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.