As promised yesterday, here's the full report from my first experience racing motorcycles with OMRRA
at Portland International Raceway. For the record, I've never had more fun gathering writing material, ever
! The Honda 160 racers are an awesome group. Thanks, guys!
Classroom session. I get lost trying to find my way ACROSS the track to the classroom, arriving close to the back of the pack. Is this a bad sign?
Everyone introduces themselves, and class begins. At one point the head instructor, Shawn Gist, asks, "How many of you are married?" Hands go up. "OK, that number will go down."
Racing is expensive. According to statistics, most of us won't race more than one or two weekends. The average racer used to stay in the game for three years after novice school; now it's two months. "Budget for crashes," says Shawn, and "tell your significant other how much racing really
costs." He also suggests asking for direct sponsorships
. Well? How 'bout it, Meeker
Then we get a visit from Pam Rathbone of ASIT
, the all-volunteer Accident Support Information Team—usually pronounced "Ah, shit—because if you see us, you will have gone down," she says. She's a 20-year veteran of the health care field and seems like exactly the person you'd want hovering over you after an accident. (This turns out to be true.)
We talk about drills, including one where instructors will weave in and out of the string of novices to get us used to riding in close proximity to other racers. "You might feel a wiggle in your tail section," says Shawn. Hmm.
"If you can try to get some sleep," he tells us, "that's always a plus." I've always been a nerdy student, so I elect to go to bed instead of the Sandy Hut. Just this once.
Fetched at 6 am to load bike and a yard sale's worth of gear, then drive to track in rickety minitruck. Something feels strangely familiar, and then I realize it reminds me of the last time I had a friend haul me and a bike someplace in a rickety truck—up to OHSU after I crashed my street bike a year ago.
We arrive, unload, take the bike and gear to tech inspection. The tech guy, rocking some serious metal, tells me I'm the "first gal" so far that day. He says nothing about the PBR can (see photo below), license plate and duct tape holding my bike together, but some other guy waiting in line makes fun of it. I decide he's just jealous.
8:30 am rider's meeting:
the instructors are all guys I know. It's like being at the Sandy Hut, with less beer and smoke. I suit up, take the bike out, do the little drills to prove I can brake and turn, and win my enormous lime-green NOVICE t-shirt. It goes on the outside of your jacket in order to make sure you're not just racing motorcycles because you think you look cool in leather. There is no way to look cool in a novice shirt. But it's a handy reminder to everyone else that you have no idea what you're doing out there.
Terror. I breathed exactly once. We're probably only going about 35 miles an hour but it feels like I'm following Valentino Rossi
—on a single rollerskate.
Hey, wait, this is fun. This is really fun!
The fun levels increase drastically with each lap. I get some good advice about moving my ass off the bike more and smoothing out my lines. The afternoon is all open practice sessions. Following a string of guys who know what they're doing is as hilarious as it is instructive. They all, in unison, shift their butts sideways to hang off the bike in the turns. It looks cute. I haven't learned how to do it yet, but am trying (hence the buttcrack comment
in yesterday's post—thanks, Patrick!).
It might be the prettiest day of the year. Everything goes well, the bike runs, I don't crash, and everyone is nice to me. Plus it's fun. And the prospect of someday mastering the best line around the track has triggered my stubborn side, the same compulsion that allows me to ski the same mogul run 10 times in a row until I get it right. Uh-oh. I feel an obsession coming on.
Four hours' sleep doesn't make the day any less exciting. I pick up my official OMRRA road-racer license and show it to everyone I see all day long. I get two more practice sessions in the morning, then the rain hits and it's time for my friend Zac to repo the bike he lent me. Yep, still fun!
Official race day. I'm sharing another borrowed bike with a fellow novice, so he's taking the morning race and I get the afternoon one. I still have to be at the 8:30 am riders' meeting, which gives me a whole day to get nervous. Watching the other races calms me down some: no matter how fast it feels like I'm going, compared to those guys I am standing still. The rain threatens all day but doesn't commit. Outside the track, dudes with silly cars are "drifting," which seems to be a louder, smokier version of doing donuts in the high-school parking lot. More people are watching them than us.
Finally at 5 pm it's my turn to race. There is only one other girl in this race. I must beat her. But first I have to remember to take more than one breath per lap. That helps.
I start to pick up speed (or more accurately, lose a fraction of my extreme slowness) on lap 2, and eventually on the front straight of (I think) lap 3 I catch her and pass her. I feel sweet.
Not for long. A few turns later our trajectories collide. Kablammo! Full-body contact, hot girl-on-girl action, etc. I slide from one side of the track to the other, into the grass, and the bike lands on top of me. We wrestle a bit, me and the bike. It's a pretty lengthy crash in terms of both time and distance, but no permanent damage is done. There are probably easier ways to adjust the handlebars; oh well.
At least I got the crashing part over with. I can now say I've had the complete racing experience, including post-race beers at the Sandy Hut (where, oddly enough, the weekend was bookended with yet another buttcrack: one hanging ludicrously far out of the pants of a girl at the bar, exposed to such a degree that someone at our table felt compelled to snap a Polaroid. Not a popular move, FYI, but worth the hassle). Can't wait to do it all again. The next race weekend is May 19-20. Check it out!
For detailed schedules, some pics and info on how to volunteer at the track, go to www.omrra.com.
Photos: Becky on board (top) courtesy of Bradford Duval; Pabst machine (middle) and Becky's bike (below) courtesy of Becky Ohlsen.