imaginary money on what position Mr. Lady’s Man assigned to me on the grid, but I lost the bet. I wasn’t dead last after all. There was one dude who was worse off than me. At least I had the inside line in the last row. I told him that we’re just going to have to roll this up from the rear. He laughed and agreed.
I made it a point to be there right after first call. I sat on the entrance to pit road and waited. Dan, who is Race Control, held his right hand up, all five fingers splayed out and yelled at us over idling engines: “See this? That is your FIVE BOARD. Go!” He stepped off to the side and let us enter pit road to take our warmup lap and assume our assigned grid positions. We were using the standard WERA staggered grid pattern of 3-2-3. From my position in the sixth row with only one rider behind me, I could see the entire field. I wasn’t nervous at all, which was strange. I happened to look at the Starter when the 3-Minute Board came up. Time to pay attention now. I lowered my face shield and put my bike in gear. I was ready. The 2-Minute Board was displayed fairly quickly thereafter. I exhaled when the Starter displayed the 1-Minute Board. Apparently I had forgotten to breathe. Sideways. I rev up the S1000RR to 9,000 RPM. My shiftlight illuminates at about the same time the green flag comes out and I smoothly ease the lever out in one quick, controlled movement. The Pirate responds and I find myself passing people on the grid. This is a far cry from the starts I laid down at the drag strip. It is the same thing, pretty much. I don’t know why I can’t be smooth at the strip. Never mind that now, Turn 1 is coming up. I have a clear shot on the inside, but decide to stay in the middle. for a better drive into Turn 2. I am not aware of the other riders. No, I am aware of them, but I don’t know who they are or where they came from on the grid. I know I now have people behind me, since I passed a few on the grid. But never mind this. My tires are still not up to temperature and I decide to concentrate on what I’m doing, not what everybody else is up to. All I know is that I’m always in second place. The guy in front of me? He needs passing. That’s all I worry about. I’m having a hoot. I am in my element. I thrive on this.
I have reached a new level in my braking technique. Trial by fire. I notice that a lot of these people like to park in the corners. When you have no brake lights to give you a clue, you have to be extremely aware of your immediate surroundings. If their nose is dipping it’s a telltale sign they are on the skids hard. And when your front end is almost stuffed up their tail pipe it’s high time to take some countermeasures to avoid collecting. I notice a front wheel in my peripheral vision and have to dismiss the awful thought that my continued success of keeping both my contact patches engaged is entirely at the mercy of the unknown variable behind me.
This is the exact reason why I don’t ride in groups on the street and when I do I hang in the back, because I trust in my own capabilities over those of others and rather keep the trouble up front where I can see it. Yet, here I am putting myself at the mercy of others at grossly higher speeds. Strange how I abhor something on the street and thrive on it on the track. There is a reason why they make us take our mirrors off; and it has nothing to do with safety or drag coefficient. I’m sure we’d have to change our diapers several times per race if we could see what exactly goes on directly behind us. Best not to think about it at all.
The Color Of Adrenaline
I have not a clue how I finished in the mock race. All I know is that I got passed and passed others… I do know that I rode harder than I ever had in my entire life. I started sliding the rear I accelerated so hard out of turns. I almost tucked the front on several occasions because I had to brake so hard while leaned over to avoid running up on someone in mid-corner. Ed Bargy wanted us to feel for these limitations of available traction. That is how you know how much you have left. We need to be able to control these without having to wipe our butts later or freaking the hell out and wadding it. The more I do it, the less anxious I am about front end tuck or rear end slides. I’m learning. Slowly. But baby steps is what it takes to improve without wrecking your shit. I’m ok with that. I have a few payments left on my BMW.
Don’t race what you can’t afford to wreck. That’s what they say. When have I ever let stuff like that stop me? Let me think… hmmm… nope, can’t come up with anything at the moment. I race what I have, run what I brung. But I race it sensibly. I aborted passes, didn’t take opportunities to pass, or let someone pass because the risk to do otherwise was too great. There was no money at the finish line. There were no points waiting for me at the checkered flag. There were no sponsorships at stake. My ego only drives my machine so far. This girl knows when to hold ’em and she definitely knows when to fold ’em. I race my own race. I have no testosterone-driven need to be a track day heroine. I have nothing to prove to anybody but to myself, and most of what I prove to myself has nothing at all to do with raw speed or position.
Check The Appropriate Box
After our mock race we pitted our bikes and went back to the classroom to take our written examination. The questions were multiple guess and all related to racing procedures. Ed said that this test was “closed book, but open can.” Those of us who were inclined to do so were invited to help themselves to an ice-cold can of brew with Ed while we were taking our test. I made a huge exception to my standing rule of zero-tolerance for alcohol and caffeine while participating in a race or track weekend. But I could not pass up an opportunity to have a beer with Mr. Bargy. Shortly after grading our tests we received our Provisional Novice shirts and Certificates of Completion. We also got to keep Ed Bargy’s book “Introduction To Motorcycle Roadracing”, a $50 tire discount coupon which I ended up using the following day; a coupon for a discounted track day which I couldn’t use because I had already registered and paid for Sunday; and a 10% off coupon for the chassis alignment and setup services of G.M.D. Computrack Atlanta.
This Was Fun! Can I Do It Again?
Overall I had a great time. I learned a ton, improved my lap times by 17 seconds over the span of six track sessions, gained a great deal of consistency in my riding and learned to trust my machine. I never had the S1000RR on a track. I trusted her on the street, but had no clue how I would get along with her on the track. I never ran Dunlop Sportmax Q2 tires on the track either. I still love these tires and will continue to run them, since they are priced moderately and perform their duties very well, street or track, wet or dry. Once I started trusting my tires and my bike at higher speeds and steeper lean angles, things started happening for me in a good way. I am happy with my progress, but still have lots to work on. Oh, before I forget: I did shorten my corner entry by a significant amount. When I first started, I initiated slowing down and then braking at the first brake marker. I carried an average of 60 mph into Turn 3, which was the turn I consciously measured my overall progress on, but it wasn’t the turn I did best in, as I would have expected. Turn 1 was the turn I did my best in as far as corner entry goes. By the end of the day I started braking halfway between brake marker 2 and 1, without rolling off the throttle prematurely and “sunday driving” it to my braking marker, and carried speeds of about 90 mph into the turn and had to actually downshift before stuffing the Pirate in and putting my knee on the ground.
Fun With Still Caps
I still could get more aggressive on my exits and get on the gas just a little harder. I have always had a tendency to get on the throttle as soon as I got to the apex of the turn, but I always finessed it rather than giving it a good, aggressive drive out. I’m nowhere near my traction limit at the apex, which is probably a good thing, considering that I constantly seem to find myself dealing with some slowasses backing up traffic mid-corner, which leaves me room for braking and “changing lanes”. At JenningsGP I shouldn’t have this problem. I can see them way ahead of time, but I end up putting my nose down for them anyway. I just can’t help myself. I should moderate my speed and anticipate the bunching-up effect, but I never do. I always think that I won’t be catching up with them, since they are the ones that got away from me in the straights.
Here’s a little educational something where Miss Busa demonstrates how NOT to do it. Enjoy! 🙂
*The thing got mangled during encoding by YouTube for some reason. It plays fine locally on Mr. Slow’s Mac, so I am not fixing it. The important stuff is there. I apologize.*
I don’t think I’m going to make it. I feel unsure on my feet and generally unwell. My head hurts, I have sleep-deprivation induced nausea and I have to go to the doctor to score some medicine if it is indeed an ear infection. I have worked on prepping my bike all night. It was slow going since I kept having to take breaks to rest my body. The bike is not even ready yet. I still need to change the oil and flush the radiator to replace the antifreeze with distilled water with a properly measured shot of Water Wetter mixed in.
But first off to the see my doc. I almost fall asleep in the waiting room. Must. Stay. Awake. I feel shaky inside. My name is finally called and after enduring the nurse and her insistent need for vital signs I am sent to my room. I almost doze off waiting for Doc to put in his appearance. He finally does and as I straighten up to greet him a wave of dizziness hits me. I hate that. It throws me off balance and makes me feel icky. I call it “vertigo” but that’s not the right term. I explain myself to the man, he gives me a diagnostic rundown then tells me it’s my allergies that have caused fluid to buildup “in there” and that’s where my dizziness and momentary loss of sense of balance come from. He prescribes me antibiotics, don’t forget your doctor’s note, and be on your way.
Mr. Slow is trying to help me get the bike ready, but I’m too addled in the brain to form a complete sentence or make sense enough so he could follow what I’m trying to tell him. I have’t the energy. We end up yelling at each other and I’m so angrily exhausted now that I tell him where he can go and that it isn’t JenningsGP with me. I don’t need this shit, I’m flying solo. He disappears into the bedroom to get some sleep, since he, too, has been up all night at his job. Somebody has gotta drive. But he can’t sleep since we’re mad at each other.
Kiss and make up like a couple of zombies and back to work. I can’t get the damned oil filter off the bike, it takes two frustrating trips to the auto parts store to get a tool that actually works. My sleepy anger finally gets the thing off so the rest of the oil can drain out. I clean the cavity that accepts the screw-in filter, replace the oil drain plug gasket, screw the drain plug back in after cleaning it, torque it down and resecure it with safety wire. I screw in the new wrench-off K&N filter, hand tighten it as instructed, safety wire it using the hole provided and dump in four quarts of Motul synthetic race oil. When I get to the last quart I find I’m too tired to check the level half-way through the bottle. I crank up the bike, let the engine circulate the oil, shut it off and put in the rest. Four quarts out, four quarts in. Logical. I don’t exactly know if four quarts came out, since I spilled a bunch of it because my catch pan wasn’t big enough to cover the area between the drain bolt and the filter. Arrgh! Now I have to clean this mess up. I don’t have the oil spill stuff they have at work. It looks like kitty litter and is absorbent as hell… kitty litter… hmmm… I have some of that. I go inside and get a few scoops of Tidy Cats and it does the trick quite nicely.
On to the radiator flush. I can’t get the damned clamp off the hose coming out of the water pump. Lowest point on bike, only place I’m reasonably sure of that it’s a radiator line and not an oil line. I’m shooting from the hip here. Yikes…
I hate being so weak. And I hate hose-freaking-clamps! I am getting frustrated again. It’s going on two o’clock and I have yet to pack! I am saved by Joe who apparently got a power nap in. He gets the hose off and runs to the auto parts store again for some anti-seize. We get the radiator flushed and replace the antifreeze with Water Wetter mix.
Note to self: Sweep up kitty litter before you flush the radiator. The stuff turns to muck the color and consistency of wet concrete; and the whole point was not to have it end up in the sewer system. At least it wasn’t but a small amount. Crap! happens when you’re in Zombieland.
It’s almost four o’clock. I’m now feeling like death warmed over. I think I might be seeing things… I am starving, I hadn’t eaten since the evening before. I am dehydrated. The dizziness is getting worse.
Joe sets up the ramps and once they are properly secured I ride my bike up into the truck. Yes, I know. No riding bikes up ramps unless you are a professional on a closed course. I’m too short, my feet don’t touch the ground once the front wheel is a little ways up on the ramp. I do not trust myself to be able to hold the bike on the incline, so I just ride it up and get on the brakes right before I engage the wheel chock to make sure I’m properly aligned.
Now you know why I can’t get the blasted thing down on my own. I can’t walk it down, I would have to shove off and roll backwards across the angle where my feet cannot reach. That freaks me out. And I’m neither strong nor coordinated enough to walk my bike down, while standing to the right of it, trying to hold it upright and manipulating the front brake lever.
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a race trailer? All my friends have toy haulers, I must make amends.
After securing the bike, I take a shower, pack my clothes and personal stuff and we’re off to the races. Which race, you ask? The race against the time the gate closes. If we don’t make it there before then, we’re sleeping outside on the side of the road. We still have to stop at “Little China” to pick up extra tie downs and a few other essentials, including the medicine my doctor had called in. After inhaling a veggie burger meal from Burger King and downing a bottle of water and my Diet Coke, I curl up in the passenger seat and try to sleep.
Sick and tired and I’m going to go do what? Yes, I seem to have the Darwinian gene: “Hey y’all come watch this!”
I just received a phone call from Mr. Slow. Sad news for his partner at work and bad news for me. My weekend at JenningsGP has just turned into a solo flight. Which means I will have to work all night Thursday, then go home, put the bike in the back of the pickup truck, load all my junk; then drive 167 miles to get my 12K service done on my poor neglected S1000RR; turn around and drive 267 miles, about five more hours, from Marietta, GA to Jennings, FL and hope to make it there before the gate closes at 10PM or I’ll be sleeping outside the gate parked on the side of the road.
Let’s pretend for a moment that I don’t have the shittiest luck in the history of shitty luck and I make it to the track before they lock up. At this point, I wouldn’t have slept a wink in about 28 hours and I still have to set up my pit area and get the bike down the ramp by myself. Check it all over once again to make sure nothing’s rattled loose on the trip, and finish prepping and hopefully have time to catch a few hours of sleep before registration and tech at 7AM.
I am so dead.
I also seem to be one week into developing an inner ear infection, which I have to take care of later today by procuring myself some antibiotics. Hopefully they can squeeze me in at the doctor’s office. Hopefully, the vertigo will have abated somewhat before my first session on the track. Hopefully, I won’t have lap times above 1:35. Hopefully, I won’t look like a total douche out there since I have to represent. Chances are I’m going to be (yet again) the only female rider in the joint. I won’t be at the top of my game, that’s for sure. I’m not even 100% certain that this is such a good idea. As a matter of fact, I know it isn’t. But, that’s racing. Or so they say. And I haven’t even raced yet and I’m already knee-deep in “I might just regret this” territory.
It’s not going to be pretty. Hand me some Xanax, an overdose of caffeine, and my knee sliders, I’m going in! Or out. One or the other, not sure yet which it is going to be.
Note to self: Bring 50 gallon drum of sugar-free Red Bull, because not only does it give you wings, it also consistently shaves at least 2 seconds off your lap times and can be used as a projectile weapon in those rare cases where a low-flying wrench just won’t do.