It’s interesting where life takes us sometimes, and how those places and things make other things start to come together. After wrapping up the previous CMRA race round, I knew my fitness, which I had already started (but barely) to work on improving was a major hang up. With a few weeks between rounds, it was going to give me a chance to kick my own butt and see if I could make a noticeable difference in that department. With close-together rounds, however, I knew the differences would be minimal, but doesn’t mean they can’t be noticeable.
It’s a bit interesting being one of only a few women out there who is racing a “big” bike. I only know of less than a half dozen who have tried it in the time I’ve been racing. Some were relatively successful, some are still fighting through it and working to improve, some moved back to a bike they got along better with. In the CMRA grid, I am the only female on a big bike – mind you, not the fastest girl out here (yet, lol), but the only one on a “big” bike. For me this ends up meaning that resources for information and tips/tricks specific to the struggles a woman faces on one of these beasts is extremely limited to non-existent.
I stuck to my training and eating plan really well, and there were measurable differences – the weight started to come off my middle and started to go up in the “iron” department. Cardio sessions started to get a little longer and the intensity was able to be bumped up. Granted, with such a short time in there the losses and gains weren’t huge, but as it turns out, it was enough to make a difference.
With a track day going CCW at MSR Cresson the Sunday before the races, I chose to skip the Friday practice (because, money) and focus on my races. During the track day my best lap was a mid-high 1:27. Realistically, best case scenario, I figured I’d be lucky to get into the 1:24’s during the races. Laptimes in both directions are pretty similar, so that would be a 1-2 second drop from the previous round, and 3 seconds off my track day pace, which seemed like a solid (but still reasonable) goal.
I got set up Friday afternoon and made sure I was well prepared for Saturday. Some fresh tires and I was ready to roll. I headed out for my first practice session and was feeling pretty stiff. It took me most of the session just to get warmed up and my head in the game, still a second off my track day times. The next session went a bit better and I rolled in a second faster than my track day times. Okay, good, the race was looking positive and my goals were within reach.
My only race on Saturday is A Superstock. I enjoy this race, and we rolled out for what I was hoping would be a good battle with some other riders. I had a decent start and was in the mix of things through the first corner – then, coming in to the first part of “Rattlesnake,” I basically get my proverbial doors blown off. That entry, eventually followed by the entry into “Little Bend,” and I was just listening to the zooms of everyone passing me. I still did my best to fight back and hold off a few people and was coming around for what should have been my white flag lap – and the starter pulled the checkered on me. I wasn’t sure if one of the really fast guys was up my tail pipe or what the deal was, so I puttered around the last lap, figuring anyone behind me definitely got the checkered. Unbeknownest to me, we apparently weren’t given a cool down lap, and the guy behind me followed me around that last lap and because I thought I wasn’t racing anymore, I was just cooling down – so if the actual results didn’t take the checkered when it was thrown, I probably shot myself in the foot as I forgot to go look at the results before leaving for the day.
Despite all of that, my times progressed quite nicely, and I made it into the high 1:24s, so I really looked forward to reviewing video that night and seeing if I could shave some more time off that. We sat down and did just that, and I got some good advice on things I needed to do with this bike to really clean up some of my problem areas. I had a big focus on those two corners in particular since that’s really where I was getting smoked. With that information to chew on, I tucked in for a good night’s sleep.
Sunday promised sun and warmth, and I headed out for the second practice session. My times weren’t great, but I was okay enough with it to feel ready for my first race, A Superbike. We gridded up and my start was on point. I very quickly noticed that the changes I was working on were paying off – while a significantly faster rider here and there would make a good pass in those corners, unlike the previous day, it wasn’t a herd of bikes passing me every time. In fact, as the race went on, I actually managed to pass a couple other riders. My confidence was growing, and I was getting more and more comfortable with the things I was changing.
This race proved to be a bit of a “big bike” milestone for me as I finally left the “back marker” group and crept up to the tail of the “middle pack” group – not a place I have been since getting on the ZX10R. I also came in to find I had dropped another second and a half, getting down to a 1:23.4, and consistently being in the 23’s and 24’s most of the race.
After this it was a long break before my last race, the F40 Heavyweight. I got my rear tire flipped, and then went after food. I was pretty hungry and rather than listening to my good sense, instead wolfed down a full meal and then some. My hunger subsided but returning to the track I realized that a very full tummy was not going to be doing me any favors when I suited up for my race. Add in the fact that the heat was kicking up, and I was not in a great place. I was still determined to not put in an embarrassing race, so did my best to get my head in the game and prepare for our grid.
I had an inside grid spot, and while my start was decent I got held up coming in to the first turn as everyone else was swarming towards the inside of the corner. I held my spot but couldn’t make up much ground. I fought off a few riders, and worked to chase down a couple others, but my lack of fitness combined with that heavy lunch sitting in my gut and I just wasn’t doing what I really wanted to. I was consistently in the low 1:25s, and dipped back into the 1:24s, but wasn’t going to be setting a new PB this race.
Overall, however, the weekend was a total success in my mind. Moving up to the next “group” was a big accomplishment for me, and I was able to tweak my riding partway through the weekend to make some changes that will pay off in upcoming races. My confidence in my bike is growing in leaps and bounds, and I’m starting to figure out what that twisty thing on the right does, and how better to use it. Thankfully my riding skills are tuned enough where I can make these changes and see the immediate results, and the confidence thing is absolutely priceless for me right now. Actually getting back to passing some other riders (in my own class) rather than always being the one getting passed, had a surprising effect on my mental state as well.
I can’t thank all of my wonderful sponsors and their products and services enough for all of the assistance and hanging with me through some rough years. The ongoing support from friends both near and far – well, there’s no way to put a dollar amount on that, and the help people have provided - be it advice, support, or simply a cheer - has meant way more than I can express.
There are a few weeks until the next CMRA round, and in the meantime, I will be doing my homework, hitting the gym, and keeping up my off-track training to be sure the next round keeps this momentum going.