This past weekend was my first motorcycle race since October. (They're held at Portland International Raceway, with OMRRA.)
Short version: I am very slow.
Slightly longer version: This race went much better than the last one! In October, I fell off during practice, and then it rained oceans all day, and the wind picked up, and there were ducks and tadpoles and probably sharks floating around in huge lakes all over the track, not kidding, so I kind of freaked out and didn't actually grid up for the race.
But this time I wasn't even nervous. Possibly someone has been slipping a little bit of Xanax into my coffee. Or maybe this is the upside of seasonal-affective disorder. Whichever. I'll take it.
I guess it's about time for me not to be nervous. I started racing in 2007. Here is something I wrote about that, for Willamette Week. And here is a second little race diary from that first weekend. I escaped the 2007 season with a cracked thumb and a souvenir t-shirt that says, "If you're not crashing, you're not racing hard enough." (A thoughtful gift from the girl I collided with.) But since then I've only raced maybe six or eight times. (I travel too much, and am poor.)
Last year I did one race, plus the aborted rain weekend. So I'm a little rusty. My bike is (was) a 1968(?) Honda CL175 in need of a bit of mechanical tenderness. So in October my friend Will at Poor Bastard Cycleworks made me a deal. I'll spare you the details because I will get them wrong if I try to tell you, but essentially he got some cool 175 parts and I got a freshened-up, hotted-up, Mad Maxified race motor.
Best part: I now have only four speeds instead of five. This makes it much less likely that I'll spazz out and forget what gear I'm in or when I'm supposed to be shifting.
There was some suspense as to whether the motor would make its way back into the bike on time, and run. But it did. On Saturday morning we had three practice sessions. But if you're me, you manage to run out of gas on the first one and get black-flagged on the second one. If you're black-flagged you're supposed to go back to the starting line and talk to the guys there; it could mean something is falling off your bike, or that you are on fire.
Turns out they flagged me because they saw the red liner of my jacket and thought my leathers weren't zipped together. I suspect the starting-line guys were just bored and wanted someone to talk to. ("Hey! That slow dude's a chick! Get her over here, let's check it out.")
Here's me trying to figure out where I'm supposed to exit the track after getting black-flagged:
Anyway. Finally made it all the way around the track a bunch of times on the third practice session Saturday. Felt smooth but incredibly slow. My lap times were epic. Glacial. Peristaltic. (Can I use that word that way?) Everyone had plenty of time to admire my pretty black-and-silver paint job. My friend The Italian Cowboy's 76-year-old dad was there and he said he walked to the bathroom faster than I was riding. (Probably true: he'd eaten lunch at the concession stand. I can't be expected to match that level of urgency.)
However! On Sunday, my practice lap times were four seconds faster than Saturday's. In the race they were six seconds faster. (I broke two minutes!) There was a new guy racing Sunday whose times were close to mine. I thought I might be able to beat him, or at least be near him. But he crashed in practice and broke his collarbone, so he was out.
For next time, I need to drop three seconds a lap to beat the slowest guy, and ten to really be racing with anybody. Ten seconds a lap sounds like a lot. But there are nine corners on the track, so if I just do each corner one second faster....
I've been studying photos from the track to see if it'll help. Here's what the fast guys look like:
And here's me on that same corner:
You see the difference. My head and shoulders are more or less in the right place (could be lower), but look at my poor little legs. Death grip! Very uncool. If I can stick out my knee and hang off a bit, scoot my weight to the inside, I can go faster. And more importantly, my photos will look a lot cooler.
So it's hypnotism and leg presses twice a day for a month. Next race is June 25-26. Come out and watch!