Sunday, January 1, 2017

It's a New Year, but "the Struggle is Real"

Usually I do a pretty good job of keeping my head up and not feeling too sorry for myself...let's face it, wallowing never got anyone anywhere. This morning, however, I'll admit to not feeling quite as upbeat as I normally would be. You see, I HAD some fun plans in store for this New Year, primarily heading out of state for a shin dig with a bunch of my racing buddies. Instead, I sat at home, mostly alone (save for my freshly divorced roommate), and didn't even make it past 10pm.

Friday, Dec 30th, I went in for the second round of surgery on my leg. The Doc got everything plated and I lost the erector set, but needless to say, either way, any New Year's plans were shot in the ass. No way I was going to manage going out - or doing anything for that matter - on a leg that I can't leave unelevated for more than an hour at this point, and an hour was probably going to be pushing it.

Yes it's one night. I know, that, in the grand scheme of things, it won't matter. I am, however, finding Facebook and other social media a bit depressing at the moment, especially since I know this one night is going to drag out to weeks and likely months. It's been almost a full month since it happened, and I'm just now put into a place where I can focus on healing. Winter plans of travels and dirt biking - gone. Any serious winter training - gone. Fun in my down time - gone.

Despite all of this, and this moment of self-pity (yes, I'm allowing myself that indulgence this morning), I'm not going to just sit here and wait for things to heal. I am doing everything I can to give myself the best possible results, no matter how long that may take. I still don't have best and worst case scenarios, but I'll do everything in my power to push towards best case. I've got some workouts that I can do on the couch and in the house to at least keep the rest of my body fit and lose as little as possible in that regard. Supplements and staying active are top priorities as much as my leg is okay with me doing.

I can already tell that PT (when I even get to that point) is going to suck. Right now I'm in a cast from my toes to just below my knee, and I can barely even do so much as wiggle my toes. I can feel everything in there stiffening up by the minute. But I'll wiggle those damn toes as best I can lol.

In two weeks when I have my follow up appointment and they get some fresh x-rays of where I'm at I'll probably have a better idea on what I'm looking at as far as recovery timeframes. Thankfully he was able to fix the fibula on the first surgery, as that one will probably take longer to heal since it had multiple breaks and a floating piece that needs to reattach, by the time of my followup, that will have had a good month to get started. Unfortunately, my own research has revealed that multiple breaks in the same bone can be a PITA to heal - the body will heal one of the breaks really well, and then seems to "forget" about the other. Unfortunately, I don't know how much control, if any, I have over helping prevent that. I'm hoping staying active as much as I can will keep things "reminded" of where they should be.My tibia will have only had two weeks to get going, but while the bigger bone, it was a cleaner break. Hopefully things will be going well enough that we can start some PT to prevent as much stiffness as possible.

His biggest concern is soft tissue damage from the tibia in the ankle cartilage. I KNOW that will suck in PT, but I'm prepared to deal with it and keep things headed in the right direction. It's not my first time dealing with injuries, a lifetime of horses followed by motorcycles and growing up on a farm as the proverbial tomboy, I know what to expect on some level, and I'm ready to take it on and get back out there as soon as I can.

Besides, I've got a beautiful new bike sitting there that I've started to order parts for and I can't wait to actually sit on it once it's ready!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Winter Set-Back

    Knowing that I had a lot of work in front of me in order to learn to ride the bigger bike, I had made plans to attend some of the Ken Hill Dirt Days. They are training classes designed for road racers, using the same terminology and principles in a (supposedly) lower risk environment. Despite never having ridden a dirt bike, I was looking forward to the weekend and knew I would leave having learned a ton.

     I arrived Saturday morning excited to get educated from the best. The first couple sessions were really a struggle for me in terms of trying to get used to being on a dirt bike. The adjustment was not coming easily and I was feeling slow. Advice on how to ride the machine was incoming, and then finally I made a connection that worked for me - it was like riding a barrel horse. All of a sudden I was starting to "get it" and riding the bike wasn't so difficult and my speed was increasing because of that. 

   As fate would have it, however, that session would change the entire outlook on my winter. I was coming into a corner, sliding a bit, but I was still in a position to save my bike from a crash. That didn't work so well, however, when another rider decided to try to pass me on the outside right then and hit my bike. The combination of holding my own bike up, then his bike pushing against me and perhaps my foot finding a rut or something in the dirt, and down I went. I heard and felt a distinct "pop" in my ankle of my left (inside) leg. The crash was pretty uneventful otherwise, and I tried to get up - um, leg wasn't having it. By this time another rider had stopped to help me, and I attempted to see if I could limp off - nope, that was NOT going to happen. 

     The owner of the property is an EMT and provided first aid at the time, putting a pillow splint on the leg. Another friend agreed to take me to the hospital, and off to the ER we went. Xrays showed that my leg had broken, and actually pretty badly. The on-call ortho who looked at the xrays didn't seem too worried, so I was splinted and sent home to contact a local orthopedist.

    I got in Monday with a local doc - and he was NOT happy I had been sent home. To his eyes, it should have been fixed then and there, not left to sit. By this time, however, the swelling had set in and we needed to wait a bit to begin fixing things. His prediction was that it was not going to be an overnight fix, and I'd be dealing with it for awhile - okay, I can accept that, as long as I can get mended enough to ride - so I knew that a big part of things would be my determination to make sure I was doing everything to help my body heal as quickly as possible.

Pre-splint x ray
      Surgery was scheduled for a week and a half after the initial break. The ortho was primarily concerned with soft tissue damage. As it turns out, apparently there was a fair bit of damage, so repairs were going to have to go in phases. Phase one he plated the fibula and put an x-brace on in order to allow the soft tissue a chance to heal. Surgery round 2 is scheduled for about 2 1/2 weeks after round 1.

The erector set....
      At this point, I need to stay focused on healing - there's a combination of giving things time to rest and heal, but the best recoveries I hear of are when the person stays more, i will listen to my body, but on the flip side of that, I do not want to lose any more than I absolutely must. There are plenty of things I can do to remain as fit as possible, so once my leg is telling me it's okay, I'll be doing what I can without it.

     Right now, recovery rates are a bit up in the air - but I know I'm determined to get through this as best and as quickly as I can, so stay tuned for more updates as we see how things do (or do not) progress.

Introducing the New Ride

     After my decision to move on to a new bike, the fun part of actually getting said bike was the next thing to do! I looked into a couple dealerships in hopes of finding one I could partner with as a sponsor. I had a personal reference to Roseville Yamaha Kawasaki, and I met with the sales manager, Ali, who seemed open to a sponsorship arrangement. After careful consideration, I felt like Ali and the team there were more behind supporting the sport, and I appreciated the straight forward and honest dealings, so I decided to partner with Roseville and ordered my bike through them.

     I decided to go ahead and go with the bike I really wanted - while I technically could have saved a little bit with a barely used or on the floor bike, if I was going to take the plunge, I wanted to get the bike I really wanted. While the bike will go straight to track, that doesn't mean it would never see the street again, and either way, I wanted the white tank and the silver and green I put in an order for a 2017 ZX10R in the white livery. In an effort to get the bike sooner rather than later, so I'd have time to get it set up, I decided to go ahead and finance the bike. This allowed me to pick it up significantly sooner so we'd have more time to get it set up.

    The call came in sooner than expected - my bike was there and ready to be picked up! I excitedly headed up to Roseville Yamaha Kawasaki to pick up the bike. It was beautiful as expected. We finished up the paperwork, took a couple pictures, and loaded it up. I was beyond excited, to the point of barely containing it.

At Roseville Yamaha Kawasaki with the new beast!

OMG it's really mine!
      After saying good bye to Ali and the rest of the crew at Roseville I headed right over to DareDevil Motorsports. Jesus and Damion are also sponsoring me this year, offering me a mechanical and pit sponsorship, something I've yet to have help with. DareDevil will be setting the bike up for/with me, and having their help is great as they've already set up a few of these bikes and are familiar with them. We unloaded the bike, and I decided I should take it for at least one little spin down the road and back since they were willing to wait for me. 

So new!!
      I borrowed a jacket, I had brought my helmet and a pair of gloves in case, and took it down the road. I didn't go particularly far, but took a bit to get a feel for the raw power the bike has. It's an amazing machine, and brand new out of the box that bike wants to go somewhere when you twist that throttle. It's a beast as it is, none the less once we get it set up!

Squid Central!
      The bike is amazing, and I really can't wait to get on it "for real" and start learning to ride the bigger bike and get in tune with the bike. I've got my work cut out for me in order to be ready to race this thing by spring, but having it in hand is providing a special level of motivation!

Last day as a street machine

Friday, November 18, 2016

2017 Preparations Underway!

In true "no rest for the weary" fashion, the 2016 AFM season had barely wrapped up and I was already having to move forward with 2017 plans. A few decisions were made by the end of the year, the big ones being that I was going to be moving up to Expert, and also finding a new bike, most likely the 2016/2017 Kawasaki ZX10R. It was time to start pursuing sponsorships and lining up who I'd be working with going forward.

As my racing has continued, and as my goals have begun to grow, I've continued to focus in my sponsorships. Of course, there were some products and companies that have been great already, and who's stuff I would use regardless of sponsorship. There was also the desire/need for some additional help in areas that, before, weren't really a problem, primarily the bike and getting the bike set up. This was also going to increase my expenses, so anything along that line would be huge as well. 

All that being said, I'm one of those people who really, REALLY values my sponsors. I feel like representing them is another part time job, both on and off the track, online, in forums, etc - and I don't just mean a signature line or a hash mark. So, off to find sponsors who I could benefit as much or more than what I would benefit from their help. I need to believe in their products and services - for me, having that personal connection to what they have is HUGE, and I know that translates when I refer people to them - I'm not selling out of a requirement, it's because I truly believe it. 

Thus far, things are moving along rather nicely, and I'm really excited about some of the partnerships I've been able to line for the coming year. In addition to already renewing a couple of long-standing sponsors, I've also locked in some major help with the mechanical and support side of things, and have a verbally accepted offer on some help with the bike. I'm excited for the coming year, and look forward to working with some great companies, some new, some old, but all amazing products and services that I'm stoked to be representing!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

AFM Round 7, 2016 Race Report and Season Wrap-Up

The season finale of the 2016 AFM race season was taking place at Buttonwillow Raceway. I came into this weekend knowing I had made a lot of progress over the year, and that the front runners (in a year with some crazy fast novices) were just outside of my reach – maybe not 1st or 2nd, but a podium finish was within my grasp in something other than my Legacy class. I wanted to have that finish badly, since it would be my last shot at it before moving up to Expert where I’ll be unlikely to see much of anything for quite some time…

I headed down Thursday afternoon so I could arrive and get settled in before traffic and so I’d be relaxed going into the weekend. I wanted to do part of the test day on Friday just to work on lines and technique, which is exactly what I did. There wasn’t a transmitter out, so I had no idea on my laptimes, but that was okay since I wanted to stay focused on proper technique. I chose not to put my own transmitter for that reason. The day went well with no incidents, and the evening provided a fair bit of entertainment as everyone hung out once again.

Saturday dawned with sunny skies and a promise of a good day. Practices went well, and per my usual, my times were far from amazing, but I was doing exactly what I thought I was, so my perception of my efforts versus my laptimes was spot on (compared to the past where I would think I was going way faster than I was).

Being that it was the last round of the year, however, I wanted to have a little fun in my races, too, so I signed up for AFemme instead of my usual Clubman Mid. I wasn’t contending for any special placing in Clubman, so decided I wanted to go race with the girls instead. There was only one other novice who was on a 250, so I knew my “competition” was going to be with the expert girls. I had my eyes set on Valentine who’s gotten pretty fast the past couple years. I wasn’t sure I could keep up, but I was going to give it that good old high school try. As we gridded up I eye balled the gals in front of me – I knew my starts would help, and just might give me a chance to chase Valentine for awhile. We got a green flag, and I saw Jennifer end up with a wheelie and a rough start which gave me the chance to get in front of her on her liter bike which I knew would be difficult to pass otherwise. Valentine took off, and while she was putting some ground between us, I was keeping her in sight until we started hitting lap traffic. She got through traffic a little better than I did and eventually I lost sight of her. I managed to hold that position, however, and came in 2nd overall, technically 1st in my class, but that wasn’t the race I was racing.

That concluded my Saturday, and we got ready for Sunday. My times got down to the 1:57s, and I knew there was more to be had. I wanted to see a minimum of getting into the 56’s, ideally down into the 55’s. Saturday night was the typical fun, party, hang out, eat, talk shit that we always do, and I enjoyed the evening with friends who I may not see for several months.

Sunday came with another beautiful day, and we got ready to go. Quick practice session to warm things up, then make sure I was ready for my morning races. First up was 750 Production. Not a race I’m a top finisher, but I’ve been doing better, so looked forward to dicing it up with some friends. We headed out, and gridded up. My start was fine and we took off into turn 1 with a little bit of action the first few corners. The race went on, and I had a good time chasing some guys down and trying to keep others behind me. I finished the race in 6th place, and made my first goal of the weekend, getting down to a 1:56.2. I was stoked to see it that low, because I knew a 55 was within grasp.

I had two races between that and my next one, 600 Production. This was one of the races where I felt I had a legitimate chance at making a podium – it would be work, and I couldn’t let the leaders get away, but it could happen. I headed out with a decent enough grid spot, and we launched. I hit neutral, allowing a couple bikes past me, but I re-passed them in turn 1. The front 3 were in striking distance, and I was determined to hang with them. Problem was, my “determination” was overriding my focus on technique, and a couple small mistakes in the first couple corners were the red flags I ignored. They were tiny, but there none the less. I was too focused on catching the guys in front and not letting them get away. This caused me to overcook my entry to the “Bus Stop” and then I combined that with fixating on the edge of the track rather than my exit, and ended up asking too much of the front tire, causing me to tuck the front. I slid then tumbled for what felt like forever, eventually coming to rest in a cloud of dust. Picked myself up, and headed over to the turn worker station, and eventually over to where they had moved my bike while I waiting until the end of the following race so I could roll the bike in and get to work on it.

Thankfully damage to the bike was pretty minor – it needed a new bar, footpeg, and my starter/kill switch was toast, but otherwise it was in pretty good shape. I was functional, with a hunk of the inside of a finger ground off and some bruises, but nothing that I couldn’t work around. My friends were amazing and rallied together to help get the bike sorted out while I addressed my wounds. They helped me find parts, get them installed, back through tech and ready to roll again over their lunch break. They were all amazing.

I decided to skip rushing out to my Formula 1 race since I hadn’t really had a chance to breathe since my crash and I wanted to give the bike one last go-over before trying to race it. My Legacy Middleweight race was right after Formula 1 and I really wanted to get out for that, even if all I did was finish, which would allow me to at least hold on to my current placing in the championship. 
I wasn’t sure about trying to shoot for another 2nd place finish, but was going to play that by ear. Main thing was going to be just getting all my fundamentals right. Race was called and I headed out. Bike seemed okay, but there were a couple things I could tell right off the bat. First, my clutch adjustment was way off. Secondly, my quick shifter was being temperamental. Oh well, neither of these were reasons not to ride, but once the green flag dropped, I could tell they were messing me up. The clutch was screwing up my already problematic downshifts, and the quickshifter being moody meant sometimes it worked, then wouldn’t, then I’d have to shift without using it. Sam and another rider took off, and I just sat back and focused on fundamentals, getting through the race to the checkered. I finished in 4th with a 2:00.5 laptime – significantly slower, but I finished.

I came in from that, adjusted my clutch back, and then reconnected my quickshifter, and headed down for my final race of the year a bit early so I could make a couple runs up and down the hot pits to be sure of what I’d be dealing with in the race. Things seemed back to normal, so we headed out for 600 Superbike. I decided this race I wanted to get back on the horse again – not pushing my limits, but not settling for just chilling out there, either. The race launched, and I had a few bikes I was battling with throughout the race. I finished the race in 8th, with a very comfortable ride, back down to the 1:58.3 range, without feeling like I was “pushing” but not putzing around, either.

That wrapped up my 2016 season. I took some serious time off my laptimes from the previous year, and saw improvements every round since Round 2. There’s been some amazing help along the way, besides all of the outstanding support from my sponsors, Ken Hill’s advice has been priceless as well. My final standings in my races are thus:
Novice Legacy Middleweight: 3rd of 14
Novice 750 Production: 5th of 22
Novice 600 Production: 8th of 45
Novice 600 Superbike: 8th of 35
Clubman Middleweight: 8th of 53
Novice Formula 1: 12th of 37
Novice AFemme: 3rd of 6 (which is sad since I only raced it once!)

Top 10 in nearly all of my classes, in what is probably one of the fastest groups of novices the AFM has seen. I can’t complain about my final novice year and everything I’ve learned and accomplished. I’ve learned a lot about how to ride a motorcycle. There’s still a lot of refinement and skill building to go, but the progress this year has been massive.

For 2017 my intentions are to change things up a bit. I’ve more than met all of my goals on my current bike, in fact, blew most of them out of the water. Therefore, my plans over the winter are to go buy the modern bike I’ve wanted to race right along, so am looking at picking up a new ZX10R for the 2017 season. I’ve already signed up to move up to Expert next year as well. Sure, I could hang back as a novice, but my long term goals require that I keep pushing myself to that next level, and I feel this is the way to do it. I’m not racing to collect plastic trophies against other yellow plates. Someday I want to be competing against the fastest guys on the grid, so making the leap now to keep pushing myself. I may be happy with “not last” next year, but I’ll have a realistic measurement of just where I stand in one of the fastest clubs in the US!

To all of my amazing sponsors: THANK YOU for a terrific year! The season finished strong, and I’m content with what I’ve accomplished, with my eyes set on the next goal. Your support has been beyond amazing, and I certainly hope that you’ve felt that it has been worthwhile as well! Thank you for a great 2016, and I look forward to working with you again in 2017!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

AFM Round 6, 2016 – Thunderhill Raceway #302 Race Report

Typically this time of year we’re not really having to worry too much about the weather, but it’s getting close enough to winter that I tend to start keeping an eye on it, especially if there’s something important coming – you know, like a race weekend! So, early in the week, I started keeping an eye on the weather – since I had just been down at Buttonwillow (where it had been hella hot), I was wondering if I’d need to stock up on my Skratch Labs for the race weekend. Much to my dismay, instead of hot, the forecast for the weekend instead was showing a high chance of rain and very cool. WTH?!?

I kept on following the forecast daily, sometimes hourly – it seemed to be trending to lighter chances of rain, but it wasn’t pulled off, either. Close enough that it was still going to be worth heading up – I already had the pet sitter arranged, and was committed to helping out at a track day on the following Monday, so I packed up with a little extra prep in case we did get wet. I arrived Friday night, got all set up, and then headed to bed to get some sleep for Saturday.

Saturday dawned rather clear and bright – the forecast for Sunday, however, still wasn’t that great, so race direction made the call to try to fit a few of the Sunday races into Saturday and go a little late that day. That would mean I’d be race 1 on Sunday, but hopefully that would build enough extra time into the schedule where, if it did rain, we’d still be okay. We proceeded to Saturday practices, and I went out for a couple sessions. My sister had driven down to spend the weekend with me, so it was pretty awesome to have her help in the pits as well.

My times in practice were typically slow – while I sometime feel like I’m pushing, my times always say otherwise. I basically was hoping/figuring that I’d probably do my typical dropping several seconds (or more) once I was in a race. I got ready for my one Saturday race, Clubman Middleweight, and was feeling pretty good. The temperature had stayed cool, and grip, while there, just didn’t quite seem like it normally does, either. Eventually Clubman Middleweight was called, and I headed out for the first race of the weekend.

We gridded up, and I had a good start – right until I hit neutral when I went to up shift. Ugh. Grabbed second and got into the race. For once, the front of the group was out in front of me – and in sight.  One of my friends, Myron, and I were duking it out for our placing. Towards the last couple laps it seemed like Myron started to tire, so I took that and managed a pass that I was able to hold. I completed the race with my best finish in that class, 4th of 17 riders with a best time of 1:58.3.

That evening was the usual hanging out with friends, but I was getting tired, so ended up heading to bed before 10pm like an old lady lol. I got a great night’s sleep, and was definitely ready to tackle the races. We headed out for our practices, and things were looking a little dreary – near the end of practice, as calls began for our race, the precipitation started. We waited awhile for the rain to clear, but thankfully there was enough time saved on Saturday that things were still looking good for being able to complete the day. Eventually the rain subsided, but things were definitely wet after that – so, to help dry out the track, they invited people to jump in their cars and drive around the track to help put some heat and exhaust on it to evaporate the water faster. This worked well, and pretty soon it was dry enough to get going again. The first race was now going to be 600 Superbike, not a race I could be that competitive in, but still a fun class to run. We headed out to a rather chill track, but it was dry, so it shouldn’t be too bad. My start was okay, and again I had a few people to chase and battle with. Myron and I were once again duking it out, and towards the very end of the race we came up on another rider who had faded during the race. Myron managed to sneak around him, and while I was close, I wasn’t going to close the gap on the straight, so ended up finishing in 5th out of 14 bikes, with a 1:59.9.

The next races headed out, but the rain decided to fall again, and they red flagged one of the races. This didn’t last too long, and things dried out quickly, so they went ahead and  began the process of calling the race again. Races resumed, and I got ready for my next race, Formula 1.

While this was one of my favorite races last year, it was one I still enjoyed, but not a favorite this year for some reason. Either way, it was one I was running, so we gridded up. There’s usually a heavier grid here, so starts are usually a little more interesting. With all the bigger bikes in here I’m not that competitive, but I still had a couple friends I was trying to either catch or keep behind me! I crossed the finish line in 7th of 19 with a 1:59.6.

Normally, we would have another race and lunch after that, leaving me time to swap my rear tire so I could have a fresh one on for my championship fight race, Legacy Middleweight, but due to the revised rain-avoiding schedule, lunch was getting moved and shortened – so I only had one race between these two. This also meant almost no time to relax. I had been tearing my tire in Formula 1, so I tried adjusting my pressures a bit to see if I could find a happier place with the cool track temps. Calls came quickly, and off I went again for Legacy.

This race is always fun for me, because even if I can’t manage to get up to Steve Habura who’s riding the hell out of his 750, there’s always Sam or an expert or two to fight it out to the finish with, and this race didn’t disappoint. I was basically fighting back and forth with Jose Sandoval, an expert, and while our battles do nothing for either of our placing, it’s still fun for me anyways. I had managed to pass him, but a false neutral going into turn 9, that got really interesting when it caught, gave him a chance to get back by. I managed to keep it on the pavement (barely), and then I tried to get back past him, but couldn’t manage it before the checkered. I finished the race in 2nd of 6 with a 1:59.1.

Now I had a little bit of a break. Between lunch, Formula Pacific, and another two races, there was time to eat, change my tire, and relax. Time moved on, however, and it was time to head back out for 600 Production. Unfortunately, I just wasn’t feeling it this race. I was feeling tired and worn out – and while it was hitting me earlier than normal, due to the revised morning schedule, even though I got to relax before this, I had barely had any time to catch my breath all morning. Apparently this worked against me, and I just felt tired the entire race. I attempted to chase Myron down again, but he was putting down nice times, and I just couldn’t seem to get it out of myself, and I finished the race in 5th of 15 with a 2:00.0, my worst of the weekend.

I only had one race between that and my next one, but I wanted to finish the day strong. Being that the final race was 750 Production, I know I’m unlikely to be too close to the front, but it’s still a lot of the same people I’m racing, so I knew I could do better than I had in the previous race. I decided to dig deep, and put it out there. We gridded up, and I again had an okay start, and got to fight it out with a few other riders. When the crossed flags came out I had to dig deeper, convincing myself that I could squeeze out two more laps – that’s all that was left. My day was done after two laps, so I could manage those. This paid off, and I finished the race in 4th of 9, getting back down to a 1:58.8.

I was exhausted after that, and was rather happy I didn’t have to drive all the way back home that night. I simply moved my stuff to where I would be pitting the next day, showered, and met up with my friends to head to dinner and drinks to celebrate another race weekend, heading home in the same number of pieces we arrived in!