Going into this weekend my life had been fairly rushed, but, for the most part, things were clicking in to place and I felt ready to head out for what was looking like a rather warm weekend up at Thunderhill. This was going to be my first time riding the bike without some medical thing causing concerns – no fresh surgeries, no PICC line, no crazy med schedule. My leg wasn’t giving me any major issues, so that excuse was finally no longer valid.
On Friday, Pacific Track Time had a trackday, which a number of racers were making use of. All morning I handled the C group as I usually do, with plans to head out to some faster groups in the afternoon. I went out for the B group after lunch, and traffic was fairly light in that group, so decided to just stick with that. I was feeling out the respring on the bike’s suspension, and was very happy with the improvements, but now my brain needed to catch up. Since I had gotten the bike I hadn’t been very confident on the brakes, and now it was pretty obvious why, but I had already programmed myself not to trust what it could do. Oh boy, fix a problem with the bike, find a problem with me.
The heat was adding to the day, and I didn’t want to wear myself out for the upcoming weekend, so I wasn’t out setting any new records on Friday. I set up for the weekend, had some dinner with friends, then headed back to where I was staying to try to get a good night’s sleep.
Saturday dawned bright and promised to get nice and toasty. My teammate had arrived, and we got set up for the day. Due to the heat and my lack of fitness, I planned to only do two practice sessions in an effort to keep some energy in reserve for my AFemme race that afternoon. I was also going to be racing on take off tires I had picked up at Laguna, but they were in good shape, so I wasn’t too worried. My couple practice sessions went fine, and while I was still going way slower than I should be, I was feeling better on the bike, but something was still missing. I realized I wanted more feedback from the tires, and thought that, perhaps, the TC was being a bit too intrusive, so I moved it to the lowest setting and headed out for my race.
I was wanting to pull another win out of this, but my practice times were showing that my pace just wasn’t where it would need to be to make that an “easy” thing to do. Jennifer and I had been running very similar paces at the last round, and I figured she’d be right there this weekend too, but I hoped some of the changes would work to my advantage and I’d find something I was missing. Instead, I fubared my start by getting a nice wheelie. The only good thing is that the bike does have wheelie control, so it didn’t loop despite my desperate clinging to it. Since it wasn’t coming over, I just hung on, kept it moving, and (it had to be amusing to watch) spun my feet in attempts to get them back on the footpegs since I was nearly sitting on the tail of the bike.
That start let Jen hold her front position, and off we went. There were a couple sections where I was stronger than her, and I was able to make up a fair bit of ground on her in those sections, but they were areas where passing would be sketchier, so I was hoping to hang long enough to make a pass in a better spot. She was stronger in those places, however, so she managed to hold her lead for the race, leaving me holding Daniella off to keep 2nd place. Since Valentine didn’t make this round, at this point that will bump me up to 2nd for the championship.
That wrapped up our Saturday, and I wanted to hit Sunday with some ambition. I was much happier having more feedback from the bike and tires with the TC turned down, and I was starting to play around with some braking aspects since the respring had the bike responding much closer to what I would have expected.
Sunday dawned warm. Really warm. It was going to get HOT. I went out for my practice session just to turn on my brain and body. I planned to swap tires after that and as I was putting on the “new” tires, I noticed my front brake pads were nearly gone. Dang, that seemed pretty darn fast for a set of brake pads to disappear! I ran over to Hustle Hard Racing who had some Vesrah pads to use. I’ve never used Vesrah as they didn’t make pads for the 675, so when I went out for my Open GP race I was going to be dealing with getting used to a new type of pad. Oh well, that’s racing for you!
Open GP came up, and Jen also runs this class, so I knew I’d at least have someone to race against. I got a much better start this time, and was feeling better on the bike. My lack of fitness was proving to be a major issue, and I was just doing my best to manage my endurance even in these short races. Nearing the end I put my head down and put down my best lap of the weekend, but I knew Jen was right there with me. I knew where I was better than her, but all I could do was hope to put enough gap between us that she couldn’t manage a pass near the end which seems to be her MO. I couldn’t put enough space between us, and she managed the pass in turn 14 just before the checkered. I wasn’t going to make up the gap since I was really struggling with the 14/15 combo and she had a nice advantage getting onto the straight.
I didn’t have another race until the afternoon, so relaxed until it came time for my Open Superstock race. There was a small grid this weekend, so I was sitting on the second row. I had a decent start again, but pretty soon the field left me. In the Formula Pacific race just 2 races earlier, someone had blown oil from turn 14 through the start of turn 1….since it was getting rather hot and I was only racing against myself I ended up just playing around with a couple of the things I was trying out and not really worrying about times. This reflected in my race times, but I wanted to go home in one piece with an intact bike, which I did.
We packed up and headed home, sweaty, gritty, and worn out. The heat took a big toll on all of us, and while I felt like I managed my hydration/electrolytes well, my lack of fitness from not working out the past 8 months was taking a lot out of me. By the time I left the track I was dreading unloading at home, but thankfully that wasn’t too bad – probably helped it was about 30 degrees cooler there than it had been at the track!
Special thanks to all of my sponsors, and especially those who helped make this weekend happen. I’m not meeting my expectations for myself, but that being said, I gained a lot of confidence in the bike and my ability to ride it (with a bit more fitness needed). That is actually a huge thing for me, by the end of the weekend, I wasn’t really feeling intimidated by the bike at all – and that will go a long way towards my willingness to start pushing things a bit more again.
Special thanks this round to:
DareDevil Motorsports for getting this bike set up, and keeping up with all the little changes and adjustments we’re having to make, dealing with the phone calls, ordering, schedules, etc.
RiderzLaw for helping make the races happen and for the tires to run this weekend.
Ken Hill Coaching for the homework and specific things to work on so my time on track is productive.
Dunlop for the tires themselves.
BARF Racing for the support in so many areas, including some special photos by Oxymoron Photography that are coming soon.
Skratch Labs for keeping me well hydrated.
And of course to all my sponsors who help me make this happen: Roseville Yamaha-Kawasaki; Motion Pro; Woodcraft; Ace Custom Graphics; Pacific Track Time.