My year of living carefully, dangerously

OK, so it’s been a while since I’ve posted and shared, and I’m sorry about that.  Thought I’d do a little sharing here today, when I can make myself sit still at the computer.

Since December 15, 2013, I’ve done 17 track-days.  This November alone, I did 3 track-days, one of which coincided with a race school (my first of many, I hope).  These numbers should show you what niche I’ve settled in to…although I am by no means giving up the street (as many on the track pipe do)!

As some of you may remember, I started riding a motorcycle in late June/early July of 2013.  That’s a year and a half ago.  A few things I’ve learned about myself:  damn, am I a determined, overthinking stubborn ass!  Thanks to a wonderful crew of guys (one of whom is on Bama Rides too: Lostinbama), we’ve all helped each other help each other, on our path toward becoming racers and better sportbike riders.  We each have varying years of experience and different natures when attacking this extremely challenging sport, but we are all highly motivated and very determined to get there.

Anyways, more about me   I’m sure some of you know that I’m eager to learn, but I am no risk taker; I take things slow, always taking care not to push my mental and physical limits.  At the same time, my head is the one thing holding me back.

I have good mental days and bad mental days at the track, and more often, I have a day with good and bad sessions back to back.  Now what does that say about how much influence your head has on your riding??!!    More recently, I’ve had more good days than bad, or more good sessions than bad sessions, and at this last trackday, I learned that I can have a bad mental session and still do well lap time-wise, which means I’m getting faster.

Earlier in the year, I would write down a few tangible goals before each trackday, of things to work on to improve.  For example, I’d say “1. Get my head lower,” or “2. let off the throttle and brake later,” etc.  That stuff should be easy; just follow the instructions, right?  No.  Until I get my head straight, until I let most of the fears go, my mind will only let me go so fast.  I must work on my head first, and then I can work on those other things.  Since the realization of this (the crew may have had something to do with that epiphany), my goals have since changed before a trackday.  They are now to relax, have fun and trust my bike/tires.  Some of you naturals or those who’ve been riding since before you left the womb may think those goals are silly or too easy, but that is not the case for everyone.

The bump up

I got my bump from Novice to Intermediate after an evaluation by SportBike Track Time (“STT,” the track-day organizer) at Little Tally in July.  At that point, I had already purchased a Novice slot at Road Atlanta in August, but decided to stay in Novice because I had never been to that track…and thank God that I did!  I intimidated myself about the unfamiliar track.  People joke that it’s a few drag strips with some turns in between them, making for a fast track.  It has an extremely long back straight, (in which you can literally top out your bike), that ends in a 90* left turn.  The turns are mostly 90* and tight chicanes, unlike the sweeping curves of Barber.  In the first few sessions, I didn’t like it, and it showed in my pace.  Finally, the rain came!     Why was I so happy about this?  Well, me and one of the guys went out in this pouring rain (we were the only two to brave the track while it was raining) and cruised around the track at a no-pressure speed (as you can imagine).  I was finally able to see the track, instead of trying to fly through it.  It calmed my mind and my perceived “this is too fast!” diminished.  After that session, the track had mostly dried (love the South!) and I had two decent sessions: I felt good, looked good, and did well.  I’ll be forever grateful to the rain for salvaging my day at a track that I was ready to write-off.

I did my first track-day in Intermediate at Barber in late September, and damn was it 180* to the end of the Road Atlanta day in August.  I overwhelmed myself with the idea of now being the slow person in the faster group.  I was tense, and it showed.  I don’t like thinking about this day much…

Next up, Intermediate at Little Tally.  I don’t remember much from this day, so it wasn’t a standout, but I think I did OK, meaning I had some good and some bad sessions.

Then, Barber on October 19th.  I redeemed myself from the awful day back in September!  I was more relaxed, mentally and physically.  My times were more on par.  I had more good sessions than I had been having at previous track-days.

Three Track-days, one month

Now, November:  the month where I did three track-days at three different tracks, and one of them was a race school.
November 2nd:  Little Tally.  And it was a good day!  I had several good sessions, and my times were consistent, which is a good sign.

Then, November 9th.  I did the Jason DiSalvo Speed Academy (JDSA) at Road Atlanta.  When JDSA does a single-day school that coincides with a STT day, you have to have earned your Intermediate or Advanced bump.  As you can imagine, I was a little nervous about riding Intermediate there as my first and last day at Road Atlanta was in Novice, and I didn’t do well for much of it.  For the first session of the day, we did a lead-follow, where one or two of us at a time follow one of the JDSA control riders.  It was brisk that morning, and JDSA students were the only ones braving the cold track initially in that first session, so that forced us to take it slow and ease our tires up to temp.  I followed AMA Daytona Sportbike racer #21, Elena Meyers, and she is tough lol.  There were a couple times when I unknowningly deviated from her line, and she waved me back behind her.  She eased us around the track, and although it was pretty fast for me, it seemed too easy for her (well, it was, let’s be honest), and I guess I felt the lack of pressure, so I rode calmly and felt great.  That was the start I needed to the day!  It sealed my attitude for the remainder of the day, as I questioned my ability to comfortably ride in Intermediate at such a new track at the beginning of the day.  In the county that Road Atlanta is in, they have a 2-hour quiet time on Sundays from 10am-12pm, so after that initial session, we had an almost 2-hour classroom session, taught by none other than AMA Daytona Sportbike racer #40 and co-founder of the school, Jason DiSalvo.  His biggest thing is body position (Google a picture of him, and you’ll understand why), and although I knew that body position is important in safely going faster, I didn’t realize that it could make me mentally and physically relaxed!  He tweaked some things about my body position throughout the day, and well, the rest is glorified fun history!

That day, I had a f’ing great session every time I went out, and I never pitted in from being tired because I was so relaxed (and not tense from my fingertips to my toes like I often am) and because his body position is so efficient (this last weekend at Barber, I learned that you can still get tired, as Barber’s long-ass sweepers take a toll on you no matter how efficient your body position is).  I was smiling every time I rode in from a session, and couldn’t stop grinning even after the day was over.  That was a fucking great day!!!!!   I’m grinning just thinking about it…

Jason DiSalvo to the left (I’m taller than him btw, even if by just a little bit) and Brian Stokes to the right (the other co-founder of JDSA):

 

 

Lap Times

Road Atlanta is 2.54 miles long, and Barber is 2.38 miles long, but because Road Atlanta is much faster, mph-wise, the lap times are actually very similar.  I pulled times off my video, and I did a consistent lap time, andit was faster than my fastest recorded time at Barber.  Remember, this was my second day at this track, and I had ridden Barber 5 times previous to this day, so it goes to show the improvement that I made in Jason’s school.  The improvements I experienced, speed-wise and mentally, made it worth every penny!

This last weekend at Barber, I was a little tense throughout much of the day, yet I still managed to knock over 5 seconds off of my fastest recorded time!

Got all my important stickers on my new plastics:

 

 

I have improved a lot since I first started doing track-days, and even more since I first started riding period.  What’s more hopeful is that I am just getting started:  I see huge improvements still in my future.  I am nowhere near my highest ability, and I can’t wait to experience it when I get there.  I do have plans to race a little next year, so I’ve got lots to work on and many monies to save lol.

My last track visit of the year will be where it a

 

ll started:  Jennings GP in Jennings, FL, next weekend, December 6-7.  It’s going to be a great finish to my first 365 days of track riding, where I’ll get to see my improvement from Day 1 to Day 357 (8 days to the one-year anniversary of my first trackday).

I have improved a lot since I first started doing trackdays, and even more since I first started riding period.  What’s more hopeful is that I am just getting started:  I see huge improvements still in my future.  I am nowhere near my highest ability, and I can’t wait to experience it when I get there.  I do have plans to race a little next year, so I’ve got lots to work on and many monies to save lol.

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