Friday, July 12, 2013

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


The Kids Cafe said...

Good to see you are back at it, Mick!

Steve of SFMC said...

Great write up Mickey, enjoyed reading it very much and cool video. Thanks.