Don't Call it a come back!

Like LL Cool J says "Don't call it a come back" even though that's exactly what it feels like.

My 2013 racing season did not go according to plan. The fancy engine I had wanted to create so I could get closer to the front guys didn't work out. Actually it blew up twice the 2nd one being very terminal.  

So when my friend Craig invited me to go supermoto racing while reminding me that SMUSA had a couple of rental bikes I thought it was a good idea. I had money left in my racing account since I wasn't racing with the AFM. I'm sure it's not fair to judge all of SMUSA event's based on this one event held at the San Mateo Expo Center in conjunction with the motorcycle show. The race took place in the parking lot in between a series of hay bales, chain link fences, and palm trees surrounded by curbing. What could possibly go wrong? Well a lot as it turns out. Here's a short video. Pay attention to the plastic burms on the left inside turns.

 I would get my foot caught between one of those plastic burms, and break my leg in a big way. It's amazing how slow you can go and hurt yourself so badly.

Here's a picture of Kate as the ambulance rolls away.

And here's a couple of X-rays

The injury was a compound spiral fracture. The best way to describe that is to imagine holding two pieces of celery parallel in your hands, and twisting. It's hard to explain how much a badly broken leg can change your life. In my post surgery - pre cast recovery I could barely move. I did not have a cast yet because the surgical wounds need time to heal before being entombed in fiberglass. I took as few painkillers as possible, but still I needed the pure Oxycontin to break through the pain, and Oxy-tylenol mix to maintain. During that first week Kate would take care of me in the mornings and at night, but mid day I couldn't feed myself so I had to rely on help of some close friends. Without Peter Fry, and Craig Mallery I don't know how I would have made it through that first week. Once I got the cast installed I was much more mobile although taking showers with a full leg cast is challenging.

The cast came off in December and I began the very long road of recovery. I skipped the Kaiser physical therapy because it sucks. I don't understand why Kaiser spends such little resources on PT. They seem to be so good at a lot of health care, but PT not so much. Instead I found a woman in Marin named  Caroline Bourcier recommended to me by a coworker and it has been a great experience (at $150 an hour).
The recovery was slow and painful. I was at the point of trying to teach myself how to walk again.
But walking did not come easy. In January (now of 2014) I was in Hawaii to work on the Pro-Bowl and my main gig was the block party. 7 stages over 15 blocks I think. I swear it was a mile from stage 1 to stage 7, and I was still walking with a cane. Our event set up, happened, and tore down in less than 24 hours. Trying to walk back and forth in that mile long set up caused my leg to swell up like a long balloon. Outside of the actual break it was one of the most painful things I've ever experienced. It took me 3 days to recover and get the swelling back down.

At the end of May some SFMC friends were doing a trackday at Thunderhill. It was about 6 months since my injury and I  thought this would be a great test of how far I'd come. The answer was not as far as I hoped. At home I could ride my Triumph street bike pretty well, but at the track I needed help getting off my racebike. I could get on OK, but not off. It had to do with putting weight on my left leg and pivoting. It was just a no go. It turned out that the track day we'd picked happened to be the Friday practice for the AFM races and I told myself if I could ride my bike at all I'd like to ride in the Saturday F40 race. I knew I wouldn't be competitive but I just wanted to say that I'd raced again. So I did, and I didn't embarrass myself, but I wasn't very fast, and most importantly I wasn't very racey. I was just out there doing laps with a number plate on my bike. It was uplifting to be back at the race track, but depressing to see how slow I was and how far, or not far rather, I'd come in my recovery. Back in January when I met my PT she'd told me this was going to be a long recovery, but I don't think I understood just how long. 6 months into it, and I could barely ride my bike at speed. At this point I didn't know if I would eve be able to ride a race bike at full pace again.

The months that followed brought a lot of changes in my life. I continued to work hard at my recovery by starting to get back into the gym and lose some of the weight I'd put on by being so immobile. I got engaged to my lovely girlfriend Kate which as most engagements do turn into a wedding. I was working a terrible amount, and our lives weren't all that satisfying as I never saw my wife to be. Sure I slept next to her every night but I was up and out the door before she was awake, and home after she'd gone to bed. That required a change so in January I quite my job.

That brings us to 2015. In January I quite my job, and in June we got married. That left very little time for motor bikes. I still wanted to race, but I put it out of my mind for most of the year. I knew there was no time, and I needed to save money for the wedding and honeymoon, as well as continue getting my leg stronger. We had a great wedding. I'm sorry I couldn't invite everyone. That's how weddings go but for those that were there know it was one of the best tequila parties ever!.

OK wedding and honeymoon finally behind us I started getting a little itchy about racing. I started going to the gym again trying to get a little fitness back into my life, but only a couple of days a week and for an hour or so at a time. In August I attended a track day at Sears Pt. Track days are fun. There's people to hang out with, sunshine, race fuel, and motorcycles. There's plenty of people to pass on track that will make you feel faster than you are, but I knew I wasn't anywhere near a race pace. Worse I was exhausted after only 1 day. I had 3 weeks before the AFM race at Sears on September 5th/6th, and if I was going to race, and I mean really race I needed to get some breath. So I went to the gym every other day or close to it for 2-2 1/2 hours a shot focusing on hard cardio and core exercises. My first couple of trips were brutal. I could barely run my old exercise program, but I stayed with it and slowly my breath came back to me.

I still hadn't signed up for the races. There was still this little nagging thing in back of my mind. Did I really want to go racing? My bike was ready. I had fresh tires. I'd bled my brakes, and even given the old thing a bath. I'd been beating myself up at the gym getting my body ready, but I just wasn't sure if I had it in me still. What is it that pushes us to race in the first place? Speed, competition, adrenaline, or a little plastic trophy? Back in July Kate and I attended the WSBK races at Laguna Seca. We were sitting in the grandstands for the 2nd Moto America superbike race and witnessed the tragic start to that race. Right in front of us we watched 2 people die. It was horrible. It really upset Kate. She's seen too many people get hurt racing. So here I am in late August talking about going racing again. She won't tell me no, but I know she'd prefer if I didn't. So again I'm asking my self if I really want to go racing again. Well "racers gotta race" and I made the decision to put the past tragedies behind me, and signed up for the Friday track day, and races on Saturday and Sunday.

Friday practice was a lot of fun. SFMC members Mark Jordan, and Mike O'fiesh joined me for the day. For Mark it was his first time at Sears Pt, and his first time on his new track bike an EX650 racer formerly an AFM bike. Mike was out there on a stock 600cc street bike. They had a great time. Me I had been here a few weeks ago and knew I had some work to do. My goal for Friday was to work on my lines in turns 2, 3 and 11, and to focus on being smooth. I had worn myself out last time I was here and I wanted to work on some energy saving solutions; being smooth can really save energy over a long run. The practice was not that great. Most of our sessions we stopped for some incident or another. I never really got to get into any kind of rhythm, but felt I was moving at a better pace since I was here last, and not tired out.

Saturday was the first day of official AFM practice and I would be sharing a garage space with my old pitmates Aaron Turner, and Peter Fry. The 3 of used to pit together all the time in 2012, but unfortunate circumstances changed that, and I think this was the first time in 3 years all 3 bikes were in the same place. I didn't realize it at the time but being around the 2 of them helped bring a sense of comfort. Like nothing had changed since I'd been away. Speaking of being away. It was humbling how many people approached me over the day to say hi, and that it was good that I came back.  If Friday is to practice being smooth Saturday is to practice being aggressive.  In the past I've used my Saturday's not so much to work on my lines but to work on getting on the brakes late, on the gas early, and running up the inside of someone. In a race rarely do you get to run the ideal line you practice all the time. To be an effective racer you need to know alternative lines, and what will happen when you make those choices. In a race is not when you want to try something new. Saturday gives ample opportunity to pass and be passed which creates all kinds of interesting lines. Most of which have no real use, but sometimes you find something useful.

My only race of the day was the Formula Old Guy Light Weight also known as F40 LW which was the last race of the day, and I was gridded dead last. There was a wave in front of us, and a wave behind. When the race started I got a really good launch, as I tend to do, and drove up the hill into turn with good momentum, and the inside line, but when it came time to commit to the corner I rolled off the throttle. I just wasn't confident in myself, the people around me, and I didn't want to end up in a pile of bikes, and folks. The people I passed on the starting line all got back by me by the time we entered turn 5, and as we crested the hill into 6 I knew I could have come up the inside of a person or 2, but I backed off again and used the better part of caution over valor. Not very racey of me. Once we stretched out a little I went to work trying to pass were could. Things got interesting when we caught the back side of the wave that had started behind us. Bowling for Ninjas I call it as the little green bikes tend to cluster up and when we come through and we scatter them around like little green bowling pins. On the last lap myself and another old fart were fighting for position and went diving into the T9 chicane him on the inside, me on the outside and about 5 ninjas around us. As we charged through the right, and began to flick left there was me now on the inside, a ninja, and him on the outside. It was about to be a 650 sandwich with a green squishy center. Seeing the potential for carnage I backed off, and finished the race in a rears of the my orange competitor. I did not do well in this race as lacked the confidence to get through the lapped traffic. I used carve through those ninja but having been away too long I just didn't have the confidence.

Now that the racing was over Saturday evening brings out the festivities. As I have done in the past at the last Sears Pt round we hosted a margarita bash. My friend and long time sponsor Julio Bermejo from Tommy's Mexican Restaurant    donated some products to host said bash. We featured cocktails made with Tommy's Margarita Mix and Arete Tequila. As you can see from the photos fun was had.
First we add the mix
Then we add the tequila
hand out some drinks

and fun will be had

Sunday morning was a bit of a rush. I did the usual Sunday morning practice which is only good to get some warmth in the bike, and the blood. It really is a warm up. My first race was race #1 and there just was not enough time from the end of practice to the start of the race. Over the years I developed my own pre-race prep and it includes some down time to get my head together. I like to try and bring my heart rate down, and focus. That includes thinking through the start, and visualizing what I'm going to do. Rarely does the start go like my vision, but if I have a plan I can react to that plan rather than just panicing. We hurry to get everything together and out I go for the warm up lap and grid up in 7th position. Dead last. Sad that 650 Twins has only 7 entries. I remember grids of 40 bikes when I started, but back then we also mixed the novices with us. Now the novices are gridded behind us.  The green flag flies and I get a good launch again, and again charge up the hill and back off into T2 knowing that's there's only 7 of us so I'm not super worried. I'll get in line and chase people down where I can, but I made 1 miscalculation. I forgot since the grid was so small they'd launch the novices at the same time so to my surprise when I slow down for T2 3 yellow plates go by me. Ah crap. I can't finish behind novices so I upped my game and went charging after the people in front of me. I did pretty good. I hunted down the novices, and some experts. I turned what would be my best lap of the weekend at a 1:51.2. The only downside was on the cool down lap everyone kept rushing past me. I thought it was kind of rude, and when I pulled off the track and the guy in front of kept going I was surprised to think he'd missed the checkered flag. That's when it hit me. I missed the checkered flag and had come in on the white flag lap. Oops. See what happens when your pre-race program gets messed with!

Race #8 was my second race of the day . Formula IV. I was kinda pissed off about the morning race especially when I found out I'd come in off of 3rd place. Oh the agony. So I was fired up. I had plenty of time to get my mind into race mode, and for the first time all weekend I was itching to get out there. I gridded up in spot #24 again. And again like all the other races dead last, but this time there were 23 bikes in front of me. The green flag flew and I charged off the line launching my best start of the weekend. I think I passed 2 rows in front of me. I charged up the hill into T2 and this time instead of backing off I pushed my way up stealing positions instead of giving them back. I quickly settled into a fast rhythm and began picking off rider after rider in front of me. I was focused. I kept telling myself not to worry about anything except getting the next rider. My strengths are the brakes so passed into 7, again into 9, I think I got another one into 1, a couple of times over the hill into the carousel, but the only pass I really remember was passing 2 guys on the outside into 9.  You pull that move off since most people dive up the inside, but you have to have confidence in your front wheel, and the line you're taking is going to work. An outside pass takes away the second apex. It's a balsy move, but to pass 2 riders well I learned that trick on a Saturday practice once. I finished 7th. I started 24th, and had to pass 17 people in 6 laps. I rode hard, and smart. My best time was a 1:52.1 However I think my pace was faster than that, because I was passing 1 -2 riders every lap. I think if I'd started closer to the front I could have stayed with the leaders. First place no, but maybe a 3rd. It felt good. I was racing hard, executing a plan, and keeping my eyes on the prize. It finally all clicked together after 3 days of riding. I finally felt like I belonged. It took a little while to find it. Maybe after such a long absence 3 days isn't that long, but it sure felt like it, but what was important was the thing I was looking for wasn't gone. It was just hiding.

So don't call it a come back because in my heart I never left.

I have thanked many people in this post but the one person I can not thank enough for supporting me, believing in me, and setting an example for pit wives everywhere the newly named Kate Senger Fimbres. I really could not do this with out you.


Feeling It

It has been a very long time since I have posted anything. There's lots excuses why I haven't.
Let's just say I wasn't feeling it.

Starting where things went south. Last July 2nd I had a big crash at Sears Pt that left me with a shattered collarbone.
  Of course I did that the day before we were supposed to fly out to Mexico to attend the 75th Anniversary party of the La Altena distillery. There's was no way we were going to miss that so I postponed any surgery until after we got back. Link to Kate's blog regarding trip. I spent a few days laying in bed post surgery, and 6 weeks in a sling. That's how last season ended.

OK moving onto 2013. Since racing ended early last year I saved up some money to finally put into a motor this year, and make some other changes to the bike. Our first race was at Buttonwillow in March with the AFM. Our new motor wasn't ready in time for BW but that's OK because I sucked out loud, and a fast engine would only have made it worse. On that first race back I knew I wanted to just ride smooth, and find some pace and rhythm. I had done one other practice day at Buttonwillow, and felt comfortable on the bike. On the AFM Friday and Saturday I was riding decent, again starting to get back into form, and even getting close to my race pace from this track 2 years ago. I figured I was in pretty decent shape for racing on Sunday. I couldn't have been more wrong. When the green flag dropped I charged hard off the line, and then chickened out in the first corner, and let half the field go by me. I was so uncomfortable around the other riders. Every time someone would challenge me for a position I would let them by. It felt like everyone was trying to kill me. I went slower on Sunday than I did in practice. That's a first, and I've never felt so out of place on a race track since the first time I set wheel onto one 13 years ago.

The next opportunity was the AHRMA/AFM/AHRMA triple header. It was 3 race weekends in a 10 day period and it would crush me physically, mentally, and financially. Finally we got the new engine together and took it down to Willow Springs for the first AHRMA event. One of the things I wanted to accomplish was to get my head back in the game and what was needed was some more track time in a competitive environment. AHRMA is a good place to do that because the racers take themselves a little less seriously and nobody is going to murder you into a corner.
   I spent most of Friday missing practice with one little technical issue after another including a cut front tire when I ran over somebodies plastic number plate while braking for Turn 1. You don't see that very often. Saturday we did 2 races where I fought hard for a 4th place which was a huge disappoint. It wasn't like Buttonwillow disapointing. I raced hard, did good times, but there where some bigger bikes in my class with decent riders on them, and I just didn't have the pace for them. Maybe if I hadn't missed so much of Friday practice I could have stayed closer. However far more disappointing was blowing the new engine in the 2nd race. For some reason the engine was running lean, overheated, blew it's head gasket letting all the water out of the radiator, and it just got worse from there. Sunday we packed up and went home.
  Monday evening (after working a 10 hour day on a jobsite) out came the blown engine, back in went the old engine. Tuesday evening and Wednesday evening were spent swapping over bits and pieces like the slipper clutch, putting the exhaust on etc (again after 10 hours days on a jobsite) Thursday was a big show that we'd been working on all week, and after I got out of there (once RunDMC took the stage) I went home to load the truck. Friday morning I went up to Sears Pt to Race in another AHRMA event. To make matters even worse my racing partner Kate was out of town at a work conference (don't feel sorry for her it was in Hawaii) so I was alone in my efforts. You don't know how much you've come to depend on a person until they're not there.  Friday I get a couple of practices in and the old engine feels fine. We do 2 races and again I get 2 4th places. Some damn AFM fast guys showed up and kicked our ass. My times were OK, but still not at the pace I had run before. I was getting some confidence back, but I was still a little timid.
  Saturday was AFM practice and I was doing OK. Sunday more AFM races. Sears is my favorite track. It's hard. It makes you think, and rewards riders who can connect the dots. I've always gone well at Sears. With that said I had my hopes up for some good finishes on Sunday. Well once the green flag flew I was right back in my new old funk. I was timid, and had no confidence. I just wasn't having any fun.

10 days have gone by. I've driven a 1000 miles, participated in 3 race weekends, changed engines twice, had lots of disappointing finishes, I'm broke, broken, and wondering why am I doing all of this.

The next race was going to be at Thunderhill in June. T-hill is my least favorite track, and I was short on money, and seriously short on motivation. The new engine was really damaged, and needed a lot of work to get back into shape so I chose to take a work project over the weekend, and skipped the race. I needed a break from the track.

In the down time KC shoe horned a R6 radiator into the bike. (idea stolen from here). We got the engine redone, and back in. I even made some cool little air ducts to try to get some more fresh air into the engine
 and we were all ready to go Thunderhill on the 4th of July weekend. It wasn't until Sunday night I would realize that this was the 1 year anniversary of the crash that put a plate and 12 screws in my collarbone. I'm glad I didn't think about that.

Friday July 5th Kate and I leave not so bright but very early for the trek up to Thunderhill. Friday is a ZoomZoom trackday, not an official AFM practice, but many racers come on Friday so it's a good day to work on things, and not necessarily try to set your personal best laptimes. I had done one trackday at T-hill earlier in the year so I at least remember which way the track went, but it had been well over a year since I'd turned a wheel in anger here. I needed so many things. I needed to break in the new engine. I needed to find my way around the track at speed. I needed to get my head out of my ass. I can't tell you how's and why's of things that happen. I can only recount them as I recall them from my third person memory, but on Friday it finally "clicked" I'd been working on some suspension settings with friends, and sponsors Jim and Nikki from Catalyst Reaction. The motor felt good, and strong, and the bike was stable and controlled. I've been working on getting on the gas coming out of the corners. That has been a huge weakness of mine for many years. In the 4th session of the day 650 rival James Strauss #206 comes around me on the outside of 15 onto the front straight. A clean pass, but a little close for a practice day. Now the timid Mickey that has been riding like shit for the last 6 months would have flinched when he got passed, and been content to let James go. This time for no reason I can figure out I said to myself out loud "oh no you don't" and proceeded to spend 4 laps grinding it out to track him down, and pass him into Turn 1. To be fair James was not riding at full race pace, but he was not going slow. I did a 2:01 in that session. Not too far off my race times. I needed that. I was back in the game. I was being aggressive, and confident. I was taking small chances where I knew I needed to push, and gaining speed and confidence. OK maybe this racing thing isn't so bad after all.

When Saturday came around the paddock was full of AFM racers and vendors, although it was a dismal attendance of 130 riders which for our club is a very poor showing. I guess having races on a holiday weekend is not such a good idea. I knew I needed fresh brake pads, but when I took my old pads off I was stunned at their condition.
With the fresh new pads I had so much more stopping power I was sure I would drop some more time. That would not turn out to be the case. I ended up over braking, or braking too soon, and I did not gain any time. That's something I'll need to work on for next round. Saturday afternoon brought a whole new adventure to motorcycle racing. Formula 40. For those few readers who aren't local racers the Formula 40 class is any bike as long as the rider is over 40. AFM has so many F40 riders that it's broken into 3 classes Heavy, Medium, and Light, and I am in F40LW. The grid was fairly small, and I knew the competition, and I figured I stood a chance at a podium if I could get in front of some guys. I did well, and rode a good race, but I got tired and faded in the last couple of laps so I had to be content with 5th. Not too bad for an old guys first time.

Sunday races would be frighteningly similar. I got good starts. I fought hard and got myself up into 5th place, and stayed with the leaders for a lap, then settled into my pace. The leaders got away, and in the last couple of laps I'd get tired, and get passed. Everytime I got passed I could stay with the guys, but I didn't have it to try and get back past them. Below is some video from the second race which exemplifies the scenario.

So here we are a year after my big crash. I haven't been to the gym in months (and it showed) My left shoulder is weak, and I've gained 15 pounds. I need to get my act together, and get to the gym, lose some weight, and get my stamina up. 7th place is not good enough. It was good racing. It was good fun. I can't wait to do it again.

The body follows where the mind goes. Let's just say I'm starting to feel it.

Thanks to the people that help me go faster.


Jennifer at Werkstatt Motorcycle Repair

Jim and Nikki of Catalyst Reaction

Jeff Viets of Bridgstone

Julio from Tommy's

Paul Fine of Fine Design

Checking In

It's been way to long since I've written anything. So here's a quick synopsis.

Between race 5 and race 6 Kate I went on a real vacation. Something I haven't done in a really long time. Kate wrote about it here.
It was excellent, and much needed. We need to do that more often.

In August I did my last race of 2011. It was a wild weekend. I crashed on literally the last lap of practice on Friday afternoon. I was sure my bike was wrecked as it had been at the end of the 2010 season. In actuality it only had a bent rear brake lever, and broken wind screen. I fixed in 15 minutes and we were good for Saturday. The races were tight, and fun. I did well with some of my best finishes. It was a bummer though to end in August. Work would prevent me from getting to race anymore that year. I still finished 7th in both of my championships, and that isn't too bad for missing 2 races!

 The fall of 2011 had some crazy work adventures. First there was Oracle like normal, which isn't normal at all unless you work on Oracle in the Fall every year. Then there was a massive corporate party down in San Jose. 5 Semi's of lighting and rigging. That show looked awesome, but it was brutal getting it there. My buddies Tim, and Trevor worked on it with me along with Walter from Impact. It was silly, and almost fun.
I did a private event where J-Lo sang for 100 people. That was crazy wild. I was her LD for a day. Me and Walter had a very late night, and early morning trying to program 9 songs, along with trickster David Blaine, and violinist Han bin, and glass decor by artist Dale Chihuly, it was one of the most epic events I ever worked on. Did I mention it was for 100 people? It seemed like the work would never stop. We rolled right through Xmas, and into the new year where again I went to Vegas to work on CES for Paul Fine. Vegas is a strange place. I don't know how anybody lives there. After 11 days working at the convention center I wanted out! My booth looked great, and the clients were all happy so it was a good gig. I had about a week back at Impact where we did the pre-game, and half time show for the 49ers NFC Championship game. Another wild day of rain, mud, and crazy special effects. I partnered up with Michael Sturtz of Crucible fame to make some big fireballs as the players ran out onto the field. Then we almost crashed and burned for half time show as the rolling stage holding the lighting trees broke minutes before we went out onto the field. A huge thanks to the combined forces military service men and women who were standing by. They jumped in and helped us hand carry all the lighting gear onto the field. And then a few days later I bounced out to Hawaii again this time to do some work on the Pro-Bowl with my friends at E2k Sports. More crazy adventures ensued.

So here it is March of 2012, and since getting back from Hawaii I've been very focused on my pre-racing season prep. I'll get that written up in my next post hopefully in a few days time. I wanted to just get something small written, and out there. I need to do this writing thing more often, It's good for me. I think the little snippets of Facebook and Twitter are not very good at telling the story, and just make us even lazier about communcating with people.

AFM Round 5 - Leave nothing out there

In-between the rained out round 4 and round 5 I squeezed in a trackday at Thunderhill. It was some much needed time at that track but didn’t really give me much of a feel for the recent engine tuning we’d worked on prior to round 4. It had been a busy period at work (when isn’t it) and I was not very focused on racing until the day before having to pack up and head to the track.

One of the many great things about racing at Sears Point is how close it is to home. Getting up early Friday morning to head to the track isn’t much worse than getting up to go to work on a normal Friday. Once at the track I only partially set up my pit area knowing I’d have to make some adjustments once the AFM took over. Friday practice was a trackday put on by ZoomZoom not an AFM practice day. Recently I’ve been pitting with KC and his BRG trailer on Vendor row which has been a great experience, but we don’t get to fully set everything until all the vendors are in place. As a side note to that I have been working with Dave Wallis of the AFM on laying out the AFM paddocks. I’ve been volunteering my CAD skills to help get the vendor area sorted, and try to add a bit of polish to the look of the AFM. The AFM board is all elected volunteers, and not very many have much experience with events, although they have lots of history with setting up the races. So to them things like doing a floor plan is a big task, but for me it’s a few minutes of the day so I’ve been glad to help out. For whatever reason I have to always stick my nose in it.
My Plan for Friday was to slow things down a bit and try some new approaches to some of my weak spots. By not trying to go fast I could take a different line, or maybe brake later and get used to the new location, or feeling before trying it at full race pace. One area of particular attention was my entrance to Turn 6 “The Carousel” I had a decent line into the turn but I was always applying the brakes too soon, and I knew to get under the 1:50 mark I’d need to start digging deeper and pushing those boundaries a little further. By deliberately coming out of Turn 5 slower I could brake later entering turn 6 and teach myself that it was OK to start braking at the top of the hill, and slowly let off the brakes as I began the downhill left hand turn. I worked on this all day and slowly taught myself how to trail brake deep into the first apex. I wouldn’t really get to test this tactic at full pace until race day but by practicing where I would release the brake lever I was mentally much better prepared for when I would be pushing myself. The other thing I was mentally working on was opening the throttle sooner coming out of corners. Later on the brakes, and earlier getting on the gas is how to go faster around the track. I got 7 practice sessions in and was feeling good about Saturday which is AFM practice and when I would up the pace and start pushing the areas I was working on. I was struggling a little bit getting on the gas. The rear tire just wasn’t hooking up. I thought maybe the rear shock needed some tuning, but a close inspection of my rear tire showed that it was in fact roasted. I’m still trying to understand when these Michelin Power One tires are done. I’ve been changing the rear tire when I thought I needed to, but this tire I wanted to push to the limit. Well I wore the tire down to the point that it started delaminate. That is the outer rubber started separating from the carcass. That would explain the lack of traction, and the occasional slide. There wasn’t any rubber on the tire. Note to self:  When the tire starts to slide replace it. Kate joined me Friday night and we bbq’d some chicken she had prepped. We made fajita burritos, and was some damn good eating for camping bbq.

Saturday morning I put on a new to me front tire. My new track buddy Peter Fry had bought a new slick front tire to test at a trackday he’d done last month but since he runs in the Production classes he isn’t allowed to use the slicks, and gifted the tire to me. My budget was getting mighty thin so I was thankful for such a generous gift especially since my front tire had 10 days on it and was past do for changing. After my lesson with the rear tire I didn’t want to push it too far.  While I had the front wheel off I did a quick inspection of my brake pads. I’d been feeling some brake fade on longer runs and was suspicious the pads were getting thin. The thinner pad allows more heat to transfer into the caliper and heat up the brake fluid which allows the fluid to compress under pressure from the brake lever. I’m talking about compression that is fractions of a millimeter but this compression translates into less feel in the lever, and that feel is crucial to pushing the limits of the front tire while trail braking into a turn. I can’t complain. A set of the very expensive super stopping power Vesrah SRJL pads have lasted me a season and half. I skipped the first session to take the time to make sure everything was cleaned and assembled properly and the brakes were bled thoroughly with brand new super blue brake fluid. Yes even the brake fluid on my bike is blue! 

deburring the brake rotors
intense brake bleeding


             Saturday practiced sucked. I was slotted into group 3 which is frustrating because many riders are on larger displacement bikes which can make a fast laptime only because they can motor away in the straight sections, but the smaller bikes like mine keep our speed up in the corners. I wasn’t able to practice any of the things I had been working on at full pace and wasn’t feeling full of confidence one practice was over.
                I quickly put that all behind me because I had a lot of work to do still for on this Saturday night would be a margarita bash. One of the great perks of having Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant as a sponsor is once a season we host a margarita party on Saturday night. Kate and I had to get the bike tech’d for Sunday’s races, make dinner, and set up for distributing hundreds of cocktails.  The cocktail bash was an absolute blast. It’s a great opportunity to do some local advertizing for the restaurant, the Tommy’s Margarita mix, and meet new people.  Kate took pictures with her new camera and fun was had by many. With much of the paddock well lubricated by delicious margaritas skillfully crafted by yours truly the stage was set for the debauchery to really begin. You see the pit right across from me was the Twisted Racing team and their sponsor Horny Toad BBQ Sauce. They had a very well put together fund raiser. $40 bought you a bbq, dinner and access to a strip show. Yes they had fully enclosed part of their pit area, set up a stripper pole with lasers, and smoke machines, and had a full on strip show. God bless their ingenuity. Why hadn’t anyone thought of that before? The music thumped, lasers flashed, and the men hooted and hollered as the girl worked her pole. The good times lasted until finally Barbara from race direction told everyone they had to wind it down and get to bed. Yes mom, I’ll put my stripper away and go to sleep. There was a great festive atmosphere in the paddock that night something we hadn’t seen at all this year. 

margarita time!

tire guys


        Sunday morning dawned clear and warm. It was time to get serious about racing.  Werstatt had sent a new employee to help in the paddock with any set up stuff we needed. Although Kate and I have developed a pretty good routine it’s always nice to have an extra hand around to help when things get hectic. I ran my one practice session and warmed up my bike and body. I don’t like to push really hard in the morning warm up, but I was trying to get into the right mindframe. During the riders meeting Barbara our race director stated that the AFM was a family place and we should all leave our strippers at home. The AFM has been around for over 50 years and I bet no one has ever said that before!

Race 1  (Race 2 on the schedule) Formula IV
   I had gone down to the hot pit to do some practice starts. The engine was feeling great after the new exhaust and tune from KC, and I wanted to see how that would affect the launching of the bike. My normal procedure is to rev the bike up to about 7k rpm were peak torque comes on, and just slightly engage the clutch until a little friction is felt, then when the green flag flys dumps the clutch and twist to full throttle. I tried that in the hot pit and just about flipped myself over. I don’t think I’ve ever pulled such a big wheelie for so long. OK I thought maybe I’d applied too much throttle too quickly so I tried it again with the same result. OK the new tune changed the power delivery and I needed to start in a lower RPM. I dropped down to 6k rpm and tried a couple of practice launches and they felt good.
   I had a great grid spot on the outside of Row 2. When the green flag flew I got a great launch and drove deep into the first row. I was determined not to chicken out as I had so many previous times, and when a challenger came up the inside on my left I kept the throttle pinned and rounded Turn 2 in 5th place. I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold it forever but it was great to be so far forward. I stayed with the lead 4 almost the entire first lap, but I couldn’t hold onto  them and started falling back. My race strategy became not to makes mistakes and try to ride as smooth and fast as I could knowing that 5 or 6 guys were right behind me waiting for any opportunity. Something new for this race was Kate working the hot pit wall. Every lap she would come up to the edge and give me hand signals informing me of where my competition was behind me. Pretty much every lap her signals were  ”they’re up your ass”.  Towards the end of the race we started getting into the slower traffic of the dreaded Ninja 250’s. I did not do a good job of managing the traffic. I allowed #555 Scott Reavey  to get past me on the last lap because of yet another poor traffic decision. I had half a lap to get it back. I wasn’t close enough to try in turn 9 so I backed off a little into 9 so I could get a good drive out of 9 and try a braking maneuver into 11, and that worked great. I pulled up alongside Scott on the gas in T10 and I knew I had the line to out brake him. As I got on the brakes I saw the standing yellow flag in the apex of the turn. NOOOOO! Under the AFM rules there is no passing under any flag condition. I had to pull over and let Scott by. I finished a frustrated 7th. I had made poor choices which allowed me to be put in that place and I should have finished 6th, if not even 5th.

Race 2 650 Twins (Race 11 on the schedule)
   The race preceding my second race had been stopped twice do to crashes. Just as they were starting it for the 3rd time I could see the helicopter landing just across and up the hill from us. That’s a sickening sight. Someone had life threatening injuries and needed to get to the hospital immediately. As I write this I’m on a plane to Hawaii for a much overdo vacation. I could tell seeing that helicopter made Kate a little pensive. Like me she was worried I might get hurt, 2 days before going on our vacation. She watched me watch it, and was also worried I would let it get to me. I watched the helicopter take off hoping it was no one I knew, hoping I wasn’t going home in one either, and then I completely put it out of my mind. I put on my head phones, and practiced my start in my head.
Once again gridded on the second row and another great launch I charged up the hill in 5th place, but quickly lost a position into T3 to #206 James Strauch. Determined I charged hard out of T5, and got to put into practice the late braking into the Carousel I had been practicing on Friday. Back into 5th I once again tried to stay with the lead pack, but knew eventually I would lose them. On the following lap while beginning the second apex of the Carousel I had held too tight of a line trying to stay with those guys and found myself too far inside way too far leaned over, and I hit the series of ripples that exist there. My front wheel started to slide out from under me. At that point I was crashing. I could hear something scraping on the ground, but I stayed on the gas and as we crested the next ripple the front wheel came back to me, only to start to slide and scrape again as it fell away on the downside. Still holding the throttle open hoping I didn’t get run over by the bikes I knew were right behind me the front wheel came back to me as we crested the next ripple and again slid, and scraped as it dipped past the crest.  I can’t really explain how I saved that. I was crashing. Maybe a little skill, a little balls, and a whole lot of luck. I kept the throttle pinned expecting someone to pass me going into 7 but there was no one.  I lost a position to a visiting fast guy from another club, and had a hell of a dog fight with # 206 for a couple of laps, but I put a little gap after awhile. I lost another position to an exotic custom Ducati 649 which was damn fast.  I ended the race in 8th place feeling I had left nothing out there, and had gone as fast as I could. I never gave up even when I was on the verge of crashing.

I posted a best time of 1:49.6 almost a full second faster than my previous best from the last round. I would like to have dipped in the 48’s but I need to do some more work on my riding. The bike is still capable of more than I am. I haven’t found its limit yet. One limit I did find is me. I have been doing OK at getting to the gym, and when I was fighting for 15th place I think my fitness was good enough. Now that I’m consistently fighting for single digit finishes I’m getting tired, and making mistakes. It takes an amazing amount of physical effort, and mental focus to push a racing motorcycle to its physical limits. I need to step up my training if I’m going to get any faster.

Below is a series of photos from the 650 Twins race taken by amateur photographer Erich. They tell a great story of how my race went. Thanks for the pics Erich!

AFM Round 4 - It seemed like a good idea

Round 4 of the 2011 AFM season was going to be tough for me. Once again my bike made it's way to KC at BRG for some more tuning. KC and I had tested a set of Leo Vince headers in an attempt to find some more power, and KC had a plan to build a custom muffler to go on that set of headers and we'd be set. So the bike was yet again in KC's capable hands, and the plan was he'd trailer it up to the track for me. That seemed like a good idea. The problem was I had a work project that same weekend and I couldn't bail out on it. The plan was I'd load up all my race gear into my truck on Satruday, get home from work around 10pm, take a disco nap, and head out to Thunderhill Sunday morning around 4am. That seemed like a good idea too.

Well like the "The best laid schemes of mice and men Go often askew," What seemed like a good idea would quickly turn into the harsh reality of "what was I thinking" First off the weather at the track was looking suspicious and KC didn't want to spend $200 in fuel trailer my bike up there if we were going to get rained out. That left me with the idea that early Friday morning I'd go out to KC's shop, grab said race bike, take it to the job site, and then Saturday morning load it all up as planned. Yes, That's a god idea. Well Thursday night with my grand scheme laid out in front of me I made the decision to call the whole thing off. The work project was the wrap party for Pixar's Cars 2 movie, and we had a very short install time, and a fairly complex show. I've always told myself racing is just a hobby and sometimes life gets in the way. I chose to stay committed to my long time clients at E2k, and ensure that the show was as flawless as could be. In the end we did an amazing show with some pretty damn good lighting. Erin, E2k's choreographer, put together an awesome routine that was martial arts / hip-hop themed, along with some huge washes of red light, and some stark shafts of white cutting through it we had a pretty rad dance number. Unfortunately due to Pixar's strict photo policies (for good reason) I have nothing I can show you, but it did look cool.                  

Oh and the race got rained out. I feel sorry to my racing friends that made the trek only to sit around in the cold and wet. However it means I lost no points and will be starting from the second row at my favorite track next round at Sears Point (Infineon Raceway) Hopefully with my head down some good results will follow.

As a side note I went out to T-hill last weekend for a trackday test session. Several friends from the SFMC   were in attendance and it was a lot of fun. I hadn't been to T-hill since last October when I crashed big time so I was way out of form. It took me half the day to get a feel for the track, and it wasn't until my last session that I started to really feel fast. I can now say for sure if I'd shown up on Sunday morning race weekend and had 1 practice session I would have gotten my ass handed to me. Sometimes the world works in strange ways.

Here are some photos from the trackday.

Tipping it into Turn 11

One of my favorite Turn 14

Need a haircut or more hair?

Showing some speed in Turn 1

Getting low in Turn 2

Cary, Tegan, John, Me, four SFMC
John Sweeney returning to form after a long hiatus from the track

Thanks to the people that help me go faster.
Jennifer at Werkstatt Motorcycle Repair
Dave Moss of Catalyst Reaction
Michelin and Alex of AFMotorsports
Julio from Tommy's
Paul Fine of Fine Design

Spotlight: Michelin Tires

In the coming months I'm going to be doing some more posts. In an effort to write more often I'll be posting what I'm calling "Sponsor Spotlights" These are going to be stories about the people that are helping me in the passion of motorcycle racing. Sponsors come in many types. Whether they offer financial support, a discount on products and services, or just their time, they are all a huge part of where I am today. These are in no particular order.  Thank you for reading, and if you have any questions about these vendors please feel free to contact them directly, or leave a comment with your contact info and I'll get back to you. -mickey

In 2011 I made the switch from Dunlop tires to Michelin. The main reason for the switch was that long time Dunlop Supplier Sport Tire Services was no long going to be representing brand D. Terry at STS was on of my first sponsors way back in 2005. He agreed to give myself, and then racing partner Eric a deal mostly based on our relationship to fellow SFMC member Jim Hoogerhyde. Terry and Jim went way back. It wasn't a big discount, but it was something. Over the years I got to know Terry, and really liked the guy so really I didn't have any loyalty to Dunlop, I had it to Terry. 

  Back at the start of 2010 Alex Florea of AFMotorsports had tempted me with some Michelin tires. He'd offered me a set to try out. "Just try them, if you don't like them give 'em back" Like the candy man, the first hit is free.I was afraid of giving up practice time to try out new tires so I never took him up on the offer, but it stuck in my mind. I'd known Alex mostly by reputation. He was a passionate member of the AFM community always speaking his mind, and swimming upstream with his ideas, but never afraid to go it alone. I didn't always agree with his views, but I had tremendous respect for someone willing to stand up for what they believed in. So when it was time to shop for new tires Alex was the first person I contacted. I had other options, and I'm sure I could have worked a deal with somebody, but Alex replied to my email almost immediately, and said I could be one of his sponsored riders, and sent me pricing breakdowns. You could say I've been a Michelin man ever since (I'd just better not end up looking like one)

  Since it took me so long to get my act together at the beginning of the 2011 racing season I didn't have any time to test tires prior to the first race weekend. At that time I had made the mental choice to not do anything any different. I'd just go ride, new tire be damned, and see what happened. Well the first weekend came and went without incident, and I discovered something amazing. Alex helped point this out to me. Tires are round and black. Go ride. I don't know why but I had built up in my head that something was going to be really different.

  I've now had lots of laps, a few hard races, and some experience. What I've learned about Michelin tires is that I really like them. It took working with both Dave (of Catalyst Reaction), and Alex to get the tires to wear better. At Buttonwillow I had bad tearing, as well as at the first Sears round. We made some big changes to the bike and that helped get the rear tire in much better shape. I find the that the Michelin's have a more pronounced feel. Not everyone would say that based on how their bike is set up, but to me I can "feel" the Michelin's better. They really talk to me. No not like voices in my head but I can feel in the handle bars what the tire needs. On my bike it comes in chatter and vibration. When I'm asking too much of the tire, whether it be too much lean angle, too fast (rarely), or too much throttle I'll get a vibration. What's great is the vibration will start small, and grow as the problem gets worse. So far I haven't crashed, but I contribute that to me reacting to the communicating the tire is doing. Push the front too hard in the Carousel at Sears Pt? Stand the bike up a little to reduce vibration, or add gas to reduce weight on the front tire. Rear tire starting to vibrate out of 7? Stay on the gas, and increase lean angle. So far it's been a great experience. I'm only just now developing the skill to understand what's happening down there.

After Race 2 at Round 3 my rear tire was starting to tear again. That's not a bad thing. I have a new motor that is making more power, and I' m pushing harder trying to find more speed. Tearing the tire is a sign that we're moving in the right direction: Faster. Now I need to work more with Dave and team to get the tearing to stop again. Find a setup that works, go faster, then the setup doesn't work anymore.

Thanks to the people that help me go faster.
Jennifer at Werkstatt Motorcycle Repair
Dave Moss of Catalyst Reaction
Michelin and Alex of AFMotorsports
Julio from Tommy's
Paul Fine of Fine Design

Humbling - AFM round 3

Last weekend May 6-8 was the 3rd meeting of the 2011 racing season.
The race weekend started early with me dropping off my bike with  KC at BRG for the new motor to be broken in and tuned. We had finally finished the getting everything swapped over, and the new motor was ready for it's time on the dyno. I picked the bike up on Thursday before the race weekend. It had been thoroughly thrashed and finely tuned so there would be no problems once at the track. I had not been sleeping well this week. Something about the new motor and the expectations I had put on myself left me nervous, and I would wake up about 4am every morning unable to fall back asleep.

I showed up Friday to Sears Point for the Kiegwin's track day around 7am, and found my spot. I had helped Dave Wallis with the paddock layout map so I was very familiar with where all the vendors would be set up for the weekend. This round I would be pitting with KC, and his BRG trailer, both as part of the sponsorship, and to help with any issues that should arise from the new engine. My Friday practice was pretty uneventful. I took it really easy the first few sessions trying to get a feel for the new motor. It was a great feeling. The engine had a great harsh growl to it. KC had worked some magic on the stock motor and the compression was definitely up, and not only could you hear it, you could feel it when you stood behind the bike. The exhaust exiting the shorty muffler with a much higher velocity, and feeling like someone was slapping you in the face. Oh vroooom... Out on track the bike pulled hard out of the corners from 6000 rpm to 10k rpm, then it flattened it, and it was time to shift gears. It was faster for sure. I spent much of Friday trying to get my head around the new found speed. I was still trying to work on getting on the gas sooner coming out of the corners, and with the faster motor I was getting to the next corner more quickly. Now I had to figure out how to get into the corner with the same speed I had last month, but that's not such an easy thing. Friday night KC brought the trailer that is both hauler, home, and work shop when at the track. Kate came up and we got our little camp resettled, and we had a cold windy (again) dinner.

Saturday we only get 4 practice sessions, and I needed to pick up the pace. Again I tried being smooth getting off the brakes, and getting on the gas. There was a ton of traffic and I don't think I ever got a clean lap. I was lapping in the '52's which I thought was decent considering the slower riders I had to fight my way around. Mid day Jennifer from Werkstatt came by with some flyers she had made up to try and get some new customers into the shop. I was a little surprised to see that I was prominently featured on the cover of the flyer.


Back on track I was having a little issue when cracking the throttle open. The engine hesitated just a tiny bit, and bogged a little. KC plugged in his laptop to my bike, and made a change to the fuel map.
KC explaining what he's doing
He tried leaning out the fuel mixture a little in the lower RPM to see if that helped. I went out for some more laps to confirm it did not help. We plugged the laptop in and made some more changes which made the problem worse. More laptop and we went back to where we started.I spent a few moments trying to relax and clear my head then went out on track and did some warm up laps with the afternoon races. That little bit of focus really made a difference. I swear that one flying warm up lap was my fastest lap of the 2 days.

Me not buying it

Saturday night we hung out with some friends in the pits after we made our dinner, but it was just too windy and cold and we ended up hiding out in KC's trailer before heading to bed.

Iron Clad Balls
When we had a break at lunch Kate and I took the opportunity to share a joke we'd been working on for some time. Maybe some of my long term readers with remember the post Testicular Fortitude. Our Ducati racing friend Scott Miles had taught us that phrase, and for awhile Kate has been scheming a way to put it to good use. Well we decided that what we needed was some bottle TF. With the help of Kate's brother Mark, we came up with this.  Because what every racer needs is more balls.

More Balls required
I rode like ass in the Sunday morning warm up sessions. I knew I would need to find a mental breakthrough if I was going to stand a chance in the first race which was by the way the first race of the day so I didn't have much time.

Race 1 Forumla IV
I did a few practice starts in the hot pits to try to get a feel for the way the new motor would react. I lined up on the grid, made a plan, and focused on being ready. When the flag flew I got a great launch, but I totally chickened out after that. The buildup to the race weekend all caught up to me at that moment. Too much stress, not enough rest, and too much time in my own head left me lacking confidence and it showed going up the hill into turn 2. Whenever someone would show me a wheel I'd let them through. By the time we went through turn 5 I was probably in 12th, and had a 10-15  bike gap to the pack in front. I told myself not to worry, don't panic and do anything stupid. I had 8 laps to get it together, and they'd come back to me. That moment showed some real maturity. I guess after 8 years you do learn some things. As we got into the braking zone for turn 7 I made up half the distance, another half of that braking into 9, and right on their tails braking into 11. However the real excitement wouldn't come for another half of a lap. For whatever reason the AFM started the 250 Superbike class in front of us again. 250SB is mostly made up of 250cc Ninjas which are about 1/3 as fast as our bikes, and it took us  1 1/2 laps to catch them. The next 6 laps would be a game of traffic. Going into turn 10 I made a mistake judging where to pass one of the slower bikes, and I got hung up, and 3-4 bikes got by me. I shook my head and vowed that wouldn't happen again. In fact I told myself that as I chased down the bikes in front of me, if they passed a lapper I would too.  No matter how late I had to brake, no matter what line I had to take, I wasn't going to let them get away. I don't think I knocked anybody into the dirt but I know I made some scary close and tight passes while trying to keep my adversaries in site. My buddy Robin had made a great pass on me coming down the hill out of 8a, and I returned the favor going into T1. I honestly didn't mean to pass him there, but he got hung up by a slower rider so I forced the issue, and cut under both of them. It was frantic and scary diving bombing the Ninjette's. I really hope the AFM figures something out and puts the little bikes either in their own race or at least behind us. I ended up finishing 9th which was no where near where I wanted to be, but considering the carnage on track I was happy to finish at all.

In between races I tried to chill out and turn my focus inward. I needed to find some more confidence. I really needed to stop over thinking everything, and just ride. I put my head phones in and listened to some chill music transporting my mind away from racing motorcycles. At one point I looked up and saw KC's apprentice Billy cleaning the bugs off my bike. For some reason I couldn't look at him.

Race 2 650 Twins 
I was much more focused and looser this time around. When the green flag flew I got a good launch, and didn't chicken out, as much. I went through T2 in roughly 8th place. I tried to stay with the front group, but I just didn't have the pace. I put my head down, and tried to run clean laps and not make a bunch of mistakes.
At some point T2 had a debris flag flying, and I didn't see any debris so I stayed on my normal line, and when I gassed out of the turn my rear wheel started to come around. I don't know if there was something on the track or not, or if the terrible wind had caught me out, but I was definitely crashing,. Luckily I was falling to the right, and I pushed hard on my right knee and started to stand the bike up while staying on the gas. The rear wheel dug in, and we were off. Woo-Hoo. That was fun. On the last lap I was getting tired, and while trying to hold a tight defensive line through T4 I got on the gas too early and had a big slide which slowed me way down. I thought I was safe but going through T5 Scott Reavy #555 came through, and then nearly crashed trying to get slowed down into the T6 Carousel. I probably could have come back under him, and if we were fighting for a podium spot i would have, but I couldn't say for sure Scott knew  I was there and didn't want to end the weekend in the crash truck so I let him have it. I figured I'd take a shot at him either in T7 or T9 on the brakes but I wasn't close enough any of those times.

I ran a best time in the last race of 1:50.4. Tying my best time from last month. It seems like kind of a disappointment, but truth is with the wind being so bad I couldn't even shift into 6th gear going down the back straight I had to figure I would have done 49's easy. Some things were learned, and the bike will go back to BRG for some more tuning to try to get it to rev all the way to 11k rpm, and maybe pick up a couple more HP.

Why do I title this post Humbling? Because I felt so humbled to be so well taken care of. Whether it's Kate feeding me, taking the tire warmers off, of prepping the bed at night, or Jennifer making flyers for her shop with me on the cover, or KC tuning my bike at the track or his apprentice cleaning my bike up. There are so many people that have reached out to me this season and are helping in so many ways. Sponsors, friends, everyone. There have been so many people that I feel very humbled to be so well taken care of. Now lets pick up the pace a little and deserve some of that care.

Here's a few more pics from the weekend.

Gerry Piazza stops by
Ugly Doll keeps an eye out

Frozen Ducky
Shiny Balls


Leading the back pack

Thanks to the people that help me go faster.
Jennifer at Werkstatt Motorcycle Repair
Dave Moss of Catalyst Reaction
Michelin and Alex of AFMotorsports
Julio from Tommy's
Paul Fine of Fine Design