Thursday, April 13, 2006

Pacific Raceways

Tuesday/Thursday 11/13 April

Another assumption not to make: never assume that you won't someday be doing what you now shun. Persuasive friends have a way of converting the weak-minded, or at least those with lame excuses.

A year ago, the thought of me racing at Pacific Raceways could not have sounded more unlikely. It's an hour's drive from home (more, if rush hour traffic is its typical self). It involves going around in circles for an hour, a privilege for which you pay $12. But then friends started to mess with my mind and suddenly I found myself sucked into this new racing scene and in less than a year I have become a proselytizer myself and this week I went twice. And it was rewarding both times.

The boys race on Tuesday nights. As usual, I started with the masters. I hope they went ballistic from the gun, because it sure seemed that way to me. After a few laps, I was way too uncomfortable and sat up to wait for the 4-5s to catch me. I'm hanging out in my usual spot on the outside of the back of their pack when a little voice next to me says "Martha, ya gotta move up." I was puzzled because I thought I was pretty incognito in that field. It was the sweeeet Mr. Stangeland on a solo mission from the 1-2 field, cruising past the 4-5s like they were standing still (never mind that he was one of them a year ago). Actually, I think he was using them for camouflage so the 1-2s wouldn't see him when we passed them going the other way. He didn't stick around to chat (dang, I should've gotten on that wheel!) and went on to win his race by more than half a lap (these are 2-mile laps). It turned out that the 4-5s weren't much slower than the masters. And the track was the tiniest bit wet, and several spots were super slippery. When I watched guys slide all over the surface on the drag strip on the next lap, I just sat up and let them ride away. Better to end the night of racing early than sliding across the ground. That meant I got to watch Jamie cruise to his incredible margin of victory, a habit to which he is apparently becoming quite accustomed. It also meant I missed the crash in the masters race that took down more than a handful of riders, some with painful damage to bodies and bikes.

Girls get the track to themselves on Thursday nights. And this time the track was more than just the tiniest bit wet--it was pouring and there was a half-inch of standing water on the smooth stretches of pavement and giant puddles everywhere else. Women's racing at SIR is a learning experience in a safe riding environment. There are some cat 2-3 "coaches," and the women who turn up to race are divided into the cat 4 racers and the beginners. My "job" as a "coach" tonight was to ride with the beginners, giving them tips on riding on the wheel in front of them, cornering, bike handling, etc. And when somebody got dropped, I towed her back up to the field. It was 45 degrees, raining steadily, water spraying everywhere, and you could hardly see anything (it was twilight). And these women were enthusiastic and had FUN! They attacked and countered, they sprinted, they chased back on, they rode through puddles like two-year-olds. Sometimes I really need an attitude check about bike racing, and these women provided it in spades. One thing's for sure: for the new racers who turned out tonight, bike racing can only get better!

I guess it's a stretch to say that I race at PR. But it is fun, and racing with the masters last year proved to be effective training. If working out with the women on Thursday nights continues to be this motivating, I can't imagine a better combination: intensity and inspiration.

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