First 2Fast trackday…

A few words before Super Tired Schmi turns in. Today was one of those perfectly perfect days that I will remember for a long time. It was of course, the day I took off to go ride the SV at Pacific Raceways for a 2Fast Trackday. As far as turnout goes, it wasn’t quite the “unofficial MS trackday” we had hoped for because only four of the original people who had expressed interest actually signed up and showed up. The day itself was dull and rainy. But it was still fabulous in spite of everything.

There were sucky parts, like the obligatory waking up at 4:45AM, and riding to the track which is about 30 miles away (in the rain). Stopping on the way to get gas at the one gas station in Washington state that has trouble with filling motorcycle tanks did not help.

I managed to get to the track fairly early, before any of my co-workers showed up. I started pulling off the mirrors and prepping the bike when a hella cute guy came up to me and said that I could pit under his EZ-Up if I was there alone, since it was predicted to rain all day. I thanked him and said that I was waiting for my friends to show up and I was going to pit with them. A clear sign that Schmi’s brain was still asleep at that early hour. :P

When co-workers showed up, I chatted with them a bit (super nice guys!). Then finished prepping the bike – taping everything up, defusing the headlamp, taking off mirrors etc.; got through tech inspection and registration. There were about 28 riders in the Beginner group. I was number 47. We did a ridearound of the track in the 2Fast truck, which was VERY educational. Amazing how big and wide the track looks when you are going through it at 10mph. They gave us some info about what lines to take and where to be careful e.g. turn 7 is supposedly very dangerous in the wet (and boy was it wet out).

J. turned up around 9:00AM with EZ-up, chairs, water, cooler, tools etc. Bless him. :)

I find that I was quite enjoying riding the track now that I’ve gotten over my destructive attitude of cursing myself about everything I did wrong in every turn, rather than observing what I did wrong and improving it in the next lap, like Keith Code says to do (I owe a lot to that man).

Session 1 [9:45 AM]: Getting used to the track and warming up the tires. It seemed so rough, bumpy and shoddy compared to the gorgeous Willows Springs track I was on last month. I went pretty slow to get used to all the turns and familiarizing myself with everything. I was relaxed and loose and feeling good – in marked contrast to every trackday I have done until now.

I did brace myself a little going through Turn 9 for the first few laps though.

Lots of rain.

Session 2 [10:45 AM]: More of the same. Getting used to the track, and going cautiously into Turn 7 as instructed.

Lots of rain.

Session 3 [11:45 AM]: J. pointed out that I wasn’t getting the revs high enough and was in too tall a gear for all the turns he could see. I worked on this in this session and it was a bit distracting to look down at the tachometer so often. Kinda difficult to do that *and* figure out turnpoints at the same time. Got better though.

Misty rain.

*Lunch Break*

Session 4 [12:45 PM]: This was a bit of a sucky session. I was going okay until a control rider beckoned me to follow him. Is there a hand signal for “NO, I really don’t want to!!” No, I thought not. Anyway the next two laps I was stuck behind him showing me lines that I already kinda knew, except we did them super-slow at about 40mph. *rollsyes* I was a little bummed at the waste of time when I got back into the pits. Session right after lunch is never that good. I also felt a little bit ach-y.

Session 5 [1:45 PM]: This one was J.’s session (I owed it to him although I hated sitting out a session). He snuck out on the SV and put it through its paces. He was so stoked when he got back and was crowing about all the riders he passed and how crazy good the bike was (he used to roadrace a GS500 back in the day and apparently those didn’t handle quite as well as my bike does). He had even managed to scrape both footpegs really good. It was good to know that the SV could lean way over and ride like a dream if it had a competent rider on it. :P

Session 6 [2:45 PM]: One valuable tip J. gave me which really worked out well was to go into the busstop in 2nd and exit in 1st, and crank it up from there on. This worked really, really well, and I was redlining all the way through the straight (although the wind buffeted me quite a bit), went in through Turn 1 pretty good with no braking, brake d a bit for Turn 2 and shifted down, and rolled through it constantly, cranked it up to go up the hill and then down towards Turn 3, braked a little more and downshifted to go into Turns 3 and 4  (for once I didn’t blow them completely), revved all the way up the back straight, then straight line through Turns 5 and 6, a hard left at 7 and then uphill towards Turn 8 (this was the only part that wasn’t smooth as I felt like the bike “slowed down” going uphill), constant throttle roll through Turn 8, onto Turn 9 which I didn’t do   very well, eyes on the busstop, brake and shift down at busstop and back out onto the straight.

The next few laps were more of the same, and everything flowed together. J. timed me and said that I was consistently clocking in at 2:35. He said that I could be going a lot faster through both Turns 8 and 9 and the busstop and we strategized as to how.

Session 7 [3:45 PM]: This was the best one, of course. :) Everything just worked and my lap time improved to 2:24. No, it’s not as good as the lap record of 1:29, but not a bad beginning! :)

Session 8 [4:15 PM]: This one was a bonus 15 minutes for people who still wanted to go out. I jumped at the chance until I realized that it was a mixed session with Level 200. I was on such a good run that I really wanted to go out again at least for a couple of laps. People were passing me waaaay too close for comfort though, especially one marshal who zipped by with little over a foot between us, and another instructor who cut me off in the busstop (he later stopped by and apologized). Thankfully I recovered from that one although my right tire wobbled violently coming out of the turn (not sure why?). I also scared myself silly when I scraped the left footpeg in Turn 4 and felt the bike feel unstable. :P

I came in to the pits after those two laps. They weren’t stellar but then again I was sharing it with a bunch of maniacs and didn’t feel safe. :P

Overall it was a wonderful, satisfying day. No more demons. I didn’t break any lap records and didn’t hang off or drag a knee, but I was quite satisfied with how I did. I wish I had done more before lunchtime, and that things had come together sooner than they did, but there’s no point rushing these things. I didn’t use all the instruction from CSS School – I never quite memorized turn points, relying on the cones on the track instead, and I didn’t use reference points. Things I did use were wide view, body positioning, relaxing, and two step. My biggest breakthrough was learning to redline the bike and use it to its full potential, rather than being afraid of blowing the engine. I was also quite pleased that I was no longer afraid or nervous of the speed or of other riders on the track.

It’s crazy how very good, energetic and unstressed I felt. No soreness, no muscle ache, no mental fatigue, just a wicked grin thinking – “Hey, this is fun.” :)

Note: There were a few crashes during the day – most at Intermediate level, and one bad one in the Advanced one where they brought ambulances in to take the guy to the hospital. No crahes in my class though. Guess we n00bs were being way too cautious. :P

Onto some photos:

These are the ones of me on the track that J. managed to take while watching from the grandstand with my point and shoot. Brandon Bones’ pictures aren’t up yet on Studio 819, but he did take the majority of them early on in the day, so I don’t expect them to be that good in any case.

J.’s way of saying: “Relax, schmi!” :) The tape on the odometer was to mark off how high I needed to keep my revs.

Coming round Turn 9 to the bus stop. Yes, I could have been leaned over more.

Going through the new busstop.

Another one through the busstop. Whee, for once I’m happy about a blurry photo. :P

My gear is very bulky. :( Especially the jacket. I need to consider replacing it soon.