Just Touched Down In London Town...

Today was a pretty great day.  Despite the jet lag traveling to London - I gathered myself up and hit the adventure.  My hotel is this old castle in a town 75km outside London called Aylesbury.  This is by far the furthest off the beaten path work has ever taken me.  I would have been well within my rights to sleep away much of the day and rest - especially since starting tomorrow I've got four solid packed fifteen to seventeen hour days of work - but today I met up with a old coworker who has lived in London for a while and hunted down Banksy graffiti.

I'm new to Banksy art, but after he did four pieces in San Francisco a couple months ago... I'm a fan!  Plus, most things posted on Stuff White People Like are sadly, things I like.  I'm learning graffiti can be hard to track down.  After time it can be defaced or painted over.  So tracking where these pieces are is a bit of an Easter egg hunt.  Especially in a city I'm not familiar with, and roaming data rates too high to make GPS a realistic possibility.  I did track down a few pieces though.  I'm sure there's 20x this in London if you know where to look (Banksy lives here).  Here's what I did find:

Why I Race

With a few of my friends out of medical leave due to crashes at the track, I have spent a good deal of time lately exploring why is it that I race bikes?  It's completely irrational.  I don't have any realistic hope of making money at this.  I have tremendous risk every time I mount the bike.  The costs are through the roof.  Why then do I do this? 

Initially there was quite a bit of, "oh wow, check out how awesome I am right now" but honestly most of that is gone.  The week before each race, I get a quiet tremble of fear.  Fear of injury, yes.  But also a fear of the pending visceral competition I'm about to partake in.  It is a very "bro'd up" thing to do.  Loud motors revving to 14,000 RPM, the smell of race fuel and rubber burning, looking at the guy gridded next to you wondering, "is that fool going to ride safely or is he going to take me out trying some crazy move?"  Overcoming that fear and putting myself on the line - for better or for worse - head to head against some pretty great riders - that's certainly part of the motivation to do this.

There is also an internal confidence that comes of it.  I went out for drinks for a friends birthday the other night at a fancy bar in the Marina.  I laughed to myself when I got there - realizing I had spent literally less than 10 seconds wondering what I was going to wear, and feeling 100% comfortable among all the good-looking-people in their just-came-from work outfits; wearing a ball cap and a plain black tee-shirt with tattoos poking out.  I didn't very well fit in, but internally I felt completely comfortable in my space.  Some of that has to come from knowing I regularly do something most people couldn't put themselves up for.

Also the camaraderie is one of the big things I get out of this.  Fellow racers would easily loan each other parts, show each other how to get faster (even guys you're competing with), rush to the aid of a fellow racer who's in trouble, and win or lose - high five the guys you just raced with when it's over.  It's a great feeling.  One of my racer buddies and I were talking about this recently - after a weekend racing you have a feeling for a couple of days that's unlike anything else.  Like you took a trip to a magic place where none of the rest of the world even existed.  While there you completely put yourself on the line, mentally, physically and emotionally pitted yourself against yourself (and others).  It's like the sense of accomplishment from having climbed a mountain or done something that required all of yourself present to do.

AFM Rounds 5 & 6... Season Recap

As a couple friends have pointed out lately, I've not been rambling themelessly much.  In my defense, it's been a busy month!  I returned from Rome, had a motorcycle race the following weekend, had another motorcycle race three weeks later, and as I type find myself back in Europe - this time in London for work.  Despite being here for work - I am going to steal out time today to try chasing down a couple Banksy graffiti spots and see if I can find anything still up and not defaced.  More on that later this week if indeed I am successful in following the Tube mashup I've created this morning overlaid with Banksy locations.

My AFM season had two good race weekends - both at Infineon Raceway aka Sears Point in Sonoma, California.  I'm picking up my times at this track a little - both race weekends found me accomplishing my personal best laptimes.  Regardless of where you finish, it's always a great weekend when I make progress, have fun, don't wreck and make some improvement.

Last weekend was a great Clubman Heavyweight race.  I am beating some of my competition for the year by out financing them and out lasting them.  I'm a little older than some of the guys at the track - and probably a little more aware of the frailty of the human condition.  I would say I take fewer risks than others on the track, and would rather give up a position and live to tell about it, than try an unsafe pass.  This has produced a situation where I'm slowly-but-surely gathering more season points than some others who are not making all the races.  THIS produces a situation where I'm gridding up at the front of the pack - well in front of some guys who are clearly faster than me.  On one hand it feels rather unsuccessful to slowly lose positions the entire race, but it also pushes me to try and keep up when they get around me (which for some of these fast guys seems entirely effortless... ha!)  I'm reasonably good at starts.  For the first time this last weekend I took the lead in the race and held the 1st position for three laps.  I often dart out in front, but now I'm getting hard enough to pass that I was able to keep the lead for a bit.  My entire race strategy?  Get in front and try to make my bike 10 feet wide!  Ha, ha, ha.  After 8 laps I finished a respectable 5th place, logging 1:48's which was two seconds faster than a month ago... great progress!

I'm at an interesting point in the race season on a couple levels.  There is one race left, and I'm not decided if I will participate.  A good friend is having a wedding reception that same weekend out of town, if I attend I'm precluded from racing.  This is the final race of the AFM season, and I'm in contention in one of my race categories.  Season standings so far include:

Open Production (1000cc bikes/ not modified):  19th of 40
Open GP (1000cc bikes/ modifications allowed/ one of the fastest race in AFM): 34th of 70
Open Superbike (1000cc bikes/ modifications allowed):  39th of 69
Clubman Heavyweight (1000cc bikes/ only Novices):  4th of 42

... I have an honest chance at a top three spot in Clubman Heavyweight - depending on who makes it out for round seven.  There are a couple guys faster than me - and some I should expect to beat.  Also I feel I'm on the cusp of dropping some time at that track...  All the 30 days of track practice I've put in this year and last, all the race preparation, stringing together a race season so far... all leads up to this one final race of the season. 

Anyway... enough rambling.  Here's some pictures from last weekend!

My Patented Flying Start...